Monday, May 16, 2016

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day trip, May 12th 2016

A half-day trip around Athens, to look for all the local specialites was the choice of Mike and Max, two experienced British birders. They wanted to see the Ruppell's Warbler, the Cretzschmar's Bunting, the Sombre Tit, the Rock Nuthatch, the Chukar and the Eastern Orphean Warbler. A lot of birds, so we had to visit Mt Hymettus and Mt Parnitha that can give us all the aforementioned species.

We set off quite early, at 06.30, and reached Mt Parnitha at around 07.30. The sky was very hazy, because of the African dust that had invaded Athens, but this was no obstacle for our search. We found a small group of Rock Nuthatches very easily, the birds being very cooperative and calling from rocky outcrops for a while. Our next target, the Sombre Tit, was not that friendly. We managed to see one adult but it took as more than half an hour. Unfortunately, no Eastern Orphean Warbler was found; we did see many Subalpine Warblers, Black-eared Wheatears and the local pair of Peregrine Falcons! We also heard a male Olive-tree Warbler, definitely a passage migrant, singing from a bush. The bird was really reluctant to come out in the open and we only saw it flying from one bush to another.

Black-eared Wheatear

Subalpine Warbler

We left Mt Parnitha and headed to Mt Hymettus, the haven of the Ruppell's Warbler: it is very common in the high altitude maquis scrub, favouring Kermes Oaks. We managed to see more than one singing males, along with a very close Chukar and a confiding Cretzschmar's Bunting! 

Ruppell's Warbler

Cretzschmar's Bunting

The sky was full of Swifts (Common, Pallid and Alpine) and hirundines. Blue Rock Thrushes were also present along with Rock Nuthatches. 

Satisfied already with their new species, Mike and Max thought that it was time to call it a day. But I had other plans for them: during the day they told me that they also wanted to see the Black-headed Bunting, so I gave them a bonus! We visited Spata fields and very quickly we saw a male singing on top of a thistle. 

Black-headed Bunting

This was a great way to call it a (half) day. Mike and Max were really happy to have seen almost all (5 out of 6) of their wanted birds, plus the Black-headed Bunting! 

Mike (left) and Max 

We're looking forward to seeing both of them in Athens for another trip! 

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