Southern Uplands

Above Kato Stavros On reaching this road we turned right towards the main southern town of Plomari where an excellent brand of Ouzo is made. We followed this road through Akrasi, past the road to Neochori and then took a left turn towards Mount Olympos and followed the map as best we could keeping Mount Olympos to our left.

We decided to spend a day driving around the Southern Uplands around Mount Olympos to check out the flora and fauna of the area especially as we had heard that several species of orchid could be found in the area.
We drove east out of Vatera to the Vourkou River which was another interesting area that would warrant further investigation. The southern end of the river close to where it reaches the sea is quite lush and green and would likely hold migrants as well as some interesting local species.
On reaching the river we headed inland up to Kato Stavros where we crossed the river and followed the newly sign posted road to Ambeliko (sometimes referred to as Ampeliko). The road is only a gravelled track but is drivable with care. I have driven on much worse roads in Lesvos. The road rises continuously until you reach the tarmac road to Ambeliko.

We skirted round the southern edge of the mountain which can easily be identified by its concrete roof containing radar aerials and the like, kindly donated by the Greek army, until we eventually reached the Sweet Chestnut woods near to Agiasos. We drove through the woods on a track that was by far the worst of this journey but was passable with a little more care than usual until we reached the main tarmac road to Agiasos. The last section of the trip was just the drive to Agiasos and back to Vatera via the normal main roads.

To Agiasos

The first bird of interest was an Audouin's Gull spotted on the farthest east section of Vatera beach as we drove past. The second was a Fan-tailed warbler heard singing around the southern end of the Vourkou River. The only other Fan-tailed Warbler of the trip was one around Dipi Larsos reed beds on the return trip to Mytilini Airport.

Violet Limodore Orchid        Cytus creticus        Naked Man Orchid

The first section of mountain road between Kato Stavros and the Ambeliko road is steep scrubby hillside with small oak and pine trees and large numbers of the pink Cystus (creticus?) and grassy areas containing masses of flowers. In this area we also found a plant that is parasitic on pink Cystus called Cytinus ruber.

Crested Lark In this area many of the usual upland birds were seen such as Crested Lark, Wheatears as well as Sombre Tit, Buzzard and close views of an adult Bonelli's Eagle. A Black Stork was also seen soaring over the mountains. This area also looked promising for Chukar.

Further up the road where it becomes more wooded many interesting plant species could be found at the roadside such as Broomrape, Bell Flowers, Navalwort, Lillies, Naked Man Orchid and under pine trees we found the beautiful Purple or Violet Limodore Orchid.

The second stretch of road from near Neochori to Agiasos starts in Olive groves with banks of flowers amongst them then crosses some more open farmland before entering a wooded zone culminating in Sweet Chestnut woods near Agiasos.

The flower meadows amongst the Olives were possibly more spectacular than those above Kato Stavros containing vetches, Spurges, Tassel Hyacynth, Lupins, Asphodels, more naked Man Orchids amongst Toothed Orchids, Green-winged Orchids and a species similar to our Bee Orchid, the Woodcock Orchid.

Roadside Flowers                  Woodcock Orchid

Birds along this stretch of road included Swifts, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Corn, Black-headed and Cretzschmars Bunting, Orphean and Subalpine Warbler and Red-backed, Woodchat and Masked Shrike all seen before reaching the Sweet Chestnut woodland. Once here, birds such as Robin (a local rarity), Wren (scarce except around Agiasos), Nightingale, Jay, Raven, Hoopoe and Goshawk were encountered.
An enormous Large Whip Snake (dark form) was also encountered at a roadside stop as it approached us up a flower bank tasting the air with its tongue. As soon as it tasted our smell in the air it rose up and dissapeared in the opposite direction at an incredible speed, thus proving the point that they are more frightened of us than we are of them. Thats the theory anyway.

Toothed Orchid                  Green Winged Orchid

The whole trip was thoroughly enjoyable with stops being made whenever it took our fancy. Not only were some interesting birds seen, the flowers were amazing and along with the flowers were many butterfly species such as Festoons, Swallowtails, Orange-tips, Whites including Dappled White and I saw my first Nettle Tree Butterfly on the roadside.

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