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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

Thassos 6-9-00 to 20-9-00,

Phil Cunningham

This holiday was a family holiday with the destination chosen by my wife. We were based in Potos which was about as far south on the island as you could get. The resort was quiet and relaxing and we stayed in the Maria apartments, which was one of the last buildings on the east side of the town. The coast road which is approximately ninety kilometres is quiet.If you are travelling from Potos to Thassos it is quicker to drive west as it is flatter and straigter.It took about fifty mins to reach the ferry there on a hire scooter. The ferry runs to Keromiti (Nestos delta) but the times change at different times of the year. Even so they are approx every one and half-hours and take about forty mins to cross. Cost was two pound fifty to three pounds for two people plus scooter. All tickets are sold for one way only.

The birds on Thasos were the usual sprinkling of med birds and some migrants. Most mornings and evenings I took a stroll through some olive groves along to a small church on the hill and back. This became my adopted local patch for the duration. The only area of water was the mouth of the river which had all but dried up. However it had a large clump of reed etc. and a more interesting looking damp patch about twenty metres to the west of it, I didn't explore the mountains at all but in the second week decided to find somewhere for raptors, about twelve kilometres to the east of Potos is a lay-by near Monastery Archagelou.There is a hillside opposite which is were I had most of my raptor sightings, the lay-by which if you approach from Potos is about 100yds? from the bottom of the hill before you go round the bend and begin to climb up again .If you come from the other side past the monastery, when you round the bend at the bottom and start uphill it is on your left approx 100metres up opposite a double-bend bend sign. This hillside produced some cracking views but if I went again I would turn down the beach road at the bend, park on this road and walk the short distance to the red gates as tourists kept stopping thinking I was at a view point.In the report this site is referred to as mon hill.

Astris point is the most southern point of the island,I visited it once and it was one of the most bird active points on the island and is probably worth a visit.Unfortunately there was shooting here when I visited. The shooting season appeared to start 2/3 days after I arrived and spoilt a lot of my birding. Does every country have its share of gun toting morons?

 

Systematic list

Yelkouan shearwater Good views were had of a flock of 50+ from the ferry on 18th

Cormorant Many birds seen from the ferry and also seen at Astris.

Little egret 5 seen flying west low over the sea across Potos bay on the 9th

Great white egret 1 seen flying quite high up, again across Potos bay also on the 9th

Heron sp A bird seen from the apartment balcony after dark looked like Grey heron

Osprey 1 bird seen at Mon hill on the 19th

Black kite One bird early evening over the hillside at Potos on the 16th

Marsh harrier A creamcrown at Potos on the 14th and then migrating birds were seen at Mon hill as follows:1 on 16th, 1 on 17th,12 on 18th and 12 on 19th(same birds?).

Long legged buzzard 1 at Mon hill on 18th and a different bird the next day at the same site.

Common buzzard Resident birds with low numbers, never more than 4 seen together. Not suprisingly became harder to see once the shooting started.

Honey buzzard First sighting was close views of a juvenile seen near the small church on the hill at Potos, then migrating birds were seen at Mon hill as followes:12 on the 18th,15 late morning on the 19th and 13 late afternoon the same day

Sparrowhawk 1 on the 9th dashing through the olive groves had streaked underparts and so could only have been a juv levants but as this would have been a lifer for me better views are required before I count it, a more straightforward sparrowhawk was seen on 10th at Potos.

Goshawk Good views of a juvenile at Mon hill on the 18th preceeded further good views of up to two adults at this site on the 19th.

Kestrel Probably resident with 4/5 birds seen on the island.

Eleonora`s falcon 1 hunting the hillside near Paradise? Beach and 2 seen at Mon hill on the 19th.

Peregrine falcon Probably resident with a bird seen at Potos on 8th and up to two birds seen on each visit to Mon hill

Partridge sp While returning to the airport on the coach an alectoris partridge was seen running along the road before diving into cover

Little ringed plover The interesting damp patch near the river attracted a single on the 10th

Greenshank Also on the 10th one flew along the shoreline at Potos in the late evening. A day of heavy wader passage on the island!

Black headed gull Birds were in Keromoti harbour and followed the ferry toThassos although non were seen anywhere else on thassos

Mediterranean gull Good numbers in the harbour and again small numbers follow the ferry

Yellow legged gull Commonest gull, birds follow the ferry and give eyeball to eyeball chance to study identification criteria-and realise what a load of crap it is.

Sandwich tern Two seen during the initial ferry crossing on 6th, and again around Thassos harbour on the 9th.

Rock dove Small numbers at Mon hill with one flock of 20 birds

Collard dove Noted in small numbers

Turtle dove One presumably disturbed by the shooters at Astris point on 8th.

Little owl One bird seen on three occasions in the olive grove

Alpine swift First birds of the trip, seen while walking down the plane stairs. Also seen on Thassos most days usually early morning and evening

Pallid swift Once I`d satisfied myself they were present I didn't pay much attention to this or the next species

Swift As above with `swifts seen every day

Hoopoe The first was a single on the 12th followed by two together on the 16th,all birds were in the olive groves

Bee-eater First birds were seen from the ferry in Keromoti harbour, three were hawking nearby.Thereafter they were seen/heard most days. Largest flock noted was 20

Great spotted woodpecker A female was watched calling in the olive groves on the 13th.

Short toed lark A bird took up residence on a small area of suitable terrain in the olive groves just behind the beach on the 11th,it was still present on the 19th. Three birds flew overhead with flava wags on the 12th with another flyover on the 15th.

Crag martin One or two around the "local patch" with other hirundines and upto five birds performed well at Mon hill giving good views

Swallow Small numbers noted

Red-rumped swallow Outnumbered swallow in the first week but reduced numbers in second week. Around 30-40 pre roost gathering of mixed hirundines was the highest numbers

Tawny pipit Birds were moving overhead with flava wags as follows: 3 on the 8th, 1 on the 9th and 2 on the 12th.

Tree pipit Seen or heard every day but only one or two birds. I am also sure I heard and saw 2 Red-throated pipits flying over but would have liked to had them on the ground to be certain

White wagtail not seen until 1 on the 13th and 2 on the 15th.

Flava wagtails Rarely seen on the ground with small numbers moving early morning every day. When on the ground I only gave them a cursory look to make sure there was nothing more interesting with them

Grey wagtail Small numbers migrating; 1 on the 8th, 1 on the 9th and 4 on the 15th.

Robin Two birds at Mon hill on the 19th.

Nightingale Present on the "local patch" with 1 or two birds seen. Also seen at Aliki

Redstart One on the "local patch" on the 15th and one at Mon hill on the 17th.

Wheatear One on the 7th hanging around the local patch

Black-eared wheatear Present in small numbers and always 1 or 2 birds around the small church on the hill

Whinchat Birds present in reasonable numbers. This species seems to have been the only one affected by steady overnight rain which continued until mid-morning on the 12th.Besides the usual numbers, a cluster of over 30 birds were in the small area below the church on the hill

Rock thrush A female seen near the small church on the hill (Potos) on several occasions and 1 noted at Aliki and Astris point

Garden warbler 2 on the 9th on the "local patch" and one other seen at the same location on the12th.

Blackcap One or two noted most days

Lesser whitethroat Very scarce with one on the 12th and 15th.

Sardinian warbler Common

Whitethroat Almost as common as Sardinian during the first week but numbers reduced in the second

Reed warbler Only two sightings of a single bird, both on the local patch

Great reed warbler Three sightings of a single bird on the local patch, there may be just enough habitat to support a breeding pair

Icterine warbler All records on the local patch,2 on the 12th and 1 on the 13th.

Olivaceous warbler 1 at Astris point on the 8th.

Booted warbler A real surprise was close views of a calling bird on the local patch on 12th.

Willow warbler Present in small numbers

Chiffchaff As above but much fewer birds

Spotted flycatcher Seen in most places

Great tit Resident in small numbers

Blue tit I only saw them at Astris point

Red-backed shrike Probably as many as a dozen on the local patch especially in the first week. Continually chasing each other off and making a racket.

Woodchat shrike This was the first shrike I saw and hung around the local patch for most of the holiday.It was also the only Woodchat I saw

Hooded crow Common

Raven Common

Golden oriole Two juvenile were around the local patch all holiday

House sparrow Common

Chaffinch It took me about five days to see one. Present in small numbers

Linnet Surprisingly not seen on the local patch but they were noted in small numbers elsewhere

Goldfinch A flock of 20-30 fed on the crop of Thistles on the local patch

Greenfinch Rather elusive with only one or two noticed on the local patch

Common rosefinch Another real surprise was a juvenile watched for five minuets feeding with the Goldfinches on the Thistles on 15th.

Cirl bunting A family prate were present near the small church on the hill at Potos and also seen at Mon hill

 

Keromiti (Nestos delta)This is where you get the ferry to Thassos and is well worth a day's birding.Even if you don't have transport a lot of the area can be covered on foot. Spur-winged plover can be seen here,I had 5 near the junction with airport road.A Belgian birder I spoke to at Porto Lagos had 25(twenty five) a little further along the airport road.Ialso saw 1 Lesser spotted eagle from the junction looking north, I got better views by heading north(Xanthia) past the junction and taking the second right passed some houses. This road turns to a dirt road shortly after the houses and passes some huts etc. before finishing at what looked like the town dump. The whole area was litter strewn but also had a lot of birds and is worth alook. Birds seen around the delta included: Gt-white egret,Osprey,B.w.stilt,Crested lark,H.buzzard,Fan tailed warbler and many others encounted shooting in some areas so I`m sure much more could be seen.

Porto Lagos This place is a must,I visited here in 89 and there have been a lot of changes but it was still full of birds. We made a snap decision to go one afternoon and so we set off late afternoon. The journey from Keromiti took 1 hour 40 mins on a hire scooter but only the first twenty minuets were in daylight. The return journey the next day took 50 mins in daylight.It`s a straightforward run on fast roads so if you have a car 45mins would be realistic.I would recommend getting the first ferry in the mourning and staying overnight for two full days birding.We stayed at the Flamingo taverna 16.00 a room for two people and breakfast for a fiver for two. I only had approx six hours of birding and targeted Broad billed sand so I spent my time looking at waders,the Belgian birder had seen 4/5 I didn't see any. The two small woods were full of passerines and the lakes had plenty of birds, the wader pool on the left near the salt pans as you enter Porto Lagos was stacked and the saltpans also had birds on them. Birds seen at Porto lagos included D. Pelican-I know it should be easy to identify pelicans but it was still basically dark when I counted 200+ flying out over Lake Vistonis from the back of the Flamingo taverna but they looked like Dalmatians, two more were seen a little later on the lake, Flamingo 65,Blackwits 10,Grey plover,Ruff 1,Curlew sand 100+,Dunlin,L.stint 100+,Knot and other waders.B.n.grebe hundreds on Vistonis, R.n. grebe,Spoonbill,Caspian tern plus many more species. I know I missed the passerines but we wanted to journey back in daylight as the headlight on the scooter was useless. The scooter did it easily on about half a tank of petrol but the oil light was flashing for the last 10k into Porto Lagos so make sure your oil is topped up when you begin the journey. There are plenty of petrol stops including one in Porto Lagos.

Phil Cunningham
2 Moorhouse close
Oxenhope
Keighley
BD22 9LA
W.Yorks

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