TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Thursday 1 - Thursday 8 May 2003
Lesbos has only relatively recently become know to the bird-watching world (curiously Neil sat next to the guy whose wife wrote the first visitor's guide to the island on the way out, and we both did on the way back), but is without doubt one of the best wildlife sites in the Mediterranean, with delightful scenery and wonderfully friendly people to boot!
This years' trip more than lived up to expectations, with wall-to-wall sunshine and heat, meaning fewer birds but happier faces! Highlights were many and varied, varying from the shrikes, especially the stunning Masked Shrike, the delightful family of Long-eared Owls, the mixed Whiskered and White-winged Black Tern flock flickering over the pool just a few feet from the hotel door and the amazing view of the Peregrine taking a Little Bittern, also right in front of the hotel. While the raptors were tricky to find, we had our share of luck and the Eleonora's Falcon just a few yards overhead feeding on a large black beetle in flight was simply mind-blowing!
All was certainly not birds however, and for me (John), the good number of reptiles including the amazing little Snake-eyed Skink and the Club-tailed Dragonfly (also a new species!) were outstanding, while Neil was also taken with the small group of Bottle-nosed Dolphins feeding quietly in Petra bay. All this while looking at drifts of flowers, including the stunning blood-red poppies everywhere and remarkable anemones in the hills.
Let's hope Lesbos remains this way for a long time to come.
Thursday 1st May
One of the trade-offs of direct out-of-season charters is a lousy start time, so the 4:30 am meeting time was stoically accepted by those going through Gatwick. After rapid flights, we met up again at Mytilene airport where the earlier arrivers were able to nibble their packed lunches in the shade of some tamarisks overlooking a flat-calm sea in very mild conditions. Though this was largely uneventful, the sudden appearance of huge numbers of Yelkouan Shearwaters well offshore was interesting, these streaming back and forth in smaller groups and settling on the sea in feeding areas.
Once we'd all united we headed through Mytilene and began the trek over the ridge of the island towards out base at Skala Kalloni. A large raptor circling off to one side was a Short-toed Eagle, with a Long-legged Buzzard a little ahead, while a few Turtle Doves and a Red-backed Shrike were noted on wires. Birdwatching from a rapidly moving bus is never the best, though at least the large number of Greater Flamingos on the Kalloni salt pans were easily seen and a White Stork on a huge nest in Kalloni prompted a few murmurs of appreciation.
More appreciative sounds were heard as we diverted slightly to a small Eucalyptus grove. While I'm not a fan of these (introduced) trees in Europe, Neil's on-the-ground knowledge from the previous week turned up trumps, and as our eyes accustomed to the dark image in the scope, so realised we were looking at a delightful Scops Owl perched in the shade just a few yards away, its extraordinarily cryptic plumage making it almost invisible!
We arrived to the hotel in very warm conditions and after organising the rooms (never seemingly a straight-forward business) we re-adjourned outside at 5 p.m. and then spent an hour watching over the Kalloni pool right in front of the hotel. The emergent vegetation was abundant, but still relatively short (given the surprisingly chilly conditions the week before), allowing us good views at the numerous birds present. The first birds for most were the numerous pied Black-winged Stilts, noisily defending their nests, though hiding in the club-rushes were single Squacco Heron and male Little Bittern, which were rightfully admired. Five Glossy Ibis tried unsuccessfully to hide at the back, a pair and a single male Garganey dabbled unconcernedly in a deeper channel. A few waders included a couple of spangle-backed Wood Sandpipers and chequer-backed Ruffs, while overhead, Neil turned up trumps with a fly-past Black Stork, all this to the sound of singing Nightingale and a shouting Cetti's Warbler!
An excellent start to the trip.
Friday 2nd May
With a bright and clear day forecast, our plans were to head west to the westernmost point in the island, taking in some of the islands habitats en route. The early morning was promising however, and some of us were out bright and breezy to see what was in store on the Kalloni pool.
Things started well with a fly-over Great White Egret (with another seen later) male Garganey and some active Little Bitterns, while we were heralded by Nightingale, Spanish Sparrows and a few Olivaceous Warblers, with a grinding Great Reed Warbler on the opposite side and an unseen River Warbler 'sizzling' in the tamarisks. A Peregrine gave us a surprise with a 'powerhouse' fly-by display, though went away with empty talons.
Things had slowed up a little as we hunted in vain for the River Warbler, but a Reed and then a Sedge Warbler made some amends and as we headed towards breakfast, most of the group held back to watch a fine Red-throated Pipit, leaving the leaders to find a female Little Crake which was briefly later seen by most. A terrific start to the morning.
Our getaway after breakfast was also delayed, this time by the remarkable combination of a superb striped green lizard (but probably not Snake-eyed as we were informed!) soaking up the sun on a branch and a small European Pond Terrapin basking on a small rock. Even as we watched the former, a superb brilliant green Balkan Green Lizard sneaked past in the tall grass.
We headed west, winding our way up through the scrubby hillsides and patches of open woodland and olive orchards, where we saw Blue Rock Thrush and Western Rock Nuthatch from the bus! A quick roadside stop allowed us to contemplate three Short-toed Eagles displaying over a nearby hillside, with a couple of singing Subalpine Warblers and the first Red-backed Shrike for most in the scrub.
Another, this time planned short stop was on a track to take a short walk. Plenty of flowers lined the banks and there was lots of activity from butterflies and birds, including several Subalpine Warblers and a superb singing male Cirl Bunting, though numerous butterflies attracted our attention including both species of Swallowtail, dozens of Eastern Festoons and even one or two False Apollos still on the wing.
A shout from the back as we proceeded revealed a superb Honey Buzzard circling up alongside the bus, while we contemplated a few Isabelline Wheatears as we drove through a barer rocky area.
Our next goal was the Ipsilou Monastery, perched on top of a steep-sided hill where a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Sparrow, odd views of buntings and lots of Spotted and a couple of Pied Flycatchers of most note, with big birds including a stunning fly-by Honey-buzzard just below us! The heat was more than enough for most already, but fortunately there was just enough cover alongside the bus to take a shaded lunch.
With so many things to see, it is sometimes difficult to judge what to stop for or not, but when a Spur-thighed Tortoise was ambling across the road in front, a quick stop for was called for to remove it from the road safely and show it to everyone in the process!
It was now hot, but breezy at the Petrified Forest, where we experienced one of those 'purple patches' before we even entered: a Little Owl gave good views as it perched on a post, while a couple of Black-eared Wheatears vied, not totally in vain for attention, but a stunning Roller on a rock diverted all eyes for some time. As if this were not enough, a Whinchat and Lesser Grey Shrike then kept us on our toes, while to round off, a beautiful pale Northern Wheatear on one side and a smart Chukar and a second Little Owl peering over a large boulder on the other kept us more than busy!
Inside, we contemplated the extraordinary 'crystalline' tree trunks, both standing and fallen when destroyed and then preserved by a huge volcanic eruption, with a Black-headed Bunting reeling out its rather tropical ditty. Plenty of butterflies included a resting Eastern Dappled White as we searched for a brief, but good Cinereous Bunting.
Dozens of Red-backed Shrikes lined the fences and a few Stonechats were noted, while Lesser Kestrels hovered over the hillsides as we approached the little fishing village of Sigri. A cool breeze was blowing off the sea as we walked past the port, with three White Wagtails a surprise, a dark phase Eleonora's Falcon passing at speed a treat, while plenty of Jackdaws and a couple of Shags more typical fare. We rounded-off with drinks in a cool breeze at a quiet taverna.
While the route back is normally a no-stop affair, we paused on the roadside in delightful conditions to take in the breeding Isabelline Wheatears, one of which fluttered along in a superb display flight with its tail fanned. There were plenty of birds in this seemingly rather barren area however, and in just a few superb minutes we could contemplate a singing Cretzschmar's Bunting at point blank range, a couple of pairs of Isabelline Wheatears, a female Whitethroat and another Rock Sparrow.
A superb first full day and great introduction to the island.
Saturday 3rd May
Pre-breakfast saw similar commoner species to day before, but an additional stroll towards West River produced several Great White Egrets, a Black Stork, a superb Long-legged Buzzard (including perched in a tree), a number of Kentish Plover and a pair of Stone-curlews. Three recently arrived Black-headed Buntings fed quietly in a field near the hotel and a bold Olivaceous Warbler sang boldly from a tamarisk as we returned.
Today was to be closer to the hotel, so we headed east to a small track separating a scrubby hillside from flat pasture and flooded salt-marsh at the peculiarly-named Derbyshire (AKA Missintziki). We paused for a few Red-backed Shrikes and tried in vain to see a couple of singing Sylvia warblers in the scrub, but the local Blackbirds seemed more prone to show themselves! Patience is a virtue though, and as we worked our way slowly along the track, we noted couple of dapper Lesser Grey Shrikes on the wires and bushes, a Little Ringed Plover dropped in to a small pool, a Greater Short-toed Lark ran across the short turf in full view and a couple of migrant Purple Herons looked incongruously out of place as the stood out in the open in a grassy field.
A small patch of Tongue Orchids were flowering discretely in the longer grass, but were largely ignored as a pair of Ruddy Shelduck suddenly appeared over a ridge-top in front and cruised over, flashing their surprisingly large white wing patches as they went. As if this were not enough, as we turned to come back, a loud song revealed the presence of a superb singing Rufous Bush-chat, first perched in a small olive, then on a spiny hummock, before disappearing off at speed a surprising distance.
Our next little stop was nearby by a small river, overlooking a very hazy pool in the heat where the Ruddy Shelduck and a pair of Common Shelduck were also present.
Pine forests provide a bit of shade (in addition to clouds of pollen!), so we paused nearby to take a stroll as the temperature rose. This of course was not at random, and after just a few minutes, once we'd looked at various Spotted Flycatchers and a couple of Black-eared Wheatears, the latter seemingly completely out of place in the woods, we stopped to peer at a dead stump... This had a hole or two in it though, and was promising, and while most of the group concentrated on waiting at this 'stake-out', this gave John time to track down a singing Masked Shrike, albeit rather distant, in the top of a tree. Most were able to see this and then return to watch the occupants of the hole, a pair of superb Krüper's Nuthatches, visit on several occasions as we waited patiently.
We eventually pulled ourselves away and wandered further into the woods, and after a little scrambling and careful searching, found a brief Long-tailed Tit and a small family party of Short-toed Treecreepers. Even the scramble had been worth it however, with a couple of clumps of superb fully opened Violet Limodore orchids poking up seemingly completely out of place in the rather dry forest floor.
We rounded things off in the heat with a visit to the Kalloni salt pools and a walk round their seaward edge to the "sheep field". The pools held lots of Greater Flamingos and also a small group of Black-tailed Godwit at their NW end, where two pairs of Stone-curlews also gave us excellent views.
The E side has a good road though, and we drove down it slowly, seeing feeding Little and Common Terns, and a few waders in the pans, though we had better views from the bridge at the far end a simply stunning adult Black Stork feeding at point blank range in a small outfall. Birds on the pans included a male Gadwall, two male Garganey and five Common Shelduck for variety.
We walked around to the sheep field where another superb Rufous Bush-chat sang a couple of times from some bare twiggy bushes, before rushing off in hot pursuit of local Corn Buntings and Crested Larks. We turned round to then look in the grass, where plenty of Yellow Wagtails feeding among the sheep flocks kept us busy, including fine males of the "Blue-headed" flava and "Grey-headed" thunbergi races, though were almost outdone by a couple of dozen Red-throated Pipits, some with their brick-red faces and throats in full breeding garb! As we searched in vain for a supposed Citrine Wagtail, perched Common Terns were also noted, with several dapper Kentish Plover brightening the shallow pools in the fields to our delight. A terrific end to the day, though those with energy went out to see the delights of the Kalloni pool after our return, no less than five Little Bitterns being the reward!
Sunday 4th May
The pre-breakfast walk was a specifically early one to the East River. We left at 6:30, and after c.20 minutes reached our goal, though having been delayed en route by squealing Water Rail, the male Garganey, and a singing Cetti's Warbler in the open on the Skala Kalloni pool! A couple of small groups of Bee-eaters heralded our arrival, with a fine Wood Sandpiper picking along the edge, though behind us a gorgeous male Black-headed Bunting sang from one side of a tamarisk at point-blank range as an Olivaceous Warbler perched out in the early morning sun on the other! We tried to see an odd-looking gull which had dropped down near the river mouth, but an orange-faced Red-throated Pipit came and sat on the edge of some dumped soil for all to admire and rightfully attracted more attention.
We detoured through a field to look at the river mouth, where no less than three first-winter Mediterranean and a single first-winter Black-headed Gull provided a fine comparison. A 'small brown job' in the grass as we started back however was a lovely Greater Short-toed Lark, complete with dark breast-side patches.
Even passing through Skala Kalloni to breakfast was delayed, with no less than three Squacco Herons passing east towards the river and another three and two male Little Bitterns on the edge of the pool right by the town!
The main part of the day started with another quick visit to the Kalloni salt pans where two Whiskered, six White-winged Black and three Gull-billed Terns passed in close succession, highlighting how active migration is on the island.
We then headed inland and upwards, pausing for refreshments at Karini springs, where in the shade along the river we watched a singing Wren, and several Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies, and had time to contemplate the extraordinary size of the two massive Oriental Plane Trees, inside one of which in a surprisingly large hollow the folk painter Theophilus adopted a hermit-like lifestyle.
Onwards and upwards we went past Agiassos to some high-altitude pine and Sweet Chestnut forest. Numerous anemones lined the banks, but the largely dry conditions meant only a few of the small and frail-looking Four-spotted Orchids were in flower. As some of us searched for these, others concentrated on watching another Krüper's Nuthatch nest to the sound of Chaffinches and a few secretive Serins. We walked up the road, thankful for the dappled shade in the heat, and were rewarded with a couple of superb wild tulips, Tulipa orfanidea and brief views of some calling Middle Spotted Woodpeckers in the still almost leafless Sweet Chestnut woodland. A couple of Persian Squirrels were far more confiding though, while as we moved to search for more woodpeckers, a couple of us were fortunate enough to see an individual of the tiny Snake-eyed Skink rustling around in the leaf-litter. We continued on as far as another Middle Spotted Woodpecker nest, but in the heat, the chicks were seemingly not hungry and the adults too shy to approach for us to watch them.
Lunch was taken near the bus in the shade of the trees but with a good view overhead, and the repeated passing of a pair of Honey Buzzards was much appreciated, though a single and then three Sparrowhawks, all passing over at enormous height were difficult to even see!
We returned via the East River, where a quick stop and watch from near the road bridge saw Jean discover a fine Roller perched on a wire, two smart Little Stints feeding in the river alongside a Wood Sandpiper and a graceful Scarce Swallowtail which came in to feed on thistle flowers just in front.
We passed by the Kalloni Salt Pans again, this time enjoying the various Bee-eaters on the wires and a single Short-toed Eagle.
Monday 5th May
Pre-breakfast was at the Skala Kalloni pool and West River, between which we amassed two Black Storks, half a dozen Squacco Herons, one Great White and a flock of 11 Little Egrets, a female Marsh Harrier, a Stone-curlew, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, a Whiskered Tern, a Lesser Grey Shrike and a couple of Olivaceous Warblers. No wonder even John was up this early on a regular basis!
For variety, we took the main road north through the island and continued to the 'Panorama' overlooking Petra Bay. A single cloud was keeping the temperature and bird activity down as we arrived, but once it passed, things suddenly came to life. A couple of Linnets perched right in front, a pair of Peregrines came in and perched on a bluff overlooking the aquamarine sea, and single Cretzschmar's and Black-headed Buntings sang from the wires. A chatter revealed two chasing male Eastern Orphean Warblers which sped across the road, but our prize came to light when a chattering song revealed a smart male Rüppell's Warbler singing from the tip of a small oak. As we rushed to get scope views, so the bird stayed in sight, delighting all. However, as we waited, another, this time on a twig with the sea as its backdrop sang from below us and we could contemplate its white moustache and jet black throat pattern better. Calls of cetaceans out in the bay lead to the discovery of a small group of Bottle-nosed Dolphins feeding peacefully, though another male Rüppell's popped up just yards from some of the group to sing in full view for a few seconds, as if it didn't want to be left out!
Watching out to sea also revealed the presence of a group of feeding Yelkouan Shearwaters not far offshore, all sometimes disappearing as they dived from the surface after their prey, though a few others flickered across the waves as they moved from one feeding patch to another.
Our furthest point was the tiny fishing village of Efthalou, where after noting a few more Yelkouan Shearwaters passing between Lesbos and mainland Turkey, we took a stroll along the gravelly coastal road contouring a steep hillside. Despite a stiff (but thankfully cooling) breeze, butterflies were numerous, and in the scrub as we headed into a patch of oak woodland, a couple of stunning Masked Shrikes, smart Black-eared Wheatears, and various Black-headed, Cretzschmar's and Cirl Buntings, including the former on a TV aerial (!) were all noted, with a couple of the now familiar Agama lizards also peering out from their rock look-outs.
Our final planned stop was at the delightful steep town of Molivos (or Mythimna), where we decanted from the bus by the impressive castle. The heat had dragged out good numbers of butterflies here including both Swallowtails again but also a Large Wall Brown among the commoner species, while one or two Hummingbird Hawk-moths buzzed the walls, apparently in search of a quiet resting site. A single leafy almond tree in a garden hardly looked like good migrant habitat, but a singing Sedge Warbler which came out on a couple of occasions at close range showed how birds on passage can turn up just about anywhere! We wound our way down through the town with its narrow cobbled streets and alleyways covered with Wisteria in full bloom, stopping for ice-creams and other sundry items.
Despite the impressive heat, a tip-off led us to make take a pause on the route back, and we turned off into the small copse where we'd seen the Scops Owl on the first afternoon. Although the directions we'd been given pointed towards some Eucalyptus, some photographers at the site kindly lead us to some pines where an adult and no less than four recently fledged but still fluffy Long-eared Owls sat out for us to watch at leisure! The adult was out in the open and immobile, while the highly endearing youngsters peered out from their hideaways and twitched and shuffled and scratched in the heat, their orange eyes lighting up in the shade as they intermittently stared down at us. A simply wonderful way to round the day off. Well, for those that weren't out at the Kalloni pool afterwards watching the Squacco Herons, Little Bitterns, Garganey, etc., etc.
Tuesday 6th May
Pre-breakfast again saw us taking in the Kalloni pool (where a Lesser Grey Shrike hunted from a fence by the hotel to start things off with a bang), and West River, though the latter via a slighter longer route than the day before, but which passed by some olive orchards where an individual of the local black-capped form of Jay and a couple of Persian Squirrels showed briefly. Other trees and some tamarisks were also favoured, providing us with views of Nightingale and Cetti's Warbler.
After breakfast our main venue for the first main part of the day was the nearby Potamia river valley, the short drive to reach it passing through extensive olive orchards carpeted underneath with innumerable flowers.
The already hot conditions did not bode well, but we stepped out into the sun to watch from a bridge over a little rocky river. A few Stripe-necked Terrapins were hauled out on the stones, soaking up the heat and giving us perfect views. A few birds were singing from the depths of the foliage, but as we searched, so we found a superb Nightingale completely in the open in the shade of an Oriental Plane Tree, though remarkably difficult to pick out in the dappled shade.
The delay was rewarded as a beautiful Short-toed Eagle sailed towards us from a nearby hillside, passing over close enough to easily show the multiple lines of fine spots along the underwing and barred tail. This seemed to be a cue for raptors, and over the course of the next hour or so as we climbed gently up along a track in the bottom of the valley, so watched the antics of a pair of Common Buzzards over one side the valley and a pair of Long-legged Buzzards hanging in the wind just above the craggy ridge-top, with three Honey Buzzards and a total of four Sparrowhawks passing over at height.
We strolled on, noting a few buntings and a fly-by Middle-spotted Woodpecker, while a dapper Woodchat Shrike posed on a wire for all to admire. This however flew off before those who'd taken a "wee break" caught up, so it was pleasing when another singing from the cables further ahead performed well for them.
All is certainly not birds however, and as we returned, so a few dragonflies caught our attention. A fine female Broad-bodied Chaser posed on a dead branch before dropping down to rest in some dry stems, allowing superb views through the scope, while as John moved round to try and photograph it, so he disturbed a recently emerged brilliantly-coloured black and yellow Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus schneideri - later identified from photos and though common in this part of the world, not known from Lesbos according to Askew's 1988 European Dragonfly guide). This was so fresh that it was easily caught and admired in the hand! While moving back to photograph it's larger relative, so it became apparent that a number of pale damselflies were moving about in the low vegetation, and we were able to look at the peculiarly, but distinctively pallid White-legged Damselflies.
Things were certainly not over however, and as we were approaching the bus, so some had views of part of large whip snake of some species (probably Coluber jugularis) hidden in the grass, and a reptile slithering across the track in front caused excitement as John rushed after it as it was about to disappear, the large European Glass Lizard (sadly) being too warm and fast in the grass, just escaping his attempts to catch it.
There was still plenty of time before lunch and we drove along the Kalloni inlet and stopped in a little gulley in the hillside with a rock outcrop on one side. We looked out and down towards a tiny marsh over a scrubby hillside, only to find a temporary military camp with various howitzers concealed by netting to be present!
The rock outcrop behind was far more attractive however, with a remarkable mud half-amphora nest of a Western Rock Nuthatch plastered under an overhang, the adults coming in repeatedly to feed the hungry chicks. A couple of smart Black-eared Wheatears also played around the rock tops, carrying food to their begging brood and a pair of Cretzschmar's Buntings also appeared repeatedly and gave terrific views. As if this were not sufficient, a large warbler 'lumping' around in the scrub was a female Eastern Orphean Warbler, with a darker-headed male suddenly appearing a little later.
All this would have been sufficient in itself, but as a few other bird watchers came down from the quaint Chapel of the Holy Cross a short climb up the gulley, so we had news that a singing Cinereous Bunting was present. We climbed quietly up, passing the bird singing (and counter-singing with a male Cretzschmar's Bunting!) in a White Mulberry tree overhead, only to have it fly off just as we arrived. Arghh! However, we waited patiently and quietly, and after relocating the bird singing in the scrub nearby and getting adequate views, we were then treated to it returning to the tree and singing persistently at short range for at least 15 minutes! A sigh of relief from the leaders given that not everyone had seen the bird in the Petrified Forest.
We finally tore ourselves away and returned a short distance to the site of an old mosque, its minaret still standing. We sat either in the shade cast by trees or the mosque walls for lunch, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the lush greenery after a wet winter and first real heat of the spring. Birds were fortunately quiet, though we rounded things off nicely as a Peregrine passed through at close range.
As it was early, we decided to retry at the salt pans, though passed these to take a chance look at the Missintziki area again. Remarkably, an extraordinary wind sprang up as we got out of he vehicle, buffeting us as we stood on a raised rock platform overlooking the flat saltmarsh and seasonally flooded area in front. This seemed to be in our favour however as the wind reduced the heat haze notably and we could contemplate the pair of Ruddy Shelduck again as they fed on the pool, despite having to hold the tripods down with one hand and operating the scope with the other (!), also allowing us to note one Black and a small flock of White Storks while over the pine clad slope behind, a fine Eleonora's Falcon drifted over at speed, cruising rapidly back and forth in the gusting wind.
Of course, the salt pans with the ever-present Greater Flamingos were the last stop en route back, but as ever, there was something new at this extraordinary site. Firstly, Ruff had obviously arrived in numbers, with c.100 in the first pool and a flock of 10 Glossy Ibis filed past in flight in their characteristic wavy line, heading for Skala Kalloni...
A huge surprise was also in store towards the end of the main channel, in the shape of an immature Dalmatian Pelican feeding unconcernedly right by the roadside, which we watched from the bus in order not to disturb it!! Further evidence of migration was also present in the form of a few White-winged Black and several Whiskered Terns over the pans, with some also by the hotel when we arrived back later.
Wednesday 7th May
Our last full day, and to make the best of it we made a slightly earlier start, leaving at 08:30 am. However, the early risers found the pool outside the hotel seemingly alive after the mass arrival of Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns, dipping and flickering over the weeds and coming past just a few feet away, snatching insects from the surface and even from the stems of the emergent plants, a few striking lucky with the enormous gelatinous-looking tadpoles of Eastern Spadefoot Toads!
After breakfast we made straight for the hamlet of Petri, perched on a hillside with sweeping views over the N coast and hills. The earlier start was to beat the heat and given that it was already relatively warm, it was a good move. We walked slowly along a track which undulated gently along the contour of a steep hillside and though birds seemed quiet, on a large rock outcrop a Blue Rock Thrush peered over the top and a couple of Persian Squirrels gave a fine display of their agility, even running head-first down a inclined overhang at one point!
Cirl and Cretzschmar's Buntings sang intermittently and we eventually succeeded in seeing both, though several noisy Subalpine Warblers and a bold Masked Shrike came to point blank range as if to say, "Look at us!". A couple of larger birds on the rock pinnacle materialised into the local race of Jay with a few Alpine Swifts coming and going overhead amongst a mixed flock of swallows, martins and swifts.
It was hard to know where to look given the large numbers of wild flowers cascading down the banks and lining the edges of the track, including good numbers of the extraordinarily intense blood red poppies and impressively large yellow-flowered spikes of Wavy-leaved Mullein. Given the powerful sun and abundant plants, the butterflies were also out in force, with both Swallowtails, Eastern Festoon, Red Admiral, Common Blue and plenty of Orange-tips of most note, though a couple of meadow browns (species uncertain) and a delightful, hairy-bodied grizzled skipper species (also very tricky to ID!) were new.
The easy pace and relaxed atmosphere again paid-off, when a small bird foraging in a nearby oak suddenly popped onto a bare twig to preen in full view - a Sombre Tit! As this one illustrated, though not shy, they are discreet, but we watched this one and then its mate for some time, gleaning caterpillars from the oak before taking them off, undoubtedly to a nearby nest of hungry young.
The lack of raptors was again very notable, despite a Peregrine which made a couple of passes and even two spectacular stoops, but as we turned to come back, so a pair of dark birds appeared quite literally, "out of the blue" and we watched two Honey Buzzards drift past, spiral up and then drift off, apparently heading for a shorter crossing to nearby Turkey. As we slowly continued, so another then followed, with a Sparrowhawk following suit, also later followed by a single, then two very high Eleonora's Falcons doing the same! Picking these birds up at height was hard work though, and apart from a final single Long-legged Buzzard, our eyes tired rapidly as we strained to find more.
We came back having been somewhat beaten into submission by the sun, but very happy, and celebrated by lunching at the woman's cooperative in Petra, run by the wife of Leandros, our driver. This was simply superb, and with the aid of a drop of ouzo, soon had most dozing on the bus as we headed back towards the hotel.
Most were rudely awaken however as we decided to pull-off to a covered viewpoint, almost on the roadside, with terrific views down to Kalloni and its bay. With a warm wind blowing and strong hazy light, this seemed a poor idea, but after a little persistence we suddenly started noting raptors over the distant hillsides. First a female Kestrel (our first of the week!) came past at close range, heading north, then a couple of Honey Buzzards came up, the ID being confirmed when one went briefly into its wing-flickering butterfly display flight. A larger bird off to one side turned into a Short-toed Eagle, which then passed over, the first of three seen in 45 minutes, with a sadly very distant Levant's Sparrowhawk also coming up the valley then circling over the distant ridge before heading N. However, another sudden shout by Peter revealed a stunning Eleonora's Falcon, which then turned and passed overhead at extremely close range, so close we could watch it pulling a large insect apart as it passed and completely un-phased by our cries and wails of delight! This was then joined by two more, all three then disappearing as quickly as they'd appeared, but leaving us elated, with the best views that any of us, including Neil and John, had ever had!
Things quietened, despite long-range Long-legs and Short-toeds, though calls of a dark eagle revealed a large brown eagle at range, which was circling up nicely and soon to reveal its identity against the blue sky, but which suddenly turned and stooped at great speed down into a distant valley, not to be seen again! One that got away...
We finished off again with another trip to the salt pans (could we stand it...?!), where changes had again taken place and some 500 Ruff and one Curlew Sandpiper (!) littered the shore of the first pan, and first a male Kestrel and a then a fine adult Purple Heron flew across the width of the pans and past us in full sun, its purple plumage simply glowing. Wow! Just to round things off, another Peregrine circled off to one side as we headed to the hotel!
Thursday 8th May
Travel days can frankly often be the pits, especially when rounding off a trip, but we decided to "give it a go" in the short time available before we needed to be at the airport.
The Kalloni pool before breakfast was as entertaining as ever, with Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns flickering over its surface, the four male Garganey forming a gorgeous group alongside a flock of 11 Glossy Ibis, 4 Wood Sandpipers and several Black-winged Stilts, and bonuses were a singing Great Reed Warbler and a dash-past view of a Water Rail.
We loaded up and headed for where else, but the salt pans gain! There were even more Ruff than the day before, plus c.50 Little Stint, a few Curlew Sandpipers and a Ringed Plover in the first pan, plus a pair of Short-toed Eagles over a nearby hillside and two pairs and a single Stone-curlew as we drove on to the far end! Things were quiet there, so we pushed on to Missintziki once more, where two Hooded Crows were mobbing a juvenile Long-legged Buzzard, and out on the flats, a flock of Little Egrets, three Black and one White Stork, two Great White Egrets, a Grey Heron and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck formed a fine sight, with the crowning glory being a fine Lesser Spotted Eagle excellently found by Neil, which drifted over, then circled up before gliding off up the coast! A fantastic end!
We fought successfully with the somewhat bizarre check-in procedure at Mytilene airport, being helped by our early arrival, and took our (three) respective flights back to the UK.
We sincerely hope that you had a great time on Lesbos and enjoyed the trip as much as we did! Our genuine thanks to your warm, friendly and open attitudes and for making this so enjoyable and so successful a trip!
With very best wishes for some great 'furtlin'! Ar!
Neil Arnold and John Muddeman
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis): One noted daily (except on 8th) on the Kalloni pool.
Yelkouan / Levantine Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan): Remarkably, c.500 off Mytilene as we waited for the Manchester contingent on 1st, and c.25 between Petra and Efthalou on 5th.
?Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo): Two birds very distantly off Mytilene on 1st may have been this species or the following.
European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis): Three on a rock outcrop off Sigri on 2nd and one Petra bay on 7th.
Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus): An immature at the Kalloni salt pans on 6th.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): Noted on 6 days, max. 6+ on 3rd and two each at West River on 5th and Missintziki on 6th.
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea): Two adults at Missintziki on 3rd and one Kalloni salt pans on 7th.
Great (White) Egret (Ardea alba): Seen on 5 days, one to three in various sites, but c.20 at numerous sites on 3rd.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): Seen on the last 6 days, max. 15 on 3rd and 11+ on 5th.
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides): Seen on all days, max. 6 from 4th to 6th , 9+ on 7th and 8 on 8th.
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): Just one adult seen very distantly by Catharine at West River on 3rd.
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus): One to four at the Kalloni pool on 1st to 4th, then one heard there on 7th.
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber): Seen at Kalloni salt pans on 6 days, max. =300 on 3rd, 7th and 8th.
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): Good numbers: one Skala Kalloni on 1st, one West River and one (extraordinary bird) Kalloni salt pans on 3rd, one en route on 4th, two West River on 5th, singles Potamia valley and Missintziki on 6th, three various sites on 7th and 3 Missintziki on 8th.
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia): Surprisingly scarce: singles Kalloni on 1st and 5th, one Skala Kalloni on 2nd, one West River and 8 Missintziki on 6th and one Missintziki on 8th..
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus): At the Kalloni pool, five on 1st, three on 2nd, and one on 7th, with 10 over Kalloni salt pans on 6th.
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea): A pair in the Missintziki area on 3rd, 6th and 8th.
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna): Two Missintziki and five Kalloni salt pans on 3rd, 1 Missintziki on 6th and 2 offshore Skala Kalloni and one Kalloni salt pans on 7th.
Gadwall (Anas strepera): A male at Kalloni salt pans on 3rd and 4th.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): A male at the Kalloni pool on each full day.
Garganey (Anas querquedula): Three - five daily at Kalloni pool, max. 4 males and a female on 4th.
European Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus): Three at various sites on 2nd, 3 above Agiassos on 4th, one Potamia valley on 6th and 3 past Petri and 3+ from the viewpoint en route on 7th.
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): Excellent numbers and seen on 7 days, max. 8 on 2nd and 6 on 8th.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): Single females Skala Kalloni, Kalloni salt pans and West River on 5 days, with two in the Potamia valley area on 6th.
Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes): One very distant bird from the viewpoint en route on 7th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): One en route on 2nd, 4 over Agiassos woods on 4th, one Potamia valley on 6th and one over Petri on 7th.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): A pair above Agiassos on 4th, one en route on 5th and a pair Potamia valley on 6th.
Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus rufinus): One near Dipi Larssos on 1st, two en route on 2nd, one West River on 3rd, two Potamia valley on 6th, singles Petri and from the viewpoint en route on 7th, two Missintziki on 8th.
Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina): One, probably this species from the viewpoint en route on 7th and one Missintziki on 8th.
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni): At least 11 Sigri area on 2nd.
Common/Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): A single female from the viewpoint en route and a male over the Kalloni salt pans on 7th.
Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae): Singles Sigri on 2nd and Missintziki on 6th, three each Petri and from the viewpoint en route on 7th.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus): Singles Skala Kalloni on 2nd and 3rd, a pair + a single Petra bay on 5th, one over the Parakila mosque on 6th and one Petri and one Kalloni salt pans on 7th.
Chukar (Alectoris chukar): Two fine singles near the Petrified Forest on 2nd.
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus): Heard at Kalloni pool on 4th and 7th and one seen there + another calling on 8th.
Little Crake (Porzana parva): A brief female at Kalloni pool on 2nd.
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus): Noted daily in small numbers at Kalloni pool.
Eurasian/Common Coot (Fulica atra): Noted daily in small numbers at Kalloni pool.
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus): Noted daily in good numbers at Kalloni pool, and on visits to Kalloni salt pans on various dates.
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta): Noted on all visits to Kalloni salt pans in moderate numbers, including several on nests.
Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus): Excellent! A pair West River and two pairs Kalloni salt pans on 3rd, a pair East River and two Kalloni salt pans on 4th, singles West River 5th and 6th and a total of five Kalloni salt pans on 8th.
[Greater] Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula): Just one at Kalloni salt pans on 8th.
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius): One to three at various wetland sites daily from 3rd to 7th.
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus): 30+ at Kalloni salt pans on 3rd and 5 West River on 5th.
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa): Only at Kalloni salt pans, where 30 on 3rd, 12 on 4th and 8th and one on 7th.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus): Only at Kalloni salt pans, where two on 3rd.
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia): Brief singles at Kalloni salt pans on 3rd and 7th.
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus): Only at East River, where two reported as we passed in the bus on 3rd.
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola): Common; seen almost daily at Kalloni pool, on 3rd , 6th and 7th at Kalloni salt pans and East River on 4th.
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos): Singles seen by Peter at Kalloni salt pans on 3rd and flying along the coast at Efthalou on 5th.
Little Stint (Calidris minuta): Good numbers at Kalloni salt pans where 30+ on 3rd, one on 6th and 50+ on 8th, plus two East River on 4th, and one West River on 5th and three there on 6th.
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea): Only seen at Kalloni salt pans, where 5 on 3rd, 1 on 6th and 6 on 8th.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax): Common: seen at Kalloni pool where 3 on 1st, 6 on 5th and 10 on 6th, and Kalloni salt pans where one on 3rd, three on 4th, 100 on 6th and 8th and 300+ on 7th.
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus (cachinnans) michahellis): Common: noted daily along coasts and even inland moving over the island.
Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus): Three 1st-winter birds on the sand spit at the mouth of the East River on 4th.
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus): One 1st-winter on the sand spit at the mouth of the East River on 4th.
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus): Two Kalloni salt pans on 4th and 6 there on 6th, one West River on 5th, 3 Kalloni pool on 6th, 25 there on 7th and 26 there on 8th.
White-winged [Black] Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus): At Kalloni salt pans one on 3rd, six on 4th and three on 6th, at Kalloni pool 8 on 6th, 20 on 7th and 15 there on 8th.
Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica): Three over Kalloni salt pans on 4th.
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis): One immature (?1st-winter) over Kalloni salt pans on 3rd.
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo): Common and seen daily between at Kalloni pool, Kalloni salt pans and West River; max. 40+ on 4th.
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons): Common and seen daily (except on 2nd) between Kalloni pool, Kalloni salt pans and West River; max. 30 on 3rd and 6th.
Rock Dove (Columba livia): Seen in small numbers widely on the island, daily except on 3rd and 6th.
European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur): One - three seen and / or heard daily at widely scattered sites.
Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto): Abundant; noted widely daily.
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus): Only heard at Missintziki on 3rd and above Agiassos on 4th.
Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops): One roosting on the edge of Kalloni on 1st and one heard Petri on 7th.
Little Owl (Athene noctua): A super pair by the entrance to the Petrified Forest on 2nd.
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus): An adult and four fledged chicks near Kalloni on 5th.
Alpine Swift (Apus melba): One over Molivos castle on 5th and 5+ over Petri on 7th.
Common Swift (Apus apus): Common; widespread and seen daily.
European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster): Seen daily in small numbers from 2nd, with 20 at various sites on 4th, 15 over Efthalou on 5th and 22 in total on 7th.
European Roller (Coracias garrulus): Singles at the entrance to the Petrified Forest and seen from the bus en route on 2nd and by East River on 4th.
Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops): One noted by a few flying off through the Achladeri woods on 3rd and one heard calling at Karini springs on 4th.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius): Brief views of one - three on 5 days at various sites.
[Greater] Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla): Singles Missintziki and Kalloni salt pans on 3rd, East River on 4th and Kalloni pool on 5th.
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): Common; noted widely and daily.
[European] Sand Martin (Riparia riparia): One - six at various sites on 6 days, inc. Kalloni pool.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): Common; seen widely and daily.
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica): Widespread in small numbers: seen on 6 days, max. 10 on 7th.
Common House Martin (Delichon urbica): Common; noted widely daily.
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava): Small numbers of the breeding 'Black-headed' feldegg race almost daily in lowland wetlands, e.g. Kalloni pool. In addition, 15+ 'Blue-headed' flava and a 'Grey-headed' thunbergi at the Kalloni salt pans 'sheepfield' on 3rd and 4 of unknown race on 5th and 2 of unknown race on 8th.
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba): One seen by Catharine at Kalloni pool on 1st and three at Sigri on 2nd.
Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis): Just one in flight over Petri on 7th.
Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus): Excellent! One Kalloni pool on 2nd, 30+ at Kalloni salt pans on 3rd and one East River on 4th.
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio): Good numbers of migrants: seen widely on 6 days, max. c.50 on 2nd.
Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor): One at the Petrified Forest on 2nd, 4 various sites on 3rd, one West River on 5th and 1 Kalloni pool on 6th.
Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus): One at Achladeri on 3rd, two males and a female at Efthalou on 5th and 2 (?3) Petri on 7th.
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator): One at Achladeri on 3rd and two males Potamia valley on 6th.
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes): One heard Achladeri on 3rd, three+ above Agiassos on 4th and heard Efthalou on 5th.
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius): Three+ en route and around the Ipsilou Monastery on 2nd and two Petri on 7th.
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula): Common and widespread; seen almost daily in small to moderate numbers.
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus): One singing above Agiassos on 4th.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos): One or two singing strongly above Agiassos on 4th and one in flight over Kalloni pool on 6th.
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula): Only heard (and seen by Jean) above Agiassos on 4th.
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos): Common and widespread; heard daily and seen in ones or twos on a few days.
Rufous Bushchat / Scrub-robin (Cercotrichas galactotes): Single singing males at Missintziki and Kalloni salt pans on 3rd.
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra): One Petrified Forest on 2nd, and 4 Missintziki and one male Kalloni salt pans on 3rd.
Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata rubicola): Several en route to/from Sigri on 2nd and a male above Kalloni en route on 5th.
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe libanotica): Single males at the Petrified Forest on 2nd and Molivos castle on 5th.
(Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica melanoleuca): Common and widespread; noted on 5 days, max. 10+ on 2nd.
Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina): Only seen near Andissa on 2nd, with 2 pairs seen well and others from the bus en route.
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti): Heard daily, mostly at Kalloni pool but also a few other sites, but only one or two seen daily from 4th - 7th.
(Eurasian) River Warbler (Locustella fluviatilis): Only heard singing at Kalloni pool on 2nd.
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus): Two Kalloni pool on 2nd and 3rd, and one Molivos castle on 5th.
European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus): Just one briefly at Kalloni pool on 2nd.
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus): Two singing Kalloni pool on 2nd and one singing there on 3rd on singing at close range on 8th.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais pallida elaeica): Heard and seen daily in small numbers at various sites, especially Kalloni pool, Kalloni salt pans and East River on 4th.
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus): Four singing at various sites on 2nd and heard singing at Achladeri on 3rd.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla): Six at various sites on 2nd, a female at Achladeri on 3rd and one singing at Efthalou on 5th.
Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis): Just one female near Andissa on 2nd.
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca): Two at Ipsilou Monastery on 2nd.
Eastern Orphean Warbler (Sylvia (hortensis) crassirostris): Two males at the Panorama near Petra on 5th, a pair near the Chapel of the Holy Cross on 6th and one singing from the viewpoint above Kalloni on 7th.
Rüppell's Warbler (Sylvia rueppelli): Three glorious males at the Panorama viewpoint on 5th.
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans albistriata): Lots, especially en route on 2nd and Petri on 7th, but a few others at various sites, e.g. Achladeri.
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata): Eight+ Ipsilou Monastery on 2nd, 6 Achladeri on 3rd, 4+ above Agiassos on 4th and 1 Efthalou on 5th.
European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca): Only seen by Ipsilou Monastery where 2 females on 2nd.
Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis): Just one female on a fence near the Petrified Forest on 2nd.
Sombre Tit (Parus lugubris): A pair seen and one or two other singles heard near Petri on 7th.
Great Tit (Parus major): Widespread, but only noted in small numbers most days.
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): Widespread; seen in small to moderate numbers most days.
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus): One at Achladeri on 3rd and two seen by Peter above Agiassos on 4th.
Krüper's Nuthatch (Sitta krueperi): A pair visiting a nest at Achladeri on 3rd and a pair visiting a nest above Agiassos on 4th.
Western Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer): One en route and a pair at Ipsilou Monastery on 2nd, a pair feeding chicks in the nest at the Chapel of the Holy Cross on 6th and two at Petri and one at the viewpoint en route back on 7th.
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla): Only seen at Achladeri, where 3 or 4 on 3rd and above Agiassos where two on 4th.
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius atricapillus): Two en route on 2nd then one - two daily from 5th - 8th.
Western Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): Only seen at Sigri where 25+ on 2nd.
Hooded Crow (Corvus (corone) cornix): Common, widespread and seen daily.
Common Raven (Corvus corax): Scarce; three in total on 2nd, a pair over Kalloni pool on 5th, one at the chapel of the Holy Cross on 6th and one above Petri on 7th.
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra): Abundant and widespread; seen and heard daily.
Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea): A single brief male at the Petrified Forest on 2nd and a very confiding bird at the Chapel of the Holy Cross on 6th.
Cretzschmar's Bunting (Emberiza caesia): Common and widespread; seen and / or heard at various sites on 4 days, e.g. Petrified Forest, Panorama, Petri.
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus): Quite common and widespread and seen on 6 days, e.g. Efthalou, above Agiassos, Petri.
Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala): Common and widespread after 2nd, having arrived on the island in numbers only on 1st!
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): Seen daily. Common and widespread in more wooded habitats, e.g. above Agiassos, Achladeri.
European Serin (Serinus serinus): Just two singles seen from the bus and a brief pair above Agiassos on 4th.
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris): Seen almost daily in small numbers, especially Kalloni pool area.
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): Common and widespread; seen daily.
Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): One on 2nd and 4 at the Panorama and 2 Efthalou on 5th.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): Abundant; seen throughout the island daily.
Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis): Common at Skala Kalloni where breeding in tamarisks by the hotel; seen daily.
Rock Sparrow/Petronia (Petronia petronia): Only seen on 2nd: one at Ipsilou Monastery and one en route.
Eastern Hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor): An injured animal near the Chapel of the Holy Cross on 6th.
Beech Marten (Martes foina): A dead animal on the roadside a little E of Kalloni salt pans on several dates.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus): A small group of 7 or 8 in Petra bay on 5th.
Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus): Two above Agiassos on 4th, two each West River and Potamia valley on 6th and four Petri on 7th.
Amphibians & Reptiles
Green Toad (Bufo viridis): One on the edge of Skala Kalloni village on 4th.
Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea): Heard calling in the Kalloni pool on several nights.
Marsh / Lake Frog (Rana ridibunda): Heard almost daily in various wetland, especially Kalloni pool, but also in other spots and seen in the Potamia valley and at Petri.
Spur-thighed / Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca): One near the Petrified Forest on 2nd.
European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis): One in the Kalloni pool on 2nd.
Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys caspica): Two in West River on 5th and 7+ Potamia valley on 6th.
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus): Seen nightly at the hotel from 2nd - 7th in small to moderate numbers.
Agama (Agama stellio): Common; seen widely on rocks at numerous sites daily.
Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata): Seen in small numbers at various sites all full days, inc. in the hotel grounds.
Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis taurica): One, probably this sp. (and almost certainly not the Snake-eyed Lizard it was reported as) at Kalloni pool on 2nd and one also probably this sp. at Petri on 7th.
Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii): One in leaf-litter above Agiassos on 4th.
European Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus apodus): A moderate-sized individual crossing a track in the Potamia valley on 6th.
Large Whip Snake (Coluber jugularis): A large blackish snake in the grass in the Potamia valley on 6th was probably this species.
Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata): One swimming in the Kalloni pool on 3rd.
Swallowtail (Papilio machaon): Small numbers observed well on each full day at various sites.
Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius): Small numbers observed well on each full day at various sites.
Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisy): Noted on 2nd and daily from 4th to 7th.
False Apollo (Archon apollinus): A few flying among the numerous eastern festoons en route on 2nd.
Large White (Pieris brassicae): Several widely in moderate numbers daily.
Small White (Artogeia rapae): Seen daily in small numbers from 5th - 7th.
Eastern Bath White (Pontia edusa): One at Petrified Forest on 2nd, otherwise either this and / or the following species in small numbers daily from 4th - 7th.
Eastern Dappled White (Euchloe ausonia): Seen in small numbers on 2nd and third, (and see above).
Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines): In small to moderate numbers each full day.
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus): Small numbers daily from 2nd to 7th.
Brimstone / Cleopatra (Gonepteryx rhamni / cleopatra): A female of one of these species above Agiassos on 4th.
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas): Abundant: noted commonly daily.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus): Common and widespread; seen daily from 2nd - 7th.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): Singles from 5th to 7th in various places.
Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui): Singles on 5th and 7th.
'Levantine' Meadow Brown (Maniola telmessia): A few of this species, or possibly Missintziki. megala at Petri on 7th, and one (sp. unknown) at the Potamia valley on 6th. The only one I saw moderately well in flight appeared quite small and with a notably pale upperwing in flight, fitting a male telmessia better.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus): Common and widespread in small numbers daily.
Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera): Noted in small numbers from 2nd - 5th and 7th.
Large Wall Brown (Lasiommata maera): One by Molivos castle on 5th.
Grizzled Skipper sp. (Pyrgus / Spialia / Muschampia sp.): A beautiful 'grizzled' skipper on the path at Petri on 7th remains unidentified, but was probably Orbed Red-underwing Skipper (Spialia orbifer) despite the presence of a dark mark at the end of the 4th vein on the forewing margin!!! Apparently only Grizzled and Orbed R.-u. Skippers of the 'grizzled' group occur on Lesbos, despite lots of others on the nearby mainland.
Damsel & Dragonflies
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo): 4+ at Karini springs on 4th.
White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes): 3+ by the river in the Potamia valley on 6th.
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa): A female by the river in the Potamia valley on 6th and 2 males and 2 female son the Petri track on 7th.
Club-tailed Dragonfly sp. (Gomphus schneideri): A superb, freshly-emerged individual in the Potamia valley on 6th.
Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombei): Noted at Kalloni pool almost daily and emerging larvae commonly eaten by the Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns!
Rhinoceros Beetle (Copris lunaris): A male in Skala Kalloni on 4th.
Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi): One dead and another on a roadside wall on 5th.
Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum): Three buzzing the walls of the Ipsilou Monastery on 2nd and of Molivos castle on 5th.
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003
SELECTED PLANTS: Nos. on right refer to Mediterranean Wild Flowers by Blamey & Grey-Wilson.
Many plants were not in flower due to the late spring. Indeed, many orchids were not even above the ground! A formal plant list was not created; however, this is a brief list of some of the plants noted:
Pinaceae Pinus brutia Calabrian Pine 2
Pinus pinea Stone Pine / Umbrella Pine 3
Cupressaceae Cypressus sempervirens (f. sempervirens)
Funereal Cypress 11
Juniperus oxacedrus macrocarpa Prickly Juniper 15a
Fagaceae Castanea sativa Sweet Chestnut 23
Quercus coccifera Kermes Oak 24
Quercus ilex Holm Oak 25
Moraceae Ficus carica Fig 42
Aizoaceae Carpobrotus aciniformis Hottentot Fig 116
Ranunculaceae Anemone coronaria Crown Anemone 211
Papaveraceae Papaver rhoeas Common/Corn Poppy 283
Papaver apulum 291
Glaucium flavum Yellow Horned-poppy 293
Cruciferae Matthiola sinuata Sea Stock 326
Platanaceae Platanus orientalis Plane Tree 400
Rosaceae Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn 420
Leguminosae Spartium junceum Spanish Broom 481
Lupinus sp. Lupin species (blue) c.487
Trifolium stellatum Star Clover 662
Linaceae Linum bienne Pale Flax 777
Euphorbiaceae Euphorbia mysinites Broad-leaved Glaucous Spurge 801
Euphorbia characias [Large] Mediterranean Spurge 818
Cistaceae Cistus creticus Cretan Cistus 962
Cistus parvifolius Small-flowered Cistus 964
Cistus salvifolius Sage-leaved Cistus 965
Tamaricaceae Tamarix smyrnensis Tamarisk 1022
Umbelliferae Eryngium maritimum Sea Holly 1073
Ferula communis Giant Fennel 1141
Daucus carota Wild Carrot 1168
Primulaceae Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel (blue form) 1198
Cyclamen graeca Greek Sowbread/Cyclamen 1205
Oleaceae Olea europaea Olive (planted) 1248
Convolvulaceae Convolvulus althaeoides Mallow-leaved Bindweed 1331
Boraginaceae Echium angustifolium Narrow-leaved/Red Bugloss 1382
Echium italicum Pale Bugloss 1380
Echium plantagineum Purple Viper's Bugloss 1383
Anchusa undulata Undulate Anchusa 1406a
Labiatae Ballota acetabulosa Garden Horehound / Ballota 1469
Lavandula stoechas French Lavender 1528
Schrophulariaceae Verbascum sinuatum/graeca Greek Mullein 1601
Verbascum undulatum Wavy-leaved Mullein 1602
Campanulaceae Legousia speculum-veneris Large Venus' Looking-glass 1778
Legousia pentagonica Pentagonica 1780
Compositae Chrysanthemum segetum Corn Marigold 1894
Chrysanthemum coronarium Crown Daisy 1895
Calendula arvensis Field/Spring Marigold 1908
Galactites tomentosa Galactites 1971
Silybum marianum Milk Thistle 1982
Centaurea cyanus Cornflower 2008
Tragopogon porrifolius Salsify / Med'ean Goatsbeard 2055
Crepis rubra Pink Hawksbeard 2070
Liliaceae Asphodelus albus White Asphodel 2091
Fritillaria pontica Pontic Fritillary 2154
Ornithogalum montanum Branched Star of Bethlehem 2167
Ornithogalum nutans Large Star of Bethlehem 2173
Muscari neglectum Common Grape Hyacinth 2206
Iridaceae Gyndandriris sisyrinchium Barbary Nut 2305
Araceae Dracunculus vulgaris Dragon Arum 2358
Arum conophalloides Eastern Arum 2364
Orchidaceae Limodorum abortivum Violet Bird's Nest Orchid 2386
Orchis laxiflora Lax- /Loose-flowered Orchid 2420
Serapias parviflora Small-flowered Tongue Orchid 2452
© The Travelling Naturalist 2003