Saturday, March 04, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day trip, Feb 25, 2017

Elayna is an artistic spirit and a citizen of the world. After her first trip to Greece, where she tracked her Greek roots, she decided to spend a few days in Athens and visit the temple of Artemis in Vravrona. She had already read about the rich birdlife of the area, so doing a birding trip with Greece Bird Tours was a must.

We started at 7.00, and headed for Vravrona. The estuary of Erasinos river in Vravrona teemed with birds; Great and Little Egrets, Mute Swans, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls were feeding in the shallow waters, while Shags and Cormorants rested in the rocky shores. The flooded river banks are excellent feeding place for Moorhens and Water Rails, while Chiffchaffs, Cetti's Warblers and Reed Buntings were moving across the reedbed.
Water Rail
The route from the museum to the archaeological site was also very rewarding. Teals and Mallards rested at the small pool in front of the museum and lots of passerines were seen along the path, Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Great Tits, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Robins being the most common. 



Female Blackcap
Next stop was Artemis Lagoon, a small but precious wetland north of Vravrona. It was full of Black-headed Gulls that were feeding on small floating incects, while Shovelers, Mallards, Teals and a single Tufted Duck were resting close to the reeds. Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebes were also present. 
Female Tufted Duck

It was about time to call it a day. We saw and heard some 45 species. Elayna was really happy with her choice of birding with us!



TRIP CHECKLIST (V = Vravrona, A = Artemis)

Mute Swan    V
Teal                V
Mallard         V
Shoveler        A
Tufted Duck A
Little Grebe VA
Cormorant   V
Shag              V
Little Egret   V
Great Egret  V
Water Rail    V
Moorhen      VA
Coot              A
Redshank     A
Green Sandpiper A
Black-headed Gull VA
Slender-billed Gull V
Mediterranean Gull VA
Yellow-legged Gull  VA
Kingfisher V
Crested Lark V
Skylark A
Grey Wagtail A
White Wagtail VA
Meadow Pipit VA
Wren V
Dunnock V
Robin VA
Stonechat V
Blackbird V
Song Thrush V
Cetti's Warbler VA
Blackcap V
Sardinian Warbler VA
Chiffchaff VA
Great Tit V
Penduline Tit V
Magpie VA
Hooded Crow VA
House Sparrow VA
Chaffinch VA
Serin V
Goldfinch V
Linnet V
Reed Bunting V




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day trip, January 25, 2017

Debbie Bangasser is a photographer/birder from USA. She wanted to do a half-day birding trip in Athens in order to see and take photographs of European birds. The weather forecast was not good for that day and, indeed, with the exception of the early morning hours, it rained all day.

Our first stop was close to the port of Rafina where a small stream flows to the sea. We had close views of Mute Swan, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Kingfisher, (European) Goldfinch and other more common species.

Juvenile Mute Swan in the rain

Next stop was Schinias NP.  This place is always very fruitful and gave us a good look of the endangered Ferruginous Duck, one of the most sought after species of the area. Despite the rain, birds were very active and we added many more species new to our list, having many chances to take photos of different species like the Red-crested Pochard, the Marsh Harrier, an overwintering Black-winged Stilt, Meadow and Water Pipits, Sardinian Warblers, Cirl Buntings and many more.

Male Red-crested Pochard

A visit to the beach gave us distant but clear views of Yelkouan Shearwaters and European Shags. 
Our trip was almost at its end, but we still managed to add a few more species like the Cetti’s Warbler, the Corn Bunting, the Crested Lark etc.


 In a day that weather wasn’t an ally, our final tally was 53 species!!!


BIRD TRIP CHECKLIST (R = Rafina, S = Schinias NP)

Mute Swan                           R         
(Common) Shelduck            S
Mallard                                 S
Gadwall                                S
(Northern) Pintail                 S
(Northern) Shoveler             S
(Eurasian) Wigeon               S
(Eurasian) Teal                    S
(Common) Pochard             S
Red-crested Pochard           S
Ferruginus Duck                 S
Little Grebe                        S
Yelkouan Shearwater         S
Great Cormorant             RS
European Shag                   S
Little Egret                         R
Gray Heron                      RS 
(Western) Marsh Harrier    S
Common Buzzard              S
Moorhen                            S   
Coot                                   S
Black-winged Stilt            S
Green Sandpiper               S
Spotted Redshank             S
(Common) Redshank       S
Black-headed Gull         RS
Yellow-legged Gull       RS
Collared Dove               RS
Little Owl (heard)           S
Kingfisher                       R
Crested Lark                   S
Meadow Pipit              RS
Water Pipit                     S
White Wagtail             RS
Grey Wagtail                 S
(Winter) Wren              S
(European) Robin       RS
Black Redstart            RS 
(Common) Stonechat RS
Song Thrush                 S
(Common) Blackbird   S
Blackcap                       S
Sardinian Warbler         S
Cetti's Warbler              S
(Common) Chiffchaf  RS
Great Tit                        S
Magpie                          S
Hooded Crow             RS
House Sparrow           RS
Chaffinch                      S
(European) Goldfinch RS
Cirl Bunting S
Corn Bunting S



Monday, January 23, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: January 21, 2017 Birding Trip report

Bauke is a Dutch guy who loves birds and Greece. Two years ago he birded with us on a two day trip to Messolonghi Lagoon and Mt Parnassos and now he came back to Greece for more! His wish list included the Great Spotted Eagle and the Moustached Warbler, both winter visitos to Schinias National Park. That's why we decided to spend the whole day there and enjoy the birdlife of Athens' most important freshwater wetland.

We started looking fot the skulky Moustached Warbler at the extensive marshes. We managed to find at least five birds and Bauke got some really good views of the bird! Along with these, we saw an overwintering Black-winged Stilt (a very rare sight), a Spotted Redshank and dozens of waterfowl: two Greylag Geese (rare winter visitors to Athens), Shovelers, Teals, Mallards, Pintails and the endangered Ferruginous Ducks.

Shovelers and Teals

Greylag Geese and Pintails

Black-winged Stilt
When we arrived at the Olympic Rowing Center, we looked for more waterfowl and we managed to see more than 20 Red-crested Pochards, another interesting sight, along with more than 40 Pochards!

Male Red-crested Pochard

It was noon and we still hadn't seen the king of the marsh, the Great Spotted Eagle. We moved back to the heart of the wetland, looking at the sky. And there it was! The impressive raptor passed over, making a few circles above us and then it vanished....
Bauke, looking for the eagle

Great Spotted Eagle

It was another great day of birding; we saw some 60 species and had a really great time! We thank Bauke for choosing to bird with us again and we're looking forward to seeing him again in spring! 

TRIP CHECKLIST

Greylag Goose
Mute Swan
Common Shelduck
Eurasian Widgeon
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Red-crested Pochard
Common Pochard
Ferruginous Duck
Tufted Duck
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Great Cormorant
Greater Spotted Eagle
Eurasian Marsh Harrier
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Common Buzzard
Water Rail
Eurasian Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Magpie
Hooded Crow
Woodlark
Eurasian Skylark
Crested Lark
Eurasian Crag Martin
Great Tit
Eurasian Penduline Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Eurasian Wren
Cetti's Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Moustached Warbler
Eurasian Blackcap
Sardinian Warbler
European Robin
Black Redstart
European Stonechat
Eurasian Blackbird
Song Thrush
Dunnock
White Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Cirl Bunting
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting
Common Chaffinch
European Greenfinch
European Goldfinch
European Serin
House Sparrow















Thursday, January 05, 2017

Winter birding in Athens: Jan 3rd trip report

Our first trip of the year was at Jan 3rd with Sarah Barsness, an avid birder and photographer from San Fransisco, USA. We started from Vouliagmeni area and drove through the east Attica coast all the way to Schinias National Park. Our first birds in the Rowing Center we Ferruginus Ducks that breed in the area, as well as several couples of Red-crested Pochards, a rare winter visitor.
Red crested Pochards



Ferruginous Ducks
male Red-crested Pochard
Little Grebes, Black necked Grebes, Cormotans and other ducks like Pochards, Wigeons and Mallards were also recorded. Moving in the central part of the wetland, a Great Spotted Eagle was soaring together with 3 Marsh Harriers and 2 Common Buzzard! We had great views of the birds and a handful of pics of the raptors

Great Spotted Eagle
We decided to move to Lake Stomi, to have an overall view of the marshes. While the are seemed quiet, a Marsh Harrier flushed all waterfowl: Pintals, Teals, Pochards and Mallards!
We also had an interesting visit at the surrounding hills, were we enjoyed excellent views of two breeders, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Nuthatch!
Blue Rock Thrush


 After Schinias, we moved to Rafina's Port were the highlight was a juveline Mute Swan, a flock of Shags and our first views of Grey Wagtails in the Rafinas' stream.
Artemis Lagoon and Spata fields were very quiet, possibly due to the late time of the day. We got lots of finches, such as Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, and Linnet.


Chiffchaff
Overall we saw 53 species, here's the full list

Black-necked Grebe
Little Grebe
Cormorant
Shag
Little Egret
Mute Swan
Mallard
Pintail
Teal
Wigeon
Shoveler
Pochard
Red-crested Pochard
Ferruginous Duck
Great Spotted Eagle
Marsh Harrier
Common Buzzard
Kestrel
Water Rail
Moorhen
Coot
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Kingfisher
Collared Dove
Woodlark
Crested Lark
Water Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Robin
Black Redstart
Stonechat
Blue Rock Thrush
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Blackcap
Sardinian Warbler
Chiffchaff
Great Tit (heard)
Long-tailed Tit
Rock Nuthach
Magpie
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Chaffinch
Linnet
Goldfinch
Greenfinch
Serin
Reed Bunting
Cirl Bunting


















Saturday, December 17, 2016

Birdwatching in Central Greece: Trip Report, December 7th, 2016

Claudio is a very young and enthusiastic bird watcher. Being from Spain, he misses all the Balkan specialties. As he had a chance to come to Greece in winter, he wanted to see species like the Rock Nuthatch, the Sombre Tit and the Syrian Woodpecker. The latter is found some 200 kms north of Athens but this was no problem for us!

Our first stop was the small village of Ypati, in Central Greece. The southernmost population of Syrian Woodpeckers can be found there; if you know where to look of course. We found more than two pairs and really enjoyed them! A very beautiful Red Squirrel (the name is misleading as the pelt color of Squirrels in Greece is dark brown, not Red) was also sighted at the village.

Syrian Woodpecker

"Red" Squirrel
Our next target was the Rock Nuthatch. We drove back to Athens and visited the northern slopes of Mt Parnitha, Athens' highest mountain and a very important area for birds

The Rock Nuthatch was there, showing up quite easily
Rock Nuthatch
A very beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush was also seen at the same site, while a Sombre Tit was "almost" seen, hiding all the time in the dense foliage. To see the Sombre Tit better, we headed towards the central part of Mt Parnitha, a part of the mountain hit by a large wildfire in 2007 but now home to several open-area loving species. The Sombre Tit was, of course, there! 

Sombre Tit
Another interesting sighting was a small herd of Cretan Wild Goats, an ungulate normally found only in the island of Crete, but now also found on Mt Parnitha as a population of escaped animals thrives on the mountain. 

Cretan Wild Goat 

Days in the winter are short, and we had no time to spend looking for Chukars. But Claudio was more than satisfied, after seeing the Syrian Woodpecker, the Rock Nuthatch and the Sombre Tit! 







Monday, December 12, 2016

Birdwatching in Athens: Rarity report - Velvet Scoters in Athens!

Four Velvet Scoters were sighted at Vourkari Bay, the most important wetland of western Attica! The birds are resting in the sea area close to a small harbour.


This is the first record of this very rare visitor to Greece! Winter has come and so far looks very promising!!!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day trip, November 9, 2016

Joe Church from the United States came to Greece to run for the Marathon. Being a keen birder, he arrived to Athens a few days earlier so that he could enjoy birdwatching with us.

Starting the trip at 06.15, our first stop was the hill of Lycabettus, downtown Athens. Just before dawn, we put the first bird on our list (and a lifer for Joe): Scops Owl! This nocturnal bird of prey overwinters in southern Greece and is particularly common in parks of Athens.

Next stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani on Mt Hymettus, a popular place for birders. We managed to find, among other things, two more lifers for Joe; Goldcrests and Hawfinches have arrived and were rather easily found. A Sparrowhawk was also seen, along with lots of Jays, Robins, Chaffinches and a flock of Siskins.
Hawfinch 
We left Mt Hymettus for another mountain: Mt Parnitha is the highest mountain close to Athens and home to many interesting birds like the Sombre Tit. Even though the weather was not good (fog and low temperatures), we managed to see it along with the Dunnock (common winter visitor and a lifer for Joe). We also enjoyed the view of several Red Deer!


We left Mt Parnitha for warmer habitats like Schinias Marshes. We explored Athens' most important wetland and even though it is fairly dry due to very few rains in autumn, the Ferruginous Duck was present in the Olympic rowing center, along with hundreds of Coots and a small group of Common Pochards. 

Ferruginous Ducks along with Coots and a Little Grebe

The sudden thunderstorm and the strong winds later on, hindered our quest for lifers but we managed to see both Meadow and Water Pipits (new for Joe) along with Fan-tailed Warblers, a Red-backed Shrike and two Barn Swallows (exceptional records given the date). Another beautiful sighting was a Weasel that came out in the open for a few seconds

Weasel 

Just before dusk we left Schinias and headed back to Athens. The total list of birds seen and/or heard is quite impressive, given the bad weather. Another successful bird trip was over. Thank you Joe for your wonderful company, hope to see you again in Athens! 

TRIP BIRD LIST (L = Lycabettus Hill, H = Mt Hymettus, P = Mt Parnitha, S = Schinias Marshes)

Teal S
Mallard S
Pochard S
Ferruginous Duck S
Little Grebe S
Great Cormorant S
Marsh Harrier S
Sparrowhawk HS
Buzzard S
Kestrel S
Coot S
Common Snipe S
Black-headed Gull S
Yellow-legged Gull S
Collared Dove S
Scops Owl L
Kingfisher S
Woodlark (heard) P
Barn Swallow S
Grey Wagtail S
White Wagtail S
Meadow Pipit PS
Water Pipit S
Wren (heard) HPS
Dunnock P
Robin LHPS
Black Redstart PS
Stonechat PS
Blackbird LHPS
Song Thrush HS
Mistle Thrush P
Cetti's Warbler (heard) S
Fan-tailed Warbler S
Blackcap S
Sardinian Warbler HPS
Chiffchaff HPS
Goldcrest H
Blue Tit (heard) HP
Great Tit HPS
Coal Tit (heard) HP
Sombre Tit P
Rock Nuthatch (heard) P
Red-backed Shrike S
Jay HP
Magpie HPS
Hooded Crow PS
Raven P
Starling S
House Sparrow S
Spanish Sparrow S
Serin (heard) P
Greenfinch PS
Goldfinch PS
Siskin HP
Linnet (heard) P
Crossbill P
Hawfinch H
Cirl Bunting HP
Corn Bunting S










Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Birding in Athens, trip report: 2 Yellow-browed Warblers at Imittos Mt

Today's birding trip around Athens was fascinating, combining late migrants, awesome resident species as well as mega rarities. Let's start from the morning pick up:
Patty Meehan from Oregon and Ann Howe from Boston asked us to run a birding trip around the city for October 15th. We picked them up from their flat in Acropolis area and started our trip from Schinias National Park. Along with Zitting Cisticola, Red-backed Shrikes and Tree Sparrows, we had great views of breeding Ferruginous Ducks, which were one of Patty's lifers.

Continuing in Rafina's stream we saw colorful Kingfisher as well as a Grey Plover close to the seaside. Artemis Lagoon was also interesting, with waders such as Turnstones and Dunlins.
One of todays' highlights was seen at Spata fields, an impressive Short-toed Eagle that we enjoyed mostly with out spotting scope.

After an authentic greek lunch with gyros, greek salad and lots of tzatziki we headed for Imittos Mt, looking for the first arriving Robins and other winter passerines. A nice Red-breasted Flycatcher was observed, a species which is very rare in western Europe.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) at Imittos Mt
Firecrest in Imittos Mt

However, the birds of the day was just beside Kesariani Monastery, we saw 2 Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus), which have invaded Europe from Siberia this autumn. This species is vagrant in Greece, with around 20 sightings. There were 2 birds moving very fast, so we had to run to our car in order to bring a camera with big zoom lens, in order to take pictures of this rare visitor. Pics will be send to the Hellenic Rarity Committee, for justification.
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) in Imittos Mt
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) in Imittos Mt
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) in Imittos Mt     

Here's in the complete bird list for Oct 15th
Little Grebe
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Teal
Ferruginous Duck
Marsh Harrier
Common Buzzard
Short-toed Eagle
Kestrel
Sparrowhawk
Grey Plover
Turnstone
Dunlin
Coot
Water Rail
Moorhen
Kingfisher
Collared Dove
Crested Lark
Stonechat
Robin
Barn Swallow
Grey Wagtail
Spotted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Chiffchaff
Firecrest
Yellow-browed Warbler
Sardinian Warbler

Zitting Cisticola
Red-backed Shrike
Hooded Crow
Starling
Blackbird
Great Tit
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Corn Bunting



Friday, September 30, 2016

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day trip, September 13, 2016

September is a busy month, in terms of both migration and bird tours. On September 13, we ran another half day trip, this time with Steve, an enthusiastic American birder who wanted to see birds before the start of his cruise with his family.

The first stop of the day was the small but very important for waders Artemis lagoon. We saw, among others, a juvenile Purple Heron!

Purple Heron
Other birds seen include the Garganey, the Little Ringed Plover, the Sanderling and the Curlew Sandpiper.

Next stop was Vravrona Wetland, quite dry at this time of year but still important for birds; the Penduline Tit was the highlight of our visit.

Penduline Tit
Red-backed Shrikes, Sardinian Warblers and Cetti's Warblers were quite common in Vravrona, while Fan-tailed Warblers and Cirl Buntings were also present.

After Vravrona, we stopped for half an hour at the famous stand of Turpentine Trees close to the town of Spata. These trees are full of fruit and migrant birds! We saw, among others, a lovely Lesser Whitethroat.

Lesser Whitethroat

Last stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani, the closest birding hotspot to Athens. Even though we spent little time there, we managed to have some really good views of birds like the Spotted Flycatcher and the Common Redstart


Common Redstart

Another great birding day was over. Steve, tired but happy, returned to his family to start the "mainstream" part of his holiday in Greece. We are looking forward to birding with him again! 








Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Birdwatching in Athens: Express birding trip, September 7

Vince Knight came to Athens for a couple of days before departing on a cruise ship. He desperately wanted to bird the area but had roughly a morning. So, what was the only solution to his problem? Greece Bird Tours of course!

Having just three hours to bird, we suggested a very fast but productive birding walk in the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani, on the lower slopes of Mt Hymettus. This site is just 15 min away from downtown Athens (in low traffic conditions like very early in the morning). On 7.30 we were already watching the first bird of the area; and what a bird it was - a Red-breasted Flycatcher!

Red-breasted Flycatcher

This rare passage migrant is almost always seen in this site in September. Not shy but restless, it can be seen quite easily but usually only briefly.

The forest was teeming with passerines, resident and migrant. The light rain actually helped us, as the birds were too busy feeding during the pauses of the rainfall and paid no attention to our presence. Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers were there, along with local Robins, Great Tits and Blackbirds. Hiding in the lush vegetation but very frequently coming out in the open to feed on the Turpentine Tree fruits or any unlucky insect.

Robin

Male Common Redstart
But it was not just the ground that was full of birds. Hundreds of all three Swift (Common, Pallid and Alpine) species were flying low, chasing insects along with a large group of House Martins! 

It was a full three-hour' birding frenzy! Vince was more than happy to share a photo with me after the trip!



TRIP CHECKLIST

Cuckoo
Common Swift
Pallid Swift
Alpine Swift
House Martin
Robin
Common Redstart
Blackbird
Blackcap
Lesser Whitethroat
Subalpine Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Willow Warbler
Firecrest
Spotted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper
Jay
Magpie
Chaffinch
Crossbill
Cirl Bunting





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