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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.


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 May 2014

The highlight of the month was the invasion of hundreds of Rosy Starlings which began on the 18th, with the arrival of a few individuals. The 19th brought more and, by the 20th, it seemed like every mulberry tree was alive with their movement and chatter. Many of the males were in full song between berry-gorging sessions. Plenty of Cuckoos and all four shrikes were in evidence, including good numbers of Masked.

The heavy spring rains have brought the lake to full capacity very quickly, causing the nesting attempts of the Great Crested Grebes to be twice washed out. Third time lucky hopefully. Of better news, over 200 Dalmatian Pelican chicks have hatched on the platforms and several pairs of both Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret have bred in the drowned forest.

Of concern is the seemingly low numbers of large raptors, particularly Lesser Spotted, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, a phenomenon that seems not to be restricted to Kerkini.

Kerkini February/March 2014

Spring is here, some flowers have already bloomed and birds have already started their migratory trip. The White-tailed Eagles are noticeable around or in  their nests. The Golden Eagles are carrying  sticks to the same breeding nests  they have  used for years now. The Peregrines are flying near the nest they had used  for years before the crows stole it last year. Maybe they are trying to take it back. The Dalmatian Pelicans with their  bright  colored beaks  have already occupied  two of the man-made  breeding platforms  while the third one  that was constructed by the Kerkini Lake Management Authority,  has already been adopted by several pairs. The Cormorants and first Grey Herons are sitting in their nests in the riparian forest. The first Little Egrets are here  as well as a few Spoonbills, and the first House Martin. We noticed one White Stork on 21st Feb., 22 Ruffs on 25th Feb., and on 28th Feb., the first Lesser Grey Shrike. The Cranes increased to 29 on the 24th Feb. when a new group of 13 birds joined the initial flock. On 17th Feb., 57 Lesser White-fronted Geese arrived from Evros Delta and are getting ready for their big return journey to the Northern European countries. The White-fronted Geese are moving constantly looking for food. A pair of Long-legged Buzzard seem to have decided to stay in the region of Belles mountain for the time being at least. More than 10 Spotted Eagles along with  6-7 Marsh Harriers are looking for food near the riparian forest. The Great-crested Grebes have already begun their love games while the presence of three Oriental Turtle Doves  has been the surprise  of the region lately. Last but not least the Otters appear more often  mainly in the North-eastern part of the lake while at the lower parts of Krousia mountain various mammals start appearing more regularly like roe deer,  wild boar and wildcats.

During this February the Lake Kerkini Management authority made a total count of the birds in the broader area .These are some our results:

The  Great crested Grebes are more than 900, around  4850 Cormorants, almost 500 Pygmy Cormorants, more than 500 Dalmatian Pelicans and 5 White Pelicans, one Cattle Egret, 42 Spoonbills, around 2000 Flamingo, 330 Swans were counted in total from the three  species, around 800 White-fronted Geese, 57 Lesser White-fronted Geese and 45 Greylags. The Shelducks are more than 1400 and the  Wigeon are more than 1000, the  Teals and the  Mallards are reduced but are still some thousands while the Pintails are at least 450. The Shovelers  are almost  4500 while the  Pochards  are reduced to 3000 (among them a  White-headed Duck). There are also more than 80 Goldeneye  and  1200 Avocets. Large groups of  small waders (>4500) and  Black-headed Gulls (almost  8000)can be seen all  around the lake.

Thanks to Kostas and the Management Authority for this data.

Kerkini September/October 2013

Around 5,500 Cormorants form  large groups  and look for their food in various parts of the lake but mainly in the mouth of the river.

The 3,000 White Pelicnas comprise  the greatest number we have ever written down for the last years ( possibly the greatest number that has ever been recorded in Greece) .

The Dalmatian Pelicans have been more than 500 the same period of time.

There have also been two absent minded Squacco Herons , two young  Purple Herons and three Night Herons who are a bit late for their migration.

We could also spot the last Glossy Ibis (14) at the Mandraki region and almost  500 Spoonbills in the shallow waters of the east and west part of the lake.

A White Stork and  six Black Storks wander around the old riverbed of Strimonas river  and the riverside forest and ten Mute Swans at the Trigono area.

The number of  Greylag Geese remains 27 while there are ducks of every kind  that someone can notice this time of season. 

As prey birds are concerned the White-tailed Eagles, the last Lesser Spotted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles and  Booted Eagles as well as  Marsh Harriers, Peregrines and other smaller prey birds  (Sparrowhawks, Goshawks, Kestrel etc) look for their food around the lake and mainly in the north part of the lake while in the forest there are  more than fifteen Crows.

   There are more than 4000  Coots , almost 800 Avocets , some hundreds of  Lapwings and very many riverside birds in the east and west  part of the mouth of Strimonas river. There are also more than 500 Yellow-legged Gulls, more than 6,000  Black-headed Gulls  and  2500 Flamingos.

    Two Cranes continue to stay in the same region up till now and along go three  Egyptian Geese (they probably escaped from a park).

The first six  Spotted Eagles presented themselves at the National  park on 6 October .The same day we had the arrival of  the first group of 29 Lesser White-fronted Geese –lwfg-(among them a family with  5 young birds) on the northeastern part of the lake. This date has been  the earliest arrival of this species for the last few years in the region.

The White Pelicans gather in large groups and try to find rising currents to migrate.

On 8 October another group of  5 lwfg was added to the existing population that has now reached the  number of 34.

In the middle of October we noticed  an adult pair of  White-tailed Eagle and a second pair  with an adult and subadult individual.


  The Spotted Eagles have been already more than  ten maybe twelve individuals while the  Marsh Harriers have been of a similar number.

A group of around 22 lwfg arrived at the region and is added to the existing group. The number of the species has reached 56 up till now.

After the middle of October we observed the presence of various smaller prey birds like Hen Harriers, Merlin and one or two passing by  Hobby.

The presence of  Rock Partridges, Woodcocks and a few Thrushes has been noticed on Belles mountain.

 Around the end of October the first pair of  Red-crested Pochards  appeared at the region Trigono and one young  delayed but very friendly Cattle Egret presented itself and has remained in the region  near a herd of cows daily.

Everyday around 3000  Flamingos  feed themselves  in the east embankment.

Twelve Glossy Ibis remain in the region and on  28 October we noticed for the first time a group of around 110 White-fronted Geese and the first 6 Bewick’s Swans swimming in the waters of our lake.

The first Lesser White-fronted Geese arrived on 5th, with a group of 10, and these increased to 56 on 20th.

Thanks to the Lake Kerkini Management Authority for this report.

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.

Kerkini June 2013

June has started hot and humid with regular thunderstorms in the late afternoons. The water level rose quickly this spring and as yet (9th) there isn't sufficient surface vegetation for the Whiskered Terns and Black-necked Grebes to begin nesting. There are, however, plenty of all four herons, Little Bitterns and Little Egrets with just a few Cattle and Great Whites. Masked Shrikes are the most numerous that we have known, but the Lesser Greys are absent from their regular track near the river, perhaps spooked by a pair of nesting Buzzard which has three chicks. A flock of 40 Eleonora's Falcons was near Vironia bridge and Short-toed, Booted, Lesser Spotted and Golden Eagles are fairly easy to find.



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