This very popular tour is planned annually for the last week in April or the first week of May, a time of peak of bird migration. Be quick to book as these tours fill up very early.
I have led tours to Lesvos for over 20 years and I have become very familiar with all the best sites and weather patterns at this time of the year. This tour offers you a great opportunity to explore this beautiful, unspoilt island in all its glory at the height of Spring bird migration. The birds, butterflies and wildflowers are magical at this time of the year with huge falls of migrants if the conditions are favourable.
What a fantastic place Lesvos is, it has wonderful scenery, very friendly people, unbelievable bird watching and is spared the mass tourism that plagues the other Greek Islands. You will fall in love with this idyllic island gem just as I have and will want to return time and time again, it is the ultimate T-shirt and shorts bird watching holiday destination. Lesvos is the third largest Greek Island and is situated just off the Turkish coast in the Aegean Sea. It was little known until the early eighties and has rapidly become one of the most popular Mediterranean birding hot-spots. This is because firstly, its geological position, being very close to the Turkish mainland it is inhabited by several eastern specialities such as Kruper's Nuthatch and Cinereous Bunting. Secondly, many other southern European species occur including Hoopoe, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Eastern Olivaceous and Great Reed Warblers. Other southeastern birds include Sombre Tit, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Western Rock Nuthatch, Olive-tree Warbler and Masked Shrike. Lesvos is also an excellent migration spot with the first week in May being the prime time to be there.
Your week with Wingspan is based at one of the best hotels on the island, which is centrally situated in Skala Kallonis and has excellent birding sites nearby. The hotel is family run with very friendly staff, the food is very good and the rooms are comfortable. Most years there are Nightingales singing you to sleep, whilst Cetti's Warblers compete with Spanish Sparrows, Swallows and Martins to make the most noise, especially early in the morning!. Lesvos is a relatively large Greek island, 45 x 30 miles but it can be covered easily in one week from our convenient base, nowhere is more than an hours' drive away. Just a few yards from the hotel grounds there is a reed fringed pool with clumps of tamarisk on grassy banks. The area is alive with birds, marsh terns such as Whiskered, Black and White-winged are regular visitors. Purple, Grey and Squacco Herons feed on the many frogs in the marsh and Bitterns, Crakes and Warblers inhabit the reeds. Small pools of open water attract Garganey, Stilts, Sandpipers and Glossy Ibis. It is one of the first places we visit and it will whet your appetite for further goodies to come.
Wherever you venture on this verdant isle you will find a great variety of wildlife, there is always something of interest either riding the thermals in the sky or beneath your feet in the varied landscapes. In places the scenery is breathtaking, the wild flowers are fantastic and a great variety of butterflies are there to be admired. The panoramic views on this trip are stunning at times so don't forget your camera. There are pine forest, huge salt pans, river basins, open arable fields, mountains and gorgeous valleys all waiting to be explored and everywhere there are birds, flowers and butterflies!
Day 1 An early morning departure from London with an arrival, local time, during early afternoon may give us a little time for an short birding sortie, the hotel is just over an hour from the airport. After a quick settling-in period we can walk to the Kalloni Pool for a leisurely visit and if I can drag you away we may have time to visit the mouth of the Tsiknias River. At the end of each day we will hold a pre-dinner meeting to record our bird sightings and mull over the exciting day that we have had.
Day 2-7 There are many superb bird-watching areas to visit on this beautiful island and because we are centrally based they are not far away and are easily reached. We have no set itineraries so our daily destinations will depend on the weather patterns and bird movements, below is a brief description of some of the sites you will visit during your stay.
Tsiknias & Christou Rivers Two excellent sites within a mile of the hotel, both rivers flow into the Gulf of Kalloni.The Christou river to the west has a large salt marsh with seasonal pools that attract good numbers of waders and it is a good place to find Stone Curlew, its banks and river mouth hold Terns, Gulls, Herons and Egrets. Upriver you find reeds, tamarisk hedges and open grassland that provide habitat for Buntings, Pipits, Larks and Finches. The mouth of the Tsiknias river to the east of Skala Kalloni has a sand spit which always holds interesting Gulls and Terns whilst its steep sided banks and stony river bed are great for Wagtails, Waders, Egrets, Bitterns and Crakes. The bush scrub on the banks hold Olivaceous, Cetti's, Reed, Great Reed and Sedge Warblers. Nightingales sing all day from open perches and Bee-eaters breed in the banks offering some excellent close views.
Kalloni Salt Pans The Salt-pans at Kalloni are easily reached being just 10 km away. At the pans we should find large flocks of Terns, Flamingos and Waders. We should find both Little and Temminck's Stints, Ruff, Pied Avocet, Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plover, hundreds of Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Marsh sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin all resplendent in their summer outfits. Behind the pans near the beach large open meadows where seasonal pools hold Pratincoles, Pipits, Larks, Shrikes and more Waders.
Mesa and Achladeri A few kilometers passed the salt pans towards Mytilini you come to an open area with brackish lagoons on one side of a long causeway and short grassland on the other. Rocky outcrops are dotted about in the grass and it obviously reminded someone of home because it was nick-named 'Derbyshire'. Nevertheless the area is great for bird-watching and it is a regular site for Western Rock Nuthatch, Tawny Pipit, Red-footed Falcon, Great Egret and Ruddy Shelduck. Black-eared and Northern Wheatear are frequent and Shrikes turn up most days. Once across the causeway the road twists around the shore of the Gulf of Kalloni and enters pine woodland, it is there that we look for the island speciality, Kruper's Nuthatch.
A few miles further afield we will encounter pine forests, steep sided mountainous gorges, lakes, fertile valleys, cliffs, beaches, open heath, cereal fields and larges reed-beds. There an estimated 12 million olive trees on Lesvos providing a vast habitat for numerous species. Some, such as Olive Tree Warbler, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Sombre Tit and Hoopoe have adapted to this specialized ecological niche. The mountainous scrub attracts Cretzchmar's and Cinereous Buntings, Rock Sparrow and Blue Rock Thrush. Most of the above species breed on the island and are a great draw for the bird-watcher but it is the passing migrants that put the icing on the cake. Hundreds of Black-headed Buntings swarm through during May along with many Warblers, (Reed, Marsh, River, Sedge. Great Reed, Barred & Garden,) Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, Flycatchers (Pied, Collared. Semi-collared, Spotted and Red-breasted) the list goes on and on. Many raptors are also found with Long-legged, Common and Honey Buzzards, Hobby, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Osprey, Black Kite, Harriers and Eagles. No matter where you go on this superb island you will find something of interest and very close at hand to boot.
The cost of this tour is £950: flights are extra and are direct from the UK, Gatwick or Manchester. You must book these yourself but I can help with this. Also included is accommodation in a 3 star hotel, all ground transport, all meals with packed lunches and the services of the guide. a single supplement of £120 applies.
For advice on flights please call or e-mail us, do not book your flights until we have confirmed your place on the tour
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