MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR MAY 2006

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1st May.  At Neo ChorioAn interesting start to the month when a Spanish sparrow fell down our chimney and had to be released trailing a cloud of soot out of the patio doors. Luckily the cats were all out!

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2nd May.  Along the coast.   A run along our stretch of coast yielded 4 glossy ibis; a flock of 12+ pallid swifts; 2 moorhens; 4 little stint; 2 ruff, 5 wood sandpipers; 5 whinchats; 17  red footed falcons; a marsh harrier; and 3 yellow wagtails. Had there been any 'I spy' experts about they would have drooled over the adult male citrine wagtail in perfect breeding plumage.
                 

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5th May.  At Neo Chorio. Hundreds of swifts went by in various sized groups and a lone grey heron headed for the coast. By the time we got there plenty of birds were about hundreds of swallows; 2 little stints; a hobby; 1 wood sandpiper; 2 whiskered terns; 2 white winged black terns; a sanderling; 20+ crag martins; a white wagtail; 33 red footed falcons; and a hoopoe.
 

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6th May.  A little guiding.  A long journey to show visiting Dutch ornithologist Anton some of the birds of Western Crete .
                 
Along the coast. We found 4 pallid swifts; hundreds of swallows; 20+sand martins; 3 glossy ibis; 1 whiskered tern; 3 white winged black terns; 5+ crag martins; 20+ house martins; 12+ swifts; 3 wood sandpipers; 6 little stint; 46 red footed falcons; 1 collared flycatcher; 1 green sandpiper; several yellow wagtails; a whinchat; and even a sedge warbler in full song.
                  Moving inland. We were looking for raptors and were not to be disappointed. First we had good views of a long legged buzzard and on a whim I decided to visit a little known gorge where we saw 2 cuckoos; a red footed falcon; a pair of bonellis eagles; 2 eleonoras falcons; 1 kestrel; 1 raven; and then just by chance we came upon the remains of either a sheep or goat which had died, so we had marvelous views of 13 griffon vultures feeding on the carcass. They were joined by a second year bearded vulture which did not take bones but concentrated on stripping meat from the ribs. The bearded vulture was not carrying a radio transmitter, nor did it have a wing tag, so either these had fallen off or this was a bird reared unknown to those involved in the LIFE project which is trying to rescue the Bearded vulture from extinction on Crete. Moving on - we recorded dozens of spotted flycatchers; 3 more griffon vultures; 2 kestrels; 3 ravens; several whinchats; 1 wheatear; a flock of 12+ swifts; and even a blue tit. Yes, at high altitudes blue tits are worth recording!


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7th May.   A trip to one of the peninsulas. Was well worthwhile with a huge list of birds recorded. 39 red footed falcons started us off and were followed by thousands of swifts; several thousand alpine swifts; over a thousand house martins; 300 pallid swifts; 2 eleonoras falcons; hundreds of spotted flycatchers; a second year female hen harrier; a pair of adult and their juvenile bonellis eagles; 1 steppe buzzard; 1 golden oriole; a lanner falcon in hot pursuit of a hooded crow; 12+ bee-eaters; lots of singing woodlarks; 1 corn bunting; 1 rock dove; 1 griffon vulture; and the usual crowd of whinchats, goldfinches and wheatears - and then a male blue rock thrush followed shortly by a male rock thrush.
 

                  

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8th MayBlack eared wheatears are appearing now. We also saw a roller; a male montagues harrier; 2 turtle doves; and masses of swallows, house martins, swifts and spotted flycatchers.
                A trip to another peninsula. Yielded 500+ spotted flycatchers; 2 griffon vultures; 1 corn bunting; 2 golden orioles; a lanner falcon; a collared flycatcher; many crested larks; a whitethroat; a pied flycatcher; 1 adult bonellis eagle; many house martins, swallows, woodlarks, several black eared wheatears and even a linnet.
                Coming back along the coast. Were 44 red footed falcons; 5 little stints; a whiskered tern; a white winged black tern; 1 moorhen; 1 night heron; 1 glossy ibis; 3 little bittern; 1 purple heron; and 1 little egret.

 

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9th MayAt Neo Chorio.  Just for a change from birds, I recorded that a magnificent deaths head hawkmoth that came into the house and clung to the wooden ceiling in our lounge. Unfortunately it died two days later.

As the month went on the flow of birds continued with 4 lesser kestrels on the 10th. along with 3 marsh sandpipers and 6 cormorants - while 27 red footed falcons no longer drew gasps of admiration - that stops after the first few hundred! Only 4 woodchat shrikes were recorded and it was not until the 15th. that the first black winged stilt arrived. This was still present at the end of the month so was either a non breeder or was injured. A few others passed through but not in any numbers as in previous years. Every day various sandpipers were present in only small numbers but good variety. The same with the egrets, herons and ibises.
 

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18th May. At Neo Chorio. At home a short toed eagle raised hopes they might breed again.

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19th May.  We also saw a pair of short toed eagles only a few miles down the road from Neo Chorio, so our hopes that they will breed are high.  Near those were a pair of long legged buzzards so we will keep an eye out for them as well.  On most days the odd one or two eleonoras falcons flew by, but again their numbers are very much reduced compared to the flocks we were used to seeing only 7 years ago.  Also of interest were 2 lesser spotted eagles on the 20th. and 28th, both juveniles and both seen coming in over the sea.  Just 3 broad billed sandpipers were recorded and no curlew sandpipers at all.  It shows how fast the breeding season gets going here as by the 30th of the month we saw a pair of little ringed plovers with a chick.

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31th May. At Neo Chorio. The month ended with 3 griffon vultures over our house while just down the road were a booted eagle and at dusk an eleonoras falcon.

 

A few final words for May. 

A very, very busy month with so much to see that even my Highlights could go on for page after page. After such a dry spring we were not surprised that numbers of each species was low, but at least the variety was there.

We were pleased to find that instead of dying out the corn bunting population at Kolymbari has simply spread out.  So they are few and far between now, but at least they are still around.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the fan tailed warblers.  Over-development and disturbance appears to have led to their total extinction along the whole stretch of the coastline between Kolymbari and Chania at least.  Other areas might be just as bad, but the distances involved mean I do not visit them often enough to be sure of their status.

Our visiting Dutch ornithologist made a very generous donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, the charity of choice of our website.  We also donate to a local special school here in Chania. Visitors are often asking to pay me for taking them bird watching, but I would rather see something going to help those who can least help themselves.  Thank you Anton - very much appreciated.  Hopefully some who follow will want to do the same - but please don't feel obliged.  My pleasure comes from simply helping visitors avoid wasting precious holiday time searching for the sites to visit.  And of course watching the birds!

I cannot to get it right every time, but so far no-one has complained!

June is the doldrums month for birds here with a pause before Autumn migration starts. I doubt I will get much of a rest, the itch to see what is about will always be there. 

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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