Thursday, 13 May 2010

Birding the Greek Island of Lesvos.

Well, at last! I'm sorry it's taken so long to get a first blog post out about my birding trip!
The Greek Island of Lesvos is well known as one of the premier birding locations in Europe, specially during migration. I have wanted to go there for years and luckily three birding friends of mine decided that they all wished to revisit the Island after having been there 6 years ago. We were all booked and set to go on the 22nd of April. Of course a week or so prior to our flight date the Icelandic volcano decided to make it's presence felt in the world! Suffice to say that we didn't know until the evening before that our flight was not cancelled (we had made a contingency plan to go birding in Scotland if we couldn't get to Lesvos)!
If you click to enlarge the map below, two red dots show where I live in the UK and where Lesvos is situated. The flight took about 3 1/2 hours.

Lesvos lies just 4 miles off the coast of Turkey but is an Island belonging to Greece to the west across the Aegean sea.
It's a very rural island of around 87,000 people, thankfully having escaped the mass tourism of many other Mediterranean destinations. The red road on the map below is the only road that has tarmac, all the others are tracks of one sort or another which make for some interesting driving experiences! The island is famed for the finest olive oil in the world which is produced from over 11 million trees which dominate much of the landscape. We were staying in the central location of Skala Kalloni which is at the north end of Kalloni Bay (see red dot when map below is enlarged) which meant that any birding destination was no more than about 90 minutes away by car.

After all our worries over whether we would even get there, our travelling experience could not have gone smoother! There was no queue at check in, our flight was on time and even touched down in Lesvos early! There was a coach transfer from the airport to our hotel (a 40 minute drive with traditional Greek music playing to get us in the mood)! (-: We would be getting our hire car later that evening so as soon as we'd settled into the hotel we spent an hour or so before dinner taking a walk around the countryside surrounding the hotel.
Hmmmmm! I wondered what this sign said........well, it's all Greek to me! (-:

The surrounding hills looked beautifully soft and serene, which was nice and calming after our day of travelling. I love the gentle gradation of shade.
The sheep here have bells attached to their necks which makes for a lovely background noise (a far cry from my busy road back home!). This was to become a 'sound of Lesvos' which I captured on video later in the week.
We had an escort on our early evening walk. This friendly dog followed us the whole way around. I named him Henry after a while. I'm not sure what's wrong with his legs, but it didn't seem to stop him getting around!
It might be slightly distant, but this was my first life bird of the trip....a Squacco Heron flying over the West River (Christou River). I'm glad to say I managed to get some closer photos later on in the week! (-:
A view of the Christou River. This will probably be quite dry in a few weeks time as the temperatures rise.
I love Iris and this beautiful combination of yellow and white was flowering along the river.
As we made our way back towards the hotel for dinner, I noticed the attractive tiled topping to this wall.
To end this first post, I thought I'd show three of the most common birds that were almost constant companions during our time on Lesvos. First, the Olivaceous Warbler. Mostly a skulker, I was lucky to get this one singing on top of a bush! Their vague scratchy song (similar to Reed Warbler) could be heard coming from virtually every bush, specially Tamerisk.
Similarly, Corn Buntings were to be found perching on any prominent post! Eventually we 'got our eye in' and managed not to stop the car only to say (oh, it's another Corn Bunting)! (-:
And last but not least. The very cute Crested Lark. These birds had amazing kamikaze tendencies staying in front of the car until the last second!!! How we managed not to squish a few I really don't know. They virtually littered the tracks almost anywhere we went on the island. We grew very fond of them even though they also became a very familiar sight.
There'll be more from Lesvos shortly.


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Lovely, the way you set up your trip with maps and locations - that really gives a sense of place! What fantastic birds, Jenny, as is the wild iris and lovely fence. I'm so looking forward to hearing the bells - the "sound of Lesvos!" Such a glorious journey with Henry the dog as your guardian. Looking forward to more!

TonyC said...

Great post Jen - brings back so many memories of my trip there.

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Eve said...

Everything Debi said I was going to say!! Those Larks remind me of Snow Buntings up north always in front of the car dashing around and away! Great description. I'm so excited we get to go on this trip with you Jenny!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful new header shot Mrs V. and a great start to your Lesvos Posts. Having heard a lot about Birding trips to the Island it is good to actually see what its all about.

Eve said...

OH and the new header is just beautiful! I bet Roy will love that one too!!! OH I see he does! hahaha!

Rural Rambler said...

Wren this is going to be fun! Great shots to get us started on your trip. Very cool about the sheep with bells. The area looks to be lovely. Your four leg tour guide has a happy face :) The Iris and Crested Lark, very cool! I am glad you are back, with pictures and future video AND I love the new header too!!!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Jen. Like Tony this brought back some very pleasant memories of one of my first birding tours abroad. Someone promised me a CD of the trip but failed to honour their promise so I'll look forward to following yours. FAB.

Kelly said... can't wait to see all your photos. I'm so glad the volcano didn't cancel your plans. I love the photo of the wall with the red tiles, and all the detail you provided in your narration. But I really LOVE your new header. It's gorgeous.

Mary said...

Wonderful beginning! I can't wait to read more and see what other wonderful sights you saw. Did you keep a diary of your certainly have all the details in order and easy to follow for us. Lovely scenery and three new birds already! Gorgeous flowers and the tile wall!

Quiet Paths said...

Oh, wonderful! A virtual trip to warmer climes. Laying all this out must have taken up the better part of the evening, Jenny. I am however very grateful for the posts. Now onto the next one! One most interesting point you made (for myself) is about the river eventually going dry. Is that a common theme in Greece, I wonder during the hot months?