Bird of the Week: Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
Rock Thrush (male)
This week I had the pleasure of showing a friend around the region and I promised him a visit to see the bears at the Arcturos Sanctuary in Nymfaio. On a very rainy Sunday we headed first to Kastoria for lunch and then, not remembering quite how to get to Lehovo, I turned to Google Maps. Lo and behold it offered a quicker route I wasn't aware of. "Super", thought I.
The rather special view from the Kastoria to Nymfaio "road"
As we climbed Mt. Vitsi my phone told me to take a right on a dirt track, which I dismissed as a GPS error. 10 minutes later, having reached the end of the road, we were back down at the dirt track. Hmmm. Maps didn't tell me it was a dirt road, and I wasn't in a 4x4. But there was a village called Perikopi up there, so I started to drive sheepishly over it, thinking it was one of many roads that hadn't been maintained of late. Probably it was just unsurfaced for a few hundred metres of the 15km suggested route. Wrong.
A first glimpse of Perikopi in the fog
So we get to Perikopi, finally, after navigating a Toyota Yaris over some serious gaps in the road. It seems a lovely place though, beautiful scenery making the slow drive worthwhile. Now we've 60 minutes until Arcturos closes, but it's doable; the road from Perikopi to Nymfaio must at least be asphalt.
Wrong again. We drive another 10 minutes until the road becomes impossible without a 4x4. Alas, no bears today, but we return to Perikopi for a look around, where the clouds have now rolled back a little... and we discover its abandoned. Just like the road.
We leave the village to take photos of the weather rolling over the plateau. And up on a tree is none other than the Rufous-tailed rock thrush, having a ruffle through his feathers in the miserable weather. A marvellous consolation prize!
It was the first time I'd seen the bird, so a quick dip into the Collins Bird Guide tells me that this lovely looking bird winters south of the Sahara and breeds throughout southern Europe on dry, rocky mountains or higher alpine meadows, usually above 1,500m. Which is exactly where we found it. And as they're known to be shy we were even more thrilled to see him.
In the end it was quite the adventure, as well as a good laugh about our 'smart' phones, and we discovered another beautiful part of the region and a marvellous little bird.
Following info from the BirdLife Factsheet
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 100,000-320,000 breeding pairs, equating to 300,000-960,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 612,000-3,840,000 individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. Trend justification:
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.