Paul Smith has posted this page regularly, having missed his deadline on only one occasion, since August 2001. A combination of increased frequency of hospital visits and the scorching July heat this year kept Paul from his favourite occupation during this watching period. He thinks that he has nothing to offer readers for July.

As webmaster I don't agree - how about some of his previous highlights from his July diaries - six years worth?


JULY 2002 - The archive summary said 'A plethora - but Paul's highlight is the long legged buzzard!'

31st July, 2002.

At Mili.
  A bonellis eagle.
                 At Votas.  A raven; and a pair of kestrels.                     
                 At Sfakia.  A pair of lesser kestrels - no chance of confusion with common kestrels as they are quite
                  At the nest site.  Just one adult bearded vulture; plus a golden eagle; a black eared wheater; and
                           2 pairs of kestrels.                                                 
                        At Vathi.  A pair of adult bonellis eagles circled together with their juvenile among a group of 6
                           griffon vultures.                          
                        At Kambos.  We found another bonellis eagle.
                        At Sfinari.  22+ ravens were fighting over what must have been a carcass high up on the mountain.  A
                           short toed eagle was circling and a lanner falcon dashing about.
                        At Platanos.  An adult golden eagle majestically soared over though it was a bit tatty as several
                           primary feathers were missing in each wing - so it was probably only just molting into adult plumage.

There were eighteen days of bird watching
 on that page. About which, in his summary Paul said:-

And a few final words for July.....   A better month with things starting to happen.  Migration is starting as waders are starting to turn up.  No doubt as August progresses the trickle will turn into an avalanche and by September there will be too many to count and identify.  I am particularly looking forward to seeing the storks again, they are so majestic and impressive as they try to find somewhere among all the tourists to land a feed before moving on.

I was very pleased to have sorted out the buzzards at long last.  When we came here three years ago I told the local ornithologists that I had seen long legged buzzard in our valley, but they scorned me saying that I was seeing a variety of common buzzard.  It took painstaking observation over a long period of time to sort them out, but then that is what bird watching is so often about - looking back again and again; thinking carefully; consulting all the books and then eventually becoming satisfied in the identification. 

Like so many truly rewarding things in life, if it was easy there would be little satisfaction to be gained from doing it.  Wherever you are, keep at it and enjoy your birding!

JULY 2003 - The archive summary said 'A quiet month - it leaves Paul wondering about this years migrations... Paul, did, however, report 19 bird watching days. The two following are just two entries...' It really isn't difficult to see why the coast is a popular spot with bird watchers...

19th July 2003.
      On the coast.  We were amazed to see a long straggling line of over 200 white storks coming in from the
sea and heading inland.  These were at least a month early to be migrating.  Later a flock of 70+ sandpipers but not with much enthusiasm, there were no determined attacks. Also came in, too far away to identify the species.  A single hobby was chasing swallows

20th July 2003.
                 Near a River. 
A great white egret in perfect plumage was feeding in one of the rivers' that are now
                          drying up rapidly so only weedy pools are left - with only a slow trickle of water
                          in them.                         

                       At Neo Chorio.  Several small flocks of swifts were busy hawking for insects.

xxx birds in what was was apparently 'A quiet month'....

And a few final words for July (2003).....
   As expected, July was a very quiet month with few birds to be seen. The finches, pipits and buntings are all keeping a low profile as they moult ready for migration. The swallows and swifts are ready to go.  Before long they will slip away - though some stay here all year.

The rough legged buzzard and spotted eagles show that some birds are moving already, though the storks and sandpipers really make me wonder what is going on.  Both were at least a month early and yet there has been no bad weather over Europe.  In fact the weather has been settled with a prolonged heat wave in most areas. The purple heron adds to the picture that migration is starting early this year.

Who knows what August will bring? I look forward to finding out!

JULY 2004   - Was apparently a 'Poor' month about which the archive summary said 'Short toed eagles and serenading doves, but Paul has a poor month...'

And a few final words for July (2004).....    What a poor month for birds!  Talk about scraping the barrel - it has been impossible to find them.  We have spent as much time and visited the same spots we always do so it is not for lack of time or effort - the birds just aren't there.

It was depressing to see so many barn owls killed on the roads.  Here, as everywhere, they are attracted to roads and are killed by traffic when headlights dazzle and confuse them.

Those of you who have visited this part of Crete may be familiar with the Tavronitis river.  You might like to know that, as part of a flood defence scheme, lots of gabions (wire cages filled with boulders) have been put in on the west bank by the road bridge and also down at the estuary.  Part  of this work included bulldozing the river bed which is now broad and flat, so when the rains start there will be huge shallow areas for the waders and herons to rest and feed.  No doubt the ferocious winter rains will scour out a new channel, but for this autumn conditions here for the birds could be excellent.

It took until the last day of this month for an eleonoras falcon to turn up.  What has become of them?  We used to have them regularly in flocks  and greatly enjoyed them, but alas no more....

The return migration had best be better than the spring migration - or I will be tempted to hang up my binoculars and take up watching paint dry, or perhaps planks warping.  As if....!

JULY 2005 - The archive summary said 'The maestro returns. 'A little chafed at the edges, but back. Welcome!' (Have a look at this one - the introduction explains how Paul Smith almost died. Had it not been for an absolutely superb surgeon and intensive care team he would most certainly would have. When I took him home a few weeks later he looked like something from 'The Mummy' - but decidedly less alive)!!

And a few final words for July (2005).....  So, returning now to some semblance of normality, I am at last able to send my thanks to all those who helped in so many ways to get me through what turned out to be a more than traumatic period in my life. Too many to list, perhaps I can just say that you know who you are and what you did so my eternal gratitude for your support. Mind you, the webmaster has yet to return my walking stick!

On a more serious note it seems that Crete experiences post breeding dispersal of raptors at least. Booted eagles do not, as far as we know, breed here so mid summer records must be of post fledging dispersal of young birds with the adults staying in their territories until migration time. The short toed eagles we now know breed here though we have no idea of how many pairs there are. My guess is that between Chania and Kastelli there may be at least four pairs despite the literature stating they do not breed on Crete. It is out of date!

As the month goes on and I get stronger, more and more migrants will be starting to move south so I am looking forward to some storks, egrets and herons as well as some waders - before the avalanche of passerines engulfs us with full-blown autumn migration.


JULY 2006 - According to the archive summary Paul visited '15 locations. Eagles,harriers,hoopoes,herons..  Plus Paul's first Levant sparrow hawk.' The mileages driven were themselves not easy...

9th July.
          At Neo Chorio
A trip out with a nice couple who contacted us through the website. It was a pleasure to
               show them around to a few spots of interest:-               
               At Tavronitis. Were a pair of marsh harriers and a single short toed eagle, while,
               At Astraticas Were 6+ griffon vultures; a pair of bonellis eagles; a pair of adult and a juvenile kestrel.
               At Deliana. We saw a single red rumped swallow; then on to Sassolos:-
               At Sassolos. We saw a golden eagle; a pair of lanner falcons; 2 cuckoos; 3 turtle doves;
               a flock of 12 rock doves; and a blue rock thrush.              
At Tavronitis. 4 ravens; another lanner falcon; an alpine accentor; a chukkar partridge; a wheatear;
                1 griffon vulture; 1 bonellis eagle; 1 rock thrush; and also a haunting, prolonged for about half an hour of
                shrieking, from What must have been a trapped golden eagle. It kept calling and despite our best efforts we
                could not see it – the mountain there would have taken days to search. There were some local wardens from
                the bearded vulture project at the summit of the mountain (who had heard nothing) and also the local
                shepherds had heard nothing, so we left dispirited and wondering just what had happened, but heartened that
                there are at last local people interested in  what is happening to “their” birds.                                              
                At Aligi. Another  4 ravens and,
                At Kandanos. Just raven.

Back at home a turtle dove called a soothing tune for ages. Then, late at night, another bat came into the lounge and flew round and round for ages.

A few final words for July (2006). 

We have now seen enough short toed eagles from Chania hospital to be able to say that they breed around there - as well as just behind our house. Hopefully more pairs remain to be found in the future. Extremely elusive while actually incubating and feeding young in the nest, they are readily observable as they arrive and set up territory and again, after the young fledge, they cannot be missed as the family roams in search of food.

Migration has certainly started but so far is only a trickle. The herons and sandpipers we have seen may well be non-breeders returning before the main rush follows.

We went out on the 9th. to show some visiting enthusiasts, the Winstanleys, to some of the spots we know are usually good for birds. They are making a donation to the Website charity of choice, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. They enjoyed seeing some birds that were new to them and certainly were taken to sites that no ordinary tourist would ever find. Their donation will help to fund making some very sick children hopefully have a brighter future. Many very sincere thanks.

I know this page is read by quite a few interested observers now and wish you all well. The readers cover much of Western Europe now, so all of you will be eagerly watching the migration patterns in your areas. Never take your bird watching too, too seriously, always have time to have some fun and enjoy yourselves!

Until next month, good watching.  Paul Smith.

This current summary is written By Wilf B, Webmaster of Cretanvista/s.
A few final words for July (2007).

But this time not directly from Paul.  From the boss!

Paul is one of the most conscientious people I have ever met.  He also cares deeply not just about birds, but also about the environment and things that harm it.  His monthly diaries are a unique record of bird life in north western Crete. He is undoubtedly one of the most experienced watchers on this part of Crete.  He also contributes to the work of others - at least one PhD student has benefited from his records.  He also, when he is able, conducts private tours for free.  Well, he suggests donations which are passed to Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children in London.

He also has the most unforgiving website boss in the world - ME!!

A private message. Com'on Smithy - you know that I know how difficult things can get for you - it's just that you don't appreciate my ability to make them far worse than you ever thought..!!  I can't write your page, so have a little while off to rest and be certain sure to be back on time next month.  You will then be forgiven...... And what about your readers?

Until Next Month (when hopefully Paul will return) - I wish all watchers good birding.

WB. Webmaster. Cretanvista/s.

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.