In Association with:
LESVOS 26th April - 4th May 2002
152 Species seen ( 1 week )
Day 1 27th April
Myself and Viv were up early to take the first group to the airport. After saying our farewells we picked up the second group and then drove back to our hotel in the pleasant fishing village of Skala Kallonis. After a very tiring flight trip we settled everyone into their rooms and later, after some rest we met up for a walk around the Kalloni pool, a bird filled marshy lake right in front of our hotel. A few spaces from the hotel and we were watching lots of Glossy Ibis and a Purple Heron feeding right out in the open. And what a day for Little Bitterns! there must have been about ten birds flying back and forth and then sitting out in the open, we got wonderful views of both male and females. A group of Whiskered Terns were catching tadpoles just ten feet in front of us while behind Garganey and Squacco Herons could be seen. A White Stork flew in and fed so close that we didn't even need to use binoculars. Further on several Wood Sandpipers were found and above us a mix of Swallows, House and Sand Martins added to the spectacle. We walked back for our lunch after which we then got together and drove towards the salt pans. A roadside stop by a small pool found us a group of Ruff and Wood Sandpipers as well as three Temminck's Stint. While we were watching a group of Curlew Sandpipers also flew in with several birds almost in their complete plum coloured breeding plumage. Behind on a fence we found an Isabelline Wheatear and a few Yellow Wagtails of both the Blue-headed and Black-headed races. Moving on we slowly drove beside the salt pans. Whiskered and Little Terns were seen and further along a superb Marsh Sandpiper gave us excellent views. A group of Glossy Ibis and Black-winged Stilts were looking really photogenic before a large coach flushed everything off. As we got nearer to the sheep fields a quick stop was made for a group of Bee-eaters flying around and perching in front of us. At the sheep field we got out of the minibuses and were immediately greeted by a superb Collared Pratincole which strutted around the open ground just in front of us. Actually in and around the sheep we got fantastic views of five of these beautiful birds. We also found Short-toed Larks and Red-throated Pipits. We then left and drove to the nearby east river. A slow drive had us in and out of the buses like yoyo's. A Nightingale sang from the top of a bush and Common Sandpiper and Great Reed Warbler were spotted. We got fabulous views of two Black-headed Buntings, more Bee-eaters as well as a male Little Crake walking right out in the open along the river bank. An excellent end to our first day we returned to the hotel.
Day 2 28th April
After a good sleep we all had our breakfast and then set of or the day. Our first stop was just outside of Kalloni town in a stand of Eucalyptus. Here it didn't take long to quickly check some of the best trees and find the local roosting Scops Owl. We enjoyed the most fantastic views possible as it sat close to the trunk unobstructed by any branches. Excellent! We then drove west. A roadside stop had us watch a pair of Masked Shrikes, and a Cirl Bunting. Continuing on we next stopped at an area called Grand Canyon. Here we had superb views of a male Subalpine Warbler singing from a tree top, and a Long-legged Buzzard flew over. Just a little further along the road we got fleeting views of the resident Crag Martins. Continuing on we called in on Perivolis Monastery and here we enjoyed great views of Alpine Swifts flying overhead and Nightingales singing in the woods. Our next roadside stop below Ipsolu Monastery found us several Isabelline Wheatears and Sombre Tit. The wind was stronger than we had hoped for so we abandoned the idea of having our picnic lunch at the monastery and drove down to the small village of Sigri where it was a little more sheltered. On the way we came around a corner and were meet by a group of thirty plus Lesser Kestrels all hovering low on the side of a hill. After enjoying looking at these birds we had our picnic in Sigri village. Afterwards we made our way towards the nearby fords at Faneromeni. We got to the lower ford and parked. One of the first birds I heard was a Penduline Tit and we soon located it and everyone had great views. Amazingly we then spotted a nest of these birds hanging above the stream. Behind us we then watched a Long-legged Buzzard eating a Lizard while nearby Woodchat Shrike, Wood Warbler and Turtle Doves were also seen. Moving on to the next ford several Bee-eaters were seen while Squacco Heron and a very confiding Little Bittern fed along the stream edge.We then took a walk over the ford and into the next valley. A beautiful male Montagu's Harrier was spotted soon followed by a female. There were quite a few Spotted Flycatchers around and a very late Hen Harrier. We returned back to the minibuses and set off back to the hotel. Firstly looking at the Bee-eaters which were now sat on the telegraph wires.
Day 3 29th April
This morning we had an early morning visit to the inland lake. Shortly after our arrival we spotted a fabulous Spotted Crake and right beside it a male Little Crake. Several Little Bitterns were found as well as Great Reed Warblers, Reed and Sedge. Our final count of Little Crakes ended with four males and two females. And just before we left a Savi's Warbler could be heard singing. As we were returning back to the hotel a Roller was seen on nearby wires, we all saw it well before it flew off east over the fields.
After breakfast we drove towards the salt pans via the east river. Black-headed Buntings were now singing everywhere with several right beside the track. Further along we had excellent views of a group of seven Red-footed Falcons sat on some telegraph wires above a freshly cut grass field. After superb views of both the males and females we continued on to the salt pans. Two adult Slender-billed Gulls showed well while Common and Whiskered Terns fished nearby. Our next stop was down at the pine forest of Achlederi. It didn't take us long to hear the distinctive call of one of the islands star birds the Kruper's Nuthatch. We then had the most fantastic views of a pair of these little birds singing and proclaiming their territory. Leaving here very delighted we then drove to the east river where we followed the river inland and found a lovely picnic spot. A walk afterwards found us a nice male Ruppell's Warbler singing, but more difficult were the many Olivaceous and single Orphean Warblers. Cirl Buntings were easily seen and a brief Western Rock Nuthatch was spotted beside the river.
We then made our way along the road to the salt pans were we found a group of waders which included two Kentish Plovers, Two Temminck's and two Little Stints and a few Curlew Sandpipers. Passing over the east river we called in at the hotel briefly before visiting the nearby village for an ice-cream. Our next destination was along the south coast not too far from the hotel. Stopping beside a small chapel we soon got superb views of Cretzschmar's Buntings and a very confiding Black-eared Wheatear. A Long-legged Buzzard also showed well as did a Western Rock Nuthatch before we headed for the Napi Valley for the last few hours. We stopped right at the top of this valley and searched the nearby scrub. A Tawny Pipit was spotted and it showed well to everyone. We then flushed a Quail and further on a Golden Oriole was seen in a large tree. As they do it disappeared, but after bit of a wait a female was glimpsed and then a male hoped right out into the open. We drove further down the valley and overlooked the hillside. Unbelievably in the evening light we could see Golden Orioles everywhere. Over twenty birds could be picked out looking like yellow lights in the tree tops. Add a stunning Masked Shrike and it ended a wonderful day. We then returned to the hotel in time for our evening meal.
Day 4 30th April
A pre breakfast walk beside the West River gave us very good views of several Yellow Wagtails of the Black-headed race (feldegg). A Marsh harrier flew by and on another area we saw a Stone-curlew and Ruddy Shellduck. After breakfast we all stopped to look at the Stone-curlew again and then we drove to the area called Devil's Bridge. Here in the perfect sunlight we soon found the islands other star bird the Cinereous Bunting. We watched a male singing from the very top of a Cyprus tree. Moving on from here we had a few roadside stops the first of which got us a Blue Rock Thrush and a dark phase Eleanora's Falcon flying over.
Next stop found us at least three Cinereous Buntings, Isabelline Wheatear and Rock Sparrows. We then carried on to the coastal village of Tavari and on to a more remote village beside a deserted beach. Here we parked, found some shade and had our picnic lunches. At sea we spotted several Cory's Shearwaters and a few smaller Levantine Shearwaters passing far out to sea. After lunch we searched the river that ran through this pleasant area. A Black Stork flew over, while Black-headed Buntings were a common sight. A female Red-backed Shrike was seen as was Reed and Olivaceous Warblers. Leaving this area we drove towards Ipsolu Monastery. Several sightings of Blue Rock Thrush were made before we eventually arrived at the idyllic monastery perched on top of a mountain. As we pulled up a Honey Buzzard flew over but not many of us got onto it. We then had a look at the trees behind the monastery and found Lesser Whitethroat and Subalpine Warblers. A Chukar was seen well down on the rocks and a superb male Collared Flycatcher gave great views. A Thrush Nightingale then appeared in the trees just below us. It proved very elusive but some of the group got to see it in the scope.
Day 5 1st May
Our pre breakfast walk this morning took us to the Inland Lake where we found two Little Crakes and heard two River Warblers reeling away. After breakfast we drove to the east river and then on to the salt pans. Along the way we saw a telegraph wire with twelve Red-footed Falcons parched along it, we got out and enjoyed great scope views of males, females and first year birds. Also here were up to forty Red-throated Pipits and lots of Black-headed Buntings. As we left a Little Owl was spotted sat on a post. Our next destination was north. We drove to Mythimna and along the way we stopped and enjoyed the most fantastic views of a Goshawk as it circled overhead. Continuing on we got to Molivos Castle and soon found Chukar beside the small unmade road that leads to Eftaloe. On the sea were twenty eight Mediterranean Gulls looking great on the clear blue water. We searched a few bushy valleys and eventually came up trumps with an Icterine and a Barred Warbler. Red-backed, Woodchat and Masked Shrikes were seen as were Ortolan, Cretzschmar's and Black-headed Buntings.
To finish the day we relaxed and enjoyed watching Levantine and Cory's Shearwaters flying past.
Day 6 2nd May
Pre-breakfast and we were walking on the sheep fields. Two Collared Pratincole's were seen well, as was Short-toed Larks, Red-throated Pipits and several Yellow Wagtails. After breakfast we drove to the Napi and after a lot of searching we eventually heard our target bird an Olive Tree Warbler. It was then glimpsed flying from bush to bush around its territory. Also here were Golden Orioles, Middle Spotted Woodpecker Hoopoe and Masked Shrikes. We decided to head to Achlederi for our picnic lunch. Along the way we stopped for a singing Serin and then while having lunch a couple of Pallid Swifts were seen. Another walk around the pine forest and once again we were treated to fabulous views of the Kruper's Nuthatch. On our way back a stop at an area nicknamed Derbyshire had us watch both Great White Egret and Ruddy Shellduck. Further back and the salt pans were still producing birds. A group of eighteen Gull- billed Terns flew past and a little searching soon found Temmincks Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, White winged Terns and a flock of waders including 400 Ruff and a couple of Spotted Redshank. Leaving the salt pans we headed back towards the hotel passing Little Owl, several Red-footed Falcons and very vocal Black-headed Buntings along the way. Some of the group then opted for a few hours relaxation while the remainder of the group drove back to the Napi valley which was always magical at this time of day. The elusive Olive Tree Warbler lived up to its name and only a few glimpses were had! Other birds more easily seen included Long-legged Buzzard and several Red-footed Falcons, Cirl Buntings, Sombre Tit, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and some fabulous Masked Shrikes and Golden Orioles. Just making back in time for the evening was well worth it, with excellent light conditions and wonderful views of birds in a lovely, peaceful valley.
Day 7 3rd May
Some of us decided to visit the nearby East river before breakfast and our hour out proved well worth while! Stopping just the other side of the ford on the river we slowly walked up stream and we hadn't gone more than a few yards when 2 Marsh Sandpipers flew past with a couple of Wood Sandpipers, landing only a short distance further on. We walked closer and enjoyed fantastic views in perfect light conditions and we were also able to compare Marsh and Wood Sandpipers feeding beside each other. We then spotted an adult Lesser Grey Shrike showing it's full pink flushed breast, an indication that it was in prime breeding condition. Its mate was then spotted and we enjoyed excellent looks at these two birds. Just as we were about to leave a bird was seen in the distance flying up to a telegraph wire, assuming that it may be a Red-footed Falcon a quick look in the binoculars soon revealed the glorious colours of a European Roller. With our scopes trained on this bird we were then amazed to see a second bird fly up to the wires and join it! What a superb hour setting us up for our regular feast of a breakfast. After breakfast we all returned to the East river and first tried to relocate the Marsh Sandpipers, - they had gone! then we looked for the Lesser Grey Shrikes - they had gone! then we looked for the Rollers and they too had gone proving that "The early Birdseeker catches the worm" , or something like that! We continued on to the Salt Pans, stopping first to look at a line of 12 or more Red-footed Falcons sat on the wires. We enjoyed excellent views of these birds hovering and hunting over a freshly cut field while Red-throated Pipits in full breeding colours fed close by. A Little Owl posed for us on a post before we reached the salt pans. Here we soon located the flock of Flamingos and Avocets and then nearby we found three Spoonbills which were obviously new in! Whiskered and White-winged Tern numbers had increased and a flock of 20 Gull-billed Terns was very high for the island. Searching through the waders saw a significant increase in these as well and we estimated seeing at least 50 Wood Sandpiper, 100+ Curlew sandpipers and over 1000 Ruff. Quite a sight when they all took flight wheeling and twisting in the air as a tight flock.
Moving on to the sheep fields we soon found Red-Throated pipits, Greater Short-toed Larks, Yellow Wagtails and a nice Montagu's Harrier. After searching a large area of the sand dunes we eventually found a singing Rufous Bush Robin, it was quite mobile but with perseverance we all got to see it well. A group of birdwatching on the shore drew our attention and on investigation they said they were watching a Lesser Sandplover! I viewed the bird through my scope and found that it was in fact a female Kentish Plover sat on a nest, I tried to explain the differences to some of the group there and referred them to the pale neck collar as well as the small bill and head structure, features quite straightforwardly different from Lesser Sandplover when you know the species! What I found amazing is that this bird was then recorded as a Lesser Sandplover in certain publications later that spring. It just shows you should not believe everything you read and also proves that the person who put the report in did not know his birds and did not listen to the explanation given as to why it was a Kentish Plover. As we moved away from the sheep fields many more Bee-eaters were seen than before and we also saw our only White Wagtail of the trip. Heading back to the hotel we then had our picnic lunch around the pool and a short rest before venturing out again. A visit to the small church at Devil's Bridge found it to be rather quiet although Western Rock Nuthatch and Cretzschmar's Buntings did show well. We decided to leave and drove inland half way up the Napi Valley where we then took an unknown route into a wooded valley. Here we posed for photos beside a very old and picturesque bridge and then took a short walk where we found a few species such as Great Reed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and a fairly large Balkan Green Lizard. Some of the group decided that they would like to return to the hotel so I took them back while Viv continued with the rest of the group to the upper Napi Valley. Another magical evening here produced excellent views of Masked and Red-backed Shrikes, Golden Orioles, Sombre Tits, Orphean Warbler, Red-footed Falcons and Long-legged Buzzards, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker and glimpses of the frustratingly elusive Olive Tree Warbler. Returning to the hotel everyone was more than pleased a wonderful week on this very special Greek island.
Day 8 4th
May - A very early morning start saw us all on our way to Mytelene airport in time for our departure back to Britain via a short stop at Athens.
Back in London everyone said their goodbyes while myself and Viv reflected on a superb tour with a lovely group - We thank you all.
Steve Bird & Viv Stratton