Wednesday, 21 May 2014


This Black Stork in the Tsiknias River got our Lesvos week off to a great start. I was there leading an Ornitholidays group, from 3 to 10 May. Black Storks are mostly passage migrants here, but a few pairs stay and breed. I saw one a few years back carrying a stick for a nest in the craggy Lardia Valley. On their migration they are often indecisive, circling over likely feeding areas for minutes before choosing either to stop or continue.  

This sleepy Scops Owl was one of three adults roosting at a traditional grove of eucalypts not surprisingly known as the scops copse. Their camouflage is often brilliant, but this one gave us a chance. They are also summer visitors, wintering in Africa, south of the Sahara but north of the Equator. At night their repeated piu call is a distinctive Mediterranean summer sound.

This female Little Bittern was one of the highlights of our week, as we watched it hoovering up large tadpoles in a river near Sigri, in the west of the island. As with many of the Lesvos migrants, it's hard to know if it would stay and breed, but probably it will fly on to larger reedbeds near the Black Sea. But with the river seething with tadpoles, it would be in no hurry to move on! 

Back to owls! We met a farmer tending his olive grove, who invited us in to see a special family that has taken up residence. This Long-eared Owl is one of two
chicks raised in nearby pines in an old Hooded Crow nest. Still covered in down and three-quarters grown, they call at night for food like squeaky gates. Resident in the UK in small numbers, they are much more numerous in Greece, and usually strictly nocturnal.

This Orphean Warbler was a surprise, since I saw it in the road and stopped to move it. It had probably suffered a glancing blow from a vehicle, but luckily it flew away strongly. So called for its rich song, it is named for Orpheus, the mythical bard famous in ancient Greek legend. Normally it takes more patience to obtain close-up views and photos of this fine warbler, a larger relative of our Whitethroat.   

This Woodchat Shrike perches on a sign that means 'keep the environment clean.' It's another example of the excellent migration that passes through Lesvos in late April and early May. Most of the birding groups visit in late April, but there are still many birders around in May. Almost all of them are only too happy to give and receive news on what's about. 

But a May visit to Lesvos isn't just about birds. It's also superb for wild flowers, with a riot of colour along the roads and on the hillsides. The landscapes are superb too, with pine forests in the east, oak parkland in the centre, and treeless rocky ridges in the west. The friendly locals and the superb Greek food in the tavernas help to make a week here even better. The flowers (along the north shore) and the owls are my photos; but for the others, many thanks to Brigid Campbell.   

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