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A Report from

Lesvos - 5th to 19th May 2011 ,

Tina and Mick Sway

The Greek Island of Lesvos: Located in the Eastern Aegean, Lesvos or Lesbos is famous for its Petrified Forest and is the third largest island of Greece. It has a history going back millennia being the birth place of the poetess Sappho, while the philosopher Aristotle spent time there; studying and writing a treatise on the physiology of animals. With birders arriving on the island from Mid April onwards Lesvos is one of Europe's premier birding/ migration locations. It can be reached by flying via Athens or by direct flights and package holidays from early May. The latter is an option that is quickly diminishing as many Tour Companies are pulling out and switching to “all inclusive” packages on other islands. Most serious birders locate at the Skala Kalloni beach resort, due to its close proximity to the islands main wetlands. A number of Bird Tour Companies operate on the island and the Fatbirder web site is a great resource for anyone considering this option. The writer of the latest guide to birding on the Greek Island of Lesvos, Steve Dudley, maintains an excellent web site here. Steve's book and PDF( printable ) updates for 2009 and 2010 are also available by accessing his web site. Both contain many photographs of sites and endemic bird species, if you decide that this is the birding destination for you, the guide book is possibly the best twenty quid that you will spend.


Booking on line in October 2010, we flew via First Choice from Manchester in the early hours of Thursday 5th May 2011 arriving at Mitilini, around 12.30 local time . Billy’s of Anaxos (our preferred car hire) had our vehicle promptly available on the airport car park as we set off for the Anaxos Hotel, located on the north west of the island. Main Sites Visited and target species :

Please refer to the list below for where and what we saw. The weather:

The weather provides the conditions which can make for a successful birding trip. Unfortunately the rains normally expected in the early part of the year had not manifested on Lesvos until mid April, leaving the unsettled conditions; including a cold north easterly, to continue until early May.

For the first few days from our arrival on the afternoon of 5th May, the weather was pretty cold and windy (from the north east), possibly affecting the chances of our spotting a few normally “easy” Lesvos species and a making few others more confiding. The birding:
Disappointingly we dipped on a few major Lesvos birds this year. Having avoided the Achladeri, Krupper’s site during the first week of our holiday, on account of the sheer numbers of birders parked there, later visits (at known breeding locations), unfortunately failed to garner any views of the species at all, during the many hours we were there. We also dipped on Spur-winged Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Spoonbill, Collared Flycatcher, Pipits, Short-toed Lark, Citrine Wagtail, crakes (8 visits to Metochi at different times by us failed to turn up anything much at all) and Chukar, all of which have been relatively easy birds for us in the past.

Good numbers of common Lesvos waders were showing well at the Salt Pans including; Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Little and Temminck’s Stint, along with Ruff and a few plover, were easy ticks and all good value to the photographers.

We found warblers in general to be confiding, unlike other years when we have also had excellent views of singing Subalpine and Orphean warbler. The Ruppell’s Warbler also proved quite elusive for us. Having spent a total of 5 hours in and around Kavaki, the male then briefly appeared near the cliffs on our last visit on May 16.
The exception was the Great Reed, which showed well at a number of sites. Having tried known Olive Tree Warbler sites at Cremasti and Platania, we managed to get this species on our last visit to Faneromeni on 17 May, thanks mainly to Tina spotting two (singing) birds flitting between the olives.

One of the two Lesvos rareities we turned up was a Griffon Vulture on 13th May, about 4klm south of Mandamados, on the Mitilene road as it skirted the hillsides, only to be mobbed by a raven and some hooded crows, back across the sea to Turkey. The second was a Cattle Egret at Kalloni Salt Pans wetland, on 6th May. Fortunately after several disappointing drives around the Salt Pans on the preceding two days, we were able to add Rose-coloured Starling to our tally, thanks to our friend Steve Gibson spotting them near Mitilene Airport, and putting us on them when he arrived on the transfer coach.

Another late arrival in the second week of May this year was a pair of Rufous Bush Robins, behind the silos at the” goat farm”, near the upper Tiskanias River. Golden Orioles were singing well during the first week and with a little bit of luck could be seen feeding on the oak tree caterpillars. Bee-eaters started showing in numbers as we arrived and a few roller sightings around Skala Kalloni, kept the birding community happy. Squacco Herons were showing extremely well along the Salt Pans Channels. As were Little Bitterns along both the Tiskanias River and at Faneromeni Ford.

A pair of Red-footed Falcons was long staying at Kalloni Salt Pans and a number of female marsh harrier quartered the surrounding fields. There was a good passage of Eleonora’s Falcon at Ipsilou on 8th May, where a hobby was also present. Long-legged and Common Buzzard were also an easy tick on the west of the island.

Off the beaten track: Referencing the Dudley book, we explored three locations new to us: the track near the Skalaochori solar array, the wetland adjacent the Mesa/Kalloni crossroads (where by the 5th May the remnants of Glossy Ibis had re-located, along with a “rare” Mallard and Garganey ) and a track near the upper Napi valley, leading to the beautiful “waterfall” gorge. The “Mesa” small wetland area is viewable from the old concrete bridge and a farm track. This area is likely to be under watched and may at the right season hold the more confiding (crake and heron?) species. The track at Skalaochori also deserves more attention, being apparently a breeding site for Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Hoopoe. Good views of Butterflies were scarce, however the beautiful wildflowers which lingered well into mid May, were a bonus.

Reptiles: A ring headed dwarf snake was spotted by Tina at the Anaxos Hotel, which was no bigger than a large Worm. Agama and Snake-eyed Lizard are quite common.

Roller in a box: Finally I would like to relate the sad tale of the owner of Nekilis studios in Petra finding a Roller injured on the side of the road. Having seen photos of this beautiful bird in a box as it was taken to the Kalloni Animal Hospital, I am left wondering about the poor things fate.

More Photos and Lesvos info available through the following links:

Lesvos May 2011photos
Flickr Lesvos Birding Photo Group
Flickr Lesvos Butterflies
Steve Dudley's Lesvos Birding Website

Species List:

Ruddy Shelduck; Common at Skala Kalloni, Sigri Area
Shelduck; Polichnictos Salt Pans - 2 seen on 10 May
Mallard; Mesa crossroads, the adjacent wetland - 1 seen 6 May
Garganey; Mesa crossroads, the adjacent wetland - 2 seen 6 May
Little Grebe; Metochi -2 with young, also seen at other freshwater pools
Med Shearwater; Faneromeni – app20 small movement off Faneromeni Beach 07 May
Cormorant; Faneromeni - 1 off Faneromeni Beach 07 May, also North East Coast
Shag; Polichnictos Salt Pans - 22 seen on 10 May roosting on rotting causeway
Little Bittern; Common at rivers, pools and irrigation channels
Night-heron; Metochi - 1 seen on 06 May
Squacco Heron; Common at salt pans, rivers, pools and irrigation channels
Little Egret; Common at salt pans, rivers and wetlands
Cattle Egret; Skala Kalloni Salt Pans - rare at Lesvos seen wetland opp. Salt works - 1 seen 06 May
Great white egret;Skala Kalloni Salt Pans - wetland opp. Salt works/Mesa - odd birds seen throughout fortnight
Grey Heron; Skala Kalloni Salt Pans+ wetland opp+Polichnictos - odd birds seen throughout
Purple Heron;Meledia Ford 07/05, Ipsilou Xrd+Fan Ford 08/05, Tisk.River 12/05, Achladeri 1 seen at each
Black Stork; Tiskanias River - odd birds seen at every visit + 1 at Potamia Valley 06/05
White Stork; Tiskanias River - odd birds seen at every visit
Glossy Ibis; Mesa crossroads, the adjacent wetland - 15 seen 6 May
Greater Flamingo; Skala Kalloni Salt Pans - large numbers, also seen at Alikoudi and Polichnictos
Long Leggedbuzzard;Commonly seen, one or two birds on every visit to the west of the island
Short-toed Eagle;Platania (Napi) Valley - 3 together on 13 May, Common - one or two birds
Marsh Harrier;Skala Kalloni Salt Pans fields - odd female bird seen throughout fortnight+ Meledia 08 May
Montegu's Harrier; Skala Kalloni Salt Pans fields - female bird seen 06 May
Sparrow hawk; Petri - 1 seen 05 May
Common Buzzard; Common around Anaxos/Petra, also seen most days at other hilly locations
Honey buzzard; Cremasti Valley (near bridge) - one seen 18 May
Lesser Kestrel; Meledia Valley - Up to 15 seen hovering on coastal road 07 & 08 May
Common Kestrel; Gavathas - I seen in fields 07 May
Eleonora’s Falcon; Ipsilou - 20 + seen heading north on 08 May
Peregrine Kavaki;, Skalochri - 1 seen on 13 and 17 May respectively
Hobby; Ipsilou & Polichnicto - 1 seen on 08 May and 10 May respectively
Griffon Vulture;rare for Lesvos one seen near Mandamados , approx 4km south on coastal rd (photo)
Moorhen; Odd pairs at pools around Kalloni
Coot; Kalloni Pool - only one seen this year on 15 May
Black-winged Stilt; Common at both Salt Pans and Alikoudi pool
Avocet; Common at both Salt Pans
Stone-curlew;Skala Kalloni Salt Pans, Alykes Wetland, Polichnictos-single birds 09/05,12respectively
Collared Pratincole;Skala Kalloni- wetland opp. Salt works & Polochnicto Salt Pans - seen 06 May (respectively)
Ringed Plover; Common at Tiskanias River
Little Ringed; Plover Common at Tiskanias River & wetlands
Kentish Plover; Common at Salt Pans
Grey Plover;Skala Kalloni- wetland opp. Salt works & Polochnicto Salt Pans - seen 06 May (respectively)
Little Stint; Common at Salt Pans
Temminck's Stint; Tiskanias River, Kalloni & Polochnicto Salt Pans - singles seen regularly
Curlew Sandpiper;Skala Kalloni & Polochnicto Salt Pans - small flock seen from 06 May & 1 on (respectively)
Ruff; Common at Salt Pans
Redshank; Polochnicto Salt Pans - 2 each on 10 & 15 May
Greenshank; Polochnicto Salt Pans - 1 on 10 May
Common Sandpiper; Tiskanias River & shorelines of gulf - seen regularly
Wood Sandpiper;commonest wader seen at Tiskanias River,Alykes Wetlands & Kalloni Salt Pans -
Yellow-legged;Gull Common near coastal areas
Black headed gull; Tiskanias River Mouth - 2 first year on 06/05
Little Tern; Skala Kalloni & Polochnicto Salt Pans - common thoughout two weeks
Whiskered Tern; Skala Kalloni Salt Pans& Wetlands opp.salt works + Mesa - common thoughout Black White-winged Black Tern; common at Skala Kalloni Salt Pans& Wetlands opp.salt works + Mesa - common thoughout
Common Tern;Skala Kalloni Salt Pans& Wetlands opp.salt works + Mesa - common throughout two weeks
Sandwich Tern; scarce though at Polochnicto Salt Pans - 1 juv. seen on 10 May
Rock Dove; Faneromeni/ Sigri - small flocks seen flying over hillsides on 07/05 & 080)
Feral Pigeon; Common in villages
Collared Dove; Common in villages
Turtle Dove; Common in woodlands and olive groves
Little Owl; Common at rural areas with farm buildings.
Scops Owl; Confiding at Kalloni Town, a pair present through the two weeks
Common Swift; - Common daily during the two weeks
Alpine Swift; Anaxos, Skala Kalloni Salt Pans,Metochi, Ipsilou - migrating birds seen frequently weeks
Pallid Swift; Potamia Valley - small number hawking over the dam on 06 May
Bee-eater; Seen almost everywhere over the two weeks
Middle Spotted Woodpecker; seen at nest near Petra
Hoopoe; Platania (Napi) Valley - 4 , also seen at Skalachori and Faneromeni on other occasions
Crested Lark; Seen almost everywhere over the two weeks
Sand Martin;Tiskanias, Metochi, Potamia - large numberrs migrating, at least 200 at Tiskanias May
Crag Martin; Kavaki, Larda Valley - breeding on cliffs and rocks
Barn Swallow; Common
House Martin; Common
Red-rumped Swallow; Anaxos - common, also Larda Valley, Potamia, Metochi
Yellow Wagtail; more difficult this year seen at Tiskanias, Salt Pans , Alykes, Faneromeni - Black Headed Yellow Wagtail ; Feldegg common, only one flava Faneromeni 17/05
Pied Wagtail; Kalloni/Polochnicto Salt Pans - one bird seen on each visit
Rufous Bush Chat;difficult this year seen at Kaloni Salt Pans "Silo"/goat farm area - 2 on 18/05
Nightingale; Common but confiding, near streams and rivers
Whinchat; Common at rural areas with open fields during the two weeks
Stonechat; Common near rocky areas
Wheatear Isabelline; - Ipsilou, Petrified Forest - Common but, by us found to be more confiding than Black-eared
Black-eared Wheatear; Common near rocky areas
Northern wheatear; Ipsilou, Petrified Forest - Common but, by us found to be more confiding than other years
Blue Rock Thrush; Kavaki, Ipsilou, Larda Valley - common breeder on cliffs and rocks
Blackbird; Common but more confiding than UK
Cetti’s Warbler; Common near streams and rivers
Sedge Warbler; Common near streams and rivers
Reed Warbler; Tiskanias River, Metochi - seen flitting on reeds regularly over two weeks
Great Reed Warbler; nearTiskanias - 2 singing birds were seen regularly , Metochi - seen in open regularly on 06/05
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler; Common in scrub, particularly near water often in open
Olive-tree; scarce seen late at Faneromeni - a pair seen flitting and singing between olives 17/05
Warbler Icterine Warbler; Sigri sanetorium, Ipsilou - 1 each seen on 07/05 and 08/05 respectively
Blackcap ; Tiskanias River,Anaxos, Faneromeni, Ipsilou - quite common, both male & female over two weeks
Garden Warbler; Ipsilou - 4 seen feeding on oaks 08/05
Orphean Warbler; Kavaki, Platania Valley - common, several seen
Whitethroat; Ipsilou - 2 on 08/05
;ppell’s Warbler; Kavaki - 1 male seen on 16/05
Subalpine;Warbler Common at most elevated woodland areas, found more confiding by us this year
Wood Warbler; Faneromeni, Ipsilou - at 7 birds seen on 07/05 and 6 on 08/05
Spotted Flycatcher; Common throughout two weeks
Pied Flycatcher; Faneromeni,Ipsilou - 1 each on 07/05 & 08/05 (male)
Blue Tit; Common at most wooded areas
Sombre Tit;Platania (Napi) Valley - 1 together on 13 May,(more confiding than normal year)
Great Tit; Common at most wooded areas
Rock Nuthatch; Common at rocky outcrops
Short toed treecreeper; Common at Achladeri pine forest, 2 adults feeding 4 young on 10/05
Golden Oriole; Fairly common in west (Ipsilou/Faneromeni) 5 seen on 07/05, 6 seen on 08/hear singing
Red-backed Shrike;Petrified Forest,Ipsilou, Faneromeni, Meledia Valley, Polichnicto - seen regularly in numbers as other years
Lesser Grey Shrike; scarce one at Kalloni Salt Pans,seen near track near (sheep farm)from Tiskanias on 12/05
Woodchat Shrike; Fairly common in most wooded areas and near some meadows
Masked Shrike; Petri,Faneromeni, Achladeri,Potamia - at least 1 seen on every visit
Roller; Mesa, Tiskanias River, Petra - birds seen on 05/05, 06/05 and 12/05
Rose Coloured Starling; Mitilene Airport - approx 20 near airport road 19/05
Jay; Common at woodland areas
Jackdaw; Anaxos - seen everyday, commutes from Rabbit Island
Hooded Crow; Common
Raven; Common at cragy areas
House Sparrow; Common
Spanish Sparrow; Common at both Salt Pans
Rock Sparrow; Ipsilou - breeds on rocks near monastery
Chaffinch; Common at woodland areas
Greenfinch; Common at woodland areas
Goldfinch; Common near farmland
Linnet; Common near rocky areas
Cirl Bunting; Common at woodland areas
Cretzschmar's Bunting; Common near rocky areas
Cinereous Bunting; Ipsilou & Petrified Forest - common breeder, found more confiding by us this year Black-headed Bunting; Common near farmland
Corn Bunting; Common near farmland
Wren; (heard at Achladeri)


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