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A Report from

Birding Field Notes, Athens, Greece and Environs, early October 2001 ,

Gary Bletsch

While attending some meetings in Athens, I had the chance to do a little birding between sessions. Here are the results:

Athens, Oct. 4, 2001.

Acroplis: This site needs no introduction. Although interesting birds have been found here over the years, it did not seem like a very good site in October, at least ornithologically. I understand that Little Owls occur on the Acropolis; I saw some birds flying around the cliffs at night but could not identify them. The Acropolis has olive groves, cliffs, and of course it has ancient stone buildings.

2 Common Kestrel; 30 Rock Dove (feral birds?); 10 Eurasian Collared Dove; 10 Magpie; 20 House Sparrow.

National Gardens:
The National Gardens are good for some of the common European species of birds. This urban park in the center of Athens is mainly a dense forest of native and non-native trees, interspersed with footpaths and tourist infrastructure. It is just possible to escape the traffic noise here, but only just, since it is not a very large place. In migration this park would almost certainly prove more productive than it did during my visit, which took place after the main fall migration period. Although the park was mostly rather dry, there is a pond near the north end. Unfortunately, this pond is really more of a concrete pool than a natural water body, and the large number of domestic ducks and the people who feed them leave little room for wild waterfowl.

15 Rock Dove (feral?); 10 Eurasian Collared Dove; 2 Robin; 3 Blackbird; 8 Great Tit; 2 Short-toed Treecreeper; 10 Magpie; 3 Blackcap; 2 Spotted Flycatcher; 20 House Sparrow.

Lykavitos Hill:
Lykavitos Hill is one of the largest hills in Athens, and is a reasonably easy walk from the center of town. In the early morning hours, one could get some very nice photos of the Acropolis and the view toward Pireas from the summit. The hill is surrounded by city streets and buildings. Its slopes are covered in mostly open forest of pine and other trees. At the top is a rocky area that could attract various rock-loving birds. This hill would also be good in migration. Footpaths and roads make it easy to wander around. Many, many dogs and their good-natured owners were present in the lower forest footpaths, especially in the later afternoon.

20 Rock Dove (feral or perhaps not?); 10 Eurasian Collared Dove; 1 Pipit, unidentified (looked like Meadow, behaved like Tree, sounded like Red-throated); 6 Blackbird; 15 Great Tit; 2 Short-toed Treecreeper; 7 Magpie; 7 Sardinian Warbler; 3 Chiffchaff; 5 Spotted Flycatcher; 1 S! ! erin; 1 Chaffinch; 5 House Sparrow; 1 Cirl Bunting (winter plumage).

Attica, Oct. 6, 2001.

(beach, creek, construction area of Olympic rowing lakes, waste ground, trees near beach) from dawn (around 0640) until 1020.

Schinias is a beach northeast of Athens, and only about 10 to 15 km south-southeast of Marathon. It took my driver less than 45 minutes to drive there from the center of Athens on a Sunday, leaving before dawn to beat traffic. I was told that this area is doomed, but the locals told me that there are serious plans to recreate the habitat in a few years, after the Olympics. The destruction here is evident--gigantic lakes are being bulldozed out of a coastal wetland, in order to create an Olympic rowing venue. However, a creek (locals call it a river) still flows to within a few meters of the sea. There are still good patches of Phragmites along this creek, as well as some trees on some of the banks. An area of abandoned buildings and overgrown weedy patches with a few trees abut the sea just west of the bathing beach. Here there were many passerines. Small areas of adjacent croplands also provide bird habitat. It is possible to walk alongside the cre! ! ek from the beach, heading inland toward the "lake" construction area. The muddy ponds, which will become landscaped lakes soon, had quite a few waterbirds. There are some large conifers along the beach, forming an open woodland. Beyond the huge construction area are some nice-looking wetlands which I did not have time to bird. I had no access problems here or in any other area visited on this trip.

3 Little Grebe; 1 Grey Heron; 2 Little Egret; 2 Mallard; 1 Teal or Garganey; 1 or 2 Moorhen; 1 Little Stint; 1 Wood Sandpiper; 6 Yellow-legged Gull; 15 Rock Dove (feral or wild?); 4 Eurasian Collared Dove; 8 RING-NECKED PARAKEET; 1 Common Kingfisher; 6 Crested Lark; 1 Wagtail, probably a Grey; 2 Barn Swallow; 1 Sand Martin; 5 Blackbird; 35 unidentified thrushes, possibly Song Thrushes, flew by quickly heading north; 1 Whinchat; 6 Stonechat; 2 Red-backed Shrike; 2 Blackcap; 3 Sardinian Warbler; 25 Willow Warbler; 4 Chiffchaff; 12 Spotted Flycatcher; 5 Penduline Tit; 10 Magpie; 2 NORTHERN RAVEN (not usual in Attica; seen and heard at close range; the cab driver also finding them remarkable); 8 Eurasian Tree Sparrow; 2 Greenfinch! ! ; 10 Goldfinch; 1 Linnet; 4 Corn Bunting.

Mt. Pedeli
Southern and eastern slopes, near marble works, dried-up riparian zone with burned forest, 1130-1430.
Mt. Pendeli is northeast of Athens, and reaches just over 1100 meters. My driver drove me up the eastern slopes, going from Nea Makri on the coast and heading westward. I birded the eastern slopes, within a mile or two of a huge marble quarry. A catastrophic forest fire has destroyed most of the forest on this mountain; I investigated a riparian zone which had escaped the blaze. To reach this site, one must take a road over a bit of a saddle by some industrial buildings and a few trees. a right-hand fork leads to this riparian area, which has a series of small concrete dams. the highest dam visited had a bit of water with many frogs. The small cliffs had Western Rock Nuthatches.

1 Common Kestrel; 1 Sparrowhawk, unidentified, probably a male; 1 Blackbird; 3 Common Redstart; 1 Robin; 4 Sardinian Warbler; 5 Spotted Flycatcher; 1 Hooded Crow; 6 Magpie; 1 Jay; 2 Great Tit; 1 Tit, unidentified, probably a Sombre; 3 Goldfinch; 1 Finch, unidentified; 2 Western Rock Nuthatch; 1 Red-backed Shrike; 2 Cirl Bunting.

Mt. Parnitha
Southern slopes from foot of mountain up to 1200 meters; late afternoon.
Mt. Parnitha is the biggest peak near Athens, at just over 1400 meters. We drove up past the cable-car station (I believe it's called "teleferiko" in Greek) and wandered around the forested upper reaches, where firs blanket the peak. Actually, there were not many birds up there in the late afternoon, as often happens in the mountains. Morning, or perhaps evening, would be better. On the way down, we stopped at a dry forested area just few kilometers from the bottom cable-car station. There were thousands of beehives in this area. A blue sign depicting a jetliner marks the location. Cliffs had Western Rock Nuthatch, and I found Firecrest surprisingly low down.

2 Magpie; 2 Blackbird; 2 Sardinian Warbler; 1 Firecrest; 1 unidentified flycatcher, female--Pied, Collared, or Semicollared; 5 Coal Tit; 4 Great Tit; 1+ Western Rock Nuthatch; 1 Jay; 2 Magpie.

Gary Bletsch
Yanbu International School
PO Box 30039
Yanbu al-Sinaiyah, Saudi Arabia

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