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Field Guides Tour Report
CLASSICAL GREECE
Apr 27, 2012 to May 11, 2012
Megan Crewe with Alexander Contos


Though covered with scaffolding, the Parthenon and the hulking mass of the Acropolis still impresses. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

Early May is a wonderful time to explore the timeless landscapes of rural Greece. With a combination of gorgeous scenery, patterned tapestries of wildflowers, and an ever-changing mix of birds, the countryside offers plenty to enjoy. Add in a handful of cultural attractions -- ancient temples, 1000-year old mosaics, a world class museum or two -- and a congenial group of traveling companions, and you get a fine mix of memories. This year, we had a rather toasty time throughout, with temperatures in the mid 80s and lots of sunshine; our only significant rain coming high on Mount Parnassos, making our search for higher altitude birds a rather soggy affair! The fine, settled weather meant we had surprisingly few migrants (other than the myriad shorebirds, that is), presumably because they just kept flying. But there were lots of highlights regardless.

Great Crested Grebes performed their charming "mirror dances". Masked Shrikes gathered nesting material and hunted for tasty morsels around our picnic spot at Doriskos. Slender-billed Gulls paddled around a seaside pond, looking down their long noses. A Rueppell's Warbler flicked through a flowering bush, so close we could almost reach out and touch him. European Rollers flashed turquoise wings as they chased after flying prey. A hammer-headed Eurasian Hoopoe chanted from a tall tree. Screaming clouds of Common and Pallid swifts swirled over tight-packed rooftops. Little Bitterns skulked along the edges of dense reedbeds. A Eurasian Wren chortled from a felled tree trunk, his tail cocked over his head. Technicolor European Bee-eaters swarmed over pond edges and causeways, or sat like beads on a string along utility wires. A pair of Sardinian Warblers bounced through the grass near the entrance to the Acropolis, ferrying hurried mouthfuls to two chirping youngsters. A Black Woodpecker made several noisy passes before swooping in to land on a dead tree trunk. A male Stonechat serenaded from a tiny evergreen.

White Storks stalked roadside fields or stood tall on huge stick nests (and one even demonstrated its head-back, bill-clacking courtship display). A pair of Egyptian Vultures glided overhead, strikingly white against a blue, blue sky. A sand-colored Isabelline Wheatear flicked across a rough plowed patch. Spotted Redshanks, sporting their striking breeding plumage, huddled in a wind-whipped pond. A Blue Rock-Thrush ferried mouthfuls of food to youngsters tucked into a crevice on the Treasury of Athens building at Delphi. But of course, it wasn't just the birds that drew our attention on this tour. We spent a morning in the fantastic new Parthenon museum, with Irini to point out some of the special treasures, then wandered among buildings that dated back more than two millenia.

Thanks so much for joining me for some spring adventures in this lovely country. I hope to see all of you again, somewhere, someday!

-- Megan

For more information about this tour, including future departures, visit our website at www.fieldguides.com. And to see this same triplist online, go to https://fieldguides.com/triplists/gre12LIST.pdf and you will find the list in its entirety.


KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant


BIRDS
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)


The touristy village of Litochoro nestles at the base of Mount Olympus. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser) – A pair at Lake Kerkini were presumably staying to breed rather than heading north; the female nibbled grass while the male kept a watchful eye on us.
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) – Dozens floated on ponds and impoundments on the Evros delta, with others around Fanari and on Lake Kerkini.
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna) – The most numerous duck of the trip, with big groups in flight over the Evros delta, Ptelea Lagoon, Lake Kerkini and the wetlands around Fanari. We had particularly nice "on the ground" looks at a few pairs dabbling along the edges of some of the impoundments on the Evros.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – Relatively common in wetlands along the coast and around Lake Kerkini.
GARGANEY (Anas querquedula) – A couple of males paddled among reeds on the Evros delta, their bold white supercilia making them easy to spot as they appeared and disappeared behind a group of snoozing Wood Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts.
COMMON POCHARD (Aythya ferina) – A couple of males floated among the Ferruginous Ducks on Lake Mitrikou and dozens more paddled and dove on Lake Kerkini. Normally, this species is long gone (to points north) by the time of our tour.
FERRUGINOUS DUCK (Aythya nyroca) – Especially nice views of a group floating near one of the little islands in Lake Kerkini, and a surprising 22 (a high number for a Field Guides Greece tour) on Lake Mitrikou. The white patch near the tail end of these otherwise dark brown ducks was visible from a surprising distance.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis) – Best seen on Lake Kerkini, where a few dove near tiny islets on the eastern shore, among the far more numerous Eared Grebes. We saw others from the hillside overlooking Lake Mitrikou.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus) – Especially common at Kerkini, where scores dotted the lake, performing their courtship mirror dances (with head plumes waggling), busily adding mouthfuls of wet vegetation to their platform nests or (in the case of one bird), carefully turning eggs before setting back down to incubate them. We saw many others on Lake Mitrikou. [N]
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) – There were quite a few of these handsome grebes along one edge of Lake Kerkini, diving and preening, with the gold breeding plumes for which they're named catching the sunlight and glowing against their black faces and necks.
Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)
GREATER FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus roseus) – A little group snoozed on the mudflats along Lake Vistonida, looking decidedly grayish. This species was recently split from the flamingoes in North America, partly on the basis of that duller plumage.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
LEVANTINE SHEARWATER (Puffinus yelkouan) – A small gang floated among the much bigger Yellow-legged Gulls on the flat calm sea en-route to Kerkini, and several strings of flying birds labored past, working much harder than they would have had it been windy. This was formerly considered to be the eastern subspecies of the Mediterranean Shearwater.
Ciconiidae (Storks)


Greece is home to a staggering number of White Storks, which nest on utility poles (and specially constructed platforms) all across the northern part of the country. The untidy stork nests are also home to dozens of Spanish Sparrows and House Sparrows, which build their "condos" into the base of the stick piles. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra) – One at the quarry south of Kerkini allowed super scope studies as it stood atop a rocky outcrop; we saw many others in flight around Dadia and at Iasmos Gorge.
WHITE STORK (Ciconia ciconia) – Very common on all but the last few days, with scores standing on massive stick nests all across Thrace and Macedonia (including one doing a full-on, bill-clattering display for his nearby mate), dozens striding around fields in search of tasty morsels (including one flock so large that it fooled some into thinking they were seeing distant sheep) and many circling in thermals over the Dadia forest. And if it is indeed lucky to have a stork nesting in your yard or village, then Kerkini must surely be on of the luckiest villages in the world, given that there was a nest on nearly every telephone pole! [N]
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo) – Very common around Lake Kerkini, including hundreds splashing after fish in the little boat harbor one morning, and thousands in a noisy rolling flock later the same day. We saw others on the Evros delta, and on their breeding island near Ptelea Lagoon.
EUROPEAN SHAG (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) – A couple of last year's youngsters floated on the flat calm sea near Fanari, confounding us a bit until they drifted close enough to get a proper look at. Like the Red-throated Loon, this species typically holds its bill angled upwards.
PYGMY CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) – Many -- both in flight and perched -- around the Evros delta, with others at Lake Mitrikou. A mob sharing a drowned snag with a young Great Cormorant at Lake Kerkini allowed especially good size comparisons.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
GREAT WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus onocrotalus) – A massive flock over the Evros delta. first seen as little more than will-o-the-wisp suggestions of movement in the far-off blue of the hazy morning sky, wheeled closer and closer in slow, vaguely synchronized turns until they eventually passed right by over our heads, streaming north in search of another thermal. We saw hundreds of others at Lake Kerkini, including masses around the harbor one morning, close enough that we could clearly see their bare pinky-orange faces.
DALMATIAN PELICAN (Pelecanus crispus) – Small numbers of these enormous pelicans mingled with the far more common Great White Pelicans on Lake Kerkini. Their "fluffy" (almost curly) head feathers, uniformly gray underwing and (in adults) bright orange throat pouch help to distinguish them from the previous species.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
LITTLE BITTERN (Ixobrychus minutus) – A trio lurked in the reeds near our picnic spot on Lake Mitrikou, but others proved far more cooperative in a little island reedbed in Lake Kerkini.
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea) – Scattered individuals throughout, including one that hunted from the island in the middle of the lake at our Tychero hotel and numerous others stalking the fringes of Lake Kerkini.
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea) – Small numbers on the Evros delta and at Lake Mitrikou and Lake Kerkini, including one that wrestled for long minutes with a very squirmy eel near our picnic spot at Lake Mitrikou.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Scattered birds on the Evros delta, with another in a pond en-route to Lake Mitrikou. This species is relatively uncommon in much of Greece.
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta) – Regular in the region's wetlands, including several hunting in the little stream near Lake Mitrikou. Like the Snowy Egret, this one has yellow feet.
SQUACCO HERON (Ardeola ralloides) – Common in wetlands throughout, including a few -- looking very orange -- stalking prey among the reeds near the entrance to the Evros delta, and many busily hunting along the edges of Lake Kerkini. This species is surprisingly white in flight.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Best seen at Lake Kerkini, where we found an intent quartet gazing into the water from a small drowned snag along the last causeway we drove. Some of the group spotted others flying away through the trees near our picnic lunch spot at Lake Mitrikou.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus) – A mob foraged busily at the far end of a shallow pond on the Evros delta, and lines of others wavered past low over the marshes there. This species was newly-arrived from its wintering grounds in Africa.
EURASIAN SPOONBILL (Platalea leucorodia) – Small numbers on the Evros delta, at the Porto Lagos saltpans and around Lake Kerkini, including a few demonstrating their distinctive feeding method.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus) – One sailed over during our picnic on the Evros delta, shortly after we'd been chased out of our first spot. Maybe it was a good thing we had to move, as we'd likely have missed it otherwise!
BLACK KITE (Milvus migrans) – Small numbers wheeled gracefully over the agricultural fields on the Evros delta, and a couple of others perched in dead trees or scavenged scraps around the edges of the carcass pile at the Dadia Raptor Center.
WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (Haliaeetus albicilla) – Two immature birds soared back and forth over our heads on the Evros delta, looking suitably massive -- and rather ragged with molt. Saint spotted us another, sitting high on a dead snag above its enormous stick nest, along the fringes of Lake Mitrikou. [N]
EGYPTIAN VULTURE (Neophron percnopterus) – A couple of adults soared over our heads as we started our walk down to the river near Dadia, their white plumage, black flight feathers and yellowish faces contrasting sharply with the cloudless blue sky. We saw them (or others) near the carcasses at the feeding station, patiently waiting until the larger, more aggressive vultures moved away.
EURASIAN GRIFFON (Gyps fulvus) – Good numbers around the carcass pile at the Dadia Raptor Center -- some tearing bits from the recently-added dead mule, some sitting hunched in trees around the carcasses, and a few gliding in from the distant hillsides, looking immense.
CINEREOUS VULTURE (Aegypius monachus) – Regular in Dadia, including several soaring over the forest and more than a dozen -- looking particularly huge and menacing as they lunged feet-first at each other -- interacting around the carcasses. This is a highly endangered species; we probably saw at least a quarter of the Greek population.
SHORT-TOED EAGLE (Circaetus gallicus) – One gliding along the ridges in Dadia forest gave us increasingly better views as it worked its way towards us. Its pale, faintly-barred undersides -- and its habitat of regularly hover-hunting -- help to distinguish it even at great distances. We even saw one trailing a long snake (a regular prey item for this herps specialist) from its talons as it disappeared beyond a hill.
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus) – Among the most common of the tour's raptors, seen in good numbers on many days. Most were youngsters or females: dark, with golden heads and upperwing coverts. For those whose experience with harriers is limited to the Northern Harrier, this species seems huge!
LEVANT SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter brevipes) – Two flapped over early on our day in the Evros delta, their very white underwings flashing against the blue, blue sky -- great spotting, Saint!
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus) – Single birds flap-flap-glided overhead on several days, and an adult made a surprisingly agile attempt to grab a Common House-Martin from the melee of birds under the Iasmos Gorge bridge.
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo) – Regular throughout, seen nearly every day of the tour. As we saw, this species comes in a variety of color morphs.
LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE (Aquila pomarina) – One circled over a plowed field near Dadia, allowing us long views of its distinctive white wing and rump patches.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
LESSER KESTREL (Falco naumanni) – A handful hunted dragonflies over a stream near Lake Mitrikou, with the males showing well their pale, unmarked underwings as they coursed back and forth overhead. One bird swooped low across a plowed field nearby, allowing us to clearly see its unspotted back and the pale blue patch that separates the rufous and black on its upperwing. Lovely!
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus) – Common throughout, seen on most days of the tour, including one hunting along the edges of the Acropolis, a pair along a sheer cliff face near Delphi, and one that successfully grabbed a mouse on Mount Parnassos.
RED-FOOTED FALCON (Falco vespertinus) – A few in flight high overhead on the Evros delta were hard to pick out against the cloudless blue sky, and a male sitting in a distant plowed field proved only slightly less cryptic. Some of the group saw others in flight over farm fields around Dadia.
EURASIAN HOBBY (Falco subbuteo) – A couple of birds hunting dragonflies over a plowed field near Dadia were initially passed off as just another pair of Eurasian Kestrels. We spotted another, also hunting, on the Evros delta.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – One sat on a dead snag along the back edge of a lagoon on the Evros delta -- nice spotting, Jan D! We saw another zipping past our picnic spot in Doriskos.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus) – A couple of adults chugged back and forth across a narrow bay on Lake Kerkini, their red bill shields gleaming brilliantly in the sun. This species was recently split from North America's Common Gallinule.
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra) – Small numbers swimming on the Evros delta, Lake Mitrikou and Lake Kerkini, often ducking underwater (with vigorous kicks) to snatch mouthfuls of vegetation from the bottom of the lakes. Unlike the American Coot, this species has no white on the undertail coverts.
Burhinidae (Thick-knees)
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus) – Some fine spotting by Pete netted us close views of a pair as they stood warily on muddy bank along the back edge of the Porto Lagos saltpans. We also saw the same two (and perhaps one other) in flight along the shore there, showing well their distinctively white-spotted black wings.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)


Fields of blood red Common Poppies stretched along roadsides all across Greece, signs that some farmers are still using "the old ways" rather than spraying their crops with heavy herbicides. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

SPUR-WINGED PLOVER (Vanellus spinosus) – Numerous pairs dotted the Evros delta, some standing on mud mounds, some pattering across dry salt flats, and some apparently hunkered on nests. [N]
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – Small numbers in wetlands along the coast, including the Evros delta, Lake Vistonida and Ptelea Lagoon. A few were already well into their snazzy breeding plumage.
KENTISH PLOVER (KENTISH) (Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus) – A handful pattered along the sandy beach at Ptelea Lagoon -- nice spotting Ivan! Eventually, one of them moved to the shore of the lake, which allowed us to study it in much better light. This species was recently split from North America's Snowy Plover.
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula) – A handful moved among the far more numerous Little Stints in one of the Porto Lagos saltpans. This species is larger and stockier than the next, and shows bright orange on the bill and legs.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius) – One on a gravel bar in a stream in the Dadia National Park provided a real "Where's Waldo" puzzle as it stole among the plover-sized (and plover colored) rocks -- particularly once it sat down with only its head showing! "See the two white rocks?"
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ostralegus) – A group rested on the back side of a lagoon on the Evros delta, their long orange beaks bright against the background, near where we found our Spotted Redshanks. We saw others around Lake Vistonida and at the Porto Lagos saltpans.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus) – Our first were a pair snoozing near some Wood Sandpipers and Garganeys on the Evros delta. We had better looks -- at more active birds striding around on their long pink legs -- near the former pratincole colony along the edges of Lake Vistonida, and at Ptelea Lagoon.
PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta) – Best seen on the Evros delta, where one pair demonstrated their distinctive feeding method in a roadside lagoon. We saw others at the Porto Lagos saltpans and Ptelea Lagoon.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)


A rural scene near Lake Kerkini. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos) – Best seen at Lake Kerkini, where one bobbed along the edge of the water, looking rather like a winter-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper. Some saw another toward the end of our day on the Evros delta.
SPOTTED REDSHANK (Tringa erythropus) – Big numbers, most in their distinctively black breeding plumage, in several lagoons on the Evros delta. This species seems to have a penchant for wading, as most of the birds were up to their bellies in water, even when snoozing.
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia) – Small numbers in scattered wetlands, with our best views coming at Lake Kerkini, where a handful foraged along the muddy edges of the water not far from our Graylag Geese.
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola) – Common in several of the coastal wetlands we visited, including dozens sleeping on mudflats on the Evros delta and a busy group foraging along a little creek near Lake Mitrikou.
COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus) – One stood for long minutes on a driftwood stump in one of the lagoons on the Evros delta, allowing everybody to study those long red legs in the scope. In flight, this species shows a wide, wedge-shaped white trailing edge to its wings.
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa limosa) – One stood among a big flock of Spotted Redshanks on the Evros delta, looking particularly rusty and long-billed. This bird was late heading north -- most are gone long before the start of our tour.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – Seen in mixed flocks on the Evros delta and at the Porto Lagos saltpans, with most already wearing their bright breeding plumage.
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta) – A few foraged along the edges of Ptelea Lagoon (not far from our cooperative Kentish Plover) but our best views came at the Porto Lagos saltpans, where scores pattered over the mudflats.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – A single bird, easily picked out thanks to its smaller size and black belly, mingled with a big mob of Curlew Sandpipers at the Porto Lagos saltpans.
CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) – Especially nice views of many, most in snazzy brick-red breeding plumage, sprinkled across the mud of the Porto Lagos salt pans, with others resting in various Evros delta lagoons.
RUFF (Philomachus pugnax) – Good numbers in ponds and lagoons on the Evros delta, with others at the Porto Lagos saltpans and Lake Kerkini. Most appeared to be females (or perhaps "faeder" males -- the ones that get the girls by pretending to BE girls), though we did see at least one male sporting a brick red ruff on the Evros delta.
Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers)
COLLARED PRATINCOLE (Glareola pratincola) – Small numbers winged low over the marshes of the Evros delta, their combination of dark underwings and white rump patches -- and distinctive swallow-like flight -- helping us to separate them from nearby terns. A few flashed right above us late in the day, close enough that we could see that the underwing is actually a reddish-brown.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SLENDER-BILLED GULL (Chroicocephalus genei) – A gang of a dozen or so floated on Ptelea Lagoon, looking particularly long-necked as they searched the water surface for tidbits. Their unmarked heads, long dark red bills and sloping foreheads help to distinguish them from the more widespread Black-headed Gulls. Great spotting Ivan and Pete!
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) – Quite common on the Evros delta, with others around Lake Kerkini. Nearly all the birds we saw were in non-breeding plumage, showing only a tiny, dark "ear muff" instead of a chocolate brown hood.
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) – Abundant along the coast around Fanari, where we studied many in flight. The ghostly white wings of adult birds, which lack any black at all on the wing tips, are distinctive -- as is that emphatic "yow" call!
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (Larus michahellis michahellis) – Common and widespread throughout, even soaring along the cliff edges on Mount Parnassos -- which (as the gull flies) is not far at all from the Gulf of Corinth. We had particularly good studies of this big gull's distinctive yellow legs on the Evros delta.
LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons) – One flapped past on the Evros delta, its yellow bill clearly visible as it struggled against the wind, and we watched others hunting and courting around Ptelea Lagoon and at the Porto Lagos salt pans.
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica) – A couple hunted over a drying lagoon on the Evros delta, eventually settling to the ground for a rest, which allowed us to get a look at them in the scope. This species is primarily an insect-eater and its short, dark bill is distinctively blunt.
BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger) – Though dozens whirled among the big mixed tern flock at Lake Mitrikou, they proved tough for many to pick out. The birds at Lake Kerkini, which were far closer, were easier to find and study.
WHITE-WINGED TERN (Chlidonias leucopterus) – Scores flashed over Lake Mitrikou, part of a huge mixed group of terns -- and by far the easiest to pick out. We saw a handful of others at Lake Kerkini.
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida) – Common around freshwater wetlands, with our best views coming at Lake Kerkini, where we had leisurely scope views of several birds resting on muddy islands near the lake edge. This is the largest of Greece's "marsh terns".
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo) – A big noisy gang of them gathered on a muddy island on the Evros delta, the males wooing prospective mates with presentations of silvery fish. We saw others, even closer, in small numbers on Lake Kerkini and around Ptelea Lagoon.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Daily, mostly around cities and towns, but occasionally -- like the "wild type" plumaged birds we saw on the cliffs outside Delphi -- in a more natural setting.
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus) – One rocketed past us and landed in a nearby willow at Lake Kerkini, sitting long enough for nearly everybody to get a quick look in the scope. This is a huge pigeon, matching the Peregrine Falcon in length and the Eurasian Kestrel in wingspan!
EUROPEAN TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia turtur) – Small numbers of this declining species on several days, with especially nice views of a courting pair cooing on tree branches near the marshy end of Lake Kerkini. We heard the throaty purr of the male's song a few times during the tour.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) – Daily, with dozens flapping up in their distinctive gliding display flights, perched on wires, chasing each other through the streets or sounding their throaty landing calls throughout the country. [N]
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus) – Seen or heard nearly every day of the tour, with especially fine views of one adult lurking in the grass beside the track on the Evros delta and of another peering around from a leafy branch near Lake Kerkini. Forests throughout the tour echoed with the "cuckoo clock" song of this emblematic species.
Strigidae (Owls)
LITTLE OWL (Athene noctua) – We came oh so close to getting great views of one as we returned from our dinner at the Kerkini taverna. Unfortunately, it flushed from the pole it was sitting on before we all had a chance to decant from the bus.
Apodidae (Swifts)
ALPINE SWIFT (Apus melba) – Dozens sliced back and forth through the skies over the Acropolis, and others zoomed around a rocky headland near where we searched for Levantine Shearwaters. This is an enormous swift, with a wingspan approaching two feet!
COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus) – Widespread throughout, including hundreds quartering the sky -- with a chorus of screaming calls -- over Litochoro.
PALLID SWIFT (Apus pallidus) – It took some patience, but I think everybody FINALLY got a good look at a few that were zipping over Litochoro among the myriad Common Swifts. This one is paler overall, with distinctively pale inner wings (or darker wingtips, if you like) and a frosty pale face with a darker eye patch. The pair checking out the roof next door to our hotel were especially close.
Meropidae (Bee-eaters)
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER (Merops apiaster) – Satisfyingly common throughout much of the tour, including a group hunting from utility wires over a farm field near Dadia, and a swirling flock doing the same -- occasionally even dropping to the ground to scuttle after prey -- along the raised road at one end of Lake Mitrikou. Anybody who maintains that European birds are all drab little brown things has obviously never seen one of these!
Coraciidae (Rollers)
EUROPEAN ROLLER (Coracias garrulus) – Lovely views of a pair hunting from the bare branches of a dead tree in a farm field near Dadia; their turquoise wings elicited ohs and ahs every time the birds flashed off across the field in pursuit of an insect! We saw others on wires along the road on our drive to Lake Mitrikou.
Upupidae (Hoopoes)
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops) – Seen or heard on most days of the tour, with particularly nice looks at a calling bird perched in a tall tree in Litochoro (seen on our pre-breakfast amble to the stream).
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
EURASIAN WRYNECK (Jynx torquilla) – Arg! We heard them calling (and calling and calling and calling) on Mount Parnassos, but never really got "the view". Everybody saw one or more in flight, and a lucky few happened to be focused on the right branch when one popped into view, but the birds never stayed for more than a few seconds before moving again.
SYRIAN WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos syriacus) – One flashed across the pond near our Tychero hotel on our first afternoon's walk, landing in a tree on the other side. Unfortunately, it didn't stay long enough for everyone to get a look in the scope. Some saw another near our Cetti's Warbler in the Evros delta, though again, it departed before everyone got a look.
BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius) – A female on the heights of Mount Parnassos gave us quite a show, making several flying passes over the road (showing just how big she was) before settling onto a dead snag for a good look around. Both sexes drum and defend a territory.
GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis) – Our first bounded past over an open marsh edging Lake Kerkini, its distinctively yellowish rump showing well. But our best views came near our picnic lunch spot on Mount Parnassos, where a male perched in several trees around the open field we were birding in, clinging to vertical trunks and peering around.
Laniidae (Shrikes)
RED-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius collurio) – Seen throughout the tour, with particularly nice studies of a pair hunting in a tiny lot near our Delphi hotel.
LESSER GRAY SHRIKE (Lanius minor) – Our best views came at Lake Kerkini, where a pair hunted from the top of a nearby tree; we saw others in a field near Dadia and on the Evros delta.
MASKED SHRIKE (Lanius nubicus) – Two pairs around the picnic grove at Doriskos allowed long, satisfying views as they hunted insects and gathered nesting material. In Europe, this species gets no further north or west than Greece.
WOODCHAT SHRIKE (Lanius senator) – Widespread and conspicuous, with dozens seen perched on treetops and utility wires throughout the tour.
Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)
EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus oriolus) – For a big yellow bird, this one proved surprisingly difficult to spot. We all eventually got great views of one (or more), though it took more than a few sightings to be able to say that!
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius) – Unlike its North American cousins, this species is quite shy and retiring. Nonetheless, we had good studies of several, including one investigating bushes in the quarry south of Kerkini and another along a field edge near the Dadia Forest visitor's center.
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica) – Regular throughout, except in the driest country around Delphi. This species was split from North America's Black-billed Magpie, based on differences in plumage, voice and social structure; unlike the Black-billed Magpie, it doesn't live in big extended families.
YELLOW-BILLED CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax graculus) – Ivan was the lucky one who spotted four close birds tumbling in the updraft along the edge of Mount Parnassos, when he peeked over the edge for one last scan for Rock Partridge.
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula) – Regular in small numbers through much of the tour, including two pairs that had apparently made the mouth of the Lion of Amphipolis their cozy home.
HOODED CROW (Corvus cornix) – Daily, including several harassing a Common Buzzard near Dadia, and one sitting atop a pine tree near the Kerkini harbor.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – Small numbers on scattered days throughout the tour, including one few hopeful birds mooching around the edges of the carcass pile at the Dadia Raptor Center, and a calling pair chasing each other along a cliff face near Delphi.
Alaudidae (Larks)


A trio of wheatears are possible on the Greece tour. This was the most widespread species: the Black-eared Wheatear. It comes in two color morphs; this is the pale throated form. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

CALANDRA LARK (Melanocorypha calandra) – A trio scuttled around in a recently plowed field, seen as we headed toward Ptelea Lagoon, but our best views came near the Porto Lagos saltpans, where one bird foraged in the track right in front of us and another sang high overhead in a lengthy display flight. The chunky size, thick bill, black underwings and black "bow tie" markings of this species are distinctive.
GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK (Calandrella brachydactyla) – One in the track at Ptelea Lagoon allowed nice comparison to nearby Crested Larks.
CRESTED LARK (Galerida cristata) – Very common on the first half of the tour, including a few rummaging in the track near our first hotel (seen on our brief walk between arrival and dinner) and numbers scurrying around farm fields near Dadia. The sharply pointed crest of this species is distinctive, as are its peachy-colored underwings.
SKY LARK (Alauda arvensis) – One foraged on a dry salt pan in the Evros delta, and some of the group spied another in display flight high overhead there. This species has a much smaller crest than does the previous species, and its underwings are grayish rather than peach.
WOOD LARK (Lullula arborea) – A male singing from a telephone wire near the Dadia Forest visitor's center allowed long studies in the scope, and we saw another well on Mount Parnassos as it sang from atop a small tree. The white supercilia of this lovely songster meet at the back of its head.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) – Small numbers over wetland areas, including several zooming over the bridge out to the monastery near Fanari and others near our picnic spot on Lake Mitrikou.
EURASIAN CRAG-MARTIN (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) – Best seen in Iasmos Gorge, where a handful of these dark martins coursed back and forth over the river, close enough we could even see the tiny square white patches in their tails. Many in the group saw others swirling along a sheer rock face beside the road up the flank of Mount Parnassos.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – Abundant throughout, including pairs nesting under under the balconies of hotels near ours in Litochoro. [N]
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW (Cecropis daurica) – Most common on the second half of the tour, with especially nice looks at two perched (and preening) on an unfinished house near our Delphi hotel each morning before breakfast.
COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum) – Daily, including chattering masses boiling out from under the new bridge across Iasmos Gorge (pursued by an agile Eurasian Sparrowhawk) and scores building nests under the eaves of houses, shops and hotels across the country. The white rump patch of this small martin is distinctive. [N]
Paridae (Chickadees and Tits)
SOMBRE TIT (Poecile lugubris) – After searching in vain for days, we lucked into a very cooperative bird right near our picnic lunch spot on Mount Parnassos. This was the least colorful of the tits we found on the tour.
MARSH TIT (Poecile palustris) – A couple of quiet birds in the beech grove on Mount Olympus appeared to be provisioning hidden youngsters somewhere. We got good looks at their diagnostically tiny bibs (more like a moustache than a bib, if we're honest) as they foraged on branches over the road.
COAL TIT (Periparus ater) – Particularly good looks at a busy adult stuffing morsel after morsel into the gaping mouth of a begging youngster along the road up Mount Olympus, with others on Mount Parnassos and around our hotel in Delphi. The white nape patch of this species quickly distinguishes it from all other tits in Greece. [N]
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus) – A few with a mixed tit flock around the monastery parking lot on Mount Olympus proved very cooperative for those who stayed behind when some of us climbed down to the dipper stream -- great spotting, Carol!
GREAT TIT (Parus major) – Easily the most common of the tour's tits, seen or heard on most days. One foraging in a street tree near our Delphi hotel before breakfast one morning was particularly confiding.
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Two near our picnic lunch spot in the Dadia forest ferried many mouthfuls of small invertebrates to a hidden nestful of hungry youngsters. [N]
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)
EURASIAN PENDULINE-TIT (Remiz pendulinus) – Best seen at Lake Kerkini, where an industrious male gathered a huge mouthful of cattail fluff from old stalks in one marshy corner. Some of the group saw another before breakfast one morning, singing from a poplar tree near our Tychero hotel.
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus) – We heard the high-pitched call of this species from the forest edging the picnic grove at Doriskos, but the birds moved quickly away before we could spot them. [*]
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea) – One rambled through a beech tree over the road on Mount Olympus, showing well as it investigated a series of branches.
ROCK NUTHATCH (Sitta neumayer) – One near Apollo's Temple at Delphi gave us a spectacularly close look as it peered around from a rock wall (briefly interrupting our guided tour), and we saw others gleaning among the boulders on Mount Parnassos.
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Certhia brachydactyla) – A loudly singing bird crawled up many tree trunks around the building where we set up our picnic lunch in Dadia Forest, giving most of us very fine views indeed. We found another in a lovely beech grove on Mount Olympus, distracting us briefly from our quest for Marsh Tits.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
EURASIAN WREN (Troglodytes troglodytes) – One tiny songster perched atop a nearby log pile on Mount Parnassos, seen shortly before we found our Black Woodpecker. This species was recently split from North America's Winter Wren, partly because of its slower and less complex song.
Regulidae (Kinglets)
FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla) – One flitted among the branches of a tall pine tree near where we found our Eurasian Wren on Mount Parnassos, and a territorial male flared his brilliant orange crown at us near the stream on Mount Olympus.
Cettiidae (Bush-Warblers and Allies)
CETTI'S WARBLER (Cettia cetti) – As usual, we heard far more of these loud skulking warblers than we saw, but we had superb views of one that sat for long minutes --long enough for everyone to get more than one look in the scope -- in a little tamarisk bush right beside the road through the Evros delta.
Phylloscopidae (Leaf-Warblers)
WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus) – A small group flicked through a grove of trees near one end of the lake in Tychero, seen on the first pre-breakfast outing of the tour. This species is a migrant through Greece, heading from its African wintering grounds to breeding sites in northern Europe.
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus collybita) – A testosterone-filled migrant sang challenges from some street trees in Fanari (far from any breeding territory), moving in low and close and allowing us great views one morning before breakfast. We had another very cooperative bird along the winding road down to the monastery on Mount Olympus.
Acrocephalidae (Reed-Warblers and Allies)
EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER (Hippolais pallida) – One sang from high in a bramble patch in the middle of a field near our Fanari hotel, and another did the same along the edge of the boat harbor on Lake Kerkini.
SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) – One chortled from the reeds edging the pond near our Tychero hotel, creeping into the open now and again for a look around.
GREAT REED-WARBLER (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – These big, conspicuous songsters sang from reed heads on the Evros delta, Lake Mitrikou and Lake Kerkini, allowing super scope studies. The gruff song of this species was a regular part of the tour soundtrack around the bigger marshes.
Sylviidae (Old World Warblers)


Delphi's ruins sprawl for hundreds of meters down the mountainside. In the foreground is the foundation of the temple of Apollo and Dionysius. This was where Delphi's famous oracle made her proclamations. (Photo by guide Megan Crewe)

BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla) – One along the trail down to the stream on Mount Olympus proved somewhat circumspect, singing only briefly from branches near the edge of its bush before dropping back down out of view.
EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER (Sylvia crassirostris) – Our best views came on a hillside west of Delphi, where one of these big warblers foraged in bushes not far from where we found our Rueppell's Warbler. We had a more frustrating encounter with another male near Iasmos Gorge; it circled all around us, but never really showed itself.
GREATER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia communis) – Single birds seen on scattered days throughout the tour, including one singing from atop a bush near our Tychero hotel the first pre-breakfast walk of the tour and another singing from a dead tree (though ignored for more than few minutes initially!) near our first European Rollers.
RUEPPELL'S WARBLER (Sylvia rueppelli) – Wow! The only way we could have gotten much closer to the handsome male near Delphi is if he had actually landed on somebody. As it was, he hunted for insects in a sage bush mere yards away, occasionally popping up to the top for a good look around.
SUBALPINE WARBLER (Sylvia cantillans) – Our first were pair near Iasmos Gorge -- she gathering nest material as he accompanied her; his brick red chest and bright white moustache ensured most of us spotted him first. We saw others around Delphi.
SARDINIAN WARBLER (Sylvia melanocephala) – Especially nice looks at a busy pair bouncing around in the short grass -- where they were exceptionally easy to see -- gathering food to give to two newly-fledged youngsters near one of the entrance gates to the Acropolis. We saw others near Dadia and Delphi.
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa striata) – Best seen right outside our Delphi hotel, where a vocal male with an apparent chest wound (lots of damaged, fluffed-up feathers) sang his heart out each morning. We saw others flitting around in the top of the same tree that our Eurasian Green Woodpecker spent some time clinging to.
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula) – One sang its mournful song from several perches along the road down to the monastery on Mount Olympus, showing particularly well when it sat atop a tall pine.
COMMON NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos) – Abundant everywhere but the dry country around Delphi, with a song that was an integral part of the tour's soundtrack. Our best views came at Tychero, where we found one songster belting his challenges from a tree near our hotel.
BLACK REDSTART (Phoenicurus ochruros) – A pair bounced around on the barren rocks above treeline on Mount Parnassos, occasionally chasing (or being chased by) a Northern Wheatear. This species is named for its reddish tail (staart in Dutch), which it typically quivers upon landing.
BLUE ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola solitarius) – Very common around Delphi, including several singing from rooftops and television aerials right in town, a serenading group scattered along a cliff east of town and a female provisioning a nest of youngsters in a triangular crevice on the Treasury of Athens building among the ruins. [N]
WHINCHAT (Saxicola rubetra) – Small numbers of this migrant on several days early in the tour, including a few along the track at the Porto Lagos saltpans and one hunting in a field near our Fanari hotel.
STONECHAT (EUROPEAN) (Saxicola torquatus rubicola) – A male hunting and singing from small conifers atop Mount Parnassos was a treat -- particularly for those who'd missed the one we found on a pre-breakfast walk in Delphi. Some taxonomists split this subspecies from the one found in Africa.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) – Best seen on Mount Parnassos, where gray-backed males bounced along rocky slopes. Though Black-eared Wheatears shared the lower, warmer slopes of the mountain with this species, only the Northern Wheatears ventured above tree line.
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR (Oenanthe hispanica) – Quite common throughout, including many males singing from bush tops and rock piles. A surprising number of the males were the pale-throated form.
ISABELLINE WHEATEAR (Oenanthe isabellina) – One danced among the dirt clods in a recently plowed little field just outside Doriskos. After giving us all brief scope views (as it flitted from one rock to another higher and higher up the hill), it disappeared over the top of the rise, never to be seen again. This distinctively pale-winged wheatear doesn't get further west than eastern Greece.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula) – Especially nice views of a male singing from a tree near the Acropolis on the first morning of the tour, and of another male serenading from atop a pine tree on the road down to the monastery on Mount Olympus.
MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus) – Several of these spotty thrushes hunted in a pasture on Mount Parnassos on each of our visits, with the second day's views proving far more satisfying.
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) – Every day but one -- and we definitely just weren't concentrating that day! Believe it or not, starling populations are plummeting in some parts of Europe.
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (BLACK-HEADED) (Motacilla flava feldegg) – Regular in wetland areas, including a pair marching around a grassy area on the Evros delta and others along the little stream near Lake Mitrikou.
GRAY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea) – Those who braved all those steps down to the stream below the monastery on Mount Olympus were rewarded with views of one of these long-tailed wagtails as it hunted on rocks along the stream.
WHITE WAGTAIL (WHITE-FACED) (Motacilla alba alba) – Seen on several days, including a pair strolling along the gravel bars in a river near Dadia and one waggling near the bridge across Iasmos Gorge.
TAWNY PIPIT (Anthus campestris) – One trundled along the road edge in the Evros delta, looking especially pale and unstreaked against the dun-colored track. We saw others foraging among rock piles on Mount Parnassos.
Emberizidae (Buntings, Sparrows and Allies)
CIRL BUNTING (Emberiza cirlus) – Seen well throughout the second half of the tour, including a male rummaging for seeds in a front yard near our Delphi hotel and another male singing from a tiny treetop near the European Stonechat spot on Mount Parnassos.
CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING (Emberiza caesia) – Fabulous views of one singing from a nearby juniper on a flower-covered hillside near Delphi. This species breeds only around the eastern Mediterranean.
BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (Emberiza melanocephala) – Regular through much of the first week, with especially nice views of the two males tussling for long minutes in a stand of tamarisks on the Evros delta. We saw another male singing from telephone wires near our Tychero hotel.
CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra) – Almost ridiculously common on the first half of the trip, when it was hard to believe that its numbers are declining sharply all across Europe. There were days when we were hard-pressed NOT to have at least one in view at all times!
Fringillidae (Siskins, Crossbills, and Allies)
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs) – Regular throughout, with especially nice views of a singing male near the shuttered hotel in the Dadia forest -- and others that kept distracting us during our search for Eastern Orphean Warbler at Iasmos gorge. The lovely rich song of this species was a regular part of the tour soundtrack.
EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris) – Seen on scattered days throughout, with especially satisfying studies of many in the big pines just down the street from our Delphi hotel. The subspecies in southern Europe -- aurantiiventris -- is significantly more yellow overall than are birds from further north.
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis) – Widespread on the second half of the tour, including a busy mob munching on weed seeds near Lake Kerkini and others swarming over a weedy yard near our Delphi hotel.
EURASIAN LINNET (Carduelis cannabina) – A little party played hard to get in the tall grass beneath a tree in Doriskos. We had better luck on Mount Parnassos, where a pair on a track below the road allowed us to study them in the scope before we started our trek up the hill in search of the mythical Rock Partridge.
EUROPEAN SERIN (Serinus serinus) – Best seen near our lunch spot on Mount Parnassos, where one bright yellow male sang from high in a dead tree along the edge of a pasture. Some of the group saw another -- a streaky youngster -- outside some abandoned half-finished buildings near our Delphi hotel.
HAWFINCH (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) – Lovely looks at a pair, looking strikingly orange and frosty gray as they sat in a treetop near where we searched for Barred Warbler. This wary species can be tough to find!
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – Daily, particularly around human habitation. [N]
SPANISH SPARROW (Passer hispaniolensis) – A black-chested male singing from a hedgerow near Dadia was something of a surprise. We found many more -- as normal -- courting and kibitzing under White Stork nests all across northern Greece. [N]
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) – One bounced along the roof of a ruined building near the entrance to the Evros delta, and another sang from a telephone wire along the road up to our Kerkini hotel before breakfast one morning.

MAMMALS
EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris) – Several scurried up trunks and along branches in the forest on Mount Olympus, proving admirably acrobatic as they leapt from tree to tree. This species is larger than North America's Red Squirrel, and comes (as we saw) in colors ranging from rust to a fairly dark brown.
RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) – One -- looking surprisingly dark -- worked gingerly across a snow patch high on Mount Parnassos, then picked its way through a myriad boulders and grass clumps as it climbed to the ridge top.
BLACK-BACKED JACKAL (Canis mesomelas) – One made a very brief appearance along the clifftop at the quarry south of Lithotopos, peering at us over the edge for a few seconds before slipping back out of sight.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Herps we found during the trip (thanks for the IDs, Jim!)

European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis) - We spotted one hauled out on the side of an concrete irrigation ditch on the Evros delta.

Balkan Pond Turtle (Mauremys rivulata) - One at the concrete stream crossing near Dadia.

Spur-thighed (Greek) Tortoise (Testudo graeca) -

Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) - One at Iasmos gorge wasn't too excited about being closely examined -- and let Jim know by peeing all over his gloves.

European Green Toad (Bufo viridis) - One under a board near Fanari, seen as we walked out to check the pratincole colony.

Balkan (Greek Marsh) Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri) - One in the water trough at the Doriskos picnic area was definitely a bit the worse for wear.

Greek (Balkan) Stream Frog (Rana graeca) - One sat on a streamside rock below the monastery on Mount Olympus.

European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) - Pete spotted one outside the viewing blind at the Dadia Raptor Center.

Erhard's Wall Lizard (Podarcis erhardii) - These little brown lizards were quite common on Mount Olympus.

Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis) - One of these tiny blind snakes was squashed along the roadside near our Delphi hotel; how it got there was a mystery, since this species normally spends its life underground!

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata) - A dead one near the water trough at Doriskos had us wondering whether it was the water or the holiday crowds that caused the "carnage" there!


Totals for the tour: 170 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa