Crete Birding

MARTIN HERBERT                              12 June – 3 July 2011

Areas visited:

Prassiano gorge-Moronis-Agia-Omalos plateau-Petres river mouth-Georgioupoli-Potamon reservoir-Spili-Kourtaliotiko Gorge

I haven’t listed species in any systematic way.  I tend to do a write-up after the first few days and then add species as they appear.  I usually only see 40 or so species and I don’t really know why this list was significantly longer than usual.  I did notice that things were much greener and this was confirmed by our Cretan hosts, who said that there had been a lot more rain late in the season.

Another notable difference was the fact that, on the way up to Omalos, I saw an enormous number of Dragon Arum in flower.  These are usually finished by mid-June and in fact I have never seen them in full flower before.



Buzzard                         Booted Eagle                        Bonelli’s Eagle

Griffon Vulture               Kestrel                                Yellow-legged Gull

Wood Pigeon                  Collared Dove                       Turtle Dove

Swift                              Crag Martin                          Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow       House Martin                       Sardinian Warbler

Blackbird                        Blue Tit                               Great Tit

Chaffinch                        Serin                                   Greenfinch

Goldfinch                       House Sparrow                      Hooded Crow

Raven                            Peregrine                               Scops Owl       

Stonechat                       Eleonora’s Falcon                  Alpine Swift

Nightjar                         Little Grebe                           Coot

Corn Bunting                  Marsh Harrier                        Purple Heron

Wood Lark                      Black-eared Wheatear            Jackdaw

Linnet                            Grey Heron                           Moorhen

Squacco Heron                Little Egret                           Blackcap         

Cetti’s Warbler                White Wagtail                        Hoopoe

Jay                                 Chough                                Mallard

Little Ringed Plover         Crested Lark

53 species



These aren’t systematic at all: just a few things which occur to me, based on quite a few years’ observations in this area.

Buzzard  Seem to be less frequent than Booted Eagle in my areas.

Booted Eagle  All dark morph.  I have yet to see any light ones.  A common sight over the Prassiano Gorge and along the (north) coastal belt. 

Bonelli’s Eagle  There appears to be a resident pair in the Prassiano Gorge area, but I only ever see them at considerable distance at the top of the gorge.

Griffon Vulture  I have counted over 35 at one time (descending to a carcase in the olives below the villa).  The best time to see them really close up is fairly early in the morning.  They roost mainly on the east side of the gorge, which is in shade still at that point, and glide across to the west side (our side!) where the sun has already heated the ground enough to start up some thermals.  They then generally spend quite a bit of time slope soaring and can be seen from the villa veranda about 20 metres out and at eye level!  Anywhere along the track below the Belvedere villas and especially by the unfinished house you mentioned would be a good place for observation and photography.  After about 10.00 am they tend to drift away, having found thermals; but they are around all day and often reappear in quite good numbers.  At the risk of attracting lots of birdwatchers to disturb my breakfast peace and quiet I can’t think of a better place for really good views of Griffons on Crete!

Kestrel  They seem to be a feisty bunch in the gorge, even giving Peregrines and Booted Eagles a hard time.  I have yet to see any Lessers. 

Yellow-legged Gull  There are always a lot on the Potamon reservoir, often 100-150 I would estimate, but I haven’t ever done a proper count.

Swift (and ?Pallid Swift)  There is a regular flypast in the late afternoon of many 10s and probably in excess of 100 over the gorge, always including a few Alpines, but possibly including some Pallids.  I am not certain enough of the ?Pallids, which I have seen in Spain, to include them in my list.  They all move so fast they are a problem to watch: binoculars out of focus before you’ve had a really good look.

Alpine Swift  Can turn up over the Prassiano Gorge in quite good numbers (15-30).  Also fairly regular feeding over the lake at Agia.

Crag Martin  A few turn up, mostly appearing with the Swifts, over the gorge in the late afternoon and sometimes at other times of day.  I’ve also seen them regularly in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

Red-rumped Swallow  A regular visitor, with Swallows, to drink from the villa’s small pool.  I am often dive-bombed while swimming!

Raven  Regular over the Prassiano Gorge.  I suspect they must be breeding there: lots of display aerobatics and often in what look like family groups.

House Martin  I have never seen many in Crete, either east or west; but have seen a few collecting mud at the mouth of the Moronis River on a couple of occasions.

Peregrine   They are a pretty regular sight from ‘our’ veranda.    I have watched two perched in the area, but at very long range.

Scops Owl  I’ve only actually seen one on a few occasions and always when one has been hunting insects round the villa’s veranda lights.  It is possible to ‘call them in’, by copying the call.  My wife’s efforts seem more effective than mine and she has succeeded in bringing one into a carob tree right by the veranda.

Eleonora’s Falcon  I have only ever seen singles occasionally in the Prassiano gorge area.  Many moons ago I used to watch as many as 15 hunting together in olive groves east of Agios Nikolaos, from my hotel room balcony!

Nightjar  As for the Scops, seen in the veranda lights hunting for insects  or silhouetted against the setting sun.  Curiously I have never heard them.

Corn Bunting  A regular round the Potamon reservoir, on the Omalos plateau and above Spili.

Marsh Harrier  A single female quartering the trees and waterside vegetation in a corner of the Potamon reservoir.

Purple Heron  A singleton in drowned trees in the same area of the Potamon reservoir

Wood Lark  Regular in small numbers in the olive groves round the villa.

Black-eared Wheatear  A regular in the olives round the villa.

Linnet  I see these surprisingly rarely, most often in the fields above Spili.

Squacco Heron  A singleton at Agia.

Little Egret  A singleton at Moronis.

Cetti’s Warbler  Difficult to see, but I always seem to find them at Agia in the tall reeds on the south side.  Also at Georgioupoli.

Hoopoe  I don’t seem to see them as often as I’d expect; but there is usually one in the olives below the villa most years.

Jay  A regular on the way up to Omalos and fairly regular in suitable habitat round the Prassiano Gorge.

Chough  20 or more on the Omalos plateau, in amongst the sheep at the drinking stations.

Little Ringed Plover  Almost certainly breeding at the mouth of the Petres River.