Out and About October 2011

Hi Everyone,


International Birdwatching weekend on 1st and 2nd came and went without any participation from us – I was laid up with a nasty cold and had to limit any birdwatching to what came into the garden. The best sightings there were willow warbler and Cetti’s warbler. On 3rd a smart male Sardinian warbler was photographed, also in the garden, as below.


(male Sardinian warbler)


A day out on 5th, to look for chestnuts, led us to areas where this time last year we had good birdwatching too. Today, though, birds were hard to come by. Frustratingly, a black kite circled overhead as we drove along the National Highway near Souda, and later at Elafonisi, we saw three squacco herons and a little egret. Unexpectedly there, we found ourselves walking the beach with hundreds of holidaymakers around, and now know why we only go there out of season!

Back home, and another visitor to our little bird-bath – this time a spotted flycatcher, as shown below. There have been an unusually large number of these.


(spotted flycatcher)


On 6th, a walk between Argyropouli and Patima gave us our first good sightings of sparrowhawk – maybe the first since last April. Three sightings in all, but possibly the same bird? No photo opportunity today.

The first week of October has proved very unproductive, and even by the 10th there is nothing particular to mention, although a whinchat visited the garden and perched on an overhead cable for a short while.



A walk down to Kalivaki gave me a distant sighting of a flock of grey herons over the bay – about 70 in all. With them, a single purple heron, and two little egrets.

(heron flock)

At breakfast this morning, 11th, I noticed sparrows on an overhead cable in the garden, and then realised two were tree sparrows. One of them sat with a female house sparrow.

(tree and house sparrow)


(tree sparrow)


As the day wore on it became wetter with the heaviest rain we’ve seen for ages. I was therefore surprised to see c50 barn swallows on cables around the house, looking very sorry for themselves.

14th, and at last a warm clear day. We decided to see if griffons were in attendance at Prassanos Gorge. The weather suited them with the warm thermals giving them sufficient uplift from their nests deep in the gorge. Our view from above the gorge gave us an hour of great sightings.


(griffon vulture)

We continued on towards the Spili high meadows for a picnic lunch. There was nothing especially memorable except our first sighting of a wintering robin. Lots of woodlark, crested lark, corn bunting, linnet and goldfinch around, a few common buzzards - and more griffons.
A walk down to Kalivaki Beach area on 15th revealed some willow and sedge warblers amongst bamboo stands around the edges of some of the meadows. During this walk I also saw spotted flycatcher, red-backed shrike, Spanish sparrow (still trying for a good photo of one!) and corn bunting. Despite some areas of flood water, there are still no waders in evidence here or at the Viewpoint. Indeed, even Agia Reservoir is devoid of these, owing to higher than usual levels of water there throughout the year.

(sedge warbler)


A late sighting of hoopoe was reported today, 15th, by my daughter Alison. The bird stayed ahead of her car as they drove a track towards the local stables. This is a week later than my latest sighting.

On 16th we have our first wintering robin in the garden. However, the commonest migrants in the garden are willow warbler and spotted flycatcher – these will be heading south soon.


(willow warbler)


(spotted flycatcher)


On 18th the robin was singing its heart out at the top of the garden. We had just had nearly 30 hours of continuous rainfall, and with a little sunshine today we thought there may be some good sightings to be had. A flock of ten purple herons (and a common buzzard) got my camera going, but not much else today. A white wagtail at Kalivaki was my only photo in that area, despite large areas of flood water there now.


(singing robin)


(purple heron)


(heron with buzzard)


(white wagtail)

We have stayed fairly local recently and today, 19th, another look at the Viewpoint. This time a flock of 25 grey herons circled around the lake before taking up roosting positions in a large tree on the opposite side. Another attempt at getting a photo of a Spanish sparrow today. They are not in breeding plumage now, but differences can still be found between these and Italian/house sparrows – I think!

(part of grey heron flock)


(Spanish sparrow)

A visit to Agia and Moronis Reserve on 21st. There have been reports of osprey, black storks and spotted crake recently, but today, like most other visits this year, we were disappointed with no memorable sightings. However, a distant pale morph booted eagle was the first for some time. An immature stonechat arrived above me. The photo is probably my best of this species.

(immature stonechat)

At Moronis we saw singles of grey heron, great egret, redshank, little egret and kingfisher. Several willow warblers in olive trees, and a flock of c30 starlings arrived as we were leaving.

(great egret)

There is still plenty of flood water at Kalivaki, and finally a few species are being attracted to it. Over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd, I found common sandpiper, little egret. ringed plover, common snipe, greenshank and grey wagtail. Some photos below, including a couple of images of a spotted flycatcher with prey in the form of a dragonfly. (Sorry Roy!)

(little egret)




(ringed plover)


(two common snipe)


(single common snipe)


(spotted flycatcher with prey)


(flycatcher consumes prey)

A damp and cool day on 27th, but we were determined to go back to Agia and hope for an osprey sighting. We arrived at 2 pm; and were rewarded at 3.20 with a juvenile osprey high above the water. While we anticipated the entertainment of seeing it dive for fish, two Eleonoras’ falcons arrived and quickly ushered it away. Twenty minutes later it appeared again, still high, but continued north without approaching the reservoir. One reasonable photo – it’s below.


It’s worth mentioning here that over recent weeks goldfish/koi have been “introduced” to the reservoir. They have multiplied fast and are an attraction to osprey, hence reports of many sightings over the past few weeks. Those that have witnessed the osprey catching these fish have all reported it taking place well away from the perimeter path, from where most of us view the reservoir. Despite that, there are many goldfish in shoals close enough to see – as below.

(goldfish/koi at Agia)


28th, and a day out with friends Brian and Wendy included a short stop at Elafonisi. Just to say, that we are still seeing spotted flycatchers, and Margaret saw her first wintering black redstart of this autumn.

Next day, and a few more autumn migrants still about locally – red-rumped swallow, alpine swift, red-backed shrike, and first sighting of wintering chiffchaff.


(red-backed shrike juvenile)

Earlier in the morning I caught sight of a dark morph booted eagle above Kalivaki Beach. First it was mobbed by a hooded crow, and then a yellow-legged gull.

(booted eagle with the crow)


(booted eagle with the gull).


This month finishes with a trip to the Anopoli and Aradena area. Our best sighting of the day was enroute through the Imbros Gorge, when Margaret spotted a bird high up. We got out the car and looked up into what was mainly a misty sky. By now two birds were visible – a pair of Bonellis’ eagles, but the sighting was short-lived. A photo of one of the birds below for the record – shame about the clouds!


(Bonelli’s eagle)

At our target area, we chose to picnic on the winding road that leads down to Livaniana. This is probably the second best area we know for griffon watching, with several gliding by, above and below, while we ate.

(griffon vulture)

Other birds seen today included black redstart, crested lark, woodlark, robin, chiffchaff, corn bunting and spotted flycatcher – all regulars for this time of year.


Our daughter, Alison, alerted us to some large caterpillars on a vine outside her apartment. Despite their different colours, they are both larvae of silver-striped hawk moths. They have a rather cartoon character look to them.



After humans, the rat has colonized more of the planet, than any other animal. Down at the quayside in Georgioupoli, after a rainy day, a couple of brown rats were scurrying around. No birds to photograph there, so here’s the rat!

A common butterfly – the red admiral (vanessa atalanta). This one found just behind Kalivaki Beach.

At Agia, while watching the wounded sedge warbler, a praying mantis flew onto a large fig leaf, deserving of a photo. This was a large specimen. A few days later, Margaret came indoors complaining that she had just been bitten by a mantis. She has often picked up these creatures, mainly to relocate them somewhere safer, and thought they didn’t bite! They can, but it’s not serious.


Wild flowers

Still not much around at the beginning of the month, but many sea daffodils sighted on Elafonisi Island – I’m sure these are blooming later than usual.


In an area recently ravaged by fire, we came across a small yellow flower, which we hadn’t seen before. We have tried to identify the plant and think it is gagea bohemica, which is one of many yellow Star of Bethlehem.


A pretty little flower was seen between rocks on the slopes down towards Livaniana. It must be an asphodel of some kind, but is much smaller than the common and white forms.



We thought Elafonisi would be quiet by early October – we were wrong! This view is taken from Elafonisi Island looking back across the lagoon to the main beach area.


A rainy day at home, and one or two rainbows appearing. At Georgioupoli a fading rainbow was seen out to sea.

The monastery of Chrysoskalitissas, near Elafonisi, has lovely views of an inlet below the monastery walls. The sea really is this colour!


This is Crete

We have been in Crete for almost eight years now, and October can be a very contrary month. In 2006 we had devastating rainfall on 17th, something close to it last year also on 17th, and today – 17th we are currently in the throes of nearly 30 hours of non-stop rain with daytime temperature of 12c here in Georgioupoli. Other years, we have had temperatures hitting nearly 30c in October, with a horrendous fire locally in 2003. My mother was with us for all of the second half of October in 2004 – and never saw a drop of rain! As the last holidaymakers make the most of their time here, we are feeling sorry for them, as it has generally been a very poor October 2011.

Roll on November!


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