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A Report from

Southern Pelion, 13th-27th May 2011,

John & Jo Tallon

Our visit to this delightful part of Greece was primarily a holiday for rest and relaxation but, like birders everywhere, we always had our binoculars to hand and our eyes and ears open. We had searched in vain for any reports on this area before our trip but it has plenty to recommend it on the wildlife front as well as being a nice place for a holiday.

We travelled with Sunvil, flying to the local airport of Volos, a couple of hours by taxi from our final destination, the fishing village of Platanias. The whole Pelion peninsula is very green with forest or dense shrubbery covering the mountain slopes right up to the summits. Furthermore, the spring of 2011 had been very wet, including two weeks of rain until the day before our arrival. As a consequence the display of wild flowers was utterly stunning, both in its abundance and in the number of different species to be seen.

As the main purpose of our trip was beaching we mostly stayed close to the coast, either going to the beach at Kastri, about 90 minutes walk to the east, or to Mikro, a shorter walk to the west. We once went beyond Mikro to the sheltered pebbly bay at Hondri Ammos. On the one occasion we decided to explore inland up into the hills we had our only rainy day of the fortnight and eventually turned back, soggy and defeated.

In addition to the flowers there were good numbers of butterflies to be seen, and on five days we watched common dolphins swimming and fishing offshore, usually as we were sitting at a taverna for lunch. This happened at both Kastri and Mikro. Our main interest however was birds and in late May we seemed to have a mixture of residents already feeding young (Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler), newly arrived summer visitors (Eleonora’s Falcon, Spotted Flycatcher) and passage migrants (Black Stork, Whinchat). Some of the species more typical of the drier parts of Greece were not seen, and we didn’t find any wetter areas that might have attracted herons or waders.

The full systematic list of the birds we noted is as follows:

Mediterranean Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan – Odd singles seen around feeding dolphins. A raft of about 30 took off and flew east from near Mikro beach 22 May.

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis – Present in good numbers all along the coast.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta – One seen flying past Mikro beach 25 May.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra – One circling above Platanias18 May.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus – One being mobbed by gulls at Hondri Ammos 22 May.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo – Birds seen circling and/or perched most days.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus – One seen high up at Hondri Ammos 22 May.

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – Several pairs seen along the coast.

Eleonora’s Falcon Falco eleonorae – Small groups seen at various places, most frequently at Kastri.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans – Common all along the coast with a roost of at least 200 birds from Platanias beach to Mikro.

Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii – One seen flying around Platanias harbour and later a few more were picked out among the Yellow-legged.

Rock Dove Columba livia – A pair seen on a couple of occasions between Platanias and Kastri.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto – Common and widespread.

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur – One seen on a wire from our taxi to Platanias

Swift Apus apus – Common and widespread, with a nesting colony in one of the harbourfront buildings

Alpine Swift Apus melba – A few seen at Kastri 24 May.

Bee-eater Merops apiaster – Heard calling but a few disappearing shapes were too distant to identify positively.

Roller Coracias garrulus – One seen well on a wire between Kastri and Platanias 24 May.

Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus – One seen well on a telegraph pole between Platanias and Kastri 17 May.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata – Common around the airport.

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris – A couple of pairs at Kastri.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica – Common and widespread, very abundant in Platanias.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica – Less common than the above but still easily seen in Platanias.

House Martin Delichon urbica – Common and widespread.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis – One seen in an olive grove near the village 14 May.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes – Heard along the stream when we walked up into the hills.

Robin Erithacus rubecula – Heard along the stream when we walked up into the hills.

Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos – Heard singing everywhere, particularly in the first week. A couple were obliging enough to sing out in the open.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra – One seen on a wire 15 May.

Blue Rock Thrush monticola solitarius – Several pairs on the rockier parts of the coast

Blackbird Turdus merula – Present in most areas of dense shrubbery

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala – Very common and widespread, often seen carrying food.

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans – Seen and heard in various bushy locations.

Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida – Several singing males near to Platanias and at Kastri.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata – Common both near and away from habitation, particularly in the second week.

Great Tit Parus major – Common and widespread, often with young.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus – Common and widespread, again often with juveniles.

Sombre Tit Parus lugubris – One or two seen near Platanias

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio – Seen at several locations, including close to the village.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator – One seen singing on a wire May 24.

Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus – One seen close to the village May 14.

Magpie Pica pica – Common near the airport.

Jay Garrulus glandarius – A few seen in more wooded areas.

Jackdaw Corvus monedula – Several seen near the airport.

Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix – Common, widespread and noisy.

Raven Corvus corax – A pair seen between Hondri Ammos and Mikro.

Starling Sturnus vulgaris – Common around the airport, one seen in bushes near Kastri.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus – Common around all human habitation.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus – One seen feeding with House Sparrows in a tree in Platanias 14 May.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs – Common and widespread.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis – Widespread and fairly common.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris – Common at Platanias and Mikro.

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus – A prominent and regular songster on the wires and trees around Platanias.

We’re not great photographers and can only manage things that we can get close to, and which stay reasonably still, as shown below.

Knapweed Fritillary.JPG  

Knapweed Fritillary

Early Spider Orchid.JPG

Early Spider Orchid

This report is dedicated to the memory of Dave O’Connor (1941-2011), a top bloke who loved birds, and loved Greece.

John & Jo Tallon July 2011


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