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Birding in Western Greece, August 9-10th 2019

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Birding in Western Greece, August 9-10th 2019

 Brett and Madeleine came all the way from Australia for a big European tour. Greece was one of their destinations and they wanted to add some more lifers to their list. Even though most of the summer visitors (e.g. Ruppell's Warbler, Black-headed Bunting) have already departed from their breeding grounds, there are still plenty of birds around. As they wanted two full days of birding, we planned a full day around Athens for start and then a full day at Messolonghi Lagoon.


August is a windy month so we had to monitor the weather forecast till the very last day to decide where we should go birding on the first day (August 9th). The final verdict was Athens as the following day would be very windy.

The first stop was Erythres plain, NW of Athens. A fairly unknown place for most birders but very rich in birds. As fall migration had started, we quickly saw many migrants like Subalpine, Icterine and Wood Warblers, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Northern Wheatears and Hoopoes. Lesser Kestrels on their post-breeding dispersion were very common. There were also two very low flying Short-toed Eagles and a Honey Buzzard! Another surprise was a migrant Ruppell's Warbler, seen along with the other migrants. 

Honey Buzzard

Icterine Warbler

Short-toed Eagle

Just before we go, the call of a Syrian Woodpecker was the best surprise ever; in a few minutes we managed to find the bird, this being the first record of this species in Athens!

We left Erythres and moved to Kopaida plain, a vast area outside of Athens but close enough from where we were. We visited the area to find Bee-eaters and we were not dissapointed as we saw more than 20, along with another Syrian Woodpecker, Turtle Doves, Marsh Harriers and Red-rumped Swallows. 

After Kopaida, we headed back to Athens, this time visiting the eastern part and more specifically Schinias National Park, the best place to look for the Ferruginous Duck. We saw at least 20 birds and another surprise was the presence of 2 Pygmy Cormorants, Europe's least common cormorant. It is known to overwinter here but staying during the summer is something new; perhaps a resident population will be established shortly. In the area there were also many swifts of all three species, Coots, Moorhens and Great Reed Warblers, to name a few of the birds. 
Ferruginous Duck
Pygmy Cormorant
Pallid Swift
From Schinias we moved south to Artemis Lagoon, where we saw several waders: Black-winged Stilts, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Wood Sandpipers and Little Stints. 
Early in the afternoon, we reached Mt Hymettus, looking for Chukars at the top, to no avail...A Eurasian Sparrowhawk, however, was added to their lifer list. We moved lower, at Kaisariani Forest and saw a very nice Cirl Bunting, Firecrests and Jays, among other birds. 
Cirl Bunting
The day was over and the count reached the staggering number of 71 species! 

Day 2

On Saturday, August 10th, we started just before dawn so that we could find the Scops Owl. We visited Mt Hymettus and saw one very well. Just when we started driving to Messolonghi Lagoons, Brett felt sick and we had to postpone the trip till the next day, Sunday 11th.

Day 3 

We started very early in the morning of August 11th and headed to Messolonghi, c.250 km west of Athens. By 08.30, we had reached Kleisoura Gorge, the first destination and found at least one Griffon Vulture, perched on a cliff ledge. We also saw several Rock Nuthatches, lots of Jackdaws, one Blue Rock Thrush and a few tits.

Griffon Vulture
Rock Nuthatch. 

Next stop was the saltpans of Messolonghi, where we found many Slender-billed Gulls Avocets and Flamingos, among others. At Neochori village, we saw some juvenile White Storks, still at their nests.
White Storks
Slender-billed Gull

The main lagoons (Louros area and Kleisova) were full of waders; stints, shanks and sandpipers, along with Spoonbills, egrets and herons, Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants. Terns were also still numerous, especially Little and Common. The most interesting passerines were the Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, the Lesser Grey Shrike, the Penduline-tit and the Spanish Sparrow.

We had a full day of birding and it was time to get back to Athens. We saw a total of 69 species (+4 on Saturday) and a totel of 112 species for the two days!

Brett and Marilyn


Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus roseus
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Common Ringed Plover - Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata
Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincola
Slender-billed Gull - Chroicocephalus genei
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Little Tern - Sternula albifrons
Gull-billed Tern - Gelochelidon nilotica
Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
White-winged Black Tern - Chlidonias leucopterus
Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Sandwich Tern - Thalasseus sandvicensis
White Stork - Ciconia ciconia
Pygmy Cormorant - Microcarbo pygmaeus
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Dalmatian Pelican - Pelecanus crispus
Little Bittern - Ixobrychus minutus
Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
Great White Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
Griffon Vulture - Gyps fulvus
Western Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Scops Owl - Otus scops
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eleonora's Falcon - Falco eleonorae
Lesser Grey Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Common Magpie - Pica pica
Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Eurasian Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Penduline Tit - Remiz pendulinus
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Sand Martin - Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Western Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin - Cercotrichas galactotes
Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow - Passer hispaniolensis
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus


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