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.

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