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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Lesvos trip report : 29 April - 6 May 2010

An Oliva Rama Tours holiday run by Steve Dudley / Lesvos Birding

Leaders: Steve Dudley (Lesvos Birding) & Richard Palmer

Particpants: Wendy & Michael, Chris, Jeanette, Jane, Dee, Graham, Agi and Susanne.

Day 1, Thursday 29 April 2010

We all met up, with each other and Steve, at Mytilini airport. It had been a long day (some of us travelling halfway around the world!) and we were pleased to be greeted by late afternoon sunshine.

Steve ushered us a little south down the coast to where a returning fishing boat was attracting a cloud of Yellow-legged Gulls and over 100 Scopoli’s Shearwaters – a superb first bird for the trip.

There were sightings of Black Storks and Black-winged Stilts as we drove across the island to our base at the Hotel Pasiphae at Skala Kallonis. Over a fine dinner (the first of many!) at the nearby Taverna Dionysos we all introduced ourselves and ate and drank well before retiring.

Day 2, Friday 30 April 2010

We rose to a beautiful morning before heading down to the pinewoods at Achladeri for our first real Lesvos birding. A short walk took us to a Krüper’s Nuthatch nest site in a pine stump. After a welcome from a fine Masked Shrike, the nuthatches appeared to order and we had great views of both male and female and, later, a second pair. Further into the wood we saw Short-toed Treecreeper, Cirl Bunting and two hunting Long-legged Buzzards.

Driving on to Dimitrios and a site Steve had found for breeding Middle-spotted Woodpecker. The nesting birds regularly appeared with food brought to a hole high in a dead poplar. Agi found a Grey Wagtail and we notched new site records for Wren and a rare European dragonfly, the Odalisque.

Lunch was enjoyed in a beachside taverna looking over the Gulf of Kalloni before mogving on to Mesa wetlands and Kalami Marsh. Notable sightings here included 20 Ruddy Shelduck, 50+ Whiskered Terns, several Black Storks, at least nine Squacco Herons, two Purple Herons and a superb male Black-eared Wheatear.

A short drive to vast Kalloni Saltpans and, again, heaps of birds! – including our first Flamingos, Avocets, Kentish Plovers, Ruff and Wood Sandpipers. Chris found a bunting sitting in an isolated patch of juncus and, surprisingly, it turned out to be a male Ortolan! Not exactly typical habitat. At the flood opposite the Saltworks entrance we were rewarded with close views of Glossy Ibis, Garganey, Gull-billed Terns and an incoming migrant flock of 65 magnificent White-winged Black Terns.

At the Alykes Wetlands we walked over dried out seasonal flooded fields which gave us the photo-opportunity of the day as a Black Stork circled low right above us. Around the grasslands we found at least three fine Red-throated Pipits, 20+ Short-toed Larks, Black-headed (Yellow) Wagtails and a Lesser Grey Shrike.

Our short return journey to the hotel featured a Lesser Kestrel, a Red-footed Falcon and a perched Long-legged Buzzard.

What a superb days birding!!

Day 3, Saturday 1 May 2010

After breakfast, we set off for the rugged, barren west side of the island and, after a brief stop for a Chukar, we reached the Lardia Valley with Crag Martins and Rock Sparrows and our first Cretzschmar’s Bunting – a new bird for most of the group.

On the mountain road at Vigla we stopped for brilliant views of nine Red-footed Falcons on power lines. Wheatear species then came thick and fast with Black-eareds, Northerns and, best of all, the very pale (and localised breeder) Isabelline. As we approached the renowned Ipsilou Monastery, in superb warm sunshine, reptiles were much in evidence - Balkan Green Lizard, the charismatic Agama Lizard and a delightful baby Spur-thighed Tortoise found by Jane at the roadside. Back to birds and we glimpsed Rock Nuthatch and Woodchat Shrike before Steve found our main target, a singing male Cinereous Bunting – a bird restricted in Europe to only three Greek islands, and Lesvos holding around 95% of them! Nearer the monastery Black-headed Bunting and Sombre Tit were added to the list together with plentiful migrants – Red-rumped Swallow, Wood Warbler, Hoopoe and Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. Near the summit, Chris spotted two Golden Orioles and we also added Little Owl.

Lunch was taken in the popular resort of Skala Eresou accompanied by (very distant!) Yelkouan Shearwaters and fishing Shags. At the nearby Vergias River a Penduline Tit eventually appeared from its incredible hanging nest – this species is still a vagrant on Lesvos and this is only the second time the species has nested. We also added Stripe-necked Terrapins to the reptile list.

We returned to the monastery for a late afternoon watch and, amongst more migrants, tantalisingly brief views of a female Collared Flycatcher.

We returned to base weary, suntanned but very satisfied and ready for yet more hearty Greek fayre at the Taverna Dionysos!

Day 4, Sunday 2 May 2010

Off at 6.30am for a pre-breakfast visit to Metochi Lake. We were not the first there and the bank of the lake looked like a scene from the Isles of Scilly in October! Positioning ourselves with a good view of the opposite reedbeds we quickly notched up Little Bitterns (first of at least eight). Pulses started to race as Steve found first a female, and then a male, Little Crake, both feeding quite unperturbed at the edge of the reeds. Then a cry of “Baillon’s Crake!” and a fine adult was watched well for about ten minutes. Great Reed, Reed, Sedge and Cettis Warblers, Whisked Terns and Squacco Herons made up the supporting cast. What a place! Most of the group had enjoyed at least a couple of life ticks before breakfast!

After breakfest we headed off to the Kalloni Saltpans and, after a little wait at a stake-out, we got

nice views of a Rufous Bush Robin of the paler eastern race.

At to the Kalloni Raptor Watchpoint, we saw Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, a single Eleonora’s Falcon and a surprise ‘fly-by’ – a flock of 11 Spoonbills!

Steve then had a surprise in store for us . We stopped by a mini football pitch and some shit-down tavernas where ‘scoping a poplar tree and – hey presto! – a superb roosting Scops Owl enjoyed (and of course photographed!) by everybody.

A leisurely drive through the scenic Potamia Valley followed lunch with views of Black-headed Bunting, Long-legged Buzzard (good spot Michael!), Blue Rock-thrush and a pair of Sombre Tits.

A slightly earlier return to the hotel was much appreciated and there was even time for a swim and the odd glass of beer in the warm evening sunshine before heading down to the village for dinner.

Day 5, Monday 3 May 2010

Starting off once again in brilliant warm sunny weather, we took the short journey to Kalloni Saltpans. The usual waders (Ruffs and Wood Sands) had been supplemented with both Temminck’s and Little Stints. We had more fantastic views of Red-footed Falcons, again perched on power lines and amazingly close views of Glossy Ibises to delight the photographers.

A mountain drive through to Kavaki in the north of the island and we arrived in beautiful coastal habitat to begin our warblervigil. Blue Rock-thrushes were quite easy, singing Black-headed Buntings showed well and, after a while, we had fine views of Subalpine Warblers. Our main target, Rüppell’s Warbler, kept us waiting until a male and then a pair suddenly popped up on the bushes; another great bird!

We called in at a small reservoir at nearby Perasma and were surprised to find a White-winged Black Tern. A few Alpine Swifts, a Raven and a Short-toed Eagle appeared overhead and a nesting Subalpine Warbler allowed close views.

After a good lunch in the very picturesque harbour town of Molivos, we enjoyed a ‘rally-driving’ experience across the beautiful north coastal track before briefly stopping at Mandamados to view an occupied White Stork nest on the chimney of a disused olive mill.

Back at the saltpans for the evening watch and we added a breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling to the list. As we returned to Skala Kallonis, Wendy spotted a male Little Bittern in the ford-side reeds – a fine end to yet another fine day.

Day 6, Tuesday 4 May 2010

Westwards again, this time to the migrant hotspot of Sigri on the far west coast. Arriving at a large coastal bay we found a Purple Heron and two Greenshanks. A nearby riverbed and yet another skulking Little Bittern – there certainly seemed to have been a significant influx of these long-distance migrants. In recent days We walked up lane between the olive groves, when there was suddenly a rush of overhead migrants – a Collared Pratincole, a Bee-eater and an Alpine Swift. At a garden puddle, our photographers feasted on bathing Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.

Having received a ‘hot-tip’ of a Spur-winged Plover, Agi found the bird feeding in a field by some manure heaps – another excellent ‘first’ for most of the party.

Lunch in Sigri was followed by an interesting trip to the fabulous Petrified Forest Museum with exhibits from the nearby petrified forest and other geological artefacts from around the island and from other petrified forest parks from around the world.

In the afternoon we progressed through the beautiful Maladia Valley finding at least four Collared and one Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, more Little Bitterns and a Sombre Tit. Our lengthy return journey included a stop for a soaring Black Stork interacting with a couple of local breeding Long-legged Buzzards.

Day 7, Wednesday 5 May 2010

Our final full day again dawned with unbroken bright sunshine – what a week of weather! We got down to the saltpans area before breakfast and were rewarded with great views of the Rufous Bush Robin singing from a lamp-post and two chasing each other right around us! Again, there were lots of birds (and birders!) at the flooded fields – Glossy Ibis, Ruddy Shelduck, Garganey, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpiper with new additions of Black-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover.

A return to Metochi Lake after breakfast and good views of a couple of female Little Crakes, Little Bittern, Hoopoe and lots of terrapins.

A return to check the Scops Owl (gone!) and then we bumped and rocked our way down the Platania track. Here the attractive mix of olive groves and gnarled old oaks produces perfect breeding habitat for the highly localised Olive-tree Warbler. Steve soon got on to the strange croaking song (at least three birds singing) and eventually we got brief sightings of flying and singing birds. During our wait we notched up Red-footed Falcon, Short-toed Eagle, Middle-spotted Woodpecker and Masked Shrike. Further down the valley some of us secured the trip’s only Eastern Orphean Warbler.

A very pleasant last lunch at Skala Kallonis and then we were back on duty at the Kalloni Raptor Watchpoint in time for a Hobby, Lesser Kestrel and two Short-toed Eagles. A pair of Rock Nuthatches showed well on boulders above us and were well received as most had missed them earlier in the week.

Finally returning via the Tsiknias River, we were fortunate to get point-blank views of a party of ‘peeps’ and to pick out the identification points on Temminck’s and Little Stint and Sanderling.

Day 8, Thursday 6 May 2010

Most of us took a pre-breakfast walk at Skala Kallonis and the final hour of birding was very enjoyable with Great Egret, Little Bittern, ‘fly-by’ Flamingos and a large Spanish Sparrow colony in a village palm tree.

We bid our goodbyes to Dee, Jeanette and Susanne (fondly known as the ‘Alabama Gals’) and Agi and Graham, and of course Steve, all of who were all staying longer in Lesvos (lucky them!) and the rest of us endured a rather tortuous drive to the airport due to the main road being blocked due to protests against the Greek government!


Little Grebe

Yelkouan Shearwater

Scopoli’s Shearwater


Little Bittern

Squacco Heron

Little Egret

Great White Egret

Grey Heron

Purple Heron

Black Stork

White Stork

Glossy Ibis


Greater Flamingo

Ruddy Shelduck

Common Shelduck




Short-toed Eagle

Marsh Harrier

Common Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

Common Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Red-footed Falcon


Eleonora’s Falcon



Little Crake

Baillon’s Crake



Black-winged Stilt


Collared Pratincole

Little Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover

Kentish Plover

Grey Plover

Spur-winged Plover

Little Stint

Temminck’s Stint

Curlew Sandpiper



Black-tailed Godwit

Common Redshank


Wood Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Little Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Gull-billed Tern

Common Tern

Little Tern

Whiskered Tern

White-winged Black Tern

Rock Dove

Collared Dove

Turtle Dove

Common Cuckoo

Scops Owl

Little Owl

Common Swift

Alpine Swift



Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Short-toed Lark

Crested Lark


Sand Martin

Crag Martin

Barn (Common) Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

House Martin

Red-throated Pipit

‘Blue-headed’ Yellow Wagtail

‘Black-headed’ Yellow Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

White Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Common Nightingale

Rufous Bush Robin



Northern Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear

Blue Rock-thrush


Cetti’s Warbler

Sedge Warbler

Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

Olivaceous Warbler

Olive-tree Warbler

Subalpine Warbler

Rüppell’s Warbler

Orphean Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat


Wood Warbler

Spotted Flycatcher

Collared Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher

Sombre Tit

Blue Tit

Great Tit

Penduline Tit

Krüper’s Nuthatch

Western Rock Nuthatch

Golden Oriole

Red-backed Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Masked Shrike



Hooded Crow


House Sparrow

Spanish Sparrow

Rock Sparrow






Cirl Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Cretzschmar’s Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

Corn Bunting

Amphibians and reptiles

Common Tree Frog

Marsh Frog

Balkan Green Lizard

Balkan Wall Lizard

Agama Lizard

Turkish Gecko

Glass Snake (RIP)

Whip Snake sp.

Stripe-necked Terrapin

European Pond Terrapin

Spur-thighed Tortoise


Persian Squirrel

Beech Marten (deceased)


Egyptian Grasshopper

Dung Beetle

Emperor Dragonfly

Lesser Emperor Dragonfly

Red-veined Darter

Scarlet Darter

Black-tailed Skimmer

Keeled Skimmer

Small Skimmer


Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly

Scarce Swallowtail


Small White

Large White

Wall Brown

Small Heath

Orange Tip

Clouded Yellow

Painted Lady

False Apollo

Red Admiral

Small Copper

Painted Lady

Southern Gatekeeper

Turkish Meadow Brown

Southern Speckled Wood

Brown Argus

Common Blue

Orbed Red-underwing Skipper

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

Scorpion Spider

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