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Day 6 (Tuesday, 7th May)

Subalpine Warbler

Cirl Bunting

Subalpine Warbler

Cirl Bunting

By this time, we had seen most if not all of the islands specialities, and plenty else besides, meaning that today was the day was for some local birding in the Petra area. Almost all of the morning was spent between Petra and Molivos, starting with a look from the lay-by's to search for Rüppell's Warbler. Early morning was a good time for this, because the sun was still below the hills, leaving the landward side of the road visible without the glare. It was also quite cold at this time. We found Rüppell's Warbler on the seaward side of the road, but the whole area seems to be good for them. The first few hours were then spent up a dirt track just beyond the first lay-by, and next to a rather grand looking house. This track only went for about ½km up a hill, but was very good for typical Mediterranean warblers (Rüppell's, Subalpine, Orphean, and Sardinian), as well as Cirl Bunting. Not only that, but when we located a Cirl Bunting nesting spot, we stood for some time and were rewarded with close Cirl Bunting and Subalpine Warbler. A little further up the road, we took another track with an old rusty gate across (which we found was still in use!). This track was a lot different from the first, having more open woodland on the slopes above, and when rounding the corner, farm and pasture land. Overall it was quiet, apart from on the low ridge at the end, where we not only established a new record for Western Rock Nuthatches on one small rock (4), but when we stood again for some time, one of the birds appeared on a rock only 5m or so in front of us.

Jay

"atricapillus" Jay

Rocks

Rock Nuthatch

Rocky area for Western Rock Nuthatches

Western Rock Nuthatch

The Molivos / Efthalou track was again was of those testing ones to find from Molivos, with no sign, but our second guess  was correct. The first couple of kms hold the last of the sparse tourist area, and the track then climbs up to more interesting landscape. The first couple of gullies with trees were by and large quiet, but 5½km out of Molivos, a sharp right hand bend with ample parking space on the corner was the base for wonderful views up to Mount Lepetimnos, with the closer wooded hills being framed by the highest point on the island behind. This was a good raptor watch point, and over the space of an hour, we had 3 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 Peregrine, 2 Eleonora's Falcons, and 2 Steppe Buzzards. There were masses of hirundines in the air constantly, which included Alpine Swifts in the distance initially. One of the most impressive sights here was what seemed like masses of Bee-eaters at first hawking above us, visibly catching flying insects, then circling above the tops of the fells, before flying out in large groups towards Turkey in the distance. The rest of the coastal track towards Skala Sikaminias was fairly uneventful, but made traversing the bank holiday masses in the small seaside village an event. There were the usual narrow streets, with cars coming from both directions, leaving total gridlock at one stage caused by no more than 10-12 cars. We eventually got through, and just after we had left the village and were climbing the steep hill, very close Long-legged Buzzards flew overhead. Stopping on the bend for a better look was mandatory!

Lepetimnos

Mount Lepetimnos from coastal track

Back on the main road towards Petra, and a couple more stops. The first was for singing Nightingales at the Lepetimnos junction, one of which sang in the open for a short time. While waiting for that, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker landed on the tree in front of the car - we saw it land, but not leave. This was also the site for our first and only Wren of the trip - not a common bird at this part of the island. A little further on, we stopped at the base of Mount Lepetimnos for some more good raptor watching - another 3 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 displaying Steppe Buzzards, and a pair of displaying Short-toed Eagles. The view from this side of the mountain in the afternoon, with the sun behind, is impressive, with low wooded slopes giving way to more craggy upper slopes. Most of the raptors were above the higher ridges, all of which can be seen on a stop on a tight bend between Molivos and Lepetimnos.

Olive Tree Warbler is always a difficult bird to pin down, not only due to range and scarcity, but also because of its secretive habits. We tried the reported site 3.6km to the east of Skalochori, where Richard Brookes had up to 7-8 singing males in 1998. The area was full of mixed woodland (mainly oak, interspersed with olives). We at first went through an unlocked iron gate, and then through a bare patch alongside, into the groves themselves. It was relatively quiet here, although we did disturb a Woodlark as we entered. No Olive Tree Warblers, but there were a few Subalpine Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of pairs of Cirl Buntings, both Red-backed & Masked Shrike, Short-toed Eagle and Steppe Buzzard overhead.

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