lesbos4

Lesvos

4th to 11th May 2000

May 4th

A prompt flight via Air 2000 direct to Mytilene landed us in Lesvos around mid-day. Baggage reclaim and acquisition of our two minibuses went unhindered and after a drive of around 45 minutes we arrived at the Hotel Perspire. A quick lunch and we were soon out looking at the Kalloni II Pool just outside the hotel. Sixty Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and Wood Sandpiper were amongst the birds on the pool – all just a stone’s throw from our hotel. A Bittern posed from one area of the pond a Purple Heron gave excellent views. The East River is just a short drive from the hotel and the late afternoon was spent driving slowly along the banks watching even more Little Bittern and Squacco Heron. Every bush seemed to hold a Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler or an Olivaceous Warbler. Various waders fed in the shallows including Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Black-winged Stilt, whilst larger wading birds were represented by both Black and White Storks. During the afternoon birds of prey were represented by Hobby, Red-footed Falcon and Marsh Harrier. By the time we returned for our evening meal we had seen over 60 species of birds and not ventured more than a few kilometres from the hotel.

May 5th

Our pre-breakfast walk around the Kalloni II Pool produced Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns whilst in the bay Common and Little Terns fed. After breakfast we departed for Molivos on the north of the island. Our route was via the East River (as it was to be for most days), where again we saw various waders, egrets and storks. An obliging Little Crake gave good views (for a crake) as it fed in the bankside vegetation. The channel around the Saltpans held more waders, whilst over 250 marsh terns, mostly white-winged black, hawked over the vast expanse of water, where Avocets and Greater Flamingos were present. The sheep fields opposite the entrance to the saltpans held a party of Collared Pratincoles. Short-toed and Crested Larks could be seen or heard singing from over the fields. Our journey to Molivos over the mountains was interspersed with stops for shrikes (we were to see all four species during the day – Red-backed, Lesser Grey, Woodchat and Masked), black-headed bunting, Subalpine warbler. The amphitheatre near Petra produced the expected Ruppell’s Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear within minutes. A walk into the harbour town of Molivos provided a respite from the bird watching until an Eleonora’s Falcon flew over the harbour, causing drinks to be put down and binoculars picked up. Our picnic lunch was taken further round the coast on a small lay-by. Lunch was, like the journey to Molivos, interspersed with birdwatching. The lunch break produced more Black-eared Wheatear and very close views of a male Levant Sparrowhawk, the first of two to pass overhead that day. Two Audouin’s Gulls and a first summer Little Gull were bonuses for a brief spell of sea watching. The next scheduled stop was an area known as Derbyshire. A flock of Red-footed Falcons were soon located as they perched and fed from the roadside fence posts. Finding them was not too difficult, simply a matter of looking where the various birdwatchers and photographers had parked their cars! We were soon to join them and obtain what must have been the best views one could ever obtain of the falcons. The females looking more spectacular than the males. Moving round the bay further we arrived at Araknadera, we soon located the nest site of Kruper’s Nuthatch and were able to watch, from a safe distance, the adult birds bringing food to the nest for their young. The woodland also supported Masked Shrike and good numbers of Serin. A drive back to the hotel along the East River added a few more species to the day list, which ended on 94 species.

May 6th

Today was to be spent in search of migrants at Ipsulu Monastery and the fields at Sigri. Ipsulu Monastery is the highest point for many miles and attracts migrants like a magnet, whilst the coast around Sigri provides a last feeding point for migrants before they leave the island. On our way, the Little Crake was again seen along the East River. One of the ‘target’ birds for the day was Isabelline Wheatear, several pairs of which breed along the road, just before the Monastery. On stopping the minibuses, one very obliging bird posed for us on the traffic island before departing with food for it’s young. Overhead Long-legged Buzzards soared, their long-winged and pale tailed appearance allowing separation from Common Buzzard. A small party of Alpine Swift flew past and Bee-eaters called as they migrated northwards. At Ipsulu we were treated to views of Rock Sparrow and Rock Nuthatch, both of which breed within the Monastery. The wooded hillside held several Wood Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers and Pied Flycatchers. Close inspection of the flocks of hirundines revealed a single Crag Martin. As we were about to depart for Sigri a Bonnelli’s Eagle drifted past. A slow drive along the track to the ford at Sigri produced several falcons including Lesser Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon and Hobby, both Pallid and Montague’s Harriers were seen. The cultivated fields and orchards held various shrikes, Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchat and Golden Oriole. Arriving at the ford we settled down to watch tired migrants bathing and feeding. Red-breasted flycatcher and Rufous Bush Robin were both seen along with even more Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. Yellow Wagtails, predominantly Black-headed, fed on the water’s edge with Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. Several parties of over Bee-eater noisily passed over, in excess of 200 were seen in the space of a few minutes. A visit to the harbour added Shag, Cormorant and Jackdaw to our lists, but a first summer Mediterranean Gull was less expected. Another impressive day had resulted in 98 species seen, with another 4 heard.

May 7th

Today was spent closer to the Hotel Pasiphae with a visit to the Potomia Valley via the West River. Our first stop at the West River was to search for Stone Curlew. Although was to prove unsuccessful, several summer plumaged Red-throated Pipits were found, along with various races of Yellow Wagtail. In the distance a couple Great White Egrets were evident. The Potomia Valley is lined with Olive groves and home to the Olive-tree Warbler. Our first stop, by the second bridge was soon rewarded with views of a single bird, with a second seen later on. The river was home to several species of damselfly and dragonfly, including Emperor, Lesser Emperor, Orthetrum ramburi, Scarlet Darter and White-legged Damselfly. Making our way up the valley both on foot and in the vehicles we saw Cirl Bunting, Rock Nuthatch, Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard and Long-legged Buzzard. Once again our lunch was disturbed by overhead birds of prey, in this case a pair of Lanner Falcon which proceeded to do a food pass as we ate ours!! After lunch we headed back down the valley to the Inland Lake where we were able to watch a pair Little Crake and several Little Bittern. Another visit to Derbyshire produced more Red-footed Falcon and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck and a male Pintail. The Kalloni Saltpans and the East River added several wader species to our day list, which ended on 91 species.

May 8th

Another day spent in search of one the island’s specialities – Cinereous Bunting. This species is restricted to the boulder-strewn hillsides in the west of the island, an area also favoured by the more widespread Cretzschmar’s Bunting. Stopping en-route at a small lake we were able to watch Red-rumped swallows at close quarters. The lake also held good numbers of Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies. Our first stop for Cinereous Bunting will be remembered not for the views of the bunting but for the myriad of red soldier beetles that settled on our binoculars, telescopes, clothing and faces as we watched a singing male Cinereous Bunting. Rock Sparrow, Rock Nuthatch, Cretzschmar’s Bunting and Black-eared Wheatear were all seen through a haze of red beetles. Our picnic lunch stop was taken in the shade, accompanied by a singing male Subalpine Warbler. Just as we finished lunch a flock of Eleonora’s Falcons flew over. A stop along the road to Erossoss produced another Cinereous Bunting, the views this time unhindered by beetles. A mid afternoon rest in a café on the beach at Erossos provided the opportunity to watch Yelkeoun and Cory’s Shearwaters gliding off-shore. From Erossos we moved on to Sigri. The track to the ford produced more Spotted Flycatchers and tantalising glimpses of a male Collared Flycatcher as it flew away from the lead vehicle. The ford area supported more warblers including a single Icterine Warbler. Several of the hay fields had recently been cut and offered feeding areas for Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and a single Tawny Pipit. It was intended to drive straight back to Skala Kalloni without any stops, but a party of twenty or so Lesser Kestrel hovering near Ipsulu could not be ignored. A roadside Chukar also received similar attention at the Isabelline Wheatear site, bringing the day total to an impressive 100 species!

May 9th

The rise in daytime temperatures, approaching the high 20’s, began to make all day birding a rather hot affair, but we persevered, today spending time around Kalloni. A post-breakfast stroll to look for a singing River Warbler videoed by one of the group prior to breakfast produced a single Oystercatcher on the beach. The River Warbler failed to sing or be seen, so we walked to the West River where we located a pair of Stone Curlew and Little Tern. Returning to the Kalloni II Pool to look for the River Warbler we again, we learnt of a Dalmatian Pelican on the Saltpans. As the thermals were beginning to build it was decided to head for the saltpans before the pelican departed. We arrived in the nick of time, just as the Dalmatian Pelican began to gain height and soar off in the direction of Derbyshire. Other new birds added to our trip list included two Spoonbill on the saltpans and a large raptor seen with two Grey Herons escaped unidentified. Heading back towards Kalloni we set off inland along the East River, to the hillside behind the grain silos. This was to produce a further new bird. At least one Rufous Bushchat was located; allowing all members of the party to view it as it displayed. An Orphean Warbler did not offer as good views, but was still added to the trip list. A pair of Bee-eaters posed for photographs as we left. Lunch was taken in the shade at Achnaderi. Lunch finished we had another look at the Kruper’s Nuthatches as they fed their young. Further along the track a single Short-toed Treecreeper was watched as if fed on the tree trunks, climbing upwards before flying down to the base of the next tree and starting again. After another splendid evening meal we walked into the square at Skala Kalloni to see the breeding Barn Owls. We were not to be disappointed as both the adult birds were watched bringing food into the nest site – inside a chimney on one of the older buildings. Satiated with the views we had received we set off through the town to the water tower where a pair of Scops Owl nests. This was to prove difficult as the birds were alighting on a poorly lit side of the water tower, however most obtained views of some sort. Perhaps as memorable were the views of barn owl at this site, their ghostly white images floating over the tower, often screaming their banshee-like wails. The two owls had brought the day total to 99 species. The group as a whole had seen in excess of 150 species so far, and there was still one day of the tour left.

May 10th

Our last day was spent in a slightly more relaxed manor. After exploring the areas around the hotel we set off to a monastery for light refreshments. Those that wished to walked around the monastery grounds, but we disappointed when they had to untick Peacock, Ostrich and Greylag Goose. We set off along one of the older roads to a small roadside pool that seemed to be alive with Marsh Frogs and Green Toads. A snake was watched as it swam around the edge of the pool. Its presence given away by the chorus of frog and toad calls proceeding around the pool like a Mexican wave. Several terrapins were also seen along with three or four species of dragonfly. The journey back developed into more of a mystery tour than planned – where was the right turn you took Mike! The party soon re-united we scanned over the Kalloni Plain from a roadside picnic area and identified now familiar landmarks – the saltpans, Kalloni II Pool, the Hotel Pasiphae and the West River. A final excursion along the East River and the Saltpan Channel added Spotted Redshank to the trip list.

May 11th

Opportunity for a brief excursion around the Kalloni II Pool and East River before we departed for the airport failed to add any new species to the trip list we ended on a very respectable 160 species, plus several butterflies and dragonflies.

Epilogue

Having left the group at Mytilene Airport and collected my wife and son from the Airport I commenced my second, somewhat more relaxed week on Lesvos. The daytime temperature was now reaching the mid 30’s in the afternoon, making early afternoon birdwatching rather pointless. Attention in the second week therefore turned to butterflies and dragonflies along the watercourses and around the pools. The migration seemed to slow down, in fact some may say it stopped, but marsh terns were still seen daily on the Kalloni II Pool, which was drying out rapidly. Most of the sites visited the previous week were revisited, and a few new species added to the list. These included a pair of Garganey on the saltpans, two Shelduck on Derbyshire, Sparrowhawk at Agiosis, Black Kite at the goat tip up the East River, Long-tailed Tit at Arachnaderi, Song Thrush near Molivos and Rose-coloured Starlings at the end of the stay around the East River and Saltpans. A total of 35 species of butterfly were identified and 17 of dragonfly and damselfly.

Birds Seen

  • Little Grebe
  • Cory's Shearwater
  • Mediterranean (Levantine) Shearwater
  • Cormorant
  • Shag
  • White Pelican
  • Dalmatian Pelican
  • Little Egret
  • Grey Heron
  • Purple Heron
  • Great White Egret
  • Squacco Heron
  • Night-heron
  • Little Bittern
  • Bittern
  • Black Stork
  • White Stork
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Spoonbill
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Ruddy Shelduck
  • Shelduck
  • Mallard
  • Garganey
  • Pintail
  • Honey-buzzard
  • Black Kite
  • Short-toed Eagle
  • Marsh-harrier
  • Pallid Harrier
  • Montagu's Harrier
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Levant Sparrowhawk
  • Common Buzzard
  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • Bonelli's Eagle
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Kestrel
  • Red-footed Falcon
  • Eleonora's Falcon
  • Hobby
  • Lanner Falcon
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Chukar
  • Little Crake
  • Moorhen
  • Coot
  • Oystercatcher
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Avocet
  • Stone-curlew
  • Collared Pratincole
  • Ringed Plover
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Kentish Plover
  • Snipe
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Redshank
  • Greenshank
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Turnstone
  • Little Stint
  • Temminck's Stint
  • Dunlin
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Ruff
  • Audouin's Gull
  • Yellow-legged Gull
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Mediterranean Gull
  • Little Gull
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Whiskered Tern
  • White-winged Black Tern
  • Black Tern
  • Rock Dove
  • Turtle-dove
  • Collared-dove
  • Cuckoo
  • Barn Owl
  • Scops-owl
  • Little Owl
  • Alpine Swift
  • Common Swift
  • European Bee-eater
  • Roller
  • Hoopoe
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker
  • Short-toed Lark
  • Crested Lark
  • Wood Lark
  • Sand Martin
  • Crag-martin
  • Swallow
  • Red-rumped Swallow
  • House Martin
  • Tawny Pipit
  • Tree Pipit
  • Red-throated Pipit
  • White Wagtail
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • Winter Wren
  • Rufous Bushchat
  • Nightingale
  • Whinchat
  • Stonechat
  • Wheatear
  • Black-eared Wheatear
  • Isabelline Wheatear
  • Blue Rock-thrush
  • Blackbird
  • Song Thrush
  • Cetti's Warbler
  • Zitting Cisticola [Fan-tailed Warbler]
  • River Warbler
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Reed Warbler
  • Great Reed Warbler
  • Olivaceous Warbler
  • Olive-tree Warbler
  • Icterine Warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Whitethroat
  • Orphean Warbler
  • Rüppell's Warbler
  • Subalpine Warbler
  • Willow Warbler
  • Wood Warbler
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Collared Flycatcher
  • Red-breasted Flycatcher
  • Sombre Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Kruper's Nuthatch
  • Rock Nuthatch
  • Short-toed Treecreeper
  • Golden Oriole
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Lesser Grey Shrike
  • Woodchat Shrike
  • Masked Shrike
  • Rose-coloured Starling
  • Jay
  • Jackdaw
  • Hooded Crow
  • Common Raven
  • House Sparrow
  • Spanish Sparrow
  • Rock Sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Serin
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Linnet
  • Cirl Bunting
  • Cinereous Bunting
  • Cretzschmar's Bunting
  • Black-headed Bunting
  • Corn Bunting

Butterflies Recorded

  • Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae
  • Small Skipper Thymelicus flavus
  • Swallowtail Papilio machaon
  • Southern Swallowtail Papilio alexanor
  • Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius
  • Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerisyi
  • False Apollo Archon apollinus
  • Large White Pieris brassicae
  • Small White Artogeia rapae
  • Black-veined White Aporia crataegi
  • Dappled White Euchloe simplonia
  • Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
  • Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
  • Berger's Clouded Yellow Colias australis
  • Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra
  • Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros
  • Southern Comma Polygonia egea
  • Painted Lady Cynthia cardui
  • Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
  • Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia
  • Knapweed Fritillary Melitaea phoebe
  • Balkan Marbled White Melanargia larissa
  • Eastern Rock Grayling Hipparchia syriaca
  • Southern Grayling Hipparchia aristeus
  • Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
  • Maniola telmessa
  • Dusky Meadow Brown Hyponephele lycaon
  • Oriental Meadow Brown Hyponephele lupina
  • Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus
  • Wall Brown Lasiommata megera
  • Ilex Hairstreak Nordmannia ilicis
  • Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
  • Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
  • Green-underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis
  • Brown Argus Aricia agestis

Dragonflies Recorded

  • Epallage fatime
  • Lestes viridis Willow Emerald
  • L. macrostigma Dark Emerald
  • L. sponsa Emerald
  • Platycnemis pennipes White-legged Damselfly
  • Ishnura elegans Blue-tailed Damselfly
  • Onychogomphus forcipatus Green-eyed Hook-tailed Dragonfly
  • Anax imperator Emperor
  • A. parthenope Lesser Emperor
  • Cordulegaster insignis
  • Libellula depressa Broad-bodied Chaser
  • Orthetrum cancellatum Black-tailed Skimmer
  • O. albistylum White-tailed Skimmer
  • O. brunneum Southern Skimmer
  • O. ramburi
  • Crocethemis erythrae Scarlet Darter
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii Red-veined Darter