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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 January - March 2013

 Winter is gone, but it left important memories behind. Remarkable observations include various jackal groups in the perimeter of lake Kerkini and the frequent sighting of roe deer and boars on the low mountain ranges around the lake. A group of wolves was also spotted and observed (inasmuch as that is possible...) on the  mountains of site 8 of Birdwatching in Northern Greece.

Also, otters have been making a strong showing thus far, in larger groups (up to 6 individuals together!) and more frequently than last year (mostly near site 4).

Another nice moment was the presence of 56 Lesser White-fronted Geese, who apparently finished the trip from Kerkini lake (last sighting 21/12/2012) to Evros river (arrival-first sighting 10/1/2013) safe and sound. The presence of at least 20 Spotted Eagles and some thousands of White-fronted Geese was also noted.

Among the more rare specimen that graced the biotope with their presence, at least 3 Golden Eagle, 2 White-tailed Eagle, 4-5 Peregrines and a youngling Imperial Eagle (not sighted very frequently) were observed in the general vicinity. We shouldn't however fail to mention the 2-3 Eagle Owls that reside in the forest and around the lake, as well as the 8-10 Marsh Harrier that made their presence clear on almost daily basis.

Hen Harrier, Comon Buzzards and smaller birds of prey complete the image of the predators of the lake, attracted and sustained by its abundant food sources.

A young Golden Eagle was also observed near site 7 (for the first time!) at 27/1, while two more younglings and an adult bird were simultaneously sighted in the Strimonas area near the border. This particular adult is the most recognizable by now, due to its characteristic markings.

In other news, Cranes started arriving around the 12/12, with a group of 4 (probably a family). By the 21/12 there were 10 of them, and by the 11/1 twelve. A month and a half later (28/2) there were a whole 28 of them!! All the while, a forgotten Hoopoe was observed (23/12), three White Pelicans give their unique color to the landscape and Great Grey Shrikes, just like every year, are sighted in their usual spots.

More than 10.000 Pochards offer amazing images with their massive maneuvers, and starting on the 20/12 a group of 21 Ferruginous Ducks rest for a few days near site 6.

Today... the (2) Egyptian Geese are still here, and don't look like they are leaving any time soon. With colleague (but mostly friend) Sotiris Mountzelos we observed three Imperial Eagle (adult, juvenile, subadult) above the northern part of the lake, and the last 2-3 Spotted Eagle. There are still enough Swans and some Flamingo. At the beginning of March another good friend, Giorgos Spyridakis, observed 48 Cranes gaining height (that means a longer travel) near site 7. About 220 Dalmatian Pelicans are occupying the artificial islands (of which almost 150 on the reproduction platforms), and many White Pelicans are moving to the shallower parts of the lake, in its northern part, adjacent to the forest. Near Limnochori village, in a poplar field, more than 70 Grey Herons nests have been counted, while, starting in mid-March, Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills and Grey Herons are establishing residency at the nests in the riparian forest. The Cormorans have started much sooner of course, so we are expecting the first young birds any time now.

More migratory species have started arriving - some to stay, some just to rest. With some luck and a lot of field hours, most of them can be spotted. I think that, especially during this period (mid-March tomid-April) one should be outside the whole day (and even the whole night- there's a lot going on during the night as well) in order to observe and admire the movements of our winged friends. Amongst others Pelicans have of course started arriving, and manning the first nests.

Spoonbills, various Waders, Imperial Eagle, Lesser-Spotted Eagle, Black Kites, Dalmatian Pelicans, White Pelicans, various Swallows and Martins, Osprey, Ruffs, Harriers, Short-toed Eagle, Herons, Penduline Tits, Gulls and lots of other birds are adorning the area with their presence. We expect a "rich" and thoroughly interesting period to follow.

 Thanks are due to Kostas and the Management Authority for this report.