Lake Kerkini: A Greek Wonderland

Birding The Lake
It is my opinion that Lake Kerkini, and its surrounding area offers the best all round birding in Greece. While many people like to try and cover the whole of the North East of Greece in one week I would highly recommend one or two weeks here. The lake itself is such a dynamic bird environment that you need to visit individual areas several times to even begin to see all they have to offer. Doing the whole lake and the other wetland habits in one day is a bit of a rush, two days is much better to work your way around the river and the marshes as well, and it is definitely a process you will wish to repeat a few days later. Then there are the two mountain ranges that are easy to loose time in, the days just fly by. If this wasn't enough there is Sidirokastro nearby with breeding Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, and Long-legged Buzzard as well as many other interesting birds, Promahonas with Rollers and Lesser Kestrels, and a trip out to Achladohori is potpourri of birding opportunities. Finally a second day trip to the coast (start early as this is a few hours drive) to Porta Lagos and Vistonida will net you most of the birds you can find in the area.

One of the beauties of Lake Kerkini is that the birding is good all year round, March is probably the least exciting month and April perhaps the most, but it is beautiful and interesting all year around, as an over wintering site, a breeding area and a stop-off point along a major migration route the lake is always full of birds and often willing to offer up those special magic moments to anyone who gives her a decent viewing. Memories include; So many migrating raptors at one moment we didn't know where to look in April, 1000 flamingoes in flight in November, 15,000 Black-headed Gulls in April, 20,000 Pochard in January, 13 Red-crested Pochard Flying over the lake in February as I was watching the White-tailied Sea Eagle nest, hundreds of Yellowhammers, Cirl Buntings and Corn Buntings feeding at left overs from a buffalo feast, Blue Cranes in October and the Lakes first Pallas' Warbler, a single flock of 3,000 cormorants and 500 Pelicans feeding in March, Warblers everywhere in April, Elanora's Falcons and Cattle Egrets in August, just the sheer number of breeding birds in May and June, particularly visiting the colony. Woodpeckers galore and Rock Thrush in the Kerkini mountains, and families of Masked and other Shrikes in both mountains in July.
  While the whole of the lake is an amazing experience, the hot spots are the drowned forest, accessible by boat from the villages of Kerkini and Mandraki; the first 3 km of lake shore from Megalohori heading south along the embankment; Lithotopos, especially the river immediately down stream of the barrage; the flooded areas between Korifoudi and Kerkini; the view from the harbour at Mandraki; the various marshes immediately south of Vironia and along the river just before it reaches the lake and the area at the end of the western embankment near Livadia.
There is also a lovely alder carr at Sidirochori which often throws up an excellent selection of birds. There is an embankment running the 17 km from Lithotopos and if you aren't in a hurry you can drive along the whole of it, although in its more southerly half the best birding is along the canal banks (Little Crake and many warblers). There is also a very picturesque road that runs from Lithotopos to Kerkini village, this sticks close to the lake and offers excellent opportunities for small passerines and raptors as many breed in the hills to your left, including the White-tailed Sea Eagles and the Booted Eagles, do take the opportunity to investigate the dirt tracks running up into the hills, good for increased chances of good views for raptors and also for Sombre Tit and Wood Larks. I particularly recommend the track that starts exactly 4 km from the harbour at Lithotopos as an access to the hills. Back on the main road once you reach the point where the small River Kerkinitis enters the western end of the lake turn right to cross the bridge and then right again to get onto the western embankment, this runs along the lake for about 9km before it turns left to meet up with the road that links the villages of Kerkini and Livadia, the potholes are a nuisance, but slow and steady will get you through. See Map

  I wish you luck if you are coming here birding, and if you come while I am still here, most of 2005, drop me a line and I will be happy to show you around if I can possibly find the time. If you are here for a week, I will surely find a day or two.

  The Site List is 300, my personal list for the site is 222 and I have arranged my records into a table of monthly lists see Monthly Lists, and to hear what someone else has to say here's a pretty good trip report by Hanna and Yanni Aaldo of Finland

The Earthlife Web

  © Earth-Life Web Productions