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WEATHER; sunny with light cloud until 4pm then thundery clouds and a light shower. Thunderstorm later

We had a good look at the lake today and the best introduction to the Kerkini birding experience is a visit to the Quay at Mandraki. We met at 6:30am, it was a beautiful, still morning and I was very surprised to see that 5 of the group had opted to stay in bed?? Jet-lag??

 a view of the lake from my balcony

An early morning visit to the Quay at Mandraki is one the most exciting birding experiences I have ever had, I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see so much ‘life’ on the move, so much sound in the air and in such a tranquil and serene settings. It is mind boggling to try to comprehend the complexity of the ecology of the lake, thousands upon thousands of birds feeding, interacting, nest building, breeding and sleeping. The amount of food in this enormous body of shallow water must be immense.

Sunrise from the jetty at Madraki Quay

Off to our right a large group of White Pelicans formed a raft as they chased shoals of fish, Cormorants joined in too! Herons, of four species, dotted the shoreline with countless Egrets, Spoonbills, Cormorants (Pygmy and Great) and Grebes, there was constant movement, on the water and in the air. Our senses were bombarded with avian sights and sounds.

White Pelicans feeding with Great Cormorants - Tony Moore

Great Reed Warblers belted out a fanfare of raucous notes, Cuckoos, Hoopoes and Golden Orioles added to the distant humdrum of Marsh Frogs and Collared Doves.

Dancho spent his time picking out the unusual species, he called out Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Penduline Tit, Little Bittern, Hobby and a few distant terns. It was such an amazing experience, if you haven’t been then makes plans to visit, you will love it.

a pair of Garganey

After breakfast we thought that everything we saw for the rest of the day would be somewhat anticlimactic but that was not the case. We visited a dis-used quarry up above the village of Vironia and enjoyed some more fantastic sightings. A pair of Levant’s Sparrowhawks entertained us for the first part, giving us an aerial display and sitting nicely too. We were surrounded by scrub the sun was shining and it began to get really warm. Butterflies entertained just as much as the birds, we saw Southern White Admiral, Green Hairstreak, Sooty Copper, Queen-of-Spain Fritillary, Dingy Skipper and ironically, the Scarce Swallowtail was very common.

Green Hairstreak

Southern White Admiral - Tony Moore

Sooty Copper

New species of birds went onto the daily bird log, Subalpine Warbler, Sombre Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Common Whitethroat, Red-rumped Swallow and Green Woodpecker. We walked to the quarry face hoping to see Blue Rock Thrush and perhaps get a glimpse of a roosting Eagle Owl but neither of those obliged us with their presence.

Levant's Sparrowhawk - Tony Moore

We did see Black-eared Wheatear, Orphean Warbler, Crag Martin and we found a nest of ravens with three full grown chicks standing on it, feeding time was a very noisy affair. Overhead we watched Short-toed and Booted Eagles, a large flock of White Pelicans drifted along the ridge, migrating north.

both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers were seen, this is a female Pied.

After driving into the village below us for coffee and lunch supplies, we went round to the picnic site near the river Stroma where we sat at picnic tables in the shade of some very tall poplar trees. A Scop’s Owl called from almost right above us and Dancho located it (with a second bird) sitting out in the open. What a great sighting that was, it had the group buzzing again.

Scop's Owl looking down at us.

some of the group looking up at the Scop's Owl

Our afternoon walk along the elevated northern embankment gave us excellent views of a vast area of marsh land and large open pools. We continued to locate new species for the day list and add new ones to the trip list.

Coypu - this South American 'introduced' species has taken a foot hold in Northern Greece

The weather forecast was for late afternoon rain and we could see the thunder clouds gathering over the mountains but we kept walking. Eventually we felt a few drops and so we curtailed our walk and headed back to the buses. Driving further along the embankment we came to the northern shore of the lake which was packed with birds. Along the way to stopped to look at a rufous Cuckoo, this hepatic morph, is rarely seen in the UK and occurs in about one in ten of females in eastern Europe.

hepatic morph Cuckoo, a record shot taken through the window of the bus by Tony Moore

We added a few waders to the list, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Avocet, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Ringed Plover, we also saw Black Terns (a lot of them), Glossy Ibis, and a Caspian Gull. We saw three distant Red-footed Falcons and European Bee-eaters were constantly with us.

a view from the embankment

Our last birding was done from near the bridge over the huge River Stroma, we saw Common Sandpiper below the bridge, a pair of Great-spotted Woodpeckers were feeding their noisy young in a hole in a riverside tree. It was now 5:30pm so we called it a day, it had been truly magical, I love this place.

this Honey Buzzard circled over us at the river - Tony Moore

We added more birds on the way back to the hotel as we saw Little Owl and Black-headed Bunting, whilst Dancho scoped our first Black Stork from his balcony just before dinner. The daily list for today was 101, about five of these were heard only, but nevertheless it was grand total.