A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos – Steve Dudley
ISBN 978 1905268 061
As Spring approaches, the minds of some may turn to thoughts of bird migration and holidays. As one that has visited the Greek island of Lesvos many times, I can honestly say that there are few places that can match it for the quality of birds, the sense of migration, the weather, but also the genuine friendliness of the local people – it is one of my most favorite places to go.
Many that have visited have turned to the Richard Brooks guide to birdwatching on Lesvos, but despite it’s ground-breaking nature, increasingly it has seemed dated and is to some extent rather restricted in the number of localities on which it focuses. Though there have been annual reports, Lesvos was in need of an up-dated guide, with new sites to visit and at other times of the year than Spring. Steve, who has travelled to Lesvos many times, was an ideal person to do this, and now we have his guide – however, it still owes a lot to the book by Brooks. Steve also runs a website to birding on Lesvos http://www.lesvosbirding.com/, where you can find information on buying the guide.
There are about 50 or so detailed introductory pages, outlining Steve’s reasons for writing the book; notes on Lesvos history and economy; times to visit; weather; places to eat – most important; how to get about; the birding year; habitats; migration; and the submission of records and websites. Many may skim through these to get to the main site information that follows, but despite being out of necessity fairly brief, they bear a bit of reading. The rest of the book is taken up with specific information on various sites for birding, an annotated species list and checklists to birds, butterflies, orchids and selected mammals. There is a central section of photographs of locations and birds and the text is broken by line-drawings by Dave Nurney.
In a similar way to Brooks’s guide, Steve breaks the island up into nine general areas, some relating to habitat, others to region. Each area has a number of individual sites shown on a general monotone map, with smaller maps giving more information on places to park, arrows point to what birds might be seen and where. These are accompanied by detailed information on those sites, dealing with location/access, areas to search and those species you are likely to encounter. So if, for example, I look at the pages on one of my favorite sites, Meladia valley and ford in the west of the island, there are three-and-a-half pages (including one with a map) which are all pretty good in their coverage of the site. This is an amazing part of the island, and with the right conditions can have so many birds you do not know where to look; every bush can hold shrikes (Masked, Woodchat, Red-backed and Lesser Grey); Black-headed Buntings, Golden Orioles, Spotted and other Flycatchers; warblers can include superb Barred; bee-eaters, raptors and swifts pass overhead as they follow the valley as it heads north-east towards Ipsilou monastery. In attempting to give as much information as possible, sometimes this excitement is a little lost in the book – the text can be a touch ‘flat’; there is a difficult balance, of course, in a book like this.
In general the sites guides are well dealt with, indeed there are a number I have not been to. The annotated checklist gives detail on status, makes brief statements on most species, but more detailed on some of the specialities, such as Krüper’s Nuthatch or Cinereous Bunting, and the best places to see them. I was surprised to see that Steve lists Western Black-eared Wheatear - I would like to see evidence that this is truly the case. This is followed by wildlife checklists, which some may photocopy, to birds, butterflies and orchids. Most lists are fine, though the butterfly list is not fully comprehensive: I have photos of Ilex Hairstreak from Upper East River; Samos Grayling Hipparchia mersina is the grayling that occurs at Ipsilou in early May; Black-veined White, Balkan Grayling H. senthes and not Southern Grayling H. aristaeus also occur. I have also seen Levantine Skipper Thymelicus hyrax at Meladia and Powdered Brimstone Gonepteryx farinosa. Lafranchis (2004) suggests White-banded Grayling and Eastern Grayling.
I love the island of Lesvos and cannot recommend it enough as a place to go birding. Despite one or two simple typos (and missing blue text on p.20), I enjoyed this book and it makes me look forward to the next time I am there.