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Birding Crete - Little Ringed Plover

Birding Crete

As of 2010 I have visited Crete four times, always on a family holiday rather than a birding trip. All my holidays have been in the northern part of the island, three have been in the summer holidays (June/July) and once in autumn (September/October). Invariably there has been a lot of birds (and other wildlife) to see although at times it can be difficult to get good views.

I have used the fourth edition of "A Birdwatchig guide to Crete" for all my visits to this wonderful island - it is about time I bought the fifth edition. Although there are some weaknesses to the guide I would still recommend it as it gives visitors valuable advice about where to go and gives, for the most part, a good indication as to the status of many of the species encountered.

Although the north western coastline around Chania is very developed it doesn't take much to get away from the crowds - a few hundred metres inland and one is usually into olive groves or other cultivated land where there is plenty to see. Taking backroads and exploring off the beaten track can be productive.

The places I have visited most are Lake Aghia, the Omalos plateau and the Samaria Gorge - along with much of the coastline west of Chania. The vast majority of my birding has been done on bicycle early in the mornings, only twice have I hired a car to get into the hills. 

During my visits typical species seen "everywhere" that are of interest to birders from northern Europe have included Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Alpine Swift and Red-rumped Swallow. Cory's shearwater have been abundant offshore on some visits.

Other than the birdlife there are plenty of reasons to visit Crete - the food being one of the best. Check the links at the bottom of this page for further information.



Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard are widespread and "everywhere". July 2009



Below are links to trip reports from my visits to Crete:

Checklist  June/July  2000 Trip Report September /October 2006 Trip Report July 2009  Trip Report June 2010

Omalos Plateau and Samaria Gorge
One of the "must do" sites in Crete. Even if one doesn't walk through the gorge (which is often full of tourists in the summer) a visit to the entrance at the north end of the gorge will produce Griffon Vulture, Crag Martin, Choughs and plenty more besides. There is an entrance fee to enter the Samaria Gorge (a National Park) which in July 2009 was 5 Euro (no charge for children).

Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge


The plateau can also be quite productive - there are at least two pools here which look to be more or less permanant (still had water in them mid July 2009). Early morning visits will undoubtedly pay dividends (I saw plenty even in the middle of the day in mid July - possibly the worst possible time to visit). Drinking troughs for the hundreds of goats on the plateau are also attractive to the birds with Cirl Bunting, Woodlark and others easily seen in the area.


Woodlark Red-rumped Swallow
Woodlark, Omalos Plateau, July 2009 Red-rumped Swallow (digiscoped), September 2006
Squacco Heron Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron, Lake Kournas, June 2010 Cattle Egret (digiscoped), Lake Aghia, September 2006
A rarity on Crete.





Northern shores
Despite a lot of disturbance along most of the shoreline there are areas where birds can be seen. Amazingly Little Plover seem to breed at a few localities and Kentish plover would seem to be regular too. Cory's Shearwater are regular from the shores, although a telescope is often necessary for good views. There are many open areas and side roads that kead down to the shore between Gerani and Tavrontis that can be worth exploring - doing this by bike may be the best way.

Many of the beaches I have visited on the northern coast are nesting grounds for turtles which come ashore to lay their eggs - their nests are often marked in an attempt to protect them. More details about this can be found by clicking on the following link:

Archelon - protecting turtles

Yellow-legged Gull Little Plover
Yellow-legged Gull, Platania,  July 2009 Little Plover, Gerani, July 2009
Kentish Plover Yellow Wagtail
Kentish Plovers (digiscoped), September 2006 Yellow Wagtail (digiscoped), Lake Aghia, September 2009



Chania
The city of Chania is well worth a visit - even for someone like myself who avoids shops like the plague. There are plenty of excellent restaurants and the place is steeped in history. In the summer huge numbers of Swifts put on a fantastic show in the evenings as flocks of them swirl and scream over the rooftops before going to roost. They are regularly joined by small numbers of Alpine Swifts.




Chania harbour
Chania harbour (viewed from the eastern end)

There are many opportunities for starting or buying a business in places like Crete. The area is a popular destination for travelers and sees increased numbers of visitors every year making Crete a good place to invest in among many other places. Seeking investment advice is the best approach to starting a business. Fisher Investments UK can assist in making the best choices when it comes to investing and achieving financial goals.



Lake Aghia
This is where I have done most of my birding on Crete - largely because it is in easy reach by bicycle from Platania and Kalamaki. Water levels seem to vary considerably independently of rainfall - in July 2009 it seemed like the lake was about to dry up completely only to be full again a couple of days later despite no rainfall.


Lake Agia is home to lots of Coot, Moorehen and Little Grebes and there are usually some heron species present. Water Rail are present all year round and Little Crake are a possibility here too. Ferrugunous duck probably breed here (I have seen them both in summer and autumn).

In the summer Olivaceous warblers are common both in the tree and in the giant reeds. Alpine Swifts join large numbers of Common Swifts feeding and drinking over the water.


Ferruginous Duck Little Grebe
Ferruginous Duck, Lake Aghia, July 2009 Little Grebe, Lake Aghia, July 2009
Olivaceous Warbler Sardinian Warbler
Olivaceous Warbler, Lake Aghia, July 2009 Sardinian Warbler, June 2010






Lake Aghia
Aghia Lake

Juvenile Night Heron and Purple Heron
Two well camoflauged birds at Lake Aghia - Purple Heron and juvenile Night Heron (foreground)



Georgioupolis


"Kristos", the White Pelican
"Kristos" is a free flying but tame White Pelican that lives in the village of Geogiouplois and is very much one of the local characters 


Visited this area for the first time in 2010. Excellent base for those without a car - plenty of birding sites within a few kilometres of the village. Lake Georgioupolis is the main attraction, but the cliffs to the west, the dunes to the east and the farmland to the south are all worth checking. Lake Kournas is close by and Mathes, a few kilometres inland, can provide some raptor interest. A much more relaxed pace here than in some of the other resorts we have stayed at.

Georgioupolis
Georgioupolis as seen from Mathes. Most of my birding in 2010 was done in the area covered by this view


Dawn over the dunes east of Georgioupolis
The dunes east of Georgioupolis were full of birds but obviously threatened by development


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Publications, information and books




Links to other websites covering birds and wildlife on Crete can be found below, more general links at the bottom of this page:


Cretan Wildlife Birding Crete Important bird sites in Crete Reptiles of Crete








Other wildlife
There is plenty of other wildlife to be seen on Crete, bats aplenty, Hare and Beech Marten are the commonest mammals I have seen during my visits to the island. Various lizards, toads and terrapins can also be locally numerous. 



Green Toad
Cretan Marsh Frog are very numerous (and very loud!) at Lake Aghia

Stripe-necked Terrapin
Stripe-necked Terrapin can be seen sunning themselves in large numbers at Lake Aghia





Cicada
These insects make a deafening racket at times!
Their noise is almost constant both in town and even more so in the countryside


Balkan Green Lizard
This is the lizard I have seen the most - photographed at Aghia Lake, July 2009


Cretan Wall Lizard
Cretan Wall Lizard is also very common

Land Crab
Land Crab, near Lake Kournas, June 2010



General information about Crete:
Explore Crete Western Crete



Crete's Magazine: Stigmes Crete info interkriti Apokoronas Special

The best restaurant we have eaten in is Mitsos situated in Aghia Marna. Click on this link to visit their web page (they even have a web camera!).


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