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WEATHER; hazy sunshine all day, light winds. Top temp 24C

Woodpeckers were our target species for the early morning session especially the Grey-headed Woodpecker. In previous years we had found the Grey-headed in the marsh just outside the village of Vironia, so that is where we went today at 6:30am.

A flooded woodland with many standing dead trees was an ideal habitat for a number of woodpecker species, we searched the area quite thoroughly from the roadside and came up with …..nothing! A walk along a raised embankment which ran alongside the marsh finally produced a woodpecker species. We watched a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers visiting a nest hole, they were very active and kept us entertained.

Two  'not very good' pictures of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

We heard a Green Woodpecker but never saw it, other birds of the marsh were Cetti’s Warbler, Common Nightingale, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, a Purple Heron and Common Starlings were nesting in old woodpecker holes.

After breakfast we set off for the quarries just beyond the town of Sadirokastro, it was a beautiful area with towering cliff faces and pine woodland. Fast flowing rivers and stream cut through the forests, we visited one of the rivers to look for Dippers. The walk along a wide track through the pine trees produced a few sighting and a bit of frustration as we could hear some birds but could not see them. Semi-collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin and Green Woodpecker all called, but did not show themselves.

man-made waterfall, found at the end of walk through the woodland

We did see Long-tailed Tits, a Robin, dozens of Chaffinches, some Greenfinches and we heard Golden Orioles. On some rocky cliff faces we found Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Alpine Swift and we saw a pair of Honey Buzzards circling on the thermals.

the view from the quarry - the Rock Nuthatch nest site was on this rock-face

We ‘dipped’ the Dipper but saw Grey Wagtail as some little compensation. Our trip up to the quarry face was much more successful, we quickly located a nest of the Rock Nuthatch and within minutes a Nuthatch appeared and took food into the nest, we watched several visits take place In the meantime we watched Cirl Buntings in the nearby trees, also Greenfinches and then we found Black-eared Wheatear and a second Nuthatch, which was singing from a rocky pinnacle behind us.

Black-eared Wheatear

record shot of the Rock Nuthatch

A few butterflies appeared as it warmed up, Cardinal Fritillary was nice to see we also found a couple of Orchids with the Mammose Orchid (Ophrys Mammose) being a local celebrity and the Woodcock Orchid being a lovely supporting cast.

Mammose Orchid

Woodcock Orchid

We drove around to a lookout point to eat our picnic lunch under a covered seating area. During lunch we were entertained by a Subapline Warbler which sang from several positions in the tree and performed its flight-display. More raptors were seen: Short-toed Eagle, Common and Honey Buzzards.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

For the rest of the afternoon we drove several kilometers into the hills, and after stopping for coffee and ice-creams, we turned onto a dirt track which took us above the tree-line into wide open countryside dotted with thousands upon thousands of Juniper bushes. Our best birding of the day was enjoyed there, we saw many new species and had a great time watching  birds coming to drink or bathe in a leaking water trough.

you can just see the trough down in the valley

In the juniper scrub we found many Red-backed Shrikes, Lesser Grey Shrike and Woodchat Shrike, also Common Stonechat, Orphean Warbler, Goldfinches and Linnets. Target birds were Greater Short-toed Lark, Woodlark and Tawny Pipit, we saw two of the three, missing the latter. The water trough produced our best sighting when a pair of Ortolan Buntings joined Corn and Cirl Buntings at the water. The cameras were clicking for this little gem.

Ortolan Bunting

beauty and the beast - Ortolan Bunting with a Corn Bunting

The ridge above mountains produced more raptor sightings; mainly buzzards but also Short-toed Eagles and below us we saw our first Booted Eagles.

On our way back to the quarry area we stopped a couple times to look for Dipper in the rivers and eventually we were successful, but we only saw fly-pass Dipper and none perched, we saw more Grey Wagtails and lots of Demoiselle Damselflies.

Juniper Bush Landscape

We got back to the hotel around 6pm and dinner was taken at the usual time of 7:30pm.