Island of Kos 05th - 12th May 2005
This trip with Ornitholidays was
not our first choice (which was full) for this destination.
This was a new destination for the company and therefore it was not a
question of being taken to target species all the time - we had to find them
ourselves to some extent, which made the trip a bit more of a challenge
(although our amiable leader, Mike Witherick, a top ex-RSPB man, was highly
competent). As a consequence, our bird list of 111 species may be
regarded as a bit thin! An aspect,
which we usually avoid, are lunches in tavernas which take up a lot of birding
time compared with picnic lunches in the fields.
The weather was excellent and as a consequence, most migrants probably
passed over us!
1 Gatwick to Kos (Hotel & Lake)
A late lunch was taken at the
Hotel Palladium at Marmari and then we went to the nearby salt lake Alikes - the
only lake on the island. Here we
had a very close view from the minibus of an immature male Little
Bittern. The Lake always
contained up to 50 Greater Flamingos and 10 Ruddy
Shelducks. Waders, which
were present most days, usually in summer plumage, were Little
Stints, Curlew and Common
Sandpipers, Dunlins, Ruff,
Sandpipers and Turnstones all viewed down
to 10 yards. A single Grey
Plover was present today. Up
to eight Slender-billed Gulls were present daily
and could be observed to within 20 yards. On
occasions they appeared to be displaying by all quickly pecking at the mud
together and one adult at least had a pink tinge.
Up to 20 Whiskered,
10 Black, several White-winged
Terns and Gull-billed Terns were seen
feeding over the marshy fields around the hotel on most days, along with up to 5
Cattle and a few
Little Egrets. Many Yellow
Wagtails (mostly the Blue-headed flava)
were also feeding in the fields and occasionally one would fly up with a frothy
“shriee” call and was a Black-headed Wagtail
of the race feldegg.
Buntings were by the hotel and sang from perches throughout the week, as
did many Olivaceous Warblers within the hotel
There were always up to 10 Lesser
Kestrels around the hotel (with a few Common
Kestrels). The bluish wing
panel of the male was only very occasionally seen when the bird was perched. I was unclear whether these were resident or passing through,
probably the latter. A flock of 30
falcons in the distance turned out to be a mixture of Red-footed
Falcons (mostly males) and Lesser Kestrels.
At a distance both species had a similar jizz and were very elegant -
both gliding on drooped wings and eating insects using their feet like a Hobby.
I watched a Lesser Kestrel eating a vole
whilst on the wing. When hovering
the latter held its tail downwards compared to the Red-footed Falcon which held
its tail horizontally.
2 (Limestone Plateau & Old Pyli)
visited a limestone plateau, with deep wadis, to the west of Mastichari, which
had several rough tracks crossing it. Here
we saw about 10 Cretzschmar's Buntings and
Corn and Black-headed
Buntings were common.
A few Marsh
and Hen Harriers,
a Whinchat, Woodchat
Swifts and Red-rumped
Swallows were seen.
Oriole was close by in the open and another
mobbed a Cuckoo. Many Bee-eaters
were seen, along with several Rollers
- often perched on wires when one could drive right up beneath them.
Similarly, very close views of a male and female Red-footed
Falcons were obtained (and about ten others
Buzzards were probably at their nest site and
looked very pale brown (especially at rest) with a light coloured upper tail.
Wheatear and a Calandra
Lark (with the black neck patch) gave close
views as Short-toed Larks
sang in the background. A Squacco
Heron was down by the stream.
the pine "forest" at Plaka were feral Peacocks,
Tits and Greenfinches.
the afternoon we drove up to Old Pyli at the foot of the Dikheus Mountains.
Jackdaws were numerous here and there were a few Coal
Tits (scruffy compared to our neat birds), Great
Tits and many Spotted
and Chaffinches. A Scops Owl
called and then answered our tape. It
was quite windy and it was clear that Lesser
Kestrels liked these conditions in the
At the lake we had extremely
close views of a Collared Pratincole (red brown
underwing and thin white trailing edge) on the track and flying and also two Stone
Curlews on the track, which eventually flew off. A Kentish and Ringed
Plover and a sub-adult Audouin's Gull and
a few Pallid among many Common
Swifts were also new species.
3 (Empros Thermi & Psalidi & Zia)
A strong wind was blowing so we
went to the cliffs at Empros Thermi. No Eleonora's Falcons were seen but four pairs of Blue
Rock Thrush were very close together and were singing with a song rather
like that of a Mistle Thrush.
Retracing our route to Psalidi
we visited a small wetland reserve on the coast.
There were several Cory’s and Yelkouan
Shearwaters at sea and a Cormorant
together with an Audouin's Gull.
There were many Yellow and a few Black-headed
Wagtails and a Whinchat.
On the reserve there were Coots,
Moorhens, Reed Warblers,
Little Grebes and Bee-eaters
and a single Squacco Heron and male Garganey.
Returning via the Lake we
watched five (one immature) Audouin's and four Slender-billed
Gulls feeding close together.
After lunch we went up the
mountain to Zia where there were many Serins, Spotted
Flycatchers and Sardinian Warblers and
some good views of two Subalpine Warblers.
A tape of the Rüppell’s Warbler's song was immediately answered by Sardinian
and Subalpine Warblers.
Although the song of all these species sound very similar to my ears one
would have thought they would differentiate amongst themselves!
We had super views of a Long-legged
Buzzard close to a smaller raptor (about 2/3rds the length) with drooped
wings, which was probably a Honey Buzzard.
Also a Peregrine briefly showed along the
At the Lake the only newcomer
were two Sanderlings (one in summer, and the
other in winter, plumage).
4 (Kamari & Limestone Plateau)
We drove to the high hilly
promontory at the western end above Kamari.
Although the hoped-for Bonelli's
Eagle did not appear for sure (probably seen in the distance) a few Hobbies,
a Long-legged Buzzard and Lesser
Kestrels were seen. A pair
of stocky, brown, broad winged falcons, nearly as large as a nearby Common
Buzzard, were identified as Sakers.
A Raven and a Little
Owl were also new species. We
had more good views of Rollers including a
probable breeding pair.
On the way back we came over the
limestone plateau and saw about ten Rollers
(including four mobbing a Hoodie), 500 Bee-eaters,
five Woodchat Shrikes, two Northern
Wheatears and ten Black-eared Wheatears
(one singing was of the black-throated form) and a Snipe
was flushed from the stream.
Harriers, a female and an immature Hen Harrier
(it still had a white rump despite being clearly a male) hunted over the area.
A very pale-headed Red-footed Falcon put
up a Ruff in the middle of the island and we saw a probable second pair of Sakers.
Two pairs each of Common and Long-legged Buzzards and about six Hobbies
5 (Foothills of the Dikheus Mountains)
Before breakfast a visit to the
Lake gave us a Great Reed Warbler, Squacco
Heron and a small flock of Greenshank.
The morning was spent along the
foothills of the Dikheus Mountains. A few Scops Owls were heard
and we had distant views of a Bonelli's Eagle
perched on a rock and a little later briefly saw two together and a probable
food pass. Nightingales
were heard and seen, a pair of Stonechats, a Red-rumped
Swallow's nest was under a culvert, and several Cretzschmar's
Buntings sang. An Orphean
Warbler was heard (the song could be overlooked as a Song Thrush/
Nightingale/ Blackbird with so many other birds singing) and eventually close
views revealed a white eye ring. A
very smart (silver headed) Black-eared Wheatear
was seen and a few Subalpines were amongst the
many Sardinian Warblers.
A Hoopoe was heard.
flew by and a circling Long-legged Buzzard with
prey displayed overhead. We had
several views of Honey Buzzards with their
drooping wings, sometimes briefly and slightly upturned and then flicked down in
a characteristic manner.
In the evening we visited a
nearby quarry where there were two Rollers and a Chukar
Partridge. Suddenly a
calling Great Spotted Cuckoo appeared and posed
on the top of some bushes. The
first good view I have ever had of one.
The evening meal was based on
Ancient Greek dishes and we all agreed the roast lamb with prunes, apricots and
honey was superb. The friendly,
family-run Hotel Palladium was excellent and conveniently close to the
productive Lake Alikes.
6 (Nisyros Island)
After seeing a Night
Heron before breakfast, we made our way to Kardamena on the south coast.
On the way (about half an hour) at least 10 Rollers
Here we went aboard a boat (10 Shags
just outside the harbour) to Nisyros Island (about 70 minutes) but calm seas
meant no Shearwaters and only distant views of Eleonora’s
Falcons and Long-legged Buzzards.
We walked up to the castle and
it was a treat to spot ten Subalpine Warblers without
having to sift through many Sardinian Warblers as on previous days.
Close views of two Orphean Warblers were
obtained - one feeding young and the other in display flight, singing with a
mixture of warbler and flutey notes (the outer white tail feathers were well
seen). A few Blue Tits were
On the way up to the volcanic
caldera were two Blue Rock Thrushes.
At the caldera we had excellent close views of an Eleonora’s
Falcon (pale morph) showing the black coverts and paler primaries; about
six others were seen more distantly. A
White Wagtail, a Northern
Wheatear, Cretzschmar's Bunting and more Subalpine Warblers were also seen.
There were many Bee-eaters, some Red-rumped
Swallows and Alpine Swifts and a flock of Turtle
Doves. The caldera also had
a colony of Lesser Kestrels.
After landing back at Kardamena
we entered a nearby valley and saw two Chukars, Cretzschmar's
Buntings and heard a Scops Owl.
Overhead a Honey Buzzard and a Hobby
flew by and two Rollers interacted with a Jackdaw.
7 (Limestone Plateau)
breakfast, in a small marsh near the hotel, we watched a male Little
Bittern warming itself in the sun, together
with a Night Heron,
Little and Cattle
Egrets and several Wood
Sandpipers viewed down to 5 yards.
As the week progressed the marsh became smaller by dumped gravel as a
road was built close by and soon will be no longer.
Pity! A Golden Oriole
visited the limestone plateau again but this was somewhat thwarted by the
military. However, we did well,
spotting more Rollers
(including a pair rolling) and another Great
A male Red-foot,
Hobby and an Eleonora’s
Falcon flew overhead.
After each flyover, there was much discussion about which species had
been seen but it was very difficult to be sure!
The usual Buzzards and Harriers were seen and also a Little
Ringed Plover on the shore.
at Mastichari was enlivened by a line of 28 adult Mediterranean
Gulls, all in perfect summer plumage and
making their distinctive “Yeah” calls whilst flying overhead.
A very fine sight indeed.
the Lake we had a new bird - a Temminck's Stint
and also a close view of an oiled one, and the Slender-bills
were now up to eight in number.
Bittern and Night Heron were seen before
breakfast and then we explored the area west of Pyli.
Eight sightings of Rollers were made,
about our daily average, and there was the usual backdrop of Buzzards and
falcons. The only new bird was a Red-backed
Vic and I assumed on Day 1 at Gatwick that our birding activities would be somewhat restricted when we estimated the age of two of the ladies in the party to be about 90 (the oldest was 93!). In practice they were most accommodating and were delightful ladies. I cannot imagine myself at 93 getting up at 2am to catch a plane and still be in good humour at 10pm (really two hours later than this) later in the day! An example to us all!