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Day 4 (Sunday, 5th May)

Cretzchmars Bunting

Black-eared Wheatear

Cretzchmar's Bunting

Black-eared Wheatear (originally claimed as Finsch's Wheatear)

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 la Rock Nuthatch! Earlier, a Short-toed Eagle was hunting across the escarpment, and gave superb views in the early morning light.

Agra1

Agra2

Agra village from the East

View from the West of Agra

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.

At 3km West of Agra, we arrived at a site reported for Rock Sparrows. This was found to be very productive for a lot besides aforementioned spuggies. The stop next to the corrugated roofed building that was just below the road produced a hunting male Montagu's Harrier within minutes in the valley below. Between the songs of Cretzchmar's Bunting was something a little different - not quite as nasal with a flutey end - a male Cinereous Bunting was found on the telegraph wires not far below. It was singing here for 5-10 minutes, then dropped further down, before returning again soon after, and proved to be quite approachable. During our time there, we also had superb hunting Short-toed Eagle (2) and Long-legged Buzzard. All 3 eventually found thermals together before disappearing over one of the ridges. Before leaving, a pair of Golden Orioles flew over the road into an isolated orchard.

Cinereous Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Ford

Cretschmars Bunting

Ford near Tavari

Cretzchmar's Bunting


Lunchtime was spent to the South of Mesotopos, and just outside of Tavari. The road between the two has a track on the right supporting a small ford, which was host to a small stream at this time of year. However, it was enjoyable to have Cretzchmar's Bunting, Linnet, Red-backed Shrike, and Crested Lark either drinking or bathing while munching on feta cheese sandwich. An added bonus when we arrived was a singing Rufous Bush Robin. A little further on were two more fords, both dry. The second ford was reputed to be good for Little Owl, and the individual there as soon as we arrived would agree! Apart from that bird, a Kestrel being mobbed by 2 Hooded Crows was all that was on offer. It is also a very barren location, with the constant tinkle of sheep bells in the rock covered hills around. The rest of the track up to the cliffs was fairly uneventful, apart from the fact that we found both Red-backed & Lesser Grey Shrikes at the turn off to the cliff track, juct as reported in Brookes' guide in 1998! The cliffs themselves again turned up the odd bird, with 2-3 Lesser Kestrels playing along some of the faces on the headland, and the rather bizarre sight of a Purple Heron perched on one of the faces to the right of where we were looking. During our time there, which was mid afternoon, and with only a light onshore wind, several groups of Cory's Shearwater passed from East to West, in flocks of between 10-30. The wind was so low that it was quite unusual to see them flapping most of the time.

Cliffs

Cliffs at Tavari

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.

Night Heron

Citrine Wagtail

Night Heron

Citrine Wagtail

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 4km 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.

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Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Species list

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