Thursday 25 May 2023

Lesvos - Day 4 - 23rd April 2023

A good journey west saw us at our first stop just below the Agra towers and standing in the chilly conditions watching our first Cinereous Buntings singing up on the crags along with Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Cretzschmar’s Buntings, Stonechats and a foraging Sombre Tit.  A grand way to start the day but we were all glad to get back in the bus to warm up!

It was freezing! - ACV

On to Eresos and the start of the track to Sigri where, as usual, I stopped at the first little chapel.  An Eastern Orphean Warbler was going for it by the roadside and performed magnificently from the top of the little Willow-leaved Pear and a black and white flycatcher appeared in the base.  I called it as Collared but then changed my mind to Pied but it looked odd. The alarm bells barely got going before it zipped back into the Olives.

Eastern Orphean Warbler 

Ten minutes later it started calling and it did not feel right for either Collared or Pied. Surely it could not be? It reappeared and I got several brief but good views including white all the way down the tail sides that looked to go around the tips.  The wing patch looked good and the white collar extended around towards the nape.  It dashed higher up the slope and we lost it but it appeared that we had actually seen a male Semi-collared Fly. A short distance on I picked up a male Collared on its peeping call in the next grove and it showed well as it dipped down from the lowest branches while a Cirl Bunting grovelled underneath.

Green-Underside Blue
Green-Underside Blue - ACV

Snail Killer Fly sp

Cretzschmar’s Buntings and Crested Larks followed us along the track up to the crest of the hill where a fun hour was spent with the Isabelline, skinny Northern and madly displaying Black-eared Wheatears on the plateau in front.  Three male Collared Flycatchers were sharing two small trees and the fenceline with four Whinchats and two Stonechats and a female Red-backed Shrike was in the only clump of bushes where a puzzling sylvia warbler was singing away and although I could not find it, I think it was a Barred Warbler. Oddly there were no Rock Nuthatches.

Collared Flycatcher - Steve Cullum

Collared Flycatcher

Collared Flycatcher

Collared Flycatcher

Isabelline Wheatear

Ravens kronked, popped and rattled and two Black Storks, a female Peregrine, four Buzzards, two Common Kestrels and three Short-toed Eagles drifted over while a little further on two Rock Sparrows actually showed well on the deck.

Rayless Chamomile - Anthemis rigida
Asphodel - ACV

Rock Nuthatch eventually gave itself up and Woodlarks were added to the mix of Buntings, Chats and Wheatears. Down at the little farm the Rock Sparrows were singing and utilising the old Nuthatch next again and a couple of Tree Pipits flew over calling.

Cretzschmar’s Bunting - Steve Cullum

Whitethroats, Spotted Flycatchers and several more Collared Flycatchers were encountered on the way to the first Pear Tree of Happiness where Great Reed and Eastern Orphean sang and Woodchat Shrike grated away by the dry stream.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

The next two Pear trees held a female Pied and Collared and amazingly a surprise male Black-headed Bunting that had obviously just found somewhere for a bath and stayed put for a few minutes while it preened its feathers. Good to have one early in the trip. A Great Reed Warbler sang from the Brambles and we were surrounded by Red-rumped Swallows, Sand and House Martins and a male Golden Oriole bolted from cover. A young male Marsh Harrier drifted over with a Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle and there seemed to be a movement of the latter going on. Two Lesser Kestrels came over and were a taste of things to come.

Lunch was taken before approaching the ford where a cursory glance showed a few Blue-headed Wagtails and a stunning male Citrine paddling about!  All out! Superb views were had for the next 15 minutes as this crisp yellow headed beauty fed methodically between the rocks.  Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were in the Oleanders and we could hear Bee-eaters above. Andrea found a small Chequered Scorpion under a rock.

Citrine Wagtail

Chequered Scorpion - ACV

We bumped out of the valley and picked up a Squacco flying in and several pairs of Woodchats in the paddocks while there were some good views of more flavas and two Tawny Pipits in the track ahead of the vehicle and a lone Willow Warbler and a second  Black-headed Bunting whilst watching them.

Northern Wheatear

Black-headed Bunting

Up to the top where more Tawny Pipits – 11 in fact – greeted us and then at the Cheese Sanitorium the escarpment was full of hovering falcons with at least 26 Lesser Kestrels using the updrafts to hunt as well as picking up aerial prey too.  Some of the males were quite beautiful.  Six Short-toed Eagles were also spread out along the ridge.

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel - ACV

Three Lesser Whitethroats were the first we had seen and three male and a female Red-backed Shrike were dotted about but it was the two stunning male Golden Orioles that probably won the birds of the day for many people as they used the bushes to drop down onto insects in the grass below.  They glowed and were probably some of the best and most prolonged views I had ever had. Collared Flycatchers were once again a feature and we had only just found out what had been happening on Ipsilou.  A close Bunting on the fence turned out to be a female Ortolan!

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Golden Oriole

Eastern Dappled White

Ortolan Bunting

I opted to not go down to Faneromeni as it was already 4pm and instead went straight up to the very top of Ipsilou.  It was immediately apparent that there were black and white flycatchers everywhere and we had a slow walk back down to the main road.  I can only imagine just how many Pied and Collared Flys there were in those oaks with the calls of both species constantly around us. I suspect we were well into three figures. I listened out for Semi calls but heard none but was pleased to hear the dry rattle of one or possibly two Red-breasted Flycatchers with a brief couple of views of one and its Whinchat-esque tail.

Julie & the Giant Fennel

Collared Flycatcher - Steve Cullum

Pied Flycatcher 

Bombus lucorum on Woolly Thistle

Trifolium uniflorum

Wood Warblers broke the 20 mark as the clambered around the flowering oaks gleaming in gold, lime and white with the odd bird singings and plenty of those wonderful call notes we hear so rarely at home.  Throw in several Spotted Flycatchers, Subalpine Warblers, Masked Shrikes, three Golden Orioles, male and hepatic female Cuckoo, Hoopoe and Blackcaps and it was an experience of a lifetime to remember.  I barely took a picture and birds were rarely still but that wall of calling birds that surrounded us will remain with me always.

Wood Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Eastern Subalpine Warbler - Steve Cullum

The three Wheatears and Rock Nuthatch greeted us back at the van before the start of the journey home which was interrupted on the outskirts of Antissa by a Wryneck sitting on a wire fence. I was even able to reverse up and some of those in the back saw it too!  My first proper view of one on the island. Quite amazing!  A final stop at Perivolis Monastery to feed the cats and hope for Middle Spotted Woodpecker was successful with both tasks completed in short order along with the Wood Nuthatches a few more Flycatchers, Cirl Buntings and another Masked Shrike.

Praying for Middle Spot... except for Steve

The Cats - ACV

The Cats - ACV

It really was time to head back and we eventually made it to the Pela at 7.30 after 11 hours graft.  We were tired but there were smiles all round.

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