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A Report from

Naxos, Greece - August, 2003,

David Griffiths

Naxos is one of the larger of the Cyclades reached by a 4-hour 'quick' ferry or a 7-hour 'slow' ferry from Piraeus. From a birding point of view the latter is best, you can get excellent views of both Cory's and Yelkouan Shearwater from the traditional open-deck ferry, the 'Hi-speed' ship doesn't have a viewing deck. The salt-pans south of Hora (Naxos town - the main town on all the islands is called Hora - it means 'town!) look immediately promising when viewed from the road but can be approached much more closely from a small dirt track just outside Agios Prokopios. The smaller pool hosted several pairs of breeding Black-winged Stilts as well as Wood and Green Sandpipers, Garganey, Stone Curlew and a roost of Grey Herons, Little Egrets and a single Glossy Ibis. On one evening these were joined briefly by a Purple Heron. In the surrounding fields and bushes there were White and Yellow 'feldegg' Wagtails, Crested Larks and Sardinian Warblers. On a few occasions there were a pair of Cretzschmar's Buntings, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrike and once a Night Heron flew in early morning.

A track leads along the far side of the small pool to the larger pool which is adjacent along its eastern side with the small airport. It was on this pool that most of the waders congregated. August is a good month for migrants here and I was lucky enough to find Marsh and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Little and Temmink's Stints, as well as the more mundane Greenshanks, Common and Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel. Ironically the rarest Greek bird that I found was a Knot - only the second record for the island, as I was later told.

Around the airport pool were dozens of Black-winged Stilts, Yellow-legged Gulls and  Little Ringed Plovers. A Squacco Heron showed well but distantly on several occasions whilst amongst the 200+ Mallard and 25 Garganey I was surprised to find an eclipse Pochard and a Teal. The only raptors were a pair of Eleanora's Falcons (amazingly common on the island), a very scruffy Long-legged Buzzard and an immature Common Kestrel (Lesser Kestrel are apparently rare on the island).

Between the two pools a straggly hedgerow held a few warblers - mostly Sardinian but a few Olivaceous. Towards the end of my stay passerine migration was obviously picking up and Icterine and Willow Warblers started to appear.

Beyond the confines of these two lakes birding is a more hit and miss affair with the busy coastal strip from Hora to at least Plaka being a near bird-free zone. The one exception being the small rocky jetty which forms the small harbour at Agia Anna, just south of Agios Prokopios. For several mornings an adult Audouin's Gull perched here before being scared off by fishermen, on one occasion it was joined by a Shag.

Inland Eleanora's Falcons can be seen close-up in the pretty village of Apeiranthos - have a beer at one of the hillside bars and watch these wonderful birds hanging in the air just a few yards from you! In the mountains there are Ravens and Blue Rock Thrush whilst the most impressive sight is of the Griffon Vultures which are easily found despite being declared extinct by the local guide book - there are in fact about 40 individuals resident on the island. I was not lucky enough to see Bonelli's Eagle but 3-4 pairs do still breed I was told.

Two large reservoirs exist to the north-east of Hora and look good on paper, unfortunately they were utterly devoid of bird life during my visit.

The highpoint of my trip was the discovery of that rarest of species, a Greek birdwatcher - one of only 2 on the entire island - who provided me with some of the information above. Sadly I didn't meet Nick until my last day but he was a fount of knowledge about the Agios Prokopios pools. Recent rarities have included Spur-winged Plover and Greater Sandplover, the latter several times at this time of year! When I last saw him he was searching the wader flocks for the Knot that I'd seen 2 days before - I hope he found it!

Species List (all on the Ag.Prokopios pools unless otherwise stated )

1.   Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis
A family group of 6

2.   Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea  
100+ seen from Piraeus-Naxos ferry, 1 seen offshore from Moutsouna

3.   Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan 
1 seen from Piraeus-Naxos ferry, 1 seen offshore from Moutsouna

4.   Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
1-2 seen offshore from Agia Anna

5 . Night Heron  Nycticorax nycticorax
1 flying in early morning

6   Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 
1 distantly on main pool

7 . Little Egret Egretta garzetta 
29 highest count

8   Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
12 highest count

9.  Purple Heron Ardea purpurea  
1 with Egret/Heron roost

10. Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus 
1 with Little Egrets

11. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 

12. Teal Anas crecca
1 fem/juv in flight

13. Garganey Anas querquedula 

14. Pochard  Aythya farina    
1 eclipse

15. Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
10 at Argokiliotissa, 2 at Mount Zas

16. Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus 
2 individuals

17. Kestrel  Falco tinnunculus 
1 fem/imm

18. Eleonora's Falcon   Falco eleanorae  
common throughout island

19. Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus 
up to 4 juveniles

20. Coot Fulica atra    

21. Black-winged Stilt  Himantopus himantopus   173 highest count

22. Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus 8-12 around small pool

23. Little Ringed Plover  Charadrius dubius  
10 highest count

24. Knot  Calidris canutus  
1 in flight

25. Turnstone Arenaria interpres  
2 only

26. Dunlin   Calidris alpina 
1 summer plumage

27. Curlew Sandpiper   Calidris ferruginea  
1 summer plumage

28. Broad-billed Sandpiper  Limicola falcinellus 
Just 2

29. Temminck's Stint    Calidris temminckii 

30. Little Stint Calidris minuta   

31. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola  
17 highest count

32. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 
8 highest count

33. Common Sandpiper   Tringa hypoleucos 
5 highest count

34. Redshank  Tringa tetanus     
5 highest count

35. Spotted Redshank   Tringa erythropus  
1 winter plumage

36. Greenshank  Tringa nebularia 
4 highest count

37. Marsh Sandpiper    Tringa stagnatilis
3 highest count

38. Whimbrel  Numenius phaeopus
1 over calling

39. CommonSnipe Gallinago gallinago

40. Ruff    Philomachus pugnax  
1 male

41. Black-headed Gull   Larus ridibundus
c20 Piraeus harbour

42. Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus  
1-2 Piraeus harbour

43. Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans

44. Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii   
1 adult, Agia Anna

45. Black Tern Childonias niger  
2 with W-w Black Tern

46. White-winged Tern Childonias leucopterus 
1 adult winter as above, 1 juvenile

47. Rock Dove Columba livia 
2 nr Apollonas

48. Feral pigeon 

49. Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

50. Common Swift  Apus apus
Small numbers

51. Pallid Swift Apus pallidus  
2 with Commons

52. Alpine Swift Apus melba  
4 with commons

53. Crested Lark Galerida cristata  

54. Sand Martin Riparia riparia  
few seen

55. Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica

56. House Martin Delichon urbica
1 only

57. White Wagtail Motacilla alba  

58. Yellow Wagtail   Motacilla flava feldegg
up to 8

59. Northern Wheatear  Oenanthe oenanthe  
4 on Mount Zas

60. Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica 
1 on Mount Zas

61. Stonechat   Saxicola torquata  
1 on Mount Zas

62. Blue Rock Thrush   Monticola solitarius  
3 above Skeponi reservoir, 2-3 on Mount Zas

63. Sardinian Warbler    Sylvia melanocephala

64. Icterine Warbler   Hippolais icterina  

65. Olivaceous Warbler  Hippolais pallida  
Common only at lakes

66. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
up to 5

67. Spotted Flycatcher   Muscicapa striata   
1 only

68. Red-backed Shrike   Lanius collario
1 only

69. Lesser Grey Shrike   Lanius minor   
1 only

70. Magpie   Pica pica 
1 near Athens airport

71. Hooded Crow  Corvus corone corvix

72. Raven  Corvus corax   
2 near Filoti, 3 over salt pans

73. House Sparrow  Passer domesticus  

74. Chaffinch    Fringilla coelebs
1 at Mont Zas cave

75. Linnet  Carduelis cannabina  

76. Goldfinch   Carduelis carduelis 

77. Greenfinch Carduelis chloris 
3 sightings only

78. Cretzschmar's Bunting   Emberiza caesia  
4 on Mount Zas, 3 at  lakes


Shortly after I posted my Naxos trip report to Birdtours I received an e-mail from Nick, the Greek birder, with a list of birds seen in the fortnight following my departure:

Black Kite
Red Kite
Short-toed Eagle
2 Levant Sparrowhawk
Lanner (1-2 pairs breed on the island)
2 Red-footed Falcons
Great Snipe
2 imm. Rollers
Short-toed lark
Crag Martin
4 Tawny Pipits
1 Isabelline Wheatear
2 Savi's Warblers
3 Marsh Warblers
2-3 Woodchat Shrikes
Golden Oriole (female)
7 Spanish Sparrows
Black-headed Bunting

There was a possible European Storm Petrel during a boat trip to the south of the island and a Loggerhead Turtle.

Nick has asked that his e-mail address is put on the report so that anyone else birding on Naxos can contact him with their sightings as he intends to produce a 'Birds of Naxos' book in the next few years: I'm sure he would be delighted to hear from anyone considering going to Naxos on a birding holiday and perhaps even arrange to meet up.


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