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. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: First wave of autumn migration at Vravrona Wetland

August is here and the first autumn migrants have arrived. The Lesser Grey Shrike is always seen in the first week of the month, perching in wires close to cultivations.

Lesser Grey Shrikes are regular autumn migrants 

Families of Red-rumped Swallows sweep the sky above the wetland, taking advantage of the numerous airborne insects. 

The Red-rumped Swallow is a common and widespread summer visitor and passage migrant of Athens

 Woodchat Shrikes are also starting to migrate, even though passage birds are difficult to tell from local breeders

The Woodchat Shrike is very common in passage, both in spring and autumn

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Birdwatching in Central Greece: Storks of Meteora

A few days before their departure, young White Storks are still hanging around their nests. Their parents have already left the area and now it is time for those youngsters to start their epic journey to Africa.

The Black Storks are also getting prepared for the same journey, even though their migration is far less spectacular, due to their low numbers. Still, it has become a fairly widespread breeder in mainland Greece, from Thrace to Thessaly. The area of Meteora holds many breeding pairs of this beautiful bird.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Ferruginous Duck@Loutsa Lagoon!

The small brackish lagoon at the coastal town of Artemis (aka Loutsa) is one of the best spots for autumn wader migration. It also hosts Ferruginous Ducks, usually not more than a handful. Today, however, we had the record number of 13 Ferruginous Ducks, which is very good news for this tiny wetland! The birds may have come from Schinias National Park, the closest site that has breeding population. The majority of the birds were juvenile but there were also some adult males.

Adult male Ferruginous Duck

Juvenile Ferruginous Ducks

One thing's for sure; Autumn migration is on!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Summer warblers of Vravrona

The reedbeds and the tamarisk "jungle" of the Vravrona wetland hold significant populations of Reed and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. Both species, of course, are very difficult to see out in the open but late July is usually a good period for photographing them as many juveniles are around and the adults are starting to build up fat for their upcoming migration to Africa, being less shy.
Olivaceous Warblers prefer trees but they can also be seen in reedbeds

Reed Warbler is a very common breeder of Vravrona,
staying always inside the dense reedbed of Erasinos river

Friday, July 25, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Cretan Wild Goats of Athens

The Cretan Wild Goat is an endemic species, its natural distribution confined to the island of Crete. A small, naturalized, population originating from captive-reared animals can also be found at Mt Parnitha, especially its western part, close to Moni Kleiston, a monastery built in the 16th century AD. The steep slopes of Arma, the highest peak of the site, provide excellent habitat for this unique creature.

Other interesting species of the area include the Crag Martin, the Rock Nuthatch and the Blue Rock Thrush. The surrounding woodland is home to tits, like Coal and Long-tailed, Cirl Buntings and finches. 
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