Trip Report: Crete (Greece), September 15-22, 1995

Mark and Sandra Dennis, Nottingham, England;

Based in Malia on the north-east coast, the trip was a late stand-by with minimum research. The actual apartment was on the main road at Stalis and was very comfortable. The hire car was a Nissan Micra, and it coped well with the entertaining roads. We used Stephanie Coghlan's Birdwatching in Crete (first edition) extensively and found it indispensable.


For a fairly cheap week Crete was a reasonable choice with some good birding at times. From the air it looks all mountains but thankfully, it's not. Be prepared to bird a lot without seeing water. I found the wrench of no open fresh water difficult (coming as I do from the gravel pits of the Trent Valley) but Ierapetra Reservoir sorted me out. Birding the high plateaux is fun (especially for the car) with Lassithi fairly easily reached from Malia and a good chance of Lammergeier on the way there. Katharon plateau is much more 'lost in time' but has plenty of birds, you just have to get there first. The locals seem to have little interest in wildlife (except to shoot it) but we did not encounter any unpleasantness.

Clearly the weather is an important factor in influencing bird movement and we 'enjoyed' six hot days. Our last day was cool with an easterly breeze with drizzle. It sent the tourists scrambling for the bars while we watched various heron species passing offshore.

Sites Visited


Was a marsh at one point, now stony fields with some scrub but worth watching. All that is left of the marsh is a very small area of Phragmites which holds little. I visited the area at first light each day and again at dusk if possible. There appeared to be little happening migration-wise until our last morning (typical) although it must be said there were 'new' birds everyday, albeit in small numbers. Sea-watching here always produced Cory's Shearwater at any time.

Ierapetra Reservoir

A must visit site if based in the north-east. We went once but, if we had been there earlier in our stay, we would certainly have made more effort to visit at least twice more. The place teemed with birds (comparatively). We did a complete circuit on a tarmac road and had no problems. A scope is a must for checking the flooded margins. Eleonora's Falcon was common here sitting on the water on large weed beds. They were possibly trying to catch dragonflies which were abundant.

Lassithi plateau

Generally good birding, mainly from the road. On the way up pull off the road frequently to check the 'tops'. Here we had Lammergeier fairly easily along with other raptors. Expect to attract a crowd of tourists who will stand behind you while you look, it's odd! Also expect to see lots of mountain bikes careering towards you at any time. Once on the plateau we drove counter-clockwise and stopped frequently. I would think an early morning visit would be more productive.

Katharon plateau

A very rocky track led up to Katharon from near Agios Nikolaos. Once on the plateau we again stopped frequently and saw plenty of birds. One thing worth remembering is that there are numerous open wells in the fields which attract birds.

We found that by waiting at the wells Rock Buntings were very easy to see. On the way down we had a female Desert Wheatear by the track. This species is not listed by Stephanie Coghlan as a Cretan bird but, unfortunately, no notes were taken at the time.


The old Elounda salt pans were small and disappointing, but Spinalonga island was better with small numbers of passerine migrants including an Isabelline Shrike amongst the Red-backed Shrikes. We also found the causeway to Spinalonga awkward to find, and it is probably best to get there at first light when the roads are less busy.

Heraklion pools

Awkward to find and better for dragonflies than birds when we visited. The presence of water did mean that we picked up a few extra trip ticks with a 'tame' Purple Heron especially memorable.


A Minoan ruin which had a few birds around the lush woodland within and adjacent to the site.


Another Minoan site (Sandra's interest) but well placed for birds. I watched from the ruin parking area and had birds migrating through the valley, notably Alpine Swift in good numbers but also Bee-eater and various common passerines. En-route back to Malia we saw our only Red-footed Falcon and Lesser Grey Shrike.

Species List


  1. Little Grebe - c15 all at Ierapetra res
  2. Cory's Shearwater - c50 in total, seen daily off Malia
  3. Night Heron - 2 Malia.
  4. Squacco Heron - 3 at Ierapetra on 18th. 3 in Malia bay on 22nd.
  5. Cattle Egret - 13 to east at Malia on 20th.
  6. Little Egret - seen daily with small groups going east at Malia, usually in the early morning or at dusk. Also present at Ierapetra.
  7. Grey Heron - seen most days passing offshore at Malia.
  8. Purple Heron - 52 seen in total. Small groups or singles offshore with other heron species. A tame bird at Heraklion allowed approach to 10m.
  9. Glossy Ibis - single, Ierapetra on 18th.
  10. Teal - c400 at Ierapetra on 18th. Small numbers off Malia on several dates.
  11. Mallard - Seen at Ierapetra on 18th.
  12. Pintail - 14 at Ierapetra on 18th.
  13. Garganey - Seen at Ierapetra and also Malia where 85+ on 17/9.
  14. Pochard - c20 at Ierapetra on 18th.
  15. Ferruginous Duck - 11 at Ierapetra on 18th.
  16. Honey Buzzard - c15 seen at several sites including Malia and Knossos.
  17. Lammergeier - adult near Lassithi. 3ads, 2 imms near Agios Nikolaos. on 18th
  18. Griffon - c70, common in mountains.
  19. Marsh Harrier - c10, seen at several sites including off the seas at Malia.
  20. Buzzard - c100, common.
  21. Golden Eagle - single behind Malia 21st.
  22. Kestrel - c30 in total.
  23. Red-footed Falcon - male Rotasi on 19th.
  24. Hobby - 1 Malia on 22nd.
  25. Eleonora's Falcon - c50, fairly common.
  26. Peregrine - 2, both around Malia.
  27. Moorhen - 10.
  28. Coot - 40+.
  29. Little Ringed Plover - 1 Ierapetra on 18th.
  30. Ringed Plover - singles at Ierapetra and Spinalonga on 18th.
  31. Little Stint - singles at Ierapetra and Spinalonga on 18th.
  32. Dunlin - 1, Creta sun lagoon on 17th.
  33. Snipe - 2 at Malia.
  34. Redshank - single Malia on 16th.
  35. Green Sandpiper - Singles at Heraklion Power Station and Ierapetra.
  36. Wood Sandpiper - 2 Ierapetra.
  37. Common Sandpiper - c13, Malia, Ierapetra.
  38. Yellow-legged Gull - Common Heraklion and Ierapetra.
  39. Caspian Tern - single offshore at Malia on 21st.
  40. Rock Dove - small numbers noted.
  41. Turtle Dove - single Malia 20th.
  42. Collared Dove - 2 near Knossos on 17th.
  43. Woodpigeon - c10 mainly in mountains.
  44. Swift - 2 over Phaestos on 17th.
  45. Alpine Swift - c300 in total. Seen over Lassithi Phaestos and Malia.
  46. Kingfisher - common on beaches.
  47. Bee-eater - Scarce. Singles Malia and c30 on Lassithi.
  48. Hoopoe - single at Malia.
  49. Short-toed Lark - regular around Malia with 15 max.
  50. Crested Lark - c150, common.
  51. Woodlark - c8, mainly lassithi.
  52. Sand Martin - 4 at Malia.
  53. Crag Martin - c20 at Lassithi.
  54. Swallow - c1800.
  55. Red-rumped Swallow - c60, fairly common.
  56. House Martin - 5, Malia.
  57. Tawny Pipit - c20, frequent at Malia.
  58. Tree Pipit - 2 at Malia.
  59. Yellow Wagtail - c200.
  60. Grey Wagtail - 1, Heraklion Power Station.
  61. White Wagtail - c25, frequent at Malia.
  62. Wren - 2 in mountains.
  63. Redstart - 3.
  64. Whinchat - c60.
  65. Stonechat - c100.
  66. Wheatear - c100.
  67. Black-eared Wheatear - singles at Malia and Katharon.
  68. Isabelline Wheatear - singles at Spinalonga and Katharon.
  69. Desert Wheatear - female on Katharon.
  70. Blue Rock Thrush - fairly common at most sites.
  71. Blackbird - very common.
  72. Cetti's Warbler - mostly around Malia, Heraklion and Ierapetra.
  73. Icterine Warbler - 1 at Malia.
  74. Sardinian Warbler - very common.
  75. Bonelli's Warbler - 1 on Spinalonga
  76. Chiffchaff - 8 - 10, mostly on Spinalonga
  77. Willow Warbler - 15+ seen at several sites.
  78. Spotted Flycatcher - fairly common.
  79. Pied Flycatcher - 1 at Lassithi.
  80. Great Tit - common.
  81. Blue Tit - less common.
  82. Red-backed Shrike - c25 in total. All bar one immatures.
  83. Woodchat Shrike - 1 near Rotasi
  84. Lesser Grey Shrike - 1 near Pheastos.
  85. Isabelline Shrike - Imm on Spinalonga
  86. Jay - 1 on Katharon.
  87. Chough - fairly common in mountains.
  88. Jackday - seen around Knossos only.
  89. Hooded Crow - common.
  90. Raven - 40+ in mountains.
  91. Starling - 1 Malia.
  92. House Sparrow - common.
  93. Italian Sparrow - not uncommon.
  94. Chaffinch - common.
  95. Greenfinch - common.
  96. Goldfinch - common.
  97. Linnet - common.
  98. Cirl Bunting - c15 seen, mainly on Lassithi.
  99. Rock Bunting - 2 on Kathatron at wells.
  100. Corn Bunting - 1.


  1. Cretan Grayling
  2. White-banded Grayling
  3. Swallowtail
  4. Southern Swallowtail
  5. Scarce Swallowtail
  6. Large White
  7. Small White
  8. Bath White
  9. Cardinal
  10. Wall
  11. Meadow Brown
  12. Painted Lady
  13. Clouded Yellow
  14. Langs Short-tailed Blue
  15. Small Copper
  16. Common Blue
  17. Mediterranean Skipper
  18. Oberthurs Grizzled Skipper
  19. Malow Skipper
  20. Plain Tiger


  1. Emperor
  2. Anax parthenope
  3. Ischnura elegans
  4. Southern Skimmer
  5. Red-veined Darter
  6. Lestes barbarus
  7. Scarlet Darter
  8. Trithemis annulata

Also Badger (dead), Hedgehog, Beech Martin, Mantis sp, Cicada, Egyptian Grasshopper Weasel

Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; April 7, 1999