EAST TRACK SALT PANS – METOCHI LAKE – VITOUSHI – IPSILOU MONASTERY – RIVER TSIKNIAS – EAST TRACK SALTPANS – ALYKES FIELDS
WEATHER; light cloud cover to start then sunshine with a light cooling breeze. Temp 20C
I keep saying it, because its true, we had a fantastic day today!! Lesvos is really producing the goods, I can’t emphasise enough what a wonderful birding destination this beautiful island is. We saw over 100 species today, which included 3 Crake species, 3 flycatchers, 3 sparrows, 3 thrushes, 5 Buntings,10 warblers and a host of island specialities.
We started early and we finished late we visited several; site for specific species, we missed some, but we saw a lot. We missed the Pelican first thing on the eastern side of the salt pans, but what a beautiful still morning. The scenery was just like painting, dead still water, the most colourful clouds as the sun came up.
sunrise over the salt pans
A large mixed flock of terns fed in the east channel of the pans, Little, Common and two White-winged Terns what a lovely sight, we saw summer plumage Grey Plover & Ruddy Turnstones, Whinchats, Great Reed Warbler and out on the pans the flamingos looked superb in the morning light.
Terns feeding - Little & Common with two White-winged Terns
Before going back for breakfast we thought we would give Metochi Lake a visit to have another attempt of seeing the Baillon’s Crake. It was great decision as we saw it briefly out in the open, we also logged Little Crake and Merv relocated a Spotted Crake that he found yesterday. Three crake in 15 minutes in one small area!
After breakfast we set off for the west side of the island, Ipsilou Monastery to be exact. We made several stops along the way, the first of which was magical. Just to show you what a fantastic place Lesvos is, I’ll describe our sightings during a random stop on a quiet road in oak woodland. We thought this site had potential for Middle Spotted Woodpecker, a number of tall Lombardy Poplars stood by the roadside, some were dead, with holes in them.
a view from Ipsilou Monastery
As we got out of the bus we heard a Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler trilling, it sat at the very top of one the poplars, a Eurasian Nuthatch and a Chaffinch joined it. A Hoopoe called from a rocky filed above us, a Cirl Bunting sang from behind us, a Turtle Dove turred across the way. Merv found a Rock Nuthatch on a rocky outcrop, it was joined by a beautiful male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and an even more beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush. Red-rumped Swallows dashed about above us. A Subalpine Warbler sang just below us in the scrub, I got onto the Turtle in a distant tree and Guy found a Middle-spotted Woodpecker in the same tree whilst looking for the dove. Above us we saw Ravens, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and Hooded Crow.
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
Where else could you see such a variety of species in such a small area in such a small amount of time?
The rest of the day just got better and better! We stopped in Lardia Valley, where the steep sided rocky cliff form a wide gorge. We saw Black Stork, Eleanora’s & Peregrine Falcon, Common Buzzard and more Short-toed Eagles. Crag martins whizzed by and we great views of Black-eared Wheatears again.
At the now ‘famous’ Erresos crossroads we stopped to watch Isabelline Wheatears, which is what the crossroads are famous for. We also saw our first Cretzschmar’s Bunting and we heard Golden Oriole.
At Ipsilou we walked up one side and down the other after eating our picnic lunch by the bus. During lunch we saw another Cretzschmar’s Bunting, several very pale Northern Wheatears, more Black-eared Wheatears, Linnets, Goldfinches and the dreaded Corn Bunting.
Our walk produced a few sightings but it wasn’t dripping with migrant species, but enough to keep us happy. We located Rock Sparrows on the rocks, where else? Male Pied Flycatcher was nice, we saw a couple of Blackcaps and the usual Blue Rock Thrush and Ravens.
Towards the top we saw a COLLARED FLYCATCHER taking a bath in drinking tray put out for the sheep! Amazing! We found a Woodlark, several Subalpine Warblers and on te way down we found our most sought-after bird the Cinereous Bunting. Guy found Golden Orioles every 100 meters, or so it seemed.
Collared Flycatcher taking a bath
Before heading back to Kalloni, we drove to the entrance to the ‘Petrified Forest’, a 5km lane with fantastic views of rocky valleys and scrubby pathways in the petrified forest. Looking down from the lane we scanned the bushes for a reported Barred Warbler, which we dipped on! However we did find Icterine and Orphean Warblers, more Golden Orioles, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, more Cretzschmar’s Buntings and another Cinereous Bunting singing from a telephone wire.
A group of 5 Lesser Kestrels hawked the hillside above us, wheatears dashed about the rocks. On the way out of the ‘forest’ we were directed to a Chukar by another birded, it sat on a large boulder below us.
One final stop was made at the ‘Scops Copse’ where we found a single Scop’s Owl roosting in a eucalyptus tree. We knew which tree in which to look for the owl but it was very well hidden, it was Merv of course, who found the bird.
We eventually got back to the hotel at 6pm and we never stopped there. Richard went to his room whilst the three of us dashed round to the Tsiknias River to look for a Ferruginous Duck that had been seen all day. We dipped the duck! On the East track of the pans we got lucky with the Dalmatian Pelican, it sat sleeping in the distance. Then finally we dipped Tawny Pipits, at the Alykes Horse paddock and the racetrack.
We got back to hotel just before 7:30pm, what a day! A cold beer went down really easily and then it was straight in for dinner.