Sunday, March 23, 2014

Birdwatching in Athens: East Attica Day Trip, March 16th 2014

Spring is all around and Southern Greece welcomes the first migrants from early March already. That's why a day trip east of Athens can yield many interesting species.

Our first stop was at Mt Hymettus (or Ymittos), close to the Monastery of St John Kareas. We went there before dawn to have a chance for the Scops Owl; we found three birds but, unfortunately, they gave us very few chances of seeing them. Very close to the Scops Owls, Firecrests, Jays, Great Tits were the most common birds seen. A Chukar was calling from the rocks above the monastery, but we didn't have to look for it as many more birds would be seen more closely on our way to Sarina Ravine, uphill.

This small ravine is the best site to check for Rock Nuthatches and Blue Rock Thrushes; both species were present, and especially the latter were very easy to see. The surprise of the day was the male Ruppell's Warbler (a week earlier than usual) that was singing at the top of the Kermes Oaks. Winter visitors, like Robin, Wren and Dunnock were still common while the Chukars gave us very close views as they were foraging the track, right in front of us!
Ruppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli is common in dense maquis scrub 

The Chukar Alectoris chukar was introduced more than 30 years ago 

Blue Rock Thrush prefers rocky otucrops, both coastal and inland
Next stop was Vravrona Wetland; a small but very important coastal wetland. Before that, a visit to a local bakery where we had some delicious pies that kept us full of energy for the rest of the day! The highlights of the day for Vravrona were the Cirl, Rock Buntings and the Penduline Tits found close to the archaeological site of the Temple of Artemis. An overwintering Yellow-browed Warbler didn't show up, unfortunately, though it was heard twice...

Before reaching the last stop of the day (Schinias National Park), we had to visit the Great-Spotted Cuckoo that had arrived close to the town of Loutsa. We were more than happy to see it, as it offered great views while perching on a bare tree for a few minutes.

Schinias National Park offered good views of the Zitting Cisticola (aka Fan-tailed Warbler), and a good number of early migrant waders: Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, Wood, Marsh and Green Sandpipers, along with Spotted Redshanks and Ruffs. A Great Egret was also seen, among several Grey HeronsMarsh Harriers were common while a single Hen Harrier was seen just before the end of the trip.


Penduline Tit is common in Schinias National Park and Vravrona Wetland

The day ended with a delicious dinner at Neos Voutzas, close to the city of Rafina!

The full checklist of the day:

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Chukar Alectoris chukar
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Coot Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius
Scops Owl Otus scops
Little Owl Athene noctua
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Blackbird Turdus merula
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Ruppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Great Tit Parus major
Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Serin Serinus serinus
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
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