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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

It's all Greek: Northern and Central Greece, December-January 2022/23 (1 Viewer)

Another day with not that many birds seen, although there were some good ones among them. The weather was quite cool and foggy early on. I headed into the hills and above the fog to Dadia Forest, a famous area for raptors. I went up to the antennas at the highest point of the forest and waited for things to get warmed up and some raptors to start soaring. While I waited enjoying the views, a Sombre Tit showed nicely. At around 10.30, the first Black Vulture appeared and gave fine views as it perched in a tree. The best views came about 30 minutes later when a couple more sailed through at very close range - probably the closest I've ever been to this species. A Griffon Vulture followed them, but that was about it for raptors in that area.

After lunch, I headed to Dadia village, wondering if I could access the famous vulture feeding station. Sadly, it seems that it's not possible to view the station at the moment because of damage caused by fires. I had to make do with scanning from the small hill by the visitor centre. It's possible to see birds flying over the feeding area but they're quite distant. Most numerous were Black Kites, with over sixty present. A few Greater Spotted Eagles and Black Vultures were also seen and a Peregrine zipped over. A couple of Hawfinches flew over the forest.

I ended the day by the nearby river, not seeing too much apart from a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few Corn Buntings.


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I didn't make too early a start to New Year, with the area covered in a chilly blanket of fog. I head back to Dadia Forest in the morning. After an abortive effort by the river, I headed up the road and out of the mist to have a look around the forest edge and fields. This was quite productive, with good views of Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest, followed by an excellent flock of seven Hawfinches that dwarfed the accompanying Chaffinches.

I then headed to the information centre observatory to check to see what was floating about over the feeding station. Despite the sun, it was still quite chilly and very little took to the air. Eventually, a reasonable throng of Black Kites appeared but there were no vultures at all. I had a Raven to thank for mobbing a distant perched raptor that was sat atop a crag. This turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for: an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle. It sat about for quite some time before taking off and heading to the feeding area.

With activity low and the main objective accomplished, I decided to head south for the Evros Delta. I birded the track alongside Lake Drana. The lake was thick with Greater Flamingos. A Ruddy Shelduck flew over the water. Later, I found a large group of 88 at the back of the lake. Several Greater Spotted Eagles were about, including a spotty immature, and the air was filled with Marsh Harriers. A male Hen Harrier drifted by too. A couple of Slender-billed Gulls gave good views in the pools near the track.

I then went a bit further and got out for a short walk to the observation tower. There were lots of Bewick's Swans scattered over the marshland but then I noticed that near to them were a small group of six sleeping geese. I couldn't see their heads properly but was immediately interested in them. They looked quite compact and dark and the white on the face seemed to be particularly prominent. Eventually, one woke up and showed a petite bill and a clear yellow eye ring. Here, finally, were some Lesser White-fronted Geese. They all then decided to wake up and fly off towards a large group of Greater White-fronted Geese out on the marshes. I reckoned I could get a bit closer by driving further along the track. I found them again in amongst the Greaters. They weren't really close but the views were decent in the late afternoon sunlight. One of the birds had a rather uncomfortable looking white neck ring.

The geese weren't the only birds on the marshes. A very nice male Merlin dashed through before perching on a low bush. Then, a huge immature Imperial Eagle flew past. As I headed back, a couple more Merlins appeared, grappling with one another in the sky. Then a colossal congregation of Starlings swarmed around - the flock at one stage stretching for over a mile. I estimated 100,000 but that's probably well short of the total.


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Today was a pleasant but fairly low key day. It was quite cold and icy first thing and I headed back down to the Evros Delta. I started at the Antheia part in the west. There were plenty of small birds in the fields, including a Hawfinch and five Cirl Buntings. I then passed through the area of pools, which look good (and are normally great, according to the guide books) but there were basically no birds on them at all. Down at the beach, I finally bumped into the first Crested Larks of the trip. A Kentish Plover was in the distance with some Dunlin. Offshore, a couple of smart Black-throated Divers were close in.

I then went back to the Drana Lagoon area, where I'd been yesterday. I looked through the flocks of White-fronted Geese on the marshes but didn't see any other species with them. There was plenty of raptor activity, including a big immature White-tailed Eagle, a male Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and several Greater Spotted Eagles. A Slender-billed Gull again showed well along the channels.

I then headed back west and stopped at the small lagoon in Profitis Ilias. Hardly anything was on the lake but a huge flock of Starlings and several raptors kept things interesting. After a brief stop by the recently burned marsh at Imeros, I ended up at the mouth of the Lissos River. The second Osprey of the trip was about the best bird here.

I ended at Lake Ismarida and drove up to the impressive observatory on a hilltop on the west side. This gives panoramic views across the lake and the surrounding area. The water was festooned with ducks and lots of Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedbeds. It was great to watch the comings and goings of birds as the day drew to a close. Four Whooper Swans and several Dalmatian Pelicans came in. There were big numbers of Pygmy Cormorants arriving in from fishing trips. A pair of White-tailed Eagles watched over it all from a dead tree. Another colossal roost of Starlings appeared, stretching from one end of the reedbeds to the other. A Merlin appeared, buzzing the flock before it settled.


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There is some discussion if those are truly wild though (some birds are bred and reintroduced, it seems).
Leo Boon wrote:

'Paralikidis (2005) released 30 captive reared black-necked pheasants in the area equipped with radio transmitters'

and next:

'A population collapse will have consequences as this could result in the extinction of the last indigenous population of black-necked pheasant in Europe, particularly as birds from this population are not reared in captivity.'

So that's a bit of a contradiction...

I only noticed the existence of this 'native' population just before new year while researching plans for spring 2023...:

The pheasant is one of the 10-odd species I can still see as a lifer in Greece, so your visit, Joachim's sighting and the discussion at Dutch Birding all seem too much of a coincidence: I feel the Greek gods are whispering in my ear I should visit Greece :)
Interesting about the Pheasants. I was brought up to think the only remaining native ones in the Western Palearctic were in the Caucasus, so I'm surprised this Greek population hasn't been given more emphasis in the past.

The Starling flocks are quite a feature in NE Greece in winter. The roosts are huge but I've seen massive flocks in the daytime too. A few days ago I opened my curtains in my hotel to find several thousand swarming just outside. I got distracted from driving today by seeing perhaps 10,000 or more swirling over the fields near the road. It reminds me of my youth, seeing big flocks of Starlings all over the place and thinking they must be the commonest bird in the world.

Today was quite overcast and chilly to start with but warmed up and became quite pleasant when the sun came out. I spent most of the morning around Lake Ismarida. I planned to wander up the track along the east side of the lake (shown in the site guides and on Google Maps), only to discover that the track only runs a few hundred before becoming overgrown. There clearly hasn't been a walkable track there for several years. A couple of Green Sandpipers, Merlin and Peregrine all put in appearances while I was in the area though. I walked the track around the southern end of the lake. I heard several Bearded Tits calling from the reeds but they were keeping low. A few scans from the hilltop observatory produced the usual array of ducks. There were six Whooper Swans and a flock of ten Bewick's Swans flew over without landing.

I then headed to the coastal lagoon at Fanari. There was a decent array of waterbirds, including lots of Greater Flamingos and a couple of Slender-billed Gulls. A White-tailed Eagle was sitting in a nearby tree and was later seen flying off with another bird.

I stopped a short distance up the road near the mouth of Porto Lagos lagoon. A group of 13 Slender-billed Gulls included a few pinkish looking adults. Finally, I stopped in the layby to look out over Lake Vistonis. Only 70 White-headed Ducks were present today, although some were a bit closer than the other day - maybe within a kilometre.


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Today was another day when I didn't see very many species, but I think it was maybe one of my favourite days of the trip. Definitely quality over quantity. I stayed overnight in the hill village of Livadero, north of Drama. From there, I set off into the mountains in beautiful, bright, crisp conditions. A good surfaced road stretches northwards into the Rhodope Mountains and up towards the Bulgarian border. The area around Elatia has become popular with Greek birders looking for mountain forest species, although it's not mentioned in the birding guide books to the area. I'd certainly recommend a visit if you're doing a trip to this area.

I got to Elatia around mid-morning and stopped along one of the forest tracks at a pleasant looking clearing in the conifer forest. With a bit of encouragement, a Pygmy Owl soon started calling, at first at a bit of a distance but then much closer. Then it appeared at the top of one of the tall conifers, mobbed (not surprisingly) by more tits than even Garry Bagnall could handle. It hung around for a good twenty minutes, looking characteristically cross throughout. The tit flocks were quite interesting, with both Crested Tit and Willow Tit frequent. Quite a few Bullfinches were around too, the first I've seen in Greece.

A bit further into the forest, I heard some rasping calls coming from deep in the trees. I managed to coax out the source somewhat inadvertently with a bit of pishing intended to attract tits. Soon, a Nutcracker appeared at the top of a pine where it spent several minutes looking about in curiosity. At least one other was heard calling.

I tried the mixed forest lower down to look for different birds. A Black Woodpecker flew across the road as I was on the way down and then another was seen very nicely near where I parked, tapping loudly. A Brambling was heard calling in the beech forest. That was about all, but I enjoyed the very scenic drive down the mountain road in beautiful light.


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I started the day near Thessaloniki, and headed down to the nearby Gallikos Estuary. This excellent, extensive urban fringe wetland made for a productive morning and some good views of a variety of birds. Ten Little Stints showed nicely, with a couple of them regularly quarreling and calling. Black-necked Grebes were numerous, with some close views possible. Other birds included several Slender-billed Gulls, the first Mediterranean Gulls of the trip, a Red-throated Diver and nice views of a flying Osprey.

I then returned to Aliakmon River Forest. I was hoping to find the Pine Buntings again, but I suspect the middle of the day isn't the best time and I didn't see any (or many other buntings). It was still quite lively however, with some stupendous views of a couple of Greater Spotted Eagles a highlight. A couple of Black Storks appeared overhead, circling. A female Red-crested Pochard hanging around with the Teal on the river was the first of the trip.

I then headed south and ended the day around Lake Karla. This is a less well known but excellent site. The first stopped produced a couple of Night Herons, loafing with the numerous Pygmy Cormorants. A female Ferruginous Duck was on the lake. What now seems to be my daily Merlin showed very well, perched on a small building. A surprise were three Wood Sandpipers in a muddy corner - not too common here in the winter.


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Today was deliberately low key but did produce one very good bird. I'm staying for a few days in the lovely village of Keramidi, not too far from Lake Karla but with some interesting possibilities in the nearby forests and hills. I set off early morning for a walk into those forests from the village. Initially, birding was quiet, particularly in the dense, scrubby areas. As I got a bit higher, I came out into some lovely oak woodland, which is precisely where I wanted to be. It was a bit busier for birds too, with lots of Nuthatches and Short-toed Treecreepers, the latter my first of the trip. A couple of pairs of Sombre Tits showed nicely. I was looking for woodpeckers though, and for a while none appeared. Eventually one did and, luckily, it was exactly the one I was looking for: a splendid Lilford's White-backed Woodpecker. It pottered about in the branches of an oak for quite some time, showing its barred back nicely. It's only the second time I've seen this subspecies of one of my favourite European birds, so was a good result for the day's birding.


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I had a lovely day today, exploring the woods around Keramidi and Lake Karla. I began in an area of oak woodland, rock and scrub on the high plateau between Keramidi and Karla. A nice selection of birds included a number of showy Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, singing Short-toed Treecreeper, a flock of Redwings and four Cirl Buntings. Sombre Tits were particular common here, being seen every few hundred metres or so.

I continued down to Lake Karla and began by driving along the eastern embankment. There was still quite a bit of mist over the lake, which made things tricky at first. The crag at the northern end of the embankment was starting to catch the sun and I soon found what I was looking for: a very active, noisy pair of Western Rock Nuthatches. They kept me entertained for a while but there was also a nice male Blue Rock Thrush to watch in the same area.

I continued up the east side of the lake, getting good views of a Black Stork as it headed along the nearby ridge. A large group of pelicans was feeding very busily. The flock was mostly Dalmatian Pelicans but there were also 18 Great White Pelicans, giving a nice opportunity to compare the two species.

I headed back to the south end of the lake and went up to the hilltop church, which gives fantastic views over the area. A Merlin was in exactly the same spot as I'd seen it two days earlier. In the southwest corner, nine Ferruginous Ducks were keeping close in to the reeds. Five Night Herons were roosting by the pumping station. As the day ended, I watched what I think was probably the biggest Starling roost yet, with the flock stretching literally miles at one point.


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Today wasn't quite my last full day in Greece but definitely the last day of mostly birding. Once again, it was clear and bright but with a sharp frost early in the morning. I began with a brief look at the beach area a few kilometres from Keramidi. Not too much was about but I did hear a Blackcap and saw Cirl Bunting and Black Redstart.

I spent most of the morning in the forest area above Keramidi. There was no sign of any White-backed Woodpeckers today but I did see a few Middle-spotted Woodpeckers. Otherwise it was the usual stuff, including Sombre Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.

The afternoon was taken up with an interesting tour of Lake Karla. I began with another look at the Western Rock Nuthatches. The male Blue Rock Thrush showed very nicely in the same area. Scanning over the hills produced distant views of a species I've been looking out for (and have thought I might have seen a couple of times previously): Long-legged Buzzard. They stayed a long way off but I got better views of probably the same birds later in the day around the south side of the lake. A Merlin flew over the eastern embankment carrying prey. Five Ferruginous Ducks were in the southwest corner and three Night Herons were roosting in the reeds.

I spent a bit of time in the area of pools to the northwest of the lake. This area seems potentially excellent and is where most of the Greater Flamingos hang out. The more vegetated pools were busy with Green Sandpipers, Water Pipits and Chiffchaffs. The fields in this area are probably also worthy of exploration. As I wandered the pools, a couple of flocks of Calandra Larks flew overhead, showing their dark underwings.

At dusk, I watched the Starlings stretching for miles across the horizon as they came in to roost. A Peregrine was cruising about high up and, somewhat unexpectedly, tried chasing an unsuspecting gull. One of the Long-legged Buzzards appeared on a roadside telegraph poll to give reasonable views as the light faded.


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