Rio Lagartos is really all about the birds. It’s a small fishing village in a quiet location, with a few hotels and restaurants. Day trippers come in from all around to hire a boatmen to take them out to see the flamingos. You really do need to hire a boat to get to see the flamingos. All the way along the estuary we saw ospreys flying overhead. And, of course, crocodiles (the Spanish invaders made a mistake as Rio Lagartos is not a river and contains crocodiles, not alligators). Just strolling by the harbour we saw two kinds of pelicans (brown and white), including this youngster who had bitten off more than it could chew. Apparently the fish do go down eventually! There are royal terns all over the boats and cormorants everywhere.
One bar/restaurant where we took to hanging out feeds the humming birds which can be seen coming and going whilst the humans enjoy a beer. Sadly none of the many photos we took of the hummingbirds came out very well. It was a very relaxing few days at the end of our trip and the birding was wonderful.
Our next stop was Caye Caulker, a ‘barefoot’ island in the Caribbean. Sadly we have no photos from there. It’s a laid back island with some excellent snorkeling. We snorkeled. We snorkeled over coral reefs and with nurse sharks and rays. We saw seahorses. It was a great day out but Ashley got too much sun which meant a quiet day the next day. We ate lion fish. Lion fish are an invasive species which are damaging the corals and the general marine ecology of the area. Tourists are encouraged to eat them. They are delicious, especially when stuffed with lobster tail. Reggae is everywhere on Caye Caulker.
After three nights on Caye Caulker we headed for Orange Walk (where we took lots of photographs). The journey was interesting as the bus conductor (on the run between Belize City and Orange Walk) decided we didn’t actually want to do into Orange Walk but to a tourist lodge about ten miles outside of Orange Walk itself. He would not be dissuaded so we ended up having to get another bus. Orange Walk has a handful of hotels but is not really set up for big tourism. We stayed in a beautiful lodge by the side of the river. The view from just outside our bungalow is in the picture at the top of this post. The river is rich in wildlife.
Apart from the crocodiles (we saw many, two different species), we saw all sorts of herons and egrets, cormorants, bitterns, a wood stork, anhinga, wood rail, kingfishers, spider monkeys, the ubiquitous Montezuma’s oropendolas, iguanas and an osprey. Many could be seen from the hotel grounds but we saw more when we took the boat trip to Laminai.
The boat trip to Laminai was fantastic – one of the highlights of the trip. We had a very knowledgeable guide who was able to ensure that we didn’t miss any wildlife or any aspect of the important Maya site. We had all taken bananas for the monkey but the monkey was only interested in chocolate. None of us had any chocolate. On the way back we viewed a molasses factory and some of the people on the boat bought molasses. Most of which, of course, is used in rum production.
The site itself has some extraordinary reliefs, though many have been carefully restored and preserved using fibreglass. Laminai is interesting as it was one of the sites that was still occupied by Maya when the Spanish arrived.
And, finally, here are some of the best bird pictures from this part of the trip!
Little blue heron
Russet Naped Woodrail
Our next stop was Methoni. We visited there, briefly, in 2013. This time we went the pretty way, over Mount Taygetos which must be one of the best bike rides in the world. Scenery is spectacular but we were a bit concerned by the darkening skies. Which opened. Fortunately whilst we were fairly near to a village where we took a rain break for a Freddo Espresso. We managed to get to Methoni without getting seriously wet and checked into the hotel on the beach. This meant we could use the sun loungers and umbrellas without incurring extra costs but, sadly, it wasn’t really beach weather whilst we were there. The storm broke as we reached our room.
Methoni is a quiet, seaside village – which gains much (but not all) its income from tourism. It also has a spectacular Venetian castle which, this time, we managed to visit. In fact we spent an entire morning in there. Apart from the castle we spent our time making friends with the local wildlife in a pleasant bar and eating some excellent meals.
We left Kerkini in very windy weather. For this part of the journey we were glad not to be on the bike. The wind was pushing the car around and trees were falling into the road ahead of us. We went by a scenic route – bits of highway and bits of very windy mountain roads. Something to repeat on the bike at some point in the future as the scenery was spectacular.
We were headed for Lake Prespa through which run borders between Greece, Macedonia and Albania. We did not encounter any snow but there was plenty to be seen on the mountains that surround the lake.
On our first evening we walked from our hotel in Psarides along the shore of the lake. We saw caves that belonged to hermits, we saw lizards and we had to crawl through a cave to get around a headland.
On our first full day we drove out to various sites where we hoped to see many birds. We were not very lucky when it came to taking photographs though we did hear nightingales and cuckoos and Ashley saw an oriole. We saw more lizards. We then went across a causeway to an island that used to be attached to the mainland. There was some very pleasant walking there and we encountered a wild cat. Well, it was wild about tummy rubs and ear scritches… It followed us for quite a long way. Using our monoscope we were able to see the many, many pelicans on their islands in micra Prespa but we have no means of taking photographs at that sort of distance. It is a pretty island though!
On the last day we went walking upwards through an ancient Greek Juniper grove. The flora were spectacular. Fields full of flowers including quite a lot of orchids. The views out over the lake were amazing.
On Sunday we went walking in Pamucak wetlands. This is about 20 minutes by Dolmuş from Selçuk and a place of stunning natural beauty. It seems to be constantly under threat from industrial waste, development and tourism but, for the moment, it remains protected. Jeep ‘safaris’ and quad bikes run through it as well as horse back tours. None of those happening at the moment, though we did see a couple of guys working out quad bike routes.
We were fortunate to see three adult and two sub adult flamingos. They pass here (stopping off for lunch) on their migration to places further north.
The asphodel is flowering right now – well, beginning to flower in our area. We saw black bees gathering the pollen. And butterflies. We saw quite a few butterflies and two large tortoises, quite awake. We heard a lot of frogs. We saw buzzards and larks (lots of larks) and sparrows, goldfinches and masses of magpies. Not to mention the Kentish plovers.
Today we saw storks flying high and several swallows. So spring is definitely in swing here in Selçuk.
Leaving aside the ongoing human tragedy and the biker stuff which will be the subject of a later post.
There was another ride out planned for the Sunday, but we had to be back in Mitilini for 4pm so would have needed to leave mid lunch. So, we made our own fun. We went bird watching around Skala Kaloni. Early October is not the best time, the Bee Eaters are gone south for winter, many other species have migrated, and the wetlands are at their driest, so waterbirds are more scarce.
In a couple of hours and not really trying hard. 2 Black Storks, a Peregrine Falcon, a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Egret, Night Heron. Along with all the usual suspects, Grey Heron, finches, larks, sparrows, buzzards, gulls. Sadly not many pictures, we only had the pocket camera with us.
Oh, and for completeness on avian matters, from the day before, Theo, Hilary’s friend. Theo is multilingual, speaks, Greek, English and Turkish.
We may publish flocks of corvids sitting on buildings, in trees, on wall, watching humans and muttering nevermore….. But we can do most of that here at home in Selcuk with the vast flock of jackdaws. Oh and a shower scene, or am I getting fiction and film mixed up?
Poe and Hitchcock aside……
We will say more on Kerkini soon, but for now, the bird photos.
Some people may have gathered we went to Greece for a few days. Our first stop in Greece after a leisurely ride north via Ayvalik and Canakkale was Dadia. Dadia is a small village to the south of Soufli (nearest cash machine) with a couple of eateries and hotels. More on those later. Our reason for going to Dadia Forest was to see birds of prey. It is one of only two mainland sites in Europe where it is possible to see Black Vultures and Gryphon Vultures. It is also very good for other large raptors. As such the forest is carefully managed and the birds protected. Just outside the village of Dadia is the visitor centre www.dadia-np.gr from where it is possible to get up to date information on the forest, details of walking trails and more. On our first day we took a walk up to the hide by one trail, and back by another, both clearly marked, rated as easy, and very pleasant. On our walk up we saw Buzzards and a Gryphon Vulture in flight. We spent ages up at the hide, there was an Egyptian Vulture, a Black Kite and an eagle, almost certainly Lesser Spotted Eagle, Schoolchildren were being brought into the hide, given access to telescopes, given the eco drill in Greek, noisy at times but the hide is well away from the birds and none were bothered. When the children were not there we got to use the telescopes. One or second day we took the harder trails, one up to Gibrena Peak and another down. These were graded as medium as indeed they turned out to be. We were good and followed the rules, left our details and walking plans at the visitor centre, checked back in with them on return. Again both trails we were marked and easy to follow, giving great views at times. There was lots of wild flowers, would have been more a month or so earlier, something to maybe bear in mind for the future. Near the peak we came across an eagle sat in a small tree, unfortunately it did not hang around for photographs. We would recommend decent walking shoes for the climb to Gibrena Peak which Ashley did not have so took the risk with sport sandals, the only real risk being snakes, and well, not really a big risk. Back to Dadia village. The village appears to have two hotels, but one seemed closed. The other is next to the visitor centre www.forestinn.eu It is a lovely place, we think it used to be part of the visitor centre, but is now being run privately. Our room was lovely, and we spent ages sat on the sunny balcony watching Hoopoes flying back and forth. One morning when we were leaving the accommodation block to get breakfast there was a Sparrow Hawk in the garden, though most of the time it was populated by Swallows. Breakfast was good. The cafeteria also provided us with a steady supply of frappe, the occasional beer and did some snacks and ice cream. Sitting in the café garden, at times a vulture passed overhead and further in the distance there were storks in flight. At the time we were there the hotel was not doing meals, but there are a couple of eateries in the village, one inexpensive Taverna, and a take out souvlaki place that needless to say did excellent take out souvlaki. Being Greece, neither opens much before 9pm, so we relaxed in the hotel garden and had another beer. It is a lovely place, we will go again.
After what has been a cold March, cold in the UK, then cold here, the weather is finally warming up. The storks have arrived, the first of the swallows have arrived, but as the say, one Swallow does not make spring.
So, on the first warm and sunny day, we decided to take a stroll around some of the local archaeological sites. Ephesus on a Sunday is never going to be empty, but it is nice to stroll through, laugh at some of the tours and, well we have Muze Kart so it costs nothing.
The Artemis Temple is now as deeply flooded as it ever gets. There are a few guys selling post cards, guide books, and dodgy coins. Mostly it is a quiet place, the tours rarely stop and those which do move on pretty quickly. So we were left with the geese, the turtles, frogs, a snake, storks, and a visiting heron.
Confirmed by a friend and others as a Night Heron, this one clearly did not know is was early afternoon.
In the summer we bought a new camera, mostly for wildlife photos, since for scenery and other things the pocket digital cameras tend to do just fine. Lifestyle restrictions meant an SLR was not really an option so we ended up with a Canon SX50HS. The zoom is fantastic. All the below were taken with the camera hand held, because again lifestyle makes a tripod not so realistic.
In no particular order. Jackdaws in Selçuk being sociable and amusing. A Carrion Crow. A Rock Nuthatch from our recent trip to Nysa, we normally hear these before seeing them, against rocks they can be hard to spot. Swan and Moorhen from Kew. A London Parrot – otherwise known as a Ring Necked Parakeet or Rose Ringed Parakeet. A Spotted Flycatcher from Aksu. And Grebe, we have seen Grebe in many places, Kovada, Eğirdir, elsewhere, these were on the Thames in Oxfordshire.