Monday, May 07, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: April 29-30, 2018

Henry and Suzan are two very enthusiastic birds from Arizona, USA. They came to Greece for a week birding trip to Lesvos, the mecca of birdwatchers. Before they return to the States, they had roughly two more days to go birding in Athens.
Finding new species for this couple was not an easy job as Lesvos almost has it all; Greece Bird Tours accepted that challenge, of course, and another birding trip full of birds and amazing experiences just began.

Pick up time was around 14.15 from the airport. Our first stop was the agricultural land around the airport and the wetland of Vravrona. We saw almost 30 species, most notable being the Turtle Doves at the fields, a Little Owl at the same area, a few Zitting Cisticolas, Long-tailed Tits and Water Rails. The last three were all lifers to them!

Turtle Dove

We left Vravrona and headed to Mt Merenta to look for the Rock Sparrow that was not seen in Lesvos. After some effort, we managed to see one, along with Blue Rock Thrushes and Black-eared Wheatears.

We moved south for Cape Sounio for another lifer: the Bonelli's Eagle. The moment we arrived, two adult birds were seen perched! There were also Golden Orioles and more Turtle Doves.

It was dusk and we headed back to the hotel. On our way, we visited the wetland of Vravrona again, this time for nocturnal birds, like the Nightjar. We managed to find one and we also heard a couple of Scops Owls.

The next day, we started at 06.30 and headed to Spata Fields to look for Short-toed Larks and Great Spotted Cuckoos, two more lifers. Both were seen quite quickly!

Great Spotted Cuckoo
We drove further north and reached Schinian National Park. Ferruginous Ducks and Penduline Tits were the targets for this area; needless to say, both were seen very well! 

Ferruginous Duck
The surrounding area and especially the fields at Ramnountas are ideal for birds of prey. Another lifer, the Lesser Kestrel, was found there; a male bird was foraging and we had very nice views.

The trip was almost done as the flight was departing at 18.30 and our friends had to be at the airport at 16.00 but there was one last site we had to vist: the southern slopes of Mt Penteli that lie very close to the airport. Another two lifers, the Chukar and the Eleonora's Falcon, was the best way to call it a day! 

Chukar
The total count for the two days was 72 species, among which many lifers for our lovely couple; they even reached their goal of finding more than 200 species for the whole duration of their European experience! 
Henry and Suzanne



TRIP CHECKLIST

Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Chukar - Alectoris chukar
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Bonelli's Eagle - Aquila fasciata
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
European Turtle-Dove - Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
European Scops-Owl - Otus scops
Little Owl - Athene noctua
Eurasian Nightjar - Caprimulgus europaeus
Alpine Swift - Apus melba
Common Swift - Apus apus
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eleonora's Falcon - Falco eleonorae
Eurasian Golden Oriole - Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Greater Short-toed Lark - Calandrella brachydactyla
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Great Tit - Parus major
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - Iduna pallida
Sedge Warbler - Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Eurasian Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Great Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
Common Nightingale - Luscinia megarhynchos
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
Whinchat - Saxicola rubetra
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Tree Pipit - Anthus trivialis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Cretzschmar's Bunting - Emberiza caesia
Black-headed Bunting - Emberiza melanocephala
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus
Rock Petronia - Petronia petronia






Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day trip, March 26 2018

Indrajit and Rachel is a lovely couple from the United States. Their holidays in Greece were organized by Triton Holidays company that contacted us because they wanted to include one day of birdwatching. The couple did not have any particular 'wish list; they were happy enough to see as many birds as possible.

Pick up time was 07.00 from downtown Athens and the first place to visit was Vravrona Wetland. A new wave of African dust created a very misty atmosphere but this didn't prevent us from seeing lots of great species like the Great Spotted Cuckoo!


Great Spotted Cuckoo
Lots of passerines (finches, larks, pipits, buntings etc) were foraging in the fields, while a Great Egret was at the estuary, along with Little Egrets. 

Great Egret
Swifts, Alpine Swifts, Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins were flying low, giving nice views. 

After Vravrona, we headed north to the small but precious Artemis Lagoon. Ferruginous Ducks and Black-winged Stilts were the most important species seen while Teals, Coots, Little Grebes and Moorhens were also present, among others.

Very close to Artemis Lagoon is the estuary of one of the very few perennial streams of East Attica at Rafina. This vulnerable and threatened ecosystem is an important stopover site for migrants. Within a few minutes we saw Yellow Wagtails, Little Ringed Plovers and a Kingfisher!

Time was flying and we had to start our way back to Athens. Last stop was Mt Hymettus, more specifically the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani. Lots of birds there too, from the ubiquitous resident Blackbird to the Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - a rare passage migrant. 

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
There were still lots of winter visitors like the Siskin and the Hawfinch. Cirl Buntings were the last birds to be seen, ending the trip in the best possible way. 54 species was the total count of this great day!


Indrajit and Rachel
TRIP CHECKLIST 
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
Alpine Swift - Apus melba
Common Swift - Apus apus
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Great Tit - Parus major
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - Phylloscopus orientalis
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale - Luscinia megarhynchos
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Tree Pipit - Anthus trivialis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus







Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: March 17 2018

Margaret Vernon is a teacher from the United States, a happy birdwatcher but, most of all, an adorable person. She came to Greece for a few days break and wanted to include some birding to her Greek experience. She wanted a full day trip, to see as many birds and habitats as possible.

We started at 07.00, heading to Schinias National Park. Migration was pretty evident as we managed to see Hoopoes, Marsh Sandpipers, Glossy Ibises, Ruffs, Garganeys and lots of Yellow Wagtails. We also enjoyed great views of several different residents, including Ferruginous Ducks, Penduline Tits and Cetti's Warblers.

Hoopoe


Ferruginous Duck (male)

Penduline Tit
Other interesting birds seen were the Short-toed Treecreeper, the Zitting Cisticola, the Little Ringed Plover and the Northern Wheatear. 

Schinias is a big place and you can spend all day there but we had to leave and visit Mt Hymettus. 

We made our first stop at the ridge, looking for Ruppell's and Subalpine Warblers; we found both! We also saw a beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush. 

Subalpine Warbler

Next stop was the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisarian; we looked for the Firecrest and saw it very quickly. We also saw (among others) Jays, Hawfinches ans Siskins. 

Firecrest
Last stop was Kareas, a scrubby area in the process of regeneration after the wildfire of 2015. The Rock Nuthatch was the last target species to be found, bringing the bird count to 64!

Margaret minutes after seeing a Rock Nuthatch

TRIP CHECKLIST
Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
Garganey - Spatula querquedula
Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Penduline-Tit - Remiz pendulinus
Western Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Rόppell's Warbler - Sylvia ruppeli
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Dunnock - Prunella modularis
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin - Spinus spinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day, March 11 2018


Karel and Joost came from Holland and had a full day to spend birding with Greece Bird Tours. Especially for that day, a friend of mine and a very experienced birder joined us.

Early morning found us venturing in the Aesthetic forest of Kaisariani where apart from the interesting birdlife lies an old monastery that was built in the 11th century AD. Some of the species seen were: Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Eurasian Jay, Coal Tit, Hawfinch, Siskin and some other more common birds. We then went higher on the mountain, hoping to see any early migrants and there it was: a Ruppell’s Warbler was singing on top of a bush showing us its beauty! This might be the earliest arrival for this species. We continued our search and we also managed to see Subalpine Warblers, Chukars, a migrant female Hen Harrier etc, but unfortunately missed the Rock Nuthatch which was singing from a rock in a distance but our efforts to spot him were unsuccessful.

Subalpine Warbler
Next stop was Vravrona wetland; a very beautiful place “decorated” with the stunning temple of Artemis. Our target species here was the Cirl Bunting and we had great views of two birds. Other species seen were Great and Little Egret, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch etc.

We left behind Vravrona for the next stop: Artemis lagoon. Some more new migrant arrivals were found: Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow but also there were winter visitors like Black-headed and Little Gull, Redshank, Coot, etc.

Last stop was Schinias NP. Schinias has a variety of habitats so we can see different species of birds. Apart from the abundant Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Serins, Corn Buntings, Meadow and Water Pipits we had the star of the area – the Ferruginous Duck – and Yellow Wagtails, Penduline Tits, Snipes, and other more common species like the Hooded Crow, the Crested Lark, the Stonechat, the Black Redstart etc.

Yellow Wagtail

It was another great day of birding with nice weather and 67 species in total!! (5 heard)

BIRD TRIP CHECKLIST

Mallard

(Northern) Shoveler

(Eurasian) Teal

Ferruginous Duck

Chukar

Little Grebe

Great Cormorant

Little Egret

Great Egret

Grey Heron

Short-toed Eagle

(Western) Marsh Harrier

Hen Harrier

Common Buzzard

Sparrowhawk

(Common) Kestrel

Water Rail (heard only)

Moorhen (heard only)

Coot

Black-winged Stilt

Little Ringed Plover

Green Sandpiper

(Common) Redshank

(Common) Snipe

Black-headed Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Little Gull

Collared Dove

Crested Lark

Barn Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

Meadow Pipit

Water Pipit

White Wagtail

Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail

(European) Robin

Black Redstart

(Common) Stonechat

(Common) Blackbird

Blackcap (heard only)

Sardinian Warbler (heard only)

Ruppel's Warbler

(Eastern) Subalpine Warbler

Zitting Cisticola

Cetti's Warbler

(Common) Chiffchaf

Firecrest

Great Tit

Coal Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Penduline Tit

(Western) Rock Nuthatch (heard only)

Short-toed Treecreeper

Magpie

(Eurasian) Jay

Hooded Crow

(Common) Starling

House Sparrow

(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow

Chaffinch

(European) Goldfinch

(European) Greenfinch

(Eurasian) Siskin

(European) Serin

Hawfinch

Cirl Bunting

Corn Bunting

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Birdwatching in Athens, March 16 2018

Matthias came from Germany and wanted to spend a day birding around Athens. Picking him up from the airport at 10.30 was not a problem for us; our first stop was Markopoulo Fields and Vravrona Wetland, where ww found hundreds of finches (Serins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches etc), Corn Buntings and a new species for Matthias: the Cirl Bunting.

Male Cirl Bunting
We also heard a male Quail singing that was literally next to our car but could not see it because of the tall grass. Flocks of Barn Swallows were passing overhead but at the same time lots of winter visitors like the Great Egret and the Teal were still around. 

We headed north for Artemis Lagoon and the situation there was similar; the first Black-winged Stilt had arrived and at the same time overwintering Shovelers were present. 

Black-winged Stilt
Next stop was Spata Fields, a site that is known to hold Great Spotted Cuckoos in spring. We found one after a while, along with a few Hoopoes! 

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Leaving Spata, we headed for Mt Hymettus. First stop on the mountain was the scrubby area close to the peak, ideal place for warblers and especially for the Ruppell's and the Subalpine. We saw both birds and quickly descended to the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani to look for the Firecrest, another lifer for Matthias. The quest for that crest lasted for only a few minutes as a male birds showed up very quickly!

Last stop for the day was the area of Kareas on the central part of the mountain; the best place to look for the Chukar and the Rock Nuthatch that is still recovering from the wildfire of 2015. 

Chukar
We found both species right before dusk and started walking down the mountain listening to a Scops Owl. and two Little Owls...

By the time of the trip we had seen and heard 52 species, a great number considering it was not a full day! 

Another happy birder


TRIP CHECKLIST

Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Common Quail - Coturnix coturnix
Chukar - Alectoris chukar
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius
European Scops-Owl - Otus scops
Little Owl - Athene noctua
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Great Tit - Parus major
Western Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Eurasian Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
Rόppell's Warbler - Sylvia ruppeli
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Meadow Pipit - Anthus pratensis
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus




 






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