Let us take you on a week-long exploration of the Lake and the surrounding fields, forests, mountains and coastal lagoons to enjoy diverse and bountiful bird life!
Lake Kerkini, situated in one of the most northern parts of Greece and close to the border with Bulgaria, is rightly renowned as one of the continent’s most important wintering bird sites, where birds number are one of the highest anywhere in Eastern Europe. Its international importance to birds is recognised by its designation as a Ramsar site and the overall beauty and richness of the area for wildlife is why the lake forms the heart of Lake Kerkini National Park.
Not only is the birdlife brilliant, the setting for this trip makes it all the more special. The serene waters of the lake form the stage upon which the drama for our visit will unfold; it is also surrounded by the imposing backdrop to the north of snow-capped Mount Belles, which rises up into the landscape at over 2,000m. Taking centre stage will be the bird for which the lake is perhaps best known, the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican. Kerkini is the most important wintering site on the planet for this enigmatic bird. A highlight of our visit will be a trip on the lake in one of the local fishing boats, where we will get up close and personal to the very accommodating Dalmatian Pelicans, allowing intimate views of these handsome birds in their stunning breeding plumage. A perfect opportunity for capturing some dramatic images, so cameras are definitely recommended!
Accompanying the Dalmatians on the lake will be a whole host of other wildfowl, some in huge numbers, including Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Ferruginous duck, Smew, Red-crested Pochard, Common Merganser and the occasional White headed Duck. White-fronted and Greylag Geese should be present and there is also a chance of Lesser White-fronted Geese.
We’ll also see hundreds of Grey Herons, many Great Egrets and Bittern is possible as well. There will be Greater Flamingos, small groups of Spoonbills, a group of Cranes which usually over winters, alongside a few Black Storks and possibly some White Storks. A small number of White pelican may be present (3 spent last winter at the lake), plus there will be thousands of Cormorants and many Pygmy Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Little and Black necked Grebes. Waders include hundreds or thousands of Lapwings, maybe several hundred Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Common Sandpiper are also possible.
Kerkini is also an excellent wintering site for raptors. Our main target will be the rare and endangered Greater Spotted Eagle. The juveniles have the white spotted plumage and are most attractive. Between 5-10 individuals tend to winter around the lake and we should be able to enjoy seeing them hunting over the shores during our stay, ducks beware! Other raptors to look out for include will be White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Goshawk, Merlin and Peregrine. Imperial Eagles turn up occasionally too (3 last winter) well worth watching the skies for those too! Little Owls will certainly be seen and Eagle Owl can often put in an appearance too, so can Tawny and Long-eared.
We will also spend some time away from the excitement at the lake, to explore other habitats, ranging from the villages, fields, coastal delta and lagoons to increase our species range, woodlands and wooded hillsides. We may (depending on snow levels) reach quite high into the mountains (at about 1800m) and have a look for some alpine birds and high mountain-forest birds too. We might even be able to track down Wallcreeper at a little known site! There are also 7 possible Woodpeckers to see, including Grey-headed, Black, Syrian, Middle Spotted, Lesser and White-backed. A rich variety of the Passerines we’ll see include Skylark, Crested Lark, Water and Meadow Pipit, White and Grey Wagtail, Firecrest, Cirl and Rock Bunting, Yellowhammer, Brambling, Siskin, Serin, Linnet, Hawfinch, Great Grey Shrike, Sombre Tit, Rock Nuthatch and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Our home for the trip will be the very hospitable, family owned and environmentally aware, Hotel Limneo, located in a traditional village on the eastern side of the lake. It is only a fairly short 90 minute journey from the airport, which makes it a perfect location for a short winter break. Our host there, Nikos, epitomises the famously warm Greek hospitality and we know you will enjoy your stay with him there. This holiday is definitely for the discerning birder, who likes to takes things easy and really take the time to watch and enjoy the birds and their behaviour in what is something of a bird watching paradise! So wrap up warm and join us for a wonderful winter bird watching trip, we look forward to welcoming you!