SIDIROKASTRO QUARRY – UPLAND JUNIPER SCRUB – RIVER WALK
WEATHER; a dull rainy morning, brighter and rier in the afternoon.
It was miserable again this morning, we knew it was going to be wet so we decided last night not to arrange a pre-breakfast walk. It was still raining when we left the hotel after breakfast and it continued to rain all the time we visited the quarry at Sidirokastro.
For the first few hours the birding was pretty dismal too, the light was bad our optics were wet and our spirits were dampened. We had long distant views of most of our target species, Western Rock Nuthatch. Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and Crag Martins. Only a few of saw any of these birds, it was very difficult to get everyone on a speck in the distance.
this rock face is where we scoped the Rock Nuthatch visiting a nest.
Dancho found a few other species, the Black-eared Wheatear showed very well, close and afar, a Hawfinch was a brief sighting and we saw Serin in the scope. Ravens, Jackdaws, Red-rumped Swallows were also seen and we heard Nightingales and Chaffinches. We also found a couple of Orchids on the side of the track, the Mammose Orchid is a local speciality, and the Woodcock Orchid is common throughout western Europe.
Driving further into the hills beyond the quarry we stopped at a picnic site to eat our lunch, fortunately we had shelter from the rain. We found Cirl Bunting, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and a Honey Buzzard during lunchtime.
watching a Cirl Bunting in the rain
a Cirl Bunting singing in the rain
Then a miracle happened, it stopped raining for the first time in 36 hours, the sky brightened and the light improved, things were looking up. We drove another 10km into the hills to visit the unique juniper scrub habitat found at 700 meters above sea-level, there we looked for larks and wheatears.
juniper scrub near Sadirokastro
We quickly found Crested Larks and Woodlarks and searched for a while before we located Short-toed Lark. Northern Wheatears seemed to be very common in this environment as did Linnets, Greenfinches and Cirl Buntings. The flora was magnificent, juniper bushes dominated the landscape but many other flowering plants could be seen, especially Yellow Asphodel. We found our third Orchid of the day, the Three-toothed Orchid has a beautiful pink, spotted flower.
two pictures of the Three-tooted Orchid taken by Tony Moore
It was a little chilly up there so we didn’t stay too long, we searched for Tawny Pipit without luck (same thing happened on Lesvos), we missed this species. On the way back down we stopped at a bridge over the river and found a Grey Wagtail but not a Dipper.
birding at the waterfall looking for Dipper
For our final birding walk of the day, we drove back to the quarry and walked down to the river along a wide track through pine woodlands. It remained dry but the track was muddy with large puddles. We saw a family party of Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest called too. We saw another Serin, we heard Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Nightingale.
Dipper taken by Tony Moore
At the river Dancho go us onto a Dipper, it took a while but one of two birds eventually showed very well and even gave us a fly-past just before we left. We got back to the hotel before 6pm in good time to shower and get ready for dinner at 7:30pm.