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A Report from

Lesvos - 30th April 2009-7th May 2009,

Mike Fox, Sean Murphy and Colin Murphy

This was our sixth birding holiday as a trio and this year we choose to go to Lesvos for a week’s Spring Birding. We were based at the Aklithea Rooms in the centre of Skala Kalloni. Arriving at our accommodation around 5.00pm we had time to do a bit of birding before unpacking and going out for a meal and a few beers.

30th April 2009

As we had just arrived we decided to wander down to the Lower Tsiknias Valley (East River). Here we had a selection of birds including Bee-eater, Hooded Crow, Yellow Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler and Corn Bunting etc.

1st May 2009

Our first full day’s birding began with a pre-breakfast walk to the Kalloni 2 pool. Here we found the Squacco Heron seen on our arrival in Skala Kalloni the previous evening. Other birds of note were Olivaceous Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Goldfinch, Spanish Sparrow, Swallow, Swift etc. After breakfast we headed off to the Kalloni Saltpans where we found plenty of the birds we hoping to see. These included Black-winged Stilt, Little Tern, Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Bunting, Bee-eater, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis White-winged black Tern, Whiskered Tern Whinchat etc. Whilst I was sitting in the car writing up my notes Mike and Sean had a Black Stork almost part their hair, I of course missed it. The morning having been cloudy and overcast now turned to torrential rain. Fortunately we were close to the car so took refuge there for a while. When the rain finally stopped we headed off to The Messa (Derbyshire), where we found Ruddy Shelduck but not a great deal else. We then moved on to Achladeri to look for the Krupers Nuthatch nest which proved very easy and we were rewarded with excellent views of the bird. Here we also picked up Masked Shrike, Woodchat Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher. On the way back to Kalloni we decided to stop off at the Saltpans for half an hour where we added Stone Curlew and Short-toed Eagle to the list. We had a brief stop off at Kalloni 2 pool and picked up Little Grebe, Garganey, Reed Warbler and Nightingale.

Later that evening after a meal, a few beers and ouzo’s we saw the Barn Owl on the roof of the old bakery just behind our own holiday accommodation.

2nd May 2009

Another morning of overcast skies. Our pre-breakfast walk to Kalloni 2 pool proved excellent today with a flock of Bee-eaters, Golden Oriole, Little Owl, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Garganey and Black- winged Stilt. After breakfast we drove up to the River Christou (West River), where we had Purple Heron, 3 Greater Flamingo’s, Sand Martin, Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail etc. Leaving the river we drove up to the Metochi Lake (Inland Lake). The weather was looking decidedly grim but the birds provided us with some entertainment. There were half a dozen Little Bitterns flying in and out of the reeds across the lake and giving great views. We also had 2 Little Crakes both showing well on and off. After about half an hour the skies erupted with thunder and lightning accompanied by torrential rain. Unfortunately we were some distance from the car, without our wet weather gear so resorted to sheltering under a tree - a low one. Eventually the rain ceased and we able to resume bird watching. Mike had spotted something in an orchard while we were sheltering so we scanned around and found a Red-backed Shrike. We also added Jay to our list. Onwards and upwards we moved along to the Potamia/Limonas valley. Once we had parked the car we set off on foot to explore the valley and were rewarded with some stunning birds. Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Black-headed Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Cirl Bunting, Orphean Warbler, Hoopoe, Sombre Tit and Rock Nuthatch at it’s nest. We had spent a fair bit of time in the valley but still had too much birding left in us so we again headed for the saltpans. Here we saw Little Ringed Plover, Greater Flamingo, Avocet, White-winged Black Tern, Shelduck, White Stork, Tree Pipit and some stunning Red-throated Pipits. Finally, much to my relief 3 Black Storks were found in a field which compensated for my missing the low flying one the day before.

A great day that moved our trip list into the late 70’s.

3rd May 2009

The weather looked a lot better today with Sunshine and very little cloud cover. Our normal pre-breakfast walk didn’t provide us with much excitement. Perhaps we were all concentrating on the Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Coffee and Orange Juice that was to come. After that welcome feed we decided to head off to Ipsilou Monastery via a quick stop at the Mini Soccer pitch in Kalloni. This is a well know site for Scops Owl. Someone had conveniently marked the tree in which they roosted by planting a stick in the ground. We were quickly onto both birds and although they were well camouflaged we had excellent views. I’ve since learnt from the Lesvos Bird Blog that an inconsiderate photographer had his wife move a branch out of the way with a stick so he could get a better picture. This resulted in them being flushed and not seen again. We did hear of some other incidences where photographers pursued and harassed birds, Rufous Bush Robin being an example, thereby causing distress for the birds and ruining other people’s chances of seeing them. Thankfully the majority of the people we met was friendly and considered the birds’ welfare their first priority. Anyway enough of that diatribe. On route to Ipsilou we made a stop at the ’ Grand Canyon ’ in the hope of seeing Crag Martin which unfortunately were conspicuous by their absence. However we did see Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and Long-legged Buzzard. Sean added an Icterine Warbler to his list that sadly Mike and I missed. Our next stop was at the triangle, the small traffic island at the Vigla Junction (Andissa/Sigri junction). Here we had reasonable views of two fairly mobile Isabeline Wheatears and our first Linnets of the trip. Parking at the base of Ipsilou we set off on foot up the steep road to the Monastery. The tree’s and bushes were alive with migrants with incredible numbers of Wood Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers. Other birds seen during our ascent were Pied Flycatcher, Peregrine and Golden Oriole. At the top there were more Wood Warblers plus Whitethroat, Blackcap, Rock Nuthatch and another couple of Golden Orioles. During a well deserved rest we saw two Common Buzzards being attacked by a Hooded Crow. It was now time to head back so we opted to descend using the old road on the other side of the Monastery. The first bird we encountered was a Little Owl sitting in a tree watching us with half open eyes. Further down the road we found Sombre Tit and Collared Flycatcher. As we were reaching the bottom of the road with two of our target birds unseen, Mike came to halt and focused his telescope on a bird which turned out to be one of our targets Cinerous Bunting. Having watched the bird for a while something caught my eye and we all got reasonable, not perfect views of a small party of Chukar scurrying up the rocks. We had left our lunch in the car so upon our return set about eating and planning where to go next. We had heard that some Collared Pratincole’s had been seen at Faneromeni so that was our chosen destination. There were quite a few Birders already in situ but to our surprise they were watching half a dozen Red-footed Falcons and a couple of Lesser Kestrels which gave excellent views both perching and flying. We didn’t see any Pratincole’s but did add Whinchat to our list. Mike also added a Lesser Whitethroat. There were plenty of other birds on view including Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warblers. After another brilliant day we headed back to Skala Kalloni for a welcome meal washed down with a couple pints and the odd Ouzo.

4th May 2009

We had heard that a Rose-coloured Starling had been seen by a chapel on the old Eressos to Sigri Road so we thought we would give this a try today. We headed up towards Andissa/Ipsilou making a few stops on the way where we saw plenty of birds including Black-eared Wheatear, Bee-eaters, Red-rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike etc.We also stopped at the bottom of Ipsilou for a bite to eat. Whilst here Mike spotted a Cretzchmar’s Bunting, a bird we have missed the day before so we were all very pleased with that find. The Eressos/Sigri road turned out to be a track which made driving difficult for Mike and was slow going. Lorries and clouds of dust didn’t improve matters much. We stopped a few times when we could find somewhere suitable and saw a few bits and pieces. Towards the end of the track we encountered quite a few birders who pointed out a stunning male Citrine Wagtail in a small stream. We also picked up a Sedge Warbler here. We didn’t get to see the Rosy Starling sadly but did see a Common Starling (a rarity for Lesvos in spring) plus Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, more Cretzchmars Buntings and unusually a Gull-billed Tern flying low up and down the dusty track. A birder told us to look out for Shearwaters that could be seen through a telescope from the track as they rounded Sigri harbour. The birds were very distant but flying through in quite large numbers which a friendly Tour Guide later told us were Yelkouan Shearwaters. It had been quite a long day so we headed back to Skala

Kalloni stopping at the base of Ipsilou for a bite to eat and a drink from our packed lunch. Mike was making short work of a banana when an Isabelline Wheatear landed on the roof of a little concrete building about 20 feet in front on me. I called out Isabelline Wheatear to Mike and Sean and Mike said how do you know it’s blind, having thought I said “it’s a blind Wheatear”. After a short explanation about what I had actually said we shared fantastic views of said bird plus another two that came to join it. The bird has now entered our vocabulary as “is it a blind Wheatear”. End of day five and our Trip List had passed the 100 mark which we’ve not achieved before.

5th May 2009

Our chosen target for today was Ruppell’s Warbler so after breakfast we set off for Petra. At the lay by near the Disco we found a number of birders and were soon having good views of  two/three Ruppell’s who were quite flighty in the strong winds that were blowing. After 30/45 mins we set off towards Molivos and then followed the coast road before heading south to Madamados. After a short break for coffee we took the road to the Napi valley. Just after leaving Madamados a dozen or so birders were camped by the side of the road looking for Olive tree Warblers. There were plenty of Cirl Buntings around plus Bee-eaters and a few Black-eared Wheatears and Black-headed Buntings. A male Golden Oriole sat out in open view for about 5 minutes affording wonderful views. Sean caught sight of a sudden movement just below us and to our surprise it was a Nightjar. We got another couple of short views of it as it flew between the bushes and trees. Soon after a male Subalpine Warbler sat on the end of a branch for about 30 seconds then vanished into the bushes. A call came from the other birders that the Olive-tree Warbler had been found and we were all treated to surprisingly good views of the bird for about 10 minutes. The last bird added here was a Krupers Nuthatch sitting on top of a tree. Not something we expected here. As the afternoon was wearing on we headed out of the valley and had another look around Kalloni Saltpans. Two new birds were added to our list those being Mallard and Little Stint. There were good numbers of Avocet, Wood Sandpiper, Greater Flamingo plus Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Squacco Heron, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Shelduck etc.

Another long and very enjoyable day.

6th May 2009

This was our last full day’s birding left as we were booked on an early flight back on the 7th.

Our normal pre breakfast was took us up to Kalloni 2 pool where we saw Garganey, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt and Black-headed Bunting.

We decided to stay local today and spent most of the day down the Saltpans which is probably my favourite place on the island. One new bird for the trip was a Marsh Sandpiper remarkably close and performing well. At one point it was squaring up to a Wood Sandpiper when in encroached on it feeding area. Lot’s of excellent birds around which included a pair of Citrine Wagtails, Short-toed Eagle, Stone Curlew, Black Stork, Red-throated Pipit, Little Ringed Plover, Red- footed Falcon, Lesser Grey Shrike and Peregrine.

All in all we had a fabulous time and saw some pretty spectacular birds, most of which gave views to surpass anything we have had before. We were away a week earlier than usual but it has to be said that this year we were there when migration was at its height. The sheer number of birds at times was staggering.

Further to the birds seen, there were on at least three occasion’s sightings of the Persian Squirrel.

Systematic List  

Little Grebe
Yelkouan Shearwater
Little Bittern
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Squacco Heron
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Glossy Ibis
White Stork
Black Stork
Greater Flamingo
Ruddy Shellduck
Short-toed Eagle
Long-legged Buzzard
Marsh Harrier
Peregrine Falcon
Red-footed Falcon
Lesser Kestrel
Little Crake
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Little Stint
Black-winged Stilt
Stone Curlew
Yellow legged Gull
White-winged Black Tern
Whiskered Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Common Tern
Little Tern
Collared Dove
Scops Owl
Little Owl
Barn Owl
Crested Lark
Sand Martin
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
Tree Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Yellow Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Red-backed Shrike
Masked Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike
Golden Oriole
Hooded Crow
Cetti’s Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Olive-tree Warbler
Olivaceous Warbler
Icterine Warbler
Orphean Warbler
Ruppell’s Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Wood Warbler
Pied Flycatcher
Collared Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Isabelline Wheatear
Black-eared Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush
Sombre Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Rock Nuthatch
Kruper’s Nuthatch
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
Corn Bunting
Cretzchmar’s Bunting
Cinereous Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
Lesser Whitethroat


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