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LESVOS 1999   24th April - 1st May 1999

The Group



DAY 1: Saturday 24" April

We all met at Heathrow airport in time for our midday flight to Mytilene, Lesvos via

Athens. After a smooth passage through customs we were on our way. Stopping at Athens allowed us a couple of hours spare before our connection, so we walked across the road to a small park with views over the Aegean Sea. Several common European species were noted, House Martins, Common Swift, Eurasian Collared Dove and the ever-present House Sparrow. In the park two Sardinian Warblers were seen and heard chattering away, while on the sea Yellow-legged Gulls and a Great Crested Grebe were noted, while two Mediterranean Shearwaters and several Cory's Shearwaters glided across a fabulous sunset.  A short flight was then taken to Lesvos where after a long day we were transferred to our hotel at Skala Kalloni

DAY 2:  Sunday 25" April

Despite being tired from the previous day Tony and myself were up and out at 6.00am. Our hotel, the Kalloni 2 was ideally situated right beside the Kalloni pool, a wonderful wetland lake that was the centre of birdwatching activity in this quiet little fishing village. The first birds seen on the pool were Black-winged Stilts, a male Garganey, and as the light improved, many Wood Sandpipers, several Ruff, Squacco Herons, Whiskered Term, a Glossy Ibis and some Black-headed Wagtails. On the coastal side we saw three Common Terns, Crested Lark and a nesting colony of Spanish Sparrows, while around the other side of the pool Olivaceous Warblers sang and a White Stork strolled around a grassy meadow. Everyone made it to breakfast, after which we all looked at the pool, this time adding an elegant White-winged Tern to the small group of Whiskered Terns that hawked back and forth over the shallow waters. We then continued on to the east river where more Squacco Herons, a Western Marsh Harrier and lots of Stripe-necked Terrapins were seen. Numerous Corn Buntings sang from every bush or post and Olivaceous Warblers were seen very well. Continuing further on to the salt pans we made a brief stop for a Little Owl sat on a rock, and then found a male Black-eared Wheatear and two superb Masked Shrikes. At the saltpans we soon found ourselves searching through the many waders that were present. Wood Sandpipers predominated with hundreds, while smaller numbers of Black-winged Stilt and Ruff were also seen. A group of Pied Avocet kept themselves to themselves, as did a distant flock of several hundred Greater Flamingos. Great White Egrets dwarfed their little cousins, and a Zitting Cisticola gave its distinctive "sip" flight call before landing on a fence for all of us to see. A little further on again we got to grips with a least four sub species of Yellow Wagtail, two Greater Short-toed Larks, five Red-throated Pipits, including several in full breeding plumage, a single European Bee-eater and the first to arrive of a stunning male Black-headed Bunting, a bird soon to be a familiar sight and sound all over the island. In the coastal scrub we found a Tawny Pipit, while term flying to and fro now included Common, Whiskered and ten White-winged. Finally before we moved on we were able to enjoy six Red-footed Falcons as they hunted over the meadows. We then drove to the upper east river and found a convenient spot to have our packed lunch. While enjoying a big roll of pork, cheese and salad we were treated to a Western Rock Nuthatch which was visiting it's nest, a wonderfully constructed mud funnel cemented to a nearby rock. After lunch we continued up the track seeing several more Black-eared Wheatears, and then a short stroll around an area of scattered bushes produced a Woodchat Shrike, a singing Subalpine Warbler and an elusive Ortolan Bunting. En-route from here to Achladeri our first impromptu stop was for a raptor which turned out to be a Honey B11~7ard. An amazing sight then ensued as we were surrounded by no less than fifty Alpine Swifts. At Derbyshire a distant bird flying into a small bush was seen to be a Great Spotted Cuckoo. We decide to walk around the beach so that everyone could have a better look, only to find it had done an amazing disappearing act. A hundred yards further on four Red-footed Falcons posed for us on telegraph wires, and five minutes later we found ourselves at Achladeri pine wood. Once out of our vehicle a male Masked Shrike was soon spotted, but our prize bird for this site came after a short wait when a pair of delightful Kruper's Nuthatch were watched bringing food to their nest. When content with our views of these birds we looked around the rest of the wood, seeing plenty of Black-eared Wheatears, but only hearing Short-toed Treecreeper. We decide to finish the day with a look at the inland lake near Skala Kalloni. After finding our way around the dirt tracks we were soon parked up beside a small productive area of water surrounded by a few reeds and Tamarisk bushes. The first birds we saw included three Black-crowned Night Herons and two Little Bitterns, while a closer scan of the reed edge found us a male Little Crake, which gave good views as it sat preening. Other good views were had of a Great Reed Warbler perched in a bare bush, and on leaving the area a dozen Red-rumped Swallows which nearly flew through the windows of our minibus. Retuning to our hotel we drove past the west river stopping for Kentish, Little Ringed Plover and two Temminck's Stints. A long day and a lot of good birds was followed by a well deserved evening meal and conversation on how we could ever possibly top today!.

DAY 3:  Monday 26th April

Our early morning look around the pool saw the same number and species as yesterday, so we decided to have a quick look on the west river. Three Temminck's Stints were found amongst fifteen Little Stints, and a pair of Stone-curlew Patrolled their nest site. One of Tony's most wanted birds was then found in the shape of an immaculate male Citrine Wagtail. Well satisfied with this find we returned to our hotel for breakfast. Afterwards we revisited the west river to try and show the rest of the group the wagtail. Moving on we found a different habitat at Devil's Bridge, where Red-rumped Swallows could be seen flying through a road culvert, and by the little church Cretzschmar's and a singing Cinereous Bunting performed, as did a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes. We also noted distant Long-legged Buzzard and an all too brief  Orphean Warbler. The next area we visited, just past Agra, was typical bunting country with rock-strewn hills and scattered bushes. Two excellent stops were made along this road producing Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Black-eared Wheatears, Sombre Tit, lots of Cretzschmar's Buntings and up to six Cinereous Buntings, including several that showed extremely well as they sang from the top of rocks. A White Stork was seen drifting over a small village as we made our way to the deserted beach at Tavari for our lunch. In between courses a look on the sea saw several flocks of Balearic Shearwaters pass by. After lunch we headed inland towards our next site at Ipsilou Monastery. This winding journey was broken by many stops for, Lesser Kestrel with three Eleonora’s Falcons, singing Rock Sparrow, a very close Short-toed Snake Eagle hovering above us, Red-backed Shrikes, four Isabelline Wheatears and a Sombre Tit. At the top of the Monastery we enjoyed stunning views of the west of the island, and the birds here included Woodlark, Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, four Chukar, Little Owl, Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers and a male Collared Flycatcher. Butterflies were quite numerous with mostly Eastern Festoon, Small Copper, a few Scarce Swallowtails and a False Apollo. On the walls of the Monastery Persian Squirrels could be watched as they lazed around in the sun. Leaving this idyllic spot we headed back towards Skala Kalioni. Many shrikes and wheatears were noted en-route, but our best stop, a richly wooded river valley near Vatoussa, produced a Common Nightingale singing from a wire, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker and a male Golden Oriole. After some wonderful photo opportunities from the hilltops overlooking the Kalloni Bay, we arrived back at our hotel in time to add Common Teal as a new bird for the pool.

DAY 4: Tuesday 27th April

Up at 6.00am again, myself, Tony and Anthony made a visit to the Kalloni saltpans. Amongst the herons, egrets and Glossy Ibis, we found two Black Storks, with waders including hundreds of Wood Sandpiper, a few Ruff and twenty Ruddy Shelduck flying around together. Three Little Owls were seen and Black-headed Buntings were now everywhere and singing from all available bushes and posts. After breakfast we all returned to the salt pans to try and relocate the Black Storks. We did find them but they were now circling high over some distant hills. A Spur-thighed Tortoise was found before a proposed long walk was cut short when eleven Collared Pratincoles gave us a fly past, along with fifteen European Bee-eaters, twenty Greater Short-toed Larks and a female Pallid Harrier which obligingly came close enough for all the identification features to be clearly seen and pointed out. We had our picnic lunch in Achladeri forest where we were soon joined by an obliging pair of Masked Shrikes. European Serins sang from the tops of the pine trees and Short-toed Treecreepers sang from the back of the wood. The Kruper's Nuthatch site that we had visited several days earlier proved to be a cause for concern when I was informed that the birds had fledged and their young and moved off. After searching the wood we found one Kruper’s feeding quietly at the back of the wood and within fifty metres of the old nest site a pair of birds excavating a new hole. These two later birds were obviously the same pair as we had seen on the previous visit. With a little investigation it had become apparent that the birds had deserted and were trying to nest again. Whether the birds were predated by the local Persian Squirrels or forced away by human interference we will never know, but I must emphasise that all of our group behaved impeccably and always considered the bird's welfare above all else. There are unfortunately others for whom this cannot be said. We left this site bitter and angry and continued on our way to Polichnitos salt pans. En-route Red-backed Shrikes were now in evidence with several bright males stood on fence posts and bushes. When we eventually reached a parking area by the beach we were greeted by a mass of beautiful flowers, which had everyone reaching for their cameras. With the sea one side and the salt pans the other the setting was idyllic, and it wasn't long before four Collared Pratincoles were found sat on a muddy bank alongside Common and Little Terns. One particular pan was full of birds including many Wood Sandpiper, Ruff and Little Stint, with lesser numbers of Common Greenshank, Kentish Plover and about thirty summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers. We had not gone more than a couple of hundred yards from this site when a male Red-backed Shrike posed for us on a nearby barbed wire fence. Not content with this bird in all its summer splendour we soon found ourselves watching an immaculate Lesser Grey Shrike which sat and allowed us excellent close views, before we were invaded by a convoy of noisy but friendly German birdwatchers. This was our signal to leave, so we did and returned to our hotel and a relaxed evening look at the birds that were present on what was now considered our pool. The White-winged and Whiskered Terns were superb flying within feet of us, hovering and hawking for insects before they too retired for the night.

DAY 5: Wednesday 28th  April

Today's pre-breakfast birding was to the inland lake, where on our arrival we were greeted by a tranquil scene as a low mist hung over the water's surface. We were the first people there so the birds had not yet been disturbed. Three Black-crowned Night Herons sat in a Tamarisk, one adult and three sub adults, and three Little Bitterns tried hiding in the reedy edges. A Purple Heron flew over while Eurasian Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted about. Other birders were now arriving, and as if on cue, several Great Reed Warblers started up their loud raucous songs. We found another two Little Bitterns and then finished off with excellent views of a female Little Crake creeping around by the water's edge. After breakfast we all had a quick look on the pool where a Great Reed Warbler and a Water Rail were of note amongst the now familiar selection of more regular species. A look beside the small picturesque harbour of Skala Kalloni enabled us to see the resident White Pelican, which posed for photographs in between snacks given to it by the local fishermen. We were soon on our way north to our first stop near Petra, a roadside pull-in, where it didn't take long before our first male Ruppell's Warbler was seen singing from the top of a small bush. Searching this area and the next pull-in just a little further down the road, we eventually saw four Ruppell's as well as four Orphean Warblers, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-headed Buntings, Whinchats and a male Cirl Bunting. From here we drove to Molivos Castle where our picnic lunch was taken with great views overlooking the sea to Turkey. Northern Wheatears kept us company while four European Bee-eaters and a flock of twenty Yellow Wagtails flew past on their way north, and a White Stork circled the nearby small village before landing on a disused chimney stack. With lunch over we drove from the castle to Skala Sikimmia via a rough coastal track. The only birds of real note were a Long-legged Buzzard and lots of Subalpine Warblers, although butterflies were plentiful and included many Eastern Festoons. Heading back past Skala Kalloni we decided to try the Potamia Valley. Here amongst the olive trees in the heat of the day birds were scarce, and our best find was a Masked Shrike, with Cirl Bunting, Orphean Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush distracting us as we left for more productive areas. We drove down past the west  river and found Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers before continuing past the east river and on to the salt pans. A group of birders had assembled beside the road and after waving us down they showed us a female harrier they bad found perched on a very distant bush. Because of the distance involved and the heat haze the identification was tentative until it eventually flew giving itself away as a Pallid Harrier, and pleasing many an onlooker. Later we came across the same bird, which flew towards us to within thirty yards and gave us all exceptional flight views. On the beach we watched as a lone Collared Pratincole settled down for the night, and returning from here to a small bridge found we had just missed out on close views of several Gull-billed Terns that had come in to roost.

DAY 6:  Thursday 29th April

Our regular morning look around the pool showed that a lot of species had moved out.

After breakfast we headed off to the west side of the island, first calling in on an area known as Grand Canyon, which is a small rocky gorge no more than two hundred yards long! We were looking for Crag Martins and it did not take long before seven were seen flying to and fro giving marvellous views of their diagnostic white spots in the tail. Continuing on we called in at Perivolis Monastery where a look beside the river found us a male Red-backed Shrike and a low flying Black Stork. Again moving on to Ipsilou Monastery we stopped briefly at the Isabelline Wheatear site where several were seen as well as a Lesser Kestrel. At the Monastery we ate our picnic lunches and enjoyed super views and some good birds, with comparison looks at Spotted, Pied and plenty of Collared Flycatchers of both male and females. A Western Rock Nuthatch and three Sombre Tits added to the excitement before we again moved on. A brief look at the petrified forest and it wasn't long before we reached Sigri, an area of coastal meadows and two excellent fords across streams. On our approach to Sigri we encountered a group of Eurasian Jackdaws which proved the only ones of the tour.

Further on we stopped by the first ford and found a group of Germans already watching a Little Bittern feeding totally unconcerned in the middle of the stream. We joined them and soon started finding our own birds, including many Collared and Spotted Flycatchers, and a Spotted Crake which ran out into the stream for a few brief seconds and then ran back into cover and was never seen again. In a nearby meadow a Great Reed Warbler was spotted. We then returned to the ford and found the Germans had gone, thus leaving us to enjoy the peace and quiet of this bird rich spot, and adding Icterine Warbler to our finds. Not far away we visited the coast where a pair of Red-backed Shrikes had taken up territory, and on the beach a Crag Martin was watched out of place, flying low around a muddy puddle. Over a distant hill a flock of Red-footed Falcons proved difficult to count as we did not know how many birds were perched out of view, however an estimate of birds in the sky at any one time was about 50. On our return journey we had several more closer Red-footed Falcons and a Lesser Kestrel.

In the evening after our meal a few of us went searching for Owls. We started off in the village square where it wasn't long before the local pair of Barn Owls came out of their building and sat on the roof for all of us to see. Content with this we then tried an avenue of trees hoping to see Eurasian Scops Owl, we first heard two birds calling to each other and then with the aid of the street lights two birds were seen flying back and forth through the trees.

DAY 7: Friday 30th April

The Kalloni pool was now the quietest we had seen it, although a Little Bittern showed nicely in a Tamarisk, and a Pratincole flying around for two minutes at 6.00am was probably a Black-winged. Unfortunately the light conditions prevented good enough views to allow us to specifically identify it. After breakfast we had another photo opportunity at the harbour and mused at the White Pelican, after which we visited the salt pans.

A ring-tail harrier was spotted and turned out to be a female Hen, while amongst the waders in the far fields we found four summer plumaged Spotted Redshanks amongst the many Wood Sandpipers and Ruff Temminck's Stints were plentiful with up to seven along the shallow stream edge, and there was the usual array of Great White, and Little Egrets, Squacco Herons, Black-winged Stilts and a lone European Bee-eater. From the salt pans we drove to Dipi Larssos passing en-route a river which yielded two Black Storks.

Dipi Larssos comprises the largest reed bed on the island and it was this area we looked at.  On the seaward side of these reeds we found a single Slender-billed Gull amongst the larger Yellow-legged. This bird allowed us to look at the subtle differences and distinctive head and bill shape compared to our familiar Black-headed Gull. Other birds we found in and around this area included Great Reed and Eurasian Reed Warblers, two Temminck's and two Little Stints together, several breeding Little Ringed Plovers and a close Western Marsh Harrier.

From this site we drove high up to Mount Olympus where we had a lunch stop in a sheltered valley near the top. This area held Subalpine Warblers and was full of alpine flowers that included at least five different kinds of orchid. After lunch we drove right to the summit and had some spectacular views over the island. Returning back through the pine forest we saw two Grey Wagtails, a rare bird here, and then continued on to Achladeri where we once again enjoyed two beautiful little Kruper's Nuthatch. Walking around we saw Serins, Short-toed Tree-creepers, and a Middle Spotted Woodpecker coming to it's nest hole in a rotten bare tree. After these excellent views we drove to the upper east river where we spotted a photographer setting up a hide in front of a Western Rock Nuthatch nest. We parked by the ford where White Wagtail was a new species for the trip, and after not finding much else decided to finish the day back at the salt pans as this was an area that saw a constant now of good birds. Beside the approach road to the pans we found a very confiding Common Snipe and again enjoyed good views of several close Temminck's Stint. At a little bridge we watched a flock of twenty four White-winged Terns fly in before we headed back to our hotel.

After our meal all of us went looking for owls again. We didn't have to wait long before the Barn Owls came out again and sat on the roof by the village square, but we struggled with the Eurasian Scops Owls, only getting one brief night view and a few calls.

DAY 8:  Saturday 1st May

Myself, Tony and Anthony were out again at 6.00am. Numbers of birds on the pool had continued to drop, though two Little Bitterns, five Glossy Ibis and a Whiskered Tern were still nice. We then drove to the upper east river and parked by the end ford. A male Ruppell's Warbler was watched as it sang from a bush top and in a small orchard two Eurasian Hoopoes were collecting food for their young. Continuing up the valley we saw Cretzschmar's Buntings, Black-eared Wheatears and a scattering of commoner species. While returning to the hotel for breakfast a brief stop on the west river produced three Stone-curlew, two Little Ringed Plover, very close Kentish Plover and Greater Short-toed Lark, as well as few Black-headed Wagtails. We then had our last breakfast, packed our bags and loaded them into the minibus and headed off to one of our favourite sites, Ipsilou Monastery. En-route we spotted several Crag Martins at Grand Canyon and a close Short-toed Snake Eagle hovering beside the road. A brief look on the approach road to the monastery found us a female Lesser Kestrel on a pole and two Isabelline Wheatears, including one bird in song flight. At the monastery we enjoyed the pair of resident Blue Rock Thrushes as well as Collared and Spotted Flycatchers, three Sombre Tits, Crag Martin, Rock Sparrow, a tame Woodlark and exceptional views of an adult Long-legged Buzzard soaring around in front of and just below us. Driving back from here we called in to the salt pans for a quick lunch break. A thunderstorm was now raging over the high hills and heavy rain was imminent. As well as the usual array of waders and common species, fifteen Red-throated Pipits flew around and a Little Tern fished in the stream beside us. With lunch over and rain now falling we headed for the airport just in time to catch our flight which had unexpectedly been brought forward. Stopping in Athens we found ourselves with a few hours to spare and so myself, Roy and Tony caught a taxi to visit the Acropolis, while Joan and Anthony relaxed in the nearby park.  Beside the ancient ruins of the Acropolis Common Kestrel, three Alpine Swifts and an Icterine Warbler were seen, while Sardinian Warbler and Serin were heard singing.

Back at Athens airport we caught our flight back to London Heathrow and thus concluded an excellent tour to the beautiful Greek island of Lesvos.

As seems to the norm for BIRDSEEKERS we had a wonderful group of people who, together with the birds and scenery made for a wonderful and very memorable tour.


Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Cory's Shearwater
Mediterranean Shearwater
Great Cormorant
European Shag
White Pelican
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Great White Egret
Squacco Heron
Black-crowned Night-heron
Little Bittern
Black Stork
White Stork
Glossy Ibis
Greater Flamingo
Mute Swan
Ruddy Shelduck
Common Teal
European Honey-buzzard
Short-toed Snake-eagle
Western Marsh-harrier
Hen Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Long-legged Buzzard
Lesser Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Red-footed Falcon
Eleonora's Falcon
Water Rail
Little Crake
Spotted Crake
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Avocet
Collared Pratincole
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Northern Lapwing
Common Snipe
Eurasian Curlew
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Little Stint
Temminck's Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Yellow-legged Gull
Slender-billed Gull
Common Tern
Little Tern
Whiskered Tern
White-winged Tern
European Turtle-dove
Eurasian Collared-dove
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Common Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Eurasian Scops-owl
Little Owl
Alpine Swift
Common Swift
European Bee-eater
Eurasian Hoopoe
Middle Spotted Woodpecker
Greater Short-toed Lark
Crested Lark
Wood Lark
Sand Martin
Eurasian Crag-martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
Tawny Pipit
Tree Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
White Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flava
Motacilla flava flavissima
Motacilla flava feldegg
Motacilla flava thunbergi
Citrine Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Common Nightingale
Common Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Black-eared Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Blue Rock-thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
Cetti's Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Sedge Warbler
Eurasian Reed-warbler
Great Reed-warbler
Olivaceous Warbler
Icterine Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Orphean Warbler
Ruppell's Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Willow Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Wood Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Collard Flycatcher
Sombre Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Kruper's Nuthatch
Western Rock Nuthatch
Short-toed Treecreeper
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike
Woodchat Shirike
Masked Shrike
Eurasian Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
Common Raven
Common Starling
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
Europe Serin
European Greenfinch
Eurasian Linnet
Ciril Bunting
Cinereous Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
Corn Bunting

Total = 148 Species


Scarce Swallowtail
Eastern Festoon
False Apollo
Large White
Small White
Orange Tip
Clouded Yellow
Painted Lady
Red Admiral
Small Rearl-borded Fritillary
Small Heath
Wall Brown
Small copper
Holly Blue
Common Blue


Red Fox
Persian Squirrel
Strip-necked Terrapin
Spur-thighed Tortoise



birdseekers photos