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Old Friday 15th May 2009, 20:30   #1
Selsey Birder
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Lesvos - 2nd to 9th May

Hi All,

Well inspired by Penny's report from last year i am going to try to chronicle our week in this beautiful island. I can never hope to write in the way she does, but here is the first instalment of my report. I will add some pictures when my friends provide me with some!

LESVOS BIRD REPORT
SATURDAY 2ND TO SATURDAY 9TH MAY


Where birds were regularly seen at certain sites it will be indicated when the site is first visited, but not mentioned for subsequent visits, unless the number of a species present is particularly relevant.

We travelled to Lesvos with Thomas Cook on the Gatwick flight arriving at Mytilini airport at approximately 7pm local time with little light remaining, we had the opportunity to sea watch briefly before the coach left for Petra. We stayed in the Blue Sky Apartments in Petra run by a Greek Australian Anthony and his parents, this was an excellent arrangement, but would not satisfy some birders since it is situated in the north of the island, however my friend Sam had stayed in the village three times before and liked the area for early morning birding. Something that i will not be disagreeing with! We each paid £353 for the week’s accommodation and flights, the apartments were excellent and i would warmly recommend it to anyone.

Oh for those of you that separate Yellow Wagtail, unfortunately my notes do not include details of the taxa seen at each site, i shall try to remember as i type, but during the week we saw Ashy headed, Blue headed, Grey headed and Black headed.

We were a party of ten, five birders and their partners’, i won’t introduce them to you, but for simplicity of reference within the following text they are:

Richard “Sam” Hill
Paul Bowley
Adam “Ads” Bowley – Paul’s adult son
Alan Ford
Me – Ian Pitts

May 2nd

After the battle to extricate ourselves from the airport we managed to see a few Scopoli Shearwater on the sea plus the obligatory Yellow-Legged Gulls, Ads also saw 3 Audouin’s Gulls (the only ones of the holiday) flying close inshore and some Yelkouan Shearwaters (he managed to extricate himself from the airport before the rest of us). Also around the airport we saw Red-rumped and Barn Swallows together with House Martins and House Sparrow. Overnight we heard the local Barn Owls at the apartments, with Ads complaining bitterly that they kept him awake half of the night whilst screeching on the roof of his room!

May 3rd

Well Sam told us that it would be light by 5am (lesson learned the hard way) Paul, myself and Sam were outside by the pool at 4.30am eagerly awaiting first light, it finally arrived at appx 5.45am, when we were joined by Ads, Alan and his wife Yvette (a good birder herself as we shall discover within the first two hours). We set off for Kavaki with certain members of the party already anticipating their first “lifers” of the week. The two cars eased into the layby at just before 6am and within two minutes we had the desired bird, a male Ruppell’s Warbler sat on the top of a nearby bush. It has to be said that the birds were not as showy as Sam had reported in previous years. We visited the site daily as it was only a matter of two miles from our accommodation, yet did not see the birds every day. Also here that morning and principally on every subsequent visit were Blackbird, the ubiquitous Hooded Crow, Yellow-Legged Gull, Barn Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush (pair), Great Tit, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Linnet, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Sub-Alpine Warbler and Red-rumped Swallow. We also saw a male Whinchat and Cretzschmar’s Bunting, although these were certainly not present on each subsequent visit.

Lots of people seem to visit the site in the evening, for all those planning a visit to this beautiful island in the future a quick tip – the sun shines into your eyes in the evening, not great for birding or photography, try to get there earlier in the day!

We then headed for the Petra reservoir and the track that wound up the valley from the Vafios road, this was Sam’s first shock, he had not been on the Island since 2005 and discovered much to his shock that his beloved track had now been tarmacked (not sure if that is a word!). Anyway we parked at the junction at 6.45am and started walking uphill towards the reservoir with birds everywhere. This was definitely the experience that i had been hoping for since i had wanted to visit the island for over a decade and children of school age had prevented this until now. Due to the wet winter (apparently the wettest for 51 years) there was water still running in the small river beside the road, the low bushes were full of warblers early in the morning and included 2 Great Reed Warblers. The walk towards the reservoir produced an array of birds that would be repeated on a daily basis and were made up of Spanish Sparrow (a flock of appx 100 birds that has disappeared by the end of the week), Turtle Dove (probably at least ten per visit), Jay, Corn Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher (the island was covered in these during the week), Collared Dove, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Cirl Bunting and Blue Tit. On that first morning on our way up the valley we had a flock of 55 Bee-eaters roosted in the trees 200yds up the road, 6 Red-backed and 6 Woodchat Shrikes.

Halfway up the road to the reservoir we met a pair of birders walking back down the road, they informed us there was nothing of any great interest further on, but they had certainly had a good day “out west” the previous day, including a Great Snipe at Faneromeni Ford. They were extremely unlucky, since we met them again three days later and they confirmed they had checked the reservoir on the way down the valley. Suffice to say when we got there an interesting addition had arrived and was sat nonchalantly within the gull roost! We quickly saw the 2 common sands and the pair of Ruddy Shelduck with their two young (present all week), then there was the additional bird a Pelican sat on the bank within the gulls.

Now interestingly my first thoughts were identical to Sam’s “Is this a bird that the fishermen have caught and released here?” Well i had seen no mention of it on Steve Dudley’s excellent Lesvos Birding website in the days leading up to our holiday. After the initial excitement logic started to kick in, this was an immature bird, making capture and subsequent release unlikely and then Yvette piped up “i think its a Dalmatian”, a desperate search for a Collins’ Birdguide and the question from Sam “what colour is it around the eye?”. Well there was no sign of any red, it was definitely a Dalmatian Pelican. Now at home i would have phoned RBA, what could we do here? I immediately texted Steve Dudley (later in the week we discovered it took over two hours for the text to be delivered!) and everyone we saw after that during the day was told. I understand that quite a few people saw the bird, but that it departed at 10.45am not to be seen again. We found it at appx 7.30am and based on the other birders report it could not have been there at 7.10am, the bird did not fly up the valley from the north so we presume it had flown in from the south. If anyone knows anything else about this bird i would be delighted to hear about it (ian.pitts@btinternet.com).

We continued up the road beyond the reservoir hearing a blackcap which would not show itself (its ok we saw one of them later in the holiday – actually lots at Ipsilou but that is a different story – and then the next lifer for some of my friends. Again we saw this bird intermittently all week here, appx 400yds beyond the reservoir, a Sombre Tit, then a croaking call above us drew our attention to a Raven and time to head back down the valley (we did not reach the top of the valley on this occasion, it was only later that we discovered that the road ends at the top of the valley, and much to Sam’s delight his beloved track returns!). The girls were expecting us back for breakfast at the apartments by 10am, it was now 8.30am and we wanted to tell people about the Pelican. On the way back down, just below the reservoir we had our first Sedge Warbler and Marsh Warbler of the holiday.

We drove back to Kavaki, stopping in the “second” layby on the way, due to the fact that i was driving the first car and made a mistake thinking it was where we had been 2.5 hours earlier. A pleasant error since we had a pair of Masked Shrike here. There were quite a few people at the Ruppell’s site by the time we returned (appx 9.15am) who all strangely set off hot foot for Petra Reservoir, i hope they all saw the Pelican. We quickly added Sand, House and Crag Martin to our rapidly increasing day list and headed back to Petra for a well earned breakfast. Incidentally we saw Crag Martin at Kavaki every day and this seemed to me to be the most reliable place to see them. We also heard Chukar here, but our sighting of them is again another story for which Mr Dudley can claim a certain responsibility later in the week!

Well my introduction to birding on Lesvos had certainly not been disappointing, but we had all agreed that the ladies were not to be ignored (well most of us anyway!), could they be persuaded to go “sightseeing” after breakfast?

The holiday rep had said the previous evening that he would be back to see us at 4pm and if the ladies wanted to undertake any of the excursions we would be free to “bird” without our consciences bothering us. Well no problem on the first score, of course they wanted to see the Island, so after breakfast and 2 Pallid Swift flying high over the apartments we set off over the mountain in the general direction of Kalloni. There was a Shag in the harbour at Petra as we set off and fortunately for me a Middle Spotted Woodpecker flew across the road en route to the raptor viewing point known as “The Bandstand”. We were to have greater success here later in the week, but for now we spent 30 minutes at around midday and were treated to 4 Short-toed Eagles a Long-legged Buzzard, 3 Black Storks (a long awaited bird for me), a male Goshawk and a pair of Western Rock Nuthatch visiting their nest appx 50yds beyond the Bandstand. We also had Cretzschmar’s Bunting here on each visit and on this occasion another male Whinchat.

Now following a minor directional error we arrived in Skala Kalloni (White Stork seen in flight just north of Kalloni) and a first viewing of Kalloni Pool. Now i must admit this was a disappointment, the pool desperately needs some of the reeds removing from it, there is currently little open water to view and consequently little chance of the flocks of marsh terns that apparently were regularly seen here in the past. There were a pair of Black-winged Stilts here, a Squacco Heron, a Nightingale singing in the bushes and a pair of Little Grebe. Anyway it is now 1pm and time to park by the harbour and walk into the square for a drink and some delicious ice cream. It was great to sit in the cafe with numerous pairs of Barn Swallow nesting above our heads! Oh and i forgot to mention a “tame” Great White Pelican that was sat on the harbour wall, a little ironic after the day’s earlier bird!

Now we needed to be back in Petra by 4pm to meet the holiday rep, well Sam and i would take the ladies back in two cars, these were hired from Lesvoscarhire.com in Anaxos and a small car was available for 100 Euros for the week, additionally they would permit three named drivers per vehicle at no additional charge unlike all other hire companies i came across. Very useful when you have a group of birders and wives and you never know who is going to want which car, they also delivered the cars to our hotel at 8pm on Saturday evening so we could start first thing the next morning at no additional charge, Costas met us at the apartments after we arrived with Anthony calling him after we had settled in – an excellent service. The three others and Yvette decided to stay out longer, strangely we were to gain a bird later that day unseen for the rest of the holiday, whilst everything they saw was repeated later. I like to think a little poetic justice!

Anyway we all headed for the Kalloni Saltpans, driving out of Skala Kalloni after our lunch via a now abandoned Stork nest by the church in Skala Kalloni, anyway as i was driving i could not see the damn thing anyway. Well the saltpans were i guess exactly what i expected and during a 90 minute period from 1.45pm to 3.15pm produced the following birds which again repeated all week on our numerous visits to this excellent site:- Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Tern, Ruff (large numbers), Wood Sandpiper (again numerous), Flamingo (appx 300 all week), Common Tern, Great White Egret (2), Little Egret (1) by entrance to the pans, Grey Heron (appx 10), Glossy Ibis (3+), Whiskered Tern and Squacco Heron (usually up to 10 on the pool opposite the salt work before the turning to the cafe).

In addition to what was to become the regular birds referred to above we also saw on this occasion a Red-backed Shrike and a Lesser Grey Shrike in a bush just beyond the entrance on the right hand side of the road, together with a number of Bee-eaters which much to my delight seemed to be everywhere. If there is a more striking and beautiful bird in Europe i have never seen it. Also on the first island after entering the saltpans a first year Little Gull

We stopped briefly at the raised hide, this only appears to be open at weekends, where we were delighted to find a pair of Slender-billed Gulls on the saltpans, well more accurately Ads found them and we all admired them despite the accursed heathaze. Further on, opposite the salt workings on the pool a well hidden Purple Heron in the reeds and another one from the elevated hide. A pair of Shelduck were also on the saltpans viewable distantly from the elevated hide. We headed on to the “sheep field” with time for me and Sam fast evaporating and another new bird for the trip as a female Marsh Harrier appeared overhead. Parking the cars we crossed the bridge and started to wander towards the flood to see what waders were about.

Suddenly a sandy coloured bird shot across us and i immediately thought and said Tawny Pipit. It flew across the path to a sand dune and as we carefully approached there it was stood in the sand, however a problem, where was Paul? He was 100yds away watching who knows what. Despite frantic signalling and an impressive run he got there too late, the bird decided it had given sufficient views, flew over the dune never to be seen again. We then wandered over to the flood where there were 32 Little Stint and a pair of Kentish Plover. The surrounding area had various types of Yellow Wagtail flitting around and time had now expired if we were to make Petra by 4pm.

Sam and I took two cars, leaving the others with a vehicle and set off for the apartments. However, with me following as we exited the saltpans a very yellow headed bird flitted off the fence in the field opposite the entrance to the saltpans. A male Citrine Wagtail, however try as i might i could not attract Sam’s attention as he drove off, oh well a single person sighting, but tomorrow would produce more of them so nothing to worry about. Indeed the four we had left behind had another Citrine Wagtail at the other end of the saltpans later that afternoon.

After the excursion sales pitch (actually David was very good and not pushy at all) the girls decided they would go Donkey riding on Monday for most of the day and to Turkey on Thursday. So we had two whole days birding, plus as it would turn out they would go to the mud baths on Tuesday, so good news there!

So after a brief rest Sam, his wife Sandra and I headed back out to Kavaki and the reservoir for an evening visit. At Kavaki there were crowds of people (see above about evenings), after a brief look we crossed the road and walked up a track into the hills (Sam knew that the Great Spotted Cuckoos bred in the next valley so we intended to climb to the top and look down into the next valley). A steep climb for 100 yards was immediately rewarded as we found a number of birds just out of view over the first brow of the hill including at least another three Ruppell’s Warbler territories, lots of Black-eared Wheatears and a male Red-backed Shrike. Continuing up the path we found 3 Red-rumped Swallows nesting on the ground beside the path (excellent photo opportunities if we had a camera between us!). Reaching the top of the hill only brought a great view, a Woodchat Shrike and a return journey to the car.

We then headed on to the Petra Reservoir and saw similar birds to the morning, including about 20 Bee-eaters going to roost in the bushes. Then, appearing in the distance, some swifts, a quick check through, and yes 2 Alpine Swifts amongst the flock that then continued flying down the valley. However, there was one more find left to be made as we walked back from the reservoir to the cars we had left on the corner of the Vafios road. Sam spotted a bulky warbler flying across the road and fortunately landing in a nearby bush. I got it in the scope and could see all of the fine barring on its chest, our first ever spring Barred Warbler it sat there for maybe 15 seconds, then flew on leaving two very happy birders behind.

What an excellent way to finish my first ever full day on the beautiful and largely unspoiled island of Lesvos. Ninety two species (including two heard) on the first day.

To be continued.....................
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Old Saturday 16th May 2009, 18:12   #2
Selsey Birder
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Well here is the second intalment, i cannot believe how long it takes to write up each day. I have a Kenya report to do from last November, but i am not sure i can manage 14 days, especially as i am not sure i can remember all of the little extra pieces now!

May 4th

With our ever patient partners off to ride their Donkeys we elected for a 5.30am start, driving over the mountain to Kalloni so that we arrived at the Lower East River just after first light at 6am. We had also heard about a variety of crakes at Metochi Lake and intended to try to find it (past experiences of my friends had resulted in being thoroughly lost on the back roads) after our visit to the East River. The river was not exactly abounding with birdlife, however Nightingales were calling everywhere and a Cetti’s was also seen as we headed slowly for the lower ford. As we approached we realised that a bird tour was here before us, however this turned out as a stroke of good fortune, it was being led by a West Sussex birding acquaintance Bernie Forbes, who promptly provided us with exact directions to reach the Inland Lake. There were a few waders around the ford including a pair of LRP’s, 5 Wood Sands and a Common Sand, also on the telegraph pole opposite (and we saw it there again later in the week) a Little Owl.

Now with exact directions we headed off through Skala Kalloni and with just one error arrived at an already busy lake by 7am. We had excellent views of 2 Little Bittern and eventually a female Little Crake skulking in the undergrowth immediately opposite the viewing road. We had a little controversy here since we may have seen a second bird, but the jury was out, so let’s call it one! We had plans to drive over to the west coast, so could not stay for long. We drove back into Skala Kalloni for breakfast, the car behind getting excellent views of a Masked Shrike as we rejoined the main road, the only place open in the square was the bakers – excellent place – we grabbed a selection of cheese and bacon pies, olive bread and vanilla slices to keep us going and then headed off on the Filia road, our first principal destination being the Ipsilou monastery, but with intended stops en route for known birds.

Our first stop was beyond Vatoussa at the entrance to the “Grand Canyon” where we all clearly saw a medium sized bird flying away from the rock face with a very fast deep wing beat (we saw it twice in 15 minutes), however despite some considerable experience between us we could not identify. We solved the mystery on Friday, so i won’t ruin the story at this juncture. There was a Masked Shrike perched in a tree at the top of the rock face, 2 Short-toed Eagles cruised over, together with a Long-legged Buzzard that was perched on a distant peak. The layby and river course below also provided Sub-alpine Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Jay, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Chaffinch, Cirl Bunting and brief views of Crag Martin. We now drove on towards Andissa (surely the award winner for the most different spellings of one place on the island, i saw four different versions and indeed the signs at either end of the village spell the name differently!) and on the hairpin climb towards the village had a shrike perched on a nearby wire. Not the safest place to stop, but we could not resist a brief stop for excellent views of a Lesser Grey Shrike. There was a fairly strong northerly wind blowing and up here on the higher ground it certainly was not warm, fortunately we had all brought jumpers and windcheaters for the monastery, forewarned by those who had visited previously within our party. Anyway one more stop before we reached that part of the journey, the road junction with the Eressos road, this being the stronghold on the island of a different wheatear, failure at the actual junction, but no more than half a mile along the road towards the monastery a layby and for two members of the group another lifer – 5 Isabelline Wheatears flitting around on the hillside and between here and the monastery further viewings of their much more common cousin the Black-eared Wheatear, a Masked Shrike flying across the road and Bee-eaters perched on wires beside the road.

We parked at the bottom of the one way system around the monastery, i cannot understand why anyone would drive up, there is so much to be seen by walking slowly up the road (on either side) and watching all of the bushes above and beneath the road. We arrived at about 9.45am and the bushes were genuinely alive with migrant passerines, together with those resident birds which are so sought after by many visitors. We started to climb the southern or “down” slope of the one-way system, immediately finding Western Rock Nuthatch and Cretzscmar’s Bunting on the rocks below the road, then a flash of vivid yellow flying across the road, a male Golden Oriole, only a brief view, but plenty more to follow in the next couple of hours.

So what was the predominant species here this morning? Well we certainly saw more than 20 Wood Warblers, but numbers of Spotted Flycatcher were incredible, i would estimate there were up to 100 of them in the bushes and trees along that road. In amongst these we found at least 6 Pied Flycatcher and other people there at the same time saw a male Collared Flycatcher, but sadly we were never in the right place at the right time. There was also an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler above the road, but i was looking and listening for one particular bird. Suddenly a call and there it was, a male Cinereous Bunting, singing from a small boulder below the road.

We kept searching up and down the road, also finding 3 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler and pairs of both Linnet and Sombre Tits. However, best of all were the Golden Orioles that were interestingly all males appearing all over the place, even perching up at the top of trees below the road, permitting everyone to have excellent scope views of the birds.

However, time ticks ever onwards and we wanted to be back in Petra for the girls when they returned at 3.30pm from their donkey trek. We had been hearing some interesting whispers about a very early Rose-coloured Starling on the Sigri to Eressos track so we decided to head in that general direction. As we reached the place where the ground started to drop towards Sigri the anticipated Kestrels appeared on the skyline. We stopped at another bandstand type construction and were able to identify at least 10 Lesser Kestrels zipping along just above the fields ahead of us.

Now we needed to find our way through Sigri and onto the Eressos track. The attempt to drive through the village was thwarted at the harbour when what we took to be the correct road (later proven to be so as we drove back through the village successfully along the narrow street) was blocked by painters using a scaffold that blocked the narrow street entirely. Nothing for it but to turn round and try a different route, again fortune smiled on us as in driving back to a junction we found two more male Golden Orioles sat in a small tree beside the road. Success this time and we started to head south on the track. We stopped at a small river with an ivy clad building within a couple of miles, the ivy was literally full with a huge Spanish Sparrow flock and also Sam & Paul both saw a Starling within the ivy, not a commonly seen bird at this time of year. Two couples were birding further up the dry river course, i wandered up as they located a nice male Pied Flycatcher, when we met them later that afternoon they told us of a Rufous Bush Robin that had materialised within 15 minutes of us departing.

We continued along the track, having heard that the RC Starling had been seen that morning in the vicinity of the Meladia Valley. However, perched on a telephone wire another 5 minutes along the road was another bird we had heard about earlier that day – sorry Penny – a beautiful Roller – hopefully some photos to follow. Sam and I crept out of the car and eased the doors closed as Ads tried to creep closer beneath the bird with his video camera. Paul was driving the car behind and a tour group was just in front of us, as somebody, who shall remain nameless got out of the following car and slammed the door! Unsurprisingly the Roller erupted from the wire and flew off. We then continued to the Meladia Valley and another good discovery.

There were a number of people milling about, but no sign of the reported Starling, there was however plenty of water still here, Stonechat and Sedge Warbler were flitting about, we were told that two Icterine Warbler had been seen earlier in the sparse trees. Wading through the ford we headed along the track in the general direction when Paul realised there was a wagtail in the small rivulet running beside the track. It was elusive, but then Ads cried female Citrine Wagtail and there she was jumping from one tamarisk to another within the small river. All of the groups hanging around the small lake rushed over and thanked us profusely. I just wonder why they were not looking for birds rather than standing about!

We strolled up the track, took the turning 200 yards further up, scanned the second of the two trees and there was an Icterine Warbler feeding within the branches, well it was now appx 1pm, so we started to return to Sigri as we wanted to visit the Faneromeni Ford whilst we were in the area. However, the best laid plans and all that. 1 mile back along the track there was a small chapel surrounded by a small copse of trees and lots of vehicles (well at least 10) gathered around it. So we stopped!

Sat on a telegraph pole was a Starling, but not the right type – grrrrrr. There were a number of birds flitting around the trees and this quickly produced another Icterine Warbler and a couple of Turtle Doves, together with yet more Spotted Flycatchers. However, just as we decided to move on an excited clamour, sat on a small bush just west of the road was our original quarry. An adult Rose-coloured Starling, which quickly flew towards Sigri along the track, but only 100 yards. Now comes one of those moments when you wonder if you are really hearing what is said to you. The leader of the Birdfinders group was walking beside me as we walked towards where the bird had flown. He stated, and i swear this is true, “I don’t know why we are all walking in this direction, the bird flew in the opposite direction strongly over the field” after i had informed him that was an ordinary starling he capped it all by stating “well nobody told me there were two starlings in the area”!!! As my friend Ads then commented “well for a start that bird did not have any pink on it”. Ah well no further comment required.

We now set off again for Sigri and quickly realised that Paul's car had dropped a long way behind us, we had missed a Little Owl sat on a stone beside the road, however as we topped a rise in the road, sat in the back i spotted a small falcon flying over the nearby cliff. A quick falling out of the car, and there was another of our target birds for the week, a first summer male Red-footed Falcon.

This time we set-off and reached Faneromeni Ford with only one further stop, this time north of Sigri for a number of small falcons, this time at least 6 Lesser Kestrels and 4 Red-footed Falcons. Now i must admit when we arrived at the ford (appx 1.45pm) i was a little disappointed by the number of birds. There were a variety of Yellow Wagtails in the river and best of all a pair of Citrine Wagtails. One other thing that i must just mention, i have never ever seen so many tadpoles in all my life, there were literally tens of thousands making the water actually look black in places. Now with the time already 2.15pm we needed to drive back across to Island as the girls were expected back at 3.30pm. One more stop was required though, quartering the fields just north of Sigri was a ring-tailed harrier. The group present were calling it as a Montagu’s, now these are notoriously difficult, but on the balance we considered the bird to be too dark beneath, Pallid Harrier in our opinion.

After greeting the girls – and hearing the stories of the day – three of us (Paul, Sam and Myself) decided to head back up to Petra reservoir at 5.30pm as we had not been there in the morning! The usual birds were all there, plus a couple of unexpected extras. On the way up the valley, just beyond the reservoir, i guess it would have been about 6.15pm, Sam spotted a small raptor harrying a Raven over the copse at the top of the valley. We all had brief views of a bird with pointed wings, but nothing more as it dropped below the skyline. Then Paul heard a Hoopoe calling, now great credit here as he started to scan distant trees and amazingly he found the bird sat in one of the trees on the skyline – excellent find my friend.

We carried on to the top of the valley, listening to the Nightingales calling from everywhere, now i must admit to laughing at Paul’s attempts to call them out, nowhere near as successful as his Hoopoe hunt. Actually Sam’s method of telling the little b******ds to show themselves was just as instructive. Anyway as we topped the rise of the valley a small hawk with black pointed wings shot out of the undergrowth, Levant Sparrowhawk had added itself to the trip list, which was now comfortably clear of 100. On the way back down the valley we also saw our first Cuckoo of the trip, then i picked up a falcon flying at some distance towards the distant lighthouse, an Eleonora’s Falcon, they were to prove much more common later in the week, but this was the first of the holiday and an excellent way to finish our second day on the Island.

Well that’s not quite true, because we were out in the village again that evening for another excellent meal!

To be continued.........
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Old Thursday 21st May 2009, 20:55   #3
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Well nobody seems to want to add any comments to this report, i trust you want me to continue, here is the third days report:-

May 5th

So what would day three bring? Well hopefully some target birds where we knew their location, but had not yet bothered to visit (well more accurately we had not yet been able to find the time to visit).

We set off again at 5.30am to visit Achladeri with the intention of arriving just after first light, well again this stretches the truth a little, i understood we were going to drive the Upper East River first. However, Sam missed the turning, so Achladeri it was! We arrived by 6.15am to find one vehicle at the picnic site, but no sign of any human activity. The location of the Kruper’s Nuthatch nest was easily located and the male was singing from a nearby branch, the female was also quickly located and we spent a happy 15 minutes watching and recording them as they visited the nest and sang. We then wandered up the trails looking for Short-toed Treecreeper, we heard them, but apart from a glimpse of something flitting in the trees no luck. We did find the owners of the other vehicle and re-directed them to the Kruper’s nest site. We wandered back towards the cars and admired the nuthatches again, before searching the more open area around the picnic site.

Birds were starting to appear now, we found 3 Masked Shrikes here, plus a flyover Peregrine Falcon and the first Common Whitethroat of the holiday. We headed back to “Derbyshire” and stopped on the left handed corner immediately before the road crossed the water. Here we could view the marsh where 23 Ruddy Shelducks and a pair of Shelduck were to be seen together with a pair of Red-backed Shrikes. Then a flock of Swifts appeared over the trees, with a mixture of hirundines which included a Red-Rumped Swallow and then best of all at least 3 Pallid Swifts within the flock. We started to drive again, but quickly realised there were more birds in the narrow ditch on the left-hand side of the road. Here there were 3 Black Storks right next to the road, together with a number of Grey Heron and Little Egrets with a lone Great White Egret too. We stopped (probably illegally) at the junction with the main road to obtain photos of the Black Storks (can someone please tell me how to post my photos here, they are much too large for the upload limit, how can i reduce their size please?) and whilst we were waiting for the photographers to return Yvette realised there were some small passerines in the field next to us – 5 Short-toad Larks.

Since the girls were going to the mud baths to rest their aching joints after the donkey ride we had arranged to meet them in Molivos for lunch at 1pm, this still left plenty of time to visit the salt pans, as our previous visit on Sunday had been a little rushed. Our first destination was the cafe opposite the salt workings, we had heard rumour that a visitor from sub-saharan Africa had arrived and was singing well from a bush only 50yds from the cafe. We drove around the pans seeing the usual waders, together with 5 Glossy Ibis on the pool mentioned earlier. As we turned onto the narrow track that leads to the cafe we had a female Montagu’s Harrier quartering the ground (Ads got some good video of the bird and re-visited it later to confirm the identification since there was a minor dispute). Now ten years ago that would have been an argument that could not be resolved, nowadays technology resolves so many of those identification disputes. We have been grateful to Adam’s video camera on many occasions, not least when we stopped on the busy A149 in North Norfolk to confirm the id of a Yellow-browed warbler that we all suddenly started to panic about – somebody foolishly stated they could not remember seeing the second wingbar and as is typical in that situation all of us then could not remember it either – sure enough there it was on the film!

Anyway, returning to much warmer climes, we parked the car beside the cafe and started to walk to walk west, almost immediately hearing the bird singing, a male Rufous Bush Robin. I saw a few in Kenya the previous November, but somehow this bird sat singing beside a Lesvos beach was much more evocative. We also quickly located an Olivaceous Warbler in the next bush and returned to the vehicles with a light step, time for a coffee – not so quick there folks, the cafe was not yet open.

Time to visit the sheep field again before the cafe opened. We entered the fields and started to look carefully in the long grass, sure enough a head popped up and quickly disappeared, that was a relief they were clearly still here, with patience we saw at least 5 Red-Throated Pipits in their splendid spring plumage and wandered over to inspect the flood. A few different waders here included a Grey Plover that was new for the trip and the Little Stint flock still amounted to 32 birds. That cup of coffee was now calling louder, however as we drove away from the sheep field a splendid Lesser Grey Shrike demanded our attention as it sat on the fence for all to admire.

An excellent cup of coffee, together with complimentary bottles of water and cake followed at the little beach cafe (highly recommended) before our next treat was delivered as we drove away – a first summer male Red-Footed Falcon flying and then sat on the telegraph wire above the salt workings. The large pond opposite again held good numbers of Squacco Heron (5) and a female Marsh Harrier also put in an appearance, together with a Purple Heron hiding in the reeds and a Whiskered Tern flying over our heads.

Now for my first rant of the holiday, i have no objection to photographers, but those that disturb a bird in order to obtain their precious photograph are close to Robert Mugabe in my popularity rankings. We found the mini soccer pitch easily just north of Kalloni and from the small group of people did not need to count the fifth tree from the southern entrance! The Scops Owl was showing clearly appx 20 feet from the ground and if i could figure out how to shrink the photograph i would post our record of the bird. Now our picture is not perfect because to get closer or to walk under the tree would doubtless disturb the bird. One gentleman (i am struggling to use that word and i am ashamed to say he was British) walked directly under the tree and believe it or not had his wife move a branch so he could take a “perfect” picture of the bird. When my friend Sam congratulated him on his lack of intelligence he thanked him for his opinion, the red mist descended and i gave him a piece of my mind (can’t remember what i said, only that it was extremely sarcastic). He very sensibly quickly returned to his vehicle and left the site. If you are the photographer and reading this i truly hope you are ashamed, you are also presumably aware that the bird was not seen again in this location, where it had been showing well all Spring! As you might have gathered i am still furious, the birds are far more important than a photograph and also, but of lesser relevance, all the other birders were denied a sight of this enigmatic little owl because of pure selfishness.

We made time for a brief stop at the Bandstand where 5 Short-toed Eagles and 2 Black Storks were in evidence late morning, together with for most of the group their first Eleonora’s Falcon of the holiday. We then decided to get our daily dose of the Petra Reservoir track before going to meet the girls for lunch. There was nothing of great relevance, except for a Marsh Warbler and an Alpine Swift, this bird was the first of over 60 we were to see later in the day. There was clearly a considerable movement of Alpine Swift over the north of the island that afternoon, as lying by the pool that afternoon we saw in excess of 35 birds in an hour late afternoon and totalled in excess of 60 that afternoon. During that late afternoon we also had a Hobby and 2 Long-Legged Buzzards flying over the pool in Petra.

Our evening visit to the Reservoir track again showed no great change from earlier in the day although we did see a Great Reed Warbler at the start of the track as we returned to our vehicles plus Woodchat Shrike and Whinchat that had not previously been in evidence. Half way through the week and for me the trip list now stood at 129.

To be continued........
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Old Friday 22nd May 2009, 07:49   #4
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Like you Ian, we get angry when photographers disturb birds to get their shot. Two years ago my husband got very angry at a German photographer in the Napi Valley who had left the track near a masked shrike's nest to stand nearer to the tree - can someone please explain why it seems to be - the bigger the lens the nearer you have to stand to the subject? Later that day, we were seated at the next table to him at dinner!

We were in Lesvos 2nd - 16th May, Ian, so we must have come across you and your party at one stage. I've just begun to type my report - but not sure whether to put it on here or not. It seems a bit rambling as opposed to your concise one.

About 'Scops copse' - a couple of days before we left the island we noticed some drastic pruning and felling of trees by the mini football pitch. I couldn't bear to go and see what damage had been done to the roost - but I suppose the birds will find another safe place if 'their' tree has not gone.

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Old Friday 22nd May 2009, 19:29   #5
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Hi Sandra,

I will tell my own story about the fields in the Napi valley later in this thread (it involves stupid trespassing), with regard to the Scops Copse i believe that Steve Dudley feels that the tree "gardening" would not pose a problem to the owls.

I will defer to his greater knowledge.

Ian


ps Day four to follow over the weekend, but off to Grove ferry early am to hopefully see the Pratincole
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Old Friday 22nd May 2009, 20:06   #6
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I didnt want to interrupt Ian's flow (since I'm enjoying his report), but since its been raised. I went to see the tree-work being undertaken at the Scops Copse on the 13 May. I was told that no trees were being felled, but most/all were being reduced in height by 1/3 to 1/2. This has been done already in the past to some of the trees, but never on this scale.

Reducing the height of the trees now may mean the breeding birds (usually 2 prs around here) will probably abandon the site for this year for other site(s) and I suspect no harm will be done to the owls. Since they are migrants, hopefully they'll leave for the winter and they or others will return to the Scops Copse next spring.

One of the down sides is that when eucalyptus trees are reduced like this, they usually regenerate with bush growth and this may make finding the birds harder in the future.

I've already rasied this, and other major scrub/woodland clearance elsewhere on the island during the breeding season with the Hellenic Nature Bureau, but there is little they can do really.

And Sandra, don't be put off telling your own story your own way. One of the great things about birding, BirdForum and birders visiting Lesvos is that we aren't all the same and we each enjoy different ways/sides of birding and reading about it - you'll get your own fans!
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Old Friday 22nd May 2009, 20:17   #7
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I was not aware that i had any fans!!!!

I agree with Steve, post the report Sandra, i for one will be fascinated to read it.

Ian
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 00:15   #8
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Lesvos ups and downs

Nice report Ian!
Please keep it up.
Sandra should certainly post her report, since she has her own own slant on birding and should certainly give us the benefit of her and Bob's experiences.
I agree with the comments concerning the disturbance to wildlife by ill thought out tree pruning.
I had similar fears about the olive groves, since in some areas trees were being pruned last week, when clearly birds were still sitting or feeding young.This was evidenced by the fact that up to Tuesday of this week a warbler was still feeding five young at Sigri in a olive grove.
On wednesday when at the East River mouth scoping out some sandwich,common and little terns,a "big lense" guy came along and wasn't happy until he'd plonked his lense right up to the edge of the sand spit and promptly put the nearest birds to flight. Last year another fella
pulled is car up within six feet of the Kruppers nesting site to "photograph"
the resident nuthatches, to the disgust of other birders standing a good distance away. There was also a similar experience at the rock nuthatch nesting site at the back of the inland lake last year.
Whilst I confess to enjoying getting record shots myself, I think that it is reaching the stage where Lesvos requires some pro-active habitat mangement if the island's wildlife is not to suffer.
It is however possible to get some good incidental shots whilst out walking or preferably in the car.
Keep up the good work with the reporting everyone.
Regards
Mick
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 18:07   #9
Steve Dudley
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Getting anything done on the conservation level on Lesvos is very difficult.

Olive grove work is so general and spread out I think the impact this has on bird populatiosn is minimal given just how little work takes place on any fo hte 11 million (!) trees at any one time.

Major tree pruning and scrub/tree removal is another matter, but again we must judge this in the context of the wider island which is relatively undisturbed. I think some birders do more harm thrashing scrub/bushes in pursuit of species such as Bush Robin or Ruppell's as the locals do on removing a clump fo bushes.

The problem with this sort of work is that most is done at the end of the rains in spring and throughout spring, just as pretty much all other work (building, road maintenance, etc). Its just how things are done out there and individual land owners are going to comprehend any damage caused when there is so much 'other' habitat around.

Getting things done on Lesvos is going to take time, but as long as the main incidents are reported (report them to me if you want via Lesvos Birding site) we can pass them on the HNCB and they are increasingly interested in Lesvos issues.

The whole birder / photographer behaviour thing is a totally different issue. Personally I think individuals in both camps are at fault. But it does no good simply whinging about it. If someone is doing wrong then tell them and get them to stop.

Of course, what a birder thinks of as wrong might be different to what a photographer sees as wrong. Parking a car under a tree is probably far less disturbing than sitting under the tree in the open (personally I dont like either!). And dont forget that far too many of the photographers (certainly many I come across) are not birders at all and lack the fields skills and ID craft most (by no means all) birders have.

And birders - thrashing bushes for Bush Robin (when they are actually very showy birds if allowed to come out) and bashing the scrub at breeding Ruppell's site (would a UK Dartford Warbler heath be bashed in this way? I think not) is just plain wrong.
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 18:09   #10
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PS - sorry Ian - didnt want to hi-jack your report! I think it folk want to pursue other lines then do so on thread http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=137760 or start a new thread. Lets leave Ian to his report!
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 20:06   #11
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Hey Steve,

I have no problem with you commenting on this matter, nor Mick, i started it by mentioning the photographers (still seething by the way) and will have more to say when i get to Thursday (at least this time the protagonists were french!).

I have nearly finished Wednesday so expect to post that later this evening.

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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 20:47   #12
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May 6th

Well today was to be a little different, it was agreed we would not spend the majority of the day birding in one group, it also started differently for me as somebody forgot to tell me that the start date was 30 minutes later today. Okay i have to take some responsibility here, if we were only going to be local in the early morning was it likely that we would still be starting at 5.30am? Fortunately, as i was looking about at 5.25am wondering why i was the first person awake, Paul had heard walk past his room and he came out to break the bad news to me, i could have had 30 more minutes sleep!

Well Kavaki and Petra reservoir were very quiet that morning maybe i should have stayed in bed, apart from a lovely flock of 45 Bee-eaters roosting in the lower part of the valley. Since this was intended to be the only group birding of the day we walked all the way to the top of the valley. Just 100yds from the brow Ads and Paul, who were leading the race to the top, found a male Sardinian Warbler flitting in a bush, amazingly the first and indeed only sighting of the holiday, despite loitering behind the gang for some time it would not show again for me. I caught everybody else up at the top of the valley and had started down the other side when Ads made his second discovery of the morning, we realised he was no longer there and turning round found him still at the top of the valley with “that look” on his face.

Anybody who has known Adam for a while knows that look, he is quite simply the best birder i have met and this meant he was onto something. We tried to wander back nonchalantly, okay we didn’t, we rushed back to where he was standing. We were greeted with “well that doesn’t sound like a Nightingale to me”, music to my ears and so was the sound coming from the dense undergrowth. Now dense was the problem word here, especially since the last time i had heard this song was almost a year previously in the quarry at Portland and that time it took us over 2.5 hours to see the songster! This time we were not going to have that luxury, so we stood and listened to the Thrush Nightingale singing for the next twenty minutes, but not even a feather of the bird was ever espied. We strolled back down the valley, with me sneaking another look at the bush which held the Sardinian Warbler, still no sign. However, the regular Sombre Tit showed well again and then Paul expertly found a Hoopoe calling in a distant tree. Kavaki held the usual birds mentioned earlier, plus a male Whinchat, the Ruppell’s Warblers really were proving elusive, with just a brief glimpse of a female this time as the birds were clearly feeding young.

Sam, Paul and I had decided to spend the day with our wives and they decided that they would like to see the Ipsilou Monastery (so not all bad news there) and we set off mid-morning using two of the vehicles immediately finding a flock of 25 Jackdaws sat on telegraph wires in the nearby village of Anaxos. En route to the Monastery we again saw Long-legged Buzzard, Isabelline Wheatear and Masked Shrike. Arriving at Ipsilou we again parked at the bottom of the hill and climbed the southern slope, immediately finding a very close Cinereous Bunting singing on a bush. There was again plenty of activity among the trees with Spotted Flycatcher once more the predominant species, however mixed amongst these were 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers a male Golden Oriole, a female Pied Flycatcher and plenty of Wood Warblers.

This time we walked all the way to the top of the hill, since naturally the girls wanted to see the Monastery, that was the reason we came here was it not? They were already investigating since for some reason we were lagging behind. However, when we eventually reached the Monastery we realised that the ladies had climbed to the top of the building. As we went to climb the stairs a large white falcon flew over the visible gap, a cry of Lanner and we rushed outside to see the bird heading rapidly west towards Sigri, what a fortunate sighting that was. The second attempt to climb the stairs was successful and we had barely made the top when a much larger raptor appeared from the direction of Sigri and flew at almost eye level straight past us towards the east of the island. In the space of 5 minutes we had seen two raptors that we would not see again this holiday, on this occasion the bird in question was an Osprey, so familiar in the late summer at home, but quite a surprise to me here. As usual i was immediately corrected by the man with prior knowledge, Sam, who had seen them here on previous visits.

The walk down the hill did not produce anything new until we had almost reached the cars, when to my surprise i realised that the wheatear i was looking at was something that i regularly saw at home – a Northern Wheatear, indeed we saw the bird again in exactly the same spot two days later. We now continued into Sigri for a well earned spot of lunch, seeing a further 9 Lesser Kestrels over the grass fields on the way down to the village.

Lunch did not go to plan and we ended up buying crisps and drinks from a small shop. We sat for at least 15 minutes outside a cafe near the harbour, but nobody seemed to be interested in serving us. In fairness they were very busy and since all we wanted was a snack we decided to move on. The harbour was quiet and only contained a Common Tern and a Common Sandpiper. We planned to next visit the beach at Fanormeni and took the turning in that direction, however our plans to let our partners enjoy the beach whilst we did a little seawatching and explored the reeds were scuppered. Work was being done on the road and a large lorry was there delivering materials, the best laid plans and all that. We simply could not get past, so we decided to make our way back to Petra. However, a group of people beside the road just a mile away brought us to a sudden halt. In the same field we had seen the Pallid Harrier two days earlier was a set of electricity pylons climbing up the hill, scattered along the electricity lines and indeed on the rocks below were 13 Red-footed Falcons (for those that are interested in these things 8 males and 5 females); also sitting on a bush below the pylons a Lesser Grey Shrike.
The journey back to Petra was without any stops although we did see a Long-legged Buzzard on the outskirts of Antissa and the front car (being everyone except me and my wife George) had a European Sparrowhawk fly in front of their car. Over the hotel that afternoon we also had 2 Short-toed Eagles and a Black Stork.

We did not have time to visit the reservoir that night, since the six of us were going somewhere special for dinner. The road beyond the reservoir leads to the village of Vafios which is set in the hills. Here Sam knew of an excellent restaurant where if you sat outside in the evening you could watch the sun disappear into the sea. We pulled into the car park at about 7.15pm (a Middle Spotted Woodpecker had flown across the road on the way up to the restaurant), but disappointment was only moments away, it was not open! Disaster was averted when we realised there was another establishment just 50yds up the road.

Now i cannot speak highly enough of this restaurant, we sat outside and had a marvellous meal (try the starters if you go, you can buy the different food parcels and share them – the small cheese pies were delicious as were the onion flavoured parcels) whilst watching the sun slowly descend into the sea. At one point we realised that a Little Owl was sat on the roof of the restaurant watching us! Realising it was becoming cooler the proprietor invited us to change tables and go inside to finish our meal with an excellent array of desserts. For those of you that have never been to Greece, they have a very sweet tooth and the traditional Baclava is also very filling, if not equally delicious. Now is the time to learn something else about Sam, he is a dessert afficianado (there is a tale to tell about an Apple Crumble order in North Norfolk where the people before us ordered the final portion, not a pretty sight and something the rest of us still laugh about to this day), however the amount he ate as he helped everyone finish their food that night was impressive even by his high standards. Suffice to say i think he struggled to even stand up after the meal, which was finished off excellently with free liqueurs.

The girls were off to Turkey for a day trip on Thursday so we had the whole day to ourselves, we were to meet the man who is fast becoming Mr. Lesvos (I hope you are not blushing Mr. Dudley) and see possibly our most exciting (based on the number of expletives used) and surprising bird of the holiday, in addition to our meeting with the French birders whose understanding of the basic principles of birding were sadly lacking................stay tuned folks

Holiday list now 133
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 21:12   #13
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A superb report Ian, we always try to stay at Petra (4 times now). Look forward to the next instalment

ATB

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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 21:38   #14
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Hi Stewart,

We found Anthony at the Blue Sky Apartments to be excellent.

We had problems with the organised trip to Turkey for the girls, a story i did not bother to tell, but with his help we were able to ensure that they still went.

Cannot recommend him highly enough. However, i must also agree that Petra itself is everything that a small greek island fishing village should be.

Oh and i can't wait to go back again.

Ian
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 22:27   #15
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Hi Ian, you got to eat at one of Liz and my favourite tavernas, the Taverna Vafios. We use it for special occasions (wedding anniversary, etc - long way to go from Hunts tho!). It is special and like you, I cant recommend the place highly enough either (along with Soulatso in Skala Eresou - my fave taverna on the whole island!).
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2009, 22:59   #16
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Well selsey birder, i wish i had been on that trip. It would have given me over 50 lifers!!!
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Old Sunday 24th May 2009, 08:30   #17
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Hi Cheshire Birder,

Well there are more to come - i will try to type the Thursday report today - including two lifers for me!

Ian
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Old Sunday 24th May 2009, 13:30   #18
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Sorry if this is a mess, i am trying to upload a resized picture of a Citrine Wagtail taken at Faneromeni Ford
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Old Monday 25th May 2009, 14:03   #19
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Well everyone here is another update, i shall now start to post some of the photos over the next couple of days

May 7th

So it was back to a 5.30am start as we headed firstly for Kalloni Pool, well at least i did not need to change the setting on my alarm! We were really just stopping here on our way to Metochi Lake, but managed to add a bird to the holiday list with a beautiful male Garganey sat in the small amount of water that is now visible here, as with our previous visit there was also a Squacco Heron and the nesting pair of Black-winged Stilts. We had been told that crakes had been seen here early morning, but nothing was on show, so off to the Inland Lake.

Now again we had heard reports of Baillon’s Crake being seen here intermittently, but again we drew a blank. We did find a male Little Crake this time and 10 Little Bitterns, together with a very obliging Great Reed Warbler. We stayed for about 45 minutes, but with 8.30am approaching we decided to return to Skala Kalloni for the same breakfast as Monday (and it tasted just as good). We were now heading into the Napi Valley after Steve Dudley gave us directions for the Olive-tree Warbler. Ads had been there the previous day and had fleeting views, for the rest of us we knew this could be a long wait.

We decided to drive there via the Lower East River and that decision was quickly vindicated, we accessed the river from the seaward end and immediately spotted a few feeding terns, amongst which was a Gull-billed Tern. We drove along the bank slowly until we reached the ford, where we again stopped. There was a pair of Little Ringed Plover and a Wood Sandpiper feeding in the shallow river and the Little Owl was again sat on the opposite telegraph pole. We quickly found a Bee-eater flying overhead and then a Marsh Warbler singing in the bottom of a flowering bush. We drove slowly along the bank towards the main road, finding a Masked Shrike in the small orchard.

Now we set off through the villages to reach the upper Napi Valley and an olive grove almost beneath the radio mast, parking in a convenient pull-off about 100 yards beyond the site. As we drove past we saw three birders already looking down into the trees. We strolled down the road from the cars (it was already hot and it was about 9.45am) and to our horror realised that the three individuals who were stood by the crash barrier were the remnants of a French group of birders, the remainder were in the olive groves! Now the stupidity of this is hard to explain, especially as my French did not contain sufficient expletives to detail my thoughts. The remainder of the group wandered around, clearly looking for the warbler, for the next 30 minutes whilst all we heard were a couple of short bursts of song. What was even more galling, i had let the leader of these idiots look in my telescope the previous Monday to see a Little Crake!

Well, whilst we had no chance of finding the warbler we made good use of our time locating Woodchat Shrike, Sombre Tit and a pair of Long-legged Buzzards meanwhile Paul verified his status as our Hoopoe man by locating another distant bird, if only that was his speciality at home imagine how popular he would be (in the UK it is Stock Doves, as he demonstrated at the weekend whilst watching the Black-winged Pratincole!). Once the French had decided to leave the olive grove, miracle of miracles, the bird started to sing. Now for those of you who have never searched for this large warbler, despite its size, it is one hell of an elusive bird. It was calling almost continuously, but from different locations and it was moving without being seen. However, we had been told that with patience this bird would show itself at the top of the oak trees which ran along the back of the field. After 75 minutes of waiting, and many people have to wait a lot longer, the bird appeared on top of the oak trees on the left of the field. It became quite showy now and over the next thirty minutes it appeared fairly regularly on and off, on one occasion however it showed whilst calling from a different location. As we had suspected earlier there were clearly two Olive-tree Warblers in the field. That was my fifth lifer of the trip and there was still one more to come later in the day.

We now headed back out of the valley and returned to the Kalloni Salt Pans, as we descended from the valley we realised that this visit was going to be a little different since the Greek Army were practising their parachuting into the marsh. Now my initial trepidation as to bird disturbance was outweighed by the entertainment value. We watched as two soldiers nearly came to blows after colliding just above the ground and then, they were jumping in groups of 7 or 8, i looked up to see three small packages falling during one jump. Closer inspection demonstrated that these small packages were actually three of the soldiers’ helmets which clearly were not securely attached to their heads when they jumped!

New birds were naturally becoming more difficult to locate, but Ads located 2 Mediterranean Gulls as they flew distantly over the pans and a White Stork flew along the entrance drive. I really was surprised at the paucity of sightings of this spectacular bird, we certainly saw more Black Storks every day, and again there were five here today around the pools. Confession time here, as we approached the sheep field a sandy coloured bird flew onto the path, near to where we had seen the Tawny Pipit on Sunday – yes i made the mistake, opened mouth before checking everything – it was actually a Short-toed Lark and Paul’s run to get there was a waste of time. Well at least it was better than the call 5 minutes later when somebody identified a Black Stork as a Marsh Harrier.

Wader numbers were definitely up on the pool here, if not the diversity, there were in excess of 80 Little Stints, but not a single Temminck’s amongst them, Ads had managed to see one the previous evening on the Lower East River. There was also 14 Kentish Plover here and what was that sat at the back of the pool, time to redeem myself, a pair of Collared Pratincole clearly identifiable despite the awful heat haze as it was now just after midday and as mentioned earlier it was very warm. When the birds were flushed ten minutes later it transpired there were actually three birds there, the other bird must have been hidden somewhere. Our attention was now drawn to a distant Cormorant (my 140th bird of the trip and i must say more than i expected to see) and a selection of different races of Yellow Wagtail (mainly blue-headed on this occasion) which were flitting around the grass and small pools. Then another addition to the trip list appeared, flying and calling along the beach, a pair of Stone Curlew that presumably somebody had disturbed on the beach.

The time was now 1pm and with the whole afternoon still before us we decided to drive up to the bandstand and spend some time raptor watching, we did stop at the mini soccer pitch, but the actions of the photographers had definitely done their damage, there was no sign of the Scops Owl. Oh and before my friends accuse me of ignoring my own stupidity, on the way up the mountain to the bandstand, whilst trying to get a view of a distant raptor, I stuck my head out of the window and then realised that baseball caps don’t stay on in those circumstances! A brief halt whilst I ran back to retrieve the said headwear and allegedly provided a good impersonation of Forest Gump (i am still talking to the other car occupants, but I am definitely waiting for my chance to retaliate).

We arrived at the Bandstand at 1.30pm to discover that nobody else was there, not really that surprising since Thursday is the major changeover day in Lesvos. This is one of the best spots on the island to raptor watch and you have an excellent field of view, a little patience will nearly always produce something of interest. The three hours we spent there that afternoon (sheltering from the heat under the bandstand on occasions) produced the following raptors; 2 Peregrine Falcons, 6 Short-toed Eagles, 6 Eleonora’s Falcons, Common Buzzard, 3 Long-legged Buzzards, a female Goshawk, a female Sparrowhawk and the bird that appeared at 2.20pm from the North East of the Island.

It was Paul that found the bird as it appeared over the hills, on its own and fairly high up so with nothing else to compare size. However, amid a lot of language which will not make its way into this report, it was immediately evident that it was huge and clearly one of the Aquilla Eagles, the problem was which one? As the bird came closer more and more detail became apparent as everybody got the bird in their telescope and started to shout out identification details, the initial (incorrect) prognosis was Lesser Spotted Eagle (possibly because we all knew it was the most common). Here it must be said that the importance of writing down what you see and better still having a reference book with you, despite any level of experience you may have, is paramount. Sam had his “Collins” with him and over about 5 minutes it became apparent that the bird was a sub-adult Imperial Eagle. An immediate text was sent to Steve Dudley, who advised me in his response that he had seen a sub-adult of this species fly in off the sea on the north coast of the island the previous week, i must say that made us feel a whole lot better and seemed to validate our identification.

Incredibly fifty minutes later at 3.10pm, amid another torrent of invective, Sam found the same bird approaching us again slightly lower from the North East of the island again. On this occasion the bird was flying with a Short-toed Eagle above it and a Long-legged Buzzard below allowing us to get a great comparison of size. The Imperial Eagle truly was huge and this time it drifted directly over our heads, despite the fact it came from the same direction, this was definitely the same bird as we had seen 50 minutes earlier (or there were 2 sub-adults on the island). Steve Dudley then arrived, having seen his last tour party off the island that morning, and we spent a happy half hour exchanging stories and discussing the benefits of the excellent Island of Lesvos.

When it became apparent that we were heading back north he enquired if we would be visiting Kavaki, which was actually our next destination. He had received reports the previous evening of a possible Pied Wheatear on the headland that could be reached from the second lay-by and enquired if we would mind checking this to ascertain if the bird was still present. Sam dropped Alan and Yvette at the apartments as they were now tired and we all met up at the lay-by at 5pm. I have already mentioned the heat and Sam came up trumps when climbing out of his car he held 4 cold bottles of drink obtained from a small shop in Petra en route.

We made our way carefully out to the headland, being extremely careful not to disturb any breeding birds and consequently walking a very circuitous route to reach the location where the wheatear had been seen. We saw a male Red-backed Shrike on the way out there, then amongst a clattering of wings a pair of Chukar exploded from the undergrowth. For Ads and Paul this was another lifer and a bird that had looked like eluding us all week. It was certainly ironic that we found this pair purely whilst checking out a report of a different bird. What about the Wheatear i hear you ask? Well we could not find it, we did find a female Black-eared Wheatear with an all dark (brown) back, but i have no idea whether this was the bird that had been reported from there the previous day. Whilst searching for a Masked Shrike seen flying into a bush on the way back to the car, Paul stumbled across a Lesser Whitethroat.

We again visited the Petra Reservoir, with nothing seen that we had not already seen there earlier in the week (5 Alpine Swift and a single Pallid Swift were there) and then returned to the first lay-by at Kavaki where a Lesser Kestrel cruised along the cliff edge. The final day total was 96 species which we considered to be quite good considering the time spent waiting for the French to leave the olive grove and the bandstand vigil.

So just one whole day left on this beautiful island
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Old Monday 25th May 2009, 16:24   #20
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Okay time to post a few pictures, the restaurant picture comes from the recommended site in Vafios, Paul being the person missing cos he was behind the lens!
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Old Tuesday 26th May 2009, 20:08   #21
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So here is the penultimate report, i will also include a full species list with locations where relevant after i have written about the final day.

May 8th

So dawned the final full day on the island and in truth it was a little bit like after the Lord Mayor’s show.

Sam had decided to stay local andf then spend the day with his wife Sandra, Paul and I wanted to be back with our wives by mid morning, Alan and Yvette decided they would also come back with us at that time, whilst Ads and his partner Sue would spend the day on the west coast (apparently not seeing very much). With the limited time allowed we decided on one final visit to Ipsilou, not a good decision as it turns out since the was very little activity early in the morning, although we did see 3 female Golden Orioles, together with the same array of species that we had seen there on previous visits, plus a few Sombre Tits. Sadly we did find a freshly killed Cuckoo at the base of the hill, it had clearly been hit by a car in the very early morning. I may post a picture here if it is desired, but i found it upsetting so will defer to everyone’s opinion. We then headed back towards Petra, deciding to stop at the entrance to the “Grand Canyon” where we had previously parked on the Monday morning.

We were reliably informed that there was a Rock Sparrow nest here on the cliff opposite the road and that it was in a disused Western Rock Nuthatch nest. This half hour spent here was probably the most productive birding of the whole day. We had Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Eleonora’s Falcon overhead, then also appearing high in the sky were a pair of Booted Eagles. We also managed to solve the mystery of Monday’s bird that flew with the very deep wingbeat, in truth i think we all suspected the culprit but we needed confirmation. We found the nest and sure enough within ten minutes an adult Rock Sparrow appeared just beneath, before squeezing into the small hole. When it emerged it flew off in the exact direction of our mystery bird from 4 days earlier with the identical flight. We also had a few Bee-eaters here perching on the telephone wires and a pair of Blue Rock Thrush.

Returning to Petra, Paul and I now went sightseeing with our wives in the village, climbing the 114 steps to the church which had a fantastic view over the village and the surrounding countryside, then we pottered around the village looking at the small shops together with an amazing number of schoolchildren, for some reason there were nine full coach loads of them.

It was now midday so the four of us decided to head for Molivos for lunch, where we pulled a master stroke. It became evident that George and Nancy would prefer to wander around the village without two puppy dogs (us) following them wherever they went. Therefore, it was agreed at 1.15pm that we would meet them in the car park at 4pm, thereby giving us sufficient time to drive across the island and obtain an unexpected final viewing of the Kalloni Saltpans. Amazingly as we walked back to the car, the nine coach loads of children arrived in the village, definitely time to hightail it south.

We mainly saw the same birds that had been there all week, but it seems worthwhile to give them a final name check; Greater Flamingo (appx 300), Black Stork (4), Glossy Ibis (3), Squacco Heron (8), Little Stint (50), Short-toed Lark (2) and Red-throated Pipit (3). Our only new bird for the holiday was a White Wagtail that Paul located at the back of the pool in the Sheep Field and there were also a pair of Gull-billed Terns on the pool opposite the salt works, together with the apparently resident Whiskered Tern.

It was unplanned and therefore a real bonus to spend a final 2 hours on the salt pans, we did visit the Petra Reservoir in the evening (more accurately Paul, myself and Sam did) without seeing anything out of the ordinary. However, Sam’s morning had been eventful as he had also visited the Reservoir in the early morning, missing a Great Spotted Cuckoo feeding on the ground by a mere 5 minutes (he spent an hour hoping it would return to no avail). For this Paul received the entire blame, the previous evening he had wondered out loud whether any Shearwaters were visible from Molivos, Sam decided to check this out at first light (without any success) thereby missing the Cuckoo!

However, Sam did find a Middle Spotted Woodpecker nest just outside Petra, we visited the site after visiting the Reservoir, however since eight of us were going to the restaurant at Vafios again that night we only had 10 minutes to spare and the birds did not show in that time. For those interested, opposite the school building on the main road is a junction where two roads head inland, the more northerly of the two is the road you require. This is actually the road that leads to the Petra reservoir on the back roads, approximately a third of a mile along this road on the right hand side is a small scrapyard. Park here and view the obvious holes in the row of trees on the opposite side of the road (the birds were seen here on Saturday morning).

Back to the apartments to get changed and off to the hills for our final meal, which was again excellent. Whilst sat outside we again saw the Little Owl and heard a nearby Scops Owl calling. The coach was due to collect us at 9.30 am the next morning, so just enough time for a final visit to the haunts that had served us so well during this fantastic week. For me the holiday list now stood at 147 and it would increase further before we left the island.
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Old Tuesday 26th May 2009, 21:34   #22
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May 9th

So, all that remained for us, was a final visit to Kavaki and the Reservoir. I think we were all secretly hoping that yesterday’s Cuckoo would put in an appearance, so we decided to drive up the road to the Reservoir and start our final walk from there. Well it would be a great finale if we could find it and after fifteen minutes a bird flew into a lone tree beside the Reservoir and it certainly looked right, three of us dived for our telescopes – common cuckoo. Sam and I decided to stay in the area, the others decided to go to Kavaki, we later discovered that they then went to Petra and watched the Middle Spotted Woodpeckers at the site Sam had found the previous day.

After a further fruitless thirty minutes of searching, we did find both Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrike, we drove down to Kavaki and had our best views of the whole week of a male Ruppell’s Warbler perched on a bush within a few yards of the wall, quickly followed by a superb Icterine Warbler sunning itself in another bush, on that excellent final note we returned to the hotel for breakfast and the coach to the airport.

As we pulled away from the village at 9.30am circa 30 Alpine Swift were flying around an offshore island, then driving through Kalloni the tour representative showed us the White Stork, with an adult clearly visible sat on the nest (we had not seen this nest all week – fine birders we are!). Approaching Sam and I saw a Zitting Cisticola as it flew away from the road with its distinctive flight pattern. Ads, Paul and I went in search of the bird after we had checked in at the airport to no avail, however offshore we saw a number of Cory’s Shearwaters and the final addition to the trip list, with in excess of 200 Yelkouan Shearwaters. Naturally we each ended with different totals, for me 149 (including 5 heard only) and a full chronological list follows in the next post. We flew from the Island at just after 2pm local time, will we be back? DEFINITELY
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Old Tuesday 26th May 2009, 21:45   #23
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Thanks for writing this up for us, I enjoyed revisiting Lesbos vicariously through your report.
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Old Wednesday 27th May 2009, 07:25   #24
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Thanks for an excellent report, has been great reading it and bringing back memories of my trip there some years ago.

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Old Wednesday 27th May 2009, 14:57   #25
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Phil and Andrew,

You are most welcome, it is nice when somebody acknowledges the effort and responds - makes it worthwhile all the hours typing it - just the species list to go!

Ian
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