June 2008 Report

                        REPORT FROM KISSAMOS BAY AREA

All pictures attached to monthly reports are photos taken on the day of the actual species mentioned and are not archived shots.

This months regulars ……13 species.

Crested Lark….Hooded Crow….Chaffinch….Yellow-legged Gull….Italian Sparrow….Sardinian Warbler….Blackbird…. Greenfinch….Rock Dove….Buzzard….Great Tit….Goldfinch…. Raven….Collared Dove, are seen daily and not recorded in the lists below unless they are seen in significant numbers. Not forgetting our resident Bats.


A trip to Kalergi Hut refuge on the 5th. with friends Bob and Dawn gives us another new bird to our Crete list.

Our follow up Bird count for HOS on the 9th

Cetti’s Warbler go silent early in the month.

Deliana Gorge on the 11th and a Lesser Spotted Eagle

Bonelli’s Eagle on 12th

On the 14th an Eastern Imperial Eagle.

Lammergeier on 17th and 25th

Eleonora’s Falcon on 17th

An early morning trip to Agia on the 21st

Golden Eagle low over house on 22nd


This month kicks off very quietly, with only the birds listed above at home, whilst across the Kaliviani basin a single Turtle Dove called for a couple of hours from an electric supply line. A few Swift flew above the olive trees and a Little Ringed Plover was seen at the beach. At night we had, Scops Owl, Nightjar and Barn Owl.


Apart from a few Swift and 4 Buzzard one carrying a half metre long snake there was nothing significant at home apart from Black-eared Wheatear and Nightjar.

Across the way again a single Turtle Dove in the same location, Swift, Yellow-legged Gull, Buzzard and Colin nearly trod on a newly fledged Blackbird that hopped and part flew off a short distance to be greeted by its parent in a nearby olive grove. An the beach a Grey Heron flew by and a Little Ringed Plover was seen on the road. Collared Dove, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Crested Lark.


2 Black-eared Wheatear, 1 Woodchat Shrike, 1 Kestrel, Swallow, 1Peregrine Falcon and Nightjar.


Black-eared Wheatear with 2 young seen, 2 Woodchat Shrike, one of which constantly annoyed a Buzzard as it dropped several times onto its head as it perched nearby. 1 Kestrel, 3 Linnet, Woodlark. At 1040 four Griffon Vultures were seen over Gramvousa. A Blue Rock Thrush landed on our front balcony. Nightjar and Barn Owl.

Mia chased a beech Martin off the front garden area.


There are lots of Black-eared Wheatear about this morning with several seen and heard in the olive grove. Woodchat Shrike, Cetti’s Warbler, 1 Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, a juv Stonechat, Linnet, Scops Owl and Nightjar.

A trip up to Kalergi hut above the Omalos plateau, the entrance to the Samaria Gorge and a drive around the plateau produced….. Corn Bunting, Tawny Pipit, 1, then later, 4 Griffon Vulture, 7 Jay.

Griffon Vulture below Kalergi Hut, photo by and © C&S

Jay at Omalos, photo by and © C&S

20+ Blackbird, 5 Woodchat Shrike, 40+ Northern Wheatear, Wren, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Italian Sparrow, Greenfinch , Linnet, Goldfinch, Kestrel, Buzzard, Raven, Chukar were heard at several locations, Stoneschat, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swift in small numbers. 4 Chough flew noisily around Kalergi then the best was the sighting of 2 Alpine Chough , unfortunately Sue and Dawn had gone in search of flowers  arriving back moments after we had seen them.

Alpine Chough, photo by and © C&S

Whereas the Cough were noisy, the Alpine were silent and flew into the gullies of the steep rock face a lot closer, managing just one half decent photo before 30 seconds later disappearing along the mountain range. A few Red-rumped Swallow were seen lower down near Lakki. Yellow-legged Gull, Chaffinch, Swallow, Collared Dove and Swift completed the day it was rather late before we returned to sea level and we never had time to visit lake Agia.


A busy day clearing an olive grove and getting ready for family visiting today so little birding done.

Woodlark were heard as was a Turtle Dove, Swift and Swallow.


Leaving home at 01.00hrs for the airport at Heraklion a 2.5hour journey we sighted three Beech Martin along the national highway along with a recent Badger and Hedgehog roadkill.

On the return as the sun rose we stopped for a coffee near …………………

a Little Egret flew west along the beach, Little Ringed Plover took advantage of the early hours to forage along the beach before the tourists descended on their habitat. And a Woodchat Shrike watched us from a steel pole it was perched upon.

At home we had further sightings of Woodchat Shrike, at 07.57 2 Griffon Vulture and a Bonelli’s Eagle lifted above the ridge of Gramvousa. 08.55 a Kestrel hovered over the valley beyond the small church. A Buzzard was also seen at this time as it rose from the rocks nearby with a large Balkan Green Lizard in its talons …. A nice early meal for this individual. Balkan Green Lizard are to be seen everywhere at the moment , they bask on the branches of any available olive tree and in the surrounding Garrigue they can be spotted sat atop rocks and boulders making very easy pickings for the raptors. Further sightings of Woodchat Shrike sat on the fences surrounding our property. This fence keeps those that chose guns over cameras and binoculars out and our acre of grounds protect at least some the mammals and birds of this area. Black-eared wheatear are being seen regularly now as they feed nearby with the young sat on fences with the parents returning with tasty morsels for them. An opportunity for some pictures of the young in the next few days hopefully. Swallow and Swift in small parties swoop screech and scream around the hills nearby and the cronking call of the Raven in the distance sends us into a peaceful few hours sleep after our night run to the airport.


We awake to a nice cool day 21oC  with NW2-3 B winds. Swift and Swallow still fill the air with their calls, four Buzzard lift off from the rocks nearby and soar gracefully up a few hundred metres before spreading into a line and hover with wings motionless facing into the breeze like children’s kites on a windy day. They gradually move off in formation as they stare into the gullies below for their prey. Alpine Swift move in and join the swallow and swift with their playful high pitched twittering adding to the mornings birdsong, Woodchat Shrike add with what Sue would liken to the  sounds of a budgie calling add to that the  beautiful call of the Woodlark and we leave it to you to imagine the chorus provided for us. A Kestrel hovers near the beach road and a juv. Stonechat sits upon a small dead twig. Four Shag are seen cruising along the shoreline and a couple of Red-rumped Swallow fly past. Black-eared Wheatear hunt the sheep field next to us and a Grey Heron flies along the shore heading onto Gramvousa.


Our morning starts early its our follow up bird count day, a month after the first we get up for 05.00hrs and are heading for our first position for a 05.48 start.

Not the same as a month ago our species total is only 20 compared to 30 on the 9th May.

Great and Blue Tit, Crested Lark, Hooded Crow, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Linnet, Collared and Turtle Dove, Cetti’s Warbler, Stonechat, Italian Sparrow, Chaffinch, Swallow, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Yellow-legged Gull, Greenfinch and Swift.

Returning home as well as our regular sightings we have, Alpine Swift, Woodchat Shrike, Turtle Dove, Swallow and Swift. Kestrel, Corn Bunting and Linnet.


It seems to be very quiet with little to see on the high ridges, we are concerned at the low number of sightings of Griffon Vultures and Lammergeier compared to last year the latter not seemingly present at all. At 09.00, 3 Griffon Vulture rise from the ridge, a pleasing… YES ! escapes our lips as we sight the first for a while, three quarters of an hour later another five rise to join up with the others, before they drift away to the north. Maybe the winds have something to do with their flight times over the peninsula? We have experienced lots of West and South-westerly winds of late and today we have seen a change with the wind again coming from the North-east. Looking back through the diaries we notice the Vulture sightings are mostly when the North to North-easterlies blow…another study to do !

Swift, Alpine swift, Swallow, and House Martin are again about today in slightly larger numbers.


A short trip to the Gorge of Deliana for a belated look at the Griffon chicks today.

At home though , large numbers of Swift, Swallow, Alpine Swift, House and Crag Martin can be seen all over the area and we quickly add the following to our list ….Woodchat Shrike and Black-eared Wheatear, before we set off to the gorge. Along the beach road we sight 7 Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Crested Lark Collared Dove and Little Ringed Plover.

At Deliana……

8 Griffon Vulture with young seen on three nests , their flight feathers are coming along great now and maybe another two/three weeks will see them take to the wing.  Four Raven, Wren, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Buzzard, Blue Rock Thrush, Swift and Turtle Dove. Just as we were about to leave the vulture nesting area a bird high above several soaring griffons was seen to be an Aquila… but which one ? it would have been nice to have a Steppe Eagle [nipalensis] to add to the list but with the poor state of plumage the general opinion seems to be for the Lesser Spotted Eagle [Aquila pomerina].

A rather ragged ? Lesser Spotted Eagle, photo by and © C&S

Other small birds could be heard in the trees and shrubs, but our knowledge of bird calls is rather limited so these remain unidentified, still we continue to study them and with any luck will soon be able to add a few more specie sightings to the diaries and our Crete list.

Lots of butterflies….

Butterflies on Thistle, photo by and © C&S

Cleopatra, Swallowtail, Small Brown, plus others we could not identify. Hummingbird Hawkmoth most on large thistles…. Illyrian Scotch Thistle.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth, photo by and © C&S


A Stonechat called from nearby and juv. Wheatear are seen just beyond it we think they are Black-eared, it took a little while to identify these but eventually our findings were spot on as the parent birds finally arrived and confirmed it as they started to feed their young. A couple of Crag Martin flew through and a Kestrel hovered over the beach area. At 10.00 …a nice sighting a single Bonelli’s Eagles soared above the ridges for about ten minutes. A Chukar was heard just over a hill, something we do not hear too much of here due to the hunters , but they do seem to be keeping to the close season and with luck we may get to see one from the house soon. Swallow flew about and the arrival of a local shepherd put up two Turtle Doves which obligingly sat on our electric supply line for a photo. We are really pleased to notice an upturn in numbers sighted of this species these last few months, Crete seems not to bad a migration route compared to Malta and Cyprus.. maybe the birds have cottoned on ? 

Today after several attempts managed to get some shots of female and young Black-eared Wheatear in the olive grove not too bad but hopefully there will be an improvement as I work towards a better hide position.

Female Black-eared Wheatear, photo by and © C&S

Juv. Black-eared Wheatear, photo by and © C&S

Juv. Black-eared Wheatear waiting to be fed, photo by and © C&S

Pair of Turtle Dove, photo by and © C&S


Black-eared Wheatear, Linnet, Woodchat Shrike, Kestrel and two Little Ringed Plover are all that we managed to add to the regular daily visitors today.


Black-eared Wheatear, Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike, Linnet, two groups of Buzzard 4+7 and a Kestrel.

At 11.40-11.42 an Eastern Imperial Eagle circled just NE of the house, a Buzzard made several swoops before slowly against the westerly winds it made off north.

Eastern Imperial Eagle with Common Buzzard, photo by and © C&S

Two hours later we spotted it heading SE very fast, also a lot lower, it went straight over the house and before we could grab a camera or binoculars it had gone.


Another quiet day, lots of young Great Tit, Black-eared Wheatear, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird and Goldfinch about and apart from the regulars we had Linnet, Swallow, Swift and Alpine Swift.


Alpine swift, Black-eared Wheatear, Swallow, Kestrel, Woodchat Shrike, Swift, Spanish Sparrow. Along the beach one Little Ringed Plover.

Whilst sorting out the organic insect control bags in the olive grove we found three blackbird nests one still had three eggs in and the other two were empty, we had been seeing quite a few blackbird about for a few weeks little realising we had three nests all within twenty metres of each other.

Late evening a Scops Owl was heard on the distant ridges and Nightjar called nearby.


With temperatures expected in the low thirties today we got out early. A single Shag was seen flying across the bay, Black-eared Wheatear fed in the next field and a flock of 14 Bee-eaters flew around noisily for an hour, a single Swallow flew along the coast and a Blue Tit family flitted between the olive trees. Several small flocks of Linnet flew through and a Woodchat Shrike sat on the electric wires content to chase any of the Hooded Crows that dared to land nearby. Young Goldfinch, Wheatear, Blue Tit, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird were all around. At 10.20 a lucky spot as a Lammergeier glided easily south off Gramvousa, we had spent most of the morning scanning the ranges on Gramvousa for any raptors and this one sneaked in and was only spotted as it was above the house.

The Lammergeier, photo by and © C&S

Along the beach road, 2 Little Ringed Plover, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Crested Lark, Collared Dove, Goldfinch and Yellow-legged Gull.


 Black-eared Wheatear, Swallow. As the shepherds gathered for sheep shearing a pair of Woodchat Shrike sat close by, side by side on a branch watching.

A juv. Stonechat, Swift and Alpine Swift were all that could be added to the regulars today.

We sat lazily in the heat [32oC] watching birds perched as lazily as us, open billed looking extremely hot. The skies above the ridges stayed empty of any of the large raptors.

Late in the afternoon we went in search of butterflies and insects on the Oregano shrubs and watched as one of three Argiope lobata caught insects and wrapped them for a later meal.

On the way home late evening a Barn Owl was seen along the main highway and at home another was heard, also Scops Owl and Nightjar.


Woodchat Shrike 2, Swallow, at 07.55 an Eleonora’s Falcon, Blue Tit, 2 Black-eared Wheatear, Alpine Swift, 3 Turtle Dove, as well as the regulars.

A sad story

An unidentifiable gull was seen sitting on the sea, it had an odd shaped head almost like a Sandwich tern and sat very low in the water. A drive down found it still sat and it looked like a decoy ! looking through the telescope and the bird had a green vent…. polystyrene? I returned home the bird never moved just bobbed low on the water.

After returning home we watched as it drifted slowly along the coast. A Yellow-legged Gull took a couple of swoops at it, it never moved. A short while later a couple of people arrived near its location for a swim, the man entered the water the bird moved away!!! I could not believe it, what looked like a couple of wings and a head pasted to a polystyrene block were swimming off. So grabbing camera again I set off for the beach, to now see the bird with its flat shaped back of head and tail cocked up, wings drooping into the sea, its was looking around often shaking its head but still fairly immobile. Staying a while to get some closer pictures the bird slowly drifted in on a light breeze towards the beach eventually coming to within five metres of my location.

Standing up I slowly approached, the bird spread its wings and attempted to move away its progress was very slow, removing shoes and T shirt I plunged in, after a short swim I caught hold of the bird by its legs and proceeded to the shore. It made half hearted attempts to peck but now looking at its head I could see the reason for the odd shape, there was a terrible injury and the head was covered in minute maggot like parasites. A gunshot injury? An infection? Maybe caught up with a fishing line with the hook ripped off by the fisherman, who knows the poor thing was suffering big time, slowly getting water logged, eaten alive, temperatures in the mid thirties, unable to feed it would die a slow death. Unfortunately I now had the choice of, do not interfere with nature or put the poor thing out of its misery.

With the above factors the second option was the only one I could take and one that is always hard no matter how injured an animal. With limited resources on the Greek islands no animal rescue centres for miles… the nearest location is one of the other Greek islands involving many hours in a box involving a couple of ferry trips, this was definitely not an option the bird would die a slow death either way …a large pebble was found and a hard thump on the head finished the bird, me also…. feeling very bad at having to take its life I returned home. The bird turned out to be a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull apart from its head it was in perfect condition …..the green vent , the reflection of the turquoise water… and the adult that swooped on it , probably the parent trying to make its young one fly… 


Another hot day in store, our pair of Woodchat Shrike are the first birds seen and the first Blue Rock Thrush, a female, was seen perched on the rocks just above the nearby chapel. Blue Tit, 3 Swallow, a couple of young Northern Wheatear. Down at the beach a Little Ringed Plover and on the way home a single Bee-eater was on the telephone wire, as we progressed nearer home five more flew noisily overhead. Another very quiet day for birding so we insect watch in the garden. One of our Argiope lobata spiders has a male in attendance.

Argiope Lobata…. feeding female, smaller male in attendance, photo by and © C&S

A Late night a trip to Heraklion airport for a 0400 flight see’s us on the road at 22.00.


On the route back from Heraklion at 02.30 we sight a Barn Owl as it flies across the main highway near Rethymno.

Arriving in the dark at lake Agia we await the sunrise, the sounds of Coot and Little Grebe can be heard as we quietly approach.

As the false dawn approaches the sounds of the lakes frog population starts up, Blackbirds seem to be everywhere and their calls fill the air, as the lake becomes visible 3 Squacco Heron circle nearby looking for a suitable site to land, 4 Little Egret become visible. Now as the day lightens we can see the water levels have dropped by a metre to a metre and a half, thick weed blankets the surface, Coot seem to be everywhere and a few Moorhen are glimpsed. Italian Sparrow flit through the reeds. Cetti’s Warbler can now be heard from several locations around the lakeside and Goldfinch can now be seen feeding on the seeds of thistles. Yellow-legged Gull, about 20 sit silent in the middle of the lake and small groups of domestic geese now numbering about 20 feed in the weed. A small number of immature Yellow-legged Gull sit partially hidden on the sloping banks, not worried by our presence they sit undisturbed as we pass by. Swift and Swallow can now be seen as the sun rises quickly into the sky casting a fantastic red and orange glow over the water. Greenfinch are now heard and then seen as they fly into the tall bamboo’s that surround the lake. A small family of Great Tit passed by chattering noisily. The upper branches of the Plane trees erupt with the calls of Chaffinch. A small group of Hooded Crow fly through and a pair of Collared Dove sit above the taverna softly calling to each other.

Sunrise over Agia, photo by and © C&S

Although the temperatures are in the high twenties we shiver in the damp dawn air, all the surfaces are damp and as much as we would like to stay, tiredness overcomes, we have been on the go since six the previous morning and some sleep is desperately needed. As we try to tear ourselves away and we walk back along the causeway we sight two Night Heron fly by and land in the northern reedbed. Setting up the telescope for one last scan we catch sight of two Little Bittern in the eastern reeds.  On the local beach we hear Little Ringed Plover. Young Northern Wheatear feed along the track up to the house.

Before bed we scan the local area, Woodchat Shrike are found on their regular patch, a Kestrel hovered above the ridges of Gramvousa. The last sightings of the morning between 09.25 and 10.10 are of nine Griffon Vultures as they fly out in a line onto the peninsula.


At 09.00 8 Griffon Vultures fly very low into northerly winds between the house and the ridge nearby a wonderful sight as they drift by in line onto the peninsula, Buzzard, Kestrel seen along the ridges also. At 09.10 a single Eleonoras Falcon and at 09.17 we just manage to spot as it flies by a Golden Eagle.

Golden Eagle, photo by and © C&S

Wheatear young are now everywhere and 20 Raven fly through. Blue Tit, swift, Alpine Swift and Woodchat Shrike.


Out early this morning we find a few birds across the southern ridges Turtle Dove, Blue Rock Thrush, Collared Dove, Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Little Ringed Plover. At home a quiet day with Northern Wheatear added to months regulars. A nightjar heard late evening.


We woke at 06.30 to the sound of a Peregrine Falcon, having a look we find two interacting over the low hill to the rear of the house. At 09.10 we sight another.

Blue Tit with young in the garden and lots of Northern Wheatear in the olive groves. Woodchat Shrike in the sheep pen to the front of the house.

As we were about to go out at 11.15, 11 Griffon Vulture rose from behind the crags to the NNW along with 10 Raven. Driving to the beach road we stop for a better look and can make out the vultures and Raven landing on the top of the high ridges at what appears to be a carcass. The Griffons, lifting off every now and then and flying to within a hundred metres of the house. On our return at 13.30 they are still present and giving great views.

We spot an Ephippiger Ephippiger ephippiger on a steel post and try to get some photos this turns out to be non photogenic, it keeps disappearing behind the post , but eventually we manage a few pics.

Ephippiger Ephippiger ephippiger, photo by and © C&S

A few Swallow swoop over the lower fields. Late afternoon a Kestrel circles slowly and heads onto the peninsula.

At night a Barn Owl and Nightjar hunt around the house.

Towards town Collared Dove, Yellow-legged Gull, Crested lark and Northern Wheatear. We stopped to take pictures of the plant Chaste Tree… Vitex agnus-castus and in the undergrowth very near we could hear gentle twittering which revealed itself to be a recently fledged Sardinian Warbler. We stayed a while and watched as the parent bird repeatedly came very close, not at all concerned by our presence and heard several more young.

Also present a Turtle Dove.


Awoke to the calls of Crested Lark and a Blue Rock Thrush. Woodchat Shrike seen in two different areas. At 07.15 a single Griffon Vulture was seen sitting on one of the higher ridges before flying off an hour later. Swift and Swallow flew over the lower fields. A Lammergeier was seen flying off Gramvousa between 09.03-09.07. With a few flaps it headed off in the direction of Elaffonisi. We were quick enough once again to grab some hazy shots as it flew high overhead. Looking at the photos it looks like the same individual that flew over on the 17th.

Lammergeier flying over the house, photo by and © C&S

Northern Wheatear and Alpine Swift were seen late in the day, whilst on the beach road were seen Little Ringed Plover.

As night arrived we again have Nightjar hunting around the house also Barn Owl heard along with 3 Scops Owl on the north hills.


Northern Wheatear, 3 pairs of Woodchat Shrike, Swallow, Swift, 2 immature Peregrine Falcon at 13.25 gave nice views as they circled together for five minutes before heading north onto the peninsula.

At night  Scops Owl.


Northern Wheatear, 2 imm. Peregrine Falcon flew nearby. Swallow, Nightjar and Scops Owl. A Cretan Hare on the farm track.

Along the beach road…..Little Ringed Plover, Turtle Dove, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Northern Wheatear and Swallow.


An Eleonora’s Falcon 1 Kestrel and a Buzzard circled overhead as 12 Raven swooped over a distant northern ridge, Woodchat Shrike, Swift and  Swallow. Northern Wheatear.

Along the beach a Little Ringed Plover flew noisily along the surf line.


Northern Wheatear, Swallow, Scops Owl and Nightjar.


Northern Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike. A Nightjar flew metres in front of the balcony as night fell, brief but good view. Scops Owl heard.

At 11pm we heard what sounded like a cat fight which set the shepherds dogs barking and then howling it seemed to be getting closer and coming up our driveway, after some moments the noise stopped and a short while later grunting was heard thinking it was hedgehog we turned the front balcony light on a stood right in front of us…a badger, it stood still and hoping for a picture went in quietly for the camera, but, outside once more, only to find it had disappeared. We hope that we get another chance.

The month ends fairly quietly; bird song has been replaced by the shrill of the Cicada and young birds are to be seen feeding and building up their strength.

Some nice raptor sightings which we hope will continue into July.

Not too many trips out this month but hopefully we will get a few outings fitted in for July.

Lammergeier and Griffon sightings were down on last year but hopefully they will increase next month as the young of both should soon be in the air.

Colin and Sue

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