Tuesday 29 September 2020

Lesvos Day 3 - 12th September 2020

A vaguely out west day that started down at Parakilia where the Turpentine trees held many warblers on my last autumn visit. I was not disappointed and the main tree held Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, both Whitethroats, Chaffinches, Tits and both Eastern Black-eared and Northern Wheatears. 

Spotted Flycatcher

Turpentine Tree (Pistacia terebinthus 

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear - suspect an immature male

Short-toed Eagle

Middle Spotted Woodpecker bounded around and Cirl Buntings 'tsipped' in the olives. Bee-eaters were constantly on the move and House Sparrows fed amongst the shade hugging sheep.

I am pretty sure that these ones are Turpentine (Pistacia terebinthus) rather than Mastic (P. lentiscus) but am convinced that both are present on the island with the latter being shorter and with more densely packed berries. I think it is Mastic alongside the road to Achladeri.

Turpentine (Pistacia terebinthus) - Leaf Galls looking remarkably similar to the fruits

Down at the little harbour of Parakoilon there were 32 Med Gulls loafing on the breakwater with two Sandwich Terns and they would occasionally come to check out what the fishermen had discarded. 

A bit blustery...

Med Gull

Med and Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns

Med Gull

Med Gull


Rock Samphire - Crithmum maritimum

A juvenile Woodchat was being scolded by Stonechats while Hooded Crows and Ravens kronked at an incoming Black Stork.

Woodchat with a gammy leg

Hooded Crow

Black Stork

I stopped to take some pictures of a Prickly Pear in fruit with ‘The Bare Necessities’ waltzing through my head and spooked both Snake Eyed Lizard and the newly (2019) split Eastern Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta diplochondrodes).  Like so many species out here it now has  eastern tacked on the front... There is a very good article here  if you fancy a read.

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

Plenty of olives on the trees

West again out into the dry desert of parched rolling hills and now golden clumps of Thorny Burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum). There were almost no roadside birds bar a couple of Rock Sparrows and Blue Rock Thrush and after navigating the interesting ongoing roadworks between Agra and Mesotopos (which involved driving on the wrong side of the unmade road to avoid a steamroller and digger and wondering what on earth to do if something came up the hill the other way) I made it to the turning to the monastery and reservoir at Pithariou. I had never visited before but had a great couple of hours sitting up on the top of the dam with the delightful monastery plastered to the cliff side at the far end.

Across the valley to Agra

Looking south from the Pithariou Dam

Pithariou Monastery


The hoped for Eleonora's Falcons were immediately seen hunting and five were soaring above and below. All were very dark with only two having white throats. They were obviously after insect prey and often dropped down very low to the surface where dragonflies zipped around and even came down for a drink and quick bath before heading up to hassle a juvenile Black Stork that joined a second on the shoreline with a Great White Egret and Grey Heron. All four were followed by a diving pack of 80 Cormorants.

Eleonora's Falcon

Black Stork

Little Grebes trilled and two Teal were my first for many years here. Lunch was shared with Oriental Hornets and a Potter or Paper Wasp and Red-veined Darters, Violet Dropwings and Lesser Emperors were around the car. 

Violet Dropwing

Red-veined Darter

Potter or Paper Wasp

Oriental Hornet

Oriental Hornet


A final glance up gave me an orange ringtail Harrier drifting over at height and my pictures confirmed what I suspected with ear crescent, pale collar, dark boa and dark secondaries visible and Pallid joined the raptor list. 

juv Pallid Harrier


Rock Nuthatches called and a Barred Warbler briefly appeared in the bushes on the dam but I soon lost it in the wind. I tried to follow the track up and over the top but aborted when part of the path on an incline simply disappeared down the slope and after some reversing and a three point turn headed back into Skala Eresou to check the bridges. 

I think this is a species of Cudweed

Valonia Oak - Quercus aegilops - not seen this one before with its huge acorn cups

There was still plenty of water in the last half a mile but other than Kingfisher and a late brood of Reed Warblers it was very quiet.  Some big Mullet and another fish species cruised below the bridge and I suspect that they get fed now and then. 

The river at Skala Eresou

Mullet and friends

It was then up through Eresos and on the other side of the loop back to Skala Kallonis. Birds were to be found in pockets especially where there had been roadside fires and I saw Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, both Wheatears and Willow Warblers feeding in them along with Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Rock Nutchatches, Sombre and Long-tailed Tits. One such stop in Lardia added three more Black Storks, Short-toed Eagles and an Osprey powering through. 

View from below Andisa towards the Gavathes valley and the sea with Turkey beyond

And back up into Andisa

Northern Wheatear

Squirting Cucumber - Ecballium elaterium

Squirting Cucumber - Ecballium elaterium

A final stop at the end of the Skalochori by-pass for a cuppa was enlivened by over 20 Ravens performing acrobatics and flying so powerfully that you could hear their wings and all the while accompanied by kronks and pops.



After stocking the freezer with ice cream it was time for a Lotzaria and Pans circuit pre dinner. It was very productive with wondrous Bee-eaters, obliging Red-backed Shrikes, three Lesser Greys, the first Turtle Dove, Kingfishers, Long-legged Buzzard, heaps of foraging Hoodies, Corn Buntings and Sparrows along with the Pelicans, 17 Spoonbill, 11 Black Stork, another Eleonora's and my first ever juvenile Red-footed Falcon that paused for under a minute before continuing on. 

Red-backed Shrike

Hooded Crows

Corn Bunting

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

adult Lesser Grey Shrike

And at last I have a name for this trackside shrub... Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Two Marsh Sandpipers, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and four Curlew were on the pans and the final drive back through revealed the first trip Little Owl and dozens of early rising small flutter bats.

Kalloni Salt Pan Channel

juv Little Ringed Plover

juv Little Ringed Plover

Great White Egret coming in off the Bay

juv Red-footed Falcon

juv Red-footed Falcon

The sunset was superb and was pushing through the cloud casting rays across the Bay and Lotzaria on the ride back.

And while on the balcony that evening an Eastern Tree Frog sticky footed his way around the white washed walls

Eastern Tree Frog

Eastern Tree Frog


1 comment:

  1. Simply wonderful read Howard, thank you so much. Phil