NEW! Skyros - April/May
Exciting Spring birding on an undiscovered Greek Island
Leader Phil Knott joined by another from our team with more than six clients. Max. 12 clients.
Skyros - exciting birding on an unspoilt Greek island!
A brand new 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 probably be fewer species (about 100 – 130), but birds are more concentrated and conspicuous here.
Skyros sits far out in the Aegean, highly visible to migrants 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 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 including a dusk visit around seabird islands to see and hear shearwaters return.
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, Rock Partridge, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Bonelli’s Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Cory’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. If you want spring migration in a quiet and unspoilt place, this is it!
Possible highlights of the week:
* Levant Sparrowhawk chasing Red-rumped Swallows
* Cory’s Shearwater alongside the boat,
* Little Owl feeding chicks.
* Exciting birding following a “fall” of migrants
DAY 1 Sat 26 April
Flight London - Athens, transfer to ferry point, then birding begins as we treat the ferry to Skyros, as a pelagic voyage!
DAY 2 Sun 27 April: 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 from tracks and empty roads. The day is broken with lunch at a local taverna. Gentle walking on flat ground. Targets: migrants of all types.
DAY 3 Mon 28 April: 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: migrants of all types.
DAY 4 Tues 29 April: 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 the Cretzschmar’s Bunting 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 Wed 30 April: 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 the Rock Partridge. The mouth of the streams are often good wader haunts. Afternoon and evening optional cruise (7 hours) on a bespoke boat trip looking for Cory’s Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Audouin’s Gull, Storm Petrel, with chances of dolphins, whales, turtles and the critically endangered Monk Seal. Walking on road and paths in the morning. Afternoon on small yacht on open sea. Depending on conditions, itinerary of boat trip may change in order to maximise wildlife encounters and passenger comfort. May include dusk visit around seabird islands to see and hear shearwaters return. Boat trip day is flexible as no other tourists around to occupy boat.
DAY 6 Thurs 1 May: 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 Fri 2 May: The Heart of the North
(if fitness and weather allow) walk on good path up to Panaghia Lympiani (church). Open pine and scrub. If not able then series of shorter walks on well maintained paths to innumerable churches on the hill and coast. Visit to the new wetland reservoir behind the main town to search for waders and wildfowl on way back. Repeat visits to exciting spots of Palamari or Kalamitsa to check what new arrivals are in.
DAY 8 Sat 3 May:
Breakfast and departure for our journey home.
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Topography and Layout:
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.
Expect four seasons! Temperatures between 12 – 28 degrees! Wind variable, but north wind and rain whilst bad for us leads to migrant falls. Rain possible but so is wall to wall sunshine. As Lesvos really.
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 that do not keep competitive birdlists,
Those that do not like crowds of birders and tourists,
Those that are new to foreign birding tours,
Beginners who want to learn,
Experts wanting a new challenge,
Those who have 'done' Lesvos!