LESBOS REPORT PART TWO:

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ITINERARY & DAILY ACCOUNTS

PART THREE

 

 

ITINERARY:

v        7 May:     Flight from Amsterdam to Lesbos. Transfer to Aegeon Hotel in Skala Kaloni.

v        8 May:     Long hike to Potamia Valley and Kaloni Inland Lake.

v        9 May:     Drive to Derbyshire and Achladeri. Late afternoon visit to Kaloni Salt Pans.

v      10 May:     Drive to the West visiting the Petrified Forest and several river mouths.

v      11 May:     Drive to Agiassos and hike trough woodlands. Late afternoon visit to East River.

v      12 May:     Early morning visit to Potamia Valley. Tour visiting the north of the island.

v      13 May:     Drive to north visiting Molyvos and the Chalinados basilica.

v      14 May:     Drive to the west visiting Sigri (museum) and Fanoremeni.

v      15 May:     Drive to Dipi Larssos, Plomari and the Roman Aquaduct near Moria.

v      16 May:     Early morning visit to West River. Drive to Polychnitos and Vatera.

v      17 May:     Drive north via Napi Valley.  Via northern coastal track back. Evening visit West River.

v      18 May:     Long hike to Kaloni Inland Lake. Back via Kaloni and Papiana.

v      19 May:     Long hike along East River. Evening visit to again East River and Achladeri.

v      20 May:     Short hike to East River. Afternoon relaxing at village square.

v      21 May:     After breakfast transfer to airport for flight back to Amsterdam

 

DAILY ACCOUNTS :

 

v      Friday 7th of May: After a delay of about 50 minutes we took off from Schiphol Airport at 6.20AM. We had a stopover at the island of Samos were we had to wait for another 45 minutes. We finally landed at the airport of Mitilini at 12.15PM. During the bus transfer to Skala Kaloni we saw long-legged buzzard and purple heron. Passing the saltpans near Kaloni we had a glimpse of a large group of flamingos and pied avocets. At 13.45PM we checked in at the Aegeon Hotel and went for lunch at the village square. From the taverna we saw several yellow-legged gulls and common terns passing by. After lunch my wife went back to the room to unpack our luggage while I checked out Kaloni Pool. Here I had amongst glossy ibis, little egrets, black-winged stilts, grey heron, moorhen and white stork.  There was a large colony of Spanish sparrows in the tamarisks on the beachside of the pool. At the landwards side of the pool I had red-throated pipit, wood sandpiper and several yellow wagtails (black headed race). Very common birds occurring were crested larks and goldfinches. Walking back to the hotel at 5.00PM produced olivaceous warbler. Since we missed a couple of hours of sleep last night we went to bed until 7.00PM and afterwards went for a delicious Greek meal at the village square.

 

v      Saturday 8th of May:  I checked out the West River marshes before breakfast which produced amongst common terns, little terns, little egrets, yellow wagtails, squacco heron and common sandpiper. After breakfast we packed our rucksack for a hike to Potamia Valley. Walking along West River we had little ringed and Kentish plover.  We crossed the West River bridge and after a few hundred metres took a track leading towards Potamia Valley. We walked the track until the bridge over Potamia River. We saw lots of black-headed and corn buntings, and a few great tits, bee-eater, blackbirds and jay. We also had a rock nuthatch nesting in the cliffs to the right of the track towards the bridge. Near the bridge we had a blue rock-thrush sitting on top of the cliffs. While walking back we had a long-legged buzzard soaring overhead. We took a track to the left leading to the Skalloni Inland Lake. Around the lake we had several spotted flycatchers and bee-eaters while the lake itself held four moorhen and two night-herons roosting in the trees alongside. From here we walked back to the hotel where we arrived at 3.00PM and went to the village square for lunch and a nice cool Mythos beer. By 5.30PM we walked back to the hotel. We checked out Skaloni Pool but it produced nothing new. After a shower we again had dinner at our favourite restaurant at the village square.

 

v      Sunday 9th of May: After breakfast we collected our rental car and drove to Derbyshire. We stopped for a short while over there and besides the usual birds we had two common shelduck.  A pool on the seawards side towards Achladeri produced two ruddy shelduck. We arrived at the famous Kruper’s site around 11.30AM hoping to get our grips on the island’s star bird: Kruper’s Nuthatch. We checked out the pinewoods for at least 11/2 hours and just as we were giving up hope we heard a nuthatch-like whistle back in the pinewoods. After some searching we twice had excellent views of a male bird. Besides the kruper’s we had amongst short-toed tree-creeper, great tits, blue-tits, long-tailed tits and lots of chaffinches. While walking back we had a woodchat shrike and orphean warbler near the car park. From here we continued to Achladeri where we took the road inland through pinewoods towards Mikri Limni (meaning small lake). The lake produced virtually no birds so we continued to Megalo Limni. The area did not look much like a natural lake since the surroundings were cultivated and irrigated by the local people. We took a track leading along the backside of the area through pinewood forest. Apart from some European serins, little egrets and crows we saw nothing of any importance. We drove back to Skala Kaloni for a drink at the square where we arrived at around 3.00PM. From 4.30PM we left for a visit to Kaloni Salt Pans. We approached the area from the main road and took the tarmac road leading to the saltpan works. We birded the area following this road and had a White Stork foraging in the fields to the right. The channel around the pans held amongst little stint, terns, black-winged stilts and pied avocets. At the salt workings where the tarmac road ends we stopped to have a look over the pans. Here we had amongst stone curlew and curlew sandpiper and in the fields on the seawards side common, little ringed and Kentish plovers. We followed the track beyond the workings where we had red-backed and lesser grey shrike, several yellow wagtails, savi’s warbler, rufous bush robin and a group of twelve glossy ibises. From here we drove back to the hotel where we arrived at 6.30PM. In the evening after dinner we saw a barn owl flying over the square which apparently nested in the church tower.

 

v      Monday 10th of May: After breakfast we left the hotel at 8.00AM towards Parakila Marsh. First we took the south-side track along the marsh where we had marsh warbler. We then parked the car along the main road beyond the marsh to take a walk on the track running through the marsh. Here we had sedge and reed warbler, little crake, great egret and a little bittern. We then continued westwards while the scenery dramatically changed into a rocky and sparsely vegetated area. We took the turnoff to a small coastal village called Tavari and followed a bumpy track towards Krousos. Here we had whinchat, spotted flycatchers, lesser whitethroat, woodchat shrikes, black-eared wheatears and two rufous bush robins. Bee-eaters and red-backed shrikes were a very common sight along this track. We continued to Skala Eressos were we had a drink at the small square. The offshore rocky island held about 40  jackdaws which apparently breed on the island. We also had shag and rock dove.  We then followed a track leading to a river ford, before continuing to the Petrified Forest in the far west of the island. On the way we had several black-eared wheatears, cretschmar’s bunting and a lesser kestrel. The barn opposite the entrance held a perching little owl. While visiting the Petrified Forest we heard a chukar but we were not able to spot it. Apart from the usual birds we were treated to excellent sights of two cinereous buntings, one of the island’s most sought after birds. We then drove back to Skala Kaloni following the inland road via Vatoussa and Filia through a marvellous landscape with superb views of the Kaloni plain and Limonos monastery. We ended up at the hotel at 4.30PM and walked to the village square for a break. When we walked back we checked out Kaloni Pool were apart from birds seen before we had wood sandpiper and garganey. We met a dutch birder who had great bittern that same evening. In the evening we visited Richard Brooks’ slide show in the Malemi Hotel. He showed great pictures but it was too noisy to understand anything of what he told. When we walked out of the Malemi Hotel we heard nightjars near the field opposite the hotel.

 

v      Tuesday 11th of May: We left the hotel at 9.00AM for a drive to the mountain village of Agiassos which is located in the south-eastern part of the island near Mount Olympus. The scenery around the village is wonderful and is covered with sweet-chestnut woodlands. We did the circular walk (5 kms) around the village described in Richard Brooks’ book which is famous for its localized bird species, wildflowers and orchids. Nightingales where singing from every tree, and we heard and saw lots of birds not occurring elsewhere on the island like chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap, song thrush, robin and wren. We also had a Masked Shrike perched in a bare tree in the valley below us. After the hike we visited the picturesque village with its many cobbled streets and had a drink at a local cafenion. We then drove back to Skala Kaloni via the main Mitilini to Kaloni road where we arrived at around 4.00PM. After a drink at our favourite taverna Dionyseus we headed on birding the East River. The river mouth held several tern species and a great cormorant. We followed the riverbank upstream where we had amongst Black Stork, Cetti’s Warbler, Squacco Heron, Olivaceous Warblers and several Shrike species. We crossed the main road were we had a White Wagtail and followed the track along the upper part of the river. At the end of the track at a broken ford was a large colony of bee-eaters nesting in the riverbank. An Eleonora Falcon flew over being mobbed by two Crows. We then took some tracks through olive groves following a ditch where we had Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Whinchat and a Little Owl in the open before going back to the hotel at 7.00PM.

 

v      Wednesday 12th of May: From 6.30-9.00AM I did some pre-breakfast birding in Potamia Valley. The first part of the track produced Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove and up to ten Woodchat Shrikes, while the upper part after the river crossing held Cirl Bunting, Subalpine Warbler and Olive-tree Warbler. While driving back towards the main road I had four Sombre Tits and heard a Hoopoe but I was not able to spot it. After breakfast we left to visit the north of the island. We stopped at the first lay-by between Petra and Molyvos to check out the coastal scrubs where we had Blue Rockthrush, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Rock Nuthatch, several Sand Martins and the one bird we were looking for at this spot: Rueppel’s Warbler. We saw two males and one female. We then followed the road from Molyvos via Vafios to Skala Sikimia. In this area species like Subalpine Warbler and Cirl Bunting appeared to be far more common then on the rest of the island. In the small and picturesque harbour village of Skala Sikimia we stopped for a drink and from there followed the scenic track along the north coast with superb views. Birds occurring here were mostly Cretzschmar’s Buntings, Black-eared Wheatears and Shrikes.  On the road back towards Skala Kaloni we took the turnoff on an unsealed road towards Aghia Paraskevi where we stopped at the old stone bridge of Kremasti. The track leading through olive groves was perfect for hoopoe, but again we missed on this bird. Other birds seen were amongst several olivaceous warblers, masked shrike, orphean warbler, subalpine warbler and many jays. We returned at the hotel at around 4.15 PM.

 

v      Thursday 13th of May: Not a very exciting day in birding point of view. After breakfast we left the hotel at around 10.15 AM. We again drove north to visit the Byzantine castle of Molyvos. Here we had amongst black-eared wheatear, alpine swifts and a rock thrush. A Jay was nesting in a tree below the castle. We then visited the picturesque harbour of Molyvos. At 1.00 PM we left Molyvos and took the same track as yesterday towards Aghia Paraskevi, and visited the temple of Chalinados. Along the road towards the temple we saw masked and woodchat shrike, middle spotted woodpecker and an isabelline shrike. We arrived back at the hotel at 3.30 PM and went for a drink to the village square. The weather that afternoon and evening was very unstable with a strong wind blowing from the north.

 

v      Friday 14th of May: At 8.30 AM we left for our trip towards Sigri in the far west of the island. After a 11/2 hours drive we first visited Fanoremeni were we had about a dozen lesser kestrels hunting above the recently cut fields. We did not see any new birds at the area, and from here we took the very bumpy track leading from Sigri towards Skala Eressos. Along this track we saw amongst Cretzschmars Bunting, whinchat, meadow and calandra lark and a party of seven rock-nuthatches. We followed the track for about 4kms and then turned back to Skala Eressos to visit the museum of natural history. When we parked outside the museum we were warned by a Greek man that we had a flat tire. I changed the tire and we visited the museum afterwards. After a drink at the harbour in Sigri we drove to Andissa to fix the tire at a garage. Arriving back in Kalloni we checked the site at the mini soccer field for Scops Owl but we were not successful. We returned at the hotel at around 4.00PM and ended our day with some relaxing, a drink and again a nice dinner at Skala Kalloni square.

 

v      Saturday 15th of May: Again a not too exciting day in birding point of view. We drove towards Plomari and checked out Dipi Larsos which is the main reed bed area of the island. We heard some reed warblers over there but we were not lucky in seeing any. We continued to Plomari to visit the ouzo factory of Barbayannis. It was very quiet in the factory and we finally realised that it was Saturday. Nevertheless an employee showed us around for 15 minutes or so, and we bought a bottle of their finest ouzo. We then went for a drink in Plomari before driving back. Just before Perama we saw a pool near the beach. It only produced a coot with two juveniles and a few turtle-doves. From here we drove to Moria and visited the ancient roman aquaduct were heard hoopoe.  At around 3.00PM we ended up at Kaloni and visited the Saltpans for a few hours which produced the usual birds like avocet, stilt, bee-eaters etc…. We drove back to Skala Kalloni via East River were we had amongst squacco heron, little stints, wood sandpiper, greenshank and ruff. We ended up at the square for a drink at 5.00PM. Near Kalloni Pool we met a dutch birder who reported great bittern.

 

v      Sunday 16th of May: An early morning visit to West River and Kalloni Pool produced the usual birds. After breakfast we left for the Polychnitos area. A stop at the mini-soccer field produced a roosting long-eared owl. We then followed the track along the coast leading to Alikoudi Pool. Here we had  close views of a party of about sixty flamingo’s, Kentish plovers and our first and only dunlin. We continued to Polychnitos Salt Pans which produced nothing of any importance. We continued to Vatera were we stopped for a drink, and then checked out the area just north of the village by crossing a small  river mouth. We then drove back and visited the Thermal Baths of Polychnitos. Arriving back in Skala Kalloni we checked out the trees in the back of the school were we had a roosting Scops-owl. In the evening I visited West River together with a dutch birder I met a few days ago. We had amongst white-winged tern, stone curlew and little bittern. At the inland track along the river we heard reed-warbler and great reed-warbler.

 

v      Monday 17th of May: Since we got to bed quite late last night we left the hotel at 10.15AM. We took the road north via Aghia Pararkevi and Napi towards Skala Sikimia. From here we took the same coastal track along the north coast as a few days ago. The road towards Skala Sikimia and the first part of the road along the north coast produced several subalpine warblers. We stopped for a drink at the tavern  halfway the track  towards Molivos where we had several shags passing by. The last part of the track again produced several Cretschmars Bunting. Between Molivos and Petra we stopped at the “rueppels” lay-by were we watched a couple of juvenile Peregrine Falcons displaying above the rocks for fifteen minutes. We then drove back to Skala Kalloni were we arrived at the hotel at 3.00PM. The rest of the afternoon we relaxed in the village until 5.30PM. In the evening I again spend some time checking out West River. Apart form the usual birds I had excellent views of white and black stork.

 

v      Tuesday 18th of May: Today we had to deliver the rental car. After breakfast we walked towards Potamia Valley without seeing any new birds. From here we took the track to Skalloni Inland Lake were we had night-heron, bonelli’s eagle, short-toed eagle and alpine swifts. From here we followed the ditch towards Kalloni. In the afternoon we relaxed around the square and while Wilma walked back to the hotel I checked out Skalloni Pool where I had white-winged tern (excellent view), squacco heron and other usual stuff. I went back to the hotel for a nap. After some light rain we walked to the village for evening dinner.

 

v      Wednesday 19th of May: After breakfast we walked towards east river. We strolled along the river bank until the ford where a british birder reported a sighting of Rose-coloured Starlings along the track on the opposite side of the river towards the saltpans. We immediately took out our shoes and crossed the river ford and walked towards the saltpans. After about 800mtr we located a party of seven birds feeding in a mulberry tree along the track. After observing them for about ten minutes we walked back towards east river. We now took the track along the river towards the main road, and walked back towards Skala Kaloni via the track on the opposite side of the river. We arrived back in the village at around 2.30PM and had lunch. We walked back to the hotel were I met Cor, a dutch birder who I met a few days before. I told him of my today’s sighting of Rose-coloured Starlings and he asked me to show him the place were I saw them. At 6.00PM we went to the site with Cor’s rental car and yes they were still there in the same tree as this morning.  We also visited the Kruper’s Nuthatch site near Achladeri but unfortunately we did not manage to spot it. After showing Cor the Scops-owl at the school we arrived back at the hotel just before dusk. We went for dinner quite late that evening together with Cor and his wife Joke.

 

v      Thursday 20th of May: Our second last day on Lesbos. A roller was reported near the cultivated fields between Kaloni and east river. We checked the area for quite some time but we were not successful. Since it was becoming quite warm around noon we walked back to the square and decided to fill in our last afternoon in Greece by doing some reading on a terrace at the village square. On the way back to the hotel I checked out Kaloni Pool but did not see any new birds. In the evening we had our last Greek dinner at our friends from Dionyseus.

 

v      Friday 21st of May: After breakfast we were picked up at 10AM by the tour operator’s bus for the transfer to the airport. As a total surprise we spotted our first hoopoe while driving to the airport. Our flight left from Mitilini airport with an hours delay at around 2.00PM. At Schiphol we said goodbye to Cor and Joke and we agreed to visit them next winter. Cor who is a geese expert promised me to show me some great birds like lesser white-fronted goose and red-breasted goose which are quite rare in the Netherlands.                          

 


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