May 2009
Hi All,

3rd.  At the request of grandson, Alex, the two of us made for Agia (again!) for sunrise.  Well wrapped up on a cool morning, we quietly walked along the perimeter path in search of movement.  First sighting was of great reed warbler on lower branches of an overhanging tree housing c25 sand martins.  Managed my first photo of the warbler, but too distant to publish here.  Back nearer the pumping station, a sedge warbler, immature little crake, a couple of spotted flycatchers, and then the Baillon's crake made an appearance.  A male little bittern was disturbed by our movements and flew across the water, whilst a squacco heron was happy to stay in the immediate vicinity.  Another warbler made itself known in the reeds, and appropriately, it was a reed warbler!  See photos below.

Reed Warbler - photo by and A&M

Reed Warbler - photo by and A&M

Reed Warbler - photo by and A&M

Baillon's crake - photo by and A&M

Squacco Heron - photo by and A&M

5th.   We took a friend to inspect a cattery at Polyrrinia (near Kissamos).  While they inspected I wandered further along the lane in beautiful countryside, and watched several red-rumped swallows swirling above me.   Many spotted flycatchers around too.  A couple of buzzards in the distance brought my attention to another bird - first thoughts were pale phase booted eagle, but shape and size quickly confirmed my first sighting of Egyptian vulture.  Unfortunately it glided away towards the north coast and only allowed me very distant photos.  This short interlude, while the cattery was inspected, has alerted us to this as a new area to explore further.

6th.  A quick look at Georgioupolis Viewpoint with grandson after collecting him from school, and surprised to see a glossy ibis on the far side, near the weir.  I had reported one here last month, but thought it had moved on.  On our way home we met Stelios, who controls the weir and has let us in on occasion to view the lake from a different spot.  I described the glossy, and he immediately informed me that there have been 4 birds there.  We'll keep looking!

8th.  Today we explored the area near the cattery.  I think the worst thing birdwatchers can do is think, because one day was good in a particular place, every day will be.  Today was a case in point, as nothing memorable was seen all day - a female blackcap was the highlight - and yet at home it was a different story........

Letting the cats in at breakfast time, I heard a cocophony of noise outside in our olive grove, sounding like two birds squabbling.  I took no notice to start with, but as it continued, I looked out.  There was some movement in one of the trees.  I grabbed the bins and camera and went out onto the terrace.  I was astonished to see a great reed warbler move on to a bare branch - for about 2 seconds, before flying off (no picture).  What's more astonishing (for me) is that we hadn't seen great reed warbler since arriving in Crete over 5 years ago, and yet on three early morning visits to Agia recently, I saw one on each occasion, and now one in the garden of all places!  The ones at Agia had been silent, so this was the first time I had heard their amazing variety of song notes.

Back home from our 185 km trip seeing very little, we are sitting on the terrace early evening, when three white storks fly over the house - just managed a photo, see below.

White Storks - photo by and A&M

9th.  First sighting this year of eleanora's falcon - a single bird seen from the house, and heard bee-eaters for the first time this month.

12th.  Following a shopping trip into Chania, we make the diversion to Agia, probably for the last time for spring migration.  Several little bitterns present, all juvenile or female, and near the pump station, a one-legged ruff hobbled its way around on the weeds - see photos below. Squacco's, little egrets, and wood sandpipers were all easily seen in small numbers, but the crakes were not seen; nor the sedge warblers.  Nearer the weir, a pale morph booted eagle appeared, and a male blackcap was seen in woodland near the springs.

Little Bittern - photo by and A&M

Ruff - photo by and A&M

13th.  An chance view of a pair of Balkan green lizards, which were mesmerized by our car alongside them long enough for the picture below.  Outside the house a female kestrel has been hunting for many days now - caught a quick picture of her today, also below.

The Lizards - photo by and A&M

The Kestrel - photo by and A&M

15th.  Well for the second time this month, I can report the sighting of a bird we've not seen since we arrived here, and then seen twice in a short time!  This time it's an Egyptian vulture.  Seen circling high above Exopolis, we both watched from our terrace through binoculars, hopeful it would come our way, but it didn't - so no photo.  Also today, twice seen single Eleanora's falcon from the house, and now know where a pair of red-rumped swallows are nesting nearby - may be able to get permission to sit in a viewable position before long.

17th.  Thought I saw the red-rumped swallows land on a dead branch of a small tree, near where I saw them 2 days ago in Exopolis.  A short car drive later, and I waited quietly near the spot.  About 15 minutes later I got the view, and pictures I had longed for - it's been frustratingly difficult to get a sharp photo of these birds on the wing, so to have them perching was a bonus.  Two photos below.

Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M

Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M 

18th.  A dull thundery afternoon.  After collecting grandson from his dance class, we had a quick look at the Viewpoint and saw common snipe, grey heron and a black-winged stilt.  Bee eaters heard high above in the evening from home, but not seen.

20th.  A drive out to Omalos for a last look until September.  Nothing to report, except a sizeable number of griffons overflying the plateau - c12, and a few jays.  A photo of the latter below, but a bit distant for my camera.

Jay - photo by and A&M

Couldn't resist a quick look at Agia on the return journey - little egret, little bittern, squacco heron, wood sandpiper, redshank, little crake and eleanora's falcon all seen as singles, except the eleanoras, for which there was a pair (pale phase).  Photo below of marsh frog (about as big as my open hand).

Marsh Frog - photo by and A&M

21st.  Working around the house outside, bee-eaters are being heard, but still unseen, until mid afternoon we both heard, and then saw, a small flock of c12, but they were soon gone.

23rd.  A trip with John and Patti Bayley to the St Antonis Gorge, north of Spili, gave us the usual views of jackdaws and crag martins swirling through the gorge, and, for John, a glimpse of a firecrest.  A blue flower was seen in a few spots along the path - we looked it up and have found it to be campanula tubulosa, which is endemic to western Crete (see photo below).   We walked into a cave and found a crag martin nest. John and I stood still long enough for one of the birds to have confidence to come to the nest, and the photo below is the result.

campanula tubulosa - photo by and A&M

Crag Martin - photo by and A&M
Unfortunately I don't have the technology to remove the red eye, so it looks rather evil! (sorted, Roy)
A new road, still under construction, took us high above the new Potamoi Dam with good views.  We gazed down to the water in the distance and spotted little egret, grey heron, purple heron and red-rumped swallow - all singles - along with a few hundred y-l gulls.  Our trip continued after lunch circumnavigating the water and then heading for Patsos, where we turned on to a track signposted for Spili.  A stop along this road gave us views of griffons and some smaller birds.  With bins in hand, the smaller birds turned out to be ortolan buntings.  They eventually came down to our level and perched on a roadside fence about 50 metres away - a pair, which I managed to capture on camera, but not together!  The ortolan was a new "tick" for John, which made his day - the firecrest too I guess.

24th.  Just noticed a pretty little moth next to me at the laptop.  It's very small, and can't
find it in my book, photo below.

The moth - photo by and A&M

30th.  A final look at the Viewpoint for this month - birds seen were exactly the same as reported on 18th, plus a pair of little-ringed plovers.  Three red-rumped swallows glided past our balcony this afternoon.  We wonder if they will stay for the summer, as these are the ones nesting nearby.  Also, a pair of turtle doves are nesting somewhere close - for the last two summers they have stayed in our area.  A blue rockthrush is being seen daily, and looks as if it is nesting under the pergola of an empty house close by - more investigation needed.

31st.  We say good-bye to May with a trip to Kalikratis and Asfendou, a favourite mountain road through some remote country.  It has warmed up over the past few days and even at 1,000 metres along part of this route, it is 25c.  Very little to spot in the way of birds - a solitary woodpigeon, one griffon soaring high up, many wheatears, mainly northern, and an ortolan bunting on a telephone wire.  Ravens, kestrels, linnets, corn buntings and blue rockthrush added to the sightings enroute.

This year May has been a quiet month for birdwatching - for us anyway.  No red-footed falcons, only a glimpse of golden oriole, bee-eaters all high up and moving through, spotted flycatchers moving through quicker than usual, fewer woodchats and black-eared wheatears.  But there have been more red-rumped swallows than we remember from previous years, the glossy ibis was a bonus at Georgioupolis Viewpoint - and we still have our white pelican on the river!

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