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A Report from

Rhodes     May 10-25th 2000,

Nick Moss

Rhodes is a fascinating island with friendly natives, & its jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the old town within the medieval walls, that make it such a wonderful holiday destination, although it is not renowned for any great birdlife. 

For our fortnight with the in-laws from May 10th-24th, we were based at Hotel Belvedere, which is the first hotel that you come to in Rhodes Town itself, as you approach from the airport, immediately after passing the split level approach road. The first impression on the island is of numerous House Sparrows everywhere, whilst screaming Common Swifts circle at various locations. Hooded Crows will be seen with little difficulty, as will Yellow-Legged Gulls around the coastline. Chaffinches, Greenfinches & to a lesser degree Blue Tit & Blackbird will be located in quieter areas. Birds certainly do not fall into your lap here, & it may be necessary to visit certain places to maximize chances of seeing other species. However, on our last day we saw 2 Little Swifts circling above shops in the old town at the famous street called Patio Ippokratous - a great find. A Goldfinch & Olivaceous Warbler were also seen in Socrates Garden (a drinking hole in this street). 

From our hotel on the edge of town, we often took the elevated footpath adjacent to the beach for a couple of hundred yards only. We frequently observed several red-billed Audouin's Gulls from here, especially early evening, as they fished over the sea. On the rocks surrounding the path, a singing male Blue Rock Thrush was seen at close quarters daily, although the duller female was harder to locate. 

We took several boat trips from Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes Town. A short round trip to the thermal springs at Kalithea & onto Faliraki, should result in a few Cory's Shearwaters being seen skimming the sea. We were also very fortunate to see a Glossy Ibis perched on rocks beneath the fortress, as we left Rhodes Towns Mandraki harbour. Frustratingly this migrating bird had gone by the time I returned a few hours later, & great views had not been enjoyed from the moving boat. 

We also travelled to Marmaris in Turkey, where a possible Roseate Tern was seen fishing in the harbour.  Little else was seen in Marmaris, or on the beautiful island of Symi. In fairness to both, we hardly explored anywhere except the town area. I would recommend car hire for anyone wishing to see other birds on Rhodes Island itself. Taxies are cheap, but with the weather being so hot, it helps to be at the right place at the right time - early morning or early evening, when birds are active. On the edge of Rhodes Town is Rodini Park, an attractive shaded, wooded area where raucous Peacocks can be heard. With patience you will also see & hear Sardinian warbler & possibly Olivaceous Warbler, as well as Chaffinches, Greenfinches & maybe Wren. 

The east coast takes you to Lindos, & en route there are sandy beaches at Faliraki & Tsampika. Near Faliraki is an attractive cove at Sir Anthony Quinn bay, where Blue Rock Thrush & Sardinian Warbler were present, as well as a Little Egret in a sheltered cove nearby. Crested Lark may be found strutting around on dirt tracks anywhere, but not everywhere, along the coast. Lindos itself is worthy of a visit, & once on the top at the Acropolis, expect to see several Alpine Swifts amongst Common Swifts, flying just above your head. In adjacent St Pauls Bay, another Blue Rock thrush was located. 

For a change of scenery, try Epta Piges (Seven Springs) (back towards Rhodes Town,) where you walk through a water tunnel which is great fun. Spotted Flycatcher & Olivaceous Warbler were seen, as well as a snake, & turtles & blue or red dragonflies. I found the more dramatic west coast far more interesting, centering around the tourist attractions. First port of call is Ancient Filerimos, high on Mt Filerimos (don't try walking to it!). Again, Sardinian Warbler & finches should be found. You can walk up the staircase of a giant cross ( a famous landmark), to enjoy panoramic views. Although Filerimos closed at 6pm, the path to the cross is always open. We were privileged to enjoy incredibly close views of a hunting Peregrine Falcon just beneath us, a few feet away! This stunning bird made several passes along the hillside, & I would suggest early evening as a good time to visit. 3 Ravens were also noted. 

At Kremasti, there is a one way road bridge on the coast road, & traffic travelling towards town diverts inland, adjacent to a brook. Check it out - some days we saw nothing, but on our final day we saw a Redshank & a Great White Egret - unfortunately from the airport transfer coach! 

Surprisingly, the area around the airport (Paradisi) was fruitful. Crested Lark & Swallows were seen around the tarmac. There is a concrete gully adjacent to the runway, viewable from the airport perimeter road. 2 Green Sandpipers were found here, flitting around. A Peregrine patrolled the airport apron in search of finches, & at least 2 more were seen soaring with a Long-Legged Buzzard over the distant hillside. 

The area becomes sparsely populated as you leave the airport area, in the opposite direction from town. Ancient Kamiros has shrub & gorse, ideal for Sardinian Warblers but little else of note. I would advise spending time around the castle ruins at Kastellos (also called Kritinia Castle). Beware of dangerous crevices (if you have kids), but the rocky landscape is ideal for raptors. Kestrel & Long-Legged Buzzard were seen around here, & also Jays, one female Blue Rock Thrush & our first Black-eared Wheatear (a second was also later seen near Lindos). From the castle, scan the rocks beneath. 

We moved on to Monolithos Castle , where the panoramic view enabled us to observe 2 more Long-legged Buzzards circling. Despite the lush, wooded landscape, few birds were seen during the day, & it was easier to locate basking lizards on the ruins & stone walls. These are what partly attracts the raptors. On our way back to town, we disturbed a very pale headed Long-Legged Buzzard that had captured a lizard. The bird flew from the road, dropping its prey directly in front of us. This was totally unexpected but very dramatic. Driving back to Rhodes in the fading light, several hunting Kestrels (& perhaps Lesser Kestrels??) were observed , but with tired in-laws in the back, another bird-stop would not have been appreciated - especially as we were likely to the miss pre-paid hotel evening meal!! 

During the fortnight 42 species were noted, on what was not specifically a birding holiday. Remember time of day is important. Stick to the coast roads too, for inland roads really are a nightmare, taking hours to negotiate. It was hard work finding the birds, but as ornithology was not the major reason for this holiday, it still turned up some little surprises.

Nick Moss


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