Greece - Crete 23rd - 30th June 2015

Published by Tony Benton (tonyjbenton AT gmail.com)

Participants: Tony Benton, Tony Moverly, Dave Cowlen, Tony Sandles

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It was back to Crete after last year’s successful trip and we returned to our farmhouse overlooking Souda Bay.

Crete is a really stunning Mediterranean Island, and from our accommodation (in Aptera) we had superb views of the White Mountains to the south and Souda Bay to the north. We booked our flights and accommodation through Pure Crete (a really good outfit in my opinion) and our flight from London Gatwick to Chania was straightforward (but frighteningly early in the morning!).

The objectives of the trip were birding, relaxing, walking, some much needed sun, good food and the occasional whisky. And not necessarily in that order!

I managed a bit more research before this year’s trip as I particularly wanted to target Bonelli’s Eagle. This led to success at two different sites, so the research effort payed off and usefully reminded me of the importance of preparation!

As with last year, the local people were really friendly and we enjoyed some very good local food, especially at the Taverna ‘Cretan Corner’ in the village of Aptera. A hire car was essential, in order to explore the Island, and with the banks closing down, cash was essential.

Sites for Bonelli’s Eagle

Site one: A pair just beyond the village of Prasies, south of Rethmiymon. The farm where we parked was 800m south from Prasies. It was a case of picking up the E4 path obscured by a stock fence to the left of the farm building and to the right of a barn. Follow the path and ignore the E4 which goes steeply downhill. Pick your way through goat tracks and scrubby vegetation, under a crag and scramble uphill 50m to the edge of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.

Site two: A pair seen well from the cafe that overlooks the Imbros gorge, just beyond (ie south) Imbros Village. It seems to be vital to look for the Eagles from above the gorge. Last year we walked down the gorge with no joy and the birds that we saw this year where high over the gorge and flying north.

The remainder of the week was a mixture of low key birding and relaxation, summarised thus:

From the terrace, we connected with plenty of birds including:

• Red-rumped swallow (many enjoyed at eye level)
• Common buzzard
• Common swift
• Alpine Swift (always a crowd pleaser and good numbers most evenings)
• House Sparrow
• Common Kestrel
• Yellow Legged Gull
• Hooded Crow
• Collared Dove
• Barn Swallow
• Great Tit
• Greenfinch
• Scops owl (heard only on two nights)
• Serin (one only)

A walk in and around Vamos:

• Goldfinch
• Turtle Dove (many heard, but not seen)
• Blue Tit
• Blackbird

Imbros Gorge:

• Griffon Vultures
• Rock Dove
• Crag Martins
• Bonelli's Eagle -a pair seen well from the cafe that overlooks the gorge, just beyond (ie south) Imbros Village

The mountains south of Rethmiymon, just off the E4 long distance walking trail:

• Bonelli's Eagle, x 2
• Jackdaws
• Black Eared Wheatears - an adult and fledgling
• Blue Rock Thrush

Agia Lake:

• Coots
• Little Grebe
• Stonechat
• Spotted flycatchers
• Italian Sparrows
• Moorhen
• Reed Warbler

Butterflies:

• Swallowtail
• Scarce Swallowtail
• Small Copper
• Cardinal
• Wall Brown
• Speckled Wood
• Southern Comma
• Painted Lady
• Bath Eastern White
• Clouded yellow

All in all, this was a successful trip, with two pairs of Bonelli’s Eagle representing the high point. It’s worth mentioning that Agia Lake has huge potential, but also really requires more than one visit, preferably before it gets too hot. There’s a lovely path along the lake side that crosses a bridge and then leads to a shady woodland glade. Very pleasant and we needed to spend more time there!