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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
North East Greece, 25th April-9th May 2010,
Ian Kinley, Derek McAlone and Dave Thexton
Pygmy Cormorant, Lake Kerkini, Derek McAlone
This was our third trip to this part of Greece and the second in spring. It proved as enjoyable as we expected with highlights including Great Snipe and Olive Tree Warbler. However, as on previous visits, much of the enjoyment came from seeing lots of really good birds at close range to the almost constant accompaniment of singing Nightingales and Golden Orioles, all in glorious weather amid great scenery with friendly locals and an almost total absence of other birders.
One major change since our last trip in 2006 is the amount of good quality information now available on the birds of the area. This is due almost entirely to the efforts of Steve Mills and Hilary Koll, founders of BirdWING and authors of the indispensable Birdwatching in Northern Greece. BirdWING (BirdWatching in Northern Greece) was set up to increase awareness of birds in Greece and to raise funds for the conservation and restoration of bird habitat in the region. The website www.birdwing.eu is a source of lots of useful information, including recent sightings and developments, and also has links to other useful websites. Birdwatching in Northern Greece provides detailed information about birds and birdwatching in the region, with up-to-date maps and site info and renders the outdated Gosney’s Finding Birds in Greece redundant. The book can be ordered from the website; all money raised from sales goes to bird conservation in Greece, updates can be downloaded from the website and a revised edition is already in the pipeline. We’re grateful to Steve and Hilary for assistance with our Evros permits and also for additional site information prior to our trip.
Despite BirdWING’s attempts to raise the profile of birding in the area and the increased information now available, it remains little visited by birders – we met just two groups in the field in a fortnight which was in stark contrast to our spring venue last year, Lesvos. We were in no doubt which scenario we preferred. However, more visiting birders spending money in the area would clearly help to raise awareness of the importance of preserving habitats and wildlife.
We were two weeks earlier than on our previous spring trip in the hope of experiencing more obvious migration. Whilst this was foiled to some extent by the clear, settled weather, which was perfect for migrating birds but not for birders wanting to see them, and, apart from a single Red-throated Pipit and a handful of Whinchats, there was little in the way of passerine movement in evidence; nevertheless wader numbers were generally higher – though they did decline during our trip - and the flocks of marsh terns were dominated by Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns and not by Black Terns as last time. On the downside, shrikes were less numerous and some other species such as Olivaceous Warbler had yet to reach peak numbers. How much this was down to the earlier dates of our visit and how much it was a feature of declining populations is anyone’s guess.
We were largely unaffected by the economic crisis and associated social unrest hitting Greece at the time of our visit, save for the high price of fuel, which rose from around 1.38 euros a litre at the start to 1.50 or more by the end of our fortnight. There were no riots in the streets of Kerkini though the debate over a game of dominoes did get a bit heated at one point.
Hoopoe, Evros Delta, Derek McAlone
Penduline Tit, Kerkini, Derek McAlone
Apart from a bit of high cloud on the first two days and a wet morning near the end of the trip, we enjoyed virtually unbroken sunshine for the entire two weeks. Very rarely was it too hot to bird comfortably with cool early mornings and evenings. The downside of such weather is, of course, the lack of grounded migrants; it was perfect for migrating birds to whizz straight through.
We flew from Gatwick to Thessaloniki with easyJet (£130 per person return), the disadvantage of going in April being the lack of direct flights from airports in northern England at this time. We were fortunate to escape the effects of both the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and strikes in Greece with flights in both directions on time and hassle-free. At Thessaloniki airport, we picked up a hired Ford Focus from National Alamo (348 euros booked over the internet with Economy Car Rentals http://www.economycarrentals.com/ and very smooth and efficient).
Roller, Evros Delta, Ian Kinley
Feeding frenzy, Lake Kerkini, Derek McAlone
We pre-booked our first two hotels at Kerkini and Tichero (probably unnecessarily but we’d decided on the first part of our itinerary so thought we might as well go ahead and be certain of our accommodation). Otherwise, we had no problems just turning up and finding somewhere. There seemed to be ample choice of accommodation in most areas even though the holiday season had obviously not really got underway.
We stayed at the following: -
Hotel Morfi, Kerkini: (http://www.hotelmorfi.com/ ). We pre-booked the first four nights over the internet and, though we went through the hotel’s website, the booking was handled by Odyssey Travel. This resulted in us paying 85 euros a night and the hotel being totally unaware of our booking when we arrived. On our second visit, when we just turned up on spec, we paid 70 euros a night for the exact same room! Paying in cash and a handwritten non-itemised “receipt” may have had something to do with the price difference. The accommodation, a spacious three bed apartment, was fine; the price included a very good buffet breakfast and the hotel has a good restaurant with friendly staff. Almost within a stone’s throw of Lake Kerkini, you can be birding almost instantly whilst species seen or heard from the hotel itself included White Stork, Scops Owl, Nightingale, Green Woodpecker and nesting Tree Sparrows.
Hotel Thrassa, Tichero: (www.thrassa.gr). Five nights (four of them pre-booked over the internet beforehand) at 75 euros a night for a very comfortable and spacious three bed apartment in a lovely setting and including an excellent buffet breakfast. Though the hotel doesn’t normally provide an evening meal, there are restaurants in nearby Tichero, and on our final two nights we were able to eat at the hotel as they were catering for a tour party. Situated about 20 minutes drive from the Evros Delta and within easy range of both Kapsalo and Dadia, in its own grounds and with its own lake, this really is a lovely place to stay, made even more so by extremely helpful and friendly staff. Highly recommended.
Porto Vistonis, Porto Lagos: (http://www.portovistonis.gr/en ) Two nights at 60 euros a night for a slightly cramped three bed room (no breakfast). The hotel does have its own restaurant and friendly, helpful staff, is handily situated for the sites in the Porto Lagos area but because of its location, mosquitoes are a bit of a problem. Birds seen or heard from the hotel balcony included Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Med Gull, Hoopoe, Scops Owl, Long-eared Owl, Cetti’s Warbler and Nightingale.
Spoonbills, Lake Kerkini, Dave Thexton
Purple Heron, Lake Kerkini, Ian Kinley
25th April Thessaloniki Airport to Kerkini. A few hours’ birding at Lake Kerkini. Overnight at Kerkini.
26th April Birding at Lake Kerkini. Overnight at Kerkini.
27th April Birding at Lake Kerkini, Lailias and Sidirokastro. Overnight at Kerkini.
28th April Birding at Lake Kerkini and Promachonas. Overnight at Kerkini.
29th April Birding at .Lake Kerkini and the Evros Delta with brief stops at Alistrati and Philippi. Overnight at Tichero.
30th April Birding at Kapsalo and the Evros Delta. Overnight at Tichero.
1st May Birding at the Evros Delta. Overnight at Tichero.
2nd May Birding at Kapsalo and Thimaria Pools. Overnight at Tichero.
3rd May Birding at Loutros and the Evros Delta. Overnight at Tichero.
4th May Birding at Thimaria Pools, Porto Lagos and Mandra. Overnight at Porto Lagos.
5th May Birding at Lake Ismarida and Porto Lagos. Overnight at Porto Lagos
6th May Birding at Mandra and Lake Kerkini with brief stops at Alistrati and Philippi. Overnight at Kerkini.
7th May Birding at Sidirokastro and Lake Kerkini. Overnight at Kerkini.
8th May Birding at Promachonas and Lake Kerkini. Overnight at Kerkini.
9th May Journey from Kerkini to Thessaloniki airport. No birding done.
Main Sites Visited
Lake Kerkini from east embankment, Ian Kinley
The “ibis strip”, Lake Kerkini, Derek McAlone
Unchanged since our previous visits and as magical as ever. An early morning here serenaded by Golden Orioles and Nightingales as the sun rises above the mountains reflecting on a flat calm lake is difficult to beat. Water levels were high, especially during our first stay here, with both the water meadows on the west side of the lake (Korifoudi Marshes) and the “ibis strip” particularly attractive. The River Strimon was in spate, swollen by snowmelt from the nearby Bulgarian mountains. Species on or around the lake included Pygmy Cormorant, White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Great White Egret, Little Bittern, Night, Squacco and Purple Herons, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Garganey, Black Kite, Levant Sparrowhawk, Whiskered, White-winged Black and Black Tern, Roller, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Tawny Pipit, Penduline Tit, Savi’s Warbler, Sombre Tit, Masked, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrike and Ortolan Bunting, plus Scops Owls calling after dark.
Night Heron, Lake Kerkini, Ian Kinley
Squacco Heron, Lake Kerkini, Dave Thexton
Other areas near Lake Kerkini
The “Roller quarry” held little bar Kestrel and Jackdaw on our two visits and the “woodpecker wood” was also less productive than in the past, not helped by a new sand quarry being worked on the opposite side of the road, creating a lot of noise during the week though thankfully quiet at weekends. The area above Angistro proved good for Calandra Lark, Woodlark and Woodchat Shrikes as well as producing a perched Levant Sparrowhawk sheltering from the rain and the only Orphean warbler of the trip. The extensive improvement work to the road up to the Bulgarian border between Loutra and Promachonas has now been completed, leaving a fast dual carriageway with no suitable stopping places, leaving us unable to access either the War Memorial or the river alongside the road.
Promachonas, Dave Thexton
Lailias, Dave Thexton
Lailias ski resort
As is always a possibility here, this site proved rather disappointing with most of the scarcer species eluding us, the highlights being Montagu’s Harrier, Booted Eagle, Black Redstart, Rock Thrush, Common Crossbill and Rock Bunting.
Two visits failed to produce the hoped-for Rock Nuthatch though we did find a couple of old nests, both occupied by Tree Sparrows. Species we did see included Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Crag Martin, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Serin and Cirl Bunting.
Marsh terns, Evros Delta, Dave Thexton
Gull-billed Tern, Evros Delta, Dave Thexton
Serious flooding in February had caused severe damage to the embankments and the whole area had been closed for some time, the Military Zone only reopening just before our visit. Whilst there was access to all the usual sites, the tracks had by no means all been restored, resulting in some rather tortuous detours and frustrating dead ends at times. The water levels were surprisingly low in much of the delta, especially considering the amount of flooding that had occurred a couple of months earlier, though an extensive area of temporary freshwater in the public area opposite Almfres did prove attractive to waders and terns. On the whole though, the Military Zone, as usual, proved by far the most bird-rich part of the delta and we would strongly recommend getting a permit, which can be obtained free of charge from the Evros Visitor Centre http://www.evros-delta.gr/ Initially, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org failed to produce a reply and we had to enlist the help of Steve Mills and Hilary Koll, after which all went smoothly. You will need to supply passport details for everyone requiring access and,to be on the safe side, we suggest you give at least six weeks’ notice if possible, permits can then be picked up at the Visitor Centre on arrival. Visitor Centre staff will also be able to advise on the latest access details and may have information on recent sightings (they put us on to the flooded area near Almfres which we probably wouldn’t have found otherwise). At the time of our visit, due to the flood damage, the checkpoint at Feres was the best entry point and this was unmanned, though the risk of entering without a permit is probably one not worth taking (we were stopped by a military patrol and asked to produce our permit on one occasion). That said, on the Greek holiday of 1st May every Nikos, Demis and Stavros was tearing up and down the tracks in all manner of vehicles with impunity! Only non-Greeks need permits. In the course of several visits, birds seen on the Evros included Pygmy Cormorant, White Pelican, Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Bittern, Spoonbill, Black Stork, Garganey, White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Goshawk, Lanner, Red-footed Falcon, Spur-winged Plover, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Little Gull, Gull-billed, Whiskered, White-winged Black and Black Terns, Roller, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Tawny Pipit, Isabelline Wheatear, Penduline Tit, Woodchat Shrike and Red-backed Shrike.
Red-footed Falcon, Evros Delta, Ian Kinley
Spur-winged Plover, Evros Delta, Dave Thexton
Our first visit to this site, an alternative (or addition) to Dadia that provides a similar range of species but you have the place to yourself. The downside is that there are no views of the vulture feeding station. Views are, however, spectacular, if a little restricted in places by trees and the radio mast installations. Species seen here included Black Stork, Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Goshawk, Red-footed Falcon, Crag Martin, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Cirl Bunting and Ortolan Bunting. En route, just north of the village of Lefkimi, we had at least three singing Olive Tree Warblers plus a nice range of the usual Greek hillside birds.
Kapsalo, Ian Kinley
We discovered this seemingly previously unknown site rather by chance after noticing an area of water as we were driving past and deciding to investigate. It turned out to be a quite extensive area of freshwater lagoons enclosed by raised embankments, some of them topped with driveable tracks, that held some of the best concentrations of passage waders we encountered all trip. We never discovered the purpose of the lagoons but they did seem to have an air of permanence and this site, being about halfway between the Evros Delta and Dadia (just south of Provatonas and close to the main road) is easy to combine with visits to the Evros, Dadia and Kapsalo. Simply turn off to Thimaria and access the tracks immediately east of the village. In addition to large numbers of common passage waders such as Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff, species here included Pygmy Cormorant, Black Stork, Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Whooper Swan, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier, Marsh Sandpiper, White-winged Black and Black Tern.
Little Stint, Thimaria, Ian Kinley
Wood Sandpiper, Thimaria, Dave Thexton
Loutros Hill and Loutros Valley
As well as Loutros Hill itself (some remedial work had been done on the track and we were able to drive to the top with great care in a Ford Focus), we also drove up the valley for a while, stopping at suitable locations and scanning around. Species here included Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Goshawk, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Black-eared Wheatear and Woodlark. Ortolan Bunting and the only Sardinian and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers of the trip were found on the lower and middle slopes of Loutros Hill itself.
View from Loutros Hill, Dave Thexton
Porto Lagos area (including Lake Vistonas, the West Wood, Porto Lagos beach and saltpans)
There were no significant changes to either habitat or access since our last trip though water levels were higher than previously and species included Dalmatian Pelican, Greater Flamingo, Night Heron, Montagu’s Harrier, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Black and Black Tern, Slender-billed Gull, Calandra Lark and Tawny Pipit.
This was a new site for us though it’s well covered in Birdwatching in Northern Greece and proved to be a super wetland at this time of year. By far the best area was the marsh behind the village (site 1c in the book) which produced excellent close views of a good range of wetland species including Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Great White Egret, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Temminck’s Stint, Great Snipe, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Black and Black Tern, with booming Bittern (at site 1b) and Lesser Grey Shrike nearby.
Mandra, Ian Kinley
Collared Pratincole, Mandra, Ian Kinley
The track into the heart of the area (site b Birdwatching in Northern Greece) was too rutted in places to be driven without a 4x4 from the seaward end but negotiable for far enough from the inland side to reach the wet areas. The area viewable from the raised banking at the seaward end that had proved so good in May 2004 was dry and rather birdless. Frustratingly, we were turned away from the viewpoint over the lake (site a in the book) by a local farmer – or at least we think we were though we may have misunderstood! On the whole, we were slightly disappointed with Ismarida on this visit though probably only because we had such high expectations and we still recorded Dalmatian Pelican, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Collared Pratincole, Gull-billed, Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Tern, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark and Penduline Tit. Discovering that the Lesser Kestrel colony in the nearby village of Kalamokastro was thriving was a delightful bonus.
Lesser Kestrels, Kalamokastro, Dave Thexton (left) and Ian Kinley (right)
Detailed site information for all the above can be found in Birdwatching in Northern Greece. Whilst travelling between Kerkini and our more eastern locations, we also stopped briefly at Philippi, where we’d had Rock Nuthatch in September 2006. On the first occasion, the place was overrun by a million screaming Greek schoolkids and unsurprisingly there was little to be seen or heard. A second brief visit on our return westward was equally unrewarding despite it being less busy. Perhaps if we’d paid the entrance fee and wandered around the ruins we’d have had more success but if the Rock Nuthatches had behaved as they had on our previous visit, we would have seen them from the car park.
We used 1:250,000 Road Editions maps of Thrace and Macedonia. It’s difficult to keep up to date with all the road improvements and you should expect the actual situation to differ from that shown on your map. One major development is that the Egnatia motorway now extends to the east of Alexandroupolis.
We recorded a total of 193 species, listed below. The figures in brackets represent the number of days each species was recorded e.g. (4/14) means that a species was seen on four days during our 14 day trip (bearing in mind that the first day involved just a few hours birding and disregarding the last day when no birding at all was done) and gives a crude indication of how easy each species was to see. More details are given of the rarer or more interesting species.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis (5/14)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus (9/14) Especially numerous at Lake Kerkini
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (3/14) Up to 10 seen at Lake Kerkini.
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (14/14) Especially numerous at Lake Kerkini with some huge feeding flocks seen
Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus (11/14) Very numerous at Lake Kerkini. Elsewhere, just single figures seen on the Evros Delta and at Thimaria Pools and Lake Ismarida.
White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus (8/14) Present in good numbers at Lake Kerkini often giving super views especially when involved in spectacular feeding frenzies with other species. Elsewhere, 100 “kettling” over the Evros Delta on 29/4 and 50 in flight there on 1/5.
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus (10/14) Present in good numbers at Lake Kerkini and often seen at close range. Elsewhere, sightings limited to singles on the Evros Delta on 3/5 and Lake Vistonis on 5/5 plus two at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Bittern Botaurus stellaris (2/14) Two booming in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5 and one booming at Mandra (site 1b) on 4/5.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus (2/14) Sightings limited to Lake Kerkini where we had two males and a female on occasions in the small marsh just east of the village and a
female near Vironia on 28/4.
Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax (9/14) Common at Lake Kerkini and often active throughout the day. Smaller numbers at most other wetland sites.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (11/14) Numerous, common and approachable at Lake Kerkini. Also quite numerous at Lake Ismarida with smaller numbers at most other wetland sites.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta (13/14) Widespread usually in small numbers, most numerous at Lake Kerkini and Mandra.
Great White Egret Ardea alba (11/14) Seen at most wetland sites including 20+ at both Lake Kerkini and the Military Zone of the Evros Delta.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (14/14)
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (8/14) Seen in small numbers at most wetland sites; commonest in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta, where 20+ were seen on 1/5.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra (7/14) Mostly seen in flight, with up to four at the Strimon Marshes (Lake Kerkini), the Evros Delta, Kapsalo, Thimaria Pools and Loutros.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia (14/14) Widespread in relatively small numbers; many villages had nesting colonies.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (6/14) Two at “the ibis strip” Lake Kerkini on 26/4; 19 in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; 17 at Mandra on 4/5; 12 flying past the Porto Vistonis Hotel at Porto Lagos on 4/5, 12 at Lake Ismarida on 5/5 and five at Mandra on 6/5.
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (9/14) Common Lake Kirkini, small numbers at several wetland sites.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus (2/14) Surprisingly, six at Lake Vistonis on 4/5 and 5/5 were the only ones we saw.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor (10/14) Hundreds were present on the Evros Delta.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus (2/14) A juvenile was lingering with Mute Swans at Thimaria Pools on 2/5 and 4/5.
Greylag Goose Anser anser (2/14) Up to four at Lake Kerkini.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea (1/14) Two in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5.
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (8/14)
Gadwall Anas strepera (1/14)
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (11/14)
Garganey Anas querquedula (6/14) Small numbers at most wetland sites, the most being 20+ at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Shoveler Anas clypeata (4/14)
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (2/14) One at Mandra on 4/5, and 15 at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus (3/14) Singles at Kapsalo on 30/4, 1 at Loutros Hill and 2 in the Loutros Valley on 2/5 and one at Kalomokastro on 5/5.
Black Kite Milvus migrans (5/14) Most numerous around Lake Kerkini with up to 10 seen along the west side.
White-tailed Eagle Haliaetus albicilla (2/14) Single adults seen in flight over the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5 and at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (1/14) An adult at Kapsalo on 30/4.
Black Vulture Aegypius monachus (2/14) Nine at Kapsalo on 30/4 and at least eight there on 2/5. Some lovely close flight views.
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (2/14) One at Kapsalo on 30/4 and four there on 2/5.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (4/14) Two near Sidirokastro on 27/4; four or five at Kapsalo on 30/4; one in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; two at Kapsalo on 2/5.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (11/14) Especially common at Lake Ismarida and the Evros Delta.
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus (6/14) A male migrating high northwards at Lailias on 27/4; a ringtail at on the “ibis strip” at Lake Kerkini on 8/4; a ringtail in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4; a ringtail in the Loutros Valley on 3/5; a male at Thimaria Pools on 4/5; a male at Lake Vistonis on 5/5 and a male at Porto Lagos on 5/5.
Goshawk Accipiter gentiles (4/14) One at Kapsalo on 30/4; one in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; two at Kapsalo on 2/5 and one in the Loutros Valley on 3/5.
Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes (2/14) Single males at the “ibis strip” at Lake Kerkini on 28/4 and perched in a tree sheltering from the rain near Angistro on 8/5.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo (11/14)
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus (4/14) Singles at Sidirokastro on 27/4, Kapsalo on 30/4 and 2/5 and the western end of the Evros Delta on 3/5 with two in the Loutros Valley also on 3/5. Several other non-classic individuals that were probably also this species were left unidentified.
Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina (6/14) Two close to the road south of Provatonas on 29/4; three in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4 with one there on 1/5; two in the Loutros Valley on 3/5; one near Feres on 4/5 and one at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos (2/14) One at Kapsalo on 30/4 and a pair seen displaying there on 2/5.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (3/14) Singles at Lailias on 27/4 and Kapsalo on 30/4 and 2/5.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (1/14)
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (1/14) On 5/5 several hunting near Lake Ismarida were evidently foraging away from the colony at the nearby village of Kalamokastro where we spent a very enjoyable hour or two watching up to 22 birds at a time displaying, mating and generally giving superb views both in flight and perched. Guzzling ice cream with Lesser Kestrels chittering excitedly overhead – marvellous!
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus (5/14) At least 12 headed east low over the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4; three (including a very confiding adult male) in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; one at Kapsalo on 2/5; three in the Loutros Valley on 3/5 and a male at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus (1/14) One caused panic among the waders and terns in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus (2/14) One at the Strimnon Marshes on 26/4 and one at Kapsalo on 2/5.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus (2/14) Heard in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta and at Lake Ismarida.
Little Crake Porzana parva (2/14) A male and a female seen briefly on several occasions in the small marsh just east of Kerkini village between 25/4 and 28/4.
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus (8/14)
Coot Fulica atra (10/14)
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus (6/14) Two or three birds present in the Evros Delta, possibly breeding.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (5/14) Not particularly numerous, the most being 50+ on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta (1/14) Seen only at Porto Lagos saltpans where up to six were present.
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedincnemus (3/14) heard in the Military Zone of the Evros delta and up to three at Mandra.
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola (8/14) Seen at most wetland sites except Lake Kerkini. Most numerous in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta and at Mandra with 100+ at both sites.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (5/14)
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (4/14)
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (5/14)
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (2/14) Records included 15 heading north at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus (2/14) Common in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta with 25+ present, many of them paired and some on nests.
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus (8/14) Breeding at several sites.
Sanderling Calidris alba (1/14)
Little Stint Calidris minuta (6/14) Records included 100+ in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; 300+ at Thimaria Pools on 2/5; 200+ at Porto Lagos saltpans 4/5; 75 at Mandra on 4/5 and 300+ at Porto Lagos saltpans on 5/5.
Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii (2/14) Three in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5 and six at Mandra on 4/5.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea (6/14) Records included 75+ at Porto Lagos saltpans on 4/5 and 50+ there next day.
Dunlin Calidris alpina (3/14)
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus (1/14) A single bird at Porto Lagos saltpans on 4/5.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax (9/14) Records included 200+ at the “ibis strip” Lake Kerkini on 26/4; 400+ on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4; 150+ in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5; 400+ at Thimaria pools on 2/5 and 200+ at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (1/14)
Great Snipe Gallinago media (2/14) One accidentally flushed at Mandra on 4/5 giving very good flight views and seen again in flight at the same spot on 6/5.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (2/14)
Curlew Numenius arquata (3/14)
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythopus (3/14) Our best count was 25+ at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Redshank Tringa tetanus (5/14)
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatiliis (2/14) Nine in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5 and one at Thimaria pools on 2/5.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia (8/14) Records included 40+ in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochruros (1/14) One at the “ibis strip” at Lake Kerkini on 26/4.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola (9/14) Records included 100+ at the “ibis strip” Lake Kerkini on 26/4; 50 on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4; 100+ at Thimaria Pools on 2/5; 50+ at Porto Lagos saltpans on 4/5 and 100+at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (7/14)
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus (6/14) Summer-plumaged adults were present in good numbers at many sites though the species was not as numerous as on our last spring trip.
Little Gull Larus minutus (3/14) At least 30 in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4 with three there on 1/5 and a single at the western end of the Evros Delta on 3/5.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus (9/14)
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (3/14) Singles on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4 and Porto Lagos saltpans on 4/5 and 5/5.
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans (12/14)
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica (5/14) One on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4; 20 in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4 with 50+ there on 1/5; one at Lake Ismarida on 5/5 and one at Porto Lagos saltpans on 5/5.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo (11/14)
Little Tern Sterna albifrons (6/14)
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida (7/14) Records included 100+ off the “ibis strip” at Lake Kerkini on 26/4 with 150+ there on 28/4; 300+ on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4 and 100+ at Lake Ismarida on 5/5.
Black Tern Chlidonias niger (7/14) The scarcest of the marsh terns with records including 25+ on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4 and 40+ in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4.
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus (8/14) 75+ on the flood on the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4; 20 at Thimaria pools on 2/5; 100+ at Lake Ismarida on 5/5 and small numbers at most other wetland sites. In addition, a large movement of over 1000 marsh terns heading rapidly north through the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 1/5 involved mostly Black and White-winged Black Terns.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia (13/14)
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto (14/14)
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur (13/14)
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus (14/14)
Scops Owl Otus scops (8/14) Heard each night from the Hotel Morfi, Kerkini and the Hotel Porto Vistonis at Porto Lagos as well as in the village of Tichero.
Little Owl Athene noctua (1/14)
Tawny Owl Strix eluca (1/14) One roosting in the “woodpecker wood” at Promachonas on 8/5.
Long-eared Owl Asio otus (3/14) At least two young heard “squeaky gate” calling each evening, and well into the night, from the Hotel Porto Vistonis at Porto Lagos.
Common Swift Apus apus (2/14) Amazingly, two at Provatonas
ason 2/5 were the only ones we saw all trip.
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus (2/14) One at Thrassa, Tichero on 2/5 was our only sighting until a number at Thessaloniki airport on 9/5 while waiting for flight home.
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis (4/14)
Bee-eater Merops apiaster (12/14) Widespread and numerous. Several flocks migrating overhead initially, with birds more settled near nesting sites as time went on.
Roller Coracias garrulus (3/14) One on wires by the road near Vironia on 26/4, one on wires in the Evros Delta near Almfres on 29/4 and one in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4.
Hoopoe Upupa epops (11/14) Widespread and common.
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus (3/14) Heard at several sites around Lake Kerkini.
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis (3/14)
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major (3/14)
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopus syriacus (5/14) Relatively common.
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra (6/14) Seen in small numbers at the Evros Delta , Porto Lagos, Lake Ismarida and near Angistro.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla (2/14) Seen in small numbers at the Evros Delta and Lake Ismarida.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata (14/14)
Woodlark Lullula arborea (3/14) One at Lefkimi on 30/4, a single in the Loutros Valley on 3/5 and several above Angistro on 8/5.
Skylark Alauda arvensis (2/14)
Sand Martin Riparia riparia (5/14)
Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris (3/14) Small numbers in suitable habitat at sites such as Sidirokastro and Kapsalo.
Swallow Hirundo rustica (14/14)
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (11/14)
House Martin Delichon urbicum (12/14)
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris (3/14) 10+ at the Strimon Marshes, Lake Kerkini on 26/4 and two at Porto Lagos on 4/5.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis (1/14)
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus (1/14) A single in the public area of the Evros Delta on 3/5.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (12/14) All the birds that we positively identified were of the Black-headed race feldegg which were widespread and quite common
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea (2/14)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba (5/14)
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes (2/14)
Robin Erithacus rubecula (2/14)
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos (14/14) Abundant. At times seemed to be singing from every available bush at all hours of the day and night.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (1/14) Quite common at Lailias.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (5/14) The small numbers seen were evidence of the lack of grounded migrants.
Stonechat Saxicola torquata (1/14)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina (3/14) On the Evros Delta, a pair were displaying near the pumping station in the Military Zone on 30/4 and five were seen in the “Isabelline flats” area on 3/5.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (1/14)
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (6/14) Seen in suitable habitat at sites such as the west side of Lake Kerkini, Sidirokastro, Philippi, Kapsalo and Loutros.
Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis (1/14) A male at Lailias on 27/4.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius (4/14) Fairly common in suitable habitat at sites such as Sidirokastro and Kapsalo
Blackbird Turdus merula (7/14)
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (1/14)
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti (13/14)
Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioides (1/14) One singing at the Strimon Marshes, Lake Kerkini on 26/4.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (3/14)
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus (9/14)
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus (14/14) Numerous wherever habitat was suitable.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida (12/14) Widespread but less numerous than on our previous spring trip, perhaps not yet in full strength.
Olive Tree Warbler Hippolais olivetorum (2/14) One singing near Lefkimi on 30/4 and three singing at the same site on 2/5, one of which gave excellent views.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans (7/14) Quite common in upland areas.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephalus (1/14) Two or three at Loutros Hill on 3/5.
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis (1/14) A male near Angistro on 8/5.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca (2/14)
Whitethroat Sylvia communis (12/14)
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla (10/14)
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis (1/14) One singing at Loutros Hill on 3/5.
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita (5/14)
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa sriata (1/14)
Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus (2/14) Heard on the Evros Delta and at Lake Ismarida.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus (4/14)
Marsh Tit Parus palustris (3/14)
Sombre Tit Parus lugubris (1/14) One on the west side of Lake Kerkini on 29/4.
Coal Tit Parus ater (1/14)
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus (3/14)
Great Tit Parus major (10/14)
Nuthatch Sitta europaea (2/14)
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla (1/14) One in the West Wood at Porto Lagos on 5/5.
Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus (10/14) Present at several wetland sites but especially common at Lake Kerkini where birds could be heard calling almost constantly. Usually seen when we made the effort to locate them, especially enjoyable was watching a pair working on a partially built nest just outside Kerkini village that developed from little more than a single strand when first found to an almost complete structure by the time we left.
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus (12/14) Widespread and quite common. Mostly heard.
Red-backed Shrike Lanius colluria (10/14) Not as numerous as in the past, presumably not yet having arrived in full strength. Most notably, c20 in the Military Zone of the Evros Delta on 30/4..
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor (2/14) Singles in the public area of the Evros Delta on 3/5 and at Mandra on 4/5.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (8/14) Widespread in small numbers.
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus (1/14) A single on the west side of Lake Kerkini on 6/5 was the only one of the trip. Several breeding areas were searched without success; presumably birds had yet to arrive.
Jay Garrulus glandarius (6/14)
Magpie Pica pica (14/14)
Jackdaw Corvus monedula (10/14)
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix (14/14)
Raven Corvus corax (6/14)
Common Starling Sternus vulgaris (14/14)
House Sparrow Passer domesticus (14/14)
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis (12/14)
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus (8/14)
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (10/14)
Serin Serinus serinus (1/14) A singing bird near Sidirokastro on 7/5.
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris (4/14)
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis (13/14)
Linnet Carduelis cannabina (3/14)
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (1/14) Two at Lailias on 27/4.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (1/14) One on the west side of Lake Kerkini on 29/4.
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirius (7/14) Seen and heard in small numbers at sites such as the west side of Lake Kerkini, Sidirokastro, Kapsalo and the Loutros Valley.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia (1/14) A male at Lailias on 27/4.
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana (7/14) A singing male on the west side of Lake Kerkini throughout the trip; two singing males at Kapsalo on each visit; one singing male in the Loutros Valley and two on Loutros Hill on 3/5.
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephalus (7/14) Following our first near Lefkimi on 2/5, soon became widespread and numerous.
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (14/14)
Being all round naturalists, some more round than others, we noted more than just birds, including the following bugs:-
Swallowtail; Scarce Swallowtail; Eastern Festoon; Clouded Yellow; Large White; Small White; Green-veined White; Eastern Bath White; Orange Tip; Brimstone; Red Admiral; Peacock; Painted Lady; Small Heath; Common Blue; Small Blue; Green-underside Blue; Speckled Wood; Map Butterfly; Small Copper; Grecian Copper; Glanville Fritillary; Queen of Spain Fritillary; Wall Brown.
Scarce Chaser; +; Broad-bodied Chaser; Black-tailed Skimmer; White-tailed Skimmer; Vagrant Emperor; Lesser Emperor; Ruddy Darter; Scarlet Darter; Red-veined Darter; Large Red Damselfly; Norfolk Hawker.