Monday, 5 June 2017

Birding on Lake Kerkini (Part 2).

So here is the continuation to my previous post Birding on Lake Kerniki (Part 1).

Leaving the drowned forest our guide and boatman quietly drifted within range of one the lakes' iconic species, the Dalmatian Pelican, a globally endangered species that I had last encountered during two visits to Bulgaria along the Black Sea coast some ten years ago.

Dalmatian Pelican.

Just one gentle flap to change its perching location.

This species which needs secluded islands on which to breed has historically suffered massive declines due to wetland drainage, persecution and disturbance of breeding birds. Whilst regularly present on Lake Kerniki outside the breeding season they had not bred here due to the lack of suitable nesting habitat. In 2002 funds allowed a small wooden platform to be built and in the following Spring seven pairs nested but disturbance by local fishermen, including scavenging wood, resulted in nesting failure.

During 2003 the original platform was enlarged and a second was constructed resulting in 20 pairs breeding in 2004 producing over 20 young and in 2005 about 50 pairs raised 55 fledglings. Similar numbers fledged annually until 2010 when new extended platforms permitted 120 chicks to fledge successfully and was the first recorded expansion of the Dalmatian’s breeding range in more than 150 years.

Sub-adult Dalmatian Pelican.

The breeding population of Dalmatian currently numbers around 250 pairs with maybe another 100 birds present in total and Kerkini is now the most important winter roosting site in the whole of Europe for this species.

From a distance the much newer rock platforms look just like a white upturned boat hulls. Only when you get closer is it possible to discern the numbers of Pelicans in residence.

For such a large bird I am always amazed at how effortlessly they are able to glide just above the water. Dalmatian (above) and White Pelican (below).

With Lake Kerniki traditionally being such a fertile feeding site White Pelicans that nest at Prespa, over 300km away, regularly make daily excursions here to feed. In 2016 White Pelican bred successfully at Kerniki for the first time with 11 pairs raising six chicks. Up to 2000 of them pass through the lake from March to September.

White Pelican in breeding plumage.

Time seemed to pass for too quickly during this enjoyable wildlife experience and I  subsequently wished I had taken more photographs ... maybe I will just have to go back.

In the meantime my sincere thanks go to Nikos our local host, guide and boatman.


Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Birding on Lake Kerkini, Greece (Part 1).

One of the highlights of our week in Northern Greece was a morning excursion across Lake Kerkini to the drowned forest to view the various birds that regularly visit and nest on this important wetland habitat.

Brief history of Lake Kerkini.
Historically the lake fed at it’s north-eastern corner by the River Strimonas flowing out of Bulgaria was not permanent. In 1932 the first dam was built at Lithotopus at the south-eastern end but following a build up of sediments over the ensuing fifty years a higher dam and improvements to existing embankments was completed in 1982 to improve flood protection and provide agricultural irrigation. The lake is approximately 15km long, with a maximum width of 8.5km and its depth varies from 1 to 10 m. Its surface rises and falls depending on the season from 55 to 85 km2.

We set out from Kerkini Harbour on perfectly calm water heading towards the north-eastern corner with large flocks of Dalmatian Pelicans soaring against the backdrop of the mountains or lazily flying over the lake; resting Great Cormorants, plus Black-headed Gulls and Terns. Both Common, Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Terns were easily identified flying around us.

Great Crested Grebe dashes across the water along side the boat. During our days around the lake we saw hundreds of pairs in various stages of courtship. Apparently the actual number of nesting pairs is unknown and difficult to estimate due to the size of the lake and their distribution!

So where to look next? A Squacco Heron eying up a meal below its wire perch or flying past us; Grey Heron overhead and a distant Great White Egret and Pygmy Cormorant.

The wire fences accommodated a nice collection of Whiskered Terns with Black-headed Gulls.

As we drifted slowly into the drowned forest we were surrounded by the shear volume of sounds of nesting Great Cormorants together with the much smaller and rarer Pygmy Cormorants which breed here.
The reason for the lakes' success as a both a feeding and breeding location is the sheer number of fish available providing the spawning areas remain intact.

Dotted in amoungst the Cormorants were nesting Spoonbills (above) with the breeding adults sporting their ochre  breast band and neck patch.

Dotted in amoungst the Cormorants were nesting Spoonbills (above) with the breeding adults sporting their ochre  breast band and neck patch. More images of this species will appear on FABirding in due course.

The other species that entranced me (below) was the Black-crowned Night Heron. Perched out in the open this individual provided great views.  
You can click here to view some other close ups on FABirding.

Before long it was time for our expert local guide and boatman to move on and take us to view the other important species on the lake; both Dalmatian and White Pelicans at their breeding platforms.

This encounter will form the subject of a follow up post .. Part 2.

Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Northern Greece - Butterflies.

Throughout our seven day birding holiday in Greek Macedonia our group recorded sightings of 34 species of butterflies plus a few moths and various other insects. I certainly didn't see them all but many of those I did see were lifers.

Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea). Photographed during a drive along the eastern embankment of Lake Kerniki.

Lesser Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea trivia) was the most common species seen throughout our trip.

Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia) [above] with its distinctive under-wing pattern of large pearly-silver spots photographed in the Strimonas valley.

A number of 'blue' species where seen but the rare Iolas Blue (Iolana iolas) [above left] that is so much larger than the Common Blue [above right] was a special treat as this upland species often roams several kilometers rarely stopping long in one place.

I saw Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisyi) flying close to some dried out Carp ponds near Vironia on day two and finally grabbed a shot of this faded individual on a revisit to this area two days later.

A very tatty Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius).

This Eastern Wood White (Leptidea duponcheli) was seen along a track on the slopes of Mount Vrondous.

Eastern Bath White (Pontia edusa). One of the most frequently seen white species during our holiday.

One species that has been extinct in the UK since the 1920's is the striking Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi). The male [above] and female with an  attendant Transparent Burnet [below] were seen at various localities. A strong flyer that didn't appear to rest anywhere until these individuals were spotted nectaring on two separate cooler mornings at totally different altitudes.

Other species photographed [clockwise from top left below] were Small Heath, Duke of Bergundy, Sooty Copper and Lattice Brown.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Northern Greece - Dragons And Damsels.

During our birding trip to Northern Greece I recorded eleven species of Odonata but only managed to get images of the following varieties.

Scarlet [Broad] Darter (Crocothemis erythraea). Above is the brightly coloured male and below is the female.

Common [Club-tailed] Clubtail (Gomphus vulgatissimus). This individual was soaking up the sunshine  at the roadside.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes).

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa).

Male (above) and female (below) of Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). Both seen during a woodland walk close to a river.

Blue [Scarce] Chaser (Libellula fulva)..Above and below are shots of the male.

Above and below are images of the teneral or immature male Blue [Scarce] Chaser with its very distinctive wing markings.

Linking to:
Nature Notes

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wildlife around Lake Kerkini, Greece.

A few days ago we returned from a wildlife watching holiday in northern Greece.

About 100km from Thessaloniki our base for the week was the family run Limneo Guest House situated in the rural village of Hrisohorafa (Chryssohorafa) on the south east side of Lake Kerkini where the inhabitants are mainly employed in fishing, farming and breeding buffalo.

Very close to the Bulgarian border Lake Kerniki, an irrigation reservoir, is contained by the natural barriers of the Kerkini (Belles) Mountains to the north and the Mavrovouni Mountains in the south and is an important Ramsar wetland site for its breeding Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants plus host to many other diverse species. I will explain more about the lakes' history in a future post

Our week here was mainly centered around the wildlife on and around Lake Kerkini plus an excursion into the mountains and further afield.

So here are some images as a introduction for follow up posts.

Water Buffalo feeding on the spring grasses. During our stay we enjoyed various culinary delights including their meat cooked in the traditional way.

Our first foray during the afternoon on day one with a visit to two areas around the dam produced a taster for the week ahead. Large flocks of Pelicans, White Stock (also a very local nester in the village), Blue Chaser, the first of many Odonata and the delicately woven nest of a Penduline Tit.

One of the numerous sub-adult Dalmatian Pelican (above) encountered during the week.

A Squacco Heron (above) and a [Black-crowned] Night Heron (below).

Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday


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