Tour At A Glance

Cost:

1150.00

Deposit:

350.00

Single Room Supplement:

100.00

Tour Code:

Fairly relaxed

Group Size:

Seven plus leader

Hawfinch Grey-headed Woodpecker Pygmy Cormorant Slender-billed Gull Western Rock Nuthatch Rock Bunting European Eagle Owl

Northern Greece Lake Kerkini - Autumn in Europe's Secret Wetland

Date: 26th - 31st October 2020 (SPACES)
Leaders: Paul Roberts

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
Fly London to Thessaloniki from where it is approximately 1.5hrs to our accommodation in the village of Ano Poroia, just north-west of the lake. If our flight time permits, we will make a coffee stop on the way at a spot where we may see our first Black Redstarts, Hawfinch and Syrian Woodpecker, before continuing to the dam at the south end of Lake Kerkini. Here the river will give us a great introduction to how rich the birdlife of this area can be, as we will see many Pygmy Cormorants and large flocks of Common Teal and Northern Pintail. Late migrants such as Glossy Ibis and Whiskered Tern like this spot, and we will see many Great White Egrets and Common Kingfisher. Heading up the western shore of the lake, there may be time for a quick stop to see our first Dalmatian Pelicans, Eurasian Spoonbills and shorebirds. From here we continue to our hotel and check in with plenty of time before dinner.
 
DAY  TWO 
We will start the day at Mandraki Harbour, a great vantage point for viewing the Northern edge of the lake. Water levels vary tremendously between years, and as the lake is shallow at this end, a rise in fall of just half a metre can make a big difference in how close the birds will be, so a telescope is essential. Greater Flamingoes and Dalmatian Pelicans will be visible, as well as big flocks of Pied Avocets and Spotted Redshanks. Eurasian Spoonbills and lingering Black Storks also favour this area, while if there are any herds of wild swans, this is a good spot to find them – Bewick’s being more likely. We will hopefully also see our first Greater Spotted Eagle from here, perched in the trees of the ‘Drowned Forest’ to the east. Moving on to Vironia, we will explore the area around the Strimonas River. Large flocks of Corn Buntings, perhaps containing a few Crested Larks, should be feeding along the rover banks and the islets in the main channel are good for Water Pipit and lingering waders such as Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers. Peregrine and Merlin are frequently seen hunting, and the adjacent tracks can be explored for Grey-headed and Syrian Woodpeckers. Great Grey Shrike, if present, often favour this area. From here we head to the picnic site at Megalachori before continuing along the Eastern Embankment of the lake. Pygmy Cormorants and Eurasian Spoonbills are common here, and we should get some more views of Greater Spotted Eagles. As the main lake shore looms into view, we should get our first impression of just how many birds this area supports – flocks of Great Cormorants numbering thousands are likely, and we should also see White and Dalmatian Pelicans in mixed flocks. Waders include Dunlin, Little-ringed Plover and perhaps Temminck’s Stint, while out on the water huge rafts of Common Pochard should be checked carefully for Ferruginous Duck. White-tailed Eagle often hunt this side of the lake, and this is perhaps the best area of feeding for the flock of Lesser White-fronted Geese if present. The birds typically arrive in late October and spend a few weeks here before continuing to the Evros Delta for the rest of the winter. We saw 106 birds here in 2015. Dusk will be approaching now, and we may see several eagles going to roost in the Drowned Forest – Greater Spotted most likely, but also White-tailed. 
 
DAY THREE
This morning we head North to the Bulgarian Border and spend a couple of hours birding mature Poplar woodland near Promachonas. Grey-headed, Middle, Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers can all be seen here, as well as a selection of woodland birds such as European Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Hawfinch and Short-toed Treecreeper. Heading back towards the lake, we pause at a quarry near Vironia to look for Firecrest, Cirl Bunting and also keep an eye out for raptors that could include Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle. Hawfinch is common here, and we should also see flocks of finches, Black Redstarts and perhaps with good fortune, Western Rock Nuthatch or Rock Bunting. Sombre Tit is also a good bet here, and we will be keeping an ear open for them during our walk. Heading from here to Kerkini village, we will meet our boatman for a short trip out onto the lake. This is a great experience as it allows close views of Dalmatian Pelicans but also spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and marshes. We should see many of the species already encountered from the shore, but will get in amongst the flocks of Greater Flamingoes and Great White Egrets allowing great photo opportunities. Back on dry land, we will spend the last hour of daylight viewing the lake from the western shore, checking the bays for more waders, ducks and pelicans. A Eurasian Eagle Owl often roosts nearby, and we will try our best to locate it.
 
DAY FOUR
Today we will head south back towards Thessaloniki and visit the coastal saltmarshes and pools to the west of the city. It takes about 1.5hrs to reach the area, and involves driving for many kilometres on fairly rough tracks so it is rather weather dependent. This area offers a whole new range of species and there are many possibilities. Waders include huge flocks of Dunlin and Little Stint, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Eurasian Curlew, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Common Greenshank, and maybe Marsh Sandpiper, while vast gull flocks should be checked for Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Caspian. Flocks of Sandwich Terns still linger and there is a chance too of a late Whiskered or Caspian Tern. Offshore, many Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes will be seen and on the larger lagoons, we may find several species of ducks. Greater Flamingoes are again numerous and the surrounding terrain might throw up a few surprises such as Wood Lark, and even Penduline Tit. This is a huge area, and will take all day to cover properly, especially given the number of birds likely to be present! Merlin and Hen Harrier are often seen hunting over the fields and Marsh Harrier is also common, but we have seen Pallid Harrier and Long-legged Buzzard too on previous visits.  We arrive back at base in time for another hearty meal of locally prepared specialities. 
 
DAY FIVE
Today we will spend some time around the village of Sidirokastro looking for species such as Rock Bunting, Western Rock Nuthatch, Rock Sparrow and Blue Rock Thrush. We should also keep an eye skyward for raptors such as Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawk and we should see Little Owls perched on rooftops as we pass through small villages. Being this side of the lake, we will return to the Eastern Embankment right down to the dam at Lithotopos, carefully checking for any species we may have missed out on previously – of course, this also gives us another chance to look for goose flocks too. We will finish the day with a return to the western shoreline of the lake at dusk to witness the beautiful sunset, and check the shore for waders and other waterbirds - we have often seen Yellow Wagtails and Red-throated Pipit among the hordes of Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Crested Lark and Corn Bunting.
 
DAY SIX
We only have a very short amount of time this morning before embarking on the journey south to Thessaloniki for our return flight to London. A short walk adjacent to the village takes us into scrubby hillside where we have an excellent chance to find both Sombre Tit and Rock Bunting. Hawfinch is generally common here too, and we should get good views of them. Perhaps a repeat of the two Black Woodpeckers we saw on one of the trips, will provide a fitting finale! The journey south takes around 1.5 hrs, and we depart around 1430 on the flight home. 
 

 

 

Additional Information

 

WHATS INCLUDED
Return flights London/Thessaloniki, five night’s accommodation in traditional hotel, meals from dinner on day one to breakfast on final day, transport, services of leaders and reserve entrance fees.
 
NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/from London airport and any overnight stay that might be involved, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature. Lunch on days one and six are not included – there is a small cafe in Thessaloniki airport, or you can purchase sandwiches on the Easyjet flight.
 
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 

 

 

Tour Reports

 

2013     2014     2015    2016a    2016b   2017   2018b

 

Testimonials

 

"Jim and I enjoyed the holiday immensely. Paul was an excellent leader, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.   The other tour members were also very helpful to us in identifying birds.  The small group size and daily pace were optimal.   Positive on the accommodation and the food was exceptional - freshly prepared local dishes." S.R, Germany

 

" Another enjoyable trip, 5 lifers but better than that was the sheer quantity of birds seen. We particularly enjoyed the hotel,  the local food (and wine) which was new to us, and the fact that it was an interesting building not an anonymous chain, as are most of the hotels we have stayed in with Oriole who seem to have a happy knack in finding this type of accommodation. We had a great time!!" A & F H Suffolk

 

"Awesome" C L Coventry

 

" we had a great trip - please pass on my thanks to Paul who was a very good fit for our group. Great guy and great birder and most importantly a very safe driver. The hotel was wonderful and the staff were excellent. I enjoyed it so much, I may go back for the spring tour" J F Watford RSPB

 

"Just a quick note to thank you both for making the trip such a great success and more enjoyable than I had expected. I think it proved to be the perfect short break: not much time spent in the mini-bus, and a multitude of great birds just about every time we piled out of it; the pace of the tour was soundly judged and you made wise use of the available daylight; superb hospitality and delicious food at the hotel; and a nice, convivial little group to share it all with."  A.F Southampton

 

" Superb tour that exceeded expectations for scenery and birds. The personal attention in ensuring everyone saw everything from the leaders was outstanding and the hotel was exceptional " A J & M S London

 

" A Very enjoyable trip with great birds, company and accommodation " D G Cambridge

 

"Wow - what a fantastic trip!" M & F S Leicester

 

" For a first timer, I think the sheer number of returning clients who have previously been happy with their "oriole" holiday experience speaks for itself.  You seem to be offering a wide variety of tours and I think you have your finger on the pulse regarding new destinations. As for this holiday, it was faultless. I really enjoyed the small group size, the variety of excursions and the excellent accommodation and meals, some of which were outstanding. I just can't believe how skilled the two leaders have become in picking up the sights and sounds well before anyone else, so thank you for sharing your knowledge. The holiday was without doubt very good value for money and I particularly appreciated Neil's efforts in writing a daily blog at the end of each day to assisit us with place names and recalling numbers and sightings of birds. Quite simply, I would love to participate on an another of your holidays" R. B. Surrey

 

" As you will realise, I am no fan of questionnaires, but after that trip, a response is obligatory! Superb few days birding: the usual high standard of organisation and leadership, delightful yet idiosyncratic accommodation coupled with a stimulating itinerary in the company of like-minded friends. It’s what we have come to expect from an Oriole tour, and this was no exception; many thanks" RW Devon

 

" I would just like to say thanks to Oriole Birding and especially to Paul Roberts for being such a great leader on our tour to Greece. He was constantly cheerful, had a good sense of humour, marvellous at driving around potholes [!], knowledgeable about the birdlife and great at finding birds even though he must have been exhausted after two trips. We were just sorry he didn;t have his ukelele with him!! " A M Watford RSPB

 

" A fabulous trip with great birds and Paul was an excellent leader in making sure evryone got the most out of it. I also loved the hotel with its great local food and wine " D H London

 

" I enjoyed everything about the holiday and particularly appreciated the leaders all round knowledge" B E Doncaster

 

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