Sunday, 10 August 2014

Thassos

I spent the second half of July on the rather lovely Greek island of Thassos. Not an obvious birding destination due to a lack of standing water but the extensive rainfall off-season combined with marble and chalk bedrocks leads to plenty of ground water and a wastefulness that has to be seen to be believed. This all leads to plentiful habitat with olive groves at low levels leading into deciduous and pine forest further up. Access to the higher elevations is tricky due to a lack of paved roads and I only managed to get to 800m asl. There wasnt a lot of diversity of passerines with Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow and Great Tit the standards. A few decent bits and pieces were encountered and I managed a couple of lifers which is always a bonus.


We flew into Kavala on the mainland and the short trip to the ferry at Kirimoti took only 20 minutes. There were a handful of White Storks seen on the way through with some nesting on rooftops. The first Red-rumped Swallows were feeding over the Nestos delta. At the ferry port a few Little Egrets were seen amongst the plethora of Yellow-legged Gulls. The journey across was quiet as was the transfer to Skala Rahoni.

The first afternoon I went for a quick walk up toward Rahoni. This was equally quiet but a Honey Buzzard decided to liven things up when it showed for an extended period.


The following morning an early walk turned up Hoopoe, Icterine Warbler and Blue Tit. Further afield a Nightingale briefly sang and then there were Red-backed Shrikes everywhere. A flat Eastern Montpellier Snake on the road pointed that there were some in the locale and a large example snuck away into a brush pile. Some raptors on the other side of the valley to the Honey Buzzard turned out to be Common Buzzards despite my best stringing efforts.



A boat trip gave me my first lifer of the trip as an Eleanora's Falcon hunted over the sea cliffs was the first of several during the trip. Three Avocets were seen in flight heading towards Turkey from Panagea island off the south coast.

We went up to Panagea after a visit to the beach between there and Thassos town. A raptor was high above the town and about 40 Raven soared over a ridge. A Hobby was hunting hirundines and swifts with the first Pallid and Alpine Swifts seen.

Further exploration around the hotel later in the holiday turned up Goshawk being mobbed by two Hobbys. Another Honey Buzzard was on territory near Rahoni. Eleanora's Falcon's were seen almost daily over the hotel including two hunting hirundines one evening which were mobbed by the Hobbys nesting up the valley. A small group of Bee-eaters flew over the hotel on an afternoon and were the only sighting of this cracking species. I heard Sardinian Warbler on a number of occasions but views were usually of the back end heading into a bush.


On the final Friday there was a torrential rain storm and this led to a few interesting sightings including a number of Scopoli's Shearwaters offshore plus a few Green Toads and a Balkan Pond Turtle. The second lifer of the trip was a Black Woodpecker which flew across the road whilst we were in the forest en route to Golden Beach.



The return journey across to Kirimoti turned up a few Mediterranean Gulls, an Audouin's Gull and a couple of Black-headed Gulls. Shags were frequently seen on the sea.


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