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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
En-route back to Malia we saw our only Red-footed Falcon and Lesser Grey
- Little Grebe - c15 all at Ierapetra res
- Cory's Shearwater - c50 in total, seen daily off Malia
- Night Heron - 2 Malia.
- Squacco Heron - 3 at Ierapetra on 18th. 3 in Malia bay on 22nd.
- Cattle Egret - 13 to east at Malia on 20th.
- Little Egret - seen daily with small groups going east at Malia, usually in
the early morning or at dusk. Also present at Ierapetra.
- Grey Heron - seen most days passing offshore at Malia.
- Purple Heron - 52 seen in total. Small groups or singles offshore with other
heron species. A tame bird at Heraklion allowed approach to 10m.
- Glossy Ibis - single, Ierapetra on 18th.
- Teal - c400 at Ierapetra on 18th. Small numbers off Malia on several dates.
- Mallard - Seen at Ierapetra on 18th.
- Pintail - 14 at Ierapetra on 18th.
- Garganey - Seen at Ierapetra and also Malia where 85+ on 17/9.
- Pochard - c20 at Ierapetra on 18th.
- Ferruginous Duck - 11 at Ierapetra on 18th.
- Honey Buzzard - c15 seen at several sites including Malia and Knossos.
- Lammergeier - adult near Lassithi. 3ads, 2 imms near Agios Nikolaos. on
- Griffon - c70, common in mountains.
- Marsh Harrier - c10, seen at several sites including off the seas at Malia.
- Buzzard - c100, common.
- Golden Eagle - single behind Malia 21st.
- Kestrel - c30 in total.
- Red-footed Falcon - male Rotasi on 19th.
- Hobby - 1 Malia on 22nd.
- Eleonora's Falcon - c50, fairly common.
- Peregrine - 2, both around Malia.
- Moorhen - 10.
- Coot - 40+.
- Little Ringed Plover - 1 Ierapetra on 18th.
- Ringed Plover - singles at Ierapetra and Spinalonga on 18th.
- Little Stint - singles at Ierapetra and Spinalonga on 18th.
- Dunlin - 1, Creta sun lagoon on 17th.
- Snipe - 2 at Malia.
- Redshank - single Malia on 16th.
- Green Sandpiper - Singles at Heraklion Power Station and Ierapetra.
- Wood Sandpiper - 2 Ierapetra.
- Common Sandpiper - c13, Malia, Ierapetra.
- Yellow-legged Gull - Common Heraklion and Ierapetra.
- Caspian Tern - single offshore at Malia on 21st.
- Rock Dove - small numbers noted.
- Turtle Dove - single Malia 20th.
- Collared Dove - 2 near Knossos on 17th.
- Woodpigeon - c10 mainly in mountains.
- Swift - 2 over Phaestos on 17th.
- Alpine Swift - c300 in total. Seen over Lassithi Phaestos and Malia.
- Kingfisher - common on beaches.
- Bee-eater - Scarce. Singles Malia and c30 on Lassithi.
- Hoopoe - single at Malia.
- Short-toed Lark - regular around Malia with 15 max.
- Crested Lark - c150, common.
- Woodlark - c8, mainly lassithi.
- Sand Martin - 4 at Malia.
- Crag Martin - c20 at Lassithi.
- Swallow - c1800.
- Red-rumped Swallow - c60, fairly common.
- House Martin - 5, Malia.
- Tawny Pipit - c20, frequent at Malia.
- Tree Pipit - 2 at Malia.
- Yellow Wagtail - c200.
- Grey Wagtail - 1, Heraklion Power Station.
- White Wagtail - c25, frequent at Malia.
- Wren - 2 in mountains.
- Redstart - 3.
- Whinchat - c60.
- Stonechat - c100.
- Wheatear - c100.
- Black-eared Wheatear - singles at Malia and Katharon.
- Isabelline Wheatear - singles at Spinalonga and Katharon.
- Desert Wheatear - female on Katharon.
- Blue Rock Thrush - fairly common at most sites.
- Blackbird - very common.
- Cetti's Warbler - mostly around Malia, Heraklion and Ierapetra.
- Icterine Warbler - 1 at Malia.
- Sardinian Warbler - very common.
- Bonelli's Warbler - 1 on Spinalonga
- Chiffchaff - 8 - 10, mostly on Spinalonga
- Willow Warbler - 15+ seen at several sites.
- Spotted Flycatcher - fairly common.
- Pied Flycatcher - 1 at Lassithi.
- Great Tit - common.
- Blue Tit - less common.
- Red-backed Shrike - c25 in total. All bar one immatures.
- Woodchat Shrike - 1 near Rotasi
- Lesser Grey Shrike - 1 near Pheastos.
- Isabelline Shrike - Imm on Spinalonga
- Jay - 1 on Katharon.
- Chough - fairly common in mountains.
- Jackday - seen around Knossos only.
- Hooded Crow - common.
- Raven - 40+ in mountains.
- Starling - 1 Malia.
- House Sparrow - common.
- Italian Sparrow - not uncommon.
- Chaffinch - common.
- Greenfinch - common.
- Goldfinch - common.
- Linnet - common.
- Cirl Bunting - c15 seen, mainly on Lassithi.
- Rock Bunting - 2 on Kathatron at wells.
- Corn Bunting - 1.
- Cretan Grayling
- White-banded Grayling
- Southern Swallowtail
- Scarce Swallowtail
- Large White
- Small White
- Bath White
- Meadow Brown
- Painted Lady
- Clouded Yellow
- Langs Short-tailed Blue
- Small Copper
- Common Blue
- Mediterranean Skipper
- Oberthurs Grizzled Skipper
- Malow Skipper
- Plain Tiger
- Anax parthenope
- Ischnura elegans
- Southern Skimmer
- Red-veined Darter
- Lestes barbarus
- Scarlet Darter
- Trithemis annulata
Badger (dead), Hedgehog, Beech Martin, Mantis sp, Cicada, Egyptian
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