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

TOTAL: 44 SPECIES

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!





Monday, March 16, 2015

Athens Half-day trip, March 12th

It's spring time and even a short trip around Athens can yield a good number of species. On March, 12 we visited the famous Schinias National Park for a few hours and the results were more than satisfactory; we saw and heard 54 species!

The day began with a thorough scan of the marshes. Winter visitors, like the Reed Bunting and the Water Pipit were still present, but we could also find spring arrivals, like the Northen Wheatear and the Hoopoe! 
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Large flocks of House Martins along with a few Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were flying low, chasing insects above the reeds. The first Sedge Warblers were singing, and the last remaining Moustached Warblers were calling from the dense reedbed. Green Sandpipers were found in every ditch and pool.

Green Sandpiper 
The seasonal lake of Agia Triada, held Shovelers, Mallards, Ferruginous Ducks and Garganeys (that had just arrived). Little Ringed Plovers and Redshanks were also present.
Other interesting species seen include the Penduline Tit and the Fan-tailed Warbler, both common and widespread residents of Schinias.

The trip ended with a very short visit to the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani, on Mt Hymettus. The area was full of singing birds: Song Thrushes,Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers and Chaffinches were everywhere, but not a single bird came out in the open! Fortunately some Blackcaps and Jays were more birder-friendly and gave us enough views. Coal, Great and Long-tailed Tits were also, surprisingly, always under cover. Anyway, it was a fruitful day and we had a really good time!

CHECKLIST OF TRIP (S = Schinias, H = Hymettus)

Mallard S
Garganey S
Shoveler S
Ferruginus Duck S
Little Grebe S
Little Egret S
Great Egret S
Grey Heron S
Marsh Harrier S
Common Buzzard S
Kestrel S
Water Rail S
Moorhen S
Coot S
Little Ringed Plover S
Common Snipe S
Redshank S
Green Sandpiper S
Black-headed Gull S
Yellow-legged Gull S
Collared Dove SH
Crested Lark S
Skylark S
Barn Swallow S
House Martin S
Red-rumped Swallow S
White Wagtail S
Meadow Pipit S
Water Pipit S
Robin SH
Black Redstart S
Stonechat S
Northern Wheatear S
Blackbird SH
Song Thrush SH
Cetti's Warbler (heard) S
Fan-tailed Warbler S
Moustached Warbler (heard) S
Sedge Warbler (heard) S
Blackcap SH
Sardinian Warbler SH
Chiffchaff SH
Firecrest H
Short-toed Treecreeper (heard) H
Long-tailed Tit (heard) H
Blue Tit SH
Great Tit SH
Coal Tit (heard) H
Penduline Tit S
Jay H
Magpie SH
Hooded Crow S
House Sparrow SH
Tree Sparrow S
Chaffinch SH
Serin S
Goldfinch S
Greenfinch S
Linnet S
Hawfinch (heard) H
Cirl Bunting (heard) H
Reed Bunting S

62 SPECIES (8 heard)









Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: It's raining (H2O and birds)!

It was a good winter, in terms of rain, and the fields of Spata are flooded once again; bad news for farmers but good news for birders! The first passage migrants have appeared - 10 Garganeys, more than 40 Green Sandpipers, along with a few Snipes and Little Ringed Plovers, a couple of Ruffs and a single Spotted Redshank. Flocks of House Martins and a few Barn Swallows are present as well.

Garganeys are always one of the first migrants to appear

Little Ringed Plovers are very common during passage

The signs are good for this area, and we hope that the area will remain flooded until May, so as to attract many more interesting wetland species! 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Birdwatching in Greece: Cretan specialties

The island of Crete is the best place in Greece to look for large birds of prey, like the Griffon Vulture, the Bearded Vulture and the Golden Eagle. Its rugged terain offers great nesting sites and the thousands of free-ranging goats and sheep provide ample food supply.

The Bearded Vulture (aka Lammergeier) is a very rare raptor,
a handful of pairs are nesting in Crete

The Griffon Vulture is very common and widespread
Another common bird of the Cretan mountains is the Chough. Flocks of up to 100 birds can be easily seen in most of the mountain ranges, from sea level to the alpine zone. 

Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
 But it's not just the mountains; coastal areas can also provide very interesting species, like the Pallas' s Gull (Larus ichthyaetus) found in the port of Herakleio.

Pallas's Gull Larus ichthyaetus


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: The first House Martins have arrived!


The first House Martins of the year were seen at Vravrona Wetland, in the afternoon of February 6th! This species is always the first to arrive, and Vravrona is one of the best places to look for such an early migrant.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Birdwatching in Greece: Evros Delta day trip, January 14th, 2015

Evros Delta is one of the top Greek birding destinations in winter. Thousands of waterfowl, lots of raptors and several rarities render this site the place to be in January and February.

Even a single day is enough to get most of its specialties (Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Goose, Lesser Spotted Eagle, etc)!

Smews are regular but rare

The Dalmatian Pelican has become very common and regular in winter

Red-breasted Goose is among the least common winter visitors

Lots of Great Spotted Eagles are foraging the flat expanses of the Delta
The complete checklist (74 species)

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus)
Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Smew (Mergellus albellus)
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus)
Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Larus canus)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)
Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Sky Lark (Alauda arvensis)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
European Serin (Serinus serinus)
Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Little Bustard seen in Thrace, Northern Greece!

The Little Bustard is a very rare winter visitor to Greece; very few birds are seen every year and the vast majority are found in the northern areas. I was very luck to come across one individual, while on a bird trip in the region of Thrace, close to the borders with Turkey!
It was standing some 30 meters away, feeding on seeds and other plant material, moving with caution but sometimes being very confiding.

I really enjoyed that rarity, I only hope it will survive the winter because despite their small numbers, they are frequently shot by hunters...


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Vravrona on ice!

Snow in Athens is not very common, especially in the coastal areas. I hadn't actually seen Vravrona wetland in white before!
Snow reached the coast!
There are also numerous birds at the area; Great Egrets, Jack Snipes, Mediterranean Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls, Spanish Sparrows, Rock Buntings and many more!

Spanish Sparrows are regular winter visitors to Vravrona

Reed Buntings are abundant, even in "dry" areas

Rock Buntings are regular, though scarce, winter visitors

Monday, January 05, 2015

Birdwatching in Athens: Vravrona's wintering highlights

After a few days of sunshine, the rains (and snows) are back in Athens! This means that birding trips are not as easy going as they usually are; on the other hand, if you are persistent (and lucky) you can have a lot of interesting encounters, even under heavy rain:
The Jack Snipe is a widespread winter visitor, but very difficult to find

Mediterranean Gulls are frequent winter visitors


All the fields are full of finches, like those Serins

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