If you google ‘Zante Birds’ you will struggle to find many reports, and may not even bother taking your bins. That would be a mistake, especially if you stay in the Keri area, in the south west of Zante.
We stayed at the Keri Village Spa Hotel set high up in the hills between Agalas and Keri Village. We were there from 8/6/16 to 15/6/16. A smashing little all inclusive, adult only hotel where the staff couldn’t do enough for you.
Within minutes of walking from the hotel some of the most dramatic, unspoilt scenery in Zante and probably Greece, is on your doorstep.
The villa on the hill tracks.
If you are not staying at the hotel there is enough room to park just outside.
Walk up the hill towards the TV mast and carry on till you see a villa on a hill. There were at least two Woodchat Shrike on either side of the track before the house. The Olivaceous Warbler and Sardinian Warbler started in earnest as soon as you reach the crest of the steep climb. There were dozens around here, heard, rather than seen mostly.
Just before the house a steep track turns left off the main path. As it drops down and turns right there is an obvious brown tilled field. There were always a pair of Crested Lark in the field and a family of Stonechat in the maquis to the right. There were marvellous cliff-side views where we saw at least one Eleanora’s Falcon on every visit.
A pair of Kestrel were seen regularly as well as Swifts which looked very much like Pallid Swift but could have been Common Swift. About 12 Yellow-legged Gull were generally around most days.
Walk back to the main track and take another short diversion along the track going towards the sea [just left off the main track by the villa entrance gate]. There was a Cirl Bunting here, another Stonechat, a Crested Lark and a pair of Common Buzzard. Another Eleanora’s Falcon was perched on a high rock just to the right, on the last day. A Black-eared Wheatear was spotted one evening near the villa gates.
Return to the main track turn left and head for the tarmac road. There was another Black-eared Wheatear in one of the olive groves to the right, tens of House Sparrow, a flock of Goldfinch, a few Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Great Tit and several Blackbird. Another Woodchat Shrike was perched on a dead tree to the left just past the villa gates. There was a vast number of Barn Swallow and a few Red-rumped Swallow here as well.
When you reach the tarmac road turn left and head towards the cliffs. Stay on the road until it climbs and turns a sharpish right. There is a track on your left just on the bend. It drops down then turns right. You will see the cliffs to your right. Head to the edge and the views of the steep cliff, rocky island and deep blue sea is breathtaking. This was a great place to see Eleanora’s Falcon. There was a pair here every day.
Carrying on from the above walk, return to the tarmac road and turn left. The road splits to the right after a few yards. Stay left and carry on till the road becomes a rough track. Look out for a few colourful beehives and head towards them keeping them to the left of the track. Make sure you don’t take the left track which splits off just by a small disused quarry. Eventually the rough track meets a tarmac road. Turn left and head towards the sea. The road winds down to the cliff edge which is stunning. There are unspoilt views of steep cliffs and the uninhabited coastline as far as the eye can see.
Along the way, here were 3 Eleanora’s Falcon, a pair of Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, a pair of Common Buzzard and several Olivaceous Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. Another pair of Eleanora’s Falcon were perched on the rocky island just off the coast looking south.
The caravan track
Turn left out of the hotel and go down to the junction. Turn left. Just along here there were three Spotted Flycatcher including a juvenile, on the wires. There is a rough track just off the main road to your right. This leads to a caravan which is as far as you need to go. Again your ears will be assaulted by numerous Olivaceous Warbler and Sardinian Warbler warbling and calling. There were another two Woodchat Shrike, a pair of Common Buzzard, lots of Barn Swallow and several Greenfinch. Oddly I heard the clear 'ooop oop oop' sound of a Hoopoe near the caravan but can find no records of this species in Zante. I went back to check the next day and heard it again!
When you return to the main road you can turn right, take the next left and carry on till you meet the rough track which leads to the ‘villa on the hill’ track. This then leads back to the hotel.
The hotel helpfully provided a free shuttle to this lovely little resort. There is a ‘lake’ which is really a half dried out reed bed. It takes around 45 minutes to do the circuit. I heard a Reed Warbler and two Cetti's Warbler on the way round. Another visitor recorded Fan-tailed Warbler. Other birds recorded: Barn Swallow, Mallard, Sardinian Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon.
There were lots of Terrapins, frogs, butterflies and dragonflies in the small creeks and streams.