LESVOS BIRDING is the essential resource for birders visiting the island. Use the links left and right to search the site inc. info on Lesvos Birding Holidays & Tours and A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Terms and Conditions

Lesvos Birding holiday tour booking terms and conditions

1. Reservations
A reservation has been made when you have paid the required tour deposit. Booking requests with deposits will be considered in order of receipt. A telephone or email booking will be noted from the date of the telephone call or email provided it is followed by receipt of the appropriate booking form and deposit within seven days.

A booking is accepted from the date your booking is confirmed in writing. At this point, a contract between the applicant and Lesvos Birding is effective. All contracts and matters arising from it are subject to English law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.
Lesvos Birding reserves the right to decline any bookings.

2. Payments
The deposit for each tour is detailed in the charges section of each tour. Payment of the balance of the tour cost is due not later than eight weeks before departure date. No further reminder will be sent and if payment is not received by the due date. Failure to pay the balance by the required date will be treated as cancellation and a subject to a cancellation fee (the amount not to exceed the total cost of the holiday). You are therefore strongly recommended to take out travel insurance at an early stage to cover you in event of cancellation.

3. Refunds
Deposits are non-refundable but are transferable. Deposits are transferable to another specified tour, or replacement individual do the tour, but are subject to deductions for any expenses incurred. Balance payments are also non-refundable except under conditions 6 & 15, but are transferable in accordance with Transfer of Bookings. Insurance is therefore essential.

4. Transfer of bookings
Tour participants may transfer their booking to another person if they are prevented from proceeding with the tour due to sickness or accidents suffered by them or their close family or for other unavoidable reasons such as jury service. However, if there is a waiting list for the tour their place must first be offered to the people on that waiting list. If there is no waiting list and the participant can find another person to take up their place, any additional costs incurred by Lesvos Birding relating to the transfer have to be paid for by the transferee. Reasonable notice must be given to Lesvos Birding about such a transfer and cannot be made within 56 days of departure.

5. Consumer protection
All deposit and advance monies paid to Lesvos Birding in respect of my tours will be held in a trustee guarantee account until the completion of the tour. In the event of my insolvency all monies will be fully refunded. Details of the trustee account are available on request.

6. Tour cancellation
Lesvos Birding reserves the right to cancel any tour for which there are insufficient reservations not less than eight weeks before the departure date. In the event of my cancellation, all deposits and other payments made to Lesvos Birding will be refunded in full.

7. Cost increases
These may occur unexpectedly. When calculating tour prices in advance, rising costs of airfares, ground transportation and accommodation are factored in. Price changes may also occur because of fluctuating exchange rates. If unexpected cost rises do occur, Lesvos Birding may have to increase the tour cost. If it is necessary to increase the tour cost, you will be notified not less than twelve weeks before the departure date with an explanation of the amount. Should it be necessary to increase the tour cost by more than 10%, participants may withdraw without penalty. Tour cost rises of up to 5% will be absorbed within the original stated price.

8. What the tour price includes
The tour price includes all land travel, accommodation and meals as specified in the itinerary of each individual tour and the services of the tour leader(s) throughout.

The following items are not included in the cost: return airfare, travel insurance, passport and visa costs, vaccinations and medication, excess baggage charges, telephone calls, laundry, drinks and food (unless specified in the tour details), tips and items of a purely personal nature.

Please note that the flight prices quoted in the tour details are approximate and Lesvos Birding accepts no responsibility if the actual cost exceeds that quoted when you book your flight. You will be provided with plenty of notice of the release dates of the Airline so that you can arrange your own flights. Under no circumstances whatsoever will a refund be made if the actual cost of the flights are more than that quoted in the tour details.

9. Tour alterations
Changes in the itinerary may occur even though a tour has been carefully planned. Changes will be made to the stated itinerary if it is felt that they will benefit the tour by providing better birdwatching and wildlife opportunities. The itinerary detailed in any tour promotion, advertisement, brochure or webpages is therefore an illustration of the sites we may visit to gain the maximum birdwatching and wildlife benefit from a tour, and any birds or animals listed are an example of the species present and which may be possibly seen. As a courtesy to participants, any major changes to the itinerary will be advised in the final tour details sent on receipt of the final balance. A change in the order that locations are visited is not deemed to be a major change. Should a major change of itinerary or schedule be forced on us while the tour is in progress by, for example, strikes, weather delay or breakdown, any additional costs are the responsibility of the participants, so travel insurance is therefore essential.

10. Passport, visa and health requirements
All participants are responsible for, and must be in possession of, a full British passport, valid for at least six months beyond the end of the tour. In addition, participants must obtain any necessary visas and vaccination certificates required for the tour. Because of changing requirements, and the fact that the tour details are published so far in advance, specific requirements are not always stated. Participants will be advised of visa requirements in sufficient time. As Lesvos Birding leaders are not medically qualified, it is the participant’s absolute responsibility to seek medical advice regarding vaccinations and medication to ensure that they are prepared by the date of departure. Any medical information supplied to Lesvos Birding must be considered as a guide only. Lesvos Birding is not responsible for your medical care and you must take all necessary steps to ensure that you are fit enough to undertake the tour including bring with you any medication or medical care you may need during the duration of the tour.

Lesvos Birding recommends all EU citizens carry a European Health Insurance Card for tours.

11. Tour Information
General and more specific information will be made available to all tour participants. This may include details such as expected climate and clothing requirements, recommended reading, bird species we are likely to encounter, flight/ferry information, etc. Please note, however, that there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that specific bird o other wildlife species listed in any information will be seen. Events such as floods, storms, fires etc. may prevent the tour from visiting certain areas resulting in specific bird species being missed, Lesvos Birding will not accept responsibility for this. Any list provided is merely an indication of the species we may encounter on a tour.

12. Accommodation
Accommodation is in a medium-standard hotel with private facilities, unless specified in the tour details. If you are travelling singly, but want to share a room, every effort will be made to find someone of the same sex for you to share with; if this is not possible, however, you will be required to pay the single supplement charge imposed by the hotel. If you have reserved a single room on a tour and one is not available, you may expect a pro-rata refund for that day. On rare occasions the accommodation that has been reserved for the tour may not be available and in the circumstances the leader will endeavour to obtain alternative accommodation of a similar standard although it may be of a lesser standard.

13. Insurance
Travel insurance is essential and Lesvos Birding will insist that tour participants arrange suitable cover for all tours. This will ensure that the necessary protection is provided against loss of deposit, and medical costs, which can be enormous, should you fall ill during the tour. Please note that travel insurance rarely provides sufficient cover for expensive optical equipment; you are therefore recommended to add this to your home insurance policy under the 'All risks' section prior to departure. You will be required to provide Lesvos Birding with details of your insurance prior to departure.

14. Restrictions on participation
Lesvos Birding tours do not normally entail strenuous activity but, if this cannot be avoided, it will be made clear in the tour details. Nevertheless, participants must be able to complete moderate walks of several miles a day, sometimes on uneven or slippery surfaces, to meet the schedule of the tour. If you have any health problems or physical limitations, you are required to advise Lesvos Birding prior to booking.

To cater for the needs of all levels of birdwatcher, Lesvos Birding tours sometimes involve long days in the field including required distances for the schedule. Subject to the itinerary of the tour, however, Lesvos Birding can usually arrange for a half or a full day's rest for those who wish to opt out at any time.

Small groups do, of course, call for consideration from all to ensure that everybody enjoys the tour. Your co-operation in not participating in any antisocial behaviour is therefore expected.
Lesvos Birding operate a strict no-smoking policy. Tour participants will not be permitted to smoke whilst with the group.

Lesvos Birding reserves the right to send home any person, at their own expense, who will not conduct themselves in an acceptable manner, at my sole discretion.

15. Group size
Single leader groups will be restricted to 7 participants (excluding leaders). Larger groups will be provided with a second leader. Lesvos Birding reserves the right to change leaders without notice. The minimum size of a group is 4 participants, if the number of bookings does not reach this figure within 8 weeks of the commencement of the proposed tour, Lesvos Birding reserves the right to cancel the tour and refund the full amount paid by all participants.

16. Lesvos Birding responsibility
Lesvos Birding will take all reasonable steps to ensure that all services provided are of an acceptable standard.

Lesvos Birding cannot accept liability for physical injury, loss, damage or expense resulting from any event whatsoever beyond its control. Insurance is therefore absolutely essential.

17. Your responsibility
In addition to any medical information pertinent to the tour (see 10), you are required to inform Lesvos Birding about any other personal condition or need (e.g. dietary requirement) in advance of the tour. Unusual conditions and diets should be checked with Birding Lesvos prior to a booking being made.

18. Data Protection Act
Your records are maintained on a computer database and are used solely for the purpose of marketing by Wingspan and are not divulged to anyone else. If you wish your records to be amended or deleted please advise me.

19. Errors and Omissions
Whilst the greatest care is taken in the preparation of my tour details, mistakes can occur. Unless the error or omission has a major effect on the tour to the extent that the number of species seen is materially affected then no claim for compensation can be entertained.

Lesvos 20 - 27 September 2007

Steve & Liz Dudley (Athene/Toadsnatcher)

Pithariou Reservoir and Monastery

Yes there is standing water on Lesvos in autumn! We spent a terrific week on the island clocking up 119 species and some great records including -

White Pelican - on three dates including a flock of 144!
Bluethroat - at the above Pithariou Reservoir - only about the 3rd/4th island record.
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
Masked Shrike - 2 different juvs

Raptors included Golden and Booted Eagles, Eleanora's Falcons, Levant Sparrowhawk and Goshawk.

For more details see here.

A spring week in Lesvos with Steve Dudley

Scops Owl

See what others have said about their Lesvos holiday with me!

I've been visiting Lesvos since 2000 and have made nearly 30 trips so far to the island, most them leading bird and wildlife groups around the island. I'm one of the few birders who visit Lesos in both spring and autumn. I know the island and it birds intimately and as well as anyone. and am currently wiriting a new guide to the island - A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos.
Knowing the island so well, I do things a little different to other groups. My weeks tend to be more relaxed and are aimed at all birding abilities. No matter your level, you'll be very welcome and will learn greatly about the birds of Lesvos, bird identification, bahaviour and birdwatching from someone with over 20 years experience working in birding and ornithology.
One of the main differences you find on a Lesvos Birding week is meal times. I've long felt that enjoying a foreign country means enjoying its food. Lunch is spent at one of several of the excelelnt tavernas around the island whilst evening meals are at one of Skala Kallonis top tavernas. All tastes and diets are catered for (Greek food is a vegetarians delight) and you can go for locally caught seafood or stick closer to home with many English dishes on offer. Mealtimes are a perfect opportunity for the group to relax together, have a laugh, and lunchtime taverna stops provide a opportunity to use a clean loo!
Here is what to expect during your spring week with me on Lesvos.

Day 1
I'm usually already on the island before any of my groups come out, so on arriving in Mytilini I will either meet you personally or arrange for a transfer for you to the Hotel Pasiphae in Skala Kallonis.

The Hotel Pasiphae is one of the best hotels on the island and is situated just inland of the coast of the northern edge of the Gulf of Kalloni. Its established itself as the hotel of choice for birders in spring. The hotel itself hosts breeding Spanish Sparrows and seemingly forever singing Nightingales. Long-eared and Scops Owls are occasionally seen too and I’ve even seen a male Collared Flycatcher and Wryneck in the garden!
Hotel Pasiphae, Skala Kallonis

Days 2-7
Lesvos’ main attractions are several breeding species which are very difficult to see elsewhere in Europe, and its amazing migration.
Lesvos is one of the eastern Aegean Islands and nestles just five miles off the coast of Turkey. It feels distinctly ‘middle eastern’ in many respects and the island offers unrivalled birding in the European part of the Mediterranean basin. Lesvos remains unspoilt by mass tourism, and most visitors find that they soon fall in love with the fantactic scenery, friendly people and the fabulous birdwatching.

Because of its close proximity to the Turkish mainland, Lesvos enjoys a terrific migration that isolated islands fail to achieve. Our search most parts of this idyllic island and the migrants for resident and migrant breeding species and the huge number of passage migrants moving across the island to breed further north (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, etc).
Potamia Valley

The Skalla Kallonis Pool lies just a few hundred yards from the hotel and provides pre-breakfast , birding for the early risers. Here you can look for the more secretive wetland species in the long grass around the small open water areas - Garganey, Little Bittern, Purple Heron and crakes are all regular. Hirundines also use the tall reeds as a roost and the incoming swirls of swallows and martins is real spectacle. The nearby sea is also worth looking over for those late departing wintering species such as Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes as well as terns and gull. The beach and saltmarsh also attract many waders and herons including Kentish Plover, Stone-curlew, Great White Egret and Black Stork.
On our travels we will also look out for roof- and chimney- top nesting White Storks

The small lake at Metochi is a real draw and we will visit it several times during the week. Here we will search the reed-fringed lake for all things secretive – crakes (possibly three species) herons, warblers. Marsh terns frequently pass through and the air is often thick with hirundines and swifts (including the occasional Pallid). The surrounding mountains provide not only a spectacular backdrop but also the chance of a raptor – Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, or maybe even a fly-through Eleanora’s Falcon. The lake itself boasts an enormous population of Stripe-necked Terrapins plus the chance of the much scarcer European Pond Terrapin.

Baillon's Crake - the rarest of the crakes is found most springs at sites such as Metochi Lake or the Meladia River Ford

Marsh Frogs can be found wherever there is standing water

The Tsiknias River is one of the ‘wet’ rivers at this time of year. Even after the wettest of winters, many rivers soon run underground, but this river, running north from the top of the Gulf, provides a real migration corridor for many species. The river mouth is best checked early morning and late evening as its often the resting place for newly arrived migrants. Gulls, terns and waders all rub shoulders on the small spits of sand here including scarcer species such as Gull-billed Tern, godwits and Slender-billed Gull.

Little Bitterns occur at many wetland sites and rivers

Olive grove - there are an estimated 11 million olive trees on Lesvos. Thats a lot of olives!

The river itself is now just a trickle through a pebble and sand river bed now exposed. Waders dot the water edges – numerous Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Temminck’s and Little Stints as well as breeding Little Ringed Plover, plus ‘yellow’ wagtails, often in their hundreds, in a variety of flavours! The tamarisk-lined banks provide refuge for warblers including Olivaceous and Great Reed, whilst the shadowy overhangs should be checked carefully for skulking crakes and Little Bitterns. The small fields and groves either side of the river are great for shrikes – Woodchat, Red-backed, Masked and Lesser, Whinchat, buntings and raptors such as Red-footed Falcon and Montagu’s Harrier. Newly arrived Black-headed Buntings and Bee-eaters will perched up on fences, wires and trees adding a blaze of colour to proceedings. In full swing few areas can compete for the hurly burly of migration in full swing.

Red-footed Falcons can appear anywhere on there way north to eastern European breeding grounds

One of species at the top of most visitors’ ‘need’ list is Krüper’s Nuthatch (see banner at top of page). We’ll spend a morning searching pinewoods on the edge of the Gulf of Kalloni looking for this diminutive little nuthatch which behaves more like a Blue Tit as it bounces around the pines uttering its little nasal Jay-like call.

The island boasts two areas of saltpans at Kalloni and Polichnitos. The Kalloni pans lie at the northern edge of the Gulf of Kalloni and its salt mound can be seen from all coastal parts of the Gulf for over 30kms! These pans are one of the largest in Greece and cover a huge area. During spring the saltpan company is obliged to maintain water levels for the breeding and migrant species which use the area. Many of the outlying pans are easily viewed from the access road or tracks. In recent years observation hides have been erected which helps viewing in to more distant pans. The pans themselves can be alive with migrant and breeding waders – Avocet, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, plus the daddy of all long-legged birds – Greater Flamingo. White and Black Storks, Grey, Purple, Squacco and Night- Herons, Spoonbill and Little and Great White can all be expected either feeding or resting up on the bunds between the pans – the latter also providing breeding sites for Stone-curlew. White-winged Black, Whiskered and Black Terns all grace the area, sometimes in flocks of over 100 birds, plus Gull-billed Tern and Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls. The chance of a real rarity is always on the card here, and those wader flocks, bunds and pan edges should be checked very carefully! If everything, including the flamingos take flight in panic, then look up – it might an incoming large eagle or even a pelican! A passing Osprey has a much rather reduced effect!

View of part of th vast Kalloni Saltpans. The salt mound can be seen in the distance

The fields surrounding the pans can be just as rewarding. After a wet winter, seasonal pools and marshes form along the southern and western areas including the Alykes Wetlands. These areas become magnets for many migrant wetland birds and passerines such as ‘yellow’ wagtails and Red-throated Pipits, Collared Pratincoles, Ruddy Shelduck plus harriers and falcons passing through looking for a snack. You should always check those ring-tail harriers as Pallid is an annual migrant here.

The second of the saltpans lies on the eastern side of the Gulf. They are much smaller than the Kalloni pans, and in spring hold limited water and so attract fewer waders, but are non-the-less worth visiting as the pans and surrounding area always provide good birding. In autumn they are a must visit site when surface water is at a real premium. Venturing down this eastern side of the Gulf also allows us to explore areas few groups get to. Depending on the day we might venture along the Almiropotamos River, explore the Agios Fokas headland, check the Vourkos River mouth or walk along the picturesque Ambeliko Valley overlooked by the might of Mount Olympus.

The harbour at Agios Fokas

The Napi Valley runs north from the Kalloni Saltpans. It provides a natural corridor for birds heading straight through or leaving the pans after a pit stop. We’ll search this softly-undulating valley with its tree-peppered slopes, and its surrounds, for resident and migrating raptors, Hoopoe, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Black-eared Wheatear, Subalpine and Orphean Warblers and much more! Platania lies at the top of the valley and is one of the most beautiful walks on the island, and from late April plays host to Olive Tree Warbler.

Rock Nuthcatch occurs in rocky areas across the island

We will search the nooks and crannies of the north coast for migrants refuelling for the hop over to Turkey which is almost touchable here across the narrow straights. The skies are always worth checking for raptors as the hills provide the perfect thermal updrafts for northerly-heading migrants as well as thermal fun rides for breeding species such as Long-legged Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle (both on the look out Montpellier or Whip Snakes or Balkan Wall and Agama Lizards). Breeding birds include Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Masked Shrikes, Sombre Tit, Orphean Warbler and Black-headed and Cretzschmar’s Buntings (see banner at top of page), whilst offshore we’ll look for the two Medierranean shearwater species, Yelkouan (the eastern Med race of Mediterranean Shearwater) and Scolpoli’s (the eastern Med race of Cory’s) and Audouin’s Gull. This coastline is also great for butterflies Scarce Swallowtail and Cleopatra.

The song of the Cirl Bunting is one of the ever-present sounds of Lesvos

The amazing and beautiful Thread Lacewing

The villages and towns of this northern area are both picture postcard and varied - the beautiful fishing harbour village of Skala Sikaminias, overlooked by its inland cousin Sikaminia clinging to its hillside perch, whilst the castle-capped town of Molivos can be seen for many miles in most directions boasts a beautiful harbour and steep and narrow streets.

Sikaminia - one of the many villages clinging to steep hillsides

Molivos harbour

Between Petra and Molivos we will search the headland areas for migrants and the scarce breeding Rüppell’s Warbler. This scarce syvlia warbler is a star attraction with its white moustaches slicing through its black hood.

Male Rüppell's Warbler

Travelling west the island becomes more arid and at times utterly barren as volcanic hillsides replace the olive groves and oak-clad hills. The rocky areas are home to the rare lemon-headed Cinereous Bunting and Rock Sparrow whilst Rock Nuthatches bounce around the rocks with beakfuls of insects which they ferry to their young tucked up safely in funnel-shaped nests made of mud clinging to the face of a rock.

Male Cinereous Bunting

Ipsilou Monastery has perched high on its mountain top and has seen more than its fair share of sackings. From its top you can view the island in all directions whilst searching the skies for raptors and swifts which are just as likely to appear below you as they are above you! Eagles, Honey-buzzard, Lesser Kestrel and Eleanora’s Falcon, Levant Sprrowhawk, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Crag Martins and other hirundiens should all be hoped for. The tree-clad slopes may look quiet, but during a good fall the trees and bushes can be dripping with migrant warblers, flycatchers, chats, shrikes and Golden Oriole. The rocky parts of the mountain slopes should be checked for Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush, Cinereous and Cretzschmar's Buntings, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears and Little Owl. The meadow areas are packed with flowers and if you see a moving boulder it will be either a Chukar or Spur-thighed Tortoise! The monastery itself should be visited. Its chapel is simply stunning and Persian Squirrels scurry around the monastery walls.

Spur-thighed Tortoise

At the far western end of the island lies Sigri. Here the coastal fields provide a lush green oasis to tempt down hungry migrants. These fields lead to the sheltered Faneromeni River, flanked on either side by tall stands of bamboo which can provide refuge for tired migrants. If the river holds water Little Bittern and Great Snipe might be found out in the open. Lesser Kestrels and migrant harriers hunt over the surrounding hills, meadows and beaches where we also stand a change of finding such scarcities such as Roller and Collared Flycatcher.

Time permitting, in Sigri we might visit the newly opened Petrified Forest Museum (entry €5). Outside the museum lie huge stumps of a petrified trees, redwoods and pines that were covered in volcanic ash and turned to stone millions of years ago. The museum itself explains the process brilliantly and contains numerous other petrified items and geological finds from both Lesvos and further a field.

Along the 13km rough track which serves as a road connecting the towns of Sigri and Eresos, lies the Meladia River Valley. This forms a wide, flat plain at its mouth, narrowing quickly to the north pointing directly up to the mount of Ipsilou. This flat plain is one of the magnets for newly arriving migrants. The small ford pools offer shelter, food and water for Great Reed Warbler, crakes and herons. The open scrubby plain itself can swarm with ‘yellow’ wagtails, pipits and buntings, whilst the nearby fig grove can be dripping with warblers, flycatchers, Bee-eaters and Golden Orioles. Rufous Bush Robins should be on territory from early May. It’s a rare day you don’t get something here.

The Meladia River plain

Rufous Bush Robin breeds near the Meladia River Mouth and many other scrubby areas across the island

Whilst travelling around this incredibly beautiful and varied island, wherever we are we will have magnificent scenery forming stunning backdrop to our days birding.

One of my many happy groups (and friends!) I've led around Lesvos

Day 8
We must bid farewell to this Aegean jewel and head home – but many of us will return!

Lunch - each days we will lunch at one of the fantastic tavernas across the island sampling the local fayre.

Dinner - each evening we will eat at the Dionysos taverna in Skala Kallonis. Be prepared for a culinery sensation! Lost of local dishes for you sample and enjoy including fresh seafood and fish. Fantastic!

What's included?
You need to make your own flight arrangements to Lesvos (I can advise you on these), but thats all you have to do. Here is what is paid for when you get there -
- transfer to and from the hotel
- B&B accommdation at the excellent Hotel Pasiphae, Skala Kallonis
- taverna lunches
- evening dinner - at the outstanding Dionysos taverna in Skala Kallonis
- the expert guiding of your very own 'Mr Lesvos' in the form of me!

So all you need to bring is a little spending money for the occasional coffee or ice cream stop, postcards and wee prezzies you might want to take home for loved ones!

Click on the following for some trip reports from some of my previous trips –

1 - 8 May 2008
Steve & Liz Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene)
List of sites visted and species seen. Several photos. (More Lesvos pictures here)

24 April - 1 May 2008
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report and species lists (sorry no pictures see here)

17 - 24 April 2008
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene)
Neil Bew provides a participants insight in to a Steve Dudley led trip!

20 - 27 September 2007
Steve & Liz Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene)
List of sites visted and species seen. Several photos. (More Lesvos pictures here)

26 April - 10 May 2007
Steve & Liz Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report with many pictures and species lists

20 - 27 April 2006
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report and species lists

24 Sept - 1 Oct 2005
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report with many pictures and species lists

14 - 21 April 2005
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report and species lists (sorry no pictures see here)

22 - 29 April 2004
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report and species lists (sorry no pictures see here)

25 April - 1 May 2003
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report and species lists (sorry no pictures see here)

25 April - 2 May 2002
Steve Dudley (Lesvosbirding.com/Athene) & Speyside Wildlife
Detailed trip report (sorry no pictures see here)

Your guide, to your Guide, Steve Dudley

Sorry, I'm not one of life's naturals in front of the camera. All the ones below are from one of my Gambian trips with Liz - she's usually the only one who can get a shot of me! Here I've been captured on a summer's evening birding the Nene Washes.

I'm increasingly known as 'Mr Lesvos' after visiting the island annually since 2000 and leading nearly 30 birding trips, spring and autumn, to Lesvos and in recent times running the LESVOSBIRDING.com. I'm also in the process of writing a new guide to the island - A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos - due in summer 2009.

For more about the man behind the bins, read on . . .

Born in Lancashire I’m one of those loud northern types (but very likable non-the-less!). Even though I left Lancashire aged 18, I still have a decidedly Lancastrian twang to my accent which to be truthful I’m immensely proud of! I always say I’m proud of being Lancastrian but would never want to live there! Well, the weather’s crap and eastern England birding and wildlife watching is infinitely better!

Although I largely grew up in the country, I took up birding late at the age of 17. My Uncle Paul was a huge influence being the nature-lover of the family. I soon realised that this is ‘what I wanted to do’, so at 18 I left home to go and live as a full-time volunteer at the RSPB Fairburn Ings reserve where in 1986 I was appointed as Summer Assistant Warden (then the RSPB’s youngest warden) and my first ever boss in birding was Geoff Welch. I did a couple of years of contracts with the RSPB working in interesting places such as Nene Washes, Gwenffrwd & Dinas and Ynys Ferig (Ynys Mon).

In 1987 I arrived at the BTO. I did my now usual trick of sticking around as a volunteer, and in 1988 I was appointed to the staff in the Ringing Unit processing ringed bird recoveries and working alongside the great, but sadly late, Chris Mead. In 1991 I was appointed as the BTO’s Membership Development Officer working with Paul Green running the BTO’s Regional Network, the Bird Clubs Partnership, organising conferences, and all things to do with members. At the BTO I worked and birded with some great people (a couple mentioned above) including John Marchant whose Shorebirds book I had long-treasured. Also working in the same building with the likes of Rob Fuller whose Bird Habitats book was my first proper ornithological rather than birding book.

I rarely feel at home anywhere other than when at home. The real exceptions are Lesvos, and as here, in The Gambia.

By this time I lived in Norfolk and was a national birder and twitcher. I sort of leapt to twitching infamy in 1990 when I, some would say recklessly, hired the MS Oldenburg to twitch the Ancient Murrelet on Lundy. It was a £10,000 gamble which thankfully paid off! In 1991 I ran the BTO’s Leica-list competition – a year-long listing competition. I undertook the year-list challenge myself and clocked up 350 species (this was pre-pagers, so this was more than good at the time) and the whole thing raised c.£50,000 for the BTO.

I was an early digiscoper but since I rarely carry a scope in anger in the UK anymore, the chances are few. Digiscoping is now mainly something I do on trips.

In 1995 I went to work for Leica as their UK National Optics Manager. I had already been involved in product development since 1991 and although I left their staff in 1997, I have been a member of their Optical Innovation Team for the last 17 years and have helped to design all their observation products since the early 90s (Televid scopes, Ultravid binoculars, etc). I’ve long been obsessed with birding kit, optics in particular. Being involved with one of the greatest optical companies in the world, and they listening to this upstart from Lancashire in developing some of the greatest birding optics we’ve ever seen, is one of my proudest achievements.

My second wildlife love has always been dragonflies. I was introduced to them when I was at Fairburn Ings by warden Geoff Welch. I’ve enjoyed them just as much as birds over the years, and one of the reasons I moved to the fens in 2002 – I wanted to be closer to both birds and dragonflies and the fens is great for both. Whenever I want, I grab my bins and walk out of the door on to the open fen and breathe. Birds and dragonflies are my lungs – without them I can’t breathe.

In 1997 I moved back into ornithology when I left Leica to run the British Ornithologists’ Union. When I started my career in birds as a young RSPB warden, I never thought for a minute that I would end up being a charity administrator! The BOU might be small, but it’s diverse and allows me to express myself. I’m a publisher, conference organiser, accountant, designer – I’m the jack of all trades that a small charity such as the BOU needs to get by. I get to work from home in the fens for a great employer who allows me great flexibility in what else I can do.

The other things the BOU allow me to do help to keep me sane! As well as helping Leica to develop new products, my other freelance work has included being both contributor and consultant for Bird Watching magazine for nearly 20 years, and I’ve am or have been consultant for many other birding-related companies such as Vine House Farm Bird Foods, Newpro UK and Minox. In recent years I have been acting publisher for Subbuteo Natural History Books/Arlequin Press, publishing works as diverse as All the birds of Brazil and the second edition of The Red Kite monograph.

The drive in all my work is ‘sharing knowledge’. I like to share my knowledge and help to develop products for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers. I get a real kick when I see someone using a product I helped develop, reading a book I wrote, edited or published, or just to overhear someone talking about something I have written or been involved in.

One of life's great feelings - being utterly, but pleasantly, exhausted from a great day in somewhere like The Gambia.

I’ve been leading bird and wildlife trips for nearly 20 years. I started organising private trips, mainly to Scotland for birds and increasingly invertebrates. I started guiding for Speyside Wildlife in 2000, taking groups around various parts of England and Scotland, Shetland, Orkney (inc. covering the fantastic Neolithic archaeology), The Gambia, Botswana, and of course Lesvos. I lead a trip to Spitsbergen in summer 2008. Leading wildlife trips is the ultimate sharing of knowledge for me. Its my ultimate buzz. Seeing the joy in someone’s eyes as they see something new for the first time, or get their best ever view of something. I just love sharing wildlife with people.

. . . but some days are simply too much! This was towards the end of a great two-week holiday with Liz in The Gambia. We were on our way back to the coast along the River Gambia and just at this point only a shout for Pel's Fishing Owl would have raised me.

One of my ambitions was to write a book. So far I have achieved two and in the process of penning a two more! Rare Birds Day by Day (Dudley, Benton, Fraser & Ryan, Poyser, 1996) was the inspiration of my best mate Tim Benton and I was thrilled for both of us to see it in print. Watching British Dragonflies (Dudley, Dudley & Mackay, Subbuteo, 2007) was the culmination of a 10-year project with my first wife Caroline (now assistant editor of British Birds) and birding friend Andy Mackay. I’m currently involved in two more, Watching British Butterflies (Dudley, Dudley & Mackay, Subbuteo, due 2009) is the butterfly version of our dragonfly book and A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos (Arlequin, due summer 2009) will see me deliver a much-needed new ‘where to watch’ guide for my real birding love – Lesvos.

And Lesvos is where I spend as much of my annual leave as possible – currently four weeks a year (it would be more if I could!). The longer I’ve been visiting this Aegean jewel of an island, the more at home I have felt. Its one of only a few places where I truly relax (relax mode usually kicks in just after I have navigated my way through Mytiline from the airport to the hotel!). My love for the island has recently manifested in http://www.lesvosbirding.com/, an online resource for birders visiting the island, and next year there will be the book!

In 2006 I married Liz. We met on one of my trips to Shetland and Orkney so she knew exactly what she was taking on! We had a fabulous wedding in Liz’s home county of Sussex (she’s a Sussex pig, I’m a northern tosser) with our families and (most of) our closest friends. We honeymooned on the magical island of Bryher, Isle of Scilly (at the fantastically named Hell Bay Hotel!). We live in the Huntingdonshire fens south of Peterborough and are in the process of renovating and converting two old farm-workers cottages as our home.

Bryher on the Isles of Scilly is one of the other places I feel at home - especially at the Hell Bay Hotel! Well, I am on my honeymoon. Note the orange juice - I'm one of the few tea-total birding types!

Things I love:
my wife Liz (my life)
Lesvos (where I feel at home)
Birds (without them I can’t breathe)
The Gambia (where I relax)
Man Utd (the lad side of me)
my Mum and siblings (my family)
sharing my knowledge of birds (a passion)
dragonflies (my second wildlife love)
poetry (for expression)
watching footie (more lad side)
all different sorts of music (but I’m a punk at heart!)
The POSH (real life and local footie)
Leica optics (because I’m so proud to have been involved in their development)
butterflies (because of their beauty)
all things natural (from where we came)
the fens (for its flatness, freedom and skies)
swifts (my favourite bird family)
Stiff Little Fingers (my youth)
being at sea watching seabirds and cetaceans (total freedom)
my garden (a joy to look over)
the smells of Africa and India (it calms me)
Carry Akroyd artwork (for the soul)
contemporary design and architecture (flare)
stripy things by Paul Smith and Ted Baker(they make me feel happy)
the sense of freedom (for freedom’s sake)
stroking Liz’s hair (because she enjoys it and love making her smile)
bird song (nature’s orchestra)
Neolithic man (our ancestors before we advanced and began to destroy the planet we inhabit)
birding only with bins ('au naturale' as I like to say!)

You can contact me at steve at toadsnatcher dot com (I'm sure you can work it out!)

A list of selected reptiles and amphibians

A list of some of the commoner reptiles and amphibians (with some persomal notes)

Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus
Tree Frog Hyla arborea
Balkan Wall Lizard Podarcis tauricus
Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata
Snake-eyed Skink Ablepharus kitaibelii
Glass Lizard Pseudopus apodus
Spur-thighed Tortoise Testudo graeca
Sripe-necked Terrapin Mauremys rivulata
European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis

Which field guide?

I recommend only two books to use for Lesvos.

Collins Bird Guide by Lars Svensson, Peter Grant, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom. HarperCollins. ISBN 0 00 219728 6.

Quite simply the best field there is.

The Macmillan Birder's Guide to European and Middle Eastern Birds by Alan Harris, Hadoram Shirai and David Christie. Macmillan. ISBN 0 333 58940 8.

Sadly now out of print, but if you can find a copy, then buy it!

Reporting your birds records

I encourage everyone to submit their bird records to the Hellenic Ornithological Society. You can also submit your records via OrnithoTopos which is an Internet-based spatial database about birds, their science and their distribution, that allows users from anywhere in the world to input and query Greek bird data.

For Lesvos breeding records and local rarities, details should be sent to the Lesvos Bird Records Committee. See their website for the species and records they would like submitted to them.

For rare species, these should be submitted to the Hellenic Rarities Committee (Greek equivelant of BBRC). Check the HRC website for species it covers.

The Hellenic (Greek) Rarities Committee was founded in 2004 and the HRC has already published three annual reports which are available online -

HRC report for 2005

HRC report for 2006

HRC report for 2007

HRC are in the process of re-organizing our archives, especially the photo material, and we would like to ask for assistance regarding photos of rare species in Greece. If you are aware of such photos, not appearing on the HRC website gallery, we would appreciate if you informed us of their existence and the way to obtain them (URL of website or email of phorographer). We are interested even in the oldest photos.

The full list of the rare species for Greece can be seen here.

HRC would like to thank all those who have already submitted their records of rare birds seen in Greece.

Please do not hesitate to ask for any clarification on birds@ornithologiki.gr or hellenicbirds@yahoo.gr

Good birding.

Nikos Probonas
HRC Secretary

Go to the HRC website