Saturday, July 22, 2017

Birdwatching in Mt Parnassos: "Hot" birding tours, July 2-3, 2017

Everybody knows what a Greek summer is: hot and dry, temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, sometimes evern reaching 40 C. Weather conditions seem ideal for sun bathing and swimming but, apparently, not for birding. Doing a birding trip in July is always a challenge, let alone in the case of a strong heat wave that may rise the temperature above 43 C!

Greece Bird Tours, however, loves challenges. When Brenda from Canada and Bill from the Unites States asked for a tour on July 2 and July 3, respectively, we did not hesitate for a moment. And the reason is very simple: we know where to go and what to see, no mater what the weather is!

Mt Parnassos was the ideal destination for our Athens-based trips. The weather was much cooler than in Athens and the habitat diversity gives the opportunity to see many different bird species.

Both trips had the same itinerary: starting from Athens at around 6 am, we first stopped at the plain of Kopaida to watch one of the most colourful bird of Europe, the Bee-eater. We enjoyed great views of this beautiful bird.
Bee-eater carrying food

Lesser Grey Shrike
We also found Lesser Grey Shrikes, Hoopoes, Spanish Sparrows, Great Reed Warblers and, surprisingly, a Syrian Woodpecker, a bird that was known to breed from Central Greece northwards but has, apparently, expanded its range south. Hundreds of Barn Swallows, several Red-rumped Swallows and two White Storks were also seen in the area, among others.

As the temperature was rising, it was time to move to higher elevations. We drove north-northwest towards the picturesque village of Arachova, located at an altitude of 1.000 m. Inside the village we saw several Swifts, House Martins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Spotted Flycatchers and Nightingales, while the surrounding area was particularly rich. Short-toed Eagles, Buzzards, Kestrels and Peregrines were soaring over open areas, while Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Nuthatches and Black-eared Wheatears were found in the rocky outcrops above Arachova. 

Short-toed Eagle
Leaving Arachova and its outskirts, we climbed to Livadia plateau. An open area with scattered trees and bushes, perfect habitat for the Red-backed Shrike. We saw several bright males, along with Woodlarks, Northern Wheatears, Red-rumped Swallows and Cirl Buntings. 

Male Red-backed Shrike
Next stop was the Greek Fir forest of the mountain. Coal Tits, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers were the most common sights, along Chaffinches, Serins, Blackbirds, Robins and the odd Mistle Thrush. A distant Eleonora's Falcon was also seen high up in the sky. We didn't spend that much time there because the alpine zone was far more promising, as Alpine Choughs, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and  Tawny Pipits are known to breed. We saw all these species, along with dozens of Northern Wheatears, Linnets and Black Redstarts! 

Alpine Chough 

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
At noon, we returned to Arachova to have lunch. We tried two different tavernas, "Kaplanis" on Sunday and "Fterolakka" on Monday. Both had great menus, full with local products and the portions were x-large! 

After lunch, it was time to start our way back to Athens. We used the old National Highway that crosses the plain of Erythres, a village close to the city of Thiva and the only one in the prefecture of Athens that still has a breeding pair of White Storks. We enjoyed great views of the nest, three chicks were waiting for their parents to bring some food, while an adult bird was seen in the plain as well.
Low-flying White Stork on the plain of Erythres

White Stork nest on the village of Erythres
Other birds seen in the plain include the Black-headed Bunting (males, females and juveniles) the Corn Bunting, the Crested Lark, the Hoopoe, the Lesser Grey Shrike and a small colony of Spanish Sparrows.
A worn out male Black-headed Bunting
Two long, "hot" days of birding were over. A total of 59 species were seen during these two days, a remarkable number, considering the fact that no wetland was visited and the temperatures were really high! 

Brenda from Canada
Bill and his son, Etan from USA



TRIPS CHECKLIST


  • White Stork 
  • Short-toed Eagle
  • Common Buzzard
  • Common Kestrel
  • Eleonora's Falcon
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Yellow-legged Gull
  • Collared Dove
  • Common Swift
  • Pallid Swift
  • Bee-eater
  • Green Woodpecker 
  • Syrian Woodpecker
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 
  • Crested Lark
  • Woodlark
  • Barn Swallow
  • Crag Martin
  • House Martin
  • Red-rumped Swallow
  • Tawny Pipit
  • Wren
  • Robin
  • Nightingale
  • Black Redstart
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Black-eared Wheatear
  • Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
  • Blue Rock Thrush
  • Cetti's Warbler
  • Reed Warbler
  • Great Reed Warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Firecrest
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Blue Tit
  • Nuthatch
  • Rock Nuthatch
  • Short-toed Treecreeper
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Lesser Grey Shrike
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Alpine Chough
  • Jackdaw
  • Hooded Crow
  • House Sparrow
  • Spanish Sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Serin
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Linnet
  • Cirl Bunting
  • Black-headed Bunting
  • Corn Bunting









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