MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR MAY 2005

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1st May. At Neo Chorio. Thousands of swallows streamed by all day heading north .

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2nd May. At Neo Chorio.  A lovely male golden oriole and later a flock of 6 honey buzzards.

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4th May. At Chania hospital.  A 2nd. or 3rd. calendar year old greater spotted eagle circled level with us as we stood on a fourth floor balcony and was only 50 meters away. Wonderful views!

In the background a blue rock thrush was singing though in dense cover.

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5th May. At Chania hospital still.  A colony of short toed larks on nearby rough ground and some singing as early as 4 a.m.!

 
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7th May.  At Neo Chorio.  A male montagues harrier. 
                Along the coast.  At several locations - we found a total of 21 red footed falcons; 4 wood sandpipers; 11 little egrets; 3 ruff; 1 temmincks stint; 1 greenshank; and a lovely plumaged terek sandpiper which we studied from only five meters away.


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8th May.  At Neo Chorio.  A flock of bee-eaters flew by very high up but calling all the while.  A pair of hooded crows nesting in a walnut tree beside the garden went berserk when a booted eagle accidentally strayed too near their nearly fledged young. Hundreds of swallows and house martins streamed by in mixed flocks all day.
 

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9th May.  At Neo Chorio.  A yellow legged gull repeatedly tried to fly off with a large dead rat but had to give up when it proved too much for it.
                 On a trip to one of the peninsulas.  We saw a red footed falcon; 2 bonellis eagles; 6 griffon vultures; a rock dove; a blue rock thrush; a skylark; a cuckoo; 2 linnets; 1 black eared wheatear; 3 spotted flycatchers; stonechats; whinchats; lots of goldfinches; some wheatears; crested larks; a single yellow wagtail; humdreds of house martins; some swifts; lots of woodlarks; and high overhead a flock of bee-eaters headed north.
                  Looking along the coast. On the way back from our trip we saw 13 red footed falcons; 3 cuckoos; more bee-eaters; a flock of 9+ tawny pipits feeding in a field; a male lesser kestrel; a night heron; a little bittern; 4 ruff; a wood sandpiper; and a single little ringed plover.
 

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11th May. At Neo Chorio.  A newly fledged family of blue tits fed on insects on the grapevines on our pergola.  A hoopoe joined us for a while and yet more bee-eaters flew high above us.

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12th May. At Neo Chorio.  A local nest of swallows fledged. 
                 At Neradzia
. We saw a hobby and,
                 Along the coast
. Found a little bittern; 2 little egrets; a marsh harrier; 2 ruff; a wood sandpiper; a fan tailed warbler; and a white winged black tern.


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13th May. At Neo Chorio.  A pair of lesser kestrels; and an alpine swift.      
                  

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14th May. At Neo Chorio. The short toed eagles again, this time one was carrying a large snake.

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15th May. At Neo Chorio.  The short toed eagles again, this time calling and displaying.

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16th May. Along the coast. Migrants are straggling through with little bittern; squacco heron; little egrets; wood sandpipers; and just a single savis warbler which showed itself and sang most obligingly.

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17th May. At Neradzia. A light phase booted eagle.

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19th May.  At Neo Chorio.  Another booted eagle; and then a hoopoe.

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21st May.  At Neo Chorio. A short toed eagle carrying a snake while being mobbed by a pair of buzzards.  Later two separate eleonoras falcons hunting over the valley.

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22nd May.  At Neo Chorio. A short toed eagle calling repeatedly; and later a pair of long legged buzzards were calling and displaying near our local trio of common buzzards - which ignored them.
 

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23rd May. At Neo Chorio. A single long legged buzzard quartered the hill behind the house.

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24th May. Back to Chania hospital. Where the tedium of medical tests was enlivened by a raven; a griffon vulture; a blue rock thrush; hundreds of swifts screaming; and excellent views of a pair of lanner falcons mobbing a buzzard.

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27h May. At Neo Chorio. A single short toed eagle was calling a lot but the mate could not be seen.
                 On the coast. Were two little egrets; a squacco heron; and a reed warbler was singing and displaying.

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29th May. At Neo Chorio. A single short toed eagle circled.

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31st May. At Neo Chorio. A pair of long legged buzzards circled for ages near a total of seven common buzzards, one of which was carrying a snake - which seemed to attract the interest of so many others - though they made no attempt to steal it.


And a few final words for May.....    A month much disrupted by trips to the hospital how dare the frailties of my body try to interfere with my bird watching!

Undeterred, I took great pleasure in being able to watch griffon vultures, lanner falcons, the greater spotted eagle and much else as an intra-venous drip sloshed Ringers Solution into my arm...  If  I was to tell the hospital authorities what joy the birds were giving me I have no doubt they would try to charge me for the privilege of sitting on their balcony watching the birds go by.

The twitchers no doubt would have flocked to see the terek sandpiper had they known it was about.  Part of my own satisfaction lies in not telling them, as I detest the way they hound vagrants and cause intense disruption to the areas they turn up in - to the detriment of the rest of the wildlife there.  I will never comprehend how twitchers can spend so much money in total several billion pounds/dollars/euros each year - in pursuit of birds that are doomed to die.  Condemned simply because they have  accidentally turned up in totally unsuitable habitats, where all they can do is languish in probable misery as they find themselves unable to cope with the unsuitable and unfamiliar surroundings.  If only just a fraction of all that wasted money could be devoted to worthwhile conservation projects that could bring great benefit to the birds and those who delight in watching the right species in the right habitats successfully getting on with their lives.

Here on Crete there is a great need to do something to protect the dwindling wetlands and coastal habitats that are being decimated by developers as they build yet more apartments and hotels, as, ironically perhaps, some may house the bird watchers who want to see some of what remains of the avifauna.  

My personal highlight was watching the greater spotted eagle from the hospital balcony, such excellent views and so unexpected, a great fillip to my depressed karma, as test after test probed my own condition.

An interesting aspect of being in such a geographically important migration spot is the way that the local species, like the blue tits and swallows, have already produced at least one brood of young - yet overhead stragglers are still migrating northwards to try and get into their own life cycle while the going is good. They say variety is the spice of life and that certainly applies here!

Until next month, good watching.  Paul Smith.

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