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Field Guides Tour Report
Classical Greece 2018
May 5, 2018 to May 19, 2018
Megan Edwards Crewe with Lefteris Kakalis

A swirling flock of Collared Pratincoles were one of the many highlights during our day's birding on the Evros delta. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

Early May is a wonderful time to explore the timeless landscapes of rural Greece. Vast groves of olive trees lap like dusty seas at the foot of brooding mountains. Blood-red poppies stain newly-green farm fields. Hazy distant islands float on azure-blue seas. Wildflowers grow everywhere, waving gaily in the omnipresent breezes. Remnants of the country's long human history -- ruined watchtowers, crumbling but still-graceful bridge spans, tumbled remains of once-strong walls, scattered pillars and arches -- litter the hillsides. The combination of gorgeous scenery, patterned tapestries of wildflowers, and an ever-changing mix of birds offers plenty to enjoy. Add in a handful of cultural attractions -- ancient temples, 800-year-old mosaics, a world-class museum or three -- and a congenial group of traveling companions, and you get a fine mix of memories. The persistent south winds Greece had in the weeks before our tour meant we had surprisingly few migrants (other than a myriad shorebirds, that is) presumably because they just kept going north. But there were plenty of highlights nonetheless.

An Eurasian Wryneck foraged in a field of wildflowers, looking surprisingly snakelike as it peered over a flat rock. Swarms of European Bee-eaters, resplendent in their multicolored plumage, floated across clearings or perched like Christmas ornaments on dead branches. Squacco Herons hunted pond edges, turning from butterscotch to white when they changed positions. A handsome male Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush sang mellow challenges from a lichen-spattered pile of boulders. A Little Bittern crept through dense reed stems, calling our attention to a handful of water snakes that swam just below him. Two Broad-billed Sandpipers poked and prodded among a host of brick-red Curlew Sandpipers. A Black Woodpecker clung to a dead snag. A scrum of Cinereous Vultures and Eurasian Griffons mixed it up around a carcass pile in the Dadia forest, with a couple of Egyptian Vultures lurking on the fringes. A Masked Shrike jousted with a Woodchat Shrike, while a nearby Red-backed Shrike did its best to ignore the disagreement. Little Owls watched from telephone poles and the crumbling edges of old buildings. Yelkouan Shearwaters drifted lazily over the sea below our clifftop perch, then dropped down for a rest. A tiny Eurasian Penduline-Tit flicked through a willow tree, singing his high-pitched song. Spur-winged Plovers, at the very northeastern edge of their range here, padded across dry pans.

A Calandra Lark hung high overhead, his beautiful, wild song raining down from a clear blue sky. Hundreds of Common and Pallid swifts rocketed back and forth over a mountainside town, and a few of the Pallid Swifts zipped in to rest on convenient ledges. White Storks performed bill-clattering greeting ceremonies on huge stick nests, while Spanish Sparrows chirped from a myriad "basement apartments" below them. Collared Pratincoles swirled over just-plowed fields like flakes in a shook-up snow globe. Dalmatian Pelicans floated serenely on glassy lakes, or soared overhead on massive, outstretched wings. A pair of busy Western Rock Nuthatches brought tidbit after tidbit to a very hungry youngster (or two) in a nest on the side of one of the ancient buildings (a mere ten feet from the very busy walkway) at the Delphi ruins. An Olive-tree Warbler peered from roadside bushes. Little Ringed Plovers tiptoed along gravel bars. A Long-eared Owl chick stared wide-eyed from its leafy perch. Eurasian Golden-Orioles glowed against verdant backdrops. A charming European Robin sang from a leafy branch. Short-toed Eagles soared over hillsides green with new growth. Two Slender-billed Gulls floated among a gang of Black-headed Gulls, their subtly longer head shape easily distinguishable at our very close range. A Syrian Woodpecker peered around a telephone pole. And who will soon forget the near-constant serenade of the omnipresent Common Nightingales?!

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 Dimitria to point out some of the special treasures, then wandered among buildings that date back more than two millennia. In Vergina, we entered the burial mound of Phillip II (father of Alexander the Great) and Alexander IV (Alexander the Great's son) and marveled at the fantastic collection of grave goods found there -- and at the still-impressive painted marble friezes that decorated the outside of the tombs. With local guide Cristina providing commentary, we wandered through the sprawling ruins of Delphi, reading inscriptions still sharp thousands of years after they were carved. And we finished at the monastery of Loukas, where gilded mosaics still glitter 800 years after their creation.

Thanks so much for joining Lefteris and me for some spring adventures in this lovely country. Thanks, too, to Lefteris -- for both his translation skills and his excellent bird-spotting! Thanks to Dimitria and Cristina for their excellent ruins tours, and to Sharon at Field Guides HQ for putting it all together. I hope to see you all again, somewhere, someday!

-- Megan

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

THE Acropolis (as opposed to other manmade hills called "the acropolis), with the temple to Athena Nike on the far left, the Erecthion in the center, and the Parthenon on the right. Impressive, even covered with scaffolding! Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser) – A handful of birds, including several obvious pairs, preened along the grassy edge of Lake Kerkini, which is a major wintering area for the species. Some birds have begun to spend their entire year on the lake, no longer migrating to their traditional breeding spots.
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) – A dozen or so floated on one of the little "arms" of Lake Mitrikou, seen from a viewing point along the road. We found another bird on a nest near our picnic lunch spot there. [N]
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna) – Scattered pairs all across the Evros delta, including a few wary birds standing along the edge of roadside lagoons that gave us the chance to study them up close. We saw dozens of others on Ptelea lagoon, and sprinkled across the salt pans at Porto Lagos.
GARGANEY (Spatula querquedula) – A few small groups of males floated on some of the smaller lagoons on the Evros delta, their big, bright eyebrows making them easy to pick out as they floated among the marsh grasses, and we found another pair preening on the same log as a couple of Common Terns at Lake Kerkini.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – Common and widespread in wet spots throughout.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) – A single wary drake on one of the roadside ponds in the Evros delta quickly hid himself among the reeds (nice spotting, Wolfgang!) and a group of 6 or 7 males lifted off from another lagoon further south on the delta. This species is usually long gone by the time of our tour.
COMMON POCHARD (Aythya ferina) – Two drakes and a hen floated on a little spur of Lake Mitrikou, seen from our perch along the roadside, and we found another drake steaming across the northern end of Lake Mitrikou. This species too is typically gone by the time of our tour.
FERRUGINOUS DUCK (Aythya nyroca) – Our first was a single bird floating on a roadside pond on the Evros delta -- good spotting, Rick W! We found another handful in a larger lagoon further along the delta.

Greece is full of scenic vistas. This lovely meadow is high on Mount Parnassos -- and we found our Black Woodpecker right on the edge of it! Photo by participant Sharon Woodruff.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis) – A pair and a singleton lurked along the reedy edge of an arm of Lake Mitrikou (seen from our roadside perch) and a few others dove repeatedly on Lake Kerkini. This is the smallest of Europe's grebes.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus) – And this is the largest! We had excellent looks at many, including dozens building their platform nests (carrying big mouthfuls of dripping wet marsh vegetation) on Lake Kerkini. [N]
Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)
GREATER FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus roseus) – Long, pink, wavering lines flew past us over the sea on both mornings at Fanari, each containing scores and scores of birds. Our best looks came in a salty lagoon south of Thessaloniki, where we found some 260 birds in a couple of dusty pink "clouds", stomping in the mud to stir up their lunch.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
CORY'S SHEARWATER (SCOPOLI'S) (Calonectris diomedea diomedea) – We saw dozens far offshore at Alexandropouli following the fishing boats, and dozens more doing the same off the coast near Fanari; their more languid flap (they're Europe's largest shearwater) helps to separate them from the next species. A few of the group saw a couple of closer birds flying past the Apollonia tower.
YELKOUAN SHEARWATER (Puffinus yelkouan) – A few small groups floated on the sea near the Apollonia tower, looking tiny compared to the nearby Yellow-legged Gulls. Through the scopes, we could see their white throats (which separate them from the Balearic Shearwaters of the eastern Mediterranean) and their dark bills (which help to separate them from the previous species).
Ciconiidae (Storks)
BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra) – Dozens spiraled over the Evros delta in big mixed kettles, and others soared over the Dadia forest and the Iasmos gorge. This species is far less common in Europe than the next, primarily because it needs big tracts of pine forest in which to breed.

We got some wonderfully close looks at White Storks -- principally because there were dozens of nests on specially constructed platforms in towns all across Thrace and Macedonia. Photo by participant Rick Woodruff.

WHITE STORK (Ciconia ciconia) – Almost ridiculously common in the country's northeastern stretches; in Soufli, for example, nearly every light pole along some roads had a nest on top! We saw plenty of bill-clattering greeting ceremonies between pairs, and watched many birds carrying bits of material back to bolster growing nests. This species certainly seems to be doing just fine in Greece! [N]
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
PYGMY CORMORANT (Microcarbo pygmeus) – Quite common on the Evros delta -- where we saw them flying, swimming and drying out on various posts and bushes -- with smaller numbers around Lake Kerkini, including one sitting conveniently close to a host of Great Cormorants in a tree near the dam for a good size comparison.
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo) – By far the most common cormorant of the tour, seen in good numbers all along the coast and on all of the big lakes. The nesting colonies along the shore of Lake Kerkini were impressive; they looked like a giant line of Christmas trees, all bedecked with black ornaments! [N]
EUROPEAN SHAG (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) – Best seen floating in the sea off Alexandropouli, distracting us occasionally from our search for shearwaters; we saw others on an offshore island near Ptelea lagoon, and still more near the Apollonian tower. This species is intermediate in size between the previous two species and lacks the white face and orange bill of the larger Great Cormorant.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
GREAT WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus onocrotalus) – Our first were a group of seven or so that flew over as we birded our way south along the Evros delta; their two-toned black and white underwings, help to quickly separate them from the next species. We saw FAR more around Lithotopos -- including a flock of some 250-300 making lazy synchronized spirals high against the clouds above Lake Kerkini.
DALMATIAN PELICAN (Pelecanus crispus) – We found our first on the Evros delta; they flew over, showing the pale gray underwing with a pale central stripe that helps to separate them from the previous species. We had even better views of many others around Lake Kerkini, including some floating next to the previous species for good comparisons. It was impressive how huge they looked next to the Great Cormorants -- which were dwarfed by comparison!
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
LITTLE BITTERN (Ixobrychus minutus) – One crept through an island of reeds on the northern end of Lake Kerkini, occasionally pausing where we could see him (and some nearby water snakes) -- nice spotting, Bill! We later saw him fly to the next reed bed, flashing his distinctive wing patches as he went.
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea) – Regular in wet areas throughout the first part of the tour, typically standing sentinel along the banks or flapping ponderously over. The half dozen or so standing with some Black Storks in a reed bed along the edge of Lake Mitrikou were particularly memorable.
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea) – Very common on the Evros delta, with another one or two spotted along the causeway at Lake Mitrikou. This species is considerably darker (and relatively longer-billed) than the previous one.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Regular on the Evros delta, with others around Porto Lagos and a couple under the highway bridge in the Iasmos gorge, but overall, this is far less common than the next species. Birds in Europe typically have black (rather than yellow) beaks during the breeding season.
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta) – Very common in virtually every wet spot we passed on the first half of the tour, including nearly two dozen hunting from the tiny dam near the highway bridge at the Iasmos gorge. This species is closely related to the Snowy Egret, and -- like that species -- wears "golden slippers". However, its facial skin is blue-gray rather than yellow.
SQUACCO HERON (Ardeola ralloides) – We found dozens sprinkled across the Evros delta, and dozens more around Lake Kerkini, with smaller numbers at Lake Mitrikou. This species is in the same genus as the pond-herons, and shares their surprisingly white wings.

Eurasian Marsh-Harriers were common and widespread along the coast. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (EURASIAN) (Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax) – A single bird flew past over the highway as we birded the edge of Soufli one morning before breakfast, and we saw a scattering of others around Lake Kerkini. The subspecies found in Europe (nyticorax) is darker overall than are birds found in North America.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus) – A steady stream of small groups trickled past as we headed south on the Evros delta, and we saw a handful of others preening on the grassy northern edge of Lake Kerkini.
EURASIAN SPOONBILL (Platalea leucorodia) – Pretty common around Lake Kerkini, with especially nice studies of our first, which foraged among a gaggle of Little Egrets in a marshy spot along the Strimonas River; with the scopes, we could clearly see its bare bright yellow throat, which nicely matched both the tip of its black spoon-shaped bill and the yellow u-shaped patch of feathers on its chest.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
EGYPTIAN VULTURE (Neophron percnopterus) – A couple of these small vultures lurked around the edges of the carcass pile at the Dadia raptor feeding station, waiting for overlooked scraps. They're definitely low on the totem pole when their (much) larger cousins are around. We saw another in flight with a Cinereous Vulture over our heads as we searched for Eastern Bonelli's Warbler in the Dadia forest.
EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus) – Scattered migrants headed north, typically in small groups. Considering how few birds we had, we saw an amazing variety of plumages! In the past, people thought this species raided bee colonies for honey -- hence the name. Now, we know they're actually after the bee larvae.
CINEREOUS VULTURE (Aegypius monachus) – Common around the (totally stripped) carcass piles at the Dadia raptor feeding station, including nearly a dozen roosting on a nearby plateau. These huge vultures, which have a wingspan of more than 9 feet, are pretty aggressive towards their smaller cousins (and each other), bounding into the fray with outstretched wings and lungeing feet first into the pack of already-feeding birds. This species is disappearing from Europe, with fewer than 1000 pairs left -- Greece is home to about 140 birds.
EURASIAN GRIFFON (Gyps fulvus) – Also common around the remains of the carcass piles at the Dadia raptor feeding station, and we saw a single bird flying high over Iasmos gorge. Because they're somewhat smaller than the previous species, this one quickly gives way when challenged by their aggressive larger cousins!

From our perch in the Dadia Forest's raptor blind, we were able to watch all three vulture species -- Cinereous and Egyptian vultures and Eurasian Griffons -- interacting around the carcass pile. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
SHORT-TOED SNAKE-EAGLE (Circaetus gallicus) – One of the tour's more widespread raptors, seen on most days -- including our first flapping past on the Evros delta (showing nicely the narrow barring on the underwings), another circling over the Dadia forest's visitor's center, and a rather ragged individual above the quarry south of Lithotopos.
LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE (Clanga pomarina) – Particularly common on the Evros delta, where we spotted several spiraling over the fields; the large spots on their underwings were clearly visible as they circled. Near the village of Dadia, we watched a couple of determined crows trying hard to chase one out of their territory, and we saw others over Doriskos and near Lake Kerkini.
BOOTED EAGLE (Hieraaetus pennatus) – One soared with some Cinereous Vultures over the forest at Dadia as we searched for our first (very reluctant) Eastern Bonelli's Warbler -- great spotting, Bill! Plumage-wise, they look a lot like Swainson's Hawks.
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus) – Another common and widespread species, though we missed them once we reached the drier country around Delphi. Our first were a couple of birds soaring low over the fields at the Alexandropouli airport, and we saw many others on the Evros delta. This species is much broader-winged than the Northern Harrier, and it lacks a white rump patch.
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus) – Another common species seen on most days of the tour, including one flapping right over the blind at the Dadia raptor feeding station as we arrived, and a couple of others (probably migrants) flap-flap-gliding past us at Ptelea lagoon. This species is far more likely to hunt in more open country than are North America's accipiters; presumably, it had to learn to deal with deforestation much earlier in the species' existence!
NORTHERN GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis) – One high above the Evros delta was a surprise; presumably it was a migrating bird -- or at least one moving from one forested area to another. We had another pair high over the Dadia forest, where they more expected. This is the largest of the continent's accipiters.
BLACK KITE (Milvus migrans) – A trio low over the trees on the Evros delta, and another flapping along the river corridor near Soufli on a pre-breakfast walk there. The mobile forked tail of this species helps to quickly separate it from the buteos.
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo) – The most common and widespread of the tour's raptors, seen in a variety of colors in virtually every habitat. Somehow, we managed to miss them one day -- we must not have been paying enough attention!

Black-headed Gulls really should have been called BROWN-headed Gulls! Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus) – Reasonably common on Lake Kerkini, chugging back and forth between little stands of reed. This species has been split from the former "Common Moorhen"; it's the sister species of the Common Gallinule.
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra) – Common on ponds, lakes and wet spots through much the first week of the tour. This species has a completely white bill and facial shield, and no white undertail coverts.
Burhinidae (Thick-knees)
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus) – We found one snoozing along a little stream near Lake Mitrikou, huddled up against a half-buried tire -- good spotting, Joyce! It rose and started creeping away when it spotted us, and we then discovered its mate doing the same from its spot near another tire. This species is widely known as the Stone-Curlew.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus) – Common on the saltier lagoons on the Evros delta, where we found dozens striding around on their long pink legs. We found smaller numbers among the shorebirds on the Ptelea lagoon and at the Porto Lagos saltworks, and Wolfgang spotted a couple at the Kalochori wetlands.
PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta) – Small numbers feeding with their distinctive scything motion at the Ptelea lagoon, with others in flashing flight over the Porto Lagos saltworks and standing on some muddy islets at the Kalochori wetlands.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ostralegus) – Scattered pairs standing tall on the Evros delta, Ptelea lagoon, the Porto Lagos saltworks, and the Kalochori wetlands. We heard the loud, piping whistles of this species on several occasions ­­ typically as they flew past with a busy flurry of black and white wings.

Participant Neil Wingert snapped this lovely portrait of an Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Soufli.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – Scattered dozens along the coast, typically mingling with smaller Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. This is a winter visitor to Greece, with numbers supplemented by migrants in transit from further south.
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus) – Several small groups on the Evros delta, and another in an eye-catching display flight -- alternately flashing its black-and-white underwings and dark green upperwings -- over a field near Lake Mitrikou. The broad rounded wings of this species are distinctive.
SPUR-WINGED LAPWING (Vanellus spinosus) – A dozen pairs or so pattered across dried mud fields around the Evros delta, and a few waded in some of the shallow lagoons there. This is essentially an African species that just edges into Europe in southeastern Greece.
KENTISH PLOVER (KENTISH) (Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus) – One stood on the tideline at the edge of the Aegean Sea at Ptelea lagoon; good spotting Neil! After a few scurrying steps it lay down in a footprint so that only its head showed -- right next to the head of a similarly-positioned Common Ringed Plover. This species was recently split from North America's Snowy Plover.
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula) – Nice studies of these migrants on the Evros delta, pattering among the mixed shorebird flocks, with scattered others feeding at Ptelea lagoon, and dozens more huddled on the shoreline of the lagoon near the Porto Lagos saltworks, trying to escape the strong winds.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius) – Two trotted along the stony edges of the Magazi River near Dadia, apparently nesting (or planning to nest) along one of the gravel bars, and we saw another along a little river just outside the town of Iasmos. Through the scopes, we could clearly see the thin yellow eye ring and black beak that help separate this species from the previous one.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus) – Bill and April spotted one in a lagoon on the Evros delta, when most of the rest of the group was focused on the first Eurasian Curlew. Unfortunately, it (and everything else) flew off before the everybody else got a look.
EURASIAN CURLEW (Numenius arquata) – A couple in a roadside lagoon on the Evros delta, quickly distinguished by their very long, down-curved bills. In flight, this species shows white on its back and uppertail.

Another lovely landscape: this time a field full of Common Poppies near Lake Kerkini. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica) – Four wary birds on a lagoon at the Evros delta decamped shortly after we pulled up. In flight, this species doesn't show the striking patterned wings of the next one, nor the strong contrast between tail and rump. It's a true vagrant in Greece, so seeing four was a bit of a surprise!
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa limosa) – One foraged between a couple of Eurasian Curlews on the Evros delta, it's long, slightly-upturned pink-based bill making it immediately distinguishable from its larger neighbors. This species overwinters in parts of Greece, and migrates through the country in good numbers; most are long gone by the time of our tour though.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – Small numbers on scattered days, foraging among other shorebirds at Ptelea lagoon and the Porto Lagos saltworks, with another trio standing on a broken concrete pier at the Kalochori wetlands.
RUFF (Calidris pugnax) – A small number -- including a couple of black and brick-red males, and a least one white-ruffed male -- poked and prodded among a group of Eurasian Oystercatchers on the Evros delta. Their habit of rucking-up their back feathers while feeding is a good field mark for this species.
BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER (Calidris falcinellus) – Two foraging among a close group of Curlew Sandpipers were a reward for scrambling up a two-story sand mound near Ptelea Lagoon (which we'd done to get a better look at the Slender-billed Gulls). This is scarce passage migrant in Europe.
CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) – Easily the most common shorebird of the trip, with hundreds sprinkled across the lagoons and salt pans of the Aegean coast. Many were already in their striking brick­-red breeding plumage.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba) – A little group of 8 foraged among the multitude of Curlew Sandpipers at Ptelea lagoon, looking decidedly pale in comparison.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – One, showing the black belly of its breeding plumage, lurked among a big flock of Curlew Sandpipers at Ptelea lagoon.
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta) – This was the common small shorebird on the Evros delta, Ptelea lagoon and Porto Lagos saltworks. Many were already in their strikingly rusty breeding plumage.
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos) – Scattered individuals around Lake Mitrikou, with others at the Porto Lagos saltworks (huddled on the little earthen dikes separating the ponds) and along the Strimonas River. This is the sister species of the Spotted Sandpiper of the Americas, and has the same habit of waggling its rear end, and the same stiff-winged flight style.

Getting some close looks at "perched" Pallid Swifts (resting on their bellies on nesting ledges) in Lithochoro was a treat. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

SPOTTED REDSHANK (Tringa erythropus) – Very common on the Evros delta, with many flocks seen winging north and a scattering of others resting and feeding in the delta's lagoons. This species goes all black in its breeding plumage, though it shows a broad white stripe up the back when it flies.
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia) – Some of the group spotted one in flight on the Evros delta, and we found another foraging -- nearly up to its belly -- at Ptelea lagoon. This is the Old World equivalent of the Greater Yellowlegs.
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola) – Best seen along the causeway at Lake Mitrikou, where a quartet wandered along the many little sandbars, probing for tidbits. We saw others on the Evros delta and at Lake Kerkini. The bold eyebrow of this one -- and its white rump -- are distinctive.
COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus) – Some on the Evros delta, but our best views came at the Kalochori wetlands, where at least a half dozen roamed the edges of the lagoon or stood sentinel on rotting posts. Those red legs are hard to miss!
Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers)
COLLARED PRATINCOLE (Glareola pratincola) – Standing under a swirling mass of birds on the Evros delta was a bit like standing in a black-flaked snow globe! It took a bit of patience, but we eventually found some on the ground (blending in with a newly-plowed field) which gave us some good scope studies.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus) – One dark youngster floated on the sea just offshore at Alexandropouli, and a second dark youngster flapped past out towards the horizon, stopping its journey at one point to harass a passing tern.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SLENDER-BILLED GULL (Chroicocephalus genei) – Our first were a fly-by trio over the Evros delta, and we had another fly-by trio over the Kalochori wetlands on our way to Vergina. But our best views came at Ptelea lagoon, where we found a couple feeding right near shore, among a group of Black-headed Gulls; their long "noses" and all-white heads made them easy to pick out.
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) – Several small groups at Ptelea lagoon (where they were feeding and bathing) with one or two others on Lake Kerkini. This is a non-breeding visitor to Greece, so (as you would expect) we saw almost exclusively immature birds.

The gang checks for shorebirds on Ptelea Lagoon. Photo by participant Rick Woodruff.

LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus) – A youngster -- showing a boldly-patterned upperwing and a dark tail band -- flew past as we birded near Lake Mitrikou.
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) – Common along the coast, particularly on the Evros delta, where we saw huge flocks swirling over some of the lagoons; surprisingly, they were almost entirely young birds. We had more adults further west, particularly around Fanari and Porto Lagos.
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (MICHAHELLIS) (Larus michahellis michahellis) – Very common throughout the trip, missed only on the day we spent in the Dadia forest. This species was split from the Herring Gull complex relatively recently.
LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons) – One of the most common terns of the trip, seen in many wet spots along the coast, with others at Lake Kerkini. This is the smallest of Europe's terns; its small size, yellow bill and white forehead patch make it easy to identify.
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica) – A few hunted over the Evros delta, and seven others flew past the causeway we walked near Lake Mitrikou. This species primarily hunts insects, rather than fish.
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia) – One of these big terns -- largest tern species in the world -- flew over the far side of one of the lagoons on the Evros delta, and another loafed on a sand bar at Ptelea lagoon, dwarfing the nearby Little and Sandwich terns. Normally this species is long gone by the time of our tour; they breed far to the north in Scandinavia.
BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger) – Small numbers swirled over lagoons on the Evros delta and along the shallow arms of Lake Mitrikou and Lake Kerkini, often mingling with White-winged Terns. This species has more uniformly-colored upperparts than does the next, with a gray, rather than white, rump and tail.
WHITE-WINGED TERN (Chlidonias leucopterus) – Far more common than the previous species at Lake Mitrikou and Lake Kerkini, with others at Ptelea lagoon. Unlike the Black Tern, which breeds in parts of Greece, this species is a transient migrant.
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida) – Surprisingly rare this year, with only a single bird (still in non-breeding plumage) seen on the Evros delta, and a couple of birds seen briefly along the eastern shore of Lake Mitrikou. This species normally breeds along our tour route, so their absence was puzzling.
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo) – Appropriately (given the name) this was the most common tern of the trip, seen in wetlands throughout the tour. Those hunting the lagoons and channels near our picnic lunch spot on the Evros delta gave us especially good chance for study -- as did the birds that perched each morning on the net strung out from the Lithotopos harbor.

Mount Olympus in the early morning sunshine, with the town of Lithochoro lying at its feet (and a few Common Swifts zipping by). Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis) – One stood among a mixed group of terns on a sandbar at the Ptelea lagoon, allowing nice comparisons with its neighbors.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – The feral descendants of the region's original population were ubiquitous; as a result, it's highly unlikely any truly wild birds still exist along our tour route.
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus) – A few of these big pigeons flew past in dribs and drabs around Lake Kerkini. Their huge size -- and the noticeable white slash in their wing -- make them easy to pick out from Greece's other pigeons and doves.
EUROPEAN TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia turtur) – We heard the distinctive purring call of this species on several days, and spotted a few flying past at Doriskos and around Lake Mitrikou; those black underwings are pretty noticeable! But our best views came at Lake Kerkini, where we found four perched in a tree along the edge of the lake's north end. Their rusty-edged mantle feathers are distinctive.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) – Very nearly ubiquitous, found every day in a great variety of habitats. We found plenty of nests too, including one within arm's reach in a tiny street tree just outside the Parthenon hotel. [N]
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus) – Common and widespread across Greece, though heard far more frequently than seen. We did get nice views of a couple of birds interacting along a track near Lake Kerkini, and found our last singing from the top of an Italian cypress up the hill from our Delphi hotel on the final pre-breakfast walk of the trip.
Strigidae (Owls)
LITTLE OWL (Athene noctua) – Our very own owl whisperer spotted one a day for much of the first part of the trip, giving us multiple chances to study them in the scopes -- nicely done, April! Some of the gang spotted one in a tree right beside the road as we headed back to the hotel after our failed Cretzschmar's Bunting search; unfortunately, it fled before we backed up to where it had been perched.
LONG-EARED OWL (Asio otus) – A wide-eyed youngster in a tree at a campground near Fanari was a surprise. We were expecting a Tawny Owl chick based on probability (and our initial view of its back gave us nothing to suspect otherwise), but another vantage point for the scopes on the walk back to the hotel showed telltale orange eyes -- definitely not a Tawny Owl then! [N]

Nesting season was well underway for these Western Rock Nuthatches, which were nesting right on the ruins at Delphi, within yards of the milling mobs of tourists! Photo by participant Bill Murphy.

Apodidae (Swifts)
ALPINE SWIFT (Apus melba) – Some raked back and forth along the edge of the Acropolis, and others zoomed over the highest parking lot on Mount Olympus. With a 22-inch wingspan, this definitely qualifies as a BIG swift.
COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus) – Easily the most common swift of the trip, seen every day. The hundreds swarming over Lithochoro provided particularly good, close views.
PALLID SWIFT (Apus pallidus) – Our best views came in Lithochoro, not far from our hotel at the base of Mount Olympus; screaming flocks of this and the previous species swept back and forth over the town, allowing nice direct comparisons. And when we found a little group nesting on a ledge under an eave on a building, we could even put a couple in the scope -- not a common occurrence with a swift! [N]
Upupidae (Hoopoes)
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops) – Seen or heard every day of the trip, including one in a little tree right among the heaving mobs on the Acropolis (and a second flying past there in a flurry of black-and-white wings) and another singing challenges from a telephone pole on Mount Parnassos.
Meropidae (Bee-eaters)
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER (Merops apiaster) – Many satisfying encounters with these gorgeous creatures, with especially nice views of a colony along the Strimonas River (sitting right on the ground next to their burrow entrances) and others hunting along the little river along the road to the quarry south of Lithotopos. This is definitely eye candy of the highest order! [N]
Coraciidae (Rollers)
EUROPEAN ROLLER (Coracias garrulus) – Particularly common on the roadside wires along the highway between Alexandropouli and Soufli our first afternoon, with others hunting (with a flash of turquoise wings) over the marshes on the Evros delta. Their big-headed, thick-necked profile is distinctive.

A singing Corn Bunting shows us the distinctive "prong" along the edge of its beak as it sings. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)
EURASIAN WRYNECK (Jynx torquilla) – It took a lot of patience and persistence -- and some methodical tracking-down of distant calls -- but we finally connected with one of these bizarre woodpeckers on Mount Parnassos. And we got nice views in the end, when it dropped down to the wildflower-studded grass to feed.
WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos leucotos) – Finding two of these on Mount Parnassos was definitely a surprise; they occur on higher mountains across the country, but their numbers are low and they're generally higher than we get on our tour. Fortunately, we stumbled across a calling pair near the turnoff to one of the ski stations. Unfortunately, we never really got "THE look" at them, as our views consisted of them flying back and forth across the road. Their big white rump patch (and lack of big white wing patches) helps to separate them from the next few species.
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos major) – One along the track at Lake Kerkini was reasonably cooperative, hitching up a tree fairly close to the road.
SYRIAN WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos syriacus) – Seen on each morning's pre-breakfast walk around Soufli and Fanari, including one peeking around a telephone pole behind an abandoned house in Soufli one morning. This is the eastern sister species of the previous widespread European woodpecker, and is found in Europe only in a small corner of Greece.
BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius) – We heard a very distant bird calling high on Mount Parnassos, but it took quite a while before we finally located one -- at our picnic lunch spot on the mountain. It flew in and landed on a dead snag near the clearing, giving us fine views. That's a big bird!
EURASIAN GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis) – One swirled around us in the Doriskos picnic grove, showing well for some and only in flight for others. Bill saw another at Lake Kerkini, and we heard one calling several times on Mount Parnassos.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
LESSER KESTREL (Falco naumanni) – It took us a while to find them (a long, ANXIOUS while for your guides) but we finally connected with a close group hunting over some farm fields near the border town of Kalamokastro. This species is far paler on the underwing than the next species (with dark markings at the very tip of the wing), and the blue panel in the upperwing of the males was clearly visible.

The graceful arches of a 17th-century bridge no longer quite span the Iasmos gorge. Photo by participant Wolfgang Demisch.

EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus) – Regular throughout Greece, seen every day of the tour. There appeared to be several nests in the crevices on a cliff west of Delphi (near the Rock Petronia colony). [N]
RED-FOOTED FALCON (Falco vespertinus) – A male glided past on the Evros delta, and we spotted a pair briefly over the lake just up the road from our Fanari hotel on one pre-breakfast walk. We spotted another male circling overhead at Lake Kerkini. This small falcon is primarily an insect-eater.
ELEONORA'S FALCON (Falco eleonorae) – A dark-morph bird made sweeping circles above us as we birded along the road on Mount Olympus, precipitating our fastest exit yet from the bus we had nearly all just climbed back onto! Fortunately, it stayed in view long enough that everyone got to see it. We saw another two spiraling over the cliffs visible from the parking lot at the end of the road a bit higher up the mountain. This is a late-nesting species that breeds primarily on islands in the Mediterranean; it picks off the southbound migrants to feed its young!
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – One circled around over Ptelea lagoon for a few minutes, creating chaos in the shorebird flocks below. Bill saw another on Mount Olympus.
Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri) – A couple of screeching birds flew past as we headed for the Parthenon museum on the first morning of the tour. This species has been introduced to various places throughout Europe. [I]
Laniidae (Shrikes)
RED-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius collurio) – Easily the most common shrike of the tour, seen on most days, often in pairs. This is the smallest of Greece's regularly-occurring shrikes.
LESSER GRAY SHRIKE (Lanius minor) – Two in a bush along the road back out of the Evros delta stopped us in our tracks. They gave us a great chance to study them in the scopes before flying even closer. This is the plainest of the tour's decidedly colorful shrikes (and the species that looks the most like our North American shrikes) though that pinkish belly is certainly different!

Lake Kerkini is a prime spot for seeing Dalmatian Pelicans. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

MASKED SHRIKE (Lanius nubicus) – Our first was a very distant bird perched above the vulture scrum at the Dadia raptor feeding station. Fortunately, we had much better views of one on some dead branches at the top of a pine hear the Lithotopos harbor, and of another tangling with a Woodchat Shrike in a quarry just south of Lake Kerkini.
WOODCHAT SHRIKE (Lanius senator) – Another widespread species, with especially nice studies of a pair at Doriskos and of others on the dry hillsides around Delphi.
Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)
EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus oriolus) – Fairly regular on the first half of the tour, with many more heard (a lovely liquid warble) than seen. Some great spotting by Wolfgang netted us our first in a tree across a field at Dadia, and we spotted others perched around Lake Kerkini and in flight at Fanari and Iasmos.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius) – Regular in small numbers throughout much of the tour, with particularly nice studies of a couple bouncing around on the ground in the beech grove on Mount Olympus. This species is certainly a lot quieter than North America's jays are!
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica) – Common and widespread, missing only from the drier hillsides around Delphi. They were often in noisy groups, including some with shorter-tailed youngsters in tow.
YELLOW-BILLED CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax graculus) – A single bird flew past as we admired our first Black Redstarts. The yellow bill was clearly visible as it slowed up to check us out. Normally, this social species is found in at least small groups; I'm not sure why this one was alone!
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula) – Abundant everywhere but Delphi, with scope studies of several near the Evros delta, and good looks at others strung along a line near the edge of Lithochoro (where they're nesting in a cliff near the park). The pale eyes of this species, and its frosty gray nape, are distinctive.
HOODED CROW (Corvus cornix) – Common and widespread throughout, though never in very large numbers. The subtle two-toned look of this species made them easy to quickly ID.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – Scattered pairs over the Dadia forest, with another noisy duo over the pine grove near the Lithotopos harbor one morning.
Alaudidae (Larks)
CALANDRA LARK (Melanocorypha calandra) – One hovered high over some agricultural fields near the Porto Lagos saltworks, raining its lovely song down on us. With the scopes, we got nice views of its long, pointed wings with the black underwings and white trailing edges.
WOOD LARK (Lullula arborea) – Two preening in a tree across an agricultural field near Dadia showed nicely in the scopes, and Joyce spotted us another one perched atop a tiny shrub at our first stop on Mount Parnassos, where we also heard the lovely descending warbles of one in display flight high overhead.
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis) – Common on the Evros delta, where we had good looks at some flicking along the roadsides and others high overhead in display flights; they hang in one place long enough while doing so that we could even get some of them in the scopes! This species has a uniformly grayish underwing, with a narrow white trailing edge to the wing.
CRESTED LARK (Galerida cristata) – Very common for much of the trip, with dozens on the Evros delta and others seen well chasing each other around in the fields around the Porto Lagos saltworks. The rather short, rounded wings of this species (with peach-colored underwings) -- and the distinctive pointed crest -- help to separate it from the other larks seen on this tour.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) – Big flocks quartered low over the waters of the Evros delta (canals and lagoons alike), and we saw smaller numbers over Lake Mitrikou, at the Porto Lagos saltworks and along the Strimonas River east of Lake Kerkini. This species is known as the Sand Martin in Europe.
EURASIAN CRAG-MARTIN (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) – A few coursed back and forth over the river in the Iasmos gorge, and we had extended scope views of a couple preening on the cliffs there.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – Abundant throughout, seen in good numbers every day of the tour -- including some with nests on buildings near our Soufli, Lithochoro and Dadia hotels. [N]
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW (Cecropis daurica) – Another common species, generally seen in flight. We had great scope looks at a couple of perched birds under the "front porch" roof of a partially-completed building near our hotel in Delphi.

The Athenian Treasury building at Delphi commanded a prime corner at the former "center of the world". Photo by participant Sarah Carlson.

COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum) – Another species seen in good numbers every day, with the birds nesting under the eaves of a house near our Soufli hotel and the mobs under the highway bridge at Iasmos giving us especially good chances to study them. [N]
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
COAL TIT (Periparus ater) – One clung upside down to several pine cones while its mate checked out nearby needle clumps along the road on Mount Olympus -- nice spotting, Alice! This looks like many of our North American chickadees, but with a particularly large bib and a big white patch on the nape.
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus) – A couple of birds flitted through the pines along the same stretch of road on Mount Olympus where we found our first Coal Tits. The peaked crest on this species is unique among Europe's tits.
SOMBRE TIT (Poecile lugubris) – Our first were a little group working through trees beside some houses just up the hill from our Delphi hotel. Most of the group caught up with some very close birds near the entrance to the ruins later in the morning, and we finally caught everybody up with a bird just down the hill from our roadside perch west of town on the last morning of the tour. That latter bird really showed us its dark brown cap nicely.
MARSH TIT (Poecile palustris) – A couple of birds in the lovely beech forest where we first stopped on Mount Olympus made us work, but we got there in the end! This species has a tiny bib -- really more of a little moustache than a bib.
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Seen on scattered days throughout the tour, with our best views coming near the Eurasian Wryneck spot on Mount Parnassos, when we found a pair foraging low in some bushes right beside the road.
GREAT TIT (Parus major) – Easily the most common tit of the tour, seen in virtually every habitat ­­-- even the middle of town! We found a few nesting birds, including one balanced in a perfectly round hole in a tree near the entrance of the Fanari campground, and another provisioning youngsters in a nest along the sidewalk leading to the Delphi ruins. [N]
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)
EURASIAN PENDULINE-TIT (Remiz pendulinus) – Our first was a tiny male singing loudly from the top of a Giant Reed stem along the causeway we walked near Lake Mitrikou. Fortunately (for those who were lagging behind there), we found another male flitting around in some poplar and willow trees along the track we walked near Lake Kerkini. We also found one of the big, fluffy nests of this species (constructed of such things as cattail fluff and poplar seed fluff) on the Evros delta.

Picnic lunches are the order of the day on this tour. Photo by participant Bill Murphy.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus) – A noisy family party near the Agios Dionysios monastery parking lot on Mount Olympus approached to within mere yards of the group, giving us fine views.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea) – A nesting pair with partially grown youngsters -- big enough to stick themselves out of the nest hole periodically -- entertained us when we first arrived at the parking lot of the Agios Dionysios monastery on Mount Olympus. Like many nuthatches, this species reuses old woodpecker holes, filling the entry hole in with mud to make it smaller ­­-- just big enough for a nuthatch to squeeze through. [N]
WESTERN ROCK NUTHATCH (Sitta neumayer) – Our first was an initially elusive bird on the huge cliff wall near our Rock Petronia colony; we heard it for many long minutes before we finally found it perched on a stony ridge. But we couldn't have gotten much closer on our second encounter; we found an active nest (with at least one nearly-ready-to-fledge youngster yammering enthusiastically at the entrance) with two busy parents bringing mouthful after mouthful -- right at eye level on one of the ruins at Delphi! [N]
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Certhia brachydactyla) – We heard the high-pitched song of one along the road in the Dadia forest, and soon located the singer hitching up a nearby trunk; it investigated a whole series of trunks while we watched. If one of these showed up in the US, most of us would probably overlook it (unless it sang) because they're mighty similar to Brown Creepers.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
EURASIAN WREN (Troglodytes troglodytes) – We heard one high on Mount Parnassos, and located a second, singing his heart out from the top of a fir along the road. This species was split from the former Winter Wren complex -- and is currently considered to be the only wren species in all of Europe and Asia! The bird we saw belongs to the nominate subspecies troglodytes.

A ruined Apollonia watch tower still stands along the Aegean coast -- not far from where we finally found our Yelkouan Shearwaters. Photo by participant Sharon Woodruff.

Regulidae (Kinglets)
FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla) – Superb views of some eye level birds on Mount Olympus, including one with his bright crown stripe flared and another with a mouthful of food foraging in a little spruce tree as we climbed down to the stream below the Agios Dionysios monastery. They were almost ridiculously common in the forests on Mount Parnassos, singing from every side as we birded along the road.
Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)
CETTI'S WARBLER (Cettia cetti) – After hearing dozens (and dozens and dozens!) singing on the Evros delta without getting more than fleeting glimpses of them as they zipped from dense shrub to reed bed to bramble patch, we came across the world's most mellow bird along the causeway at Lake Mitrikou. It repeatedly sat up at the very top of the Giant Reed grass stems, clearly having flunked "How to be a Cetti's Warbler 101".
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
EASTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER (Phylloscopus orientalis) – We worked HARD to get a look at this one, following a singing bird around on a hillside in the Dadia forest. Eventually, we found the epicenter of its territory, and waited while it made repeated circuits, often perching only feet off the ground while it foraged. Then we went to have our picnic lunch in Doriskos, where we found multiple singing birds in the picnic grove, in a place that I've never had them before! Needless to say, they were much easier to spot there.
Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)
EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER (Iduna pallida) – Very common for the first part of the trip, singing from dense bushes, bramble patches and scrub from the Evros delta to the harbor at Lake Kerkini. We had plenty of good scope studies, including some around the town of Soufli. The long yellow bill of this otherwise fairly plain species is distinctive.
OLIVE-TREE WARBLER (Hippolais olivetorum) – We heard one singing along a back road near Dadia (a place that didn't seem to have much in the way of appropriate habitat nearby) and eventually pulled it in for some good views. Mysteriously, it was missing completely from the oak and olive grove that makes up the Doriskos picnic area -- where we normally see lots.
SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) – One in a reed bed edging a lagoon at Fanari was nicely cooperative, sitting up more or less in plain view for long minutes. This species is more distinctively marked than the next, though their songs can be quite similar.
EURASIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) – A handful on the Evros delta, including some in good comparison with the next species on our walk before lunch.

Yellow-legged Gulls are common across the country -- even over the highlands of Mount Parnassos (which is, of course, only miles from the sea as the gull flies). Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

GREAT REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) – These big, showy warblers are typically a lot easier to see than their smaller cousins, mostly because they sit right up at the top of the reeds to sing; their bright red mouth lining is certainly eye-catching! We had them on the Evros delta and at Lake Mitrikou, with others along the north end of Lake Kerkini.
Sylviidae (Sylviid Warblers)
EURASIAN BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla) – Surprisingly tough to see this year. We had a furtive female lurking low in some bushes at the edge of Soufli on our first pre-breakfast walk, and heard others around Dadia. Some of the group spotted a singing male near the river at Prionia on Mount Olympus, but he proved singularly uncooperative.
LESSER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia curruca) – Fabulous views of a male singing in a little tree on Mount Parnassos, not far from where we turned off to head up to the ski stations. Males of this species are much plainer overall than are male Greater Whitethroats, lacking the rufous in the wings and the contrast between white throat and pink breast.
EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER (Sylvia crassirostris) – One of these big warblers flicked along a hedgerow on the back side of a field near Dadia -- nice spotting, Rick W! It eventually sat right out in the open, allowing good scope views; that pale eye on a dark face is distinctive. We found another bird at Doriskos, not far from where we found our Ortolan Bunting.
RŸUEPPELL'S WARBLER (Sylvia ruppeli) – After missing them around Delphi, we connected with a territorial male right at the edge of the mountain block at our first stop on Mount Parnassos.
SUBALPINE WARBLER (Sylvia cantillans) – A couple of birds west of Delphi were apparently attending a nest, repeatedly passing us with mouths full of insects. Males of the subspecies found in Greece -- albistriata -- are less rufous on the underparts than are birds from further west on the continent.
SARDINIAN WARBLER (Sylvia melanocephala) – We heard the scratch song of one from the bushes around the Acropolis, but didn't have time to winkle it out before heading for the hotel (and the airport). Fortunately, we found others west of Delphi, getting nice looks at several perched-up males.
GREATER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia communis) – Fairly common throughout much of the tour, though always in low numbers. We had our best views on the Evros delta, where a singing bird kept returning to the same singing posts all around where we were standing while we watched the pratincoles.

We have chances for half a dozen buntings on this tour -- including the lovely Black-headed Bunting in the eastern part of the country. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa striata) – This declining species is still gratifyingly common in Greece; we saw it nearly every day! We had especially nice looks at one singing each morning from television antennas and tree tops near our Delphi hotel. Despite its name, it's really more streaked than spotted.
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula) – For those who've encountered these charming little birds in the UK, Greece's robins seem unaccountably shy; they're heard far more regularly than they're seen. However, we did spot one near our first Eastern Bonelli's Warbler in the Dadia forest (it sat at the very tip of a dead snag up the hill from the road) and had even better views of another in the beech forest on Mount Olympus.
COMMON NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos) – The loud song of this widespread species was certainly a regular part of the tour's soundtrack, heard everywhere but around Delphi. We got multiple views of the singers (which doesn't happen easily unless the birds are full of testosterone) including some sitting right out on telephone wires in Soufli.
COMMON REDSTART (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) – Rick W. spotted a male while birding around the picnic grove at Doriskos before lunch. Unfortunately, we couldn't relocate it after eating.
BLACK REDSTART (Phoenicurus ochruros) – Our first was a male April spotted on a stony hillside in one of the ski resorts on Mount Parnassos; eventually, he moved up to a dead snag at the top of an evergreen. His female soon made an appearance as well. She's decidedly plainer, though she still sports the quivering red tail that gives the species its common name. ("Staart" is the Dutch word for tail.)
RUFOUS-TAILED ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola saxatilis) – A male flitted from perch to perch across a rocky hillside at the Mount Parnassos ski resort, eventually ending up on a boulder which was the size of 3-story office building with a big splash of distinctive, orange, nitrophilic lichen at the top, a clear signal that this is a regular perching stone -- another nice spot by April!
BLUE ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola solitarius) – Our first was a male singing from the top of a rocky cliff overlooking the Iasmos gorge. We found others doing the same on various clifftops around Delphi -- as well as some perched on television antennas, gutters and rooftops right in town.
WHINCHAT (Saxicola rubetra) – Our first were a somewhat distant pair hunting from some tall, rank weeds along the back edge of an agricultural field near Dadia. We had much closer views of a female perched atop a fence at Doriskos, with another at Lake Kerkini. This species breeds in parts of highland Greece.

Another day, another gorgeous view! This one's at Lake Kerkini, right on the border with Bulgaria. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

EUROPEAN STONECHAT (Saxicola rubicola rubicola) – One hunted from the tops of thistles and small shrubs in a grassy field on Mount Parnassos.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) – We had increasingly better views of several on Mount Parnassos -- one well up the hill near the shrine at our first stop, then a male sharing a rock with the Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush at the ski resort.
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR (Oenanthe hispanica) – Seen on scattered days throughout the tour, including our first right near the parking lot for the Dadia Forest visitor's center, a few on the dry, rocky slopes of Doriskos, one singing from the cliffs at Iasmos gorge, a few in the quarry south of Lithotopos, and a busy pair ferrying mouthfuls of food to an out-of-sight nest west of Delphi.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula) – Regular in small numbers throughout the tour, including one singing from a shrubby evergreen right outside the Parthenon museum.
SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos) – We heard the distinctly mockingbird-like song of this thrush on several days, but never managed to lay eyes on more than a fleeting shape fleeing through the forest. [*]
MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus) – A few got quick glimpses of one flying past in the Dadia forest on our second attempt at Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, and we all got scope views of others on Mount Parnassos. We saw a number of birds carrying food at the latter location, so there were clearly youngsters somewhere! This species is larger and grayer than the previous, with a paler face and round (rather than arrowhead-shaped) spots. [N]
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) – Common and widespread everywhere but around Delphi, where they're decidedly uncommon. This species is in steep decline over much of Europe, for reasons not entirely clear. [N]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (FELDEGG) (Motacilla flava feldegg) – Common around wet spots on the first part of the trip, particularly on the Evros delta (where we saw dozens) and along the Magazi River near Dadia. Males of this subspecies are greenish above and entirely yellow below with a jet-black face, crown and nape -- handsome little creatures!

A half-dozen species of tits -- including the endearing Eurasian Blue Tit -- call Greece home. Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

GRAY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea) – Two chased each other around the parking lot at Prionia, high on Mount Olympus. This is the longest-tailed of Europe's wagtails.
WHITE WAGTAIL (WHITE-FACED) (Motacilla alba alba) – A gang of plain youngsters waggled along the stony edge of the Magazi River, with a couple of dark-bibbed adults making occasional quick visits. We saw more around Lithotopos, particularly down near the harbor, where one adult regularly checked out all the boats for tasty morsels.
TAWNY PIPIT (Anthus campestris) – A singing bird sat at the top of a distant small shrub at our first stop on Mount Parnassos. No pipit is particularly bright, but this one is plain even by pipit standards!
Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)
CIRL BUNTING (Emberiza cirlus) – Most common on the second part of the tour, with particularly nice views of one sitting on a sign in a roadside park in Lithotopos, just down the hill from our hotel. They were quite common around Delphi, where their Pine Warbler-like song was a regular part of the tour's soundtrack.
ROCK BUNTING (Emberiza cia) – One sitting atop a rocky little cliff at the ski resort on Mount Parnassos fled to a huge tree shortly after being spotted. Fortunately, Bill spotted it again few minutes later, sitting on a branch right in the open. This species is resident in much of Greece's highlands.
ORTOLAN BUNTING (Emberiza hortulana) – Lovely views of this declining species on a grassy hillside outside Doriskos. It flitted through some nearby scrub and bounced along a lichen-splattered gray rock, giving us leisurely scope views.
CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING (Emberiza caesia) – Arg! We heard one singing far down the hill on our first visit to the dry slopes west of Delphi, but by the time we'd moved a few switchbacks lower it had gone quiet. We never heard it again, even though we tried another visit (and tried some other good-looking spots too) on our final morning. [*]
BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (Emberiza melanocephala) – Plenty of good looks at this handsome species on the first half of the trip, including some singing from bush tops along the Evros delta circuit and a courting pair along a quiet road outside Dadia. What a stunner!
REED BUNTING (Emberiza schoeniclus) – A male sang from the top of some reeds along the track we followed in the Evros delta, showing nicely in the scopes for a bit before dropping down out of sight. This isn't a species we see very often on this tour.

Watching for Rueppell's Warblers on the flanks of Mount Parnassos... Photo by participant Neil Wingert.

CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra) – This species, on the other hand is common across much of northern Greece -- which is great as it's declining precipitously across much of its range as its habitat is converted to monoculture agriculture. The "broken glass tinkle" of its song was a regular part of the tour soundtrack. We had nice views of its distinctively "pronged" beak through the scopes on several occasions.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs) – Common across much of our tour route, missing only from Athens and the coast. The very tame bird in the Prionia parking lot (which continued to feed as people walked within feet of it) was particularly obliging. This one's song was another regular part of the tour soundtrack.
EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris) – Regular through most of the tour, with particularly good studies of several industriously nest-building pairs in the Italian cypress trees around Delphi. The subspecies in Greece -- aurantiiventris -- is much yellower overall than are more northern populations.
EURASIAN LINNET (Linaria cannabina) – A trio of birds on a utility wire at our first stop on Mount Parnassos allowed everyone a scope view from a couple of different angles before bounding off over the hillside. Surprisingly, these were the only ones we found on the mountain.
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis) – Abundant throughout, seen repeatedly in flight (where its long yellow wing stripe is distinctive) and from just about every conceivable angle while perched. We saw a plain-faced youngster on a concrete wall in Delphi on one of our pre-breakfast walks there.
EUROPEAN SERIN (Serinus serinus) – A nicely yellow male sang from a pine tree in the early morning sun during a pre-breakfast walk in Lithochoro, and another made a brief appearance over our heads while we were otherwise distracted by White-backed Woodpeckers.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – This species is declining over most of Europe -- but appears to be going strong in Greece; it was everywhere!
SPANISH SPARROW (Passer hispaniolensis) – Very common until we reached Mount Olympus and Delphi, with lovely looks at some males foraging in the scruffy parking lots on the edge of Soufli. This species nests by the dozen in "apartment blocks" carved out of White Stork nests. [N]
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) – Regular through much of the trip (though not seen in Athens, Fanari or the Evros delta), with nice views of some "ear-muffed" males on wires at the edge of Soufli.

Common Mallow, just one of the dozens of wildflowers we enjoyed this year. Photo by participant Rick Woodruff.

ROCK PETRONIA (Petronia petronia) – We heard plenty of chirping at the longstanding colony west of Delphi, but only spotted a few birds -- which we managed to get into the scopes. This species was known as "Rock Sparrow" until quite recently.

EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris) – Those who ventured out for the pre-breakfast walk in Lithochoro spotted a melanistic example of this species in the park just down the road from our hotel.
NUTRIA (Myocastor coypus) – Our first paddled across a pond on the Evros delta, and another did the same at Lake Kerkini. This species was brought to Europe to raise for the fur trade, and were released into the wild both intentionally (when fur farms ceased operating) and unintentionally (when animals escaped). [I]
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus) – At least one (probably more than one) surfaced several times off the coast at Alexandropouli; good spotting Neil!
RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) – An inquisitive youngster peered from taller vegetation along the edge of the road near the quarry south of Lithotopos -- nice spotting Rick W! Unfortunately, though we reversed back to get a better look, it scuttled off out of view after only a few seconds.
NOSE-HORNED VIPER (Vipera ammodytes) – We found one, sadly squashed in the road, on our last morning as we searched for Cretzschmar's Bunting. Unfortunately, its distinctive horn was rather tough to see (since the head was pretty mashed) but the pattern on the upperside of the body is distinctive.
RED-EARED SLIDER (Trachemys scripta elegans) – One lurked between a couple of European Pond Turtles along the edge of the Magazi River near Dadia. This is an American species that has been introduced all over Europe -- a relic of the 1980s "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" craze. [I]
EUROPEAN POND TURTLE (Emys orbicularis) – These were the smooth-shelled terrapins covered in little yellow speckles; we saw them hauled out on rocks along the Magazi River and along the edges of Lake Kerkini.
MARGINATED TORTOISE (Testudo marginata) – We found one ambling along the path as we exited the Acropolis. This native species has quite a restricted range, found only in Greece, Italy and the Balkans. It's Europe's biggest tortoise.
BALKAN (GREEK MARSH) FROG (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri) – The big frogs we saw (and heard) all across the wetlands of Greece were all this species. This genus has twin air sacs just behind their ears, while the Rana frogs have a throat pouch.
EUROPEAN GREEN LIZARD (Lacerta viridis) – Alice spotted one while waiting for us to return from our ramble on a Doriskos hillside, and some of the rest of the group saw another flash across a track on Mount Parnassos. This was the larger of the lizards we spotted on this trip.
ERHARD'S WALL LIZARD (Podarcis erhardii) – Very, very common on Mount Olympus and Mount Parnassos, with a few others west of Delphi. These lizards are principally brown (sometimes greener, as with the one that chased the laser dot spot along the bridge railing), and are distinguished by two creamy-yellow lines that run down their sides.
COMMON TREEFROG (Hyla arborea) – The tiny, bright green froglets we found climbing through the grasses along the edge of the track we walked near Lake Kerkini were this species, which is also known as European Tree Frog. They don't get much bigger as adults, with males reaching 1.3 - 1.7 inches, and females reaching 1.6 - 2.0 inches.


Totals for the tour: 191 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa