PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A REPORT FROM MAINLAND GREECE NOT CRETE
 

TORTOISES AND TERNS

PELOPONNESE AND WEST COAST GREECE

3rd -14th May 2009

PART ONE ...Peloponnese 3rd – 7th May  PART 2  PART 3

Continuing from the Antikythira report, with our trip taking in several wetlands on the way north to Igoumenitsa where we will take the ferry to Ancona in Italy.

Calling at Gialova, a lagoon on the lower west coast of the Peloponnese the only site in Europe where African Chameleons breed. A Natura 2000 site with extensive reedbeds with nature trails and a couple of hides, along with an information centre in the old pumping station that was not open at the time of our visit.

Kaiafa Lake near Zacharo

A stopover at Ancient Olympia, to visit the museum.

Kotichi Lake on the coast midway between Patras and Pirgos. A saltwater lagoon

Kalogria and Strofilia Forest a little north of Kotichi lake and 30km from Patras…….A large lake and forest area.

From the Peleponnese we travel northwest over the Rio Bridge visiting… 

Messolongi……… lagoons to the south and west of the town

Amvrakikos Gulf …taking in Rodia Lagoon, Logarou Lagoon.

We then head north to Igoumenitsa and continue our trip through Italy.

3rd May

We are awake early at Gythio port ready to head off SW towards Areopoli then NNW for Kalamata, then west to Pilos and Gialova Lagoon.

On the road at 8am, on route we spot ……


Early morning at Gythio - photo by and © C&S

Barn Swallow                  Blackbird                        House Martin

Yellow-legged Gull House Sparrow               Swift

Magpie                           Collared Dove

In a ravine we stop to look for other species and add ….

Alpine Swift                    Long Tailed Tit               Jay

Great Tit                         Cetti’s Warbler               Chaffinch

Crag Martin                     Blue Rock Thrush           Kestrel

Sparrowhawk.                 Whitethroat

Further along the way a little north of Areopoli we catch sight of two raptors, fantastic, a pair of Short-toed Eagles hunting over a section of hairpins that allow us to get some close views before one peels off and crosses Limeni Bay leaving the other to slowly work its way south.


Short-toed Eagle
- photo by and © C&S

We add a few Common Buzzard along the route before we enter the site at Gialova. 

Here we park up and have an excellent afternoons birding…

Red-rumped Swallow      Bee-eater                         Great Egret

Greenfinch                      Hooded Crow                 Little Egret

Squacco Heron               Olive Tree Warbler          Grey Heron

Little Tern                       Glossy Ibis 5                  Yellow Wagtail

Marsh Harrier                  Mute Swan                      Greenshank

Common Sandpiper        Curlew Sandpiper            Green Sandpiper

Little Stint                       Whinchat                        Spotted Flycatcher

Golden Oriole                 Stonechat                        Sardinian Warbler

Crested lark                    Cormorant                      Turnstone

Ringed Plover                 Little Ringed Plover         Kentish Plover

Corn Bunting                  Wood Sandpiper             Ortolan


Great Egret in typical Gialova setting
- photo by and © C&S


Kentish Plover in flight
- photo by and © C&S


Flock of Little Stint
- photo by and © C&S

A ring tailed Harrier spotted briefly in the distance was either Montagu’s or Pallid.

We met up with a keyholder here for the nature information centre who told us that it would be OK for us to park by the centre for the night which was a great boon for us as we would be right in the centre of the park area and ready for a really early start the next morning.

Some of the wild flowers seen on route……


Campanula saptulata
- photo by and © C&S


Pink Hawksbeard Crepis ruba
- photo by and © C&S


Kohlrauschia glumacea
- photo by and © C&S


Onosma graecum
- photo by and © C&S

4th May

After some rain in the night we were out before the sun was up…we took a walk along the nature trail which took in salt flats, a beach area where Chameleons are to be found, we never spotted one !! grass and meadow areas.


Giolova lagoon information board
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova lagoons
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova lagoons
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova lagoons
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova Salt marsh
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova salt marsh information board
- photo by and © C&S


Giolova lagoon
- photo by and © C&S

Beware if visiting the walk near the information centre the walkway that juts out onto the lagoon is very unsafe the boards are totally rotted away in places, also a hide was in a very dilapidated state with the interior trashed and rubbish strewn, we were to find the same situation in other areas visited, a shame as they are beautiful places but the facilities have little or no maintenance. The hide itself is out in the open, with no screening, on our way to it we were out in the open and by the time we got to the door all the birds in the vicinity had seen us and moved further away.

Species here ….

Hooded Crow                 Sardinian Warbler            Yellow-legged Gull

Cetti’s Warbler               Goldfinch                       Little Egret

Barn Swallow                  Greenfinch                      Common Sandpiper

35+Black-winged Stilt      Little Stint 50+                Curlew Sandpiper 30+

Ringed Plover 8              Little Ringed Plover 2      Bee-eater 1

Mallard                           Honey Buzzard 1             Glossy Ibis 1

Mute Swan                      Yellow Wagtail                Raven

Corn Bunting                  Magpie                           Spotted Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher               Chiffchaff                       Crested Lark

Grey Heron                     Whinchat                        House Sparrow

Reed Warbler                  Zitting Cisticola               Redshank 1

White Wagtail                 White Stork 1                  Great Egret 1

Cormorant                      Coot                               Wood Sandpiper

Greenshank                     Collared Dove                 Turnstone


Turnstones
- photo by and © C&S


Glossy Ibis
- photo by and © C&S

Whilst at the watch tower a  Marsh Harrier flew low over the Black-winged stilts making at least 20 noisily give chase.


Harrier with Black-winged Stilt chasing
- photo by and © C&S


Marsh  Harrier with Black-winged Stilt chasing
- photo by and © C&S


Marsh harrier on ground in Stilt nesting area
- photo by and © C&S


Unknown Spider
- photo by and © C&S


Black-winged Stilt
- photo by and © C&S


Selene bellidfilia
- photo by and © C&S


Selene succulenta
- photo by and © C&S

We reluctantly left this great area and headed north, adding….

Raven                                       Common Buzzard           Chaffinch

Booted Eagle dm             Starling                           Kestrel

Turtle Dove                     Hoopoe                          Red-rumped Swallow

Great Tit                         Swift

We travelled through an area that was devastated by forest fires two years ago , the area is slowly recovering with grass and shrubs but all around blackened trees shoot up to the sky.

We diverted to Kaiafa Lake and quickly left, the area stank from the standing water for some miles around and the air was alive with mosquitoes and not a bird to be seen !

Travelling over the bridge that crosses the Alphios river near Olympia a male Little Bittern flew into cover, a little further along the road we spotted a very large dead Otter laying in the road aprox length one metre, we are not sure what species. We stop a couple of hundred metres further along to try to find out what the otter was and spot an unfinished Penduline Tit nest, we took a couple of photos but as we were trying to get back to the otter a thunderstorm materialized and we made a dash for the motorhome and Ancient Olympia.


Penduline Tit nest
- photo by and © C&S

We took Mia for her evening walk and Sue nearly trod on a toad the size of my hand, unfortunately no camera with us, later realising we could have taken a shot with the mobile phone. We parked for the night in the town near the museum along with a couple of others. Hearing a Little Owl at 11pm.

5th May

We were up at six as the archaeological sites opened at 8am, we had previously visited the other sites in the area and had missed out on the museum. We were half an hour into our visit when several coach loads of other tourists descended on our chosen museum, we made a dash for it and ascended the hill to the motorhome ….just in time ... council workers were erecting bollards and we were lucky to get out as several cars had already been effectively bolted in.

Before leaving we had spotted ….

Blackbird                        Great Tit                         Greenfinch

Corn Bunting                  Cetti’s Warbler               House Sparrow

Collared Dove

Our all to brief detour into Ancient Olympia over, we headed towards our next stopover Kotichi Lake.

We found many flooded water catchment areas with a few birds present, mostly Black-winged Stilts and Little Egrets, this area looked promising for a winter visit.

Arriving at Kotichi we travelled north along the spit of land towards the information centre and watch tower.


Watch tower and information centre
- photo by and © C&S

Again the centre was closed and the tower looked a little too unsafe to climb, birding looked really promising.

We planned to stay overnight by the fishermen’s huts and the centre and started our birding here in the late afternoon.

Our first sighting of White Pelican in the area definitely looking good here

a single bird was spotted on the far banks and Fan-tailed Warbler [Zitting Cisticola] everywhere and we managed with some difficulty to get some pictures of these small warblers. Not the best time of day to get photos, there was a lot of heat haze and murk and the temperatures were steadily climbing.  


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S

House Martin                  Sand Martin                    Barn Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow      Black-winged Stilt           Little Stint

Little Grebe  4                 Little Tern 6                    Little Egret 90+

Cetti’s Warbler               Zitting Cisticola               Sandwich Tern 1

Common Tern 3              Whiskered Tern 1            Great Egret 2

Grey Heron 11+              Turnstone                       Curlew Sandpiper 10+

Common Sandpiper 2     Grey Plover 1                  Cormorant 1

Yellow Wagtail 3             Corn Bunting                  Hooded Crow

Jackdaw                          Stonechat                       White Pelican 1

Squacco Heron 2            Osprey 1                         March Harrier 1

Yellow-legged Gull Hobby                            Wood Sandpiper

Golden Plover 3              Little ringed Plover 2


Grey Plover
- photo by and © C&S


Grey plover
- photo by and © C&S


Landing flock of Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper
- photo by and © C&S


Landed flock of Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern
- photo by and © C&S

We settled down with the sea on one side and the lagoon on the other with a fantastic sunset out across the sea and no other people for a few miles, bliss….


Sunset over Kotichi
- photo by and © C&S


Our overnight rest halt
- photo by and © C&S


Wildflowers everywhere
- photo by and © C&S

6th May


Sunrise over Kotichi - photo by and © C&S

We were woken early at 5am as fishermen started to arrive and we started our birding early with the sound of the Cisticola’s, several of which could be heard as they zitted their way to the boundary’s of their territories, this little warbler which we had hoped to add to our Crete list but have not been able to find, was alive with them, everywhere we stopped they could be heard, if we were not sure what we were looking for before, we will not mistake them now.


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Pretty !!
- photo by and © C&S

With the sun in our eyes this morning and a mist across the lagoon it was not the best place to be and there was a mass of midges and mozzies about but we stayed and watched the Cisticola’s and were to be rewarded with a group of 6 Collared Pratincoles another bird that is elusive in Crete and we have only seen on one occasion before.


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S


Little Tern bringing food
- photo by and © C&S

You will have to excuse us for adding so many pictures of the Zitting Cisticola but as a new species to us we could not get enough of them ! and may not see them again for some time.


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S


Zitting Cisticola
- photo by and © C&S

Kotichi  list….

Zitting Cisticola               Little Egret 12                  Grey Heron 20 +

Black-winged Stilt 20+     Yellow Wagtail                Turnstone

Yellow-legged Gull Little Tern 10+                Common Tern 6+

Corn Bunting                  Meadow Pipit 1               Little Ringed Plover 4

Cormorant 3                             Barn Swallow                  Coot 50+

Magpie                           Collared Pratincole 6       Squacco Heron 4

Sand Martin                    Great Reed Warbler        Cetti’s Warbler

Hobby                            Curlew Sandpiper            Golden Plover


Great Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S


Great Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S

We left at around 11am and headed for Strofilia Forest and Kalogria lake, as we were pulling out we met a couple in a rangers car who told us that the area we were heading for would be better and handed us some leaflets.


Rickety hide
- photo by and © C&S

On route we stopped at several locations that looked promising and added

Goldfinch                       Blue Tit                           Kestrel

Greenfinch                      Little Bittern 1 male          Great Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler                  Penduline Tit                   Collared Dove

Blackbird                        Serin

And a Balkan Green Lizard


Balkan Green Lizard
- photo by and © C&S

Sue spotted a nice flower at the side of the road


Verbascum sp. found at the roadside
- photo by and © C&S

Approaching the Forest area we spotted in a field of cattle, several

Little Egret and a single Cattle Egret


Cattle Egret with ….cattle
- photo by and © C&S

Woodchat Shrike, Marsh Harrier 1, Whiskered Tern were the only birds seen here, the watchtower and the information buildings are virtual ruins, one building was manned by a ranger and the whole area was swarming with a type of Horsefly and rather than stay the night as planned we departed this area quickly, a visit in the winter months we feel would be would be far more productive.

We looked for a campsite and found one at Kato Alissos 22km west of Patras, here we would charge the laptop and phones taking a couple of days to recharge our own batteries.

We had a Scops Owl here sat in an Olive tree above our motorhome calling for some minutes with its mournful monotone “peoon”.

7th May

We were still awake early when the Great Tit alarm went off; staying around  the campsite for the morning, spotting a large lizard type ghecko [12-13cm ]we think may have been an Agama, we tried to get some pictures but it remained in cover but we managed another Kotschy’s Gecko.


Kotschy’s Gecko
- photo by and © C&S

We later went for a walk along the beach nearby and watched the boats and Terns offshore, returning and having a lazy afternoon and evening at Camping Alissos….….

Great Tit                         Blackbird                        Barn Swallow

Blue Tit                           Collared Dove                 Corn Bunting

Common Sandpiper 2     Greenfinch                      Little Tern 6

House Martin                  Hooded Crow                 Yellow Wagtail

Goldfinch                       Spotted Flycatcher          Serin

House Sparrow               Yellow-legged Gull Scops Owl

Golden Oriole                 Italian Sparrow

To be continued……………….

PART TWO…… 8th- 10thMay…..Rio Bridge and beyond

8th May

Today we set off for the short hop across from the Peleponnese over the new and spectacular Rio Bridge and onto the western mainland with only a few miles to then get to Messalongi with the salt lagoons and marshes.


Rio Bridge near Patras - photo by and © C&S

We get a new species here today as highlighted below.

Before setting off at 10am we add the following to our daily list

Blackbird                        Greenfinch                      Golden Oriole

Spotted Flycatcher          Goldfinch                       Nightingale

House Sparrow               Italian Sparrow

Arriving at the lagoons about 11.30am we head off onto the narrow causeway with our hopes high for some special birding, we were not to be disappointed today and quickly spotted many birds feeding in the shallows as we drove into Tourlida.


The causeway into Tourlida
- photo by and © C&S


Houses on stilts Tourlida
- photo by and © C&S

Avocet 20+                     Sanderling 10+                Kentish Plover 50+

Curlew Sandpiper 300+   Turnstone 10+                Little Tern 20+

Yellow-legged Gull Little Stint 400+               Ringed Plover 20+

Hooded Crow                 Magpie                           Yellow Wagtail 30+

White Pelican 1               Common Tern 20+                   Oystercatcher 1

Ruff 1                             Redshank 2                     Grey Heron

Shelduck 2                      Collared Pratincole 2       Curlew 15

Zitting Cisticola               Spanish Sparrow             Corn Bunting

Crested Lark                   Sand Martin                    Swift

Little Egret 50+               Grey Plover 1                  Black-headed Gull 10

Slender-billed Gull           Flamingo 200-300            Common Sandpiper

White Wagtail 1               Barn Swallow                  House Martin

Great Tit.

Great sightings of a few hundred Flamingo lifting off on numerous occasions as small planes flew from a nearby airfield, the birds would repeatedly land in the same area then as another plane looped around they would all lift into the air again for several minutes.  


Flamingo’s of Messalongi
- photo by and © C&S


Flamingo’s in flight
- photo by and © C&S

Our first Slender-billed Gull was a nice sighting, we spotted this different looking bird in amongst the Black-headed Gulls as we drove towards a different area along the causeway we quickly stopped and we were lucky to grab a few photos.


Slender-billed Gull
- photo by and © C&S

Large numbers of Kentish Plover were seen almost everywhere as were the Curlew Sandpiper. A great days birding and we eventually found a place to spend the night, way out on the lagoon near wooden bungalows with the sea on one side and the lagoon on the other. Throughout the night we heard the calls of Curlew, the ones we had spotted in the day had been distant and we would be on the lookout for that elusive Slender–billed Curlew tomorrow. Some hopes !!!

So with just us and the birds for company we settled down for a really quiet night.

Some of the birds of the day


Superb summer plumaged Turnstone
- photo by and © C&S


Ringed Plover
- photo by and © C&S


Ruff
- photo by and © C&S


Head damaged Redshank
- photo by and © C&S


Spanish Sparrow
- photo by and © C&S


Kentish Plover… male
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Distant Oystercatcher
- photo by and © C&S


Distant Curlew
- photo by and © C&S

9th May

This morning saw us awake at 5.30 when a local fisherman drove past. Still dark, we were up and about to catch the sunrise.


Early morning Curlew
- photo by and © C&S


Wood Sandpiper
- photo by and © C&S

After breakfast we drove further along the spit and found a large colony of breeding Sand Martin, we stayed an hour watching them and heard the sound of Collared Pratincole nearby and found a group of about 20 sat on the flats behind us. We think this may have also been a breeding colony and we were torn between watching their comings and goings as well as the martins.


Sand Martin colony
- photo by and © C&S


Sand Martin
- photo by and © C&S


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S

Several small mixed flocks of waders flew through very fast which had us testing our wader identification skills.


Mixed flock of waders [Little Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin]
- photo by and © C&S

Driving back onto the causeway we noticed that several species from yesterday were absent or in reduced numbers and had possibly moved further north on their migration.

House Sparrow               Spanish Sparrow             Little Egret

Barn Swallow                  Little Tern                       Common Tern

Kentish Plover                 Yellow-legged Gull Magpie

Little Stint                       Oystercatcher                  Curlew Sandpiper [few]

Crested Lark                   Hooded Crow                 Sand Martin                   

Green Sandpiper             Grey Heron 5                  Yellow Wagtail

Black-winged Stilt           Curlew                            Turtle Dove

Collared Pratincole Skylark                           Stone Curlew

Marsh Harrier m              Corn Bunting                  Avocet

Sanderling                       Ringed Plover                 Flamingo

Cuckoo                          Greenfinch                      Ruff

Mallard                           Spotted Flycatcher          Shelduck

Black-headed Gull           Redshank                        Dunlin


Stone Curlew in flight
- photo by and © C&S


Barn Swallow gathering nest material
- photo by and © C&S


Spanish Sparrow
- photo by and © C&S


Kentish Plover ..female
- photo by and © C&S


Barn Swallow
- photo by and © C&S

10th

We drove away from our night halt as the sun was rising, Sue found an insect that turned out to be a Glow-worm larva which was duly photographed before we were on our way.


Glow-worm larva
- photo by and © C&S

Today would see us moving a few miles across the bay to another lagoon area. Where we found evidence of the wildfowl slaughter in the winter we were warned about, in the roadside edges, thousands upon thousands of spent shotgun cartridge casings, we were amazed at how many there were and although we would have liked to have seen the winter spectacle of several hundred thousand wildfowl we definitely will not return to this area during the winter period. The road here is more than a kilometre long and with lagoon on both sides it was easy to imagine the hunters stood metres apart blasting away on either side of the road at anything that flew, it was no wonder the birds moved off at any sign of human presence. It would be nice to see the road lined with scopes, bins and birders though wouldn’t it.

However now was not the hunting season and we set off early for the short trip via Lord Byrons favourite Greek town of Messalongi, passing through Neochori and onto Louros, another small spit of land with small shacks and a few dilapidated stone and brick houses.

As we left our night stop location Sue spotted a large turtle that was marooned on the beach we are not sure if it was alive or not it was not there the night before. It was on a stretch of mud between the sea and the sand, looking at the mud areas previously we decided it would have been a dangerous situation to enter onto the area and we reluctantly left it to its fate.


Stranded Turtle
- photo by and © C&S

We spotted on the way…..

Curlew                            Little Tern                       Common Tern

House Sparrow               Spanish Sparrow             Little Egret

Magpie                           Collared Dove                 Flamingo

Stone Curlew                  Sand Martin                    Crested Lark

Oystercatcher                  Little Stint                       Ruff

Redshank                        Black-winged Stilt           Yellow Wagtail

Avocet                            Kentish Plover                 Great Egret           

Grey Heron.


We scanned the small groups of Curlew for the rare Slender-billed Curlew…
- photo by and © C&S


Huge stockpiles of salt from the lagoons were seen on route
- photo by and © C&S

Our route took us slightly inland, passing through the island village of Etoliko connected both ends by bridges.


Etoliko western bridge
- photo by and © C&S


Google earth image of Etoliko
- photo by and © C&S


Spanish Sparrow male
- photo by and © C&S


Spanish Sparrow male courting females with insects
- photo by and © C&S


Spanish Sparrow female
- photo by and © C&S

We then drove on through Neochori where we spotted three white stork nests two on especially prepared platforms atop of electric poles, a sight we would see over the next few days in several of the villages we passed through.


White Stork nest
- photo by and © C&S

Leaving here we had the difficult task of finding the right roads to get to our destination and spent some time on the wrong road before locating the correct route.

Barn Swallow                  Zitting Cisticola               House Martin

Cetti’s Warbler               Great Tit                         Hooded Crow

White Stork                    Chaffinch                        Red-backed Shrike

Greenfinch                      Whinchat                        Black-headed Gull

Great Reed Warbler        Whiskered Tern              Marsh Harrier

Squacco Heron               Shelduck                         Mute Swan 6

Dalmatian Pelican


A distant Pelican was seen, a Dalmatian, our first sighting of this species
- photo by and © C&S

Several hundred Coot were spotted moving quickly away in the distance [this was the winter hunting area mentioned above]

Sue then caught sight of a raptor and we watched for some time as an Osprey hunted and came fairly close, diving onto the surface on several occasions, it was unlucky not to catch its morning meal and moved off southeast and onto a distant area of the lagoon.


hunting Osprey
- photo by and © C&S


hunting Osprey
- photo by and © C&S

Today would bring us our sightings that gave us our header for this trip, as we next spotted Caspian and Gull-billed Tern sat on a salt flat, the Caspians having a rest, before following the [axelvos ] Acheloos River north.


Caspian and Gull-billed Terns
- photo by and © C&S

These were two new species for us and we watched in the hope of the sight of them flying and every now and then they obliged and gave us good views.


Gull-billed Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Gull-billed Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Gull-billed Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Gull-billed Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Caspian Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Caspian Tern
- photo by and © C&S

We continued on, spotting…

Cormorant                      Short-toed Eagle             Bee-eater

Pochard                          Moorhen                         Goldfinch

Skylark                           Sardinian Warbler            Hoopoe

Corn Bunting


Corn Bunting
- photo by and © C&S

A Corncrake was heard after we had found a place to park up and spend the night although we scanned the area we could not find it. We were on a flat area of sun baked sand and mud having tea when I looked across and over Sue’s shoulder, I noticed a boulder moving across the sand ! …. Sue’s hopes for tortoise were realised, we abandoned our tea, grabbed cameras and raced out, these tortoises are large, this one was 30cm and was racing away fast, retreating into its shell as we approached, we snapped away and waited for it to emerge. Eventually it decided we were not a threat and moved off into some nearby cover for the night, we found it still there early the next morning.

We later emailed Lisa in the UK who identified the species for us, as Marginated Tortoise Testudo marginata.

Many thanks to Lisa…. see links page under: Tortoise

Link for details of the Marginated Tortoise. see links page under: Tortoise

We later sat watching Stone Curlew wandering over the sandflats nearby


Distant Stone Curlew
- photo by and © C&S


Distant stone Curlew
- photo by and © C&S


Our first wild tortoise “Marginated”
Testudo marginata sighting - photo by and © C&S


off into the sunset
- photo by and © C&S

A great day with five tern species, a tortoise and three raptors.

To be continued……………….
 

TORTOISES AND TERNS

PELOPONNESE AND WEST COAST GREECE

PART THREE……11th- 14th from the lagoons of Messalongi to Amvrakikos Gulf and Igoumenitsa

11th

This morning we would be birding the Messalongi lagoons again before moving north again to Amvrakikos Gulf. Here we are hoping to get our Dalmatian Pelican and visit the Rodia Wetlands visitor centre at Strongili and the bird hides that cover the area.

An early morning dawn bat flew past and we soon spotted a few bird species. Walking Mia along the beach Sue caught sight of 18 Squacco Heron roosting on the waters edge later flying off when a car drove nearby, we again managed a few pictures, nothing stays put for long here.


Squacco Heron Flyby
- photo by and © C&S


Incoming Squacco Herons
- photo by and © C&S


Squacco Herons
- photo by and © C&S


Squacco Herons
- photo by and © C&S

We would drive further along the rough track looking for some flowers in this area.

We were soon to find our tortoise from last night and minutes later when we looked again he had vanished, all this sand with barely any cover and it was gone !


We found our Marginated Tortoise from the previous day
- photo by and © C&S

A flock of Collared Pratincole stayed noisily feeding overhead for about thirty minutes giving great views of these spectacularly marked birds.


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S


Collared Pratincole
- photo by and © C&S

It was soon time to be on the move. We stowed all our gear away and drove slowly along searching the dunes for the flowers Sue wanted to find and very quickly spotted more tortoise, four in all were seen.


Marginated Tortoise
- photo by and © C&S


Marginated Tortoise
- photo by and © C&S


Messologi lagoon
- photo by and © C&S

These were all of the same size 30+ cm we were not able to find any smaller ones, these were though very impressive, we found another one later on wandering down the middle of the road with drops on either side this would end up as roadkill and we duly re sited it in a safe area.

Sue found a few different flower species and we retraced our way back when we could go no further.


Linum pubescens Hairy Flax
- photo by and © C&S


Bug Orchid
- photo by and © C&S


Cornflower Centaurea cyanus with insect Oedemera nobilis
- photo by and © C&S

Stone Curlew                  Hoopoe                          House Sparrow

Collared Dove                 Little Egret                      Barn Swallow

Squacco Heron               Yellow-legged Gull Common Tern

Little Tern                       Black-winged Stilt           Bee-eater 1

Sardinian Warbler            Skylark                           Crested Lark

Flamingo 1                      Coot                               Great Reed Warbler

Goldfinch                       Yellow Wagtail                Black-headed Gull

Shelduck 2                      Zitting Cisticola               Corn Bunting

Kentish Plover                 Magpie                           Spanish Sparrow

Great White Egret            Sand Martin                    Greenfinch

Collared Pratincole 70     Blackcap                         Gull-billed Tern

Caspian Tern                  Turnstone

Before leaving the lagoon we stopped again to scan the area for the terns and also found a large group of horses and some Shelduck


Gull-billed Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Gull-billed and Caspian Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Caspian Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Horses of Messalogi lagoon
- photo by and © C&S


Shelduck
- photo by and © C&S

We now left the area and headed north once more on route and more inland we added

Great Tit                         Red-rumped Swallow      Song Thrush

Blackbird                        Common Buzzard          

A flock of Jackdaw were spotted near a barn and 3 White Stork along with Yellow-legged Gulls were moving through a recently mown hay field a Cattle Egret was feeding among a flock of sheep.


White Stork in recently mown field
- photo by and © C&S

We stopped in Vonitsa to stock up on food before driving through the new tunnel connecting the western areas of the gulf and into Preveza which would save us driving the long anticlockwise route around the gulf.

We arrived at the ancient ruins at Nikopolis a vast area founded by Octavian.

A quick stop here before we had to find a night halt.

We spotted some large white birds on the lagoon and these definitely were our awaited Dalmatian Pelican.


Dalmatian Pelican
- photo by and © C&S


Part of the vast Amvrakikos Lagoon area
- photo by and © C&S

Looking for a place to stop and view at the roadside we pulled up at an entrance mostly overgrown and found it to be a hide and information area. Now derelict used as a rubbish dump and a toilet it was a mess and with the notice board still in place at the roadside a disgrace.


What was a fantastic hide
- photo by and © C&S

The only use for it now was for the Barn Swallows that were nest building, we watched the Pelicans for a while and decided that we would stop overnight in the carpark area, noisy by the main road, but a good viewing area for the lake the next morning.

We heard new birdcalls here and as there were many trees we had a chance for other than water birds.

Black-headed Bunting called from all around, we had hoped to see these, we last saw them on our India trip we soon also spotted

Willow Warbler               Reed Warbler                  Kestrel

Greenfinch


Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S


Juvenile Greenfinch
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting
- photo by and © C&S

A Pheasant was heard nearby and two distant Mallard flew over and onto the lagoon.

12th

We were once again awake early; traffic through the night was noisy but not too bad and woke us only occasionally. The morning chorus was much nicer and the Black-headed Bunting were in full cry today.


Black-headed Bunting female
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting male
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting male
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting female
- photo by and © C&S

We soon moved on and found another viewing area with a pergola, trashed notice board and a burnt down hide, things did not look good for here.


Burnt out hide
- photo by and © C&S

We drove along a track near to the lagoon and found some nice Damselflies and Moths and a tern nesting site. Better views of the Dalmatian nest site were from this point however the pelicans had dispersed over the area fishing in pairs and singly.


Another lagoon view
- photo by and © C&S


Damselfly ?
- photo by and © C&S


Common Darter Dragonfly
- photo by and © C&S


Calopteryx virgo ?
- photo by and © C&S


Calopteryx virgo ? - photo by and © C&S


Cream-spot Tiger Moth Arctia villica
- photo by and © C&S


Cream-spot Tiger Moth Arctia villica
- photo by and © C&S


Common Tern nesting among the shells
- photo by and © C&S


Dalmatian Pelican feeding
- photo by and © C&S

Barn Swallow                  Black-headed Bunting      Greenfinch

Magpie                           Blackbird                        Spanish Sparrow

Dalmatian Pelican            Common Tern                Cetti’s Warbler

Yellow-legged Gull Sardinian Warbler            Goldfinch

Reed Warbler                  Little Egret                      House Sparrow

Great Reed Warbler        Collared Dove                 White Stork [nest]

Bee-eater                         Corn Bunting                  Sand Martin

Quail [heard]                   Wryneck                         Hooded Crow

Near to the visitor centre at Stroggoli, “Rodia Wetland Centre”, we spotted a White Stork nest with many pairs of sparrows themselves nesting within the nest in the village and power lines full of Sand Martins.


White Stork nest
- photo by and © C&S


Sand Martins congregate
- photo by and © C&S

Locating the visitor centre we were pleased to find it open and with lots of local information, we asked about the hides we had seen and were told that education of the locals was working but they had a long way to go. It seems they indeed do have a great deal of work to do as other centres mentioned in the information guides were closed down and seemingly abandoned. We bought a couple of T shirts and a nice book of the area. We also took a short boat trip when a couple of other tourists arrived and went out through the reeds and onto the lagoon only spotting the following… 

Kentish Plover                 Black-winged Stilt           Little Tern

Black-headed Gull           Great Tit                         Yellow Wagtail


Out on the waters of Amvrakikos, one of the fishing stations
- photo by and © C&S


Kentish Plover
- photo by and © C&S


Flowering-rush Butomus umbellatus
- photo by and © C&S

We had hoped to visit a nearby cave where lots of Horned Viper snakes were to be found but found the track very rough and had to miss out.

A little further along our new route we stopped to photograph some flowers by the roadside.


Verbascum macrurum
- photo by and © C&S


Salvia
- photo by and © C&S

A pelican was seen circling above the road trying to gain height, we stopped just in time as it flew above us, an amazing few moments as we watched this enormous bird move right over us.


Dalmatian Pelican in flight
- photo by and © C&S


Dalmatian Pelican in flight
- photo by and © C&S

We now drove onto another spit of land, a very long causeway now connects the once island village of Koronisia with the mainland, this lovely little village has a couple of Tavernas and a a few houses but is a very popular eating place for the people of Arta who flock here at weekends, today though was quiet and we decided to stop the night in the carpark along the beach.


The causeway to Koronisia
- photo by and © C&S


Yellow-legged Gull egg found on the beach
- photo by and © C&S


Another night halt alongside lagoons
- photo by and © C&S


Sunset over Amvrakikos
- photo by and © C&S

13th

Up before the sun we watched an aged fisherman and his wife both of whom looked in their eighties beach their boat after a nights fishing, with her then standing in the shallows emptying the nets and he folding them away. For a couple of hours they continued in this way, we left them to it and continued on our way.


The fish folk of Amvrakikos
- photo by and © C&S


The fish folk of Amvrakikos
- photo by and © C&S

Our destination today was a campsite near Igoumenitsa Kalami Camping and we continued to bird along the way.

We spotted a few road kill martens, a tortoise, several snake species and a fox, we were later today to spot a live fox sat in a field we watched him sat overlooking a mown hay field for some minutes before he loped off.


One of the roadkill unidentified snakes
- photo by and © C&S


The fox in the hay
- photo by and © C&S

Numbers of Great Reed Warbler today they could be heard everywhere and if we had counted figures would have gone into low hundreds.


Great Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S


Great Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S


Great Reed Warbler
- photo by and © C&S

Another first today was the Olive Tree Warbler; unfortunately we did not obtain a photo.


Black-headed Bunting male
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting female
- photo by and © C&S


Black-headed Bunting male
- photo by and © C&S

Barn Swallow                  Mute Swan                      Corn Bunting

Yellow-legged Gull Grey Heron                     Hooded Crow

Goldfinch                       Red-backed shrike          Woodchat Shrike

Black-headed Bunting      Cetti’s Warbler               Little Egret

Common Buzzard 3        Dalmation Pelican 20+     Great Reed Warbler

Zitting Cisticola               Magpie                           Little Tern

Kestrel                            Sandwich Tern                Common Tern

Blackbird                        Great Tit                         Greenfinch

Jay 1                               Bee-eater 20+                  Sand Martin

White Stork [nests]         Little Bittern m&f            Collared Dove

Spanish Sparrow             House Sparrow               Olive Tree Warbler         

Black-eared Wheatear [black throated]


Barn Swallow
- photo by and © C&S


Corn Bunting
- photo by and © C&S

We stopped for a coffee on a steep hill as we progressed northwards and looking down towards the sea spotted another wetland area, the calls of the Great Reed Warbler echoed up the hillside.


The wetlands from the road
- photo by and © C&S 

We had hoped to rest and recharge our batteries here at Kalami Camping; rest was not easy, we were parked up near the main highway with a twisty hilly section above us all night long we were kept awake by the noise of the trucks as they traversed above us. The campsite though was great with good facilities. Temperatures have risen daily each day and today we were told it was 31oC and we were glad to be having a break.

14th

Today would see us catch the ferry at 1030pm from Igoumenitsa to Ancona in Italy; we stayed on the campsite until 2pm.

More sightings of Olive Tree Warbler and Sue caught sight a small flock of ten Chough.

The following birds were seen on the campsite….

Greenfinch                      Collared Dove                 Goldfinch

Chaffinch                        Blue Rock Thrush           Black-headed Bunting

Yellow-legged Gull Bee-eater                         Magpie

Black-eared Wheatear [white throated & black throated]

Driving over the mountains and with time to kill we spotted more wetlands on the north edge of Igoumenitsa Bay and duly tried to find the road , soon getting lost and being directed to the more northern lakes near Kestrini near the border with Albania we were lucky to now ask the right person who told us to follow him. Giving our thanks and now on the correct road we soon found the lagoons but little in the way of birds, the beaches on the other side of the road are very popular and were fairly crowded. We did have a few nice sightings of birds, insects and flowers as we drove further along and away from the more populated areas.

Grey Heron 8                  Little Egret 20+               Cattle Egret 1

White Stork 1                  Common Buzzard 1        Nightingale

Jay 1                               Glossy ibis 12                 Yellow-legged Gull

Great Reed Warbler        Hooded Crow                 House Martin

Magpie                           Bee-eater


Rose Chafer
- photo by and © C&S


Glossy Ibis
- photo by and © C&S


Flower
- photo by and © C&S


Flower
- photo by and © C&S


Dragonfly Black-tailed Chaser?
- photo by and © C&S


Unknown spider
- photo by and © C&S


Seline italica
- photo by and © C&S


Igoumenitsa from the sea
- photo by and © C&S

We spent the early evening in Igoumenitsa and passed through security check in without any problems, the illegal immigrant problem is not as noticeable at this port whereas Patras has had in the past a real problem.

We boarded our ferry the ANEK lines Olympic Champion on time and along with only three other campervans on the big open deck , prepared for the evening  in our same little motorhome cabin, as we could use our camper with electric connections and with the same facilities, Showers and toilets, as any shore based campsites. We were also free to use the other facilities onboard.


With a near empty ferry you get sea views
- photo by and © C&S

The three weeks that we spent travelling through the Peleponnese was all new country to us as was spending the time using and really getting used to our new motorhome.

Several new bird species, Tortoises and Terns, along with good weather made this section of our trip a really wonderful experience.

Writing this report on the morning of the 15th, sitting in the motorhome watching the sea speeding past from the ferry …… brings thoughts and expectations for our journey through Italy and France and onward to family reunions in the UK ………. We will get an early lunch before docking in Ancona and doubt we will ever forget this fantastic and memorable part of the journey.
 
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