The lure of an early morning chocolate filled hot croissant precluded any early attempt at ornithology but the view out across the Bay to the isthmus was mirror calm. After breakfast it was time for a trundle through Loutzaria.
|The isthmus to Kalloni Bay
It was fairly quiet although the Lesser Grey Shrike had returned to his spot of two days ago and posed nicely with six Red-backed Shrikes in the surrounding two fields. A Woodpigeon flew through and became the only new trip bird of the day. There were a few Wagtails around but there were heaps of jingle jangle Corn Buntings and flocking Sparrows.
|Lesser Grey Shrike
|Red-backed Shrike - getting in early for the daily RBS!
I headed east around the Bay passing two Great White Egrets at Mesa before turning off past Achladeri and onto the coastal track. Thirteen Med Gulls and friends were around the little harbour and I had fun taking arty jetty pictures as Common Sandpipers chased each other over the rocks.
|Looking back towards Mesa
|The isthmus from the other side of the Bay with hovering boats
|Med Gulls and yellow-legged Gulls
|Just playing around
A few Red-backed Shrikes, Tawny Pipits and Whinchats were seen and Willow Warblers flicked ahead of the car the whole way. Alikoudi Pool was, well, not a pool...
|Johnson Grass - Sorghum halepense
|Okra - Abelmoschus esculentus
|But until I saw the fruits I was not sure what the plant was at all!
The Poly Pans held 124 Flamingos and a three Black Storks along with a few waders that included Marsh Sandpiper, Dunlin, a good flock of Avocets, Redshanks and six Kentish Plovers. A group of 27 Sandwich Terns were roosting on posts with more Med Gulls until an Eleonora's Falcon whizzed through and sent them and the Avocets in all directions.
|I am sure I took a picture of a Black Stork just here in September 2016
|Hazy Marsh Sandpiper
|The Salicornia was flaming!
Lunch was taken overlooking the Bay at Skala Polichinitos with Yellow-legged Gulls for company who had no concept whatsoever about what a man throwing bread is all about. A solitary Bee-eater circled overhead and higher up four Ravens tumbled in the same air space as a Black Stork.
| Black Stork and Ravens
|Lesvos home to many short-legged dogs but just why they felt the need to have a sign to tell you not to throw Dachshunds into the sea is beyond me...
From here I took a new route down to the coastal resort of Vatara where some proper touristy sightseeing took place with a look at a very old chapel (no age on it though) and the incredibly dangerous and uncovered Achilles Well.
|Early Christian Church
The well is said to tie in with the legend that Achilles raided the ancient city of Vrisa that used to stand on this headland and captured the beautiful Vriseis, killing her husband Minis and her three brothers (although Homer wrote in the “Iliad” that Vriseis was born in Lyrnissos, in Asia Minor). This well was where he and his troops got their water before returning across the strait to the mainland (it was all Greece then) where things started to get a little fraught between him and King Agamemnon...
At the end of the headland is the ruin of a temple to Dionysus at Agios Fokas which was erected to pay homage to God of wine and general revelry in an aid to increase the quality of the grape harvest of the region. Only a few marble columns remain and the area is fenced off and neglected. There is not even a sign when you finally get there.
|Temple of Dionysus
|Not sure what the horses are living on on the headland
|Agios Fokas harbour
I find it very odd that an island steeped in such a wealth of ancient and important history does not do more to promote and educate about these sites. There may be a roadside brown and yellow sign but that will be it and yet the interpretation that accompanies the island wide Geopark is some of the best I have ever seen and it is a Geographer’s delight (only Shetland has its equal).
You would think that from the point of view of attracting a new tourist audience, especially in these troubling times that this would be a no brainer. The Temple of Messon at Mesa is the exception to this and is certainly worth a visit but so much more could be done with the temples of Dionysos and Apollo and such like.
|Around the bay at Vatara - Plomari is beyond the headland
The Almyropotamos River was still flowing well and held three Moorhen, Kingfisher, Grey and White Wagtail and feels worthy of a spring visit. Sardinian Warblers were heard where ever I pulled over but as usual remained invisible while a quick walk along the beach towards the river mouth revealed that I had missed the flowering of the Sand Lilies (Pancratium maritimum) by a week or two (although I did see some flowering in Theklas’s garden) and their ripening pods dipped down towards the hot sand giving shelter to the Blue-winged Grasshoppers perfectly camouflaged there.
|Almyropotamos River - near the sea
|Sand Lilies (Pancratium maritimum)
|Almyropotamos River - still flowing at least three miles inland!
We retraced our steps and then turned off in Polichinitos towards the hot springs but they were closed and feel like they have been let go and were in disrepair but some exploring revealed the springs still flowing and bubbling away beyond the baths and I returned to the car feeling like I had been in a steam room!
The water flowed from several sources and was exceptionally hot in places where it came through the surface. Salts and iron rich minerals crusts formed on the edges but there were still Lesser Emperors and Red-veined Darters zooming around and even trying to egg lay in the scalding waters while a Green Sandpiper surprised me by shooting up from the stream. Ravens kronked and tumbled above and Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Cirl Buntings, Sardinian Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers were in the Eucalyptus trees.
|Almost too hot to touch
It was a good run back to Skala Kallonis from here and just a short trip out onto Loutzaria before dinner produced the usual suspects although there were definitely more Willow Warblers around.
|Thorn Apple - Datura stramonium
|Thorn Apple - Datura stramonium
|Spotted Flycatcher with Cynanchum acutum climbing to its left - food plant of that red bug I found - Caenocoris nerii
Dinner in town and then an Ouzo induced stagger back to the digs before a look at the celestial majesty of Jupiter and her bands and four moons and the tilted wonder that is Saturn and his mighty ice rings a mere 800 million miles away...