Thursday 30 September 2021

Lesvos - Day 14 and 15 - 15th and 16th September 2021

Day 14:

It dawned with a cloudless blue sky and the warmth of the day ahead was already in the air. A relaxed start to proceedings as we waited for the nurse to arrive to do our Covid tests that would allow us to go home tomorrow. Sitting outside on the veranda of the Pela is possibly the nicest waiting room I have ever had to linger in.

That done I headed out after some preliminary packing and pottered around Metochi and Potamia for a couple of hours. There were still quite a few Shrikes to be found and three Stonechats along a fenceline looked horribly like the fully rusty underparted form that we get back home rather than the usual orange breast and white belly birds that dot the island in the spring. The racial origin of Stonechats here is yet another thorny problem! 

Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Willow Warbler


Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

female Stonechat

Red-rumped Swallows hawked with Barn Swallows over a Millet field and Spotted Flycatchers and Whinchats were encountered. 

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Metochi Lake was very empty with just a couple of Grey Herons and Little Egrets and singles of Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and a silky white Spotted Redshank. Perhaps there are simply almost no fish left to keep the morning hoard happy?

Green Sandpiper

Spotted Redshank.


I ventured all the way to the Monastery beyond the farms this time and it is a fine leafy, shady and tranquil place. The signage board says that it is utilised by students from a Norwegian University. 

Blackcaps and both Whitethroats were in a large Fig tree and Eastern Willow Spreadwing and Migrant Hawker were both new Odonata for this visit.

Freyer's Grayling

Eastern Willow Spreadwing

There were still 22 Mallard, four Teal and two Garganey on Kerami Reservoir and up above a very good darkish Steppe Buzzard candidate circled. It seemed to tick all the right boxes. 

Steppe Buzzard imho

A Short-toed Eagle came up out of a trackside Olive and caused an involuntary braking moment! It was magnificent as it then circled just overhead and I never tire of seeing these on a daily basis.

Short-toed Eagle

A lazy lunch and then a couple of half-hearted Lotzaria and Alykes perambulations which surprisingly added two new species with a Savi’s Warbler just north of the Lower Ford which threw me as it was perched in the open and I was looking down at it and what I thought was an adult Little Gull that was later confirmed by Andy Weir.  

It was good to see Lesser Grey and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike along with a smart orange, lemon and olive Ortolan that flipped past the car and into a Chaste Bush. Down on the south eastern pan I could see two Dalmatian Pelicans and a heap of 22 Spoonbills and two Black Storks and two Grey Plovers and two Curlew were along the beach with the 'Mingos and Yellow legged Gulls before I called it a day and headed back for a last dinner at the Pela.

Greater Flamingo

False Yellowhead Dittrichia viscosa - Have you ever wondered at the gentle waft of cannabis across the island?  I used to think it was the what I now know as Chaste Tree due to the similar leaves but it was not.  It was in fact this short sticky plant packed with oils that warm in the sunshine and in the autumn has little Aster-like flowers. Mystery solved after all these visits!


Day 15:

There was still time for a dawn raid on the Eastern saltpans. Sol was a way off rising and the night skyscape was spectacular above me as I walked down the track to the sound of grumbling Flamingos and waking waders. 


With the first rays five Dalmatian Pelican shapes could be seen already up actively feeding before moving to the middle pans where a huge melee of several hundred Flamingos were frenzy feeding like a scene from the Rift Valley Lakes. Great White, Grey Herons and Little Egrets were moving around and medium dark Heron threw me until I raised it was a Bittern flying towards Mesa. A nice final bonus before I walked back. Tawny Pipits, Crested Larks and Corn Buntings were all on the path and Wagtails erupted from their roost grasses.

A last bump back through Lotzaria got me my final Red-backed Shrike, Chat and Hoopoe fix before a very lazy breakfast and final farewells.

The journey back to Mytilini was smooth although the latest diversion due to street works had us going down some very tight little roads before popping back out on the sea front!  There was time as usual for a chill down on the ‘beach’ where I dangled my feet for one last time in the Aegean as Sardinian Warblers rattled from inside the airport compound.

Rock Samphire

It had once again been a memorable holiday with the hospitality of my second home making all the stresses of the past five months temporarily melt away.  Autumn birding is so very different to the spring and with lower expectations comes greater discoveries.  

Sam Shippey’s birthday was just after we came back and he loved the island and its people as much as I do.  How has nearly a year already passed since Covid took him?  But he was never far away and everyday there was something to remind me on the island of my third Grandad be it a bird he particularly loved, a rushing Swallowtail or a view he took in on each visit; the list is endless as are the memories.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Lesvos - Day 13 - 14th September 2021

After a night plagued by micro mosquitos there was no pre breakfast excursion but there was ample recompense with a fine low Black Kite south over the Pela before 8am. It must have arrived yesterday and roosted up somewhere. After some general faffing around I headed up towards Lepetimnos in the hope that I could make up for yesterday's directional faux pas. The high layby was once again filled with construction workers so I dropped down to the lower point and met Raymond De Smet who was already there (along with the local, channel scanning Police).

The view...

The next two hours up to midday were fantastic with little pulses of raptors sneaking in from Turkey just seven miles away and we amassed the following... 10 Honey Buzzard, four probably local Common Buzzard, two Black Kites, three Short-toed Eagles, an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle, juvenile Montagu's Harrier, 12 Marsh Harriers, four Sparrowhawk, three Goshawk and two Hobbies. Three Black Kites on one morning here is quite exceptional I believe. Raymond will have much better images than mine and we made a good team. We found, he snapped, I confirmed in the scope. All the time Bee-eaters streamed in and several hundred were seen and heard while Ravens were constant companions in the airspace.


Lesser Spotted Eagle

Honey Buzzard

A rather chunky six fingered Honey Buzzard...

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier


Skala Sykaminias

The sea was calm and there were many boats out fishing and it was good to find several small groups of Yelkouan Shearwaters at last as they fed with Yellow-legged Gulls on a bait ball near the surface. I thought Dolphins would appear but they did not so perhaps a Swordfish hunting deeper down.

Back home for lunch and then north late afternoon to visit Perivolis Monastery again and while there was some kitten caring going on, I went back to sit by the river and watch birds coming into bathe. It was a superb half hour and although the light was awkward I had 14 species drop in including a fine first winter Red-breasted Flycatcher that I did not notice until it flew up revealing the white tail patches. It dried itself deep in cover before flicking away not to be seen again although I could hear it rattling from further up the slope. There were four different Common Redstarts, many Spotted Flycatchers, a few Warblers, Cirl Buntings, White Wagtail and plenty of finches which included at least four different Hawfinches. All appeared to be immature birds and these were the best views I have ever had on the island. Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were bounding around and several Persian Squirrels scurried between the trees.

Hawfinches are amazingly cryptic when on the ground

Common Redstart

From here I dropped down towards the Ancient Antissa track and slowly bumped through passing quite a few Red-backed Shrikes, Red-rumped Swallows, plenty of Chats and Spot Flys, Cirl Buntings and Willow Warblers before a stop for the view from Agriosikos. I am sure I could make out the blob of Pelicans from up there way off on the Salt pans!

Towards Gavathas

Red-rumped Swallow

The Ancient Antissa fields


The view from Agriosikos

A pre-dinner circuit of Lotzaria gave lovely encounters of Red-backed Shrikes in golden light, four Buzzards on the wires, a solitary Turtle Dove and pruuking Bee-eaters. A White Stork was having a preen on one of water pump sheds and was completely unconcerned by our presence. A last look at the Tsiknias Ford saw Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Little Ringed Plovers in the half light and the Kingfishers zipped through once again. The Bats were now out and dinner beckoned for one last time at the Dionysis.

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

White Stork - ACV

Half Moon - ACV