Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Birding on the way to Sigri

First of all, apologies for the length of the post, I'm finding it hard to keep the photos down to a manageable level as I want to tell the story of each day!
To make the most of my week on the island, I got up early each morning to do some birding before breakfast which was at 7.30 most mornings. The hotel where we were staying (Kalloni ii) has a wetland area right in front of the hotel which is ideal for a pre-breakfast walk. In years past this has been a fantastic area for herons, terns and waders (shorebirds), but over recent years has dried out somewhat and become more overgrown. It is still a great place to see some birds though. Here is a view of our hotel from the other side of the Kalloni pool wetland (the beach behind me).
Frank and Tony probably wont recognise this as being the Kalloni pool!
Even with the lack of much water, I still managed to see Squacco Heron, Bittern, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff and Snipe here.
Here is the beach which was only about 50 yards from the hotel.
One of the real delights each time we left or came back to the hotel was the sight and specially the sound of the resident Nightingale. I know it was a 'he' singing but I named him Nelly! I managed to get a short video of him singing one day. It's not the best view of him, but it shows off his amazing song! You will eventually see him hopping onto the fence.

After our breakfast, we set off for the day. We were aiming for the town of Sigri on the west coast with plenty of birding on the way. Just a few miles outside Kalloni, is the Limona Monastery (you really need a month or two here to see everything!) an impressive complex of churches etc. Click on the link to read a bit about it (scroll down a little way).

Some amazing buildings here, also notice the olive trees behind (there are everywhere on the island).
We screeched to a halt in this small town as Jane thought she'd seen Bee-eaters, we didn't managed to find any of those, but did spot this Black-eared Wheatear perched on what is obviously a favoured spot judging by the decoration! (-:
While we were looking for the Bee-eaters, I noticed this lovely fig tree with ripening fruits looking lush against the hills in the background.

Another stop on the Sigri road was at what is called the 'grand canyon'. We were specifically looking for Crag Martins here and also Blue Rock thrush. We saw both, but they were either too far away or two swift for photos.

I did manage to see some nice flowers here though. Some Spanish Broom just coming into flower.

An unknown Blue butterfly.
Some sort of daisy like flower? I love the deep pink shading out towards the edge.
A view of our windy road westwards. There arn't many straight roads on Lesvos! (-:
Whenever we found a layby, we would stop to check for any birds. This proved fruitful as we picked up birds like Subalpine Warbler, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush, Cirl Bunting and many others. At one particularly layby, we saw loads of these beautiful grasshopper/crickets. I wish I knew what this one is called.

Another unknown flower....
Scanning the hillsides for birds.....

One of our target birds along this road was Isabelline Wheatear. They are a very localised breeder here on Lesvos. At this particular location we were lucky to see 4 or 5 birds. This is a record shot while it was doing a display flight which shows the diagnostic tail pattern reasonably well.
One of our main stops before getting to the coast was Ipsilou Monastery. This is another impressive monastery set high ontop of a hill with amazing views over the surrounding countryside. It's also a wonderful place for migrants given the right weather conditions. On this particular day we didn't have the right conditions (it was too nice), however we did visit again later in the week, but that's for another post.
With a lack of motorised traffic (compared to Britain), the scents of wild flowers is much more noticeable. One of the most obvious plants along the roadsides was the Giant Fennel. These wonderful plants averaged around 4-5 feet high and exuded at subtle fragrance which was exaggerated when the foliage was pinched!

An unknown Fritillary butterfly up at Ipsilou Monastery.
The views were absolutely stunning from the Monastery. The camera really doesn't do it justice!
The small town and harbour of Sigri.

The fields around Sigri are generally good for migrants. As I said earlier, the weather was a bit too nice for much to be seen, but we did find Pied Flycathers, Red-rumped Swallows, Orphean Warbler, Whinchats, Wood Warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Bee-eaters and Marsh Harrier to name a few. Below is chapel in the middle of nowhere. There are loads of them dotted about all over the island. You could spend ages just visiting these!

We spent a little time at Faneromeni beach, sea watching for Shearwaters (we saw lots of Yelkouan Shearwaters and just one Cory's).

Not the best photos in the world, but a record shot of a couple of Red-rumped Swallows collecting mud for nest making.

Our last stop for the day was at Faneromeni river ford. This is a great area for Heron species. We saw Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron and Little Bittern here. We also saw THOUSANDS of these little frogs. No wonder the Herons thought is was a good spot!

One of my target birds for the trip was to see a male Red-backed Shrike. I'd seen duller immature ones back in Britain where they occasionally they overshoot as vagrants. These beautiful birds used to breed in Britain, but became extinct partly due to egg collectors! I was thrilled to get to see an adult at last!


Sharon said...

Wow Jenny - looks like you had an amazing time! Your photos are stunning and I'm so jealous about the amount of birds you saw!
PS - love the little chapel, so romantic!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Jen. In 2002 there wasn't much water in the Kaloni pool but I guess the lack of local management and rain hasn't helped. Are the locals still dumping their rubbish in the watercourses?
Once again your post and pics have just taken Anita and me down memory lane. Fantastic scenery and wildlife. Cheers FAB.

Anonymous said...

Another great set of photos Jen. The Nightingale looks good and a Red-Backed Shrike (what a super find).

The blue butterfly is a female Common Blue by the looks of it. The Fritillary could be an Aetherie Fritillary.

Chris said...

Hi Jen.
You got a fantastic day there and we got a splendid message. So many species I've never seen and so many nice pictures of landscape, birds and buildings!! This is a superb set of pictures...
I think your blue butterfly is a common blue as Roy said. I had publish some last year..

calamanthus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duncan said...

Wonderful stuff Jenny!

TonyC said...

Great post Jen. I can see that we are going to be in for a real treat over the next days/weeks!!
I was lucky, as Kalloni pools were full when I was there, and each morning we would be counting what was there - 100's of marsh terns and Glossy Ibises (Ibii??). I too noticed that not ony Nightingales seemed much less timid than they were in the UK, but Robins seemed more so, and turned into skulkers.

Angad Achappa said...

Nice images.. especially of the nightingale & the blue butterfly!!


Eve said...

Wow Jenny!! Beautiful photos wonderful commentary! I love the Fennel, the butterflies, the Nightingale and the SHRIKE!! I'm off to listen to the video. Thanks for taking us. I really feel like I'm right there with you.
OH I wish my fig tree looked like that one!!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

I feel so refreshed now - thank you for the road trip, Jenny. I can't decide what I liked best! The birding, obviously. The architecture of those monasteries and chapels, you betcha! The bugs and flowers, oh yeah! All of it - the landscapes, everything. What a wonderful, magical experience that you are sharing with us - thank you. AND, FYI, you can NOT have too many photos in my humble opinion!

Rural Rambler said...

Jen the pictures! Your pictures are stunning. Oh my gosh so much of beautiful to look at. The Isabelline Wheatear, the Fennel, the Limona Monastery, the little white chapel. All just a treat this morning :) Ooooo, that gresshopper is very fine! I watched and listened to the video, what a sweet treat. It is rainy and dreary here this morning and I was feeling a little, a lot dreary but this has cheered me up for sure!

Mary said...

I am really enjoying reading all this and seeing the great photos. Don't worry about how long it is! With a trip like this you want to show everything and we enjoy looking at it! I like how you have so many target birds all picked out and the actually find them! You are so organized! Every bird and creature you have shown is fascinating. I like the buildings, too like that little chapel. How wonderful to have those all over. What an odd cricket! Really pretty.