TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
19 - 26 April 2005
Stephanie and Jim Coghlan
Tuesday 19th April Sunny and Hazy. Windy in evening
We met the Gatwick flight with the bus and after a snack lunch at the airport we set off with Tania who gave us a brief introduction to Crete, before we dropped her at the roadside near the Power Station. We continued with Stelios our driver and we drove on the main highway, past Fodele, the birthplace of El Greco, the orange groves and down to Rethymnon where we could see the Venetian harbour and fort below us.
We stopped at about 4.00 at the Petres River Gorge and looked at our first flowers and birds. We continued on to Gerani, where we found the Silver Beach Hotel had just opened. We had drinks and an introductory meeting and enjoyed our first dinner, a buffet with plenty of choice, and then fell into bed to catch up with early starts and time changes.
Wednesday 20th April Sunny. High cloud.
We had an early morning walk and found a few Swallows passing through and a small flock of Yellow Wagtails. After breakfast we set off for Tavronitis River and explored the pools by the bridge where we found Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank and Yellow Wagtails. At the river mouth we saw Whinchat and heard Cettis Warbler, which we were to hear everywhere and rarely glimpse. A new road had been built beside the river so it was rather disturbed.
We went back to Tavronitis for coffee and then called in at Skoutelonias River and shore, before stopping in Kolimbari for our picnic lunch at the harbour. After lunch we walked up to the little chapel and found Cretan Orchid, and Small-flowered Tongue Orchid, Serapias parviflora as well as many Mediterranean hillside species.
We continued on to Afrata and walked through the village to the gorge. The tiny hard- to-identify blue plant turned out to be a Laurentia. We found plenty of different flowers and Yellow Bee Orchids and the endemic Verbascum arcturus growing on the chapel in the cave. In the gorge there were several pairs of Kestrels, Blue Rock Thrush and a Turtle Dove. We held a checklist before dinner and afterwards another good spread of traditional food. It was a starry clear night.
Thursday 21st April Sunny, occasionally hazy. Warm
We had a walk before breakfast and found the usual residents, but apart from a few Swallows going towards the peninsula and a few Yellow Wagtails and a Collared Flycatcher it was clear migrants were not yet really moving. We left at 9.00 for our Two Gorges tour and stopped briefly at Petres Gorge, where we had good views of Stonechat, but the only other residents were the same as our previous visit.
At the Armeni Minoan Cemetery there were orchids everywhere and we enjoyed our circular walk through the Valonia Oak Woods, we heard Chaffinch and Golden Oriole was seen by one tour member. We had a stop for coffee at the Pyrgos Cafe with good views of the valley and amusing rubbish bins, which detect your movements and open very disconcerting at first. We continued on to the woods at Ag Ioannis and found Monkey Orchid. Lunch was eaten at the new well and picnic spot outside Ag Ioannis and Griffon Vultures cruised over as we ate. We looked for birds and flowers on the Kali Sikia road, before walking from the bridge to the chapel in the Kotsifou Gorge seeing a few Jackdaws and a pair of Kestrels alongside Linum arboreum and Arum creticum and sheets of pink Ricotta cretica.
A stop in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge produced more Griffon Vultures, Raven, Rock Dove and Crag Martin. Our final destination was the fields above Spili and we were soon enjoying fields of red Tulips Tulipa doerfleri (now called undulata) as well as a wide variety of orchids including several sheets of O. boryi, and plenty of Orchis italica, and found some 4-spot Orchid Orchis quadripunctata, while listening to Corn Buntings and Crested Larks. At our last stop where we turned the bus we found Iris unguliculata and Fritillary graeca.
Friday 22nd April Overcast with sunny periods. Cool
After a quiet early morning walk with only the resident, Shag, Yellow-legged Gull, Italian Sparrow, Cettis warbler, Goldfinch and Greenfinch. We set off for Chania. We had a brief stop opposite Ag. Theodori Island but it was also quiet. In Chania we had a guided tour of the old town and then broke up for shopping, museums and coffee drinking visits.
We had lunch at the Venezelou Graves and heard Serin. In the afternoon we walked to Ag. Triada Monastery and then drove to Moni Gouvenatou and walked down to the Bears Cave. We saw Black-eared Wheatear and more Serins.
Saturday 23rd April Sunny with a cool wind.
We had an early morning walk and after breakfast set off for Agia Reservoir. It was very busy with many Sand Martins, Little Grebe, Garganey, Shoveler and Little Crake and Squacco Herons. We set off into the mountains and stopped above and below Lakki, there were lots of Northern Wheatears moving through. At Omalos we had coffee and started looking for fields with access as so many are now fenced. In one, we found Sand Crocus Romulea bulbicodium, found Cirl Bunting, Tree Pipit, and in an orchard we found sheets of Cretan Tulips.
At the top of the Samaria Gorge we saw distant Chough and Griffon Vultures while we admired more Orchis pauciflora and Aubretia deltoides. We came down via Irini and Skinias to Agia Reservoir again and we enjoyed another half hour at the dam, there were 21 Common Sandpipers and a Ruff had turned up and we saw more Little Crakes. We returned to hold a meeting before dinner and to plan the programme for the next few days. We had another interesting buffet dinner and some went out to bat watch but there were no moths tonight so, sadly no bats.
Sunday 24th April Sunny, cool wind
We had the usual early morning walk and after breakfast we returned to Agia reservoir. It was Palm Sunday, so while the service was relayed across the water, we listened to Nightingale and Olivaceous Warbler and watched Little Crakes really close as well as counting the Little Grebes and the Moorhens again. Some of yesterdays migrants had left but the Garganey remained. We had coffee at the Taverna and then we drove up Therisso Gorge, which was leafy and quiet.
In the village we picnicked around the church and then we walked down the gorge along the road. We saw Cretan Cyclamen, Cretan Wall Lettuce, Cretan Silene and Cretan Wallflower as well as Dittany. We found Raven, Peregrine and a Black-eared Wheatear. Two members beat the TN record for the furthest distance walked in the two hours. We returned home too rest, swim, catch up with our diaries and enjoy the beach.
After the checklist, the school group left for the ferry to Athens, so we were alone for the evening. We had another walk to try to see bats and a newly discovered badger sett. We found a Green Toad and saw a few moths. We paid our bar bills and retired to pack.
Monday 25th April Sunny
We took a last early morning walk and saw Common Sandpiper and Little Stint on the river mouth pool.
After breakfast we left at 9.00 and our first stop was at the Souda Bay War Graves Cemetery. It was quiet and peaceful and we found Tongue Orchids, Wild Lupin, Pale Flax and Yellow Bartsia. A Squacco Heron flew and perched in the nearby trees and there was a Little Egret on the shore. We continued on to Georgioupolis Lake and found many Moorhens and Coots and a Black-crowned Night Heron, saw another Squacco Heron very close, and there were a pair of Garganey sleeping close to the reeds.
In the village square we had a quick coffee and shopping stop to catch up with those souvenirs and gifts and then we continued on our way stopping at a Chapel near Perama for our last picnic. We had a wonderful view over the olive groves to Mt Ida.
We arrived at Knossos about 2.15 and found Maria our guide from previous years to take round our group of five, while those who had previously visited the site went across the valley to bird and flower watch and were rewarded with some orchids and about six Red-rumped Swallows. We checked into the hotel and dashed out again to look in the Long Pool so that Kathleen and Joyce who were leaving early in the morning could see the birds and we had good views of Redshank and Greenshank as well as Spotted Redshank, five Little Egrets and a male Shoveler and some Little Stints.
We held our final log and went to dinner in a very busy dining room.
Tuesday 26th April Sunny and warm
We had an early morning trip to the river and saw a Purple Heron. After breakfast we went down on to the saltmarsh and admired Yellow Wagtails, Greenshank, and Wood Sandpipers. Little Ringed Plover were disputing the ownership of part of the beach. We walked a circuit around the tamarisk trees and saw Bee-eaters as well as the local Buzzard and then the Purple Heron flew over as well as a couple of Ruff. We returned for some coffee and orange juice and finished our packing. We were a little delayed on our transfer to the airport but the check-in was very quick and fast and both flights got away on time after we had said our goodbyes.
It had been an excellent tour for weather and flowers and the scenery had been at its best. We found the bird numbers rather low and there was the general feeling that the migration had not yet begun, or had the migrants flown over in the fine weather and clear nights. However, sunny weather everyday and we had seen 85 species, uncountable orchids and many interesting flowers.
LITTLE GREBE 30+ Agia reservoir 23rd April, fewer the next day, 6+ at Georgioupolis on 25th.
SHAG 2-4 off Silver Beach, Gerani and Skouteleonas river mouth during the week.
PURPLE HERON One at Aposelemis river and saltmarsh 26th April.
LITTLE EGRET 1st record on 23rd April at Agia, Silver Beach and Georgioupolis. Then 5 at Aposelemis 25th and 26th.
SQUACCO HERON 3 at Agia reservoir on 23rd. Singles at Agia and Georgioupolis on 25th.
BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON One at Georgioupolis on 25th
GLOSSY IBIS 2 from the bus passing Platanes river near Rethymnon on 25th
MALLARD 2 males and 1 female at Agia on 23rd , then 1 male and 1 female on 24th. Otherwise farmyard crossbreeds at Agia, Georgioupolis and Aposelemis river mouth pools.
GARGANEY 6 at Agia on 23rd, then 4 on 24th, 2 at Georgioupolis on 25th.NORTHERN SHOVELER A pair at Agia reservoir on 23rd April, 1 male at Long pool at Aposelemis delta.
GRIFFON VULTURE Glimpsed while travelling on 19th. 20+ on 21st around the Kotsiphos and Kourtaliotiko Gorges. 3 on 23rd over Omalos. One near Petres Gorge as we travelled back to Iraklion on 25th April.
MONTAGUS HARRIER One crossed the road in front of us, near Geropotamos river as we drove east on 19th April.
MARSH HARRIER Singles seen at Agia reservoir on the 23rd and 24th April.
BUZZARD Common 1-2 seen everyday.
KESTREL Common 1-2 seen everyday with 3 pairs at nests in Afrata Gorge. 1 pair at nest in Theriso Gorge.
PEREGRINE 1 seen twice in the Theriso Gorge.
LITTLE CRAKE Up to 3 both days at Agia Reservoir.
MOORHEN Common on wet areas and small pools. 80 + at Agia reservoir on 23rd.
COOT 50+ at Agia on 23rd and 24th including one pair with 5 young.
BLACK-WINGED STILT One at the dam at Agia on 23rd April.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER Common on beaches and river mouths, usually in pairs holding territories.
REDSHANK One at Aposelemis long pool on 25th April.
SPOTTED REDSHANK One at Aposelemis Long Pool on 25th April.
GREENSHANK Singles at Tavronitis river on 20th, Silver Beach, Gerani on 21st and 2 at Aposelemis on 25th and 26th.
GREEN SANDPIPER One at Aposelemis river 25th April.
WOOD SANDPIPER Common, small numbers at Tavronitis river, Agia Reservoir, Georgiopolis, and Aposelemis river.
COMMON SANDPIPER 1-2 on shores and at rivers. 21 at Agia reservoir on 23rd was the largest flock.
LITTLE STINT 5 at Tavronitis river on 20th, 1 at Silver Beach on 24th and 4+ at Aposelemis on 25th & 26th April.
RUFF Single at Agia on 23rd April and 2 at Aposelemis Saltflats on 26th.
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL Singles and small numbers seen daily. Large flock seen over a rubbish tip near and 50+ nesting on Ag. Theodori island.
TURTLE DOVE One in Afrata Gorge on 20th April.
COLLARED DOVE Common in towns and villages.
SCOPS OWL Heard at Therisso Gorge.
TAWNY OWL Heard at Afrata Gorge near the chapel on 20th April.
ALPINE SWIFT First seen on 22nd April. Small numbers daily up to 6.
COMMON SWIFT Seen in Iraklion on 19th, then from 23rd April in small flocks.
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER 2+ heard and seen over Aposelemis area.
CRESTED LARK Seen daily along the shores.
WOODLARK Heard and seen on the Omalos Plateau.
SAND MARTIN 200+ over Agia Reservoir on 23rd in the morning. Down to 50+ there later in the afternoon. Then small numbers daily.
CRAG MARTIN Small numbers in the Kotsifos, Kourtaliotiko and Samaria Gorges.
SWALLOW Seen daily but no large counts. 30+ on 26th at Aposelemis.
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW 6+ in Knossos valley on 25th.
HOUSE MARTIN Recorded over Afrata, near Laki, Therisso and Aposelemis saltflats.
YELLOW WAGTAIL Seen daily 2-6 at Gerani Beach, Up to 10 at Analipsi on 26th.
WHITE WAGTAIL Only one seen at Petres river on 21.4
TAWNY PIPIT One at Gouvenatou on 22nd April.
TREE PIPIT 2 at Omalos Plateau and 1 at Gerani.
WREN Heard and seen at Kotsiphos and Samaria Gorges.
BLUE ROCK THRUSH Seen at Afrata Gorge on 20th, and Kotsiphos on the 21st.
BLACKBIRD Common recorded daily.
NIGHTINGALE Heard in full song at bridge over the stream at Agia.
WHINCHAT 1-2 recorded daily from 20th April.
STONECHAT Pairs at Afrata, Petres river mouth, Spili fields, and above Knossos.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR 10+ moving through on 23rd.
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR 2 males on 22nd at Gouvenatou, One on 23rd on Omalos, and One at Therisso on 24th.
CETTIS WARBLER Heard everywhere except Omalos Plateau. Seen briefly at Silver Beach, Gerani.
REED WARBLER Heard at Tavronitis river mouth on 20th.
OLIVACEOUS WARBLER Seen and heard at Agia on 24.4. Heard at Aposelemis on 26.4.
SARDINIAN WARBLER Common in pairs daily.
COLLARED FLYCATCHER One female/imm. male at Gerani on 21.4. on the morning walk.
SEMI-COLLARED FLYCATCHER A male glimpsed at Afrata Gorge. Seen well by one tour member.
GREAT TIT Common.
BLUE TIT Seen in the mountains and gorges.
JAY Seen in the Samaria Gorge and as we drove down to the coast on 23.4.
RED-BILLED CHOUGH 4+ seen high over Samaria Gorge on 23.4.
JACKDAW A few in Gorge behind Rethymnon on 23rd and 25th.
HOODED CROW Common seen daily throughout.
RAVEN Common in singles and pairs in the mountains.
GOLDEN ORIOLE One seen in the Armeni Woods, by one tour member. One reported by a Finnish couple to the tour at Agia Dam on 24th.
STARLING One at Aposelemis saltmarsh on 25th April.
CORN BUNTING Heard at Spili fields on 21st April.
CIRL BUNTING 3+ at Omalos Plateau in different areas.
CHAFFINCH Common, singing and seen in most areas.
SERIN Seen and heard at El Venizelou Graves and near Ag Triada Monastery, and at Gerani Silver Beach.
LINNET Small flocks seen in the mountains on the way to Omalos Plateau.
ITALIAN SPARROW Common, nesting around villages, houses and in the countryside.
Eastern Hedgehog Erinaceus concolor Sadly seen dead on the road on 23rd and 24th.
Green Toad Bufo viridis Seen on 24th and 25th.
Cretan Frog Rana cretensis The only frog on Crete seen and heard at all wet areas. The Long Pool at the Aposelemis delta was full of tadpoles.
Erhards Wall Lizard Podarcis erhardii Seen on 24th.
Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata CommonStripe-necked Terrapin Mauremys caspica Seen at Petres river, Skoutelonas and tavronitis rivers, Agia, Georgioupolis and Aposelemis.
Ocellated Skink Chalcides ocellatus One found sadly dead on 25th.
Dice Snake Natrix tessellata One in Tavronitis river on 20th.
Swallowtail Papilio machaon Common on 20th and 21st and 25th.
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius Only seen one day on 20.4.
Eastern festoon Zerynthia cerisyi Seen on 21st and 23rd and 24th.
Large White Pieris brassicae Common
Small White Artogeia rapae Common
Western Bath White Pontia daplidice Only seen on 20th.
Clouded Yellow Colias croceus Common seen almost daily.
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Only seen on 24th.
Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra Only seen on 26th.
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Seen on 20th and 24th.
Small Blue Cupido minimus Seen on 20th and 25th.
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus Common.
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta Only seen on 20th.
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui Common from 20th.
Southern Speckled Wood Parage aegeria aegeria Common from 20th.
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera Common from 21st 24th.
Pine Processionary Moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa Caterpillars in nests, daily.
Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans Seen from 23rd-26th.
Other green damselflies, Darters and hawkers incompletely identified.
Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptium Seen regularly.
Paper Wasp Polistes gallicus One on 25th.
Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea Common.
Honey Bee Apis mellifera Common.
Pharoahs Ant Monomorium pharaonis Recorded on 20th and 22nd.
Italian Bug Graphosoma italicum Common.
7 Spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata Common
10 Spot Ladybird Adalia 10-punctata Common
Cretan Soldier Beetle Lygaeus saxtilis Only seen on 24th
Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris Only seen on 23rd.
Pollen Beetle Oxythyrea funestra Only seen on 24th.
Bloody-nosed Beetle Timarcha tenebricosa Seen on 24th.
Minotaur Beetle Typhaeus typhoeus Found near the Pirgos taverna on 21st.
Ant Lion Myrmeleon formicarius Pits seen in sandy places.
Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare Only seen on 22nd.
Cretan Door Snail Albinaria inflata Common on Gorges and cliffs.
Mediterranean White Snail Albea candidissima Common aestivating from 24th.
PLANT LIST : CRETE 2005