Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day tour, Sep 19 2017

Paul Koker is an American birdwatcher who came to Athens and wanted a full day of birding around the big city. He really wanted to see owls, so we started very early, before dawn, in order to find the Scops Owl, a very common but hard to see nocturnal raptor.

The hill of Lycabettus at the city centre, holds a large number of breeding pairs and we managed to hear at least six male birds, and have a great view of at least one bird.

Leaving Lycabettus, we headed for Mt Hymettus to look for two more owls: the Little and the Tawny. Our first stop on Mt Hymettus was at the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani at the foothills. We heard, but didn't get to see the Tawny. We did see several woodland birds, (tits, robins, firecrests) however and we also had a brief view of the Red-breasted Flycatcher.


It was time to move higher up and reach the top. We looked for the Little Owl and had great success! We found one bird, at a scrubby plateau and enjoyed great views.

Little Owl

We left Mt Hymettus and headed for Mt Parnitha, Athens' highest mountain and home to many interestimg mammals, like the Red Deer and the Grey Wolf! We didn't see any wolves but saw many deer. It is rutting season for them and the stags are heard bellowing all over the mountain.

But it was the birdlife that we came for, and we saw several different birds; Coal and Sombre Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, migrant Whinchats, Wheatears and Spotted Flycatchers, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers etc.
Coal Tit

Short-toed Treecreeper
It was time to leave the mountains and try the wetlands. We arrived at Schinias National Park and walked along the Olympic Rowing Centre lake to look for the Ferruginous Duck. We saw several birds along with hundreds of Coots, dozens of Little Grebes, a few Kingfishers and a single Northern Shoveler. Penduline Tits were common in the reeds.

Ferruginous Duck

Right after the Rowing Center, we walked through the tracks of the main marsh. It was afternoon and dozens of herons (Little and Great Egrets, Grey and Purple Herons) were flying overhead, looking for a safe place to roost. Suddenly, a group of five big birds flew towards us and they were not herons; Black Storks made an impressive entrance, circling around for a few minutes! 

Black Storks 

This was the best way to call it a day. We returned to Athens with a total count of 62 species. Mission accompished! 


Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey Anas querquedula
Shoveler Anas clypeata
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Coot Fulica atra
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Rock Dove Columba livia
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Scops Owl Otus scops
Little Owl Athene noctua
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Blackbird Turdus merula
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Great Tit Parus major
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Sombre Tit Parus lugubris
Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Raven Corvus corax
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Rarity Alert! Pectoral Sandpiper@Vourkari Bay

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a rare vagrant to Greece. So far, there have been fewer than 20 confirmed records of the species.

This year, an individual was sighted at Vourkari Bay, a very important wetland, 40 km west of Athens.

The bird was very tame and did not seem to bother at the groups of birdwatchers/photographers that visited the spot (a seasonal freshwater pool within a barely legal settlement). 

This is just the 3rd record for Athens and, most probably, it won't be the last! 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens and Western Greece, Sep. 22-23, 2017

Anthony Collerton is a world-class birdwatcher, with a life list of more than 4,000 species. He chose us for a two-day birding trip in Athens and Messolonghi Lagoon; we saw 112 species, 5 of which were lifers for Anthony.

His blog post about the trip says it all...

Thank you very much Anthony, looking forward to seeing you again!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day tour, Sep 6, 2017

Jose and Maria is a married couple from Puerto Rico. They came to Greece with a friendly couple and wanted to include some birding to their experience pack from our country. Even though it was an almost last-minute notice, we managed to satsify their demand.

We started from Mt Hymettus and more particulary the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani, the most popular destination of a half-day tour as it is very close to Athens and offers a large variety of birds. We enjoyed great views of Great and Long-tailed Tits, Firecrests, Cirl Buntings, Short-toed Treecreepers, Spotted Flycatchers, Robins and Jays. 

Jay pecking on a grape left by a visitor

Leaving Kaisariani, we ascended the mountain and reached the top. Apart from the great view of Athens we had a really close view of a Red-backed Shrike. 

Red-backed Shrike
We left Mt Hymettus and headed towards Artemis Lagoon, a small but very important wetland in the east coast of Athens. We enjoyed nice views of Little Ringed Plovers, Wood Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers and Redshanks. We also managed to have good looks of a Snipe and a Water Raila, both species being quite secretive.

Water Rail

Common Snipe
Leaving Artemis, we visited the nearby Vravrona Wetland. It was almost noon and bird activity was low; we did see, however, migrating Whinchats and Northern Wheatears, local Kestrels and Buzzards and people enjoyed a nice walk along the path that leads to the impressive temple of Artemis.

It was time to end the half-day trip. 36 species were seen, a very satisfying number for a few hours' trip. People of this small group were really delighted as they got to see a different side of Athens, that most "mainstream" tourists never get the chance to.

Happy People from Puero Rico!

Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)

Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Great Tit (Parus major)

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla)

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)

Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Birdwatching in Southern Greece: Mt Parnassos Trip, August 26, 2017

Amit Cohen is an over-enthusiastic teen birder from Israel. He is only 16 and yet his checklist is really impresive: more than 350 species just in his home country!

Being for vacation in Greece with his family, he contacted us because he wanted to add some new species like the Cirl Bunting and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Mt Parnassos was the ideal destination for his needs, as the woodland and alpine species found there are very rare or absent from Israel.

We started very early in the morning as we made a short stop at Kaisariani Aesthetic Forest to look for the Tawny Owl, another lifer. We heard one but didn't get to see it, unfortunately. We also found Short-toed Treecreepers, Common Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and lots of Jays before we headed for Parnassos.

The first lifer for the day was the Cirl Bunting. Very common and widespread, we found several birds at the Livadi plateau, along with Northern Wheatears, Woodlarks, Red-rumped Swallows, Sombre Tits and Red-backed Shrikes.

Cirl Buntings

Sombre Tit

When we entered the fir forest, we saw several Coal Tits, European Nuthatches, but our main targets were woodpeckers. The time of year is propably the worst as birds are silent. Nevertheless, we did manage to find a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, another lifer for Amit!

European Nuthatch

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

It was time to move higher up, to the alpine zone. We didn't have much time, as the search for the woodpeckers was very time-consuming. However, we did find a 1-st year Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, lifer #3 for Amit! 

Rufous-tailed Rock Thush
The best, however, was kept for the end; while walking along a dirt track at an altitude of 1.900 m, two large raptors were spotted straight ahead; a few secs of observation were enough to tell the species: Golden Eagles! A pair of adults, a very rare sighting, was hunting right in front of us. One of the birds was very 'cooperative' flying quite close for several minutes. An unexpected fourth lifer for Amit and a spectacular sighting from every aspect. 

Adult Golden Eagle 

It was time to head our way back to Athens, after a selfie shot at the alpine zone. Another great birding trip was over!

Happy birders!


Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto                     
Tawny Owl - Strix aluco
Common Swift - Apus apus
Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Wood Lark - Lullula arborea
Eurasian Crag-Martin - Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Lesser Whitethroat - Sylvia curruca
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Common Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush - Monticola saxatilis
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Mistle Thrush - Turdus viscivorus
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting - Emberiza cia
Ortolan Bunting - Emberiza hortulana
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Birdwatching in Southern Greece: Half day birding, August 10 2017

Gary and Laura are newlyweds who came to Greece for their honeymoon. Apart from the mainstream sight-seeing and beach-going, they also wanted to spend half day birding. They wanted to visit Antonis Tritsis Park in Athens, then the plains of Erythres and Kopaida because they saw our May blog post. They really wanted, however, to see White Storks and Bee-eaters.

August is, of course, much hotter than May and bird activity is lower. In any case, they wanted to visit areas away from the busy centre and the hordes of tourists.

We started from Antonis Tritsis Park, Athens' largest park and a very important area for birds. We were looking for warblers, Eastern Olivaceous and Sardinian in particular, when a large bird flew overhead, along with some Common and Pallid Swifts; an Eleonora's Falcon!

Eleonora's Falcon
Eleonora's Falcons are very rarely seen in the mainland in August, as they nest in rocky islets of the Aegean Sea. This could have been a non-breeding individual. Coots, Moorhens, Mallards and Grey Herons were also seen, along with a lot of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

We left Tritsis Park and headed to the plain of Erythres, NW of Athens. The White Stork nest was empty but the plain was full of birds: Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Great and Sombre Tits, Lesser and Common Kestrels were easily found

Red-backed Shrike
Next stop was the much larger plain of Kopaida. We had little time to spend, as Gary and Laura wanted to return to the hotel at 16:00 but we managed to admire the colourful Bee-eaters.


Heading to the town of Thiva to have lunch, we finally saw White Storks! Two birds were still inside a nest at the outskirts of the town. 
Gary and Laura taking photos of the White Storks

White Storks@Thiva

We had a fine lunch at Thiva and then we returned to Athens. A very productive half-day, indeed,  as we saw more than 30 species, on a hot August day!


Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
White Stork - Ciconia ciconia
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Swift - Apus apus
Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eleonora's Falcon - Falco eleonorae
Rose-ringed Parakeet - Psittacula krameri
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Lesser Gray Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Great Tit - Parus major
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - Iduna pallida
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

Monday, August 14, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Fall migration 2017 snapshots

August has come and bird migration has started to become evident countrywide. Thanks to summer rains, most of the wetlands of Athens are not completely dry and attract waders, herons and waterfowl. Migrant passerines also make an appeareance, especially shrikes. It's going to be another interesting season!

Lesser Grey Shrike@Schinias NP

Little Egret@Schinias NP
Ferruginous Ducks@Artemis Lagoon

Red-backed Shrike@Mt Penteli

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! 


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

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Birdwatching in Northern Greece: Snapshots from Gallikos Delta, Thessaloniki, August 1 2017

Even a hot, summer day can be rewarding if you visit Kalochori Lagoon and Gallikos river estuary, a few miles southwest of Thessaloniki, Northern Greece. Local breeders along with the first passage migrants (stints, ruffs, sandpipers etc) are everywhere, providing great views and photos!

Caspian Tern

Dalmatian Pelicans

Temmink's Stint

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


  • 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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