Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Full day tour, Sep 19 2017

Paul Koker is an American birdwatcher who came to Athens and wanted a full day of birding around the big city. He really wanted to see owls, so we started very early, before dawn, in order to find the Scops Owl, a very common but hard to see nocturnal raptor.

The hill of Lycabettus at the city centre, holds a large number of breeding pairs and we managed to hear at least six male birds, and have a great view of at least one bird.

Leaving Lycabettus, we headed for Mt Hymettus to look for two more owls: the Little and the Tawny. Our first stop on Mt Hymettus was at the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani at the foothills. We heard, but didn't get to see the Tawny. We did see several woodland birds, (tits, robins, firecrests) however and we also had a brief view of the Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Firecrest

Robin
It was time to move higher up and reach the top. We looked for the Little Owl and had great success! We found one bird, at a scrubby plateau and enjoyed great views.

Little Owl

We left Mt Hymettus and headed for Mt Parnitha, Athens' highest mountain and home to many interestimg mammals, like the Red Deer and the Grey Wolf! We didn't see any wolves but saw many deer. It is rutting season for them and the stags are heard bellowing all over the mountain.

But it was the birdlife that we came for, and we saw several different birds; Coal and Sombre Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, migrant Whinchats, Wheatears and Spotted Flycatchers, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers etc.
Coal Tit

Short-toed Treecreeper
It was time to leave the mountains and try the wetlands. We arrived at Schinias National Park and walked along the Olympic Rowing Centre lake to look for the Ferruginous Duck. We saw several birds along with hundreds of Coots, dozens of Little Grebes, a few Kingfishers and a single Northern Shoveler. Penduline Tits were common in the reeds.

Ferruginous Duck

Right after the Rowing Center, we walked through the tracks of the main marsh. It was afternoon and dozens of herons (Little and Great Egrets, Grey and Purple Herons) were flying overhead, looking for a safe place to roost. Suddenly, a group of five big birds flew towards us and they were not herons; Black Storks made an impressive entrance, circling around for a few minutes! 

Black Storks 

This was the best way to call it a day. We returned to Athens with a total count of 62 species. Mission accompished! 




TRIP CHECKLIST

Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey Anas querquedula
Shoveler Anas clypeata
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Ardea alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Coot Fulica atra
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Rock Dove Columba livia
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Scops Owl Otus scops
Little Owl Athene noctua
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Blackbird Turdus merula
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Great Tit Parus major
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Sombre Tit Parus lugubris
Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Raven Corvus corax
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
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