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Birdwatching trip to Lesvos

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Birdwatching trip to Lesvos

The Greek Island of Lesvos is well known in the birdwatching community as one of the best hotspots in Europe for birdwatching. The island is a stepping stone for migrating birds on their way North to their breeding grounds. At the same time, there are several local birds in their westernmost distribution range and a huge number of common birds. All these factors make the island a fantastic place where everybody seems to be coming back year after year.

The trip 

The trip I just completed was one that I co-guided and we had a group of 13 English birders. For this birdwatching trip to Lesvos we visited the whole diversity of habitats including lagoons, marshes, rivers, barren hills with small Oasis, mountain slopes, traditional villages and olive-tree orchards. Birds were absolutely everywhere. You would be amazed to see shrikes, buntings and flycatchers on a mountainous slope but that’s where they were.  

Every day there was a report of a rare bird which happened to be on our way. Of course, we found our own birds but it was great travelling around the island and seeing all the habitats. It was interesting to see people reporting some fairly common birds for me like Whiskered Tern, Glossy Ibis, or Lesser spotted Eagle. We found the first for the season Lesser-spotted Eagle whereas in Bulgaria we see hundreds in migrating times.

The hotel

We spent the week at Kalony bay hotel. What a brilliant setting it has! It is right on the shore surrounded by two marshes. It is apparently one of the major hotspots on the island. We had a fantastic time and saw some good birds.

On two occasions we saw some of our highlights at the end of a day. Just as we were coming back to the hotel after a long day, somebody had reported a good bird. thinking we were going “home”, we were straight back to birding. On the first occasion, it was for a Great Snipe and the second, it was a Citrine Wagtail! Cracking place!

The hotel owners were fully aware of their niche and were certainly catering for the desire of the birders. On our last morning we wanted breakfast at 6.30 am and it was served just on time. No issue there at all.

The food

The food at the hotel has been absolutely fantastic. Salads and breakfast were the same for the whole week, but the main courses were typical Greek dishes which everybody in the group appreciated.

The birdwatchers

There were hundreds of people watching for birds. It was really interesting! Birdwatchers were literary everywhere. You just drive along and see people with binoculars staring at something. Actually, at times it was too much. At some of the smaller places, it was too tight for many people. When a good bird turns up you would get about 10 cars parked in a row and people standing and watching. Quite an experience if you haven’t seen that and want to be a part of the visible birding community. However, if you have already experienced that, you may not appreciate it. Some people avoid the island because of the high number of birdwatchers. As for me, I enjoyed seeing this huge number of birders but at the same time, I hope that will never happen at home.

The landscapes

The birds

Oh boy! They were absolutely fantastic! For the whole week, we saw about 170 species. As a bird of the trip was voted the Marsh Sandpiper with Ruppell’s Warbler following closely. We had some fantastic observations! See the full checklist below. Some of my favorite ones are Cinereous Bunting, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, which we saw several times at various places, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Rock Sparrow, and Krupper’s Nuthatch. Some of these I had not seen for more than 20 years so it was great to see them again.

Birding on the island

I found it very specific. It really depends on where you come from. Most of the birds were common and easy to see for me so I would not travel to see the numerous Nightingales, Corn Buntings or Red-backed Shrike which are numerous at home as well. I would not travel to see a single Lesser-spotted Eagle, which may be exciting for here, but we have them in good numbers.

However, I would travel for the unexpected! I love watching migration and finding birds in unusual places. We do have identical places in Bulgaria, so the added value here are the local birds like Krupper’s Nuthatch, Ruppell’s Warbler, Cinereous and Cretzschmar’s Bunting. That’s about it!

Checklist of birds seen

See the full list on my trip report on eBird here.


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