Lesvos birding sites

Sites_Pithariou
Pithariou monastery and reservoir

Here is an introduction to some of the main birding areas and sites on the island. Whislt there is some detail here it is nothing like the detail in my book which includes much more information and maps of each area and site.

Click on highlighted place names for link to Google World Map.

Page references refer to the site page in A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos.

See here for map of the island and location of birding sites.

CENTRAL AREA

Sites_Centre

The Gulf of Kalloni as seen form the top of Mt Lepetimnos (Jan 09). The Gulf dominates the centre of the island and is a huge funnel for migrants moving up form the south in spring. Wetland birds concentrate at the Kalloni Ssaltpans right at the centre of the Gulf’s northern shore. You can just make the salptans left of centre. Down the east coast (left as we look at the photo above) lie Achladeri and the Polichnitos Salptans and down the right (west) coast Parakila and Makara. © Vasilis El. Vogiatzis / Hotel Pasiphae

1) Skala Kallonis (pp. 97-99)
This coastal area lies on the northern shore of the Gulf of Kalloni. The Skala Kallonis Pool, when wet, is a great starting and ending point for those staying at the resort.

You can view a White Stork nest on a rooftop (at Ariana) by looking east from the Hotel Pasiphae entrance.

2) River Christou (west of Skala Kallonis – p.100)
Walking distance for those staying at Skala Kallonis, this river and marsh is good for waders, storks and herons. A viewing screen and sun shade were erected here in 2008.

3) Lower Tsiknias Valley (east of Skala Kallonis – p. 104)
Sites_TsikniasRiver2002N1744Tsiknias River – south of the Kalloni-Mytilini road bridge looking north

Also walking distance from Skala Kallonis. The lower section of this river, with its south-facing mouth, is a great migrant trap. Waterbirds include marsh terns, waders, crakes, herons, storks, ibis etc. The scrubby banks can be full of warblers and Spanish Sparrows, and the adjoining fields and field boundaries great places to look for chats, shrikes, buntings and raptors. Bee-eaters breed along the river.

4) Upper Tsiknias Valley (west of Kalloni – p. 104)
This area lies north of the Kalloni-Mytilini main road, and as you get further away form the river mouth, the frenetic pace of migration slows. The areas either side of the bridge are were good for waders and herons, and further upstream, contintue to search for warblers and wagtails.

5) Potamia Valley, river mouth and reservoir (p. 100)
Sites_Potamia2002N1879This is another north-south valley west of Kalloni and Skala Kallonis. Great for passage migrants. In spring, the area around the the Kalloni-Parakila road bridge is good for waders and herons. Upstream, the area around the weir and to the south is good for migrant passerines and Olive-tree Warbler can occur in this area from May. The man-made reservoir is always worth checking. It usually holds Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe in winter, and during the summer always attracts many species to drink. Rare finds such as Spur-winged Plover have occured here.

6) Metochi Lake (p. 102)
This lake is actually a widening of the Christou River north of the Christou River road bridge and west of Kalloni (marked on most maps). It is one of the top sitesin spring and is fantastic for crakes (all three species), Night-heron, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, marsh terns, warblers, hirundines. The channel which runs up the west side of the lake is always worth checking, especially the north end by the little bridge. The surrounding area is also worth searching and often holds shrikes and chats (especially in autumn). There is a circular route around the lake (see local maps). The lake rarely ever dries out completely and even in late summer and autumn can still hold waders and the odd Kingfisher, as well as attracting many species down to drink.

7) Kalloni Saltpans (p. 108)
Sites_KalloniSaltpans2002N1864This is a large area east of Kalloni and the Tsiknias River. It lies at the north of the Gulf of Kalloni and is a major draw for many wetland and open country migrant species. The pans themselves attract all wetland species – waders, gulls, terns, herons, storks, wildfowl and the rare species such as pelicans. The surrounding open fields and seasonal pools (Alykes Wetlands) attract grassland and open country species including many raptors (inc. Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier, Red-footed Falcons), Collared Pratincole, Stone-curlew, Quail, etc. The season pools near the works entrance can be fantastic for migrant waders and marsh terns.
Sites_Saltpans2004N0010
Kalloni Saltpans covers an area of 5km2
Sites_SeasonPoolsP1020174

The season pools of the Alykes Wetlands by the saltpans attracts many waders, herons and marsh terns on passage

Two hides have now been erected overlooking the saltpans. One in the north-east corner off the main Kalloni to Mytilini road, the other along the Saltpans access road just west of the Saltworks entrance.

The adjacent Alykes Wetlands (sheep fields) are also excellent for grassland species such as Short-toed Lark, Red-throated and Tawny Pipits. The seasonal pools here also attractmany waders and herons.

8) Other Kalloni area sites

a. Madaros (dead goat pit track – p. 115)
This area lies to the west of the upper Tsiknias River and is a good area for Rufous Bush Robin from early May.

b. Kalloni Raptor Watchpoint (the Kalloni bandstand – p. 117)
Situated north of Kalloni on the road to Petra. Look for the ‘bandstand’ structure on one of the higher hairpins. A great raptor watch point in spring and also good for passerine migrants such as Ortolan Bunting and Ruppell’s Warbler.

c. Kalloni mini soccer pitch (Scops Copse – p. 115)
The ‘Scops Copse’ lies just north of Kalloni just past the turn to Sigri. The trees here usually holds roosting Scops Owl and have had breeding Long-eared Owl. Unfortunately the

site underwent some tree work in spring  2009 and the regrowth around the cut areas is now very bushy and restricts the viewing of several traditional roost sites.

9) Napi Valley (p. 120)
Sites_Napi2002N2011

The Napi Valley runs north through the centre of the island, from the Kalloni saltpans right up to Mandamdos in the north of the island. It is a major migrant passage route, and one of the main cross-island routes for raptors and other large migrating birds.

Look for the White Stork nest on a chimney on southern outskirts (west side of road) of Agia Paraskevi.
Sites_WhiteStorkP1020369White Stork nest at Agia Paraskevi

a. Napi (p. 120)
Just south of the village of Napi is a track on the east side of the road. This is a good area to search for breeding Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Sombre Tit and Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Also good views to look for migrating raptors.

b. Koriani (p. 120)
Sites_Napi2002N2171
North of Napi, this area overlooks a large hill on the east side of the valley and is an excellent view point for migrating raptors.

c. Platania (p. 120)
At the top of the valley, there is a track which runs due south (not far from the west track to the masts). This is a long track across the top of the Napi Valley and a great vantage point in spring to look for raptors which come straight at you and over your head. The walk down a few kilometers, to a cattle grid, is very good for Olive Tree Warbler. The cattle grid area, and just north of it down the slope, is the best area ot search.

10) Mesa Wetlands (p. 164)
This area lies between Kalloni Saltpans and Achladeri. The large rocky outcrop coined the rather stupid name of ‘Derbyshire’ among birders. The rock holds Rock Nuthatch and occasionally Blue Rock Thrush. In winter and spring the large seasonal pool here is very good for herons, egrets, storks, waders and Ruddy Shelduck.

11) Achladeri Forest (p. 168)
Sites_Achladeri2002N1711‘The’ Krüper’s Nuthatch site on the island is the woodland area south of the main coastal road before the buildings and army camp of Achladeri. Park by the white-washed building and walk through the wood. Short-toed Treecreeper, Masked Shrike, Woodlark and Black-eared Wheatear all breed here. The large wooded hill rising above the car park can be good for raptors.

THE SOUTH

12) Achladeri to Skala Polichnitou (inc Alikoudi Pool – p.169)
Just after Achladeri camp, turn right and on to the coast track. Stop to check fields, streams etc. Look for Olive-tree Warbler and Middle Spotted Woodpecker in the olive grove areas. The Alikoudi Pool lies just north of the village of Skamnioudi north of the saltpans. It is marked on maps. Access from inland track to the south of the pool, a track leads to the east end of the pool. the coast tracl should only be tackled with care and a 4×4 id really needed.

13) Polichnitos Saltpans (p. 171)
Sutuated on the east side of the Gulf of Kalloni, for some reason these saltpans come in to their own in autumn. Much smaller and much easier to view than the Kalloni Saltpans, you can search the whole area on foot around the perimeter. Great for waders, herons, egrets, storks, gulls, terns. The surrounding area (in particular the ridge to the east) is excellent for migrant raptors.

14) Skala Polichnitou to Vatera
Stop at river bridges and ridges. In spring and autumn good for raptors and larger migrant birds passing over.

There is a White Stork nest on a chimney in Polichinitos.

15) Vatera area inc. Agios Fokas (p. 174)
This area lies south-east of the mouth of the Gulf of Kalloni. The main areas to search are the Almiropotamos River bridge to the west of the resort and the track down to the headland of Agios Fokas. Avoid using optics and cameras around the army base just north of the headland. A great area for passage migrants, including raptors. Expect shearwaters off the headland, as well as spotting birds such as raptors, herons and waders coming in off the open sea. Sardinian Warbler (a difficult species to see on Lesvos) occurs in small mumbers on this peninsular.

16) Ambeliko Valley (Kata Stavros to Ambeliko – p. 178)
A little known valley east of Vatera running north along the western side of Mount Olympus range. Good for overhead migrants including raptors. Olive Tree and Sardinian Warblers occurs in several places.

17) Agiasos to Plomari (east of Mount Olympus – 180)
The area just north of the Agaissos Sanitorium is good for Krüper’s Nuthatch. A little further along at the top of the ridge, very good for Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler (breed here – hear them singing but can be difficult to see), Serin, and commoner woodland species rare elsewhere on the island such as Robin, Mistle Thrush, Wren, etc. The valley south to Plomori, especially around Megalochori, is also good inc. Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.

Sites_AboveAgiasos2002N2364

Mixed woodland above Agiasos

18) Around the Gulf of Gera (inc Dipi Larssos – p. 184)
Good for typical reedbed and wetland migrants.

THE EAST

19) The Mytilini peninsular (p. 186)
The area around the island’s capital is a little watched area but a good area, particularly south of the airport, for migrants and breeding Sardinian Warbler. Cape Lena south of the airport is good for looking for Scopoli’s Shearwater.

At the south of the peninsular is Haramida Marsh. This is a difficult site to work in spring when its sometimes impossible to view the pools surrounded by tall reeds. In autumn the site is dry but still attracts many migrants and Sardinian Warbler occurs here year-round.

20) Mytilini to Mandamados
North of the capital. Another little watched area. Not especially noted for migrants, but one of the few areas on the island for breeding Sardinian Warbler and Ruddy Shelduck around Palios.

Look for the White Stork nest on a chimney on the northern outskirts of Mandamados.

THE NORTH

21) Anaxos area
This north coastal area of the island is little watched and can be good for migrants and passage raptors.

22) Petra and Molivos (p. 124-6)
North of Kalloni on the north coast. The main area on the island for Rüppell’s Warbler. Search the scrubby areas north of Petra at Kavaki, just north of the ‘disco’ building which looks like something out of Thunderbirds! The layby just above this building is the best place to search. The layby looks down over the Bay of Kavaki and Cape Kavaki (headland) and up across the road to the hillside (Rachona Hill). Both excellent for Rüppell’s. Also excellent for migrants.
Sites_RuppertsSite2002N1970Kavaki, the Rüppell’s Warbler site north of Petra, looking across to Cape Kavaki and across to Turkey

The reservoir at Perasma is again in use and attracts many waterbirds. Black-nekced Grebe can often be seen here in autumn and winter, Ruddy Shelduck bred here in 2009 and the whole area is good for migrants. River Warbler has been recorded here on several occasions.

23) Molivos to Skala Sikaminias (p. 128)
Molivos can be a good raptor view point in spring and autumn. Have lunch here at one of the many excellent harbourside tavernas!

Follow the road east through Efthalou (check the sea for shearwaters and dolphins) and then follow the coastal track east to Skala Sikaminias. The valleys aong this coast can be excellent for migrants. Raptors can be good and it is one the best areas to see Audouin’s Gull (inc. around the harbour village of Skala Sikaminias). Can also be very good for butterflies including Cleopatra.
Sites_NorthCoast2002N1982North-facing, steep sided, scrub- and tree-lined little valleys are great for migrants in spring and autumn

Sites_SkalaSikaminias2002N1985The beautiful little harbour village of Skala Sikaminias

Sites_NorthCoast2002N2004_EastThe olive-groved hillsides west of Sikaminias looking north towards Turkey (just visible in distance)

24) Petra to Kila – inland via Stipsi and Pelopi below Mount Lepetimnos (p. 132)
An excellent area in spring and autumn to look for migrant raptors.

25) Mount Lepetimnos area (p. 132)
Try the track to the summit between Sikamina and Kilo up to Vigla. Exellent area to search for migrants and raptors.

THE WEST

26) Skala Kallonis to Eresos
The drive west through the south-west of the island on the Kalloni to Eresos Road.

a. Parakila Marsh (p. 138)
West of Skala Kallonis the marsh lies just before (northeast) of the village of Parakila along the coastal road. This is an increasingly poor area and now little watched. Still worth checking if you have time as you pass though. The hide erected here in 2008 was accidentally burnt down in early 2009 (not arson as the rumours had it!).

b. Aghios Ioannis (p. 139)
Sites_AghiaIonnis2002N1934
From the road looking north up the gulley towards the chapel gulley. You can walk up to the chapel to view

An excellent gulley about 1km west of Parakila. Holds breeding Cinereous Bunting, Rock Nuthatch, Black-eared Wheatear and Sombre Tit. Also good for migrants.
Sites_AghiaIonnis2002N1935From the road looking south towards Krakala harbour

c. Makara (p. 140)
14 km south-west of Parakila, Makara forms the the western headland at the mouth of the Gulf of Kalloni. A great coastal migrant area, particularly in spring when the river ford by the beach is wet, and the small pools also attracts migrants. The valley just before you reach the coastal area is worth looking through from the track for shrikes and other migrants. The offshore island of Garbias holds a colony of Lesser Kestrels plus pucka Rock Doves.

d. Agra and Mesotopos (p. 142-44)
The ‘two towers’ above Agra is an excellent stop, and like the valley sides and ravines west towards Mesotopos, holds breeding Rock Sparrow and Cinereous and Cretzschmar’s Buntings, and the area can be good for raptors incl. Eleanora’s Falcon.

e. Chrousou (south of Mesotopos – p. 145)
Ignoring Tavari, take the track west just north of the village west to Chrousou. Great for migrants, including autumn when the valley bottom is highly irrigated and therefore lush and green.

27) Pithariou Reservoir (near Eresos – p. 160)
Sites_Pithariou ResP70134The largest freshwater body on the island. Just 1km along the Eresos to Mesotopos road (from Eresos), turn north at the river bridge (on the east side) and follow the river track to the dam. Holds water all year round and therefore good for birds at all times, but particularly good in summer and autumn when there are few areas of standing freshwater on the island.

28) Skala Eresou (south of Eresos – p. 162)
The river bridge/old ford area is good in spring and autumn (when it is still often wet). Herons, waders, warblers and wagtails. Check the sea for shearwaters here – both species occur. The beach to the west of the river mouth can be worth exploring and can be good for arriving Stone-curlew and Quail.

29) Meladia Valley (between Sigri and Eresos – p. 156)
Sites_Cattletrack2005N2461This is a great, 16km cross-country track through open country. Allow 30 mins for a straight drive from either end to the Meladia River Ford (takes much longer with regular stops).

In Eresos their is a White Stork nest on a back yard telegraph pole in the centre of the town.

a. Eresos to Meladia River Ford (p. 156)
Open country good for Cretzschmar’s and Cinereous Buntings, Rock Nuthatch and Chukar.
Sites_Cattletrack2005N2463b. Meladia River Ford area (p. 156)
In spring the river ford is a major migrant trap. It sits inland of the coast with pols either side of the track. Anything can turn up here and in the surrounding area. Rufous Bush Robin breeds in the surrounding scrub. The fig grove just north of the ford is excellent for warblers, flycatchers and shrikes.

c. Meladia River Ford to Sigri (p. 156)
Open country good for Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Rock Nuthatch, Chukar, raptors including Lesser Kestrel and Eleanora’s Falcon.

30) Kalloni to the Lardia Valley (p. 135)
Look out for overhead raptors on your drive across to the west of the island on the Kalloni to Sigri road. The open, barren area just out of Dafia is good for Stonechat and Rock Nuthatch.

31) The Lardia Valley (west of Vatousa – p. 137)
Sites_LardiaValley2002N2154This deep gorge-like valley between Vatousa and Andissa is good for migrants and raptors. Crag Martin and Rock Sparrow breed, and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler held territory here in 2008 and again in 2009.

32) Vigla (p. 147)
This is the area just west of the Eresos/Sigri road juntion (look for triangle of roads on maps), heading towards Ipsilou and Sigri. It is a great area for Isabelline Wheatear, Cinereous Bunting and Rock Sparrow, and can also be very good for migrants including raptors.

33) Ipsilou Monastery (p. 147)
Sites_Ipsilou2002N2084Ipsilou lies c.11km east of Sigri – you can’t miss it! One of the top migrant areas on the island in both spring and autumn. The trees on the mount slopes can be dripping with warblers and flycatchers during good falls, and the top of the mount is a great place to watch passing swifts (including Alpine and Pallid) and raptors which are often at eye level or even below! Breeding brids include Rock Sparrow, Cinereous Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Sombre Tit. Can be a good area for Chukar.

Park at the bottom before the road up to the monastery and walk! Take your lunch and water with you and don’t thnk of returning in under two hours unless it is deathly quiet! This site can easily occupy 4+ hours to a whole day on a good fall day. Exceptional falls can occur, such as that on 27 Apr 08 when the whole place was covered in birds!
Sites_Ipsilou2002N2266View north-west from top of Ipsilou

34) Ipsilou to Sigri (p. 150)
This area can be outstanding for falcons. Lesser Kestrel and Eleanora’s Flacon are believed to breed on the offshore islands off Sigri, and flocks often patrol the hillsides on this side of the island. During spring passage these flocks can also hold Red-footed Falcon and Hobby.
Sites_Sigri2002N2086The view down to Sigri approaching from Ipsilou

35) Sigri Fields (p. 151)
The fields just north of Sigri are a great migrant passerine area and another area for hunting falcons and harriers.

36) Faneromeni (p. 151)
Faneromeni is the area through which the Tapas River flows west to the sea north of Sigri (beyond Sigri Fields).

a. Faneromeni Fields (p. 151)
The fields either side of the Tapas River are great for migrant passerines and another area for hunting falcons and harriers.
Sites_FanoromeniFields2002N2127The fields above the river ford are worth checking

b. Faneromeni river mouth (p. 151)
In spring, when wet, always worth checking for waders and migrant passerines.

c. Faneromeni upper river ford area (p. 151)
A favourite lunch spot for many, this river ford is a magnet for migrant passerines including rare flycatchers.
Sites_FanoromeniFord2002N1827Faneromeni upper ford – here the river has been canalised in recent years, and although the bankside scrub and vegetation soon regenerated, the edges of the river lots its nooks and crannies. It is still an outstanding place for terrestrial and riparian migrants.

Sites_Faneromeni Lower Ford May 09 P1130689

Faneromeni lower ford lies about 1/2km inland of the river mouth and is equally good as the upper ford for migrants inc. Night-heron and Little Bittern.

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