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Birding and photography at lake Kerkini

Dalmatian Pelican © Iordan Hristov

Lake Kerkini – birding and photography

December 10-11, 2016

I guided a group of 15 students on bird identification trip to lake Kerkini in the weekend December 10-11, 2016. We saw a total of 70 birds. Some the highlights were Dalmatian Pelican, Greater spotted Eagle, Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Bittern, Greater Flamingo, Pygmy Cormorant, Bewick Swans and many more.

We departed from Sofia early in the morning on December 10th and arrived at the lake at 12,30. The travel was easy and had no problems crossing the border with Greece. Along the road we only saw a few common birds like Great White Egret, Kestrel, Common Buzzard and the only one worth mentioning was a Long-legged Buzzard and Crested Larks.

winter birding and photography at lake Kerkini

Red crested Pochard © Iordan Hristov

Our first stop at the lake was at the north-eastern corner around village Megalochori  where we saw our first Greater Flamingoes and Greater spotted Eagle. The other birds of interest were Pygmy Cormorant, Bittern, Red-crested Pochard, and White tailed Eagle. An interesting surprise were two Garganey which were not supposed to be here. We walked along the ditch for about an hour and then drove to village Kerkini where we had a scheduled boat trip into the lake to see the Flamingoes. Everything was up to plan and soon we were on the boat. Kingfishers were everywhere around the little port in the village.

The boat trip continued for an hour and took us into the lake as far as the low water level allowed. We did see loads of Flamingoes but not close enough for a decent photo. The water level was very low. Other than the Flamingoes, we saw a group of Avocets and a single Spoonbill. Other than them, the birds we saw from the boat were mainly common like Great crested Grebes, Pochard, Herons, Shoveler, etc. We saw no Pelicans but had another place for them for the following day.

The sunset caught us still on the lake, so by the time we had reached the bank, it was time to go home. We drove back to Bulgaria, to spend the night at Belasitsa mountain chalet. Very convenient place with nice food and much cheaper than the accommodation around the lake.

In the evening some of us went owling with spotlights and did hear three different Tawny Owls but only one was observed.

On the second day we drove back to the lake. The drive takes about 1,5 hours so we were at the lake at around 10 a.m. We first stopped in a woodland north of the village of Megalochori where we saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker, Lesser spotted Woodpecker and some of us heard a Little Crake.

After the forest we drove along Struma river where large flocks of Wigeon, Mallard and Teal were noted. In one of the marshes along we heard a Spotted Crake. We expected closer views of the spotted Eagle but with no luck. For lunch we drove again to the picnic area at Megalochori and drove along the eastern embankment. We were hoping to see the Lesser White fronted Geese and Common Cranes, but had no luck. We did manage to see lots of Geese but the ones we were after.  However, we did manage to spot a few Bewick Swans and a Merlin which brought lots of excitement to some of the group members.

Time was ticking away and we could not stop birdwatching. We wanted to stop at a few more places so had to go. Along the way we had to stop a few more times for a Greater spotted Eagle and pressed on to the stop for Dalmatian Pelicans. The light was getting just right for some those wonderful images people present in forums and we were not wrong. The birds here are rather tame and come very close for the delight of photographers including myself.

Dalmatian Pelican © Iordan Hristov

Dalmatian Pelican © Iordan Hristov

Dalmatian Pelican © Iordan Hristov

Dalmatian Pelican © Iordan Hristov

We noted a total of 70 birds which was rather productive for a weekend birding.


  1. Mute Swan                 Cygnus olor       
  2. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna            
  3. Gadwall                 Anas strepera  
  4. Mallard                                Anas platyrhynchos      
  5. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata  
  6. Garganey                 Anas querquedula         
  7. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina      
  8. Common Pochard Aythya ferina   
  9. Little Grebe                 Tachybaptus ruficollis   
  10. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus          
  11. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis        
  12. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo     
  13. Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmaeus           
  14. Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus          
  15. Great Bittern                 Botaurus stellaris           
  16. Grey Heron                 Ardea cinerea  
  17. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia        
  18. Eurasian Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus        
  19. Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
  20. White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla         
  21. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo     
  22. Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus   
  23. Water Rail                 Rallus aquaticus              
  24. Eurasian Moorhen Gallinula chloropus        
  25. Eurasian Coot                 Fulica atra          
  26. Pied Avocet                 Recurvirostra avosetta
  27. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus           
  28. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus              
  29. Common Snipe                 Gallinago gallinago         
  30. Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus      
  31. Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis            
  32. Rock Pigeon                 Columba livia    
  33. Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus       
  34. Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto 
  35. Little Owl                 Athene noctua
  36. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis    
  37. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor      
  38. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major      
  39. Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus  
  40. Green Woodpecker Picus viridis       
  41. Gray-faced Woodpecker Picus canus       
  42. Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus           
  43. Long-tailedTit                 Aegithalos caudatus     
  44. Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea 
  45. EurasianWren                 Troglodytes troglodytes             
  46. Cetti’sWarbler                 Cettia cetti        
  47. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita  
  48. European Robin Erithacus rubecula         
  49. Black Redstart                 Phoenicurus ochruros  
  50. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula 
  51. Mistle Thrush                 Turdus viscivorus           
  52. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris              
  53. Dunnock                 Prunella modularis        
  54. Grey Wagtail                 Motacilla cinerea            
  55. Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs              
  56. European Greenfinch Chloris chloris   
  57. Eurasian Siskin                 Spinus spinus   
  58. European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis        
  59. Eurasian Linnet                 Carduelis cannabina      
  60. Hawfinch                 Coccothraustes coccothraustes              
  61. House Sparrow                 Passer domesticus        
  62. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  63. Jay                                 Garrulus glandarius       
  64. Jackdaw                 Corvus monedula          
  65. Raven                                Corvus corax    
  66. Hooded Crow                 Corvus cornix   
  67. Crested Lark                 Galerida cristata             
  68. Great Tit                 Parus major      
  69. Blue tit                 Cyanistes caeruleus      
  70. Magpie                                Pica pica


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