MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR AUGUST 2006

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1st Aug.  On the coast.  We found a barn owl run over on the road. Then we saw 2 turtle doves; 3 little ringed plovers; 3 juvenile ringed plovers; and a weasel ran across the road in front of us. Highlight of this trip, of the year and probably of my lifetime were fantastic close up and long views of a superb slender billed curlew!!! A mega twitch for those so inclined - but this was all to myself my right hand man was cavorting in the sea so missed all the action. One of the true mystery birds of the Palearctic region whose breeding grounds are subject to intense debate, whose population size is totally unknown and whose migratory patterns are so variable as to confuse everyone. The plumage was pristine so identification was straightforward as I watched it trying to feed in a field only 30 metres away for ten minutes before it flew up calling loudly with a non curlew like alarm call before circling six times just overhead, before flying strongly away towards the south east. That really did call for a long cold beer in the nearby cantina to celebrate!
                At Neo Chorio. Two eleonoras falcons in the evening failed to elicit much exuberance after the earlier excitement!

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2nd Aug.  At a nearly dried up estuary. Were 2 adult and a juvenile ringed plovers, while a light phase eleonoras falcon hunted overhead.

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3rd Aug.  At Neo Chorio. We heard a flock of bee-eaters, but as is usual with autumn migration they were too high up to see. We just heard them.
 

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4th Aug.  At Loukomeheliana. We managed to see 23 bee-eaters and then 5 golden orioles. Further along at Pontikiana were another 4+ bee-eaters.

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5th Aug.  At Neo Chorio. Our famous cat (called toffee) managed to get into these pages again when he tried to ambush a scops owl in one of our mulberry trees, but all he succeeded in doing was to annoy it and fall out of the tree along with lots of dead leaves and a mass of spiders webs!

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6th Aug.  At Neo Chorio. Sitting on our patio enjoying a delicious wild boar sausage, a present from the daughter in law, a buzzard swooped down so low I was convinced it wanted to grab a share. I hung on tight and it sheared off in search of easier prey thank goodness.

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8th Aug.  At Neo Chorio. A short toed eagle circled.

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9th Aug.  At Neo Chorio. Another, or perhaps the same short toed eagle and later a male sparrow hawk.
              On the coast we found some high bee-eaters, 2 temmincks stints, a squacco heron, 3 wood sandpipers and a marsh harrier.

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11th Aug. At the coast. We were able to watch small flocks of swallows on migration coming in from the sea and immediately setting about foraging for insects. There were also 2 little stints and out to sea a raft of 50+ garganey were waiting for darkness before coming in to feed.

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13th Aug. At Neo Chorio. A short toed eagle is still about.

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14th Aug. At Neo Chorio. The short toed eagle is still here while:-
                 On the coast. Were 1 squacco heron; 2 little ringed plovers; and more migrating swallows coming in off the sea.

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15th Aug. Again on the coast. 2 little ringed plovers; 1 wood sandpiper; 1 temmincks stint; a flock of 7 ruff; flocks of 49 and 11 glossy ibis; 1 hoopoe; and yet more swallows coming in from the sea on their migration.

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16th Aug. At a river estuary. Were 2 little ringed plovers; 1 squacco heron; a flock of 56 ruff; and a flock of 12 purple herons.

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17th Aug. At Neo Chorio. Were a pair of long legged buzzards circling with a common buzzard while:-
                 Over Sirili. A group of 3 honey buzzards drifted south.
                 At the coast. We saw our first kingfisher of the autumn.

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20th Aug. At Sirili. A roller - much less frequently seen in autumn than spring.

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21st Aug. On the coast. We saw the first of the returning yellow wagtails.

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23rd Aug. On the coast. There was a flock of 83 glossy ibis; a flock of 19 little egrets; and then we had amazing views of a juvenile great spotted eagle that flew in from the sea and immediately started hunting along one of the estuaries. While difficult to identify at the usual great distances that eagles are observed from, at 30 metres there could be no mistaking this one.

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27th Aug. At Polymarchi. Was a long legged buzzard and later a rough legged buzzard while:-
                 At the coast. A booted eagle and a flock of 30+ teal.

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28th Aug. At Kastelli. Was an extraordinary sight a cow standing in a field! A very rare sight indeed on Crete , we know people to have driven miles to show their children one!
                 On one of the peninsulas. We found very few birds - a wheatear; a few woodlarks; a blue rock thrush; a single lanner falcon; and 1 griffon vulture. On the way back home we saw a nightjar and then another rough legged buzzard.

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30th Aug. On the coast. Were flock of 34 glossy ibis; 3 pintail; a pair of marsh harriers; 2 bar tailed godwits; and later a single glossy ibis.
                 At Sirili. Were a golden oriole and 2 crag martins.

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31st Aug. At Neo Chorio. Were 3 honey buzzards.
                 At the coast. Was a lovely male marsh harrier; a flock of 25 little egrets; 1 wood sandpiper; and probably the same 2 bar tailed godwits as yesterday.

A few final words for August.

Despite the intense heat of August we managed to get out a fair bit, though mostly to take my right hand man for a swim while I kept an eye open for what was about bird-wise. The slender billed curlew was so totally unexpected that it took ages for the thrill of having seen one and at such close quarters to wear off and then the questions began. Where on earth had it come from? There are some Greek records showing that Greece may be becoming more important as the Moroccan wintering sites decline in importance. Next, the pristine plumage. BWP indicates that wing and tail feather moult can be completed before migration but this was an extremely early sighting, presumably of a non-breeder. The wing and tail feathers were complete and in perfect condition with no obvious signs even of abrasion and the body feathering looked about as good as well though not having seen the species before I can hardly claim to be proficient. The overall appearance was of a very smart and brightly coloured bird, especially when it flew and the under wing could be examined as well as the rest of the body plumage not visible when at rest. Lovely to have to ponder such weighty matters for a change as my concentration is usually on the larger raptors - at which I have become more and more specialized over the last seven years, usually to the exclusion of most other birds.  

With family and friends coming to visit in the last few weeks of the season, as well as still having to go to hospital for regular treatment, there will be pressure on going birding that will of course be resisted stoutly. I came to Crete to go bird watching and will do so whenever I can! 

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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