January 2008 Bird report report from Kaliviani and Western Crete

January 1st saw us heading for Falasarna beach for a then the 3rd for a trip into the mountains , so as January seems to be quiet here we are going to get in a few field trips to some of the sites we have neglected recently .

With Olive harvesting well underway this month with lots of workers in the vicinity the smaller birds are keeping at a distance

Great close up views of Lammergeier on a trip to Omalos, plus two female Hen Harriers on the 3rd.

The Greater Sand Plover seen again on the 4th. .  and 14th .

A Great Crested Grebe on the 11th

The 12th gave us a pair of Golden Eagle. The 13th a single Golden eagle landed 100 metres behind the house giving superb views.

Bonelli’s Eagle a pair on the 12th & 13th

17th Great views of 1 Golden Eagle, 1 Lammergeier, 2 Griffon Vulture and Bonelli’s Eagle all soaring together on Gramvousa.

Black Redstart…… …we now have six birds every night roosting on the pergola supports they are not at all worried by our comings and goings, we pass as close as a metre without them flying off.

Mandrake …out everywhere very early !

Androcymbium rechingeri….. This very rare and endangered endemic plant only found in three sites on Crete and then only on the western shores, Elafonisi, Falasarna and Gramvousa. Flowering in January or February.  We found a carpet of them at Falasarna on an area that is used as a car park in the summer months a real stunning sight and a pleasure to find.

Narcissus tazetta….. two very nice clumps of wild out on the slopes behind the house

A report issued by the HOS [Greek Ornithological Society ] printed in the Ekathimerini newspaper on the 16th has stated the following:

Malcolmia flexuosa….. some isolated plants on the tip of Tiganis [Gramvousa]

Two items from the Kathermerini newspaper

Climate change to shift rare species

Many rare species of birds will no longer be seen in Greece by the end of the century due to climate change, the Hellenic Ornithological Society said yesterday. It is expected that every species of bird seen in Europe will move some 550 kilometers northeast because of the changing climate. So birds that can currently be found in the Peloponnese will migrate beyond Greece’s borders.

In the same edition

Big squid

A Cretan fisherman netted a 1.5-meter squid, weighing more than 4 kilos, off the coast of Hania yesterday. The squid had probably lost its bearings in its search for food and had subsequently been unable to return to the deep, experts said.

The monthly regular daily sightings [ 20 species this month ] are listed below these are birds that are not hard to see during this month and are not listed in the daily diaries. We normally have them ticked off by breakfast

Hooded Crow…. Italian Sparrow……Buzzard……..Collared Dove…. Rock Dove…..Crested Lark

Stonechat…….Goldfinch…….Sardinian Warbler…….Raven……Yellow-legged Gull ………

Great Tit…..Blackbird……..Chaffinch….. Greenfinch………Robin……Black Redstart

Meadow Pipit……… Linnet……White Wagtail…..

...Also our resident bats

Peregrine Falcon 1, a dark morph Booted Eagle, Chiffchaff, Kestrel 1, Griffon Vulture 2, on our trip to Falasarna Beach we nothing out of the ordinary .

Crag Martin 1, Griffon Vulture 1, Buzzard 3, Kestrel 2 and a Sparrowhawk.

The usual birds at home then an early start for the Omalos Plateau and Kalergi hut .

On route from coast road and in the mountains we saw.

White Wagtail c 50, Crested Lark 6, Stonechat c30, Greenfinch 7, Yellow-legged Gull 4, Meadow Pipit a flock of c20, Black redstart c10, Blue Rock Thrush 1, Collared Dove 3, Hen Harrier f 2 the first just before Lakki village and the second on Omalos Plateau, several Buzzard , Goldfinch c100 in several loose flocks. Chaffinch c100 also in loose flocks, Raven 8, Hooded Crow a flock of c50 lifted up from the plateau and several others were seen towards the base of Samaria Gorge, Kestrel 1 at 1500 metres, Blackbird 8, Jay and Wren both heard.

From Kalergi Hut set at 1680 metres in the Lefki Ori we saw at 1410 hrs an adult Lammergeier and a Golden Eagle . Both were fantastic to see as we had spent some time there scanning the rocks and trees opposite and the skies for these birds and had seen nothing, just as we were about to leave Sue sighted the Lammergeier probably 500 metres below us and then a short while later the Golden Eagle even lower.

2 photos of the Lammergier (above) by and © C&S

We had taken a picnic lunch to the refuge and it was above the snow line there was a slight breeze but the sun shone and we only saw four other people. The silence, the stillness and the views are enhanced at this time of the year when the snow is on the ground a perfect place to spend some time alone with nature. A 4X4 is required to get to the refuge at this time of year some of the track higher up is washed out and where the sun does not shine the ice on some bends can be a bit unnerving with a two wheel drive car….the refuge is also closed and no refreshments are available.

The cloud is thick today and just the usual birds noted at home plus Chiffchaff . However a drive into town along the coast road had us sighting the Greater Sand Plover again a nice sight and was the only bird apart from the Gulls along the coast.

A quiet day not much about with the usual birds seen and a single Peregrine Falcon hunted around the house.

A better day today the weather a bit kinder the first bird seen was a Peregrine Falcon sat on the rocks above the house followed by Griffon Vulture 6 sat on the distant ridges, the regular species were quickly ticked off followed by Blue Rock Thrush, Blue Tit, Crag Martin 4, Chiffchaff, Blackcap m& f , Kestrel 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Greenfinch, Cetti’s Warbler one heard in the gulley behind the house.

We got up early this morning to make our way to Agia Lake, Omalos Plateau, Tavronitis River, 6 miles of coast and agricultural land . The morning dawned fine and we watched the sun rise above the Lefki Ori as we breakfasted. Whilst getting all the gear together the weather changed within the hour to rain !!!. This however was confined to Gramvousa.

We spotted all the regulars before we set off including Chiffchaff.

We decided to set off and on the way pop into town and get a few chores done on the way, this set us back time wise and we had to drop the Omalos section the mountains had some cloud cover anyway.

At the lake we found …..

Ferruginus Duck 2, Little Grebe c30, Kingfisher 1, Moorhen 5, Buzzard 1, Chiffchaff 6, White Wagtail 3, Stonechat 10, Goldfinch 8, House Sparrow, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird 1, Gadwall 3m +8f, Wigeon 10, Teal c100, Pochard 50, Coot c400, Mallard 12, Marsh Harrier 2f , Shoveler c50, Yellow-legged Gull 150-200, Hooded Crow 16, Cormorant 1, Tufted Duck 10.  

Tavronitis River was once again devoid of birds we found the river in full flood but there was nothing to be seen at all on the 400yard stretch we scanned . At the Galatas estuary there were Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull 9, distant unknown Terns, 3 Mallard 2m +1f  swam on the sea and a Little Egret flew eastwards.

Along the rest of the coastline there was again very little a Kestrel sat on the beach, several Blackbird, Buzzard 3, Chiffchaff, 12 + Crested Lark, Kingfisher 2.

A nice few hours out with the best birding at the Lake .

Kestrel, Cetti’s Warbler [heard], Crag Martin 10, Shag 1, Griffon Vulture 1, White Wagtail 1, a flock of c50 Corn Bunting, Crested lark and Chiffchaff. A nice sight every evening is the Black Redstart.

Cetti’s Warbler, Kestrel 1, Raven 10, Linnet 8, Griffon Vultures 2, Peregrine Falcon 1.

Griffon Vulture 9, a large mixed flock of Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Crested Lark, Sparrowhawk 1, Cormorant 1, White Wagtail.

Today we birded at home then Falasarna Beach and on the way back a hike into the hills of Gramvousa.

At Home……

Griffon Vulture 2, Kestrel. + listed daily birds.


Yellow-legged Gull, Buzzard 4, Skylark 3, Meadow Pipit c20, Crested Lark 10,Stonechat, Black Redstart, Great Tit, Goldfinch, White Wagtail c30, Corn Bunting, Crag Martin 2, Sardinian Warbler, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow. A Little Egret, one flew along the coast 100 metres offshore where we also sighted a Great Crested Grebe, spotted by chance as it bobbed in the waves then proceeded to sleep as it drifted slowly south. This is only our second sighting of this species the last one in 2006 in the small fishing boat harbour just west of Kissamos.


Griffon Vulture 3, Sparrowhawk 1 interacting with a Kestrel, Blackbird, Song Thrush 1, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Hooded Crow, Raven, Crested Lark, Buzzard 6, Greenfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow.

Androcymbium rechingeri. This beautiful flower is abundant this year. We found it at Falasarna where it is in decline due to tourism, it exists nowhere else on the planet.

Picture above Androcymbium rechingeri by and © C&S

Peregrine Falcon 1, Kestrel 3. We spotted a 2nd winter Golden Eagle at 1015 hovering about 3 metres above the ground about 3/4mile away. Watching through the scope we saw a goat dancing around trying to protect its kid, the Aquila eventually flew off without a meal, later at 1210 we saw a couple both 2nd winter birds soaring together for several minutes before heading off onto the peninsula. Whilst this was going on we also saw the resident pair of Bonelli’s Eagle, soaring a mile to the east also a Sparrowhawk and the kestrel all within sight at the same time a wonderful sight. Blue Rock Thrush and White Wagtail.

Our closest views of Golden Eagle at home as a 2nd winter bird flew 100 metres away being harassed by a pair of Raven it then landed about 300 metres away before rising and landing twice more in sight before the Raven chased it back onto Gramvousa. We managed wonderful views for several minutes, the camera unfortunately was on the wrong setting and shooting into the sun overexposed the flight shots arrrgh. None the less a wonderful experience. Blue Rock Thrush 2, Blackcap, Crag Martin 4, Cormorant 5, Whiskered Tern 1, Griffon Vulture 4, Kestrel 1, Bonelli’s Eagle our pair seen twice, Linnet, White Wagtail, Blue Tit. Towards evening our local Peregrine Falcon kept from its same spot on the rocks stooping into the fields below after 4 stoops it flew off without a meal…

The Golden Eagle (above) by and © C&S

Another day out ,as well as at home we took in Omalos Plateau and Lake Agia.

At home……

Song Thrush 1, Golden Eagle 2 as they interacted low over the near ridges and a wonderful sight before our trip out they were only visible for five minutes before disappearing nothwards. Cetti’s Warbler, Crag Martin 4, Kestrel 1, Grey heron 1, landed on the nearby coastal rocks, Griffon Vulture 3 seen as we left the house and Cormorant 2.

On route and  Omalos…… Just after leaving home we found the Greater Sand Plover still present but elusive in the many hiding places on the rocks. Linnet, Crested Lark, Kestrel 4, House Sparrow, Italian Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush 5, Black Redstart, Hooded Crow, several small flocks c20 Crag martin, Collared Dove, Buzzard 10, Blackbird 5, Great Tit, Chaffinch c15 in small groups, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Song Thrush 2, Hen Harrier 1, Robin, Greenfinch c10, Raven 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Hobby 2.  Rain and low cloud on the plateau stopped any serious birding we left after seeing very little tobird the lower slopes towards Chania.

Agia Lake….

Little Egret 1, Shoveler c50, Tufted Duck c20, Crag Martin c20, Marsh Harrier 2, Little grebe c30, Pochard c50, Coot 400+, Moorhen c20, Ferruginus Duck 15, Mallard c 20, Teal c 70, ? Greylag Goose 2 with the domestic. Chiffchaff 12, Gadwall 10, Grey Wagtail 1, White Wagtail 2, Hooded Crow c20, Raven 2, Yellow-legged Gull 50+, Cetti’s warbler [heard].

When we first arrived here we hardly saw a Starling.  Tonight at the lake we watched the numbers grow as groups joined up circling and spiralling in the sky before 1000+ plunged into the reeds to roost as darkness fell …superb.

On the road a weasel and Badger were once more statistics of roadkill.

Cetti’s warbler [heard], Spanish Sparrow, Blue Tit, Griffon Vulture 6, Hen Harrier f 1, Kestrel 1.  White Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush.

Greenfinch, Cetti’s Warbler, White Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush, Spanish Sparrow, Shag 1, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel 2, Griffon Vulture 3

We found the plant Malcolmia flexuosa ,again another plant flowering early, this species flowers February–May.

Today the weather was for a change, warm, with the early temperature touching 16oC we decided to take another trip to Falasarna to take some photos of the rare flower there [ see entry on 11th ]  followed by lunch and a walk on Gramvousa to the tip of this peninsula…. also known as Tiganis ….instead of the Balos area.

At home we sighted first off Griffon Vulture 4, a flock of c30 Hooded Crow performed early morning aerobatics, Crag Martin 4, later to be joined by c100, Song Thrush 1,  c100 Yellow-legged Gull , Shag 1, Kestrel 1.

At Falasarna…….. we found the flowers,Androcymbium rechingeri starting to go over but obtained some nice pictures. Lots of White Wagtail, Black Redstart and Stonechat and a few Yellow-legged Gull.

On Gramvousa…….. Lots of Chaffinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow and Black Redstart, juv Cormorant 2, Blue Rock thrush 5, Kestrel 3, Rock Dove, a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle, Raven 10, Woodlark c10 and Sardinian Warbler. A Peregrine Falcon and a flock of c30 White Wagtail. The best birding of the day , was when stopping on the way back to watch a Blue Rock Thrush, Sue looked up on hearing Raven making a row high on a ridge to notice a single of our resident pair of Bonelli’s Eagle being mobbed by the Raven to be joined seconds later by both a Lammergeier and a 1st year Golden Eagle, two Griffon Vultures and a Kestrel , we watched this spectacle for some 15 minutes when just as quickly as they arrived they all disappeared, all we could do was look at each other… speechless and with great big smiles we headed home tired from the hike, invigorated by the birding.

House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow joined the flock of local Italian Sparrow, Linnet, greenfinch and Cetti’s Warbler .

Whilst on the river mouth at Kissamos White Wagtail where joined by a single Grey Wagtail, a juv Black Headed Gull stirred up the mud and feeding next to the road, a Common Sandpiper, House Sparrow, Flocks of Goldfinch fed noisily in the gardens, several groups of c20 Chaffinch and 2 Collared Dove.

Griffon Vulture 4, Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, a Song Thrush, Linnet, Kestrel 1, a f Blackcap, a m Hen Harrier 1 and a pair of Peregrine Falcon circled together above the house.

Peregrine Falcon 1, Sparrowhawk 1, a dark morph Booted Eagle, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow.

Cetti’s Warbler, Spanish Sparrow,  a dark morph Booted Eagle circled the house then did a low pass right over our heads as it was harassed by a Hooded Crow, a Chiffchaff, a single griffon flew out onto the peninsula. Later in the evening a Sparrowhawk hunted the low shrubs near the coast.

Peregrine Falcon, Griffon Vulture 4, Cetti’s Warbler, Cormorant 1.

Cetti’s warbler, Griffon Vulture 2, Blue Rock Thrush 2, Cormorant 1, Peregrine Falcon 1, Crag Martin 5.

On the highway 2 Barn Owl and 1 Badger road kill….

From the 24th to the 31st we went to the UK visiting family plus a few days birding in Norfolk. A separate trip report is elsewhere on this site.

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