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Corfu: May to June 1998

Cephalonia: May 2003

John Newnham


Family package tour arranged through Airtours for the late spring half term holiday + an additional week. Family of 4 included Alice (her last holiday with her parents) as well as Robert and Denise. Holiday from Saturday 23/5/1998 (left Gatwick @ 2135hrs) until Friday 5/6/03 (left late at night). Hired car, Fiat Cinquacenta, from Wednesday 27/5 until Wednesday 3/6. Days either side of this spent in hotel and vicinity of Moraitika; morning walks usually involved walks into the hills exploring the olive groves and hillside scrub. Morning birdwatch for week with vehicle mainly spent in vicinity of L Korrison.

Family itinerary whilst had wheels was:

Wed 27th May Drive through Stongili, Stavros, Ag Deka, Kamari, Voumatades and Ag Mattheos. Explored NW corner of Lake Korrison, the sand-dunes on sea side and spent most of afternoon on beach.

Thu 28th May Drove via Benitse and Ag Joanis to Paleostritsa; stopped briefly on Plain of Ropa. Spent most of day around Paleostritsa (swimming etc) returning via Pelekas, Sinarades and Milia.

Fri 29th May Eploration of S of island – via Lefkimmi (lt turn in town SP Milos/Akinios to visit salt pans). Spent 1hour exploring this area and walking around saltpans but raining whislt here! Drove on via Kavos (ugh!) and Spartero. Lunch in hill top taverna sheltering from rain! Called into L Korrison SE corner en-route back to hotel.

Sat 30th May Drove N to explore Pantokrator (highest point on Corfu @ 906m). Longer journey than anticipated and thick cloud covered higher slopes when present thus stayed fro a short while before Ag Martinos, New Peritha to Kassiopi where spent some time exploring the village. Drove home via scenic coastal route via Nissaki, Ipsos etc.

Sun 31st May Most of day spent looking around Corfu Town; return route via Ag Joanis.

Mon 1st June Visited Palace and gardens of Achillion. Lunch in delightful country taverna near Kokini before spending rest of afternnon and early evening in Aqualand water park.

Tue 2nd June From late morning to early evening spent at Georgeos Beach.

Map – used Bartholomew’s Corfu Holiday Map + map supplied by Avis – combination found to be reasonably accurate. Tourist hints from “Essential Corfu” by Gerry Crawshaw. Birding notes/list – photocopied, hand written (source not recorded but signature looks like John Sinnett) account in form of site notes dated 6/5/1987 addressed Steve; mention of D Petman in account. Records L Korrison as being the best site, Plain of Ropa and Pantokrator. Salt pans near Lefkimmi are certainly worthy of more exploration. Sinnett refers to woods near Sidari, rolling hills S of Ag Mathias and Andinioti Lagoon near Spiridon as other sites – not visited by us.


Family package tour arranged by Argo for half term holiday May 24-May 31st 2003. Denise, Robert and myself stayed at the Apostollata Island Resort Hotel at the southern end of Cephalonia, ca 3 –4 km outside Skala on the road to Poros. Accommodation listed as 4*+ but several facilities were not open or running and early in the season was cited by management as the reason – however a comfortable and well appointed hotel with air conditioning, swimming pools etc and pleasant views. View from room balcony over the Ionian Sea toward Zanti and views over steep rocky shore and montane edges around hotel. From Day 2 we hired a Daewoo Matiz from CBR cars (in Skala) at about £24 per day (apparently cheaper rates can be negotiated by hiring from the UK) – car returned @ 1600hrs on Fri 30th May. Small car ideal for some of the narrow roads but more engine power would have been useful in the mountains – first gear quite often needed. Transport needed at this location as hotel well out of town and walks from the hotel fairly limited (along road either towards Poros or Skala).


Saturday May 24th Left Worthing at 0820 (Mark providing transport to Gatwick) – flight direct to Cephalonia on Excelairways left on time @ 1130. VERY crowded flight with less leg room than experienced on other package flights. Arrived at 1700hrs (Greek time – 2 hours advanced) in dry but overcast weather –apparently the previous few days been wet after the hottest May for 70 years! Transfer by mini-bus took just over an hour. Magnificent scenery enjoyed from mini-bus. After unpacking spent time sitting on balcony enjoying close telescope views of breeding birds in hotel ground including Red-rumped Swallows, Woodchat Shrikes & Cirl Buntings.

Sunday May 25th Rain and grey all day but started to brighten by early evening. Morning sat reading in room and playing cards – later walked into Skala. Lunched in taverna watching pouring rain! Late pm hired car and drove back to hotel by which time weather starting to settle. Holiday reps “welcome” meeting rather late in the day. Birdwatching from balcony in evening provided excellent views of local breeding birds, a passing Levantine Sparrowhawk and a Roller feeding from wire on hillside opposite the hotel. After Sunday the weather remained hot and sunny – with some coolness in evening.

Monday May 26th Pre-breakfast walk into hills along small valley with dried up river bed on east side of Skala (on Poros road)– path came to end after about 400 yards. Late am spent in hotel complex swimming etc. Left 1300hrs driving through Skala, Katelios, Vlahata, Mousala and Peratata to the Kastro St George. Viewed this before taking road into the mountain towards the monastery Gerrasimos and the Robina wine cooperative (neither were open – the wine cooperative shuts at 1500hrs). Rejoined Sami road and then diverted to Mount Aenos – stopped and walked about half way up to rescue point (regretted not going further up into the fir tree zone as failed to find more time later in the week). Later drove into Sami and enjoyed short walk around the harbour and snack in port side taverna. Return route was via Digaleto and Poros (stopped to look more closely at Poros Gorge).

Tuesday May 27th Pre-breakfast exploration of Skala particularly looking at lush area around the mosaics. Later walked down a valley W of Skala (ca 3 km) to another hotel complex (valley well wooded with variety of trees/scrubs). Late morning again spent around hotel complex. Early afternoon drove via Poros to Tzanata – noticed a reservoir in this area but no way to access and view was found. A new reservoir appears to be constructed nearby. This area is verdant and would be worth longer exploration for birds. Motored on to Ag Nikolias and the Lake Avithros – walked around this area (very lush and butterflies/ dragonflies abundant). Continued on towards Sami and visited the Drogarati Cave and Melissani Lake before retracing road back towards Poros – stopped en-route on top of hill near Digaleto. Robert later snorkeled in bay between Poros near Cape Heroulaki. before returning to Apostalatta.

Wednesday May 28th Pre-breakfast walk in same valley explored yesterday (mainly to see whether the flock of Rose-coloured Starlings had returned). After breakfast left hotel mid-morning to explore the Palli peninsula – drove to Argostoli taking break and stroll by the lagoon at both the southern end and on the eastern side of the causeway bridge. Several areas seen here which would be attractive to migrants but late May really too late. Took scenic route via Farsa to idealic village called Zola. Stopped at marshland at northern end of gulf (Livadi Marshes) – middle of day and very hot thus this area not explored as thoroughly as deserved. The pools and marsh can be well viewed with scope from pull in main road on east side (elevation gives good views into channels etc). Drove on into Lixouri where lunched in town square. Later afternoon explored the southern end of the peninsula and red beaches at Xi and Kounapetra before returning to the mountain roads to see the monasteries on the W side near Chavdata and Kaminarata. Scenery and landscapes here very different and really warranted more time in exploration. Bird densities (especially finches and buntings) seemed higher near Xi and Kounopetra than the more rocky areas. Returned to Lixouri catching the 1830 ferry to Argostoli and easy, fairly quick, journey back to Apostallata.

Thursday May 29th Pre-breakfast walk in low mountains inland at Skala – looking for the old remains of the pre quake Skala village – very few birds here apart from a small party of 4 Turtle Doves. After breakfast left for another long day exploring the northern, and in some views the more attractive, end of the island. Motored to Sami (50 mins approx) then the coastal road to Agia Efimia, Divarata and down to Mitos Bay – reputably the most famous and scenic beach in Greece. After brief stay motored on to Assos and spent some time sitting on the isthmus overlooking the village, small port and contemplating the walk out to the fortress (too far and too hot!). Motored onto Fiscardo where had a snack lunch in a port side taverna – lovely village but busy with trippers (like us!). Returned via Mesovounia, Karya and Komitata stopping at various places to view Ithaca and the mountain scenery. Reached Sami by 17:00 and then spent ca hour swimming and snorkeling in delightful Antisamos Bay (deceptive small stones looked like sand!). Returned to Apostallata via Poros.

Friday May 30th No morning walk; left hotel mid morning going to Markopoula via Katelios (very steep road up mountain). Here viewed the church where the snakes appear in mid-August. Via Pastra to a very quiet mountain road to Xenopoula and Andriolata – very quiet with only a few Cephalonians encountered. Some interesting gorges here to explore. Spent some time by a shaded stream near Ag Irini before returning to Poros for light lunch in taverna overlooking the beach. Returned early pm to Apostollata, car returned at 1600hrs, thereafter spent pm swimming and relaxing in hotel.

Saturday May 31st Early morning walk along road to Poros. Most of morning spent packing up and swimming in hotel pool. Booked out of room at 12MD and picked up by mini-bus for trip back to airport at 1415hrs. Flight back to UK on time (just as cramped) arriving LGW about 1930 BST

Reference – I was unable to find any detailed accounts of good birding sites in Cephalonia on the internet but some help was obtained from a checklist compiled by Paul Felton Whitehead on the Friends of Ionian Island site ( and John Jennings early May trip in 1998 found on

Comments:- late May is clearly too late to consider a birding trip to the Greek Islands as most, if not all, migrants will have passed through. A single week family holiday with all the scenery and sites to be taken in was really too short a time to thoroughly look at all habitats in such a large island, this dearth of time is reflective in the relatively short list of species seen.. I regret not taking the road higher up Mt Aenos to the rescue station and exploring the fir woods. Livadi Marsh is certainly worthy of further exploration and the beaches in this area looked the most likely to hold wading birds. Likewise the numbers of buntings etc in the southern, more sandy areas, of the Palli peninsula suggest more birds could be found in this area. A reservoir near Tzanata may be worth exploring and there appears to be further construction for water on the E side of the road between Tzanata and Ag Irini – this whole area is very verdant and worthy of exploration. Apart from the lagoon at Argostoli the only other open water I located was a small lake in the mountains near Ag Nikolias called Lake Avithos. Despite the hottest May in 70 years much of the island was still very green although most streams and rivers were dry. Sea-watching and the coastline was generally very quiet.

List of birds seen

*italics indicate species not listed by Whitehead.


CORFU 1998


Cory’s Shearwater

Total 13 seen on 3 dates

Only seen from hotel near Skala; 1W on 29/5 and c20W on 30/5


1 ad off hotel


Little Bittern

1 L. Korrison 2/6


Squacco Heron


One seen Livadi Marsh on 28/5

Little Egret

Total 16 seen on 3 dates; most seen at Saltpans near Lefkimmi

One Argostoli Lagoon & c20 Livadi Marsh – both 28/5

Purple Heron


One Argostoli Lagoon & 2 Livadi Marsh – both 28/5

Grey Heron


About 6 at Livadi Marsh on 28/5

Mute Swan


Two on Argostli Lagoon on 28/5

Honey Buzzard

Two singles seen; excellent views on ridge over Moraitika on 26/5


Levant Sparrowhawk


Singles in hotel garden and two in valley W of Skala (one disturbed flock of Rose-coloured Starlings) on 27/5.

Common Buzzard

Single bird near Kassiopi

Numerous, seen daily often in several sites– the only broad winged raptor identified.


Just two in 2 weeks

Fairly common; 3 pairs breeding in Poros Gorge?

Red-footed Falcon


2 males near Skala on 26/5 and female near Kounapetra on 28/5



Single mobbing Buzzard W of Skala on 27/5 and near Tzavata on 27/5

Little Ringed Plover

2 Lake Korrison


Ringed Plover

One near Lake Korrison

No waders seen in Cephalonia

Kentish Plover

Several Korrison and Salt-pans



3 at salt-pans


Curlew Sandpiper

4 and single at L Korrison


Common Sandpiper

Single Salt-pans


Slender-billed Gull

Single adult over salt pans


Yellow-legged Gull

Most in salt pan area

Small numbers seen most days only at coastal locations.

Common Tern

Single bird on salt pans


Little Tern

ca 10 salt-pans


Collared Dove

Noted near hotel

Fairly common in towns (Skala particularly).

Turtle Dove

No numbers recorded – in groves

Only saw 5 –  1 just W of Skala on 27/5 & 4 in a party near Skala on 29/5

Scops Owl

Calling in hotel grounds


Little Owl

Calling near hotel

Singles seen in broad daylight near Xi and at Xenopoula.

Common Swift

Abundant – thousands over Corfu Town

Encountered over towns – occasional large party feeding over hotel.

Pallid Swift

Several over Plains of Ropa

3-4 with Alpine Swifts high above Mirtos Bay – mobbing Buzzard.

Alpine Swift

Several seen – Ropa and Paleokastritsa

2 with Pallids mobbing Buzzard over Mirtos Bay.


One near Messonghi



One NW end Korrison




Single bird watched feeding from telegraph wires on hillside opposite hotel on 25 & 26/5

Short-toed Lark

Sandy areas near Korrison


Crested Lark

Fairly common

Regularly seen between hotel and Skala; several in southern end Palli peninsula

Sand Martin

Regularly seen

Small parties (up to 20) seen most days.


Regularly seen

Common and widespread.

Red-rumped Swallow

Regularly seen

Seen at various sites on most days – probably breeding in incomplete building in hotel complex.

House Martin

Regularly seen

Numerous and common

Yellow Wagtail

Two blue-headed in Moraitika on 26/5


Grey Wagtail

Single bird near hotel




One briefly heard singing in lush vegetation near Agia Irini on 30/5



Common near Xi and Kounapetra, single near Pastra otherwise not encountered.

Northern Wheatear

Two near Moraitika


Black-eared Wheatear

Few seen on ascent to Pantokrator

Seen in mountains near Ag Eleftherios and on roadside near Xenopoula.

Blue Rock Thrush

Singing from rocky cliff at  Paleokastritsa.

Several pairs near hotel otherwise only seen in mountains near Ag Eleftherios.


One Pantokrator

Common and widespread even high in mountains if suitable habitat present.

Cettis Warbler

Fairly widespread – heard

Heard calling from several sites – mostly associated with lush vegetation but on mountain slope near Skala.

Zitting Cisticola

Common on low grasslands and particularly around Korrison

Only one heard calling Livadi Marsh 28/5

Sedge Warbler

Single at Korrison 2/6


Reed Warbler

Single at Korrison 2/6


Great Reed Warbler

In reeds @ Korrison

Heard singing from reeds at Livadi Marsh on 28/5

Olivaceous Warbler

Fairly numerous in scrub

Several near Skala and near Ag Irini.

Spectacled Warbler

Only seen in dry area near Messonghi


Subalpine Warbler

One male on Pantokrator

Superb male singing near Xenopoula on 30/5 (habitat for this species not explored well)

Sardinian Warbler

Common and numerous

Common and widespread

Orphean Warbler


Singing bird showed well at Tzanata on 27/5


Single bird seen near Moraitika



Single bird seen near Moraitika

One seen W of Skala on

Spotted Flycatcher

Total of 4 seen

Singles only seen near Skala

Blue Tit


Common and fairly widespread in low areas; many family parties seen.

Great Tit


Common and fairly widespread – as above

Golden Oriole

Heard on one occasion


Lesser Grey Shrike

Excellent close views Korrison on 30/5


Woodchat Shrike

Fairly widespread and numerous

Common and widespread; very obvious species sitting up on bushes; breeding in hotel grounds – several still singing in late May.


Fairly common

Common and widespread – most frequently encountered corvid.


Noted occasionally


Hooded Crow


Two mobbing Raven just N of Assos and 2 at Agia Efimia on 29/5 and two flew in off sea at Katelios on 30/5


Single calling Pantokrator

One being mobbed by hoodies just N of Assos.

Rose-coloured Starling


A party of ten (perhaps 12) in full summer plumage were disturbed by sparrowhawk from a field in valley just W of Skala on 27/5; flock sat at top of cypress tree for about 10secs before flying off E strongly – not present on 28/5. 

House Sparrow


Common near habitation



Fairly common – song differs slightly from that heard in W Sussex.


Noted at several locations

*******Rather surprisingly not seen or heard*******



Fairly common



Common and widespread



2-3 only  encountered at high altitude in mountains near Ag Eleftherios.

Cirl Bunting

Only noted near Pantokrator

Very widespread especially in area around Skala; breeding in hotel grounds; at least 6 singing between hotel and Skala.

Black-headed Bunting

Several seen especially in agricultural areas near Korrison

Noted firstly near Tzanata; seemed more numerous near Xi and Kounopetra – probably fairly well distributed in arable areas

Corn Bunting

Several seen especially in agricultural areas near Korrison and Plain of Ropa.

First bird heard as got off plane at airport but thereafter not seen regularly apart from the area of Xi and Kounapetra.

John Newnham (19 June 2003)