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A Report from

Samos, September 2008 ,

Alan Miller

Anne and I made a September visit to Samos to experience autumn on a Greek island. We were not disappointed with good weather, delicious food, friendly people and an interesting range of birds and butterflies.


We took a Thompson 2-week package holiday from 11th to 25th September, staying at the Kalidon Palace Hotel just outside Kokkari. Flights were from Manchester direct to Samos with good flight times. The outward journey was with XL Airways departing at 0700hrs and arriving at 1300hrs local time (4 hour flight and 2 hour time difference). The day after our flight, XL Airways went broke and the return flight was on a Thompson aircraft departing 1615hrs (2 hrs later than originally scheduled) and arriving back at Manchester at 1800hrs.

During the first week the weather was glorious with clear blue skies, a slight southeasterly breeze and daytime temperatures in the 30’s. The second week started with the wind changing to a northerly and the temperature dropped ten degrees. We experienced two evenings and one lunchtime of rain. For our last two days the wind swung back to southeasterly and the temperature rose again. On our last full day we recorded 25 degrees in the shade and ten minutes later 42 degrees in the sun.

Rather than pre-book a vehicle we made enquiries locally and hired a Hyundai Atos for five days at 25 euros per day from Inter Hermes in Kokkari. We drove 367 kilometres and fuel cost 28 euros.

The island is relatively small, measuring approximately 47km by 20km. It is an Aegean island located just off the Turkish coast, which is about a kilometre away at the closest point, and lying about 150kms south of Lesvos. The island is well vegetated. The two main cultivations were large areas of Olive Groves and Vines. Much of the hillsides were covered in low scrub and there were many trees at lower levels, mainly coniferous. Despite the heat the island was very ‘green’ but we saw little in the way of flowers except around the hotels. In the countryside the vegetation on the roadside and path verges was dry.

There is a good road system with signposts in both Greek and English. There is a main paved road circling most of the island and other paved roads to most of the main habitations. Off the beaten track there is a network of unpaved roads and tracks of varying standards of suitability for hire cars. The roads are nearly all single carriageway and bendy so the pace of driving is relatively slow and unhurried. Parking was widely available in most towns and villages with no charges or time restrictions.

The Kalidon Palace Hotel is situated at a raised elevation about a kilometre outside Kokkari. There are splendid views over Kokkari and out to sea. Infront of the hotel is a small Olive Grove and a stand of conifer trees before an escarpment down to the coast road. There is no habitation to the rear and paths lead immediately into the countryside through Olive Groves and areas of conifers and scrub. The hotel grounds are managed with areas of plants and shrubs which were in flower.


A reasonable amount of research was carried out before the visit. I am grateful to Naturetrek and Peter Dunn for birding trip reports for Spring visits and other information, a report found on the internet by Per Henningsson for a visit in June 2008, and a report on Captain’s European Butterfly Guide website by Keith Heaven. I carried with me Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant; and Butterflies of Europe by Tristan Lafranchis. The nomenclature in this report for butterflies follows Lafranchis. 

The Birds

Birding was going to be a bit of a gamble as information for autumn was scarce. In the end there were some wonderful moments such as a mixed flock of over 200 birds, mainly Alpine Swift and Common Swift with Red-rumped Swallow, Swallow and House Martin which spend three days circling around the hillside behind the hotel, sometimes coming down to eye level. On a number of days we saw raptors; Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Long-legged Buzzards, arrive over the sea and drift southwards over the hotel. On the other hand we did not see any waders and only one duck (a female Mallard).

Birding Sites:

The Hotel and surrounds

In addition to the sightings detailed above we regularly saw Blue Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Hooded Crow and Willow Warbler in the Olive Grove and trees infront of the hotel. On one occasion we also had a Golden Oriole fly over the hotel and settle in the trees whilst we were having breakfast. Other sightings around the hotel included Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Jay and Sardinian Warbler.

Nightingale Valley

This was slightly disappointing from a birding viewpoint. The valley is narrow and heavily wooded. We did see Chaffinch and Great Tit around a taverna. The drive up to Manolates is worthwhile as it is a picturesque village and lunch in a taverna watching Honey Buzzard was excellent. Also this was the only place we saw Tree Sparrow.

Airport Pools

Located on either side of the road at the eastern end of the airport runway at the road junction to Potokaki are two pools, one natural with bulrushes, the other man-made. We passed them several times and saw Little Grebe, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Crested Lark and on one occasion a Kingfisher.

Potokaki beach 

At the end of the paved road at Potokaki beach there is a good promenade path towards Ireo. On the land side is a sandy scrub area and large reedbed. A pleasant stroll along the front turned up 150+ House Sparrows, 22 Corn Buntings, 4 female Northern Wheatears, 40 Crested Larks and 8 Whinchats.

Northern Wheatear

Psilli Amos

As we approached the lagoon a Common Buzzard had put up 71 Feral Pigeons and 17 Hooded Crows. We were, therefore, disappointed as we turned the corner and discovered that the large lagoon was completely dry and birdless.

Between there and Pythagorio is an area of cultivations near Mykali Beach and two visits wandering round the area were productive. Sightings included Lesser Grey Shrike, Whitethroat, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike, Collared Dove, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat.

Lesser Grey Shrike


We visited a number of towns and villages including Kokkari, Pythagorio, Karlovasi, Samos Town and Posidonio. We were surprised at the lack of seabirds. We saw a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls, usually no more than two at once; on one occasion we saw 2 Sandwich Terns; we twice saw a Shag; and we saw one Mallard.

The Butterflies

Whilst there were few plants in flower we were pleased with the amount of butterflies seen. Any area of flowers contained goon numbers of butterflies, but equally butterflies could be found on the tracks and trails.

Butterfly Sites:

Scarce Swallowtail 
Lattice Brown
Millet Skipper
Reverdin’s Marbled Skipper

The Hotel and surrounds

In the hotel grounds, areas of plants in flower were a magnet for many insects. They were alive with bees and wasps and constantly held a dozen and more Hummingbird Hawk-moths. In the small garden behind our room were two Jersey Tiger moths and a number of Mantids. Swallowtail was a regular visitor and it was here we saw our only Scarce Swallowtail. Other species included Large White, Long-tailed Blue, Balkan Grayling, Tree Grayling and Aegean Meadow Brown.                                             

In the lanes around the hotel we added Two-tailed Pasha, Lattice Brown, Woodland Grayling, Southern Comma, Brown Argus, Samos Grayling, Freyer’s Grayling, Small White and Southern Small White.

Kokkari Bramble Patch

On the walk into Kokkari from the hotel we passed a large, overgrown bramble patch between the road and the seashore measuring some 40 metres by 30 metres. Flowers were still on the brambles and here we saw a good selection of butterflies. The most productive was on 24th when in an hour around midday 15 species were seen including Red Admiral, Cleopatra, Holly Blue, Common Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, Two-tailed Pasha, Swallowtail and Millet Skipper. Also on this visit there were 3 Praying Mantis and an Egyptian Grasshopper.

Behind Kokkari

We did a circular walk from Kokkari to the hillside behind and returned through a small area of cultivations. Above Kokkari we saw more Grayling and Browns but the highlight was of a Southern White Admiral.


At the top of Nightingale Valley is the village of Manolates. On entering the village there is a car park with a small scrubby area adjacent to the path leading into the village. Here we saw Southern Comma, Red Admiral, Balkan Grayling, Small Copper, Long-tailed Blue and Reverdin’s Marbled Skipper.

Additional information

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Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
One seen on 17th and 20th at Airport Pools

Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea
One off Kokkari on 12th and two off Pythagorio on 17th

Shag Phalacrocorax Aristotelis desmartii
One off Kokkari on 15th, 21st and 22nd. One off Glicorisa Beach on 20th

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
One on 20th and two on 25th at Airport Pools

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
One female seen at Posidonio on 19th

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Two from the hotel on 14th coming off the sea heading south

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Single bird seen most days around the hotel

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Ten seen from the hotel on 14th coming off the sea heading south

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
One seen at Psili Amos on 17th

Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Eight seen from the hotel on 14th coming off the sea heading south. One seen on 16th at Manolates

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
One or two seen most days. Eight seen on 14th from the hotel coming off the sea heading south

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
One near Mykali Beach on 20th, One near the hotel on 21st and 22nd

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Two seen at Airport pools on 17th, 20th and 25th

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Small numbers seen each day. Highest count eight birds on 12th and 17th

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Two seen in Kokkari harbour on 21st

Feral Pigeon Columba livia ‘feral’
Widespread and abundant

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
Seen behind the hotel. Highest count three on 22nd

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Widespread and abundant

Little Owl Athene noctua
One seen near Mitilini on 20th

Tawny Owl Strix aluco
One heard from the hotel after dark on 17th and 18th

Swift Apus apus
Numbers built around the hotel to fifty on 15th, 16th and 17th. After that ones or twos

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
One from the hotel with the swift/hirundine flock on 15th

Alpine Swift Apus melba
Numbers built around the hotel to fifty on 17th then only sighting was a flock of fifty near Mykali Beach on 20th

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
One seen at Airport pools on 20th

Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Five seen near Mesogio on 18th, one near Mykali Beach on 20th

Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Two seen on 17th and ten on 20th near Mykali Beach. Also on 20th one at Airport pools and fourty at Potokaki beach

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Seen regularly around Kokkari till 22nd. High count fourty from the hotel on 16th

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Seen daily around the island till 22nd. High count 100 on 15th. Many keeping low and heading south

House Martin Delichon urbica
Seen between 15th and 21st. High count fifty from the hotel on 15th and 17th

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Two seen on 17th and 5 on 20th near Mykali Beach

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba
One seen at the airport on 11th and 3 near Mykali Beach on 20th

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
One heard at the hotel on 25th

Robin Erithacus rubecula
Two seen in Nightingale Valley on 16th

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
One female seen near the hotel on 15th

Whinchat Saxicola rubertra
Seen most days. High count 16 on 20th

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Females seen on 18th near Mitilini, 19th near Kamara and four on 20th at Potokaki Beach

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Up to three seen regularly until 19th

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
One seen regularly infront of hotel

Blackbird Turdus merula
One seen or heard behind hotel from 13th to 17th

Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti
One heard near Kokkari on 25th

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Two seen near Mykali Beach on 20th 

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
One female seen near Zoodohos Pigi Monastery on 19th

Whitethroat Sylvia communis
One seen near the hotel on 12th, 13th and 14th. One seen near Mykali Beach on 20th

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Widespread. Up to four seen daily.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida
One seen near the hotel on 15th

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Widespread. Up to five seen daily

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Common and widespread. Up to 10 seen daily

Great Tit Parus major aphrodite
Seen regularly around the hotel area

Blue Tit Cyanistres caeruleus
One seen in the hotel grounds on 22nd and 24th

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus tephronotus
Six seen near the hotel on 17th

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Seen regularly around the island. Max count four on 17th and 20th

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
Two seen near Mykali Beach on 20th

Black-capped Jay Garrulus glandarius samios
Common and widespread. Seen daily. Max count six on 17th

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Common and widespread. Seen daily. Max count 28 on 17th

Raven Corvus corax
Two seen near Pirgos on 18th

Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
One seen from the hotel breakfast table on 17th

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Common and widespread

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
One seen at Manolates on 16th

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Two seen in Nightingale Valley on 16th and eight seen near Mitilini on 20th

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
Twenty-two seen on Potokaki Beach on 20th


Millet Skipper Pelopidas thrax
One seen at Kokkari Bramble Patch on 21st and 24th

Reverdin’s Marbled Skipper Carcharodus stauderi
One at Kokkari Bramble Patch on 14th and one at Manolates on 16th

Swallowtail Papilio machaon
Seen almost daily. Max count five on 24th

Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius
One seen in hotel grounds on 12th

Cleopatra Gonepteryx Cleopatra
One seen near Kokkari Bramble Patch on 24th

Large White Pieris brassicae
One or two seen daily

Southern Small White Pieris mannii
Singles seen near the hotel and Kokkari on 14th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 21st

Small White Pieris rapae
Singles seen near the hotel on 13th and 16th

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
One seen at Kokkari Bramble Patch on 13th and one at Manolates on 16th 

Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus
Seen almost daily. High count 5 on 24th between hotel and Kokkari

Lang’s Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous
Two or three seen regularly at Kokkari Bramble Patch

Brown Argus Aricia agestis
One seen on track to rear of hotel on 23rd

Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
One seen at Kakkori Bramble Patch on 24th

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus
Three seen at Kokkari Bramble Patch on 24th

Southern White Admiral Limenitis reducta
One seen on cultivations behind Kokkari on 22nd

Southern Comma Polygonia egea
One behind the hotel on 12th and 13th and one at Manolates on 16th

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
One seen in the hotel grounds on 13th, one at Manolates on 16th and one at Kokkari Bramble Patch on 24th

Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius
One or two seen regularly between the hotel and Kokkari

Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana
One seen behind the hotel on 23rd

Samos Grayling Hipparchia mersina
One seen near Pirgos on 18th, two behind the hotel on 23rd and three near Kokkari Bramble Patch on 24th

Balkan Grayling Hipparchia senthes
One seen at Manolates on 16th, one near the hotel on 23rd and 25th, and three near Kokkari Bramble Patch on 24th

Tree Grayling Hipparchia statilinus
One or two seen regularly between the hotel and Kokkari

Freyer’s Grayling Hipparchia fatua
One near Kamara and one near Posidonio on 19th, one behind Kokkari on 23rd

Woodland Grayling Hipparchia fagi
One seen near Vroda Monastery on 16th, up to eight seen on tracks behind hotel on 22nd to 25th

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
Two seen on 13th behind hotel and two near Kokkari on 24th

Aegean Meadow Brown Maniola telmessia
Seen daily. Max of four on 24th near Kokkari  


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