Monday, May 14, 2007

Lesvos trip report 25 April - 2 May 2002

Lesbos trip report

25 April – 2 May 2002

A Speyside Wildlife holiday with Steve Dudley and Mark Newall

Sorry no photos - see here

Day 1. Mark and Steve meet the group off their 6.30am flight at Mytillini Airport. Everyone’s tired after their overnight lights and Mark and Steve have also been up since 4am in order to get last weeks group to the airport for 6am check-in. The 35km drive to Skalla Kallonis is quick and quiet as sleep catches up on most. Arriving at the hotel we have a quick breakfast before checking everyone into their rooms and a morning’s rest before meeting up again for lunch.

After lunch, we head down to the Kolloni II Pools. We get as far as the hotel gateway before stopping to check on the White Stork nest on a nearby rooftop. The huge structure is perched on one end of roof and looks just like a chimney. One bird is sat on the nest and another is seemingly asleep on a nearby telegraph pole. We walk down the road to the pools to the sound of singing Greenfinch and Corn Bunting. We hadn’t even got sight of water when a Little Bittern is seen flying in to a roadside tamarisk bush ahead of us. The bird typically vanishes. We reach the first wet patch. The mud right in front of us is alive with ‘yellow’ wagtails, Wood Sandpipers and Crested Larks. Its now that the only rule of the week is explained to everyone – the Brown Rule! If its brown and on the ground, it’s a Crested Lark. If its brown and on a wire, it’s a Corn Bunting. And if its brown and near water, it’s a Wood Sandpiper. After Sunday, Mark and Steve would refuse to identify Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and Wood Sands!

Looking over the pool in front of us its difficult to know where to start – there are birds everywhere! The brown Wood Sandpipers and Crested Larks are soon looked over for the brighter birds around us. The abundance of yellow wagtails come in all head colours and shades of yellow and green. The two commonest types found in Lesbos are looking up at us and are relatively easy to remember. Those with all black heads are Black-headed Wagtails and those with pastel blue heads and white ‘eyebrows’, Blue-headed Wagtails. The duller females are dismissed as all but the female Black-headed are virtually impossible to tell apart.

Looking to the patch of water beyond the wagtails, there are a group of Black-winged Stilts taking an afternoon doze. Sat amongst the stilts’ forest of bubble-gum legs are a couple of male Garganey – looking all resplendent with their gleaming white head stripes. ‘Little Bittern!’ Steve shouts as a female flies low across the marsh and lands in view midway up a bush. Scopes are soon put into action before it has chance to slope off in typical bittern fashion. But she decides it’s nice in the sun and sits out for us all to enjoy at our leisure. The sky above the pools is thick with hirundines like an aerial soup! A Common Snipe is found lurking in the back reed edge and the scopes are repositioned to study this often overlooked bird. Steve then spies a White-winged Black Tern coming in from the north. Everyone is able to get on to this stunning marsh tern as it lazily flies low over the pools and straight through. ‘That was wonderful’ comments Joy, ‘I’d like to see more of them’ she adds. Without catching our breath, three more terns are picked up flying along the southern side of the pool. ‘Gull-billed’ shouts Mark. Again everyone is able to get on to these larger terns, with heavy, short, black, gull-like bills and black caps, before they too head off. As Steve and Mark begin to show the group the two terns in the book, Mark looks up to see four Collared Pratincoles. Unfortunately they fly straight through and in to the sun, so only their unique shape can be seen with little plumage detail discernible. We look back over the pools to see a male Little Bittern doing a full fly-pass showing off his bold wing patches before disappearing into the reeds. A Balkan green lizard is seen running across the road and on to a low wall where it stops for us to enjoy its stripy green and yellow patterning. A Whiskered Tern is next to appear. Another of the marsh terns, this elegant sooty looking bird with gleaming white cheeks and dark cap, gives us a prolonged performance as it passes back and forth, occasionally swooping to pick prey off the surface of the water. Another male Little Bittern flies past followed by a female. A near adult Purple Heron then rises from the reeds before flapping off to the east. Its huge size, dark colour, bulging neck and tangle of toes are all clear to see. Then the first of three Squacco Heron’s is found on the edge of the near pool. This small golden-brown heron is a real delight, and no sooner as we all get on to it and it takes flight and the transformation from brown ground bird to a ghostly white flying bird is amazing. Wow! We are in heron heaven! Andjust to emphasise it, another couple of Little Bitterns are found perched up in a tamarisk bush! And another two are visible in the short reeds, and another two at the back of the pools. How many are there? With several more in flight, we have a minimum of nine (!) Little Bitterns. Wow!! A couple of male Shoveler are quickly lookedover, as are the pair of Teal (although the latter are a tick for a Speyside group on Lesbos!). A female Little Crake is then found creeping below the tamarisk bush with the Little Bitterns in it. This tiny crake performs brilliantly as we all get great views. A grass snake is then seen swimming across the bottom of the pool right next to us and Steve manages to spot one of the more vocal marsh frogs amongst the floating pool vegetation. Steve gets his scope on to it as it continues to croak, inflating and deflating its cheeks for all to enjoy. ‘ALB’ remarks Joy rather dismissively as yet ‘another Littler Bittern’ flies past. Mark then points skywards to another Collared Pratincole. This time we have the sun behind us, and we are able to clearly see the main features of white rump and trailing edges to the wings and the contrast in the wings. Like too many of the afternoons birds it continues straight over without landing. Steve then spies the Whiskered Tern sat amongst the Black-winged Stilts on the marsh. Scopes aimed at the bird, and we are able to take a real close look at this great looking marsh tern with its sturdy dark red bill. Another snake is spotted swimming through the pools and the week’s first Red-rumped Swallows appear in the myriad of hirundines over the pools. Little Bitterns continue to leap out in front of us from all directions and Sedge Warblers are zipping from reed to reed, rarely allowing us to get our bin on them.

Its taken us over two hours to walk the few hundred yards to the beach! Here we enjoy good views of Common Tern and distant views of Yellow-legged Gull and a single first-summer Sandwich Tern – quite a scarce spring record. Steve picks up six Avocets swimming distantly on the sea. We head off down towards West River and are greeted by the ever-present Cetti’s Warbler guarding the road junction. In the fields beyond, at least four Whinchat are dotted along the fence and a male Woodchat Shrike is found, to be joined by a female. This smart shrike brings a real Mediterranean flavour to the afternoon. On the saltmarsh opposite a couple of Little Ringed Plovers chase one another and our first Kentish Plovers is found. Steve explains that these smart little birds are called ‘KP Nuts’ as they like most plovers they have a tendency to go bananas when another plover trespasses into its patch. And true to form, our KP then goes nuts as another male lands close by, and it speeds off on its long legs like something out of a cartoon! A Common Buzzard is picked up distantly and soon forgotten about when Mark spots a Stone-curlew sat out on the marsh. Little Egberts (egrets) can be seen in every direction, and working our way through the army of Ruff, we pick out three Curlew Sandpipers, all in fine summer plumage (which is more that can be said for the Ruff!) and a handful of stints. Steve begins to scrutinise the stints. Little, Little, Little – ah – Temminck’s! The sun isn’t brilliant, but even so, the longer rear end, uniform colour including complete dark chest band, greenish legs and longish decurved bill are all visible. Ian then shouts harrier. Panning his scope right following Ian’s direction Steve hits on a Common Bittern just as it drops out of view! No one else managed to get on it. Looking in vain at where it disappeared, a female Marsh Harrier does drift across our view over the distant reeds.

Times getting on and we all wearily drag ourselves away from this bonanza of birds back to the hotel and for dinner. We’ve all seen so many birds its hard to believe that this is still only the first day!

Day 2. We wake to a cool, bright morning, but with no clouds, it is soon beginning to warm by the time we leave the hotel at 9am. Our first stop is the oddly named Derbyshire. We park and prepare to go for a walk along the track running below a scrubby hillside. No sooner than we have got our scopes out of the vans, when Rae spots a small warbler on the top of the hill. Steve swings his scope on to it. ‘Rüppell’s!’ he shouts. ‘It’s a bloody male Rüppell’s!’. Mark is soon on to it, and the group gather behind Steve’s and Mark’s scopes to get a view as it sits out in the open singing. The bird disappears and the other scopes are readied for its reappearance. Mark explains how unusual it is to find Rüppell’s Warbler here and the reason for Steve’s total surprise at being confronted with a singing male Rüppell’s here. The bird reappears briefly and all but two members of the group get good scope views before it vanishes and no further sign despite a lengthy wait. During the wait though a male Woodchat appears and the odd Spanish Sparrow is picked up amongst the House Sparrows on the hillside above us. Two Agama lizards vie for attention as they bask in the strong sun when a single Red-rumped Swallow appears briefly over us and a stunning male Masked Shrike makes a brief appearance on wires behind us before making off for the cover of the hillside. A couple of male Subalpine Warblers raise pulses as we search for the Rüppell’s, but neither hang around or give good views. ‘Black Stork!’ is shouted, and looking seawards a stunning adult flaps past only a couple of hundred yards away. The light is perfect, and the intensity of the glowing red bill and legs is unreal. Then a second bird lifts up from the right and we are treated to a repeat performance! An adult Purple Heron passes from the opoosite direction and this too looks stunning in this brilliant light. Whilst looking out to sea, a handful of Little Terns are picked up flying past and a Common Sandpiper is spotted on the nearby marsh when a first-summer male Marsh Harrier drifts past. There is a steady stream of Common Swifts heading north, and wave after wave Swallows and House Martins. A walk along the track produces Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, a few Whinchat, Blue and Great Tits and distant views of Short-toed Eagle and Common Buzzard. It’s impossible not to enjoy the array and colour of the wild flowers which included a large stand of heart-flowered serapias.

On to the Derbyshire Outcrop, and we are greeted by a several Ruddy Shelduck. Three birds in flight head off, flashing their vivid white wing patches, but two birds remain on the ground for us to enjoy. A single Great White Egret struts between the Little Egrets and five Mute Swans. It’s easy to appreciate the Great White’s greater size and yellow bill at such close range and how similar it looks in structure to the nearby Grey Heron. A couple of Kentish Plovers run around the beach pools and a small group of Linnets flyover before three Short-toed Larks fly in noisily, landing right in front of us. From our slightly elevated position, we get great views of what is too often dismissed as just another LBJ. These adults sport bright rufous crowns, gleaming eyebrows and their triangular neck patches. A superb male Black-headed Wagtail sits up on a dead stick and soon attracts our attention.

We move on to Achladeri and arriving at the car park see that two other groups are already in the trees ahead of us. We take our time readying ourselves, and enjoy superb views of a singing Woodchat and our first Black-eared Wheatear – a stunning black-throated bird. We move in to the wood and gingerly make our way past the other two groups who have staked out a Krüper’s Nuthatch nest site. We walk on up through the wood to an open area. Within minutes a Krüper’s Nuthatch can be heard calling up to our right. Mark picks up a nuthatch feeding in a near pine. Most get on to it before it flits off. Krüper’s Nuthatch calls ring out from the slope in front of us, and it isn’t long before two birds appear in front of us, flitting tit-like from tree to tree. The next ten minutes are really frustrating as the birds bounce around in front of us giving only the briefest of glimpses and not settling. Mark manages to follow one bird as it disappears up the slope away from us and watches it disappear on the side of a tree. He’s found the nest! We position the scopes on the nest tree (we can’t quite make out the hole which looks as if it is on the side of the trunk ninety degree on to us). We take it in turns to stand at the scopes awaiting the two returning birds as they make regular visits to the nest with food and often leaving with a feacal sack to dispose of. Those of us with bins enjoy great views as the birds collect food from the trees immediately around us. Hunger gets the better of us and we reluctantly retreat back through the trees. We get no further than the stream when Steve stops us to enjoy cracking views of a XXX dragonfly sat on the bare stones ahead of us. Standing here two Hoopoes are spotted flying through the trees to our left and a few get a glimpse of a Jay. We get a few yards further on before being stopped by a family party Short-toed Treecreepers. The birds perform brilliantly as the adults stuff beakfuls of insects down hungry throats. On one tree three treecreepers form a procession as two hungry young chase after their parent.

Back at the car park, we tuck into our packed lunch with entertainment provided by the male Woodchat and Black-eared Wheatear. Only a couple of the group notice the Common Buzzard overhead. Sarah then finds a dung beetle which is rolling a perfectly round ball of dung. The group gathers, and after reversing one of the vans from its path, we enjoy a comical performance as the beetle rolls its dung ball across the stoney ground. Every time it met an obstacle, it would jump up on top of the dung ball to survey the path before jumping back down and expertly navigating its way around each of the offending obstacle.

Returning back past the Derbyshire Outcrop we stop briefly to enjoy super close views of a Black Stork. The iridescent green on the birds head, and the ‘painted’ red of the bill, face and legs are all marvelled at.

We arrive at the East River and our first close views of Yellow-legged Gull. The sun is behind us and the light is brilliant and five Glossy Ibis look stunning in their copper and green plumage. Mark picks up a small wader running around the mud under the Wood Sands. It’s a Temminck’s Stint, and much closer and in much better light than last nights bird. We quietly creep out of the vans to erect our tripods and enjoy his great little calidrid through the scopes. Looking around the many patches of mud we soon find another three Temminck’s, each being chased by Wood Sand! Don then turns our attention to a Great Reed Warbler bouncing around the tangle of dead trees in the middle of the trickling river. It looks enormous out in the open as it passes a Sedge Warbler. ‘Text book perfect’ remarks Joy with a beaming smile in appreciation of the stunning views of this monster of a warbler. A large stripe-necked terrapin is seen hauling itself out on to a mud bank as the liquid ‘prruutt’ calls of Bee-eaters are heard above us. Looking up Mark points out two birds circling among Common Swifts and frustratingly heading away from us. Next up is an Olivaceous Warbler singing from a tiny bush below us. Scopes soon target this rather featureless ‘hippo’ warbler, but with increased magnification, the structure and colour can be appreciated a little better (!) and Don’s shout of White Stork goes largely unnoticed as most enjoy great views of our first ‘Oli’. Neil picks up a cream a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier above the hill opposite and a Common Sandpiper is glimpsed bobbing around below the road bridge.

We move on and park the vans and head off further upstream on foot. Our first find is a distant Long-legged Buzzard, which Rae spotted distantly, but as we watch it begins to work the ridge opposite, heading towards. It eventually gives itself up to superb scope views as it hangs in the wind above the ridge. We can now see all its plumage and how big and eagle-like this large buzzard is. Steve comments how Red Kite-like in general colour it looks. Steve then picks up two falcons – ‘Red-foots!’ he shouts. Everyone looks across to the ridge opposite to see two falcons coming across the valley, and as they pass overhead, the blue-grey colour and red trousers can be seen. We search the rocky slope above us for passerines and Mark soon picks up a Rock Nuthatch. It is very active bobbing up and down and hopping from rock to rock. Everyone at least catches up with it with bins as it works across the slope. At one point it is seen to catch a large green cricket and hack at it in typical nuthatch fashion (well at least it must have been a quick death!). Steve meanwhile pre-empts the nuthatch and positions his scope on a nest he and Mark found earlier. Sure enough, the nuthatch appears at the nest and is joined by a second bird. Both birds then begin to too-and-fro from the nest and are actively repairing the entrance hole. Wow! A very tatty Peregrine drifts over the valley and a single Lesser Kestrel plays cat and mouse as it appears every now and then over the opposite ridge. Mark then finds a Cuckoo perched upon the opposite side of the valley which performs very well as it feeds and occasionally being mobbed by various passerines. Mark then spots a ring-tail Montagu’s Harrier over the opposite hillside and everyone is able to get good views as it works back and forth before heading off upstream. Two Red-rumped Swallows make a brief appearance over the river before we head back to the vans and driving out we pick up two Squacco Herons lurking in the bankside vegetation.

We end the day on the West River and all too typically brief views of a Fan-tailed Warbler (or Zitting Cisticola as some of us prefer – and as it is in the book!) as one flits from stem to stem before disappearing completely. We had already enjoyed great views of Black Stork earlier in the day, but these were blasted away as a full adult rose within a few yards of us and the whole group just stood in absolute awe as it flapped by us – absolutely crippling views! You could almost feel the whoosh of air with every wingbeat! Unbelievable! Not to be outdone, a stunning male Montagu’s Harrier then glided lazily by us on the opposite side. With such close views in brilliant light the barring on the upperwing and underwing were clearly visible. An adult Whiskered Tern tried hard to vie for attention, but lost out to a winter plumaged Red-throated Pipit that Mark found sat amongst ‘yellow’ wagtails on the nearby wire fence and three more birds flew directly overhead calling their distinctive high-pitched, drawn out ‘speee’ calls. We return to the hotel and for those not totally birded out, they have an hour or so to explore the Kalloni Pools before dinner.

Day3. No time for pre-breaky birding for most, as its an early start as we are off to the enjoy the delights of western Lesbos for the day. As we load up the vans, a Night Heron does a quick fly-by on its way to roost in nearby trees.

Our first stop is at Limonos where we stop with a view overlooking the fantastic monastery. A Subalpine Warbler song-flights right in front of us, but only gives tantalising views when it lands. A male Cretzschmar’s Bunting is much more obliging as it sings in full view in the sun from the top of a nearby bush. Steve then looks up to see two Bee-eaters high over the hillside behind us, but they disappear as sharply as they appeared. The hillside below us is alive with birds as Mark soon picks out a superb male Red-backed and another male and a female are soon located. The group also enjoy the ‘extra’ birds running around the monastery grounds (Peacock, Rhea, Ostrich and Chicken!).

We arrive at the Grand Canyon and Mark immediately locates a singing male Black-eared Wheatear on the rocks directly above us and just to the left of it is a male Subalpine Warbler singing from the overhead wires. Mark then spies a Wood Warbler in the valley just below us, and the bird performs really well feeding in an oak tree, occasionally hovering to pick insects from the outer leaves. ‘Woodpecker!’ someone shouts, and looking across the valley, a Middle-spotted Woodpecker disappears into a tree on the opposite side and can’t be relocated. A Long-legged Buzzard appears over the distant crags as Mark picks up a similarly distant Crag Martin which frustratingly proves impossible to get the group on to. Steve then picks up a Blue Rock Thrush on the crags but it promptly disappears before we could get the scopes on to it. Mark then finds something we can all enjoy! A superb Short-toed Eagle hanging over the opposite hill and drifts slowly along the ridge allowing everyone to get good scope views. Steve than drags the group back to look for the Blue Rock Thrush as two birds are courtship flighting off the crags. They frustrate everyone with brief flight sorties and occasional perched views and no one really gets a good look at them. A Rock Nuthatch makes a brief appearance on the main crag and is a welcome diversion from the increasingly frustrating views of Blue Rock Thrush. A male Cretzschmar’s Bunting then pops up on the wires above us gives us a grand performance of its rather short and monotonous song. Steve then picks up a Blue Rock Thrush right on the crag just above us. At last we get stunning views of a male perched as it starts song flighting. It launches itself off the rock-face and with wings and tail fully spread as swoops back to the jagged rocks whilst delivering its melodic song. A Crag Martin then gatecrashes proceedings and people don’t know what to look at – the Crag Martin floats between us and the rock-face and the song flighting Blue Rock Thrush! Incredible! Blue Rock Thrush wins the contest as scopes are again lined up to enjoy it’s iridescent blue plumage. The Blue Rock Thrush disappears and we look round for the Crag Martin. Its gone! ‘No its here’ shouts Mark, pointing up the valley, and we enjoy stunning views as it swoops around showing off its little tail spots and eventually gives itself totally and comes right overhead and flies around with the two Red-rumped Swallows that have been bombing about throughout. A Long-legged Buzzard is appears over the other side of the valley and lazily drifts along the ridge and then suddenly lands on a open rock. Scopes are grabbed and aimed at the raptor and we all enjoy good perched views of this eagle-like buzzard. The lush valley below is almost forgotten about, but our brief glimpses produce Long-tailed Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Jay. Golden Orioles can be heard singing downstream, and Steve glimpses three males disappearing into distant trees never to be seen again. We reluctantly drag ourselves away from this bird-filled valley and head off westwards.

An unscheduled stop is between the Erossos/Ipsilou junction and Ipsilou Monastery when Steve’s van picks up a male Isabelline Wheatear. Steve radios Mark who reverses back but the bird has gone, but we enjoy two male Northern Wheatears chasing each other round the boulder strewn hillside.

We arrive at Sigri and the seafront is unusually quiet. We head off down the road towards Fanoromeni Ford when we come across small field alive with birds. An adult Lesser Grey Shrike takes stop billing as it hunts from the top of a nearby fog tree, swooping down to ground to grab beetles and crickets. A Woodchat Shrike is hunting from the fenceline behind, and on the opposite side of the field, a male Red-backed Shrike is found feeding from the lower branches of another fig tree. Spotted and Pied Flycatchers feed from the same tree along with a lone Blackcap. A Long-legged Buzzard appears high overhead, followed by three superb Short-toed Eagles and a more distant Hobby. A Common Kestrel is feeding from the nearby telegraph poles and a second kestrel appears behind us – it’s a Lesser Kestrel! And its chasing a bat! A big bat at that, all black with really long broad wings, much bigger than the noctule bats of the UK – about starling sized. The Lesser Kestrel though is no match for the bat, and eventually gives up after countless twists and turns of the aerial combat. Continuing down the track, we pass a couple more Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes and a cream-crown Marsh Harrier before stopping by the pond when an unfamiliar song is being belted out from a nearby bush. We soon locate the culprit – a superb male Orphean Warbler. No sooner as we get onto him and he’s off back up the track and out of view. We jump out of the vans to relocate it and see more Short-toed Eagles overhead being mobbed by a Raven. Then Ian picks up two birds in the distance which Mark immediately identifies as pratincoles. They whirl around in the distance as we struggle to see all the features but eventually agree they are both Collared and not the hoped for Black-winged. Steve then finds a couple of Red-veined Darter dragonflies on the pond and goes through the ID features for those interested. The Orphean Warbler starts to sing again from a bush further up the track before flying off to a large tree on the other side of the field. It sits out in the open just long enough for us to get the scopes on to it at last. The same tree also holds adult male Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes. Mark then locates an adult female Montagu’s Harrier and we watch it cross two Short-toed Eagles and a Lesser Kestrel! A Little Egret looks out of place flying over this waterless area. Just as we are about to drive away, Mark beckons us to jump out again. John has seen a male Black-headed Bunting up ahead, and as we all pile out, two male Black-headed Buntings fly out of a nearby bush, do a superb fly-by before heading off up the track. As we lose sight of them, Bee-eater calls are heard overhead and looking up is a single bird, calling repeatedly, giving stunning views as it drifts slowly directly overhead, soon followed by two more birds, again calling, and again fly directly overhead giving superb views. Mark then shouts ‘Golden Oriole!’ as a male swoops down from the hillside to our right and down the track and lands briefly in a bush before flipping over the top and out of view. We make do with two Woodchat Shrikes hunting from the nearby wires before Mark shouts ‘Black-headed Bunting!’ and turning round we see a female leaving a fennel plant behind us. We leave this brilliant bird bonanza to the marsh frogs who continue to bang our their liquid croaks.

We arrive at Fanoromeni Ford, and even before we are park up Ian spots a female Little Crake right by the ford. Several of Steve’s van get on to it before it sneaks off, but looking downstream, Steve can see two Little Bitterns and a single Squacco Heron sat out in the open on the trickling riverbed. We park the vans a scopes are soon pointing downstream taking in the stunning views of male and female Little Bittern. A single Tree Pipit is wandering around the centre of the dried upriver section and settles down to a good bathe in one of the small pools, and Spotted and Pied Flycatchers are swooping down from the bankside bamboo stands. Searching through the bamboo and bushes we soon start picking out a few warblers – Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed and Sedge Warblers. Hunger stops proceedings and everyone locates a comfy rock to perch on. A Nightingale is belting out from a nearby bush, and Mark soon locates the bird sat out in the open. Steve grabs his scope and superb full field views of Nightingale are being enjoyed over between mouthfuls of lunch! Two Masked Shrikes appear above us in a large tree before moving off to feed in adjacent field along with a couple of Whinchat. A feature of lunch are the groups of Turtle Doves flying around, with several groups seen flying overhead along with a good numbers of hirundines. A Great Reed Warbler them appears in the nearby bamboo, bouncing around the thick stems in typical monster fashion.

We set off for a walk up the lane and get as far as the other side of the ford when there is a sudden increase in flycatcher activity. We have up to four Spotted, two Pied and a very elusive Collared Flycatcher which few of us manage to get on to. An adult Night Heron then flies low overhead downstream and lands in full view and immediately starts fishing for tadpoles. The river is teaming with tadpoles of all sizes, and two Little Bitterns creep out of bankside vegetation to resume their hunting within metres of us! Wow! A cream-crown Marsh drifts overhead heading downstream. Small birds head for cover, when it suddenly twists in mid-air and amazingly dives onto the feeding Night Heron! Wow! The harrier has the heron by the neck and both tumble to the floor, wings flailing, and the birds rolling a bundle of feathers. The heron seems to regain its momentum and fights back with snapping beak and tearing feet. The harrier hangs on but the heron is too strong and it eventually gives up its ambitious lunch plans! The harrier flaps casually away and the heron resumes its fishing stance. Closing your eyes and opening them to look back down the river and it’s hard to believe the encounter we’ve all just witnessed. Just as we catch our breath, Ian spots an adult male Red-footed Falcon over the ford before drifting off. We head off up the track, and as we reach an open gateway, Neil spies a male Golden Oriole sweep across a field and into a fig tree. Its landed right out in the open and tripods are hastily erected and scopes aimed at this vivid yellow bird. It sits motionless, the group lapping up our best views of this gorgeous bird as female joins in the fun. Over the next fifteen minutes we get fantastic views of these two birds, plus a second male, feeding in the trees and bamboo stands before both are flushed by a farm worker. A male Lesser Kestrel swooping down to gather a beetle right in front of us breaks our attention briefly from the orioles, the light is perfect and all the key features are easily seen including the blue-grey wing panel, light underwings, salmon body with obvious spotted and the elongated central tail feathers - stunning.

We move on up to an open area overlooking a scrubby hillside. A Golden Oriole flights past and a male Red-backed Shrike is feeding from the top of a fig tree. ‘Bee-eater’ shouts Duncan, and right in front of us appears a single Bee-eater. One turns two. Two to four. Four to eight. Eight to 18! Wow! Rainbow birds are swooping low over the field in front of us, their liquid calls soon ringing all around us as they seem to engulf us! No matter where you look there is a Bee-eater. They slowly drift off, but their calls can continue to be heard so Steve walks back down the track and finds at least nine birds sat on a wire out of view of the group. He beckons the group, but the ensuing rush and clatter of tripods flushes all but two of the birds, who thankfully stay put and give crippling views only several yards away for several minutes before eventually flying off after the others. A ring-tail harrier sweeps overhead but disappears before we are able to get views good enough to clinch the ID. With the sound of Bee-eaters ‘prruutting’ in the distance we resume of search of the area. Mark locates a Wood Warbler feeding in a nearby tree. Steve takes a number of the group up along the field edge to get a better angle to view the tree and we enjoy superb views of this bright warbler – its lemon yellow face and silky white underparts clearly visible in the shade of the tree.

Walking back down the track to the ford, we can again hear the Bee-eaters to our right. We stop in a gateway to see half a dozen or so Bee-eaters toing and froing from a fig tree. Mark then spots a male Collared Flycatcher in a small bush. Viewing is tight in this restricted gateway, and the flycatcher keeps low and largely behind the field boundary. We get only fleeting glimpses as it flits from perch to perch before suddenly making a beeline right for us. It lands in the bush right next to us. Too close for some to focus on! It then settles down to feeding in the trackside bushes. The group’s attention is divided, with half the group mesmerised by the stunning and super close views of the Collared Fly, and the other half enjoying the rainbow display of a dozen or so Bee-eaters. Its amazing how stunning a black and white bird can look and is just as good looking as the Bee-eaters but in a different way. Eventually we must drag ourselves away and everyone bar Helen is Bee-eatered out (and totally flycatchered as well!). Hirundines continued to move overhead, and at least four Red-rumped swallows were picked out amongst the mass of Barn Swallows and House Martins.

Taking the track down to the beach, Mark’s lead van flushes a female Common Redstart which Steve’s van fails to get on to. A little further on a recently cut hay meadow is teeming with ‘yellow’ wagtails. We pull up and start to sift through the countless Black-headed and Blue-headed Wags before Steve picks out a single male Grey-headed Wagtail. Ian than comments he has a pipit. Steve foolishly tells him to concentrate on the wagtails before coming across the back of a pipit which turns round to reveal a brick red face and throat! ‘Red-throated Pipit’ blurts Steve, swiftly followed by an apology to Ian who is muttering Steve’s request to concentrate on the wagtails! Humble pie swallowed, Steve directs the others on to the pipit and radios Mark. Mark begins reversing back as someone in his van then picks up a second Red-throated Pipit alongside their van. We enjoy great close views of the pipits and wagtails for 10 minutes or so before moving on to check the beach. We arrive at the beach hopeful that the two Collared Pratincoles seen earlier might have pitched down by the beach pool. The beach is strangely bird-free, so we turn straight round and head back along the track. The pipits and wagtails have moved fields, and with Steve’s van in the lead they manage to relocate the earlier missed female Common Redstart and a Common Whitethroat in an olive grove.

The drive back is rather uneventful and very quiet as weary eyes eventually succumb to sleep. Only a few hardy soles manage a visit to the Kalloni Pools before an eagerly awaited dinner.

Day 4. We awake to a rather overcast sky and a cool northerly wind, but by the time we leave the hotel at 9am, the sun is warming the land and the clouds scattering. We drive out to the Kalloni Saltpans and on arrival get straight stuck in to a large flock of waders on the first pan. Amongst the large flock of Ruff are quite a few Curlew Sandpipers, many of them in their brick red breeding dress. The Ruff in contrast were all still very much in winter plumage. Twelve Little Terns are roosting upon one of the nearest islands. An Olivaceous Warbler is found in the hedgerow immediately behind us and it performs well for a few minutes before disappearing into cover.

With the air temperature rising, the nearby hill soon starts to get busy with raptors. First up are three Common Buzzards with their distinctive rounded shape and wings held upwards as they circle on a thermal. The thermals soon attract a single Short-toed Eagle, a couple of Common Kestrels and at least three Red-footed Falcons. They seem to enjoying the morning sun as they dance on the thermals. The Red-foots begin to hunt over the hillside, combining hovering with perching on fence posts. Although distant, in the brilliant light we can easily see the silvery upperwings and red trousers of the males and the orangey underparts of the female.

In the middle of saltpans the Greater Flamingos form a pink line, rippling as they move too-and-fro. Suddenly they all rise and the subtle pink colour is transformed to vivid red and black as they swirl around against a backdrop of hills and mountains before they gradually descend back in to the middle of the pans. Stunning! A couple of Common Shelduck fly across the pans. We move further down the saltpans road and come across a group of five Red-footed Falcons hunting from the overhead wires parallel with the road. From the vans we get stunning views of several adult males, a first summer male and an adult female. Two Bee-eaters then appear to our right and one swoops down and lands on the mud only 20m away. Absolutely stunning! Looking across the fields a cream-crown Marsh Harrier crossed paths with a male Montagu’s Harrier, and a Black Stork lazily flaps across in the middle distance. We drive on to the end of the tarmaced road where we find at least 14 Bee-eaters feeding from wires, swooping low over the marsh catching insects. Scopes are soon on these stunning birds and for a second day we have rainbow birds swirling all around us. Two Cormorants fly over, the white thigh patch of one bird clearly visible. Several of the Red-footed Falcons have followed us down the road and appear on the nearby overhead wires giving terrific views. Our next stop is the sheep fields and no sooner have we entered them and Mark picks up a Tawny Pipit and summer plumaged Red-throated Pipit feeding out on the open grass. Scopes out and we soon start to pick up more and more Red-throats and increasing number of ‘yellow’ wags. The Red-throated Pipits are in a whole range of plumages from drab winter, to full blown glowing brick-red throats. We start to walk through the tussock grass and kick up even more pipits and wagtails when three Collared Pratincole rise from right in front of us. They whirl around in front of us on their long-pointed wings, showing off their gleaming white rumps and trailing wing edges before landing in the open not too far away. Scopes are soon in action and we enjoy superb views of these strange looking waders. The closest bird gets most attention, and the shrike-like bill with a red base, and the creamy throat bordered by the dark collar are all clear to see. The pool to our left holds a few Ruff and Little Stints, and a single Temminck’s Stint. Two Stone-curlew then fly low over our heads, giving fantastic views, before landing just out of view on the edge of the field. After a few minutes the heads of both birds are just visible beyond the ridge, and then both birds come out in to full view and begin courtship displaying. A Hoopoe explodes from long grass right next to us, but unfortunately lands distantly out of view. We push on past the pools the saltpans perimeter fence but the near pans are devoid of birds. We head back along the fence when a cloud of Short-toed Larks erupt from in front of us. They land amongst Spanish Sparrows on a sandy ridge and begin to dust bathe. A quick count – 36! Unbelievable. With so many birds they is an amazing variety of plumages from very dreary, pale, monotone sandy birds to some with bright rufous crowns and prominent neck patches. We spend a few minutes watching them before heading on and push up another flock of 26 larks a little further on. 62 Short-toed Larks! Wow! Three more Bee-eaters fly noisily overhead and two Stone-curlews take flight and fly right by us. Many of the group had never seen Stone-curlew in flight before and these views are stunning with the bold black and white wing markings contrasting with the more cryptic brown plumage.

Enjoying lunch in the warm sun, Don finds a Hoopoe feeding close to the vans. Many break from their lunch to enjoy good close views of this wacky looking bird feeding among the poppies before it eventually flies off.

We leave the sheep fields and stop in the vans to enjoy more close views of Bee-eaters when Mark spots a male Black-headed Bunting sand on the fence behind us. True to form, no sooner had we got on to it and it flew – high and off! We continue down the saltpans road and pass a stunning Black Stork sat in the moat just yards from the vans. The light is brilliant and again we can see the green sheen to the head and mantle feathers. A little further down we find a Kingfisher fishing from one of the pipe tunnels.

We head up Napi Valley and unfortunately the northerly wind getting up and is really quite chilly. We could heard several Golden Orioles and a Turtle Dove and had very brief views of Rock Nuthatch before it started to rain. We decided to move on up the valley to a sheltered woodland area. ON walking into the trees, five Golden Orioles fly out across the valley and land in distant trees. Several more oriole can be heard calling from the woodland above us and we eventually pick up two males sat up in the top of the trees. We staked out a woodpecker area centred on dead tree with lots of holes, but over the next 45 minutes there is no sign. On the ridge opposite, raptor activity starts to pick up with two Red-footed Falcons, three Lesser Kestrels and single Short-toed Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard. A Middle-spotted Woodpecker then started calling behind, and on turning round some of us glimpses a woodpecker flying through the wood and out of sight. Hanging around for it to reappear, Mark hears a Sombre Tit, to our left. We move down the track and we find two birds feeding along a dead section of hedge on the opposite side of the road. Both birds are extremely obliging and perform really well feeding in the open, occasionally calling. Still no activity around the woodpecker tree – no matter how hard we stared at it! ‘Goshawk’ shouted Mark. And flying away from us was large raptor with big, powerful wingbeats and ‘nappy’ effect of the undertail coverts wrapping up around the base of the tail. A female as it was clearly larger than the Hooded Crow mobbing. Brilliant!

We call it a day on the woodpeckers and head off back down the valley picking up more Rock Nuthatches and Mark’s lead van get brief views of a Blue Rock Thrush. It disappears and we all get great views of a male Black-eared Wheatear. We make our way back via the Kalloni oive groves but they are unusually quiet so we call it a day and head back to the hotel and an eagerly awaited dinner.

Day 5. It’s a lovely bright, warm and still morning. We get away from the hotel at 9am and stop off in Kalloni a supermarket stop. With everyone stocked up with various sweets and beverages, we head of westwards for Ipsilou Monastery. We stop just short of the monastery by the junction to Erossos. No sooner are we out of the vans and Mark picks up a male Isabelline Wheatear. This and another bird song flighting just above us both perform well. Right in front of a male Cretzschmar’s Bunting is singing from a rock. A couple of large Agama lizards are basking on the rocks below and Duncan sees yellow-headed grey bird fly past and down to the gully to our left. The hunt is on, and within a few minutes Mark picks up a pair of Cinereous Buntings flying in and they land just below us. Over the next 10 minutes we enjoy corking vies of these handsome buntings as they feed among the rocks on the slope below us. The Isabelline Wheatears and Cretzschmar’s Bunting are still performing well and we can hear Golden Orioles singing in the distance. Don then finds a first-summer male Black-headed Bunting perched up out on a rock and it gives us brilliant views sowing off its black head and brown mantle – easily the best views so far this week. Searching the slope below we also find Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, Black-headed Wagtails and Whinchat and a couple of Alpine Swifts wheel around high overhead.

The brilliant blue skies are slowly beginning to be slowly swallowed up by dark black rain clouds. The whole area is transformed. The light if anything is better, and the bird song all around is phenomenal with buntings, shrikes, wheatears, wagtails and larks in full song. Ipsilou Monastery looks menacing as it looks down on us from its distant mountain top perch. We head off up the road and stop only after a few hundred yards to watch a Rock Nuthatch close to the road. An adult bird is bobbing up and down on rock and in a crevice below we can just make out two recently fledged young. A second adult arrives and a third young is found. Then a fourth, then a fifth. There are young Rock Nuthatches seemingly popping up from under every rock! Some flutter down into a nearby gully where Mark gets on to them. ‘I’ve got three birds’ says Mark. ‘I’ve still got four’ says Steve. ‘No, I’ve got four’ says Mark. ‘I’ve still got four’ says Steve. ‘I’ve now got five’ remarks Mark. Steve still has four. Nine Rock Nuthatches! The young look wacky – all dumpy with dusky underparts and brilliant white cheeks below black caps and stubby little bills.

Arriving at Ipsilou Monastery, Mark immediately picks up a Rock Sparrow on a nearby rock. We are soon all pointing scopes at this rather scruffy and drab looking sparrow with its stripy plumage. The dark clouds are now right above, but the whole sky is filled with Alpine Swifts. The light is fantastic to watch these aerial masters, their large size, deep chocolate brown plumage and white bellies clearly visible. Its amazing how difficult it is too see the white throat even on really close birds. From our high vantage points, many of the Alpine Swifts are sweeping past us at either at eye level or even below us. It’s an absolutely awesome sight. A pair of Blue Rock Thrushes are then seen flying up to the Monastery building and perch on the top. Scopes are swung round on to them as they flit from rampart to rampart in full view. A Woodlark is singing below us but despite searching we can’t find it. There is also Black-eared Wheatear song flighting below us and at least Cretzschmar’s Buntings can be seen and heard singing from tree top perches.

We walk up to the monastery building when a harrier appears then disappears over us. Arriving at the monastery, some of the group climb to the top of the buildings to enjoy crippling views of the Blue Rock Thrushes. The rest of us marvel at the unbelievable spectacle of hundreds of Alpine Swifts thundering around the mountain, only feet above our heads, shouting out their stuttered flight calls – very different to the screams of Common Swifts. The dark clouds are still sat above us, but the light is perfect. The few Common Swifts are easy to pick out as their size, shape and black colour stands out amongst the much larger brown Alpines. Mark finds a Wood Warbler feeding in an oak directly below us along with both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. A Peregrine is found feeding on a kill on a nearby crag. Steve then picks up on a smaller brown swift, but it is heading away from us. He follows it for what appears like an age as it flies off distantly before turning round and slowly working its way back towards the group. Even at a distance the bird can be identified as a Pallid Swift and it eventually comes right overhead. We slowly pick up on the key features of contrasting pale and dark in the wings and body, large pale throat and slightly blunt-winged shaped. We walk back down to the vans for lunch and in the valley to our left a huge passage of House Martins and Swallows is underway. In amongst them are the odd Sand Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. We arrive back at the vans and the skies are deadly quiet. Not a single swift, swallow or martin to be seen. It’s eerily quiet apart from a single Cretzschmar’s Bunting and the Woodlark singing below us.

During lunch a couple of Crag Martins are found flying around the crags immediately below the monastery building. There’s a steady build up of birds on the slopes below us – Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Wood Warbler and Common Redstart are all found. A handful of Alpine Swifts appear in the sky. Then half a dozen Red-rumped Swallows. The aerial migration is resumed as the sky steadily fills up with swifts and swallows. In among the Alpine Swifts Steve picks out another Pallid Swift. Then another, and another. Numbers are slowly increasing until there are Pallid Swifts dotted in among the Alpines in every direction. The Pallids are now performing brilliantly with staggering views – the pale fringes to the body feathers and wing coverts and the little dark mask and quite easy to see on some birds as they sweep past only feet away from us. As the group gathers to enjoy the swifts and flycatchers, Steve spots a Chukar sat up on a rock. Scopes are soon on this plump partridge and everyone is enjoying their first views of this Red-legged Partridge look-a-like before it drops off the rock and out of sight. All, that is, apart from Duncan, who appears from the monastery having gone up there to look for the Chukar seen by group member Mark earlier! Duncan however is able to enjoy the stunning views of a Short-toed Eagle which appears to our right and then does a phenomenal stoop on to a snake at the bottom of the valley. Although somewhat distant, through scopes we are able to watch it devour the snake before lazily flying off along the valley bottom below. This gives us the rare opportunity to view this large eagle from above, and everyone enjoys the brilliant views as it passes below us.

We go for a walk down the monastery approach road in the hope to locate the singing Woodlark. True to form, the Woodlark packs in just as we reach the slopes it was singing from! We search the trees for migrants and are soon watching Willow Warbler, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats and Pied Flycatchers as well as more good views of Blue Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear. A little further down the road we come across a superb male Cretzschmar’s Bunting singing from a tree top only yards from the road. You don’t even need a scope to see the feather detail of this stunning bunting with the sun perfectly behind us and full on to the bird. We drag ourselves away from this star performer when Mark hears our first Cirl Bunting of the week, and we soon locate this great looking bunting singing from a small tree. Everyone enjoys great scope views as it sings showing off its chestnut rump between drooped wings, and its striking black and yellow head pattern. Mark then hears a woodpecker calling further down and looking up he sees it disappearing in to an oak tree further down the track but despite searching, another woodpecker eludes us. An Orphean Warbler begins to sing loudly from a nearby tree, but flies up the slope to a more distant bush where some of us are able to get brief but good scope views. It then disappears into the dense canopy of an oak tree where it continues to belt outs its melodic, quite nightingale-like song, with a distinctive ‘giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up’ phrase. A second Cirl Bunting is found singing from wires behind us and below a pair of Stonechat are busy feeding from the roadside fence.

We head back up the road to the vans with some members of the group deciding on staying at the bottom of the track to be collected on the way back down.. Many of the group have gone up ahead when Duncan spots a large spur-thighed tortoise sat still in a nearby flower meadow. Mark and Steve note the position and head back to the group at the vans. They arrive at the top just as the group are watching a raptor pass by at eye level. ‘Honey Buzzard’ shout Mark and Steve. Only yards away from us is a stunning adult male Honey Buzzard, and in perfect light the light grey upperparts with two wing bars, dark trailing wing edge and barred tail, barred underparts and small grey head are all easily seen as the bird slowly heads away on slightly bowed wings. Fantastic! It’s a pity that some of the group are at the bottom of the mountain waiting for us to pick them up!

We jump in the vans and make our way down to the bottom to pick up the others. We stop by the flower meadow for the tortoise – it’s gone! We can see the imprint of where it was sat still, but no trail leading from it to follow. It’s well and truly vanished! The meadows are however incredible – absolutely stuffed with colour. We head off to the bottom and collect the others with tales of Honey Buzzard and missing tortoises – some aren’t too amused they chose not to undertake the climb back to the vans!

The drive back to the hotel was uneventful until we are nearly back at the hotel when Mark anchors on the brakes and radios through ‘woodpecker on the tree behind you!’. We stop, turn round in our seats and search the two trees in view. Nothing! But then a movement on the second tree - and there it is, clinging to the side of the trunk a Middle Spotted Woodpecker! Hooray! Everyone just manages to get on to it before it takes flight, across the field and over the olive trees. What a cracking finish to the day.

Day 6. We wake to another superbly warm and bright morning and a day that is to be full of surprises!

All but two of the group join Rae and Don for a walk into Skala Kallonis to look for the two Little Owl’s they had found the previous morning. And they were in luck as one bird was still in residence.

Surprise no. 1. Heading out of Kalloni we pull the vans in under a stand a eucalyptus trees. Mark and Steve jump out of the vans and quickly get their scopes out. The group don’t know what to expect and the first two put their eyes up to the scopes. ‘Scops Owl!’ they exclaim joyfully. The whole group is gripped by utter delight at even the thought of Scops Owl. Even those who have not yet seen it are beaming with anticipation. Mark and Steve give directions for the others to get their bins on to the roosting owl. ‘Wow! Its so close’ explains Helen. Mark and Steve explain their relief as this, along with other known sites, have been far from reliable this last week, and when they had last checked only a couple of days ago, they couldn’t find it.

We head north and arrive at Petra to look for Rüppell’s Warbler. On arrival there are many other birders at the site and they report Rüppell’s showing only minutes before our arrival. But they ain’t there now! Our first find is actually a Spotted Fritillary butterfly which lands on rocks within feet of us. Although only about 20ft away, Steve puts his scope on it and some of us enjoy incredible detailed views of this beautiful butterfly. Attention was soon focused on the scrubby hillside below us and the search for Rüppell’s Warbler. A couple of Orphean Warblers were chasing each other around and not staying put for long, before Mark locates a female Rüppell’s. A handful of the group get onto the bird briefly before it too dashes off. We hand around getting increasingly frustrated in the increasing temperatures. In the fields below are between 4-5 male Black-headed Buntings showing reasonably well. Offshore in the distance a small number of Striped Dolphins attract a handful of Yelkouan Shearwaters. A Peregrine appears above the cliff below us and lands on a rock out in the open and is joined by another bird. They are two immature birds (from last year) and scopes are soon on to them for brilliant views of this powerful falcon.

Mark and Steve begin to search further afield and Mark eventually locates a singing male Rüppell’s on the hillside above. We eventually get the group up the track to where the bird but as we arrive it disappears! We hang around hoping for it to return but we then find another male singing further up the hill. We eventually manage to get everyone good scope views of this cracking scrub warbler as it song flights right in front of us and sings from the tops of several bushes. Absolutely brilliant.

We continue along the northern coast road to Efthalou and make a brief stop to watch a large group of Yelkouan Shearwaters sat on the sea amongst Yellow-legged Gulls. After about 10 minutes they all get up and have a brief fly round, showing off their brown plumage and flight characters before settling back down on the sea. Very nice indeed!

We hit the track which forms the north coast road and make a handful of stops to search the gullies and find Masked Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Cuckoo, Orphean Warbler and Red-backed Shrike. Mark spots a Little Owl sat on a stone building so those of us who didn’t make the Little Owl walk in the morning are more than satisfied to see it! We continue along the coast road picking up more Red-backed and Masked Shrikes, a few Whinchat and loads of Yellow-legged Gulls on the sea which we check for Audouin’s Gull but without any joy. We arrive at our lunch stop where we have a pair of Red-backed Shrikes, purring Turtle Doves, singing Nightingale, Subalpine Warbler and even more stunning Cretzschmar’s Buntings to keep us entertained whilst snacking. There are lots of butterflies around including a small skipper on the road which we eventually identify as Orbed Red underwing Underwing Skipper. A singing male Cirl Bunting is located near the vans and six Bee-eaters drift noisily overhead.

Surprise no. 2. We move on to where the road runs right alongside the seafront and stop. The group are sceptical as Mark and Steve explain the hot rocks on the tideline are caused by hot underground springs. On seeing the steam rising from the water some of the group eventually brave it and take off their shoes and socks and have a paddle. Some invesitagte the springs just inland of the track. Mark joins in the shoreline fun by wading out to near knee depth. Fun and frolics commence those paddling begin to splash one another and some on the shore think it funny to see how wet they can get Mark by lobbing rocks at his feet! Everyone is very relaxed enjoying this very leisurely day along the north coast.

Surprise no. 3. ‘Audouin’s Gull!’ yells Steve. Steve points directly over Mark’s head, and somewhat dis-believingly people look beyond mark to see a pale gull with an all red bill. Amazingly the bird swoops down and settles on the water only yards out from Mark. It pecks at the water surface a couple of times and them takes flight and heads of east. Wow! What fantastic views of an adult Audoiun’s Gull.

Surprise no. 4. We continue on to Skala Sikimineas and stop in the village for ice creams! Lovely. A few of the group also take in a beverage or two as we relax in the mid-afternoon sun in this lovely fishing village with its tiny but colourful little harbour. The day just gets more relaxed and some are surprised to see Mark and Steve ‘appear’ to switch off from birding! We return to the vans and Lila spots a Little Owl on a building right next to us! Fantastic. A couple of Shags are fishing just offshore.

We head off back south via the Stipsi valley and the painfully narrow village roads which Mark and Steve have to breathe in for in order to get the vans through! The route was very picturesque and provided a totally new landscape for the week.

Sorry - no species list (lost in the bowells of time!)


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