MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR JUNE 2003

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1st June.  At Kalives.  A flock of 7+ pallid swifts kept circling very low down and screaming all nesting nearby?

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3rd June.  At Neo Chorio.  A single eleonoras falcon and a lovely turtle dove sang nearly all day.

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4th June.  At Neo Chorio.  The turtle dove continued to sing; while a single purple heron was circling and calling.

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5th June.  Over the old harbour at Chania.  Dozens of common swifts were circling and screaming low over the water.  Mixed in with them were at least 7 pallid swifts, while high overhead several alpine swifts circled.
                  At Neradzia.  A very late grey heron was slowly circling and looking for somewhere to land to feed.

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6th June.  In the Afrata Gorge.  There was a small flock of crag martins; 3 kestrels (2 males and 1 female); and a blue rock thrush was singing from a prominent perch on a hillside fence.
                  At Kolymbari.  Another flock of crag martins.
                  At Neradzia.  A Savis warbler was singing very loudly.

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7th June.  At Elos.  A single griffon vulture was circling very high up.  At the nest site we saw both the adult bearded vultures but no sign of the chick which has now fledged.  Also a single immature golden eagle, a single bee-eater and another flock of crag martins.  At a cove where we went to swim a pair of white wagtails resented out intrusion in their territory.  There was also the first brimstone butterfly we have seen this  year.

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8th June.  At Neo Chorio.  A flock of 4 eleonoras falcons, all dark phase. Then a flock of 7 bee-eaters.

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10th June. At Chania airport.  A single long legged buzzard circled very low over the terminal building.  Any visiting ornithologists would have been most impressed.
                   At the Allied War Cemetery at Souda.  A very high flock of bee-eaters could be clearly heard but not seen.
                   At Tavronitis.  A single lesser grey shrike was perched on a fence post, the first we have seen for a very long time.
                   At Neo Chorio.  A single eleonoras falcon at dusk.

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11th June.  At Neo Chorio.  3 eleonoras falcons in the morning and a single one at dusk.

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12th June. On the coast.  A presumably non-breeding ruff and another savis warbler, again singing very loudly.

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13th June.  At Neo Chorio. The turtle dove sings all day most days now.  A sub-alpine warbler sang from our big old olive tree and a flock of 5 eleonoras falcons were hunting at dusk.  Late at night a greater horseshoe bat came in through the open windows, no doubt after the insects attracted by the lights. Toffee, our ginger cat, went berserk in pursuit but I managed to get the bat out before our ornaments were destroyed.

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14th JuneAt Neo Chorio.  Another hobby, a light phase eleonoras falcon and then lovely views of a female goshawk which was actively hunting the swallows that nest nearby.  Later we saw it again, still chasing swallows.

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15th June. At Neo Chorio.  A single eleonoras falcon and by mid-day the first of this years cicadas started to sing. They only perform when it gets really hot so summer must have finally arrived.

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21st June. At Neo Chorio.  Several broods of swallows have fledged and are already perched on the wires familiarizing themselves with the area so they can recognize it again when they return after migration.  There are also family parties of blue and great tits: goldfinches and greenfinches in the area.

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22nd June. At Neo Chorio.  We were delighted to watch a family party of goldfinches feeding on the grasses we left to go to seed just outside the lounge.  Always very busy and twittering to each other, goldfinches are the bird most commonly seen on Crete.
               
   At Astratigos.  7 griffon vultures lazily slid by and a blue rock thrush was singing.

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23rd June. At Neo Chorio.  A Sardinian warbler flew into the lounge and perched on our antique church pew.  Toffee was asleep so missed it!  Later 2 long legged buzzards and a dark phase eleonoras falcon were seen.

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24th June. At Neo Chorio.  A male sparrowhawk dashed low down through the garden.

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25th June. At Neo Chorio.  An eleonoras falcon at dusk and then a nightjar was heard churring.

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26th June. At Neo Chorio.  A flock of over 50 swifts, mostly pallid but with a few common swifts mixed in with them.  They always fly and feed much higher than swallows and martins.  Another hobby circled for a while before heading off in a southerly direction.
                   On the coast.  Just 2  little ringed plovers.

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30th June. At Neo Chorio.  A lovely flock of 7 bee-eaters very noisily circled for a while before they too set off in a southerly direction.

 

And a few final words for June.....   Another reader of these pages came during June to sample the birdlife, we hope Henri had a good time and found some interesting birds.  No doubt he will let us know.

**Feedback from our Irish friends is exciting, they found and videoed a stonechat of the eastern race, either armenica or variegata, so well done to them.  Further analysis of the video should decide which of the two it was.  In 1986 a specimen of variegata was recorded on the island of Zakynthos and it is suspected that the eastern races may occur quite frequently but are usually overlooked.

June is the quiet month, the migrants have already got to where they are going and the local resident birds are all nesting or already moulting so keeping a low profile.  As the heat of summer has built up so less and less time is spent out looking, this is the time for swimming or lazily reclining in the shade.

Next month should see things starting to pick up again with the first of the returning waders coming to try and find somewhere damp enough to have food.  They will be lucky if they do, the island is bone dry by then so most will move straight on through the autumn migration is very different from Spring when there is plenty of both water and food.  Even now the swallows are reduced to circling the swimming pools until they spot a gap and can swoop down to drink.

The barn owls have also now fledged and most nights family parties come through our area to feed.  Their eerie shrieking, hissing and snoring noises are quite frightening when they stamp around on our roof and keep us awake.  Only very occasionally do we catch a glimpse of a scops owl and only rarely de we hear their lovely call.  They will need several years to build up their numbers again after having been almost wiped out by the extreme weather of the winter before last.

For now, good watching.  Paul Smith.

Editor: The review a of very recent book by another Cretan ornithologist which contains some superb photographs is now complete. The review is linked to a photo gallery - with kind permission from the author Anastasios Sakoulis. Have a look at the review in Books and Good Reading pages. 
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