GENERAL INFO & SITE ACCOUNTS
Although this was already our 7th visit to Greece this was actually the first time that bird watching was one of our main occupations. Greece is a wonderful country to visit with very friendly people, a relaxed atmosphere and excellent food in cosy taverns. Combining this makes Lesbos an ideal destination for a relaxed bird watching holiday. Lesbos is the third largest island of Greece measuring about 65 x 40 kilometres. We stayed in the village of Skala Kaloni which is located in the centre of the island at the Bay of Kaloni. The village is surrounded by excellent birding sites like the saltpans, an inland lake and two rivers. The village is known as the bird watching centre of the island and is visited by lots of British and Dutch birders especially in spring. Despite the fact that we missed the peak of the migration season (which is at it’s best from the third week of April) we saw lots of excellent birds. We missed a few birds that already left, but in the end we did not mind at all arriving late in the migration season since the weather was quite unstable the weeks before with lots of thunderstorms and rather low temperatures (for Greek standards). This also meant that the scenery was very lush and green with lots of flowering plants to be discovered for my wife.
BOOKS, MAPS & REFERENCES:
As a identification guide we used “De vogels van Europa en Noord-Afrika” released by the ANWB in Holland which is actually a Dutch translation of The Collins Field guide of The Birds of Europe & Northern Africa by Svensson. The most essential book to bring with you is Richard Brooks’ “Birding on the Greek Island of Lesvos”. It contains accurate and comprehensive descriptions and maps of all the interesting birding sites on the island, a checklist and the status and distribution for every species recorded on the island. We also used his Summer 2002-2003 update to have the most recent information. During our visit Richard Brooks was staying in the Malemi Hotel where he gives slideshows once a week or so. He does a great job for the island’s eco-tourism but I guess that most of the Lesbian people don’t understand what he is achieving for them. For more information you can visit his website at www.richard-brooks.co.uk. Information on the web is widely available. Some interesting websites are www.birdtours.co.uk , www.bsc-eoc.org/links/links.jsp and www.camacdonald.com/birding/birding.htm for trip reports. Another interesting site is www.fatbirder.com/links_geo/europe/greece_lesvos.html which has apart from trip reports a separate section for Lesbos with site descriptions. The best and most reliable and accurate map of the island is the Road Editions Lesvos Island Map (scale 1:70.000). This map is also available through Richard Brooks. For flower identification my wife used “Flowering plants of the Mediterranean” by Kosmos (German Edition) which enabled her to find some 75 species of flowers including 5 species of orchids (scientific names are listed below).
Tour packages to Lesbos are widely available from the first of May until the end of September. If you want to go earlier tours can be arranged by Richard Brooks by booking flights via Athens. We booked a tour via a Dutch tour operator and stayed in the Aegeon Hotel located behind the better known Kaloni II Hotel. It was situated in a quite setting next to the west-river marshes. Walking distance to the village square was about 850 metres. The rooms where quite OK with your own balcony and refrigerator. We paid about € 470 each for the package including an excellent buffet breakfast. There were better offers from other tour operators for accommodations in the north of the island at about € 400, but these were situated too far from the best birding sites around Skala Kaloni. Besides that their rates for car rental where far more expensive than the tour operator we booked.
Car rental was booked in front for 9 days with our tour operator. We booked a Suzuki Ignis because of it’s rather high ground clearance and paid € 195 for 7days and € 28 for each additional day. Renting a car in front tends to be cheaper then renting cars at a local office in Greece. This was our 7th visit to Greece and we never found a local rental car company that was cheaper than booking in front with a tour operator. We met a Dutch birder who rented a car at a local office and he paid the same price as we did for four days for a Suzuki Swift (which is A-category). Besides the city of Mitilini the traffic was easy and quiet (although you have to get used to the driving custom of some of the Greeks overtaking in every corner). The road conditions where quite good for Greek standards although signposting is very poor on some roads (especially the minor roads).
As mentioned before we where quite lucky with the weather conditions. The week before we arrived the weather has been quite unstable, but from the date of our arrival conditions turned out to be much better. We had mostly sunny days with temperatures around 23 degrees C. Some evenings turned out to be quite cool (needing a sweater and light jacket during evening dinner). We had only one cloudy morning with some drops of rain not worth mentioning. The last three days temperatures went up during the day to 25-26 degrees which also meant more pleasant evening temperatures.
ACCOMODATION & FOOD:
As mentioned before we stayed in the Aegeon Hotel behind the Kaloni II Hotel. There were several other hotels and apartments available in Skala Kaloni of which most of them could be booked through a tour operator. Around the square where a few little apartments which could be booked privately and seemed to be OK also. There was enough choice in restaurants which were mostly situated near or around the square. Approaching the village from our hotel there was one cafeteria called Paphos (meaning lighthouse) which mostly served local people. We tried them one evening and their Gyros and Souvlaki was really delicious. But the best bet to our opinion was Taverna Dionysseus located at the harbour just around the left hand corner of the square. Apart from the traditional Greek dishes they served excellent fresh fish and Sardines which is a local specialty from the Bay of Kaloni. The waiters were very friendly and by the end of our holiday we were treated by them as if we knew each others for years.
For an island as small as it is, Lesbos has quite a wide range of habitats confining two sets of Salt Pans (at Kaloni and Polichnitos) and several other wetland habitats like lakes, rivers and marshes. Although most of the island is covered with olive groves, there are also large areas of pinewoods in the south-east and sweet chestnut woodland near Agiassos. Large areas of the north are covered with oak woodland, whilst the west of the island is more rugged and sparsely vegetated. The coastal area is mostly covered with scrubs alternated with wildflower meadows.
BIRDING SITES :
Below you will find some minor descriptions of the more interesting birding sites on the island. More comprehensive descriptions of these areas and many more are available in Richards Brooks “Birding on the Greek Island of Lesvos” which you will have to buy anyway if you are taking birding on Lesbos seriously.
Kaloni Pool: A wetland pool located in Skala Kaloni. Although it has become overgrown it is still worth checking for amongst crakes, waders, ibis and heron species. Great Bittern was sighted (not by me) until the second week of May.
Kaloni Salt Pans: One of the best sites on the island. Wetland surrounded by wet meadows and grasslands located just 2 or 3 km east of Kaloni square. Excellent for waders, raptors, bee-eaters, etc….
East River: Located just east of Kaloni square before the Salt Pans. Driveable on both sides of the river bank for about 3 km with easy views on the river. One of the best spots on the island. Apart from other wetland birds, especially good for little bittern and squacco heron.
West River: Located just west of Kaloni right behind the Aegeon Hotel. This tidal river is surrounded by a salt marsh and brackish pools. Good for terns, waders and Stone Curlew.
Potamia Valley & Kaloni Inland Lake: Accessible via a dirt road a few hundred metres west of the West River. The valley can be followed for several km along a stream. The area is good for warblers, shrikes and buntings. The inland lake is good for Night-Heron, crakes etc..
Derbyshire & Achladeri Area: Located some 10 km east of Kaloni. From the main road take the right-hand fork to Achladeri near an obvious rocky outcrop. Derbyshire consists of a large pool and further smaller pools to the right. Good for waders, herons and storks. Excellent site for Ruddy Shelduck. Achladeri is an area with large pinewoods located some 5 km further on. This area is good for treecreeper and the island’s starbird: Kruper’s Nuthatch.
Skala Polichnitos Salt Pans & Surrounds: Located some 10 km from Achladeri to the south. Although we were not very successful at the salt pans it seemed to have potential. Do not forget to check out Alikoudi Pool along the coastal track towards the salt pans.
Agiassos: Located in the south-east near Mount Olimpos consisting of pinewoods and sweet chestnut woodland. Good for woodland birds like tits, robin and wren which are scarce elsewhere on the island. This area is also excellent for finding orchids.
Dipi Larssos: The island’s main reed bed near Mitilini at the Gulf of Gera. Although having potential for amongst reed warblers we were not very lucky here.
North Coast between Petra & Skala Sikimia: Areas with coastal scrub, rocky shores and oak woodlands. Good for Warblers especially Ruppell’s and Subalpine Warbler, Shearwaters, Eleonora and Peregrine Falcons.
Western Uplands: The west of the island shows a totally different habitat compared with the rest of the island. It is dryer and thus sparsely vegetated with open rocky terrains. The area also holds some productive river mouths near Tavari, Skala Eressos and Sigri. The whole area is good for Rock Nuthatch, Wheatears, Sombre Tit, Lesser Kestrel and Buntings. If you want to get your grips on Cinereous Bunting then this is the place to be.
INTERESTING SITES TO VISIT BESIDES BIRDING:
Besides bird watching the island has a lot of other interesting things to offer. For more general information about the island you can visit the following interesting websites: www.lesvos.com ; www.lesvos-holidays.com ; www.lesvos-travel.com and www.about-lesvos.com. Below you will find a description of a few places of interest to visit.
Molyvos: a picturesque coastal town built against a steep hill with a Byzantine castle on top.
Skala Sykaminias: a small coastal village in the north-east with a picturesque harbour.
The Bridge of Kremasti: an ancient stone bridge dated from the 13th century located just west of Agia Paraskevi.
Temple of Chalinados: ruins of an early Christian basilica located east of Agia Paraskevi.
Agiassos: A picturesque mountain village surrounded by beautiful forested mountain slopes excellent for hiking.
Vatera: A small scale tourist village with Lesbos’ most beautiful sandy beaches.
Plomari: coastal town known as the ouzo capital of Greece. You can visit the ouzo factory of Barbayannis.
Thermal Baths: There are several healing bath springs scattered around the island. We visited the thermal hot springs of Polychnitos being the hottest springs in Europe (75 degrees C).
Moria: Located some 6 km west of Mitilini you will find impressive remains of an ancient Roman Aquaduct dated from the 3rd century AD.
Mitilini Town: The capital of Lesbos and main port to the island. Lots of shops, museums and one of the largest castles of the Mediterranean.
The monasteries of Ypsilou (built on top of a rugged mountain) and Perivoli (located in a beautiful green valley).
The Petrified Forest: Lesbos’ oldest antiquity. Pieces of petrified wood and trees still standing cover a large area. The age of the forest has been estimated at 20 million years old. Truly one of natures wonders of the world.
TOP OF PAGE