A&M Report 29  - May 2010
 
Hi Everyone,

2nd.  We kept ourselves to ourselves during yesterday's May Day celebrations, and concentrated on preparing for family from the UK arriving on 4th.  So today we had a trip out with John and Patti Bayley and headed for the Nida Plateau on the east side of Psiloritis. This area was new to them, and I had warned John that we never seem to have a productive time birdwatching there, but that it can be good for wild flowers. 

Well, we saw some "new" wild flowers, but couldn't identify them - one is pictured below and each of the two flowers is about the size of a 50p coin.

But the birding was good after all.  First up a small mixed flock of red-billed and alpine choughs,


Red-billed and Alpine Chough
Photos by and
A&M

which we then saw in small numbers throughout the day.  Next, a cuckoo sitting atop a small bush.  It moved off a few times and was always fairly distant, but one photo shows the bird from a different angle prior to landing again.  This was only the second ever cuckoo sighting for Margaret and me.


Photo by and A&M

Then excellent views of a wren collecting nesting material - picture below.


Photos by and A&M 

Finally, along a track towards Yakinthia, we found a buzzard sitting in a small tree.  The photo isn't great, but does show a grey head and white area above the breast, and we wonder if this is a honey buzzard?


Photos by and A&M

6th.  Walking through Georgioupolis this evening just before dusk, and an unexpected sight of the white pelican flying low around the vicinity of the river and beyond.  This is the first evening flight we have been aware of.

7th.  A drive out to Ano Mallaki, continuing on to the Spili high meadows for a picnic with our family - Margaret's brother and sister-in-law, Pete and Liz.  A very pleasant day, where we still found some orchids, none new to us though, but a sighting of fritillaria on a shady bank, as below.


Photos by and A&M

As for birds, three golden orioles, spotted flycatcher, marsh harrier x 2, and a couple of ortolan buntings; one pictured below.


Photos by and A&M

10th.  I had promised Alex an early morning trip to Agia.  We were there just after sunrise, but had very few birds to see.  By the time we left at about 9.30 we could only talk about the number of golden orioles we had seen and (mainly) heard.  Once over the bridge at the weir, they were in most broad-leaved trees, occasionally seen flying between them.  My only photo this visit - early morning dew droplets!.


Photos by and
A&M

11th to 14th.  A few days away with Pete and Liz, staying in Elounda.  This wasn't a "birdwatching" trip, but we were able to record a few sightings, most memorable being several Eleanora's falcons around Bramiana reservoir, and two sightings of olivaceous warbler.  One morning we found a little egret standing next to the swimming pool at our base in Elounda, and another on the salt-pans with a good reflection.  We had several sightings of bee-eaters, always high up, and one hoopoe.
At a taverna in Thripti, we had good views of a hummingbird hawkmoth.  Some photos below.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

16th.  Some gardening work revealed a creature we haven't seen for a few years, and this one was green, instead of light brown as before.  Its Latin name - acrida ungarica - was all we knew, but now further investigation has given us the rather long-winded name of Mediterranean slant-faced grasshopper.  A close-up below - it's about 7-8 centimetres long, and can fly well, being a member of the cricket family.  It's brilliantly camouflaged in all types of grass.


Photos by and A&M

17th.  A picnic trip to high above the Irini Gorge was preceded by our first visit to the Botanical Park of Crete.  This entails a 2.5 km walk around the slopes below the centre/taverna.  All plants are labelled and species are represented from all over the world, especially fruit trees.  Too busy photographing (and keeping my footing on the slopes!), I forgot to keep notes of the plant names.  The park has been open for a year or so, and is establishing quickly.  The staff are very enthusuiastic about their work.  There's a small entrance fee, a bottle of water offered to each person entering, and walking sticks are available too!  A very worthwhile visit - some pictures below.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


On to Omalos, and then up to the mountain refuge above the Irini Gorge.  We have visited this spot a few times and it never disappoints for the views - and this time, a golden eagle too.


Photos by and A&M


Back on the Omalos plateau we "bumped" into Colin and Sue Turvey and friend.  Earlier they had watched griffons pulling a carcass down a hillside, and we followed them as they returned to see if there was more "action".  Alas not.
We couldn't complete this trip without a brief visit to Agia.  With Pete and Liz now keen to spot new birds - maybe our enthusiasm was rubbing off? - they had good views of night heron, little bittern and spotted flycatcher, and more distant views of whiskered tern.  A couple of pictures below.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

20th.  We didn't want Pete and Liz to leave without an opportunity to view the griffon vultures at Prassano Gorge.  Although quiet to start with, a few birds began appearing, but not in the numbers we experienced last summer.  This fantastic view point also gave us decent views of a juvenile peregrine, red-rumped swallows, wood pigeons and ravens - but it was the griffons that stole the show.  Two pics below, plus one looking back into the gorge from our lunch stop at a nearby taverna.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

21st.  After a damp start to the morning, we decided to stretch our legs with a walk along the north coast, east of Petres Bridge.  The extraordinary mammoth wasp (scolia flavifrons) was prevelant along the track side.  This huge wasp - as long as your finger! is completely harmless, and looks like a small bird when it flies.  I don't think I have photographed it before, so some pictures below. Also photographed is some winged sea lavender that we encountered on this walk.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

The walk was a "there and back", and as we turned to come back we started seeing some birds - at last.  Three young cirl buntings, woodlark and crested lark, blue rock thrush, black-eared wheatear and linnet.  I then watched a distant rock thrush, but unlike the one at Drapanos earlier this year, this one was too distant to photograph.  This was in any case a great bird to see again, and totally unexpected, especially at sea level.  Another unexpected sighting when we got home too - a male blackcap seen from the house, singing its heart out.  Great views through the bins, but no pic.

22nd.  With the cooler weather still with us after yesterday's rain, we headed to Argyroupoli (Lappa) for a village walk.  We had all done the "tourist circuit" of Roman artefacts before, so went down to the lower village for a wander.  We were surprised how quaint, and attractive some of the village was, but as always a few buildings appeared derelict.  Even these had charm though, like the one below with a vine taking it over.


Photos by and A&M

Two further pictures - some bourgainvillea in a courtyard, and a barn swallow.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

24th.  Pete and Liz's final day, and I suggested a trip to Aradena - a favourite for us all.  The drama of this drive has been somewhat eroded with the renewal and widening of so much road - and the introduction of Armco!  Once up at Anopoli little has changed, and we visited the Bailey bridge over the gorge, the coastline around Livaniana, and then into the White Mountain foothills for our picnic.  Near the gorge there was a mass of blue flowers with lupin-like leaves.  We haven't seen them in our books, but thanks to Patti Bayley, we now know them to be delphiniums, which none of us had seen growing wild before - two pics below.  Also here a distant golden eagle and three red-billed choughs - pictures of the latter and the delphiniums below.


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

At our picnic spot we started to hear a plaintive whistle which we couldn't identify at first.  Then, two eagles were spotted high up being harassed by a falcon, probably a kestrel.  They returned to our area three more times over a period of 45 minutes, each time being seen off - mostly by hooded crows.  At their lowest height I could get some photos - one below showing this to be an adult Bonellis' eagle.  These were great viewings for us, and as we left, another sighting - this time a sub adult female red-footed falcon.  This was our first this year, and the latest spring date we have ever seen one.  The final photo is of a male kestrel - maybe it was he that saw off the Bonellis'?


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M


Photos by and A&M

26th - 29th.  The last few days we have stayed at home.  Red-rumped swallows are again in our area, though last year's nest is unavailable since the unfinished house is now completed.  Yesterday I noticed two spotted flycatchers in the garden at breakfast time, and later heard bee-eaters high above the house - the sky was clear and it was easy to pick out 5 birds moving through.  Otherwise it was quiet, and the spring migration seems all but over.
 
31st.  On the 21st I mentioned a blackcap singing in a tree opposite the house.  This morning (probably the same bird) was singing from the same tree - maybe for a couple of hours.  I attempted more photos, and have attached one below, if only to record a very late spring sighting of this species, but I must get a better camera!
Final recordings for this month are sightings of both booted eagle and marsh harrier from our balcony at breakfast time, and hearing bee-eaters again very high up.  But the highlight was the two hour performance given by the single male blackcap.


Photos by and A&M

 
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