Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Lesvos, autumn '22 - part four

Spotted Flycatchers and Blackcaps coming down to drink at a water pipe leak
A very accommodating Icterine Warbler 

Our last two days in the field - actually, two and half (4th, 5th and the morning of 6th October) - were bird-filled and varied, the theme of the whole trip. We drove back out west to Perivolis Monastery on the morning of the 4th, with the whole area to ourselves (there really are no birders, or even tourists, here at this time of year): highlights here included two Blue Rock Thrushes, 35 Spotted Flycatchers, 20 Willow Warblers, seven Common Redstarts, more Western Rock Nuthatches, Middle Spotted Woodpeckers and Sombre Tits, 20 Crag Martins moving through and a couple of Short-toed Eagles.
With an increasingly strong and unfavourable wind, a couple of hours back at the raptor watchpoint at Lepetimnos was fairly quiet, with a few Honey-buzzards, Sparrowhawks and hirundines on the move but not too much else, before an afternoon session at a new site, Agios Loannis (on the western coast of the Kolpos Kalonis). Here we were reminded of the almost magical magnetism of Turpentine Trees (and specifically their plentiful berries) - lots of Sylvias, flcatchers and Redstarts enjoying the bounty.
Willow Warblers - extremely abundant!
A Short-toed Eagle passes a Blue Rock Thrush at Perivolis Cemetery 

An earlyish finish allowed time for a run, a swim, dinner and a few more drinks on the beach in the evening, before our last full day, the 5th. An early start (armed with plentiful pastries picked up fresh from the stone oven of our favourite bakery before dawn) saw us heading over to the wonderfully mixed, bird-rich habitats of the Skala Vasilikon / Skamioudi area, across the bay on the eastern coast of the Kolpos Kallonis.
Icterine Warbler
We'd fallen in love this area and its passerine-overloaded farmland (actually thick hedges, olive groves, alfalfa fields, tree-lined tracks, grassy fields and, most importantly, Turpentine trees) previously; maybe getting there first thing would give us a more realistic impression of migration moving through this obvious corridor?
Greater Flamingos
What a morning it turned out to be. Songbirds were bursting out of every bush and tree, moving along bushy hedges and field edges in mixed flocks, dropping in, leaving south, and generally leaving us in awe as they passed by us in concentrated waves. Conservative estimates of 350 (!) Blackcaps, 75 Spotted Flycatchers, 185 Willow Warblers, 200 Chaffinches, several Red-throated, Tree and Tawny Pipits, lots of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Corn and Cirl Buntings....
Grey Heron in the pine woods
Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Blackbird coming down to drink 

....three Hawfinches, plus Sardinian Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Garden Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Cetti's Warblers, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Whinchats, lots of Yellow Wagtails (including a good proportion of thunbergi), Red-backed Shrikes and a (very showy) Icternine Warbler. All this, in a small, sunny, peaceful, human-free area that we just ambled around, soaking up the migration around us.
Avocets (above) and Cetti's Warbler (below)
Next stop the nearby Polichnitos saltpans, and more sunny, relaxed, productive birding - lots of waders again (including 20 Little Stints, plenty of Kentish Plovers and three Marsh Sandpipers), as well as Black Storks, Slender-billed Gulls, 100+ Greater Flamingos and much more.
Crag Martin (above) and Common Redstart at the monastery
For our final morning (the 6th), we stayed local, and enjoyed a lenghty, relaxed session ambling around the nearby Tsiknias River area - our nearby mixed farmland site, immediately east of Skalla Kalloni.
Slender-billed Gull at the saltpans 

Once again, the area was packed with migrants - including 25 Red-backed Shrikes, a Wryneck, 20 Willow warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, a scattering of Blackbirds, Spot flys, Robins and Whinchats, 15 Tree Pipits, four Red-throated Pipits, plenty of Chaffinches and Corn and Cirl Buntings, and a big arrival of Wagtails - we estimated 70 Yellow and 120 White, but there probably many more.
Persian Squirrel
Black Stork
Cetti's Warbler