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WEATHER: dull and overcast to start with some drizzling rain – brighter later and much warmer

The dull mornings continued we had very poor light as we made our way down to the Quay at Mandraki. I don’t know whether or not it is the weather affecting the birds, but it was very quiet down at the lake. We did see all the usual suspects, but in very low numbers except for cormorants.

Dalmatian Pelican

White Pelican

I was quite disappointed to see a large expanse of the lake devoid of bird life! We had good views of Great Reed Warbler and some Pelicans did drift past us and we had single sightings of many species in and around the reedbeds. The Hobby was perched in his usual tree, a single Little Bittern flew across the quay, a single Purple Heron flew over us, it was all still stunningly beautiful and serene.

A Savi’s Warbler began reeling in a distant reedbed and Dancho picked up the call of the River Warbler at the back of the quay, we searched for both species and saw neither. On the way back to the hotel two Golden Orioles flew across the lane and Mike had photographed a Hoopoe.

For our morning excursion we drove to Promachonas, a village very close to the border with Bulgaria, we visited a woodland well known for producing sightings of woodpeckers. Within minutes of entering the woods we found both Middle Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the same tree! They gave us the run around for a while, moving on we found the nest site of a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers and they showed very well as they brought food to their chicks.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

In the meantime we saw Eurasian Nuthatch, Dancho called his usual flyover Hawfinches, we heard Song Thrush, Nightingale, Blackbird, Blackcap and Green Woodpecker. We then walked along the road alongside the woodland, but we saw very little else. The weather began to improve, it got much warmer and the sun began to break through the clouds.

Eastern Knapweed Fritillary - Tony Moore

Butterflies began to appear, we hadn’t seen a single one for nearly three days!! We noted Small Heath, Eastern Knapweed Fritillary, Common Blue, Green-underside Blue, Red Admiral and we found a single spike of a Pyramidal Orchid.

a Pyramidal Orchid - Tony Moore

For lunch we drove back to Vironia to the taverna at the converted railway station building, before we sat down to eat we went for a walk in the woodlands next to the railway line. We heard a River Warbler calling not too far from the path but we never found it and Dancho called a second one further off to our left. The walk produced very little, Cetti’s Warbler and Nightingales singing.

these flying bugs have the longest antennae I have ever seen - don't know what they are called, do you?

Lunch was fabulous, we were given a selection of Greek food and it went down very well, the sun was shining and it warmed up even more.

For our afternoon walk we decided to drive up into the Belles Mountains to look for White-backed and Black Woodpeckers. We drove back along the lake to Lavidia and turned towards the mountains. In the fields beyond the village, we saw our first Whinchats, three of them. Also seen was Black-headed Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Crested Lark, Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard.

Red-backed Shrike - Tony Moore

The track up to the beech woods was 5km long but in very good condition, we drove past pine logging operations and eventually we arrived, almost in the clouds about 1,000 meters high. Dancho saw a Black Woodpecker as soon as we got out of the bus and we tracked down a ‘chipping’ woodpecker which turned out to be a Great Spotted variety.

We saw nothing of the White-backed Woodpecker, but the habitat looked really good and it was worth the effort. As we walked back down to the buses we found a good number of Narrow Leaved Helleborines, not actual Orchids but in the same family.

Narrow Leaved Helleborine - Tony Moore

We stopped several times on the way down to admire the spectacular views and to look for other species. One stop in an open area produced sightings of Long-tailed Tit, Red-backed Shrike and Dancho heard Bullfinches calling in the distance.

a view of Lake Kerkini from the Belles Mountainside

Back at the hotel at 6pm the sun was shining we found Clouded Yellow, Lesser Spotted Fritillary and Small Copper butterflies before we retired for the day.