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TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Saturday 26 March - Sunday 3 April 2005
Tour Manager and Guide
Saturday 26th March Sunny and hazy.
The group gathered at Terminal 1 and we had a pleasant flight to Athens and were met by Gareth and George our bus driver.
We were on our way by 2.30 and we stopped for some birdwatching at the Corinth Canal where Blue Rock Thrush and a fine male Redstart were seen before we tucked into Greek sticky cakes and tried our first iced coffees, and learnt to say frappé, parakalo.
We continued south to Tripolis and passed through mountains and plains, with signs of Spring just beginning with roadside irises and anemones. We passed Megalopolis and Kalamata and arrived at Pylos just as the light was fading. We were given a warm welcome and enjoyed dinner in the hotel, before putting our clocks forward again as Summer Time began.
Sunday 27th March Sunny
The tour began at Nestors Palace, a fine Mycenean site overlooking the bay. Sandy Pylos as described in The Iliad. We explored the famous site, admired the bathtub, and identified our first birds and flowers.
We continued on to Methoni and explored the castle, finding Little Owl in just the same hole in the wall as last year. Inside there were Cerinthe major, Honeywort and Virginia Stock all over the castle, as well as Wild Leek, and we walked out to the sea gate and the causeway to the octagonal Turkish Tower, The Bourdzi, here there were several salt tolerant species growing in the walls.
We continued our circuit of the castle and had very good views of a male Subalpine Warbler. Meanwhile Gareth had prepared a picnic lunch under a tamarisk by the sea and we saw Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and White Wagtail on the beach, and in the fields behind found Blackcap, Fan-tailed Warbler and Whitethroat.
We concluded the picnic with small Easter eggs and, after this leisurely lunch, we rushed off to see Pylos Castle and had just half an hour there before it closed at 15.00. As there is a museum, many fortifications and lots of flowers and birds we were sorry to cut our time there short.
After exploring outside the walls we went back along he road for about 2km and at the road junction for Methoni found an excellent field full of flowers, bulbs and orchids which kept us busy identifying them.
The party was tiring so some returned to Pylos to take coffee and tea in the Three Admirals Square, named in honour of the Battle of Navarino in 1827, while others kept botanising and walked home.
We had another good dinner in the hotel; Gareth gave us an introductory talk to Gialova and Navarino Bay with slides and we started the checklist.
Monday March 28th Breezy. Sunny intervals.
After breakfast we went to the Gialova lagoon. Here, we were met by Natasha and Nikos who are volunteers at the lagoon, working for the Hellenic Ornithological Society. Nikos took us to see the African Chameleon Project in the sand dunes, and explained the problems of protecting this species, which is only found in Europe at Gialova. Back at the lagoon we found lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps as well as Fan-tailed Warbler, a flock of Yellow Wagtails with one Ortolan Bunting with them, and heard Curlews and there were several Greater Flamingos and an Osprey wintering. There were ducks such as Shoveler, Pintail, and Wigeon as well as Great White Egret and Little Egrets.
We had a picnic lunch by the sea and spent the rest of the afternoon in a valley leading to a waterfall looking at flowers and birds. We saw several species of orchid, as well as anemones and cyclamen endemic to the Peloponnese.
Gareth gave us another slide show to illustrate our proposed tour, before we had dinner at a taverna at Gialova, where the food was excellent, with masses of small starter dishes and we had to learn not to clear our plates.
Tuesday 29th March Hazy and sunny
We left at 9.00 and passed Kalamata and, out onto the Outer Mani, we began to climb with wonderful views down to the coast. At 11.00 at Kardamili we had coffee and then walked up to the old town, now very well labelled and explored the Ag. Sofia Gorge. The path was steady and there were lots of flowers to interest us.
We went to Lela's Taverna for lunch. Later we stopped at Ag. Nikolaos Chapel at Platsa to birdwatch and botanise. We checked into the Porto Vitilo Hotel, admired the décor, before meeting to hold a checklist and had dinner at the Black Pirates restaurant. We ate fish soup and swordfish steaks and retired replete.
Wednesday 30th March Sunny, cloudy intervals. Cloud later.
After an early morning walk, we breakfasted at 8.00 on a magnificent spread, and had a choice of the Maniot breakfast or the more usual cereals, fruit, croissant and toast.
We set of at 9.00 to explore Upper Vitilo and the group walked down to the monastery, on the old road now overgrown with vegetation and full of flowers, Blackcaps and butterflies. At the Moni Dekoulos (Zodochou Pigis Monastery) the church was covered in frescoes, which were depicting stories from the Bible, the private owner came to open it for us. We returned to the hotel to use the loos and change our footwear.
Setting off again we drove to Pirgos Dirou and took the boat trip in the caves, which are covered in stalactites and stalagmites. The museum covering the Neolithic period was very interesting and we were startled to discover an earthquake had ended the original occupation of the caves. Lunch was taken at a Taverna in the centre of Areopolis and we enjoyed the typical Greek experience of looking at all the dishes in the Taverna before placing our orders.
We set off to explore old Areopolis town, where the fight for Greek Independence began in 1821 began with Mavromichalis declaring freedom for the Mani, and the outside of the churches, as well as exploring a Tower House Hotel, where there was a Wood Warbler in the garden. We had coffee in the square and some walked back from Vitilo to the hotel finding Collared Flycatcher in the olive groves and more birds on the rough ground behind the beach. After the log at 7.00 we went back to the Black Pirates Taverna for another large meal.
Thursday 31st 2005 Overcast,with light showers.
We had an early morning walk at 7.30 but it was cold and windy so there were few migrants apart from Swallows, but a Booted Eagle came along the ridge.
After another excellent breakfast we set off through Areopolis towards Cape Teneron (Matapan). As we arrived flocks of pipits crossed the road, and while having coffee, Wryneck was found. We set off to walk to the Lighthouse, but were soon distracted by the flowers, we found orchids, tulips and many more, but the determined reached the southernmost point of mainland Europe: an appropriate destination for Dereks birthday.
We lunched at Porto Kagio and avoided a shower. Vathia was our next stop and we walked around the town exploring the alleyways and looking at the towers yet to be restored. We called in at Gerolimenas Harbour and found distant Blue Rock Thrush, and Steve demonstrated his dog training skills.
Some went birdwatching along the coast back at Vitilo Bay. Gareth showed some pictures via his laptop to illustrate the Mani, before we went out to dinner at Areopolis, where we had an ever changing range of small plates, which were all delicious. A fine birthday cake was also produced.
Friday 1st April Sunny and windy.
After an early morning walk and breakfast we drove over the hill and through a valley to Gythion, and at Skala turned off to the Evrotas and set off to the river and the sand dunes. The river at the bridge was quiet and full, due to rain and snow-melt, and orange delivery lorries were blocking the route so we had to abandon the dune visit.
At Momenvasia, we arrived before lunch and a summit party set off despite the strong wind to climb to the chapel. We enjoyed wonderful views and found Rock Campanula, Giant Fennel, Henbane and Squirting Cucumber as well as Blue Rock Thrush, amongst the stones. We lunched in a taverna just across the causeway and drove home.
On our return some walked the last kilometre to birdwatch and there was a huge passage of Swifts - both Common and Alpine - and Red-rumped Swallows amongst the Barn Swallows. We held the log and Gareths computer enhanced our tour again. We had another good meal of fish and salads at Limenas and enjoyed their log fire.
Saturday April 2nd Sunny, very cold wind.
Another early walk was quiet. After breakfast we left at 9.00 and drove north through Githion to Sparta. There was plenty of new snow on the Taygetus Mts, making a very scenic backdrop.
We spent the morning walking down through the flowers as well as absorbing the history of ancient Mystra with its churches, public buildings and many narrow roadways. We had our picnic at the Kervata Springs in the Mystras Gorge and then walked in the Parori Gorge where we found more orchids and spring bulbs. We heard Wren but it proved elusive for many of us.
After the challenges of the Cape Teneron Lighthouse and the Monemvassia summit, the group went for the two-chapels challenge and while most reached the chapel in the cave, a smaller group reached the one at the head of the gorge which was 2 Km, but was judged worth the hike.
Our final stop was at the Museum of Olive Oil where we enjoyed some excellent coffees, and we explored this modern museum, which explained the history and wealth associated with olive oil. At our hotel we had another traditional dinner and discovered the wine fund had lasted the week.
Sunday April 3 rd Sunny, some cloud, cool wind.
We left at 8.30 and drove back through the mountains, past Lake Taka, which is now a reservoir, with no birds to Nauplion Bay, where there were plenty of birds. A few waders, Great White and Little Egrets and some Mediterranean Gulls to whet our appetites, but then more waders flew in past Nea Kios, and we found a garage layby to bird watch from as stopping is not allowed on the road. Here we found Caspian, and Sandwich Terns as well as Greenshank, Grey Plover, and Ruff. Further along the road at the pools Garganey, Teal and Pintail shared them with 20+ Black-winged Stilts.
We had a brief stop in Nauplion and admired the architecture and the main square before going on to Mycenae. Here the restaurant advised an early lunch, so we tried our favourites from the weeks menus and finished off the wine fund.
The tour finished with an exploration of Mycenae and Gareth directed us to the Citadel, the Postern Gate and the Cistern, with 99 steps down to the water source, as well as the more famous Grave circle with the Golden Masks, copies of which we were able to see in the new Museum. Our last stop was the huge beehive tomb known as the Treasury of Atreus. Then it was back in the coach and off to Athens airport, where we held the final checklist.
We had seen over 105 species of birds, countless flowers and travelled through history, from the Neolithic through the Myceneans, Byzantines, Venetians and Turks to the modern Greek State, enjoyed good weather, along with large amounts of Greek food and plenty of good company.
Great Cormorant Seen at Gialova 28.3. Several at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Night Heron 6 flying in off the sea at Methoni Castle 27.3.
Squacco Heron 1 at Vitilo Bay 28.3. and 1 on Evrotas river 1.4.
Little Egret Singles at Gialova 28.3. and at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Great White Egret 2 at Gialova lagoon and 1 at Nauplion Bay at 3.4.
Grey Heron Several at Gialova lagoon 28.3. One Evrotas Delta 1.4. and a few Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Greater Flamingo 8+ at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Mute Swan One on nest at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Wigeon Small flock at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Teal Small flock at Gialova lagoon 28.3 and at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Mallard Several at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Pintail Several at Gialova lagoon 28.3. and 1 female Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Garganey 50+ on the sea off Kardamili Bay 29.3. 4+ including 2 males at Nauplion Bay pools 3.4.
Northern Shoveler Small flock at Gialova Lagoon 28.3.
Marsh Harrier Several at Gialova lagoon. Singles on 27.3 and 2.4. at Porto Vitilo Hotel.
Buzzard Resident, Common recorded daily.
Osprey One wintering at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Short-toed Eagle One seen 30.4. and 1.4. and 2 on 2.4. at Vitilo Bay.
Booted Eagle One on 31.3. at Vitilo Bay.
Kestrel Resident recorded almost daily.
Hobby Singles seen on 3 days.
Moorhen Only seen in a pool near the Evrotas river.
Coot Several flocks at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Black-winged Stilt Seen at Gialova lagoon 28.3. and 20+ at Nauplion pools 3.4.
Little Ringed Plover Small flocks 4-6 at Gialova lagoon and 10+ at Nauplion 3.4.
Ringed Plover Single at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Kentish Plover Flock of 10+ at Gialova lagoon 28.4.
Grey Plover 4+ at Nauplion Bay 28.4.
Little Stint Glimpsed at Gialova and Nauplion.
Ruff Small flock at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Curlew Flock of 12 arriving at Gialova lagoon on 28.3. and 2 at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Redshank 1+ at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Greenshank 1+ at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Green Sandpiper Several at Gialova Lagoon 28.3.
Common Sandpiper Singles at Gialova Lagoon and Vitilo Bay.
Little Gull One in breeding plumage at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Black-headed Gull Small flock in winter plumage and moulting at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Mediterranean Gull 2 at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Yellow-legged Gull Common in small numbers daily, along coast. Large nesting colonies on the small rocky islands east of Gythion.
Caspian Tern Three or more at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Sandwich Tern Small flock seen at Nauplion Bay 3.4.
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Common except in Inner Mani.
Collared Dove Common in small numbers daily.
Tawny Owl Heard at Vitilo Bay Hotel, and at Pylos Castle.
Little Owl 2 on the Castle at Methoni on 28.3.
Common Swift 10+ Pylos 27.3. then daily in flocks.
Alpine Swift Small numbers seen with Swift flocks from 31.3.
Kingfisher Two recorded at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Hoopoe Singles seen daily from 28.3.-1.4.
Wryneck One at Gialova lagoon 28.3. Two on 31.3 at Cape Teneron.
Crested Lark Singing at Gialova lagoon, Cape Teneron and Nauplion Bay.
Short-toed Lark 10+ at Gialova Lagoon 28.3.
Swallow Common; recorded daily.
Red-rumped Swallow One or two seen daily within other flocks of swallows from 30.4. and pairs at suitable breeding sites.
House Martin Recorded daily with other hirundines. Breeding in Vitilo Bay village.
Tree Pipit Small flocks of 3+ from 27.3. Over 30 in a flock near Cape Teneron.
Red-throated Pipit: Two at Vitilo Hotel 30.3.
Yellow Wagtail Flocks of 40+ 28.3. Singles at Cape Teneron.
Grey Wagtail Two at Kervata Springs 2.4. and Nauplion Bay 3.4.
White Wagtail Singles daily.
Dipper One flew over us at the picnic at Kervata Springs 2.4.
Wren Heard in Parori Gorge, Kervata Springs, and at Mystras.
Nightingale Heard at Vathia on 31.3.
Black Redstart Seen at Vitilo Bay Hotel.
Common Redstart A male seen at the Corinth Canal.
Whinchat Singles from 27.3. at Gialova and Vitilo Bay.
Stonechat Seen at Gialova and then daily from 29.3.
Wheatear Single males on passage on three days.
Blue Rock Thrush Seen and heard at Corinth Canal, Gerolimenas harbour, at Monemvassia and Mycenae.
Blackbird Resident and common. recorded daily.
Cetti's Warbler Heard, but not usually seen, daily at all sites.
Fan-tailed Warbler Heard and seen at Methoni Bay, Gialova lagoon, and Vitilo Bay.
Sedge Warbler Seen at Gialova lagoon. 28.3. and at Kervata Springs 2.4.
Subalpine Warbler One male at Methoni Castle and 1.4. and at Gerolimenas harbour.
Sardinian Warbler Seen and heard 29.3. and 1.4. and in suitable habitats with Mediterranean shrubs around Hotel Vitilo Bay.
Whitethroat Seen at Pylos, Methoni Bay and at Vitilo Bay.
Blackcap Common very large numbers moving through daily.
Wood Warbler One in garden at the Tower House Hotel in Areopolis on 30.3
Chiffchaff Many at Gialova lagoon and Schinolaka valley 28.3. & Methoni, Pylos 27.3. Gialova Lagoon 28.3. and Krevata Springs 2.4.
Willow Warbler One at Gialova Lagoon 28.3.
Collared Flycatcher Two males on 30.3. and 31.3. with one male on 30.3. at Porto Vitilo olive groves and the other male near Cape Teneron 31.3.
Blue Tit Small numbers seen throughout the week, usually in the hills.
Great Tit Common; recorded daily.
Sombre Tit One at Mycenae Palace 3.4.
Rock Nuthatch Seen at Methoni Castle, 27.3. 29.3. Ag. Sofia Gorge, Kardamili, Dirou Caves 30.3. and Gerolimenas Harbour 31.3. One at Mycenae Palace 3.4.
Jay Common singles recorded almost daily.
Magpie Common seen daily except in the Inner Mani.
Jackdaw Common in small flocks.
Hooded Crow Common resident recorded daily except in the Inner Mani
Raven Recorded in singles or pairs.
Starling A few seen on the way to Pylos 26.3. only.
House Sparrow Common; recorded everywhere daily in towns, villages, and in the countryside.
Spanish Sparrow One at Vitilo Bay 1.4.
Tree Sparrow Small flock at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Chaffinch Common breeding resident except in the Inner Mani.
Serin Only one seen at Vitilo Bay in the olive groves.
Greenfinch Common recorded daily.
Goldfinch Common recorded in small flocks daily.
Linnet Small flock at Mycenae 3.4.
Cirl Bunting Heard and seen near and at Vitilo Bay and Mycenae.
Ortolan Bunting One with a flock of yellow Wagtails at Gialova Lagoon.
Reed Bunting Seen at Gialova lagoon 28.3.
Corn Bunting Heard at Gialova Lagoon, and seen at Cape Teneron 31.3. and Vitilo Bay.
Beech Marten Several corpses on the roadsides and signs everywhere of their presence.
Eastern Hedgehog One roadside kill near Kalamata 26.3.
Fox Roadside kill on 3.4.
Marsh Frog Seen at Gialova lagoon and heard calling there and at Nauplion Bay.
European Pond Terrapin Two in a concrete drain at Gialova Lagoon and several at the stream and waterfall at Schinolaka Valley.
Peloponnese Wall Lizard Common
Hermanns Tortoise Two at the orchid field in Schinolaka Valley.
Marginated Tortoise One at Krevata Springs 2.4, where we had our picnic.
Swallowtail Papilio machon Fairly Common
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirus Fairly Common
Southern Festoon Zerynthia polyxena Seen on two days and photographed
Large White Artogeia rapae Common
Small White Artogeia rapae (mania) Common
Wood White Leptidea sinapsis Seen on 28th and 29th March.
Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines Seen on 29th & 30th.
Eastern Orange Tip A. damone Only seen on 28th.
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea Fairly common
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Fairly common.
Cleopatra G. Cleopatra Fairly common
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus Seen on 4 days
Common Blue Polymmatus menelaus Seen at the beginning of the week.
Greek Baton Blue Pseudophilotes vicrama One seen and photographed in the Inner Mani.
Small Copper Lycaena phloeas Seen on 29th and 30th.
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui Only seen on 29th.
Southern Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria aegeria Seen on several days.
Wall Brown Lasiommata maera Fairly common.
Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus Several recorded on 3 days.
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina Seen on a couple of days 29th and 30th,
Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages Only seen on the first two days when several were recorded.
Egyptian Grasshopper Common. Large locust-sized grasshopper.
Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacae Common; recorded every day.
Pollen Beetle Oxythyrea funestra Seen at Cape Teneron
Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata One on Stephanies hat at Kardamili.
Small Garden Bumble Bee Bombus hortorum White-tailed Bumbles were common.
Small Earth Bumble Bee Bombus lucorum Yellow band on the abdomen and yellow collar. Not as common as hortorum.
Honeybees Apis melliera Mating at Methoni castle.
Bee Fly Bombylius major Seen on two days 27.3. and 29.3.
Pharoah Ant Monomorium pharaonis Very small ant a pest in heated buildings.
Camponotus lateralis Ants which form long columns on the ground and tree trunks.
Large-headed seed Ant Messor barbara Ants which nest underground and feed almost entirely on seeds, which are cracked open by the large headed workers. Workers were seen dragging the seeds back to the nest hole at Kervata Springs and Parori Gorge, where large neat flat areas of seeds indicated their presence.
Pine Processionary Moth Caterpillars in nests on way to Pylos and at Mystras Gorge.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth Macroglossum stellatarum One in Ag. Sofia Gorge, Kardamili.
Giant Peacock Moth One seen on a telegraph pole at Porto Vitilo Hotel on the early morning walk.
Millepede Tachypodoiulus niger Common daily.
Roman Snail Helix pomatia A few seen.
Garden Snail Helix aspersa A few seen.
Land Crab Seen on the 28th at Shinolaka.
PLANT LIST : PELOPONNESE 2004/2005
Numbers refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey "Mediterranean Wild Flowers"
Pinaceae Pine Family
Eruca vesicaria Eruca (Rocket) 361
Reseda alba White Mignonette 375