relaxed birding around the shores of beautiful Lake Kerkini
"Just a line to thank you both for making our holiday to Greece a complete success. We are astounded by your powers of observation
and great knowledge of birds which you import to your fellow travellers."...... Mr and Mrs A, West Yorkshire, September 2006
"Nice one! Thanks Roger and John. My head was totally full of birds and flowers and butterflies when I got back. It was a real holiday
and I would strongly recommend Bird Holidays."....Carol S., County Down, 2014
click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up - easier to print - no photos
Our visits to the Kerkini region have always been amongst the most popular of our European trips. We base the tour at a single hotel where we stay for seven nights. The hotel is beautifully situated against a backdrop of forested mountains and overlooking Lake Kerkini. The variety of birds, butterflies and wildflowers is simply astonishing - this is a great place to spend a week in the sun enjoying the wildlife.
Greece’s geographical position has resulted in a diversity of birdlife which comprises a mixture of species from Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia. Lake Kerkini lies on an important migratory flyway between Northern Europe and East Africa. The timing of our visit means we shall experience a taste of this vast migration as well as a multitude of species which make this area their home.
Exciting Balkan species include Syrian Woodpecker, Rock Nuthatch, Dalmatian Pelican, Rock Partridge, and Sombre Tit. Mediterranean species include Squacco Heron, Short-toed Eagle, Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull and Sardinian Warbler. The eastern influence is shown by Marsh Sandpiper, Collared Flycatcher, Masked Shrike and Red-throated Pipit, while typical European birds like Hawfinch, Calandra Lark and Eagle Owl can also be found. The variety provided by the mountains includes Nutcracker, Black Woodpecker, Rock Thrush and, if we are lucky, the rare Balkan form of the White-backed Woodpecker.
The timing of our holiday is planned to coincide with the autumn migration. Thousands of birds will be seen resting or feeding up before continuing their southward journeys.
Our hotel terrace overlooks Lake Kerkini. Scenically the most impressive wetland in Northern Greece, this large lake also holds more birds than any of the others. Surrounded by hills and mountains, the autumn bird spectacle is one of Greece's best kept secrets.
Our most recent visits have yielded no less than 200 pairs of Dalmatian Pelicans, and the lake is Europe’s most important wintering site for this species. The spectacle is enhanced by hundreds of White Pelicans, Little Egrets, Cormorants, Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, and Spoonbill, plus smaller numbers of Pygmy Cormorants, Purple Herons, Squacco Herons, Great White Egrets and Black Storks. Good numbers of Whiskered Terns are joined by occasional White-winged Black Terns. Thousands of passage waders use this site, mainly Black-tailed Godwit and Wood Sandpiper, but with a host of other species including Temminck’s Stint, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. Two Broad-billed Sandpipers were seen on one visit. A flock of 300 Collared Pratincoles was a highlight on another occasion.
Wildfowl present include Ferruginous Duck and Garganey, whilst of all the raptors hunting the area the Lesser Spotted Eagle is the most evident. Little Bitterns and various crakes skulk in overgrown ditches whilst Kingfishers flash their brilliant colours. Damp areas attract Black-headed Wagtails and Cetti's Warblers, and in nearby woodland and farmland, Rollers, Golden Orioles, Nightingales, Hoopoes and Lesser Grey Shrikes can be seen.
Surrounded on three sides by rocky hills and a gorge, the town of Sidirokastro nestles unobtrusively into the Greek countryside. Behind the town a road leads up through maquis-covered hills to a ruined Byzantine castle where Red-rumped Swallows are common and Sardinian Warblers chatter. On the rocky slopes Black-eared Wheatears and Rock Sparrows can be seen, and both Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes abound. Impressive rocky cliffs are attractive to Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts, and we also expect to find Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Rock Nuthatch and Blue Rock Thrush.
High mountains to the north and east dominate the landscape. We are fortunate in that good roads cut into them in a couple of places, allowing access to both mid- and high-elevation habitats.
Birds of prey will be uppermost in our minds. At lower levels Levant Sparrowhawks are fairly common, giving way to Eurasian Sparrowhawks and Goshawks higher up. Both Booted and Short-toed Eagles can be seen at mid-elevations, Golden Eagles being regular above the peaks.
In the mid-elevation woodland Syrian Woodpecker, Hawfinch and Sombre Tit are amongst the highlights. Patches of riparian woodland host Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers and Short-toed Treecreeper. Lakeside trees are good for migrant passerines which in most years include Wryneck, Wood Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Collared Flycatcher.
In recent years, our drive to 5000 feet has provided some of the best and most unexpected sightings. An excellent road winds its way through old-growth pine forest to the rocky alpine zone. In the former we have seen Black Woodpecker, the rare Balkan form of the White-backed Woodpecker, Crested Tit, Crossbill and Nutcracker. On reaching the bare scree slopes we can expect the localized Rock Partridge, Alpine Chough, Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, and Ortolan.
The diversity of birdlife around Lake Kerkini is outstanding for an inland site. Nevertheless, there are some species which can only be found on the coast, so our visit to Kalochori should be very productive.
We can expect large numbers of Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls, plus smaller numbers of Caspian and Slender-billed Gulls. Kentish Plover occur in large numbers, and there is normally a large non-breeding flock of Greater Flamingos. Passage waders use this site, which is excellent for rarities: Red-necked Phalarope, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper have all featured on our previous visits!
CLIMATE AND PACE
Hot and sunny weather is the norm, although we have had rain on occasions. It is usually cooler in the mountains. Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am most mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. Day-long birdwatching excursions will be made with short/medium length walks on the flat. Visits to the mountains will involve a little uphill walking, done at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided with seven nights in the wonderfully situated Hotel Erodios by Lake Kerkini. All rooms have en suite bathrooms.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 4th, ending with breakfast on 11th), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, local transport by mini-bus, boat trip and international flights.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flights from both London Gatwick and Manchester to Thessaloniki using the scheduled services of Easyjet. Outbound flight departs early morning; return flight arrives back early afternoon.
Several pairs of Masked Shrike can be found near the lake.
Penduline Tits can be watched making their remarkable nests.
Herons such as this Squacco are abundant at Lake Kerkini.
This male Levant Sparrowhawk had a lizard in its talons.
A Bee-eater repositions a dragonfly before swallowing it!
click here to see the photographs in our Northern Greece Album (contains images from spring and autumn)
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