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Birdwatching trip to Greece: Porto Lagos

Birding guide to Greece

Birdwatching trip to Greece

Just returned from a fantastic birdwatching trip to Porto Lagos in Greece. In the period 28.11-1.12, we visited some of the lagoons and lakes in the area, made a stop to Nestos Gorge and lake Kerkini on the way back to Bulgaria. Thus, we ended up with a total of 104 species seen and heard. The unusual weather produced some great and highly unexpected birds like Roller and Black Kite. It was fascinating to see thousands of Flamingos and Ducks of all species. We had great views of several White-tailed Eagles, Great spotted Eagles feeding on a kill, an Osprey feeding on a catch and made many more unforgettable moments.

Birdwatching trip to Greece: Day 1

We started from Sofia, Bulgaria early in the morning of November 28th and headed straight to Lake Ismarida (Mitrikou). The trip went very smooth and arrived at the lake in the late afternoon. We had about 2 hours to walk along a track that didn’t let us peek into the lake but added our first Greek birds. It was surprising to see that there were still many dragonflies, mosquitos and flies. Whinchat, was unexpected, quite a few Water Rails, over 200 Lapwings, a Goshawk, Syrian Woodpecker, Water Pipit, Hawfinch, Reed Bunting and many more. According to ebird, Brambling was the first record for the site. Once we were done with the path, we climbed up the hill nearby where we scoped the birds on the lake. We had Pintail, lots of Wigeon, Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant and many more. A subadult White-tailed Eagle was sitting quietly on a tree on the edge of the lake. It was getting dark so we decided to head to our hotel where we were going to stay for the next three nights. See the checklist for Lake Ismarida here.

Birdwatching trip to Greece: Day 2

We started birding the area with Fanari lake. We had Hen Harrier, Flamingos, Dalmatian Pelicans, Hawfinch, Pygmy Cormorant, and many more. See the checklist for Fanari here.

The second place we visited was Porto Lagos Lagoon: a vast area flooded by the recent rain. There were literary thousands of birds. We were wondering where to look: Grey Plovers, Avocets, Spoonbills, Slender-billed Gull, Great spotted Eagle, Dalmatian Pelicans and many more.   For 2 hours we saw nearly 50 species. See the checklist for Porto Lagos Lagoon here. On the road to the next place, we had a Blotched Snake which was really slow but very aggressive and managed to bite me when trying to catch it.

Lake Vistonis

It was time for lunch and we enjoyed a great picnic by the nearby church surrounded by birds. We had many Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants, a Black-throated Diver, Sandwitch terns and many more. The weather was absolutely beautiful and shortly after lunch we were ready for new adventures. The place where the White-headed Ducks were supposed to be, was just across the road. It took us only a few minutes to locate one, then two, three, four. What a bird! Round the Western side of lake Vistonis we had a late Red-backed Shrike which didn’t look very healthy and was probably not going to make it through the winter. See here the full checklist for lake Vistonis.

The last place for the day were Mandra marshes where we had over 600 Flamingos at superb evening light. There were quite a few waders but all very distant. See here the checklist for Mandra marshes and coastal area. On the way back to our hotel we had an amazing surprise: Roller was sitting on a bush right by the road. Oh Wow! Roller in November! What a great end of the day!

Birdwatching trip to Greece: Day 3

Day 3 took us to the east of our hotel at Fanari and we explored the lagoons Karatza, Elos and Ptelea. We had great views of thousands of ducks, Flamingoes, a surprising Black Kite and a hunting Osprey.

Birdwatching trip to Greece

Black Kite and a Marsh Harrier © Iordan Hristov

Birdwatching trip to Greece

Black Kite and a Marsh Harrier aireal dispute © Iordan Hristov

The landscape was truly amazing. All sunsets over the island of Thasos and sunrises over Samothraki were really leaving warm memories in our hearts.

Birdwatching trip to Greece

sunset at Ptelea lagoon with Samothraki island © Iordan Hristov

Birdwatching trip to Greece: Day 4

Today we wanted to change the habitat and add some extra species. Thus we headed towards Nestos river Gorge. What a truly stunning place! A stone covered path, built for workers to reach the railroad, leads onto a stunning viewing place where you see the river meandering in between the rock covered hills providing habitat for Peregrine Falcons, Rock Bunting, Crag Martins, Ravens and many more. In the river we had a Dipper, Kingfisher, and a couple of Grey Wagtails. Small valleys were providing protection from the weather for small birds and we ticked Firecrest, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, and Long-tailed Tit. It was fairly windy and cold in the beginning, but weather changes and once on the mountain top, we enjoyed superb views over the gorge.

Birdwatching trip to Greece

Nestos Gorge © Iordan Hristov

After a fantastic lunch from this scenic place, we headed over to lake Kerkini to look for Geese and Cranes. It took us about 3 hours to get there at fantastic light. The sun was setting was we had enough time to look around and scan the lake. It was literary steaming with birds. It is a pity we didn’t have more time. Even though, we had a few White-fronted Geese, 4 young Greater spotted Eagles were feeding on a kill, many Pintails, Wigeon, Teal, Flamingoes and a lot more. See the checklist for lake Kerkini here.

birdwatching guide in Greece

Nestos Gorge © Iordan Hristov

Thus our trip ended with a great 104 species.

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Here is the checklist:

# Species
1 Greylag Goose – Anser anser
2 Greater White-fronted Goose – Anser albifrons
3 Mute Swan – Cygnus olor
4 Whooper Swan – Cygnus cygnus
5 Common Shelduck – Tadorna tadorna
6 Northern Shoveler – Spatula clypeata
7 Gadwall – Mareca strepera
8 Eurasian Wigeon – Mareca penelope
9 Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos
10 Northern Pintail – Anas acuta
11 Eurasian/Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
12 Common Pochard – Aythya ferina
13 Tufted Duck – Aythya fuligula
14 Red-breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
15 White-headed Duck – Oxyura leucocephala
16 Greater Flamingo – Phoenicopterus roseus
17 Little Grebe – Tachybaptus ruficollis
18 Great Crested Grebe – Podiceps cristatus
19 Black-necked Grebe – Podiceps nigricollis
20 Collared Dove – Streptopelia decaocto
21 Water Rail – Rallus aquaticus
22 Eurasian Coot – Fulica atra
23 Pied Avocet – Recurvirostra avosetta
24 Eurasian Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus
25 Grey Plover – Pluvialis squatarola
26 Northern Lapwing – Vanellus vanellus
27 Eurasian Curlew – Numenius arquata
28 Dunlin – Calidris alpina
29 Spotted Redshank – Tringa erythropus
30 Common Greenshank – Tringa nebularia
31 Common Redshank – Tringa totanus
32 Slender-billed Gull – Chroicocephalus genei
33 Black-headed Gull – Chroicocephalus ridibundus
34 Little Gull – Hydrocoloeus minutus
35 Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis
36 Sandwich Tern – Thalasseus sandvicensis
37 Black-throated Diver – Gavia arctica
38 Pygmy Cormorant – Microcarbo pygmaeus
39 Great Cormorant – Phalacrocorax carbo
40 European Shag – Phalacrocorax aristotelis
41 Great White Pelican – Pelecanus onocrotalus
42 Dalmatian Pelican – Pelecanus crispus
43 Grey Heron – Ardea cinerea
44 Great White Egret – Ardea alba
45 Little Egret – Egretta garzetta
46 Eurasian Spoonbill – Platalea leucorodia
47 Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
48 Greater Spotted Eagle – Clanga clanga
49 Western Marsh Harrier – Circus aeruginosus
50 Hen Harrier – Circus cyaneus
51 Eurasian Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus
52 Northern Goshawk – Accipiter gentilis
53 Black Kite – Milvus migrans
54 White-tailed Eagle – Haliaeetus albicilla
55 Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo
56 Common Kingfisher – Alcedo atthis
57 European Roller – Coracias garrulus
58 Syrian Woodpecker – Dendrocopos syriacus
59 Common Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
60 Peregrine Falcon – Falco peregrinus
61 Red-backed Shrike – Lanius collurio
62 Common Magpie – Pica pica
63 Eurasian Jackdaw – Corvus monedula
64 Rook – Corvus frugilegus
65 Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix
66 Common Raven – Corvus corax
67 Coal Tit – Periparus ater
68 Eurasian Blue Tit – Cyanistes caeruleus
69 Great Tit – Parus major
70 Eurasian Penduline Tit – Remiz pendulinus
71 Woodlark – Lullula arborea
72 Eurasian Skylark – Alauda arvensis
73 Crested Lark – Galerida cristata
74 Eurasian Crag Martin – Ptyonoprogne rupestris
75 Common Chiffchaff – Phylloscopus collybita
76 Cetti’s Warbler – Cettia cetti
77 Long-tailed Tit – Aegithalos caudatus
78 Goldcrest – Regulus regulus
79 Common Firecrest – Regulus ignicapilla
80 Eurasian Wren – Troglodytes troglodytes
81 White-throated Dipper – Cinclus cinclus
82 Common Starling – Sturnus vulgaris
83 Eurasian Blackbird – Turdus merula
84 European Robin – Erithacus rubecula
85 Black Redstart – Phoenicurus ochruros
86 Whinchat – Saxicola rubetra
87 European Stonechat – Saxicola rubicola
88 Dunnock – Prunella modularis
89 House Sparrow – Passer domesticus
90 Grey Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
91 Pied Wagtail/White Wagtail – Motacilla alba
92 Meadow Pipit – Anthus pratensis
93 Water Pipit – Anthus spinoletta
94 Common Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
95 Brambling – Fringilla montifringilla
96 Hawfinch – Coccothraustes coccothraustes
97 European Greenfinch – Chloris chloris
98 Common Linnet – Linaria cannabina
99 Common Crossbill – Loxia curvirostra
100 European Goldfinch – Carduelis carduelis
101 Eurasian Siskin – Spinus spinus
102 Corn Bunting – Emberiza calandra
103 Rock Bunting – Emberiza cia
104 Common Reed Bunting – Emberiza schoeniclus

3 thoughts on “Birdwatching trip to Greece: Porto Lagos”

  1. Amazing Iordan what you discovered at this time of the year! It’s making me thinking to reschedule my travel plans for the coming year. We got already an impression of the area traveling to Thassos end of October. Thanks for your report and inspiration.

    1. My pleasure! The area is absolutely superb. I would love to spend a few more days if I had the chance. It is great to combine it with Dadia Forest, Evros Delta and Nestos delta. Next time 🙂

  2. I’m not a birdwatcher really but a recent trip to Porto Lagos/ Limni Vistonida really got me interested. This was 27.12.22. I was thrilled to see the flamingoes, egret, herons, avocet and many other waterbirds including pelican. I’m taking binoculars next time! I’m now keen to explore the birds of prey watching points by the Nestos as we live quite close by. It really is an amazing area for all kinds of nature as well as birds. Thank you for your report as it’s given me some lists of birds to lookout for next time I go.

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