Of course, there are more than 2 reasons to visit the island of Lesvos! Lesvos has a vast and varied landscape which hosts numerous species of fauna and flora, but mainly it is established as one of the premier birding destinations within the Mediterranean basin. It combines strong wave of bird migration with several key species which can be otherwise difficult to see elsewhere in Europe.
So I decided a few years ago to pay a 3 days visit in late April, totally devoted to birding and bird photography. In a short visit like that, you have to plan everything and to have decided what are your main target species. As I ‘m living on Crete and also have birdwatched all over mainland Greece, it was easy to choose which birds I wanted to photograph: Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea) and Kruper’s Nuthach (Sitta krueperi). Mid- to late April is probably the best time to catch up with two of the main target breeding species, so timing was perfect.
Cinereous Buntings at late April are back on territory in the western, dry part of the island. It is one of the least known Western Palearctic buntings and it is a summer visitor to Turkey and Greece. In Greece it only known from the islands Lesbos, Chios and Skyros where its breeding habitat is open rocky hillsides down to sea level with a low, rather sparse cover of low shrubs, but it may also use areas with isolated trees, such as Pinus brutia, or taller bushes. On passage, it occurs on stony and rocky slopes/hillsides with low annual grasses and bushes, chiefly in desert uplands, with a few cultivated patches. It appears also to occur on passage in lowland deserts. In winter the Cinereous Bunting occurs in dry open country with short grass, semi-desert, low rocky hills, bare cultivated land, or shrubby areas, often in dry coastal areas.
Kruper’s Nuthatch is very active at that time since the first broods will have hatched and both parents will be busy collecting food and regularly seen at the nest. The species is endemic to Europe, where it is found in Greece (on the island of Lesbos; 50-200 pairs), Turkey, Georgia (present) and Russia. It is confined to coniferous woodlands and breeds in lower middle latitudes of west Palearctic in warm dry Mediterranean and montane regions, ranging in Turkey up to 2500, but locally down to sea-level.
I was able to locate both species and I was very happy for these 2 “lifers”. I took some decent photos, but I certainly need to schedule soon a new trip to Lesvos. Now that I know better where to look I must try for better photos of both of them, but this is not the only reason. Lesvos’ nature is breathtaking and the 3 day I lived there offered me many exciting moments. Definetely, my next stay will be much longer!!!
Anastasios Sakoulis was born at Athens in 1966, but he springs from the small village Hioniades, Ipirus, northwestern Greece. He studied forestry at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and during his student years he got interested in studying wildlife and nature photography. All these years he worked for important bird conservation projects that gave him the oppurtunity to meet Greece’s natural beauties and biodiversity. The project that changed his life was the Life project for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture at Greece that brought him at Crete. Today he is living on the island, since 1999, studying and photographing its nature.