January 2009

Birding in Western Crete

A great start to the year, on the 1st we add a new species to our Crete list, along with another pair of Cattle Egret to report to the rarities committee of the Hellenic Ornithological Society.

A Hedgehog on the 2nd

Kentish Plover [2] on the 4th/8th/14th /21st /22nd

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth and wild Narcissus in flower on the 9th

White Stork on the 13th

Golden Eagle on the 15th

Another first for us and a rarity on Crete, a Curlew on the 17th our Crete species total is now 206.

A pair of Great Crested Grebe on the 20th

On the 26th an adult female Hen Harrier

HOS informs us on the 20th that Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis is now removed from the rarities list. With many sightings this species range appears to be expanding.


We start the new year off with some lovely weather after the recent storms. The winds abated during the night and we awoke to sunny intervals, later changing to a beautiful blue sky with the snow on the White Mountains shining in the sunlight.

The Usual early spots were seen from home, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Greenfinch, Common Buzzard, Raven, Linnet, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Crested lark and Chaffinch.

With the weather so improved we decided on a trip out to start off the new year, we headed for the beaches today taking in as many lanes to beach areas as possible between home and Gerani a few kms  west of Chania…. somewhere around twenty-eight kilometres of coastline in all.

Threading our way through the greenhouses towards our local beach, flocks of Linnet, Crested Lark and a Serin. Chaffinch and Goldfinch and a female Kestrel sat on a telephone wire. Heading for the harbour we detour into some nearby fields, spotting several Black Redstart, mostly males, Robin and Great Tit.

At the harbour 3 Sandwich Tern sat on the mole. Several Yellow-legged Gull, House Sparrow and Common Sandpiper.

Our next destination alongside a stream on the eastern edge of Kissamos we find Chiffchaff, Blackbird and Sardinian Warbler. Usually retracing our steps here, we decide instead to drive across the sand and pebbles following the tracks of previous vehicles rather than drive several kilometres inland. As we arrive at the next track along we stop and scan the fields, Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark, and great, some Short-toed Lark as well, a long time since we have seen any of these larks. Scanning further off we catch sight of some larger birds feeding in the longer grasses …. Lapwing, again this species is not seen often here and we find four, the most we have seen together.

We move on… taking the beach track we arrive near to the soap making factory that spews out foul smelling smoke and fumes, they use the waste from the olive oil process to stoke their furnaces and smoke is often seen right out into the bay. Here we find a number of male Black Redstart several of which are obliging when it comes to getting pictures of them, a few more Chiffchaff and a Starling, soon after we see six more.

- photo by and © C&S

At Nopigia we take to the national highway until we get to the Kolymvari junction. Nothing much along here the same flocks of small birds are seen.

At Tavronitis we take a new lane down towards the promenade area. Just before the beach, we catch a glimpse of two white birds feeding in the long Bermudan Buttercups and grass….Cattle Egret, we cannot believe our luck, after several years of not seeing this species we have our fourth sighting in a couple of weeks. We think there may be five birds in the area as we have seen them twice as a pair and twice in threes. One comes to within two metres of the car, the Canon with the big lens just focus’s and we both get great shots as it raises it head from the greenery with a lizard in its bill, for several seconds it tried to get the lizard the right way round to swallow it eventually it succeeded and then carried on feeding.

Cattle Egret with lizard
- photo by and © C&S

Cattle Egret in flight
- photo by and © C&S

We left them to it and carried on towards the river mouth. Stopping for lunch we notice several Sandwich Terns, in all we counted eight throughout the afternoon whether they were the same ones we cannot be sure, the most seen together were three.

We drive on and arriving at the river mouth, a Cormorant not ten metres away, we manage more pictures and some flight shots.

- photo by and © C&S

- photo by and © C&S

- photo by and © C&S

Looking across the river a few Meadow Pipits feed on the muddy edges. We see nothing else here, although the river is now flowing well after the rains. Carrying on towards Maleme and Gerani we stop for a coffee, out to sea one bird looks different from the Terns and Yellow-legged Gull’s, looking hard through the binoculars it has some noticeable black on the wings, taking some distant pictures we find when we arrive home that its another first for us, a Little Gull, we think a first winter bird. A distant picture below.

Little Gull
- photo by and © C&S

Our list now stands at 205. Oh to master those little warblers we may just increase the list by the end of  2009………….

At 4pm we head for home, taking some pictures of the snow clad mountains from the beach before we leave. At Tavronitis we find several kinds of toadstool.

The White Mountains in winter
- photo by and © C&S

- photo by and © C&S

- photo by and © C&S

On the way home a couple of Common Buzzard a Kestrel and Collared Dove. In Kissamos we notice a large mixed flock of feral pigeon, Collared Dove and about thirty Starling circling around at dusk as they look for that ideal roosting spot for the night. As we drive past the small fishing harbour we catch sight of the Kingfisher perched on a fishing boat. Taking the same road wending its way through the greenhouse towards home out last birds of the day are the Crested Lark.

A report from Nikos 2 Pelican still at Souda, a pale morph Booted Eagle at Agia and Meadow Pipit at Tavronitis.


With the good weather staying with us, 16oC today we try to get on with some nature spotting at home, more wild flowers are blooming every day so Sue spent a few hours in the olive grove taking pictures of some. Birds for today……Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crested Lark, Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow, White Wagtail, Sandwich Tern, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Sparrowhawk, Great Tit, Serin, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Robin, Black Redstart, and Blackbird. Sue went for a walk later and spotted a Cormorant sat on a rock drying its wings, when walking back through the olive trees a Buzzard followed by a small hawk, Sue was certain it was a Merlin but it was so fast and with not enough of a view it will have to be a possible sighting.

At 4pm a Hedgehog was seen grubbing about in the olive grove so down with the camera to get some pictures, this little fellow stayed quite still for some time before he plucked up courage to escape my unwanted company.

- photo by and © C&S


Today we again woke to a steady rain all the usual species were seen with nothing special to note.

Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Common Buzzard, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Linnet, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch, Stonechat and Chaffinch.


With work to do at home we did only a little birding. Confining ourselves to occasional glances into the sky and the trees we spot all the usual species. Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Stonechat. Although we never saw it the lovely call of the Blue Rock Thrush could be heard nearby somewhere in the rocks above. White Wagtail, a single Kestrel and small flocks of Meadow Pipit and Crested Lark in the fields below. At about 3pm a glance through the scope to the coastal rocks revealed two birds feeding. They looked like Plover so a dash down for a closer look revealed 2 Kentish Plover, we stayed for a while watching as they dashed about after food before flying off towards the harbour. A lovely sighting, to finish the day, we cannot remember if this was our first views of this species locally.

Kentish Plover
- photo by and © C&S

Kentish Plover
- photo by and © C&S

Kentish Plover
- photo by and © C&S

A report from Nikos of 1 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Wigeon, 1 Dunlin and 1 Pelican at Geogioupolis.

And at Kourtialiotis Gorge 10 Griffon Vulture, 1 Lammergeier, a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle being mobbed by Raven


Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Black Redstart, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat. 3 Griffon Vultures were spotted briefly as they flew across the high ridges on Gramvousa and minutes later another 5 were seen circling high above Kissamos harbour. Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Common Buzzard, White Wagtail, Italian Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and Blackbird. A single Cormorant was seen fishing just offshore.

We found a large stick insect which we are unable to definitely identify but think it may be the Bacillus rossius.

Stick Insect
- photo by and © C&S

Stick Insect
- photo by and © C&S


Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Hooded Crow, Blackbird, Stonechat, Blue Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, White Wagtail, Italian Sparrow, Robin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Black Redstart, Rock Dove and Greenfinch.


Today we had to travel to Chania so no birding done at home. On route and in Chania we saw….2 Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Stonechat, Great Tit, 3 Common Buzzard, 1 Black-headed Gull, 1 Sandwich Tern, 1 Sparrowhawk [over the centre of Chania] 1 Kestrel, 1 Little Egret, White Wagtail, Linnet, Goldfinch, Italian Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Hooded Crow, Greenfinch and Crested Lark.


Peregrine Falcon 2 seen flying together, Hooded Crow, Linnet, Great Tit, Common Buzzard, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Crested Lark, Collared Dove, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern 2, Cormorant 2, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Kestrel 1, Raven and a Barn Owl was heard at 8pm.

Thanks to Bob for reporting that the two Kentish Plover are still in the locality.


Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Stonechat, Black Redstart, and Blue Tit. A small party of Crag Martin appeared and flew around the area for half an hour. A Blue Rock Thrush was first heard singing from a nearby rocky hillside and then spotted as it moved a little nearer, where it started its song again, staying put for some twenty minutes. Italian Sparrow, Raven, Yellow-legged Gull, 5 Buzzard…. the most we have seen together for some time….. Cormorant 1, Crested Lark and Linnet.


With torrential rain all day we did not get too many spots especially as birding was through the window, thirteen species was all we could manage.

Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Blue Rock Thrush, Robin, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Chaffinch, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.


Another bad weather day, high winds from the east , rain showers and low cloud produced even less today….Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart, Common Buzzard, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Linnet and Goldfinch.


A single Griffon Vulture flew low over the house heading onto the peninsula and a short while later a dark morph Booted Eagle was seen looping around the house being harassed by Hooded Crows it flew in low and landed just twenty metres away but out of sight, it was on the ground for seconds when one of the resident Common Buzzard dived from the rocks above sending it into flight and over the hill behind the house. All the usual birds were to be seen, Linnet, Stonechat, Yellow-legged Gull, Crested Lark, Italian Sparrow, Robin, Chaffinch and Raven. Late in the day a Peregrine Falcon was see to land on the crags above the small church nearby.


The day dawned with yet more rain which stayed with us throughout the day. From the house we spotted ……Linnet, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Chiffchaff, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Blue Tit, a Peregrine Falcon and a Common Buzzard.

Around 11am we received a text from Nikos Samaritakis informing us of a White Stork near to Chania prison. An hour later we arrived in pouring rain. The bird was showing well, stood alongside a tree lined ditch 75 metres off the main road to Omalos. A little while after our arrival another car pulled up and we were delighted to meet Manos. We have visited his website on several occasions and now we were to get to meet him. Manos had originally informed Nikos of the bird so credit for its find goes to him. We tried for some closer views and wandered across the soaked fields. Soaking wet we managed a few pictures. The birds had a large growth on the underside of the mandible, which probably is the cause of its late arrival here. It was observed flying and feeding and we hope that it survives the winter to return in the spring to Europe.

White Stork
- photo by and © C&S

White Stork with the possible tumour
- photo by and © C&S

We also spotted a large flock of Starling 200-300 wheeling around behind the prison, Lots of Yellow-legged Gull on the ground along with White Wagtail, Linnet and Stonechat.

Leaving the site we decided to head for Agia Lake only a couple of kilometres away.

We parked at the northern taverna and in the pouring rain viewed the lake from inside the car. We did not have a complete view of the lake from here and the rain hindered the view so we did a quick species count rather than try to count the specie numbers……  Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant flew in as we supped our coffee, a small flock of Tree Sparrow swept past the car into the reeds, joining the flock of Italian Sparrow already in noisy residence. On the lake…Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Mallard, Yellow-legged Gull, Teal and Tufted Duck. Overhead and swooping low onto the water possibly 50+ Crag Martin and a small group of Hooded Crow sat in a small tree on the waters edge. A Blackbird fed on the waterlogged grass and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard in the reeds.


No rain today but winds gusting from 3-8 Beaufort from the south, temperatures rose to 21oC !!….Great Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Linnet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin two small groups, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin 1, Goldfinch, , Stonechat, , Blue Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Robin, Blackbird, Common Buzzard and Italian Sparrow. Sandwich Tern 1, Kentish Plover 2 and Shag 1 were spotted from home whilst scanning the coastline through the scope.


Another fine day that saw us logging thirty species in two hours, most before breakfast!

First sighting was of 5 Blackbird… 4 male and a female, White Wagtail …several in the sheep pens along with Chiffchaff. Cetti’s Warbler, Robin, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Linnet were all very vocal this morning. Woodlark…several heard up on the slopes along with Crested Lark. Stonechat and Italian Sparrow occupied the taller bushes. Large numbers of Yellow-legged Gull were seen on the sea and also overhead, they and a number of smaller birds flew off the slope and I tuned the scope into a large raptor telling Sue an Aquila…… she said no !! as with her binoculars she followed a Sparrowhawk, seconds later the Aquila flew into her vision behind her Sparrowhawk and we confirmed a nice sighting of a Golden Eagle which disappeared behind a ridge, later it appeared for about 5 seconds as it flew west. Hooded Crow, about 30 started harassing a Kestrel, soon three more joined….4 Kestrel overhead, a harder look to see if they were Lesser’s, but no luck there, soon another 4 joined up, now we had 8 Kestrel overhead being harassed by a single Hooded Crow, a lovely sight as they plucked insects from the air, they stayed around for about ten minutes. We spotted through the scope a single Shag sat sunning on a rock, the 2 Sandwich Tern and 2 Kentish Plover are still present, the Tern’s patrolling along the coastline and the Plover running up and down feeding at their usual rock ledge.  A Peregrine Falcon appeared from nowhere, we picked it up just as it began a stoop, it shot down across the front of the house and tried to take a Crag Martin which easily jinked to the right and away to safety, the Peregrine soared back up and over the little church situated slightly above us and away onto Gramvousa. Wow, it’s now 9am, we should try for breakfast but Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler and Black Redstart fly into view. Soon after breakfast we get 2 Common Buzzard  [our local pair] surveying their nest site and rest areas. By 10.30 we get Raven. A lovely sunny day saw us watching Hummingbird Hawkmoth and Red Admiral butterflies in the garden along with numerous Great and Blue Tit, Chiffchaff flitted in the crab apple tree, later their places taken by Black Redstart that appeared just before dusk as they came into their roosting places. As darkness fell a Common Buzzard was heard as it called from the Tamarisk trees nearby.

One of our resident Common Buzzard
- photo by and © C&S

One of several Kestrel
- photo by and © C&S  


Stonechat, Crag Martin, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Peregrine Falcon, Sandwich tern, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Italian Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Blue Tit, Black Redstart and Cetti’s Warbler. Along the coast and Kissamos Harbour.. Corn Bunting, Cormorant, Meadow Pipit and Crested Lark.


Cetti’s Warbler, robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Linnet, Goldfinch, Crag Martin, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, White Wagtail, Sandwich Tern, Woodlark, Raven, Common Buzzard 4, Cormorant, Corn Bunting, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and Black Redstart.

At 3.15pm we received a text message from Nikos Samaritakis telling of a Mute Swan and Curlew at Maronis, Souda. Curlew would be a new species for us so we headed for the reserve straight away.

Arriving at 4pm we quickly spotted our target bird the Curlew but no sign of the Mute Swan. The Curlew obliged by moving fairly often, giving us the chance to watch it in flight and feeding in the shallows. At one point we had eight different species in the camera lens a pretty rare sight at this location.

Little Egret, Cormorant, Great White Egret and Grey Heron
at Maronis
- photo by and © C&S

- photo by and © C&S

Curlew in flight
- photo by and © C&S

Landing Curlew
- photo by and © C&S

Other species seen in our one and a half hours here…. 3 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 7 Cormorant, 14 Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Sandwich Tern, 1 Kingfisher, 20 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Great White Egret, Cetti’s Warbler, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird, Hooded Crow, 2 White Pelican, 1 Grey Wagtail and Stonechat.

The Souda Bay White Pelicans
- photo by and © C&S

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

Sandwich Tern
- photo by and © C&S


Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Linnet, Woodlark, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Buzzard, Stonechat, 10 Crag Martin. We spotted a hawk sat in a shrub 50 metres from the house, a Sparrowhawk sits waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting small bird.

- photo by and © C&S

We wondered why there were no birds in this area earlier and to spot the Sparrowhawk hidden and well camouflaged here was a nice find. Goldfinch, Italian Sparrow, Black Redstart, Crested Lark and 8 Griffon Vultures, spotted high over the ridges north of us. Whilst eating lunch a Kestrel flew close to the front balcony then down the side of the house and landed nearby catching a large insect it spent some time on the ground giving great views.


During the night a Barn Owl was heard. In the morning we had few birds … Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Italian Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crested Lark, Linnet and Cetti’s Warbler.

Late in the afternoon we drive to Falasarna, several Common Buzzard were seen, Yellow-legged Gull, upward of 40 White Wagtail, Stonechat, Linnet, Goldfinch, Crested Lark and Meadow Pipit. A single Common Sandpiper was spotted on a patch of mud on flooded meadow.

Flowers in bloom…. Scabius, Poppy, Camomile Daisy and the Androcymbium rechingeri. At home Sue found a Green Toad Bufo viridis in a woodpile

Green Toad Bufo viridis
- photo by and © C&S


We set off early for Chania to get our car serviced, the garage just happens to be minutes from Maronis reserve!! What could be better?

A walk through narrow lanes and an hour and a half later we returned to collect the car with 28 species found. Nothing special about but a pleasant morning in the sunshine with temperatures around 20oC…..Redshank 2, Kingfisher 2, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Cormorant , Great White Egret 1, Little Egret 2, Coot, Moorhen, Meadow Pipit, 2 White Pelican, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Blackbird, Tree Sparrow, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow, Serin, Collared Dove, Hooded Crow, Common Buzzard 3, Black Redstart, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and a Common Sandpiper.

Also present along the riverside…. Red-eared Terrapin Trachemys scripta (An introduced species) and Pale Clouded Yellow Butterfly.

A great find on the way home…. As we passed close to Kissamos harbour we both spotted at the same time two Great Crested Grebe feeding in the shallows, a quick turn into the harbour, we sat watching for some while until both birds slowly moved off into the centre of the harbour. This is only our third sighting on the island and to find this pair today was a great treat.

No birding done at home today.

Red-eared Terrapin
- photo by and © C&S

Pale Clouded Yellow Colias hyale
- photo by and © C&S

Great Crested Grebe


Blue Rock Thrush, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Yellow-legged Gull, Linnet, Hooded Crow, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Raven, at 09.40 a single Griffon Vulture flew south and later two more flew north onto Tiganis. Crag Martin, Blue Tit, Common Buzzard, Goldfinch and two views of a Sparrowhawk close to the house.

On a run into Kissamos Cormorant in the small fishing harbour, 2 Kentish Plover on a rocky ledge, 1 Great Crested Grebe in the larger harbour, Black Redstart, White Wagtail and Collared Dove.


Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Crag Martin, Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, 3 Common Buzzard, Linnet, Robin, Stonechat and late afternoon a female Sparrowhawk on two occasions flew hunting near the house. Hopefully the two remaining roosting Black Redstart will be safe from her.


Nothing special today the usual birds were seen and the Sparrowhawk continues to hunt nearby.


We are both suffering with bad colds and are going to stay homebound for the next few days. Hopefully we will be up and about before too long and can bring you more birding news soon.

A report of a Whinchat at Sougia from Nikos



Still feeling bad with our colds we are lifted a bit by the sight of an adult female Hen Harrier that appeared whilst we were having breakfast, it flew past the front window and towards the Balos Hotel, we watched for a few minutes as it circled the area before heading off in a northerly direction onto the peninsula. An overwintering bird or early migration it was a nice spot for January anyway. We snapped a picture as it flew by not too good an image due to the rain but we will post it anyway.

Hen Harrier
- photo by and © C&S

Common Buzzard 3, Great Tit, Stonechat, Linnet, Yellow-legged Gull, Hooded Crow, Cetti’s Warbler, Greenfinch, Black Redstart, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Shag 1, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Robin and Crag Martin.


A very quiet day, no wind, no rain…. No birds !!... A Sparrowhawk showed early on and stayed around most of the day and the smaller birds mostly stayed hidden.

Crag Martin were around early and disappeared as soon as the Sparrowhawk appeared, Raven called noisily as they flew onto Tiganis and 3 Common Buzzard circled overhead also very verbal, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Woodlark, Crested Lark, were heard more than they could be seen whilst our local pair of Stonechat and the several Great Tit in the area. The two Black Redstart continue to roost.


Hooded Crow, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Cetti’s Warbler, Linnet, Robin, Chaffinch, White Wagtail, Greenfinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Blackbird, Goldfinch and a Sandwich Tern.


Great sightings of White Pelicans this month, with the Souda two staying in the same location …..Local residents are feeding them regularly! Unfortunately this is making them very tame and they do enter one persons home for food!

More Tree Sparrow sightings, with numbers declining it is really great to see more and more in several different locations.

The several sightings throughout the month of the pair of Kentish Plover were pleasing, they disappear for days only to reappear back to the ledge where we first spotted them.

It was nice to find after a week’s absence that several Black Redstart have again started to roost we can only think that a predator had disturbed them. The Blue Rock Thrush that had roosted for several weeks has failed to return but we regularly sight one on the ridges and hear its song early mornings.

Curlew and White Stork are rarities and have been reported to HOS.

Major storms towards the end of the month stopped us taking trips to Agia and Omalos and the bad weather continued right to the end of the month with rain and thunderstorms daily

Good Birding

Colin and Sue

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