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GREECE – LESVOS 2009

The beautiful Greek island of Lesvos lies in the Aegean Sea close to Asian Turkey, which can be seen from both the north and the east of the island. Lesvos is approximately 70km x 40km but feels bigger because of its mountainous terrain and narrow roads.

Some of the group flew from Manchester via Gatwick, where the majority of the party boarded. We landed near the capital, Mytilini, in the east of Lesvos, collected our minibuses and transferred to our comfortable hotel at Skala Kallonis, which is situated both on the coast and at the centre of the island!

Birds were everywhere on Lesvos, and species we recorded on four or more days (with the highest daily count in brackets) included Little Bittern (8), Squacco Heron (15), Great White Egret (2), Purple Heron (13), Black Stork (9), Glossy Ibis (11), Greater Flamingo (300), Ruddy Shelduck (14), Short-toed Eagle (7), Long-legged Buzzard (6), Black-winged Stilt (40), Kentish Plover (12), Bee-eater (100), Hoopoe (2), Crested Lark (100), Red-rumped Swallow (20), Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail (6), Black-eared Wheatear (20), Blue Rock Thrush (6), Great Reed (3), Eastern Olivaceous (9) and Subalpine (4) Warblers, Sombre Tit (6), Western Rock Nuthatch (2), Golden Oriole (9), Red-backed (4), Lesser Grey (1), Woodchat (5) and Masked (6) Shrikes, Spanish Sparrow (20) and Cirl (4), Cretzschmar's (7) and Black-headed (7) Buntings.

We visited the north of the island on one day, the south on another and the west on two days, while we spent some time at local sites on each of these four days and on our arrival and departure days as well as staying locally on two full days.

Along the rocky north coast we saw three Levantine Shearwaters, two Eleonora's Falcons, five Alpine Swifts, six Crag Martins, three Rüppell's Warblers and two Eastern Orphean Warblers. At a headland on the south coast we encountered four Cory's Shearwaters, 150 Levantine Shearwaters, an Eleonora's Falcon and 3 Sardinian Warblers, while the journey produced a White Stork and two Middle Spotted Woodpeckers.

The rugged west of Lesvos is an exciting birding area, with the comparatively small oases of woods, bushes and water concentrating the migrants. Our two visits were very productive, the bird highlights being 450 Levantine Shearwaters, a Black-crowned Night-heron, two Honey Buzzards, a Montagu's Harrier, 42 Lesser Kestrels, seven Red-footed Falcons, two Lanners, two Chukars, a Roller, five Crag Martins, Yellow (a Grey-headed and two Sykes's) Wagtails, two Citrine Wagtails, nine Isabelline Wheatears, six Icterine Warblers, an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, a Rose-coloured Starling, a Rock Sparrow and three Cinereous Buntings.

The varied habitats within easy reach of our hotel, which included rivers, a lake, pools, marshes, salt pans, fields, olive groves and woods, are reflected in the birds we recorded locally (highest daily total in brackets): Night Heron (1), White Stork (2), Pallid Harrier (1), Eleonora's Falcon (5), Lanner (1), Quail (1), Spotted (1) and Little (3) Crakes, Spur-winged Lapwing (1), Temminck's Stint (4), Marsh Sandpiper (1), Slender-billed Gull (2), Gull-billed (6), Whiskered (3) and White-winged Black (14) Terns, Scops Owl (2), Pallid Swift (1), Short-toed Lark (4), Tawny (1) and Red-throated (7) Pipits, Yellow (5 Grey-headed and 2 Sykes's) Wagtails, Citrine Wagtail (1), Rufous Bush Robin (1), Zitting Cisticola (1), Moustached (1), Olive-tree (2), Icterine (1) and Eastern Orphean (2) Warblers, Krüper's Nuthatch (2) and Serin (4).

Up to eight Cory's Shearwaters were seen at the airport on arrival and departure and a Booted Eagle was spotted on the drive from the airport to the hotel. During our week's stay we achieved a group total of 163 species.

Thanks are due to Tony Ball, Ian Bindon, Paddy Brennan, Graeme Charles, John Dickenson, Geoff Dring, Janet Dring, Robin Oakley, Tony Oakley, Mark Painter, Mary Robins, Pauline Robinson, Ann Sansom, Fran and Mark Sullivan for making such a huge contribution towards the success of the tour.

Krüper's Nuthatch

Krüper's Nuthatch