Trip Report - Purely Pelicans 2015

So.. at last I've been able to find the time to write this trip report after a very busy last few weeks! 

We had two "Purely Pelicans" trips to Lake Kerkini over the last January weekend and the first February weekend to photograph the resident Dalmatian Pelicans in the main but also to take a quick tour of the lake and surrounds.

Let me start by saying thank you to all the participants who made it very enjoyable for me as a guide/tutor and I think I'm ok in saying that a good time was had by all...!

So first... the Pelicans..!

The weather this year at Lake Kerkini (and in fact all across Europe it seems) was very changeable.. warmer than usual conditions and a lot of rain meant the lake level was a lot higher than it has been at the same time in previous years... and in fact after one night of severe rain and melting snow.. the Strymonas River, (which feeds the lake) unfortunately broke its banks flooding a large part of the delta and submerged forest... this made it slightly more challenging both to see and photograph not just the Pelicans but the rest of the abundant wildlife too.

That being said, and I'm sure you will agree, the photos we were able to create were worth both the challenge and the effort...! 

Aside from the Pelicans which are always such a joy to see and photograph we were able to see many other birds and even mammal and amphibian wildlife... including a little fox, an otter and two wildcats. We were also witness to a lot of toads also coming into their season and enjoying it.. if you take my meaning..!

As far as other bird species, the most notable which we were able to photograph as well as spot are as per the list at the bottom of the page..

In addition to our efforts in photographing the wildlife of Lake Kerkini.. every morning saw us rising at 6:30am and heading out to the lake to try to capture the dawn.. and on one particular morning we were especially rewarded not only with a spectacular dawn but a spectacle of thousands of Cormorants and hundreds of Pelicans flying right across the sun and swarming over a school of fish in a feeding frenzy.

We also found the opportunity for a quick time-lapse tutorial one glorious afternoon both at Livadia Harbour and for a sunset shoot from Mandraki Harbour (video clips below), in addition.. after the river broke and the flamingos all gathered into one location, we were also able to shoot some panoramics and have a quick tutorial that same evening on "stitching" them together... the results of which you can also see below.

So before I get too verbose... here are some pics of the other species we were able to photograph...


Panoramic of Flamingos on Lake Kerkini with the backdrop of the 2000m+ snow covered peaks Mt Belles... 


Time lapse videos -  1st of clouds moving over Mt Belles and 2nd of sunset from Mandraki Harbour...


List of birds we spotted and photographed.. 40 species.. not bad for a 3 day excursion..!

Birds of Prey:

  • Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) - we saw several over the forest both perched and flying eying up the huge flocks of Shelduck and Coot though one in particular did us the favour of perching right near the embankment giving us excellent views and a fantastic photo opportunity;
  • Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - we were exceptionally lucky with this one.. a 1st winter juvenile who was absolutely beautiful and posed well for us in a tree stand not 50m from the jeep;
  • Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - as usual these guys were around the lake in great numbers.. quite easy to spot and photograph;
  • Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - only two spotted on this trip though one posed beautifully for us;
  • Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) - only one spotted.. at first, by the way he was perched, we mistook him for yet another buzzard but a closer inspection through the lens revealed his identity;
  • Marsh Harrier (Circus Aeruginosus) - only 1 of these chaps too spotted this year whereas in previous years they appeared more abundant;

Birds of the Lake:

  • Common Crane (Grus grus) - there is currently a total population on the lake of 25 of these lovely birds and we were fortunate enough to spot 13 in of them which flew almost directly over our heads in two groups;
  • Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) - 20
  • Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)- in their thousands
  • Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - in their thousands
  • Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) - 1 pair
  • Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) - in their hundreds
  • Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - 12
  • Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - in their hundreds
  • Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - many
  • Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - many
  • Coot (Fulica atra) - in their thousands
  • Pochard (Aythya ferina) - in their thousands
  • White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) - over 200
  • Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - over 100
  • Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - 30
  • Bewick's/Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) - 8
  • Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - 8
  • Kinfisher (Alcedo atthis) - 4
  • Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) - 1
  • Great Egret (Ardea alba) - many
  • Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - 6
  • Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - many
  • Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) - in their thousands
  • Pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmeus)- hundreds
  • Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - hundreds

Woodland Birds:

  • Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - 6
  • Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)  - many
  • Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)-  6
  • Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) - 2
  • Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) - 1
  • Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) - 1
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker - (Dendrocopos major) - 2
  • Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus) - 1
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) - 1pair 

Others, of which we did not keep a count included.. Jays, Collared Doves, Hooded Crows, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinch, Magpies and other such more common species.