Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rhodes summary

I left the big lens and telescope at home deliberately – its not practical on a family holiday, and the binoculars would still let me get most of the stuff we came across. Except when we unpacked there was no sign of the binoculars.

Nevertheless some birds still made themselves known. Hooded Crows were everywhere, and whatever is reducing the UK population of House Sparrows clearly isn’t affecting the many House Sparrows of Rhodes. Common Swifts and Barn Swallows were everywhere, and the old town had Crag Martins too.

Elsewhere Sardinian Warblers were well distributed, a Stone Curlew flew by the road for a while, a couple of Hoopoes flew past, Jays (local variety) were plentiful in the woods. A few White Wagtails were round the main town, and a few Rosy-Ringed Parakeets screeching round town gave a touch of home.

At Lindos we had Blue Rock Thrushes singing from the main vantage points, Alpine Swifts buzzed us on the Acropolis, a Lesser Whitethroat chattered quietly to itself, and a Cuckoo flew across. At the Valley of The Butterflies, so called because of the large number of Tiger Moths that gather there (yes I know, but would you visit The Valley of the Moths?) we has smashing views of a Kingfisher. Then at Monte Smith (above Rhodes town) a Woodchat Shrike and a Whinchat shared some scrub.

But without the binoculars it was difficult. There were of course bursts of chattering from unfamiliar warblers hidden deep in bushes; a black silhouetted falcon slid silently past. A brownish phyllosc gave surprisingly robust calls. Then there were frustrating sightings; a medium sized raptor must have been a dark-phase Booted Eagle on the grounds that it wasn’t obviously anything else. A super-size goldfinch that flopped out of a bush by the Old Town must surely have been a Hawfinch. And a heron that flew over the old town looked decidedly purple in the evening light

Then there were the instant identifications where doubt crept in later. My first Swift was very pale – a lifer! But then no other swift was, so perhaps it was a trick of that strong Mediterranean light. A Swallow with a pinkish rump whizzed past – but then Barn Swallows had rumps that shone in the strong light.

Finally the night before departure we packed to go home, and hey Presto my binoculars in a bag of crisp packets (Of course!). The final day we went round the Moat of the old town again. At first things were no better – three Pipits were strongly marked on the breast, white lines on the coverts, no other features, and conveniently silent. But then at last a luminescent black and cream Black-eared Wheatear flitted along the ramparts of the walls, a Wood Warbler worked its way methodically through a small tree, and finally a tatty Creamcrown Marsh Harrier flew south over the harbour to give the list a veneer of respectability.

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