February 2008 Report from the Kissamos Bay Area
 

Well and truly back to Crete after our last few weeks watching the Red Kites flying with an escaped Haris’ Hawk in Oxfordshire and brilliant birding in Norfolk where we saw Snow Bunting and an American White Crowned Sparrow.

A short one and a half hour delay at Athens on the 10th due to bad weather in Chania Crete saw us arrive home very tired at around midnight.

We resume our diary for this month on the 11th , unfortunately very bad weather stays with us for over a week with severe gales and heavy snow on the 17th and flurries continued on the 18th giving way to a brilliant 19th which gave us the opportunity to head once again to Omalos.

Notable birds this month…. The Mute Swans Alan and Margaret found are still present on the 19th at Agia lake, only our second sighting on Crete…we saw 12 on the sea during our first year here.

A juv Bonelli’s Eagle flew close to the house on the 23rd.

On trip to Agios Dikios a Griffon Vulture flew low above the car providing our closest views.

On the 28th a Griffon landed on the crags above the house about 100 metres away.

Lots of Wild flowers, notably Orchids, with several species flowering towards the end of the month. We also find three endemics new to us.

All birds seen this month are included in the daily sightings.

11th

The following birds were the only ones to be seen as the bad weather continues with force 7 B. winds.

Griffon Vulture, Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Chaffinch.

12th

Winds still very strong and a very quiet day for birds……Goldfinch, Griffon Vulture1, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Black Redstart, Buzzard 3, Linnet,and a Cetti’s Warbler heard in the gulley behind the house.

13th

Winds still strong but with sunny intervals we decide to head for Falsarna….

Firstly at home we saw.

Griffon Vulture 2, a Peregrine Falcon seen twice in the morning, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Hooded Crow.

Onto Falasarna, where we sighted…. White wagtail, Buzzard 2, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Blackbird, Crag Martin, Little Egret, Robin, House and Italian Sparrow, Collared Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart. A Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, Stonechat, Crested Lark. A flock of c 20 Meadow Pipit with a single Red Throated Pipit, a large flock of c 80 Hooded Crow, Rock Dove 3, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Tit. There is still nothing to be seen on the coastal waters and flooded fields in the way of Duck or Wader.

14th

At home Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Raven, Griffon Vulture 6, Buzzard 2, Kestrel 1, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Great tit.

Another trip to Falasarna to try to get some Serin photo’s….Linnet, Griffon Vulture 6, Serin, Black Redstart, Great Tit, Italian Sparrow, Kestrel, Buzzard, Goldfinch, greenfinch, Chaffinch and Blackbird. Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Crag Martin, Rock Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow and House Sparrow.


Skylark - Photo above by and © C&S -

15th

House and Italian Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Cetti’s Warbler [heard], Crag Martin11, Buzzard 3, Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch, Stonechat, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Cormorant 2, Sardinian Warbler, Shag 1, Kestrel, Black Redstart.

16th

A rainy day with some really bad weather forcast for the next few days Yellow-legged Gull, Buzzard, Stonechat, Italian Sparrow, Large numbers of Chaffinch moving through.

Robin, Great Tit, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Black Redstart, Hooded Crow, Blue Tit, Linnet and Rock Dove.

17th

Gale force winds and heavy snow temperatures down to 2oC , today proved to be a bad birding day with Cetti’s Warbler heard. Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Buzzard 2, Chaffinch, Stonechat and Black Redstart being the only birds seen.

FLOWERS….

FIRST STAR OF BETHLEHEM out today

18th

A few snow flurries continued throughout the day. The White Mountains live up to their name…when the cloud clears the whole range can be seen with a deep covering .

Meanwhile at home today…..

Buzzard 2, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Italian Sparrow, Robin, Stonechat, Raven 4, Griffon Vulture 1, Sardinian warbler, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Kestrel2, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Black Redstart, Linnet, Blackcap and White Wagtail.

19th

Today we will head to Omalos to experience the silence and the snow, on the news there was half a metre covering but we are hopeful we will get to the plateau. The skies are clear there is no wind so at 11am we set off …birds seen at home ………..

Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Goldfinch and Linnet. Chaffinch still lots moving through, a Cetti’s Warbler was heard, Italian Sparrow and Great Tit. % Griffon Vultures scoured the uncovered snow slopes and a Hobby hunted through the olive trees and lower fields. Raven, Robin, Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, Kestrel and Black Redstart.

On our trip out we saw very little in the way of birds, the mountains covered in snow were fantastic . We made our way slowly through the town of Laki where the snow lay thick but was thawing fast the meltwater was flowing deep through the town. We made it perhaps nearly halfway from Laki to Omalos when we found the road closed. A local told us the machine was still clearing the road a few hundred metres away so we turned around and found somewhere to pull in and had our lunch and a hot soup. Up here the snow was still metres deep in the drifts there were only a few others trying to reach the plateau so the silence nearly total.


Photo above by and © C&S - Icicles

We found a small mouse running frantically around trying to find some cover when it did we managed some quick photos and left it in piece, we are hopeful that it is  a Cretan Spiny Mouse, but will have to wait for confirmation.


Picture 3: possible Cretan Spiny Mouse

We made our way slowly down a few more adventurers were making their way up some driving with care others with total abandon making our descent a little scary.

On the way to and departing from the mountains we saw……

Several Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Kestrel, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Robin, Hooded Crow, Raven, a f. Blackcap, Italian Sparrow and Chaffinch.

The one Buzzard and Kestrel we saw in the snowline looked fantastic as they soured above the white from the snow reflecting from their underwings making their plumage really stand out.


Photo above by and © C&S - Kestrel, reflecting snow

On the way home we stopped at Agia lake…

Mute Swan stood out amongst all the usual water fowl ,we were pleased to see they were still present since Alan and Margaret found them. Tufted Duck, a Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier 2, Coot, Moorhen, Pochard, Shoveler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, a Cetti’s Warbler was heard. Goldfinch, White Wagtail, Ferruginous Duck, Mallard. Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Little Grebe were all present. C20 Crag Martin swooped around, Hooded Crow harassed the resident Harriers and at dusk c1000 Starlings proceeded to thrill those present with their nightly display before descending into the reeds to roost. The sun shining gold of their feathers as they wheel over and around the lake for around fifteen minutes

20th

Slightly cloudy this morning but warm air greeted us after the last few cold days.

Italian Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Raven, Robin, Yellow-legged Gull, Chaffinch, Cetti’s Warbler, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Black Redstart, Buzzard, a single Cormorant sat on a coastal rock airing its wings. Great Tit, Linnet, Sardinian Warbler, a Skylark was heard singing somewhere high in the sky but we could not find it!.

Griffon Vulture 7 put in an appearance late in the day to where they found food quite nearby. Crested Lark, Blackbird and Chiffchaff completed the day.

21st

Griffon Vulture 5, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush, Crested Lark, Robin, Sparrowhawk, Crag Martin, Linnet, Black Redstart, Blue Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, Raven, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Woodlark, Greenfinch, Kestrel, c10 White Wagtail, Song Thrush. Our local pair of Common Buzzard were seen mating. A late afternoon walk onto Gramvousa peninsula produced Black Redstart, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Yellow-legged Gull, and our local pair of Bonelli’s Eagle were seen for a nice five minutes as they soared above us.

A notable point to make we saw 10 migrating Common Buzzard heading north onto Gramvousa. Looking back at our diary for 2007 we noticed that we had the same number of birds at roughly the same time on the same date.

FLOWERS:

First Barbary Nuts in flower.

Many Star of Bethlehem

22nd

Another notable today. We had another 10+ Common Buzzard with a Goshawk again heading North. Our diary for last year …..the same.

Our neighbour is still harvesting his olives due to the bad weather so any early sightings of Hoopoe in his grove will not be forthcoming.

Other sightings today.

Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Woodlark, Great Tit, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Linnet, Goldfinch, Black Redstart, Robin, Blackbird , Song Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Buzzard 10+, Goshawk, Collared Dove, Cormorant 2 ad, 1juv,

Raven 2, Blue Tit, Griffon Vulture 1.

23rd

Griffon Vulture 10, Robin, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Common and Steppe Buzzard aprox 17 migrating north along with possibly the same Goshawk, Blackbird, Great Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Kestrel, Collared Dove, White Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush 2. A juv Bonneli’s Eagle 1 appeared very close to the house being mobbed by our two resident Buzzard. Cetti’s Warbler, Corn Bunting, House Sparrow, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff, Black Redstart.

MAMMALS
Weasel


Photo above by and © C&S - Bonelli’s Eagle

24th

Cormorant 4, Yellow-legged Gull 30+, Sardinian Warbler, Robin, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Italian Sparrow, Blue Tit, Woodlark, Blue Rock Thrush, Greenfinch, White Wagtail,  Common and Steppe Buzzard 20+ heading north,  Blackbird, Goldfinch, Peregrine Falcon 1, Sandwich Tern 3, Collared Dove and Raven, Rock Dove and Black Redstart.

25th

Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull. Common and Steppe Buzzard, 11 migrating north. Chaffinch, Blackbird, Woodlark, Robin, Linnet, Griffon Vulture 2, Black-headed Gull 1, White Wagtail, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark, Kestrel, Black Redstart.

26th

Today we were up early for a day in the hills and south coast; at home we saw Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Woodlark, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch and Rock Dove before we set off at 0830.

We travelled through Kissamos, Harhaliana, Tsikalaria, Kalathenes, to Topolia. Then onto Elos, where we headed into the hills to the ex Vulture feeding station at Agios Dikios at 1182 metres above sea level. We then travelled via Kefali and Plokamiana to Elafonissi.

Stopping at many locations where birdsong was heard and hunting for the wild flowers that are now out in profusion it took us until 12.30 to get to Topolia where we watched three Griffon Vulture at Topolia Gorge, then to Agios Dikios for a picnic lunch and hopefully a of sighting Lammergeier.

We never saw much up here a few distant Griffons but as we were leaving to drive down the mountain we stopped to watch a pair of Griffons as they circled not too far away. They started to head in a straight line and as luck would have it passed within 20/30 metres of us as they headed for the gorge at Topolia providing brilliant views.

Setting off at 3.30pm we headed for Elafonisi where we wandered the area in search of wild flowers before setting off home just as the sun was setting, eventually arriving home at 730pm.

We saw many Blackcap [plus one aberrant with an extended black cap down the nape] Serin and Great Tit and Buzzard along the whole route, at Harhaliana we spotted a group of 7 Steppe Buzzard. We left the main road to drive along a dirt track to try to get closer to the area they were in and found Red Anemones, Turban Buttercup and Snakes head Iris and Lesser celandine.

Six free ranging pigs were seen miles from habitation making their way through olive groves.

At Elafonisi we found three endemic Cretan plants and had the place to ourselves.

Birds for the day…..

Blackcap, Buzzard common and Steppe, c 30.

Griffon Vulture sightings at three locations , Topolia, Agios Dikios twice and distant over Elafonisi and Sirikari 17 birds, some may have been repeat sightings. Raven 6, Blue Rock Thrush 2 pairs, Collared Dove, Stonechat, Blue Tit, great Tit, Blackbird, Hooded Crow. Song Thrush, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart. Greenfinch, Chaffinch Italian Sparrow, Serin and Robin also in large numbers. Sardinian Warbler everywhere and many Cetti’s Warbler were heard. Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail 1, White Wagtail, a single Cormorant at Elafonisi. Goldfinch, Chiffchaff and Corn Bunting


Photo above by and © C&S - One of the Agios Dikios Vultures as it passed close by.

MAMMALS

Hare, Weasel, Wood mouse and a roadkill Eastern Hedgehog.

FLOWERS

Red …. Anemone coronaria…..

White Turban Buttercup - Ranunculus asiaticus. 

Snakes head Iris - Hermodactylus tuberosis 

Lupin - Lupinus pilosus

Lesser Celendine - Renunculus ficaria     

 

The three endemics found at Elafonisi………………..

Alkanna siberi

Bellevalia brevipedicellata

Androcymbium rechingeri…… we were lucky to find this in flower although it had started to go over. It’s the same species we found last month at Falasarna, there is only one other site and that is on the isle of Immeri Gramvousa.

27th

We would take another flower hunting trip in the afternoon to Falasarna.

First the birds seen …… Italian Sparrow, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Blackbird. A Peregrine Falcon nearly took our heads off as it stooped down into the olive grove whilst we walked our dog Mia. The noise as it shot over us was an amazing whoooshh the speed can only be guessed at, we only glimpsed it as it went into the tree line before disappearing into the overgrown gulley. Goldfinch, Cettis Warbler, Chaffinch, Robin, Black Redstart [ we still have four roosting at night in the pergolas ], Sardinian Warbler, Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Chiffchaff and Crested Lark. At 1030hrs 36 Steppe and Common Buzzard in three groups gathered in the thermals and headed north, the largest group was of 30 birds.

At Falasarna we saw Buzzard 2, Great Tit, Kestrel 1, and a Blue Rock Thrush.

FLOWERS

We were really pleased to find five or six  species of Orchid in flower.

20  Giant Orchid - Barlia Robertiana

  2  Milky Orchid - Orchis lactia poiret

  3  Butterfly Orchid - Orchis papilionacea

+ three others yet to identify.

We also found Gagea peduncularis, Anemone hortensis, snakes head Iris and we hope…. Viola scorpiuroides  but have to check and verify.

Also an unknown caterpillar photo attached. 

28th

We awoke to the sound of Woodlark close by as they fed in the rough  Garrigue [phrygana], Cetti’s Warbler could also be heard nearby. All the following birds (20 species) were seen before we had finished our breakfast, taken this morning on the balcony as the temperatures start to rise.

Whilst we ate a single Griffon Vulture perched itself on a crag not too far away and sat perfectly relaxed with no worries about us or a local farmer for 35 minutes, the last 5 of which it was harassed by four Hooded Crows before it flew off onto Gramvousa .

Italian Sparrow, Chaffinch, Robin, Greenfinch, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Griffon Vulture 7, Great Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, Cormorant 3, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Hooded Crow, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Buzzard 3, Linnet and a Song Thrush.


You grab his attention I’ll come up from behind - Photo above by and © C&S


Gotcha - Photo above by and © C&S


Enough’s enough - Photo above by and © C&S


Time to go - Photo above by and © C&S


Off - Photo above by and © C&S

Flowers
Butterfly Orchid  now in flower in our olive grove and possibly Sawfly Orchid in bud.

29th

Hooded Crow 26, Italian Sparrow, 200+ Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Skylark, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Robin, Linnet, House Sparrow, Woodlark, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vulyure 7, Buzzard 4, Blackbird and Cetti’s Warbler.

A fairly good month with the first migrants showing, namely Buzzard.

Large numbers of Blackcap, Serin and Chaffinch seem to be everywhere.

The once unused fields between us and the beach continue to be built up with soil and rubbish and then taken over for crops, the flood meadows have all but gone.

More water sports [paragliding and snorkelling] and more people are using the track alongside the beach for racing their cars and flying model airplanes, if the trend continues we will see less Harriers, Larks, Pipits and what few waders there were. Only time will tell as we continue to record.

On a good note next month should see the return of Hoopoe, Harriers, more raptors, waders and Wheatear and those brilliant Subalpine Warblers……
 

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