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A Report from

Crete, May 10th 17th 2001,

Jan Landsverk

Three of my sons (Erlen, Mario and Ole Einar) and I went on charter to Crete  May 10 to watch birds, as we share this interesting hobby.  We paid only less than US dollars 200,- each.  We stayed just outside Rethymnon (3 km east of the centre) at hotel Plaza.  Already the first night we rented a car for four days.  These four days we visited most of the island and drove 1200 km. We started at sunrise about 6.30 a.m. and returned just after sunset about 8.30 p.m.

Weather was nice 5 of the 8 days with temperature varying between 19 - 23 degrees.  Three days there was a storm with heavy rain north and northwest on the island.  But we travelled to the south coast and eastwards those days, where the weather was much better, though very windy, so the bad weather up north didn`t hinder us in watching birds all day.

The last 4 days we took it easy and spent most of the time near the hotel - no birdwatching. 

As probably late May is a bit too late for the majority of the migrants, we are happy about the fact that we observed more than 100 species in 4 days. 

Our best bird was Lammergeier (an adult observed rather close).  The other good birds on our ten top list were:  Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Black tern, Whiskered Tern, Orphean Warbler, Wood Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Cirl Bunting.

The 10 most common birds:  1. House/Italian Sparrow  2. Chaffinch  3. Greenfinch  4. Blackbird  5. Sardinian Warbler  6. Goldfinch  7. Hooded Crow  8. Barn Swallow  9. Black Swift  10. Crested Lark/Buzzard. 

Day 1

Agia lake - Falasarna - Georgioupoli - Kourna lake - Rethymnon.

We visited Agia lake and its surroundings before we went to Falasarna as well as in the afternoon when we returned.  On our way back to Rethymnon we also visited Kourna lake and Georgioupoli. 

Agia lake has been developed the last year or so, and now they were building a house just in front of the lake. 

Kourna lake seemed more or less dead, and there are too many visitors to the lake.  A nice place, but not good for birds.

The lake close to Georgioupoli also seemed dead at the time.  It looks very good for birds, but it was not the three times we were there.  Then the seaside was better.

Falasarna was an interesting/fascinating place, but too windy when we were there.  It is a big area, so one needs more time than we spent.  I guess everything can pop up here under migration. 

Day 2

Agia lake - Omalos Plateau - Paleochora - Agia lake - Rethymnon.

Also this morning we first visited Agia lake before we continued our journey up to the Omalos Plateau.  The fog came and went and in between a little drizzle.  At the plateau it was cold - only about 10 degrees.  But suddenly the sun appeared and we enjoyed our birdwatching.  In the hills on the left side there were plenty of birds, but once more the fog came back and forced us to give up.  At Xyloskalo - where  the Samaria gorge ends/starts - the fog was so tick most of the time, that we didn`t see much.  So we proceded southward.  Over the mountains to the coast the fog was so tick that we couldn`t see anything, and the speed was about 30 km an hour.

At Paleochora the wind made the waves go into the road.  It was a strange experience.  Weather was nice, but a terrible wind made it difficult to watch birds.  We tried a few km west of the town before we left and found our way back "home" via Kandanos.  In the evening we once more checked up the bird life at Agia lake.

Day 3

Knossos - Thrapsano - Ierapetra - Agios Nikolaos - Malia - Iraklion Rethymnon.

We visited the archeological ruins of king Minos empire at Knossos in the morning before we drove to Thrapsano lake.  Unfortunately there wasn`t much to see at the lake - so it was a disappointment for us.  Others have observed many interesting birds around here, but we could only add a few to our list.  Just after the lake we were so lucky to see 5 Red-footed Falcons on the wire.  We studied them for a long time very close - 2 males and 3 females. 

After this incident we enjoyed our trip down to Ierapetra.  After having checked up two Collared Pratincoles at the western beach, we found the road to the town`s reservoir - a big artificial lake.  It was already in the afternoon and we couldn`t spend so much time here as planned.  This lake is especially good in the autumn/winter and also early spring, but the middle of May was obviously a bit late.  Still we observed some birds here we didn`t observe any other place, so it is well worth a visit. 

Halfway between Ierapetra and Agios Nikolaos you pass Ha Canyon.  Here we stopped to check out some raptors, but still no Lammergeier.  When we were about to leave, Erlen wanted to check the sky one more time, and there it was - and adult Lammergeier coming towards us.  Finally we got it.

At Malia we stopped to watch seabirds, and we were not disappointed.  We also visited a beach just west of Iraklion for potensial waders.

At Agia Pelagia Erlen stayed last year, so we had to visit his "old" hotel before dark. 

Day 4

Kourtallotiko Canyon - Piso Moni Preveli - Plakias - Frangokastello - Hora Sfakion - Askifous plateau - Georgioupoli - Rethymnon.

This day was our last birding day.  We passed through very beautiful scenery all the way today.  We enjoyed the nice day, and didnt watch birds so eagerly.  Kourtallotiko Canyon is good for different raptors, including Lammergeier.  But we were there too early in the morning, so we didn`t see that much.  From there it is a short way to the Monastery Piso/Moni Preveli at the coast - a beautiful and peaceful place.  We explored the garden, and found amongst others two Wood Warblers. 

Plakias is a nice small town with a good beach.  And so is the case with Frangokastello - called after the castle which is the main attraction.  We continued to Hora Sfakion and from there north over the mountain to Askifou  and Kare Canyon - a good place for birds.  Here we had half a dozen singing Corn Buntings. 

Once again we tried the Georgiopouli area, but also this time it was rather quiet.

Before going back to our hotel and delivering our car, we once more visited the river a few km before Rethymnon.  This is a good place for different birds like Waders and Warblers.  The last tick we got was a Little Ringed Plover here. 

Most of the island is good for birds, but we visited some of the best places in order to see as many species as possible.  But I think I would recommend late April and early May as the best time for birds.  We missed on several good birds like:  Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, a few Ducks, Black-winged Stilt, a few Raptors, Owls, Short-toed Lark, a few Warblers, as well as a few others.  But no complaints as we reached our goal.

Species list

1.  Little Grebe   Mainly Agia lake - at least 5.
2.  Cory`s Shearwater   At least 2 off Malia and 1 off Paleochora.
3.  Mediterranean Shearwater   3 off Malia most likely this species.
4.  Shag    2  Falasarna.
5.  Little Bittern   3-4 Agia lake.
6.  Cattle Egret   1 near Agia.
7.  Squacco Heron  3 Agia,15 Ierapetra,4 Georgioupoli,13 Paleochora.
8.  Little Egret   2 Agia,  1 Omalos,  8 Ierapetra.
9.  Grey heron   1 Thrapsano,  3 Ierapetra.
10. Mallard   4 Agia lake,  1 Ierapetra.
11. Ferruginous Duck   1 Agia lake - observed by an Englishman.
12. Lammergeier   1 ad. Ha Canyon between Ierap. and Ag. Nikol.
13. Griffon Vulture   More than 100 - where there are mountains.
14. Marsh Harrier   2 Ierapetra.
15. Long-legged Buzzard   About 10 -  several places -mostly mountains.
16. Buzzard   More than 100 -  most places. Common.
17. Golden Eagle   1 "mountains" west of  Agia.
18. Kestrel   Rather common.  5 airport Iraklion.
19. Lesser Kestrel   2 Mount Preveli (Monastery).
20. Red-footed Falcon   5 (2 male and 3 female) on the wire east Thrapsano.
21. Eleonora`s Falcon   At least 10 -  several places all over the island.
22. Falcon sp.   A few observed that was hard to decide.
23. Chukar   3 Ierapetra.
24. Water Rail   1 Agia lake  - heard.
25. Little Crake    1 Agia lake.
26. Moorhen   About 10 Agia, but also elsewhere.
27. Coot   About 4 Agia and at least 6 Ierapetra. 
28. Collared  Pratincole   2 beach harbour Ierapetra. 
29. Little Ringed  Plover   1 river mouth west of Rethymnon.
30. Ringed Plover   2 river mouth west of Rethymnon, 3elsewhere.
31. Grey Plover   2 beach west Iraklion, 1 rivermouth west Rethymn.
32. Turnstone   1 Paleochora.
33. Dunlin   12 Agia lake,  7 Thrapsano lake.
34. Curlew Sandpiper   1 Agia lake,  14 Thrapsano lake.
35. Temminck`s Stint  3 Agia, 4 Thrapsano and a few elsewhere.
36. Little Stint   2 Agia, 2 Thrapsano and elsewhere.
37. Wood Sandpiper   14 Agia, 2 Omalos.
38. Green Sandpiper   1 Omalos.
39. Common Sandpiper   5 in all, 2 rivermouth west Rethymnon.
40. Ruff   3 Omalos,  6 Thrapsano.
41. Yellow-legged Gull   Common.
42. Audoin`s Gull   1 Agia lake.
43. Black Tern   1 Agia lake,  1 Georgioupoli.
44. White-winged Black Tern  3 Agia lake.
45. Whiskered Tern   3 Ierapetra.
46. Rock Dove   About 10 in all.  4 Falasarna.
47. Wood Pigeon   1 Kourna ake, 1 Askifou.
48. Collared Dove   Common around Rethymnon, but also elsewhere.
49. Turtle Dove   1 Falasarna, 1 between Fournes and Laki.
50. Cuckoo   1 Omalos singing.
51. Black Swift   Common.
52. Pallid Swift   2 Rethymnon (hotel), but probably also observed other places.
53. Alpine Swift   4 East Crete, 10 Hora Sfakion, 3 Paleochora.
54. Hoopoe   4 Knossos.
55. Crested Lark   Common.
56. Wood Lark   4 Omalos.
57. Sand Martin   A few 100 Agia lake, but also several other places.
58. Crag Martin   About 10 Omalos.
59. Barn Swallow   Common.
60. Red-rumped Martin   1 near Agia.
61. House Martin   A few 100 Agia, but also  several other places.
62. Tawny Pipit   1 Omalos, 1 near Ano Viannos.
63. Tree Pipit   3 Omalos.
64. White Wagtail   About 10 Falasarna, 2 Omalos, 3 elsewhere.
65. Yellow Wagtail   6 Omalos, 1 Askifou.
66. Wren   6 Omalos, 1 near Agia - all singing.
67. Nightingale   1 Agia, 1 Ierapetra?
68. Northern Wheatear  About 10 Omalos, and a few other places.
69. Black-eared Wheatear   1 near river west Rethymn., 3Askifou.
70. Whincat   4 Falasarna, 3-4 Askifou.
71. Stonechat   Common.
72. Blue Rock Thrush   5 in all. 1 Falasarna, 1 Omalos,2 near Neapoli.
73. Blackbird   Very common.
74. Blackcap   1 heard singing orchard 20 km northeast Paleochora.
75. Orphean Warbler   1 seen Falasarna.
76. Sardinian Warbler   Very common.
77. Subalphine Warbler    Heard singing ? up to Omalos near Fournes.
78. Sedge Warbler   3 Agia lake.
79. Zitting Cisticola   1 heard Georgioupoli.
80. Cetti`s  Warbler   Heard many places, including Agia.
81. Reed Warbler   1 singing river west Rethymnon and 1 elsewhere.
82. Great Reed Warbler   1 heard river west Rethymnon.
83. Icterine Warbler    1 Falasarna, 1 Thrapsano, 1 Moni Preveli.
84. Olivaceous Warbler   Heard and observed several places, like Agia.
85. Wood Warbler   2 observed orchard monastery Moni Preveli.
86. Spotted Flycatcher   Common. More than 40 observed all together.
87. Collared Flycatcher   2 orchard just east of Falasarna.
88. Great Tit   Rather common in forest.
89. Blue Tit   About 5 observed in forest a few places at higher altitude.
90. Woodshat Shrike   More than 20 observed all over the island.
91. Jay   2 Omalos.
92. Jackdaw   5 Kourtallotiko Canyon.
93. Red-billed Cough   About 10 observed from the bus Iraklion-Rethymn.?
94. Hooded Crow   Common.
95. Raven   15 all together - 4 Falasarna, 5 Omalos.
96. Golden Oriole   1 Agia, 1 Frangokastello.
97. House/Italian Sparrow   Too common.
98. Tree Sparrow   1 Thrapsano.
99. Chaffinch   Very common.
100.  Linnet   A few on the road to Omalos and two other places.
101.  Goldfinch   Common.
102.  Greenfinch   Very common.
103.  Serin  1 between Iraklion-Rethymn., a few churchyard west Agia.
104.  Cirl Bunting   2 Omalos.
105.  Corn Bunting   7 Askifou,  3 north Hora Sfakion.


Akkerhaugen, June 20 - 2001


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