MY BIRDWATCHING HIGHLIGHTS FOR SEPTEMBER 2003

bullet1st Sept. At Platanias.  A dark phase eleonoras falcon,
                At Galatas.  A honey buzzard.
                At Nembros.   A hoopoe.
bullet2nd Sept. Along the coast. A pair of lesser spotted eagles circling and calling while being heavily mobbed by a pair of common buzzards. Then an adult rough legged buzzard; 3 red throated pipits; a pair of fan tailed warblers; a large flock of yellow wagtails; and a flock of 35 squacco herons.
                 At Neo Chorio.  An adult booted eagle leisurely drifted south.
bullet3rd Sept. On a peninsula.  We found lots of red backed shrikes, mainly adults with just a few juveniles. Dozens of spotted flycatchers; several wheatears; 13 griffon vultures; a pair of ravens; several woodlarks; a corn bunting; 2 rough legged buzzards; both juveniles and then a lovely lanner falcon. Later, a pair of bonellis eagles; a single eleonoras falcon; 3 golden orioles; a black redstart; 3 pallid swifts and then the bearded vulture which is now moulting towards adult plumage, being at least five years old.  Not very red as yet but much brighter than the drab juvenile I have been following for three years now.
                 At Neo Chorio.  A flock of 5 honey buzzards.
bullet4th/6th Sept. Along the coast.  Little to be seen. Just 2 little stint; 2 red throated pipits; a male pintail; and a single purple heron. Too many tourists about!
bullet7th Sept.  At Neo Chorio.  A dark phase eleonoras falcon and on the coast 3 wood sandpipers; 1 green sandpiper; 2 little ringed plovers and scattered yellow wagtails.
bullet10th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  A feast of raptors a pair of booted eagles; a flock of 5 short toed eagles and a pair of honey buzzards.
bullet11th Sept. At Georgopolou.  2 juvenile rough legged buzzards and 3 little egrets.
                  At Girani.  A pair of griffon vultures.
                  At Pirgos. A flock of 7 bee-eaters and an adult bonellis eagle.
                  At Spilia.  There were 8 griffon vultures and a golden eagle.
                  At Kria Vrisi. There were 3 more griffon vultures.
                  At Aghia Galini.  3 purple herons; 2 kingfishers; and several alpine swifts.
bullet12th Sept. On the coast.  2 purple herons; a male gadwall; a male hen harrier and then a flock of 28 white winged black terns.
bullet13th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  2 juvenile lesser spotted eagles circled together for a while before drifting south.
                  At Maleme.  Over 1000 garganey rested out to sea safe from hunters. A group of 3 juvenile lesser spotted eagles soared lazily over the hundreds of tourists sunning themselves on the beach, while a flock of 7 white storks and another of 5 purple herons leisurely flew by.  A crane circled for ages just of the coast, uncertain of where to go or what to do. The flock of 18+ bee-eaters that came in off the sea lost no time in heading inland.
                 Neo Chorio.  Several flocks of house martins went by.
bullet14th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  Yet another juvenile lesser spotted eagle. Bee-eaters went by for five hours in flocks totalling perhaps over 1000. Then a pair of lesser spotted eagles and several purple herons.
bullet15th Sept. At Maleme.  A flock of 27 and another of 18 purple herons.
                  At  Neo Chorio.  A flock of 60+ swallows straggled by.  Later there were 72 perched on the wires beside the house. A flock of 10+ bee-eaters then two flocks each containing 12.  In the evening several single purple herons flew by.
bullet16th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  A pair of steppe buzzards; a flock of 17 bee-eaters was seen but many more went by very high up but could be heard clearly. Then a lesser spotted eagle.
                  At Sirili. A single hobby was hawking over the dry river bed.
bullet17th Sept. At Neo Chorio. Flocks of 10, 25 and 33 bee-eaters went by.  A pair of ravens; a lesser spotted eagle; 95 swallows perched on the wires; a dark phase eleonoras falcon and a male black redstart.
bullet19th Sept. A steppe buzzard circled with a long legged buzzard, both calling repeatedly. More bee-eaters were heard. Then a pair of lesser spotted eagles; followed by a pair of long legged buzzards.
bullet20th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  Flocks of 25, 18 and 34 bee-eaters flew by - but very low down, feeding as they went.  Inevitably each flock was blasted at by the local hunters, but as they are all such rotten shots no casualties were observed.  Also several more single purple herons made their way south.
bullet21st Sept. At Neo Chorio.  More flocks of bee-eaters were heard but perhaps they are learning as they kept too high up to be shot at.
bullet22nd Sept. At Nembros.  Several wheatears and whinchats.
                   At Neo Chorio.  A flock of 16 bee-eaters was seen and several more high flocks were heard.  A pair of rough legged buzzards were not mobbed by the local buzzards; several hundred swallows flew by.
bullet23rd Sept. At Neo Chorio.  A female goshawk perched in a nearby pine tree for several hours seemingly oblivious of the hirundines that continually mobbed it.  7+ bee-eaters; yet another pair of lesser spotted eagles and then of all things a crane suddenly appeared and circled for ages over the valley - very low down -  and apparently as confused as the previous one as to where to land.
bullet24th Sept. At Maleme.  2 adult and a juvenile rough legged buzzard circled together with a pair of common buzzards.  In the background a garden warbler was singing.
bullet25th Sept. On the coast.  A flock of 14 little stint and a flock of 10 wood sandpipers.
bullet26th Sept. At Kamara.  A pair of steppe buzzards circled with 3 common buzzards; 6 griffon vultures flew by.  Out on a peninsula we found a juvenile woodchat shrike; 4 griffon vultures; a flock of 29 little egrets; 1 corys shearwater; a pair of bonellis eagles; a roller; stonechats; whinchats; wheatears; a white wagtail; 2 pairs of ravens; some spotted flycatchers and a flock of 5 rock doves.  On the way back we saw a flock of 5 honey buzzards.
                   At Maleme.  We saw a flock of 32 caspian terns, followed by the same flock of little egrets we had already seen back on the peninsula.
bullet28th Sept. At Neo Chorio. A flock of 3 honey buzzards. Then a garden warbler sang all afternoon.
                   On the coast.  We found a grey heron; a little ringed plover; a juvenile woodchat shrike.
                   At Neo Chorio.  A pair of scops owls tried to duet, the first we have heard calling for several months.  Late at night a big flock of purple herons was heard going over.
bullet29th Sept. At Neo Chorio.  Many thousands of swallows quickly went by.
bullet30th Sept. In the middle of Chania.  A very late cicada was churring away oblivious to the people and traffic!     
                  At Neo Chorio.  A last flock of bee-eaters was heard in the distance.


And a few final words for September.....   A most enjoyable month with lots to see despite the rigours of entertaining several lots of visitors more interested in sun and sand than the love of my life after my wife the birds take priority!

The number of lesser spotted eagles is very much up on previous years, they must have had an excellent breeding season and it was lovely to see so many. We can now recognise their calls even, we really have had a feast of them.

If my carping about Cretan hunters ignoring their own laws helps persuade them to stop shooting protected bird species, such as the bee-eaters, it will have been worthwhile.

A note of explanation "Pair" - when I say pair I mean two birds seen together, not necessarily a breeding pair. This opposed to 2 birds that may have been miles apart.

For now, good watching.  Paul Smith.

Editor: The review a of very recent book by another Cretan ornithologist - which contains some superb photographs, is on site. 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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