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North Western Greece - Parga (Valtos) 9th/23rd September 01 ,Maurice Berry Introduction
My wife and I stayed at the Nicolaou apartments in Valtos, we were accompanied by my brother and sister in law, as I am the only birdwatcher in the party Valtos was chosen purely from a holiday point of view and not for its birdwatching potential. The area surrounding the apartment was mainly Olive groves with a few stands of deciduous woods, fruit trees etc, the beach and paths around the cliffs about 15 minutes walk away.
I can strongly recommend Valtos as a holiday venue both scenically and as a base for exploring the surrounding area, although a car is essential, taxis and buses are conspicuous by their absence. A water taxi operates from Valtos beach to the main resort of Parga, the service operates every half hour from 8.30 am until midnight (weather permitting) with a journey time of approximately 15 minutes. The alternative is a 30-minute walk up a fairly steep path over the headland that separates the two resorts. Situated on the headland is a 16th century Venetian castle, a must for the visitor for the views alone, it also offers some excellent birding, the resident birds seem used to the many visitors and can be seen at close quarters, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine, Orphean and SardinianWarbler, Western Rock Nuthatch, for example, however this is not the common trend, birds in general are difficult to approach, probably connected to the number of spent shotgun cartridges found at practically every site visited away from populated areas.
Migration was well under way when we visited, with the number of birds present in the area changing on a daily basis, on the day we arrived (9th) vast numbers of Swallows, Swifts, and Martins could be seen feeding throughout the length of the valley. The majority of these stayed in the area until the night of the 11th when the weather changed from cloudy with a SW wind to Northerlies, clear skies and a rapid drop in night time temperatures. By morning most had headed South to be replaced by smaller groups, this was the pattern for the rest of the holiday.
Swallows made up the bulk of the numbers with small groups of Red Rumped Swallows giving excellent views, these could be studied at close quarters perched on the telephone wires, Alpine Swifts, Sand and House Martins also present along with 2 (unexpected)Crag Martins seen at the head of the valley above Anthoussa.
Our accommodation was situated about 800metres from the beach on the only road through Valtos. Continuing along this road for another 200 metres you will see the Nikitas apartments on the right, turn right on the dirt track immediately after the apartments, this track connects with what I was reliably informed is to be a new road linking the hillside village of Anthoussa with Valtos. At present it is wide track, recently bulldozed through the olive groves and woodland for about 1000 metres before emerging into open scrubland higher up the valley. This was to be my local patch for the next 2 weeks.
As experienced on Corfu the previous year, the birds seem extremely reluctant to show themselves. I found the best technique was to find a spot were the birds are most active (usually around ripe fig trees, brambles etc) keep reasonably well hidden and wait, this paid dividends on more than one occasion. Apart from the more common species, notable finds were Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Serin, Collared Flycatcher, Olive Tree Warbler, Short Toed Treecreeper plus a Goshawk trying to get the better of a 50-cm long snake.
On another occasion, I watched a large snake enter a hole high in a fig tree, to emerge some minutes later with a squirrels tail protruding from its mouth. This was followed by a ferocious and fearless attack on the snake by another squirrel, the attack carried on for about 15 minutes until the snake dropped to the ground and disappeared into the undergrowth.
Ammudia is a small coastal resort 30 minutes drive south of Parga and not to be missed if visiting the area. By mid September the resort is very quiet, if you prefer to avoid the crowds then this is the time and place to visit. There is a superb crescent shaped sandy beach about 1 km long. The crowds ( 8 people in total ) tended to congregate in front of the taverna situated on the northern end of the beach near the rocky headland.
To the left of the taverna a track leads inland to a small bridge over a river, don't cross the bridge but turn right and follow the path alongside the river, this leads to an area known as the Acheron marshes and some excellent birdwatching. The marsh area offers varying habitats from sandy scrub, lagoons, reed fringed dykes and wooded areas, many paths and tracks allow good access to most parts of the area. I spent only a couple of hours here but its well worth a full day's exploration.
Birds seen included: - Woodchat Shrike, Penduline Tit, Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Fan Tailed Warbler, Cetti, s Warbler, Crested Lark, Short Toed Lark, Purple Heron, Tree Pipit, Cirl Bunting, Black Necked Grebe, Lesser Grey Shrike, Stonechat, Whinchat.
Take care when visiting this area after a period of rain, not from danger of drowning but from the hoards of biting insects, apply liberal doses of insect repellent and keep arms, legs and feet covered, even at midday.
Igoumenitsa is a busy ferry terminal situated on the NorthWest corner of Greece, about 25 km South of the Albanian border, 45 minutes drive (North on the E88) from Parga. There is a regular car ferry service to Corfu, crossing time approximately 1 hour. The plan was to take my sister in law + credit cards, to catch an early morning ferry, I would spend the day around the lagoons and river area, then meet her + shopping on her return early evening.
On leaving the ferry terminal, I followed the road North along the coast to find the wetlands area around the Kalamas river mouth. More by luck than good judgement, I finally arrived at a promising looking spot overlooking some small lagoons. Unfortunately my visit coincided with what can best be described as the opening day of the shooting season; gunfire could be heard coming from all directions, some of it too close for comfort. As a result the area was practically birdless, apart from 4 shell shocked (or deaf) Yellow Legged Gulls. After 15 minutes it was obvious it was time to move to a safer and hopefully more productive area.
I made my way back to Igoumenitsa, turned left on to the main road to Ioannina, then left at a BP station. I stayed on this road through a small village until I came to another garage on the left, a left turn here took me to a large cultivated area with numerous reed fringed irrigation channels, dense thickets, and wooded areas. This location produced the best day's birdwatching I have had for many years, not just for the number of different species, but the sheer volume of birds in the area.
There must have been a large influx of migrants over the previous few days; this plus the actions of the local shooting fraternity may have concentrated the birds into this area. The first sight that greeted me was Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Cirl Bunting and Collared Flycatcher on the telephone wires, Little Owl and Lesser Kestrel on the fence posts and 2 Black Necked Grebes and Little Egret on the waterway.
On one stretch of track bordering a reed and scrub fringed irrigation channel, I counted 11 different species of warblers, numerous wagtails and a flock of Spanish Sparrows (The males plumage looks superb at close range). Although I could still hear gunfire it was now distant and probably worked in my favour, birds continued to arrive in the area until mid afternoon, including 8 Glossy Ibis closely followed by 2 Great White Egret and a Purple Heron flying low directly overhead.
On hearing what sounded like a large flock of finches in a field alongside the track, I parked the car just in time to see a Sparrowhawk race from cover, this caused the field to erupt as 500+ Goldfinches scattered in all directions. Luck played a big part in being at the right place at the right time, a memorable day.
Other sites visited briefly, but well worth further exploration if visiting the area are Morfi Marsh, Aheron Gorge, Ioannina lake and the Rodia Lagoon area NorthEast of Prevesa.
Little Grebe. Ammoudia,
Ioannina Lake, Igoumenitsa.
Black Necked Grebe. Ammoudia, Ioannina Lake, Igoumenitsa.
Great Crested Grebe. Ioannina Lake
Cory's Shearwater. 4 from boat, day trip to Paxos
Pigmy Cormorant. Ioannina Lake
Grey Heron . Ammoudia, Morfi, Igoumenitsa.
Purple Heron. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa, Prevesa.
Little Egret. Common, most wetland areas.
Great White Egret. Igoumenitsa
Glossy Ibis. 8 at Igoumenitsa
Mute Swan. Ammoudia
Mallard. Ammoudia, Morfi, Ioannina Lake.
Tufted Duck. Ioannina Lake.
Northern Goshawk. Valtos
Common Buzzard. Several seen
Long Legged Buzzard. Glyki, Igoumenitsa.
Lesser Kestrel. Igoumenitsa.
Moorhen. Ammoudia, Ioannina Lake.
Coot. Ammoudia, Morfi.
Black Headed Gull. Several around Prevesa, also Igoumenitsa ferry terminal
Yellow legged Gull. Common
Gull Billed Tern. Single at Ioannina Lake
Rock Dove. Cliff path near Valtos
Collared Dove. Common around Valtos
Turtle Dove. 2 seen from Valtos to Anthousa track
Little Owl. Several seen
Tawny Owl. 1 seen daily behind apartment, Valtos
Scops Owl. Valtos
Short Eared Owl. Unexpected sighting on fence post, Morfi to Glyki road.
Common Swift. Numerous
Alpine Swift. Common around Valtos
Kingfisher. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa.
Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. Valtos
Short-toed Lark. Ammoudia,
Crested Lark. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa.
Wood Lark. Igoumenitsa
Yellow Wagtail. Several around Igoumenitsa
Grey Wagtail. Stream near Valtos
White Wagtail. Igoumenitsa
Tree Pipit. Valtos, Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Crag Martin. 2 near hill fort above Anthousa
Red-rumped Swallow. Common
Sand Martin. Valtos, Igoumenitsa.
House Martin. Common
Lesser Grey Shrike. Singles at Valtos and Ammoudia
Woodchat Shrike. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Robin. Large influx of migrants on 21st, Valtos
Black Redstart. Zolonga
Redstart. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Stonechat. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Whinchat. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Black-eared Wheatear. Zolonga
Wheatear. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Blue Rock Thrush. Common around Parga
Cetti,s Warbler. Common
Fan-tailed Warbler. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Reed Warbler. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Great Reed Warbler. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Olivaceous Warbler. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Olive-tree Warbler. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Subalpine Warbler. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Sardinian Warbler. Valtos, Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Orphean Warbler. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Whitethoat. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Blackcap. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Chiffchaff. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Willow Warbler. Valtos, Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Spotted Flycatcher. Numerous around Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Collared Flycatcher. Singles at Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Penduline Tit. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Blue Tit. Present in Olive groves around Valtos,
Great Tit. Common in woodland areas
Coal Tit. Coniferous woods around Zolonga
Western Rock Nuthatch. Venitian castle area Parga
Short-toed Treecreeper. Valtos
Magpie. Valtos, not common.
Jay. Common around Valtos
Hooded Crow. Common around Valtos, scavenging on beach.
House Sparrow. Common
Spanish Sparrow. Flock of 16 in Fig tree, Igoumenitsa
Chaffinch. Common around Valtos
Serin. Singles at Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Greenfinch. Valtos, Igoumenitsa
Cirl Bunting. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
Corn Bunting. Ammoudia, Igoumenitsa
95 species in total, many other birds seen while driving, (raptors in the mountains) but positive identification not possible.
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