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A Report from

Crete, 15th - 29th May 2007,

Kevin & Sue Boyd

On the 15th May we flew to Chania with Olympic Holidays for 2 week holiday based at the Katsikoulakis Apartments at Kamisiana, which is between Maleme and Kolimbari , about 18 kms west of Chania.  These apartments were in the perfect situation for us.  Just a block of seven apartments and two more blocks with studios in open countryside.  We booked on line on a late deal and the holiday was just £360 for the apartment and flight.  We also booked the car hire through Olympic and thought we had a good deal at £190 for two weeks car hire for a Group B car. Unfortunately at the airport the National Alamo representative not only brought a group A car but started charging us for extra insurances to the extortionate amount of an extra 330 euros!  We spoke to the Olympic rep who sent us back to the car hire company. We changed to the correct B group car and haggled the insurances down to 224 euros.  Making this car one on the most expensive we have hired at £350 for the 2 weeks.

During our holiday we travelled 1400 kms and spent 93 euros on Petrol.  The petrol is 1.15 euros per litre at the current time.

Our information on the best bird watching sites was from trip reports off and a very old copy of Birdwatching in Crete by Stephanie Coghlan.  We also borrowed a really good map Crete Touring Map 1:160.000, which gave the Greek spelling of the villages and the anglicised version.  A must in the country areas!

The birds that are common to Crete and could be seen from sea level to mountain tops are Sardian Warbler, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Swallow, Cettis, Buzzard, Hooded Crow.

The areas we visited were:

KAMISIANA –  the area around our apartment was just wonderful for early morning walks.  In front of us was a scrubby and pebbly beach, to the east and west was fields and grazing sheep and goats, a kilometre to the east was the River Tavronitis and to the west was a smaller river.  Over the two weeks we had 30 species of birds in the fields and Beach.

RIVER TAVRONITIS – Best viewed from the Old Tavronitis Bridge, was a great stop off in the early morning or late evening, some waders had usually dropped in under the main road bridge.  It is now impossible to view the river from the road running alongside its banks due to the amount of builders rubble piled up on the banks.  The mouth of the river and beach to the west is worth viewing on a daily basis. – Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed Plover and Little Bittern

AGIA RESERVOIR  - now renamed Swan Lake by the locals, due to the two tavernas built of its shores, complete with tourist ‘land trains’ and coach visits.  There is a promenade along one full side of the lake.  This reservoir is still worth a visit and you can scan along the reed beds of the remaining two sides.  We could not find a path from the Church through the Eucalyptus trees to the lakeside – Little Bittern, Bittern, Moustached Warblers,  Ferruginous Duck

THERISSO GORGE – Just a short drive from Agia, this is a quiet gorge, which has great views of Chania and the coast from the highest point. At the top of the gorge head towards Meskla and Fournes and you travel through another Gorge and drive through the village of Therisso. – Serin, Wren, Grey Wagtail, Short Toed Lark, Blue Rock Thrush

LAKE AT GEORGIOUPOLIS – lake runs alongside the main highway and can be viewed from the southern end of the lake. – Moorhen, Coot and Buzzard

LAKE KOURNAS – north of Georgioupolis and signposted.  This lake is in a lovely setting, but once again mass tourism has upset the bird life.  The taverna owners rent out pedaloes and we even watched someone snorkelling.  There is a path at the southern end where birds can be heard and seen. – Reed Warbler

FALASARNA -  On the far west of the island. Set in an agricultural plain where greenhouses cover the area.  Drive down into the plain and travel to the ancient ruins through olive groves and green houses.  Then travel along the beach to the far south of the bay. – Spotted Flycatcher, Raven, Sandwich Tern, Shag

OMALOS PLATEAU – Just before the Samaria Gorge.  We visited this plateau three times.  On the second visit we asked about staying overnight, but all places were fully booked.  The weather can change in a few minutes on the plateau and the temperatures can be 10 degrees less than on the coast.  The clouds can sweep down and the visibility can be cut to a few feet and rain was always a threat. There is water on the western edge of the plateau.  Park up and walk the paths looking out for Tawny Pipits, Woodlarks, Cirl Buntings, Corn Buntings and Choughs. The first time we went up to the plateau we took the route via Lakki, many hairpin bends and coaches returning from Samaria Gorge, for the subsequent trips to the Plateau we took the route via Skines and Prasses.  This road has been upgraded and has far less traffic than the Lakki route.  You climb up to the top, at the ‘windmill farm’ turn left and drive down into Omalos

SAMARIA GORGE- We went and had a look into the gorge.  On the last day we went up to the restaurant overlooking the gorge and the owner managed to find the Kri Kri (the Cretian Ibex) for the few visitors.  We asked about the Lammergier  Vulture, but he had not seen one for two years.

PLAKIAS – we travelled to Plakias in pouring rain and booked a room in the Hotel Livicon.   We visited a few of the areas listed in the book for the remainder of the afternoon.

TURKISH BRIDGE – Best in the morning for Griffin Vultures.

MONI PREVELLI  - Stephanie Coghlan talks about a path beside the car park of the monastery.  This has a No Entry sign now, but the path 1km back down the road is still a path to walk.  The best access to Megalopotamos Valley is from a little further down the road at a sign for PALM VALLEY, where the landowner charges 1.5 euros to park.  He has constructed footpaths and steps into and overlooking the valley onto the Palm fringed shoreline of the river. We did see people walking along the river in the bottom of the valley.  - Black eared wheatear

KOURTALIOTIKO GORGE  - This gorge is stunning with plenty of parking places. We travelled from the South to the North and back again before going onto the smaller KOTSIPHOS gorge, where parking is difficult but we managed to pull onto a space at the north end of the gorge. -  Griffin Vultures, Jackdaw, Wren, Blue Rock Thrush, Coal Tit

PETRAS GORGE – another gorge to walk along, but unfortunately the water levels where too high after the storm of the previous day. - Jackdaw

WEST COAST DRIVE – even if you do not see any birds this drive is stunning scenery.  It is unspoilt Greece at its best.  No mass tourism here, just agriculture, high mountains and quiet beaches.   We did a circular route and came back via Elos.  Whilst in Elos we read a new large Notice Board stating the area south west of Elos was a large protection area for breeding birds.  It said on this board that there are only 4 breeding pairs of Lammergiers in the South Eastern Mediterranean, and in this protection area was the only breeding pair in Crete. 

Bird List:

We had 75 species of birds in the two weeks.  Not a great list, but considering it was after the main migration and our target bird the Lammergier decided not to show for us, we were not disappointed and had a great holiday in a lovely location.

1. Little Grebe – Aghia Reservoir and Lake Kournas
2. Shag – seen off the beach in Kamisiana, Falasarna and Plakias
3. Bittern – heard and seen at Aghia
4. Little Bittern – nearly common, seen on all water and rivers, including Omalas
5. Squacco Heron – Kamisiana
6. Little Egret – Kamisiana, Tavronitis and few other places
7. Grey Heron – Kamisiana – wet field east of apartment
8. Purple Heron – Kamisiana – wet field east of apartment, also a pair in tree top east of Plakias
9. Mallard – river in Georgioupolis
10. Ferruginous Duck – 1 seen at Aghia
11.Griffon Vulture – Most of the gorges, but great views at Turkish Bridge about 9.00 a.m.
12. Buzzard – Common
13. Osprey – flying over Rodpou Peninsula, near Kolimbari
14. Kestrel – Kamisiana and a few seen in other locations.
15. Moorhen – Seen on rivers and Aghia
16. Coot – Many at Aghia
17. Little Ringed Plovers – Tavronitis river and beach at Kamisiana
18. Ringed Plover -  Beach at River mouth Tavronitis
19. Kentish Plover – Seen during our first week only at Kamisiana
20. Sanderling – on the beach at the mouth of the river Tavronitis
21. Little Stint – from Old Tavronitis Bridge
22. Curlew Sandpiper - Old Tavronitis Bridge and the river mouth
23. Spotted Redshank  – Kamisiana – wet field east of apartment
24. Common Sandpiper – River Gerani from the road Bridge
25. Herring Gull – Common on the north coast and near the apartment, not many seen in the south.
26.    Sandwich Tern – 2 sat on rocks at the southern end of Falasarna.
27.    Rock Dove - 20+ at Omalos Plateau
28.    Wood Pigeon – one heard, in the mountain area above Omalos
29.    Collared Dove – Common
30.    Turtle Dove – Falasarna in the olive groves and South of Fournes
31.    Swift – common over rivers
32.    Alpine Swift – in the first week, high in the mountains, second week down at sea level, over the rivers and Aghia
33.    Hoopoe – one seen flying in the olive groves, south of Kamisiana
34.    Short toed lark – seen on the tops over Therisso Gorge,  and other locations of high altitude.
35.    Crested Lark – seen in most locations
36.    Woodlark – Omalos Plateau
37.    Sand Martin – Kamisiana and Aghia
38.    Crag Martin -  Cave at entrance to Omalos Plateau
39.    Swallow – Common
40.    Red rumped Swallow – only seen at Bridge South of Fornes
41.    House Martin – surprisingly uncommon.  Seen over Aghia and a few in Georgioupolis
42.    Tawny Pipit – Omalos Plateau
43.    Grey Wagtail – seen in the stream in the first part of  Therisso Gorge
44.    White Wagtail –  Falasarna and Therisso Gorge
45.    Wren – heard in the lower parts of most mountain gorges
46.    Stonechat – Common,  particularly in Kamisiana
47.    Wheatear – on high ground in most places
48.    Black-eared Wheatear - Rodpou  peninsula and near Monastry Prevelli and one or two other locations.
49.    Blue Rock Thrush – in most mountain gorges, particularly good views at the western layby on the main national highway, just before the Kalives turnoff.  Where a pair are breeding.
50.    Blackbird – common in all areas
51.    Cetti’s warbler – common most areas, heard and seen in Kamisiana
52.    Fan tailed Warbler – seen and heard every day in Kamisiana
53.    Moustached Warbler – a pair seen in the reeds as you walk to the left of the promenade at Aghia
54.    Reed Warbler – seen and heard at Lake Kournas on the walk at the Southern end of the lake
55.    Olivaceous warbler – seen and heard in the small river mouth, west of Kamisiana.
56.    Sardian Warbler – just everywhere
57.    Blackcap – Aghia Lake – also heard South of Fournes in River bed.
58.    Spotted Flycatcher – in olive groves at  Falasarna on the track to ruins.
59.    Coal Tit -  at the northern end of  Kourtaliotiko at the road junction with Frai on the right.
60.    Blue Tit – heard in most wooded areas
61.    Great Tit – heard in most wooded areas and olive groves and in Kamisiana
62.    Woodchat Shrike – Most of the ones we saw were on Omalos Plateau
63.    Jay – on Omalos Plateau
64.    Chough – a pair seen on Omalos Plateau
65.    Jackdaw – seen at Kourtaliotiko Gorge and near Petras Gorge
66.    Hooded Crow – common
67.    Raven – seen most days on high ground, nesting at Falasarna above the ancient ruins.
68.    Italian Sparrow – common
69.    Chaffinch – common
70.    Serin – seen and heard in pines tree in several locations, heard in Therisso Gorge.
71.    Greenfinch – common
72.    Goldfinch – common
73.    Linnet -  Omalos, Therisso Gorge and high up in mountain areas.
74.    Cirl Bunting – Omalos Plateau
75.    Corn Bunting – Omalos Plateau, only heard on high ground.


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