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Red-backed ShrikeLESVOS: Fall Migration
in the Aegean

September 26 - October 3, 2020
Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

Trip Cost and Travel Planning>    Registration Form>

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 bird migration in spring, and as regular birders to Lesvos have found, in autumn as well. In late September and early October as in the spring, the right weather conditions can yield an impressive range of species and some interesting rarities. Raptors, shorebirds, and passerines all pass through Lesvos in the fall and in addition to passage migrants, the resident birds of Lesvos also offer great birding.

Little OwlOur base in the small fishing village of Skala Kalloni is perfectly located within easy reach of several wonderfully bird rich habitats including pine forests, rocky hillsides, rugged coastline, sandy beaches, sprawling fields, freshwater streams and rivers, and the famous saltpans. Autumn in Lesvos offers great, relaxed, warm weather birding as migrating shorebirds, raptors and passerines from Europe and Central Asia move southward.

Whether searching out the island’s special resident birds such as Krüper’s Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Little Owl, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, or Middle-spotted Woodpecker, or marveling at the continual stream of fabulous southbound migrants, you will soon be captivated by the magic of Lesvos.  From the slopes of Mount Olympus, to picturesque fishing villages alongside beautiful golden beaches, this island, with its wealth of resident and migrant birds, will charm you and have you longing to return.

Leaders: Gina Nichol & Steve Bird

Trip Cost and Travel Planning>>    Registration Form>>

Photos, above: Red-backed Shrike, Little Owl

European Bee-eaterITINERARY
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 just outside the village with a view of the Gulf of Kalloni. We hope to have time before dinner to take a short walk to orient ourselves and see how the fall migration is progressing.


Days 2–7: Based in the perfect location to explore this wonderfully scenic island, each day we can enjoy short drives to a diversity of habitats that play host to resident birds and attract a variety of migrant birds! In the coming days, you’ll soon become familiar with the common species of Lesvos including Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting, European Goldfinch, Common Chaffinch, Cetti’s Warbler, Little Owl, Ruddy Shelduck, and perhaps a lingering Northern or Black-eared Wheatear. And we’ll start to differentiate the various species of shrike including many juveniles of Lesser Grey, Red-backed and Woodchat. Spotted Flycatcher ought to be prominent and the aerial antics of colorful European Bee-eaters should entertain us. Tree, Red-throated and Tawny Pipits will be on our radar as will Wryneck, Common Cuckoo, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, and Chiffchaff.

We’ll spend time exploring the fresh and saltwater habitats around Skala Kalloni that serve as a magnet for birds with Purple Heron, Gray Wagtail, Common Teal, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, and Garganey all possible. In the air above, streams of Barn Swallows can often be accompanied by a few Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.

Yellow WagtailWe’ll check the farm fields where any nearby water attracts birds including White Wagtail, flocks of Yellow Wagtails of several very distinct races including Blue-headed Wagtail (subspecies flava) and Black-headed Wagtail (subspecies feldegg), Spanish Sparrow, Northern Wheatear, Eurasian Turtle Dove, Greater Short-toed Lark, Hoopoe and Stonechat.

The rugged terrain of the interior of the island offers rocky habitats where we’ll make sure to look for Eleonora’s and Peregrine Falcons, Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Sombre Tit and Crag Martin. We’ll also keep an eye to the sky for the Alpine Swifts and the brilliant European Roller. Surrounding vegetation could harbor lingering migrants including Eastern Orphean Warbler, Woodlark, Common Redstart, Blackcap, Whinchat, or even the beloved Hoopoe, Golden Oriole or the atricapillus subspecies of Eurasian Jay with a black crown. We’ll hope there are a few Subalpine Warblers and Cretzchmar’s and Ortolan Buntings around and search out Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Chukar, and Sardinian Warbler.

Black StorkNo doubt, we’ll spend a lot of time at the famous Kalloni Saltpans which are nothing short of magnificent in the fall. The life-giving waters of this working salt factory can play host of thousands of wintering Pied Avocets, Greater Flamingos, Great Cormorants, and Great Egrets, and are a major draw for migrating Black Storks, Dalmatian Pelicans, Great White Pelicans, Eurasian Spoonbills and a large assortment of waders. Offering food and important roosting areas, the saltpans hold a great variety of shorebirds and serve as a major staging stop on their southward migration. Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Grey (Black-bellied) Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Stone-Curlew, Little Stint, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Kentish Plover and sometimes Terek Sandpiper or Dotterel make good use of the saltpans and surrounding area, and the afternoon light can offer spectacular viewing and photographic opportunities of these birds. Gulls, such as Slender-billed, Black-headed and Mediterranean can join the mix and there could be a few Sandwich Terns around. We will visit the Saltpans daily to check what has arrived and our visits here are likely to be among the highlights of the trip.


Pied Avocets

Kruper's NuthatchThe pine forests on the eastern half of the island hold one of the star birds of the island, the diminutive but delightful Krüper’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 will also look for Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, and any passing migrant.

Long-legged Buzzard

We will also head to the north of the island to take in the fall raptor migration from the castle at Molyvos and the beautiful fishing village of Skala Sikamineas. In the right conditions, raptors can come through in numbers and species possible include Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, European Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Common Buzzard, and Hobby. Again, weather will determine numbers and we’ll position ourselves in the right place when the right conditions prevail. We’ll also visit the island’s reservoirs that serve as important freshwater sources for birds. The rare Audouin’s Gull is possible around Parasma Reservoir in the north of the island as well as along the north coast road, which could also produce Yelkouan and Scopoli’s Shearwaters.

ChukarDepending on the weather and birding opportunities, we may head to the west of the island. Ipsilou Monastery is one of our favorite stops as we travel west. Set on top of a small hill we can enjoy superb views of the west coast.  If weather conditions are right, this spot can receive amazing falls of migrant birds so we’ll watch the weather and work to get our timing right. Large flocks of Bee-eaters and migrating raptors have been recorded here in the fall and we can check a nearby spot for Chukar, Wheatears and Crested Larks.

There is so much to see on Lesvos and birding this beautiful, unspoiled island is not the only thing that will have you wanting to return.  Autumn offers numerous butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, mammals, and flowers to enjoy.

Day 8: Depending on flight schedules, we will head back to Mytilene for international flights out.


Photos, above: European Bee-eater, Yellow Wagtail, Black Stork, Pied Avocets, Krüper's Nuthatch, Long-legged Buzzard, Chukar


LEADERS: Gina Nichol & Steve Bird


Black-winged Stilt  Cetti's Warbler  Scops Owl

Above, Black-winged Stilt, Cetti's Warbler, European Scops Owl.  Below, Dalmatian Pelican.
Dalmatian PelicanLESVOS: Fall Migration         
September 26 - October 3, 2020        Registration Form (pdf)>

  $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 [email protected] when you have made payment.

Single Supplement: 
$395 per person (subject to availability)

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 8, 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, September 26, 2020. Departure should be from Lesvos on Saturday, October 3, 2020. 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 June 26, 2020 and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Credit card payments are possible, must be pre-approved and will incur a 5% fee. 

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. 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. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot 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.

Insurance: Sunrise Birding, LLC recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.

For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 07-0025.

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. 11.17 E7N

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected].com 
Phone: 203.453.6724

Greater Flamingos
Greater Flamingos

Shorebirds at Kalloni Salt Pans
Shorebirds at Kalloni Salt Pans