18th to 25th May 1995

"Lesbos is a one of the larger Greek islands, tucked away in the north-eastern corner of the Aegean, close to Turkey," to quote Marjorie Williams' "Birdwatching in Lesbos" booklet. Other information we had in advance of our visit was the "Lesvos Compilation" of trip reports from Steve Whitehouse. We also had help on the island from some of the other birders. We kept bumping into Richard Brooks who was on the island for a month researching a book on birding in Lesvos. I suspect that this is an up-and-coming destination.

The main spring wave was early this year so we missed many of the passage species but the residents and summer visitors more than made up for it. The key species on our hit list were Krüper's Nuthatch, Masked Shrike, Cretzschmar's and Cinereous Buntings.

We hired a car for the week. It seemed that nearly every birder on the island was driving a little Seat Marbella. While these are adequate to most of the dirt tracks, I would warn against taking one on the hill road between Eresos and Sigri. This is a really beautiful area but we nearly got stuck on two different parts of the road.

We stayed in Skala Kallonis. I'd reckon that if you didn't want to hire a car, you could cover many of the sites from there by bicycle. The only difficulty would be Krüper's; you would have to scrounge a lift for that.

Lesvos is definitely good, hassle-free birding. There is very little problem with access and the natives are friendly. Take some mosquito repellent, an alarm clock and a sun hat and you're on for some excellent birding.

Site abbreviations (the names used mostly come from the Williams' booklet):

        SK      Skala Kallonis area     SE      Skala Eresou
        ER      SK East River           SP      Salt Pans
        WR      SK West River           DY      "Derbyshire"
        HP      SK Hotel Pool           PM      Parakila Marsh
        UER     Upper ER                PH      Parakila Hills
        PV      Potomia Valley          ES      Eresos - Sigri track
        MO      Molivos

Abundance abbreviations (assume single birds unless otherwise stated):

        a       abundant
        f       frequent
        o       occasional
  • Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan c50 SE
  • Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2 MO
  • European Shag P. aristotelis 4 SE
  • Little Egret Egretta garzetta 4 SP, 2 PM
  • Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 3 DY
  • Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 1 HP, 1 PM
  • Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2 PM
  • Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus 1 ER
  • Black Stork Ciconia nigra DY, PM
  • White Stork C. ciconia o
  • Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea c20 DY
  • Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus ER
  • Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus f
  • Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae 4 PH
    • This was a single group including one dark phase bird.
  • Common Kestrel F. tinnunculus o
    • No sign of the Lesser Kestrels F. naumanni
  • Chukar Alectoris chukar UER
    • A single bird frozen on the hillside.
  • Little Crake Porzana parva ER
    • Excellent views, almost the bird of the trip.
  • Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2 ER
  • Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus f
  • Stone Curlew [Eurasian Thick-knee] Burhinus oedicnemus o SK & SP
    • Surprisingly easy.
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius f
  • Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus f
  • Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola f
  • Little Stint Calidris minuta f
    • Disappointing absence of C. temminckii.
  • Dunlin C. alpina o SP
  • Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea f SP, o HP
  • Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans a
  • Common Tern Sterna hirundo f
  • Little Tern S. albifrons o
  • Whiskered Tern Childonias hybridus 3 HP
  • White-winged Black Tern C. leucopterus 4 HP
  • Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus o
  • Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur f
  • Collared Dove S. decaocto f
  • Scops Owl Otus scops 2 SK
  • Little Owl Athene noctua f
  • Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba 3 ES
  • Pallid Swift Apus pallidus a
    • I didn't really bother looking for A. apus.
  • European Bee-eater Merops apiaster f
  • Hoopoe Upupa epops o
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius 3 PV
    • Pleasantly easily spotted.
  • Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla [cinerea] 4 SP
    • I had expected these to be more common.
  • Crested Lark Galerida cristata a
  • Sand Martin Riparia riparia f
  • Swallow Hirundo rustica a
  • Red-rumped Swallow H. daurica f
  • House Martin Delichon urbica a
  • Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg 4 DY, 2 PM
  • Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
    • A few on the road from Mytilini.
  • Rufous Bushchat Cercotrichas galactotes 4 DY, 1 ES, 1 UER
    • This was easier than I was led to believe.
  • Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos f
  • Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe SP
  • Black-eared Wheatear O. hispanica f
  • Blackbird Turdus merula f
  • Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti ER
  • Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus o
  • Great Reed Warbler A. arundinaceus ER
  • Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida a
  • Olive-tree Warbler H. olivetorum 2 or 3 PV
    • Very hard work. They won't sit still, at least not where you can see them. These were the only singing birds we came across.
  • Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla SK
  • Common Whitethroat S. communis SK
  • Rüppell's Warbler S. rueppelli UER
    • Felt like a very lucky sighting, but apparently had been seen here the previous week.
  • Subalpine Warbler S. cantillans o
  • Sombre Tit Parus lugubris o UER & PV
    • A fairly dull tick.
  • Great Tit P. major f
  • Blue Tit P. caeruleus o
  • Krüper's Nuthatch Sitta krueperi
    • 1 bird at a well-known nest site at Sanatorio. Worth the trip. The habitat and appearance really are spookily similar to S. canadensis. Would be extremely hard work without prior knowledge as upland pine is difficult to search. We had precise instructions on where a pair was nesting in a roadside tree. If you're going in May you could probably depend on getting info from other birders.
  • Rock Nuthatch S. neumayer f
    • Wonderfully co-operative. Sits on top of rocks and calls its head off.
  • Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio [cristatus] UER
    • (Just a glimpse)
  • Lesser Grey Shrike L. minor ES
  • Woodchat Shrike L. senator o
  • Masked Shrike L. nubicus PH, PV
    • Hard work due to its habit of hiding itself in olive tree foliage in a most unobtrusive and un-shrikelike manner. We didn't get it until the last day!
  • Jay Garrulus glandarius o
  • Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix f
  • Rose-coloured Starling Sturnus roseus 12 HP, 20 MO
    • Definitely a case of good luck but the shortage of other Sturnus spp made it a lot easier.
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus a
  • Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis a
  • Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
    • Pair nesting under a river bridge on the Antissa - Eressos road.
  • Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs a
  • Serin Serinus serinus Heard at the Kruper's site
  • Greenfinch Carduelis chloris f
  • Goldfinch C. carduelis f
  • Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus o PV & UER
  • Cinereous Bunting E. cineracea 3 ES, 2 PH
    • Appear to share Cretzschmar's habitat, but in smaller numbers. A lot prettier than Lars Jonsson's drawing.
  • Cretzschmar's Bunting E. caesia f ES & PH
    • Proved easy on almost any rocky, grassy hillside.
  • Black-headed Bunting E. melanocephala f
  • Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra a

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Alastair Rae and Ann Feltham