|Lesvos 2005 Tour Report 5th- 12th May|
The down side of an early flight, means an upside of arriving at your destination in time for some birding. Arriving in the NE town of Petra we collected our bags and quickly unpacked. Following a quick snack most of the group explored the green byways of Petra, although the journey to the apartments did produce Avocet, Buzzard, Cormorant, Little Egret, Lesser Kestrel, White Stork, Redshank and Yellow Wagtail. Venturing not too far from our apartments, we walked through back lanes into small fields and woods. This produced some of the island stars like our first Black-headed Bunting, Crested Lark. Some of the party saw their first Middle Spotted Woodpecker, plus a total of 30 newly arrived Bee-eaters around the apartment block. A single Night Heron was flushed from a ditch by one lucky observer. The well vegetated areas held plentyof passerines including many Great Reed Warbler, plus several Olivaceous Warbler. The sky was worth watching as this yielded Raven, Short-toed Eagle, and Pallid Swift. Returning to our apartments we heard the distinctive call of several Slender-billed Gulls as they passed over us. This on our first part day and within half a mile of our apartments.
Our first full day began with a pre-breakfast stroll in the fields, hedges and woods around our apartment block. Straight away we heard and saw River Warbler, amid the rich song of Nightingale and Thrush Nightingale, and our first Masked Shrike of the tour. Olivaceous Warblers called constantly, with the occasional Cetti's Warbler for good measure. Several Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were also seen amid the Olive Groves. Over the apartments good numbers of House Martin and Swallow, with the occasional Red-rumped Swallow also. Following breakfast we spent the rest of the day between Petra & Molyvos in the very north. Covering scrub and rocky habitat. Cretzschmars Bunting was a target species, which turned out to be very common, with many seen well during the day, as were Black-headed Bunting and occasional Rock Bunting for comparison. The rocky roadside north of Petra proved to be excellent for Ruppells Warbler, another island speciality, with a supporting cast of Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear and Short-toed Eagle. The day ended at a small reservoir to the north of Petra, this produced good numbers of Yellow-legged Gull, Little Grebe and Heron. Typically we returned for a wash and brush up, before enjoying excellent food and wine at a Taverna in Petra.
Today we ventured further afield and headed south towards the Inland Sea and Salt Pans via the East River, all well known sites on Lesvos. The 40min drive was filled with anticipation. The Inland Sea seems slightly over stated, a modest Inland Lake greeted us and would seem a more appropriate name. The air was filled with Swallows and House Martins, plus hundreds of Sand Martin. The reed fringes held lots of Reed and Great Reed Warbler, with plenty of Cetti's Warblers too. A pair of Little Bittern showed extremely well and were much appreciated. We moved across to Skala Kalloni, where lunch was enjoyed. Post lunch we drove to the East River and walked/drove upstream. We were greeted by lots of Spanish Sparrows in the fields, along with loads of Black-headed Bunting. The river was not surprisingly attractive to birds. Many Bee-eaters hawked insects, while the bushes along the stony bank held Woodchat Shrike. Along the rocky river bed Little Ringed Plover plus Little and Temminck's Stint were seen. Coming very close were a pair of Short-toed Eagle, which showed very well. The allure of the Salt Works proved too much of a draw, with lots of birds guaranteed. Our first glimpse of the water revealed a pink mirage in the distance, this the haze of 100's of Greater Flamingo's. Nearer were several Mediterranean Gulls and lots of Black-winged Stilt. Moving further around we turned up Black Tern, as well as Common Tern, Gull-billed Tern and White-winged Black Tern. Waders put on a show at a draining salt working. Amid the myriad of Dunlin were Avocet, brick-red Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Sanderling (in summer plumage) and Little Stint. Parking up we walked across the sheep field. This produced lots of Kentish Plover and Whinchat. Several Short-toed Lark were also found, but the highlight was 1- possibly 2 Red-throated Pipit. Returning to Petra we diverted to the West River, which produced Marsh Harrier. The evening produced Scops Owl behind the apartments. Another bird-filled day.
Following an early breakfast we drove SW towards 'Derbyshire', we knew of a Krupers Nuthatch nest, but the young were due to fledge any day, which would have made looking for them very difficult. Arriving in the Derbyshire area we were impressed with the mature woodlands. After a concerted effort we eventually found the Krupers Nuthatch nest, and on form they duly performed extremely well, as everyone had excellent scope views. The Derbyshire area produced many new birds, including Cirl Bunting, Firecrest, Serin, Treecreeper and Short-toed Treecreeper and Woodlark. Moving along the coastat the Derbyshire/ Achladeri area produced more birds, including Common and Curlew Sandpiper, Raven, our first Ruddy Shelduck and Turnstone. Being in the area we briefly called into the Salt Pans. 30 Little Terns greeted us,along with 360+ Greater Flamingo. 6 Wood Sandpiper were nice, as was a Little Gull. Unexpectedly 2 Black Stork flew overhead, which proved to be a welcome distraction from all the waders. 4 White-winged Black Tern were again counted. At the main road we turned N towards the Upper East River, this became a track as we wound our way up a hillside, but was well worth the effort. Lots of Crested Lark were seen, with Alpine Swift over head, with Black-eared Wheatear on many rocks. Not too obvious were 2 Hoopoe, which flashed by. Several Nightingale and Woodchat Shrike were found, but our target bird initially proved elusive, although Western Rock Nuthatch at the nest was excellent. Our target was Rufous Bush Chat, which had just arrived on the island. After a while a pair were seen and eventually showed and sang very well, this a tick for most of the party. A full day ended with a short stop at the Inland Sea, which proved to be wise as Little Bittern again showed well, we also added Night Heron to our list, on top of the 100's of hirundines feeding over the water, and Reed/ Great Reed/ Cetti's Warblers in the bank vegetation, and a low flying Long-legged Buzzard.
A brief pre-breakfast stroll around Petra produced a probable Levant's Sparrowhawk, plus Scops Owl. Today we headed out west, towards Sigri, this would take us through different habitats, from river beds, to barren mountains, which in turn would produce different birds. Our first target bird was Olive-tree Warbler, which had just arrived. After a cat and mouse chase around a sheepfield we did eventually see 2 birds quite well, as they called and sang from a low tree. Although our antics did produce Orphean Warbler and lots of Masked Shrike. A small steep sided valley produced several Crag Martin, again moving further on we came to a well known Isabelline Wheatear site. Being at altitude it was verywindy, but sure enough we had great views of an adult, which insisted on perching on a post in the high wind, allowing all to have great views, a further 3 were located. Nearer Sigri we stopped at a well known Cinereous Bunting site, despite 12 pairs of eyes, they remained elusive, but Rock Nuthatch and Rock Sparrow were seen, as well as Pied Flycatcher. Eventually a male Cinereous Bunting was picked up sat on a rock on a slope below the car- again allowing all to have excellent views. Arriving in the small town of Sigri, the group split into 2, most enjoying the taverna in Sigri, the remainder headed off to Faneromeni Ford for yet more birding. This produced Hobby, a flock of 60 Black-headed Bunting, as well as Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper, plus an obliging Marsh Sandpiper, which remained while we collected the remainder of the group after lunch. A reunited group enjoyed an excellent few hours here, the highlights were the Marsh Sandpiper, as well as an obliging Little Bittern. We made the journey back to Petra, stopping off at several locations on the way, including Ipsilou Monastery, which not only provided some great views, it gave an insight into the people of Lesvos as well as several Blue Rock Thrush that sang away, amid the odd Rock Sparrow. We returned to Petra, and an excellent meal in another local taverna.
We heard about a small valley, just off the main road at Petra, so our pre-breakfast jaunt involved a steepish walk up a track on the outskirts of town, but itwas well worth the effort. The scrubby covered hillside gave way to high, steep crags that funnelled migrant birds. Red-backed Shrikes were common, as were Black-eared Wheatear and Alpine Swift (36) flying over the town. However our target was Sombre Tit. We initially dipped, but after scanning the scrub an individual popped up and entertained some of the group. The remainder frustratingly dipped on this bird, however the wait was not in vain. A Lesser Grey Shrike put in a brief appearance, as did Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and Cirl Bunting. Following breakfast we headed back towards Derbyshire as a Spur-winged Plover had been seen. Sure enough our efforts were rewarded, as it gave good views by a roadside pond, attracting a small gathering, along with a distant Tawny Pipit in a grassy field. Again the group split into 2 for lunch, most opting for a hearty taverna lunch, the rest, bread/ cheese and more birding at Kalloni Pool, which was a shadow of it's former self, despite this we did tick Coot!, plus Great Reed Warbler. Reunited after lunch we again visited the nearby Salt Pans. We were greeted by the usual Greater Flamingo, Avocet and Kentish Plover. However we did find 6 Collared Pratincoles, which looked more like terns than waders. Also new today were a party of 15 Whiskered Terns that passed through. On the bunds between the salt pans we saw 4 Stone Curlew, hidden by the long grass. An impressive 50 Little Stint were also present. Moving onto the Sheepfield we were rewarded with a pair of Rufous Bush Chat, which weren't present on our previous visit, plus more Short-toed Lark. 2 Ruddy Shelduck flew past, which looked surreal with their rusty red plumage, as did a Peregrine. We briefly called in at a Long-eared Owl site, but our tea beckoned, as a result we didn't catch up with these birds- maybe next time.
Our last full day, which had come around all too quickly. Impressed by the small valley we went to yesterday, we made a return visit. This proved a good move with some excellent birding. We had several Olivaceous Warbler, as well as River Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush. At last all the party caught up with Sombre Tit- to the relief of all. Highlight of the morning were the raptors, which began with 6 Long-legged Buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard and a displaying Honey Buzzard. We also had a brilliant Pallid Harrier and Goshawk. After breakfast we undertook a loop of the Northern Mountains, and down to the Salt Pans via the Napi valley. Stopping many times we typically had lots of raptors including lots of Buzzard, plus Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Although at a coastal high point overlooking Turkey we had another Pallid Harrier, the area turned out to be honey pot as a large party of falcons moved through. This included 11 Red-footed Falcons, about 10 Eleonora's Falcons and 4 Hobby- incredible. Other birds included good numbers of Swifts, plus Alpine Swift (circa 200) as well as 2 Black Stork. In the Napi Valley we stopped for a very welcome ice-cream and reflected on the large party of falcons. Dropping down the Napi Valley we again stopped off at the Salt Pans. Curlew Sandpipers were in evidence, with at least 30 present. We also had a Fan-tailed Warbler 'zitting' by the road, plus the pair of Rufous Bush Chat. Returning after a long day we picked up Barn Owl around the Petra, illuminated by the spot lights and Scops Owl around the apartments.
We packed up early and were picked up by the coach. We had a long wait at the airport, and finally checked in. No birding today, but at the airport and on the journey back e reflected on what a brilliant tour it had been , with some brilliant birding in some stunning and varied landscapes. Here's to our next trip here.