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Lake Kerkini

It's simple - Lake Kerkini offers some of the most accessible, and best, opportunities for both birding and bird photography in Europe. As the year unfolds January and February can be cold, and, wildfowl numbers reach their peak with over 20 000 Pochard often with a handful of Red-cresteds. Spotted and White-tailed Eagles are frequently seen, Great White Egrets are everywhere. Dalmatian Pelicans are looking their very best and Cranes are increasingly arriving to spend the winter here, with 28 in February '13.

Migration begins in early March, with the arrival of pioneering Garganey and Osprey. White Storks arrive towards the end of the month. Migration gathers steam through April into early May, when every bush seems to hold warblers. Glossy Ibis are regular and there can be over a thousand of each species of pelican.

The early summer sees the drowned forest alive with herons and egrets. Golden Orioles sing in the poplars and Bee-eaters and Rollers sit on the wires. Great Spotted Cuckoo bred in 2010.

Returning wader migration begins as early as late June, continuing into October, although by then numbers are small. The autumn sees the water level at its lowest, exposing acres of mud, particularly at Mandraki and along the eastern embankment. This is attractive to waders but they are often some considerable distance away. Collared Pratincole pass through in good numbers in early autumn.  Pelican numbers build again as Dalmatians arrive to spend the winter and Whites stop off on passage.

October typically sees the Lesser-spotted Eagles replaced by Spotteds. The remaining months bring the ducks back, together with Lesser White-fronted Geese, which spend time here before moving on south-east to the Evros delta.

In the winter of 2007 - 2008 the total number of birds on the lake was counted at just over 41000.

There is also great birding to be had in the nearby hills, with Long-legged Buzzard, Rock Nuthatch, Calandra Lark, Subalpine and Olive-tree Warblers. Nearby woods hold Black, White-backed, Middle-spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers and the mountains to the east have Capercaillie, Nutcracker, Rock Thrush, Wryneck, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Barred Warbler.

Update

Following heavy rains in the winter of 2010 - 2011, the Strimonas River changed its course to the south of the Vironia bridge, with the result that it enters the lake at an earlier point. This has cut through the embankment at site 3 in the site guide where it can now be a little tricky to turn the car around if there's been recent rain.

The new river channel has had a detrimental effect on birdwatching at site 4. Previously the shallow waters by the embankment were a favourite spawning ground for carp in spring, bringing huge feeding frenzies of pelicans, cormorants, herons and egrets close to shore. The new river course means that as the river enters the lake earlier the spawning grounds have gone as a result of the strong current.

Update Update!

Work to return the river to its previous course was completed in October 2014 and it remains to be seen whether site 4 regains its former birding quality.

Answers to Birdfair Quiz!

  1. Honey Buzzard
  2. Black-headed Bunting
  3. Woodchat Shrike
  4. Hoopoe
  5. Long-legged Buzzard
  6. Collared Pratincole
  7. Tawny Pipit
  8. Golden Oriole
  9. Calandra Lark
  10. Spur-winged Plover
  11. Rock Thrush
  12. Broad-billed Sandpiper
  13. Shore Lark
  14. Booted Eagle
  15. Dalmatian Pelican
  16. Squacco Heron
  17. Cuckoo
  18. Lesser Kestrel
  19. Glossy Ibis
  20. Beeeater
  21. Blue Rock Thrush
  22. Ferruginous Duck
  23. Egyptian Vulture
  24. Grey-headed Woodpecker
  25. Black-necked Grebe
  26. Black Tern
  27. Montagu’s Harrier
  28. Levant Sparrowhawk
  29. Spanish Sparrow
  30. Black Woodpecker
  31. Black Vulture
  32. Little Bittern
  33. Red-footed Falcon
  34. White Stork
  35. White Pelican
  36. Black-eared Wheatear

 

How many did you get? Which did you find most difficult? Let us know your thoughts!

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Kerkini August/September 2013

It is worth mentioning the successful breeding of a pair of Golden Eagle that used the same nest as previous years. This year some 190 Dalmatian Pelicans (a record number!)  were born in the  130 nests that we counted on the artificial platforms especially constructed by the Management Authority  for this reason.  This year we had the successful breeding of at least 9 pairs of Common Terns  that took place on the small platform (it had been constructed by the Authority Management of Kerkini lake and the  financial support  of two very good friends, Steve and Hilary.

We had the chance during the night to watch some mammals like badgers, ferrets ,weasels, jackals, young foxes even wolves  while during the day we could come across hares, roe deers and  wild boars.
During the month of August we had some important recordings of various birds :White Pelicans (>1500), Dalmatian Pelicans (>550), more than  650 Pygmy Cormorants,at least  20 Cattle Egrets, around 1500 Little Egrets,250 Great Egrets, 40 Purple Herons, more than 300 Grey Herons, around 800 Spoonbills, more than 400 Flamingo (we are expecting the arrival of more in due time), 40 Greylags (the young birds are included), more than 15.000 ducks of all kinds  that someone can watch this time of year.

As the big birds of prey are concerned we can observe Short-toed Eagles, Lesser spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles and other birds that live  and breed here like Golden Eagles and White-tailed Eagles. Recently many Harriers have been observed  in the shallow waters of the lake (even today I counted 9 Marsh Harrier that were hunting in the area of the river mouth ). The Coots are many thousands while there are a lot of Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Lapwings and Plovers in the mud lands. There are also Black-tailed Godwits (at least 350) and other wader birds in big groups ( as it is the migration period ).We can also watch seagulls in great numbers and Black-headed Gulls more than 5000 while the Yellow-legged Gulls are around 700.

 The lively picture of the Kerkini region is completed by the presence of the  last Glossy Ibis,  few Squacco Herons, Night Herons, Black Storks, the first Wood Pigeons and very many small birds like Wagtails, Thrushes, Shrikes, Warblers, etc.

Thanks to the Management Authority for this report.