MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR FEBRUARY 2004

bullet1st Feb. At Neo Chorio. A pair of honey buzzards.
bullet3rd Feb. At Neo Chorio. A single pallid swift.
bullet4th Feb. At Rapaniana.  A dark morph booted eagle and over one of the peninsulas a pair of lanner falcons were displaying.
bullet6th Feb. At Neo Chorio. A flock of 11 honey buzzards circled with a pair of the local common buzzards.
bullet7th Feb. At Topolia. 10 griffon vultures looked to be closing in on some food, while nearby a steppe buzzard was being mobbed by a pair of common buzzards as a pair of peregrine falcons flashed by. Further on. We found a swallow; a booted eagle; and a pair of bonellis eagles; followed later by a short toed eagle.
At the nest site. One adult bearded vulture was on the nest and the other delivered food so the chick must be doing well.  
On a small reservoir. There were 4 black necked grebes; feeding nearby was a flock of 30 linnets while an early woodlark was singing.  Later we saw a pair of ravens and another booted eagle.
bullet10th Feb. At Neo Chorio. 6 chiffchaffs were feeding up in the garden while a single swallow circled above.
bullet14th Feb. At Sirili. There was a flock of 4 crag martins; and
                 At Tavronitis. A common buzzard was circling over the beach. This was unusual, as they normally stay at least a kilometre away from the sea.
                 At Neo Chorio. 3 more chiffchaffs were in the garden and then late at night we heard a big flock of geese going over, probably headed for the safety of the airfield at Maleme. These were the first geese we have come across in the nearly five years that we have lived here.
bullet15th Feb. At Neo Chorio. A female goshawk powered by in active hunting mode all the small birds fled for cover and stayed there for some time after it had passed by.
bullet16th Feb. On the flooded fields along the coast. We found a flock of 30+ meadow pipits; a flock of 10+ short toed larks; and a flock of 30+ red throated pipits.  Hawking over the Tavronitis river were a total of 14 swallows and 10+ crag martins.
bullet18th Feb. At Neo Chorio.  I had the luxury of watching a lovely pair of Orphean warblers from only three metres away, they were looking for insects along the fence just outside our lounge window. Overhead a flock of 5 honey buzzards confirmed that raptor migration is well underway now.  On the coast we saw a flock of 40+ short toed larks.
bullet19th Feb. At Neo Chorio.  2 swifts, a steppe buzzard and unusually, a scops owl was calling during the day, presumably something disturbed it.
bullet20th Feb. Along the coast. Were a flock of 3 honey buzzards; a flock of 30+ short toed larks; and just offshore, 3 shags were fishing.
bullet22nd Feb. At Neo Chorio.  A small flock of swallows; a pair of blackcaps; and at least 10 chiffchaffs.
bullet24th Feb. At Aghia reservoir.  We saw 1 cormorant;  1 juvenile mute swan; 74 shoveler; 200+ coot; 50 black necked bribes; 10+ little grebes; several mallard; 12 garganey; 3 pochard; a male marsh harrier; 2 swallows; 5 teal; 1 tree pipit; and a pair of booted eagles.  1 reed bunting; 18 moorhen; 1 kingfisher; 5 wigeon; and a single chiffchaff.
                 At Alikanou. A flock of 5 honey buzzards and 1 steppe buzzard.
                 On the Omalos plateau.  We saw a golden eagle; a flock of 30+ linnets; a steppe buzzard; 30+ red choughs and just 1 alpine chough; several ravens; 1 short toed eagle; and then a flock of 3 honey buzzards.
                 Near Prases.  There was a flock of 10+ crag martins; and a pair of imperial eagles that looked to be in their second year. 
                 At Roumata. There was another short toed eagle; and
                 Over Zounaki. There was a flock of 5 honey buzzards.
bullet25th Feb. At Neo Chorio.  There was a flock of 4 honey buzzards; and
                 At Maleme. We saw a lovely common whitethroat and a flock of 6 honey buzzards.
bullet26th Feb. At Nembros. There was a flock of 8 honey buzzards.
                 Down on the coast. We saw a flock of 8 tree pipits; and 9 linnets.
bullet28th Feb. At Spilia. There was a single booted eagle.
bullet29th Feb. At Neo Chorio. a flock of 5 swallows and a flock of 4 steppe buzzards.

And a few final words for February.....    A month with things starting to get moving, migration is now well underway. The raptors especially were noticeable though we did not manage to get out a great deal. The weather left much to be desired with a lot of rain and then on the 14th, we woke up to 15 centimetres of snow blanketing everywhere. It only lasted a day or so but was enough to smash down a lot of olive trees. Then in total contrast we had the hot south winds blow up from Libya giving us 30 degrees in the shade. It was these winds that brought the migrants pouring across.

As yet there are no waders about at all, they should be arriving in the next fortnight but I wonder how many we will see his year as the fields along the coast where they normally rest and feed are nearly all dry. Unless we get a lot more rain and soon then they will probably have to keep going.

On our trip up to the Omalos plateau we took Eric Rowe, who advises Cretanvista about wildflower identification and Russ Collins, Webmaster of the French website Provencebeyond.com, two personal visitors of this website on a rather active holiday from the South of France. They enjoyed the trip and saw some good birds.  Being great walkers they got out and about a lot and also enjoyed the spring flowers that are now showing. Intrepid souls to brave coming to Crete in February when the weather is not what the holiday brochures show to attract clients to partake of their wares. At least getting about was fairly safe for them as the roads and tracks are quiet at this time of year, later when the tourists hordes descend on the island moving around can be dangerous and difficult for those on foot. Except of course off the beaten track...

Moving out of winter now we can expect good weather and with it the arrival of the hoopoes, bee-eaters, red footed falcons and eleonoras falcons binoculars to be kept cleaned and to hand at all times!

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