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Kefallonia, Greece 22nd June - 6th July 2010

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Old Friday 9th July 2010, 18:35   #1
davidg
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Kefallonia, Greece 22nd June - 6th July 2010

We stayed at the Crystal Palace hotel in the southern town of Skala. I can’t recommend the hotel highly enough and Skala is a good choice for a family holiday as others seemed very crowded eg Fiscardo, whilst some were almost deserted eg Poros. There were plenty of bars and tavernas in the town although other night life seemed pretty limited.

From a birdwatching point-of-view I went to Kefallonia with fairly low expectations and sadly they were met with just 44 species recorded over the two weeks. On our first day I went for an early morning walk in a promising-looking valley just behind the hotel and recorded just 7 species in 2 hours. Jays, Sardinian Warblers and Great Tits where everywhere with Barn Swallows and House Martins hawking overhead. Three Common Buzzards were resident at the head of the valley and their call could be heard from the hotel. The only excitement provided was a distant Woodchat Shrike seen from the hotel balcony (the balcony proved to be the single best place for birdwatching on the island with 22 species recorded!). Our first day saw wet and windy weather sweeping through in the afternoon bringing with it a large flock of Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts which darted low over the hotel and out to sea two Cory’s Shearwaters flew close in.

A trip to the island capital Argostoli added Mute Swan to my Greece list but the main attraction was the Loggerhead Turtles in the harbour. Three have learnt to come up to the moored fishing boats and came to within a few feet and for me were worth the trip to Kefallonia alone. Back at the balcony Kestrel, Peregrine and Orphean Warbler were all added to the list as was the star bird of the trip. On our first night I’d seen what I thought was a Nightjar fly low over the hotel but the view was very brief. A couple of nights later, sitting on the trusty balcony, I heard at least three birds churring but sadly didn’t see one again. When he found out that I was a birdwatcher the hotel owner, Nikos, told me of a bird that was a nightly visitor to the hotel swimming pool where it would hover briefly before dipping down to drink. Of course despite staking out the pool bar on most nights (not the most arduous of twitches) I never saw the bird but from Nikos’ description I’m fairly sure it was a Nightjar, perhaps picking dead insects from the pool surface.

We hired a 4x4 for a trip up the unfortunately named Mount Aenos. A glorious day with views to die for but sadly few birds and certainly no Black Woodpecker which lives in the dense forest up here. The birdwatching started off well with Ortolan Bunting, Linnet and Northern Wheatear seen near the satellite dishes at the entrance to the national park. Subsequently just Great and Coal Tit were seen in some numbers but a Robin was heard singing on several occasions. On our way back to Skala we flushed a pair of Chukar with young from the roadside near Sami and had a single Cirl Bunting on overhead wires. A stop off at Avithos Lake(‘bottomless’ lake) in Aghios Nikolaos provided great views of Emperor dragonflies and 2-3 Squacco Herons called from the reeds but didn’t show. I suspect a longer visit early in the morning might be good here but I didn’t get the opportunity.
After one day we traded in the 4x4 for a standard Fiesta-type car for touring the rest of the island. Livadi marsh proved to be disappointing with just Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt and Grey Heron present. South of Lixouri was good for Zitting Cisticola and Woodchat Shrike. Don’t be tempted to visit the ‘famous’ moving stones of Kuonopetra - they don’t!

Other sites that had been recommended to me included Tzanata reservoir (7 Little Grebes and a Yellow-legged Gull) and Karavomilos Lake which we couldn’t find, the single signpost to the lake pointing out to sea!
In summary, Kefallonia is a beautiful island, well worth visiting but a birding paradise it ain’t. It took me two weeks to amass a birdlist of 44 species – when I got home it took me less than 45 minutes to see 44 species whilst walking the dog!

When not birdwatching do go to Mount Aenos for fabulous views; to Kaminia beach for the swimming and the beautiful beach bar; to Avithos Lake for the dragonflies. Don’t go on the boat trip to Zakynthos, nothing happens; to Myrtos beach, it’s ghastly; to Poros, it’s a ghost town.


Little Grebe – 7 at Tzanata reservoir
Cory’s Shearwater – 12+ seen from Kefallonia-Zakynthos ferry; 2 seen from hotel balcony
Squacco Heron – 2-3 calling in Avithos Lake
Little Egret – 5 on Livadi marsh
Grey Heron – 3 on Livadi marsh
Mute Swan – 5+ in Argostoli lagoon
Common Buzzard – common
Honey Buzzard – pair seen over road to Myrtos beach
Sparrowhawk – one behind hotel in Skala
Kestrel – fairly common on island
Peregrine – one over hotel
Chukar – adult and young near Sami
Black-winged Stilt – 8 on Livadi marsh
Little Ringed Plover – 2 on Kaminia beach
Yellow-legged Gull – common
Feral Pigeon – in Poros town; in Melissani Lake
Collared Dove – common
Little Owl – one dead on Poros-Sami road
Nightjar – 3+ churring behind hotel, one seen flying over
Common Swift – c30 over hotel after storm
Pallid Swift – c5 over hotel after storm
Alpine Swift – c20 over hotel after storm
Crested Lark – 4-5 around hotel in Skala
House Martin – common
Barn Swallow – common
Red-rumped Swallow – common
Robin – 2-3 calling on Mt Aenos
Northern Wheatear – 4 on Mt Aenos
Blackbird – common
Orphean Warbler – 1 in scrub by hotel
Sardinian Warbler – common
Zitting Cisticola – 4-5 south of Lixouri
Great Tit – common
Coal Tit – common on Mt Aenos
Woodchat Shrike – common
Jay – common
Hooded Crow – common around Fiscardo not seen elsewhere
House Sparrow – common
Chaffinch – only seen in Poros
Linnet – 3 by puddle on Mt Aenos
Goldfinch – common
Greenfinch – only seen on Zakynthos
Ortolan Bunting – 2 by puddle on Mt Aenos
Cirl Bunting – 1 on wires near Sami
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Last edited by davidg : Friday 9th July 2010 at 19:19.
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Old Saturday 10th July 2010, 20:11   #2
Conorbirda2
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Nice report David. Only 44 Species but some nice birds there. I bet you didnt get the same quality on your dog walk in the UK!
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Old Saturday 10th July 2010, 20:31   #3
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Originally Posted by Conorbirda2 View Post
I bet you didnt get the same quality on your dog walk in the UK!
True, and no turtle in the river either!

David
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Old Sunday 11th July 2010, 09:38   #4
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Orphean Warbler always a highlight IMO !!
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Old Monday 26th July 2010, 11:20   #5
AndyPF
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Smile Kefalonia, 9 July to 24 July

Davidg,

Just got back from family summer holiday in the same area: Spartia, south kefalonia. I really enjoy my birdwatching (but this is never primary hols objective just a little something for me to get thrilled about around the villa or travelling about the island). I especially like to spy species that are rare in UK (ie. I can really identify them easily - other species I try to log all relevant details then match back at home). I would say, to use a footy analogy, that I'm League 1 compared to your Prem League creds and birdlisting skills. However, the following were all firsts for me: Woodchat Shrike (saw many times around villa not timid), Hoopoe (lots of times - spectacular but timid), Bee-eaters (hundreds on fone lines and noisily dashing around villas - almost prehistoric looking), possible Nightjar (rushed off from the pool area when I disturbed it early one evening - thought it was Merlin at first - very fleeting glimpse) - but I've saved the biggest and best to last: Short-toed Eagles daily over villas and shrubland. Interestingly, a week earlier there'd been a wildfire which had destroyed a hundred acres-ish close to the villa and this had dramatically effected the insect and reptile populations close by - was amazed when I got home to read that STEs follow fires!! Saw daily Stonechat as well.
Unfortunately, my birding skills do not allow me to identify stuff unless it's obvious or I can get decent look - eg. there were lots of hirondelles but couldn't distinguish species other than common swallows and house martins.
Did see the loggerheads in the bay at Argostoli - fantastic. Better go back to the bird books cos' love to see Cirl and Ortolans next time around and also try to ID the falcons in the valleys. Also, thought I saw a harrier but too fleeting to be certain - any ideas on the falcons or harrier types around Klismata??
I too thought Kefalonia was beautiful on all levels and because of my amateur status I got a lot of birding thrills from there as well.
Andy.
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Old Monday 26th July 2010, 12:40   #6
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Andy - I think you've just described why birding abroad can be such a great experience, even if you are not on "Premier League" excursion, either organised or under your own steam.
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Old Monday 26th July 2010, 21:24   #7
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Reserve goalie for the Wycombe Wanderers 2nd eleven at best, I'm afraid.

One of my main disappointments with Kefalonia was the lack of Mediterranean 'exotics' - I didn't see any Hoopoes or Bee Eaters sadly! And no STEs, either.

Most likely harrier would be Marsh or Montagu's, I imagine. Falcon could have been just about anything but I think Kestrel, Peregrine or Eleanora's would have been most likely.

David
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Old Monday 26th July 2010, 22:00   #8
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But its playing that matters... :)
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Old Tuesday 27th July 2010, 14:13   #9
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But its playing that matters... :)
Lovely island with great memories!

The Argostoli turtles are never to be forgotten!
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Old Wednesday 4th August 2010, 17:27   #10
David Parnaby
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Kefallonia, Greece. 11th - 18th July 2010

A family holiday at Lourdas with very little opportunities for birding (most days the binoculars were only used for trying to ID butterflies around the villa garden). An early morning walk in Lourdas produced very little different, so we didn't bother setting the alarm clocks again! A drive to Mount Aenos added several extra species and the last day (where we had to be out of the villa and so spent a couple of hours at the Icarus taverna before getting a room for the day at Svoronata) was also quite productive. A total of 37 species (not including the possible dead owl) were seen, although only 10-12 species were seen most days when we didn't leave Lourdas.

Species list:

Common Buzzard regularly seen over the villa with other sightings around the island.
Sparrowhawk singles seen over the villa on several dates.
Kestrel only one seen (on the lower slopes of Mount Aenos).
Yellow-legged Gull small numbers at Lourdas and several at Agrostoli.
Black-headed Gull - one in Agrostoli.
Feral Pigeon only seen at Agrostoli.
Collared Dove common, regularly came to drink from villa's swimming pool.
Owl sp. - a dead bird on the road to the airport was possibly a Little Owl.
Nightjar one seen briefly in flight over Magic Hill restaurant in Lourdas.
Bee-eater - at least half a dozen (probably a family party) behind the Olive Grove apartments in Svoronata and a dozen or so were on wires along the coast road near the airport.
Crested Lark one seen by airport (in one of the car hire compounds along the coast road).
House Martin common, our first bird of the trip.
Barn Swallow common, with several family parties around Lourdas.
Red-rumped Swallow seen daily in small numbers over villa and several elsewhere on island. Occasionally came to drink from villa swimming pool - great views if you were swimming at the time!
Wren one heard calling on Mount Aenos.
Northern Wheatear a couple by the Radar station on Mount Aenos.
Black-eared Wheatear - several by the Radar station on Mount Aenos.
Stonechat - one seen in flight over road near Kastro.
Blackbird small numbers in several places.
Eastern Orphean Warbler one seen in scrub by Icarus taverna (a couple of minutes walk from the airport).
Sardinian Warbler common around Lourdas and also seen elsewhere on island. Became almost invisible after about ten o'clock in the morning!
Cetti's Warbler - one seen in scrub on the main road to the beach in Lourdas on an early morning walk with another couple also heard. One found freshly dead on the villa garden wall on the last morning.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - one seen from the Icarus taverna and small numbers at the Olive Grove apartments in Svoronata.
Goldcrest - at least one in a large mixed feeding flock on Mount Aenos.
Firecrest - many families in the mixed feeding flock on Mount Aenos.
Blue Tit - small numbers seen at Lourdas and elsewhere, with lots in the mixed feeding flock on Mount Aenos.
Great Tit common around villa and a large number seen in the mixed feeding flock on Mount Aenos.
Coal Tit several heard on on Mt Aenos with large numbers in a mixed feeding flock.
Treecreeper sp. - one seen in flight in the mixed feeding flock on Mount Aenos.
Woodchat Shrike none seen in Lourdas, but several encountered elsewhere on the island.
Jay very common, with flocks of up to 20 seen.
Hooded Crow one seen from villa in Lourdas and a small flock on the drive to Mount Aenos.
House Sparrow very common in Lourdas, often drinking from swimming pool.
Chaffinch only a couple seen in flight from the villa and one on Mount Aenos.
Linnet one in Fragata, small numbers by the Radar Station on Mount Aenos and several around the Olive Grove apartments in Svoronata.
Goldfinch seen daily from villa and also elsewhere around the island.
Greenfinch small numbers in Svoronata.
Cirl Bunting an adult male and a juvenile by the Radar Station on Mount Aenos.

I would recommend Mount Aenos as a location for adding a few extra species, as well as the views and the very different habitats to elsewhere on the island. We were able to get as far as the picnic area without any real problems in a regular hire car. Although the woods themselves were fairly quiet, a mixed feeding flock of at least a couple of hundred birds livened up proceedings. The open area around the radar station also held several birds and it would have been interesting if we had been able to get there early in the morning. Do not be tempted to use the minor roads (marked on our map in yellow), an attempted 'short-cut' from Lourdas to Mount Aenos became impassable without an off-road vehicle.

There are a lot of good things to be said about Kefallonia and whilst birding is not necessarily one of them, the other wildlife is worth paying attention to as well. We took our European butterfly field guide and were able to identify several species that were new to us (although we haven't paid much attention to foreign butterflies before). We didn't bother taking our telescopes and never really missed them, although had we been nearer a headland where seawatching and cetaceans were possible it may have been different.

Lepidoptera:

Two-tailed Pasha
Southern White Admiral
Cleopatra
Scarce Swallowtail
Painted Lady
Small Heath
Mallow Skipper
Woodland Grayling
Orbed Red Underwing Skipper
Humming-bird Hawkmoth

There were several other species we didn't positively identify including various whites and blues, a clouded yellow, a marbled white and a beautiful stripey hawkmoth.

Other wildlife:
Loggerhead Turtle - fantastic views of at least four, probably half a dozen, in Agrostoli harbour. Although we were told early morning was best, they were still showing quite happily at lunch time.
Moorish Gecko - common in the buildings at Lourdas.

Last edited by David Parnaby : Wednesday 4th August 2010 at 17:31.
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Old Friday 3rd September 2010, 03:01   #11
Marib
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Wow! Why do I feel that the place you are describing sounds like paradise. The bird watching seems to be a great activity to experience. It would be nice to consider that on my vacation.

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