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Old Tuesday 22nd May 2012, 00:52   #1
Kev23
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Lesvos 28th April - 5th May 2012.. an amateur's photographic trip

Plenty of trip reports on Lesvos but I thought i'd do one in a slightly different vein. The main aim of my holiday was attempting to take some pleasing images of whatever bird I happened upon... so not much time spent staring through my scope, skywatching or bush-beating in search of LBJs! I travelled alone as I wouldn't wish to subject my 6am-8pm with no break days upon anyone

Before going on any trip, I do my research with an emphasis on what species I may be able to get images of, so I look for reports which have photos accompanying them. With many reports, I'll read that "good views were to be had" but am left wondering whether these are scope views or photographic views! Obviously, many photographers don't like to divulge info.. I'm not exactly a photographer so am happy to write this little report in the hope that someone might enjoy it, or find it useful even! This was my second trip following last year's one taken a week earlier; I wanted to see if I could encounter different species by choosing this later date. And it was certainly warmer! Ok, here goes...

DAY 1. Potamia Valley

An early Thomas Cook flight from Gatwick got me into Mytillini, Lesvos, around 2pm. All good. Birds seen during the transfer to the Aegeon Hotel, Skala Kalonis, were a Squacco heron flying south along the coast as we left the airport, Black-winged stilt, a Long-legged buzzard and a Little owl perched on a roadside fence.

10mins off the coach and I'd checked in (Very efficient hoteliers!), had my complimentary watered down juice/squash, and had started my first wander on this European birding heaven...

With no car till the morning, and wanting some peace and quiet, I walked from the hotel which is conveniently placed overlooking the Cristou River in the direction of the Potamia Valley. The estuary, farmland, reservoir, fig groves and river valley itself produced the following new birds for this trip:

House sparrow
Yellow legged gull
House martin
Little egret
Barn swallow
Little ringed plover
Wood sandpiper
Crested lark
Whinchat
Goldfinch
Greenfinch
Chaffinch
Black-eared wheatear
Woodchat shrike
Nightingale
Cirl bunting
Sparrowhawk
Black-headed bunting
Corn bunting
Blackbird
Blue tit
Great tit
Hooded crow
Collared dove
Jay
Olivaceous warbler
Ruddy shelduck
Pied flycatcher
Cetti's warbler
Yellow wagtail (Black headed)

Photographic opportunities were limited as I wanted to stretch my legs and go for a long walk rather than sit still quietly but happy to get a few ok shots of a woodchat shrike and a Balkan green lizard, my first sighting of this impressive beast! And more than anything, great to hear bird song, feel the sun, and not see another person for 4 hours

Back to the hotel after dark, straight to bed as on a diet so elected not to eat other than at breakfast (Another reason for travelling alone!) Nice big room, btw!

More tomorrow...

Photos:

1. Little ringed plover
2. Woodchat shrike
3. Black-eared wheatear
4. Balkan green lizard
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 01:57   #2
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Day 2. Tsknias river.
Up at 5.45am, out at 6am, a walk to the Tsknias (East) river ford. Just fantastic to be out early, listening to nightingales, cetti's and olivaceous warblers, crested larks and corn buntings welcoming in the day. New birds encountered this morn were:

Black stork
Common tern
Sandwich tern
Moorhen
Common swift
Common sandpiper
Oystercatcher
Cormorant


Photographic moments were a very confiding black-headed bunting who was more interested in establishing his territory than paying attention to me, plus an olivaceous warbler.. who was basically doing the same! I'd not photographed either species before so it was an extremely pleasing start to the day.

Now very hot in jeans and sleeveless fleece, a brisk walk back in time for brekkie and a meet with the renta-car guy...

Economy rentacar were right on time (9am) and by 9.30 I was off in my bright red (I wasn't expecting camo colours, don't worry!) Daihatsu (The cheapest option available but did the job). First stop:

Salt Pans and Alykes wetlands.
A brief visit more to see what water levels were like etc. Hardly a bird on the moat around the pans (Which were full of a variety of species last year), the seasonal pools were where the action was taking place.
New birds for the trip:

White-winged black tern
Grey heron
Ruff (A couple of hundred)
Gargany
Avocet
Glossy Ibis


I didn't stay long here as would return a few times later in the week. Off to try some new sites..

Kremasti track.
Drove north to the Napi valley and took the westery track via The Kremasti Bridge that took me through farmland and fig groves. At 7 kms long, the only walking I did was around the old stone bridge itself but by driving slowly along the relatively deserted track I managed some good sightings, most especially a Hoopoe (A photographic target that would have to wait) and a masked shrike, another species I'd never managed an image of before, in fact only briefly seeing one last year). Light by now was that not especially helpful midday overhead sun but happy to view the shrike so close even if the photos weren't the best. The only other new birds were:

Raven
Turtle dove


The track finishes on the road to Petra; a short while after this and I was at my next destination..

Kavaki.
The most famous site for Ruppell's warbler, a bird I'd only gotten a record shot of last year. This year there were quite a few pairs around, one male deciding to make his territory right by the lay-by used by birders when visiting this site. Didn't even need to get out of the car, result! I think every photographer visiting lesvos this year has this singing male on the same twig! A little wander around added the following to my species list but no photos as distant views:

Linnet
Subalpine warbler
Blue rock thrush
(Lifer!)

I returned along the same route after stocking up on water in Petra (it was quite hot at this stage) but didn't see anything new. Last destination of the day was further up The Napi valley. Stopped on route as I noticed a couple of birds on a road side fence..

Crzetchmar's bunting
Red backed-shrike
(Male, lovely bird!)

They didn't like my camera so I continued up to the

Plantania track.
A mix of open farmland, a bit rocky in places, a bit wooded.. nice! Apparently a good place for Hoopoe. Yes. A very good place! Saw one in the road in front of me. A quick record shot, let's see how close I could drive up to it. Well, it didn't move. I got withing a few meters, any closer and it was obscured by my wing mirror. Magic! Common to some, I know, but one of my main targets so really pleased to get so near to one. I continued slowly along this rather "rough" track, seeing a few new birds along the way:

Common buzzard
Woodlark
Sombre tit
Spotted flycatcher
Feral pigeon(!)


as well as more red-backed and woodchat shrikes plus black-eared wheatears. Couldn't locate any olive tree warblers despite this being the best site for them but as I'm not familiar with their call I won't say there weren't any there! As with most of the other sites today, had the place to myself, lovely! Encountered the hoopoe on the way back, stayed until dusk, half hour drive back to the hotel then in bed by 10. Amazing how easy it is to go to sleep early when you can't wait to get up!

Fav photos of the day:

1. Black headed bunting
2. Olivaceous warbler
3. Masked shrike
4. Ruppell's warbler
5. Hoopoe
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Last edited by Kev23 : Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 02:00. Reason: added more text
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 06:22   #3
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Very nice thread with some great pics: keep them coming!

Quote:
With many reports, I'll read that "good views were to be had" but am left wondering whether these are scope views or photographic views! Obviously, many photographers don't like to divulge info.. I'm not exactly a photographer so am happy to write this little report in the hope that someone might enjoy it, or find it useful even! This was my second trip following last year's one taken a week earlier; I wanted to see if I could encounter different species by choosing this later date.
Your point about other photographers on Lesvos is generally quite true I feel.
Anyway, perhaps I bumped into you last year, when I was doing what you were doing this time around - I was also a solo birder, and one of the few I saw with Nikon kit. Hopefully you found some of my report useful if you found it.
Also, please feel free to add to the 'Lesvos bird watchers' flickr stream.
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 07:56   #4
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Lesvos

Hi Kevin
Looks like you had a great time, love the photos.
Hoopoe's been a bogey bird for me, photographically speaking at Lesvos.
The great thing about the island is the compact nature of the known birding sites and the gregarious nature of most species.
Of course Steve Dudley's book is
an excellent guide which helps reduce the spade work.
I have to say that there's more to Lesvos for me than birds; the people, the food
and the scenery are just great.
Thanks for sharing.
Mick


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev23 View Post
Plenty of trip reports on Lesvos but I thought i'd do one in a slightly different vein. The main aim of my holiday was attempting to take some pleasing images of whatever bird I happened upon... so not much time spent staring through my scope, skywatching or bush-beating in search of LBJs! I travelled alone as I wouldn't wish to subject my 6am-8pm with no break days upon anyone
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 13:26   #5
Kev23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CactusD View Post
Very nice thread with some great pics: keep them coming!



Your point about other photographers on Lesvos is generally quite true I feel.
Anyway, perhaps I bumped into you last year, when I was doing what you were doing this time around - I was also a solo birder, and one of the few I saw with Nikon kit. Hopefully you found some of my report useful if you found it.
Also, please feel free to add to the 'Lesvos bird watchers' flickr stream.
Hi Dave,
thanks for reading, I'll be totally honest, I was going to write a report last year but then I read yours and though "I can't compete with that!!" lovely photos, really vibrant! So not only was your report useful, you could say got inspiration from it to actually do one this year

I actually travelled with my Mum last year but she couldn't make it this time round, leaving me to do some hardcore solo photography!
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 13:32   #6
Kev23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mick Sway View Post
Hi Kevin
Looks like you had a great time, love the photos.
Hoopoe's been a bogey bird for me, photographically speaking at Lesvos.
The great thing about the island is the compact nature of the known birding sites and the gregarious nature of most species.
Of course Steve Dudley's book is
an excellent guide which helps reduce the spade work.
Looks like you had a great time, love the photos.
I have to say that there's more to Lesvos for me than birds; the people, the food
and the scenery are just great.
Thanks for sharing.
Mick
Cheers Mick,
Yep, without Steve's invaluable book, I certainly wouldn't have found the Plantania track, let alone the hoopoe! (speaking to Steve himself the night before encouraged me to check out the site for this species in particular). Totally agree with you in respects to the fact it's not just the birds.. I have almost as many landscape photos as the scenery is gorgeous too, and the whole undeveloped sanctitude of the island is something that I'm sure will bring me back countless times..

I'll continue the report tonight!

Cheers,
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 13:52   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev23 View Post
Cheers Mick,
Yep, without Steve's invaluable book, I certainly wouldn't have found the Plantania track, let alone the hoopoe! (speaking to Steve himself the night before encouraged me to check out the site for this species in particular). Totally agree with you in respects to the fact it's not just the birds.. I have almost as many landscape photos as the scenery is gorgeous too, and the whole undeveloped sanctitude of the island is something that I'm sure will bring me back countless times..

I'll continue the report tonight!

Cheers,
I'm glad my Platania tip for Hoopoe paid off Kev - I still think this track rates as one of the most reliable places to see Hoopoe I know.

Really enjoying your report and great photos, and completely agree with Mick that Lesvos is just wonderful for birds, wildlife, food and people - but then I'm a wee bit biased ;-)

The usual suspects posting replies too. Aye up Dave, I'll be posting a wee something on the 2011 thread shortly for you in particular
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 14:21   #8
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Thanks, Kev, and Steve!

Re. hoopoes, I didn't get to see that many at all last year - think I had one skulking in a fig grove at Faneromeni - but then I didn't find time to visit Platania. Maybe next time!

If any birders find themselves stuck in the centre of Athens for any reason, I can strongly recommend having a look around the archaeological sites and parks that surround the Acropolis. Plenty of Hoopoes to be found in there! Alpine Swifts are easy too. But that's perhaps for another thread sometime...
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 23:18   #9
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Cheers guys, really nice to know folk are actually reading this! Understandably biased Steve!! More Plantania stuff to come later on. Ok, on with the report....!
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Old Thursday 24th May 2012, 02:14   #10
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Day 3. Metochi (Inland Lake)
Arose at the usual time.. a peep out of the door across the fields revealed a lightening, cloudless sky.. not the best in respects to any large falls of migrants, but great for photography! The blues skies and bright sunshine to follow being in complete contrast to a majority of the conditions I endure back in The UK. Another reason to love Lesvos.

To the Inland lake this morn, a 10min drive away in The Potamia Valley direction. This visit was more to catch up with some species because as expected there were quite a few bus loads of folk lining every available viewing spot.. if a great reed warbler had popped up within focal range, there would probably been a random elbow or tripod leg in the frame as well! So after failing to capture any kind of shot of a Little crake and only managing some distant shots of a Great reed warbler, I decided to spend the rest of my pre-breakfast jaunt walking "around" the lake. I'd enjoyed this walk last year as most birders stay by the water or drive around giving me that peace and quiet I enjoy. The habitat goes from the reed fringed lake, through some fig groves and out into a rocky area where last year a Rock nuthatch nest site could be found. The nest was still here, but a 15min wait (at a suitable distance) didn't provide me with any views. I did here one calling, but other than a black-eared wheater and the usual Cetti's, Crested larks and jangling Corn buntings, it was pretty quiet. An hour later and the lake was now deserted with most folk I imagine enjoying their breakfasts. I managed to add the following new species before going back at 9am to fill up myself..

Little grebe
Little bittern
Reed warbler


A quick look north up the Christou river produced

Great white egret
Kentish Plover.


After food, some more new sites..

Aghios Ioannis

So, heading south/east, my first stop was this little gulley with a chapel up the hillside from the road. I won't lie, the book told me to go here! There were two other couples there enjoying a boisterous chat by their cars so my idea to sit quietly by the chapel hoping to catch some showy migrants never happened! I did walk up there but only the expected breeding species (Cirl bunting, black-eared wheater, blue and great tits!) were seen or heard. Back at the car, new species:
Red rumped swallow
Pleased that I managed to pick it up due to it's different flight in comparison to "our" swallows.

Makara

Figured not many birders would be heading down here; was right, only saw two other cars all day! Open country leading eventually down to a stony beach. nothing new on route although a friendly Cretzschmar's bunting gave me something to point the camera at (Midday sun again!) and a long legged buzzard looked great soaring along a ridge adjacent to the road. From the beach, Jackdaws were seen flying to and from their off-shore colony, a few yellow wagtails were enjoying a bath at the river mouth and a black- headed bunting and a male red-backed shrike were both sharing the same tree. A glance skywards revealed a new species: Alpine swift. 2 of them, although an elderly Dutch couple I bumped into said there were 5 earlier. Only seen them in the Alps before, good to watch them doing what I imagine swifts always do.. flying around with open beaks hoovering up all manner of bugs! Mr Dudley's book details how this spot is good for hirundines and swifts. Correct! Record shots. You're not seeing them. A few more new species for the trip list followed:

Mediterranean gull
Shag
Sedge warbler

Photos were taken of starred agama lizards, striped necked terrapins and a few bugs (My 150-500mm lens not ideal for any of these subjects really, but avian subjects few and far between).

Bit of a drive back and further west then Sidera

A drive through the town of Agra (Wondered what it's like living perched on this hillside, what do the inabitants do for work? Is there a school, and if so is it one class with all ages together? Is "Are you being served" shown on the TV?? Hmmm...) then parked by the 2 towers which welcome you back into the wilderness in order to go on a bit of a clamber up the hillside. Main target here was that lemon-headed Lesvos speciality, Cinereous bunting. Heard one, saw one, tried to creep up on one. Bit of a fail really as the photo at the end of this part of my report shows! But once I'd made the effort to climb up so high, I felt it rude not to sit for a while and enjoy the views... and the birds. There were a few Cinereous buntings on territory, Cretzschmar's "singing" too. A Rock Nuthatch was seen too, and another blue rock thrush, better views today, in flight and perched. Too far away, seemed like one of those days! Black-eared wheatears were chasing each other around too, but always just too far to make it worth pointing my Nikon D90 at. Down in the valley, the hoo-hoo-hoo of a hoopoe was resonating around the entire area.. magical! Now, clambering up wasn't too bad, but getting down again???

Last stop, Chrousos.

A very lush (Water sprinklers doing their stuff all over the place!) coastal strip at the end of a long, sometimes a bit too rocky, track with quite a few farms on route. More shrikes were seen along here, a few spotted and pied flycatchers were evidence of migration although it is noted that this site is better in the autumn, and down at the beach itself a pre-roost gathering of 50 or so Spanish sparrows gave me a new tick for this trip. I would have a photo for you but as the ONLY people on the entire beach were 3 girls in bikinis laying by the trees the sparrows were using, I thought I'd keep the lens cap on
On the return drive I watched a little ringed plover flying manically round and round in circles calling by the river ford and then clocked a new, somewhat surprising species: Isabelline wheatear. There were two definite pairs here, one even feeding it's mate and grooming it. (I'd like to imagine it was the female making a fuss over her man, but I'm probably wrong!) I'm guessing they would've eventually moved on to more traditional breeding areas but nice to see them here. Last bird of the day was a female Golden Oriole flying from the deep cover of an oak tree to.... the deep cover of another oak tree But a new bird nonetheless (my only other views ever were even worse at RSPB Lakenheath!) and a lgood end to the day. A drive back in the dark, edited photos on camera, ZZZzzz......

Not the best for photography today, but when you birdwatch and take photos, your day will always provide something. Oh, and the slimmer of the 3 girls, the one in the blue bikini? (Sorry, you weren't there were you?!).... Lovely

1. Cretzschmar's bunting (male)
2. Starred agama lizard
3. Cinereous bunting
4. Isabelline wheatear
5. Cirl bunting (female)
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Last edited by Kev23 : Friday 25th May 2012 at 01:12. Reason: Spelt Cretzschmar's wrong... again!!
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Old Friday 25th May 2012, 01:11   #11
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Day 4. Alykes wetlands and salt pans area

Time to give this most popular of areas a bit more of a going over. On route via the Tsknias river ford, a pair of ciconia flying west low overhead turned out to be one black and one White stork. At the same time, a raptor perched on a wire turned out to be another new species, Peregrine falcon. Despite getting to the salt works just as the sun was coming up, plenty of photographers with more expensive equipment than me were already positioned at the east end of the seasonal pools, their tripods and F2.8/F4 lenses helping them get enough light and stability to have started firing away. I drove straight on past them, heading instead to the sheep fields across the river where I hoped to be alone. I was, other than a few new birds:

Sand martin
Short-toed lark
Bee-eater.


The later gets a thumbs up as it's one of my favourite species. Just gorgeous. There were a few of them flying up and down the fields, always announcing their arrival with their "quip, quip" calls. Got some distant flight shots but just looking at them through the bins in the glorious early sun was satisfying enough. Back at the "firing range" and many of our European friends had left so I was able to enjoy a short session getting some snaps of glossy ibis, gargany, great white egret and a new bird for my photographic collection, squacco heron. Then a few marsh terns arrived; managed to get a satisfying image of a Whiskered tern and better than before white-winged black terns shots... better but still not especially great. Without making excuses, my set-up seems to have decided on some species it doesn't like. Golden plover is one (Always look blurry!) and this stunning tern is another! Ok you're right, it's an excuse. Anyway, a couple more ticks were had before the return for breakfast:

Little stint
Greenshank

After food, I headed south east stopping off by the pool on the opposite side of the main road to the north west corner of the salt-pans. last year, many stilts, a few godwits, countless ruff and a lovely male citrine wagtail. This year? One pair of Black-winged stilts. But lots of swallows and house martins collecting mud in a puddle in front of where I parked the car. Sitting down shaded by my vehicle, I watched and photographed these common birds for a while. House martins, in particular, are a species I rarely encounter back in the UK but here I could get up close and personal to them as they went about their business. The day then went somewhat downhill in terms of bird productivity..

One disadvantage of keeping to one's self is that useful nuggets of info sometimes pass one by. Such as when it's a BANK HOLIDAY.

So, Achlideri forest was the intended destination but, upon arriving at this area, I began to see more and more families wandering around and more and more cars randomly parked up with BBQs and fires on the go.. Needless to say, I kept driving on!

Polichnitos saltpans
Didn't expect too much as this is an autumn site, but eager to escape the crowds I spent some time in this area. The fig groves just before the pans brought me a couple of new birds:

Lesser whitethroat
Middle spotted woodpecker

then at the pans.. well, a ruff, a wood sandpiper, and a pair of nesting black-winged stilts, the female on 3 eggs. and a few kentish plovers. They had decided to nest relatively close to the road so I enjoyed some good views as the male wandered around the nest "tidying up" by removing any little bits of vegetation he laid his eyes on whilst his partner prepared for motherhood. I'm sure she had told him to "do something useful"..
Took lots of photos, most fitting nicely into the "behaviour" catergory.

Then off to Vatera, or at least a few sites just west of the town.
Took AGES!! A fire caused the main road there to be closed so I had to back track and try to find an alternative route. 2 hrs, a male golden oriole, a few shrikes and a very bumpy track later, I was finally back on the mainroad. I have no idea which route I took, I think I may even have created a new one. The scenery would have been nice but there had obviously been a spate of fires last summer as charred trees and bushes prevailled. The idea to go to the vatera area was to try and photograph Sardinian warbler. Heard then saw one in flight, but the two stray dogs that followed me everywhere around the fairly reliable crossroads area probably ensured one wasn't going to pose for me. Grrrr!! Cutting losses, I headed back to Kalloni Salt-pans to see if anything had changed bird-wise. (The?) white stork was now wandering around and I managed to find singles of

Purple heron
Common shelduck
Spotted redshank.

Stayed till after sundown taking some "wetlandscapes". Treated myself to a bag of crisps for supper

A few more photos:

1. Squacco heron
2. Whiskered tern
3. House martin
4. Black-winged stilt
5. Sunset, seasonal pools
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Old Saturday 26th May 2012, 00:51   #12
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Day 5. Ipsilou monastery
Arose at day break, went to the seasonal pools opposite the salt works to watch and photograph the squacco herons again; there were quite a few just sitting still then occasionally snatching any insects that were within reach. At 7.30am, my own breakfast was served so back to the hotel and after watching a pair of swallows starting to build a nest INSIDE the breakfast room on a ledge above my table (I hope the doors stay open 24/7!) it was in the car heading west. I love this side of the island, much more barren, with lots of open rocky countryside. The monastry on top of the highest point around is surrounded by trees and can be fab for migrants. The clear blue skies again suggested there wouldn't be many around today and this proved to be the case but a lack of birders too meant I enjoyed a pleasant walk up to the top alone then down through the trees on the return; pied, spotted and a lovely male Collared flycatcher were all seen along with a subalpine warbler, a whitethroat, and a few wood warblers.
Local breeders were also seen, these being cinereous bunting, isabelline and black-eared wheatear, and cirl bunting. Woodlarks were singing all around (Didn't look for them, easy to photograph over my local common) and at the bottom of the valley, the wonderful sounds of golden oriole and hoopoe could be heard. Just before reaching the car, a Hobby flew past.
Onwards to the Petrified forest, the track leading down there perhaps providing some new birds? last year, a pool to the side of the track was full of birds all within photographic range; not so this year, just a pair of drinking Cretzschmar's buntings and the usual crested buntings/corn larks (Sic).. but then a Short-toed eagle was spotted in the distance (more on this species later) and a handsome Northern wheatear dropped in for a few minutes. I pressed on to the visitor center, last year I'd sighted my first Chukar here and it was pleasing to see he was here again, clucking away from ontop a rock just about within photographic range. Spotted flycatcher and black-headed bunting had found their way here too, and another (the same?) hobby was flying over the ridge opposite the park's entrance.

Next stop, Sigri Old Sanatorium
After getting confused by the new Sigri by-pass(!) I made my way along the coast to this site, which is a small vegetated gulley that leads up the valley from the sea. Alonfg the way, there were quite a few species to provide the photographer with yet more types of wire fencing for his gallery.. perched on it to add interest were a nice female red-backed shrike, a few spotted flycatchers, two female black-headed buntings (they arrive after the males) and a couple of woodchat shrikes. Upon reaching the gully it was obvious there were quite a few birds to be founds, although I suspected getting any decent photos would prove tricky as with limited cover, I wasn't going to be able to sneak up on anything. Still, not having birded this spot last year, and with no one else in sight, I was excited at what I might find either way. Many spotted flycatchers, a family (M, F and 2 juves) of Stonechats gave me another tick (breeding obviously starting earlier than in the UK) and a beautiful male golden oriole showed well in a distant tree after I flushed it from one I was standing below. Hmmph . A rock nuthatch, a male red-backed shrike and a woodchat shrike all showed out of camera range, then a greenfinch flew across the gully and perched on a rock. Now, not especially note worthy except, when trying to locate it with my bins (to id it) I suddenly came across a vision in turquiose perched on a rock behind.. Roller! Life bird, unexpected but very welcome! Attempted to get a bit closer to grab a shot (it was really distant) but just as I was making progress, a kestrel appeared and flushed it and it flew strongly away up the valley. Hope to get closer views some day and a better photo than the one I won't be posting below! A wood warbler was the final species to be seen; a very enjoyable 2 hours spent here.
On to the Meladia valley
A stop off at the chappel which can provide shelter for migrants revealed a few spotted flycatchers again, and 3 females with one male collared flycatchers. There was also an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler flitting in and out of the pines, another life bird for me. A few fuzzy shots, think next year I'll try the "Mast" site that Steve has mentioned is good for this species. Continued up the valley to the ford. Passed a few other birders on route but generally very quiet over here today.. maybe the lack of obvious migrant activity in general combined with the horrible price of fuel were the cause? A quick look around the ford itself produced Cetti's and a few wagtails, a look into the fig grove that had produed a few goodies the previous few days gave me more flycatchers (But no red-breasted ones!) and possibly my birding moment of the year, when from no more than 20meters in front of me, a magnificent Short-toed eagle suddenly rose from the ground and slowly tried to gain height from where it had been resting, initilly unseen by me. To my delight, in order to do this, it banked back towards me and flew so close over my head that my attempt to photograph it resulted in only half the bird fitting in the frame! It continued to circle me as whilst gradually rising higher and higher until, when it decided I wasn't a snake, it flew off up the valley. What a moment, just me and this fantastic bird. I stood there grinning for about 10mins and then, just as unexpectedly, the bird appeared overhead again, almost as close. I have no idea where it came from or how it snuck up on me (I said i don't skywatch, mind) but it gave me another once over before drifting off into the sun. Phew! Not wanting to leave it too late to get to the next destination, I jumped back in the car but then remembered one of the birders I'd passed earlier telling me about a little owl that "lives" on the shepherd's building near the ford. Feeling lucky, I drove up to the delapidated hut and bingo! there it was! Of course, it flew round the back just as i raised my lens and I couldn't relocated it.. some you lose I thought so turned around to drive back to the track, only to find myself completely block in by sheep! Many of the sheep in Lesvos seem to shepherd themselves and this flock had done that and were now all around my car and not moving. I was just about to get out of the vehicle to discuss with the sheep my desire to move on when I noticed a bird in some bushes to my right. A quick look through bins revealed another life bird.. Lesser grey shrike! A stunner it was too, sun not great to photograph it but got a few images all the same and was very pleased with the sheep for their part in all this. With this kind of luck, I figured I'd give the owl another go so I reversed and slowly edged up to the building, lens at the ready. It was back in it's spot and this time stayed there, giving me that grumpy look that only little owls can do. I got as close as was possible and got some more than satifactory portraits of it. it even started calling to it's mate that was located at another building some distance away.. love to know what it was saying, I'm guessing not exactly kind words about the invader with the big "eye" pointing at it. So off I went to leave the owls to it; got round the sheep ok and drove back to Sigri then onto the fertile coastal area of Faneronemi.
Quite late by now, 6ish, so not so much time to explore. The lower river ford had some hirundine action, the fields on route had some more flycatchers and buntings but the little pool on the way to the upper ford, which last year gave me kingfisher, little bittern and tree frog, this year had nada. At the upper ford, I could hear bee-eaters. I could see bee-eaters, there were 16 of them, they were flying around and perching on wires. But, the sun was directly behind them. Aargh! I wasn't going to be able to get between the sun and them without walking under the wires and, of course, my attempt to do so (My tactic of not looking at them failing miserably, like eye contact would be a deciding factor here!) resulted in them flying off up stream. A couple of wood sandpipers were foraging the river, many house martins and swallows were preparing to roost, and cetti's were "singing" from the phragmites. A shepherd then appeared with his flock, walking along the river towards me. After greeting him, I figured with absolutely no one around, it would be fine for me to ealk where he had just come from. In doing so, I managed to get much closer to the bee-eaters and got a few "record" shots but simply seeing and hearing them was a perfect end to a great day. Except it wasn't end, as, on the way back just below Ipsilou and in the total darkness by now, i drove around a bend to find a Nightjar sat in the middle of the road! It remained in my beams for a few seconds before deciding that a hairpin bend wasn't the wisest place to sit and silently flew away... Now, that really was a perfect ending...

Pick of the bunch that weren't the eagle:

1. Chukar
2. Female black-headed bunting
3. Female red-backed shrike
4. Lesser grey shrike
5. Little owl
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Old Saturday 26th May 2012, 01:15   #13
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And to endulge myself, 5 shots of that eagle... Hmmmmm.....
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Old Saturday 26th May 2012, 14:40   #14
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[quote=Kev23;2448872]Day 5. Ipsilou monastery
Except it wasn't end, as, on the way back just below Ipsilou and in the total darkness by now, i drove around a bend to find a Nightjar sat in the middle of the road! It remained in my beams for a few seconds before deciding that a hairpin bend wasn't the wisest place to sit and silently flew away... Now, that really was a perfect ending...

More great images Kev and a lovely story re the Nightjar.
Man you put a shift in!
Whilst in the same general area, we checked out a daytime nightjar roost that were shown two years ago. We didn't see a bird last year, but we managed to drop on it again this year. At Tina's suggestion we stopped to scan the area and I managed to find it again in the same old fig tree.
The nightjar was difficult to pick out as the area was much more overgrown and too far away for anything but a record shot.
However it was lovely to hear it churiring in the day time.
In the past we'd only seen them flying around the lanes at Faneromeni and
hawking near Anaxos and Petra.

Best
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Old Saturday 26th May 2012, 20:55   #15
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Excellent shots. Kevin stunning shots of the eagle.
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Old Sunday 27th May 2012, 22:28   #16
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Hey Mick! Ha, I think the biggest shift is doing this report, it's taking me ages! Well done for your nightjar, I've yet to see one roosting like this although I've flushed a few over my local heath..

Thanks Graham, i've seen the odd buzzard in Ashtead (There's often one sat in the "pony" field at the end of Barnet wood lane) but no eagles!!
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Old Monday 28th May 2012, 01:39   #17
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Day 6. Aylkes sheepfields
A spotted flycatcher by the salt pans pumping station after finding a dozen bee-eaters roosting in a tree on route was a nice start; I decided to explore the sheep fields/dunes area past the salt works in the hope of some Red- throated pipits or Short-toed larks. I found some (The larks are always there, pipits not but I had a hunch)! Pics of the lark are definitely in the record shot category but by using a bush that was between me and a group of 4 pipits to hide behind, and crawling along on my stomch, I was able to get into position and hope the birds made there way towards me.. which they pleasingly did, really close as well. A sheep wandering over caused them to fly, and also caused another new species to take flight from a nearby dune. Never having seen one in flight before, it was a "what the hell is that?" moment until, looking through my camera lens, I focused on a huge yellow eye staring at me as it circled around.. Stone Curlew. Lovely! A brief stop at the seasonal pools before returning to eat got me chatting to 2 photographers who kindly gave me directions to the (quite well known, just not to me!) middle spotted woodpecker nest site in Parakila.

It was bizzarely situated at a fairly (by Lesvos standards!) busy road junction.. maybe the birds figured more disturbance by traffic meant less disturbance by other beasties.. either way, trying to get a shot with cars and people by-passing regularly and the parent birds returning less regularly (than earlier in the day) wasn't easy, but I managed a few okish ones. Luckily there was a seat directly opposite so at least I had a comfortable wait! Next stop was another nest-hole stake out, at Achlederi.

No holidaying picnicers today, in fact after easily locating the publicised location, I had the place to myself. The Kruper's nuthatch young would've been close to fledging so I kept a suitable distance away from the tree and watched the pair (one a pretty scruffy individual.. being a parent seems tiring work?!) bring bugs quite regularly. Pretty low light plus I was fairly distant but good to get some images of this sought-after species that's on the far western extremes of it's range. Other species seen included a cuckoo and a masked shrike.

From there I drove north again to the Plantania track where this time I left the car at the beginning and walked for a few miles. Photo-wise I managed a slightly better image of a sombre tit, found a pair of Black-eared wheatears that posed for a bit and finally snapped a fearless woodlark that had virtually no circle of fear at all, and had the decency to pose on a branch (rather than barbed wire!) for once. An hour and a bit till dusk so a short drive back through Napi and a walk down, well, the Napi valley track.
The star bird was an Eastern Orphean warbler singing from an oak across a field at the start of the track. Nightingales, lessers whitethroats and a male pied flycatcher all did well in avoiding my lens.

After dark when returning to Kalloni so a final stop at the Scop's owl site just north of the town by a mini soccer pitch.. and chappel, as is often the case. I'd managed to photograph this fantastic little species last year so didn't want to play "find the owl" this time round, staring up into eucalyptus trees not being my fav pastime. As I'd hoped, the owls were calling and flying around, 3 of them that I could make out, their silhouettes making them seem even smaller than they actually are. Back through town where I treated myself to one of those apple strudles in a wrapper.. that don't really have any apple in them.. and bedtime. Here are a few more photos....

1. Red-throated pipit
2. Stone curlew
3. Middle spotted woodpecker
4. Kruper's nuthatch
5.Woodlark
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Old Tuesday 29th May 2012, 14:02   #18
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Kev
How did you go on with hand baggage containing camera gear, I see the Thomas Cook limit is 5kg. Looking at doing a similar trip next year.

Cheers

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Old Tuesday 29th May 2012, 22:12   #19
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Kev
How did you go on with hand baggage containing camera gear, I see the Thomas Cook limit is 5kg. Looking at doing a similar trip next year.

Cheers

Phil
Hi Phil,
Overall, a good experience travelling with Thomas Cook including the flights (I fell asleep during breakfast but they saved it for me rather than wake me up!) and transfers. As for the hand luggage, I have a Lowepro bag which is the right size for my Nikon D90 and Sigma 150-500mm lens with space for the standard kit lens too. Steve Dudley's book, my passport and a few pens and a tiny notepad plus print-outs for rentacar etc were also in the bag; couldn't tell you how much it weighed but I always take this wherever I travel, never had an issue so guess it's always under the limit. Don't think the girl weighed it, usually when asked to show hand luggage I lift it up with 2 fingers to make it look light My actual luggage was a few kilos under so worse come to the worse, I could've wrapped the lens in a towel and put that in the suitcase.. but never a concern with my set-up.
cheers,
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2012, 00:40   #20
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Day 7. Parakila
Last full day, flirted with the idea of driving back to the west of the island again but with the fuel as expensive as it is (1.85 Euros!) I decided to stay local. A pre breakfast trip to the middle-spotted woodpecker site to see if the birds were more active early on produced a few better images as both birds were seen doing their parental best by supplying their young with plenty of bugs.. back at 8am, out again shortly after and a quick drive up to Kavaki in order to try and get better Ruppell's shots as the sun would be in a more favourable position earlier on. At the lay-by there were a few other birders/togs milling around so I figured the "twig" would not be favoured and took the good decision to walk up the hill to the main parking area. There, I located a singing male quite soon and got great views of it as it belted out it's song from the top of a bush I was standing right by. Love this species. Over the road and up the track I found my next photographic target, a subalpine warbler. He was singing his heart out too and I got my shots by hiding by a bush and waiting for him to return to his singing post after the odd sortee around his territory. A Turtle dove was finally seen after me only hearing them all week! Also another newbie, a brief Crag martin and blue rock thrush and a couple of ruddy shelduck flying along the coast were also noted.
Back down to the Tsknias river around midday. No real targets here, I saw a few bee-eaters but couldn't get close to them, I planned to spend some time by the ford to see what would materialise but some other photographers had the same idea so I wandered north along the east side of the river, parked up in the shade, and found a way down to the river where I could sit hidden in the long grass in wait for anything other than house sparrows (They were everywhere!) to come in camera range. 2 wood sandpipers were noticed around 50yards away, making their way towards me. The water here was clear due to the rocky bottom of the shallow river so even though I have plenty of photos of this abundance Lesvos species, I felt I could get some different ones in this setting. They took 45mins to get to where I was sat motionless, but thankfully I got my reward photographically speaking before they suddenly took flight as a little egret landed right by them. Cramp was setting in so cheers to the egret! A slow drive to the salt pans revealed a Temminct's stint along from my river-side spot and a black stork. At the pans, the majority of the afternoon was spent admiring the beauty of a flock of white-winged black terns (with a few whiskered thrown in) feeding over the seasonal pools. There were plenty of little stints and ruff in the moat opposite, the first time during the week I'd actually seen anything other than little egrets here in contrast to the hoards of waders there last year. Turned into a bit of a tern-fest as the day progressed; the strong wind helping the little and common terns hover over the moat whilst searching for fish and thus making it easier for me to snap them and then the marsh terns were joined by a few Gull-billed terns that were hawking close by me, the wind again helping slow the birds down and making them easier "prey" to me:)
News that a few Rufous bush chats had finally arrived wasn't lost on me and so I took a stroll along the beach behind the seasonal pools to briefly search the tamarisk bushes. It was really windy there so when the bird in question quickly flew from one nearby bush to a distant one, I figured that was as good as it would get so returned to the pans to enjoy the sun and the terns until i got itchy feet and made my way over to the Potamia valley to see if there was any shrikes to photo. Nope, but a very confiding black-headed bunting provided me with some different shots to those obtained earlier in the week, with a bit more foliage for background colour. I thought that was that, sun setting sadly on my holiday, but as I took one final drive along the East river in the dark to have a lastl listen to the sounds of nightingales and cetti's, I glanced down to the water and noticed a couple of bird-like shapes.. one was a squacco heron.. and the other turned out to be a Night heron! Never seen one before and even though my attempted photo (At 1.3 seconds shutter speed!) won't win me anything other than worse heron photo ever, (I may post it for a laugh tomorrow) I was happy to see this bird as it was my first, oddly enough. Another great end to a day. Back to pack but still one early morning left...

Photos? Why not...

1. Ruppell's warbler
2. Subalpine warbler
3. Wood sandpiper
4. Little tern
5. Black-headed bunting
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2012, 04:40   #21
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Hi Phil,
Overall, a good experience travelling with Thomas Cook including the flights (I fell asleep during breakfast but they saved it for me rather than wake me up!) and transfers. As for the hand luggage, I have a Lowepro bag which is the right size for my Nikon D90 and Sigma 150-500mm lens with space for the standard kit lens too. Steve Dudley's book, my passport and a few pens and a tiny notepad plus print-outs for rentacar etc were also in the bag; couldn't tell you how much it weighed but I always take this wherever I travel, never had an issue so guess it's always under the limit. Don't think the girl weighed it, usually when asked to show hand luggage I lift it up with 2 fingers to make it look light My actual luggage was a few kilos under so worse come to the worse, I could've wrapped the lens in a towel and put that in the suitcase.. but never a concern with my set-up.
cheers,
Kev
Thanks, my set up weighs 8kg in all so its a bit of a worry. Might be a body and lens in the pockets!.

Cheers and enjoying the trip report greatly.

Phil
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2012, 20:35   #22
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Kev
Thanks, my set up weighs 8kg in all so its a bit of a worry. Might be a body and lens in the pockets!.

Cheers and enjoying the trip report greatly.

Phil
Thanks Phil, you can't help but fall in love with Lesvos..! And you never know, they may change the allowance for next season.. otherwise just practice carrying it in a way to make it look light! Ok, last bit..
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2012, 23:20   #23
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Day 8. Alykes wetlands and Sheep fields.

So, depressingly into the final morning. Transfer coach was leaving the hotel at 8.45am meaning I had a last, tantalising pre-brekkie session to enjoy. Tantalising as I knew I would find it difficult to leave if the sky was blue, the sun was up and there were quality birds around. Which, of course, was the case . I opted for some (more) solitude so after packing my non-essentials in the suitcase pre-dawn, I took the East river-saltpans-sheep fields route, managing to get some "different" shots of a corn bunting on route as the sun rose, and also a crested lark (for the uninitiated, taking photos of corn buntings or crested larks on Lesvos is like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel.. so much so that the temptation is to often just ignore them!) A walk along the beach was more theraputic than anything else but I managed to see (flush!) 3 stone curlews. Also, a new bird in the shape of a Whimbrel that was flying along the shore. A perched bee-eater still not within decent range, a woodchat shrike seemingly a recent arrival, a few short-toed larks and some kentish plovers with little stints by a pool in the middle of the sheep fields were noted, then a nice surprise when I flushed a black stork from a few meters away behind a dune. Click. It was now 8am.. reluctantly I got back in the car.. unfortunately the flock of white-winged black terns were flying all around the few photographers stationed at the seasonal pools view point meaning I was further distracted and didn't get back to the hotel until 8.20. An even quicker breakfast than normal (But still the same cereal, bread and cheese and ham, fruit cocktail with yoghurt and cake..!) then grabbed case from room, gave in rentacar keys to hotel reception and walked outside just as the coach arrived dead on time. Damn their efficiency! The coach trip to the airport produced a final new species when the large numbers of Greater flamingos that I'd previously not bothered to scope distantly across the saltpans became viewable. Once check in was completed there was an hour to sit relaxing in the sun looking out into the Aegean sea for shearwaters. I didn't see any! (My scope was packed and bins pretty small). Everything else went smoothly enough and the 3 and a half hour flight was spent chatting and sharing pics with the nice couple next to me until the gloomy English skies loomed and the single figure temperatures and drizzle that apparently the UK had been enjoying whilst I was away "welcomed" me back.

My trip was exactly how I envisioned it. Beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, lovely birds, a few new species, some great photographic opportunities and plenty of peace and quiet. Often it is commented that Lesvos is quite crowded during the migration period which isn't to everyone's taste. By planning and not being afraid to check out the less popular sites, a certain amount of solitude is possible if that's what you want. I was pleased I managed this, but the encounters I did have with other bird-lovers were very pleasant too.

As for the photography, well, having a car to get you to the sites is vital, (as is Steve Dudley's marvellous "A birdwatching guide to Lesvos") but using it as a hide is of equal importance. Having said that, field skills, patience and a bit of luck can also deliver pleasing results. My set-up of a Nikon D90 with Sigma 150-500mm lens isn't exactly top of the range but I think I get the best out of it.

Highlight? The half hour alone in the Meladia valley with the short-toed eagle, little owl and lesser grey shrike. Lowlight? None, other than having to wait a year till I can return........

Last lot of piccies....

1. Corn bunting
2. Black stork
3. White-winged black tern
4. Crested lark
5. The Aegeon hotel breakfast terrace.. recommended!

Thanks for reading :)
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Old Thursday 31st May 2012, 07:58   #24
hampers
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Kev
Excellent report and brings back memories of a superb birding location and your photographs are great, many thanks.

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Old Thursday 31st May 2012, 09:48   #25
Sandra (Taylor)
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Kev - thoroughly enjoyed reading your report. I realise there's quite a bit we missed! The woodpecker site for example. We mustn't have talked to the right birders on the right day! We can thoroughly recommend the Aegeon too and we've been so many times that I email Reception a couple of weeks before we travel to ask for our favourite room/block of appartments. They've never failed us yet - and always greet us so warmly.

I'll get on with my report soon - we arrived on 5th as you left.

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