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Lesvos Trip Report May 3rd to May 17th 2007.

Group included
John Jennings
Diane & Keith Harrison
Martin Smyth

I found a cheap package holiday through Going Places that included B&B at the Kalloni II Hotel which is where we wanted to be.

We flew from Manchester Airport at 08:05 (25 minutes late) after much argument regarding excess baggage, which cost us £56 between us. What didn’t help was finding out that 41 seats were empty so excess weight was never going to be an issue.

hired a nine seater mini-bus for the four of us from - at a cost of around £512 for the two weeks. It was dropped off at our hotel and picked up again from there.

We ate at a few places but those that we could recommend were Sampo’s, The Seahorse and Ambrosias (the latter we found with only two days to go but we would highly recommend using it) They are all in Skalla Kalloni. The other place I would recommend is the Woman’s Co-operative, in Petra, where the money raised goes to other sources plus the restaurant in Sigri by the harbour. I don't know the name of it but the owner is a right nutter and the food is excellent. We had a real good laugh there.

May 3rd.

We arrived on time at 13:30 and the first bird of the trip was House Martins followed by many House Sparrows and Collared Doves (which seemed to be everywhere). The next area that gave us a few birds was near Derbyshire where Martin spotted a lone White-winged Black Tern. I spotted what I thought might be a distant Spoonbill but couldn’t be certain so I let that one go. Blackbird followed by Greater Flamingo, and Black-winged Stilt followed into the log book but that was it by the time we reached the Kalloni 2 Hotel.

After putting away the luggage a short walk was made by three of us and birds seen on the hotel grounds were quite a few Spanish Sparrows, Swallows and House Martins. A Nightingale could be heard singing at the edge of the grounds but Keith was the only one to see it.

Just outside of the grounds birds seen were a few Hooded Crows, Goldfinch, a lone Reed Warbler, a few Swift a couple of Woodpigeon and a few Crested Larks.

It was time to meet the car hire people and accept the two week hire for a nine seater mini-bus. From there an excellent meal was had at the Sampo Restaurant in the square.

Just before we had the mini-bus delivered we were told of a Spur-winged Plover that had been seen today at the Kalloni Reservoir, together with a Black-winged Stilt so it was decided that as soon as we finished the meal we would go for it but by the time we had got there it was gone 19:30 and was getting dark. It took very little time to find it and we also saw the B.W.Stilt nearby. A strange call came from behind me and I asked Keith what a Black-headed Bunting sounded like. I had a feeling based on seeing these birds in Kefalonia that that is what they were. Sure enough one of them came relatively close and indeed it was a Black-headed Bunting. Another two were seen but that was it for the end of day one.

We were told on the night that Lesvos had only had ten days rain since before May 2006 and there was little water on the island. The island was very dry and this meant a lot of the rivers and pools had completely dried out making finding birds that bit harder.

May 4th.

I must have been tired because Martin had to wake me at 07:30am. I can’t remember the last time I slept that long but it certainly helped. After a filling breakfast we were off around 08:30 and our first stop was the Kalloni Reservoir. On the way we had some smart birds. Long-legged Buzzard, Red-backed Shrike & Bee-eaters. At the reservoir there was no Spur Winged Plover this time but on the hillsides were Black-headed Bunting in numbers (one came down and posed quite close to us, Black-eared Wheatear, Wheatear, Whinchat, Cirl Bunting, Woodchat Shrike & Whitethroat. A couple of Turtle Doves could be heard but were never found.

After spending more than an hour here we moved onto the Inland Lake and here it was a real bonanza with two Little Crake, two Great spotted Cuckoo’s, Black Stork, half a dozen White Storks, at least six Alpine Swifts and a few Pallid Swifts, a Little Bittern, Spotted Flycatcher, Olivaceous Warbler, Nightingale, Sedge & Reed Warbler as well as some of the more common birds.

By now it was dinner time so a call to the bakery in the Skala Kalloni square was needed and after some of their excellent food it was time to move onto the East River then the Saltpans.

The East River turned out to be another great move when one of the first birds seen was an Eleonora’s Falcon. The supporting cast was almost as good with Little Bittern, two Squacco Heron, at least two Temmink’s Stints, five Wood Sandpipers, Short-toed Eagle, a couple of Little Ring Plovers, at least three Little Stints, Black Headed Wagtails, Common Sandpiper, a lone Little Egret plus a few Common Terns and at least a dozen White Storks flying above us.

We had spent some time around the East river area and so we moved onto the Saltpans. As soon as we turned onto the Tarmac Road we added Little Tern (at least six) and Red-rumped Swallow (three) plus a bit further on a couple of Cormorant, a surprise Glossy Ibis, a couple of Stone Curlew, a Kentish Plover and a couple of Great Crested Grebe out on the sea.

At the area known as the Sheep Field we saw three Red-throated Pipit and a lone Tawny Pipit plus at least six Kentish Plover. I managed to see a Short-toad Lark on my own and Martin had seen a Tawny Pipit earlier that we hadn’t seen.

It was now 17:30 and time to head back to the hotel. As we skirted the saltpans we also came across a Whiskered Tern, at least ten summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers and at least fifty Avocets.

I think you would agree that was a quality day with some quality birds.

May 5th.

Martin and I decided to start early and go to Kalloni Inland lake. This turned out to be a good decision as not long after we arrived we heard, then saw a Golden Oriole (we saw a second a little later) on the track to the left of the lake. Martin spotted a couple of Shrikes in the distance. The first was another Red-backed Shrike but the 2nd one was a new bird as it was a Lesser Grey Shrike. That was a good start to the morning. Cetti’s and Whitethroats were calling everywhere and we managed to see a couple of Cetti (one with a bald head). A pair of Blackcap’s landed in a nearby Olive tree, which was another trip tick. Black-headed Buntings were becoming very conspicuous and were singing everywhere.

We spied a large Warbler but after a search we couldn’t find it. It was decided to turn back as time was against us. Not long after we did we walked into a guided tour and straight away the guide alerted us to a singing River Warbler but try as we did we couldn’t locate it. That would have been a lifer for me but shortly after the guide located a Great Reed Warbler. The guide then proceeded to give an amazingly correct call of a Golden Oriole and straight away another Male G.O flew across us. As we collected the mini-bus to go back to the hotel Martin called me over to see a Coot. Not a rare bird but a trip tick none the less.

After breakfast we decided to head for Derbyshire, via the west bank of the east river. We soon located a couple of Squacco Herons as well as three Little Stints but not long after the ford we came across a few Falcons in the distance. After careful scrutiny it became obvious that we were looking at least six Red-footed Falcon’s (the only time we saw that bird in the fortnight).

Out onto the Tarmac road and we were soon at Derbyshire and the first bird seen where we parked was a Squacco Heron which quickly moved on when we arrived. Scanning the waters edges we soon located an excellent year tick when a Purple Heron was found. Six Ruddy Shelduck were also present as well as a lone White Stork and a Grey Heron. Martin found a Greenfinch which was an addition to the groups list.

We were after Krupers Nuthatch, which was further on so it was decided to move on to the old Army Camp, near Achladeri, where a pair had been breeding there for a while. We learnt that they had just fledged and that it would be hard to locate them but another birder later on told us of a track where they had been seen two days earlier. On the way we found this amazing Poppy Field by the side of the road.

As we walked up the track we could see a group of birders in the distance. We ignored them at first but they started getting excited and we guessed that they were on the Krupers. That was a correct assumption but at first only I got onto the bird before it quickly disappeared. Its mate joined in and they were seen together in front of us but Martin and Diane missed out again. A lone Serin dropped into a nearby tree and was spotted by Diane. It quickly moved on but about ten minutes later one of the guides (who had gone to find the Serin) shouted that the Krupers were showing well fairly close in. This time Martin and Diane saw them and I also managed a record shot of the pair.

We made our way back to the car, stopping in an area where a pair of Subalpine Warblers had been seen, but after about a twenty minute wait nothing could be head. Whilst waiting we were called over to watch a Tortoise edge its way along an old dried up river bed.

Back at the car a lone Spotted Flycatcher and a Red-backed Shrike were seen then a birder we had been talking to earlier came over to us and pointed to where a Masked Shrike was. That was an excellent bird to see and a good addition to the list.

It had been decided that we would have a look at the Polichanitou Salt pans but go via a coastal dirt track I had been down ten years earlier. Both decisions prove to be a little disappointing, although along the track we did see Greenfinch, Whinchat and Middle-spotted Woodpecker.

Polichanitou Salt Pans were a bitter disappointment with few birds on it. Three Ruff were new for the trip list but the only other birds seen were a lone Wood Sandpiper and quite a few Black-winged Stilts and that was it.

We quickly moved away from there and decided to try the headland at Vatera. On the way we came to a small stream nearby and found a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers but nothing else. Just after the stream we found a Wheatear plus a female Red-backed Shrike.

The headland looked an ideal place upon migration. It was covered in small bushes, ideal for tired, returning birds. On the headland itself a few distant birds could be seen out to sea following a fishing boat. Not long after even more could be seen and it wasn’t long before about thirty + birds had been seen. Once I had my scope on them I could see that they were Yelkouan Shearwater. Another new bird for the year and an unexpected one at that.

We had a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant in Vatera and here we saw our first White Wagtail of the trip.

It was time to head back to the hotel via the mountain roads. On the way few birds were seen but those that were seen were all Black-eared Wheatear.

6th May

We chose to bird near to Petra today, primarily to see if we could find Ruppels Warbler. On the way we called into the Scops Owl site just on the edge of Kalloni and were rewarded with excellent views of this usually difficult bird to see. I managed both a photo via my Digiscoping set up and my DSLR camera of this bird. A Woodchat Shrike was also seen but a singing Golden Oriole wasn’t located.

The next stop was up in the hills, not far from Kalloni, at an area known as Bandstand, named after a seating area with a roof over it. This is a well know Raptor Viewpoint and we actually called in on the way up and coming back. On the way up the only raptor seen was a Sparrowhawk whilst around the bandstand were a pair of Stonechats (feeding young with the amount of caterpillars they were catching). A couple of Cirl Bunting and a stunning Cretzschmar’s Bunting were the only other birds seen on the outgoing journey.

It was now time to head for the Ruppel’s site and here we had a bit of luck. We ran into a group we had met before and they told us that there were at least a couple of Ruppels near to the edge of the car park. If this were to be true it would save us a long walk to the usual site.

Whilst we were waiting we found some more Cretzschmar’s Bunting’s as well as a male & female Blue Rock Thrush. Finally three Ruppels showed, mainly distantly but one of them came close enough for a quick record shot. That was my one and only Lifer for the fortnight. Other birds seen here were Crag Martin, Ortolan Bunting, Turtle Dove, Black-eared Wheatear, Sardinian Warbler, Black Headed Bunting and quite a few Red Backed Shrikes.

It was now incredibly hot so we decided to go for a meal in Petra. Diane and Keith had stopped in Petra last year and knew a good restaurant that was run by the women’s co-operative. I must admit having eaten there now I can endorse that restaurant as a place to go as the food and service were excellent.

We went for a walk at the edge of Petra but the heat was fierce so we turned back. Just before turning back we were surprised to see three Jackdaws fly over our heads.

Due to the heat we decided to go back to the bandstand again, as there was a roof that would help shield us from the sun. That turned out to be a good move as we managed a Long Legged Buzzard, a Western Rock Nuthatch and a cracking Bonelli’s Eagle. Added to that a relatively confiding Cretzschmar’s Bunting plus four Red Rumped Swallows plus two Alpine Swifts that only Martin managed to latch onto and you have a smashing end to the birding day.

May 7th

Today was a busy day. We were going to Faneromeni Ford with a few stops along the way and back via Erressos.

First stop was above the Limonas Monastery. Diane wanted to take a photo of the Monastery from above. This turned out to be a fortuitous stop as we saw our first Subalpine Warbler here. A stop a couple of miles away also turned up some nice birds, such as our first, and only, Honey Buzzard. This was followed at this spot with Eleonora’s Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush, Cirl Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow and a few Bee-eaters.

We were passing through an area known to birders as Grand Canyon and you could see why with steep rocky sides either side of the road. Our first stop produced our first Rock Sparrows of the trip when Keith managed to locate a nest high up on the rock face. A Peregrine could be heard then another and another but not once did we locate any of the birds. We also managed our first Hoopoe of this holiday followed by Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush.

Our next site to go to was the Ipsolui Monastery but a stop near Andissa found us a couple of Isabelline Wheatear. The Monastery was disappointing as all I picked up was a Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher and a Rock Sparrow. A further mile from the monastery was found our first Little Owl of the trip.

The last few miles to Sigri gave us a big surprise when I pointed out what I first thought was a raptor only to realise straight away that it was a Cuckoo. The bird was flushed by the oncoming car and briefly landed on a post at the side of the car before taking off again and quickly disappearing. We also saw our first Common Kestrel and Peregrine of this trip’

Before carrying onto Faneromeni ford we decided to have a meal in Sigri and this was another excellent decision as the food was delicious.

Faneromeni Ford was a right off as it was completely dry. Apart from a spotted Flycatcher there was no other birdlife to be seen. The approach to the ford was a different matter. At least 50 Bee-eaters were flying around us then at least six Lesser Kestrels made a brief appearance plus three Rock Doves. Keith called me down as he thought he may be onto an Olive Tree Warbler but not long after joining him I found a Rufous-tailed Bush Robin. This was followed fairly quickly by an Orphean Warbler whilst not long after Martin found an Olive tree Warbler (the only one of the party to do so).

We were quickly running out of hours so a drive to an area half way between Sigri and Erressos, to see if we could find the reported Baillons Crake, was decided upon.

The drive to there produced many Cretzshmar’s Buntings as well as Black headed Buntings but very little else. The Baillons site was a revelation as it actually had water there. Straight away we found two Squacco Herons, a Purple Heron, two Night Herons, a Little Egret. two Lesser Whitethroats a couple of Linnet, A Sedge Warbler and a Wood Sandpiper but no Baillon’s Crake.

As it was quite late it was decided to go back to Kalloni 2 hotel and on the way we picked up a new bird for the trip when Diane somehow managed to get a glimpse of a couple of Chuka. I screeched to a halt and made a quick u turn to go back and sure enough there they were. That ended an excellent day with 17 new ticks for the year. Another surprise was a Purple Heron that flew over us by the Hotel as we made our way to Skalla Kalloni for a meal.

May 8th.

Today wasn’t going to be a hectic day. We hadn’t planned to go any further than Molyvos, starting at the Ruppells Warbler we visited two days ago. The day started well with a Black Stork flying over our hotel followed by a Nightingale hopping around in the grass below our balcony.

We decided against breakfast and instead went straight to the Ruppells site arriving at 07:15am. Almost immediately we saw a Ruppells Warbler but we were hoping to see a showy Subalpine Warbler instead. This didn’t happen for a while but when the Subalpine did show it was a brief stop off and the resulting photos suffered because of the lack of time. Other birds seen whilst we waited included Black-eared Wheatear, two Blue-Rock Thrush, ,Red-rumped Swallow, Crezschmar’s and Black-headed Bunting and Blackbird.

Before our next planned stop at the reservoir south east of Molyvos (for a reported Ferruginous Duck) we decided to have a cooked breakfast in Petra and after consuming an excellent full English breakfast it was time to move on.

Sadly at the reservoir we couldn’t locate the Ferruginous Duck but we did see what I consider to be a Steppe Buzzard (even though I haven’t counted it). The rest of the birds seen there were Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Subalpine Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Blue Tit, Cirl Bunting & Woodchat Shrike.

It was here that I met someone I knew from back home. He told me that a little further on a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been seen at a quarry so we decided to try it. It was only about another half a mile further on but it was a bit of a surprise. It was only a very small quarry but it held four tiny pools, one of which held a Little Bittern. A couple of Subalpine Warblers were in a bush at the side of me but nothing else. Still with all that water about it has potential to turn up anything.

The final stop was a track that Keith and Diane had seen a Sombre Tit on two years previous. It was south of Petra. We didn’t find one but what a beautiful area with a mix of different trees. There were plenty of Subalpine Warblers as well as the odd Orphean Warbler. Quite a few Bee-eaters and a couple of Long-legged Buzzards as well. I did disturb one bird that could possibly have been a Cuckoo but it disappeared so fast that I couldn’t firm up the ID. By now it was quite late so we decided to pack in and return to the hotel then onto the square for a meal.

May 9th.

Today we were staying local but what a day it was. It started at a site known as Devil’s Bridge, which is near to Parakila. This site is known for its Cinerous Bunting but sadly none showed to day. Instead we had a Hobby, a family of Western Rock Nuthatches, (a lone parent and two chicks). Cretzschmars Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Linnet plus we found a Little Owl in a hole in a cliff face. The poor Owl was being harassed by both a Western Rock Nuthatch and a Subalpine Warbler. The Nuthatch had a nest above the Owl and the Subalpine had one below it so both species were trying their best to move the Owl on. Eventually the Owl had had enough and flew off.

The next stop was a few miles back towards Skala Kalloni at Parakila Marshes. There wasn’t much here apart from about five Black-winged Stilts, a Marsh Warbler and a Reed Warbler. There were a few smart Dragonflies flying about but little else so we moved on.

We decided to call into the East River and this turned out to be an excellent decision. One of the first birds seen was a White Stork followed by Little Bittern, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover. Also Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint were seen around the ford area of the river. Martin called me over to see if I could get a photo of an obliging Olivaceous warbler but by the time I reached it the bird had disappeared. After a few minutes it briefly came but it was too quick for a photo.. Just then we were told of a pair of Rollers that had been seen by the Silos just north of the main Mytillini to Kalloni road. Within minutes we were off and after about ten minutes we parked up ready to walk the last bit. Where we parked up a few birders had congregated and when I asked what they were looking at we were told Great Spotted Cuckoo. This was too good an opportunity to miss so after a bit of searching I eventually found the bird. It wasn’t in a position to get good images so I fired off a few record shots.

After a few minutes we walked up to where the Rollers had been reported. Straight away we walked alongside a donkey that was in deep trouble. Its scrotum area was huge and dripping blood and was also red raw with flys all over it. It was limping badly on two legs and a couple of the hooves were badly overgrown. Diane has set the wheels in motion in reporting this Donkey so hopefully someone will rescue it as the poor animal must be in some quite considerable pain.

Moving further up the track we came across another birder and he put us straight onto the very distant Rollers. They were far too far for photography so after a few minutes I decided to walk back to the G S Woodpecker site and was rewarded with some excellent view and managed a few fairish shots of the bird.

Martin, Keith and Diane wanted to have a rest in the hotel for the afternoon so it was decided to call into Skalla Kalloni for some food and drink to take back to the hotel to eat. After eating mine I was off on my own for a couple of hours with the intention of getting a decent image of a Bee-eater. Thankfully I managed to achieve this and the resulting photo will go on my website. Not much more was seen apart from a pair of Rufous-tailed Bush Robins.

Prior to that I met up with a birder I had met the other day. He was going home the next day and had heard about the Roller but was told the wrong area to go. I decided to take them up and thankfully one of the Rollers was still there. I gave them a lift back to the ford over the East River and I carried on over the other side where I managed the Bee-eater image plus a Little Tern shot.

It was time to pick up the others and after I did we moved onto the new hide overlooking the salt pans. In this hide we picked up Great White Egret and Slender Billed Gull, Little Egret and Curlew Sandpiper almost straight away then I noticed a harrier come in off the sea. It was too far for a firm ID so we all decided to drive over to that side of the saltpans. Thankfully the harrier came relatively close to us and I managed to get three record shots of the bird and thankfully I managed at least three photographs of the bird, which was a Pallid Harrier. We also found a couple of Shelduck flying in around 7pm plus a lone Calandra Lark, two Sandwich Terns and quite a few Common Terns also. In the distance were over 100 Greater Flamingo and a similar number of Avocet. That was a cracking end to the day with so many quality birds in such a short space of time.

It was now time to drive back to the hotel but on the way we picked up Black-headed Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret, and a few Black-winged Stilt.

That was a very long, (but enjoyable ) day with nine new ticks for the year.

May 10th.

Today’s first stop was the track just outside of Petra where Keith had seen Sombre Tit a couple of years ago. As we walked up we met a birder that Keith and Diane had met in Lesvos a couple of years ago. He had just seen a couple of Sombre Tit about 100 yards further up the track but after an hour we couldn’t find them. Birds seen whilst we were waiting were Subalpine Warbler, a distant Masked Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Common Buzzard, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Turtle Dove & Wheatear with about six Bee-eaters above our head.

We stopped in Petra for some breakfast before moving on to Ancient Antissa, where a Citrine Wagtail had been reported. On the way we stopped at an area that Keith had been to before that can produce Olive Tree Warbler. As we entered a field a fascinating Insect that looked a bit like a damselfly, dropped onto some nearby vegetation and below is a photo of it. The walk further on produced a Hoopoe and also millions of flies that descended onto us so we got out of there fast.

We moved on and the last six kilometres to Ancient Antissa were masses of Woodchat Shrike, a couple of Masked Shrike and quite a few Red-backed Shrike. Also seen where Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, quite a few Rock Nuthatch, including a couple of family’s of them.

About halfway along toward Ancient Antissa we were joined by an elderly couple that had been along here already this week and we both came to a stop over a small, clear stream. As we stopped a super Short-toed Eagle came into view and drifted slowly past us. After the eagle had gone the couple, who had obviously been here before, pointed out an Olivaceous Warblers nest, with some nestlings in. As soon as we realised they were in there we backed off straight way and about five minutes later one of the parents came back to the nest. The other couple had moved on and after scanning the area we decided to move on also.

It was a good job that we had met this couple as we would have taken the last bit to Ancient Antissa and doing so would have missed the place where the Wagtail had been reported. Just as we were about to cross a junction we noticed their car to the left of us so we joined them. He said the wagtail had probably been reported at the ford lower down the river so off we all set and five minutes later we pulled up at a very polluted piece of water. We searched quite hard and all we could find was a Common Sandpiper and a couple of LRP’s, plus a few Red-rumped Swallows that came in for a drink. The Common Sand suddenly flew and as I watched it I became aware of a movement on the far bank about 70 yards away. After a search I eventually found a Wagtail and after looking at it was confident that it was a Citrine Wagtail. I called the others over and they brought scopes so we could check it out properly. After a few minutes it was confirmed that it was a Female Citrine Wagtail. I was quite pleased at finding that but it was time to move on to the Ipsolui Monastery for a second attempt at seeing Cinerous Bunting. As soon as we pulled up below the Monastery we saw one, plus we had superb views of three Short-toed Eagles, two Long-legged Buzzards and a Peregrine.

Our last stop was the Isabelline Wheatear site near Andissa. As soon as we pulled up at the car park we saw three of them (one in the car park which flew off straight away). We managed to locate a few more and at one point I had four in the scope. A strange shrieking noise emanated from a tree about two hundred yards away from us. None of us had heard anything like it before. Martin had moved away from us but the remaining three of us studied the tree until suddenly a male Golden Oriole shot out and quickly disappeared down the valley.

It was decided to end the birding day there and go back to the hotel and have a rest. At least another two target birds were found today.

May 11th.

It was a leisurely day today as we only went to the Napi Valley where at last we connected with Olive Tree Warbler, plus we found a Masked Shrike nest by accident. We were watching the Olive Tree warblers when a Masked Shrike shot into a nearby bush and came out with what looked like a foetal sac. What we didn’t find was our target bird, Sombre Tit. We had been told that the place where we stopped was a reliable site for these birds but after spending over an hour there in blistering heat we decided to move on without seeing, or hearing one.

After moving on from here we were in the Mandamados area when Keith remembered that we would pass a pool that he had come across two years ago. Sure enough a pool was at the side of the road with about thirty Yellow Legged Gulls, two Ruddy Shelduck a couple of Little Egrets and a White Stork. We decided to rest a while here and Keith started to scan the gulls when he excitedly pointed out something different. There were two birds slightly smaller, both with shorter beaks with a black line near the tip and the tip appeared white. After checking the guide book out it became obvious we were looking at Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus). That was one heck of a bonus bird to get. Almost as soon as we had firmed up the ID something flushed them and they took off. Most left the area but a few returned, unfortunately neither of the Armenians.

I had told the other three of a place I had visited ten years ago, Skalla Sikimmia. I remembered it as a lovely harbour village with some nice restaurants surrounding the harbour. We were not disappointed and decided to stay for what turned out to be an excellent meal. We took a few photos and then moved on to the Molyvos coast track where halfway along it we at last found a Shag. In fact at least ten of them were at different places on the sea.

After a brief visit to a site below Molyvos, on the Petra Road (where Sombre Tits are reportedly breeding) we moved on without seeing one again.

It was now after 5pm and as it was so uncomfortably hot we decided to stop and go back to the hotel for a bit of rest and relaxation.

May 12th.

By now the heat was getting to all of us and it was hard trying to find somewhere to bird comfortably. We decided to go to Dipi Larrsos early then onto Aggiasos for a walk in the woods and some respite from the heat. Also by now we all had quite a few insect bites on our body’s, especially Martin and myself.

The first stop was the first track for the saltpans, (on the Kalloni / Mytillini road). A quick scan got us a few Curlew Sands in their summer plumage and about ten Little Stints. Moving onto the hide and already the heat was fairly intense, and this was still only about 09:30 am. There wasn’t too much going on at the hide apart from the fact that Diane spotted a small, distant, wader that turned out to be a Sanderling, which was a new trip tick.

It was decided to try the track near to the hide. Within one hundred yards we came across two Kentish Plovers standing on the track. They flew into the nearby field and straight by three little chicks. Time for a quick photo then a move on and almost straight away a Whiskered Tern slowly flew by giving me a chance of photographing it. Apart from a few Common Terns and the Flamingo and Avocets there wasn’t much else to look at so we moved on to Dipi Larssos, which supposed to be one of the biggest wetlands on the island. Not now it isn’t. The lack of rain has taken its toll and virtually all of it is dry now. The only things seen here were 2 Black Headed Yellow Wagtails, an Olivaceous Warbler, one Sandwich and Common Tern, a male Whinchat and a lone Little Ringed Plover. By now it was unbearably hot so Agiassos was the next site to visit.

We stopped near the Sanatorium and tried one of the many walking tracks there but even here the heat was getting through the trees. For our pains the only birds seen were a lone Cirl Bunting, a couple of Spot Fly’s, plenty of Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits and Blackbirds.

We had read of two wetland areas on the way back home that we decided to investigate. One was near Megali Limni and one was on the Achladeri junction but both had completely dried up. In fact the one near to Megali Limni was now being farmed so there was no point in stopping at either place.

By now it had gotten far too hot to bird sensibly so we agreed to go back to the hotel for a rest, via the East River, which turned out to be a good decision as a very confiding Black Stork was there. Some good photos were taken by all of us so that was a good bonus for the day.

Martin Keith and Diane didn’t do any birding for the rest of the day. I did some photo editing but then I did go out to Kalloni Inland Lake but it was difficult to see anything as the sun was low and directly into your eyes. I decided to go back to Skalla Kalloni square for the reported Barn Owl. I sat down at 8:15pm and just on 9:10 pm the Barn Owl arrived, sat on a chimney then promptly disappeared down it. That was an excellent end to the day

May 13th.

We agreed to start the day early at the Kalloni Inland Lake and arrived at 06:20am. Straight away six Little Bitterns were seen plus a pair of Little Crakes. Swifts were evident in large numbers, swooping in to drink and amongst them were at least two Pallid Swifts. There seemed to be plenty of action in the reeds and good numbers of Warblers could be seen but apart from the odd Sedge and Cetti’s most of them were not ID’d.

We walked away from the lake and along the left hand track but this time it wasn’t so productive and all that was seen was a Woodchat Shrike and a couple of Olivaceous Warblers.

I had woken up with a bit of a headache and whilst walking along this track it had gradually got worse, to the point where I had to ask Keith and Diane to take me back to the Hotel. After a breakfast then some tablets I retired to bed and didn’t go out again until 15:30 but what timing that was. I went out on my own as the others were resting and I drove to the East River. As soon as I stopped I found three summer plumaged Turnstones followed by about twenty Curlew Sandpipers. I carried onto the ford but a hundred yards short of it I noticed a few waders. They were all Little Stint bar one that had gone behind some vegetation. After a few minutes it came out and my first thoughts were Dunlin but on closer inspection it looked smaller and had lighter legs. The head was boldly streaked and I was confident that I was looking at a Broad-billed Sandpiper.

I hadn’t noticed that a car coming towards me was waiting to get passed so I eased over for him when a van started to beep its horn behind me. That spooked all the nearby waders and they disappeared in different directions.

I carried onto the ford and as soon as I arrived I found a male Citrine Wagtail about fifteen yards away. This was turning out to be a bit of a special hour as a Temminks Stint came within ten feet of me as well. I had been told of a Greenshank that was a bit further up the river so I crossed the ford and went upstream. Within about four hundred yards I found the Black Stork I had photographed the previous day and around him was three Ruff, about six Little Stints, a couple of Wood Sandpipers & LRP’s plus the lone Greenshank. They were too far away to photograph from this side of the river so I drove up to the main road, passing a White Stork on the way, crossed over the bridge and arrived at the spot by the Black Stork only to find most of the warders had left. The three Ruff were still there but only one of the Little Stints and two Wood Sandpipers had stayed put.

I carried on down to the ford again and this time the Temminks Stint came right up close followed by a lovely Little Ringed Plover. As I photographed them a nearby birder called out “Gull Billed Tern” and as I turned one flew over our heads but I was too slow to get a photo. That was the end of a brilliant hour and I managed some excellent photos out of it.

I joined the others at 17:30 ready to go to the Devils Bridge, after the Sombre Tits. Upon arrival at the site another birder informed us that we had missed them by ten minutes and that they had been down to three feet from him. Still it did mean that they were still in the area so we decided to stay. Whilst waiting familes of Great and Blue Tit came by as well as a contentious looking Bunting, which I photographed (which will need experts to ID), and a Creztschmars Bunting. Black-eared Wheatears were evident above us as were Rock Nuthatches but at last, forty five minutes later two Juv Sombre Tits came close enough for me to photograph.

That was a good end to the day, although we did stay after our meal in Skalla Kalloni long enough to see the pair of Barn Owls return to their roost.

May 14th
An early start was agreed for today as we wanted to beat the heat. We decided to go to the Ipsolui Monastery in the hope of seeing the reported Icterine Warblers. Unfortunately Martin had been in the sun a tad bit too long the day before and was feeling decidedly under the weather so declined the invitation to join us.

We started out at 06:15 and reached the Monastery an hour later. We parked the car at the bottom of the hill and started the long climb up the road to where the Monastery is. First birds seen were Cretzshmars Bunting then a Rock Sparrow. Keith spotted a Cinerous Bunting so that was a good start to the morning. From here for another two hours all we seemed to be seeing was Sombre Tits. They were everywhere, making a mockery of how hard it had been the previous eleven days to find them. We must have seen about two dozen of them.

After reaching the monastery we walked down a small track to the side of it. There was a Rowan in flower that seemed to contain quite a few birds that were calling and flying all over the tree. It was then that we noticed a Little Owl sitting at the base of the tree. At the same time I noticed a small Warbler and thankfully it came into view. It was our target bird, the Icterine Warbler. There was a second one in there also.

The Little Owl was in an excellent position for photos and wasn’t a bit uneasy with us being there so all three of us fired off many shots of this lovely bird.

We walked back to the road and a very accommodating male Black-eared Wheatear landed close by giving me a chance of a good photo. Just after I finished photographing this bird a Lesser Kestrel flew over our heads then a Short-toed Eagle, both photographed by me.

On our way back down to the car we also saw a Rock Nuthatch, Wheatear, Linnet and Black-headed Buntings.

After a quick breakfast in the car we were on our way to Skalla Erressos. I had visited here ten years ago and remembered all the different Yellow Wagtails that had been on the river. Upon arriving I was disappointed to see that they had developed the area and had built a new road and a small village. They had also created a rocky side to the river where there had been small stony islands. Now there was no where for any birds to land on in the river. The bonus though was three Alpine Swifts flying in to drink from the river. As we drove back out of there I noticed a Little Bittern out in the open, standing still, looking like a stick. As soon as I stopped the car it was off. We moved back towards the village and Diane noticed a few birds out to sea. They landed some way out from us but because of the severe heat the shimmering was so bad that the scope couldn’t pick out the birds properly. I walked onto the beach and towards the sea and eventually I could see the birds properly. They were Shags, thirty one of them, with more arriving. When we left there were nearly forty of them.

It was far too hot to sensibly do any birding so we drove back to Kalloni, stopping briefly just passed Agra where we saw two Yellow Wagtails and a Little Ringed Plover, plus some nice Dragonfly’s and Butterfly’s.

After a drink at one of the local Tavernas we carried on to Tavira and stopped for a brief period, long enough to see a couple of flocks of Yelkouan Shearwaters fly through but it was far too hot to stand for any length of time so we drove on to our Hotel. Just before the Hotel we cross the West River and here Keith shouted out that he had seen a wader so we doubled back and stopped. It was a good decision as it was a Redshank, a new bird for the trip. We reached the hotel at 15:00, time for a two hour rest before going out again at 17:00 to the East river and salt pans.

As soon as we arrived at the East River we realised something different had arrived as it was like a mini twitch with quite a few people looking at the other side of the river. I asked what was there and it was a lone Collared Pratincole, an excellent addition to the ever growing trip list. It was a bit far to photograph but I tried. I scanned down river and just before the sea I spotted a Black-tailed Godwit, which was a real surprise tick for us.

There was nothing else around that area apart from four Curlew Sandpipers so we moved onto the ford. About half way to the ford I spied a Little Bittern on the far bank but we couldn’t get near enough to get a good view due to some large trees between it and us.

At the ford were a few photographers pointing to something above the ford. It was a female Citrine Wagtail and thankfully it came close enough to photograph. Also nearby were Ruff, Little Stint, Temminks Stint and a Wood Sandpiper. We spent about thirty minutes there before moving on to the river that skirts the saltpans. On the way Diane managed to photograph two fairly confiding Bee-eaters but failed again to get a Crested Lark to pose for her.

That was the end of our twelfth day of birding and we all agreed that the last two days of the holiday should be spent locally so we are starting at the Inland Lake on day 13.

May 15th

We started at the Inland Lake at about 06:15am but our hopes of seeing a few newly arrived warblers were dashed when hardly any were seen. A Great Reed Warbler stole the show but only a few Sedge and Reed Warbler plus a Lone Cetti’s were seen. A Little Bittern gave away its nesting site as it was constantly coming and going with nesting material. At least three Pallid Swifts were found among the forty plus Common Swifts that were around the Lake. I did see our first Sand Martins when two flew over our heads but the others didn’t see them.

We took a walk along side the track to the left of the lake but it was very quiet. The only bird of note was an over flying Golden Oriole that quickly disappeared.

We had been told of an area that we had been told not to divulge where Night Herons Roosted. It was easy to find but by the time we had arrived at 07:45 most had probably departed. Still we did see two Night Heron and two Little Bittern there as well as half a dozen Little Grebes.

It was time for Breakfast then onto the East River. We had been told that a flock of Rose Coloured Starlings had been seen somewhere the day before. Last week we had been told of a tree that the Rosy’s usually visited when they arrived so we made for there. It was between the ford and the saltpans. On our way we had pointed out to us two Grey Plover at the mouth of the river.

There were still a few Little Stint along the river but we were shocked when we reached the ford as it had almost completely dried up. There was hardly a bird to be seen around there. Moving towards where the Rosy’s could be I saw movement around it. We were still one hundred yards away so we took our time getting there and were eventually rewarded with some good sightings of these lovely birds. They were on a feeding frenzy on the Mulberry Trees fruits but they were also staying hidden behind the leaves so I had great difficulty photographing them. After a while we moved on and at one point we managed to get the mini-bus fairly close to a few Bee-eaters so that Diane could photograph them. We also tried to get the vehicle close to Crested Lark because Diane hadn’t got a photo of one of those but unfortunately they weren’t playing ball and would always fly off once you got close to them.

It was time for some photo opportunities near the salt pans and Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Stint and Black-winged Stilt were photographed.

It was getting far too hot to stay out on the pans so we decided to turn back and I suggested we went back via the Rosy site. By the time we reached there the sun had changed position and had gone higher and illuminated the one side of the tree. Thankfully the Rosy’s were still feeding in the same tree and allowed us to get fairly close. Close enough for me to get a few shots before seventeen of them flew off.

It was quickly back to the hotel but on the way we called into the bakery for something to eat. We ate what we had purchased from the bakery in the hotel and we agreed to then call into the bandstand area between Kalloni and Petra just in case any raptors could be seen, especially the Griffon Vultures that had been seen there the day before. After a couple of hours only three Common Buzzards and a Cretzschmar’s Bunting had been seen so we gave up, as the heat was far too hot to be out in for any long periods.

It had been my intention to stay in and do some work on my photos but at 06:30pm Martin came in, telling me of a Spur Winged Plover that was down to twenty yards near to the northern section of the west river. I was out of there like a shot and five minutes later I was looking at the bird, albeit distantly. Thankfully Pete Cole was there and allowed me to use his big lens on the bird, which certainly helped me get a closer shot of it.

May 16th. Last full day of the holiday.

It was not a hectic day today. Keith & Diane decided to have a lie in and Martin & I went for an early start to the East River and the Salt pans. It was very quiet at both venues with only a couple of Wood Sandpipers and about a dozen Little Stints on the river and the tracks around the Salt pans weren’t much better. I had hoped that the Rosy Starlings would show but they didn’t so we headed back to the Hotel for a late breakfast.

After breakfast Keith and Diane joined us and we did the East River and Saltpans again but this time it was a little better. The Rosy’s didn’t show but out on the river that skirts the Saltpans a fairly large mixed flock of Terns were in a feeding frenzy as one after another plunged into the river after the fry that could be seen at the surface.

We called into the hide but it was fairly quiet there, with the exception that we did find a distant Black Tern, so we moved onto the track by the side of the hide and managed to connect with a Rufous-tailed Bush Robin and a couple of Black Headed Wagtails plus another one that at the moment we are not sure of which race of Yellow Wagtail it is.

Diane had been trying to photograph both Bee-eater and Crested Lark with little or no success so we moved into areas that we knew should contain these species and hopefully connect with them. The Bee-eaters were fairly easy to connect with but the Crested Lark was proving troublesome. Each time we got close to one they would fly off but eventually Diane got one, albeit not as close as she would have liked.

It was back to the hotel and after a club sandwich and a drink I had a rest in the hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. Around 4pm I had planned to go back to the east river and saltpans again, this time on my own as Keith, Diane and Martin felt birded out and didn’t want to join me. Just as I was about to leave a birder that we met most days called me over. He had spotted a Humming bird Hawkmoth on a small fence. Thankfully it stayed long enough for me to get a photo.

I eventually reached the river and it was still very quiet but at the ford the Wood Sandpiper and a Little Stint were being very co-operative and were coming about six feet from me so I fired a few shots of both species.

Moving towards the saltpans I came across a few Bee-eatears and I tried to photograph them. They were a bit distant but I managed some record shots of them. The Rosy Starlings were in the tree and I fired off a few shots but looking at them on my Computer at home I have say that they are not as good as yesterdays photos.

I moved to parallel with the salt mound almost straight away connected with a Rufous tailed Bush Robin. Thankfully I managed to get a little closer and was rewarded with some good shots of the bird.

That was it for the day. Tomorrow Martin & I are doing more or less the Same itinerary that we will be doing on the final morning.

May 17th

I had to return the car by 9am so only had just over a couple of hours birding. There had been a report of a wild Pelican on Derbyshire (not the tame one at Skalla Kalloni) so I decided to go there via the East River and the saltpans. Martin had decided to stay in bed. The East river was very quiet with only the Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and LRP at the ford. However I did spot a Shelduck at the river mouth. Upon reaching the Rosy site there wasn’t a sign of any but as I moved forward by a hundred yards I came across eleven in a Tamarisk. I managed a few photos before they flew off.

The river that skirts the salt pans didn’t throw up any surprises but there were a few Little Terns feeding that gave me some photo opportunities then it was onto Derbyshire. There is a river at the side of the road where you turn to go towards Derbyshire and I spotted a couple of Purple Heron in there. Just a bit too far for photography but I fired off a couple of shots anyway before they flew off.

At Derbyshire there was no sign of a Pelican only a Great White Egret, two Ruddy Shelducks and a few Red-rumped Swallows.

That was it. That was the end of a fascinating fortnight. Quite hard birding at times due to the lack of water and the very hot conditions but some excellent birds seen and photographed along the way. The group of four were a great success as there were many laughs along the way (usually at my expense) but it was all in good humour.

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