Saturday, May 28, 2022

No Page Threes

The last ten days proved very frustrating. Since returning from Greece in the early hours of 18 May, I’ve not been able to get out ringing or do any meaningful birding. 

Skiathos, Greece - May Days 

My return to a typically British summer of wind and rain meant that gardening and other chores took priority. There’s one thing to say in favour of the good old British climate - it certainly makes things grow, as testified by our green waste bin now bursting to overspill with clippings of grass, trees and hedgerow. 

At last, I’m free so on Saturday I met up with Andy at Oakenclough at 0600 and a promised sunny morning with less than 10mph wind and the customary cold northerlies. 

As I drove on site a buck Roe Deer leapt over the wire fence ahead and disappeared into woodland. I searched in the boot for hat and warm jacket in readiness for the display of 6°, unlike the 27° of recent Skiathos. 

There were Willow Warblers and Garden Warblers in song, a foretaste of that to follow as we caught with good variety, unspectacular numbers but thankfully not a single one of the customary titmice. In fact throughout the morning, a single Coal Tit was the only representative of the tribe. 

14 birds caught – 5 Willow Warber, 2 Chiffchaff and one each of Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Pied Wagtail, Robin and Dunnock. 

The adult male Bullfinch was a stunner.  


Both the Blackcap and the Garden Warbler proved to be adult female with full brood patch, the Pied Wagtail a second year male. 

Pied Wagtail

Garden Warbler


The young Dunnock an example of how soon young birds are able to leave the nest and become at least partly self-sufficient when upon release it flew strongly into the trees from whence it came. 


We caught adult Willow Warblers only with no examples of recently fledged ones. The cold weather of May has slowed the species’ breeding season with the emergence of young a week or more away. 

Willow Warbler

Birding was quiet because migration is more or less over apart from late stragglers that often surprise. Several families of Greylag, 6 Oystercatcher, 2 Lapwing, 4 Pied Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Swallows, 4 Garden Warblers, 12+ Willow Warblers. 


Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

May Days

Apologies to regular readers who perhaps realised I had gone AWOL without leaving a forwarding address. I promise to get back to you all very soon. Yes, it was holiday time in Greece.

This was our eleventh time in Skiathos and our first visit to the island in spring. Sue and I missed out in both May 2020 and May 2021 due to Covid but at last we made it, despite the best efforts of TUI and Manchester Airport.  

Skiathos runway

Spring was only slightly different from late September trips when the landscape is parched following a typical Greek summer and when many summer birds have gone south. In early May the weather was initially cooler but by the second week scorching sun and a familiar twenty five degrees. Once again I was the only birder on the island, birding as much as possible, if you get the drift. When is a birder not birding is the question?

Our usual hotel The Ostria at Agia Paraskevi opens in late May so this year we stayed within a stone’s throw at Spiti Oneiro, a Greek title that translates as ‘Dream House’. It’s an apt name for so many homes in faraway, relaxing Skiathos. 

Dream House - Skiathos

We know Dream House well as one of our welcoming watering holes and places to eat during September stays. It’s a little off the beaten track so very quiet, a friendly, laid-back sort of place with just nine apartments, bed & breakfast if required or room only. Proprietors are Dad Kostas and daughter Efie, two wonderful, helpful and kind people who go out of their way to make guests feel at home. 

Kostas Stergiopoulos

We reserved a room via Efie and book flights directly. This makes for a more personal experience as well as ensuring our money goes into the local economy rather than a percentage into commission to third parties.

Courtesy of Magda of Mustang Motors we picked up the Jimny jeep at the airport and filled it with expensive petrol, fuel that lasts a while on quite tiny Skiathos Island. At Euros 25 a day the jeep works out as both convenient and cost effective when a couple of trips to other parts of the island by local bus costs about Euros 8 each time, e.g into Skiathos Town or the opposite ends of the island Koukounaries, or Troulos. 

The furthermost north part of the island is in any case accessible mostly by car, sometimes a 4x4, more so after a wet winter. It was in January and into March this year that Skiathos had several bouts of snow followed by a legacy of soggy roads and tracks.

Skiathos Life - Facebook January 2022

Two weeks of uninterrupted sun and zero rain made for lots of photos of Skiathos if not too many bird photos as early May proved a little late for heavy migration and in any case Skiathos has a quite small bird list. 

The "best" and most unexpected bird proved to be a Little Bittern which I saw on and off for two weeks in a reedy ditch where stream frogs Rana gracea were probably the reason for the bittern's presence. Most of the time I glimpsed the thing climbing through the thick reeds and only once did I get a decent photo. My sighting may be the first recorded sighting of this small bittern species  on Skiathos where birders are rare even non-existent but I imagine the Little Bittern is pretty common in Greece as a whole.

Rana gracea

Little Bittern

The first week included Bee Eaters, Black-headed Buntings, Red-throated Pipits, Richard's Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, Red-backed Shrikes, Woodchat Shrikes, Whinchats, Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows, Marsh Warblers & Reed Warblers, Hobbies, Buzzard, Olivaceous Warblers, Scops Owl and a good number of daytime singing Nightingales. Sea birds consisted of the ever-present Yellow-legged Gulls, European Shag and numbers of Cory's/Scopoli's Shearwaters searching the mill pond Aegean Sea.

Barn Swallow

Black-headed Bunting

Red-rumped Swallow

Woodchat Shrike

Yellow Wagtail

Red-throated Pipit

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Yellow Wagtail feldegg

By the second week the birds dried up with the increased temperatures and we were left to enjoy the sunshine, deserted beaches and the company of Hooded Crows and Yellow-legged Gulls.   

Hooded Crow

Yellow-legged Gull

There are lots of photos of Sunny Skiathos below. Enjoy and don't forget to "click the pic" for a better view.

Skiathos Town

Skiathos Town

The Bourtzi 

Skiathos Town

The Bourtzi

Rural Skiathos

Above Skiathos

Essential Shopping in Skiathos

Skiathos Town

Skiathos Boatyard

Skiathos Boatyard

In the Boatyard

View from Mylos Taverna




Back soon with local news and views.

Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Sixes And Sevens

Temperatures didn’t improve throughout the week. Although the days have been fine, the cold,  nagging easterly winds and cool daylight hours have definitely held back migration of insectivorous species. 

On Wednesday I met up with Andy for a 6 am start hoping that we might catch new migrants. We did, but 6 Sedge Warblers and 2 Great Tits was our sum total and by 10 am we had packed up as nothing much was about to happen. 

Perhaps the “best” bird of the morning was a Corn Bunting, singing from the same spot as a week previously. We suspect it has yet to find a mate so may not stay around much longer in what is now a Fylde landscape containing very few Corn Buntings. 

Otherwise, a single Willow Warbler did well to avoid our three nets. 

Sedge Warbler
Corn Bunting
During almost four hours we saw no Swallows, House Martins or Reed Warblers, three species that are normally here by this date. The slow spring and lack of Swallows this year seems to be a topic of conversation amongst birders and people who spend time in the countryside. 


Gluttons for punishment we arranged to go up to hills of Oakenclough on Friday for another 6 am start. The morning was equally cold with the temperature gauge reading 2.5 degrees and a “possible ice” message as I set off for the 35 minute drive. 

We didn’t fare any better than Wednesday with just six more birds caught - 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 1 Blackbird and 1 Goldfinch. We had a good count of 12 to 14 singing Willow Warblers on site and we think that a good number of the later arriving females have yet to arrive and meet up with the Willow Warbler of their dreams. 

The two Blackcaps comprised one male and one female. The male was in an unusual stage of plumage with his cap still showing a lot of juvenile brown amongst the black cap. By April any juvenile brown from the previous year should have long gone. Although weight was normal, the overall plumage looked in a poor and weak state and we suspected the bird wasn’t in the best of health. 


Willow Warbler

The Greylags up here in the hills are quick off the mark to breed, seemingly oblivious to any type of weather. On Friday we saw two pairs with three youngsters each, pretty good going for 29 April. 

There was a Kestrel hanging around for a while and then miracle of miracles, two Swallows put in a brief appearance by dive bombing the Kestrel. A pair of Pied Wagtails was on territory along the stone walls, a plot that they seem to keep throughout the winter. 

I know that next week will be better for both news and photographs. Tune in then. You will not be disappointed.

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