I met Nikos Gallios at the Bird Fair last year and over the winter arranged a birdwatching trip to Lake Kerkini in Northern Greece, staying at his comfortable family hotel nearby in the village of Chrysochorafa, I went with John Holtham who arranged the transport and flights. We flew to Thessalonika and then drove North to the small village quite close to the Bulgarian border. It was a trouble free journey, both the flight by Easyjet and the drive to the Hotel. We had the hotel to ourselves as Nikos was 'between groups' so we planned the next couple of days around a boat trip on the lake. Our main objective was to see the Dalmation Pelicans which although a globally threatened species occurred in good numbers on the lake. We would spend our first day on the lake and around the lake exploring the wealth of birdlife in the area.
Day 2 would be spent in the mountainous terrain to the north searching for a secondary objective -Rock Partridge.
The weather was ideal, warm sunshine and windless, a stark contrast to the weather we had left behind in the U.K. After a excellent Greek breakfast we followed Nikos to the lake shore where his boat was kept. Even before we got in we could see Pelicans at close quarters hoping for any fish the local fishermen might discard. More Pelicans approached as we moved slowly away from the shore. The fishermen were happy to throw undersized fish for the Cormorants as well as the Pelicans. A positive attitude to wildlife, happy to share the bounty of the lake.
Fishermen and Pelicans
Lake Kerkini is big, some 12 miles long in fact and supports huge numbers of birds: Wildfowl. Herons and Raptors. In addition there are Flamingos, Swans, Spoonbill, and both Pygmy and Greater Cormorants in large numbers. Much of the lake is fringed with trees where we found Syrian, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, and Buzzards. Other raptors perched on the dead tree stumps that littered the extensive dried up muddy areas. White tailed, Golden and Spotted Eagles plus a Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Kestrel and Merlin.
Day 2 and images of both Dalmation and White Pelicans plus other species will be in a later post.