Monday, 21 May 2012

Wet and windy in the east

The Safari left the cold and miserable shores of Blighty for warmer climes and a sun-soaked birthday treat for Wifey.
Most of eastern Europe was cloaked in thick cloud, we seemed to be leaving the best of the weather behind us!
As we neared our destination the cloud began to break and we got views of substantial amounts of  snow still lying on the Macedonian/northern Greek mountains...later we discovered that there had been substantial snow fall in the area last winter, the most in living memory, even giving the island of Thassos, our destination, an unprecedented good covering to low levels.

The captain announced that we would not be landing at the scheduled time as we had to do a few circuits 0ver the bay while a ferocious thunderstorm drifted out of the way...let's just say the decent was extremely bumpy, like driving the Solihull Special down a potholed mountain track lurching left and right dropping like a stone at times and tilting at obtuse angles for no reason...a huge round of applause and a hearty cheers went up from the relieved souls on board when the nose-wheel touched the tarmac. Welcome to Greece - it was lashing it down like Blackpool in an October gale...and it wasn't much warmer.
Loads of Mediterranean Gulls graced the small airport and once on the transfer couch we soon ticked off Hooded Crow (173) and Yellow Legged Gulls in the Rice paddies, a Marsh Harrier was also seen briefly.
Our travel rep told us to look up to the right where a White Stork (174) was nesting on the village church.
Then it was onto the ferry for the half hour crossing to Thassos. Plentiful Yellow Legged Gulls followed the ferry across the straits, almost all adults or fourth years - where's all the imms? - some landed on the boat. Several Shags were also seen.

At our hotel after a quick unpack it was out to explore as evening drew close. A speedy falcon could have been a Hobby or perhaps a Red Footed Falcon and a larger eagle type thing drifted behind the mountain at the back of the hotel and remained unIDd. Meanwhile in the Olive groves a large dark headed warbler refused to give itself up, possible Eastern Orphean Warbler but Nightingales (175) were now singing from everywhere, not heard so many since Cambridgeshire in the late 70's! A strange looking thing got up of the ground landed woodpecker-like on a gnarly Olive trunk and hopped straight back to the ground and lost in the thick grasses, Wryneck?, anyway it was never seen again.

Day 2
Hobby (176) confirmed when it chased Swallows over the swimming pool!
Red Backed Shrikes (177) - several, a common bird locally, wish they were at home!
Turtle Dove (178) - few and far between, still on passage/dropped by the bad weather? Easily eluded the camera :-(
A pair of Ravens in synchronised display flight overhead. One had several small holes in wings and tail - shot at?
A large dark square handed eagle went over harrassed by the gulls, didn't get a good look but perhaps Lesser Spotted Eagle - if so a bad miss - woulda been a lifer!
Similarly missed was a bouncy small thing that went 'shreeep' as it flew over the sun loungers.
A 100+ Swifts collected over the summit of the mountain in the late afternoon...hope they weren't Pallid Swifts.
Spotted Flycatchers (179) had young nearby.
An finally a medium sized BoP hovered slightly out of range over the mountain side, poor views at first but eventually it came down below the sky line and we could make out some colours and plumage details - Long Legged Buzzard (180).
Best pic we could get. It's about a mile away and the sun is setting to the right of the pic...note the dingy grey sky!

Day 3
Started with an explosion of a thunderclap at 04.30! The storm was directly overhead and lasted a little over half an hour.
Snow is still visible, glinting white in the gullies, on Mt Athos  across the bay in the morning sun.
Bee Eaters (181) were seen during our exploratory hire car trip with two later back at the ranch over the pool.
Failed to get an in flight shot of these colourful enigmatic beauties :-(
But we have overtaken Monika in our Year List Challenge now :-)
Eastern Black Eared Wheatears (182) were quite numerous in the higher hills.
We were chased around the island by the mother of all storm clouds

 Fortunately it didn't land on us, just a few spits of rain but it went very cold and windy.

Day 4
All this weather was producing migrants though, this morning a flock of about 30 Black Headed Buntings (183 - Lifer too) had arrived.

The afternoon was spent lilo-ing and snorkeling at Trypiti beach - Look at that water - - booooottttifffulllll !!!!!! Loadsa fish so now we NEED an underwater camera!
Then we headed inland to the lake and waterfall but the track got too rough for our little car so we bottled out. returning back down the hill we got good views of a Hoopoe (184) and a small flock of all the same pigeons - Rock Doves? No feral Pigeons were ever seen on the island, the default dove was the ubiquitous Collared Dove.
Back in the Olive groves a Treecreeper was impossible to get on for long enough but the area has Short Toed rather than normal Treecreeper but with all the mig going on it was impossible to say which it was despite searching and searching.
A River Warbler (185) 'sewing machined' from an isolated thicket - bizarre! And a couple of Yellow Wagtails (186) (Race???) and a Whinchat had joined the Black Headed Buntings under the Olive trees.

Later that night a Tawny Owl was heard hooting from the woods across the 'main' road and the first (and only) crickets of the hols were heard.
Where to next? Second half later...
In the meantime let us see your holiday snaps.


Warren Baker said...

Cor! some cracking birds there Davo! Welcome back to reality mate :-)

cliff said...

Great stuff Dave, some terrific sightings & photos there, quite a few I've never heard of never mind seen.

Looks like you've brought some good weather back with you too.

ZielonaMila said...

Beautiful photographs, fine views. I am greeting