ΣΕΙΙΤΕΜΒΡΙΟΣ September 2006

1st: Trip through Maheri Gorge, up to Melodoni and back. Just south of gorge we encountered a flock of c.80 Jackdaws. Above the mountains, just south of Melodoni, 6 Griffon Vultures soared. During the trip we heard several immature buzzards calling. Below a light coloured immature buzzard about to land:

Report from A&M Kiliaris River church area around 6pm: 10-12 Golden Orioles, 2 sightings of Black Kite (probably the same individual) and a Red-backed Shrike.

Report from A&M, 300 Little Egrets and a Glossy Ibis over Georgioupolis Bay 6pm. (See photo below by and A&M)

At 8.30am I was roused from my slumbers by Bee-eater calls but despite best efforts failed to see them. At 11am. the call of a young Buzzard overhead had me reaching for my binoculars, a fresh northerly wind had also tempted at least 6 other Buzzards into the air and Alpine Swifts intermingled. Trip to Kiliaris River, the sandbank area, to try to record Cretan Spectre Dragonfly for September. We waited from 2pm. to 2.45pm. for a sighting. One of the species, presumably a male, flew by, searching the riverbank. As we drove back towards Stilos I spotted a Red-backed Shrike near the road and stopped for better views and a photograph. A concentration of Swallows were feeding low over the road and above some Alpine Swifts had also been attracted down to feed. A single Red-rumped Swallow flew past our balcony at 5pm.

Swallows were feeding low over the road.

Alpine Swifts were down to feed

The Red-backed Shrike

3rd: 10am. A short burst of warbler song drew me to our side window, to see it fly to a nearby avocado tree. I moved out onto the side balcony and had a fleeting view of its head as it peered in my direction Icterine Warbler?

4th: A Blue Rock Thrush was seen around our area several times.

Report from A&M 19 Grey Herons over Georgioupolis Bay.

On our return from Shopping in Chania I was enjoying a cup of tea when I spotted a Juvenile Red-backed Shrike only a few yards away on next doors fence. It stayed around long enough for me to get my camera and get at least a record shot, see below:

6th: Early in the day in the distance a young Buzzard called and a Golden Oriole seen. At 6pm. c40 waders sp. heading rapidly south.

2.30pm. Heard some Bee-eaters. At 4.30 while watching some Alpine Swift over the Aptera area some raptors appeared flying steadily south in two loose groups of four. They soon passed fairly high over our house at Provarma. I was sure there were at least three adult male Marsh Harriers and I female, I just did not have time to look at all the birds well enough before they disappeared to the south. But I think they were all Marsh Harriers. We spotted an early Robin in the road as we drove to Kalives in the evening.
8th: Still in bed I heard Bee-eaters before 7am. I could not locate them for some while and then saw them briefly as the sunlight illuminated them flying some distance away. I relocated them again and now they had come nearer and with the telescope I could see them spread out over quite an area, some perched on wires and others flying round feeding on flying insects.

I watched for a while before breakfast and afterwards as they were still in roughly the same area decided to take the car and get some closer views. The were still spread over a large area and fortunately a track we know goes through there and we were able to get great views of them perched and hunting over the area. About 10.15am they gathered into a flock of c.100, gained height and flew of south. We had also seen a Red-backed Shrike on the wires.

At 2pm. another flock flew over our area heading south. Late afternoon we travelled to Exopoli, where there were more Bee-eaters to meet A&M for a trip into the Mountains. In the Embrossneros area highlights were a Hoopoe and Eleanora's Falcon.

Some of the Bee-eaters in action (above).

9th: A male Red-backed Shrike in great plumage unfortunately only showed itself briefly at the top of an olive tree at 8.30am. At 3.30  a couple of Red-rumped Swallows put in an appearance. At 4.15pm a pair of crows drew attention to a Marsh Harrier which after a brief skirmish carried on southwards. Then at 4.40pm c.100 Bee-eaters passed overhead heading south. While another flock of c.50 at 5.15pm settled in the area to feed. However they gathered together and flew off south an hour later. Walking up to the centre of Provarma two Humming Bird Hawk-moths were feeding in our favourite flower garden.
10th: A cloudy day. Once again at about 7am I awoke to the lovely call of Bee-eaters. A small flock of around ten settled near our area and I could get good views through my telescope. At 11am I sighted a larger flock of c.50 birds around and over Maheri Gorge. The original flock melted away perhaps to join the larger flock that disappeared into the gorge. At 10pm a massive tightly packed flock of Alpine Swifts c.400 had appeared over the house calling, another of my favourite bird sounds. Yet another flock of Bee-eaters c.20 appeared in our area at 4.40pm and at one time some came very near our balcony, unfortunately the bad light did not facilitate photography. I could still just hear them at 7pm. Towards dusk a Willow Warbler slowly worked its way around the olive trees in the garden below our balcony.

Taken at 1/60 of a second.
I was pleased to get this flight shot of a Bee-eater.
Taken from our balcony at Provarma.

Anders Hammergart a Danish birdwatcher I was to meet later in the week kindly gave me this great report for Ayia. Time of count 6.15-8pm.
71 Squacco Heron
Ardeola ralloides
81 Night  Heron
Nycticorax nycticorax
39 Purple Heron
Ardea purpurea
28 Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
4 Grey heron
Ardea cinerea
4 Ferruginous Duck
Aythya nyroca
3 Black-winged Stilts
Himantopus himantopus
2 Glossy Ibis
Plegadis falcinellus
2 Kingfishers
Alcedo atthis

Some of the Purple Herons.
photo provided by and Anders Hammergart of Denmark.

35 Purple Herons
photo provided by and Anders Hammergart of Denmark.

4 Purple Herons left and 77 Night Herons.
photo provided by and Anders Hammergart of Denmark.

Report from Mike & Angela: 12 Grey Herons flying into Almirida area. Ties in nicely with Ayia report above.

11th: Early morning Bee-eater calls and 2 Golden Orioles seen from our back balcony. At 9.30am c.200 Alpine Swifts came over the house and at 10pm I counted 26 Bee-eaters perched on nearby wires. Another flock of c.100 Bee-eaters appeared and they all flew off together. Alpine Swifts were feeding over the Aporkoronas most of the afternoon. At 6.15 Bee-eaters in the area. Crows attracted my attention to Maheri Gorge so I pointed my telescope towards that area. The first bird I saw only briefly a powerful grey falcon, probably a Peregrine? The next bird I was able to watch for a more satisfactory period a Marsh Harrier.

12th: 9.15am c.25 Bee-eaters flew north-east, of course they should have been heading south but I suspect they had suspended migration in the cloudy conditions and were just looking to feed. I drove my wife to Chania Airport for a trip to the UK.
The Airport garden pond held several Broad Scarlet dragonflies and on a nearby bush a Red-veined Darter dragonfly.

On the way back to Provarma I stopped at the Moronis River Reserve. Birds present included 3 Green and 1 common Sandpiper, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Willow Warblers, a Kingfisher and for Crete a rare bird a Whimbrel.

The Whimbrel, you can just see striped head!

I returned home at about 3.15 and the first sound I heard from the back balcony, yes Bee-eaters. 4.50pm and a flock of Bee-eaters settled into the Stylos area, just as Alpine Swifts filled the air. At 6pm a few Bee-eaters flew over the house.

Ayia report from Anders Hammergard:
41 Garganey
14 Purple Heron
13 Teal
8 Little Egret
8 Ferruginous Duck
6 Green Sandpiper
5 Wood Sandpiper
2 Ruff
2 Glossy Ibis
1 Peregrine Falcon

13th: From back balcony 8.15am immature Red-backed Shrike seen and Bee-eaters heard. In the morning I visited the Kiliaris River Church Stream and the River. Several Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, a Red-backed Shrike and Kingfishers seen. An interesting sighting was a Humming-bird Hawkmoth dipping into the river, presumably to drink. 3.30 Bee-eaters seen on wires. Later above Maheri Gorge 4 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels held an aerial display, as an Eleanora's Falcon swept by.

Red-backed Shrike - seen from balcony

Red-backed Shrike - near river

Mushroom growing from side of recently dug trench

14th: Trip to Ayia birds included: At least 2 Kingfishers, 3 Little Egret, Several Eleanora's Falcons, c.8 Shoveler, c.6 Garganey, c.5 Feruginous Duck, 2 Glossy Ibis, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, c.3 Snipe and rare for Crete especially at this time of year a Lapwing. Sand Martins and Swallows were feeding in a sheltered corner.

The Lapwing

Above Eleonora's Falcons

Return trip to Ayia. I had hoped to photograph Eleonora's falcons, but best laid plans and all that! A few Bee-eaters dropped in briefly and dragonflies were much in evidence.

16th: Late afternoon at Lake Kournas, Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, and a Red-backed Shrike. A single Little Egret on the shore and a few Little Grebe on the water. 3 Griffon Vultures over the mountains to the south. A pair of Cetti's Warbler sΨευταηδόνι - Cettia cetti  were feeding in bare branches by the waters edge, a rare opportunity for photography of this usually skulking species. (see photo below)

1.30pm I spotted a light coloured bird flying near the track some distance from our balcony, I just managed to get my binoculars on it before it disappeared into trees and then instantly recognised it as a Hoopoe.

Early morning and 2 male Blackcaps in the Walnut Trees we can see from our balcony, there also seemed to be more Blackbirds, possibly migrants!

12.30pm on my way back from shopping in Kalives I noticed 8-9 Buzzards in the air together, this is very unusual and I immediately thought they might be migrants. I had only a short time looking at them as they soon disappeared into the next valley, but almost certainly all Common Buzzards. I unpacked quickly and took up position on our back balcony, just in time to see a Black Kite at some distance, then fairly high overhead a pale phase Booted Eagle and a Buzzard sp. headed steadily south. Over the house another Common Buzzard a stranger also heading south. (This birds markings and colouration were noticeably different from the birds I usually see)
At 1.15 a Griffon Vulture flew over the house for the first time and at 2pm I was alerted to a dark phase Booted Eagle by a mobbing Crow. More Bee-eaters heading south at 2.25pm. I started to count them but Alpine Swifts were also in my view, probably c.50 birds.

I decided to move to Maheri Gorge to try to get closer views of any migrants but by the time I got there the weather had changed the clouds had disappeared and so had any migrants.

I had alerted A&M that there might be a raptor movement in progress and they saw 3 pale phase Booted Eagles together over Exopoli which seems to clinch the fact.

21st: Ayia, water level was lower which had perhaps attracted more waders.
Birds included: at least
8 Little Stint - Νανοσκαλίδρα - Calidris minutus
8 Snipe - Μπεκατσίνι  - Gallinago gallinago
8 Little Egret - Λευκοτσικνιάς - Egretta garzetta
5 Ruff - Μαχητής - Philomachus pugnax
4 Grey Heron - Σταχτοτσικνιάς - Ardea cinerea
3 Kingfishers - Αλκυόνα - Alcedo atthis
2 Glossy Ibis - Χαλκόκοτα - Plegadis falcinellus
2 Curlew Sandpipers - Δρεπανοσκαλίδρα - Calidris ferruginea
2 Dunlin Λασποσκαλίδρα - Calidris alpina
1 Common Sandpiper Ποταμότρυγγας - Actitis hypoleucos
1 Green Sandpiper - Δασότρυγγας - Tringa ochropos
1 Wood Sandpiper Λασπότρυγγας - Tringa glareola
1 Crake sp.
1 Squacco Heron Κρυπτοτσικνιάς - Ardeola ralloides (injured)
1 Bee-eater - Μελισσοφάγος - Merops apiaster
1 Grey Wagtail - Σταχτοσουσουράδα - Motacilla cinerea and several Yellow Wagtails - Κιτρινοσουσουράδα - Motacilla flava
Eleonora's Falcons - Μαυροπετρίτης - Falco eleonorae, visited and a flock of Bee-eaters flew over at 4pm

From the left Δρεπανοσκαλίδρα - Calidris ferruginea - Curlew Sandpiper Νανοσκαλίδρα - Calidris minutus - Little Stint Λασποσκαλίδρα - Calidris alpina - Dunlin

Μπεκατσίνι  - Gallinago gallinago - Snipe

Μελισσοφάγος - Merops apiaster - Bee-eater

Buzzard harassed by 7 Hooded Crows

Eleonora's Falcon on top of 5 Hooded Crows

22nd: A&Ms Exopoli for another great BBQ. Bee-eaters flew over as well, at least 5 birds but some might have been lost in the clouds.

On way home called into Georgioupolis Water and recorded Kingfisher and Shoveler.

Alan had mentioned that the latest issue of Frappe magazine was out and had an article on Buzzards. On a whim headed to Kalives to find a copy. Walking back to the car I notice c.70 herons fairly low heading inland and south. Now I nearly always carry my binoculars even on shopping trips, but this time I had left them in the car. What should have been a positive identification turned into probably Little Egrets a lovely sight anyway!

23rd: Called in briefly at Ayia on my way to the Samaria Gorge, birds much as recently.

At Lakki 3 Griffon Vultures could be seen. Omalos Plateau 2 sightings of  single Griffon Vulture and a Raven. The Samaria Gorge entrance area was quite cloudy but I did see Red-rumped Swallows and Crag Martins. I decided to spend some time at the start of the Kallegi Hut road/track. A Finnish birder had not only seen Bearded Vulture and Alpine Accentor in a recent brief visit to the hut, but had photographs to prove it. (we have kindly been promised copies of same, watch this space!) Obviously it would have been better to walk to the hut, but time, weather and back said do this at a later date. Sightings included 7 single Griffons and 2 double sightings. Buzzard and Kestrels put in appearances as did a flock of Chough which promptly disappeared before I could positively identify them, but from call probably Red-billed. Also probably Goshawk. Crag Martins were feeding in the area.

I called into Ayia on my way home and saw the bird that was providing an identification problem, it was on the far side but I am fairly certain it is an unfortunate oil stained Little Egret.

Ayia, terrapins surround a sandbank

26th: On way to collecting wife Raye from Chania Airport called into Moronis River Reserve. Birds included Willow Warblers, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret, Kingfisher and 2 Dunlin. Lesser Emperor Dragonfly over the river.

One of the Λασποσκαλίδρα - Calidris alpina - Dunlin

At 1.40pm I heard Bee-eaters they had just passed our balcony heading south, I thought there might be about 25. They fed for a while in and above the gorge then they gathered above the gorge about 50 now, before gaining height and disappearing south. Also a few Spotted Flycatchers around.
29th: Ayia water level now high. Birds recorded, Marsh Harrier, Eleonora's Falcon, Little Stint. Hoopoe reported.

We then continued on the Omalos road to the viewpoint just before Lakki. Two sightings of pairs of Griffon Vultures. At 3.30pm a Bearded Vulture sighted, it gained height and gradually drifted left, viewed in my telescope, circling a few times, apparently ignoring a Griffon Vulture before disappearing in the clouds having covered a considerable distance without one flap of its wings.

At Provarma my first sighting of a live skink!

The Bearded Vulture traversed further than this view from Lakki shows, without a wing flap

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