Lake Kerkini Nationwide Park within the north of Greece is the perfect birding space within the Balkan Peninsula and positively among the many high ten hotspots of Europe. Surprisingly, regardless of being on the location of a former marsh, Kerkini is a synthetic reservoir with the aim of irrigation of arable fields. The lake lies at a mere 35 m / 115 ft a.s.l. and is towered by the forested, 2,030 m / 6,660 ft excessive Mt. Kerkini/Belles on its northern facet, providing an enormous altitudinal vary and a fantastic number of habitats. Some 320 species have been recorded right here, and in springtime it’s attainable to watch greater than 150 chook species in every week.
That is additionally my favorite birding spot, which I normally go to yearly, however because of the pandemic disruption I used to be now returning after a 4 years break. We arrived simply earlier than midnight to satisfy our buddy and the Limneo Lodge proprietor Nikos Gallios, with whom we shared a superb pizza topped with recent village produce, mere 100 m / 330 ft from his lodge. What amazed me is that, as an alternative of the standard 6 or 8 slices, this pizza was reduce into tiny, bite-size slices!
Booted Eagle by Kostas Papadopoulos
The subsequent morning was a lazy one, a late breakfast and even later tour. It was getting scorching, so as an alternative of an initially deliberate 6 km intense birding route, I opted for a leisurely 70 km around the lake drive with some en route birding intermingled with just a few cafe and restaurant stops. The southern half of the lake produced White Stork, Spanish Sparrow, Pygmy Cormorant, Nice White Pelican, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Evening-Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Kite, European Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Nice Reed Warbler, Purple-rumped Swallow, and simply earlier than the espresso break, a Lesser Noticed Eagle swallowing a snake in mid-air.
Lesser Noticed Eagle and Eurasian Hoopoe by Kostas Papadopoulos
After which we had whipped and iced espresso frappe, which is as we speak much more frequent in Greece than conventional Greek espresso (with much less political correctness it might be additionally referred to as Turkish espresso, one thing I by no means tried myself) in a deep shade of very dense tree crowns, which is, alas, additionally very a lot appreciated by a neighborhood gang of mosquitoes. But, that was the one time we used insect repellent on your entire journey. The northern half of the lake added Corn Bunting, European Turtle Dove, Dalmatian Pelican, Purple Heron, Eurasian Pastime, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Eurasian Inexperienced Woodpecker, and solely the primary of the a number of Masked Shrikes of the tour (cowl picture by Kostas Papadopoulos).
The subsequent cease was for lunch in a Railway Station Tavern within the Vyronenia Village. Though the trains on the Thessaloniki-Alexandroupolis line appear to be few and much in between, they nonetheless cease at this village station was a restaurant. We sat outside, shaded by outdated aircraft timber and cooled by a brief bathe falling within the vibrant daylight. We have been joined by Nikos and his household, so we ordered a dozen conventional dishes and salads to share, some native buffalo sausages and pork kebabs with yoghurt sauce, bouyiourdi (a Greek appetizer consisting of feta cheese, kasseri, tomatoes, oregano, olive oil and bell peppers), a mushroom pie, after which there was one other salty pie with honey, it’s all combined up in my thoughts by now. The service was quick, the dishes nice, costs reasonable and the corporate priceless. To spherical up the day, in our base-village of Chrisochorafa, we later had one lovable Little Owl only a few hundred metres from our lodge.
The subsequent day was the one after I awakened early – the one time on this journey. I went to discover the most effective birding space of the nationwide park, the legendary jap levee, and this present day began with one other Little Owl within the subsequent village. The levee was bursting with singing Frequent Nightingales, Eurasian Penduline Tits, Japanese Olivaceous Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers (one permitting for the most effective of views), and Cirl Buntings. Then there have been just a few Hawfinches and two younger Black Storks, Little Bittern, Nice White Egret, Shiny Ibis, Frequent Kingfisher, Syrian Woodpecker, Peregrine Falcon, Purple-backed Shrike, Lesser Gray Shrike, Collared Flycatcher and a household of Western Yellow Wagtails. Later within the day, roadside birds included a Booted Eagle and a Levant Sparrowhawk.
Subsequent morning we joined certainly one of Nikos’s Varkada Boat Excursions of the lake, crusing round and thru chook colonies and into the primary in-flow channel of the Strymonas River the place it enters the lake. As a consequence of heavy rains many clutches of Nice Crested Grebes had failed, however we noticed each nests with eggs (and left the world instantly) and adults with chicks, a few of them piggy-backing their moms. We additionally noticed nests of Pygmy Cormorants, Dalmatian Pelicans, Little Egrets, Cattle Egret (with a chick), Squacco Heron, and Spoonbills. The final time I used to be right here, the Nationwide Park Director, Dr Theodoros Naziridis, informed me they have been ready for a very excessive water degree to tug the floating concrete raft (meant for breeding of pelicans) additional away so the pile of rocks it was anchored to may grow to be a basis for the brand new wood platform. Nevertheless, throughout a storm the chains that saved it anchored broke off and the raft is now stranded on the shore, accessible to stray canine and never used for breeding. The Strymonas Channel was adorned by quite a few Nice White Pelicans, Black-crowned Evening-Herons, Shiny Ibises, additionally Penduline Tits, Frequent Reed Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers and Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Final however not least, there have been three species of shrikes, Purple-backed, Lesser Gray and at the very least 2 Masked Shrikes, presumably 2 extra, a complete household (not all have been displaying so properly).
Nice White Pelicans by Kostas Papadopoulos
We devoted the afternoon to the small, deserted and revitalised quarry behind the hamlet of Chimarros. It turned out to be the house of the ultimate of the 4 native shrikes, the Woodchat Shrike (a household, 2 adults and a couple of juveniles) displaying properly, a singing Ortolan Bunting, Turtle Dove, yet another Masked Shrike, Japanese Olivaceous Warbler, Noticed Flycatcher, Yellowhammer, in addition to 3 grazing Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca).
Versus one earlier Kerkini tour when two intense days received me over 100 species, these three lazy days received me 95 species and I’m very proud of the rating and the way in which I received there. The subsequent day we went to a different nationwide park, this time a sequence of coastal lagoons, however you’ll learn that story in a fortnight.