by Elke Döschle and Jörg Hönle, Germany
It was less a birding, but more a 'relax and enjoy trip' for the two of us! I missed some of the good birds, but for them I just didn´t do enough! It would have meant a lot of driving, and that was just not the thing I wanted to do on such a short trip.
The weather was very good, although the wind was present far to often and also far to strong on some days. Temperatures between 18-25° C I would say. The water was still cold, but it got warmer day by day (or was it me who got braver and more used to the coldness day by day?)
It´s a good time of the year, and here down south it is worth for another trip. Not so much the birding, but the relaxing pace and speed in this area, the flowers and plants, the smell of the herbs, the sound of the sea.
It was nice to get a small image of the bird migration worldwide: on some days a lot of birds, then almost nothing, and then other species than the day before.
Our apartement STUDIOS STAVRIS, which we found in the internet, was excellent and quiet: it was just us, the sea and one or two other couples there, we had our own stripe of beach (although for swimming the beach at the castle was better). I wouldn´t mind to come here again, and then -why not- 2 weeks earlier and one or two weeks longer :-)
Main places for observation:
90% of the birding was done around Frangokastello, both west and east of our apartement. A special spot was the Venetian Castle there and the beach below the castle with ist little pool at the beach taverna. Frangokastello is a two-and-a-half-hour-drive from Heraklion Airport and is on the southwest coast of Crete.
- • On the 1st of May we went to Plakias and visited the Kotsitos Gorge on our way
- • On the 3rd of May we made a quick drive to the car parking, overlooking the Imbros Gorge
- • On the 6th of May I made a very early morning drive to Preveli Beach and the Kourtaliotiko Gorge
- • On the way back to the Heraklion Airport we stopped on a parking spot above the Imbros Gorge, at the water reservoir in Georgioupoli, at Petres River and finally at the Geropotamos River
- • in English: "A Birdwatching Guide to Crete" by Stephanie Coghlan (1996 first published, 4th edition)
- • in German: "Reiseführer Natur Kreta" von Dagmar Lange & Monika Wächter (1999, BLV)
List of sightings (Lars Jonsson´s "The Birds of Europe")
- A: Frangokastello
- B: Imbros gorge
- C: Kourtaliotiko and Kotsitos gorge
- D: Plakias
- E: Preveli beach
- F: Georgioupoli
- G: Petres river
- H: Geropotamos river
|3||Little Bittern||Zwergdommel||A, D, E, G|
|4||Night Heron||Nachtreiher||A, E|
|5||Squacco Heron||Rallenreiher||A, D, E, F,G||1-4 birds|
|6||Little Egret||Seidenreiher||A||seen daily|
|7||Grey Heron||Graureiher||A||7 - 12|
|8||Purple Heron||Purpurreiher||A||4 - 12|
|9||Griffon Vulture||Gänsegeier||B,C,G||3 - 12|
|11||Marsh Harrier||Rohrweihe||A||1 - 3|
|13||Bonelli´s Eagle||Habichtsadler||B||2 (1, 1)|
|14||Red-footed Falcon||Rotfußfalke||A and on road to Plakias||up to 40|
|16||Eleonora´s Falcon||Eleonorenfalke||B||only 1|
|17||Chukar||Chukarhuhn||Plakias and Preveli||1 seen, many heard|
|19||Little Crake||Kleines Sumpfhuhn||E||around 6, m and f|
|22||Ringed Plover||Sandregenpfeifer||A||single birds|
|23||Little Ringed Plover||Flußregenpfeifer||A||1|
|28||Little Stint||Zwergstrandläufer||A||up to 3|
|32||Wood Sandpiper||Bruchwasserläufer||A||2 - 3|
|33||Common Sandpiper||Flußuferläufer||A||single birds|
|35||White-winged Black Tern||Weißflügelseeschwalbe||A||1|
|37||Rock Dove||Felsentaube||C, E|
|39||Turtle Dove||Turteltaube||widespread, but rare|
|41||Scop´s Owl||Zwergohreule||C, road to Plakias||2 singing birds|
|42||Alpine Swift||Alpensegler||A, B, C, E|
|46||Woodlark||Heidelerche||road to Plakias|
|49||Crag Martin||Felsenschwalbe||B, C|
|51||Red-rumped Swallow||Rötelschwalbe||A||2 times one bird|
|59||Black-eared Wheatear||Mittelmeer- Steinschmätzer||B and in Preveli Area|
|60||Blue Rock Thrush||Blaumerle||A, B, C, E|
|62||Cetti´s Warbler||Seidensänger||not A, more D|
|63||Great Reed Warbler||Drosselrohrsänger||E||one at Preveli Beach|
|65||Sardinian Warbler||Samtkopf-Grasmücke||very common|
|68||Pied Flycatcher||Trauerschnäpper||A||all around the house|
|69||Collared Flycatcher||Halsbandschnäpper||A||all around the house|
|70||Spotted Flycatcher||Grauschnäpper||A||all around the house|
|73||Woodchat Shrike||Rotkopfwürger||A||on 6 occasions|
|74||Golden Oriole||Pirol||A||towards the end|
|77||Raven||Kolkrabe||A, B, C|
|83||Linnet||Bluthänfling||road to Plakias|
|84||Corn Bunting||Grauammer||A||small numbers|
|85||Peregrine/Lanner||Wander- oder Lannerfalke||B||no safe identification|
The main resident birds in the area of our apartement in Frangokastello were Crested Lark , Chaffinch and Collared Dove.
Migration did change a lot! At the beginning of the trip there were huge numbers of swifts and swallows and the red-footed Falcons could easily and daily be viewed on the fields while insect hunting (in groups of 4 to maximum 40).
On some days of the first half of the trips there have been 3 kinds of flycatchers around the house, at the end of the trip it were the yellow wagtails, which showed up in groups of 4 - 15 birds.
Waders showed up daily at our beach, mostly single Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and on two occasion a sanderling. At the beach below the castle there were Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Little Stints and Temmincks to see for a couple of days.
A group of 12 Turnstones, a single Ruff (juv.) and a Grey Plover were obviously just stopping for a little while or at the most for one night.
The pool below the castle produced one male Little Bittern, one Night Heron, a few Little Egrets and Squacco Herons.
It was amazing to see groups of up to 14 purple herons to come in from the open sea. Little Egret and Squacco Herons seemed to migrate from bay to bay and were seen almost daily.
Birds of Prey: The Bonelli´s were a highlight, that´s for sure. Plenty of Griffon Vulture, but no Bearded Vulture.
The Red-footed Falcon was the TOP-Bird of Prey throughout the week, no doubt.
A Quail and two Hoopoes were quite a surprise, Woodchat Shrike as the only species of Shrikes was a bit of a disappointment.
On the trip back to the airport in Heraklion we stopped at the mouth of both the Petres and the Geropotamos River, both were rather dissapointing.
© Jörg Hönle, Pforzheim, Germany. Used by kind permission.