Report 23 - October/November 2009

Hi Everyone,

We're back after a two week trip to the UK in October - many thanks to Raye and Roy, Dave and Sherry, and Brian and Wendy for their hospitality. Great to see you Roy & Raye
Although my reports are about wildlife, and birding in particular, in Crete, I thought I would share a few pictures of birds photographed in the UK, which we don't see, or would be unlikely to see here.  Most pictures were taken in Norfolk at Titchwell, Cley, or the Broads, and wood pigeon apart, all were new sightings for us.  The last picture is a view across Breydon Water on the Broads.


Bar-tailed Godwit with 2 Sanderling - Photo by and A&M


Male Bearded Tit - Photo by and A&M


Black-tailed Godwits - Photo by and A&M


Sanderling - Photo by and A&M


Turnstone - Photo by and A&M


Woodpigeon - Photo by and A&M


Breydon Water - Photo by and A&M


Back home in Crete there is a significant absence of birds around the house.  After two days we are yet to see stonechats, sardinian warblers, great tits and even house sparrows, which are always with us year round - but we have been indoors a lot!

22nd.  A brief stop at Georgioupolis Viewpoint just before dusk, and the only bird of note was a water rail.  I have rarely seen this bird, but today a coot insisted on feeding at the same spot and made the rail scamper about - so it was easy to see!

23rd.  It's a year now since the white pelicans descended on Georgioupolis.  Only one stayed, and a walk along the quayside today found it preening on the bank.  See below.


Photo by and A&M

27th.  After some appalling weather over the past few days, I managed a walk towards the Viewpoint this afternoon.  The area enroute was full of butterflies, mainly painted lady, like the one below.


Painted Lady - Photo by and A&M

Otherwise, no birds!  Earlier today, we had both dark and light phase booted eagles seen from the house at different times.  Both were "seen off" by kestrel and hooded crow respectively.

30th.  A visit to Agia on a rather grey afternoon.  No real highlights, but sightings included 3 grey herons, 3 little crakes, 3 barn swallows, a couple of sedge warblers, a common snipe and at least 2 kingfishers.  The last were busy flying low over the water from one reed bed to another, and it was difficult to tell whether we were seeing the same two birds.  On the water it was mainly coots as usual, but at least 8 ferruginous ducks and 6 tufted ducks on the far side.
Outside the taverna many chiffchaffs were flitting about in the smaller trees.  Two pictures below of the kingfisher.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

November

4th.  We have experienced the worst run of "bad" weather since our arrival in Crete in December 2003!  Although the winter weather can throw all sorts of drama into our lives here, rarely does it last more than a couple of days.  Since our return from the UK on 20th October we have seen over 12 cms of rain, very strong winds, and a thunderstorm that lasted 36 hours.
Flooding has occurred in many houses, including holiday homes of our friends, and in our basement after a temporary pump failure.  Unusually early snow on the White Mountains was a lovely sight, once the clouds broke up.  Two photos below showing distant snow and the stormy skies.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

But today, at least, it has abated, and we set off for a short drive and picnic lunch on our favourite road above Ano Malaki.  Frustratingly, it was enroute that the best sightings were had.  A flock of 6 griffons was immediately followed by a pair of eagles, which we couldn't identify at distance.  Their hovering and flapping reminded me of the short-toed eagles we saw this time last year near Sitia.  We didn't get a second chance, as they glided further away and out of sight.  Shortly after, a glimpse only of red kite.  We tried "chasing" it but it quickly disppeared.   At our picnic site we saw ravens, kestrels, common buzzards and the occasional griffon, corn buntings everywhere and the odd wintering robins - all birds we would expect to see on our travels.  Back at Georgioupolis, we detoured via the quayside and found a mute swan on the river.  This is the 3rd time one (or the same bird) has visited us this year and is presumably mate-less?  Photos below of a corn bunting and the swan, one photo showing it with a small fish in its beak.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

5th.  We have grandson with us today, and while the weather holds we make for Omalos, a mountain refuge above Irini Gorge, and Agia.  Alex sees choughs for the first time, and starlings massing at dusk at Agia.  The weather in the mountains becomes cloudy, but quite dramatic.  On the Omalos plateau we see clouds erupting out of the Samaria Gorge, as below


Photo by and A&M

and later at our picnic spot, a very eerie feel as clouds roll above and below us, occasionally clearing completely to give stunning views, like the one of the wind turbines below.


Photo by and A&M

A griffon appeared out of the mist, and then passed again when it was clear. Two pics below of this bird.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

Some small but beautiful flowers were showing, mainly in shaded areas, like the crocus below.


Photo by and A&M

Low lying Agia had been in sunshine all day and still warm.  At 23c it was 10c warmer than Omalos.  An all too brief glimpse of a possible moustached warbler was the highlight of this visit for me - for Alex, it was the starlings' display!

6th.  A day at home, except for a quick look at Kournas Lake and Kalivaki beach.  The lake turned up a large flock of coots on choppy water, caused by the strong winds today.  Amongst the coots, five pochard were spotted.  At Kalivaki beach, or at least on the river, the mute swan was seen standing on the shore, showing a ring on its right leg. - will be interested to find the origin of this. Other birds seen here included grey wagtail, kingfisher and two common sandpipers.

11th.  The flooded meadows behind Kalivaki beach have now been temporary home to three little egrets and a grey heron for about 5 days.  Apart from a wintering robin taking up residence in our garden, there has been very little bird movement recently, and we are still awaiting our first sight of this winters' black redstarts, though some friends have seen a couple recently.

12th.  A walk down to Kalivaki beach with grandson at lunchtime today - it had to happen after yesterday's comment - our first black redstart of the winter!  More interestingly, the little egrets, now 4, were accompanied by a single greenshank.  I haven't seen this bird late in the year before.  A photo below of the greenshank being followed closely by a little egret.


Photo by and A&M

Also in the area, common sandpiper, kingfisher, booted eagle, the mute swan and our pelican - now engaged in helping the fishermen choose their bait! See below


Photo by and A&M

Whilst in the area, I had a quick look at the Viewpoint.  Four garganey, all feeding with their heads under water.  Before leaving, a water rail appeared with a couple of moorhens, and I just managed a photo.  The picture is quite distant, so quality not so good with my camera.

 
Photo by and A&M

15th.  The four little egrets are still finding food on the flooded meadows.  We have often had one overwintering here, so will be interesting to see how long these stay.  Another pic of three of them.


Photo by and A&M

17th.  Called in at Agia after shopping in Chania. (Had seen a very nicely marked light morph booted eagle over Champion supermarket!)  A beautiful day had been forecast, so sandwiches were packed and picnic was had on a bench by the water.  Nothing memorable today, but a group of pochard took my eye, especially as some tufted duck were in the background, so picture below.


Photo by and A&M
 
19th.  Found this very small lacewing on our patio doors, so tried a picture through the glass, with some success, as below.


Photo by and A&M

20th.  We have been picking our olives for the past two days, and apart from chiffchaff and linnets in the garden, have nothing else to report, except the four little egrets have all departed the flooded meadows behind Kalivaki beach.   However, the mute swan on the river is still with us, and spends much time in the vicinity of the pelican and resident geese.  The latter are fed daily and the swan knows it's on to a good thing here!

23rd.  Very little to see at Kournas Lake, but stopping off at Kalivaki beach we saw
a greenshank wading in the remaining flooded area since the heavy rain three weeks ago. This is probably the same bird first spotted with the little egrets earlier this month.  Photo below.


Photo by and A&M

Back at home we found this pair of amorous butterflies, but I haven't identified them yet. Speckled Wood? Roy


Photo by and A&M - Speckled Wood? Roy

24th.  A drive south to Triopetra beach and other beaches along this section of the south coast on a sunny and fairly warm day.  There were few bird sightings on this trip, but wonderful scenery and a picnic on the beach.  The enroute coffee stop did provide us with a clear sighting of a late willow warbler.  This bird must be about to take the giant leap over the Libyan Sea to Africa, but our recent good weather has possibly held it up?
We returned via the Kissos Gorge which brought us out onto the high "Spili meadows".  Here we found many crocus biflora, like the group photographed.


Photo by and A&M

In this area too were small flocks of linnets, occasionally settling on small trees, as in the picture below.


Photo by and A&M

27th.  Whilst panning the garden with binoculars I noticed this dragonfly resting on a peach tree.  I think it's a Red-veined Darter Darter, see pic below.


Photo by and A&M

Later, a walk around Kalivaki beach turned up stonechats, meadow pipits, white wagtails, goldfinches, black redstart, kingfisher, common sandpiper, a solitary greenshank, and the mute swan.

28th.  The meadow pipits are attracted to the remaining flood water, which has almost disappeared now.  They have been difficult to photograph, partly because of the bright dappled sunlight under the trees where they tend to be.  Today I sat in the car (as a hide) and managed a few pics.  Three are shown below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

The warm spell has also meant a profusion of butterflies, like the small white pictured below.


Photo by and A&M
 

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