I visited the island of Zakynthos (Zante) in late June 2004 and stayed in the resort of Tsilivi - the purpose of the trip was more one of relaxation rather than birding, but by hiring a car for the majority of our stay I was able to explore the island's avifauna. Many charter flights and package tours are available from the UK and car hire was arranged locally in our resort through EuroAlpha car rentals. Research prior to departure revealed a severe lack of birding information for the island, with the only trip report found at http://www.brian.stone.care4free.net/zante/list.htm although a posting on www.birdforum.net provided me with a few more observations from the island.
In general, it can be said that birdlife on the island is somewhat sparse compared to other areas of Greece (e.g. Lesbos) with the western locality eliminating several species that can be found further east. Highlights included Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Grey Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-headed Bunting, Eastern Orphean Warbler and opportunities to study Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (present in good numbers) and Scopoli's Shearwater.
The island itself is one of contrasts - the south and south-east coasts are heavily developed in order to cater for mass tourism whereas the west and northern regions still retain a distinctly unspoilt Greek feel. The coastline is predominantly rocky with cliffs and outcrops commonplace (a visit to the Blue Caves in the far north-west is well worth a visit to observe the geological spectacle), the centre of the island being fertile plains where olive and lemon groves predominate whilst the north and west are steeped in mountainous terrain.
Although birds were seen throughout the island, the summary below lists areas that I feel warrant special mention. It must be stressed though that birding in all areas was relatively slow, although the numbers of Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches, Serins and Greenfinches throughout the island always meant that there were birds to see.
Volimes area - leaving the main east coast road north of Katastari take the first road signposted towards Volimes (just before this junction I located Cetti's Warbler and Stonechat in the roadside scrub). The road will pass a quarry area (where I located a Crested Lark) and climb uphill. Midway between the coast and the town of Volimes, the road will open out on the right into an area of rough meadow and tall thin trees (the left of the road is bordered by a rocky cutting). This area provided me with sightings of several Black-headed Buntings, a couple of Great Tits, many Spotted Flycatchers and a male Cirl Bunting. The strategy I adopted from here was to drive up the steep road, windows down, and stop at likely looking areas. I found that the area near the junction (half a mile either side) with the road to Anafonitria/Kiliomeno/ Agios Leon was particularly fruitful with excellent views of an Eastern Orphean Warbler obtained as it showed in a low bush c.200 yards before the junction itself. A Lesser Grey Shrike was located on wires c.1/2 mile beyond the junction with several Woodchats, a couple more Black-headed Buntings, a Crested Lark, 20+ Pallid Swifts and one Alpine Swift seen in this area.
Keri Lakes - these tar lakes (situated at Limni Keriou), mentioned in the writings of Plini, are now fairly dry with little water visible and the area taken over by reeds. Fan-tailed Warbler was common here, and in the evening 15+ Red-rumped Swallows showed extremely well on wires with Barn Swallows and House Martins.
Keri Lighthouse - at the extreme south-west tip of the island, the area of scrub around the lighthouse compound looks ideal for migrants. On my visit, bird activity was quiet with only Pallid Swift and Sardinian Warbler seen.
Alikes Saltpans - these are located immediately inland of the beach at the north end of the resort and are obvious from the road leading out of the town. A couple of visits provided little of note, with only Fan-tailed Warbler and c.5 Little Ringed Plovers being located (with a couple of Turtle Doves seen in the olive groves south of the resort). However birds such as Squacco, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint have been noted by others in Spring migration.
Banana Pinewoods - this area of pinewood and scrub lies immediately inland of Banana beach, located on the south-eastern peninsular of the island c.3km north of Vassilikos and Gerakas. I birded the area on both sides of the main road (via a sandy track down towards the beach on the eastern side of the road and a small footpath to the west of the main road that passes a derelict stone building) with an Eastern Orphean Warbler located as well as several Eastern Olivaceous and Sardinian Warblers and many Serins. The location of this site (as well as the tip of the peninsular at Gerakas) may provide more interesting sightings during migration periods.
Bohali Castle - located on the hill above the island capital, Zakynthos, these ruins provide an excellent panoramic view across the island and the adjacent pinewood held Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Great Tit as well as both Sardinian and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. These ruins are accessed off the road that leads through the town centre towards Tsilivi.
Makris Gialos Bay - this extremely picturesque inlet can be found immediately adjacent to the coast road south of Agios Nikolaos and north of Katastari. An excellent taverna positioned on the outcrop above the cove provides excellent views over the whole area. Sardinian Warblers were found in the coastal scrub, whilst two pairs of Blue Rock Thrush were busy feeding young in the coastal gorges and an excellent Short-toed Eagle performed well over the cliffs south of the cove being mobbed by 2 Common Buzzards.
Tsilivi -Fan-tailed Warblers were constantly vocal in the scrub behind the beach and Serins and Sardinian Warblers were common throughout the resort. To the south of the town, the olive groves on the hill up towards the café/pizzeria provided good views of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and seawatching from the olive groves immediately adjacent to the café/pizzeria allowed good opportunity to study Scopoli's Shearwater. Driving north out of the resort, passing through the many olive groves and the village of Gerakari, you will eventually come to an excellent taverna that is located on the left of a hairpin bend (c.8km north of Tsilivi) providing views over the majority of the island. Typical olive grove species (Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Serin etc) were located here in the day whilst at least 3 Scops Owls called from here during the evening.
Skinari Lighthouse - the road that leads north from Agios Nikolaos provided sightings of 2 Little Owls on roadside wires whilst a pair of Common Kestrels was located on cliffs above the Blue Caves.
Scopoli's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea diomedea Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Western Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans micahellis
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Scops Owl Otus scops
Little Owl Athene noctua
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Crested Lark Gallerida cristata House Martin Delichon urbica
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Stonechat Saxicola torquata
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Blackbird Turdus merula
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis
Cetti's Warbler Cetti cetti
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais elaeica Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Great Tit Parus major
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Serin serinus serinus
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala