Day 6 (Tuesday, 7th May)
The Molivos / Efthalou track was again was of those testing ones to find from Molivos, with no sign, but our second guess was correct. The first couple of kms hold the last of the sparse tourist area, and the track then climbs up to more interesting landscape. The first couple of gullies with trees were by and large quiet, but 5½km out of Molivos, a sharp right hand bend with ample parking space on the corner was the base for wonderful views up to Mount Lepetimnos, with the closer wooded hills being framed by the highest point on the island behind. This was a good raptor watch point, and over the space of an hour, we had 3 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 Peregrine, 2 Eleonora's Falcons, and 2 Steppe Buzzards. There were masses of hirundines in the air constantly, which included Alpine Swifts in the distance initially. One of the most impressive sights here was what seemed like masses of Bee-eaters at first hawking above us, visibly catching flying insects, then circling above the tops of the fells, before flying out in large groups towards Turkey in the distance. The rest of the coastal track towards Skala Sikaminias was fairly uneventful, but made traversing the bank holiday masses in the small seaside village an event. There were the usual narrow streets, with cars coming from both directions, leaving total gridlock at one stage caused by no more than 10-12 cars. We eventually got through, and just after we had left the village and were climbing the steep hill, very close Long-legged Buzzards flew overhead. Stopping on the bend for a better look was mandatory!
Back on the main road towards Petra, and a couple more stops. The first was for singing Nightingales at the Lepetimnos junction, one of which sang in the open for a short time. While waiting for that, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker landed on the tree in front of the car - we saw it land, but not leave. This was also the site for our first and only Wren of the trip - not a common bird at this part of the island. A little further on, we stopped at the base of Mount Lepetimnos for some more good raptor watching - another 3 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 displaying Steppe Buzzards, and a pair of displaying Short-toed Eagles. The view from this side of the mountain in the afternoon, with the sun behind, is impressive, with low wooded slopes giving way to more craggy upper slopes. Most of the raptors were above the higher ridges, all of which can be seen on a stop on a tight bend between Molivos and Lepetimnos.
Olive Tree Warbler is always a difficult bird to pin down, not only due to range and scarcity, but also because of its secretive habits. We tried the reported site 3.6km to the east of Skalochori, where Richard Brookes had up to 7-8 singing males in 1998. The area was full of mixed woodland (mainly oak, interspersed with olives). We at first went through an unlocked iron gate, and then through a bare patch alongside, into the groves themselves. It was relatively quiet here, although we did disturb a Woodlark as we entered. No Olive Tree Warblers, but there were a few Subalpine Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of pairs of Cirl Buntings, both Red-backed & Masked Shrike, Short-toed Eagle and Steppe Buzzard overhead.