Day 4 (Sunday, 5th May)
First port of call was the small chapel about 1km to the west of Parakila (at Devil's Bridge). The main reason for this was that it was reputed to be the closest site to Kalloni for Cinereous Bunting. Early in the morning, it is a nice site to visit, with a short climb to the chapel, which is fairly open with very few trees around. It is situated in the corner of a not too steep ravine, bounded on one side by a small rock face, and on the other by slopes containing open grass topped by scree and boulders. No Cinereous Buntings were seen this morning, but birding was very good otherwise. At least 3 pairs of Cretzchmar's Bunting and a pair of Cirl Buntings were present, and on the slopes probably up to 3 different Black-eared Wheatears, 2 dark and 1 light throated. One of these had a group of 4 birders keenly trying to identify it as Finsch's. Initial views, where the bird was above us on a favoured rock perch, seemed to show black concolourous on the throat and wings, but prolonged watching found the white collar. The area was also good for Western Rock Nuthatch, with at least 2 pairs, possibly 3. One had a nest in the rock face above the corner of the road. Around the face, in small cracks in the rock, were plenty of small white feathers, and the bird seems to have collected these and shoved them in for some reason. It looked as if some were going to be put into the nest, but then it returned them to the rock face. Art deco á la Rock Nuthatch! Earlier, a Short-toed Eagle was hunting across the escarpment, and gave superb views in the early morning light.
The road from Devil's Bridge to Agra became more barren and hilly, and we kept the windows open, listening for the song of Cinereous Bunting. All song heard was from Cretzchmar's, and with a further 2 Western Rock Nuthatches at separate locations. The scenery approaching Agra is dramatic, especially looking across the valley at the village itself. We stopped on the other side of Agra, at a concrete building bounded by 2 cylindrical silos either side of the road, since this is another location where Cinereous Bunting had been reported. A good climb up the rocky hillside found yet more breeding Cretzchmar's, and Kestrel & Short-toed Eagle overhead. Although Cinereous Bunting was possibly singing further up the slopes, we couldn't locate it.
After leaving the rocky and hilly terrain, we approached Eressos and its plain, which was much flatter. The Vergias river crosses under the road here, and all the upper part was fairly quiet. The last half km or so, before Skala Eresou was reached, was excellent. Just after joining the right hand bank where the road bridge crosses the river, were male Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, and Night Heron all in one spot, along with a lone Little Egret. The river bed in the main is rocky and fairly dry, leaving some stretches of standing water. We drove all the way up to the concrete ford, which is supposed to be quite good for wagtails, but it is likely that they are disturbed too frequently by local traffic at this time of the day. However, a few hundred metres short of this, on an exposed rocky area in the river bed, a single Yellow Wagtail was feeding with a male Citrine Wagtail. This is apparently a scarce passage migrant on the island, as well as being one of only two wagtails on this part of the river. It was a reasonably exciting find.
The last couple of hours of the day were spent on a couple of mopping up operations - namely Rock Sparrow, recheck the "Finsch's" Wheatear, and Scops Owl at Skala Kalloni. For the former, we went the 4½km north of Eressos to what was supposedly a good site on steep cliff faces next to the road. Supposed was the word for it - there was no sight or sound here, although there was very close Cinereous Bunting, and Isabelline Wheatear on the slopes up from the roadside cliffs. As recompense, half way between Agra and Parakila, a quick stop to look at a passerine on the roadside revealed it to be a Rock Sparrow. Job #1 done! Back at Devil's Bridge, the very same wheatear as earlier was in the very same place (same rock, in fact!), and this was definitely Black-eared Wheatear. Just to check that there were no more hiding above the escarpment, we climbed to the top and found one other male - another Black-eared but with a much more buff crown. The likelihood is that the bird some were claiming as Finsch's was the former bird viewed at the wrong angle from below. Back at Skala Kalloni, we eventually found the school after skirting around the embers of bonfires in the middle of the road, and there were plenty of eucalyptus around the grounds, which is where the Scops Owl was reported to be roosting. We couldn't find the bird, but after 10 minutes or so chanced upon a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers in an adjoining orchard. These had been apparently difficult to catch up with this year.