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A Report from

Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece, 27th May-10th June 2004,

John Armstrong


This was a family package holiday for my wife, 2 young daughters and myself. We stayed at the very pleasant Gallini Apartments on the edge of Kato Katelios (subsequently referred to as Katelios), a small resort in the extreme south-east of the island. It is near the much busier resort of  Skala. Our apartments had nice spacious accommodation, a decent pool, pool bar and crazy golf. The resort although small, has enough restaurants to satisfy a 2 week holiday. There was one great restaurant right next door, for when we couldn’t face the walk down to the sea front. The nearest decent beach however, is about 2 miles away to the east.

We hired a car (pre-booked in the UK) for a week between 31st May and 7th June. It was a Renault Twingo, a strange creature never exported to the UK. We covered most of the island, except the far north (Fiskardo area) and far south-west (Lixouri peninsular area). There is also a smaller neighbouring island off the east coast called Ithaki, to which it is possible to take cars on day trips, although we never did. Although Kefalonia looks quite small on the map, due to the mountains and windy, sometimes un-made roads, this is deceptive, and it can take several hours to get around the place.

Kefalonia is on the whole a beautiful mountainous island (much more attractive than Lesvos for instance), and away from the capital Argostoli and the other main towns such as Sami and Poros and resorts the roads are generally very quiet, although this may be different in the main holiday season.

Kefalonia is on a fault line, and I was woken in the night once due to a burst of seismic vibration. It didn’t last long, and apparently recorded 4.0 on the Richter scale. My wife slept through it !

It is possible to drive to the top of Mt Aenos (from the track to the west via the radar station). This is the highest mountain on the island, higher than anything in Britain, and well worth it for the different habitat (pine forest mostly but open on the very top), different species and great views. It is likely to have swirling mist though and be quite chilly. Be prepared for a long drive up an unmade track to the top. It’s not too rough, but no doubt our car hire company would have taken a dim view had they known ! The maps show the track continuing down the east side of the mountain, but on our trip, this was deliberately blocked off with logs. Apart from the birds, we found a dead wildcat on the track up here.

The downside is, although being more visually appealing than Lesvos, Kefalonia will not produce anywhere near the number of bird species. For instance, in May 2002, I saw 130 species on Lesvos. On Kefalonia, I saw only 54 species, heard another 7, making an overall total of 61. To be fair though, I visited Lesvos in early May thereby picking up a lot of passage migrants. I expect if Kefalonia was visited at the same time, a lot better than 61 should be expected due to migrants.

The timing of this holiday however, was governed more by school holidays and the desire for slightly warmer weather. It was also essential to avoid the mad, busy, over hot, over priced and birdless August holiday period! So late May to early June was a good compromise. The migrants were mostly gone, but resident passerines were still in breeding plumage and singing.

John Armstrong, January 2006.

Species Accounts

The following is a brief summary of all the species that I recorded:-

Little Grebe - 1 date. One on lake near Tzanata on 6 June.

Grey Heron - 1 date. 2 at Argostoli lagoon and 3-5 at Livardi marsh on 2 June.

Little Egret - 1 date. 3 at Livardi marsh on 2 June.

Mute Swan - 1 date. Several adults and young at Argostoli lagoon on 2 June.

Marsh Harrier - 1 date. Female passed Katelios on 2 June.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk - 1 date. 2 females at Katelios on 9 June.

Levant Sparrowhawk - 1 date. Male flew over apartment on 7 June, mobbed by House Martins. A life record.

Common Buzzard - 12 dates. Seen throughout, commonest raptor.

Peregrine Falcon - 1 date. 1 around crags from apartment on 30 May.

Eleonora’s Falcon - 1 date. 1 over apartment on 28 May.

Common Kestrel - 6 dates. Second commonest raptor.

Red-footed Falcon - 1 date. 3 probable females hawking insects high over our apartment on 9 June.

Moorhen - 1 date. One heard only at Lake Avithos on 31 May.

Little Ringed Plover - 1 date. Single bird on Kaminia beach on 4 June. Only wader seen all holiday.

Yellow-legged Gull - 10 dates. Modest numbers on coasts, and all appeared to be adult birds.

Collared Dove - all dates. Common throughout.

Turtle Dove - 2 dates (seen). Only birds seen were 1 near Tzanata on both 5 and 6 June, and 2 at Agios Eirini on 6 June. Heard only at Katelios on 5 June.

Little Owl - 1 date (seen). Heard only near Katelios on 30 May, and 1 seen near Mt Aenos radar station on 3 June.

Scops Owl - 1 date (seen). Heard almost nightly at dusk on the crags overlooking Katelios. Up to 3 birds usually calling at any one time, and one could get frustratingly close to the birds without seeing them. However, a bird was eventually seen on 6 June, and was a life record for me.

Nightjar - 8 dates (heard only). When seeking out Scops Owl, Nightjars were often heard at dusk in  the scrubby hillside above Katelios.

Alpine Swift - 5 dates. Flocks over Katelios on 29 May and 9 June; flock near Valsamata on 31 May; 1 over Asos castle on 5 June and 1-2 from apartment on 7 June.

Common Swift - 5 dates. Far less common than I expected it to be. Moderate numbers.

Crested Lark - 6 dates. At Katelios, 2 seen on 28 May, 1 on 29 May and 3 on 9 June. In the nearby Kaminia beach area, 4 on 4 June, 2 on 6 June and 1 on 7 June. Also, 1-2 at Tzanata on 6 June. Heard on other occasions. Much smaller numbers than on previous trips to Crete and Lesvos.

House Martin - all dates. Very common throughout.

Red-rumped Swallow - 13 dates. Common throughout, but less so than the other hirundines. Along with the other swallows, sometimes swooped the hotel pool for a drink while I was having a swim ! A nest site was seen in a coach station in Valeriano.

Barn Swallow - all dates. Abundant throughout; more so than House Martin.

Wren - 1 date (heard only). 1 near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May.

Robin - 1 date. 1 seen and others heard in Mt Aenos NP pine forest on 3 June.

Nightingale - 1 date (seen). Heard only near Agios Eirini on 6 June, and 1 seen singing in a dead tree at Ano Katelios on 8 June.

Stonechat - 2 dates. Single juveniles at Katelios and near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May; a male in the road between Markopoulo and Katelios on 5 June. I expected this species to be common and it wasn’t.

Northern Wheatear - 1 date. 2-3 near Mt Aenos radar station on 3 June.

Black-eared Wheatear - 4 dates. 6-7 near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May, pair near Agios Nikolaos on 3 June, 2-3 again near the radar station on 3 June and single male and female between Myrtos beach and Asos on 5 June. Both pale and black-throated males seen.

Rock Thrush - 1 date. A male near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May was a nice surprise and one of my 3 lifers of the trip, along with Levant Sparrowhawk and Scop’s Owl. It is probably apparent to the reader that the area around this radar station was the best place for birds I found on the island.

Blue Rock Thrush - 3 dates. A male near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May, pair near Livardi marsh on 5 June and male north of Myrtos beach on 5 June.

Blackbird - very common throughout.

Mistle Thrush - 1 date. One in Mt Aenos NP pine forest on 3 June. My first Greek record.

Cetti’s Warbler - 13 dates (heard only). Obviously common, but due to extreme skulking nature, no birds were actually seen.

Zitting Cisticola - 2 dates. One near Katelios beach on 30 May and at least 2 at Livardi marsh on 2 June.

Reed Warbler - 1 date (heard only). Katelios beach near stream outlet, 29 May.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - 8 dates. All sight records from Katelios area, where usually 1-2 birds, but up to half dozen seen on 8 June. Many other birds heard only. Often, but not always skulking, and some great views. Likes lush vegetation. Song similar to Reed Warbler, but more musical. Second commonest warbler after Sardinian.

Olive Tree Warbler - 2 dates (heard only). Not seen unfortunately, but singles singing near Agios Eirini on 6 June and Katelios on 9 June, proved they are on the island. Song is similar to Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, but slower and deeper.

Sardinian Warbler - 14 dates. Very common throughout, and seen all dates bar one. Being a bit of a skulker, naturally, far more birds were heard than seen.

Firecrest - 1 date. Two seen very well and others heard in Mt Aenos NP pine forest on 3 June.

Spotted Flycatcher - 1 date. One feeding on a butterfly in a wood near Agios Eirini on 6 June.

Coal T*t - 1 date. 6-7 seen and others heard in Mt Aenos NP pine forest on 3 June. My first Greek record.

Great T*t - 5 dates. Small numbers, and 4 between Myrtos and Asos on 5 June was largest number. Commonest of it’s genus however.

Blue T*t - 1 date. Only seen at Katelios on 30 May, although heard on another date.

Woodchat Shrike - 12 dates. Common throughout, but only shrike seen. Most birds were males, usually on wires. Probably around 40 birds seen in 2 weeks.

Jay - 8 dates. Birds were of the dark-crowned eastern type. Commoner than in the UK, and 13-14 seen altogether - more than any other crow !

Hooded Crow - 7 dates. The only true corvid seen, but much scarcer than anticipated, with only 10 seen in 2 weeks.

Raven - 1 date (heard only). At the summit of Mt Aenos, but mist prevented it being seen.

House Sparrow - Probably the most abundant bird on Kefalonia. Yawn !

Spanish Sparrow - 3 dates min. Large colony seen in eucalyptus trees to the west of Livardi marsh on 2 June. Also 2 males and 1-2 females near our apartment on 4 June and at least 1 male there on 9 June. There seemed to be a small colony near the apartment which I didn’t realise was there until the 2nd week, so other birds had probably gone unnoticed previously.

Chaffinch - Commonly seen, mainly in pine woods.

Goldfinch - Abundant throughout; commonest finch.

Greenfinch - Very common throughout; 2nd commonest finch.

Linnet - 2 dates. Small numbers around Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May and 3 June.

Cirl Bunting - 2 dates seen. Single males seen west of Digaleto on 31 May and near Agios Georgios on 5 June. Other birds were heard singing only on a further 3 dates.

Black-headed Bunting - 6 dates seen. Probably most numerous bunting on the island, and all birds seen were males, mostly singing. Birds seen were singles at Katelios on 28 and 29 May, 1 near Asprogerakas on 1 June, 1 near Agios Georgios on 4 June, singles at Agios Georgios and Markopoulo on 5 June and 5-6 at various sites on 6 June. Several birds were hear only, including on a further 4 dates.

Cretzschmar’s Bunting - 1 date. Probably 3 birds near Mt Aenos radar station on 31 May.

Corn Bunting - 5 dates. Birds seen were 1 near Valeriano on 31 May, 1 near Asprogerakas on 1 June, a few near Livardi marsh on 2 June, 2-3 between Katelios and Argostoli on 3 June and a few generally on 6 June. Others were heard only.


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