Crete is an island extending over 260 km from east to west and 50 km at its widest part from north to south.  Two calcareous mountain ranges cleft by numerous gorges have become a little paradise for hikers. The North, where you will find the biggest towns, is much richer than the South and therefore not so wild.  The weather becomes rather hot at the beginning of June but during our stay, from 3rd to 17th June 2014,  the rosebay bushes had not yet withered and the ever blowing wind freshened the air most of the time.  The economic crisis had hit the island at that time but the Cretans faced it cheerfully and the tourists that we were found we had excellent food and lodging for our money.

I had been warned against the way the people there drive there but if they sometimes take too many liberties with the highway code, they are not more dangerous than many other drivers in the rest of the world. Difficulties may arise because of the narrow streets in large cities and also because of the winding mountain roads but  they are usually in good repair, except in some picturesque parts of the centre and the east of the island where you will often have to make do with dust roads. It's not always easy to find your way and you will have to get acquainted with the Cyrillic alphabet  and remember it when you use your GPS.  You will then learn that Chania and Xania are just different names for the same city. Quite a number of towns have been named after male or female saints (Agio or Agia) and it would be a good idea to know in which province they lie or else your GPS will inform you that you will have to take a ferry and drive for another 200 miles while the town you are looking for is only 20 miles away.

Fuel is pretty expensive and there are not too many service stations in remote areas. What is more, credit cards are not welcome because pump attendants, just like any other shopkeepers, think their banks charge them outraging commissions.

Our trip

If you want to go directly to the list of species I saw, please click here.

03 June 2014

We left Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport on board a 737 Boeing of Agean which was about an hour late.  We  understood why when we landed at 22.40.  The wind was so strong that the plane was tossed in all directions and the air hostesses had to stand in the aisles, holding the doors of the luggage compartments to prevent them from opening.  Some of the passengers made good use of the paper bags in front of them and we were all glad when we finally made it out of the plane.  A taxi took us to the Sofia hotel for only €10.

04 June 2014

As our hotel was close by the airport, we took a taxi again to pick up our Transporter van and our Megane at Europcar's.  Our vehicles were in working order but on the whole in a poor condition.  I didn't like the ever blinking light on my dashboard even though the man in charge at the agency kept telling me this was absolutely nothing and only due to the fact that the former driver had not chosen the best grade fuel.  All in all we had no serious problem during our trip, except for a window that was very hard to open or close properly but we managed to repair it by ourselves. The Megane was better in spite of the fact you needed Herculean strength to release the hand-brake.

In order to get to the aptly named "Central Parking" in Heraklion, I had to drive through streets which were so narrow that I couldn't turn at crossroads without backing.  Of course, this stopped the traffic but nobody cared and I found the Cretans very patient. Delivery drivers have to do the same and I was not the only one to do that everyday.

We went through the Saint Titus byzantine church dating from the XVIth century at a quick pace and just as quickly through the loggia adjoining the City Hall.  We visited the nearby Basilica of Saint Mark which has been turned into a museum and then strolled in the busy streets as far as the Morosini Fountain supported by stone lions.  We took a few photos and went to Agios Minos Cathedral, the largest in Greece.  This tall ochre building with a huge dome is adorned with splendid frescoes.

Agias Minas

Agios Minos Cathedral (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Next to it, we saw the Church of  Saint Catherine but could not  wonder at its splendid icons because the museum was closed.  We therefore went on to the Bembo Fountain  hardly noticeable in the middle of the adjoining cafeteria and as it was lunch-time, we looked for a restaurant near the harbour.   In the mean time, I saw a few Hooded Crows, an Italian House Sparrow and a Tree Sparrow. We sat comfortably on the terrace of a restaurant and we had our first Cretan meal which was very good although, contrary to my friends, I didn't like the feta and raki. We had a nice view of the Venetian Fort of Koules and the ramparts of the arsenal. The harbour was very busy, the traffic heavy and noisy and from time to time we saw and heard a plane taking off from the nearby airport.  After lunch, we walked along the docks to the Fort surrounded with Common Swifts flying easily in the Meltem, that northerly wind which shook us so  much when we landed the day before.  It was yet strong enough to slow us down and it pushed  up powerful waves that broke against the foot of the building.  In the distance, I spotted three Cory's Shearwaters and Yellow-footed Gulls which were also making fun of the furious elements.  We then visited the Archaeological Museum and spent quite a few hours there because it was so beautiful.  There, we watched a replica of the Palace of King Minos, the Phaistos Disc whose text has not yet been deciphered, statues, funeral urns and many other marvelous artifacts. Be careful because it is allowed to make photos of some objects only and you will need to watch the display windows carefully if you don't want to be told off by the museum attendants.  When we reached our hotel at nightfall, we were exhausted because we had walked so much.

05 June 2014

We didn't sleep well because of the noise made by the planes taking off  near the hotel but we had to take the rough with the smooth and left for Knossos.  There were many people at the site but we expected that.  According to Evans, who discovered the site, that was the place of King Minos' palace. We saw plenty of ancient stones but also reconstructed ruins which give an idea of what the palace was like at that time but whether it really looked like that is anybody's guess.


Knossos (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Apart from the ruins we also saw, and heard, domestic Peafowl and a lot of  sparrows which I found hard to identify at first.  Their plumage was a mix of  House, Italian and Spanish Sparrow and I also found Tree Sparrows. A few Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were fluttering above the site without taking any notice of the many tourists walking about in the ruins.  We then moved on to the Lassithi Plateau which is famous for its many windmills and on our way I saw my first Eurasian Griffon. I was slightly disappointed  by the villages of the plateau because they looked derelict and as for the windmills, they were either out of use or built just for the tourists.  They are often replaced with wind turbines which are far more practical but also far less beautiful. We roamed here and there along the small country roads and, at long last, I found one of the birds I had hoped to see, i.e. the Eleonora's Falcon.  Later on, I saw 2 other individuals together with a Eurasian Hoopoe, Griffon, Common Ravens and above all a young  Lammergeier. This bird of prey has a wing span of 2.8 m and it was turning slowly above us in the Kaminaki area just as we were leaving the plateau.



Immature Lammergeier (Photo Simone Girault)

All these birds, the sun and the gorgeous scenery of the foothills of the plateau cheered me up. We then drove on eastwards towards the coast and the village of Plaka from where we saw the island of Spinalonga which hosted a leprosy till 1957.  We drove back stopping several times to have a good look at the town of Agios Nikolaos stretching below us.  It took us quite a long time to find our hotel because it had changed its name and we hadn't been told by our travel agency. There was no car-park and we had to drag our luggage all the way and climb several flights of stairs before we were able to unpack in the rooms of the Mistral Bay hotel, which offered us first-class service in spite of all that.

06 June 2014

We had a restful night and a solid breakfast and then made a quick visit of Agios Nikolaos just to see the lake inside the town but we were disappointed because there is no vegetation on the banks and therefore no birds.  We then drove as far as the church of  Panagia Kera near Kritsa.  This small church was built in a beautiful site surrounded with cypresses and its byzantine frescoes dating from the XIIIth and XIVth centuries are worth the detour.  After that, we went eastwards and stopped at different viewpoints to watch the sea below.  This is how I spotted a very clear Black-eared Wheatear perched on an electric wire at Platanos. We noted that some of the rosebay which grew by the roadside were actually white and we saw many of them till we reached the monastery of Moni Toplou where we stopped for a short visit before going to the beach at Vai where you can find the largest palm-grove in Europe.

I thought I would have the opportunity to have a little walk in the grove but it was surrounded with particularly ugly wire fencing.  The beach was very nice indeed but overcrowded and after we had stretched our legs for some time, we had a refreshing drink and as we had reached the easternmost point of the isle we drove southwards towards Kato Zakros, along roads winding around in the magnificent wild rocky mountains.  I saw a few Black-eared Wheatears again and I would have liked to scan the countryside for more birds but we still had a long distance to drive to Iarepetra.  We knew we would lose time because of the winding and stony mountain roads and the inadequate road signs and to make things worse, we didn't really know where the Eden Rock hotel was.  We found out it was not actually located in Ierapetra but at Agios, a few km before the city and we came across it quite by chance thanks to a sign hardly visible on the roadside.

07 June 2014

We had a solid breakfast again and then headed west, towards Ierapetra along the coast which was far less beautiful now.  Numerous hothouses covered with plastic sheets spoilt the landscape there but people have to make a living so that was that.  We left that coast and went to Lake Bramanon hoping to see a few birds. The site was in no way up to my expectations because there were neither trees nor reeds and a strong gale was blowing but in spite of that, we had a pleasant walk.  I saw a Little Egret, Yellow-legged Gulls but above all about a hundred or so Violet Dropwings which had emerged recently and as an amateur entomologist I was very pleased to watch those dragonflies.  Later on, we made a stop at Nea Mirtos to look at a beautiful small chapel then we left the coast and took a road in the hills heading for Ano viannos.  We had a nice picnic lunch in the middle of olive trees, listening to the song of a Cirl Bunting and watching about twenty Alpine Swifts and a Eurasian Griffon flying round above us.  We finished off excellent apricots and delicious cherries and drove on, westwards, as far as Phaistos, the other archaeological must on the isle.  Contrary to Knossos, nothing or almost nothing has been altered in the ruins dating from 1900 to 1700 BC and I found the visit just as pleasant and far less tiring because there were few visitors.


Phaistos (Photo Danielle Joannès)

An hour and a half later, we went to Dimitris Villa in Matala where we had booked our rooms for the night.  We had some time left so we went to the beach which is famous because of its caves in the cliffs where the hippies spoke of peace and love in the 60's. When we returned, Elena, the owner of the hotel, who had already been very nice when we arrived had prepared an excellent meal with what she had bought in town and we thus had dinner on the terrace, next to the swimming-pool.

08 June 2014

When I got up I cast a glance in the garden of the hotel and had the opportunity to have a close look at the surprising variety of plumages of the Italian Sparrow of Crete.  I was even more surprised when, from the window of my room, I saw a Black-eared Wheatear in the unkempt garden. This is not its usual habitat in France.  After breakfast, just as we were leaving, one of the drivers of our group backed right into the bumper of Elena's mother. We thought we would just have to draw up a report for the insurance company the way it is done in France but things got more complicated when we learned that in Greece, the insurance agents of both parties have to assess the damage and draw up the report themselves.  As it was Whit Sunday and we were in a remote place of Crete, we were pretty sure we would have to wait for a long time.  We were wrong however and everything was solved in an amicable way and we lost only two or three hours. We stopped at Spili to see the famous Venetian fountain and its line of 25 lions spurting water.  There were a great many Barn Swallows in the town and I also saw several Alpine Swifts in the mountains around.  After a quick visit of the town, we stopped once more to see the Fourtaliotiko Gorges.  It was worth it because Eurasian Griffons were nesting in the cliffs and we also saw three Red-billed Choughs, Crag Martins, Eurasian Jackdaws and Ravens.

We then went on southwards and stopped a the Moni Preveli monastery.  Several monuments remind the tourists that this area was the field of many battles between Greek resistants and German invaders during World War II. It was beginning to get rather hot but we had a nice view of the sea  from the hills and about twenty Eurasian Griffons were flying over the mountains north of our position.  We went back to the ruins of the Kato Preveli monastery and took some rest in the shade of the trees along a pleasant little stream. I saw several insects among which a few butterflies (a Painted Lady and a Swallowtail), a huge impressive Mammoth Wasp, dragonflies (Blue Skimmer and Emperor Dragonfly) and above all a Little Bittern, a small heron which usually hides in the reeds.  I would have liked to stay there for yet a little time but we had to move on and we visited a charming little chapel built under a cliff in the Kotsifou Gorges. We made our last stop of the day in front of the Castle of Frangokastello at the seaside and finally reached the Samaria hotel at Chora Skafion.

09 June 2014

We had planned to take the boat to reach the south entrance to the Samaria Gorges and while waiting I scanned the sea which was hopelessly empty of birds, except for a few Yellow-legged Gulls.  However, at least 200 Alpine Swifts were flying high up in the sky and Eurasian Collared-Doves were singing without end in the village.  We boarded the Daskalogiannis at 10.30 and stopped over in the charming little port of Porto Loutro before disembarking at Agia Roumeli at 11.40.  The Samaria Gorges are said to be the deepest in Europe and most people hike the 13 km downwards from the north. For practical reasons, even if it meant going up instead of going down, we had decided to visit only the southern part which concentrates the nicest spots according to our guide-books. The path is rather flat in the beginning and follows a torrent bordered with spectacular rosebay bushes.  I spotted a Blue Rock-Thrush, Comm Ravens and many Crag Martins before we stopped for a picnic lunch and then got started on the gorges.  The cliffs were closing in on us and the gorges became very narrow after a few hundred metres before we were able to walk along a shady path in the evergreens. This came as a pleasant relief because the sun was beating down.

Samaria Gorges

The Samaria Gorges (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We split in smaller groups so that everybody could walk at their own pace but we all had to be back in the village to take the boat at 17.30.  When we reached the narrowest part of the gorge at the 3rd Door, we went back because the scenery no longer changed and we heard that a thunderstorm was coming. During that pleasant hike I saw several  Grey Wagtails, Crested Tits and yet again a few Eurasian Griffons. We had time enough to have a fresh drink in one of the harbour cafés and then took the boat again, sailing back on the vivid blue sea.

10 June 2014

Just before leaving Chora Skafion, I saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull flying past over the harbour. As we were now in good shape, we had decided to go for a walk in the Gorges of Imbros which are less famous but very beautiful too and not so difficult. We parked our car at Komitades where we found a free car-park provided we had a drink in the café, right at the entrance to the path leading to the gorges. The path was more pebbly but not so steep as in the Samaria Gorges and I had time to see an Eleonora's Falcon and a Eurasian Hobby together with many Crag Martins. I also saw a Balkan Green Lizard basking in the sun. After that pleasant walk, we crossed the isle driving northwards till we reached the coast at Chania.  This is the most beautiful city of Crete in my opinion, but everybody knows this and the streets were crowded.  The ancient part of  the city is surrounded with ramparts where I saw many Common Swifts. We strolled in the narrow but pleasantly shaded streets of the former Muslim quarter and then walked in the harbour where we admired the former Janissaries Mosque. We went to a quieter area for our dinner and we had a delicious baklava for dessert.  This pastry is rather sweet but I simply love that.

Chania Mosque

The Janissaries Mosque of Chania (Photo Danielle  Joannès)

After sunset the port became busier and people seemed to be especially happy to watch the sea glistening with all the neons of the restaurants and little shops.  We went back to our cars and made it to the Klinakis Beach hotel just outside the city.

11 June 2014

The hotel we had chosen was quiet and built right in front of a pleasant little beach but mosquitoes bit me because I had left my bedroom window open and didn't have any repellent.  I soon forgot that and we left the hotel to visit the Akrothiri peninsula north-east of the town. We went as far as Marathi where we had a nice view to the sea but couldn't take any photos because this is a military area.  I was not too disappointed for all that and saw two Red-rumped Swallows and a Spanish Sparrow.  We then went to the Gouvernetou Monastery which is built in breath-taking surroundings.  Usually, monks select quiet areas to meditate and pray but they had never imagined then that military jets would  swoop down and roar impressively right above their heads. The sun beat down heavily on the few bushes growing in the limestone hills but we nevertheless pushed as far as the little church built below, on the slope of the cliff. It is being restored and to help a little you can carry down a few stones lying on the ground right in front of the monastery.  On my way I saw a female Blue Rock-Thrush with some food in its bill for its young well hidden not far away from there. After we had looked again at the vivid blue sea spreading at the foot of the cliff, we left the site.  I really liked this environment and stopped to watch very old knotty olive-trees and I took a few photos of bees gathering pollen not far from their hives.  That was a silly idea because one of them stung my left eye-lid. It was swollen all right but the pain was bearable and did not put an end to our visit, of course.  We had lunch at Chora Fakia and were nicely protected from the wind on the terrace of the restaurant and were even offered both the usual baklava and raki.  Those Cretans are really friendly people.  After lunch, we visited Agia Triada, another monastery with a large bell-tower and ochre buildings.  Inside the church, we saw beautiful icons, brass chandeliers, a splendid iconostasis and a small museum of ecclesiastic vestments and sacerdotal objects.  At the end of the day, we returned to Chania to finish our visit of the town.

12 June 2014

One of the best sites for watching ducks is the Lake of Agia so we went there.  We fist made a useless stop at a café from which we had a nice view to the lake but it was too distant to see anything clearly.  We went on and came near a small bridge and a path along the lake.  At first I was somewhat disappointed by the small number of birds I saw but it soon proved to be one of the best sites in Crete.  There were the usual Yellow-legged Gulls, Common Coots and I noted two Little Grebes, a Common Moorhen, a Cetti's Warbler and above all a Squacco Heron. A Sand Martin was flying  above the water, a European Serin was singing close by and there were also Common and Alpine Swifts and several Blackcaps. As for reptiles, I saw yet another Balkan Green Lizard and various insects among which a Black-tailed Skimmer and an Emperor Dragonfly. We then went on and took a steep road in the direction of the mountains inside the isle and soon four Eurasian Griffons flew above us.  We had a picnic lunch at the north entrance to the Samaria Gorges and we would have liked to get inside to take a few photos but the wardens adamantly refused to let us in even though we shown them the tickets we had bought at the south entrance the day before. The wind was blowing hard and it was much colder then.  We made a quick visit of the church in Meskla and stopped several times for a few photos along the steep and winding scenic road before we came back to Chania where the thermometer read 29°C.  We also visited a few more places like the synagogue dating back to the XVth century, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox cathedrals.  These places testify that this small island attracted many different people who all attached great importance to their faiths.  In the evening we had an excellent dinner on the terrace of the Semiramis restaurant and we listened to the songs of three musicians playing various instruments among which the famous bouzouki.


Eurasian Griffon (Photo Simone Girault
13 June 2014

We had a quieter night after we had closed the bedroom window and bought a mosquito repellent plug so we were happy to continue our journey all the more so as the weather was still very pleasant.  We drove on westwards but soon got tired of the series of uninteresting seaside resorts and stopped at the monastery of Mona Gonias near Kolimbari and then took a road to the south to reach the Topolia Gorges.  There we took a steep path to go to the Agia Sofia Grotto where we saw many Italian Sparrows, Crag Martins and feral Rock Pigeons. It was a pleasant walk but we had to go on and thus reached our westernmost point at the monastery of  Chryssos Kalitissa.  It is built on a small cliff at the seaside and overlooks the crystalline water.  We had been looking forward to seeing the splendid beach of Elafonissi that you can see in all the catalogues advertizing Crete.  It is indeed very beautiful but packed with tourists and as it is very windy it also attracts all those who are fond of  windsurfing.  Needless to say I was a bit disappointed but I was glad to find a Crested Lark not far from there.  As this road led to a dead-end we had to turn back before driving south again to Palaiochora.  Just before we reached this seaside resort I spotted two Peregrine Falcons.  We thought we would find the Megim hotel in that town but it was actually located at Koundura, a few miles west, in a less populated area. We however decided to have dinner in Palaiochora which actually proved to be a rather pleasant seaside resort.  As each restaurant had a large TV screen on the pavement, we were able to watch the first World Cup soccer match while eating. We then strolled at night in the streets of the little town and went back to our hotel where I was pleased to hear a Common Scops Owl singing.
14 June 2014

The breakfast we had was very good but we soon left the hotel to go to Azogires where the Holy Fathers Monastery is located. To get there, you have to leave your car in the village and take a pleasant path along a small stream in the forest.  We heard the rattle of  Sardinian Warblers and the clicking song of  European Goldfinches and I also saw a  Black-tailed Skimmer basking in the sun near the water.  The monastery is rather small but the view from there is very pleasant and the atmosphere is perfect for meditating. We got into our cars again and went on, following the winding road and stopped to have a look at the small church of Sotirous Christou before reaching the village of Sougi at the seaside.  We had lunch in a small restaurant right in front of the beach and I saw a Red-rumped Swallow, a Common Kestrel and higher in the sky, a few Common Ravens.  A few moments afterwards, we were at the verge of the Irini Gorges which we hiked down, from the north, departing from the village of Agia Irini. It was an easy and pleasant ramble and we spent an hour walking quietly in the woods because there were very few tourists there.  We saw a great variety of plants but few birds, except for a few European Goldfinches and Blackcaps. We arrived separately in Maleme because the roads are picturesque indeed but also winding and we finally lost sight of one another. We were accommodated in the luxurious flats of the Futura Hotel and had a nice meal close to the beach while the sun was setting.

15 June 2014

We left Maleme heading for the restored traditional village of Vamos which we visited rather quickly, then, hoping to see some interesting birds, we went to the lake of Kournas.  This however was just a stretch of water for paddle-boats so we chose to go as far as Rethymno after lunch.  I was at first a bit disappointed by that town and its numerous tourist shops lining the narrow streets but the ramparts were nice and there were beautiful wooden balconies, even though some of them needed being restored. Fortunately, I saw a few Pallid Swifts turning around the roofs and uttering their hoarse shrills.  We bought home-made baklavas from an old woman and drove on to Stavromenos Sfakaki were we were nicely accommodated at the Thalassi Beach hotel.

16 June 2014

After a good night's sleep, we drove inland to the Arkadi Monastery from which you have a nice view to Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete (2456 m).  From the car-park I saw a Spanish Sparrow and heard a European Serin.  This monastery is famous because many resistants fought  the Ottomans inside its walls but nowadays everything is peaceful even if some traces of the combats are still visible on the buildings or a few trees.


Arkadi Monastery (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We had plenty of time to watch the splendid iconostasis inside the church and we spent a few pleasant moments in the gardens before heading west again.. Near Elleftherna I saw a Eurasian Hoopoe and Red-rumped Swallows. As usual, the road was winding in the hills and we stopped for a short while in order to take a rest  and visit the church of Agios Mamas.  In the village, I spotted a European Turtle-Dove in a small tree and several Sardinian Warblers were singing in the bushes.  We finally reached the touristic village of Anogia where several monuments have been erected to remind people of the violent fights which too place there against the Turks.  There were also old ladies dressed in black, sitting in front of the embroidery they were trying to sell to the tourists. We then returned to the Sofia hotel in Heraklion only to leave our luggage and went directly to the inner city where we had our last dinner.
17 June 2014

We had a very good night this time because our rooms were not located near the runways.  We returned the cars and expressed some reservations as to the conditionsof those vehicles and then boarded our plane to Paris where we arrived at 17.00.  We learned that the French railways were on strike and if that annoyed some of us we were not affected personally because we had left our car not far from Roissy Airport.  We were a bit tired but we had spent a very pleasant stay in this isle which is indeed worth visiting for its many religious buildings, archaeological and natural sites.  What is more, the Cretans are very friendly people. 

List of species seen during the trip.

01 Little Grebe 
Tachybaptus ruficollis
Two birds at the Lake of Agia.
Cory's Shearwater ; (Scopoli Shearwater) Calonectris diomedea diomedea ; (Calonectris diomedea borealis) We saw three of them on the day following our arrival while the wind was blowing very hard.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus A rather tame bird at Kato Preveli.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides A bird hiding in the reeds at the Lake of Agia.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta One bird flying over Lake Bramanon.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor One bird on the beach near Ierapetra and another at the Lake of Agia.
Gypaetus barbatus An immature bird flew a long time over us at Kaminaki, on the sides of the Lassithi Plateau.
Eurasian Griffon
Gyps fulvus Easily observed everywhere in the mountains.  Nests in the Fortaliotiko Gorges.
Common Buzzard
Buteo buteo Observed occasionally especially on the Lassithi Plateau.
Common Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Hobby
Falco subbuteo One bird in the Gorges of Imbros.
Eleonora's Falcon 
Falco elenorae Observed in small numbers on the Lassithi Plateau and the Gorges of Imbros.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Two birds flying over the road above Palaiochora.
Common Moorhen
Gallinula chloropus One bird at the  Lake of Agia.
Common Coot  Fulica atra At the Lake of Agia.
Yellow-legged Gull
Larus michahellis  At the seaside and near lakes.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Larus fuscus One bird seen flying in the harbour of Chora Skafion.
Rock Pigeon
Columba livia
In towns and cliffs.
19Common Wood PigeonColumba palumbus In the Gorges of Imbros.
20 Eurasian Collared-Dove
Streptopelia decaocto Very common.
21 European Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur One bird in a bushy tree at Agios Mamas.
22 Common Scops-Owl Otus scops One bird singing in our hotel park at Kundura.
23 Common Swift
Apus apus Common.
24 Pallid Swift
Apus pallidus About ten at Rethymno.  There may have been others elsewhere but they are very difficult to distinguish from Common Swifts. 
25 Alpine Swift
Apus melba At least 200 on a mountain side near Chora Skafion but also observed at the Lake of Agia, Matala, Moni Preveli and Nea Mirtos.
26 Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops One bird on the Lassithi Plateau and one at Elleftherna.
27 Crested Lark
Galerida cristata One bird near the Castle of Frangokastello and another in the heather near the beach of Elafonissi.
28 Sand Martin Riparia riparia A few flying above the Lake of Agia.
29 Eurasian Crag Martin  Ptyonoprogne rupestris Common in the gorges.
30 Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica Very common, especially at Spili.
31Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo dauricaSmall numbers at Knossos, Marathi, Sougia and Elleftherna.
White Wagtail
Motacilla alba
In the heather at Elafonissi.
33 Grey Wagtail  Motacilla cinerea Several in the Samaria Gorges.
34 Winter Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes Can be heard in the Gorges of Imbros.
35 Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica In bushy areas.  One bird on an electric wire on a hillside, one on the beach at Vai, another in the rocks near Kato Zakros and even one in an unkempt garden near our hotel at Matala.
36 Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata One bird at Anogia and another at Tzermadiou.
37 Blue Rock-Thrush
Monticola solitarius
A male at Agia Roumeli and a female with food for its chicks near the Monastery of  Gouvernetou.
38 Eurasian Blackbird
Turdus merula A few birds seen near the Lake of Agia.
39 Blackcap
Sylvia atricapilla Seen at Knossos, in the Samaria Gorges, at Agia and in the Irini Gorges.
40 Sardinian Warbler
Silvia  melanocephala Heard several times, especially at Agios Mamas.
41Cetti's WarblerCettia cettiHeard at Mirsini and at the Lake of Agia.
42 Great Tit
Parus major Seen at Phaistos and Azogyres.
43 Blue Tit
Parus caeruleus Seen in the Gorges of Imbros and at Sougia.
44 Crested Tit
Parus cristatus In the pines of the Samaria Gorges.
45 Eurasian Jay 
Garrulus glandarius
In the Samaria Gorges bathing in the torrent.
46 Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
About 50 at Spilia.  Also seen in the Fortaliotiko Gorges, Kotsifou and in the village of Meskla.
47 Red-billed Chough
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Three birds in the Gorges of Fortaliotiko.
48 Hooded Crow
Corvus cornix Very contrasted plumage.  A few birds, especially in Heraklion.
49 Common Raven Corvus corax In small numbers everywhere, especially in the mountains and gorges.
50 House and Italian Sparrow
Passer domesticus domesticus and P.d. italiae
In various habitats.  Difficult to distinguish from the rarer Spanish Sparrow. Different plumages.
51 Spanish Sparrow
Passer hispaniolensis
One male at Arkadi.
52 Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Passer montanus Observed in the gardens of the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion.
53 Chaffinch
Fringilla coelebs At Knossos but also in the gorges.
54 European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Rather common near the grotto of Agia Sofia.  Also seen at Azogyres, int the Irini Gorges and at Arkadi.
55 European Greenfinch
Carduelis chloris
Observed at Knossos, Kritsa and in the Gorges of Imbros.
56 European Serin Serinus serinus Singing at Agia and at the Arkadi Monastery.
57 Cirl Bunting
Emberiza cirlus Singing at Ano Viannos.

Other Animal Species :

Reptiles :

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) : Rather easy to find.  Seen at Phaistos, in the Gorges of Imbros, the Lake of Agia and behind the little church of Sotirous Christou.


Violet Dropwing (Thritemis annulata) : A probable emergence of about a hundred individuals on the top of the barrage of Lake Bramanon.

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) : Observed at Kato Preveli and at the Lake of Agia.

Blue Skimmer  (Orthetrum brunneum) : Seen at Kato Preveli.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)  : Seen at the Lake of Agia and at Azogyres near a small torrent.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) : One seen near the torrent in the Gorges of Fourtaliotiko.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)  : Observed at Kato Preveli and at the Monastery of Gouvernetou.

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) : Seen at Kato Preveli and in the village of Vamos.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) :  Seen in various places.

Mammoth Wasp : (Megascolia maculata) : its name is a good description of this huge insect observed at Moni Preveli.

Several huge, undertermined grasshoppers and even a kind of Stick Insect. 


My Trips