The biggest problem with Thomas Cook flights is the limited allowance of 5kg hand baggage. Travelling alone you have to make some serious decisions on what kit to take, particularly if you have a choice in the first place. I'm lucky that I have both choice and a travelling partner who doesn't need too much allowance... in fact I use it all. Our hand baggage was weighed but I had made sure it would pass the test. I had managed to take a 1D , a 5D, my 500mm and 300mm lenses plus converters. My tripod went in the hold.
A smooth flight found us arriving on time in Lesvos and our pre ordered hire car was ready and waiting. A well used Toyota Yaris. There was a fair amount of wear and tear on the car and it had done 76,000 kms. I was a bit unsure about what to think when IU didn't get a receipt with an agreed copy of existing damage sketched on as is usual. Instead I was told not to worry, I had purchased excess cover and unless it was a major bash small scratches were not an issue. Go and enjoy your holiday I was told ! OK, away we went and after messing around trying to get out of the main town of Mytilini where sign post appeared to be non existent we were on our way. Driving in Lesvos is a dream with hardly a car on the road most of the time. We were impressed by the scenery and the greenery as we crossed to the north of the island , about an hours drive from the airport.
After unloading the car outside our apartment , our very jovial host pointed in the direction of the car park, a manoeuvre that involved reversing back down a hill and in to the car parking area. He omitted to warn me that the drop from drive in to the parking area was very short and steep, about one foot in both distance and height...ie an angle of 45%. I did a Victor Meldrew impression when the front spoiler hit the ground with a sickening crunch and on getting out of the car realised half of it was hanging off the car. No worries, it clipped back on again and no one would notice any extra scratches. Phew ! When I saw some of the unmade "B" roads I was grateful to have a well used car. However, my first days driving experience wasn't over yet. It was past 9pm and dinner beckoned. Our apartment was a good half hours walk to the harbour area located just below Molyvos castle seen here lit up at night.
I decided to drive and before I knew it I'd taken a one way road straight down right on to the harbour emerging in the far corner seen here in the picture.
There were even more obstacles at night, fortunately it was pretty chilly and not many people sitting outside at the tables to witness my predicament of having to try and reverse back up a very narrow street. Now, I don't usually have a problems reversing, but try doing it looking over your right shoulder and it's a whole different ball game. After two hashed attempts a nice man offered to do it for me. I gladly accepted without shame !!! We ate at the Octopus restaurant, it's the one nearest in the photo and in the picture you can see octopus tentacles hung out to dry in the sun. Recommended as one of the best in Steve Dudley's book ( it's more than just a bird book) I have to say although the location was nice, the staff lovely, the food was distinctly average.
Anyway, back to the apartment, a couple of beers and in to bed dreams anticipating what might lay ahead. I woke up before 6.00am and was out of bed and away to the nearest recommended site in the book. It was only about 5 minutes drive away and I couldn't believe it when the target species, the Rupell's Warbler, landed on the wires in front within a very short time of arrival.
OK, not the ideal shot, partly in shadow but hey, a lifer and a prime species that everyone wants on their Lesvos list. A couple of minutes later another lifer, the Black headed Bunting took it's place on the wire and started to sing.
After 10 minutes of giving it's all I began to wish it would shut up !!!!
One other species was showing well too, the Subalpine Warbler. One I'd seen before but never in this superb plumage. Never mind the stick coming out of it's head, it looked better than anything I had previously managed by miles.
By half eight I decided to return to the apartment stopping along the way to pick up a couple of the best chocolate croissants I have ever tasted to take back for breakfast.
What a start to the day...and it was going to get better !
A walk in to town to check out our location in daylight had me almost blasé about how many Jays seemed to be about..this one just had a bath
There were House Martins and Swallows nesting all over the place. They would make could practice flight shots I thought even though I never did get round to it. In the afternoon we took a rather longer walk out of town in the direction of the track over past the local resevoir and Petra. I couldn't believe my luck to spot a Little Owl sitting in a farm yard not half a mile from our apartment. I only had a 300mm and 2.0xTC but I had a week to take another look. Little Owl was a species I was very keen to see and photograph as they don't seem to be around our home locality anymore.
This was my first in a few years !
Ruddy Shellduck was another lifer, well I'd seen captive ones but the reservoir is a breeding area for a couple of pairs it appears and further around on our walk I saw my first ever Black-eared Wheatear, again, photographed so poorly I just hoped to get another chance.
As soon as we got back to the apartment, and as the sun had appeared at last, I left Claire reading and hopped in the car to drive around to the Little Owl site. No Owl to be seen but there was another lifer to be had, the Olivaceous Warbler.
Not a bad start to the holiday I thought. OK the photo's weren't the best but I might get better, the challenge lay ahead.
That evening we drove five kilometres to the Taverna Vafios, another Steve Dudley recommended eating place and this time he was spot on in his description. Superb food, a bit different than the average menu and accurately described a slightly more expensive but still modest by UK standards. I think the bill with a couple of beers each and 10% tip came to around 45 euro.
I went to bed happy in the prospect of what would come next and was up again the following morning at 6.30 am but more of that later !