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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

Corfu   16th-22nd October '99,

John Jennings

Introduction:

When I booked the holiday it was a late availability one and my friend (Paul Hammond from Manchester) and I didn't know where we were going on the island. Once we arrived at the airport we were told Kavos.  Our hearts sank a bit because we wanted to be in the northern area if possible. We stayed at the South Coast apartments just south of Kavos. We managed to hire a car (a Hyundai Alto) after much bartering and going to quite a few car hire companies, quite reasonably for 100 pound for the week, and that included us using it and driving it to the airport and to be met at 03:45am. That last bit was important as it gave us the flexibility to explore on the last day and then go to Corfu Town on the last night for an authentic Greek meal.

With all the driving we did we decided to stay at Barbati for a couple of days and do the Pantokrator area properly and found a fabulous place that only charged us a fiver each per night.

One thing that stands out was the reluctance for nearly all birds to show themselves, probably for fear of being shot at. Apart from Robins, of which there seemed many thousands of them, Goldfinch, Stonechat and the odd pocket of Greenfinch, you had to really stay still in an area and watch closely for any movements. This became frustrating when Warblers could be heard and not located. Many Warblers went unidentified because either you didn't see them or the entire look you got was the slightest glimpse as the bird disappeared into the bush or undergrowth.

There were the odd exceptions such as on the higher levels of Pantokrator where birds such as Cirl Buntings actually were seen on the wires, something you very rarely saw in the lower levels and fields and Lake Halkiopoulou (airport lagoon) where I doubt if shooting is allowed.

Originally we were given a map with the car we hired but this proved to be very unreliable. Luckily when we stayed at Barbati the money exchange shop had a map that was surveyed and checked using the latest satellite technology and was streets ahead of the one we were using. It even had a section giving tracks and walks around the Pantokrator Mountain plus other walks that were shown in other areas of the island. This proved invaluable to us as it allowed us to find what could be a jewel in springtime at a place called MelikiaIt also included an excellent guide around Corfu and the airport as well as an alphabetical key for place names and where to find them complete with a mileage chart.

Following are a few sites we visited.

Melikia

Melikia (Nr Lefkimmi) Situated (at the sea's edge) on the left hand bank of river towards the sea.

Melikia was a place we came across by sheer accident. We had left the Lefkimma saltpans until towards the end of the week. If you approach Lefkimma (from Kavos) and do not use the by-pass (drive straight on at the lights passed a Shell garage) you will eventually drive over a river. Take the 2nd road on your right. This takes you towards the sea. There are all sorts of varying habitats along this river. Olive Groves and even allotment type fields. The trees, on the rivers edge, turned up our one and only Melodious Warbler and in the allotments we had Crested Lark and Sardinian Warbler. As you drive further down the track you eventually come to the end and her (to your left) there is a small drain and a few sea pools. We had quite a few birds here and it looks an extremely good spring venue. (Very few Shotgun cartridges were found here) Birds seen here included: - Fan tailed Warbler, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Sedge Warbler, Kingfisher, Redshank, Hooded Crow, Reed Bunting, Serin, Woodcock (a total surprise)

Lefkimmi saltpans 

Lefkimmi saltpans looks good but compared with other Greek Saltpans I have visited (Lesbos) it was quite poor. However it did turn up a few good birds namely, 40+ Little Stint, 30+ Dunlin, 10+ Kentish plover, 3 Curlew Sandpipers, a Barwit, Common Sandpiper, as well as 20+ Yellow legged Gulls, 10+ lesser black-backed Gulls, one lone Little Gull + Grey Heron, one Pintail, Kingfisher a few Black Redstart (near the weighbridge) Grey, White and Pied Wagtails, at least 5 Water Pipits and a few Meadow Pipits, Kingfisher, as well as the usual birds such as Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackcap Greenfinch, Sparrow, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Whinchat and a lone Starling.

Sidari

We were very disappointed with this area. We had been given some trip reports from Steve Whitehouse (Worcester) that indicated this area to be a prime site but it let us down whilst we looked there. The only notable birds seen here were a Cetti's Warbler, a few Spotted Flycatchers, 5 Song Thrush, a few Corn Buntings and some Tree Sparrows plus a lone Serin and a Common Buzzard by the wooden bridge

Pantokrator Mountain

Some excellent birds here but not in the quantities that we perhaps expected. Quality birds here was an unexpected Booted Eagle that flew straight over our heads when we were about half a mile from the summit plus Black eared Wheatear, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush. Cirl Buntings made a show on the wires plus a very light looking Northern Wheatear with a damaged right side of its face. Plenty of Black Redstarts around the summit and a Peregrine put in an appearance as well, plus a Kestrel. A few Common Buzzards were added to the list but we caught sight of a possible large Eagle but it was too far from us to ID. Not as many raptors were showing as we would have liked to have seen and apart from the Booted Eagle nothing unusual either.

Lake Halkiopoulou        (Airport lagoon)

We expected a little more from this area than we got although we did count up to 15 Great white Egrets here. I was looking for the reported Pygmy Cormorants that roost on the posts in the Lagoon but try as we may we didn't find one. Over 100 Cormorants and Black headed Gulls as well as plenty of Grey Herons were all roosting on the posts but little else. A few Terns flew through at a distance from us that made it difficult to ID them but I suspect that they were Sandwich Terns. A few Little Egret were seen as well as a couple of Kingfisher. Not much else was added to this place except the odd Moorhen, Pied Wagtail etc. Surprise bird here was a Marsh Harrier.  You could view this place in a bout three places, none of them close up views. Either from height at Kanoni or take the road off to the left that takes you to the causeway. The other place we found was Kavos side of the airport by a large Supermarket. It is on the right hand side of the airport and is at the back of a sand and terraced football pitch. They also park up the coaches here.

Ropa Valley

Nothing unusual seen here but a place with obvious potential. We just had bad timing as everything is right about this place. The reports I had bore this out with anything here including Lanner. Well worth looking at in Spring etc.

Lake Antiniotissa

This was the most disappointing area yet. Totally birdless on the water and the immediate surrounding area didn't turn up anything different. Still looks a place full of potential but again bad timing on our behalf. Just down the road is Agios Spiridon and we turned up our first Blue rock Thrush here. We also went here after finding a few Cory's and Yelkouan Shearwaters above Kalamaki beach and saw up to 100 Cory's and at least one Yelkouan around a fishing boat.

Agios Stephanos 

There is a reported flock of Spanish Sparrows here in the Eucalyptus trees but we couldn't find them. I did see what was possibly the flight of a Woodpecker here but it went behind a wall of trees before I could ID it.

 Above Kalamaki Beach

Our first sighting of around a dozen Cory's and at least three Yelkouan Shearwaters plus a few Sandwich Terns.

Vatos Golf course

Another big disappointment but obviously high on potential. Only birds seen here were Kingfisher, Moorhen and Little Grebe as well as a few usual birds that were seen everywhere.

Gavrolimni

There was a dried up lake here but very little in the way of birds but yet again a site with massive potential especially if the lake fills up again. We did see a couple of Woodlark in a field here and a Common Buzzard.

Kavos (in the South Coast apartment area)

One of the most productive areas ended up being right on our doorstep. On the very first day we had three Black Storks fly over our head flying north and at the end of the week a totally unexpected Eleonora's Falcon flew over our apartment. In-between we had had Tree Sparrow, one lone Spanish Sparrow, approx a dozen Red rumped Swallow on the first day, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, a Scops Owl at the bottom of our garden, as well as all the usual birds, including Crested lark

Other sites

Apart from all those sites visited there were enroute sites that also need consideration. Sites around Paleokastrista for instance. The roads going north, through Lakones and  Vistonas have vast potential and need time spent on them Perhaps a two week holiday would give you more scope.

The tracks around Mount Pantokrator should yield plenty but again time is needed.

Looking Northwards

Lake Korission was very quiet when we visited (apart from the shooters). The surrounding area was quite good with dunes, scrub, reed beds, and surrounding Olive Groves etc but the actual Lake didn't throw up very much. On the Lake all we had in total was a few Grey Heron, 2 Pintail, a lone Little Egret and Little Grebe plus one lone Dunlin. One thing I was pleased to see here was four Kingfishers showing well, and fishing, just in front of us. A pair of Hooded Crows plus a Common Buzzard flew over early in the week but it was the dunes and reed beds that turned up the odd good bird. Plenty of Crested Larks, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Sparrow, Stonechat and Robin plus Fan-tailed Warbler were in evidence plus the odd Magpie and one Olivaceous and one Moustached Warbler and one Skylark were found plus a couple of Wren on the corner of the approach track (where we also found the Olivaceous). Cetti's and Water Rail could be heard but were not found. A few Jay could be seen around the trees at the side of the Lake and a few Swallow were seen flying through towards Kavos

Paleokastrista (Alipa bay)

This is a shot looking down on the bay. The bay car park looks an interesting area but be warned that you are not allowed to take photos of the fenced off area. Within this fenced off area are a good number of trees full of mainly Sparrows but with a mixture of many other birds and is well worth giving it a good look over. From that bay, looking up at the tops of the hills that surround the bay, we saw at least one, maybe two Peregrine (depending on whether the same bird was seen on both differing sides of the hills) plus two Raven. It looks prime raptor land around here.

Pantokrator Mountain

Looking towards Albania

Comments:

Perhaps not the best time of year to visit Corfu for birdwatching although, I suppose, that 89 species is not too bad going. We had a mixed bag of weather ranging from the ridiculously hot to fantastic spectacular lightning criss-crossing the sky. Torrential rain came our way on more than one day but most of it was at night. You need to shop around for car hire as some of them are expensive. 

Possible Itineraries on Corfu:

You could split the island into four itineraries.

1st Itinerary:

The far south taking in Kavos, Melikia, Lefkimmi salt pans and Lake Korission.

2nd Itinerary:

Airport lagoon over to Paleokastrista via the  Ropa Valley and Gavrolimni and going back to Corfu via Lakones and Vistonas and Skripeo, Sgombou and down the coastal road to Corfu.

3rd Itinerary:

Mount Pantokrator and all its tracks making sure you study the Strinillas to Mount Pantokrator road.

4th Itinerary:

Northern coastline taking in Sidari, Roda, Cape Ekaterini, Lake Andriotissa, Agio Spiridon, above Kalamaki beach, Kassiopi, Cape Varvara, Avlaki and Agios Stephanos.

Any of those sites, plus any others that are linked en-route should yield a good return but be prepared to work for them as they don't show that easily.

Be also warned that shooters are anywhere and possibly won't know that you are in the same area as them. We had one nasty shock when we were walking between roads outside of Kavos as one of the shooters started firing across us and that was in a lightly built up area.

Following is the list of species seen on Corfu:

Bar-tailed Godwit
Black Redstart
Black Stork
Blackbird
Blackcap
Black-eared Wheatear
Black-headed Gull
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Tit
Booted Eagle
Cetti's Warbler
Chaffinch
Chiffchaff    (heard only)
Cirl Bunting
Collared Dove
Common Buzzard
Common Kestrel
Common Kingfisher
Common Redshank
Common Sandpiper
Common Whitethroat
Cormorant
Corn Bunting
Cory's Shearwater
Crested Lark
Curlew Sandpiper
Dunlin
Dunnock
Eleonora's Falcon
Fan-tailed Warbler
Goldfinch
Great Tit
Great White Egret
Greenfinch
Grey Heron
Grey Wagtail
Hooded Crow
House Martin
House Sparrow
Jay
Kentish Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Whitethroat
Linnet
Little Egret
Little Grebe
Little Gull
Little Stint
Magpie
Marsh Harrier
Meadow Pipit
Melodious Warbler
Moorhen
Moustached Warbler
Northern Wheatear
Olivaceous Warbler
Orphean Warbler
Peregrine Falcon
Pied Wagtail
Pintail
Raven
Red-rumped Swallow
Reed Bunting
Robin
Rock Nuthatch
Sand Martin
Sandwich Tern
Sardinian Warbler
Savi's Warbler
Scops Owl
Sedge Warbler
Serin
Skylark
Song Thrush
Spanish Sparrow
Sparrowhawk
Spotted Flycatcher
Starling
Stonechat
Swallow
Tree Sparrow
Water Pipit
Water Rail   (heard only)
Whinchat
White Wagtail
Willow Warbler
Woodcock
Woodlark
Wren
Yelkouan Shearwater
Yellow-legged Gull

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