Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Birdwatching in Greece: Birding Trip to Messolonghi and the Peloponnese, August 5-6 2017

Alastair Dent is a British guy who first birded with us in 2013. This year, he came with his family for summer vacations in Greece and wanted a two-day "break". As they were staying at Platanos village in the Peloponnese, 50 kms east of Patra, we designed a tour that included the wetland complex of Messolonghi and Mt Chelmos that lies very close to Platanos.

On Saturday 5, we started our trip to Messolonghi. First stop was Kleisoura Gorge, a very scenic spot that holds a small colony of Griffon Vultures as well as Rock Nuthatches (a lifer for Alastair), Blue Rock Thrushes and Jackdaws, among others.

Griffon Vulture

Rock Nuthatch
Leaving Kleisoura, we headed for the Ash Forest close to the village of Lesini, to look for woodpeckers. Alastair saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, while an Icterine Warbler was another interesting sighting.

It was time to move to the wetlands; we first explored the vast area of Louros, south of the village of Neochori. It was an amazing experience: Hundreds of Flamingoes, along with more than 130 Spoonbills, dozens of herons (Little, Great Egret, Grey and Purple Heron) and Glossy Ibises were feeding on the same area with a great variery of  migrant waders (Spotted Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Wood Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Little Stints, Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers). Dalmatian Pelicans were also present along Collared Pratincoles, Gull-billed, Common and Little Terns. Even though the temperature was over 35 C, we couldn't stop looking at all these birds through our field scopes!

Purple Heron

Spoonbills, Spotted Redshank etc.
At noon, we had  lunch at "Archontiko" restaurant in the town of Messolonghi. Among the really delicious plate, a special note should be made on the local Mullet fish served ("Kephalos" in Greek). 

We still had much to explore, as Kleisova lagoon was to be visited. Apart from the birds already seen in Louros, we added Stone Curlews, Caspian Terns, Grey Plovers, while juvenile and adult terns from various species (included the White-winged Black Tern) were present in large numbers. 

We ended the day with an impressive count of 80 species! 

Next day was dedicated to forest and mountain species. We visited Mt Chelmos, south of the village of Platanos. The gorge of Vouraikos that runs through the northern slopes is a very picturesque habitat and a special railway crosses it up to the historic village of Kalavryta. Driving the gorge is also very rewarding, especially if you visit Megalo Spilaio Monastery. Crag Martins, Ravens and Rock Nuthatches were found, along with tits and Blackbirds. The view from the Monastery, however, is unique!  

After Megalo Spilaio, we headed towards Kalavryta, looking for woodpeckers on our way. We found Middle Spotted (a lifer for Alastair), along with Green, European Nuthatches, Cetti's Warblers and Grey Wagtails. 

We stopped for a coffee in "Gri Gri" pastry shop, that serves lots of traditional Greek deserts and very nice cofee. House Martins and Common Swifts flew overhead all the time. Leaving Kalavryta we drove uphill till we reached the Ski Center, at an altitude of c.1,700 m. Snow was, of course, absent but Wheatears, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers and Sombre Tits (another lifer for Alastair) rewarded our efforts. Red-backed Shrikes were virtually everywhere, along with Cirl and Corn Buntings, while a Short-toed Eagle was looking for prey. 

Short-toed Eagle

The heat was now very intense and we drove through the windy roads towards Lake Tsivlou, a beautiful lake that was formed by landslides in the 20th century. We had lunch at "Petrino" tavern, a really cozy place that serves very tasty local food! We tried lamb, rooster and meat balls and they were all extraordinary! 

After lunch we headed back to Platanos; we had seen some 43 species on that day, and a total of 104 for the weekend, an incredible number, given the weather conditions!!!!

Happy faces, that's our reward at the end of the trip! 

CHECKLIST OF THE TRIP

Common Shelduck - Tadorna tadorna
Eurasian Wigeon - Anas penelope
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey - Anas querquedula
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus roseus
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Dalmatian Pelican - Pelecanus crispus
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
European Honey-buzzard - Pernis apivorus
Eurasian Griffon - Gyps fulvus
Short-toed Snake-Eagle - Circaetus gallicus
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Eurasian Thick-knee - Burhinus oedicnemus
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata
Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Red Knot - Calidris canutus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincola
Slender-billed Gull - Chroicocephalus genei
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Little Tern - Sternula albifrons
Gull-billed Tern - Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Swift - Apus apus
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopos minor
Middle Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopos medius
Eurasian Green Woodpecker - Picus viridis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Lesser Gray Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia
Eurasian Crag-Martin - Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Eurasian Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit - Parus major
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea
Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Icterine Warbler - Hippolais icterina
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Gray Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Eurasian Linnet - Carduelis cannabina
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus















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