Monday, September 15, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Nigel Marven@Acropolis Hill, Athens!

The world famous TV producer and presenter Nigel Marven was at the Acropolis Hill for the needs of a new documentary! Our team had the privilege to provide guidance for him and his team to complete the shooting in a very short time, under adverse conditions (hot and humid morning followed by stormy noon) and in an area that's crowded with tourists 24/7. It all went pretty well and the show will be aired shortly. Stay tuned for the details!

Nigel, his crew and Greece Bird Tours team

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Autumn migration update

Red-breasted Flycatchers have arrived in Athens! As usual, the first birds are seen before the 10th of September and the species is present till the end of the month. Spotted Flycatchers are abundant, as are Willow Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes.

Spotted Flycatcher

Red-backed Shrike
Subalpine Warblers are still on the move while Whitethroat and Garden Warbler numbers have increased. A few Collared and Pied Flycatchers are also seen. Redstarts are becoming more regular and we're waiting for the odd Bluethroat to be found.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Birdwatching in Greece: Athens Panorama Birding Trip, September 4th

September is the peak month of fall migration and a bird trip is always a nice idea. The September, 4th trip, however, was far more productive than we could imagine as we counted c.80 species around Athens, including specialties like Ferruginous Duck, Sombre Tit and Eastern Orphean Warbler! 

The day started very early (5.30 am) as we wanted to check for Scops Owls at Mt Hymettus. We saw at least two birds and we also saw a Nightjar in the ground. Just after dawn, we headed to suitable habitats for Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and Chukar and we saw them all, along with Wood Warbler, Marsh Harrier and more.

The Rock Nuthatch is very common in Mt Hymettus
Wood Warbler is scarce in fall
After we left the rocks, we headed towards the wooded parts of the mountain, where we found, among others, Collared Flycatcher, Coal Tit, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper and Cirl Bunting.

The next stop was Spata Fields. We visited the agricultural land and enjoyed Pallid Swift, Tawny Pipit, Red-rumped Swallow, Whinchat and lots of Subalpine Warblers, feeding on Turpentine berries.

Northern Wheatears are very common passage migrants in fall
Close to Spata Fields, lie the small lagoon of Artemis (aka Loutsa). This tiny wetland was very productive as it held Ferruginous Duck, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Ruff, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Moorhen and Coot, while Water Rails were calling from the dense reedbed.

Afterwards, we headed north to Oropos Lagoon, the sole breeding site of Kentish Plover. We also found Penduline Tit and had a glimpse of Kingfisher. Large numbers of Little Egrets were also present, along with Sandwich Tern, Grey Plover and Redshank. 

More than 60 Little Egrets were found in Oropos Lagoon
Our last stop was Mt Parnitha. This site was the best way to finish our trip, as we saw Sombre Tit, Redstart and Eastern Orphean Warbler, along with Short-toed Eagle, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher.

The total list of birds seen (and heard) is  76 species! Pretty good for Athens, don't you think?

September, 4th Athens Panorama Checklist

(H=Hymettus, S=Spata, A=Artemis, O=Oropos, P=Parnitha)

 Mallard O
Teal O
Ferruginous Duck A
Chukar H
Little Grebe AO
Squacco Heron A
Little Egret O
Grey Heron O
Purple Heron A
Short-Toed Eagle P
Marsh Harrier H
Common Buzzard S
Sparrowhawk H
Kestrel HSOP
Water Rail A
Moorhen A
Coot A
Black-winged Stilt A
Little Ringed Plover AO
Kentish Plover O
Grey Plover O
Little Stint AO
Wood Sandpiper A
Redshank AO
Marsh Sandpiper A
Ruff A
Black-headed Gull O
Yellow-legged Gull O
Sandwich Tern O
Feral Pigeon HSAO
Collared Dove O
Little Owl H
Scops Owl H
Nightjar H
Swift SAP
Pallid Swift SA
Alpine Swift SAP
Kingfisher O
Crested Lark S
Sand Martin S
Barn Swallow SAOP
Red-rumped Swallow SAOP
Tawny Pipit S
Robin H
Redstart P
Northern Wheatear SP
Whinchat S
Stonechat HS
Blackbird H
Blue Rock Thrush H
Blackcap HP
Eastern Orphean Warbler P
Sardinian Warbler H
Subalpine Warbler S
Zitting Cisticola SA
Reed Warbler A
Willow Warbler S
Wood Warbler H
Firecrest H
Spotted Flycatcher HSP
Pied Flycatcher P
Collared Flycatcher H
Great Tit HOP
Coal Tit H
Sombre Tit P
Penduline Tit O
Rock Nuthatch HP
Short-toed Treecreeper H
Red-backed Shrike S
Magpie HSAO
Jay HP
Hooded Crow P
House Sparrow SAO
Chaffinch HP
Goldfinch SO
Cirl Bunting HP

Monday, September 08, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Autumn migration update

The most interesting month of autumn migration is here and migrant numbers are increasing, day by day. Spotted Flycatchers have become very widespread and locally abundant, while Subalpine Warblers are still numerous. The numbers of Whitethroats and Gardean Warblers have slightly increased, while few Pied and Collared Flycatchers are also present. Wood Warbler is scarce in autumn, while Willow is very common.

Spotted Flycatcher 

Even Northern Wheatears visit the berry-rich Turpentine Trees

Garden Warbler
Flocks of Bee-eaters are flying at high altitude, while Yellow Wagtails are on the move. Redstarts and Eastern Orphean Warblers are also present, the latter being quite rare, though.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Autumn migration update

September has come and migrant numbers build up: A flock of more than 40 Bee-eaters was flying high above Vravrona, while a male Rufou-tailed Rock Thrush was seen atop a rock in the opposite hill. Migrant warblers are also very common; Subalpine is the one seen in large numbers everywhere, along with a few Garden, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat, while Willow is also widespread. The Spotted Flycatcher is also seen very frequently.

Willow Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
 Waders are also moving south; Ruffs, Wood Sandpipers, Little Stints, Black-winged Stilts and Marsh Sandpipers were seen in Artemis Lagoon, along with c.20 Ferruginous Ducks.

Marsh Sandpiper

It is not just the birds that migrate, though. The Plain Tiger, a butterfly relative to the American Monarch is a regular autumn arrival from Egypt, after crossing the Mediterranean Sea...

Plain Tiger

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Subalpine Warbler passage

Subalpine warblers are passing through Attica in good numbers these days. They (like many other warblers) are attracted by the fruits of the Terebinth Tree (Pistacia terebinthus) which ripe during autumn migration. 

Adult male Subalpine Warbler

Juvenile Subalpine Warbler
Other migrants seen include the Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher and the Redstart

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Autumn migration update

A quick birding in the small village of Erythres, northwest of Athens, was quite productive:

Icterine Warbler, a migrant that is never seen in numbers, was very common in the small trees. Late August is the best period in autumn and birds arrive in small "waves", quite many birds appearing for a few days and then dissapearing all together. Other birds seen in the trees and bushes were Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Subalpine Warbler.

The vineyards were also interesting, as Black-eared Wheatears (like the one in the photo below), Whinchats, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes were perching in every available post, looking for prey. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Birdwatching in Central Greece: Mt Parnassos-Kopaida plain day trip, August 24th

It was a very hot day, Sunday 24th of August, but this didn't kept up from going birding to Mt Parnassos, the famous mountain of Apollo, with the renowned Oracle of Delphi. This is the closest to Athens mountain that holds population of very interesting woodland birds, like the White-backed and the Black Woodpecker, and alpine species like Alpine Accentor and Alpine Chough.

On our way to the mountain we made a not-so-short stop to the plain of Kopaida, a once shallow marsh converted to farmland in the late 19th century. We found great numbers of Bee-eaters, several Lesser Grey, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, Cuckoos, Hoopoes and six different raptors: Common Buzzards, Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Lesser Kestrels and Short-toed Eagles. We also had the chance to see Kingfishers (there are numerous ditches in the plain), and numerous passing Yellow Wagtails. A Little Owl farewelled us, as we left the plain.
Short-toed Eagle, scanning for prey

The Bee-eater is always a welcomed sighting!
Although August is, most probably, the month with the least bird activity (in regards to resident species), the mountain was not as "quiet" as we were afraid that it would be. Coal Tits and Nuthatches were quite active, especially the former, while the White-backed Woodpecker gave us a few seconds to clearly identify it. On our way to the alpine zone, we found quite a few Rock Buntings, most of them female or juvenile and hundreds of migrating Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins. It was the alpine zone, however, that was the most active. The slopes were, literally, covered with Northern Wheatears and Tawny Pipits, while two juvenile Ortolan Bunting were foraging the ground among them. An Eleonora's Falcon was seen in the distance just before making a quick dive. Willow Warblers were quite unsual sighting for such a high altitude (c.1,800 m).

Willow Warblers have started to cross Greece on their way to Africa

The Northern Wheatear is by far the most common breeder of the alpine grasslands.
The complete checklist for the trip (P=Parnassos, K=Kopaida)

Honey Buzzard PK
Short-toed Eagle K
Marsh Harrier K
Common Buzzard PK
Lesser Kestrel K
Kestrel PK
Eleonora's Falcon P
Collared Dove K
Cuckoo K
Little Owl K
Kingfisher K
Bee-eater K
Hoopoe K
White-backed Woodpecker P
Crested Lark K
Barn Swallow PK
Red-rumped Swallow P
House Martin P
Yellow Wagtail K
Tawny Pipit P
Wren P
Robin P
Black Redstart P
Northern Wheatear P
Blackbird P
Cetti's Warbler K
Great Reed Warbler K
Whitethroat K
Sardinian Warbler K
Willow Warbler P
Firecrest P
Spotted Flycatcer PK
Great Tit PK
Coal Tit P
Nuthatch P
Short-toed Treecreeper P
Red-backed Shrike PK
Woodchat Shrike PK
Lesser Grey Shrike K
Jay P
Magpie K
Jackdaw K
Hooded Crow K
Raven P
House Sparrow K
Chaffinch P
Goldfinch K
Linnet P
Rock Bunting P
Ortolan Bunting P

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Broad-billed Sandpiper annual date@Artemis

The small brackish wetland of Artemis (aka Loutsa) is a hot spot in autumn for waders as its shallow water attract every migrant that comes by. The Broad-billed Sandpiper is one of the most interesting species to see at that period, as it is a very regular visitor, always seen in late August.

Another very interestring passage migrant, that this year is seen in record numbers (for the site) is the Ferruginos Duck. More than 18 birds were seen, along with three Mallards and lots of Moorhens, Coots and Water Rails.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Autumn migration update

August is coming at its end and bird migration has stepped up. Garganeys have appeared in the tiny Loutsa Lagoon, along with Teal, Snipe and Ringed Plover. The Ferruginous Ducks are still there, along with a few Black-winged Stitls, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers.

Vravrona wetland hold a great number of Reed Warblers (no Marsh, unfortunately, so far...) and a Teal was moving at the mouth of Erasinos river.

Much more common in winter, the Teal is also a regular passage migrant

Reed Warblers are found in all the wetlands of Attica at this time of year

Lesser Grey Shrikes are still on the move, as are Woodchat Shrikes. Swifts and hirundines show up in large flocks, as birds from the north have started their journey south. A flock of more than 60 White Storks flew over Schinias National Park, heading southeast. 
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