Corfu, Greece - 18th - 31st August 2012

Published by Steve Goddard (stevegoddard26 AT

Participants: Steve Goddard


My wife, two children and I spent a fortnight at Agios Gordis, on the west coast of Corfu, between 18th and 31st August 2012. This was quite specifically a family, not a birding, holiday: and although approaching migration season, the time of year was perhaps not the best for birding, especially following a long, hot, dry summer on the island. Also, as other birders have noted, Corfiot birds can be rather shy, which I did find on some of my expeditions. Nonetheless, a trip list of fifty species was not too bad for a holiday of this type, and I found some interesting birds around Agios Gordis and on a few trips elsewhere on the island – limited by the fact that none of our family drives, so foot or public transport were my only options for getting around.


A quiet day around Agios Gordis itself, with three species of hirundines – Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin – present in numbers (they tended perhaps to decrease over the fortnight) and swooping low over our apartment’s swimming pool. Late in the afternoon I went to a nearby swimming pool-bar, the Poseidon, from which I’d seen some quite good birds in previous visits. The bar had views over a small rivercourse overhung by trees, from which several Spotted Flycatchers were flying, along with some Blue Tits and warblers – a Subalpine Warbler and an Olivaceous Warbler.


A very quiet day indeed, with no other observations than a great many House Sparrows around the village – a species which seems to be doing very well indeed, as there were big flocks of them – and hirundines remaining numerous.


A very pleasant surprise around 9 this morning while idly looking out of the kitchen window while doing the washing-up: a bird perched on a roof opposite, which I’d assumed to be a House Sparrow, turned out when viewed through binoculars to be ‘pointier’, with a spotted/barred chest and a very clear eyestripe: although silhouetted, it was clearly my first ever Wryneck, which perched for two or three seconds before flying off never to be seen again. A walk in olive groves above Agios Gordis late in the day was fairly productive, with the most striking observations being a Grey Wagtail and several distinctly yellowish Willow Warblers.


A trip into Corfu Town over the morning and lunchtime produced one distant view of an Alpine Swift – these proved hard to find throughout the trip, although I suspect evening visits to the town would have been productive. Towards evening, I explored some farmland/scrubland between the north end of Agios Gordis beach and the Pink Palace complex, finding more Subalpine Warblers, and a good view of an adult Woodchat Shrike perching on a phone wire.


Around 4pm on another quiet day, a medium-large raptor could be seen from our apartment’s balcony, effectively flying east-west, drifting off over the high ground to the south of the village. Soaring in circles, it at first resembled a Marsh Harrier, with a pale head, but a not especially light body and reddish loins and tail, and seems a very good candidate for Long-legged Buzzard, my second lifer of the trip.


On a relatively early morning walk (8am onwards) around the Pink Palace scrubland I had some good views of Subalpine Warblers and a Sardinian in an olive tree; and a phyllosc with a very yellow head and throat, a pronounced supercilium and eyestripe, little marking around the ear coverts and a very pale underside, was a pretty clear Wood Warbler. At the small river which flows through the village, a rufous bird, quite long-tailed and perhaps giving a quiet ‘tick’ call, skulking in some undergrowth, was a Nightingale. Finally, two large birds some way out at sea, dark above and light below, soaring in a clearly shearwater-ish way and occasionally settling on the water were Cory’s Shearwaters.


Again around 4pm, further sightings today of at first one, then two raptors like on 22/8/12 over the hills south of Agios Gordis, tended to confirm the Long-legged Buzzard ID of that day: in fact, one of them showed legs trailing underneath, with at least one showing dark carpal patches. They differed slightly in size, and engaged with each other in slightly ‘play-passing’-like behaviour.


We spent this day at Aqualand, in more or less the centre of the island, and I briefly escaped for a quick look around near the water park, spotting a number of Great Tits and several Nightingales giving alarm calls near some water; in some drier land, a Stonechat as well.


A late afternoon walk up the road from Agios Gordis south to Kato Garouna was fairly unproductive but did bring views of Alpine Swifts over one of the local peaks; several Spotted Flycatchers; and down near Agios Gordis, a juvenile Turtle Dove feeding on the ground beside the road, noticeably smaller than the several Collared Doves around.


On another late afternoon walk up above the village I saw good numbers of Sardinian Warblers and heard what sounded very much like Bee-eaters high overhead although I couldn’t visually locate any. A pair of Peregrines flying and diving over the high ground to the south were my first of the trip and indeed my first in Greece.


I made a visit to the lagoon at Corfu Airport this morning; although it’s necessary to be quite circumspect in one’s observations – there are some very clear multilingual ‘No entry’ signs about the place – it is possible, using a track which runs alongside the nearby cemetery, to approach part of the lagoon on the north side quite closely, and I saw a decent range of resident and migrant species. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were numerous, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the main lagoon; Black-headed Gulls were present in numbers on the north side of the lagoon. I flushed a Common Sandpiper from a ditch in that area, and in an inlet on the north side saw good numbers of Greenshank, at least four Redshank and a Curlew. A Pheasant was also flushed from nearby, and a flock of 10-12 Yellow Wagtails flew overhead as well as at least two Sand Martins. Nearby scrubland contained numerous Spotted Flycatchers and at the Panagia monument near the cemetery, a sparrow with a dark brown crown must have been a Spanish Sparrow.


We spent the day on a boat trip around the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. Benitses harbour contained a proprietorial-looking adult Yellow-legged Gull, and out from Lefkimmi, at sea, a flock of fifteen or more Black Terns, mainly juveniles, some of them dipping onto the surface of the sea, flew past our boat. I had a good number of views of Cory’s Shearwaters both on the way out and on the way back to Corfu, with several of them following the boat for lengthy periods.


On the last day of the holiday, I took an early morning walk up the hill south of Agios Gordis, and spotted what I suspect were a number of migrant warblers: a Chiffchaff in an olive grove, numerous Sardinian Warblers and several Whitethroats; at a small river with plentiful water plants, a Grey Wagtail and a Lesser Whitethroat were seen.

Later in the day, I explored some market gardens just on the Agios Gordis side of the nearby town of Sinarades, which were quite productive: again, Sardinian Warblers were plentiful, as were Blue Tits; I also had fairly clear views of a Red-backed Shrike. Red-rumped Swallows and Jays were frequently seen, as were several Olivaceous Warblers. Frustratingly Golden Oriole-type, cat-like calls were heard, but no bird seen; but a Hobby was, at a distance, chasing hirundines. Interestingly, a warbler engaged in argument with two Sardinian Warblers in low scrub in a field had white round its eye; a white throat and fawnish belly and legs, with its head, wings and tail grey, the tail flanked with white, and the head bearing hints of a moustache: the closest fit seems to be a Spectacled Warbler, albeit that this mainly Italian species is of dubious status in Corfu.

As I say, not a birding trip specifically, but the following trip list of fifty species contains some interesting ones, and a good few which I had not previously seen in Greece.

Species Lists

1. Pheasant
2. Cory’s Shearwater
3. Grey Heron
4. Little Egret
5. Long-legged Buzzard
6. Hobby
7. Peregrine
8. Common Sandpiper
9. Redshank
10. Greenshank
11. Curlew
12. Black-headed Gull
13. Yellow-legged Gull
14. Lesser Black-backed Gull
15. Black Tern
16. Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)
17. Turtle Dove
18. Collared Dove
19. Alpine Swift
20. Wryneck
21. Red-backed Shrike
22. Woodchat Shrike
23. Jay
24. Magpie
25. Sand Martin
26. Swallow
27. Red-rumped Swallow
28. House Martin
29. Great Tit
30. Blue Tit
31. Willow Warbler
32. Common Chiffchaff
33. Wood Warbler
34. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
35. Whitethroat
36. Lesser Whitethroat
37. Spectacled Warbler
38. Subalpine Warbler
39. Sardinian Warbler
40. Spotted Flycatcher
41. Nightingale
42. Stonechat
43. Blackbird
44. Yellow Wagtail
45. Grey Wagtail
46. White Wagtail
47. Greenfinch
48. Goldfinch
49. House Sparrow
50. Spanish Sparrow