Saturday, 17 October 2015

Santorini 11th - 18th October

Santorini is never going to feature on a list of top birding destinations in Greece. It has no wetland areas so offers no real attraction to migrant birds, that said it is a beautiful island with iconic white cliff top villages and blue roofed churches, and has some interesting birds and other wildlife.
I stayed in Fira the main town. The island is small so it doesn't make too much difference where you stay, no where is very far away. 
Car hire cost €35/day for a Nissan Micra which is fine for the short distances and narrow roads.
The weather was hot and sunny most days with just some light cloud. It can be very windy however.
I started off on the outskirts of Fira, there is a large tip which attracts hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls along with many Hooded Crow and around a dozen Raven. The area above the tip also proved the most productive for migrants so I made several visits. On my first day a juvenile Peregrine was hunting over the area and stooped at three distant egrets which looked like Cattle Egret.
Peregrine Falcon

At least two Long-legged Buzzards frequented the tip but views tended to be fairly distant as there was no easy access, however they also hunted over the fields on the south of the town and came right over the hotel. I also saw several Common Buzzard, looking much like UK birds so don't assume that all buzzards are Long-legged.
Blue Rock Thrush could be heard singing on the cliff faces and, with patience could be seen. I had at least three Short-toed Lark in the scrubby field above the tip.There was evidence of bird trapping in this area but the trap looked like it had not been used for some time, presumably since the spring. Traps were also seen on the west coast at Koloumpos.
Long-legged Buzzard adult
Long-legged Buzzard juvenile

The commonest bird of the scrubby fields was the Crested Lark and House Sparrows are common in the towns along with Collared Doves.
I was interested in the butterflies and reptiles and soon located the very common Erhard's Wall Lizard but only saw a single Green Lizard and it took quite a bit of searching to find Turkish Gecko, one of three gecko's on the island.
In the autumn there are not many butterflies but Painted Lady was seen several times as was Red Admiral and Wall Brown with a single Swallow-tail. In the hotel gardens I found several Geranium Bronze and at Kamari Beach which was a surprise, I was aware that they had spread in to Europe from Spain but didn't realise they were in Greece. 
Geranium Bronze
There were several Lang's Short-tailed Blue at Kamari Beach and could be seen chasing at the top of the tamarisk bushes. It was a little harder to find them nearer the ground but came across several on flowers bordering the crazy golf pitch at the southern end of the town.
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
I also had Long-tailed Blue in the hotel gardens.
Long-tailed Blue

Chukar were seen several times around the tip and also in the south near Akrotiri, they tended to feed on the slopes leading down to the cliff faces.

I had hoped to see Eleonora's Falcons and did come across at least three birds hunting offshore at Kamari Beach when it was very windy. They were circling high over the sea then stooping to sea level and I assumed they were probably hunting dragonflies. After a couple of days of strong wind there were many Red-veined Darter on the island and were in evidence in all the scrubby areas.
Migrant birds were not much in evidence but the number of Chiffchaff seen varied from day to day with 20-30 some days indicating that birds were moving through. I had a couple of Spotted Flycatcher, Black Redstart and single Hoopoe. Hirundines were seen everyday, mainly Swallows but also House Martin and I had a group of about 30 Alpine Swifts over Firostefani.
Alpine Swift
In the scrub above Fira tip there were a couple of Whinchat one day and there were Stonechat on the coast at Koloumpos.

The only gulls seen were yellow-legged, I've mentioned the numbers at the Fira tip but they could be seen up close at Vlihada Marina.
Yellow-legged Gull - adult

Yellow-legged Gull - 2nd winter

Yellow-legged Gull - 1st winter
So, whilst Santorini may not be the first choice for an autumn break in Greece there is plenty of interest for a weeks break and the views and weather were fantastic.

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