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Birds and Butterflies of Cyprus & Crete, April 2022. (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Most people leave the tumbling to the gym, but hey why not an acutely angled scree slope? Good to see you haven't totally given up your long-running attempt for a Darwin Award. Glad to hear you counted the pratincoles out and counted them all back. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Cheers
Mike
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I've taken a few hits on behalf of my camera equipment (and other optics) over the years myself. Never quite regretted it despite similar anatomical effects to your own!

John
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I was with someone who tripped on a small stone/pebble whilst walking along on a birding trip, think it was on the Canaries. They did a full body tumble, cradling their camera which was completely unscathed, as they were they mostly, apart from some pride. They had a nectarine in their pocket which got smushed though. I told him he had a peachy arse. He wasn't amused.
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
29 April. Agios Ioannis.

South of Kofinas, not for the faint hearted, there is an eight-kilometre narrow rocky track that virtually drops off a cliff to reach the hamlet of Agios Ioannis. Having seen a report that someone saw a White-banded Grayling here some days earlier, so it was that I found myself gingerly easing the car down the track, pretending not to notice the lack of barriers while navigating the steep gravel-laden hairpins and trying my best not to be too distracted by the Griffon Vultures hanging in the sky above. I eventually got to the bottom without incident, a pocket-sized patch of relatively flat land beside the sea awaiting, Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts were zooming around, a Black-eared Wheatear sang from rocks nearby.

I, however, was watching the sky with dismay - for the first time during my stay in Crete, the sun seemed to be losing a battle against a growing bank of cloud. I had doubts any butterflies would be flying, even less so as it was also windy. Still, with a kind of hazy sun showing itself every now and again, I set off to explore …several Small Whites fluttering weakly, one incredibly tatty Common Blue, one Speckled Wood in a gully. And that was it …and it seemed to be becoming even more overcast. I decided to drive back up the track a little and explore the deep gorge to the immediate east. I had driven all of a hundred metres when I spotted a butterfly sitting on the track, a grayling! Jumped out of the car and immediately took a few photographs, but something didn't look right - this seemed to be a Cretan Grayling not a White-banded Grayling! And when it took to the wing, this suspicion was confirmed. That was a bit luck, I thought I was too early in the season to see this island endemic. I also now wondered if the report of White-banded Grayling was erroneous, they too tend to fly a little later in the season. Anyhow, still hobbling from the day before's fall, I used the last remaining brightness to walk into the lower reaches of the gorge …and there I immediately found two more graylings, and these absolutely were White-banded Graylings! Double success.

All just in the nick of time, the cloud was thickening ever more, I would see only one more butterfly this day, a fast moving Swallowtail on my walk back to the car. Realising the cloud was set to stay, I drove back up the track to the top of the mountain and decided to use the remainder of the day to relocate to the west of the island. A quick look again at the salt lake at Timbaki added a Greenshank to the tally of waders there, then stopped later at Agia Lake near Chania. Not bad - two Whiskered Terns and one White-winged Black Tern hawking, plus heaps of hirundines hawking (Barn Swallows and Sand Martins in the main, a few House Martins and a pair of Red-rumped Swallows too). Also one Little Crake at the lake fringe and numerous Coots and a few Moorhens.

From there, I climbed back into the mountains to the village of Omalos, stayed overnight.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
30 April. Omolas Road.

Chilly start in this spectacular landscape, only 6 C, far too cold for butterflies. Time for birding, chiefly at the head of the Samaria Gorge. A very pleasant mix here, alongside abundant everyday birds such as Blackbirds, Wrens and Chaffinches, some nice Cretan flavour additions - Griffon Vultures, Alpine Swifts and Red-billed Choughs overhead, Blue Rock Thrushes and Black-eared Wheatears on the crags, Turtle Doves, Woodlarks and Cirl Buntings in the scrub zone. Several Wrynecks also calling, a flock of European Bee-eaters in the agricultural area and a couple of pairs of Woodchat Shrikes too.

As for butterflies, I descended a little, following the road back down from Omolas and, even then, it wasn't until 10.30 that the action started. But when it did start, it was spectacular - first species a Cretan Festoon, seconds later a Scarce Swallowtail and then, while still watching these two, an Eastern Baton Blue. Within moments, the slope was full of butterflies, at 800 metres altitude, I was again in a Goldilocks zone. In temperatures now rising above 20 C, I slowly worked down the slope, exploring side tracks and flower meadows, amazing numbers of Cretan Festoons and Scarce Swallowtails all the way, these clocking in at absolute minimums of 75 and 26 respectively. Also plenty of other species, Eastern Dappled Whites moderately common, Holly Blues very much so. Unfortunately, descending below the village of Lakkoi, the super abundance dried up a little, though still Cretan Festoons remained in lesser numbers and Speckled Woods became ever more common.

Approximate totals:

Swallowtail - 12
Scarce Swallowtail - 26
Cretan Festoon - 75+
Large White - 12
Mountain Small White - 15
Small White - 80+
Eastern Dappled White - c.20
Clouded Yellow - 30
Red Admiral - 2
Painted Lady - 8
Speckled Wood - 45
Wall Brown - 8
Holly Blue - 50+
Common Blue - c.25
Brown Argus - 1
Eastern Baton Blue - 4
Lulworth Skipper - 2

In the lowlands by middle afternoon, I decided to pop into Agia Lake again - Whiskered Terns gone, but still the White-winged Black Tern was present, so too the Little Crake. Tried to find Wood White without success, but did encounter both a Little Bittern and a Great Snipe! I can live with that :)

Tried later to find some wasteland near the coast, perhaps a Grass Jewel or Dark Grass Blue to round the day off. No such luck here either, several Swallowtails the main butterfly highlight, four circling Honey Buzzards also nice. With that, I called it a day and found accommodation in Platanius.
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
1 May. Agia Lake.

Flight out at 10 am, just time to pop into Agia Lake for a final visit, Little Crake duly showing, White-winged Black Tern hawking, still heaps of mixed hirundines and swifts. With that, to the airport, one Small White flying outside the terminal, trip over.



Conclusion

Between Cyprus and Crete, I saw a total of 40 species of butterflies (27 species on Cyprus, 29 species on Crete). While islands do not have the diversity of mainland sites, I was more than happy with this number, not least as it included real gems such as Little Tiger Blue, Paphos Blue and both Eastern and Cretan Festoons, as well as Cyprus Grayling, Cyprus Meadow Brown, Cretan Grayling and Cretan Small Heath (all endemics). Also plenty of other very good butterflies such as Scarce Swallowtail, the highly localised Millet Skipper and Dark Grass Blue.

Travelling later in the season, though the festoons and Paphos Blue would no longer be flying, a greater variety of graylings would also be available, as well as Cretan Argus. However, for an early season butterfly trip, especially given most of the rest of Europe is still quite cold, it is hard to beat these Mediterranean islands.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
As with Cyprus, online reports on spring butterflies on Crete are remarkably lacking, thus I post here full details of all butterflies seen, perhaps of use to anyone travelling.


LIST OF BUTTERFLIES OF CRETE, APRIL 2022.

Swallowtail
(Papilio machaon)
Widespread and fairly common. Best counts were about 40 at Karteros Canyon, 18 at Voulismeno Aloni and 12 along the road to Omolas. Additionally, one on the slopes of Mount Ida, four at Kastro Fortress, three near Kamilari and one at Agios Ioannis.

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)
Top count was an impressive 26 along the road going down from Omolas. Elsewhere, just three seen - singles at Aposelemis Dam, Mount Ida and Kastro Fortress.

Cretan Festoon (Zerynthia cretica)
Main target of the trip. Highest numbers were at fairly high altitude, specifically 40+ on the slopes of Mount Ida (altitudes 600-1450 metres, even flying where snow still lingered) and 75+ along the road down from Omolas (altitudes mostly 500-800 metres, though some down to less than 100 metres).
Additionally, three seen at Karteros Canyon, four at Voulismeno Aloni and three at Aposelemis Dam.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
One near Kamilari area, 12 along the road down from Omolas.

Mountain Small White (Pieris ergane)
Seems to partially replace Small White at higher or more rugged sites. Total records were two at Karteros Canyon, three at Voulismeno Aloni, five on the slopes of Mount Ida and 15 along the road down from Omolas. Easiest to identify by the small square black apical patch on the forewing, not running along the margins as in Small Whites.

Small White (Pieris rapae)
Common and widespread, less so at the highest altitudes. Top counts were minimums of 150 at Karteros Canyon, 80 along the road down from Omolas, 50 at Voulismeno Aloni and 40 at both Aposelemis Dam and around Kamilari. Smaller numbers also seen on the slopes of Mount Ida, around Kastro Fortress and at Agios Ioannis.

Eastern Dappled White (Euchloe ausonia)
Widespread but not very common - other than about 20 along the road down from Omolas, all other records were of singles or twos, including at Karteros Canyon, Voulismeno Aloni, Aposelemis Dam, Mount Ida and Kastro Fortress.

Eastern Bath White (Pontia edusa)
Only three individuals seen - two at Karteros Canyon and one at Kastro Fortress.

Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra)
One at Voulismeno Aloni.

Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea)
Common and widespread, top counts being 25+ at Aposelemis Dam, 50+ on the slopes of Mount Ida, 40+ at Kastro Fortress, 30+ around Kamilari and 30 along the road down from Omolas. Elsewhere, six at Karteros Canyon and four at Voulismeno Aloni.

Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros)
One on the slopes of Mount Ida.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Only nine seen in total - one at Karteros Canyon, two at Voulismeno Aloni, four on the slopes of Mount Ida and two along the road down from Omolas.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Not very common, recorded at five localities - Karteros Canyon (one), Voulismeno Aloni (four), Kastro Fortress (four), Kamilari (two) and along the road down from Omolas (eight).

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
Very common in Karteros Canyon, at least 100 present. Elsewhere, most were at lower or middle altitude localities and included 45 along the road down from Omolas, 20 at Voulismeno Aloni, eight at Aposelemis Dam, three at Kamilari and three at altitude on the slopes of Mount Ida. One also at Agios Ioannis.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
A fresh emergence on the 28th, c 35 at Kastro Fortress and eight near Kamilari. One also next day at Agios Ioannis.

Cretan Small Heath (Coenonympha thyrsis)
One at Voulismeno Aloni.

Cretan Grayling (Hipparchia cretica)
One at Agios Ioannis.

White-banded Grayling (Pseudochazara amalthea)
Two at Agios Ioannis.

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)
One Voulismeno Aloni on 26th, two Aposelemis Dam on 27th, one on the slopes of Mount Ida on 27th, eight along the road to Omolas on 30th.

Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli)
One attracted to potted Geraniums in Kamilari.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
One at Karteros Canyon at two at Voulismeno Aloni.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
40 Karteros Canyon, 15 Voulismeno Aloni, 10 Aposelemis Dam, five on the slopes of Mount Ida, four Kamilari area, 50+ along the road to Omola.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
15 Karteros Canyon, 12 Voulismeno Aloni, 15 Aposelemis Dam, 10 on the slopes of Mount Ida, ten Kamilari area, one at Agios Ioannis, c.25 along the road to Omolas.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)
One Karteros Canyon, two Voulismeno Aloni, one Aposelemis Dam, one along the road to Omolas.

Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Two Karteros Canyon.

Eastern Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes vicrama)
12 Karteros Canyon, five Voulismeno Aloni, four along the road to Omola.

Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae)
Three Karteros Canyon, one Voulismeno Aloni, one on the slopes of Mount Ida.

Pigmy Skipper (Gegenes pumilio)
One at Karteros Canyon, one at Kastro Fortress.

Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon)
35 Karteros Canyon, four Voulismeno Alon, 20 Kamilari area, two along the road to Omola.

(29 species)
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Didn't generally photograph many birds, but had to do the star of the trip - Demoiselle Crane
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Sounds like a cracking trip Jos - gripped by the casual Great Snipe (amongst a bunch of other Eastern Med quality)and enjoyed the Viper. The Demoiselle I can forgive.

Cheers
Mike
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
First few photographs of the butterflies to follow:

Scarce Swallowtails (Crete)
 

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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Cretan Festoon (Crete endemic)
Similar to Eastern Festoon, though a shade smaller and lacks the tails of Eastern Festoon.
 

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