The trip was primarily a family break for myself, wife and six year old daughter. The choice of location is always a mix of family needs and the opportunity for a bit of birding. Having lived in the Middle East and birded in the Mediterranean area and Israel, Lesvos gave me a few opportunities to fill in a few gaps and therefore in the limited time available the main aim was to find these target species.
Travelling outside of the recognized migration period was always going to reduce the variety of species available. This proved to be the case and also the resident species were less conspicuous as breeding was well underway and the intensity of singing of territorial males was much reduced.
However, in all I was pleased with the outcome. Five lifers was the top end estimate before I went and the key targets were seen (just!)
We traveled as part of a JMC package and generally this worked well. They were there if you needed them but otherwise you could ignore them. For the week, we stayed in a Studio Apartment at the Hotel Aegeon, which is situated a little to the west of Skalla Kallonis overlooking the West River saltmarshes.
The flight from Gatwick was the first out in the morning and so we needed to check in at 4.15am. All flights are currently on Thursday from the UK.
We pre-booked a car through JMC for four days. They use Avis and they caused few issues with the car being delivered to the hotel at 8am on the due date. Car hire looks easy in Skalla Kallonis, with some deals available locally appearing to be cheaper, from Euro 22 per day. However these are not unlimited mileage and I cannot confirm how it works out. We paid just over £100 for four days at the time of booking. This would have cost more with Avis in Skala Kallonis.
All of the sites in Lesvos are well defined and known, primarily through the excellence of the 'Birding on the Greek island of Lesvos' by Richard Brooks. However most of the text is related to migration sites (when most of the birders are there) and some of the detailed directions do not keep up with the passage of time. As I did not have any of the updates with me, I cannot confirm or deny the best of local information. The web-sites are also a good source and www.surfbirds.com has trip reports. Again they concentrate on the peak migration time of early May.
Kalloni II pool - the vegetation was reasonably deep and the pools drying rapidly, still a good meeting point for birders in evening and to see who is about
East River - a reasonable round walk from town. The sea end and the area around the ford seemed to be the areas with birds at this time
West River - a degraded habitat with fly tipping and dried pools. Gave good introduction to lowland species.
Devil's bridge - easy to find but the birds are flighty and relatively elusive at this time of year. It is difficult to get amongst the key habitats here, but scanning from the church gives reasonable views
Potamia Valley - The oaks appear to have been cleared from amongst the Olives at the lower end of the valley and the track is now drivable for a lot further. The key habitat is another couple of kilometers further up
Kalloni Salt Pans - The pools to the seaward side were all dried out. Only the channel and the pans themselves held water. There is a track to the east of the pans that is drivable with care.
Agiossos - the sweet chestnut wood walk start is not accurately described but it is worth the effort is this unique habitat
Above Agiossos - the lack of sites for Kruper's Nuthatch is worrying (particularly see Achlederi). We took the first track after the Sanitorium and then the first left of that (marked Kalathou on some maps) This gave a level walk through the pine woods along the unmade road.
Achlederi & Derbyshire - the army had moved in and were apparently staying for a month. They were nervous of people with binoculars etc and therefore this area was out of bounds.
Mount Ipsilou - one of the few places that was totally birdless!
Petrified Forest - not mentioned on any of the texts and a tourist trail location. The 3km of paths across the hillside give easy access to the right habitat for the buntings and they are relatively tame - probably due to the number of people here.
Thursday 30th May - Flight from Gatwick to Mytilene arrived 11.45am. Coach transfer to Skala Kallonis. General wander around.
Friday 31st May - In the morning I walked up West River, around north environs of village. After lunch walk to East River
Saturday 1st June - Car arrived. Drove to Devil's Bridge, then to Skala Eresou. Took the track from Eresos to Sigri and then returned to Skala Kallonis via Petrified Forest, Mount Ipsilou, Andisa and Filia
Sunday 2nd June - Drove to old stone bridge and then the Napi Valley.Walked around the radiomast area. On to Molivos, via Mandamados and Klio. Stopped between Molivos and Petra - nothing showing! Back to Skala Kallonis.
Monday 3rd June - Early start along Potamia Valley, then on to East River and Kalloni Salt Pans. Stop at Derbyshire. Total wipeout at Achlederi and back to Skala Kallonis.
Tuesday 4th June - To Agiossos. Walk in Sweet Chestnut Woods. AboveAgiossos to track below Sanitorium. Drive back to Skala Kallonis via Panaghia, Vasilika, Achladeri, Derbyshire and Kalloni Salt pans.
Wednesday 5th June - Walk along West River
Thursday 6th June - Coach transfer to Airport
Little Grebe 1 on the pool by the army post at Klio on 2nd June
Little Bittern 1 in flight flushed from Kalloni II pools on 30th May
Squacco Heron 2 on Kalloni II pools on 31st May
Little Egret 6 at Derbyshire on the 3rd, 2 there on the 4th and a single on the West River on the 5th
Grey Heron 8 on the West River on 31st, 1 on the West river on the 5th and 16 over Skala Kallonis beach on the 5th
Black Stork Seen nearly every day, 3 over Skala Kallonis on 30th, 7 in field on the west River on 31st,, 1 by the old stone bridge near Agh Paraskevi on 2nd , 5 at the mouth of the Potamia river on 3rd , 1 by Achlederi on 4th , 2 West River on 4th & 5th , 3 inland from Skala Kallonis on 5th.
White Stork Breeding at Papiana and most records on East River from this pair. 4 seen together on the marshes of Megali Limni on 4th.
Greater Flamingo Only recorded at The Kalloni Salt Pans - about 300 birds present
Mute Swan 2 at Derbyshire on the 3rd & 4th ( did not appear to be present on the 6th as we drove past in the coach)
White-fronted Goose 1 at Kalloni Salt Pans on 3rd. It could fly despite having very ragged primaries.
Ruddy Shelduck 32 at Derbyshire on the 4th
Teal 1 on Kalloni II pool on 31st
Short-toed Eagle 1 from track from Eresos to Sigri on 1st, 1 Napi Valley on 2nd
Montagu's Harrier 1 adult male at Kalloni Salt Pans on 3rd
Buzzard 1 in Napi Valley on 2nd, 1 Potamia Valley on 3rd
Long-legged Buzzard 1 at Devil's bridge on 1st, 1-3 Napi valley on 2nd
Golden Eagle 1 adult in Napi Valley on 2nd
Lesser Kestrel 1 male at Petrified Forest on 1st
Kestrel 1 at Skala Eresou on 1st
Lanner 4 birds, 2 adults and two fledged young stooping and tumbling together from the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th
Chukar Adult with Chicks from the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th
Coot 1 by East River ford on 31st & 3rd, 1 on Kalloni II pool 2nd & 3rd.
Black-winged Stilt Common by every piece of water, young seen at Kalloni II pool and west river saltmarsh
Avocet Only present at Kalloni Salt Pans were commonest wader circa 100 on 3rd & 4th.
Stone Curlew On the dried on pools to the seaward side of the Kalloni Salt pans, 6+ on 3rd, 1 on the West River on the 5th.
Black-winged Pratincole 1 over the Kalloni Salt Pans on the 3rd Clearly showed lack of contrast on the wings, lack of white trailing edges to secondaries and the all dark underwing in views down to 10m.
Little Ringed Plover Pair on East River on 3rd, 2/3 on Kalloni Salt pans on 3rd & 4th
Kentish Plover 1 on Kalloni Salt pans on 3rd, 2 on 4th and 2 on West River saltmarsh on 5th.
Little Stint 7 at Kalloni Salt pans on 3rd, 3 at West river saltmarshes on 5th
Yellow Legged Gull Common across island with concentrations at Skala Kallonis, Napi Valley and rubbish tips!
Common Tern Commonest tern with small numbers on all costs
Little Tern Only recorded at Kalloni Salt Pans on 3rd & 4th, probably 10 birds present
Whiskered Tern 1 at Kalloni Salt Pans on 3rd & 4th
Wood Pigeon 2 by the Radio Mast in Napi Valley on 2nd
Collared Dove Common in towns and villages.
Turtle Dove First seen by Radio Mast in Napi Valley on 2nd. Common in Potamia Valey in 3rd and above Agiossos.
Little Owl Singles were by the West river on 31st and 5th, and at the Petrified forest on 1st.
Swift Common around most towns, particularly Molivos. Despite searching no Pallid Swifts could be found.
Alpine Swift 2 above Molivos castle on 2nd
Bee-eater 1 over Skala Kalloni beach on 31st and alsoone by the East River on that date. 20+ by Kalloni Salt Panson 3rd & 4th.
Hoopoe 1 above Kalloni on 1st, 1 in Napi Valley on 2nd
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 1 by East River ford on 31st. Nest site found below the radio mast in Napi Valley on 2nd. Fledged young found in Potamia Valley on 3rd.
Short-toed Lark Only recorded on the seaward side of Kalloni Salt pans, where a few pairs appeared to be breeding. One male had very conspicuous breast markings.
Crested Lark Common and conspicuous in all areas, particularly around Skala Kallonis.
Swallow Common and conspicuous in all areas.
Red rumped Swallow Breeding colonies found at the old stone bridge nr Agh. Paraskevi on 1st, and at the Kalloni Salt Pans on 3rd..
House Martin Common and conspicuous in villages, particularly around Skala Kallonis.
Black Headed Wagtail First recorded as a pair on the hotel Aegeon lawn on 2nd, West River and Saltmarsh held about 3-4 pairs on 4th & 5th
Grey Wagtail 1 in Agiossos on 4th
Wren 2 heard singing in the Sweet Chestnut Wood above Agiossos on 4th
Robin 1 in the Sweet Chestnut Wood above Agiossos on 4th
Rufous Bush Robin 1 singing on beach by eastern-most taverna at Skala Kallonis on 31st, 2 by seaward side of Salt pans on 3rd.
Nightingale Heard in most vegetated areas. Particularly common above Agiossos where singing birds were very visible.
Black-eared Wheatear Common in a surprising wide variety of habitats including the pine woods above Agiossos. Seen every day from 1st - 4th June.
Blue Rock Thrush 1 female on the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th
Blackbird Common in gardens and Olive groves.
Cetti's Warbler Ubiquitous around Skala Kallonis and most watercourses
Great Reed Warbler 1 by the East River ford on 31st and 3rd
Olivaceous Warbler Ubiquitous around Skala Kallonis and most watercourses
Upchers Warbler 1 heard singing and then seen in the track from the East River back to Papiana. A larger and grayer bird than Olivaceous and a surprise find. Its song is more Sylvia like than Olivaceous and the bird more lugubrious in actions than Olivaceous. The dark tail was dipped and swung in the distinctive manner.
Olive-tree warbler 1 heard and seen in Potamia Valley on 3rd,
Subalpine Warbler 2 by the Radio Mast in Napi Valley on 2nd, 4 in Potamia valley on 3rd, 4+ from the track over Agiossos on 4th
Orphean Warbler 1 by the Radio Mast in Napi Valley on 2nd
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler 1 seen & heard singing and a possible second heard in the Sweet Chestnut Wood above Agiossos on 4th,
Spotted Flycatcher 1 by the Radio Mast in Napi Valley on 2nd
Sombre Tit Pair at Devil's Bridge on 1st, Pair in Napi Valley on 2nd , 2 in Potamia valley on 3rd.
Blue Tit Common in most areas with trees
Great Tit Common in most areas with trees
Kruper's Nuthatch 1 male(?) by the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th. The birds were silent and took along time to find any sign of any Nuthatches. This single bird was moving with a blue tit flock.Possibly heard from the car around the picnic site at Panaghia.
Rock Nuthatch Common and seen in the upland areas from 1st to 4th .
Golden Oriole The flutey song of an Oriole was heard in the Sweet Chestnut Wood above Agiossos on 4th, The bird was not seen and Nightingale mimicry could not be ruled out.
Woodchat Shrike The commonest shrike, seen below Sigri on 1st, Napi Valley on 2nd Potamia Valley on 3rd
Masked Shrike 2 in the Potamia Valley on the 3rd, the pair were mobbing a Jay
Jay Fairly common in Olive groves, trees and woods everywhere
Jackdaw Only seen commuting from the island off Skala Eresou on 1st .
Hooded Crow Common in most agricultural areas
Raven 1 at the Petrified Forest on 1st
Rose-coloured Starling Flocks of 12-30 birds around Skala Kallonis on 30 & 31st
House Sparrow Common in Villages and towns
Spanish Sparrow Common around Skala Kallonis, breeding in roofs and tavernas in loose mixed colonies with House Sparrows
Rock Sparrow 1 by the main road between Agra & Messotopos on 1st
Chaffinch Common and conspicuous.
Serin 1 around the Radio mast in Napi Valley on 2nd, 4+ by the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th
Greenfinch Common and conspicuous in the agricultural areas, particularly around Skala Kallonis.
Goldfinch Common and conspicuous in the agricultural areas, particularly around Skala Kallonis.
Linnet Seen in upland areas including around Eresos on 1st and Napi Valley on 2nd.
Cirl Bunting Not uncommon, pair at Devil's Bridge on the 1st, adult males in Napi Valley on 2nd, Potamia Valley on 3rd, and by the track below the Sanitorium above Agiossos on 4th
Cinereous Bunting Male and female at Devil's bridge on 1st, 2 singing males at Petrified forest on 1st.
Cretzschmar's Bunting 2 males at Devil's bridge on 1st, then scattered records across the western half of the island through the day, including male carrying food at the Petrified forest. Male between Molivos & Petra on 2nd.
Black-headed Bunting Common and conspicuous in the agricultural areas, particularly around Skala Kallonis. The males were still singing and conspicuous and females were difficult to find.
Corn Bunting Common and conspicuous in the agricultural areas, particularly around Skala Kallonis.