Monday, May 19, 2008

Athens 3rd Bird race (part II: the bird list)

Highlights of the day:
Yelkuan Shearwater, Ferruginous Duck, Short-toed Eagle, Slender-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Penduline Tit, Rueppell’s Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Rock Nuthatch, Cretzschmar’s Bunting

This year’s Athens Bird-athon trip was combined with the 3rd Athens Bird race. Our team, called “Bee-eaters” managed to arrive 2nd in the overall ranking, having recorded 91 bird species around Athens region! The team consisted of Spyros Skareas (guide and driver) and brothers Elbert & Jose from Holland.

We started at 06:30 from Rafina, where we easily had House Sparrow, Blackbird, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Western Yellow-legged Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Magpie. As the sun started to rise, we could see a Little Egret at Rafina’s Stream, and 2 Barn Swallows flying over the little bridge.

We headed off Schinias National Park, and we were there at 08:00. The marshes were full of Coot, Cetti’s Warblers, and Crested Larks. A flying Bittern was a highlight of the area, very early in the day. We had more that 50 species in that area (stated here in the order seen in the field): Peregrine Falcon, Sedge Warbler, Hooded Crow, Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Mallard, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Water Rail, Goldfinch, Hoopoe (we saw 7 individuals eating together!), Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Whinchat, Greenfinch, Purple Heron, Black-headed Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Turtle Dove, Little Stint, Great Reed Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Ruff, Lesser Whitethroat (first record for Schinias National Park), Garganey, Common Kestrel, Nightingale (heard).
A little later, we headed off the cliffs around the marshes, to get some small passerines. Truly, we had Cretzschmar’ s Bunting, Whitethroat, Tree Sparrow.
Back again in the marshes, we saw a Little Owl on the roof of an old house and later on some more interesting species like Green Sandpiper, Ferruginous Duck, Mute Swan, Lesser Black-backed Gull (first record for Schinias National Park), Red-rumped Swallow, Subalpine Warbler, Penduline Tit (with its beautiful nest).

We continued to Agios Petros, over Nea Makri, hoping to get some rarities, but we only got Woodlark and House Martins. So we decided to go South, to Rafina’s Port again, hoping to see some interesting gulls. We saw Mediterranean Gull and Black-headed Gull, together with Little Ringed Plover.

Another stop was Loutsa Lagoon, a small pond beside the sea. There we had Grey Heron (surprisingly rare during this day), Reed Warbler (heard). The next stop was Loutros Spata, just behind Athens International Airport. The area has dried out fast this year, but it was just enough to get Tawny Pipit, Common Swift and Black-eared Wheatear.

It was around 16:00 were we started walking around Imittos Mt. Close to the top, we had residents Blue Rock Thrushes, and summer visitors Rueppell’s Warblers. Other species recorder were Chaffinch, Serin, Rock Nuthatch, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Chukar, Cirl Bunting, Common Buzzard, Blackcap, Jay, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sombre Tit, Orphean Warbler.

It was only 17:00 when we arrived at Oropos estuary, about half an hour ride from Imittos Mt, towards North of Athens. We had great views of Kentish Plovers, Gull-billed Tern, Common Sandpiper, Red-thorated Pipit, Slender-billed Gull, Grey Plover, Dunlin, and more than 100 Yelkuan Shearwaters flying over the sea!

Our last stop was Tritsis Park in Athens. Fortunately, we got Cuckoo, Squacco Heron and Rose-ringed Parakeet and managed to arrive on time for the end of the race.

What a day and what a bird list, just around Athens!
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