Thursday, 24 May 2018

Greece, Day 5 - investigating the local Classics, and wildlife! 9th April 2018

After a cracking first 4 days in Greece, today we visited more sites in close proximity to Tolo, which were largely quieter but still produced some goods. We left for Site 1 out of 3 at around 08:30am and arrived at 9ish - Site 1 was the Fortress of Palamidi. This epic castle looked over Nafplion, which we visited the day before, and had some spectacular views. Here are just a few pics from the fortress, with the best birds including singing Calandra Lark and Alpine Swifts. 
Nafplion from the Fortress of Palamidi

Alpine Swift

The next site was Tiryns, a Hill fort made of huge boulders. It was part of the Mycenaean's work, as we saw later on. Other than the Lizards - which I didn't get pictures of - I saw very few birds other than finding a Great Tit nest and a Lesser Kestrel nest.


We soon moved on to the last site of the day before having the afternoon to relax and enjoy Tolo, and this was Mycenae. We arrived at around 12:30 and gradually made our way into the site. Whilst discussing the structures and some of their purposes - I bet nobody can get why there was this hole right by the entrance - I did notice a few birds present. Rock Bunting was added to the list and a Rock Nuthatch revealed itself singing from what seemed like a nest-site. It showed well whilst singing and I got some decent pictures. Further up a warbler species dashed off, and butterflies were flying around. This Scarce Swallowtail perched momentarily as well. Once we'd completed our tour and walked around the museum, we had lunch at a local restaurant and transferred back to Tolo.

Anyone know why this was by the entrance? 


Collared Dove looking cold in 32C. Clearly disappointed

Rock Nuthatch

Rock Nuthatch - full optical zoom on the Canon Powershot SX60 HS

view around from Mycenea

Scarce Swallowtail

The afternoon was mostly spent on the beach playing cricket x rounders with others, and I didn't do too much birding. I got another good nights sleep ready for our trip back to Athens the following day!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Greece, Day 4 - the stunning Greek coast! 8th April 2018

(Apologies for late posts again - I have an exciting RE GCSE next week so have been doing much more revision.)

After a few long, tiring days we were given a day which was slightly more relaxing. After a fairly late start where we left Olympia at 09:30am ish, we had another long journey back towards Athens to the coastal town of Tolo. The journey itself was enjoyable - a Honey Buzzard was the first bird to make the list, and Sedge Warblers, Cuckoos and more were all heard from the coach within the first hour. The 2 hours afterwards were dull actually - this might have been because it was absolutely boiling and the temperature loitered just beyond the 30C mark due to the heat intensity from the sun. 

When we eventually arrived at the hotel after a pleasant lunch in a different nearby village, we were amazed at the view we got of the sea and bay of Tolo from the balcony of the entrance area. Though quiet birdwise it really was stunning, and we were pleased that this was the hotel we'd be staying in for 2 nights. 
After relaxing for a good while and taking some pictures - other than the odd Yellow-legged Gull and House Martin - we got ready for an evening visit to explore a local seaside town called Nafplion. 

We arrived at approximately 17:00 at Nafplion, and walked to a significant landmark - a place known to be the best place for ice creams in the Mediterranean. En route I had one of the moments of the trip. 
As we walked I heard a solitary Swift cry and looked up to be made to stop in awe at an absolute spectacle of nearly 300 Swifts swirling, en masse, above the edge of the sea. Swifts have always been one of my favourite birds and I was really ecstatic to be able to watch them - all 3 Species (Common, Pallid and Alpine) - swirling above the town. I then, once again, found myself feeling jealous of the locals - and dragged on by my friends.
We then had our ice creams, and blimey the Mango was good!

After enjoying this myself and my friends opted to walk along the coastal front and buy any bits and pieces, and additional drinks, as well as have some group photos (which I won't publish for personal reasons.) 
As we walked I was checking out the local birds and found some goodies amongst the tons of Yellow-legged Gulls and Caspian Gulls: 3 Med Gulls, including 2 1st winters, were flying distantly as were 2 ad Sandwich Terns. These have been long time coming - I'd never seen Sandwich Terns before and I don't really know how I managed that. Also was another seabird I was unsure about - possibly another gull sp. 

Shortly after we gathered in the square behind the seafront and prepared to return to our coach. However ironically the responsible 6 formers got lost, giving me time to return to my Swifts. It was another brilliant 10 minutes, and I really got a chance to watch them closely. 

It was another superb day in Greece - not visiting a major place was quite pleasant and the rest of the trip didn't disappoint!

Hotel Tolo - view

Just a tiny portion of the Swifts

Pallid Swift

1w Yellow-legged Gull

1w Med Gull

ad Sandwich Tern

? - Med Gull??

Fortress of Palamidi

Monday, 30 April 2018

Greece, Day 3 - nature and sports in Olympia, 7th April 2018

After a very early start, with breakfast at 06:45am, we were on the coach at 07:30am ready for our 3 hour coach journey to Olympia. We set off, and then stopped after a kilometer or so as the driver had left something behind. While he recovered this we were parked in a wild area with gorse-like bushes all around - though the sun wasn't fully up yet it was a great time for some birding. And guess what I was next to the master-eyed Alex - while I checked every Chaffinch and Goldfinch the first time he looked up from his phone he said what's that on the wire. At first I ignored it as another Chaffinch and then I checked again, just before we started moving, and it was actually a Cirl Bunting. A hurried picture was pretty bad, but my own fault for ignoring it. I then spent the next 45 minutes looking for one of my most wanted birds, the Shrikes, having read they were seen around there. After a long time in vain, I was about to put the brain away for once again I was still really tired, when I spotted a Shrike on a line right in front of coach. I'm pretty sure it was a Lesser Grey, but was pleased to have even got a glimpse. Then after what felt like an eternity I managed to fall asleep. 

I was awoken shortly after, initially to my dismay, by the person next to me, as we were stopping at a service station. I got a few presents and drinks etc, then went back outside with a few friends to take some pictures of the Rio-Antirion Bridge (said to be the longest suspended bridge - 1.8 miles - in the world.) While taking pictures I heard a bird singing in a nearby field, and a Zitting Cisticola flew off. Then a Cuckoo started up as well. I then became aware of another bird actually in the car park. A smallish bird was scuttling around the coach, calling frequently, helping me to identify it as a Crested Lark. It showed pretty well before heading across the fields. 

Cirl Bunting (crap photo)

Crested Lark

Crested Lark - staring down the asian boy with camera

Crested Lark

Rio Antirion Bridge
After a couple more hours we arrived in Olympia. Not only was it nearly 30C but the sun was intensely hot.
We started walking towards the ancient Olympics site, the reason why we were visiting, and warblers were singing everywhere, with Blackcaps and Cetti's and Garden Warblers all by the river. As we walked around, tons of Chaffinch were busy among the ruins, and unbelievably my first ever Hooded Crows - taken me a long time - flew over. Some Balkan Green Lizards were basking in the sunshine as well making the morning thoroughly enjoyable. It was one of my favourite days as some of the old structures were fascinating to learn about. Some of us even took part in a race on the '100m' track, which was amusing to watch.
We soon visited the Archaelogical Museum, where we continued learning about the ancient Olympics. Some of the models were unique, as in I'd never seen anything like them in England. 
With a long morning, we were all thankful to have lunch, which was quite a good laugh as well.
The afternoon and evening was mostly relaxing, as we were given the chance to explore modern Olympia and collect souvenirs. I decided to, as a surprise for my friends, to not take my camera or binoculars with me. I can tell you they were shocked :)
Due to it being Easter in Greece, there were fireworks at midnight so we all had a late but calm night. 


Balkan Green Lizard

As usual I didn't get many pictures of the good birds!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Greece, Day 2 - Delphi's Brilliant birds and history! 6th April 2018

(I'm a bit behind with blogging again as I've been busy revising and playing cricket - on top of some computer problems.)

After waking up pretty early and having a quick breakfast, the 46 of us were on the coach departing Athens at 8:30am. We were going to be visiting Delphi, famous for many reasons and we were told all these reasons by our fantastic tour guide Pantellis. Despite the day forecast for rain, spirits were mostly high despite everyone being exhausted - I didn't sleep a wink the whole way. 
Though I was tired, I'd never been to Greece before and was pretty excited to see what the birding and Classics would be like. Most of the journey was spent birding, and some of the best birds seen included a Spotted Eagle sp., 5 Northern Wheatear, 40 Corn Bunting (surprising number) and a large wader sp.. This all while listening to the fascinating history our guide was explaining to us. 
When we arrived, it started drizzling. Just as we thought we'd left England for some good weather, the rains began. After a while, it stopped and we proceeded to the ancient site of Delphi. 
As the sun recovered, the next hour was thoroughly enjoyable. Greenfinch were singing, as did a distant Serin. While walking alongside the ancient buildings, with the foundations still holding strong after hundreds of years, it was amazing to learn about their history and how the modern world is so different. 
In amongst the ruins, the wildlife was also thriving. Butterflies were on the wing in huge numbers, and the birds were active too. In the old theatre, a Yellow Wagtail was flying around constantly, as was another Wheatear. Frustratingly they flew across way too fast for me to photograph. A Spotted Flycatcher was flycatchering(?) a long way away, and one of my favourite birds of the trip was busy collecting nesting material on the old pillars - a Rock Nuthatch pair. When I first saw these I couldn't for the life of me figure out what they were. Black Redstart? No. Blue Rock Thrush? Stupid idea. 
When I eventually remembered that these had been living amongst the ruins for years I got some hasty pictures, but as I wasn't there for birding they're pretty poor. 

The views were also stunning - looking across the valley and towards the sea was especially so, so more pictures that I took were of these. 

Rock Nuthatch

the Theatre

the Theatre from above

 After visiting the museum where we discussed some of the history in more depth, like looking at some of the things that had been uncovered on the site, we went into the town for lunch. Once we'd eaten most of us piled onto the balcony to take pictures of the views and scenery (above.) For those who read my post about Newlands Corner a while back, you may remember me mentioning a sharp-eyed friend who managed to spot birds from miles away. He was back again, and helped me add to my WP list when he found an odd Swallow - a pair of Red-rumped Swallows. He also spotted a Lesser Kestrel, not unexpected but a great bird nonetheless.

Red-rumped Swallow - record shot
Soon after we reached our hotel, and although the plan was to go for a walk around Delphi Zeus and Hera had had enough of English tourists and the heavens opened. Nobody complained too much though - a pretty good start to the trip!