LAKE KERKINI BOAT TRIP – VIRONIA MARSH – EAST EMBANKEMNT OF THE RIVER STROMA
WEATHER: cloudy at first and a little chilly. Sunshine later and very warm.
Our final day was spent on or around Lake Kerkini and we saw a creditable number of species, It was World Bird-watch day and I think that our total count of 97 was the best for Greece and I hope that we contributed to the world bird count of 2023.
We met just before 7am and drove the short distance to the Mandraki Quay where we board a boat for a 2-hour cruise of the lake. It was a perfect morning, light cloud with no breeze, a flat calm lake lay ahead of us.
It was a fantastic trip, I love this gentle cruise around the lake with thousands of birds all around us. Nico, the captain, took us to a Pygmy Cormorant colony mixed with Spoonbills and some Night Herons before we visited te huge man-made platforms and embankments where the Pelicans breed. The Dalmatian breeds in big numbers whilst the White Pelican chooses the platforms to breed in much smaller numbers.
the 'flasher' - White Pelican - Tony Moore
We went out to the middle of the lake where we encountered a large mixed flock of ‘marsh terns’, Black Terns and White-winged Terns fed in good numbers. We saw Common, Sandwich (unusual for the lake) and Whiskered Tern sitting on posts in another area.
all bills and legs - Spoonbills by Tony Moore
From the mouth of the river Stroma we scanned the bushes and found a pair of Cattle Egrets, only 3 pairs of these breed here, very common elsewhere in Europe of course. The Cattle Egrets were nestled in with dozens of pairs of Squacco Herons and Little Egrets. We added Greater Flamingo (1), Ruff (50+), Black-winged Stilts and 3 or 4 Black-necked Grebes, looking superb in their summer plumage.
Cattle Egrets looking their best at breeding time - Tony Moore
Great Cormorants completely outnumbered any other species, there were thousands of them and the smell wasn’t that good either, but the spectacle was fabulous, Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Night Herons and Squacco Herons dashing about with Little Egrets and Pygmy Cormorants.
Pelicans and Cormorants - Tony Moore
A Hobby Circled over a couple of times but birds of prey were generally thin on the ground at this time in the morning. Before we knew it we were setting off for the quay, our two hours we up. At the quay we added Common Sandpiper, Great Reed Warbler and a Grass Snake to our sightings list.
Night Heron - Tony Moore
Just after breakfast we watched a flock of some 300+ White Pelicans take to the air and circle on the thermals, they slowly gained height above us, it was fascinating to watch these huge birds climbing higher and higher.
'Marsh' Terns squabbling over perches, White-winged and Black Terns
a great shot by Tony of the adult Little Gull coming to land on the water
A pair of Red-rumped Swallows were building a nest in a open shed in the car park, we watched those for a while. Dancho found a large Eagle drifting over the mountains, he was unsure of its entity because of lack of detail on such a high bird, but he thought it was an Imperial Eagle, we never counted it.
a Blue Featherleg Damselfly
It was after 10am when we re-visited the marsh just east of Vironia where we hoped to see Grey-headed Woodpecker again, some of the group missed our previous sighting earlier in the week. A huge bank of dark cloud sat over the mountains and appeared to be drifting our way and with it came a steady stream of migrating birds, some very high up and some quite low.
Eastern Festoon by Tony Moore
Honey Buzzards stole the show, we saw them on high and a couple of pairs in the trees around us! It is not often that you get to see this enigmatic buzzard perched in a tree, but we did today. Dancho is a real expert on raptor watching as his job entails counting raptors when he completes surveys. He called out a number of species which included Hobby, Red-footed Falcons, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzards and an Osprey.
a perched Honey Buzzard
The sun was shining now and things really warmed up, our walk along a wooded glade besides the marsh was very enjoyable. We spent a lot of time watching dragonflies and butterflies and other interesting insect and a few birds came into view.
We saw Common Cuckoo, Olivaceous Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Kingfisher (heard), Marsh Warbler (heard) and Cetti’s Warbler (heard). Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove and Hoopoe also went onto the list.
Long-lipped or Plough-share Serapias
We made a visit to the west bank of the River Stroma at the bridge and spent some time looking for Orchids, we found Early Purple and a species of Serapias (Tongue Orchid) which we think is either Long-lipped or Plough-share Serapias.
We ate lunch at the picnic site near the east embankment of the river, watching dozens of Bee-eaters as we ate and for the rest of the afternoon we birded a good length of the embankment down to the lake. The marshes were once again covered in birds what an amazing place.
A few wader species were added to the growing day list, we saw Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper and more Ruff. Many butterflies were now on the wing and the number of Dragonflies was amazing. We identified a few, Blue Chaser, Red-winged Darter, Broad Scarlet, Beautiful Demoiselle, Blue Featherleg and Common Bluetail.
We had an exciting encounter with an Osprey, the bird decided to start fishing right next to us, we had extremely close views of it as it circled around just above us. The Osprey made several false alarm dips to the water before it finally splashed into the water, missing its intended prey. It made another splash much nearer to the second bus and they saw it catch a fish, wow! That was some spectacle.
the Osprey - Tony Moore
At 4pm we decided to call it a day and slowly drifted back along the embankment, we stopped for only our second ice-cream of the trip in Vironia. At 5:30pm we reached the hotel, our final day was over.
From our balconies overlooking the lake Dancho found an Eleanora’s Falcon, he called me and I saw it too, a Hobby joined it, a nice comparison view for size and shape. That increased our day list to 97 species, a fantastic total for the lake area and wonderful for our trip list which finished at: 172 seen plus six more species heard only.