Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Week in Lesvos - Part 3 - Bittern-tastic

Our final day in Lesvos saw us relaxing and taking it easy, it was a bit cold though to swim or sit around the pool, so we went for a walk. Now just 5 minutes from our hotel Skala Kalonis was a good little wetland area, so we toddled on down for a morning stroll and to see what was about.

We had been told that a Bittern was showing well, but we didn't expect it to show this well! This is a small selection of the 200+ photos that I took of the chap:

It was a fantastic sighting, we have tried and tried in the UK to find Bittern with some success at Ham Wall in Somerset and Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk, but nothing like this. We went to the marsh twice that day, we couldn't resist and he was as obliging both times.

It was easy to ignore the other birds as he gave such a show, but for the record here are few others:
Crested Lark,
 Glossy Ibis,
 Gull-billed Tern,
 Purple Heron,
 Little Bittern

So that's pretty much it, we loved the whole thing so much that we are definitely going back, maybe even next year. If you would like to see a few more Bittern poses,
go to this link: Bittern at Skala Kalonis don't worry it's not all 200!

A Week in Lesvos - Part 2

We spent the next two days exploring the island, North, West, East and South East, visiting some great places, although on day 1 we bit off more than we could chew and tried to cover to much ground, spending to much time in the car, but we still managed to fit in a nice Taverna lunch.

Birding wise we didn't do too much, we saw a pair of Cretzchmar's Bunting mating, but I didn't have my camera handy, then later a lovely view of a Blue Rock Thrush, again wasn't ready with the camera and again two Masked Shrike 'courting' but I had left the camera in the car again, you would think I would have learnt my lesson! However having missed photographing the Shrike, this Whinchat turned up!
Followed by our first, Black-eared Wheatear, 
 At Petri Reservoir, I took this of a Yellow-legged Gull for the record, (don't do Gulls very often!)
 and couldn't resist another Crested Lark.

We started day 2 of our exploration heading east, so we had to drive past the Salt Pans, so it would have been rude not to stop!
This gave us a couple of new species, a Spur-winged Plover;
 Some beautiful Garganey:
 Another Black-wing Stilt photo opportunity:
 and a Kentish Plover
We also saw some Spotted Redshank, the photo of those is to bad even to put up on my blog! From here we travelled around Kalloni bay and head up to one of the mountain villages, arriving into a down pour, so we parked and ran into a cafe, we were the only non-Greeks in there, the highlight in here was watching a Greek Orthodox Priest fleecing the locals at cards. The coffee wasn't great though. This time of year is definitely still out of season and the village was very quiet, the only tourists on the island being all the British and Dutch Birders (plus some Belgians and Swedes that we came across as well) who are mostly not interested in anything other than birds. Anyway I digress!

We made a coffee stop  on the coast not far from the capital, Mytalini, yes we took a flask with us! Of course we took the chance to see if any birds were about, a White Wagtail or two, plus this nice Lesser Whitethroat:
After exploring the east coast and visiting a rather stunning monastery, we wended our way back and did a bit more birding around Kalloni:
Great Egret
A pair of Red-footed Falcon showed well, unfortunately I was photographing straight into the sun, so I have had to edit this one quite a bit, to get it presentable:
 We went back to see the Penduline Tits, while we were there this Black-headed Yellow Wagtail showed well,
as well as another Little Bittern,
The river also provided with some great Glossy Ibis views

So now on to our next day out with Mr Dudley and the west of the island.
Our first port of call was in the mountain valleys as we headed west, looking for Crag Martin, Rock Sparrow, Red-rumped Swallow and Blue Rock Thrush. We saw all of them, but photo opportunities were not good and the Thrush was only a quick fly past.
A very distant Rock Sparrow
 The aptly named Crag Martin
From the valley we carried on to Epsilou Monastery perched high on a mountain top, we parked at the bottom of the track to the monastery and went for a wander....
For us a great find was this Cinerous Bunting again a distant view, but through the scope it was fantastic,
 Digressing for a moment being spring the flowers around and about were stunning, the Poppies especially,
 Sorry another distant view, this time of a Woodchat Shrike,
 A great view of a Black-eared Wheatear, did you know that Wheatear is a corruption of the birds original English name given to it by farmers; White Arse! We did see plenty of Northern White Arse too!
Also up here we saw our first Rock Nuthatch, I had just focused the camera on it, when a Hobby came screaming through and all the little uns' disappeared for a while, sadly the Nuthatch didn't come back.
From the monastery we descended down towards Sigri stopping by the Petrified Forest, a Stone Curlew surprised us here, sorry again no photo, but i did manage a decent pic of a Cretzschmar's Bunting,
also up here we encountered the Chukar Partridge,
and surprisingly a 'Rock' Ruddy Shelduck,

We arrived in Sigri for lunch and what a fine lunch it was too! Seafood galore! After lunch and a beer we searched the local fields for migrants;
You can just make out this Collared Fly-catcher
 The meadows were magnificent,
 another Wood Sandpiper popped up,
 I will add the full list for the day at the end of this post, but on the way back we picked up a Little Owl,
 and an Isabelline Wheatear,
We tried again for the Blue Rock Thrush on the way back but no luck, still a very satisfying day as you can see:
Black-eared Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Tit
Chukar Partridge
Cinereous Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Collared Flycatcher
Corn Bunting
Crag Martin
Crested Lark
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Golden Oriole
Great Tit
Gull-billed Tern
Hooded Crow
House Martin
House Sparrow
Isabelline Wheatear
Lesser Kestrel
Little Owl
Little Ringed Plover
Little Stint
Long-legged Buzzard
Red-backed Shrike
Red-rumped Swallow
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Rock Sparrow
Ruddy Shelduck
Short-toed Eagle
Spanish Sparrow
Western Rock Nuthatch
Wood Sandpiper
Woodchat Shrike
Yellow-legged Gull

The last post will cover the marsh area next to our hotel on the last day and very special it was too!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A Week in Lesvos - Part 1

We have just returned from a fabulous week in Lesvos. We set aside two days for birding, and four days to chill out and relax after our Indian adventure. It didn't work out like that though!

We had booked two days out (Monday & Thursday) with Steve Dudley a Lesvos birding expert! More about that in a bit. However once we checked the location and weather forecast and found that the village of Skala Kalloni had no public transport and no local taxis and that Tuesday and Wednesday looked very dodgy (wet and cold) we decide to hire a car for those two days and explore.

Don't get me wrong the location was fantastic, the hotel pool was great, we ventured in on the Sunday and shall we say the water was a tad cool, which is an understatement to say the least. There was lots of birding on the door step all within walking distance.

Steve turned out to be a great character and we got in well, our kind of Birder, not too intense. The trips were fantastic, the first covered the Kalloni Bay area and the second the mountains and the coast on the west of the island. On both occasions Steve treated us to a great lunch at Tavernas that he uses regularly. His birding knowledge was superb and he found us some great sightings. I will put a link to his website at the end of this post.

So on to the birds, photography wasn't easy as we are talking about a lot of small migrants heading north from Africa and getting close to some wasn't an option. We were very conscious of not disturbing the birds and not encroaching on private land, so you will have to make do with quite a few, 'for the record' shots, or quite simply rubbish shots.
So I'll start of with Kalloni;
Hooded Crows were a regular visitor to our Hotel:
 Whilst chilling out on the Sunday, I managed to get this House Martin just after skimming the swimming pool, it always pays to have your camera handy!
 Meanwhile this Barn Swallow was busy nest building at the hotel poolside, hope he had checked in first!
 So out with Steve now, first visit was to a nearby river, providing us with our first Little Bittern:
 followed by a Little Crake:
 As we walked back to the van, a Long-legged Buzzard gave us a fly by:
 whilst a Corn Bunting sat singing for us:
The irrigation channels around the farmland were full of Terrapins:
So on to our next stop and another river but this one had a very special treat. A pair of Penduline Tits nest building:

This spot was great, there were quite a few Warblers about and a Nightingale serenading us for a good 10 minutes:
There were Little Bittern here as well, we were to visit this spot again later in the week on our own, just to see the progress on the Penduline Tit nest. From here we went out to the Salt Pans at the top of the bay,
There were plenty of Black-winged Stilts about
Plus a variety of Yellow Wagtail (including Blue and Black headed) in a nearby field
Wood Sandpiper were pretty common:
Not so common were the Gull-billed Tern:
The Salt Pans were full of Greater Falmingo:
and Crested Lark were so common, nobody took any notice of them except Tina and me, we thought they were fantastic!
I know we are spoilt at Upton Warren for Avocets, but I have never seen so many as here, these are just a few along with more Black-winged Stilt:
Then in a nearby pond another treat, a Marsh Sandpiper:
We still clocked up quite a few species before heading off for lunch. It was at this point we had a near disaster. Steve pulled in to put some fuel in the van and being Greece there are no self-service stations as we have in the UK, so Steve just told the chap to fill it up, after a few seconds, Steve went into a panic, the kind young gentleman putting the fuel in was putting unleaded in, but the van was diesel!!! About 15 litres had gone in before he was stopped. So we spent a chatty half an hour so while the fuel was pumped out and flushed through. This must have happened before as the garage had all the gear to get it done!
So after a good lunch we headed out again.
Short-toed Snake Eagle:
 We now entered the Achladeri Forest, where to start with some Black Stork flew over,
This is while Steve was searching for this little fellow, Krüpers Nuthatch. We didn't go close as that slit in the tree is their nest and they looked like they were feeding young, so we kept a good distance away (as you can see from this poor shot) and just watched. We stayed about 40 minutes it was brilliant watching the coming and going, this is what birding is all about.
We finished the day with a stop by a well know Scops Owl roost, on the edge of the town of Kalloni:

Part 2 will cover what birds we did see on our days out on our own and the west of the island trip with Steve. For more about Steve Dudley, go to:

Lesvos Birding

This is our full list of birds for the first time out with Steve:
Black Stork
Black-winged Stilt
Cetti's Warbler
Collared Dove
Common Tern
Corn Bunting
Crested Lark
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Glossy Ibis
Great Tit
Great White Egret
Greater Flamingo
Gull-billed Tern
Hooded Crow
House Martin
House Sparrow
Krüper's Nuthatch
Lesser Whitethroat
Little Bittern
Little Crake
Little Egret
Little Grebe
Little Tern
Long-legged Buzzard
Marsh Harrier
Marsh Sandpiper
Masked Shrike
Penduline Tit
Purple Heron
Red-footed Falcon
Ruddy Shelduck
Savi's Warbler
Scops Owl
Sedge Warbler
Short-toed Eagle
Spanish Sparrow
Turtle Dove
Wood Sandpiper
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail (feldegg)
Yellow Wagtail (flava)