Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Lesbos 1-8th May 2003,
I visited Lesbos in 1996 with a couple of my birding friends and really enjoyed the week. My son, Philip, was only 18 months old at the time but I promised my wife, Lorraine, that as soon as he had become more human, we would all go back!! Armed with a recently purchased Game Boy Advance SP and a few new games, this was the year!
We had notched up 146 species on our 1996 trip and I knew that I would fall some way short of that number this year. I had decided not to jeopardise future trips so thought that I would keep my solo birding to a minimum. As it turned out, all three of us went out most mornings and then I nipped out for a couple of hours in mid to late afternoon while the rest of the family went to the swimming pool at the Kalloni 2 Hotel. Lorraine is very interested in birds, wild flowers and using her digital camera. However, she is also interested in sunshine so she had lots of choice on this holiday!
We stayed at the Mariana Apartments in Skala Kalloni, having been moved by First Choice from the Arisvi a few weeks before we left. First Choice no longer use the Arisvi. The Mariana was as good as we expected - basic but with the bonus of a double bed and two singles - no lounge area or table inside though - just as well it was hot all the time we were there. The Apartments were near the Yannis for those who know the place and very convenient for the new bakery next to the football pitch. We ate very fresh bread every day!
Left Morpeth and travelled to Manchester, where we booked in our luggage, thus saving an hour the following morning.
Got up in good time and went to the reception desk for a lift to the airport, which was less than two minutes away. Twenty-five minutes later, a number of taxis were summoned for the waiting masses, as the hotel's car had still not appeared. It was a total mess and a rotten start. We got to the Airport at 6.45 am and were lucky to be allowed through check-in as the flight left at 7.30 am. Good job they had our luggage, I think.
We took off a little late but landed in Mytilene on time. We took the bus to Skala Kalloni and then unpacked. We then waited for our hire car to arrive but of course it went to the Arisvi even though the paperwork had been changed in good time!! The Hertz office in Mytilene hadn't been told though. Good start!
While we waited on our balcony, a couple of fly-over Bee-eaters and a Black Stork cheered us up. A brief trip to the side of the Kalloni 2 pool added a few Glossy Ibis to the list.
We woke to brilliant sunshine. It was to remain hot for almost the whole trip. After breakfast, we had a look at my favourite place from 1996 - the East River. Only the number of birds had changed! There were far fewer. It soon transpired that it had been very cold and birdy in the previous week but the southerly winds had arrived a couple of days before we arrived and most of the birds had gone.
It wasn't all bad news. There was still plenty to keep us going - just less than I had been used to in 1996. We had several Bee-eaters, Black Headed Buntings, Squacco Heron, Garganey, another Black Stork and a few Terns - but no Marsh Terns. As we were talking to other birders I picked up a bird in the distance and thought it was a White Stork at first. However, it then turned and it was clear that it was a pelican species! Everyone else was cool as the Dalmatian Pelican [which it turned out to be] had been showing well on the Saltpans for a number of days. It was a lifer for me though and I was suddenly £2 worse off as a result of a carefully worded contract with my son prior to departure!
Immediately after this, a Little Crake appeared out of the reeds. Things were looking up. We then moved to the Saltpans and got excellent views of Lesser Grey Shrike and distant views of a number of common waders.
We decided to go easy for the rest of the day and in the late afternoon; we strolled around the area, seeing a lovely Little Bittern at the Kalloni 2 pool.
We went to the East River again but saw very little which was new. We moved on through the Derbyshire area towards the Kruper's Nuthatch site [White Barn]. There was little at Derbyshire, with 2 Great White Egrets being the best birds. We got reasonable views of the Nuthatch and also saw a few other good birds in the wood, including Cirl Bunting and Short Toed Treecreeper. Just before the wood, on our way in, we had seen a couple of Lesser Grey Shrikes and later got distant views of a Masked Shrike. Later in the day, I added Black Headed Wagtail to my list, again at the Kalloni 2 pool.
We started the same way as usual and had nothing new at the East River or Saltpans. We then moved on to the Sheep Fields at the back of the pans and this gave us several new birds. Pride of place went to 2 Citrine Wagtails and there was an excellent supporting cast, which included Red Throated Pipit , Temminck's Stint, Blue Headed Wagtails, Short-Toed Larks and a couple of White Winged Black Terns [at last!]. I was then put on to a Rufous Bush Robin, which later sang from a bush very close to where people park their cars. This had been our best morning so far.
In the afternoon, I returned to the East River myself and although quiet, I managed to see my first Red Backed Shrike and my only Roller of the trip. This was on wires on the other side of the main road and was well watched by a number of people for half an hour or so. I then moved on to the Saltpans again, where there were now 5 White Winged Black Terns. There were also 4 Great White Egrets and a Little Gull. [NB. As I write this in mid June, all three of these species are gracing us with their presence in Northumberland - very odd!]
6 White-Winged Black Terns at the East River greeted us and a Black Stork flew in as well. We then made our way towards Petra, stopping at the "bandstand" to look for any Birds of Prey flying through. There were several birders there but no birds - except Cretzschmar's Bunting! We moved on to the Ruppell's Warbler site at Petra. Lorraine saw one and also saw a Blue Rock Thrush. I missed both. We both saw Chukar though!
Moving on again towards Molyvos, I eventually caught up with a Ruppell's. After that, we had a lazy day although I added Whiskered Tern in the late afternoon at the East River.
There were several Marsh Terns at the East River when we arrived, including at least 3 Whiskered Terns. We headed for the Ipsilou Monastery/ Sigri area, stopping successfully at the Isabelline Triangle for the Wheatear. We also had excellent views of Hoopoe at this site. Unfortunately, it was very windy. We moved on to the Monastery and drove up the hill. We found a sheltered spot, along with everyone else, and had a few warblers including Subalpine. On our way back, we had excellent views of Rock Sparrow and Little Owl and on our way out in the car, we saw our only Woodlark, together with Crag Martin and Long Legged Buzzard.
We moved on to Faneromeni and had a snack by the sea. Three White Storks flew over, as did a Lesser Kestrel and a number of Jackdaws. As we made our way slowly along the road, we saw several Red Backed Shrikes, 2 Lesser Grey Shrikes and a Masked Shrike. We also saw a Starling, which was a slight surprise. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Rose-Coloured version though! Even so, it was very quiet compared to my 1996 visit. We parked near the ford and walked for a while, seeing several lovely butterflies but very few birds. On our way out, we had a Purple Heron in the wet fields and more, or the same, Shrikes.
In the late afternoon, I went to the Inland Lake and drove around the Potamia Valley area, where I had good views of Masked Shrike. At the Lake, a Whiskered Tern and a couple each of Night Heron and Purple Heron was the best I could do. There were several marsh terns at the Kalloni 2 pool when I went to pick up Lorraine and Phil.
This was our last full day. There were still several Terns in their usual place at the East River. We then moved on to the Saltpans, where there were hundreds of Ruff and Little Stints. These were obviously new arrivals. We then made a bad move. We tried to find the Olive Tree Warbler site at Napi, got lost and wasted nearly 2 hours. We did add Whinchat to our list though! [sic].
We eventually found our way back to Skala Kalloni and went to a site where Long Eared Owls had been seen. We got great views of adult and young birds. In the afternoon, I had a look at the activity at the Kalloni 2 pool, which sported 10 each of Whiskered and White Winged Black Terns, Squacco Heron , Garganey , Wood Sandpiper and the usual Stilts. I then rushed off to Derbyshire, seeing Ruddy Shelduck  and a Great White Egret. I also visited the Nuthatch site again briefly but saw nothing new. I stopped at the Saltpans to see if anything new had arrived. Nothing had but I was told that there were 590 Ruff - and that looked about right to me!
We rounded off the day by going to the local school to look for the Scops Owls, which had been showing well all week. Not when we were there, they weren't!
We packed and had a stroll to the Kalloni 2 pool to see at least the same number of Terns still flying over the pool. Some of them were so close that we could almost touch them. As you might have guessed by now, I love watching Marsh Terns!
Then it was off to the Airport to join a never-ending queue to check in. Why do all travel companies fly to Lesbos on a Thursday?
We had a good time on our first family birding holiday and although the weather was too good for classic migration, we saw lots of nice birds. Lorraine fell so much in love with the wild flowers that we've already booked for next year. The Mariana was a one-off though as First Choice are not using them - looks like we will be using the Pella Apartments at the back of the Hotel Kalloni 2. Surely, next time I'll bump into a Red-Footed Falcon, chance upon a Collared Pratincole and not be so careless as to miss Woodchat Shrike and Short-toed Eagle [no, I don't know how I missed them either!]
I'd certainly recommend Skala Kalloni as the base for anyone with a family "birding" holiday in mind. There's not much to do for the little ones but probably more than in other resorts on the island. You need a car though. Next year I might tempt fate and return to the famous Sigri-Eressos coast road. I still wake up screaming about that drive. I drove it in 1996 as my two mates re-laid the road in front of me for about 5 miles! I'm told it's easier now but will look to hire a tank just in case!
I'm no expert on Lesbos but I'm happy to let anyone have any information I have obtained. My e-mail address is "firstname.lastname@example.org"
BLACK-NECKED GREBE - one on sea at SK 4/5
LITTLE GREBE - one on Kalloni 2 pool 2/5
GREAT CRESTED GREBE - 4 on sea at SK 4/5
DALMATIAN PELICAN - one over Saltpans 2/5
GREAT CORMORANT - 2 on sea nr Derbyshire 3/5
LITTLE BITTERN - one on Kalloni 2 pool 2/5
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON - At least 2 at Inland Pool 6/5
SQUACCO HERON- Seen every day on East River
LITTLE EGRET - Seen every day on East River
GREAT WHITE EGRET - 2 at Derbyshire 3/5; 4 at Saltpans 4/4; 1 at Derbyshire 7/5
GREY HERON - Derbyshire 3/5
PURPLE HERON - Faneromeni 6/5; 2 at Inland Pool 6/5
WHITE STORK - Seen on East River occasionally; 3 at Faneromeni 6/5
BLACK STORK - Seen occasionally, including East river and Saltpans
GLOSSY IBIS - 3 at Kalloni 2 pool on 1/5 and 2/5 were the only sightings
GREATER FLAMINGO - Always present in good numbers on Saltpans
RUDDY SHELDUCK - 2 at Derbyshire on last two visits
COMMON SHELDUCK - 2 at Saltpans 4/5
MALLARD - one at Kalloni 2 pool 7/5
GARGANEY - Seen occasionally on East River and Kalloni 2 pool [max.7 on 7/5]
MARSH HARRIER - seen twice flying over Saltpans
LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD - Seen at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
COMMON KESTREL - Seen at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
LESSER KESTREL - one flying over Faneromeni 6/5
PEREGRINE FALCON - Ruppell's site 5/5 and over Saltpans 7/5
CHUKAR - opposite Ruppell's site 5/5
LITTLE CRAKE - fem at East river 2/5
MOORHEN - Kalloni 2 pool and East River
COOT - Kalloni 2 pool
AVOCET - Seen at Saltpans on each visit
BLACK-WINGED STILT - always present on Kalloni 2 pool and Saltpans
STONE CURLEW - one at Saltpans 4/5; also seen flying over West River
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER - seen on East River most days
KENTISH PLOVER - seen on West River and at Saltpans
GREY PLOVER - one at end of East River 7/5
CURLEW SANDPIPER - a few seen on Saltpans but usually distant
TEMMINCK'S STINT - seen occasionally on East River and on Sheep Fields 4/5
LITTLE STINT - reasonable numbers on Saltpans but distant
WOOD SANDPIPER - seen every day on East River and other suitable sites
RUFF - seen occasionally on East River. Large group on Saltpans 7/5
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT - c.15 Saltpans 2/5
BAR-TAILED GODWIT - one Saltpans 2/5
BLACK-HEADED GULL - one at end of East River 2/5
MEDITERRANEAN GULL - 2 at end of East River 2/5
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL - seen regularly
LITTLE GULL - one on Saltpans 4/5
LITTLE TERN - seen occasionally at end of East River and over Saltpans
SANDWICH TERN - 2 seen at end of East river 2/5
GULL-BILLED TERN - one at end of East river 2/5
COMMON TERN - seen regularly over East River
WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN -Saltpans 4/5, then increased numbers in SK
WHISKERED TERN - East River 4/5, then increased numbers in SK
ROCK DOVE - c.10 flying over Faneromeni appeared to be the real thing!
COLLARED DOVE - common
LONG-EARED OWL - site near SK 7/5
LITTLE OWL - Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
SWIFT - seen regularly in small numbers in SK
HOOPOE - seen at Isabelline Triangle on top of a tree!
BEE-EATER - seen regularly, particularly at East River
ROLLER - one perched on wires near main road/East river 4/5
CRESTED LARK - Common
WOODLARK - one at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
SHORT-TOED LARK - Sheep Fields 4/5
SAND MARTIN - only seen over Kalloni 2 pool 3/5
CRAG MARTIN - at least 2 flying at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
HOUSE MARTIN - seen regularly in SK
BARN SWALLOW - seen occasionally
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW - seen near Sheep Fields 4/5, nesting under bridge.
RED-THROATED PIPIT - approx.30 in Sheep Fields 4/5
YELLOW WAGTAIL - several on Sheep Fields and occasionally seen East River
BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL - one at Kalloni 2 3/5
CITRINE WAGTAIL - 2 on Sheep Fields 4/5
NIGHTINGALE - heard often, seen well at East River
RUFOUS BUSH ROBIN - one nr. Sheep Fields 4/5
ISABELLINE WHEATEAR - 2 at Triangle site 6/5
BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR - seen often, both forms.
WHINCHAT - one nr Napi [or were we!] 7/5
STONECHAT - one near Faneromeni 6/5
BLUE ROCK THRUSH - one seen by Lorraine at Ruppell's site 5/5
BLACKBIRD - one seen near Molyvos
SUBALPINE WARBLER - Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
BLACKCAP - one at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
RUPPELL'S WARBLER - one at Petra site seen by Lorraine and one near Molyvos
CETTI'S WARBLER - heard regularly and seen occasionally at East River
REED WARBLER - Kalloni 2 pool reeds 2/5
GREAT REED WARBLER - seen at Kalloni 2 and East River
OLIVACEOUS WARBLER - seen regularly
WOOD WARBLER - at least 2 at Ipsilou Monastery
WILLOW WARBLER - heard only at East River
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER - one at Faneromeni
GREAT TIT - seen at East River
BLUE TIT - East River
KRUPER'S NUTHATCH - 2 seen at Achladeri site [plus a peeping youngster]!
ROCK NUTHATCH - 2 seen near Faneromeni
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER - one at Achladeri
RED-BACKED SHRIKE - first seen at East River 4/5, then regularly elsewhere
MASKED SHRIKE - seen at East River, Potamia Valley, Faneromeni and Achladeri
LESSER GREY SHIKE - Saltpans 2/5; 2 each at Achladeri 3/5 and Faneromeni 6/5
STARLING - one at Faneromeni 6/5
JAY - seen flying a couple of times
JACKDAW - at least 6 at Faneromeni
HOODED CROW - seen regularly
HOUSE SPARROW - common
SPANISH SPARROW - seen regularly
ROCK SPARROW - pair at Ipsilou Monastery 6/5
CHAFFINCH - seen regularly
LINNET - seen occasionally
GOLDFINCH - seen often
GREENFINCH -seen occasionally
CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING - one on road en route to Petra
CIRL BUNTING - Achladeri
BLACK-HEADED BUNTING - seen in good numbers, particularly near East River
CORN BUNTING - common
I couldn't identify all but there were several Swallowtails, Orange-Tips, large and small Whites, Coppers and Meadow Browns. I'll have to sharpen up for next year!