Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day trip, March 26 2018

Indrajit and Rachel is a lovely couple from the United States. Their holidays in Greece were organized by Triton Holidays company that contacted us because they wanted to include one day of birdwatching. The couple did not have any particular 'wish list; they were happy enough to see as many birds as possible.

Pick up time was 07.00 from downtown Athens and the first place to visit was Vravrona Wetland. A new wave of African dust created a very misty atmosphere but this didn't prevent us from seeing lots of great species like the Great Spotted Cuckoo!


Great Spotted Cuckoo
Lots of passerines (finches, larks, pipits, buntings etc) were foraging in the fields, while a Great Egret was at the estuary, along with Little Egrets. 

Great Egret
Swifts, Alpine Swifts, Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins were flying low, giving nice views. 

After Vravrona, we headed north to the small but precious Artemis Lagoon. Ferruginous Ducks and Black-winged Stilts were the most important species seen while Teals, Coots, Little Grebes and Moorhens were also present, among others.

Very close to Artemis Lagoon is the estuary of one of the very few perennial streams of East Attica at Rafina. This vulnerable and threatened ecosystem is an important stopover site for migrants. Within a few minutes we saw Yellow Wagtails, Little Ringed Plovers and a Kingfisher!

Time was flying and we had to start our way back to Athens. Last stop was Mt Hymettus, more specifically the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani. Lots of birds there too, from the ubiquitous resident Blackbird to the Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - a rare passage migrant. 

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
There were still lots of winter visitors like the Siskin and the Hawfinch. Cirl Buntings were the last birds to be seen, ending the trip in the best possible way. 54 species was the total count of this great day!


Indrajit and Rachel
TRIP CHECKLIST 
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
Alpine Swift - Apus melba
Common Swift - Apus apus
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Great Tit - Parus major
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - Phylloscopus orientalis
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale - Luscinia megarhynchos
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Tree Pipit - Anthus trivialis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus







Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: March 17 2018

Margaret Vernon is a teacher from the United States, a happy birdwatcher but, most of all, an adorable person. She came to Greece for a few days break and wanted to include some birding to her Greek experience. She wanted a full day trip, to see as many birds and habitats as possible.

We started at 07.00, heading to Schinias National Park. Migration was pretty evident as we managed to see Hoopoes, Marsh Sandpipers, Glossy Ibises, Ruffs, Garganeys and lots of Yellow Wagtails. We also enjoyed great views of several different residents, including Ferruginous Ducks, Penduline Tits and Cetti's Warblers.

Hoopoe


Ferruginous Duck (male)

Penduline Tit
Other interesting birds seen were the Short-toed Treecreeper, the Zitting Cisticola, the Little Ringed Plover and the Northern Wheatear. 

Schinias is a big place and you can spend all day there but we had to leave and visit Mt Hymettus. 

We made our first stop at the ridge, looking for Ruppell's and Subalpine Warblers; we found both! We also saw a beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush. 

Subalpine Warbler

Next stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisarian; we looked for the Firecrest and saw it very quickly. We also saw (among others) Jays, Hawfinches ans Siskins. 

Firecrest
Last stop was Kareas, a scrubby area in the process of regeneration after the wildfire of 2015. The Rock Nuthatch was the last target species to be found, bringing the bird count to 64!

Margaret minutes after seeing a Rock Nuthatch

TRIP CHECKLIST
Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
Garganey - Spatula querquedula
Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Penduline-Tit - Remiz pendulinus
Western Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Rόppell's Warbler - Sylvia ruppeli
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Dunnock - Prunella modularis
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day, March 11 2018


Karel and Joost came from Holland and had a full day to spend birding with Greece Bird Tours. Especially for that day, a friend of mine and a very experienced birder joined us.

Early morning found us venturing in the Aesthetic forest of Kaisariani where apart from the interesting birdlife lies an old monastery that was built in the 11th century AD. Some of the species seen were: Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Eurasian Jay, Coal Tit, Hawfinch, Siskin and some other more common birds. We then went higher on the mountain, hoping to see any early migrants and there it was: a Ruppell’s Warbler was singing on top of a bush showing us its beauty! This might be the earliest arrival for this species. We continued our search and we also managed to see Subalpine Warblers, Chukars, a migrant female Hen Harrier etc, but unfortunately missed the Rock Nuthatch which was singing from a rock in a distance but our efforts to spot him were unsuccessful.

Subalpine Warbler
Next stop was Vravrona wetland; a very beautiful place “decorated” with the stunning temple of Artemis. Our target species here was the Cirl Bunting and we had great views of two birds. Other species seen were Great and Little Egret, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch etc.

We left behind Vravrona for the next stop: Artemis lagoon. Some more new migrant arrivals were found: Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow but also there were winter visitors like Black-headed and Little Gull, Redshank, Coot, etc.

Last stop was Schinias NP. Schinias has a variety of habitats so we can see different species of birds. Apart from the abundant Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Serins, Corn Buntings, Meadow and Water Pipits we had the star of the area – the Ferruginous Duck – and Yellow Wagtails, Penduline Tits, Snipes, and other more common species like the Hooded Crow, the Crested Lark, the Stonechat, the Black Redstart etc.

Yellow Wagtail

It was another great day of birding with nice weather and 67 species in total!! (5 heard)

BIRD TRIP CHECKLIST

Mallard

(Northern) Shoveler

(Eurasian) Teal

Ferruginous Duck

Chukar

Little Grebe

Great Cormorant

Little Egret

Great Egret

Grey Heron

Short-toed Eagle

(Western) Marsh Harrier

Hen Harrier

Common Buzzard

Sparrowhawk

(Common) Kestrel

Water Rail (heard only)

Moorhen (heard only)

Coot

Black-winged Stilt

Little Ringed Plover

Green Sandpiper

(Common) Redshank

(Common) Snipe

Black-headed Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Little Gull

Collared Dove

Crested Lark

Barn Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

Meadow Pipit

Water Pipit

White Wagtail

Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail

(European) Robin

Black Redstart

(Common) Stonechat

(Common) Blackbird

Blackcap (heard only)

Sardinian Warbler (heard only)

Ruppel's Warbler

(Eastern) Subalpine Warbler

Zitting Cisticola

Cetti's Warbler

(Common) Chiffchaf

Firecrest

Great Tit

Coal Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Penduline Tit

(Western) Rock Nuthatch (heard only)

Short-toed Treecreeper

Magpie

(Eurasian) Jay

Hooded Crow

(Common) Starling

House Sparrow

(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow

Chaffinch

(European) Goldfinch

(European) Greenfinch

(Eurasian) Siskin

(European) Serin

Hawfinch

Cirl Bunting

Corn Bunting

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens, March 16 2018

Matthias came from Germany and wanted to spend a day birding around Athens. Picking him up from the airport at 10.30 was not a problem for us; our first stop was Markopoulo Fields and Vravrona Wetland, where ww found hundreds of finches (Serins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches etc), Corn Buntings and a new species for Matthias: the Cirl Bunting.

Male Cirl Bunting
We also heard a male Quail singing that was literally next to our car but could not see it because of the tall grass. Flocks of Barn Swallows were passing overhead but at the same time lots of winter visitors like the Great Egret and the Teal were still around. 

We headed north for Artemis Lagoon and the situation there was similar; the first Black-winged Stilt had arrived and at the same time overwintering Shovelers were present. 

Black-winged Stilt
Next stop was Spata Fields, a site that is known to hold Great Spotted Cuckoos in spring. We found one after a while, along with a few Hoopoes! 

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Leaving Spata, we headed for Mt Hymettus. First stop on the mountain was the scrubby area close to the peak, ideal place for warblers and especially for the Ruppell's and the Subalpine. We saw both birds and quickly descended to the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani to look for the Firecrest, another lifer for Matthias. The quest for that crest lasted for only a few minutes as a male birds showed up very quickly!

Last stop for the day was the area of Kareas on the central part of the mountain; the best place to look for the Chukar and the Rock Nuthatch that is still recovering from the wildfire of 2015. 

Chukar
We found both species right before dusk and started walking down the mountain listening to a Scops Owl. and two Little Owls...

By the time of the trip we had seen and heard 52 species, a great number considering it was not a full day! 

Another happy birder


TRIP CHECKLIST

Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Common Quail - Coturnix coturnix
Chukar - Alectoris chukar
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
European Scops-Owl - Otus scops
Little Owl - Athene noctua
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Great Tit - Parus major
Western Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Rόppell's Warbler - Sylvia ruppeli
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus




 






Saturday, March 10, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day trip, Feb 16 2018

Tokihiko 'Toko' Nagano is a veteran birdwatcher and tour guide from Japan. He's been birding for more than 50 years and his list is very impressive. As a guide, he has visited Europe many times but Greece was not on his visited countries' list. Not till this year, that is, as he went on a two-month trip around the globe to record at least 1,000 species. He had just one day to spend here and he wanted to see as many species as possible; contacting Greece Bird Tours was the wisest choice of course! 

The weather was not good; rain and strong winds hindered our efforts but who dares wins. We managed to find more than 60 species. 

We started at Vravrona wetland, where we saw lots of winter visitors like the Great Egret, the Mediterranean Gull and the Kingfisher but also early spring arrivals like the House Martin. 

Great Egret

House Martin
Next stop was Artemis Lagoon. A quick stop yielded Common Pochards and Shovelers, among others. We headed for Schinias National Park, where we enjoyed dozens of House Martins but also Ferruginous Ducks and one Pygmy Cormorant that overwintered. 

Pygmy Cormorant

Ferruginous Duck
We also visited the surrounding hills to look for the Sombre Tit; we managed to find one individual despite the strong winds. 

Last stop was Mt Hymettus. There, we added a few more species like the Hawfinch, the Woodlark, and the Linnet before the sunset. The total count was 61 species, another fine trip was over, another happy birder was taken a photograph!


TRIP CHECKLIST

Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Common Pochard - Aythya ferina
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Tufted Duck - Aythya fuligula
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
Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull - Ichthyaetus melanocephalus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Wood Lark - Lullula arborea
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Eurasian Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
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
Dunnock - Prunella modularis
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Water Pipit - Anthus spinoletta
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Reed Bunting - Emberiza schoeniclus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus




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