Thursday, June 05, 2014

Birdwatching in Central Greece: 3-day tour, 1-3 June, 2014

A very rewarding 3-day tour, that included Athens, Antichasia Mts, Meteora Rocks and Lake Karla was organized from June 1st to June 3rd. We visited several different habitats, from maquis scrub to dense riparian woodland and from freshwater wetlands to orchards, groves and other cultivations. A total of 115 species were recorded, including most of the specialties of southern Greece! 

Day 1, June 1st - Athens Panorama

The day started with a visit to Mt Hymettus (or Ymittos) for several woodland and maquis scrub species. Our first target, the Tawny Owl, was found perching in a dense pine tree, while Jays, Robins, Cirl Buntings, Coal and Great Tits and other woodland dwellers were singing across the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani. A Hoopoe (the first of the quite many seen during these three days) was briefly seen while flying away from the olive grove of the area. Our next stop was the scrubby slopes close to the mountain top. Ruppell's Warblers, Cretzschmar's Buntings and Black-eared Wheatears were the highlights, while high up in the sky were Kestrels, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks. 
The Black-eared Wheatear is one of the most beautiful birds of maquis scrub

Leaving Mt Hymettus, we headed to Cape Sounio to look for the mighty Bonelli's Eagle. It was there, a pair of adults along with a juvenile bird that was flying close by, but still completely dependant on them. The same area held Blue Rock Thrushes and many hirundines (Barn, Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin) and swifts.
The impressive Bonelli's Eagle is always a pleasure to watch
The last birdwatching site for the first day was Schinias National Park. Athens' largest wetland is still full of water, due to the heavy rainfall of spring and this might be the best year for breeding Ferruginous Ducks. More than 20 birds were seen, both adults and fledged juveniles and we only visited a fraction of the marsh. Among the Black-winged Stilts and the few Little Egrets, a Pygmy Cormorant was another very interesting sighting, as this bird is a very rare visitor of the area in winter, let alone summer! Fan-tailed Warblers (aka Zitting Cisticolas), Black-headed Yellow Wagtails, Great Reed Warblers and other small passerines were abundant, while the typical Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail and Little Grebe were found in the flooded areas.

Always alert, the Ferruginous Duck has become a common sight in Schinias
Very close to Schinias is Ramnous, an extensive area with typical Athenian cultivations: vine, olive, fig and pistachio. This very beautiful area holds a large population of the Black-headed Bunting, so we had to pay a visit to enjoy the song of this beautiful visitor from India!

After a full day, we departed for the town of Kalampaka, that lies beneath the impressive Meteora Rocks. We checked-in at Epavlis Suites Hotel (www.hotel-epavlis.gr), a newly-built hotel that its really spacious rooms have a unique view to the rock formations of Meteora, giving you the chance to birdwatch even while sitting at the balcony!

Checklist of the 1st Day

Ferruginous Duck
Chukar
Little Grebe
Pygmy Cormorant
Little Egret
Marsh Harrier
Sparrowhawk
Common Buzzard
Bonelli's Eagle
Kestrel
Water Rail
Moorhen
Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Yellow-legged Gull
Collared Dove
Tawny Owl
Swift
Hoopoe
Crested Lark
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
(Black-headed) Yellow Wagtail 
Robin
Stonechat
Black-eared Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush
Blackbird
Cetti's Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Ruppell's Warbler
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Woodchat Shrike
Jay
Magpie
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Cirl Bunting
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Black-headed Bunting

To be continued...
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