Crete 10th - 21st July 2009

Things have been quiet on the blog for a couple of weeks as we’ve been in Crete enjoying the sun. We didn’t get much chance to do any birding but did manage a few interesting species while we out and about. The area we stayed didn’t seem to have much in the way of birds mostly the humble House Sparrow, the odd Blackbird, Collard Dove and a few Hooded Crow flying over the hotel. Things changed when we took a trip out into the mountains on a ‘Jeep Safari’, our first stop being a nesting pair of Griffon Vulture. They were spectacular to watch from a layby at the side of a busy road, the juvenile stretching it's wings half way down a cliff face whilst the adults soared above on the thermals. The total count of Griffons for the day was 10 along with several Buzzard, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and a Lesser Whitethroat on the way down from visiting the cave of Zeus. We've been looking for a Lesser Whitethroat through out the summer having heard but never seeing one, so it was quite a supprise to spot one quite easily singing an an olive tree.
One thing we did notice was that for an island there seemed to be a serious lack of Gulls, even though we were close to the beach and even had a trip down to do a bungy jump (but that’s another story) we saw only a handfull in the distance from our hotel balcony. We did manage some gulls though on a trip from Aghios Nikolaos to Spinalonga, an abandond leper colony but most were distant and unidentifiable from the photos. The 2 species we did manage to identify with the help of Birdforum members were beauties, the first being a Scopoli’s Shearwater which at first we’d identified as a Cory’s Shearwater. Having never seen a shearwater before it was a wonder to watch it glide just above the surface of the sea. The second was an Audouin's Gull which after doing a little research is quite rare with only 10,000 pairs reported worldwide. On the way back from Spinalonga we saw 50+ Alpine Swift above a rocky outcrop.
At Kinossos we saw more Hooded Crow, Swallow, Swift, Buzzard and Red Rumped Swallow. With 6 lifers for the 11 day trip I don’t think we did to bad especially when we didn’t manage to do any serious birding, next time I think we’ll hire a car and get out a little more.

Late addition as Reece didn't log them, can't blame him we were swimming in the pool at the time but on day 2 we saw 3 White Stork flighing high above us taking the lifers for the trip to 7.

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