Lesvos 2024

Mark Finn
April 17-25

Our tour to Lesvos in the Northern Aegean once again produced an amazing range of migrants heading north to their breeding grounds. The week was dominated by cool winds of a southerly direction which in turn carried large amounts of ‘Sahara’ dust. The group recorded many unusual species during the week which are mentioned in the report below. Our next tour to Lesvos is in April 2025

April 17th: Athens, Mytilini, East River, Kalloni Saltpans, Mesa
Daily 61 New 61 Running 61
Weather: Overcast with a S wind 16c-24c

After staying overnight in Athens with great views of the Acropolis we headed to the airport and our flight to Mytilini the capital of Lesvos. I picked up our transport and headed west towards our base for the week at Skala Kalloni. On arrival Barn Swallow, House Martin, Hooded Crow and House Sparrow were all using the hotel buildings. At midday we set off towards the East River where it discharges into the Gulf of Kalloni, this year the water levels were higher than normal.  By the viewing platform we watched Spur-winged Lapwing and Little Egret plus a showy Common Nightingale singing from a bush. At the river mouth the shingle bar attracted Great Cormorant, European Shag, Common and Sandwich Terns and Yellow-legged Gulls. A slow drive up the western track produced Purple Herons, Glossy Ibis, Common Shelduck, Yellow-legged Gulls, Wood Sandpiper and a bonus in a Citrine Wagtail. Also in the area were a migrant Whinchat, Great Tit and European Greenfinch. A stop at the bridge held similar birds and a single Sand Martin. I followed the track towards Kalloni Saltpans with a flock of Western Yellow and Black-headed Wagtails in a grassy field. An initial view of the pans added Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. The best was to come in a seasonally flooded field which held Black and White Storks, Ruddy Shelduck, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Great and Little Egrets, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Ruff, Spotted Redshank and White Wagtail all of which were spooked by a Peregrine Falcon. A bonus was a group of Greater Short-toed Larks flying over giving their distinctive calls. Mesa was our last destination where we located Pygmy Cormorant a recent colonist to Lesvos.

April 18th: Charamida, Achladeri, Agia Fogas
Daily 57 New 23 Running 84
Weather: Sunny with SW winds 15c-23c

I had to change the itinerary today due to problems with the vehicle. Our first stop was the bushy slopes near Charamida which is a new site on the island. Almost immediately we located Ruppell’s Warbler singing from the tops of bushes. Also present were Chukar, Sardinian Warbler, Cretzschmar’s Bunting and a first year male Woodchat Shrike. Next on the agenda was Achladeri an area of pine woods which historically held the scarce and isolated population of Krupers Nuthatch. In 2024 at present there have been no sightings. A slow walk through the forest did give us sightings of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, European Goldfinch and Eurasian Jay. Earlier birding along the major road produced Woodchat and Masked Shrikes, European Turtle Dove, Common Stonechat, Common Whitethroat and a pair of Mallard in the river. I decided to end the day at Agia Fogas which is mainly neglected by birders on Lesvos. This promontory jutting into the sea is an excellent area for migrants. From the bridge Squacco Heron, Eurasian Reed and Cetti’s Warbler and a male Spanish Sparrow. A slow walk by the river and among the old olive groves produced Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Olivaceous and Sardinian Warblers, Common Swift, White Wagtail and Red-rumped Swallows. The journey back to base had a hunting Long-legged Buzzard over a rocky outcrop.
Mammals: Red Fox (1)

April 19th: Metochi Lake, Sigri, Faneromeni, Old Sanatorium, Meladia Valley, Skala Kalloni
Daily 70 New 21 Running 105
Weather: Sunny with light W winds 20c-27c

The group met at 0615 hours to visit Metochi Lake which is close to the hotel. On arrival we were greeted by the songs of Common Nightingale, Great Reed and Eurasian Reed Warblers and Cetti’s Warblers and a migrant Green Sandpiper. On the lake we located a male Garganey, Common Coot, Common Moorhen and on the reed edge at least three Little Crakes and a Squacco Heron. Sigri was our first destination after breakfast which is now reached on a new road which bypasses the old villages. On entering Sigri we were greeted by a large flock of Western Jackdaws which are localised on the island. A field on the road to Faneromeni produced an array of migrants including Woodchat, Masked and Red-backed Shrikes, Whinchat, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Common and Pallid Swifts, European Bee-eaters, European Pied and Collared Flycatchers and Eurasian Hoopoe. At the end of the road near the river we added Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, European Turtle Doves and overhead Alpine Swifts, Common and Long-legged Buzzards. Lunch was taken at the beach with sightings of a female Montagu’s Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Eastern Black-eared Wheatears and in A along the Meladia Valley including the Old Sanatorium. A few more Collared Flycatchers, Common Kestrel and a Little Owl were found. The hillsides were alive with the songs of Cretzschmar’s Buntings and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears. A stop in an area of fig orchards produced a Wood Warbler and more flycatchers, Ruddy Shelduck and Pallid Swift.

April 20th: Kalloni Saltpans, Mesa, Napi Valley, Bandstand, Petra, Skala Sykamnias, East River
Daily 70 New 11 Running 116
Weather: Early rains followed by sunny spells on a SE-NW winds 7c-14c

A weather warning was in place for heavy rains and strong winds for Lesvos. Thankfully when we left the hotel conditions improved as we set off to Kalloni Saltpans. The rising water within the pans resulted in a decrease of waders. At Hide 2 the flooded fields attracted Ruff, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and two Common Starlings which are a scarce winter visitor. The nearby channel of water attracted two Gull-billed Terns. A visit to the flooded fields further down the track had similar birds to a few days ago with the addition of a White-winged Tern. A diversion to Mesa revealed three drake Garganey so I decided to head inland towards the Napi Valley. On arrival we watched hunting Common and Long-legged Buzzards and a migrant male Red-backed Shrike. A walk along the track was productive for Common Nightingales singing in bare trees and high numbers of Great and European Blue Tits, Eurasian Jay and Northern Raven. On the return at least three Sombre Tits were observed one of our target species. Lunch was taken at a rather cold and windy Bandstand with sightings of Eastern Subalpine Warbler and Cretzschmar’s Buntings. Petra Reservoir was visited with Ruddy Shelduck and Yellow-legged Gull being numerous and a single Common Sandpiper. A journey along the coast road towards Skala Sykamnias produced little of note so I headed back to the East River area of Skala Kalloni. This proved to be a good move as a vegetable field had Northern Wheatear, Western Yellow and Black-headed Wagtails and a few stunning Red-throated Pipits.

April 21st: Ipsilou, Geopark, Faneromeni, Skala Eresou
Daily 75 New 14 Running 130
Weather: Rather mixed with sun and cloud on a SW wind 8c-15c

Birds around the hotel this morning included Cattle Egret and singing Sedge Warblers. At 0815 hours we set off on the new road to visit Ipsilou Monastery which dominates the landscape in the west of Lesvos. On arrival I parked up on the right hand entrance road and birded the rocky habitat and oak woods. A male Cinereous Bunting was located singing from the top of a telegraph pole plus Cirl and Cretzschmar’s Buntings in the area. A careful and slow scan of the oak woods added Eastern Bonelli’s, Eastern Subalpine and Wood Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Thrush and Common Nightingales, Blue Rock Thrush, Northern Raven and a lone Eurasian Wren the latter being scarce on Lesvos. On the ‘windy’ slope we located European Pied and Collared Flycatchers and Eurasian Nuthatch. In addition to these species the group witnessed a hunting Peregrine Falcon. Next was the Geopark area which was affected by strong winds although we managed to observe a male Eleonora’s Falcon, European Golden Oriole and Whinchats. I decided to drop down to Sigri and visit Faneromeni with the river area having Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Ruddy Shelduck, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Common Redstart, Western Yellow and Black-headed Wagtails, Blackcap and overhead Short-toed Eagle and European Bee-eaters. On the return journey we had brief views of Rock Nuthatch and a party of European Turtle Doves numbering around 10 birds in total. Our last stop was the coastal village of Skala Eresou which added nothing of note so I headed back to the hotel.
Mammals: Persian Squirrel (4)

April 22nd: Skala Kalloni, Potamia Valley, Achladeri, Mitre Limni, Skamnioudi, Agios Fokas
Daily 73 New 11 Running 141
Weather: Sunny with rain showers at times on a SW wind 10c-17c

Our first stop today was the flooded marsh outside the Aegean Hotel. A scan of the birds present added new species for the tour mainly Eurasian Curlew, Common Ringed and Kentish Plovers and Eurasian Thick-knees. Also present were high numbers of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpipers. The Potamia Valley is nearby and a check of birds present produced nothing of note. Achladeri was next on the agenda and along the route we located a Western Osprey and distant views of a Dalmatian Pelican. On arrival at Achladeri a walk around the pine forest produced at least two Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, European Serin, Cirl Bunting and the common woodland species. Overhead the poor weather had brought down Common and Alpine Swifts to lower levels. Also present were a pair of Short-toed Eagles and Common Cuckoo. A search for Kruper’s Nuthatch was unsuccessful as was another area of pines further east. Birds present included Wood Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and Long-tailed Tit. The olive orchards around Skamnioudi held Woodchat Shrike, European Turtle Dove and European Greenfinch. The final stop was at Agios Fokas with the beach having a pair of Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover and a second year Mediterranean Gull. At the headland the group located a pair of European Shags, Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-legged Gull, Eurasian Hoopoe and Whinchat. The offshore waters had a few Yelkouan Shearwaters.

April 23rd: Vatoussa, Antissa, Ipsilou, Faneromeni, Old Sanatorium, Filia, Kalloni Saltpans, East River
Daily 86 New 9 Running 150
Weather: Rather cloudy with sunny spells on a NE-S wind 17c-24c

Today I headed west again with the first stop being west of Vatoussa in an area of trees and rocky outcrops. On arrival we quickly located Eurasian Crag Martins hawking for insects. A diversion to Antissa was largely unproductive apart from a male Collared Flycatcher so we proceeded to Ipsilou. A walk up and around the monastery enabled us to locate a few birds including the uncommon Cinereous Bunting, Cretzschmar’s Bunting and Rock Petronia nesting in a building just below the monastery. The same birds were present from a few days ago including displaying Long-legged Buzzards and singing Woodlarks. I dropped down to the coast and visited Faneromeni which was oddly quiet for birds so the group decided to visit the Old Sanatorium east of Sigri. This proved to be a good move as the enclosed courtyard held European Pied, Collared, Spotted and a beautiful male Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and nearby hunting Common Kestrels. It was time to head back east and visit the oak-woods of Filia which duly paid with sightings and calls of the uncommon Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers. I ended the day around the saltpans and East River with the only addition being three Ruddy Turnstones in stunning breeding plumage.

April 24th: Kalloni Saltpans, Mitre Limni, Ipsilou, Old Sanatorium, Skala Eresou, Kalloni Fields and Racetrack, Skala Kalloni
Daily 87 New 12 Final 162
Weather: Cloudy and overcast with SW winds 16c-26c

Today was spent ‘cleaning up’ on species we had missed earlier in the week or better views. Our first stop at Kalloni Saltpans added Black and Little Terns to our list plus the commoner birds of the area with a noted downturn in wader numbers. Mitre Limni an area of pine forest was next on our agenda and we were fortunate to quickly locate the scarce and localised Kruper’s Nuthatch feeding on tree trunks. I decided to head west towards Sigri again via the mini-soccer pitch near Kalloni. After a few attempts we finally managed to see Eurasian Scops Owl roosting in a eucalyptus tree. A short stop at Ipsilou was good for views of Woodlark and Northern Wheatear plus birds seen earlier in the week. At the Old Sanatorium birding was again good with sightings of Rufous Bush Robin, Garden Warbler, Ortolan Bunting and the regular migrants. Lunch by the old chapel added a singing Black-headed Bunting. Further along the road Rock Petronia and Blue Rock Thrush were noted nesting near old buildings. Another diversion to Skala Eresou for the recent colonising Laughing Dove proved to be productive. At the end of the afternoon birding around the saltpans of Kalloni added new species; Collared Pratincole, Grey Plover and a female Hen Harrier.

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