Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Lesvos Day 11: 27th April 2019

First day out west with the new crew and the potential of some new birds for Mike, our Lesvos virgin. We had only got as far as the Aegeon Hotel when a pale, peach rumped Stonechat flew out of the garden and perched on some reeds. Once again I could see no reason for it not being a Siberian Stonechat but I chose bins over camera and it scooted out of view... There is a chance that there is a picture out there – fingers crossed.

I started at the Eresos end again and by the time we had worked our way down into the start of Meladia we had been suitably entertained by Cretzschmar's and Cinereous Buntings and showy Black-eared Wheatears and Rock Nuthatches. 

Cinereous Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Cretzschmar's Bunting
Three male Black-headed Buntings were dotted around one bush and four more were seen in the valley bottom including a couple of energetic singers. Eastern Orphean Warblers showed very well indeed and Whinchats were liberally dotted around the view along with the requisite Stonechats. Mike was one happy bunny.

Black-headed Bunting
Three male and two female Collared Flycatchers were seen along with three Pied and about 20 Spotted Flycatchers. There were no migrant Warblers but Bee-eaters were drifting over very high and Marsh Harrier, both Buzzard species and Short-toed Eagle cruised through. 

Collared Flycatcher - this one was Mike's first male
A sparkling male Red-backed Shrike became only our second and a singing Chiffchaff was a novelty especially as it was plain grey brown in colour with a big supercillium and clean pale underparts. The legs and bill were very black looking. It was the song that attracted attention and matched the one I heard last week. ‘Chiff-chiff-chaff-chiff-swee swee swee’. I will do some digging.
The Rock Sparrows were still at the crag and two Crag Martins briefly came in and three more were seen down at the Meladia Chapel where six Pallid Swifts were good lunchtime entertainment along with more singing Black-headed Buntings and the Woodlark family.

Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

Starred Agama

The Ruddy Shelducks were still defending their ducklings

Juvenile Woodlark

Juvenile Woodlark

Juvenile Woodlark

possibly Sedum rubens

Blue Pimpernel Anagallis foemina

For some reason I cannot find this one... looks Flaxish
The Little Owl was back on his shed post perch and another male Red-backed Shrike was with (but not eating) Whinchats at the Sigri Old Sanitorium as we bumped our way down past three Lesser Kestrels and a Woodchat into the town.

I had taken out all my empty bottles filled with water for the tethered horse near the SOS for which she seemd grateful. I could not get to the Grey and her temprement was somewhat iffy and she had once again chomped someone trying to help.

Little Owl



Faneromeni was fairly quiet but we did see a couple more Collared and Pied Flys but Spot Flys were everywhere. Two Turtle Doves flashed through and a cloud of flava Wagtails and Sand Martins appeared from the river mouth reedbeds and two immense Alpine Swifts almost parted my hair over the ford on their way down for a drink in the river where a Squacco was fishing. A male Lesser Kestrel circled overhead and another female Marsh Harrier headed up valley but it was the Common Starling that I was most pleased to find although Mike seemed a little baffled while Julie was happy with an island tick!


Virginia Stock - Malcolmia maritima

Dung Beetle doing what they do best
Un-Common Starling
I aborted Faneromeni and headed for Ipsilou instead and a full circuit in the warm evening air gave some engaging Wheatear and Bunting views, two singing Hoopoes, trilling Wood Warblers, a singing Golden Oriole and a pale phase Eleonora's Falcon just as we were about head for home after another long day.

Isabelline Wheatear - ACV

Isabelline Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Back in Skala Kallonis it was the night of the huge Easter bonfire so we hastily headed down to dinner before the entire village turned out for the symbolic lighting of the fire at 11pm and marvelled that the village square would once again survive such pyrotechnic madness...

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Lesvos Day 10: 26th April 2019

The weather forecast made no mention of rain but that is what I woke to and my drive to and from Mytilini was a somewhat damp affair but at least Mike and Len were on time.
After successfully navigating back through the city we headed back to Skala Kallonis with no birds seen whatsoever to get their lists up and running!

Late breakfast and then out we went with Julie now on board too. The light was poor but we got off to a great start at the Kallonis Pool where a full suite of herons were seen with four Purple, Great White, two Bitterns, three Little Bitterns and five Squacco. It was Mike's first visit and this was just the sort of start I wanted!

The photo opportunities for the Eastern Tree Frogs get better every day...

House Sparrow - ACV
The Sandwich Terns were still at the river mouth and the usual bits and bobs were encountered as we bumped through the ford and out across Lotzaria. Bee-eaters called and a two female Marsh Harriers cruised around.

The salt pan channel was quiet and a single Glossy Ibis and six Red-throated Pipits were on the Alykes Pool. There was unsurprisingly no sign of the Barred Warbler along the road but I was pleased to find two Slender-billed and three Black-headed Gulls on the last pan and the dulcet tones of the first Black-headed Bunting jangled while Len found another in a fig. Three Buzzards and a Short-toed Eagle circled the ridge. It was time for a supermarket visit, a Papiana Scops Owl and then a lazy lunch for us and the red-eye survivors.

Hottentot in the Pela garden was also enjoying the proper sunshine
It was now glorious and hotter than it had been since we had been here and so we headed for Metochi with a brief stop at the Christou River bridge to watch several Red-throated Pipits and Black -headed Wagtails. Swallowtails flounced around the normal sized fennel and Crested Larks and Corn Buntings sang. 

Down at Metochi we found a male Little Crake immediately and watched it furtively feeding along the reed edge while a male Little Bittern crept behind it. Len picked up a distant big bird of prey and it rang alarm bells immediately. I frantically put the scope back up and found the bird. It was very big and block shaped with rectangular fingered wings and a short tail. It was a long way off over Dafia but even at range I could see the pale primary base flashes on the upperwing when it turned. It was a Lesser Spotted Eagle and we watched it glide west and out of view.
The rest of the circuit was far more productive than my first visit and Mike had eight lifers in forty minutes which included a couple of surprises for the site with a Cretzschmar's Bunting and calling female Collared Flycatcher. Two active Rock Nuthatch nests were found and even the Sombre Tits put on a performance and a Masked Shrike showed very well from the car. A couple of Alpine Swifts zoomed with Commons over the ridge and were joined by a Long-legged Buzzard and a Short-toed Eagle dropped down low enough to see her eyes.

Sombre Tit

Masked Shrike
As we were leaving and about to turn onto the main road I saw a small floaty Harrier over the olives. I stopped and raised my bins and was delighted to find a sub-adult male Pallid Harrier drifting through. I leapt out and grabbed the camera. I have been lucky enough to have seen the species on every visit but never a grey ghost of a bird like this one. We watched him head north back up towards the lake and out of sight. 

Pallid Harrier

The rest of the evening was spent out on the KSP with our first male Red-backed Shrike near the Pasiphae Hotel and two Med Gulls and a pair of very showy Nightingales on the Tsiknias on the way out there. A Stone Curlew was seen out towards the semi-hidden beach pool and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers showed well in the pathside brambles.

News of some new waders on the pans had us pushing on through and we were soon watching a stripy headed Broad-billed Sandpiper as it fed with a large mixed flock of Ruff, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin and Marsh Sandpipers

Broad-billed Sandpiper with Marsh and Curlews Sands

Broad-billed Sandpiper with Marsh Sandpiper

Look at those stripes! ...and a Ruff

Broad-billed Sandpiper with Curlew Sandpiper and a very long billed Dunlin

Over 130 Wood Sandpipers flew high and north in two flocks and Stone Curlews were active in the late evening sunshine including one that landed in the Avocet colony and got particularly short shrift. 

One of two Grey Herons that dropped in from up high
Three White Winged Black Terns put on a spectacular show over the channel and 12 Gull-billed Terns hunted further back while the river mouth Med Gulls joined us and hawked with them for ants.

White Winged Black Tern

It was a magical evening with smiles all round and a wondrous introduction for Mike and a ‘good to be back' day for Len.