MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR MARCH 2007

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1st Mar. At Tavronitis. Though a winter visitor to Crete a robin cheered us as it sang in warm sunshine as did a passing chiffchaff.
               At Kamisiana. Dozens of meadow pipits were foraging on the flooded fields.


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3rd Mar. On the Coast. Were 3 linnets, a kestrel, the usual marsh harriers, many meadow pipits, some crested larks, a pair of white wagtails, a pair of short toed larks and unusually a lesser grey shrike they are loop migrants normally only seen in very small numbers in autumn. To emphasize the warming weather a noctule bat was flying over the garden mid afternoon.

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5th Mar. At Kamisiana. A very late wintering black redstart was feeding near a pile of rubble.
 

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8th Mar. On the Coast.  The crested larks are now in full song and there also several stonechats, blackbirds, some meadow pipits, and
               Over the Tavronitis river estuary. A great spotted eagle gave a lovely display of diving and rolling but what to? Since nothing else was seen, this was probably seasonally induced hormone imbalance prior to finding a mate!
               At Neo Chorio.  An early flock of bee-eaters was heard but was too high up to see.


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9th Mar. At Chania. While receiving treatment at Chania hospital, it was very relaxing to be listening to the melodious song of a blue rock thrush.
                Over Gerani. A flock of  200+ yellow legged gulls fled inland from an incoming storm and at home a flock of 28 swallows flew north.


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10th Mar. At Tavronitis. A common buzzard was foraging right beside the sea, very unusual this as they normally stay well  away from the littoral zone by keeping south of the main road, several hundred metres away.

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13th Mar. Along the coast. Migration is now well underway and we saw  a flock of 25 slender billed gulls; a pair of white wagtails; a flock of 30+ red throated pipits; 70+ yellow wagtails - of which at least a quarter were of the black headed variety; a few meadow pipits; a ruff; 5 bar tailed godwits; a pair of whinchats; a kestrel; and dozens of swallows.

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15th Mar. At Neo Chorio. A pair of rough legged buzzards drifted north.
                 At Maleme. We saw a male stonechat of the eastern race Armenica - and then got excited by a fleeting glimpse of a bluethroat. Back towards more familiar territory we saw 30+ yellow legged gulls; a woodcock; a male hen harrier; 5 bar tailed godwits; 17+ wood sandpipers; several dozen meadow pipits; some whinchats; and crested larks plus a pair of white wagtails.

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16th MarAt Kamisiana. The bar tailed godwits were still at Kamisiana though one had gone AWOL.

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20th Mar. At Tavronitis. An early hoopoe showed and,
                 At Kamisiana. The 4 bar tailed godwits showed how much they are enjoying Cretan hospitality that they have stayed on instead of pushing north to breed. 4 wood sandpipers and 2 ruff were with them and a singing wren caught our attention - they are usually so secretive they are hardly ever recorded, yet are plentiful. At several places crested larks were in full song, always on the back edges of the beaches.

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26th Mar. A trip up towards the mountains. Was rewarded near Deliana with a single griffon vulture - and then another.
                 At Mesavlia. Near Kandonos. We again visited the quarry/ rubbish tip and saw 120+ ravens; a female sparrow hawk; an adult imperial eagle in immaculate plumage with the scapular white patches very prominent; and a pair of rough legged buzzards.
                 At Anovos. Were 3 serins and a crag martin, while an adult bonellis eagle soared above us.
                 At Kakopetros. A black kite was heading north.
On the way back to the coast we saw 7 bar tailed godwits; a common sandpiper; 3 wood sandpipers; a rare (for Crete !) curlew; a redshank; and a greenshank.

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27th Mar. Near Neo Chorio. Another black kite moved north. Thousands of swallows and house martins were also headed that way. 
                  Down on the coast. We saw our first little egret of the year. Also several whinchats; a greenshank; 3 wood sandpipers; 3 bar tailed godwits; a stonechat; and 2 yellow wagtails.
                   At Skoutolonas. At the estuary at Skoutolonas were a pair of moorhens and a ringed plover.

 

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28th Mar. On the Coast. Again, thousands of swallows and house martins were headed north, along with a few dozen swifts and a following eleonoras falcon - enjoying having its food migrating with it! Also on the coast were 4 little egrets and just 1 bar tailed godwit.
 

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29th Mar. Along the Coast. The mass migration of thousands of swallows continued.
 

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30th MarBack at Chania hospital. For treatment again - and again being treated to singing crested larks, while a great spotted eagle flew north in a leisurely way as if wanting to be seen and recorded.
                 Over the National Road. Our first purple heron of the year circled and:-
                 At Kamisiana. Were just a single little egret; 3 bar tailed godwits; 15+ wood sandpipers; and a whinchat.

 

A few final words for March.

A really good month with lots to look at. The eastern race of stonechat (Armenica) appearing again shows this must be a regular occurrence and probably very under-recorded. A pity the bluethroat did not show for long but then they never do! It occurs to me on looking back through some old as well as new records that the spotted eagles seem to only be seen on or near the coast, I have no records at all for inland sightings. They must cross the island, perhaps they do so under the cover of darkness. On the subject of eagles, we have seen very few booted eagles this spring or even the short toed variety. They must still be to come. It was lovely to see the imperial eagle, this one away from the now recognized wintering area, so perhaps there were more here this year than normal.  

We have just celebrated having been resident on the island for eight years. This prompted the nostalgic, but also upsetting, perusal of the thousands of records I have amassed over this period. Upsetting in that several trends are now apparent (and while it has to be recognized that populations fluctuate widely so each year brings differing numbers and variety of sightings) and some long term changes are now recognizable that appear to be, unfortunately, for the worse .

Given some encouragement (please!) from my many friends and readers of these pages, I could be encouraged to sift through my records and fight my way through the irrelevant to garner the all important facts to support my findings. It would take a massive effort to produce such a report and would only be justified if sufficient observers thought it would be worthwhile. It is up to you! I will spend my time doing it if you want me to, otherwise I will be spending my time as you do, out and enjoying seeing some more birds. Good luck this spring!

Until next month, good watching.  Paul Smith.

Paul's Diary highlights commenced at the end of August 2001.  The current diary is moved to the diary archive at the end of each month - if you are considering a bird watching trip to NW Crete, the previous highlights may well help you decide the best month for your visit - your link to the diary archive is below.

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