Monday, April 20, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Arrival of the Red-footed Falcons!

Once again, late April is the best month to look for the Red-footed Falcons in Athens. The first group of 10+ birds was seen at Spata Fields (the best site to look for them in spring). The birds were perching in a vineyard, grounded by strong northern winds.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spata Fields are flooded (with water and birds)!

The plain east of the town of Spata is a very good birdwatching site for those interested in farmalnd birds. However, it is also very important for waterfowl, herons and waders when a part of the plain gets flooded after a very rainy winter season, like this year. Within a few meters you can see Glossy Ibis, Red-throated Pipits and Tawny Pipits!

Flocks of Glossy Ibises forage on flooded vineyards

The Red-throated Pipit is a regular passage migrant 

Tawny Pipits are frequently seen on open areas

Friday, April 10, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spring Migration Update, March 2015 (Part III)

The first Sedge Warblers were heard on the 6th of March, while Great Reed Warblers arrived om the last days of the month.
Sedge Warbler (Schinias National Park)
Ruppel's and Subalpine Warblers were already on their breeding grounds by mid March, while Eastern Bonelli's, Wood and Willow Warblers were seen on the 30th. 

Ruppell's Warbler (Mt Hymettus)

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler (Spata Fiels)
There was also a large wave of Semi-collared and Collared Flycatchers from the 24th to the 30th of March. 
Collared Flycatcher (Spata Fields)

Semi-collared Flycatcher, female (Vravrona Wetland)
Finally, the first Cretzschmar's Buntings showed up on their usual spots on Mt Penteli. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spring migration snapshots

April has come and bird migration is at its peak. All the major sites around Athens are teeming with birds. Here are just a few of the highlights

Glossy Ibises at Artemis Lagoon 

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler at Spata Fields

Purple Heron at Vravrona Wetland

Monday, April 06, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spata Fields in full glory!

The famous fields around Spata are once again flooded! Due to the intense rains of winter and spring, the area south of the small church of St.George has transformed to a lake. Currently, the water level is very high and most of the waders have to remain in the banks, while Ferruginous Ducks, Garganeys and other waterfowl enjoy the presence of freshwater. The famous Turpentine Tree stand (that attracts many warblers in autumn) is also attractive for a number of interesting migrants; an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler and two Collared Flycatchers were looking for insects on or around.
Collared Flycatcher

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

Spata Fields (flooded mode)

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spring Migration Update, March 2015 (Part II)

The first Great Spotted Cuckoos were once again seen on the last days of March; a pair was sighted at Vravrona Wetland. Hoopoes, Swifts and Alpine Swifts also made their appearance on the same site.
Courtship behaviour of the Great Spotted Cuckoo (Vravrona Wetland)
Wrynecks were particularly common this spring and many were seen in wetlands 
Wryneck at the former Ilissos Delta in Athens
Another target species for many European birder, the Short-toed Lark, arrived at the end of the month, along with thousands of hirundines: House and Sand Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. 

Short-toed Lark (former Ilissos Delta)
Large flocks of Yellow Wagtails forage on wetlands, fields and other open areas, while Tree and Red-throated Pipits have also arrived. 

Yellow Wagtail (Schinias National Park)
The first Nightingales were heard singing from inside dense bushes and trees and they were not confined to wetlands. Whinchats, many Northern Wheatears and several Black-eared Wheatears showed up in open areas with scattered bushes. 

Nightingale (Vravrona Wetland)

Black-eared Wheatear (Vravrona Wetland)

Friday, April 03, 2015

Rarity Alert: Isabelline Shrike found at Nea Kios Wetland, Peloponnese!

Another vagrant appeared at the very important wetland of Nea Kios, close to the picturesque city of Nafplio in the eastern Peloponnese: An adult Isabelline Shrike! The bird was very tame and it gave us, apart from greath photos, many moments of pleasure. It was very hungry and would attack on any insect around, from bees to grasshoppers!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Spring migration update, March 2015 (Part I)

Spring is the best season to visit Athens for birdwatching: the weather is great (not too cold, not too hot) and you can get the most of the area's birdlife. This year seems to be exceptionally productive as the heavy rainfall has created many suitable habitats for waders and, at the same time, has grounded many other species that would otherwise fly non-stop.

All the wetlands around Athens are full of water and attract large numbers of waterfowl like the Garganey and waders like the Green Sandpiper, the Black-winged Stilt and the Ruff, while the Spotted Redshank is found in smaller numbers. The first Purple Herons have also arrived, while flocks of more than 70 Glossy Ibises were seen in the flooded fields of Spata.

Garganeys (Spata Fields)

Glossy Ibises, Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt (Spata Fields)

Spotted Redshank  (Schinias National Park)

Purple Heron (Schinias NP)
All three rail species (Spotted, Little and Baillon's Crake) were also present. Snipes are on the move and seem to be easier to be seen out in the open. 

Common Snipe (Schinias NP)

Spotted Crake (Schinias NP)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Athens half day trip, March 15th 2015

Even a half day trip in March can be very productive! This trip was species-orientated; Ruppell's Warbler, Scops Owl and Sombre Tit being some of our targets.

We started just before dawn to look for the smallest owl of the area - the Scops Owl. Mt Hymettus holds a very large population of it and we found two birds very easily! Our next stop was the mountain ridge, to check for the Ruppell's Warblers. Even though the date was marginally within their arrival time, we managed to see two males!

Ruppell's Warbler
Nest stop was Schinias National Park. The wetland was full of water and held lots of Ferruginous Ducks, along with more common waterfowl (Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler). We also watched the first Red-throated Pipits of the season, along with Green and Wood Sandpipers. Our main target, however, was the Sombre Tit and to find it we had to move to the olive groves and the woodland of the surrounding hills. It tooks as quite a long time but, in the end, we made it! 

Sombre Tit
The best way to end the trip was by watching a freshly arrived Hoopoe, on Mt Penteli! It was a short but very fruitful trip! 

TRIP CHECKLIST (H = Mt Hymettus, S = Schinias NP, P = Mt Penteli)

Mallard S
Pintal S
Garganey S
Shoveler S
Ferruginous Duck S
Little Grebe S
Marsh Harrier S
Sparrowhawk S
Common Buzzard S
Kestrel S
Water Rail S
Coot S
Green Sandpiper S
Wood Sandpiper S
Yellow-legged Gull S
Collared Dove S
Scops Owl H
Hoopoe P
Crested Lark S
Woodlark P
Barn Swallow S
Red-throated Pipit S
White Wagtail S
Wren P
Robin H
Black Redstart S
Stonechat S
Northern Wheatear S
Blackbird H
Song Thrush P
Cetti's Warbler S
Sardinian Warbler H
Ruppell's Warbler H
Blackcap S
Chiffchaff S
Great Tit H
Rock Nuthatch H
Penduline Tit S
Jay H
Magpie HSP
Hooded Crow S
House Sparrow S
Chaffinch S
Cirl Bunting P


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring migration update: Baillon's Crake@Vravrona Wetland!

Spring migration has started to be evident, as hirundines and waders have already arrived. The last days of March are always good for passing crakes. The Baillon's Crake, however, is a very rare and secretive bird with only a handful of records around Athens so far. Therefore, we were really happy to find one in the small pool of the Archaeological Museum! 

The bird was always moving close to the edge of the reeds and we couldn't have a decent shot. However, we had excellent comparison views with the Little Crake, as a male approached the Baillon's and we could easily see the differences. 

Baillon's Crake (left) and Little Crake (right)
Let's hope that this is just the beginning of a very interesting period!

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