easy spring birding in the Aegean
A week of easy birding during the spring migration on the beautiful island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea.
8th – 15th May 2024
Single Room Supplement – £150
Return flight London Stansted to Lesvos. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. ETIAS/visa costs. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 6, maximum 12.
Lesvos is still an undiscovered island for many, despite being the third largest in Greece and close to the Turkish mainland. It is relatively undeveloped and retains its rural culture, interspersed with a few attractive towns and villages. In May, the tourist season is only just beginning and there is a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere at a time when the flowers and birds are at their best.
The countryside is covered in a colourful display of shrubs, perennials and annuals and the birdsong adds a delightful background to quiet walks through olive groves, meadows and woods or along the coast. Our search for the island’s wildlife will take us to some interesting landscapes and historical sites.
The island is justifiably famous for its birdlife, with local breeding specialities including Krüper’s Nuthatch, Cinereous Bunting and Masked Shrike. We have timed this holiday to catch the best of the northwards spring migration, as well as enjoy the wonderful carpets of spring flowers.
During the week we will be visiting many parts of the island – the rolling hills, pastures and rocky landscapes of the west, and the sweet chestnut and pine woods of the southern mountains. We will explore the rivers, lagoons and reedbeds around Skala Kalloni, and the coastal ‘shrublands’ full of orchids and birdsong.
Our home for the week is a family-run hotel in the coastal village of Skala Kalloni, serving delicious, hearty, homecooked food, within walking distance of the Kalloni wetlands, some of the prime birding spots, a great base from which to explore the island.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Our flights take us to Mytiline, the main town on Lesvos, from where we transfer to Skala Kalloni.
Day 2 Today is spent exploring the countryside around Skala Kalloni. Walking out from the hotel, we amble through the lanes and fields, where we will familiarise ourselves with the local wild flowers of the pathsides, waterways and marshes. Eastern Olivaceous Warblers sing from the tamarisk bushes, newly-arrived Bee-eaters hawk over head, Little Bittern and Squacco Heron feed along the river margins, and all sorts of migrant birds might turn up as they head north.
Day 3 We visit the Kalloni salt pans, where Greater Flamingos feed alongside elegant Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, and (depending on the season) a variety of migrating waders and wildfowl, gulls and terns. After lunch, we will drive a little inland to Metochi Lake where we will check for migrant herons and crakes, look for Balkan Terrapin and various dragonflies, and take a wander through the olive groves, keeping watch for Masked Shrike, Western Rock Nuthatch and Long-legged Buzzard, while Starred Agama sun themselves on the rocks.
Day 4 We visit the hillsides below Ipsilou Monastery, famous for a local speciality, Cinereous Bunting, which sings from the oak trees. Isabelline and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears feed on the rocky slopes, while the wooded hilltop acts as a migrant trap, with warblers, shrikes, flycatchers and passing raptors all likely to turn up. At the coastal village of Sigri, we visit the interesting geological museum, with its world class exhibits and Holy Orchid Anacamptis sancta in the garden, before dropping down to the coast for a coffee on the harbour.
Day 5 Today we travel around to the eastern side of the Gulf of Kalloni, where will visit the pine woodlands at Achladeri, home to Krüper’s Nuthatch, another local speciality for which Lesvos is the only European outpost. We then head up, through the town of Agiassos and onto the slopes of Mount Olympus. Here we will visit the beautiful Sweet Chestnut woods looking for many flowers including Wild Peonies, the beautiful Peacock Anemone and several species of orchids.
Day 6 We head across to the north of the island, stopping first at Kavaki headland: here we will look for Eastern Orphean and Eastern Subalpine Warblers, holding territory in the scrubby coastal vegetation, while Yelkouan Shearwaters feed offshore. From here we will travel to the attractive fishing village of Molyvos, where we will have our lunch overlooking the fishing harbour, and have some time to explore the narrow lanes of this scenic old town.
Day 7 A week can be a long time in the spring, and today we will revisit various spots around Kalloni to check for newly arrived migrant birds.
Day 8 After one last hearty breakfast it is time to bid farewell to Skala Kalloni and make the return journey back to Mytilini and our flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.