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.