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Greece - Lake Kerkini in Spring

Tour Code: GRC04

An 8-day birdwatching holiday to Lake Kerkini, one of the finest wetlands in Greece.

8 days from £1395(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1195 SRS: £175


Lake Kerkini, in northern Greece, offers the very best of Mediterranean birdwatching in a picturesque setting. This weeklong holiday is based at an hotel close to the lake facilitating a leisurely exploration of the area with relatively little travelling. Both the rare Dalmatian and the commoner White Pelican are numerous on the lake along with an impressive selection of nesting waterbirds. In the countryside surrounding the lake we will see colourful summer visitors such as Bee-eater and Roller whilst montane species can be found in the range of mountains separating the lake from neighbouring Bulgaria. As well as the superlative bird-life, the spring flora is exquisite, butterflies abound and resident reptiles include two species of tortoise.

  • Breeding Dalmatian Pelicans
  • Boat trip to view nesting waterbirds
  • Daily passage of migrant birds
  • Impressive breeding species such as Lesser Grey and Masked Shrikes
  • Single-centre holiday
  • Unspoilt flora and fauna
  • Guided by an expert Naturetrek ornithologist

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A family run lakeside guesthouse, each room with private facilities.

Dalmation Pelican (David Morris)

Dalmation Pelican (David Morris)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Thessalonika; drive Lake Kerkini

Day 2/7 Exploration of Lake Kerkini and surrounding areas

Day 8 Drive Thessalonika and fly UK

Contained by the natural barriers of the Kerkini Mountains to the north and the Mavrovouni Mountains to the south, Lake Kerkini lies close to the Bulgarian border in northern Greece and is renowned as one of the finest wetland sites in Europe. Historically, the wild marshlands along the floodplain of the Strymon River were regarded as virtually uninhabitable and largely abandoned to nature but, in the early twentieth century, a sustained campaign over many years witnessed the conversion of thousands of hectares of marsh into arable land, a process assisted by the creation of a huge irrigation reservoir which, together with a network of canals and ditches, helped to control the flow of water. The river was, however, reluctant to relinquish its influence on the landscape and alluvial deposits washed down from the mountains continued to limit the effectiveness of the new reservoir for over 50 years until a new, higher dam was constructed in 1982, this defining the shape of present-day Lake Kerkini.  

Our tour begins with a flight from London to Thessalonika, followed by a 2-hour drive to a pleasant lakeside hotel. Here we will be based for seven nights, enabling us that rare luxury on a birdwatching tour of being able to unpack suitcases! From here we get our first views of the lake shimmering in the spring sunshine and, over the following week, we will be able to explore every facet of this Ramsar-acknowledged wetland paradise. Skirting the popular areas set aside for public recreation, we will be seeking the quieter corners of this huge reserve where Little Bitterns, Purple Herons, Squacco Herons, egrets and many other waterbirds enjoy the sanctuary of waterside vegetation from which the guttural rasping of Great Reed Warblers competes with a chorus of frogs to provide a constant background symphony. In deeper water the branches of drowned trees still reach towards the sky above the surface of the lake and these form perches for a noisy congregation of avian tenants which we will view at close range from boats.

Two of Kerkini’s most distinguished residents are the endangered Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant, both of which breed here and thrive on the abundant supply of fish in the lake. As ‘stars of the show’ the former always demand particular attention, whether soaring on thermals high over the lake or excitedly chasing a shoal of fish through the water, often joined in their hunt by rafts of both Greater and Pygmy Cormorants.   As we move deeper into the countryside surrounding the lake we will be captivated by the sights and sounds of summer. Beeeaters swooping after insects over the fields, Golden Orioles uttering their fluty calls from roadside trees and Hoopoes flashing black and white wings as they dash away are three of the most colourful local species, but there is also great interest in the more sober-plumaged inhabitants of the bushes and trees proclaiming spring territories with rich outpourings of song. Warblers include Subalpine, Barred, Marsh, Cetti’s, Olivaceous and Olive-tree, the latter something of a European speciality of northern Greece, often heard but much harder to observe. Red-backed, Lesser Grey, Woodchat and delicate little Masked Shrikes wreak havoc among the insect population and often adorn the telephone wires, sharing these prominent perches with Black-headed, Cirl and Corn Buntings. As we explore further we should find Lesser Spotted Eagles soaring over woodlands, Black Storks, Penduline Tits, Black-eared Wheatears and perhaps some less predictable migrants pausing in this foodrich haven before continuing their journey. Our own excursions will also take us into the nearby mountains where raptors include Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagles along with one or two pairs of White-tailed Eagles which find easy prey in the lake below. Rock Nuthatches are one of the hillside residents and other species found at the higher elevations or on the forested slopes include Rock Partridge, Black Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Ortolan, Rock Bunting and both Rock and Blue Rock Thrush.  

During our week at Lake Kerkini we are assured a great many memorable birdwatching encounters but not all the attractions are ornithological. Herds of semi-feral Water Buffaloes forage through the lake shallows, creating scenes more reminiscent of Asia than Europe, whilst local reptiles enjoying the sunshine include Hermann’s Tortoise and both Green and Balkan Green Lizards. Over a hundred butterfly species have been recorded from the countryside around the lake and mammals inhabiting the montane forest slopes include both Beech Marten and Wildcat. Add to this wonderful variety a stunning flora and it is easy to appreciate why this picturesque lake is destined to become a favourite Naturetrek destination in future years.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Peter Law)Black-veined White (Peter Law)Blue Chaser (Peter Law)Dalmatian Pelicans (Peter Law)Flooded Forest (Peter Law)Red-footed Falcon (Peter Law)Squacco Heron (Peter Law)Bee-eaterBlack StorkBlack-headed BuntingBooted EagleCorn BuntingGolden OrioleGreat Reed WarblerLake KerkiniMasked ShrikeOrtolan BuntingPenduline TitPurple HeronRed-backed ShrikeRock BuntingSquacco HeronSubalpine Warbler
M.D.
Cheshire
The whole trip was every bit as good as previous trips I have taken with Naturetrek and I am now faced with the problem of choosing something for next year.
S.G.
Herefordshire
The pace of the tour suited me perfectly - we spent proper time at each site, rather than rushing from one to another. Had time to properly look at the birds found as well as butterflies, dragonflies, flowers and other wildlife. It is a beautiful area of Greece that I am considering returning to one day.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sat 5th May 2018 - Sat 12th May 2018

FULL

£1395

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1195 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Greece

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Paul Stanbury
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Tour Reviews

The whole trip was every bit as good as previous trips I have taken with Naturetrek and I am now faced with the problem of choosing something for next year.
M.D., Cheshire