Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Birdwatching in Greece: Two-day birding tour in Athens and Messolonghi, August 9-10, 2019

Brett and Madeleine came all the way from Australia for a big European tour. Greece was one of their destinations and they wanted to add some more lifers to their list. Even though most of the summer visitors (e.g. Ruppell's Warbler, Black-headed Bunting) have already departed from their breeding grounds, there are still plenty of birds around. As they wanted two full days of birding, we planned a full day around Athens for start and then a full day at Messolonghi Lagoon.


August is a windy month so we had to monitor the weather forecast till the very last day to decide where we should go birding on the first day (August 9th). The final verdict was Athens as the following day would be very windy.

The first stop was Erythres plain, NW of Athens. A fairly unknown place for most birders but very rich in birds. As fall migration had started, we quickly saw many migrants like Subalpine, Icterine and Wood Warblers, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Northern Wheatears and Hoopoes. Lesser Kestrels on their post-breeding dispersion were very common. There were also two very low flying Short-toed Eagles and a Honey Buzzard! Another surprise was a migrant Ruppell's Warbler, seen along with the other migrants. 

Honey Buzzard

Icterine Warbler

Short-toed Eagle

Just before we go, the call of a Syrian Woodpecker was the best surprise ever; in a few minutes we managed to find the bird, this being the first record of this species in Athens!

We left Erythres and moved to Kopaida plain, a vast area outside of Athens but close enough from where we were. We visited the area to find Bee-eaters and we were not dissapointed as we saw more than 20, along with another Syrian Woodpecker, Turtle Doves, Marsh Harriers and Red-rumped Swallows. 

After Kopaida, we headed back to Athens, this time visiting the eastern part and more specifically Schinias National Park, the best place to look for the Ferruginous Duck. We saw at least 20 birds and another surprise was the presence of 2 Pygmy Cormorants, Europe's least common cormorant. It is known to overwinter here but staying during the summer is something new; perhaps a resident population will be established shortly. In the area there were also many swifts of all three species, Coots, Moorhens and Great Reed Warblers, to name a few of the birds. 
Ferruginous Duck
Pygmy Cormorant

Pallid Swift
From Schinias we moved south to Artemis Lagoon, where we saw several waders: Black-winged Stilts, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Wood Sandpipers and Little Stints. 
Early in the afternoon, we reached Mt Hymettus, looking for Chukars at the top, to no avail...A Eurasian Sparrowhawk, however, was added to their lifer list. We moved lower, at Kaisariani Forest and saw a very nice Cirl Bunting, Firecrests and Jays, among other birds. 
Cirl Bunting

The day was over and the count reached the staggering number of 71 species! 

Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Rock Dove - Columba livia
European Turtle Dove - Streptopelia turtur
Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Alpine Swift - Apus melba
Common Swift - Apus apus
Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Pygmy Cormorant - Microcarbo pygmaeus
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
European Honey-buzzard - Pernis apivorus
Short-toed Eagle - Circaetus gallicus
Western Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
Syrian Woodpecker - Dendrocopos syriacus
Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Lesser Grey Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Common Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Great Tit - Parus major
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Icterine Warbler - Hippolais icterina
Great Reed Warbler-Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House Martin - Delichon urbicum
Wood Warbler - Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Lesser Whitethroat - Sylvia curruca
Ruppell's Warbler - Sylvia ruppeli
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Common Whitethroat - Sylvia communis
Common Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus

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