Crete Birding

December 2006

December sightings from Kaliviani and Western Crete

Our highlight was seeing our first Spotted Eagle and Jack Snipe the latter being probably only the fourth recorded on Crete …having a Rock Sparrow feed near the house for 20 minutes, the first Blackcap for some time and a male Hen Harrier.

December 1st

1 Buzzard, 4 Griffon Vultures, 25 Hooded Crow, Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Robin, Goldfinch, Black Redstart. 2 Raven.


4 Griffon Vultures, 1 light form Booted Eagle hunted around the house for a couple of hours, 2 Raven, 10 Hooded Crow, 1 Sparrowhawk, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Robin and Goldfinch.


Sardinian Warbler, 2 Griffon Vultures 1 Sparrowhawk, Robin,  Black Redstart, Great Tit, Goldfinch, 13 Hooded Crow, today a dark form Booted Eagle gave us good views of its hunting technique as it stooped and took a small bird before flying low past the house with its lunch. 1 Kestrel, later 2 Sparrowhawk, 3 Crested Lark, Yellow Legged Gulls, 1 Whitethroat, Collared Dove, Greenfinch.


A lone Griffon flew north in the morning , 3 Common Buzzard, Hooded Crows, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Black Redstart, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Robin, a Blackbird, Spanish Sparrow, Yellow Legged Gulls, a Kestrel, Crested Lark, in the afternoon a nice sight as we saw our first Spotted Eagle that twice flew over the house before a heavy shower drove it north, after the shower we had a Common Buzzard rest on the crags nearby drying off.


2 Buzzard, Yellow Legged Gulls, 4 Cormorant, a Sparrowhawk, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipits, Corn Buntings, Crested Lark, Great Tit, Black Redstart.


Crested Larks, the usual loose flocks of Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, a Cormorant, Yellow Legged Gulls,

Stonechat, a pale form Booted Eagle in the morning and a dark form in the afternoon, 3 Buzzard, 15 Hooded Crow, 2 Raven, a Sparrowhawk rounded the day off. We saw two Stoats on the way back from Kolymbari a mile apart crossing the national highway.


3 Buzzard, Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstarts, a Redstart, a Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Yellow Legged Gull, the usual Sparrows kept up their daily chattering around the house.


A flock of Corn Bunting, 3 Buzzard, 52 Yellow Legged Gulls, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, a single Rock Sparrow,  Blackcap, Goldfinch, a flight of 15 Rock Dove, 3 Great Tit, 13 Hooded Crow, Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, 2 Raven, a Cormorant, 4 Griffon Vultures, several Blue tits, Whinchat…


Yellow Legged Gulls, Black Redstarts, Great Tit, 5 Griffon Vultures later in the day 3 more headed north, 2 Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, Sparrow, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, two flocks of Rock Doves 20 + 6


A single Cormorant sat drying its wings on the rocks below,  a nice male Italian Sparrow sat for a photo, Sardinian Warbler, flocks of Linnets, 15 Yellow Legged Gulls, Robin, Chaffinch, Black Redstart, Collared Dove, Redstart, 10 Hooded Crows, Greenfinch, several small flocks of Goldfinch, late in the afternoon whilst photographing a Chiffchaff , we spotted 4 Griffons Vulture heading south towards Deliana gorge.


Buzzard, kestrel, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, 2 Raven, 10 Hooded Crow, Robin, Yellow Legged Gulls.


Buzzard, hooded Crow, A pair of Booted Eagles one dark and one pale form, linnets, Sardinian Warbler, 1Raven.


Roy and Raye joined us for lunch before we drove to a remote valley on Gramvousa to do some birding …..Stonechat, Kestrel, light and dark form Booted Eagle, 2 Griffon Vultures, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, 2 Raven,  Crested lark, Yellow Legged gulls, 14 Hooded Crows, Sparrowhawk, Blackbird, 20+ Woodlark .


Blackbirds, Blue Rock Thrush, White Wagtail, 16 Hooded Crows, Sardinian Warbler, It/Sp Sparrow, Black Redstarts, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, 2 kestrel, Cormorant, Robin, 2 Griffon Vultures, Goldfinch, Yellow Legged Gulls, 17 Linnet, 3 Buzzard. Late evening we heard a hunting Barn Owl.


150+ Yellow Legged Gulls, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Sp/It Sparrow, 15 Hooded Crows, Linnet, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Robin, Cormorant, Kestrel, Buzzard, Blue Tit, and a single Cetti’s Warbler was heard.


Taking a late morning trip into the mountains near Katsamatades, we saw along the way…Great Tit, Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler, 50+ Yellow Legged Gulls, Stonechat, Linnet, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Raven, Hooded Crow, Buzzard, Kestrel and 2 Griffon Vultures. There we saw 2 distant Griffons and a pair of Raven, we did however enjoy a picnic lunch and the spectacular mountain and sea views of Western Crete from this high ridge, we set off late in the afternoon as storm clouds started to build and the wind increased. On the way home we stopped off at the gorge at Topolia where we stayed until dark as 4 pairs of Griffon Vulture disputed the ledges they we going to spend the night on, rewarding us with some spectacular flying at eye level.


White Wagtail, Cormorant, Kestrel, 200+ Yellow Legged Gulls sat upon the sea and although the weather is being kind [no wind, calm seas ] the barometer is dropping and we suspect a storm will arrive soon. Goldfinch, Black Redstarts, Whinchat, Peregrine Falcon, Sardinian Warbler, 20+Hooded Crows, Stonechat, Meadow Pipits, Greenfinch, Whinchat, Crested Lark.


In the night we heard a Barn Owl, a quiet day clouding over, the barometer steadied but not many birds about a few Black Redstarts, Hooded Crows and Sardinian warblers were all that was to be seen.


A trip to Maronis River, Souda Bay produced Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Black Redstart, a dark form Booted Eagle, 2 Raven, Goldfinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Hooded Crow, 3 Buzzard, a Peregrine Falcon, 2 Robin, 2 Cormorant, 2 grey heron, 2 kingfisher, 1 Little Egret, 1 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, a small flock of mixed gulls …1 Lesser Black-backed, several Yellow Legged, Mediterranean and Black Headed, flew between the river and the War Cemetery, a Common Buzzard landed on the stay wire of a large radio mast, 40+ Coot, 6 Moorhen, an unidentified warbler flew quickly into the low scrub and would not show itself again and 2 Kestrel. A mother and son Harvesting olives in the field adjoining the river gave us a bag of fresh picked Satsuma’s with the offer if we had a shopping bag, of picking a load ourselves from their fruit trees mingled within the olive. We thanked them, wished them a happy Christmas and as the light started to fail headed home. Post Script… it is noticeable on the main highway Kissamos side of Kolymbari that during winter months the number of roadkill of wild animals increase, we saw badgers [3] and Beech martins [4] that had been hit overnight.


In the night the barometer rose the wind picked up and the sea became rough, there were the usual small birds about but in reduced numbers we also saw a Buzzard, a Kestrel, and another unidentified bird of prey in the distance which may have been a Sparrowhawk. There appeared to be more Hooded Crows about, a count totalled 34 late in the morning all appeared to be pairing off with some fantastic flying displays in the increasing winds..


Another stormy day with winds increasing to Beaufort 7, the large number of Hooded Crow kept up their flight skills diving and flying about in pairs, a single Cormorant swam through the large waves  75 Yellow Legged Gulls were sat in the fields below  2 buzzards came and went throughout the day, small numbers of Sardinian Warblers and Goldfinch  appeared.

We found an Ocellated Skink [Chalcides ocellatus] that appeared to have been caught out by the chilly wind and was barely alive sat out in the open; carefully we placed it in a wall cavity, where it slowly crept into the darkness.


Still bad weather the barometer is still on the up ! with just the small numbers of birds as seen yesterday.


Christmas Day dawned with no wind ! the barometer had dropped 9 points ! A Peregrine Falcon, Robin, 36 Yellow Legged Gulls, Black Redstarts, Blue and Great Tit, a Buzzard a few Linnet were all that appeared.


A Robin greeted us with its song in the morning, the barometer rose two points and the wind increased again, temperatures dropped and all that was seen were the Hooded crows still doing aerobatics and a lone buzzard flew through.


A very windy stormy night, the cloud cover broke and the White Mountains have a covering of snow again, still windy and a few birds are about …Goldfinch, a single Buzzard, a Peregrine, White Wagtail, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, a Cormorant flew low over the sea, Crested Lark, and a few Meadow Pipits.


After the bad weather yesterday today dawned fine and sunny , a few birds appeared again ….15 Hooded crows, Sardinian Warbler, Robin, small Linnet flocks, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, 50+Yellow Legged Gulls.


Out with the dog  at 07.45 still bleary eyed, a male Hen Harrier swooped into a flock of linnets about 10 metres away did a loop around the house and disappeared over the hills  a lovely sight to see early in the morning. The usual birds around the house Greenfinch, Linnet, Robin, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, smaller groups of Goldfinch, Stonechat, Yellow Legged Gulls, Spanish/Italian sparrow.

On a trip from shopping in Chania we stopped at a small muddy puddle near Gerani where Sue spotted a small wader which turned out to be a Jack Snipe the first we have seen here. I did not have my camera so a quick trip home and back to the site where we spent 2 hours viewing and photographing  this beautiful bird [ books do not do it justice ]…… all I have seen of in the past was flight from my progress through a marsh ! it was nice to be able to see this bird up close and personal as it bobbed its way along the puddle and bamboo edge. Also there, a Blackbird, 1 White Wagtail, 44 Teal circled twice before landing somewhere nearby. Later, on the way home a Kestrel. Another road killed Beech Martin near Tavronitis!


2 Kestrel, 13 Hooded crow, Sardinian Warbler, single.. Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Black Restart, 3 Raven, 3 Griffon Vulture and 2 Buzzard.


Black Redstart, Robin, Goldfinch, 12 Hooded Crow still providing great aerobatic displays and later annoying a Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon, a lovely male Hen Harrier flew quickly past the house getting away before the crows latched onto it. A single Griffon flew low North onto the peninsula, 2 Raven, and a number of  Yellow Legged Gulls flew high above us..

To round off the year we thought as trip to Agia lake would be nice and to see if the Jack snipe was still at Gerani, unfortunately it was not, on route to the lake we saw 14 buzzard… the lake was packed with birds and we saw 1 Marsh harrier, 1 Sparrowhawk… large numbers of Coot, Moorhen, Pochard, Shoveler, Dabchick, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Gargany,150+ Yellow Legged Gulls, a White Wagtail, 3 Rock Dove, Linnet, Sp/It Sparrow, Whinchat, Chifchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, 6 Crag Martin, 2 Kingfisher, Goldfinch, Ferruginous Duck and Gadwall. With the light failing we packed up to leave, a flock of 60+ Starlings flew around before settling into the reeds for the night, and a single Grey Wagtail landed at the waters edge. Just to round off the last day of the year, as night fell, we heard a Little owl and Barn Owl hunting around the house.

Having only really started to keep records from earlier this year we will try to get a few more previous monthly jottings submitted before too long. We have had a brilliant year with a lot of “life ticks” for us both and sighted a few rarities for Crete. Lots of new flowers, insects and reptiles have brightened our days and with so much more to be discovered here [ we have, after six years still not definitely seen the Lammergeier !!!] we know that 2007 will be as good if not better.