September 2009

Hi Everyone,

2nd.  Having recently located a quiet spot along our 7 km stretch of beach, I decided to visit again early evening today.  So far over the past month, we have seen grey and purple herons, black-winged stilts, little egrets and common sandpipers, all using a short spit of shingle where a small river meets the sea.  Today, above this area, three glossy ibis flew by quite high up - see photos below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

On the spit were many squacco herons this time, accompanied by a single purple heron.  The heron heard me crunching through the shingle and immediately took off, heading across the sea.  This alerted the squaccos, so a few pictures of the outcome and their final resting place for the evening.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

3rd.  A sightseeing trip with visiting family started with a coffee stop at Agia.  Nothing much to see, but a couple of eleanora's falcons did appear for a few moments.  Next it was to Omalos for lunch.  Sitting at the highest taverna, we had views of crag martins and ravens - and that was all!  Back down via Laki and Meskla (new road joins these two villages direct now) and up again to Zourva.  By the high cliffs flocks of jackdaws performed aerial displays - and that was all!  A chance stop high above Theriso gave our niece her much awaited view of griffon vultures, but more surprising was the bird atop a small tree up from the road - another lesser grey shrike.  We had holidayed on Crete for many years, and have now lived here permanently for over five, and never seen a lesser grey until last week.  (see August report).  Now three separate sightings in a week!  More distant this time, but a photo to record this September sighting below.


Photo by and A&M


The biggest surprise of the day came while we were descending from Omalos to Laki - a small bird hide has been erected beside the road!  Nowhere to park safely mind you, but a nice idea.
Photo below:


Photo by and A&M

4th.  An "at home" day still gave me a first, of sorts.  We regularly see rock doves in gorges and caves, but today two flew towards the house, with one landing on our water tank on top of the house!  Whilst the second bird disappeared, the one above flew to a dead conifer tree opposite and sat there for nearly an hour.  It took a descending buzzard to make it move off!

5th.  The rock dove chose the same tree to rest up for a while around breakfast time.  Then, probably later than last year, our first sighting of autumn migrating bee-eaters flew low over the house this morning - about 8 seeming noisier than usual.

6th.  A couple of hours drive via some favourite spots didn't turn up very much - three ortolans is worth a mention.  A black-eared (black throated) wheatear was photographed at some distance, mainly because of the plumage.  By now we expect these birds to look worn, but this was fresh, and, apart from the amount of black around the facial area, looked just like a northern wheatear with pale grey/blue crown and mantle/back.  (not sure it's possible to have a hybrid between these two? - but that's what it looks like. (see attached).
 


Photo by and A&M

7th.  Had a quick look at the "spit" mentioned on the 2nd as today was our first day of "bad" weather since May!.  A juvenile grey heron the only bird there.  Out at sea a large flock of probable pintails (several hundred) were racing across the surface of the water.  Then, high in the sky, what appeared to be another flock of the same.  Not as dramatic as starlings, this larger flock kept me watching for nearly an hour, sometimes grouped close together, other times in a long strand across the sky.   Some pics of both flocks below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

"bad" weather was a poor description - we had a few spits of rain for the first time since May, with dark clouds and strong winds all day.  The forecast is much the same for the next week.

9th.  Some large flocks seen over the bay from the house early afternoon.  Distant, even with binoculars I couldn't identify, though thought they were grey herons.  I made a hasty trip down to Kalivaki beach to "get nearer".  Three flocks were located, all grey herons, all very high, but a smaller breakaway section came low enough for a picture, as below:


Photo by and A&M

Later at the Viewpoint a tern was skirting the lake edges.  I haven't been able to separate it yet between a little gull and white-winged black tern.  I haven't seen either at the Viewpoint in Autumn before, though a little gull was at Kournas Lake at a similar time last year.

10th.  A whitethroat visited the garden today - the first we've seen at close quarters.  The camera was at hand while we sat on the terrace, so a couple of pictures taken. See below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

12th.  After a couple of rainy days, we had a morning drive in sunshine before the cloud arrived again.  Our trip was to drive south through the Kotsifou Gorge and back northwards through the Kourtalioti Gorge.  A small flock of ortolan buntings was the only memorable sighting enroute to our coffee stop.  Coffee was taken by a small church above the village of Kanevos, above the Kotsifou Gorge.  Nothing was seen, apart from a noisy flock of jackdaws somewhere below us.  Just as we were about to leave, I noticed a large bird gliding eastwards along a high ridge to the south.  We both grabbed our binoculars back again, and were delighted to see this was a lammergeier.  We watched as it continued away from us, only to see it joined by another.  As they disappeared we guessed they were now in the vicinity of the Kourtalioti Gorge, so we prepared to leave.  Then one of the birds reappeared and flew back towards us, quite high up.
My best pictures of this fabulous bird are shown below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

We continued our route well pleased, and made our customary stop in the Kourtalioti Gorge.  Many griffons were flying around the peaks west of the gorge (lammergeier has been seen from here - but not by us).  Again, we were about to leave, when we spotted two bonelli's eagles, somewhat lower than the griffons.  I had to struggle to free the camera strap, which had got caught in the gaps of the picnic table we sat at, so my pictures were when the birds were more distant.  If you look carefully, you will see the second bonelli's in the distance.


Photo by and A&M

13th.  Could lightning strike twice in the same spot?  Margaret was keen to see if the lammergeier used the same route parolling the ridges at the same time of day.  I wasn't going to argue about a second trip - this was a quiet weekend for us - so off we went.  We arrived half an hour earlier than yesterday's sighting, stayed for over an hour - and saw nothing!  No lammergeier today, but a few griffons, kestrels, ravens, three eleanora's falcons, and a possible peregrine at some distance.  A little disheartened, we headed homewards, via our favourite road from Agouseliana to Ano Malaki, and stopped for a short break near the turning for Saitoures.  Within 15 minutes the following list of birds was seen;

chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, stonechat, whinchat, wheatear, blackeared wheatear, meadow pipit, yellow wagtail, sardinian warbler, spotted flycatcher, juvenile red-backed shrikes, jay, hoopoe, bee-eaters, common buzzard, raven, jackdaws, griffon, kestrel, eleanora's falcon, alpine swift, barn swallow, and hundreds of housemartins.

A little further on we added chiffchaff, blue tit, and a female golden oriole which flew in front of the car.  Nearer home, at Karoti, we saw large numbers of swallows and housemartins on telegraph wires, many of which were red-rumped swallows - see picture below:


Photo by and A&M

A quick look at the Georgioupolis Viewpoint late afternoon revealed a single ferruginous duck.

17th.  A late afternoon drive to find walnuts!  We managed to pick a few fallen nuts on the road below Argyroupolis, but the highlight there was three golden orioles flying around the trees.  With so much foliage around it was impossible to pick them out in the trees, so no photo opportunities.  Our first jay in this area too.  We continued up to Kalikratis, where we stopped and watched up to 50 bee-eaters, some on telegraph wires, as below


Photo by and A&M

Others were using a large plane tree for perching in between sortees.  Apart from the usual assortment of goldfinches, linnets and chaffinches, a number of woodlark were also seen - but no large birds today, except a marsh harrier seen earlier from the house.

A late breakfast was taken on the east facing terrace today - it's been too hot in direct sun until now - and I couldn't resist yet another photo from here, with the morning sun shining down on the bay, leaving the background misty, but clear as far as Mount Psiloritis.


Photo by and A&M

23rd.  Business to be done in Chania today gave us the opportunity to call in at Agia again.  Water level was very high, so no waders to be found, except at the weir (cascade), where we were pleased to find two adult spotted redshanks already in winter plumage. Photo of one below:


Photo by and A&M

With them was a single little egret, kingfisher, and yellow wagtail.  On the lake a whiskered tern was hunting around the edges mostly on the far side, while two eleanora's falcons and a female marsh harrier were also sighted while we were there.

25th.  A trip to Aradena area with John and Patti Bayley started with a wonderful display of autumn crocus in an unkempt olive grove at Anopoli.  The species was variable as can be seen from the 3 pictures below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

Lunch was taken at a newish taverna between Anopoli and Aradena.  As we waited for food, a number of birds were sighted across the road in a lightly wooded area.  Among the spotted flycatchers, chiffchaffs, chaffinches and goldfinches was a slightly larger warbler.  We looked at the bird books and all agreed this appeared to be an icterine warbler.  It didn't hang around for long, but I managed a couple photos which confirmed our identification.  This was a first for us. photos below:


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

I don't often describe our lunch because it's usually sandwiches, that we take with us.  But today we had Greek salad, village sausages and meat balls, enough chips for an army, graviera cheese, and apple pie to finish - all homemade, including the bread.  On the house we were given Greek yoghurt with honey, raki and a jar of honey to take away!  With soft drinks all round, our bill totalled 30 for the 4 of us - not bad eh!.

With full stomachs we continued to Aradena, and then further to Aghios Ioanis, where the tarmac road finishes.  Again, I wouldn't normally include descriptions of churches we visit from time to time, but a little chapel, that John and I visited via a very stony path, revealed some wonderful frescoes, so I'm sharing these with you too.  Unfortunately, this very old church had no obvious name, but appears to be a church of the Panagia.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

Our return journey included sightings of willow warbler and griffons, but a chance look across an olive grove from the car gave us an unlikely, all too brief, sighting of a great reed warbler.  John and I traipsed across the olive grove "in pursuit", but never saw it again.  Then, as we descended the serpentine road to Chora Sfakia, John pointed ahead to a "griffon" some distance away.  He stopped the car - I got out and took a long distance photo.  It was actually a stork gliding majestically along the coast.  Only after I downloaded the photos next morning was I surprised to see this was in fact a black stork - rare here, and another first for us.  Photo below:


Photo by and A&M

27th.  A rather stormy looking and muggy morning gave me optimism for something "different" descending on us today.  A late morning walk, cross-country, to the Viewpoint gave me some reward.  Firstly seven common snipe took off from a small dried-up pond, and I managed to capture three of them on camera, as below:


Photo by and A&M

With them on the pond were two common sandpipers and several yellow wagtails.  A juvenile red-backed shrike and spotted flycatcher were vying for the same territory in this area, so a nice spot to spend a few minutes.  A little egret flew by too.  Walking around the "back" of the Viewpoint turned up nothing, until I returned to the olive processing factory.  Looking back over the Viewpoint a hooded crow was pestering what I thought was the female marsh harrier, that spends about eight months of the year here.  The tail looked slightly forked, so a black kite seemed more likely - and so it was.  A couple of previous sightings of black kite here have always been of birds quite high up, but this one obliged, with the help of the crow, by flying lower, so two photos below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

28th.  Heard bee-eaters, and then found about 20 of them circling around the house you rented last year Roy!

29th.  First pale morph booted eagle for a few months - seen from the house.  A walk around lunchtime towards Viewpoint area turned up common snipe and common sandpiper again.  Disturbed a hoopoe enroute, and then again on return - could have been same bird.  Mixture of housemartins, sand martins, swallows and alpine swifts accompanied me most of the time.  A couple of chiffchaffs and spotted flycatchers seen, as was another young red-backed shrike.  The attached photo reveals a first winter bird with bold barring on its back. See photo below:


Photo by and A&M


October: This report continues briefly into October.

1st.  My regular walk towards the rear of the Viewpoint - this time late afternoon.  The dried up pond revealed three common snipe this time, but they didn't fly away!  In the late afternoon sun they were content to sit deep in the cracks of the pond surface and not worry about my presence.  I wasn't very close to them, but my picture shows them in this rather unusual position:


Photo by and A&M

While I was watching them, two grey herons landed in a distant tree, then decided it was not the roosting spot they wanted and took off.  See photo below:


Photo by and A&M

There was nothing much at the Viewpoint - a little-ringed plover had found a small area of sand - and so I continued into Georgioupolis and walked alongside the river.  I had heard friends saying they had not seen the pelican recently, so I had a look.  It was still there - guarding the pedaloes!  See photo below:


Photo by and A&M

2nd.  A day out with John and Patti Bayley again, heading this time for Omalos.  Highlights were great views of a single Eleanora's falcon over the plateau, see photo below:


Photo by and A&M

and good sighting of young golden eagle, later joined by another, possibly adult, but distant.  On the return journey we stopped off to collect chestnuts, and filled our bags in record time.  We couldn't pass Agia without dropping in before losing light, and had our first views of this winter's starlings arriving.  Two grey herons, two marsh harriers, a single spotted redshank, a little egret, a juvenile little crake, a common snipe, sedge warbler, chiffchaff, cetti's warbler and kingfisher were seen around the lake edges.  On the lake, at least eight ferruginous ducks, plus pochard, garganey, shoveller and tufted duck. 

3rd/4th.  A quiet weekend at home, and the only highlight was a light phase booted eagle over the house - the first we've seen for a few months.
 

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