Greece - Lesvos ______________________________________________



Lesvos 2016

...with Mark Finn

April 23rd - 30th

Lesvos is the third largest Greek island situated close to the coast of Turkey. For many years it has been a migration hot spot. Recent events had affected the numbers of birders visiting the island this year which has had a serious impact on the tourism industry. Despite this a party from the Scottish Ornithological Society (Highland) decided to visit. During the course of the week we found most of the islands specialties including European Scops Owls, Kruper's Nuthatch, Olive-tree and Ruppell's Warblers and Cinereous Buntings. Several rare species were also noted; Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Baillon's Crake, Spur-winged Lapwing, Levant Sparrowhawk.

The next scheduled tour takes place from April 22/29 2017.


April 23rd: Mytilini, Kalloni Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Skala Kallonis.

Weather: Sunny with a light southwest wind 25 C.

After a morning checking out various places around Skala Kallonis I headed towards the airport to pick up members from the Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC). The flight landed thirty minutes early which was due to good tail winds across Europe. Bags were delivered and we were soon on our journey through the main town and westwards towards Kalloni. The first stop at the saltpans produced Grey and Squacco Herons, Black-necked Stilt, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. On an adjacent hillside a pair of hunting Long-legged Buzzards. Next on the agenda was another section of pans which produced Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Gull-billed and Common Terns and Yellow-legged Gulls. Overhead single Black and White Storks, whilst in the channels sightings of Marsh and Common Sandpipers, Common Greenshank and Ruff. Near the salt-works I parked up to view the pans which allowed us views of Kentish Plover and Eurasian Thick-knees. Towards the point a male Red-backed Shrike was noted on top of a tamarisk bush. It was time to retrace our steps with a diversion through the arable farmland recording migrant Whinchats. On arrival at the Tsikas River we were greeted by European Bee-eaters and singing Eastern Olivaceous and Cetti's Warblers and Common Nightingales. On the river itself the group were drawn to another set of birders looking into an area of reeds. Luck was with us as Spotted, Little and Baillon's Crakes were seen feeding on the 'edge'. (Please note none of these were easy to see well). Before heading back to base a summer plumaged Temminck's Stint was seen feeding with other waders along the river.

April 24th: Skala Kallonis, Kalloni, Ipsilou, Kalloni Saltpans, Alyke Wetlands.

Weather: Rather mixed with sunny spells and cloud on a brisk southwest wind 22 C.

Before breakfast a short walk along the road adjacent to the sea. The scrub and reeds held the usual species including great views of an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. On the mud a group of Little Stints and a pair of Kentish Plovers. Back to base and then onto Kalloni with a stop at a patch of eucalyptus forest where we watched up to three European Scops Owls roosting by the trunks. After this I headed north and west to the isolated monastery of Ipsilou which is perched atop a small hill surrounded by oak woodland and rocky habitats. On the journey Eurasian Jays frequently crossed the road in front of us whilst we could hear the familiar songs of Great and Blue Tits, Common Chaffinch and Eurasian Blackbirds. On the barren slopes and adjoining hillsides we recorded Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon. On arrival at Ipsilou I drove up to the monastery and walked down the east road. Although the conditions were not ideal with strong winds the leeward side was protected and afforded us several good sightings of birds. This included Woodlark, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear and Common Stonechat. Within the oak woods a single Eastern Bonelli's Warbler and Cirl Buntings. On the upward slope a Cinereous Bunting sang from a tree top affording us exceptional views. After lunch a short diversion to the petrified forest produced Isabelline and Northern Wheatears plus the uncommon and localised Eurasian Linnet. I decided to drop back down to Kalloni and revisit the saltpans and Alyke Wetlands an area close by. On arrival at the saltpans it was clear that a max exodus of birds had happened in the last 24 hours. On the first pool a male Mallard was seen. In the dyke area a summer plumaged Marsh Sandpiper and fishing Little Terns. Near the salt-works a pair of Spanish Sparrows were noted on the fence line. Alyke Wetlands was to prove the icing on the cake for today's birding. A walk across the seasonal grassland soon revealed the presence of Red-throated Pipits and Black-headed Wagtails. On approaching the fence with a muddy area in front of us producing Curlew Sandpipers and nesting Kentish Plovers. In the other pools Greater Flamingos, Ruddy and Common Shelducks, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Tern and a surprise sighting in the form of a first year Dalmatian Pelican (the latter was best identified in flight plus the crest which was visible when swimming around on the pan). On the return walk a Collared Pratincole and a single Greater Short-toed Lark were added to the list. The final twist of an exceptional days birding was a Montagu's Harrier flying across the recently cut meadows in a northerly direction.

April 25th: Tsikinas River, Kavaki, Napi Valley, Kalloni Saltpans.

Weather: Sunny with southwest winds 25 C.

We arranged to meet up at 0700 hours to visit the river at Tsikinas. Whilst waiting a group of Spanish Sparrows flew past. The short drive down to the river where we were greeted with large numbers of birders. From an elevated position we had fantastic views of Little and Baillon's Crakes, Wood Sandpipers and Black-headed Wagtails. Nearby we could hear the distinctive calls of European Penduline Tits. Back to base for breakfast and then a journey towards the north coast and Kavaki. This is still the premier spot for the localised Ruppell's Warbler which duly appeared after a wait of about forty minutes. In total we observed four birds on territory plus other species including Blue Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatears. I travelled along the coast to Molivos and headed inland where unfortunately we got a puncture to one of the front tyres. A series of phone calls followed and the problem was solved. In the meantime birds were passing overhead including White and Black Storks, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common and Alpine Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins. Back to Kavaki for lunch and more views of the warblers plus a hunting Short-toed Eagle above us. I went back to Kalloni to get the spare tyre mended and afterwards a visit to the Napi Valley. This is an interesting area for birds with a rich mix of habitats. By the car park Red-backed and Masked Shrikes, calling Eurasian Turtle Doves and in the distance Eurasian Hoopoes. The walk down the valley was fairly quiet with sightings of Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Great, Blue and Sombre Tits and above the rocky cliffs a pair of Common Buzzards and a migrant Eleonora's Falcon. It was time to return to base via the saltpans where the numbers of Ruff and Pied Avocet had increased. On another pool a single Slender-billed Gull and two Little Terns. On the track towards the river a light fall of Whinchats. A slightly frustrating day due to the puncture but still good for birds.

April 26th: Sigri, Faneromeni, Meladia Track, South Road to Skala Kallonis.

Weather: Early morning rain and winds easing to give sunny and clear weather on a southwest wind 24 C.

A later start this morning as we headed towards the west of Lesvos and the town of Sigri. The journey was uneventful apart from a Eurasian Hobby flying north near Ipsilou. On arrival in Sigri i decided to walk the road adjoining the fields where the group located hunting Lesser Kestrels and roaming flocks of Eurasian Jackdaws. On our walk the wind dominated procedures but we managed to locate Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes. An exploration of Faneromeni resulted in the finding of a European Roller perched in a dead tree and a close Peregrine Falcon overhead. Migrants were thin on the ground due to weather conditions. It was time for lunch at the beach which overlooks a part of the North Aegean Sea. The rough conditions resulted in views of the uncommon Scopoli's Shearwater and the very common Yelkouan Shearwater which travels around in large, loose flocks. Back to the main track with a group of Rock Pigeons flying past and an adult male Ruddy Shelduck in a grass field. We eventually caught up with Black-faced Buntings giving their distinctive songs from exposed perches. It was time to drive along the Meladia Track with its stunning scenery and harsh landscapes. The rocky slopes held Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and singing Cretzschmar's Buntings in good numbers. Near the old chapel a female Cinereous Bunting was located and in a grass field both Western and Black-headed Wagtails. Further along the track a group of swifts were seen feeding overhead including Alpine, Common and Pallid. On the way back to base a female Eurasian Kestrel was recorded sitting on a rock. A wonderful days birding in Lesvos despite the strong winds and unseasonal weather conditions.

April 27th: Kalloni Saltpans, Mesa, Achladeri, Alikoudi Saltpans and Olive Groves, Alykes Wetlands.

Weather: Sunny with light south winds 27 C.

An earlier start today as the group met up at 0630 hours and set off towards Kalloni Saltpans. The usual species were around the main lagoons until the pumping station sector was reached. To the groups delight a Spur-winged Lapwing was present plus another scarce migrant in the form of a White Wagtail. Nearby in the moat a group of Temminck's Stints, Great and Little Egrets and in the distance two Eurasian Marsh Harriers. Back to the hotel for breakfast with the sight of hundreds of Barn Swallows and Sand Martins perched on wires. On the road again at 0900 hours with a visit to the wetland of Mesa an interesting area next to the main Kalloni to Mytilini road. The pools were good for Little Grebe, Garganey, Purple Heron, Common Coot, Common Moorhen, Wood Sandpiper and calling Water Rails. In the sky above us a migrant European Honey Buzzard and a steady flow of European Bee-eaters. As I ventured down the road the habitat changed to one of pine woods and poppy fields with our main interest in the pines. A walk along the road revealed the presence of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and Common Whitethroats on territory. At a bridge and stream a pair of Kruper's Nuthatch were busy feeding young in a rotting tree truck - excellent views. On the walk back a European Roller perched on a wire, whilst the forest held the commoner species plus Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, European Serin and Masked Shrike. Next on the agenda was a section of mature olive trees where the group located Middle Spotted Woodpecker and great views of Subalpine and Olive Tree Warblers. Further along the track a seasonal pool adjacent to the gulf attracted Collared Pratincole, Common Greenshank, Little Stint and a single Black-tailed Godwit. In the next village a stop for drinks and ice cream and then back to Kalloni Saltpans. Similar birds to earlier in the day with a pair of Red-rumped Swallows nesting under a bridge. I decided to visit the wetlands again at Alykes. This proved to be good for birds with the meadows holding Black-headed Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit and Short-toed Larks. To my surprise a damper area attracted Kentish, Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plovers. A scan of the pools added summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers and four Mallards. On the return walk a Lesser Grey Shrike was noted along with a pair of Eurasian Thick-knees.

April 28th: Ipsilou, Petrified Forest Road, Sigri Sanatorium, Meladia Track.

Weather: Clear and sunny with light southerly winds 28 C.

This morning I headed out west again and to the monastery and surrounding area at Ipsilou. The air was still when we arrived in contrast to the strong winds of a few days ago. On arrival Barn Swallows and House Martins were hunting insects around the cliffs with a solitary Eurasian Crag Martin. Cinereous and Cretzschmar's Buntings were showing well and on territory whilst the oak trees attracted migrant Wood and Subalpine Warblers. On the rocks a displaying Blue Rock Thrush and the ever-present Black-eared Wheatears in various plumages. A diversion along the petrified forest road produced a fly-by Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Kestrel and a very obliging Little Owl at the car park. A strange event was a party of Wood Sandpipers dropping down into a hidden pool in an otherwise barren landscape. It was time to drop down to Sigri for a break and refreshments. Afterwards I headed to Sigri Sanatorium with a European Shag close-by in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. The sanatorium grounds proved to be good for birds as the large tree attracted Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a Tree Pipit. The adjacent barren ground with bushes held Red-backed, Lesser Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Black-headed Bunting and Eurasian Linnets. A bonus came in the form of a Rufous-tailed Bush Robin and brief views of Eastern Orphean Warbler (at least two birds singing from cover in the garden). Lunch was taken when a pair of Eleonora's Falcons flew over, these were followed by a loose group of Short-toed Eagles which numbered around seven individuals. A slow drive up the Meladia Track produced the commoner birds of the area until reaching an area of fig trees. This is a natural migration spot and we quickly located Pied and Collared Flycatchers and a female Golden Oriole amongst the fig trees. Time was ticking away as a return to Sigri beckoned with a male Montagu's Harrier on the way. The journey back to base was uneventful for birds until reaching the coast. A stop at seasonal pools added Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover to the daily list.

April 29th: Kalloni Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Metochi, Bandstand, Molivos Reservoir.

Final species total : 147.

Weather: Generally overcast conditions with a light northeast wind 23c.

Our last full day in Lesbos started at 0620 hours as we set off to the saltpans. Birding was quiet pre-breakfast apart from a male Red-footed Falcon perched on a telegraph wire. A female Montagu's Harrier was also observed hunting over the fields. After breakfast I headed towards the Metochi Lake complex which is not too far from our hotel. On the first lake Little Grebe, Little Bittern and dozens of hunting hirundines. Nearby a Rock Nuthatch called from a prominent rock until he was replaced by a Blue Rock Thrush and then a Black-eared Wheatear. Our attention turned to another patch of water hidden among the olive groves. This attracted several Little Bitterns, Black-crowned Night Heron, two male Ferruginous Ducks and overhead Short-toed Eagle and a male Levant Sparrowhawk the latter being a scarce migrant in recent years. Next was the Tsiknias River where a Purple Heron was noted and a Eurasian Hobby chasing dragonflies. Lunch was taken at the 'bandstand' where a Subalpine Warbler was singing from a low bush. Raptors were few due to the conditions apart from Long-legged and Common Buzzards and the ever-present Short-toed Eagles. After lunch we headed north to Molivos and the reservoir of the same name. It took a little while to locate Great Spotted Cuckoo, it showed well eventually perched in a dead tree. On the reservoir Ruddy Shelducks, Common Coot, Green and Common Sandpipers and Common Greenshank. The group decided to end the day at the saltpans which proved to be a good move. On arrival similar birds were present to previous visits with the addition of Red-footed Falcons on the wires. Back to base where the tour concluded.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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