A day at mount Parnassos

One Saturday just a few weeks ago was one of the rare cases that I had the whole day free. I decided to visit mount Parnassos in search for some good photo opportunities with forest and alpine species of birds. I have been to Parnassos in many other cases and I have to say that I was not at all impressed by that mount's wildlife. Parnassos is located quite close to Athens and attracts many visitors especially during winter. The increased human disturbance means that many wild birds and animals prefer other places to live. However this time I was glad to find out that during October, when there are not many people visiting the mountain, you can still find some nice photo opportunities. I went there with George, a fellow nature photographer and we had some fun making pictures of many forest bird species like Nuthatches, Short-toed Treecreepers, Coal Tits, Sombre Tits, Linnets, Greenfinches, Firecrests etc. In addition we came across a nice flock of Ring Ouzels which are quite rare for Greece. It seems that they made a stop at mount Parnassos in their way to Africa. The news spread quickly and brought many fellow photographers and bird watchers to the mount during the next days 🙂 We also came across two Rock Partridges. Although I have been to Parnassos many times and I knew that there are some Rock Partridges living there, I have never seen any of them before. The weather was also in our side and as a result the day seemed to have passed so fast! We packed our equipment late in the afternoon, well after sunset. I am definitively going to add a visit to mount Parnassos during October to my annual schedule for the next year. As always do not forget to click on the images to view them in larger/sharper versions.

Migration in Athens

This Autumn the greatest and most popular wetlands near Athens were either almost dry (like Schinias), or the water level was too high (like Loutsa). As a result it was not easy to find and photograph waders near Athens. Fortunately it was a very good year for watching the passerines migration and I managed to get some good pictures of many migrating bird species. I often visited my favorite spots at Spata (located near the Athens International Airport) but unfortunately I managed to make only one visit to mount Hymettus during this Autumn. Warblers, Redtarts and Flycatchers were in abundance in all the visited places! In addition let's not forget that apart from the passing migrants there are also the local migrants. Thrushes are becoming more and more common lately both at lower and higher altitudes all around Athens. The first Blackcaps, Robins, Serins, Chaffinches, Black Redstarts etc. appeared and the fields around Athens that were almost empty during the summer, are now full of life. The pictures shown here are only a small sample of the pictures I made during this Autumn. Don't forget to click on the pictures to view them in larger (and sharper) versions with their Exif Data.

Summer

The summer months are the most challenging for wildlife photography in Greece. The extreme heat and the harsh light, make things quite difficult. I have come to the conclusion that the best habitats for nature photography during this period are forests and especially the forests located high on the mountains. In this environment the temperature is not too high and the shadows under the trees help to avoid the harsh summer light despite the high ISO that has to be used. This summer I have managed to go for 2-3 short excursions in the forests of Giona. I managed to get pictures of several forest species like Woodpeckers, Tits, Nuthatches, Treecreepers and more. This photo of a Black Woodpecker is just an example. Don't forget that you can always see the pictures in larger/sharper versions together with the Exif Data just by clicking on them.

Lake Karla

It is now more than one month since my visit to lake Karla in central Greece near the city of Volos. The lake is in fact a water reserve which was created in recent years to irrigate the area. At the same place in the past there was one of the biggest wetlands in Greece. That was before it was drained to free more land for agriculture use. The new lake has changed radically all the surrounding area and now the presence of wildlife is evident everywhere! The birds quickly rushed to take advantage of the new habitat created in a place that there were only dry fields before. Migration was over when we arrived. You could see birds feeding their young everywhere in and around the lake area. In addition we saw many young birds that had just left their nest e.g. many Rock Nuthatches, Northern Wheatears etc. For the last migrants it was the time they were building their nests. This time we met many of these birds carrying nesting material. The White Stork in the first picture is a good example. The highlight of our visit was a pair of Olive-Tree Warblers we found building their nest. This bird species although breeds in Greece it is quite difficult to be found and even more difficult to take decent pictures of it, so I am quite pleased with the picture shown here despite the shadows and the not so clean background. Don't forget that you can always see the pictures in larger/sharper versions together with the Exif Data just by clicking on them.

Spring

I have to admit that I haven't posted anything new for a while now but that doesn't mean my photo excursions have stopped. This year the spring migration appeared to be somewhat sluggish and the birds fewer compared to last year. Perhaps this year's weather with the constant South winds wasn't very helpful on that. Nevertheless although I didn't manage to visit Lesvos this year, my established photo excursions to other places such as Mesolonghi, Kalamas river estuaries, Spata and others, offered a great number of nice photographs. It's just that many other obligations during all this time prevented me from sharing my experiences and photos with you. I hope that this will change now.

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A Winter visit to Lake Kerkini

It is now several days since my winter visit to lake Kerkini with the usual company of George and Michael. This year the water level was lower than usual and as a result, the wintering wildfowl was not that close to the shore. Nevertheless, with some more effort and some luck I managed to get a few decent pictures. For example this Red-crested Pochard that was feeding close to the shore without caring about our presence. The Dalmatian Pelicans were of course all over the place and they were already in their impressive breeding colours. We also visited our favourite Woodpecker spot even though everyone told us that "this year there are no Woodpeckers there". Well after five Greater-spotted Woodpeckers, three Green Woodpeckers and the female Grey-headed Woodpecker shown in the photo below, we knew that they were wrong. It just takes some careful search and patience in order to find these species. The Management Authority has published a great Guide for the lake. The new guide includes the history of the lake, together with info about the fauna and the flora of the area, conservation efforts and problems and even accommodation info. There is of course an English version of the guide and you can get it for free from the Information Centre located at the Kerkini village. I am really impressed with this guide and I think that it is well worth the visit.

At Kalamas River Estuaries

During Christmas holidays I managed to visit Kalamas river estuaries for one more time. Beside all common duck species, waders and a relatively large number of Cattle Egrets which can be spotted there easily during Winter, other notable observations include at least three Greater Spotted Eagles, an Osprey that was quite far away, many Dalmatian Pelicans and a large group of Sandwich Terns. In addition I discovered a couple of great photo locations. In these newly discovered spots I managed to take nice photos of some interesting bird species that I had never managed to photograph in the area before. A good example is the photo of a Golden Plover shown here. In this post when you click on the photos, you will not only see the Exif data as always, but you will also see them in a larger and sharper version. Enjoy.

Going to the Super Market

I had so much to do lately that I didn't have any chance of getting away from the city and making some nice images. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed that there was simply no time for photography. Suddenly an idea came to my mind. I realized that the "A. Tritsis" park was located just beside the Super Market and maybe I could just steal an hour for a quick walk there. In a couple of days when I had to go shopping, I grabbed my camera with a 300mm lens and I went to the park for an hour's walk just before going to the Super Market. As it is often happening in these cases, the best photo opportunities come when you are least expecting them. This time, as soon as I approached one of the small lakes of the park hoping to find some waterfowl, a Sparrowhawk passed just over my head holding a pigeon he had just caught. I followed it and for the next 30 minutes I tried to get close and get some pictures. The hard part was that the park was crowded and people were passing so close to the hawk (without even noticing it) that they scared it away before I had any chance to get close. Nevertheless in the end I did manage to get close and get some pictures that I have never been able to get before.

A rarity at mount Vardousia

This photo is certainly not one of my best. In fact, normally I would delete it without second thought. The light is from the wrong direction, it is heavily cropped, and I had to remove a number of metal wires beside the bird during post processing. BUT this little bird is a Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos) and this is only the 5th observation of this species for Greece. The 4th was at 2004 and the previous one (3rd) was back at 1981! This short (less than 2 minutes) encounter and the spotting (from a distance) of at least five Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) saved an otherwise mediocre weekend. After a pleasant close encounter with a young Goshawk at the beginning of the ascent to the mountain refuge, the rest of the weekend was not so exciting. Even though we did see the couple of Golden Eagles that nest in the area, they stayed quite far from us and we had no chance of getting any good pictures. The only alpine species that we found was a group of Alpine Choughs but the distance was even bigger than that of the Eagles. Other notable observations include a Hen Harrier and a Marsh Harrier! at an altitude of more than 2000 meters. We also found a large group of about 30 Yellowhammers that I have never seen that south, feeding together with the sole Pine Bunting

Target species: Bearded Reedling

Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus) is one of my favorite bird species. They can be usually found in marshes having dense reed beds and the most suitable season to see and photograph them is winter. In winter they form large noisy flocks and they keep moving and feeding on the reeds. Given these facts when Michalis and George proposed to visit the Lamia marsh in an attempt to photograph Bearded Reedlings I quickly agreed. Lamia marsh is located at the west coast on Peloponnese and it is the southernmost place in Greece where these birds can be found. We spend the whole day at the Lamia marsh and the adjacent Strofylia wetland. Felix another follow nature photographer joined us. We managed to find and get some pictures of Bearded Reedlings although it was more difficult than expected. The three Spotted Eagles that we found there was an added bonus :-). We also saw some waders and Egrets but since the time was limited and our focus was on the Bearded Reedlings we didn't spend much time with them. Our next visit was scheduled to be at mount Vardousia in just a few days. More on that in the next post.