Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Birdwatching in Greece: Athens & Mt Parnassos, Oct 6-7 2018

On this two-day trip we had the honor and pleasure to guide Mrs Jeanne Dubi, Executive officer in Sarasota Audubon Society, Florida.

We had a full day to explore Athens, while on the second we drove to Mt Parnassos.This time of the year most of the migrants are already gone and most of the winter visitors have not yet arrived; nevertheless, we managed to see 65 species.

DAY 1 – Athens
Our day started very well seeing a very confiding Scops Owl in Lykavittos Hill. From the same spot, we heard the characteristic call of Alpine Swifts (breeding in Lykavittos) and decided to wait until the sunrise to see them.Very few Alpine Swifts can be seen at this time of the year but in Lykavittos Hill they stay till late October, so this would be the chance to see them. Unfortunately, by the time the sun lit their nesting spot they had already left it. We decided to give it another try in late evening when they would have returned to roost.

Next stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani in the foothills of Mt Hymettus (or Imittos). The day was very windy and this resulted to low bird activity. We did, however, managed to see and hear Robins, Willow Warblers, Firecrests, Jays, a Tawny Owl etc.

Our next stop was Oropos Lagoon, north-east of Athens. Our target species was the Slender-billed Gull and the Garganey. After some extensive search among a few dozen Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls, we managed to see a first-winter Slender-billed. The Garganey proved to be much easier as 4 individuals were flying above our heads for some time giving us enough time to see the key characteristics of this species. Some other species we saw were: Kentish Plover, Redshank, Grey Wagtail, Sanderling, Crested Lark, Red-Backed Shrike etc.

Kentish Plover


It was time to move on for our next destination. Schinias NP comprises of a large freshwater wetland, a coastal pine forest, a freshwater spring, a peninsula, a hill and a magnificent bay and is the most important coastal ecosystem of Attica and belongs to the Natura 2000 network. The Park also includes the Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Center. Our target species were: Sombre Tit, Ferruginous Duck, (Eurasian) Reed Warbler and (Eurasian) Penduline Tit.

Ferruginous Duck

We had stunning views of both Sombre Tit and Ferruginous Duck. The Reed Warbler was difficult to find as most of them already migrated south, but we finally managed to see one hoping around in the tamarisk trees.Some other species were: Little Grebe, Cirl Bunting, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Crested Lark etc.

Last stop for the day was Lykavittos Hill again for Alpine Swifts. We reached the area a little while after sunset and a flock of about 40 Alpine Swifts were flying low above our heads. Another lifer for Jeanne and what a great ending of a very successful day.

DAY 2-Mt Parnassos
Next morning we started very early as we had to drive 2,5 hours to reach Mt Parnassos.On the way we stopped at Kopaida plain, a very productive area all year round. Some of the species seen there were: Syrian Woodpecker, Common Buzzard, Crested Lark, Cetti’s Warbler, Kestrel, Jackdaw etc.

On the way to Mt Parnassos we made a 15min drive deviation to visit the ancient site of Delphi. There we had great time seeing the famous archaeological site and had some birding also. Jeanne had another lifer from a very close distance: the Western Rock Nuthatch. Other species were: Crag Martin, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Great Tit, Chaffinch etc.

Rock Nuthatch

We left Delphi and headed for higher elevation in search of woodpeckers. That proved to be a difficult task, but we finally managed to see the Black Woodpecker, another lifer for Jeanne. We were lucky enough to see a second individual standing on top of a tree in clear view and short distance! On a tree nearby was a Red Squirrel (in Greece looks more black than red). We then headed for the alpine zone to search for Alpine Choughs. Unfortunately, we had no luck with them even we tried hard for 2-3 hours.

Some other species were: Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Wood Warbler, Northern Wheatear etc.
We ended this trip having a wonderful dinner with local food at a taverna in Tithorea which is located at the north-east hillsides of Parnassos.

TRIP CHECKLIST

Mallard
Garganey
Ferruginous Duck
Little Grebe
(Great) Cormorant
(European) Shag
Little Egret
Great Egret
Grey Heron
Common Buzzard
(Common) Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
(Common) Moorhen
Coot
Kentish Plover
Grey (Black-bellied) Plover
Ruff
Sanderling
(Common) Redshank
(Common) Greenshank
Black-headed Gull
Slender-billed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Sandwich Tern
Rock Dove (wild)
Collared Dove
Tawny Owl
(Eurasian) Scops Owl
(Common) Swift
Alpine Swift
(Common) Kingfisher
Black Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker
Crested Lark
(Eurasian) Crag Martin
Barn Swallow
Grey Wagtail
(European) Robin
Black Redstart
(Common) Stonechat
(Common) Blackbird
(Northern) Wheatear
Sardinian Warbler
Cetti's Warbler
(European) Reed Warbler
Willow Warbler
Wood Warbler
Firecrest
Spotted Flycatcher
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Sombre Tit
(Western) Rock Nuthatch
(Eurasian) Nuthatch
Red-backed Shrike
Magpie
(Eurasian) Jay
(Western) Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
(Common) Starling
House Sparrow
(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow
(Common) Chaffinch
(Common) Linnet
Cirl Bunting
Rock Bunting


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