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WEATHER: wall to wall sunshine, a nice cooling breeze. Top temp 25C

Yesterday I flew froml  Lesvos to Thessaloniki via Athens with Dancho, we met Mike and Lorna at the airport and drove to the hotel in Perera. An afternoon visit to the nearby Angelchori Lagoon and Salt Pans produced many sightings including Slender-billed Gull, Pygmy Cormorant, five species of Terns and a few waders. Later I collect 5 more of the group from the airport.

one the first birds we saw at Angelchori Lagoon

Slender-billed Gull with Curlew Sandpipers at Angelchori

This morning I drove to the Kalachori Lagoon with 6 of the group and Dancho took Graham to pick another couple from central Thessaloniki. Dancho arrived a few minutes after us at Kalachori.

We made an excellent start to the trip even though far fewer birds were present on and around the lagoon as had been in previous years. Kalachori isn’t just one lagoon there are a series of them, the water is brackish with the Port of Thessaloniki just a few meters away.

the Causeway between the two main lagoons at Kalachori

 Wew viewed the main lagoon from various positions and found a good number of birds, the most nu,merous was the Curlew Sandpiper followed by Little Stints. Both birds looked superb in the morning light with dead still water giving lovely reflections. Black Terns quartered the water, dipping to the surface to pick up morsels of food whilst Common and Little Terns dove into the water for their breakfast.

Curlew Sandpiper

Avocets and black-winged Stilts, wading through the shallow water with Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Greater Ringed Plovers combing the muddy edges. Common Shelducks were the most numbers duck. We saw distant Long-legged Buzard, Marsh Harriers, Alpine, Pallid and above us Common Swifts, Barn Swallows and Sand Martins.

winter plumage left and summer plumage right, Curlew Sandpipers

From a grassy outcrop we scanned the first lagoon once again achieving a much better perspective with better light and much closer subjects. The Black Terns were a wonderful sight, Little Gulls dropped into the pool and Mediterranean Gulls flew over issuing their distinctive call. A pair of Kentish Plovers were nesting just below with a pair of Spur-winged plovers close by.

Spur-winged Plover by Dancho

We moved along the main track once again, finding Great and Pygmy Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes and yellow-legged Gulls on the seaward side of the track. Lagoon number two was much, much bigger and was covered in Greater Flamingos, hundreds of them, perhaps even a thousand or more. Lagoon three was virtually dry with low scrub covering most it, a man-made causeway divided the two lagoons and from there we scanned both lagoons.

It was Dancho who called out our star bird, we were searching for a reported Broad-billed Sandpiper but he produced a much better bird, a TEREK SANDPIPER. A pulse of excitement ran through the group and soon we were all watching and photographing it. Of course, all the photographers wanted to get closer and before long the bird flew off, but not very far.

three pictures of the Terek Sandpiper

Huge numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints hurried across the muddy surface around te edges of the lagoons, we picked out a single Dunlin amongst them but not the Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Further along the track we came to more lagoons with much deeper water, we found Mute Swan, Dalmatian Pelicans, more Great Crested Grebes, Whiskered Terns and a couple of Redshank. Around the edge of the tidal Port we found Grey Plover, Oystercatcher and lots more Pygmy Cormorants.

 a male Kentish Plover standing guard on its nest

A canal fringed by reeds ran alongside this deep lagoon, we watched dragonflies, butterflies, Terrapins and we saw Tree Sparrow, a huge flock of Rooks, a Common Cuckoo called from some power lines and Olivaceous, Reed and Great Reed Warblers sang from the scrub and reeds.

We left the area after about 4 hours and drove into the suburbs looking for food for lunch. It was the Greek Easter Monday so most places were closed but we came across a cafe with sandwiches.

Lesser |Kestrel by Dancho

At 2pm we set off for Lake Kerkini with a couple of stops in mind. The first was a huge reservoir with an overflow canal running around it. We stopped for our first birding in the countryside of Northern Greece and what a great experience my group enjoyed. Birds were everywhere but mainly above us, we picked out several Lesser Kestrels, a new bird for Wingspan on this trip, also Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and White Storks.

Along the canal we stopped again to looked at raptors high in the sky, Dancho pulled out a Black Vulture, another write-in on the trip list, this was followed by White-tailed Eagle, two Black Storks and many more kestrel sightings.

In the canal we saw Ferruginous Duck, a single Garganey, Great Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Common Nightingales. Yellow Wagtails dashed about in the fields, a Red-throated Pipit was aheard-only and Short-toed Eagles kept appearing.

never seen in Greece before (by us) - our first Black Vulture taken by Dancho

From the raised bank of the reservoir we scanned the water and found 20-30 Ferruginous Ducks, some Gadwall, Common Pochard, Great Crested Grebes. Pygmy Cormorants and some Mallards.

We had to move on and our final stop was just a road-side pullover near the town of Flaviochori, a huge rock headland surround large open grassland fields e we saw Montagu’s  Harriers, Calandra Larks (both new species for Wingspan in Greece), also Hobby and more of the same raptors as previously recorded.

te view of the Lake from my Room at the hotel

It took an hour to drive to the hotel from our last stop, we noted Rollers on the wires, Bee-eaters in small flocks and Hoopoes dashing across the landscape. It was after 6pm when we arrived at the hotel. The bird-log revealed that we had seen 82 species on our first day, wowza!!