Saturday, December 20, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Wintering Wrynecks at Vravrona Wetland!

The Wryneck is a fairly common passage migrant and summer visitor, even though its secretive habits make it very difficult to be seen. It is also a very rare winter visitor, its observation being much more hard as it very rarely calls during the winter.

Therefore, I was really surprised to find not just one but three Wrynecks calling from a stand of large bushes at the wetland of Vravrona!

The birds never showed up in the open...

The olive trees seem to have attracted the birds as they are full of delicious fruits


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rare Kittiwake sighting!

The Kittiwake is a very rare winter visitor of Greece. Every year, very few birds are seen, mainly due to the species preference of open seas. However, every now and then a juvenile bird chooses a harbor to rest and then it offers great views. Needless to say, such an occurence is a great event for Greek birdwatchers!

This year, a juvenile was found at the small coastal town of Stylida, very close to Lamia in central Greece. The bird was seen along with Black-headed Gulls, showing no fear and providing excellent views and shots!

Perched with a group of Black-headed Gulls

Quite active, flying away quite a few times, but always returning to the same spot

Very tame, it allowed some really close shots

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rarity report: Wallcreeper in Athens, at Imittos Mt.

One of birder's favorite species, a Wallcreeper, was seen today by Antonis Tsaknakis and enjoyed by a group of local birders. The species was seen at Kareas, Imittos Mt, at the trail leading to the Rueppell's Warbler & Cretzschmar's Bunting point.
Wallcreepers have been reported again, many years ago, at the same spot, in winter.
Hopefully, some closer pics will be available soon, as several birders are hiking up the mountain tomorrow to see the species, just 10 min from Athens Center
Wallcreeper at Imittos Mt, Athens (Photo by Antonis Tsaknakis)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Bird Trip, December 6th, 2014

Winter is not a quite period for birdwatchers of Athens, as many different species overwinter and a bird trip is always full of beautiful encounters. Such was the December 6th full day trip around Athens; we visited Mt Hymettus, the tiny wetland of Rafina and the marshes of Schinias National Park.

The day started with a visit to Hymettus, the closest Important Bird Area to Athens. Even though all the summer specialties are now in Africa, there are several residents worth seeing, like the Rock Nuthatch and the Chukar Partridge. Many wintering birds (Robins, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Dunnocks) were also present along wtih Coal Tits, Chaffinches and Blackbirds.

Next stop was the tiny river mouth close to the port of Rafina in the east coast. This very small wetland was the stopover site for a Baillon's Crake a few days ago but, unfortunately, the bird wasn't there. A couple of Little Egrets, along with Kingfishers and several White and Grey Wagtails offered some compensation. A very quick visit to the port added more than 500 Black-headed Gulls and a single Mediterranean Gull to the list.

The rest of the day was spent on the National Park of Schinias and the surrounding area. The wetland itself was very generous; We found the Great Spotted Eagle that has been visiting the area for almost ten consecutive years! The bird was seen soaring and perching and we had really lovely views with the fieldscope. We also saw several Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and a male Hen Harrier.

A juvenile male Marsh Harrier
There were also more than 80 Grey Herons, perched on a a stand of tamarisks, close to the lakes of the Olympic rowing center, while a Great Egret flew above the central marsh. 

Great Egret
 Ducks were surprisingly few and the male Pochard at the rowing center was the only one that gave us some good views.

Pochard
The Moustached Warbler was also one of our target species and we found two birds! The wetland was full of Coots, while a Greater Flamingo at the lakes of the rowing center was also a surprise. The farmland was full of finches (mainly Chaffinches) and Corn Bunting.

Last stop was the hills of Sesi, northwest of Schinias where we looked for the Sombre Tit. We managed to find a few, along with several other tits (Blue, Coal, Great and Long-tailed). 

DAY CHECKLIST

(H=Mt HYMETTUS, R=RAFINA PORT, S=SCHINIAS NATIONAL PARK, E=SESI)

Gadwall S
Mallard S
Shoveler S
Pochard S
Chukar H
Little Grebe S
Great Crested Grebe S
Great Egret S
Grey Heron S
Flamingo S
Marsh Harrier S
Hen Harrier S
Sparrowhawk S
Common Buzzard SE
Spotted Eagle S
Kestrel S
Moorhen S
Coot S
Snipe S
Black-headed Gull RS
Mediterranean Gull R
Yellow-legged Gull RS
Kingfisher RS
Crested Lark S
White Wagtail RS
Grey Wagtail RS
Meadow Pipit HS
Water Pipit S
Wren HS
Dunnock HSE
Robin HRSE
Black Redstart HRS
Stonechat HS
Blackbird HSE
Song Thrush HSE
Cetti's Warbler S
Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) S
Moustached Warbler S
Blackcap HSE
Sardinian Warbler HRSE
Chiffchaff HRSE
Long-tailed Tit E
Blue Tit SE
Great Tit HSE
Coal Tit HE
Sombre Tit E
Rock Nuthatch H
Magpie HRSE
Starling S
House Sparrow HRS
Chaffinch HSE
Serin S
Greenfinch S
Goldfinch S
Linnet S
Reed Bunting S
Corn Bunting S









Thursday, December 04, 2014

Birdwatching in Greece: Athens' winter visitors overview (Part I)

Winter is not a "closed" season for birdwatching in Athens and the surroundings. Numerous birds from the north arrive, to take advantage of the usually mild climate (very few, if any, snowfalls and temperatures rarely below 0 degrees Celcius).

 The White Wagtail is a very common sight in the lowlands, from city parks to ploughed fields and wetlands.

Water Pipits are always found in wetlands, like Oropos Lagoon.



The Blue Tit is a regular winter visitor of the lowlands, in fluctuating numbers. This is a very good year, as birds are found virtually everywhere! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Birdwatching in Greece: Isabelline Shrike@Nea Kios, Peloponnese!

The coastal wetland of Nea Kios in the eastern Peloponnese, close to the picturesque town of Nafplio, is a well known destination for Greek birders. It is one of the best places to look for waders and gulls, with Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and other rare visitors being rather regular there. Nevertheless, it has also gained a reputation for being a "magnet" to rare birds; In 2013, a Blue-cheeked bee-eater was seen and now, an Isabelline Shrike was found in the same area.

The Isabelline Shrike has less than 10 confirmed records in Greece

Large (for Greek standards) number of birders visited the area to look for the bird


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: More pics of the Baillon's Crake of Rafina Stream

The rarest of the "real" crakes (the Corncrake actually belongs to another group), the Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla, spends its third day on the tiny estuary of Megalo Rema stream in Rafina, east of Athens. Fortunately, it behaves as any other crake; once it gets used to your presence, as long as you don't move, it moves freely right in front of you, foraging for small aquatic insects or any other available food. A very hard to find but very easy to photograph species, it has become an attraction for every Athenian birder.

Reedbed fringes is the place to look for 

Always on the move, it rarely stands still

Notice the absence of red on the bill and the intense barring on the flanks

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Baillon's Crake at Rafina's stream, an unexpected autumn record for Athens

Baillon's Crakes are scarce migrants in Greece, a handfull of observations around Athens. Today, a single individual was observed at Rafina's stream, first time for the area.
Baillon's Crake at Rafina's stream

Friday, November 07, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: Winter is coming (so are the birds)

November is the time when large numbers of winter vissitors arrive in the lowlands of Athens. Schinias National Park attacts very large numbers of passerines which, in turn, attract lots of raptors.
This is a very good year for wintering Blue Tits


Hen Harriers are widespread. visitors of open areas


The Sparrowhawk is one of the most common raptors found in winter

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birdwatching in Greece: Looking for the Ring Ouzel, Greece's rarest thrush

The Ring Ouzel is a very rare resident of Greece, breeding birds confined to high altitude woodland of the north. Even in winter, it is by no means common, and most of the records come from birds shot (illegally) by hunters...
It seems, though, that it may be actually more common and widespread but overlooked among the hundreds of thousands of thrushes coming each winter to Greece. A group of more than 15 birds has been sighted on Mt Parnassus. The birds preferred the forest edge (alt: 1,800 m) and they were joined by Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes.

Ring Ouzel 
At the same area, small groups of Alpine Choughs flew overhead. This is the most common and widespread chough, found in most of the mountain regions of mainland Greece.

Alpine Chough


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