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WEATHER: all day sunshine, windy in the afternoon. Temp 23C

We had a full-on first day, we saw over 80 species with some goodies in the bag already! We had a full turn-out for the pre-breakfast walk, it was beautiful out there, cloudy with a colourful sunrise and no wind.

A quick glimpse into the remaining pools on the marsh outside the hotel gave us our first Wood Sandpiper of the day and a Moorhen. We then walked around the corner to the Christou salt Marsh and found quite a few species to look at, everything looked amazing in the morning light with some incredible colours going on.

We soon listed a number of waders, Kentish Plover (with chicks), Little Stint, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and our main target bird the Bar-tailed Godwit. Scanning further into the marsh we added Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and saw both Common and Ruddy Shelducks.

'golden' Little Stints in the morning light

the Christou salt marsh

a party of Ruff with a single Curlew Sandpiper on the far right

After breakfast we set off for a morning excursion to the Kalloni Salt Pans, we took a route through a small village called Papiana where we stopped to look for Long-eared Owl. A family of these usually secretive beasts had been seen regularly in an olive orchard by the side of the road. We found an adult bird, unfortunately the bird was facing away from the road and gave us a back-view only.

A visit to the river Tsiknias followed a quick stop at the village supermarket, we were after a Temminck’s Stint but got much more than we had hoped for. We travelled down the west track stopping at the bridge to get out of the buses. Birds were everywhere, we had superb views of Black-headed Bunting and a Red-backed Shrike before a Red-footed Falcon flew over us, it was a lovely male.

Further down the track we found a few Wood Sandpipers with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and the sought-after Temminck’s Stint, we all had ‘in-the-scope’ views of it. In the meantime we saw Olivaceous Warbler, Common Nightingale, Purple Heron and three Black Storks. Many hirundines were flying about, a lot of Sand Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows with a few Common Swifts.

the Temminck's Stint

Another stop produced sightings of a Jay, Greenfinches, we heard a Great Reed Warbler and we saw Squacco Heron and a Purple Heron on the far bank. We crossed the river at the ford and took the Lotzaria track towards the salt pans. We parked under a maple tree along the track and viewed an open short-grass field where we saw at least three Lesser Grey Shrikes, a Hoopoe, some Whinchats, a Northern Wheatear, more Red-backed Shrikes and a dozen Crested Larks.

we saw dozens of these beautiful 'gems of the sky'

In a field behind us we saw a small flock of Yellow Wagtails of mixed races, the Black-headed was particularly stunning. With the wagtails we saw a couple of Red-throated Pipits and a Tawny Pipit. We finally reached the salt pans at 11:30am having set out three hours previously!

Parking by a raised hide we spent some time scanning the nearest pans and fields, there wasn’t a great deal of activity, the usual Greater Flamingos, Avocets and black-winged Stilts, other than that we saw a small flock of Ruff and lots of the ‘lovely’ Corn Bunting.

We drove around the bumpy track (which was now dry) to the Race Course and the feeder-channel inlet where we ate our picnic lunch. During lunch we added a few Terns to our list: a group of 8 Gull-billed Terns sat on posts on the disused pier with a couple of Cormorants. Six Sandwich Terns flew by and a Little Tern flew inland from the bay. A little later we saw a White-winged Tern, it also flew in from the bay and gave us a great view in the lovely sunlight. A lot of butterflies were on the wing and there was a great interest in those. We saw Painted Lady, Eastern Dappled White, Large Skipper, Small Copper, Meadow Brown and Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

we found this Pine Hawk Moth later in the day after seeing both Levant and Striped Hawk Moths at the hotel this morning during a display by a  'mother' who had run a moth trap overnight in the hotel grounds

A short walk in the ‘horse field’ produced sightings of three Whimbrel and two or three Greater Short-toed Larks. Some distant Ruddy Shelduck with Yellow-legged Gulls and a few more Yellow Wagtails. As we returned along the bump track we saw a Spur-winged Plover fly up from the marsh and land on the salt pans, we got out of the buses to 'scope the bird and found a second one aleady esconced on a dirt bank! Driving round the west track y the pumping station we found a third Spur-winged Plover feeding the 'feeder' channel, wowza!!

We then decided to drive to Achladeri to visit the pine woods in search of the Kruper’s Nuthatch, it was a good decision as the birds showed extremely well as they fed a nest full of chick. I had feared that they may have fledged but my concern was quickly allayed with their appearance.

the male Kruper's Nuthatch visiting the nest hole which was full of chicks

 In the woods we saw lots of Chaffinches, we saw Cirl Buntings visiting a nest with beaks full of food. We also found a beautiful male Subalpine Warbler, a party of Long-tailed Tits and we had sightings of a couple of Masked Shrikes.

our motley crew watching a Cirl Bunting in the pine forest at Achladeri

A little further along the road we stopped at a beach-side restaurant for a hot/cold drink, the wind had picked up and it was nice to find a little shelter. It was 4:30pm when we left to return to the River Tsiknias. This time we drove along the east bank in search of a Marsh Sandpiper which we did not find. We saw lots of Wood Sandpipers, we had more views of shrikes, the Woodchat Shrike making it four species in one day! A Turtle Dove was seen by a few of us in our bus and a Middle Spotted Woodpecker was seen by the rear bus-crew.

Finally we crossed the ford and drove down to the mouth of the river where, in very windy conditions, we scanned the sand bar. We saw practically nothing! Just a single Sandwich Tern and a single Common Tern! We got back to the hotel at 6pm in good time to get ready for dinner.

The bird-log revealed that we had seen 81 species, not a bad tally for our first full day.