Lesvos a bird-photographers paradise

 Lesvos is a Greek island in the Eastern Aegean sea. For many birdwatchers, bird photographers and other nature lovers known as a paradise. Lesvos is as said a Greek island and is also the largest of the Aegean Islands. It is an island with an ancient and rich history. Starting from the 10th century, the Aeolian Greeks a high civilization developed that peaked in the antique era. In the 4th century BC is Lesvos under Macedonian domination. In 88 BC is Lesvos subject to the Romans and to the State under Byzantine rule 1151. From 1204 to 1461 Lesvos is dominated by various countries . In 1462 it comes under the reign of Turkey. Lesvos remains under Turkish reign until 1912 and only recently, in1922 Lesvos is officially incorporated into the Greek State. The island has approx. 90000 inhabitants, who with their number are beïng overpowered by the 12,000,000 olive trees on the island. It is clear that a large part of the income of the population comes from the olives and its oil. Although nowadays the Ecotourism also has great possibilyties. Lesvos has rich folk traditions such as the potteries, wood carving and folk architecture. The capital, Mytilini, has the only airport of the island and in this city one can visit many museums.

Some further points of interest on the island are; the petrified forest in Sigri, where petrified trees are of up to 3 meters in scale. This forest was created after a volcano eruption roughly 15 million years ago. There are also many therapeutic springs on the island. The Roman aqueduct of Moria, the harbour of Petra, and the Church of Panagia Glykofilousa from the 18th century are all worth a visit. It is said that during the Trojan war, Achilles and his fleet rested on Lesvos. Along many places on the coast it's good swimming and diving. The beaches at Thermi are very popular.

The temperature on Lesvos in the period April, May and June ranges from varies from 7/10 in the night to 23/28 degrees on daytimes. Depending on the wind, there are many bird species coming to Lesvos at night. Birds such as Black-headed Bunting and Bee-eaters are not beïng seen during the day, but if you wake up in the morning they suddenly appear everywere. If there is strong wind some birds will fly over the island without stopping by. The island is in the months of April, May and June the most attractive for the various nature lovers. The bird photographers and bird watchers come in on the last week of April till the end of May. In these weeks most migration of the birds from the East come to Lesvos. Also the species that brood on Lesvos are back to the island and begin to occupy their territories. After June its a lot quieter on the island and it is often too hot to be active. In July the real holidaymakers come to the island and for the nature lovers there is nothing left to find.

90% of the photographers are shooting from their car what gives the best shelter. Most species on Lesvos are not really shy and fairly approachable. The Krüper's Nuthatch and the Scops Owl must be approached on foot, but are generally not shy.

The island has for the photographer many opportunities culminating in the East and near the town of Skala Kalloni Westriver and Kalloni-pool. Eastriver has in two places a Ford. This is a concrete path thru the river where you can cross over by car. If you are lucky you can photograph from the pont many species of waders and Herons. Kalloni-pool is a marshy area on the outside of the village and in good years one can find many bird spiecies, even from the surrounding hotels, one can spot many birds. What should be mentioned is the fact that no year on Lesvos is the same as the year before, and there is, for example, with dry winters in Kalloni-pool nothing to see because it dried up. In good years in which it has been wet in the winter and a lot of waterhas filled the swamps, streams and rivers, the flower, insects and birdlife is abundant. Many bird field localitions that are mentioned in this article are in English because an Englishman (Richard Brooks) renamed Greek names in his book on Lesvos. This Richard Brooks is a photographer and has Lesvos put on the map at birding Europe. He has been visiting Lesvos in 1990 after a tip of a friend and eversince he went here every year (till he retired)

In May 1991, he visited Lesvos for the first time and was very impressed by the abundant bird life and the plant growth. Many types of orchis including very rare one can be found on the island. The Englishman Steve Dudley has taken Richards place and continued his work.

Luc Hoogenstein has released a Dutch written travel guide and in March 2016, the Crossbill Guides of Lesvos comes out. This guide describes the bird field localitions accurately. There are also beautiful walks with places where one can find orchis. A good map of Lesvos makes birding much easyer.

Some places just outside Kalloni where one can find good birding/photographing places are: Kalloni Inland lake, many heron species, songbirds, turtles and the rare Little Crake. Upper East River, (Asian Stone Partridge, Rufous Fantail, Western Rock Nuthatch). Kalloni Salt Pans (Red-throated Pipit, Black Stork, Flamingo) and Potamia Valley (Subalpine Warbler). Other good places; The road between Sigri and Eressos at the Ipsilou monastery which is known for its Blue Rocktrush and Asian Grey Squirrel.

The area of Derbyshire and Achladeri. (Krüper's Nuthatch)

Skala Polichnitos and its surroundings. (Little Bittern, Squacco Heron)

The East coast between Madamados and Myttilini. (Many species of birds)

The North-East coast between Petra and Molivos. (Rúpels Warbler)

The North-Western coast between Petra and Anaxos. (Blue Rock Thrush, Red-Footed Falcons)

South of Parakila (Devil's Bridge). Separate species such as Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Ortolan Bunting and Black-eared Wheatear are found at the higher rocky areas. The Scops Owl is very hard to find, but you do hear him at night when its quiet, especially around Skala Kalloni, where he is to be found in plane trees along the parking lot of the school. Some years there are breeding Middle spotted Woodpecker in these trees aswell.

Outside all those wonderful bird species there is also plenty to enjoy on the field of flower, such as the many fields of Poppies and Daisies. The Caspian and European Pond turtle both lives here. Snake-eyed Lizard, Harduun and Sheltopusik can be seen on the rocks when they warming up in the morning. The Tree Frog is found in the reeds along the marshes. Also many Dragonflies and butterfly species are found but these species are more seen in May and June.

The undersigned has personally much information obtained from his unfortunately too early deceased colleague Arie de Knijff, who along with his brother Peter and sister-in-law Mariëtte Hoffer visited Lesvos as one of the first Dutch photographers. Many thanks is also owed to the couple Henk and Lia van Harskamp that have given me many useful tips.

Car rental is best done in your own country and picked up at the airport when you arrive. A car is advisable if you want to visit all the places that are described. Public transport is also possible, but is not always reliable. Reservations are required spring because since ecotourism has taken a flight, there is almost no place in the months of April and May. So book on time or book at a travel companie. There are many companies that organise special bird watching activities and they bring you on the most beautiful places of the island by bus or 4wheeldrive. These activities are mostly all-in and in the evening you talk to other people about the species you saw.The photographers among the readers will probably prefer to travel alone or with two. Also you can rent an apartment in the area and join the evening buffets of the various hotels for a small fee. In the port of Skala Kalloni is still an authentic bakery that bakes bread in wood-fired ovens, open from 7 o'clock in the morning.

Hopefully this article has inspired you to go visit this magnificient island in the Aegean Sea, and I wish you much fun!

© Written by Dick Hoogenboom,

© Photograpy by Mira Diels and Dick Hoogenboom.