Our summer vacation this year took us to Greece. Our intent, as in the past years,was to find enough common ground so that the four of us: our children aged 10 and 12, Myra and myself would be entertained throughout the trip. As a result, a few days would be devoted to birding and the rest to other pursuits such as visiting archaeological sites, snorkeling, hiking etc. Only four days really qualified as birding days. These were July 9-10: hiking up Mount Olympus, July 11: the Axios Delta and July 12: the Prespa Lakes.
We did not expect much from these days, but we were surprised to find that the park surrounding the Acropolis had some bird life. They say never take anything for granted, and the SARDINIAN WARBLER seen here would be the only one of the trip. Also seen were our first YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, EURASIAN KESTRELS, and numerous ALPINE and COMMON SWIFTS.
Our hotel was across the street from the Acropolis and the adjacent Filopappos Hill. We noticed some bird activity from our window the day before and decided to try it out this morning. Filopappos Hill had many CHAFFINCHES and as well as BLACKBIRD and SERIN. We saw our only ORPHEAN and OLIVACEOUS WARBLERS here.
We picked up our rental car from Avis and headed toward Napflion on the Peloponessos by way of Ancient Mycenae where ROCK NUTHATCH was easy and rather common. Also present were RED-RUMPED SWALLOW, GOLDFINCH, and the only RAVEN of the trip.
Napflion had the only PALLID SWIFTS that we were very sure of, and the contrasting pale brownish flight feathers to dark brown coverts and body was quite noticeable to the naked eye as these birds wheeled low overhead throughout the day. We saw our first ELEANORA'S FALCON here at the Palimedes Fortress, as well as more ROCK NUTHATCHES. A SHORT-TOED EAGLE was observed on the road to Mystra.
This was essentially a travel day with a stop at the magnificent 11th century monastery Moni Ossiou Louka (where we had had the opportunity to actually see the somewhat mummified remains of the 900-year-old St. Lucas). The monastery had a natural spring which attracted a number of birds including: WOODCHAT SHRIKE, GREAT TIT (the only ones of the trip), CIRL BUNTING and GREENFINCH. On the road we had a LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD, and in Delphi town we had a pair of BLUE ROCK THRUSHES on a tile roof that were apparently nesting as we observed them throughout our stay.
We spent the morning birding near Ancient Delphi with little success except for a SOMBRE TIT by a church and cemetery just west of the ruins. Later at the ruins proper there were more ROCK NUTHATCHES. Went to cool off for an afternoon dip at the beach in Itea. The very quiet local olive groves did not produce the secretive Olive Tree Warbler.
Morning birding just north of Arachova (next town east of Delphi) produced CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING as well as CIRL BUNTING, HOOPOE and the first of many RED-BACKED SHRIKES. On the road to Litohoro, the town of Farsala had a colony of at least 25 LESSER KESTRELS as well as our first WHITE STORKS.
On this day we hiked up Mt. Olympus from Prionia at 1,000 m to the "Refuge A," Agapitos, at 2,000 m. We had expected this National Park to be more productive than it turned out to be. We heard very few birds and saw even less. New species included: CHIFFCHAFF, BULLFINCH and JAY. A magnificent male CHAMOIS was the only mammal of the trip! At the refugio a spring attracted some more birds with CRESTED TIT, CHAFFINCH, SERIN, LINNET and another BULLFINCH. A flock of ALPINE CHOUGHS circled overhead.
Thunderstorms prevented us from hiking to the top of Olympus. On our way down we added ROBIN. Drive to Thessaloniki where MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, BLACK-HEADED GULLS and WHISKERED TERNS foraged just offshore.
An excellent day of birding at the Axios Delta produced more of the above mentioned larids plus numerous HERONS, MARSH HARRIER, another SHORT-TOED EAGLE, a good number of SHOREBIRDS, SLENDER-BILLED GULL, LITTLE OWL, BEE-EATER, HOOPOE, SYRIAN WOODPECKER, our first LESSER GREY SHRIKE, NIGHTINGALE and TREE and SPANISH SPARROW. We were somewhat disappointed to miss Spur-winged Plover and in the low number of marsh terns (missing both Black and White-winged Black Terns entirely).
Lake Mikri Prespa turned out to be another excellent area with DALMATIAN and EUROPEAN WHITE PELICANS, PYGMY and GREAT CORMORANTS, GARGANEY, 3 spp. of GREBES, HERONS, another SYRIAN WOODPECKER, LESSER WHITETHROAT, CORN and CIRL BUNTINGS. On the road to Kalambaka (Meteora) we added ROLLER. In Meteora there were EGYPTIAN VULTURE and BLACK KITE.
Little to report now, but the ruins at Dodoni did have GOLDEN ORIOLE.
Not much here at Parga except for a family of BLACK-HEADED BUNTINGS.
The ferry crossing from Athens (Piraeus) to Santorini produced CORY'S and YELKOUAN SHEARWATER.
Few birds in Rhodes. The only CRAG MARTINS of the trip. Also the only WREN. Plus a beautiful, hovering male ELEANORA'S FALCON and some more BEE-EATERS.
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