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Polichnitos - Lesvos - 81 300 - Greece Tel.  +30 22520 41885,  61121,  - Fax.  +30 22520 41885, 61121

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BIRDWATCHING

Undeniably Lesvos is a very special place for birds and an extremely rewarding location for watching them, often at very close range. So far 325 species have been recorded, right across the island. There are several reasons why this is the case, but the wonderful variety of habitats and the island's location on an important migration route just below the Turkish coast are two of the most important.

For whatever reasons, Richard Brooks has spend most of his time in his repeated trips to the island in and around Kalloni and has made the town his base in the island. This has ensured an abundance of information about bird watching around and north of Kalloni, but scant information for any other location in the island as a worthy or accessible alternative for bird watching.

Even though this has largely discouraged bird watchers from visiting other locations in the island, they have been quite a few intrepid spirits that did so independently over a number of years.

Naturally they have recorded their findings (but sadly they have not published a book about it - at least not yet). We have been offered these recordings as ample evidence that VATERA and the surrounding area, is an equally ornithological rich location to keep you occupied for many hours and days and to set the record straight. By sharing with you the attributed recordings and virtual tours of these independent bird watchers in this web site you have more options for your first or repeat bird-watching trip to Lesvos.

We also hope this new information will be a small steptowards dispelling the prevailing myths and addressing the present imbalance / lack of information regarding bird watching in Vatera and the surrounding area.

Finally we are in a position to officially dispel the prevailing myth that bird watching at Lesvos is synonymous with the Wetland of Skala Kallonis.

The1999 –2002 birding reports published at our web site, written by the intrepid spirits (aka independent birdwatchers) who over the years for good reason have been basing themselves in Vatera, naturally attracted the attention of Dirk Raes, Belgian Ornithologist, accredited and leading nature and city guide. Since his youth birds, butterflies and forests have attracted him. He has guided bird watching and nature groups mostly in Europe, but also in Iran and Uzbekistan.

Due to his web site European colour-ring Birding ( www.cr-birding.be )  , he was invited by the
Emir of Bahrain to speak at The Arabian Ornithological and Conservation Conference in Bahrain, in 2000.

Dirk’s interest in Vatera lead to the successful launch by Vreemde Kontinenten (Belgian Tour Operator, who has been organising world-wide trips for 23 years) of bird watching and walking tours in Lesvos, starting as from April 2003 and using as base camp, the resort of Vatera.

In preparation of the April tours he undertook an advance research trip to Lesvos in January 2003.

You can read his trip report at: www.the-vatera-specialists.com/bw2003.htm 

In the mean time, we are offering additional information about the most popular locations within the Municipality of Polichnitos and their potential for rewarding bird watching.

1. Wetland at Salt Pans of Skala Polichnitos (6 hectares). In size they are one sixth of those at Skala Kallonis, however they are much more wetter in the autumn, thus attracting much better birds, in greater numbers. They are also a reliable wintering site for birds like the Greater Flamingo (noted to be very tame here), Great White Egret, Avocet, Black Stork, Pintail and Black-necked Grebe and many others. In addition they are the main stronghold for Redshank in Lesvos. The surrounding area can be very good for Rollers, Golden Orioles, Purple Heron, and Golden & Spur Winged Plover. On the 10th of April 2001 a concentration of more than fifty Red-throated Pipits here was impressive in a fairly poor year for the species on the island. It is also worth noting that on the 1st of May 2001 a party of more than thirty Red-footed Falcon were seen here. Nevertheless it is a fact that this area has not yet been checked out thoroughly, so it is safe to say that you could have sightings of birds that have not yet been recorded.

At the centre of Polichnitos town you can view and photograph the White Stork’s nest on the tall chimney of the old olive press (now converted to a theatre / conference facility). For many years now a pair of White Storks has taken up residence on the chimney, staying over even in the winter.

Skamnioudi & Alykoudi Pool. These two sites (very close to each other) are located on the coast of the Gulf of Kalloni, north of Skala Polichnitos. The mini Wetland at Alykoudi is capable of turning up as good a selection of waders at close range as almost anywhere else on the island. Large falls of several Yellow Wagtail species have been seen here posing beautifully amongst the wildflowers in company with various Chats, Tawny Pipit, and Stone Curlew etc. In January 2003, a large number of Greater Flamingos, 12 Mute Swans and 9 Whooper Swans were seen here.

Achladeri & Ancient Pyrra. Geographically they are the northest point of the Municipality of Polichnitos and only a 30 min drive north from Skala Polichnitos (beyond Skamioudi and Alykoudi). This area is now synonymous with Kruper’s Nuthatch and rich in very many other species, like Egrets (in the winter), Winchats, Stonechat, Cuckoo, Subalpine Warblers, Serin, Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Wheatears, Shrikes and Orphean Warblers. You can even see locally breeding Buzzard, Goshawk and possibly Sparrow hawk with Nightjar present in the late spring.

The Nyfida coast (with reasonable sized reedy pools), located south from Skala Polichnitos is a very good spot for viewing Shearwaters. Again this area has not yet been checked out thoroughly, so it is safe to say that you could have sightings of birds that have not yet been recorded.

The Bougazi Headland, further South from Nyfida this is a regular site for Cinereous Bunting, Grebes, Black-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Garganey, Plovers, Crakes, Kingfishers and many other species depending on conditions.

Vatera, located on the south coast of Lesvos & the Polichnitos Municipality is a veritable paradise for birds. Having a gentle bay with calm waters and a long fairly unspoiled beach, it encourages flocks of indigent and migrant birds all year around to take shelter and be observed in several locations around the resort and the wider area. It is not uncommon, in the early spring while you are taking a swim in the wonderful beach to hear the call of the Hoopoe and see it soaring in the sky. On the 11th of May 2001 a Sardinian Warbler and a Honey Buzzard were seen here as well as 400+ Mediterranean Shearwater moving offshore.

Almyropotamos River at West of Vatera The river mouth is gravely with little vegetation, but its favoured by Wagtails, Little Ringed Plover etc. The deep reedy pool to the left is much favoured by terrapins. A large number of turtles can be watched and fed at springtime along the riverbanks. Little Bittern, Crakes, Red-Rumped Swallows and Crag Martins are also regular visitors. The area to the left of Almyropotamos, which is interspersed with, rocks and scrub and bordering with green fields have produced Stonechat, Ruppell’s and Orphean Warblers, Wheatears and Serin.

Cape of Agios Focas, West of Vatera Having a protruding point into the sea it naturally attracts lots of migratory birds and it’s an excellent spot for sea watching. On the 15th of April 2001 there was a sighting of a Storm Petrel, only the second or third ever recorded at Lesvos. Whenever there is a southwesterly wind there is a pronounced movement of shearwaters. On the 17th of April 2001, 300 Yelkouan Shearwaters were seen heading west in the space of an hour. As late as the 12th of May 2001 four summer-plumaged Black Throated Divers were flying offshore.

Vourkos River at East of Vatera. The coastal road in Vatera leading to the east ends at the river and its good marshy area. A very quiet area, it turns up a fair proportion of the species recorded in the Kalloni area in spring – even breeding Rufus Bush Robins! At the gravel road, which links Kato Stavros and Ambeliko, in January 2003 some 100 Robins, a lot of Common Chaffinch, Winchat and Stonechat were recorded.

As Dirk Raes rightly points out, Vatera is the perfect location to use as base camp, not only because of the above under observed locations but also because of its mid-southern location, which allows you to reach very quickly the nearby Agiasos and Plomari areas, the Derbyshire and Kalloni Areas (45 min from Vatera) and even the capital Mytilini. Trips to Molyvos, Petra, Sigri and Eressos are achievable too within a day.

Also apart from Vatera being a less build up, much calmer location, (with less tourists than the Kalloni area), it’s also very handy for walks in the magnificent forests with the wild flowers and orchids.

BIRDWATCHING NEWS MAY 2003

The birdwatching season of 2003 (April – May) at Lesvos was not like any other. Some "unusual" events confirmed the opportunities for rewarding birdwatching at locations/sites at South Lesvos. Over the years the alleged experts, who favoured the better-known sites at Skala Kallonis, Central Lesvos, have largely overlooked these sites. We hope that the birding reports for the 2003 season will help the "word" to get about.

As I very often have been saying rewarding birdwatching at South Lesvos sites has been quietly taking place over the years by independent birdwatchers. The only thing that has not taken place concurrently (for various reasons) is the dissemination of information to those that want to know by those that were in a position to inform the birdwatching community.

Please note that before 2001, there was scant information published about the "rich" birdwatching opportunities at South Lesvos. The little information available mislead the reader to believe that birdwatching at South Lesvos was inconsequential and dare I say troublesome, in the greater scheme of things.

Since 2001 the Vatera Specialists have started the campaign to alter this false impression and present the full picture, by publishing independent birding reports from South Lesvos in this web site. This valuable information has been disseminated to other birdwatching sites and links have been established. This naturally will continue until our message gets through to all that would appreciate such information.

Here are some of the above mentioned unusual events (not necessarily in a priority order):

  • Richard Brookes was heard saying at Skala Kallonis that "….some of the best bird sightings this year happened at Vatera…." It remains to be seen, whether this conclusion as well as all the information from the Birding reports that were send to him during 2002 and the new birding reports (2003) that will be send to him shortly, will ever be included in the Lesvos Update 2003.
     
  • Richard Brookes visited Vatera in early May (rare event) to check out reported sightings of Tree Sparrows breeding together with House Sparrows at Almyropotamos ( West River – Vatera ) near the chapel of St Ekaterini and Crag Martins at the Vourkos River (East River – Vatera ) at the abandoned building site of the Skafidas Hotel.
     
  • Overcrowding at the well-known birdwatching sites at Skala Kallonis (and not only) frustrated many birdwatchers and group guides to theextend that they are allegedly considering alternative base options elsewhere for next spring’ s birdwatching tours.
     
  • Birdwatchers who were directed to the Napi Valley in search of the Olive Tree Warbler were very disappointed at the lack of sightings. It appears that large numbers of Olive Tree Warbler found it more hospitable to stay at Almyropotamos (West River) at Vatera, where they were seen consistently and in large numbers from the 20th of April to the 15th of May.
     
  • To the consternation of many, for the second year running, the hotels at Skala Kallonis were overbooked. This lead to a number of booked and fully paid up customers being shuttled between different accommodations. But even worse some other birdwatchers ("charter flight deals"), were re-located to accommodation at Skala Eressos, W.Lesvos, which is much to far from the best sites for birdwatching and nature walks (wild flowers/orchids ) at Lesvos.
  • Incidentally a section of a birdwatching report (referring to one day’s birdwatching - 06.05.2003, at the Wetlands of the Municipality of Polichnitos ) and written by a much esteemed regular British birdwatcher, who for a number of years uses Skala Kalloni as his base) "winged" its way to me, for inclusion in this web site. This information may well appear attributed to the author, in a "well known" publication regarding birdwatching in Lesvos or it may not. For reasons of etiquette we will not publish the name of the author, at this time. However we intend to do so at a later date.

    The report confirms what some of us have been saying for years, and it is included in this web site, in the exact manner that it was written by the author.

    …….VATERA - West River ( Almyropotamos)

    17 (!) Rollers arrived off the sea in singles, 2s or 3s between 7.30 and 8.15 a.m. Otherwise 20 Red-backed Shrikes, 12 pairs of Moorhen, 2 Little Crakes, 16 Winchats, 2 Purple Herons,1 Citrine Wagtail, 3 Whiskered Terns. The river is perfectly clean, free of rubbish and full of fish. The whole area would be perfect during an April "fall" of migrants, being a natural funnel from the South. 1 pair of Tree Sparrows breeding together with House Sparrows under the roof of a chapel just west of the river. 2 Corncrakes,1 sitting on a stone next to the track beside the river, 1 flushed from an olive grove. Olive Tree Warbler everywhere!

    AGIOS FOKAS

    No trouble with the Military. Singing Short-toed Lark. One hour sea watch 09.15 – 10.15 a.m. 1753 (!) Yelkouan Shearwaters NW, 1 Cory’s Shearwater W, 1 Andouin’s Gull, 1 Shag, Swallows and Swifts arriving

    VATERA - East River – (Vourkos)

    8 Little Bitterns, 2 Thrush Nightingales, 6 Red-backed Shrikes in adjacent fields

    SKALA POLICHNITOS

    Just 21 Ruff, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank, 2 Black-winged stilt, 2 Shelduck

    NEAR SKAMNIOUDI

    Flock of 26 Black-headed buntings and 30 flava wags (feldegg) on newly mowed meadow

    ALIKOUDI POOL (Found only thanks to 2002 ( Lesvos ) Update)

    5 Mute Swan, 1 Great White Egret, 35 Ruff, 4 Wood Sandpiper, 12 Little Stints

    ACHLADERI WOOD

    Kruper’s Nuthatch young have fledged and are hyperactive

    The news from the "birdwatching circles" this season is, that various "issues" have influenced many stalwart birdwatchers (who have been using Skala Kallonis as their base year after year) to consider changing their base for birdwatching in future seasons.

    We can confirm that at least one, well respected British Birding Tour Company has already made the necessary arrangements to change their base for their April 2004 Birding Tours from Skala Kallonis to Vatera, South Lesvos. As is customary, they will be publishing their new programme at the usual time of publication (September 2003). However should anyone wish to know details even earlier please contact us at: vatera51@hotmail.com 

    In the meantime keep checking this web site for more birding reports for Spring & Autumn 2003 from the Vatera – Polichnitos region.

    So, ring the changes and let’s see you in Vatera for this year’s bird watching!

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