In Association with:
LESVOS 19th - 27th April 2002
169 Species seen ( 1 week )
Day 1 19th April
After we all met at Heathrow airport it wasn't long before we were on the evening flight to Athens. After a smooth journey and a short wait we were on the next flight which took us to Myteline, the capital of Lesvos.
Day 2 20th April
After our early morning arrival we checked through customs, collected our minibuses and then drove to our hotel the Kalloni 2 in the small resort of Skalla Kallonis. We checked into our rooms and then had a welcome breakfast. Although tired from the flight the obvious excitement of a new country saw most of the group ready for action soon after. Literally outside of our hotel was a marshy lake called appropriately the Kalloni 2 pool. Birds seemed to be everywhere with plenty of Garganey in the open areas and countless Black-winged Stilts noisily feeding. A little searching soon found Purple Heron while the skies were full of Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallows and Swift. We decided to walk slowly around the pool, firstly looking at the nearby sea. On the beach the very common Crested Larks were soon found and a group of 5 breeding plumage Black-necked Grebes were good. On a distant sand spit two Slender-billed Gulls sat alongside Common and Little Terns, while a Kentish Plover and Little Stint were seen albeit a bit distantly. As we then continued around the pool, Squacco Herons showed well and flocks of Glossy ibis looked spectacular flying around. There was an obvious migration taking place and over the next couple of hours as we encircled this haven for birds, we witnessed some very interesting movement. Up to 9 Purple herons flew in and treated us to fabulous views while a flock of 8 Marsh Sandpipers were a real treat. Wood Sandpipers and Ruff soon appeared while a distraction from our first male Spanish Sparrow came when a superb Little Bittern posed on some Tamarisk bushes and a huge White Stork circled low in front of us. With Peregrine Falcon, Short-toed Eagle and better views of all the other birds we had a marvellous first morning. After a lunch break we set of in the minibuses towards the nearby east river. As we made our way to the edge of the river we passed lots of Whinchat's and Crested Larks. From a vantage point overlooking the river mouth we found the resident White Pelican, plus more Glossy Ibis, a flock of Avocet, 3 Mediterranean Gulls and our first Little-ringed Plover. A distant Black Stork flew over the hills and Red-rumped Swallows performed perfectly flying back and forth in front of us. Further along we saw Marsh Harrier and after crossing over a ford we stopped by a barn where a Little Owl sat posing for us. A Montagu's Harrier then flew across the fields and a Woodchat Shrike was spotted, while a few Gull-billed Terns showed very well. A Pallid Harrier flew past and a little further on we stopped and watched a nice close group of Red-throated Pipits with several showing lovely pinky throats. There were Corn Buntings everywhere and a couple of close Little-ringed Plovers and Wood Sandpipers. We continued on until the Salt pans where a close Squacco Heron was followed by brief views of a Spotted Crake and more distant looks at Greater Flamingo's. A couple of Ruddy Shellduck were then seen after which we drove to a nearby flooded sheep meadow. A short walk towards the beach found us a group of Short-toed Larks and then five Collared Pratincole's which sat quietly in front of us. A Stone Curlew then gave us a fly past while a distant male Montagu's Harrier was very nice. We left and returned back along the route we came, heading towards the hotel. A few impromptu stops found us Green Sandpiper and an adult Night Heron stood out in the open, while the finale to the day came with excellent views of a Little Bittern and then a fairly showy Little Crake back on the Kalloni 2 pool. What a fabulous end to a really good first day!
Day 3 21st April
A few of the group met outside the hotel early for a little pre-breakfast birding. Looking onto the Kalloni 2 pool a Purple Heron hunted in the open while Squacco Herons sat around. The previous days species were still present and then a male Little Bittern flew into a nearby tree and we had great views. A male Little Crake appeared on the top of a stand of grass and then preened itself while nearby on the sea we saw 6 Black-necked Grebes. The two Slender-billed Gulls were still, and while watching these a Great Reed Warbler started to call from a nearby bush. We soon got excellent views of this and a Cetti's Warbler. After breakfast we all met up and drove a short distance to just outside Kalloni village. In a stand of Eucalyptus it didn't take long to locate a beautiful little Scops Owl sat unbelievably right out in the open. After enjoying excellent views of this tiny owl we set off in the direction of Achlederi. Many stops were made en-route with lots of good birds being found. Our first roadside stop produced Black-eared Wheatear, Western Rock Nuthatch and a Cretzschmar's Bunting. A stop at the east river bridge gave us superb views of several Whiskered Terns plus lots of Yellow Wagtails, of several different races, the most striking being (Feldegg) Black-headed. A Pallid Harrier then flew past giving us wonderful views. Further on we stopped beside the salt pans and saw both Short-toed Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard and beside the water channel we had a Common Kingfisher. Further out on the salt pans we could see many waders including a group of Black-tailed Godwits. Amazingly we then witnessed a flock of 42 Gull-billed Terns fly towards us , over our heads and up the Napi valley. Next stop was for a raptor seen just above a huge flock of flying flamingos. The bird eventually turned out to be a large pale Peregrine Falcon, looking very like a Lanner Falcon!! We also found a single Alpine Swift circling above us. Moving on we drove to the pine forest of Achlederi. A quick stop just before we got there found us a Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike's and Cretzschmar's Bunting. Parking up we walked slowly up the central track and here amongst the pine trees we had excellent views of the islands star bird the delightful little Kruper's Nuthatch.
The bird was excavating a hole and gave us the opportunity to scope it well! A Short-toed Treecreeper and a Hobby were also seen briefly. After our picnic lunch we headed to Polchinitos salt pans.Here it was a bit windy and despite seeing some beautiful flowers there was actually few waders on the pools. Several Avocets and Little Terns were seen while raptors included lots of Short-toed Eagles and a few long-legged Buzzards. We decided because of the weather to leave here and head back towards Kalloni. At Derbyshire we had a superb Black Stork fly close by and then land on a stretch of river. Back near Kalloni we drove slowly back along the east river. Beside the bridge we saw a flock of Bee-eaters and as we made our way along the river searching the many hundreds of Yellow Wagtails we also found several Marsh Harriers and in one spot we had a male Montagu's fly over. A female Red-footed Falcon was found on a wire, a Little Bittern flew over our heads and in the river side bushes were Great Reed, and Olivaceous Warblers, and Lesser Whitethroat. We then returned to the hotel and enjoyed the sight of many birds including a roosting flock of 150 Glossy Ibis.
Day 4 22nd April
A pre breakfast visit to the inland lake for a few of the group proved excellent when we soon found a Golden Oriole sat on top of a poplar tree and then around the edges of the lake we saw male and female Little Crake beside a Spotted crake and then another three female Little Crakes, four Little Bitterns a Montagu's Harrier and lots of Sedge Warblers, six Great Reed and a few Reed Warblers. On the way back to the hotel two Marsh Sandpipers were seen on the saltings. After breakfast we set off west with the intention of getting to Ipsolu monastery by lunch time. Our first roadside stop produced Black-eared Wheatear and Cretzschmar's Buntings plus a brief Blue Rock Thrush. Continuing on we next stopped at an area called the Grand Canyon. In this rocky gorge we saw four or five Crag Martins, a superb Woodlark singing from a telegraph wire and a brief view of a Sombre Tit. We moved on but only a few hundred yards when a Masked Shrike was spotted. After brief cope views of this bird we then found a couple more Sombre Tits a very showy Orphean Warbler, and then a male Collared Flycatcher.
Our next stop at Perivolis Monastery where we hoped it was going to be more sheltered from the wind, found us fewer birds than expected. Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler being new species for the trip. We left and carried on towards our lunch stop. In one of our favourite areas before the monastery we stopped and had views of several Isabelline Wheatears and then just in front of us the islands other star bird a Cinereous Bunting was watched singing from the top of a Rock. Behind us a male Red-footed Falcon was spotted briefly and below us Bee-eater, Lesser and Common Whitethroat were seen. We then drove to the top of Ipsolu Monastery and just as we reached the last bend before the top a group of raptors were seen rising on a thermal in front of us. Every one dived out of the vehicles and enjoyed the spectacle of 25 Levant Sparrowhawk's migrating right over our heads, this being the largest count ever recorded for the island. Thrilled with this we then had our picnic lunch. Apart from the spectacular views here, we also saw Rock Sparrows and a showy pair of Black-eared Wheatears, as well as Blue Rock Thrush. A couple of Chukar were also seen and with our eyes constantly looking up we added another two single Levant Sparrowhawk's, four Hobby's, two Eleanora's Falcons, Lesser Kestrel and some more Crag Martins. What a superb lunch stop! Reluctantly leaving here we headed along the south of the island. Stopping firstly for raptors which were nearly always Long-legged Buzzards or Short-toed Eagles, Margaret then spotted a superb male Ruppell's Warbler which we all enjoyed and later we all saw a close Pallid Harrier. Next stop produced Golden Oriole and a Pallid Swift and our final roadside stop just past Agra found us several trees that were jumping with migrants. At one point we had in just one tree, Subalpine, Orphean, Willow, Wood, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Blackcap, Whitehroat and Lesser Whitetroat, Collared Flycatcher and a Cretzschmar's Bunting. Several Cinereous Buntings were seen on nearby rocks while a rufous phase Common Cuckoo posed for us in a small bush. Leaving this area we headed back to our hotel. As ever it was a delight to see big numbers of Glossy Ibis coming in to roost just a few yards from the front of our hotel.
Day 5 23rd April
A pre breakfast walk to nearby Parakila marsh was a bit disappointing as it was very cold and windy. Along the way however we had excellent views of a Long-legged Buzzard sat on a telegraph wire, it then swooped down, caught a small bird, pluck it and flew off. Returning past the west river we found that it was a bit more sheltered and on the salt marsh were Little Stints, Wood Sandpipers and Ruff. There were also five Stone-curlew stood together on a short grassy area. A White Stork then flew off with two Black Storks following just behind and a Marsh Sandpiper was seen. After breakfast we all revisited the west river to look at the Stone-curlews which showed well as did a small group of Whiskered Terns flying over our heads.
We then set off towards the west of the island and the area around Sigri. As we neared our destination a group of Lesser Kestrels were seen hunting the hillside and the bushes were alive with migrants including many Common Whitethroats, Redstarts and Whinchats. The approach to Sigri village saw our first and probably only Jackdaws of the trip and across the bay two Mediterranean Gulls flew by. We then drove right to Faneromeni ford. As we parked a Little Bittern flew into the nearby bamboo. Looking down river we could see Little Egret, Squacco Heron , three Night Herons and another Little Bittern all within a few feet of each other. There were Common and Green Sandpiper and in the tall bamboo were Spotted Flycatcher and a male Collared Flycatcher. We then walked from here back along the track that we drove in. At least six Great Reed Warblers were seen with most performing right out in the open. While Red-rumped Swallows flew overhead we found Woodchat and Masked Shrikes in the Olive groves. A stunning male Red-backed Shrike was seen well and then just as we were reaching our lunch spot a Levant Sparrowhawk was seen perched in a dead tree, Superb! While eating our Picnic lunch we enjoyed the spectacle of seeing a constant trickle of raptors coming over the hills and then passing overhead. There were Lesser Kestrels, several Red-footed Falcons, Hobby's an Eleanoras Falcon, Peregrines, another Levant Sparrowhawk, Pallid harrier, up to four Montagu's Harriers, six Marsh Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards and Short-toed Eagles. Several Night Herons were seen nearby, a Golden Oriole flew past and a group of Purple Herons flew in off the sea. Not bad for an hour or so! We then slowly drove out of the area stopping first to look at a lovely male Citrine Wagtail feeding close beside the road. As we left the village of Sigri a few Lesser Kestrels flew low overhead, and a stop on top of the hills had us watching as Lesser Kestrels hunted the hillside and a few other raptors flew past them. We then drove to the rear of Ipsolu Monastery and walked up the track overlooking the woodland behind. Black-eared Wheatear showed very well while below us Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatchers were seen, as well as a Collared Flycatcher and then a very elusive male Semi-collared Flycatcher. After everyone had eventually got views of this bird we made our way back to Kalloni. A brief stop was made when eight Red-footed Falcons were spotted hunting low over a hillside only 50 yards away, they gave us the most stunning views imaginable. We then continued back to our hotel.
Day 6 24th April
An early look on the saltpans found us lots of
Short-toed Larks and a flock of Red-throated Pipits, plus a Black Stork
seen flying away and a few Common and Little Terns. After breakfast we
drove north to the town of Molivos and parked near the Castle. Looking
Day 7 25th April
An early morning visit to the inland lake found us an amazing 7 Little Crakes with four males and three females. We also found a Spotted Crake and four Little Bittern, plus Sedge, Reed and Great Reed Warblers. After breakfast we set off towards Achlederi. A stop at Derbyshire found us a lovely female Red-footed Falcon perched on a telegraph wire after which we continued on to the pine wood at Achlederi and then slowly searched this pleasant area. Several Common Cuckoos were seen and all of the group managed to catch up with Short-toed Treecreeper. A Kruper's Nuthatch called above our heads in the canopy but it proved very hard to see. A Subalpine Warbler surprisingly was a little easier. We then had our picnic in the glorious sunshine. While eating our lunch I spotted what I was sure was a Rook flying past with two Hooded Crows, Adam saw it as well and thought the same. A very rare bird for Lesvos with just a couple of sightings in the last 10 years we decided we would check all the Hooded Crows throughout the day. As we returned to the Salt pans and only 4 miles from Achlederi we spotted two Rooks on a telegraph pole, and everyone got to see them. We then checked the pools near to the salt pans and had excellent views of 5 Temminck's Stint and a hundred Ruff. Next decision was to check thoroughly the East River and this time apart from the now usual Little Bitterns and Great Reed Warblers, we had two Bee-eaters, and a superb Lesser Grey Shrike. Out by the sheep fields we found some very confiding Collared Pratincole's and as we walked around up to Fifty Red-throated Pipits were seen, as well as lots of Short-toed Larks, a Skylark and amongst the Common Swifts we had up to 4 Pallid Swifts. A beautiful male Montagu's Harrier then flew past and 9 Pintail flew over, while countless Yellow Wagtails fed amongst the sheep. Returning past the salt pans we saw Gull-billed, Whiskered, White-winged and a single Black Tern and while watching these a first summer Little Gull flew in and so did 60 plus Curlew Sandpipers including some in glorious plum coloured breeding plumage.
Our return to the hotel via the east river proved very productive with six or more Little Bitterns, three Green Sandpipers, the Lesser Grey Shrike and an adult male Black-headed Bunting. Back at the hotel while some of the group got ready for the evening meal, others counted at least ten Little Bittern's on the Kalloni pool, amazing! A few of the group also had success in seeing a Great Bittern. A good end to another spectacular day.
Day 8 26th April
Once again we visited the inland lake before breakfast. With the early morning sun behind us, everything we saw was in the most superb light possible. A Spotted Crake gave us the best show so far as it fed right out in an open area. Not to be outdone a male Little Crake gave us the same incredible views. An adult Night Heron and two Purple Herons were spotted roosting in the trees while the bushes were literally jumping with Great Reed, Sedge, Reed and Olivaceous Warblers. Several more Little Crakes were found bringing this mornings total to five with an equal amount of Little Bitterns. Just as we were about to return for breakfast a Savi's Warbler started singing and then in another area we could hear a River Warbler singing. We then returned to the hotel but not after a quick exit from the vehicles had us watching a Great Spotted Cuckoo in a nearby tree. After breakfast we set off towards Sigri. With the inevitable roadside stops made en-route, our best came near Ipsolu when stopping for a Masked Shrike, we ended up seeing a couple of Isabelline Wheatears, Woodchat Shrikes, Collared Flycatcher, Sombre Tits, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and then our prize bird was a superb Roller sat on a small tree.
After looking at yet another excellent bird we carried on to Sigri and the Faneromeni ford. With everyone in full agreement we decided to walk up the shallow half dried up river bed. As we made our way up stream there were plenty Little Bitterns, but our best finds came a mile from where we started when firstly a Wryneck was found and then a Citrine Wagtail a superb Pallid Harrier and then John spotted a Cattle Egret sat with two Little Egrets. Another very rare island bird with just three or more records it was a great ending to our excellent wet walk! Leaving the ford we had our picnic lunch on the nearby deserted beach. After a wonderfully relaxing hour we left, stopping beside a field where 5 Collared Pratincole's sat quietly and a Lesser Kestrel hunted nearby. On the hills outside of Sigri we again stopped to look at the Lesser Kestrel's and Red-footed Falcon's, and near Ipsolu Monastery a roadside stop found us the Roller we had seen in the morning. Driving non stop to Kalloni we then continued on to the Napi Valley. In the perfect evening light birds sat in the open and many were heard singing. This is where we hoped to hear perhaps the first of the years Olive-tree Warblers. Viv stayed with his group beside a lovely wooded area of the valley and saw Golden Oriole's, Sombre Tit's, Cirl Bunting's and the brightest male Masked Shrike imaginable, while we drove to the top of the valley and found out of which flew no less than twenty Golden Oriole's, fantastic! It was getting late so we returned to the hotel via the east river where once again we spotted the Lesser Grey Shrike.
What a superb week we had had on this wonderful island, finding several very rare birds and enjoying excellent views of everything we saw.
Thank you to everyone who participated and made the tour such good fun.
Steve Bird - Viv Stratton