Friday, May 19, 2017

Birdwatching in Greece: The great trip to the North, May 10-14 2017

Three birders, five days of birding and more than 150 bird species seen!

That was the result of another amazing bird trip with Greece Bird Tours.

Starting from Athens, we visited some of the best birding areas in Southern, Central and Northern Greece: Lake Dystos, Mt Antichasia, Lake Kerkini, to name a few.

Black-headed Bunting, abundant in Lake Dystos

Semi-collared Flycatchers are common breeders on Mt Antichasia

White Pelicans are now breeding in Lake Kerkini

Grey-headed Woodpecker is common in Kerkini and Nestos Delta

Lesser Spotted Eagle flying overhead at Lake Kerkini

The extremely rare Black-necked Pheasant is only found in Nestos Delta

Birding is made easier when you use Swarovski optics!

Last day of birding; happy faces!!!
More about this long trip will be posted shortly. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Birding with the Ashleys, March 16 2017

Michael Ashley is a teenager with a real passion for birds. He came to Greece with his family for Spring Break vacations.

The Ashleys 
Being a bird maniac, Michael contacted us to arrange a half-day birding trip around Athens. Even though his family wasn't really crazy about seeing birds, they joined us because they wanted to see the Athenian nature, away from the busy capital. 

Our first stop was the wetland of Vravrona. We managed to see quite many species there, both winter visitors and spring migrants; Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls shared the coast with Little Ringed Plovers, while small groups of swallows were flying low, looking for insects. A Great Spotted Cuckoo was seen in the fields and we also saw Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards and a Hen Harrier Michael's family enjoyed the scenery, the large variety of flowers and the very interesting Archaeological Site and Museum. 

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Next stop was Artemis Lagoon. Apart from the typical Coots and Moorhens, Teals were still present, while the first Yellow Wagtails were seen flying over or stopping for a quick snack at the shore. 

Birding@Artemis Lagoon
We left Artemis and headed towards Spata fields. There were a few water pools that held Black-winged Stiltt and  Ruffs, while a Marsh Harrier flew low over the ground, flushing large flocks of passerines (Skylarks, finches etc). 

Our last stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani. Apart from the abundant Great Tits and Jays, we managed to see Coal Tits, Goldcrests and Short-toed Treecreepers. 

Short-toed Treecreeper

At the end, we managed to see or hear some 65 species! A very good record for a half-day trip. 


Species Name
Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey - Anas querquedula
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull - Ichthyaetus melanocephalus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Eurasian Skylark - Alauda arvensis
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Penduline-Tit - Remiz pendulinus
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Goldcrest - Regulus regulus
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Gray Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Birdwatching Athens: birding weekend March 25th-26th

Greece Bird Tours organized a tailor made birding trip around various locations in Athens, for canadian birder Burke Korol, from Toronto. Burke had an extensive life list of 2900 species and was seeking some of the countries specialties. We managed to find about 60-65% of the desired species, only missing some later arrivals.
The first day we started from Oropos Lagoon, were there were plenty of waders, ducks and raptors. We enjoyed 3 Kentish Plovers on the beach, Little Ringed Plovers, Marsh Sandpipers, a few Black-headed Wagtails, and some Cirl Buntings.

Cirl Bunting at Oropos Lagoon, Athens

 We continued at towards Marathon area, and started birdwatching aroung Schinias National Park. A Little Owl was sitting on the road next to the main road, so Burke had very good views and took some nice photos. Other highlights in the marshes were a Spotted Crake, Ferruginous Ducks, Blue Rock Thrush in the surrounding hills, and a few Red-rumped Swallows.

Black-headed Wagtail at Schinias National Park, Athens
We really wanted to see Sombre Tit, so we headed north, to Grammatiko fields. We managed to have good views of a few birds that we singing between the olive orchards.
Sombre Tit at Grammatiko, Athens 

 We made another stop at Pendeli Mt were we have excellent views of recently arrived Subalpine Warblers. Also, a Raven was soaring around the rocky summits, mobbed by Common Kestrels and Common Buzzards.
Raven at Pendeli Mt, Athens
 Our next day started with Kesariani Monastery. Sparrowhawk, Wood Warbler, Coal Tit, Sardinian Warblers and Cirl Bunting were the most interesting sightings. Since Burke was interested in both flora and fauna of Athens, we both loved to see Marginated Tortoises that seemed very active!

Marginated Tortoises in Athens
We drove up to the summit of Hymettus Mt looking for Rueppell's Warbler. Although it was rather early for their arrival, we saw 3 birds at an altitude of 850m, very close to the top of the mountain. A few Subalpine Warblers were singing from the bushes, along with Sardinian Warblers.
Rueppell's Warbler in Hymettus Mt, Athens
Our last location for the bird trip was Vravrona Estuary, east from Athens International Airport. We were lucky to see numerous flocks of Yelkouan Shearwaters, a total of about 200 birds. Together with them, we also saw 3 Cory's Shearwaters and a Shag, all being lifers for Burke! Close to the paved little bridge of Erasinos stream, we had a Little Crake, chased by two Water Rails.
Little Crake at Vravrona, Athens
Our last stop next to the archeological site of Artemis Temple, did not bring us Penduline Tit that we were looking for, but a very curious and rather tame Stoat that responding to our pishing sounds!
A very friendly Stoat at Vravrona, Athens
Burke from Toronto, birding with Greece Bird Tours
Here's is the Bird List (87 species )for the two days birding around Athens

Cory's Shearwater
Yelkouan Shearwater
Great Crested Grebe
Little Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Great Cormorant
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Great White Egret
Mute Swan
Ferruginous Duck
Little Crake
Spotted Crake
Water Rail
Common Buzzard
Common Kestrel
Marsh Harrier
Northern Harrier
Grey Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Black-winged Stilt
Marsh Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Little Stint
Yellow-legged Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Sandwich Tern
Collared Dove
Little Owl
Common Swift
House Martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
 Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Water Pipit
Crested Lark
Black-headed Wagtail
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Rock Nuthatch
Northern Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush
Great Tit
Coat Tit
Zitting Cisticola
Cetti's Warbler
Wood Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Rueppell's Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Corn Bunting
Cirl Bunting

Monday, March 27, 2017

Birdwatching trip in Athens: March 2, 2017

Carol and Peter Abbot from Australia made a literally last-minute call for a birding tour with Greece Bird Tours in Athens. 

This time of the year is, one can say, a transitional period as the wintering birds have already started moving north and the migrants are still a few days before their arrival.
Our first stop was at Hymettus mountain; Kesariani monastery and the Robin was the first bird we saw singing its beautiful song. Other species we saw around the monastery were Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap and some other common ones. Even though it was early March we headed towards the top of the mountain to check for any spring arrivals. Unfortunately we didn't see any, but we had good views of Chukar, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Blue Rock Thrush.

Chukar in Athens

Next stop was Vravrona wetland. This beautiful place combines a very beautiful ancient temple of Artemis with a nice birding area. Some of the species we saw were Mute Swans, a flock of House Martins that had just arrived, Meadow and Water Pipits, White and Grey Wagtails, Reed, Cirl and Corn Buntings.
House Martin

Our final destination was Schinias National Park but before that we also visited Loutsa Lagoon and . the small estuary of Megalo Rema stream in the port of Rafina. Some of the species we saw were, Yelkouan Shearwater, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard etc.

At Schinias NP, the highlight was an overwintering Black-winged Stilt and some Red-crested Pochards (both male and female). Other species seen include the Little Grebe, the Stonechat, the Song Thrush, the Serin, the Crested Lark, the Skylark, the Sardinian Warbler etc. A Water Rail was calling all the time but it never showed up.

Red-crested Pochards

Our total species of a nice birding day was 55 birds seen and 1 heard.

TRIP CHECKLIST (H = Hymettus, V = Vravrona, L = Loutsa, R = Rafina, S = Schinias)

Mute Swan V
Mallard LS
(Northern) Shoveler L
(Eurasian) Teal L
Red-crested Pochard S
Chukar H
Little Grebe S
Yelkouan Shearwater R
Little Egret VR
(Western) Marsh Harrier S
Hen Harrier S
Common Buzzard HV
Sparrowhawk HS
(Common) Kestrel S
Water Rail S (heard)
Moorhen LS
Coot LS
Black-winged Stilt S
Green Sandpiper S
(Common) Redshank L
Black-headed Gull LRS
Yellow-legged Gull VLRS
Collared Dove HVLRS
Skylark S
Crested Lark S
Barn Swallow L
House Martin V
Meadow Pipit VLS
Water Pipit  VR
White Wagtail VL
Grey Wagtail V
(European) Robin HVRS
Black Redstart VS
(Common) Stonechat VS
Song Thrush S
(Common) Blackbird HS
Blue Rock Thrush H
Blackcap HVS
Sardinian Warbler S
Cetti's Warbler VS
(Common) Chiffchaf V
Firecrest H
Great Tit HVS
Coal Tit H
Short-toed Treecreeper H
Magpie HVLRS
(Eurasian) Jay H
Hooded Crow LS
House Sparrow HVLRS
Chaffinch HVS
(European) Goldfinch S
(European) Greenfinch V
(European) Serin S
Reed Bunting VS
Cirl Bunting V
Corn Bunting V

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! 


Greylag Goose
Mute Swan
Common Shelduck
Eurasian Widgeon
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
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
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.

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

Black-necked Grebe
Little Grebe
Little Egret
Mute Swan
Red-crested Pochard
Ferruginous Duck
Great Spotted Eagle
Marsh Harrier
Common Buzzard
Water Rail
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Collared Dove
Crested Lark
Water Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Blue Rock Thrush
Song Thrush
Sardinian Warbler
Great Tit (heard)
Long-tailed Tit
Rock Nuthach
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
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! 

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