|Lanius Bird Tours
GREECE & MACEDONIA
Lake Kerkini in Spring
15 - 22 May 2018
This two centre tour offers some of the most diverse wildlife in Eastern Europe and while primarily focusing on birds, it will also provide an excellent array of wild flowers, reptiles, butterflies and other interesting insects. Lake Kerkini ranks as one of the best inland waters for birds in Northern Greece, if not of the whole region and is truly a birders’ paradise. Although an artificial reservoir, the shallow waters and large flooded forests attract many breeding birds, including an impressive selection of herons, egrets, spoonbills, cormorants and pelicans. Additionally, impressive mountains rise to the north of the lake and provide not only a stunning backdrop, but also several interesting passerines and raptors. First however we begin with a 3 night visit to Southern Macedonia, a beautiful and mountainous country where time still goes at a much slower pace. It is a tiny country and one which most people are not familiar with, but as a home for wildlife it is hard to find a greater richness in Europe. Indeed the fine mix of habitats will ensure a fascinating and memorable stay, while the abundance of wildlife means our days will be packed full of interest, despite the gentle pace of the tour.
Days 2 & 3
Only 15 miles from our hotel is the Vardar River, where together with the surrounding hills we will search for the highly prized Imperial Eagle, while other typical birds of the area include Olivaceous and Orphean Warblers, Short-toed Eagle, European Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike and Spanish Sparrow. Nearby we will also visit a large Lesser Kestrel colony - one of the last in the Balkans, where over 130 pairs nest in the old rooftops.
Wildflowers are a feature here and Pale Bugloss, Pyramidal Orchid, Lizard Orchid, Hairy Flax and Corn Cockle should be in bloom, while interesting insects may include the strange armour-plated Bronze Glandular Bush-cricket and Horned Praying Mantis. The butterfly season should be more advanced here, with Osiris and Zephyr Blues likely, along with Southern White Admiral. Amongst the reptiles Nose-horned Viper, Dahl´s Whipsnake and Balkan Green Lizard are all possible.
One day we will start early and drive to a plateau where we walk to vulture feeding site. Egyptian and Griffon Vultures regularly come to feed here and are sometimes joined by eagles, while Long-legged Buzzard and Lanner can also be seen in the area. Passerines are well represented and we should manage to find Hoopoe, Ortolan Bunting and Barred Warbler. At a height of 2500ft the butterfly season will be delayed somewhat, but specialities such as Russian Heath, Freyer´s Fritillary and Eastern Festoon are possible, along with Turquoise and Adonis Blues, Marbled and High Brown Fritillaries and Camberwell Beauty. In fact Macedonia boasts over 200 species of butterflies and considering its size, it is possibly the best destinations in Europe for the butterfly enthusiast.
If time permits we should stop briefly at Dojran Lake before crossing the border into Greece. This large and shallow lake is shared between Macedonia and Greece and a tiny quarry on the Macedonian side is a great place for butterflies and dragonflies. Birds here will no doubt include Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant, while Little Bittern is sometimes seen flying over the reeds. Later in the afternoon we will transfer to the village of Chrysochorafa, our base for the last four nights. It is set near the eastern embankment of Lake Kerkini, the best position for daily field trips to the lake and the nearby environs.
Day 5 - 7
One day we will start early in order to take a boat trip along the northern shore, passing close to the heronries and a large Cormorant colony. This place literally teems with thousands of birds, White Pelicans use the river mouth to rest, while Grey, Squacco and Night Herons, as well as Great Egret and Spoonbill feed in the shallow water. Additionally, Glossy Ibis breed nearby and can often be seen flying over. Hundreds of Great Crested Grebes are present and migrating Black, Whiskered and White-winged Terns stop to feed in good numbers, while Common Tern breed on artificial platforms. The importance of the lake for birds is ever growing, and Dalmatian Pelican have started to breed here recently, the first new colony for the species in Europe for many years. The cruise will no doubt provide an excellent photo opportunity.
The western shore of the lake, bordering the Kroutsia Mountains is heavily forested, but there are a few places in foothills where we can look for some hard-to-see birds, especially Olive-tree Warbler and Masked Shrike. Both prefer well vegetated areas. Although both are rather skulky, the high breeding density here will give us a good chance to see them. The Kroutsias are also excellent for raptors, with good numbers of breeding Black Kite and Honey Buzzard as well as White-tailed, Lesser Spotted and Booted Eagles. Another much sought-after raptor is Levant Sparrowhawk and the villages along the western shore are a frequent hunting ground for up to ten breeding pairs. Black Stork meanwhile breed deeper into the hills, but are sometimes seen flying past. Hawfinch is common.
The northern shore, bordered by the Belles Mountains (over 2000m), is a great place for close-up views of Squacco Heron and Pygmy Cormorant. It also supports perhaps the most notable reedbeds, home to Purple Heron, Great Reed Warbler, Water Rail and Penduline Tit, while higher up in the wooded valleys Crested Tit, Firecrest and Sombre Tit are possible.
Away from the lake we will visit the riverine forest located right at the Bulgarian border, where old poplars, willows and ashes provide a haven for up to 7 species of woodpeckers, most notably Middle Spotted, Grey-headed and Black Woodpecker. Short-toed Treecreeper is also present. Nearby we will explore a belt of grazed grassland where Red-footed Falcons like to stop on migration and Great Spotted Cuckoo can sometimes be found. A disused quarry north east of the lake often proves rewarding and Rock Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole, Red-rumped Swallow and Eastern Orphean Warbler are some of the many birds found there. Eagle Owl often breeds in the quarry, while Golden Eagle can frequently be observed overhead. Nearby, another quarry close to the town of Sidirokastro holds breeding Roller and Bee-eater, in addition to which Rock Sparrow have recently began to breed.
Southern White Admiral
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