Lesvos Birding trip report – 23 November – 3 December 2014

Posted By on December 5, 2014 in 2014, trip report | 

Paul Manning and myself decided to shun an early autumn visit to the island in favour of a winter visit. We wanted to see just what the island’s birdlife was like at a time when only a handful of resident birders are active on the island. We were told that some species were common and widespread, but how common and widespread? Also, there were some winter visitors we wanted to find for ourselves, including Moustached Warbler and Steppe Buzzard.

Logistics

We flew from Stansted to Athens with Ryanair, then on to Mytilini with Aegean Airlines. We rented our 4×4 Suziki Jimny jeep from Costas car rentals and stayed at the Diamante Studios on the seafront of Skala Kallonis. We ate each evening at the Dionysos in Skala Kallonis, bought our breakfast and lunch each day from Stavros at the village bakery in Skala Kallonis and also enjoyed eating and drinking at Australia in Sigri, Tsaliki’s at Kavaki and Remezzo’s Café in Kalloni.

Some general impressions

Birding hours were 0715 – 1700 h each day.

We were both struck by the lack of standing freshwater. Rivers were either bone dry still or just a few puddles from recent rains. The Skala Kallonis Pool was bone dry and the Alykes Wetlands held just a few small pools, and both were largely devoid of birds.

The birding was excellent and the trip enabled us to establish for ourselves the status of many wintering species. By and large the birds were concentrated on the coastal areas and valley bottoms, particularly any arable areas. Wetlands of course were the most productive areas and dry river courses were obviously disappointing. Upland and woodland areas held few or no birds.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014

Travel day with an early morning flight from Stansted to Athens then on to Mytilini.

Mon, 24 Nov 2014

Manning Slender-b Gull 24 NovSlender-billed Gull (Chroicopcephalus genei) – a nice pink one – just one of the 57 seen today
© Paul Manning

We spent our day around the Gulf of Kalloni between Potamia and Achladeri and our highlights included: Ruddy Shelduck 31, Common Shelduck 43, Black-necked Grebe 10, Great Crested Grebe 5, Little Grebe 32 (Potamia), Dalmatian Pelican 3 ads (Kalloni pans), Black Stork several, Spoonbill 4 (Kalloni Saltpans), Great Egret 22, Little Egret, Greater Flamingo (many hundreds Kalloni pans), Coot 31 (Potamia), Common Buzzard 1, Marsh Harrier 1, Hen Harrier male, Sparrowhawk 6, Peregrine 2, Slender-billed Gull 57 (single flock), Sandwich Tern 5, Lapwing 7 (Christou River) & 10 (Alykes Wetlands), Kentish Plover 16, Grey Plover 15, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank 2 (Christou River), Greenshank 6, Dunlin, 28, Little Stint 3, Curlew 1, Common Snipe 1 (Vouvaris River), Common Sandpiper 1 (Potamia), Kingfisher (Tsiknias & Vouvaris rivers), Woodpigeon 5 (Vouvaris River), Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark (many flocks 15-50+), Woodlark 67 (total of three flocks), Crag Martin 1 (Potamia), Meadow Pipt (lots and everywhere), Grey Wagtail 1 (Potamia), Song Thrush (many at Metochi and Potamia)), Zitting Cisticola 1 (Christou River), Sardinian Warbler 16+ (Potamia, Metochi, Tsiknias, Vouvaris), Chiffchaff (lots), Starling (lots), Robin, (lots and everywhere), Black Redstart (lots and everywhere), Serin (lots), Cirl Bunting (lots) and Corn Bunting (lots).

Tues, 25 Nov 2014

Dudley Zitting Cisticola 25 NovZitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidus), Dipi Larisos reedbed

First light was spent at the beach outside our apartment in Skala Kallonis watching a feeding frenzy of Great Cormorants and gulls. We had hoped they would be as close as yesterday when we watched ill-prepared without our cameras – sadly not, the birds were more distant but still very enjoyable to watch how the cormorants found the food and the gulls followed them. After collecting breakfast and lunch from the bakery, we drove straight over to the large reed bed at Dipi Larisos at the north-western corner of the Gulf of Gera, where in the last week or so Eleni Galinou and Lefteris Kakalis have caught wintering Moustached Warblers. This is the only known site for this species now on the island. Paul and I spent much of our morning here and using a basic linear transect count method (to avoid duplication) we walked the entire beach length of the reed bed and accessed two tracks counting a minimum of 18 calling Moustached Warblers, seeing five of them including excellent prolonged views of one bird. Also at Dipi Larisos we recorded many other species including: Reed Bunting 1, Water Rail 4 calling birds, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Robin, Dunnock (4), Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Zitting Cisticola (2). We also found a freshly dead Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus) here and Bedriaga’s (Marsh) Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae) were heard.

We then moved down the east side of the Gera Gulf to Haramida Marsh for our lunch – a site where Moustached Warbler used to occur. The marsh was very disappointing. It gets poorer each time I visit. It was very dry apart from a few small pool and easily walked around in normal boots. No Moustached Warblers heard (and I confidently predict this site no longer holds any it is so poor now) with a Dunnock, 2 Reed Buntings, 2 Common Stonechat and a Sparrowhawk the only birds noted.

We spent the afternoon checking other sites along the eastern side of the Gulf of Kalloni including Polichnitos Saltpans where we found a single male Spanish Sparrow in a large mixed flock of Corn Buntings (200+), Chaffinches, Skylarks and Crested Larks. At the pans we saw a male Merlin briefly plus expected flamingos, waders and herons inc. 4 Black Storks. Alikoudi Pool was very poor also, holding very little water and only a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls. Mikri Limni was also dry but we did enjoy a flock of 32 Cirl Buntings and our sixth Dunnock of the day. Eurasian Sparrowhawk was a feature of today, and like yesterday we had six sightings of single birds. It’s striking that there are so few buteos around with only single Common Buzzards seen yesterday and today. The weather today was sunny with blue skies in the east and should have been good for soaring buteos, but just the single bird at Dipi Larisos.

Dragonflies seen today: Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) – many including still breeding, Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) and Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis). Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and Small White (Pieris rapae) butterflies still on the wing.

Weds, 26 Nov 2014

Dudley Med Gull 26 NovMediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), Krakala harbour

Our third full winter days birding was in sunshine with high cloud and very light NE wind. Very pleasant, quite warm in most areas.

We went west, starting at Parakoila Marsh where we had 3 Water Rails, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Wren, Dunnock and Sardinian Warbler. Sardines are pretty much everywhere we go and we hear Dunnocks in most coastal areas and sheltered valleys. Robins and Black Redstarts too are very common and widespread – much more than we expected as they are pretty much everywhere where there is cover. Song Thrushes also found in any damp/wet valley bottom and gullies.

We moved on to the Krakala harbour area where we were pleased to find 27 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Sandwich Tern, 1 Curlew, 3 Kentish Plover, Kingfisher and Serin singing its little heart out for anyone to hear (but no Mrs Serin as far as we could see). Nearby we found 2 Moustached Warblers in a small reed bed at a little river mouth along with another surprise, a cracking Hawfinch sat at the top of a dead tree. Single Common buzzard and Sparrowhawk also seen in the area.

We had a second Curlew at Apothika before driving down to Makara (nothing of note other than all the expected winter species detailed above) and across the dirt tracks and hills in to the Konditsia Valley. In general, most areas are devoid of birds but every now and then you come across a gully, or a ploughed field, or a small scrub area which is alive with birds. We came across such a place as we approached the Konditsia valley, a small gully area which held 24 Black Redstarts, 30+ Corn Bunting, 4 Serin, 2 Rock Sparrow, Stonechat, Linnet and commoner finches. 12 Black Redstarts in a single tree! We also had a flock of 12 Rock Sparrows nearby. We continued into and down the Konditsia valley, ditching the car and continuing on foot to the sea. Lots of Cirl Buntings, some Skylarks, Long-legged Buzzard and Grey Wagtail on the beach. After lunch we continued on the dirt tracks cross country to Podaras where the only thing of note was a ploughed field holding 19 White Wagtails. So, on to Chrousos. The valley bottom was lush green and full of birds – Common Starlings, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails, common finches – the place was alive – but nothing more than common species which was a little disappointing.

On our way home we had good views of two male Peregrines and our Sparrowhawk tally for the day only reached four birds. Must do better tomorrow as we’ve now seriously lowered our daily average which was running at six.

New dragonfly for the trip – Eastern Willow Spreadwing (Lestes parvidens) at Podaras. Oh, and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth came and hovered at Paul’s bottle of Mythos on our indoor taverna at 9.05pm! Happy days

Thurs, 27 Nov 2014

Dudley Med Gulls 27 NovMediterranean Gulls (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), Perasma Reservoir – part of a total count of 580 birds! We think the largest count ever for the island.

We woke to bright sunshine and blue skies with scattered high cloud and after collecting breakfast from the bakery we headed over to the Christou River. We walked the extensive reed and sedge areas in search of Moustached Warbler but nothing. We concluded that this was due to this area being very dry, and the two other sites we had seen them being very wet reed and sedge areas. We did however come across 5 Zitting Cisticolas and a couple of Reed Buntings.

We then headed in to the lower Potamia valley. The ploughed field full of birds we enjoyed the other day was sadly empty so we started birding the area below the reservoir and within only a few minutes we had found a Wryneck! We enjoyed the bird for a few minutes as it moved from tree to tree in an olive grove before doing a disappearing act on us. This is only the second late autumn/winter record for the island (the other being 18 Nov 09 at Polichnitos Saltpans). A male Hen Harrier also put in a brief appearance as we searched the wider area for the Wryneck.

We drove across to the Kalloni saltpans to meet up with Eleni Galinou with whom we spent the rest of a very enjoyable morning. We walked the east side of the pans with the expected flamingos, herons, egrets and waders (inc. 5 Curlew) before finding the Dalmatian Pelicans which today numbered four adults. A couple of Black Storks and two Spoonbills were seen, along with a humungous female Peregrine – she was BIG! An adult female Hen Harrier put in an appearance hunting the fields to the east and south of the pans and a small flock of Wigeon were seen grazing along the top of one of the saltpan banks.

We moved on to Perasma Reservoir where we were greeted by lots of Coot, Little Grebe, Cormorants and Yellow-legged Gulls. Many of the cormorants were ‘snorkelling’ in the weedy shallow water and we soon found out why – they were catching frogs! We started to search the reservoir edges and soon found two Black-necked Grebes, a Common Snipe, four Mallard, three Teal and three Mediterranean Gulls. We were very pleased with ourselves when Paul suggested that Eleni and I look at the sky over Molivos – it was ‘full’ of Mediterranean Gulls. Many came over to the reservoir to bathe – 380+ of them! And there were still 200+ birds wheeling around the sky distantly towards Molivos! 580+ Med Gulls – wow! Is that an island record? The photo shows only a few of this massive flock of birds. We also managed a male Goshawk and single Common and Long-legged Buzzards whilst scanning the skies.

It was now lunchtime so we retreated to Tsaliki’s café at Kavaki – where else to celebrate a brilliant mornings birding than my favourite café. Some very nice cakes appeared briefly before disappearing too quickly Eleni left us to return home and Paul and I headed over to Anemotia and in to the upper Potamia valley.

Our sole aim here was to find Hawfinch. Just below the town we had three birds fly over, so we moved lower down. We were struggling along the river so we decided to climb up the west side in to the chestnut forest where, on arrival, we immediately found seven birds sat up in dead trees above the chestnut trees – bingo! We also found some Greek Cyclamen (Cyclamen graecum) under the trees by the track. We headed back down the valley and picked up a further nine Hawfinch flying over – 19 birds in total. We were very happy. As we approached the river bridge below the weir I spotted four Crag Martins wheeling around above us. And we were even happier! We think this is further evidence that they probably winter here. We will look for them out west later in the week too.

We ended the day back at the Christou river to search for a Hen Harrier roost. As we walked through the marsh we found a single Spoonbill on the river before the first of two male Hen Harriers appeared and disappeared. Some 10 minutes later a female appeared, quartered the marsh and then headed off again. A second male harrier then came in with the first bird reappearing. They both flew around together putting on a great show for us before going down to roost. The female returned only to kick both the boys out of the cosy roost to take the best place for herself. The two males wheeled around for a little while before joining her in the roost. What a great way to end the day! This winter Lesvos birding lark is pretty OK

Fri, 28 Nov 2014

Dudley Moustached Warbler 28 NovMoustached Warbler (Acrocepahalus melanopogon), Dipi Larisos

We awoke to a still, calm morning, but with low cloud and mist and overnight drizzle it was a damp start. After collecting our breakfast and lunch from the bakery we headed over to Dipi Larisos reed bed again for some more hoped for Moustached Warbler action. We arrived at 0800 but the place was eerily quiet. We heard several Moustached Warblers but saw none in the first hour. Our search was only brightened up by five Pygmy Cormorants flying over which we were subsequently unable to locate on the water or perched up anywhere. At around 0915 the area suddenly woke up! Flocks of Chaffinches and Goldfinches dropped in and Moustached Warblers were suddenly very vocal. We were soon seeing them flitting around as they appeared to be leaving the reed areas to feed in the low sedge areas. We got occasional views in the reed edge, but as soon as they went in to the sedge grass they were completely hidden and we didn’t get one single view of them in the sedge grass over the next hour. Eventually we both managed some record shots.

The image above is a very typical view when you do see one in the open – a dark warbler with a bright head pattern and cocked tail. Personally I have long thought that the field guides really get close to the reality of these birds and depict them too similar to Sedge Warbler. The sub species we have here, melanopogon, the overall colour and behaviour is much nearer Cetti’s than a Sedge. The head pattern is so striking, especially when looking in to the darker areas of reed you see a gleaming supercilium and throat looking back at you. Also, the dark markings on the back are almost impossible to see in the field and are only just discernible in the photo. The eastern subspecies, mimicus, looks more superficially like Sedge, but still to my eye at least, they are very distinctive. No matter, they are fabulous birds, more often heard than seen, but when you do see one they are utterly unmistakable! In total we managed at least 10 birds in a relatively small area and mostly an area we didn’t cover the other day. Also at Dipi Larisos we managed to turn up 9 Reed Buntings, 2 Marsh Harriers, 1 Common Buzzard, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns, 2 Kingfishers, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Black-necked Grebes.

We then had a break from birding to go meet Spyros Galinos – the new Mayor of Lesvos! We had a 20 minute meeting with him to talk about the importance of birding tourism, the environment and what he, as newly elected mayor, could do to help maintain this and improve both the environment and assist with birding tourism during his term in office. The meeting was very positive but too short to go in to specifics but we’ve been asked to assist with helping the mayor’s office to identify areas for them to focus on. We left the mayor to his pile of paperwork and headed south to the Vatera area.

At the Vourkou River mouth it was blazing sun and short sleeves! The place was hopping with Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Robins and Black Redstarts – the Black Reds were even singing! We headed back west towards Vatera when we found the first of two putative Steppe Buzzards (but only poor record shots obtained). At the mouth of the Almyropotamos River we found a Coot and a Common Teal, but that was it. At the bridge, the river north of the bridge is now simply a linear reed bed, and from what we could here and see – nothing in it! Three Hawfinch flew over and perched in a tree to the west of us and some nearby puddles provided drinking and bathing for finches and buntings. We also managed three Sparrowhawks here.

We headed north, and as we approached Vrisa we found the second of our putative Steppe Buzzards (and more poor recordshots). Another Sparrowhawk made it six for the day – we were back on track.

We then drove down to Nifida to check out the old football pitch-come-marsh. The open water area contained nothing, but the whole area was alive with Common Stonechats (at least 14) and Chiffchaffs (at least 16). We found three more Reed Buntings, our second male Spanish Sparrow of the trip and a single Moustached Warbler.

Dudley Spanish Sparrow 28 NovMale Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Nifida, with a small group of House Sparrows. The second we have found this week (the other was just north of Polichnitos Saltpans). No previous winter records.

It was now 1600 and only an hour or so of birding light remaining so we headed to Polichnitos saltpans where we found 7 Black Storks but little else. We decided to drive the open fields north along the coast slowly in search of harriers and were rewarded with a bullet of an adult male Merlin by the Almyropotamos River north of the pans. We retired to our usual Kalloni café at 1730 two very happy bunnies.

Sat, 29 Nov 2014

Dudley Hawfinch 29 NovMale Hawfinch (Coccthraustes coccothraustes), Faneromeni

A distinct increase in temperature this morning – it was warmer outside than it was in our rooms!

After collecting breakfast from the bakery we headed west. A brief stop in Lardia Valley produced nothing of any note, so it was through the ongoing road works and on to Sigri and Faneromeni. It was immediate that the place was alive with birds. We spent the whole morning walking all the fields and coastal area and a drive through the back. As expected now, all the birds were along the coastal strip, particularly any arable fields. Our totals were pretty good by the morning’s end, with a few nice surprises: a male Spanish Sparrow (third of the week), 6 Hawfinch (very unexpected!), 5 Reed Buntings, a Mistle Thrush (again, unexpected, at the beach), 400+ Skylark, 110+ Woodlark, 350 Corn Bunting, 140 Serin, 80 Cirl Bunting, 60 Chiffchaff, 81 Rock Dove, several Dunnocks and countless Robin, Black Redstart and Stonechat.

We enjoyed a fabulous lunch of garlic shrimps, kalimari (those who know me know this!) and tuna steak with Costas at Australia.

Fully restored we headed in to the Meladia Valley which was surprisingly very quiet. We’ve found this week that most birds are around arable land, not the open, low scrub open country areas, which are pretty lifeless apart from a few Black Redstart and Stonechat. Our drive down to the valley bottom and river produced only a Long-legged Buzzard of note. A walk out to the river mouth was a little more interesting, a Coot at the mouth, but a Little Crake flushed in the marsh was a real surprise. We went over on to the fig grove where we had our rarest find of the week so far – 3 Fieldfare! Only the third record in the last five years.

Our final stop of the day was Pithariou Reservoir which was very low and very short on birds. So we headed back to Kalloni for our daily café stop before heading down to Skala for dinner.

Sun, 30 Nov 2014

Manning Water Pipit 30 NovRecord shot of today’s Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta), Kalami Marsh © Paul Manning

Well it had to happen sooner or later. We woke to heavy rain and thick, dark clouds. Much of the morning was spent watching what we could from the jeep and by lunchtime it started to brighten up and most of the afternoon was dry with only the occasional shower.

Our first port of call was the Milopotamos River with only a Kingfisher, Great Egret and Grey Heron. We headed out to the beach at Kandria Marsh where we found the 9 Black-throated Divers found by Eleni yesterday. Not close, but enough to appreciate them and see the necessary ID features. Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes were also on the sea. We walked along the beach to the Milopotamos River mouth with three Zitting Cisticolas, Cormorants, Great Egret and Grey Heron.

After bumping in to Dimitris Fotiou at the Kalloni Saltpans we spent some time searching what looked like prime Woodcock habitat with no success. We did however come across another three Hawfinch at Mirsinia and a large feeding flock of Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs.

After sitting out a particularly heavy spell of rain in our favourite Kalloni café, we headed to Kalami Marsh where we were surprised to flush a Water Pipit from a roadside culvert. We’ve spent days checking every marsh and puddle we have come across for these with no success until now – and the one we find is in some grotty, litter-filled concrete drain by the main Mytilini road! A stomp around the area also produced three more Zitting Cisticolas.

After our prized ham, cheese and tomato pies from the Skala Kallonis baker, we went to the hide in the north east corner of the Kalloni saltpans to sit out another heavy shower. Afforded good views of the pans we soon spotted the usual suspects including four Dalmatian Pelicans, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Curlew, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, 2 Long-legged Buzzards and 11 Slender-billed Gulls.

The rain now passed, we headed over to Parakoila Marsh. It’s a frustrating site to say the least. Despite looking like prime waterbird habitat it rarely produces. Today was no exception with only a single Wigeon, Little Grebe and Zitting Cisticola. So we headed down to Krakala harbour which was devoid of birds (unlike the other day when it was humming with birds) but a male Goshawk with prey was seen coming out of the olive groves.

Having seen the last of the days showers, we wandered up Potamia valley produced the usual Coots and Little Grebes on the two reservoirs, a couple of Sparrowhawks and Common Buzzards, and now five Crag Martins over the bridge.

We ended the day at Christou River where we watched a male and female Hen Harrier come in to roost, a couple of Spoonbills feeding out towards the river mouth, a male Peregrine heading off the marsh with what may have been one of the 60+ Dunlin seen flying around earlier.

As we walked down to the Dionysos this evening the beach tamarisks were alive if cicadas – nothing to do with sunny days, but everything to do with temperature. Today might have been wet, but it was by far the warmest day so far.

Mon, 1 Dec 2014

Stock Doves 1 DecRecord shots of Stock Dove (Columba oenas), Skala Vasilikon © Paul Manning (left) & Steve Dudley (right)

Well what a contrast to yesterday. Dry and warm. No sun, but thick cloud cover and birding in short sleeves with no wind and a flat calm Kalloni gulf was like a mirror at times.

After our now customary start collecting breakfast and lunch from the Skala Kallonis bakery we found ourselves at the Tsiknias River mouth pondering the day and thinking we might not add any new trip ticks in our last couple of days. How wrong we were! Within minutes a flock of 15 Golden Plover flew over us and a single Common Ringed Plover was found on the river mouth. We spent some time trying to photograph a Slender-billed Gull in dreadful light before heading over to look at the sea off the saltpans. That turned out to be an inspired move as from there we had a wider view of the gulf and were soon picking out the 9 Black-throated Divers from pervious days, 33 Great Crested Grebes and 38 Black-necked Grebes. I then chanced upon a flock of less familiar birds in the gulf. They were a little distant and low and long on the water. Paul and I mused as to their ID before the light improved and we were watching 16 Red-breasted Mergansers! A further single bird was found a little closer providing us with better views. Three of the Dalmatian Pelicans were at the Milopotamos river mouth and we spent some time watching a very large, bushy-tailed and fit looking Red Fox tugging at a large dead mammal on the shoreline.

Once we were sure we’d extracted every last bird from the gulf, we headed on around to the east side via the northeast corner saltpans hide where we found the usual suspects including the fourth pelican. Achladeri was next were we found some Autumn Crocus still in flower in the wood and heard Kruper’s Nuthatch in the distance. Offshore three Black-throated Divers provided our best views yet.

Crocus IMG_1188Autumn Crocus (Colchicum pallassii) – one of ten plants found at the Kruper’s site at Achladeri today.

 

Stunning flowers brightening up a very dank forest floor at this time of year. We worked our way along the shore of the eastern gulf southwards in the aim of checking every single muddy patch and puddle for snipes, and every buzzard for a Steppe. We’d bagged a single Common Snipe as we arrived driving in to Skala Vasilikon when I spotted two odd birds coming off a field with some Collared Doves. “Stock Doves” I yelled to Paul pointing at two birds landing on an electricity pole in the village. We spent a little time trying to get close to them, but they were very wary and only gave up distant views and record shots – only the 10th record for the island. Moving on we soon found ourselves with our first buzzards of the day behind the village and spent an hour or so wandering the tracks here with clouds of finches (including 62 Hawfinches and c.650 Chaffinches) and Song Thrushes (65+) along the maze of bushy field edges. We also found another couple of Red-breasted Mergansers offshore here and a Little Owl calling in the village is the only one we’ve recorded since arriving on 23 Nov!

We arrived at the fields above Polichnitos Saltpans for our lunch which we spent watching another buzzard and a male Hen Harrier which seemed to be doing a regular circuit of the passerine-filled fields. A further 40+ Hawfinch here, plus 325+ Corn Buntings, 450+ Chaffinches, 120 Skylarks, 34 Woodlarks plus Serin, Cirl Bunting, House Sparrows, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.

Nfida was our last destination but provided only a handful of Mediterranean Gulls – the marsh being dead. We headed back north the way we had come and picked up a couple of new buzzards, making six birds in total for the day. Two were clear buteos, three buteo/vulpinus hybrids and one bird considered to be a true vulpinus. So, despite our gloomy expectations of no new trip ticks, we added five species to our trip list today including two new Lesvos birds for Paul and myself (Red-breasted Merganser and Stock Dove). Our daily tally of Sparrowhawk was only three – all within half an hour of one another first thing in the morning around the Kalloni pans which had raised out hopes of a another Sparrowhawk-filled day – but sadly not.

Dudley put vulpinus 1 Dec Poli PansProbable Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus), Polichnitos Saltpans

Paul and I found six different buteos in around Polichnitos pans and Skala Vasilikon today and this is the only bird we think passes for vulpinus. This bird shows a clear grey cast to the upper wing (also seen on the mantle too but not in this shot), fine barring on the secondaries producing a large bright white band through the entire underwing, dark thighs and black through the eye. The other five birds we considered to be 2 buteos and 3 buteo/vulpinus hybrid types – but all dark and not like the foxy-red ‘island’ buzzards we see in the centre and west of the island each spring (which we haven’t seen one of on this trip).

Tues, 2 Dec 2014

Dudley Black StorksBlack Storks, Greater Flamingo and Great Egret, Polichnitos Saltpans

The weather got the better of Paul and me today. We met up with Petros Tsakmakis and Dimitris Fotiou at Dipi Larisos, but it had not long rained, was cold and the wind was coming in off the bay straight in to the area. It took a long time for the area to warm up and the bird to become active and even then it was quite little and we didn’t see any Moustached Warblers but heard several in the now usual areas. A male and female Marsh Harrier and a couple of Reed Buntings were the best we could manage.

Paul and I went on a major coastal route along the east and north coasts in search of gulls, Baltic Gull in particular. Even Yellow-legged Gulls were few and far between (far fewer here in winter than in spring) apart from at some expected places such as Parasma Reservoir. Mediterranean Gulls were plentiful at Skala Sikiaminias (220) and Perasma (65). And sadly no Baltic Gull which remains quite a rare find here and destined to be added back on to the LBRC species list.

As rain set in we headed to Tsaliki’s café at Kavaki for a final holiday coffee and cake before heading back to the Kalloni area only to find the rain had taken hold good and proper so we returned to our digs for the first time in daylight!

We’ve both learned a lot more about the birds and wildlife of Lesvos and we’ve both managed to see a few new birds for our respective Lesvos lists We’ll definitely be back in winter another time thats for sure.

Weds, 3 Dec 2014

Travel day home, but with a few hours to kill in Athens between flights, Lefteris Stavrakas kindly met up with Paul and me and took us for a few hours birding to Schinias National Park– the largest wetland in the Athens area. We had a great time, including seeing a Spotted Eagle and a good laugh with Terry.

SPECIES LISTS

BIRDS

With notes on selected species.

 

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) Up to 20 daily at Kalloni Saltpans.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) Max. 29 Alykes Wetlands 25 Nov.

Common Teal (Anas crecca) 4 Perasma Reservoir 27 Nov, 1 Alymyropotamos River (Vatera) 28 Nov and max. 14 Kalloni Saltpans 30 Nov.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 4 Perasma Reservoir 27 Nov and max. 58 Kalloni Saltpans 30 Nov.

Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) Up to 29 Kalloni Salptans.

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 17 off Kalloni Saltpans and 2 off Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) Seen at Perasma Reservoir, Potamia reservoirs, Christou River, Tsiknias River, Kalloni Saltpans, Polichnitos Saltpans and on the Kalloni Gulf at many locations.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) Seen daily in Kalloni Gulf with max. 33 on 2 Dec. Gera Gulf max. 5 on 28 Nov.

Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigrocollis) Seen daily in Kalloni Gulf with max. 37 on 2 Dec. Also 2 Potamia Reservoir 27 Nov and 2 Dec. Gera Gulf max. 3 on 28 Nov.

Greater Flamingo Seen at Kalloni Saltpans (up to 1800+), Polichnitos Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River and Mesa.

Black Stork 1-7 een at Kalloni Saltpans, Polichnitos Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River and Mesa.

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) Up to 4 Kalloni Saltpans and 2 Christou River.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) Seen at Kalloni Saltpans, Polichnitos Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River, Dipi Larisos and Mesa.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) Seen at Kalloni Saltpans, Polichnitos Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River, Dipi Larisos, Mesa and Apothika.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Seen at Kalloni Saltpans, Polichnitos Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River, Dipi Larisos, Mesa and Apothika.

Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) 4 Kalloni Saltpans throughout.

Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus) 5 Dipi Larisos28 Nov.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) Seen down east side of the Kalloni Gulf and off Meladia Valley.

Marsh Harrier (Circus auruginosus) 1-2 seen Kalloni Saltpans and Dipi Larisos.

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) Up to 3 birds (2 males, 1 female) at the Christou River roost. What were presumed to be these birds where seen at Kalloni Saltpans (male and female), Potamia valley (male), Achladeri (male) and Polichitos Saltpans (male).

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) Seen daily across the island.

Goshawk (Accipiter gentillis) Singles Perasma Reservoir 27 Nov and Parakoila 30 Nov.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 1-2 seen Agra, Skala Vasilikon and Vrisa.

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus) Of the dozen or so buzzards seen during the trip one bird was considered to be a good vulpinus, at Polichnitos Saltpans 1 Dec, and a further four buteo-vulpinus integrades.

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) Up to around Kalloni Saltpans throughout. Singles Konditsia Valley 26 Nov, Perasma 27 Nov and Meladia Valley 29 Nov.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 1-2 seen at many sites across the island.

Merlin (Falco columbarius) Ad adult male seen at Polichnitos Saltpans 25 and 28 Nov.

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) Singles seen Kalloni Saltpans, Tsiknias River and Christou River.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) 1-4 recorded from Parakoila Marsh, Dipi Larisos, nr Krakala Harbour, Nifida and Faneromeni river mouth.

Little Crake (Porzana parva) 1 Meladia Valley 29 Nov. First ever winter record.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 1-2 seen at Potamia reservoirs, Perasma Reservoir, Parakoila and Tsiknias River.

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) Seen at Potamia reservoirs, Perasma Reservoir, Meladia Valley, Parakoila and Almyropotamos River (Vatera).

Avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta) Seen at Kalloni Saltpans and Polichnitos Saltpans.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 7 Christou River 24 Nov and 10 Alykes Wetlands 24 Nov.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) 15 Tsiknias River mouth 1 Dec.

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) 1-7 seen Kalloni Saltpans and Tsiknias River mouth.

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 1 Tsiknias River mouth 1 Dec.

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrius) Seen at Kalloni Saltpans (max. 37), Tsiknias River and Christou River.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) None seen despite extensive searches of many suitable areas for this species.

Jack Snipe (Limnocryptes minimus) None seen despite extensive searches of all suitable wetland areas for this species.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) Singles Vouvaris River mouth 24 Nov, Perasma Reservoir 27 Nov and Farmakies Marsh 1 Dec.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Up to 7 at Kalloni Saltpans with singles also seen at Apothika and Vouvaris River mouth.

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) Small numbers seen Kalloni Saltpans, Tsiknias River, Christou River, Apothika and Polichnitos Saltpans.

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1-2 seen Kalloni Saltpans, Tsiknias River and Christou River.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) Surprisingly none seen despite searching all suitable wetland areas.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 1 Potamia Reservoir 24 Nov and 5 between Kalloni Saltpans and Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta) Small numbers seen on all visits to Kalloini Saltpans.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) Small numbers seen on all visits to Kalloini Saltpans. Also seen at Polichnitos Saltpans and Christou River (60).

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicopcephalus genei) Seen at Skala Kallonis, Kalloni Saltpans and Tsiknias River; max. 57 Skala Kalloni seafront 24 Nov.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicopcephalus ridibundus) Small numbers Dipi Larisos, many Gulf of Kalloni sites, Perasma Reservoir, Potamia Reservoir and Sigri.

Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 1-7 seen along coast of the Gulf of Kalloni and Gulf of Gera on every visit. Larger counts of 27 Krakala Harbour (Parakoila) 26 Nov, 580+ seen at/from Perasma Reservoir 27 Nov (island record), 220 Skala Sikaminias 2 Dec and 80 Perasma Reservoir 2 Dec.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) Not a numerous as in spring but seen along all coastal areas. Surprisingly few young birds, probably less that 5% of birds seen in most laces. Only exception was on 2 Dec at Perasma when it was around 20%.

Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 1-3 seen off Dipi Larisos, Kalloni Saltpans, Kandria Marsh and Tsiknias River mouth.

Rock Dove (Columba livia) 81 Faneromeni 29 Nov. Feral Pigeons seen in Kalloni and Mytilini.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 2 Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec is only the 10th record for the island.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumus) 5 Vouvaris River mouth 24 Nov.

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decato)

Scop’s Owl (Otus scops) None found at Soumouria. We didn’t check the Papiana school site as the trees had recently been pollarded.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) Only one (heard) in Skala Vasilikon village.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) 1-2 seen Dipi Larisos, Tsiknias River, Christou River, Vouvaris River mouth.

Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) 1 Potamia Valley 27 Nov.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius)
Jay (Garrulus glandularis)
Jackdaw (Coloeus mondula)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Raven (Corvus corax)
Sombre Tit (Poecile lugubris)

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) 6 Mirsinia 30 Nov.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Woodlark (Lullula arborea) Small flocks encountered in many coastal and lowland sites including Potamia Valley, Sigri Fields, Polichntios Saltpans (surrounding fields) and Meladia Valley.

Skylark (Aluda arvensis) Flocks of up to 400 recorded at all coastal areas.

Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) Up to five seen on three dates in Potamia Valley.

Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti)

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 2 Mirsinia 30 Nov.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) Everywhere! 1-20 seen at coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland).

Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon) Dipi Larisos 18 recorded on 25 Nov (extensive search), 10 on 28 Nov (focused on one key area) and 5 on 1 Dec (in limited search in poor weather); 2 river mouth nr Krakala Harbour 26 Nov; 1 Nifida 28 Nov.

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidus) 1-5 seen at Dipi Larisos, Christou River, Polichnitos Saltpans, Parakoila, Kandria Marsh and Kalami Marsh.

Blackcap (Stlvia atricapilla) 1-8 seen or heard at most scrubland coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland).

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 6 Mirsinia 30 Nov.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) Singles encountered at most coastal and lowland sites.

Krüper’s Nuthatch (Sitta krueperi) Heard at Achladeri 1 Dec.

Western Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 3 Meladia Valley fog grove 29 Nov.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) Small numbers in most coastal woodland and scrubland coastal and lowland sites. Max. 65 Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 1 Faneromeni beach 29 Nov.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) Everywhere! 1-5 seen at all coastal and lowland sites and in all habitats inc. coniferous woodland.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) Everywhere! 1-5 seen at most coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland). Seen in some upland areas, e.g. 24 in a single gulley between Makara and Konditsia Valley.

Common Stonechat (Saxicola rubecula) Everywhere! 1-20 seen at most coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland).

Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius) Singles Vrisa and Apothika.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Small numbers at most coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland).

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) Single males at Polichnitos Saltpans 25 Nov, Nifida 28 Nov and Faneromeni 29 Nov. These are the first recorded winter records.

Dunnock (Motacilla cinerea) 1-3 seen or heard at most scrubland coastal and lowland sites (only missing from coniferous woodland).

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) 1-2 seen Potamia Valley, Konditsia Valley.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) Small numbers at all coastal and lowland sites.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) Small numbers at all coastal and lowland sites.

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) 1 Kalami Marsh 30 Nov.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) Common and widespread in all coastal and lowland sites. Max. 650+ Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec.

Hawfinch (Coccthraustes coccothraustes) Recorded near daily from coastal areas and higher Potamia. Max. 62 Skala Vasilikon 1 Dec.

Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) Recorded from Dipi Larisos (max. 9 on 28 Nov), Faneromeni, Christou River and Haramida Marsh.

TOTAL – 104 SPECIES

MAMMALS OF NOTE

Eastern Hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor)
Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus)
Caucasian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

AMPHIBIANS

Stripe-necked (Balkan) Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)
Bedriaga’s (Marsh) Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae)  


BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Pieris rapae)
Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

DRAGONFLIES

Red-veined Darter (Symetrum fonscolombei)
Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger)
Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis)
Eastern Willow Spreadwing (Lestes parvidens)

OTHER INSECTS OF NOTE

Egyptian Locust (Anacridium aegyptum)
Lesvos Cicada (Cicada orni lesbosiensis)

FLOWERS OF NOTE

Autumn Crocus (Colchicum pallasii)
Cyclamen (Cyclamen graecum)

Images © Steve Dudley unless stated

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About Steve Dudley

Hi, I’m Steve Dudley, your guide for your Lesvos day trips, proprietor of Lesvos Birding, author of A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos and the person behind LesvosBirding.com.