December 2008
 

Birding in Western Crete

We can report that the White Pelicans at Souda seem to be doing well, the Bluethroat was still present on the 1st, also that a Cattle Egret was at Agia at the end of November, thanks to Nikos Samaritakis for that news.

For our December report we include forty-four pictures

Golden Eagle on the 3rd

Movement of White Pelican on the 4th

Cattle Egret at Agia on the 4th Our first sighting on Crete, further sightings of three birds on the 19th/ 20th and 29th .

Moustached Warbler on the 8th. Another first for us

Greater Sand Plover, Golden Plover on the 8th &11th.

Red-breasted Merganser 12/13/14th

Our first Merlin on Crete 16th

1st

Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Hooded Crop, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Robin, Great Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Common Buzzard 2, Kingfisher 2, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Linnet, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and Blackbird,

2nd

Black Redstart, Stonechat, Robin, Hooded Crow, Great Tit, Linnet, Chiffchaff, Blue Rock Thrush 2[one near the port] Griffon Vulture 6, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Dove, Corn Bunting, Kingfisher[kissamos] Kestrel 2, Sardinian Warbler, Common Buzzard 2, Peregrine Falcon, Goldfinch.

3rd

Crag Martin 2, Crested Lark, Hooded Crow, Blue Rock Thrush, Raven 2, Griffon Vulture 1+2+3+2, Corn Bunting, White wagtail, Linnet, Robin. Golden Eagle a single bird flew off Gramvousa in the company of three Griffons heading south.


Distant shot of immature Golden Eagle
- photo by and © C&S

Kestrel 1, Common Buzzard 2, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Italian Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Chaffinch and Black Redstart.

4th

With really strong winds, 10 Beaufort this morning, and seven ships laying at anchor sheltering in the bay, we thought we would have another day with little birding. However a text from Alan told of two Pelican at Agia so we decided to take an afternoon trip to also see what arrives at dusk. At home Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch and Sardinian Warbler, also our roosting Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. We watched as a single Griffon Vulture was flying low straight into the SSE wind without making much headway we think it returned and was later seen holding station above the ridges.

On route for Agia we stopped at the Kissamos river mouth and found Corn Bunting, Collared Dove, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull and White Wagtail. Along the highway, 6 Common Buzzard. We then picked up friends Bob and Dawn in Kissamos and headed for the lake.

Agia lake …….

We arrived to find the Taverna having some work done on the outside and twenty metres away 2 Pelicans were sat on the path fast asleep, obviously not worried about the men working nearby these two were well used to a human presence and allowed people to approach to within a couple of feet.


White Pelican
- photo by and © C&S


White Pelican
- photo by and © C&S


White Pelican Agia Lake behind
- photo by and © C&S

Also present, 15 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Common Buzzard, Stonechat, Goldfinch 100+, Hooded Crow 30+. Whilst photographing the pelican Dawn spotted the lone Bluethroat in the shrub, with the light pretty bad we managed no photographs today.

Cetti’s Warbler 4, Starling 60+, Marsh Harrier 2, Water Rail 1, Redshank 1, Tufted Duck 2, Ferruginous Duck, 1 Pintail, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Snipe 11, Shoveler Duck 17, Mallard 39, Gadwall 3, Teal 56, Pochard 19, Coot 400+, Moorhen 50+, Wigeon 9, Little Grebe 50+, White Wagtail 10, Lapwing 1, Grey Wagtail 1 and Kingfisher 6.


Lapwing leading a flight of Starling
- photo by and © C&S


Kingfisher
- photo by and © C&S

Just as darkness fell a Squacco Heron and a Cattle Egret came in to roost. With others seeing cattle egret on several occasions this was our first sighting of one on Crete. In all a good day considering the weather.

5th

Our first Anemone flowered today a  few weeks later than last year in all likelihood due to the lack of rainfall.

We sighted the following in the first fifteen minutes of the day ….Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Rock Thrush, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, Kestrel, Linnet, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Shag, Yellow-legged Gull, Robin, Black Redstart, Corn Bunting, Rock Dove, Italian Sparrow.

A trip to Kissamos town we called at the river mouth……Common Buzzard 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Turnstone 1, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail 3, Grey Wagtail 2.


Buzzard
- photo by and © C&S


Grey Wagtail
- photo by and © C&S


Meadow Pipit
- photo by and © C&S

Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow, Kingfisher 1, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, Black Redstart and Stonechat.

6th

Black Redstart, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird. A lone Griffon Vulture sitting high on a ridge of the peninsula. Robin, Yellow-legged Gull, Blue Rock Thrush, White Wagtail, Crested Lark and Goldfinch.


Black Redstart
- photo by and © C&S

7th

Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Robin, Great Tit, Stonechat, Common Buzzard, Italian Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Raven and Blue Rock Thrush.

The first Anemones start to flower


First flower Anemone
- photo by and © C&S

8th

Stonechat, Blue Tit, Black Redstart, Hooded Crow, Great Tit, Raven, kestrel, Linnet, Goldfinch, White Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Robin, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Chaffinch, 2 Sandwich tern, Collared Dove and Blue Rock Thrush.

Around Kissamos….. 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Kingfisher, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit.


Meadow Pipit
- photo by and © C&S

Chiffchaff, 1 Cormorant.


Cormorant
- photo by and © C&S

Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Stonechat, Yellow-legged Gull and Collared Dove.

9th

Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, Hooded Crow and Black Redstart.

We set off early [ish] for Lake Agia.

Along the route via the beach roads either side of Kissamos/ Kolymbari we saw Kestrel, Buzzard, and 1 Greater Sand Plover, 7 Golden Plover.


Greater Sand Plover
- photo by and © C&S


Golden Plover
- photo by and © C&S

Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Hooded Crow, 1 Sandwich Tern, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Corn Bunting.

Lake Agia…..

Crag Martin,  Blackbird, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler, Mallard 24, Pochard 35, Wigeon 7, Shoveler 34, Yellow-legged Gull 5, Coot 300+, Moorhen 50+, Little Grebe 50+, Teal 12, Tufted Duck 4, 1 Cormorant.


Cormorant at Agia
- photo by and © C&S

Ferruginous Duck 7, Garganey 2, Gadwall 2, White Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Yellow Wagtail, pale morph Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard 2, Black Redstart, Starling 30+, Sardinian Warbler. At last after hearing the tic tic of the Moustached Warbler on numerous occasions we eventually sight it as it flitted between the mass of reeds, with Sue managing a photo.


Moustached Warbler
- photo by and © C&S

Great and Blue Tit, Kingfisher 9.


Kingfisher
- photo by and © C&S

Hooded Crow, Stonechat and Chiffchaff.

Of note … the water levels were very high and there were no waders to be seen.

A section of the Duck photos


Female Tufted Duck - photo by and © C&S


Female Tufted Duck
- photo by and © C&S


Female Teal
- photo by and © C&S



Male Ferruginous Duck
- photo by and © C&S


Female Shoveler Duck
- photo by and © C&S


Female Pochard - photo by and © C&S          

10th

Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Black Redstart, Blackbird, 3 Common Buzzard, Great Tit, Robin, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Italian Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, White Wagtail, Chaffinch, 2 Crag Martin, 3 Griffon Vulture, 1 Sparrowhawk, a dark morph Booted Eagle, a pair of Peregrine Falcon flew noisily overhead, 1 Kestrel, 2 Raven, Blue Rock Thrush, Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Shag.

11th

Great Tit, Blue Tit, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Black Redstart, Robin, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Sardinian Warbler, 2 Crag Martin, 10 Griffon Vulture soared over Gramvousa, Common Buzzard, White Wagtail, Kestrel, Goldfinch, Linnet, 1 Greater Sand Plover, 1 dark morph Booted Eagle, 1 Peregrine Falcon sat on the rocks above the small church, 1 Sparrowhawk flew low along the side of the house pursued by a Hooded Crow and Blue Rock Thrush.

Around Kissamos…

Kingfisher 2, Collared Dove, 1 Common sandpiper, 1 Turnstone, 4 Golden Plover, White Wagtail, 2 Shag, Meadow Pipit, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat, Goldfinch, Great Tit, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard, 2 Raven, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch and Black Redstart.

12th

After a night of very high winds and thunderstorms we awoke to a murky day. There was very little about. Until we visited Kissamos !

From the house……Stonechat, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, 1 Common Buzzard sat on a post metres from the house. Italian Sparrow, Greenfinch. Blue Rock thrush 1 and Black Redstart 6 still roosting.

Kissamos…..30+ Crag Martin, 1 Common Sandpiper, Linnet, Collared Dove and Goldfinch. Driving back home, as we passed the port we noticed a Yellow-legged Gull swooping on a smaller bird sat on the water we took a right into the port where we had closes view of a female Red-breasted Merganser.


Red-breasted Merganser
- photo by and © C&S

Only our second sighting of this species here the first in February 2006. We stayed for an hour watching this bird as it dived and fished.

13th

Crag Martin 2, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, Stonechat, Serin, Greenfinch, Sparrowhawk 1, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Common Buzzard, Raven, Robin, Sandwich Tern 1, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler and Great Tit. Another trip to Kissamos gave us further sightings of the Red-Breasted Merganser with Sue getting a flight shot


Red-breasted Merganser
- photo by and © C&S

2 Kingfisher, 1 Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Stonechat and Common Buzzard.

14th

Common Buzzard 4, Sparrowhawk 1, Italian Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Griffon Vulture 3, Long-legged Buzzard 1, Shag 1, Crag Martin 10, Blue Rock Thrush 1, 100+ Yellow-legged Gull, Kestrel 1, Robin, Chaffinch, stonechat, Blackbird, Linnet, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Sandwich Tern, White wagtail, Raven and Black Redstart.

Thanks to Bob for letting us know the Red-breasted Merganser still in the same location, we could not find it ourselves this afternoon.

15th

At Home …..Crag Martin 24, Blue Rock Thrush, Yellow-legged Gull 100+, Black Redstart, Robin, Italian Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, White Wagtail, Great Tit, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, Raven, Cormorant 1, Common Buzzard, Woodlark and Barn Owl.

A drive to Falasarna via the port at Kissamos.

Sandwich Tern.


Sandwich Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Sandwich Tern
- photo by and © C&S

Yellow-legged Gull, Linnet, Goldfinch, Black Redstart White Wagtail.

Falasarna…… Collared Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Italian and House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Raven and Common Buzzard. An adult Peregrine Falcon sat on one of the small islets, whilst a Common Sandpiper and a Little Egret were spotted in the rocky shallows as a Cormorant fished just offshore. Male Crested Lark were seen displaying to the females.


Displaying Crested Lark
- photo by and © C&S

We found the Androcymbium Rechingeri flowering early at the Falasarna site.


Androcymbium rechingeri
- photo by and © C&S

16th

Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Great Tit. Scanning the shoreline through the scope we spot the Red-breasted Merganser fishing off the rocks nearby. Blue Rock Thrush, Italian Sparrow, Linnet, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Woodlark, 3 Common Buzzard soared noisily over the house. 2 Raven flew along the ridges . As we ate our breakfast on the balcony overlooking Kissamos Bay a Merlin [our first on Crete] flew past at a distance of 4-5 metres, it was gone in moments as it headed out onto the peninsula, but a lovely sighting and so close, this makes our species list for Crete…204. Through the scope again we spot the Sandwich Tern at the same location flying near the port. Collared Dove, Stonechat and White Wagtail completed the morning’s sightings.

17th

Black Redstart, Linnet, Goldfinch. We spotted a Peregrine Falcon sat on the rocks above the church, it stayed for the whole morning moving only once when it shot off down into the sheep field below us and returned with a small bird where it sat on a ledge and gave good views as feathers from its meal flew everywhere.


Peregrine Falcon
- photo by and © C&S

Another Peregrine was seen overhead and no less than 5 Kestrel hawked nearby, we hope they would be lesser but no such luck.  40+ Yellow-legged Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Rock Dove 2, Chaffinch and Corn Bunting. Seen through the scope towards the port, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1Kingfisher, 1 Shag and 2 Sandwich Tern. White Wagtail, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Robin, Crested Lark, Greenfinch, Raven, Common Buzzard and Blue Rock Thrush.

18th

A text from Bob the Red-breasted Merganser is still present at Kissamos.

At home….. Sardinian Warbler, Rock Dove, Black Redstart, Hooded Crow, Kingfisher, Sandwich Tern, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Crested Lark, Linnet, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Robin, Chaffinch and Blue Rock Thrush.

19th

Common Buzzard, Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Robin, Greenfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, stonechat, Cormorant, Linnet and White Wagtail.

On a shopping trip to Chania we stopped off at the coastline near Daratsos for lunch and spotted two juv. White Pelican flying along the coast heading east towards Chania, also in that area is a good stand of conifer where there are Goldfinch, Linnet and a couple of hundred Collared Dove.

On the way home we were diverted from the coast road due to major roadworks between Maleme and Garani and took a narrow lane nearer to the coast, we were delighted to get our best views of Cattle Egret, three of which were feeding near to some tethered goats. Unfortunately due to this being our shopping trip we had no room for cameras so missed out getting some photos, we plan to return tomorrow hopefully they will still be around. Also 2 Kestrel near Kolyvari.

A dusting of snow was again seen on the White Mountains.

20th

Off in search of the Cattle Egret early today prior to leaving we see, Blue Rock Thrush,  Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Robin, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat and White Wagtail.

On route and Gerani…. Common Buzzard, Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellow-legged Gull, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, White Wagtail, Kingfisher 4, Shag, Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Stonechat, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Cetti’s Warbler, Black Redstart and Blackbird.

After three hours we found the Cattle Egret, two km, from yesterday’s location, we were looking in the place where we had a previous sighting of jack snipe, as we were about to leave for Agia lake Sue shouted stop, and there they were, only two were visible in a really overgrown garden, using the palm trees and shrubs as cover we managed to get superb views and some good pictures, the birds approaching to within five metres of us , before a guard dog disturbed them and they then flew onto the house roof where we watched as they preened themselves.


Cattle Egret
- photo by and © C&S


Cattle Egret
- photo by and © C&S


Cattle Egret
- photo by and © C&S

Tearing ourselves reluctantly away we headed for Agia, we found , Teal 40+, Shoveler 30+, Marsh Harrier 1, a pale morph Booted Eagle circled lazily as it headed east, Hooded Crow helping it along ! Kingfisher 2, Tufted Duck 3, Pochard 50+.


Tufted Duck and Pochard
- photo by and © C&S

Ferruginous Duck 2, Coot 300+, Moorhen 50+, Little Grebe 50+, White Wagtail 3, Cetti’s Warbler 2. The  Moustached Warbler was again elusive, giving the briefest of views and no photo opportunities. Common Buzzard 2, Wigeon 20+.


Wigeon
- photo by and © C&S

A Cormorant  flew in and landed on the east side of the lake scattering some of the 50+ Mallard. Fifty plus Yellow-legged Gull came and went throughout our stay.


View of the White Mountains from Agia Lake
- photo by and © C&S

On route home via Agia marina  …. Starling 4, a lovely mixed group of Tree, House and Italian Sparrow sat noisily on a fence near an old cement factory near the unfinished prison, giving us the opportunity to get close views of the all to rarely seen Tree Sparrow.


Tree Sparrow
- photo by and © C&S

At the Marina a Common Sandpiper, 1 Kingfisher, Italian ands House Sparrow.


Italian Sparrow
- photo by and © C&S

White Wagtail, Great Tit, also on route , Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit.

21st

Blackbird, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Sardinian Warbler, Raven, Woodlark, 5 Griffon Vultures headed south on the front of a large storm that was heading our way. Kestrel 1, Black Redstart, 3 Sandwich Tern, Greenfinch, Linnet, Robin and Goldfinch.

Late evening the storm hit with force 10/11 Beaufort winds coming from the north bringing rain and sleet, the Blue Rock Thrush was nowhere to be seen obviously finding somewhere more sheltered.

22nd

With the winds still battering us with occasional snow showers we kept the shutters closed but ventured into town and saw…. Yellow-legged Gull flew low over the stormy seas looking for scraps of food


Winter Storms
- photo by and © C&S

The waves in the night had washed over what is called a road alongside the beach, depositing rocks and rubbish in several places. Hooded Crow and a Common Buzzard called noisily as they rose and fell on the stormy gusting winds. Two Peregrine Falcon Flew near the house performing aerobatics like a pair of fighter planes, one acting as wingman they tore around the skies stooping low into the fields below then rising high above the ridge before repeating the operation in close formation several times… brilliant. Linnet, Crested lark and Goldfinch flew in small groups. Only 2 Black Redstart roosting tonight with again no sign of the blue rock thrush.

23rd

Yellow-legged Gull, Great Tit, Cormorant, Linnet, Goldfinch, Hooded Crow, Crested Lark, Buzzard, Sandwich Tern, Kingfisher, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Collared Dove, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart.

24th

Raven, Hooded Crow, Peregrine Falcon, 6 Griffon Vulture, 1 Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Common Buzzard, Goldfinch and Black Redstart, Kingfisher and Meadow Pipit. No roosting Blue Rock Thrush or Black redstart tonight.

25th

We set off for our Christmas Day trip to Elafonisi. As we leave a Robin silently hops onto the wall watching as we pack the car, Linnet and Goldfinch called as they flew in small flocks feeding on the dried seedheads nearby, whilst the ever present Sardinian Warbler chattered noisily from the cover of the torn bushes. Mia leaps happily into the car, she loves these winter trips as much as we do.

With a partial blue sky we set off quickly spotting Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Crested Lark. Reaching the coast road, more Goldfinch and Linnet, Stonechat Kingfisher and two Sandwich Tern. Through Kissamos and lots of Collared Dove perched on the overhead wires. We make several stops on route the first just after the Topolia tunnel at the church Agia Sofia, situated in a cave half way up the steep gorge.  We stopped the car here where we hoped to spot a few Griffons, none were to be seen and little else. Exiting the car we found out why, Gregorian chants through a load speaker were emmiting from the cave and echoing around the gorge. We listened for a while but the volume proved too much and we carried on our journey. Just past Katsamotades we stopped where chestnut trees grow, here we see Robin, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Collared Dove and a nice surprise, a Wren feeding just on the edge of cover, it quickly disappeared from view, Italian Sparrow and Chaffinch could be seen in the shady areas flitting from tree to ground and a Grey Wagtail was seen as it made its way along the road. A little way after the Paleochora junction the roadside is covered with Strawberry trees, Arbutus unedo   these low shrubs produce a lovely red fruit, supposedly edible, it has no real taste though and can be quite bitter, the small fruit laden branches however do make an ideal Christmas table decoration. Our first Common Buzzard of the day are seen here as two were spotted sat close together on fence posts some way up the hillside.

As we turn left from what will become the west coast highway onto the Elafonisi road we spot another Buzzard, in all through the day we sight a total of eight. Down through the narrow road that bypassed a small village, Sue spots a Sparrowhawk, nearby in a lovely area of tall untended olive trees, long grasses and stone walled terraces, we catch sight of Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch and a Blackbird.

As we reach the rocky coastline we decided to turn right for a moment to scan the area for waders and gulls. More Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch along with Italian Sparrow bathed in the rain filled hollows, overhead a group of Crag Martin appeared we tried to count then as they dipped into the gullies but gave up at thirty plus. Yellow-legged Gull were the only birds to be seen either on the shoreline or the water, disappointed we turned around and resumed our run to Elafonisi.

We stopped off at some of the natural pools “Med Ponds” these areas are now being sign posted with information boards. We have seen them previously at Omalos and Falasarna and now here.  The pools here were just puddles and apart from a few linnet there no birds present. After a short walk and a coffee we head onto the rough track down to the beach and the protected areas. Only a few other people were here, twelve over the day compared to the summer hoards deposited from the coaches and there was little in the way of wildlife either. ….. Four Cormorant… three adult and a juvenile, lots of Yellow-legged Gull and Rock dove scattered on the rocks and isles. Several flocks of Linnet and a solitary Kentish Plover.


Kentish Plover
- photo by and © C&S


Strawberry Tree in fruit and flower
- photo by and © C&S

This was unfortunately the only wader present. We picnicked near waters edge; Greek Salad and Sardines… the skies had now clouded over completely. We decided to head for the area where the Androcymbium rechingeri grow; we found only the leaves, this area had yet to flower.

A little after 3pm we head for home hoping to arrive before dark. The skies start to clear a little and the sun breaks through warming the air slightly.

Along the wide, almost airfield sized road we notice a Hooded Crow harassing something, a Kestrel, it rises from the ground and disappears from view around a bend in the road , we pick it up again sat on a roadside telephone cable pole, we pull up quite close and see that it has a substantial meal in the form of a fat mouse. The Kestrel quickly devours its meal….probably afraid of the nuisance of the Hooded Crow…. before heading off to resume hunting across the valley.

Further up the road as we depart the coastline we catch sight of numerous Black Redstart, flitting from rock and bush and heading down the gorge, also a single Blue Rock Thrush. We stop again at Agia Sofia and scan the holes in the hope of Griffon Vulture; we spot only one, yards from the speakers producing taped chanting priests in the cave mouth, it sits with its back to us looking forlorn, we cannot take the chanting anymore, the sounds echoing through the gorge seem loader now and head for home. No other bird sightings on this trip.

A lovely Christmas day outing, we arrive home half an hour before darkness falls the skies having cleared , there are no clouds to be seen and the sun sets over the White Mountains , the snows clad tops reflecting the orange of the setting sun.

Its time to telephone family and have our Christmas meal. Pork Chop n’ Chips, mince pies sent by Mum and squirty cream. Not your traditional Christmas, but a really good one.

Later checking in the darkness we find again no Roosting birds ? Why have six Black Redstart and a blue Rock Thrush flown en mass ?

26th

Today seemed remarkably quiet… hardly any bird song and little flying, a distant possible Steppe Buzzard, and a small flock of Crag Martin. Later looking hard we get, Linnet, Hooded Crow, a single Raven, Sardinian warbler, Crested Lark, Chaffinch and Stonechat, a Kestrel, Robin, Goldfinch and Italian Sparrow, White Wagtail, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull and Corn Bunting….. These birds apart from the Goldfinch were mostly seen as singles.

27th

Another quiet day apart from the loud noise of 30+ Yellow-legged Gull as they flew atop the nearby ridge, from inside the house memories of a small English fishing harbours came to mind. Heavy rain showers came and went throughout the day and we were lucky with the birds that were seen.

Again singles of species were seen ….. Stonechat, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Goldfinch. A Shag sat on a rock near the Balos Beach Hotel, a few noisy Hooded Crow flew around, along with a small group of Crag Martin, a single Peregrine Falcon circled overhead, a single White  Wagtail was spotted walking about the road and a single male Black Redstart was seen at dusk in the courtyard. Again no sign of any birds roosting on the pergolas.

28th

We awoke to strong winds from the northeast and more rain, there was no real chance of birding today. A chance to write this report and edit the photos for the month perhaps! Sue, thinks differently and spots Common Buzzard, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Yellow-legged Gull Hooded Crow, Linnet, Kestrel and Goldfinch.

29th

With strong chilly winds there was not much near the house today we saw…. Greenfinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Buzzard, and Stonechat. On the way to Chania 3 Cattle Egret flew over the road just east of the town, we presume these are the same birds seen earlier on the 19th and 20th slowly making their way westwards along the coastline. Other birds seen , 4 Common Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 1 dark morph Booted Eagle, Collared Dove, Italian Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crested Lark, Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern. We find one male Black Redstart roosting again.

30th

With force 7 Beaufort winds this was another day with little to be seen…..Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, White Wagtail, Greenfinch and again we have the male Black Redstart roosting 


Roosting Black Redstart
- photo by and © C&S

31st

Yellow-legged Gull. 2 Common Buzzard, White Wagtail, 2 Sandwich Tern, Goldfinch, Peregrine Falcon, Hooded Crow, Collared Dove, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Robin and a Raven. The last bird of 2008 a single male Black Redstart flew in to roost as darkness came.

In Kissamos, the men from the hills came to town to sing. Tomorrow is the day when Santa [ St Vasilis ] arrives, Christmas Day being more a religious festival. Presents are given and the usual fireworks and gunshots at midnight.


Strolling minstrels!!!!!
- photo by and © C&S

Summary for the month……………

A great month with three new species for us. The lucky chance sighting of three Cattle Egret [ another rarity here] The often heard tuk tuk tuk but hard to see elusive Moustached Warbler which eventually presented itself and of which Sue managed a photo as it flitted into her view finder and the Merlin which flew so close to us whilst we birded from our front veranda .

The Red-breasted Merganser was another rarity for the Greek list, having seen one in February 2006 this was again a nice spot for us. Along with the chance to share it with others this time, several friends were able to get their first views of this female. Later reports from others revealed it stayed in the area for over a week.

Further sightings of the Great White Pelican, with some views across a Chania bay as we saw two flying, providing us with more knowledge of identification of birds in flight.

A further sighting of the Greater Sand Plover was nice although this bird is proving harder to spot as it hides in the rocky areas, also some views again this year of a few Golden Plover.

Very few large raptor sightings, only one distant Golden Eagle and the usual Common Buzzard and disappointingly no Lammergeier this month.  

Our roosting Blue Rock Thrush and half dozen Black Redstart [first noticed on 18th November] stayed thirty days before all leaving on the same day !! They may have stopped on their migration due to the warmer weather with little or southerly winds. But sensing the coming weather that appeared around Christmas with northern winds, rain and snow headed further south for the rest of the winter. It was a real pleasure to go out in the evening seeing these birds sat on the lights or the wooden beams of the pergolas, they observed us making no attempt to fly and let us get close and take photos, without flying off. 

P.S. On the 29th we have a male, possibly the same bird returning to its usual roost, see picture on the 30th.

As another year leaves us, our Crete list now stands at 204. With our warbler skills slowly improving we hope that we can add a few more species in 2009.

Plans for 2009……we hope to spread our wings and take in more of Crete, not just restricting ourselves to west of Chania. There are some great birding sights that we have yet to visit here. We shall consult “A Bird Watching Guide To Crete” by Stephanie Coghlan, ours is a somewhat dated copy, hopefully Stephanie will have an updated edition soon.

We also would like to travel a little further and head for the Greek mainland…to some of the larger lakes of the north, take in the breeding colonies of pelican and catch sight of species that are on the Greek but not the Crete list, and to bring trip reports from farther afield.

Hopefully you have enjoyed our day by day reports published in a monthly diary, this Decembers being the twenty eighth published….. Thank you for reading them, we certainly enjoy doing them and adding the content to Roy and Raye’s superb site.

A happy, healthy 2009 to all.

Colin and Sue
 

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