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LESVOS: Spring Migration Magic
April 21 - 28, 2018
Contact gina@sunrisebirding.com to reserve your space!

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The Greek Island of Lesvos, also known as Lesbos, is renowned for its ancient history, incomparable natural beauty and tradition of hospitality. Known as the Princess of the Northwest Aegean Sea, this stunning island has become known by birders as one of the best locations in Europe to witness spring migration. Our base in the small fishing village of Skala Kalloni is perfectly located beside some wonderfully bird rich habitats, including a reed-fringed pool right next to our hotel. From here, the rest of the island with its varied countryside, historic villages and friendly people, can be easily explored. Whether searching out the island’s special birds, such as Kruper’s Nuthatch and Cinereous Bunting, or marveling at the continual stream of fabulous eastern migrants, or enjoying some of the island’s 70 species of orchids, you will soon be captivated by the magic of Lesvos.  From the slopes of Mount Olympus, to the island’s sparkling rivers and lakes, to picturesque fishing villages alongside beautiful golden beaches, this island with its wealth of resident and migrant birds will have you longing to return.

Leaders: Gina Nichol & Steve Bird

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ITINERARY
Day 1:
After our arrival in Mytilene (airport code MJT), the capital of Lesvos, we will make our way to the small fishing village of Skala Kalloni where our hotel is situated beside a small reed-fringed pond, often a magnet for water birds and marsh terns. If we have time before dinner we will take a short walk to see how the spring migration of countless birds is progressing.


Days 2–7:
Based in the perfect location to explore this wonderfully scenic island, we can enjoy short drives to a variety of habitats that attract overwhelming numbers of migrants! If conditions are right you can witness to breathtaking falls of birds and it is not unusual to see hundreds of Red-backed Shrikes or Black-headed Buntings, or up to fifty Red-footed Falcons perched along telegraph wires.

From the moment you step outside the hotel door you are in bird heaven! The pond beside our hotel can be alive with Whiskered, White-winged and Black Terns hawking insects just a few meters in front of us. A further search of reedy edges can produce Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, and occasionally something more unusual such as Great Bittern, Great Snipe or Spotted Crake. Streams of Barn Swallows can often be accompanied by a few Red-rumped Swallows, Sand Martins and wheeling flocks of Common Swift that could have Alpine and Pallid among them. Yellow Wagtails of several very distinct races including the very smart Black-headed will vie for our attention, while Spanish Sparrows, Turtle Doves and a raptor or two will make the first hour of birding all you had hoped for!


We will only have short distances to travel with some of the best birding sites literally on our door step. The east and west rivers with their weedy Tamarisk-lined banks can hold a whole host of interesting species. Depending how shallow the river is, it can attract endless numbers of European Bee-Eaters, waders including Wood Sandpiper, Green and Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Temminck’s and Little Stint, Squacco Heron, White and Black Stork, Little and Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Gull-billed Tern, and the elegant Ruddy Shelduck. Along the edges, we can look for Common Nightingale, Eastern Olivaceous, Great Reed and Cetti’s Warblers. Sometimes we get Savi’s and River Warblers here and by the end of the week, the superb Black-headed Bunting and flocks of dazzling European Bee-Eaters will have appeared.


Between the East River and the nearby saltpans several arable fields can attract flocks of Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers and occasionally we see a few ghostly Pallid Harriers, as well as gorgeous groups of Collared Pratincoles, Lesser Gray and Woodchat Shrike, European Roller, Little Owl, and up to fifty Red-footed Falcons. Crested Larks and Corn Buntings are common and the area always holds a surprise or two.  The saltpans will yield many more wading birds with Wood Sandpiper the most common along with elegant summer plumaged Marsh Sandpipers, stunning plum-colored Curlew Sandpipers, close views of Temminck’s and Little Stints, Kentish Plover, huge flocks of Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Pied Avocet, Little Gull, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingos and the motionless Stone Curlew. Over the years we have seen Dalmatian Pelican, Spur-winged Plover, Cream-colored Courser, Black-winged Pratincole and Caspian Plover so once again we could have a nice surprise! This area is also traditionally a good spot to see the attractive Ruddy Shelduck. 

 

The surrounding sheep fields can hold flocks of Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Citrine Wagtail and Red-throated Pipits with beautiful brick-red throats. Up to four races of Yellow Wagtail will keep us working hard and we will constantly keep an eye out for raptors and terns passing overhead. This is a great place for seeing some of the more unusual species such as Caspian Tern, Lanner Falcon, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Golden or even Lesser or Greater Spotted Eagle.

 

Heading inland from the salt pans, we drive into a beautiful wooded valley full of oaks and olive trees. It is here that we should see our first Masked Shrike, Sombre Tit and Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Long-legged Buzzard or even a Rufous Bush Robin. As Hoopoes lazily drift by and Golden Orioles fill the valley with their flutey calls we will look for the shy and difficult Olive Tree Warbler, a bird that is a late arrival and only really possible toward the end of our stay.

 

As we continue on towards the wild rocky north coast we will make a few stops to look for breeding Ruppell’s Warbler and Eastern Orphean and Bonelli’s Warblers, plus Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Peregrine Falcon, Goshawk, Crag Martin, Rock Nuthatch, Alpine Swift, and along the coastline the rare Audouin’s Gull, and flocks of Yelkouan Shearwaters with even the possibility of the potential ‘new’ Scopoli’s Shearwater. With views of the Turkish coast in the distance this area sees many migrants leaving the island and a nearby inland lake can be a great place to find Ortolan Bunting, Hobby or something a little unusual such as Thrush Nightingale, Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, Great-spotted Cuckoo or the rare White-throated Robin.

 

The western side of the island with its arid volcanic hillsides is home to one of the birds everyone wants to see, the rare Cinereous Bunting. Lesvos is one of the best places in the world to see this little-known species, and we hope to find them singing from the rock strewn hillside. Here too are Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush and more chances for Rock Nuthatch.

 

Ipsilou Monastery is one of our favorite picnic stops, set on top of a small hill we can enjoy superb views of the west coast.  If weather condition are right this spot receives amazing falls of migrant birds; we saw a flock 27 Levant Sparrowhawks very low over our heads on one tour and often get Honey and Long-legged Buzzard, and Short-toed Eagle.  The surrounding trees and bushes can hold Collared, Spotted, and occasionally Semi-collared or Red-breasted Flycatchers, Golden Orioles, Chukar, Wood Lark, Wood, Eastern Bonelli’s, Icterine, Barred and other warblers. This is also a good spot for butterflies with Southern Festoon nearly always present.

 

The west coast itself especially around Sigri, is a very fertile area that can be exceptionally good for migrants with incredible numbers present on a good day. It’s not unusual to see hundreds of shrikes or buntings and careful searching can reveal Wryneck, Great Snipe, Levant Sparrowhawk, Collared Pratincole, Great Reed Warbler, Lesser Gray Shrike, while flocks of Red-footed Falcons and Lesser Kestrels hunt over the fields.


The pine forests on the eastern half of the island hold the other star bird of the island the diminutive but delightful Kruper’s Nuthatch. It is not always easy to see, but we will make a special effort to catch up with this highly localized bird, which here, is on the western edge of its range. In addition to the nuthatch we can also find Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Woodchat Shrike, and some very good flowers including many species of orchid.

 

Another area we traditionally take a pre-breakfast walk, is around a small pond where Little Crake and sometimes Spotted and Baillon’s Crake can be seen very well. There are often a few Black-crowned Night-Herons and Squacco Heron to be seen, while Red-rumped Swallows pose on the reed tops where they have spent the night. Reed, Sedge and Great Reed Warblers can certainly be heard and we will search for Savi’s and possibly River Warbler as well as Little Bittern. This can be a magical place early morning as the sunlight allows for stunning photography.

 

Birding this beautiful unspoiled island is not the only thing that will have you wanting to return.  In addition, we will also discover the butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles and flowers of this magical island.

 

Day 8:
After some morning birding, we will depart the area heading back to Mytilene for international flights out.

 

LEADERS: Gina Nichol & Steve Bird

Black Stork. Photo by Gina Nichol.
Black Stork. Photo by Gina Nichol.

Black-eared Wheatear. Photo by Gina Nichol.
Black-eared Wheatear. Photo by Gina Nichol.

Some target species
of this tour:


Kruper's Nuthatch
Cinereous Bunting
Masked Shrike
Black-headed Bunting
Olive Tree Warbler
Sombre Tit
Scops Owl
Ruepell's Warbler
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Little Crake
Great Snipe
Semi-collared flycatcher
Collared Pratincole
Levant Sparrowhawk
Audouin's Gull
Red-footed Falcon
Eleanora's Falcon
lsabelline Wheatear
and much more!

Pallid Harrier.
Pallid Harrier. Photo by Steve Bird.

Ruepell's Warbler.
Rüppell's Warbler. Photo by Steve Bird.

Scops Owl. Photo by Steve Bird.
Scops Owl. Photo by Steve Bird.


Little Crake. Photo by Steve Bird.

European Bee-eater. Photo by Steve Bird.
European Bee-eater. Photo by Steve Bird.

Little Owl. Photo by Steve Bird.
Little Owl. Photo by Steve Bird.

Red-backed Shrike. Photo by Steve Bird.
Red-backed Shrike. Photo by Steve Bird.

Below: Collared Flycatcher.
Photo by Steve Bird.

Collared Flycatcher. Photo by Steve Bird.  LESVOS            Registration Form>>
Spring Migration Magic!
April 21 - 28, 2018

TOUR PRICE:   $2500 per person from Mytilene, Greece (Airport code: MJT) based on double occupancy. Price based on current exchange rates when the tour was posted and subject to change (**see note below).

Deposit:  $500.00 per person. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link> to make your credit card payment.  Please advise gina@sunrisebirding.com when you have made payment. 
    
Single Supplement: 
$395 per person (subject to availability)

Maximum Group Size:  Minimum for tour to go ahead 8 and maximum 12 with 2 leaders.

 

Included in cost: Transport throughout the tour by minibus or car, hotel accommodation based on twin rooms en-suite, all meals from dinner on Day 1 until breakfast at hotel Day 9, including picnic lunches; guiding services of leaders.

Not included:  International flight to and from Mytilene, Greece, insurance, drinks, and items of a personal nature.


Getting to Mytilene, Greece (airport code MJT): Please note that you need to arrive in Lesvos on the Saturday, April 21, 2018. Departure should be from Lesvos on Saturday, April 28, 2018. Please do not book your flights until we tell you that the tour is confirmed.

Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with regular birding walks. We usually break the day into 2 parts with a pre-breakfast excursion, followed by a full day out with picnic or taverna lunch. The weather can be unsettled at this time of year, expect everything from bright and sunny weather to some cooler weather with the chance of an odd shower so prepare for all eventualities.


**Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in Euros), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange at the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour, complete the Registration & Release Form and mail it with your deposit of $500.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC.  Instructions are on the form. Reservations are held with a deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.   
>Download & print the Registration Form.

Final payment is due by December 21, 2017 and must be paid by check or bank transfer. 

Cancellations and Refunds:  All cancellations must be made in writing.  In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding, LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.   There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. 

 

Insurance:  The purchase of trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.  Sunrise Birding, LLC can not accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour. 

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at gina@sunrisebirding.com 
Phone: 203.453.6724

Bee-eaters. Photo by Gina Nichol.
Bee-eaters. Photo by Gina Nichol.

Bee-eaters. Photo by Gina Nichol.
Pied Avocets. Photo by Steve Bird.