Day 3 (Saturday, 4th May)
The first view of the pool is of masses of birders out on their pre-breakfast sorties. There is very good reason for this, since this pool not only produces a good variety of birds, but is also right on the doorstep of some of the Skala Kalloni apartments - Kalloni II is directly opposite on the other side of a small road. The pool is adjacent to the beach on the western edge of Skala Kalloni, and the view from the main road is preferable in the early morning, due to the positioning of the sun. The pool consists of some open water in amongst beds of low reeds and grasses, which means that most of the birds are quite visible. First views of the pool reveal most of the obvious species, such as Black-winged Stilt, Garganey, Glossy Ibis, and the superb White-winged Black Terns mixing with Whiskered Terns hawking over the water and vegetation. More patience unearthed Little Bitterns, most of which seemed to be males, and more often than not in flight, although some can be seen in the open on occasion. More of a surprise was a European Bittern, which occasionally poked its head above the reeds in the corner adjacent to the Kalloni II hotel. Yet more patience found 2 female Little Crakes together in the same corner of the pool. These showed on and off for betwen 20 minutes and half an hour, usually hugging the edges of the vegetation, but sometimes in the open. During the early morning stay, 2 Harriers flew over from the West, 1 Marsh and 1 Montagu's Harrier.
The area of interest for birds does not really cover the river. The track begins at some obvious grain silos near to the river itself, and then turns a sharp right. After about 400m, the track opened out on to the eastern side of the flat valley, which is generally fairly open, and the gentle slopes on the right hand side of the track are sparsely vegetated with scrub and bushes, with plenty of rocks interspersed. The small farm with the sheep and pig pens is fairly obvious, and we stopped just after this, at what is probably the most productive area. The well known Western Rock Nuthatch nest is about 100m after the farm, right next to the road on a large rock. The nuthatches here were seen quite well away from the nest, but tended to be very flighty. A further two nests were found further up the track. The area where the track forks (about 50m up from the first nuthatch nest) is excellent, and we spent quite a lot of time here. The Rufous Bush Robin was first singing in a lone bush at the fork, but later favoured the bush at the first sharp right. The bird overall is fairly pale, and tended to keep its tail straight while singing, only cocking later when it flew and landed elsewhere. The fork in the track also had extremely close Black-eared Wheatears (a pair) and Red-backed & Lesser Grey Shrikes. Further up the track, the landscape was more bushy, and this is quite good for the odd singing Cretzchmar's & Cirl Bunting. This Upper East River area is a very pleasant place to look for birds, particularly from the aspect of having seen only two other birders cars, and plenty of close, quality birds.
The plan following feta cheese sandwiches for lunch (well recommended) was to leave the Upper East River and visit Kalloni Small Pool. However, the Rufous Bush Robin returning again spurred us on to try for good photos of Western Rock Nuthatch at the second nest found. This pair of birds proved elusive, but parking the car and using it as a hide next to the first nest was particularly satisfying, with the birds returning regularly to the nest and the rocks around.
After stopping off in Kalloni for another half a dozen bottles off water, we passed by Skala Kalloni again to find the track to the Kalloni Small Pool. This wasn't the easiest place to find, but we did get there eventually. It is a well vegetated pool, not too large, although the water itself did not hold a great deal apart from Moorhen and, in the water, Stripe-necked Terrapin. In one of the marginal trees, roosting and almost hidden, was an adult Night Heron. In the field opposite, a small group of Yellow Wagtails again included thunbergi, as well as flava. We circumnavigated the whole pool, which doesn't take too long, and then followed one of the tracks up the valley. There were birds here, but nothing of note.
From the pool, we went up the Potamia River Valley for the rest of the afternoon, and this turned out to be a little novel. The amount of time we spent in the valley did not reflect the small variety of species that we saw, particularly early on. The scenery here is wonderful, with the track surrounded on both sides by steep mountains with fairly high peaks. The amount of birds that we actually saw amongst the olive groves and oak woodland was quite low, although many of the common species were represented, such as Red-backed, Woodchat, & Masked Shrike, singing Nightingales, as well as the relatively numerous Subalpine Warbler. According to Brookes' guide, this track is supposed to end after a few kms, but it actually keeps on going until it meets the mountain village of Anemotia, which can presumably be crossed to get to Petra at the other side of the mountains. However, we decided to return by the same route, and within a few hundred metres of the village, saw Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. The best birding was when we were about half way back down, which was at around 6pm, and all of a sudden the raptors seemed to be more visible. Most prominent were Short-toed Eagles, with at least 5-6, with 2-3 Long-legged Buzzards, Steppe Buzzards, and an Eleonora's Falcon playing around on one of the high crags for some time.