A fantastic destination ideal for birders who want to enjoy spring migration on an island unspoilt by tourism, without crowds of birders. Comparisons with Lesvos are inevitable; basically Skyros is smaller, with less cover. There will be fewer species than an equivalent week on Lesvos (about 90 – 100), but birds are more concentrated and conspicuous here.
Skyros sits far out in the Aegean, highly visible to migrating birds because of its dominant mountain rising sharply from sea level. Birds drop in to sparse cover and small wetlands where they are bottlenecked and easy to see. Fertile areas are greenest in late April, at peak migration time, so birds rest to feed before moving on. With its location and topography falls of migrants are highly possible, and birding can be very exciting.
We visit a variety of interesting habitats including rocky heaths and scrub, fields, groves and wetlands, gnarled oaks and maples in the valleys, open slopes, rocky streams and coastal mouths, and of course the open sea, where we charter a boat for a cruise around seabird and Eleonora's nesting islets to see and hear the recently returned falcons, Audouin's Gulls and with luck, Shearwaters and Dolphins.
Birding will include a wide range of spring migrants, with warblers, flycatchers, shrikes, buntings, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, hirundines, raptors and waders arriving daily. Eleonora’s Falcon arrive late April in small numbers, Chukar, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Bonelli’s Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Scopoli’s Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Audouin’s Gull, and many more will give us absorbing birding in a lovely location. In the evenings we eat at tavernas on a relaxed itinerary which will give you time to explore (or keep birding!) as you choose.
Possible highlights of the week:
* Levant Sparrowhawk chasing Red-rumped Swallows
* Scopoli’s Shearwater alongside the boat
* Little Owl feeding chicks
* Exciting birding following a “fall” of migrating birds.
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!
After relaxing in our complimentary airport lounge, we fly from London Heathrow to Athens, transfer to our ferry point, with birding at a wetland en route if time allows. The journey itself is very scenic as is the ferry to Skyros - a superb pelagic voyage! We can hope for several species of dolphin and shearwater before we even arrive on Skyros.
DAY 2: The Kalamitsa valley
Relaxed first day birding the fields and wetlands around Kalamitsa, the bridge between the two halves of the island. One of the best birding spots on the island where anything is possible in the various fertile fields, hedges and pools. Birding will be from tracks and empty roads. The day is broken with lunch at a local taverna. Gentle walking on flat ground. Targets: migrating birds of all types.
DAY 3: Palamari and Trachy, the jewel of the fertile North
Today we spend the whole day birding around the fields and wetlands of Palamari. With a huge range of habitats in this low lying area. Anything is possible in the scrub, fields, groves and wetlands, and at the close of play we should have a healthy species list. Gentle walking on flat ground. Targets: migrating birds of all types.
DAY 4: The Rugged South
Today we spend exploring the rugged southern half of the island. The rocky heaths and scrub seem barren at first glance, but once explored reveal a wealth of bird life, with Cretzschmar’s Buntings flitting from bush to bush, recently arrived Eleonora’s Falcon hunting overhead and Bonelli’s Eagle cruising the ridges. The gnarly and twisted oaks and maples in the valleys also hold a good array of breeding birds, and being the only cover on the mountain also funnel migrants. With patience and a little luck we will unearth some surprises in and amongst the breeding birds. We shall also visit the site of war poet Rupert Brooke’s grave, a poignant spot, but also good for birding. Walking on uneven rocky paths. Targets: Eleonora’s Falcon, Sardinian Warbler, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Bonelli’s Eagle.
DAY 5: Kareflou, Magazia and Island Cruise
The morning shall be spent in a couple of sheltered valleys. The thick bushes alongside the stream are good cover for migrants whilst above on the rocky slopes we will hopefully connect with Chukar. The mouth of the streams are often good wader haunts. Walking on road and paths in the morning.Afternoon cruise (c.4 hours) on a bespoke inshore coastal boat trip looking for Scopoli’s Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Audouin’s Gull, Storm Petrel, with chances of dolphins and turtles and if very lucky whales or the critically endangered Monk Seal. Afternoon on small yacht on at times open sea. Depending on conditions, itinerary of boat trip may change in order to maximise wildlife encounters and passenger comfort. Boat trip day is flexible to suit the weather.
DAY 6: North-west corner, Atsitsa, Skopla and surroundings.
Birding along the coast and among pine forest and open wood pasture, this day should produce some of the scarcer breeders of the island. Targets: Cirl Bunting, Shrikes, Flycatchers. Gentle walks on good paths and tracks. Repeat visits to exciting spots of Palamari or Kalamitsa to check what new arrivals are in.
DAY 7: The Heart of the North
We start with a visit to the new wetland reservoir behind the main town to search for waders and wildfowl. If fitness and weather allow we shall walk on a good path up to Panaghia Lympiani (church) through open pine and scrub. If not able then series of shorter walks on well maintained paths to innumerable churches on the hill and coast.
Breakfast and departure for our journey home.
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation is a modern hotel close enough to the beach and town to be convenient, but the location is very sheltered and quiet. It is the best hotel on the island and was handpicked by Phil. The hotel is situated a stone’s throw from the best beach on the island. Sea temperature will be between 17-19 degrees, comparable to Cornwall in September. For those not brave enough for the sea, there is also a swimming pool for the exclusive use of the hotel guests! There is wi-fi available, and all rooms have a hair dryer. Porterage is available.
Food Cold meats, cheese, eggs, bread, jams and preserves, fruit, pastries and even cake are available for breakfast. Phil will purchase picnic lunches on days where we don’t visit a taverna for lunch, and will include a variety of local produce and dishes alongside the bread, meat and cheese. Taverna lunches will feature fresh dishes as available, though you can usually expect Greek salad (feta, tomatoes, onions and lettuce), fresh greens and other vegetables and several meat, poultry or fish dishes. Evening meals will be mostly taken at the nearby taverna, which Phil handpicked as the best having tried all of them on Skyros! Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. The holiday is not strenuous. Leisurely walking, occasionally over moderately rough terrain, is the only physical requirement. The hotel is situated down a flight of steps from the car park.
Weather Typically, temperatures will range from 50F (10c) in the early morning to perhaps 80F (25c) in the heat of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, cloud and rain are very possible. Cold weather, with temperatures as low as 40F (5c), are very rare but possible, so please ensure you have some warm clothes to protect yourself from the wind if it blows from the north and for the morning and evening.
Insects Biting insects could possibly be encountered, but are not usually a problem.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are with British Airways from London Heathrow. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Topography Skyros is essentially two equal sized islands, joined by a narrow, low-lying causeway. Each island is geologically different. The south “Vouno – the Mountain” is a hard resistant rock. No fertile land, wild and rocky mountain scape with pockets of hardy native woodland. There are very few people living in the south, mainly goats and ponies. The north “Meroi – the Tame” is much more fertile and dominated by pine woodland and agriculture. The bulk of the 3,000 people live here.
Phil Knott is a familiar face to Heatherlea guests, having guided with the company on holidays right across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. His love of islands and wildlife is obvious! Phil is extremely excited to be leading this holiday to one of his favourite places; friendly people, stunning scenery, wonderful food and great birding. Phil is proud to have established eco-tourism on Skyros with Heatherlea and knows this will be a popular holiday.
Phil Knott and Scott O'Hara
Scott O'Hara is an experienced Heatherlea Leader, enjoying his first season on Skyros in 2017. A popular Leader and very capable birder, Scott is looking forward to your company on Skyros!
What's included in your holiday price:
* scheduled return flights between London—Athens, airport taxes, return flight/ferry to Skyros
* ground and boat transportation as outlined
* accommodation and all meals as specified (from evening meal on arrival to breakfast on the day of departure)
* the services of your leader/s.
* tips to hotels and restaurants.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....
What's not included in your holiday price:
* personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.
* lunch on the day of arrival and departure is not included and a supply of euros is recommended.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer.
Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).
SKYROS IS NEW, SO IS IT FOR YOU?
- Those who want to explore an island unspoilt by tourism,
- Those who want a birding adventure,
- Where quality of sightings is more important than quantity,
- Those who do not keep competitive birdlists,
- Those who do not like crowds of birders and tourists,
- Those who are new to foreign birding tours,
- Beginners who want to learn,
- Experts wanting a new challenge,
- Those who have 'done' Lesvos!
Thank you to Heatherlea client David Boorman for the use of a few of his photographs taken on Skyros during our 2013 holiday.