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WEATHER: overcast all day, but warm spells and light rain. Really windy in the afternoon. Top temp 20C.

We had another terrific day on this magical birding-island, what a great variety of species it has to offer, just wonderful. Our pre-breakfast trip found up at a rocky escarpment just beyond the lake at Metochi, apir of Black-eared Wheatears had the group buzzing, the male in particular was stunning. We walked for s short while scanning the rock hillside, it didn’t produce much but we had a fleeting glimpses of a Chukar, we saw a apir of Jays feeding in a sheep pen,  both Common and lesser Whitethroats were seen as well as Woodchat Shrike and lots of common species.

Woodchat Shrike

After breakfast we set off for our journey to the far west of the island, the new road bypasses all of the villages, it makes the journey much quicker but you cannot just pull over whenever you wish, you have to find a parking area.

It seems that wherever you stop along any road you will see a good selection of species. We stopped in the hills on the way to Ipsilou, we were surrounded by oak woodland and within minutes we had several nice birds in the bag! Subalpine Warbler was first, followed by Red-rumped Swallows, a Turtle Dove called and then flew up high to perform its display flight. We heard Bonelli’s Warbler, but could not find it.

the rugged cliffs in the Lardia Valley

In the lardia Valley near Andissa we stopped to watch Crag Martins, several Blue rock thrushes appeared as well as lots more Black-eared Wheatears, we were informed by a birder that we missed Long-legged Buzzard and Peregrine by minutes.

At the Eressos crossroads we stopped to look for Isabelline Wheatear, it was quite windy at this point. We found a couple of pairs, the males were displaying, performing arial display flights like Larks do. We also saw Stonechat, Red-backed Shrike and some Goldfinches.

The wind was quite strong as we got out of the bus at the base of the Ipsilou Monastery road, you could hardly stand up. Most of the group got out and I took Mike to the top in the bus as his walking ability wasn’t great. When I returned the group had walked along the main road instead of the Monastery Road, I called down to them, it appeared that they did not need a guide because they found both Cretzschmar’s and Cinereous Buntings by themselves! They also saw Linnets and Goldfinches and several Northern, a single Isabelline and a couple of Black-eared Wheatears.

a view from Ipsilou Monestary you can see the Turkish coast

After they walked up to join me on the correct road we continued up to the monastery. We found shelter from the wind on this lea-side of the hill and discovered a few good birds, Both Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Nuthatch showed very well, a pair of noisy Ravens were nesting near them. We found a few migrant birds too, but only Wood Warblers and Subalpine Warblers. We heard Woodlark and Cirl Bunting but failed to see either. An Eleanora’s Falcon flew over us, a lifer for the group!

Western Rock Nuthatch

Further up we found more Wood Warblers, we heard an Orphean Warbler singing and tracked it down, only for it to fly off and disappear. Near the top, we had a fleeting view of a Golden Oriole, and more Subalpine Warblers. Most of the group went ahead of me, I then found Spotted Flycatcher, two Pied Flycatchers and a Lesser Whitethroat.

At the top we ate our lunch, we saw a Hobby fly over us, a little later we watched Long-legged Buzzards, two Short-toed Eagles and an Osprey. Our walk down, with Mike, produced another Cinereous Bunting singing, a pair of Long-legged buzzards in the valley below us, they looked great as we viewed them from above.

two shots of a Pied Flycatcher

Near the base we found more wheatears but the wind drove us off. For the next hour we drove along the Petrified Forest track, looking for Chukar. The wind was ferocious in places, we stopped by a pool of water and watched Cretzschmar’s Buntings come down to drink as well as Goldfinches and Corn Buntings. We dipped on the Chukar but enjoyed the scenery.

one of the many Black-eared Wheatears seen today

A decision to drop down into Sigri for a coffee proved to be a great one! We saw dozens of Jackdaws and a couple of European Shags in the bay whilst drinking a hot latte. We then decided to spend an hour along the Faneromeni Track, we found sheltered areas from the, House and Sand |martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows wind and had some really great birding. The sky was full of hirundines and swifts, hundreds of them, Hous and Sand martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Common Swifts, we our second Eleanora’s Falcon of the day too.

Collared Flycatcher - one of three in the same area

At one spot we found three Collared Flycatchers, two of them males, wowzah!! Two Common Redstarts were also there and a Blackcap. We watched Spanish Sparrows, Turtle Dove and a filed full of Yellow Wagtails held a couple of Hoopoes, Red-backed Shrike and several Whinchats.

I met Paul Manning, the Lesvos Orchid man and birder, he later called me as he had found a BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER!! This is a mega for Lesvos, we quickly drove along the track to where he was waiting with several other birders, the bird had just gone with a flock of European Bee-eaters, doh!!

However, our patience was rewarded when the flock came back and Blue-cheeked was with them, they did not settle this time, so we had to make do with flight views, very close flight views at one point!!

three Spanish Sparrows - the one on right dosen't seem to want his picture taken.

The bee-eater flock disappeared over a ridge and never returned, so we decided to call it day and head off back to Kalloni. This journey used to take up to two hours, but now with the new road it took just 55 minutes!!

The hotel was buzzing at dinner, there are several other bird-watching groups staying and we were the only group to bag the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Such a shame!!