Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Half-day tour, Sep 6, 2017

Jose and Maria is a married couple from Puerto Rico. They came to Greece with a friendly couple and wanted to include some birding to their experience pack from our country. Even though it was an almost last-minute notice, we managed to satsify their demand.

We started from Mt Hymettus and more particulary the Aesthetic Forest of Kaisariani, the most popular destination of a half-day tour as it is very close to Athens and offers a large variety of birds. We enjoyed great views of Great and Long-tailed Tits, Firecrests, Cirl Buntings, Short-toed Treecreepers, Spotted Flycatchers, Robins and Jays. 

Jay pecking on a grape left by a visitor

Leaving Kaisariani, we ascended the mountain and reached the top. Apart from the great view of Athens we had a really close view of a Red-backed Shrike. 

Red-backed Shrike
We left Mt Hymettus and headed towards Artemis Lagoon, a small but very important wetland in the east coast of Athens. We enjoyed nice views of Little Ringed Plovers, Wood Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers and Redshanks. We also managed to have good looks of a Snipe and a Water Raila, both species being quite secretive.

Water Rail

Common Snipe
Leaving Artemis, we visited the nearby Vravrona Wetland. It was almost noon and bird activity was low; we did see, however, migrating Whinchats and Northern Wheatears, local Kestrels and Buzzards and people enjoyed a nice walk along the path that leads to the impressive temple of Artemis.

It was time to end the half-day trip. 36 species were seen, a very satisfying number for a few hours' trip. People of this small group were really delighted as they got to see a different side of Athens, that most "mainstream" tourists never get the chance to.

Happy People from Puero Rico!

Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)

Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Great Tit (Parus major)

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla)

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)

Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Birdwatching in Southern Greece: Mt Parnassos Trip, August 26, 2017

Amit Cohen is an over-enthusiastic teen birder from Israel. He is only 16 and yet his checklist is really impresive: more than 350 species just in his home country!

Being for vacation in Greece with his family, he contacted us because he wanted to add some new species like the Cirl Bunting and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Mt Parnassos was the ideal destination for his needs, as the woodland and alpine species found there are very rare or absent from Israel.

We started very early in the morning as we made a short stop at Kaisariani Aesthetic Forest to look for the Tawny Owl, another lifer. We heard one but didn't get to see it, unfortunately. We also found Short-toed Treecreepers, Common Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and lots of Jays before we headed for Parnassos.

The first lifer for the day was the Cirl Bunting. Very common and widespread, we found several birds at the Livadi plateau, along with Northern Wheatears, Woodlarks, Red-rumped Swallows, Sombre Tits and Red-backed Shrikes.

Cirl Buntings

Sombre Tit

When we entered the fir forest, we saw several Coal Tits, European Nuthatches, but our main targets were woodpeckers. The time of year is propably the worst as birds are silent. Nevertheless, we did manage to find a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, another lifer for Amit!

European Nuthatch

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

It was time to move higher up, to the alpine zone. We didn't have much time, as the search for the woodpeckers was very time-consuming. However, we did find a 1-st year Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, lifer #3 for Amit! 

Rufous-tailed Rock Thush
The best, however, was kept for the end; while walking along a dirt track at an altitude of 1.900 m, two large raptors were spotted straight ahead; a few secs of observation were enough to tell the species: Golden Eagles! A pair of adults, a very rare sighting, was hunting right in front of us. One of the birds was very 'cooperative' flying quite close for several minutes. An unexpected fourth lifer for Amit and a spectacular sighting from every aspect. 

Adult Golden Eagle 

It was time to head our way back to Athens, after a selfie shot at the alpine zone. Another great birding trip was over!

Happy birders!


Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto                     
Tawny Owl - Strix aluco
Common Swift - Apus apus
Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Wood Lark - Lullula arborea
Eurasian Crag-Martin - Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Great Tit - Parus major
Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Lesser Whitethroat - Sylvia curruca
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Common Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush - Monticola saxatilis
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Mistle Thrush - Turdus viscivorus
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting - Emberiza cia
Ortolan Bunting - Emberiza hortulana
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
Eurasian Linnet - Linaria cannabina
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Birdwatching in Southern Greece: Half day birding, August 10 2017

Gary and Laura are newlyweds who came to Greece for their honeymoon. Apart from the mainstream sight-seeing and beach-going, they also wanted to spend half day birding. They wanted to visit Antonis Tritsis Park in Athens, then the plains of Erythres and Kopaida because they saw our May blog post. They really wanted, however, to see White Storks and Bee-eaters.

August is, of course, much hotter than May and bird activity is lower. In any case, they wanted to visit areas away from the busy centre and the hordes of tourists.

We started from Antonis Tritsis Park, Athens' largest park and a very important area for birds. We were looking for warblers, Eastern Olivaceous and Sardinian in particular, when a large bird flew overhead, along with some Common and Pallid Swifts; an Eleonora's Falcon!

Eleonora's Falcon
Eleonora's Falcons are very rarely seen in the mainland in August, as they nest in rocky islets of the Aegean Sea. This could have been a non-breeding individual. Coots, Moorhens, Mallards and Grey Herons were also seen, along with a lot of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

We left Tritsis Park and headed to the plain of Erythres, NW of Athens. The White Stork nest was empty but the plain was full of birds: Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Great and Sombre Tits, Lesser and Common Kestrels were easily found

Red-backed Shrike
Next stop was the much larger plain of Kopaida. We had little time to spend, as Gary and Laura wanted to return to the hotel at 16:00 but we managed to admire the colourful Bee-eaters.


Heading to the town of Thiva to have lunch, we finally saw White Storks! Two birds were still inside a nest at the outskirts of the town. 
Gary and Laura taking photos of the White Storks

White Storks@Thiva

We had a fine lunch at Thiva and then we returned to Athens. A very productive half-day, indeed,  as we saw more than 30 species, on a hot August day!


Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
White Stork - Ciconia ciconia
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Swift - Apus apus
Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops
European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Eleonora's Falcon - Falco eleonorae
Rose-ringed Parakeet - Psittacula krameri
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Lesser Gray Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Great Tit - Parus major
Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - Iduna pallida
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

Monday, August 14, 2017

Birdwatching in Athens: Fall migration 2017 snapshots

August has come and bird migration has started to become evident countrywide. Thanks to summer rains, most of the wetlands of Athens are not completely dry and attract waders, herons and waterfowl. Migrant passerines also make an appeareance, especially shrikes. It's going to be another interesting season!

Lesser Grey Shrike@Schinias NP

Little Egret@Schinias NP
Ferruginous Ducks@Artemis Lagoon

Red-backed Shrike@Mt Penteli

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Birdwatching in Greece: Birding Trip to Messolonghi and the Peloponnese, August 5-6 2017

Alastair Dent is a British guy who first birded with us in 2013. This year, he came with his family for summer vacations in Greece and wanted a two-day "break". As they were staying at Platanos village in the Peloponnese, 50 kms east of Patra, we designed a tour that included the wetland complex of Messolonghi and Mt Chelmos that lies very close to Platanos.

On Saturday 5, we started our trip to Messolonghi. First stop was Kleisoura Gorge, a very scenic spot that holds a small colony of Griffon Vultures as well as Rock Nuthatches (a lifer for Alastair), Blue Rock Thrushes and Jackdaws, among others.

Griffon Vulture

Rock Nuthatch
Leaving Kleisoura, we headed for the Ash Forest close to the village of Lesini, to look for woodpeckers. Alastair saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, while an Icterine Warbler was another interesting sighting.

It was time to move to the wetlands; we first explored the vast area of Louros, south of the village of Neochori. It was an amazing experience: Hundreds of Flamingoes, along with more than 130 Spoonbills, dozens of herons (Little, Great Egret, Grey and Purple Heron) and Glossy Ibises were feeding on the same area with a great variery of  migrant waders (Spotted Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Wood Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Little Stints, Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers). Dalmatian Pelicans were also present along Collared Pratincoles, Gull-billed, Common and Little Terns. Even though the temperature was over 35 C, we couldn't stop looking at all these birds through our field scopes!

Purple Heron

Spoonbills, Spotted Redshank etc.
At noon, we had  lunch at "Archontiko" restaurant in the town of Messolonghi. Among the really delicious plate, a special note should be made on the local Mullet fish served ("Kephalos" in Greek). 

We still had much to explore, as Kleisova lagoon was to be visited. Apart from the birds already seen in Louros, we added Stone Curlews, Caspian Terns, Grey Plovers, while juvenile and adult terns from various species (included the White-winged Black Tern) were present in large numbers. 

We ended the day with an impressive count of 80 species! 

Next day was dedicated to forest and mountain species. We visited Mt Chelmos, south of the village of Platanos. The gorge of Vouraikos that runs through the northern slopes is a very picturesque habitat and a special railway crosses it up to the historic village of Kalavryta. Driving the gorge is also very rewarding, especially if you visit Megalo Spilaio Monastery. Crag Martins, Ravens and Rock Nuthatches were found, along with tits and Blackbirds. The view from the Monastery, however, is unique!  

After Megalo Spilaio, we headed towards Kalavryta, looking for woodpeckers on our way. We found Middle Spotted (a lifer for Alastair), along with Green, European Nuthatches, Cetti's Warblers and Grey Wagtails. 

We stopped for a coffee in "Gri Gri" pastry shop, that serves lots of traditional Greek deserts and very nice cofee. House Martins and Common Swifts flew overhead all the time. Leaving Kalavryta we drove uphill till we reached the Ski Center, at an altitude of c.1,700 m. Snow was, of course, absent but Wheatears, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers and Sombre Tits (another lifer for Alastair) rewarded our efforts. Red-backed Shrikes were virtually everywhere, along with Cirl and Corn Buntings, while a Short-toed Eagle was looking for prey. 

Short-toed Eagle

The heat was now very intense and we drove through the windy roads towards Lake Tsivlou, a beautiful lake that was formed by landslides in the 20th century. We had lunch at "Petrino" tavern, a really cozy place that serves very tasty local food! We tried lamb, rooster and meat balls and they were all extraordinary! 

After lunch we headed back to Platanos; we had seen some 43 species on that day, and a total of 104 for the weekend, an incredible number, given the weather conditions!!!!

Happy faces, that's our reward at the end of the trip! 


Common Shelduck - Tadorna tadorna
Eurasian Wigeon - Anas penelope
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey - Anas querquedula
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus roseus
Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Dalmatian Pelican - Pelecanus crispus
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
European Honey-buzzard - Pernis apivorus
Eurasian Griffon - Gyps fulvus
Short-toed Snake-Eagle - Circaetus gallicus
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra
Eurasian Thick-knee - Burhinus oedicnemus
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata
Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Red Knot - Calidris canutus
Ruff - Calidris pugnax
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Little Stint - Calidris minuta
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincola
Slender-billed Gull - Chroicocephalus genei
Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
Little Tern - Sternula albifrons
Gull-billed Tern - Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Common Swift - Apus apus
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopos minor
Middle Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopos medius
Eurasian Green Woodpecker - Picus viridis
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio
Lesser Gray Shrike - Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow - Corvus cornix
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia
Eurasian Crag-Martin - Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow - Cecropis daurica
Common House-Martin - Delichon urbicum
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Sombre Tit - Poecile lugubris
Eurasian Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit - Parus major
Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea
Rock Nuthatch - Sitta neumayer
Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Firecrest - Regulus ignicapilla
Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
Icterine Warbler - Hippolais icterina
Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Subalpine Warbler - Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Blue Rock-Thrush - Monticola solitarius
European Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird - Turdus merula
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Gray Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus
Corn Bunting - Emberiza calandra
Common Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch - Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Eurasian Linnet - Carduelis cannabina
European Serin - Serinus serinus
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Birdwatching in Northern Greece: Snapshots from Gallikos Delta, Thessaloniki, August 1 2017

Even a hot, summer day can be rewarding if you visit Kalochori Lagoon and Gallikos river estuary, a few miles southwest of Thessaloniki, Northern Greece. Local breeders along with the first passage migrants (stints, ruffs, sandpipers etc) are everywhere, providing great views and photos!

Caspian Tern

Dalmatian Pelicans

Temmink's Stint

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Birdwatching in Mt Parnassos: "Hot" birding tours, July 2-3, 2017

Everybody knows what a Greek summer is: hot and dry, temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, sometimes evern reaching 40 C. Weather conditions seem ideal for sun bathing and swimming but, apparently, not for birding. Doing a birding trip in July is always a challenge, let alone in the case of a strong heat wave that may rise the temperature above 43 C!

Greece Bird Tours, however, loves challenges. When Brenda from Canada and Bill from the Unites States asked for a tour on July 2 and July 3, respectively, we did not hesitate for a moment. And the reason is very simple: we know where to go and what to see, no mater what the weather is!

Mt Parnassos was the ideal destination for our Athens-based trips. The weather was much cooler than in Athens and the habitat diversity gives the opportunity to see many different bird species.

Both trips had the same itinerary: starting from Athens at around 6 am, we first stopped at the plain of Kopaida to watch one of the most colourful bird of Europe, the Bee-eater. We enjoyed great views of this beautiful bird.
Bee-eater carrying food

Lesser Grey Shrike
We also found Lesser Grey Shrikes, Hoopoes, Spanish Sparrows, Great Reed Warblers and, surprisingly, a Syrian Woodpecker, a bird that was known to breed from Central Greece northwards but has, apparently, expanded its range south. Hundreds of Barn Swallows, several Red-rumped Swallows and two White Storks were also seen in the area, among others.

As the temperature was rising, it was time to move to higher elevations. We drove north-northwest towards the picturesque village of Arachova, located at an altitude of 1.000 m. Inside the village we saw several Swifts, House Martins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Spotted Flycatchers and Nightingales, while the surrounding area was particularly rich. Short-toed Eagles, Buzzards, Kestrels and Peregrines were soaring over open areas, while Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Nuthatches and Black-eared Wheatears were found in the rocky outcrops above Arachova. 

Short-toed Eagle
Leaving Arachova and its outskirts, we climbed to Livadia plateau. An open area with scattered trees and bushes, perfect habitat for the Red-backed Shrike. We saw several bright males, along with Woodlarks, Northern Wheatears, Red-rumped Swallows and Cirl Buntings. 

Male Red-backed Shrike
Next stop was the Greek Fir forest of the mountain. Coal Tits, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers were the most common sights, along Chaffinches, Serins, Blackbirds, Robins and the odd Mistle Thrush. A distant Eleonora's Falcon was also seen high up in the sky. We didn't spend that much time there because the alpine zone was far more promising, as Alpine Choughs, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and  Tawny Pipits are known to breed. We saw all these species, along with dozens of Northern Wheatears, Linnets and Black Redstarts! 

Alpine Chough 

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
At noon, we returned to Arachova to have lunch. We tried two different tavernas, "Kaplanis" on Sunday and "Fterolakka" on Monday. Both had great menus, full with local products and the portions were x-large! 

After lunch, it was time to start our way back to Athens. We used the old National Highway that crosses the plain of Erythres, a village close to the city of Thiva and the only one in the prefecture of Athens that still has a breeding pair of White Storks. We enjoyed great views of the nest, three chicks were waiting for their parents to bring some food, while an adult bird was seen in the plain as well.
Low-flying White Stork on the plain of Erythres

White Stork nest on the village of Erythres
Other birds seen in the plain include the Black-headed Bunting (males, females and juveniles) the Corn Bunting, the Crested Lark, the Hoopoe, the Lesser Grey Shrike and a small colony of Spanish Sparrows.
A worn out male Black-headed Bunting
Two long, "hot" days of birding were over. A total of 59 species were seen during these two days, a remarkable number, considering the fact that no wetland was visited and the temperatures were really high! 

Brenda from Canada
Bill and his son, Etan from USA


  • White Stork 
  • Short-toed Eagle
  • Common Buzzard
  • Common Kestrel
  • Eleonora's Falcon
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Yellow-legged Gull
  • Collared Dove
  • Common Swift
  • Pallid Swift
  • Bee-eater
  • Green Woodpecker 
  • Syrian Woodpecker
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 
  • Crested Lark
  • Woodlark
  • Barn Swallow
  • Crag Martin
  • House Martin
  • Red-rumped Swallow
  • Tawny Pipit
  • Wren
  • Robin
  • Nightingale
  • Black Redstart
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Black-eared Wheatear
  • Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
  • Blue Rock Thrush
  • Cetti's Warbler
  • Reed Warbler
  • Great Reed Warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Firecrest
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Blue Tit
  • Nuthatch
  • Rock Nuthatch
  • Short-toed Treecreeper
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Lesser Grey Shrike
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Alpine Chough
  • Jackdaw
  • Hooded Crow
  • House Sparrow
  • Spanish Sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Serin
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Linnet
  • Cirl Bunting
  • Black-headed Bunting
  • Corn Bunting

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Lesvos 2017 Bird Trip Report: April 28th - May 1rst

My annual spring birding trip in Lesvos was focused on bird photography this year. As I get to know the island better year by year, I decided to spend more time to the wilder west part, and discover Faneromeni fields, and Meladia Valley down to the river mouth. Also, get some better pics of Kruepper’s Nuthatch and Cinereous Buntings. So here is a trip report from this years' birdwatching trip.

Some information about the trip:

Flights: Aegean Airways flies everyday from Athens, about 40 min flight.
Hotel: Diamandi Studios, at Skala Kallonis. A quiet family owned “rooms to rent” type of studio. Very kind owners, walking distance from Skalla Kalloni’s restaurants and cafes.
Food: At Skalla Kallonis, Dionysos Taverna is a must, not only for the food specialties, especially sea food, but also for the “birding” atmosphere that clients bring to the place. It is a meeting place for most birders, after an exhausting every day around the island. Try different local dishes, you will not be disappointed. Prices are very reasonable.
My favorite breakfast: Taxiarchis Bakery at Skalla Kallonis. Birders do not take breakfast when on bird trip. We only get our day “fuel” from local bakeries. Taxiarchis is one of them. Sited just beside the little harbor, a small little bakery, easier to smell that to see it. The owner is always making jokes, he is the most fascinating man on the village. Try anything from the shelves, I usually go for the ham and cheese pie. Just going in this bakery makes me think of this warm and friendly part of Greece that is sadly disappearing.
Kalloni village: A very cheap (but very delicious) meal can be eaten at “Alexandros”. This is a classical “gyros” places. So, you should try Gyros. It costs 2.50euros and it’s a full meal. Together with a greek salad, I ate the twice while I was around Kalloni saltpans during the day or afternoon. With around 10-12 euros you will be more than full.
Car rental: Since 3 years now, I use Tsalis Car rental. Very reliable company, with friendly staff and office at Kalloni too. This year I got a 4x4 Fiat Panda, and I managed to get everywhere. I just loved this car, very light and flexible, ideal for birders. A lot more comfortable than the Suzuki Jimny I had last year.
Apart from my breakfast box from Taxiarchis bakery, I used My Market a couple of times, just behind Kalloni central road, a big supermarket with cheaper prices and great variety that any local food store.
Sigri: One of the best food experiences I had was lunch in Cavo d’Oro in Sigri. The most amazing seafood risotto I even tried, combined with local Ouzo and other small appetizers, like octopus and fresh made eggplant salad. 
Lesvos sea food lunch time
Delicious sea food risotto

Birding information: I always have “Birding in Lesvos” by Steve Dudley with me in every trip to the island. It’s the most accurate and detailed guide. Also, the Facebook group that Steve created, “Lesvos birders” is worth joining for any latest bird arrivals. From there I had several people asked for information and were all happy to provide them. Local birder Eleni Gallinou helped me a lot to find species I was looking for. Also local nature photographer Petros Tsakmakis was the perfect companion during 2 out of 4 birding days. Together we enjoyed several of photographic as well as gastronomic moments, both will remain unforgettable.    

Day 1: House Martins were the first bird species I saw while the aircraft was landing at 6:30am at Lesvos airport. There were plenty of nests of both House Martins and Barn Swallows all around the building of the airport, so hundreds of birds were flying in the area.
As soon as I got the car, I moved south towards Haramida. Together with Antonis, we had excellent views of breeding Rueppell’s Warblers and Cretzschmar’s Buntings. Early morning light was the best to capture some nice poses of these 2 species. After a couple of hours we also had our first Masked Shrike, Hoopoe and Black-eared Wheatear. 

Rueppell's Warbler at Haramida, Lesvos
Around mid day, we drove west, towards Kalloni Gulf. A Black Stork was recorded at Mesa as well as Black-headed Buntings, Olivaceaous Warblers and Red-rumped Swallows. Moving down to Tsiknias River we could enjoy White-winged Terns, Black-winged Stilts, Short-toed Larks and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers in the nearby orchards. The first day ended in Kallonis Saltpans, having recorder several species of waders, but not in great numbers like previous years.

Common Tern at Kalloni Wetland, Lesvos
Day 2. Having heard about Baillon’s Crake at Metochi Lake last night, I woke up early enough to avoid the hoards of birders in this small pond. I saw the bird clearly, but could not get a descent photo between the reeds. Little Crakes were there too, Little Bitterns, Bee-eaters were flying over later on, while a Long-legged Buzzard was soaring around 8am over the fields surrounding Metochi Lake.
Next stop was Ipsilou Monastery. Cinereous Bunting was there, more active in the north-east part of the hill, going upwards. Bird were very active singing, providing great photographic moments. On the other side of the hill, close to the parking area, several Isabelline Wheaters were recorded. Overall, Ispilou Monastery did not provide many species.

Cinereous Bunting at Ispilou Monastery, Lesvos
Rock Nuthatch
Then, the western part of the island was there to discover. I started with Faneromeni area which proved to be rather empty! A few Turtle Doves here and there, a couple of Woodchat Shrikes, a Red-backed Shrike and some Golden Orioles well hidden in the foliage of the almond trees. We were already hungry by 2pm time, so we had lunch at Cavo d’Oro at Sigri, truly an unforgettable meal!
The afternoon was all devoted to Meladia Valley. Highlights of the area were Golden Orioles and a forgotten but very “friendly” Temminck’s Stint. Eastern Orphean Warblers all along the road towards Eressos, Rock Nuthatches, Little Crake right on the little paved road bridge, Sardinian Warblers, lots of Black-headed Buntings, Bee-eaters, Black-headed Buntings, and of course Crested Larks, one of the most abundant birds on the island, together with Corn Buntings.
Temminck's Stint at Meladia Valley, Lesvos
Golden Oriole at Meladia, Lesvos
Day 3: We started from Parakila, an excellent place to see Cinereous Buntings, Cretzschmar’s Buntings from very close distance. We drove up the road that overlooks St-John’s chapel (Agios Ioannis) and stayed there until we got enough of these two species. Then, we drove down to Makara river mouth, were a beautiful Citrine Wagtail was waiting for us in the little stream. I was really excited, since it was the first male I ever saw of this species and managed to get some distant pics, since we could not easily approach it. 

Cretzschmar's Bunting at Parakila, Lesvos
Citrine Wagtail at Makara river mouth, Lesvos
We continued up to the Petrified Forest, where we had again Cinereous Bunting, Chukar, Hoopoe, Short-toed Eagle, Woodchat Shrikes, Black-headed Buntings.
Coming back around Kalloni, I decided to drive along Napi Valley. The oak trees in this area provide shelter for Olive-tree Warber, which I did not manage to see. On the other hand, lots of Masked Shrikes and Black-eared Wheatears, Olivaceous Warblers, Blue Tits, Cirl Buntings, Whinchats. 

Subalpine Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler
Day 4: Today was May 1rst, when locals like to gather in Achladeri forest for a huge BBQ fiesta. So, we had to be there before 9am, in order to be in a quiet area to enjoy Kruepper’s Nuthatch. We were lucky enough to find other birders who had previously found a nest, so we spend more than 2 hours watching the parents searching for food and bringing it back to the nest to a young nestling. The behavior was almost the same every time; the parents would leave and they would get back after 10-15 minutes with one or more caterpillars hanging from their mouth. Then, they would wait for 2-3 minutes in a nearby tree, just to inspect the area around the nest, and when they became sure that there was no disturbance, they would fly fast towards the nest, feed the young and go back to find another caterpillar.
Kruepper's Nuthatch at Achladeri forest, Lesvos
Scops Owls were missing from our list, so we moved to Papiana Soccer Pitch at Kalloni, and we easily found three birds on the Eucalyptus trees. This is by far, the easiest way to see Scops Owl in Greece! I’ve been listening to their call all year long, especially in the summer, but only in Lesvos I can always get such clear views.
My flight back to Athens was late in the afternoon, so I spent some of the last hours at Kalloni Wetland, enjoying some last views of Ruddy Shelducks, Little Terns, Common Terns, Flamingos, Avocets, Kentish Plovers, Spanish Sparrows, Black-headed Wagtails. This years’ trip was over and I had been more that satisfied again with so many unforgettable wildlife experiences. 

Other wildlife

Odalisque (Epallage fatime) close to Achladeri
European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) at Parakila main road
Snake-eye Lizard (Ophisops elegans)
Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio) in almost every rock on Lesvos island
 Species List of 107 recorded bird species

Bird Species
Kalloni Gulf
Little Grebe
Metochi Lake
White Stork
Black Stork
Mesa, Kalloni
Grey Heron
Purple heron
Metochi lake, Kalloni Pool
Great White Egret
Little Egret
Squacco Heron
Kalloni Pool
Little Bittern
Glossy Ibis
Ruddy Shelduck
Kalloni, Mesa
Ferruginous Duck
Kalloni, Metochi
Marsh Harrier
Kalloni, Tsiknias
Long-legged Buzzard
Common Buzzard
Eleonorae’s Falcon
Common Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Sigri fields
Short-toed Eagle
Ipsilou, Eressos
Little Crake
Metochi, Meladia Valley
Baillon’s Crake
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Avocet
Collared Pratincole
Kentish Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Wood Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
Little Stint
Temminck’s Stint
Meladia Valley
Yellow-legged Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Little Tern
White-winged Tern
Black-winged Tern
Turtle Dove
Collared Dove
Scops Owl
Papiana Soccer Pitch
Little Owl
Common Swift
Pallid Swift
Alpine Swift
Middle Spotted Woodpecker
Tsiknias, Napi Valley
Greater Short-toed Lark
Tsiknias, Kalloni
Wood Lark
Sand Martin
Crag Martin
House Martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
White Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Makara river mouth
Black-eared Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Ipsilou, Antissa
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Faneromeni fields
Zitting Cisticola
Cetti’s Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Rueppell’s Warbler
Olivaceous Warbler
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Rock Nuthatch
Kruepper’s Nuthatch
Achladeri forest
Golden Oriole
Faneromeni, Sigri, Meladia
Red-backed Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Masked Shrike
Haramida, Napi
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Cirl Bunting
Cretzschmar’s Bunting
Cinereous Bunting
Ipsilou, Parakila, Apothika
Corn Bunting
Black-headed Bunting

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