Thursday, September 19, 2013

On The Rocks

What a surpise! It's raining hard again so here's another post about Greece.
In Skiathos we took a ride out one morning over the island peaks, crashing over rough, dusty unmade tracks to distant Cape Kastro, the ancient fortified settlement located on high rocks at the northernmost point of the island. (Kastro is the Greek word for castle). It was here in the mid-14th century that the inhabitants of Skiathos moved to when their previous fortress The Bourtzi proved ineffective in protecting the island from pirates. 

The Bourtzi is now a major element of the Skiathos Town scene, where weddings take place and tourists sit to drink coffee whilst watching the world go by and marvel at planes flying into the airport just half a mile away. 

The Bourtzi, Skiathos, viewed from Skaithos Old Harbour

A day or two earlier there had been brief views of an Eleanora's above an island near to Skiathos Aiprot where Hooded Crows drew attention to the falcon, mobbing it mercilessly until the falcon flew off into the distance. Also briefly we saw one alongside the cliffs on the boat journey to Skopelos. 

Apart from the hairy ride in the battered old Jimny, the attraction once at Kastro was the chance of seeing more than one Eleanora’s Falcon, Falco eleonorae. Eleanora’s Falcon is unique in that it is one of the few species that breeds during early autumn, feeding its chicks with other migratory birds in abundance during that period. It is also one of the few falcon species that creates breeding colonies. 

The species breeds on islands in the Mediterranean particularly off Greece where two-thirds of the world's population breeds, but also in the Canary Islands, Ibiza and off Spain, Italy, Croatia, Morocco and Algeria. With its long pointed wings, long tail and slim body Eleonora's Falcon is an elegant bird of prey similar in shape to a large Eurasian Hobby or a small slender Peregrine Falcon. The call is a typical call of most falcons, a high-pitched kek-kek-kek, calls we would hear continuously when we finally arrived at Kastro after our bone-shaking journey. 

Suzuki Jimny

Looking Back - Skiathos

After trekking up and over the rocks then through the ancient remains we reached the topmost point of Kastro from where we could see and hear the Eleanora’s, still a hundred yards away on their secluded and insurmountable stacks of rock. The birds were extremely active and obviously in the throes of breeding, with as many as eight in the air at once and perhaps 15 or more flying above and about the still mountainous rocks beyond our spot. We watched as at least one bird visited rocky ledges where youngsters were located. 

There was much calling amid spectacular headlong plunges and interaction between individual birds as they dived towards the rocks and the sea before disappearing out of sight or climbing back to eye level to cruise along the cliff face once more.. All the time the birds kept their distance from the well walked paths of the tourists but there was no way to get any closer to these magical falcons. It is impossible to describe how wonderful it was to watch so many Eleanora’s Falcons in action at once, but I found a video on You Tube, a video also shot in Greece.  Unfortunately it dosn't have the sounds of the falcons.

Eleanora's Falcon
Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

Fortress - Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

In such a hostile environment it was not surprising to find few other birds and although Yellow-legged Gulls were abundant, other birds here were limited to Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Kestrel and European Shag. 

Sardinian Warbler

European Shag

Common Kestrel

You can’t go far in Skiathos without encountering a taverna, and here seemingly at the end of the earth was a less than trendy one, but welcoming indeed after our tiring thirsty hike through Ancient Greece. 

A taverna - Kastro, Skiathos


More birding adventures soon from Another Bird Blog. Now go back and 'click the pics' to revisit Skiathos. Linking today to Anni's Blog .


Margaret Adamson said...

Hi Phil It was lovely reading your further adventures in Greece and what a special momnet to find so many Flacons. I enjoyed seeing them in motion on the video also. You must have been relly pleased to have seen so many at one time.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

What an incredible journey you and your family have had...just so breath taking...the beauty just seems to go beyond words to express adequately. The Falcon is truly remarkable, gorgeous! Loved seeing the little Sardinian Warbler, what neat eyes! Glad you all are safely home. We too are having the rain ;)...we needed it badly though. Have a wonderful evening~

Gail Dixon (La.Belle) said...

Trekking through Greece would be like a dream come for me. Great to see all the different birds, too. Wonderful images!

Chris Rohrer said...

You lucky devil! Man, I love these kinds of trips. You've taken some more brilliant shots and great info on a new falcon for me. It's fun birding with others online. Most of us leave for vacation in June because it's so hot and dry. Rain sounds kind of nice right now:)

eileeninmd said...

Phil, what a lovely tour of the island! The scenery is gorgeous! And I love the cool Falcon! Great photos and video! Happy Birding!

TexWisGirl said...

beautiful raptors, but that warbler stole the show. the tavern made me smile. :)

Carol L McKenna said...

Wonderful photos of a gorgeous island ~ love the soaring falcon and the cute little bird ~ carol, ^_^

Anni said...

Oh my goodness, my goodness!!! What a spectacular post. And I learned not only about the meaning of Kastro, but I was so intrigued of your whole tour/commentary. What a ride. Literally speaking too.

And that falcon...whoa. Super. Not to mention that red eyed warbler. :o)

Gary Phillips said...

Great srquence !! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Carletta said...

Wonderful commentary Phil!
What a gorgeous place to see in itself and with the added attraction of seeing the falcons.
Quaint little tavern.
Nice shots!

Genie Robinson said...

What a fabulous experience this has to be for you. These pictures are absolutely out of this world. I have always wanted to visit Greece, and now you are taking me there. Thank you for sharing. genie

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Wonderful captures, as always!
Cheers from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

EG CameraGirl said...

The terrain sure is rugged but what joy to see the falcons!

Kenneth C Schneider said...

I must say I'm glad you had a rainy day that permitted you to post these gorgeous shots and video!

Asha Ram said...

Your write-up and photos made a virtual travel, for me! Thanks :)

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