Greece: Spring Birding Adventure
Greece: Spring Birding Adventure
Greece has one of the highest bird densities in Europe and our tour will take in the best avifauna this beautiful country has to offer, as well as the fascinating culture and history of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. This ten-day, small group birdwatching tour will start in Athens, one of the cultural capitals of the world, which also happens to be superb for birding. Here we will familiarize ourselves with the more common European birds, as well as visit some of the best cultural spots in the city, such as the world-famous Acropolis.
The striking Black-headed Bunting is one of our highly sought-after target species on this trip.
We then head up to the stunning Mount Ymittos near Athens, in search of exciting species such as Western Rock Nuthatch, Rüppell’s Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler , Barred Warbler, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting, and Cretzschmar’s Bunting. This area is also a migration hotspot and supports a wide range of flora and fauna which has led to Mount Ymittos becoming a Natura 2000 protected area (the highest level of protection in Europe).
From Athens we fly north to Thessaloniki and head straight to beautiful Lake Kerkini, an Important Bird Area (IBA) identified by BirdLife International as extremely valuable for birds (and one of several IBAs we visit on this tour). The lake offers wonderful opportunities to view breeding colonies of the Near Threatened (BirdLife International) Dalmatian Pelican and the curious-looking Pygmy Cormorant. The surrounding forest is home to six woodpecker species, including Syrian Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, and Middle Spotted Woodpecker. We will also explore the nearby mountains on the Bulgarian border in search of Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.
Our next stop is Mount Pangaion where we explore the foothills, before heading up to the alpine habitats in the higher altitudes (weather/snow levels permitting). Here we will target higher elevation species that include Common Rock Thrush, Water Pipit, Ortolan Bunting, Yellowhammer, Rock Bunting, Alpine Chough, and Rock Partridge. While in the area we will take in the picturesque city of Kavala on the slopes of Mount Symvolo.
Rock Bunting is a pretty little bird and it is common in mountain areas.
Next we will visit the Nestos Delta on our way to the Evros Delta. We will take time to explore the Nestos Delta’s riverine forest and lagoons which hold many exciting species including White-tailed Eagle, European Turtle Dove, Spur-winged Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Montagu’s Harrier, Eurasian Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, and Marsh Sandpiper. We may also get lucky in spotting the striking Golden Jackal, a species of canid whose range spreads from Eastern Europe all the way to Southeast Asia.
While at the Evros Delta we will meet local guides who will give us an in-depth look at the management of the area and a tour where we will look for its key species including Purple Heron, European Roller, Squacco Heron, Eurasian Bittern, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Long-legged Buzzard, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, and Isabelline Wheatear. We may also glimpse some of the delta’s elusive mammal species including (European) Wild Cat, (European) Grey Wolf, and (Central European) Wild Boar.
Griffon Vulture have benefitted massively from feeding stations and our visit to one should afford us sensational views of this huge bird of prey.
Nearing the end of our tour we will visit Dadia Forest, which is regarded as the best location in Europe for raptors, with a staggering 35 out of the possible 38 diurnal European raptor species recorded here, along with seven out of nine European owl species. We will also have the unique experience of visiting a vulture feeding station where we can watch the spectacle of these amazing birds in their feeding frenzies. This activity should give us great views of Griffon Vulture, and possibly pretty (for a vulture) Egyptian Vulture, and humongous Cinereous Vulture too.
We will finish up this tour by driving back to Thessaloniki, where the tour ends and you can catch a flight back home. However, if you want to explore more of Greece (and we highly recommend it), then you can join our five-day Greece: Lesvos in Spring Extension, which runs immediately after this tour. This extension offers several different resident species as well as further interesting migrants, with tour highlights including Krüper’s Nuthatch, Western Rock Nuthatch, Cinereous Bunting, Eleonora’s Falcon, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, and much more, including the opportunity of observing the visible migration spectacle on a large scale.
Itinerary (10 days/9 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Athens
Welcome to our Greece spring birding tour. You will be met at Athens International Airport by your Birding Ecotours tour leader and local Greek bird guide. From here you will be transferred to your hotel for the first two nights of the tour, with the rest of the day at leisure (you might wish to get your city sightseeing underway). Once the whole group has arrived, we will meet for our first authentic Greek dinner as we discuss the itinerary and help you with anything you may need. You can then use the evening to relax before we head off on our thrilling birding adventure.
Overnight: Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel, Athens
Western Rock Nuthatch can be seen in the hills above Athens.
Day 2. Cultural highlights and European birding introduction in Athens
After breakfast at your hotel you will be picked up and we will depart for a full-day tour to see the highlights of Athens, including the Acropolis with all of its famous monuments, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Acropolis Museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and possibly a visit to Marathon and the nearby wetland of Schinias, if time allows. From a birding point of view, we will familiarize ourselves with the common garden and city birds of this part of Europe, which includes Common Kestrel, Common Blackbird, European Robin, Great Tit, Eurasian Blue Tit, Eurasian Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Eurasian Scops Owl, and Little Owl. We will enjoy lunch in the famous Plaka area, and dinner will be at one of the local tavernas.
Overnight: Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel, Athens
Day 3. Athens birding and flight north to Thessaloniki
We will spend most of the morning at Mount Ymittos near Athens, looking for specials like Western Rock Nuthatch, Rüppell’s Warbler, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Barred Warbler, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, and Eastern Orphean Warbler. After enjoying lunch in Athens, we will make our way to Athens International Airport for our short domestic flight north to Thessaloniki, from where we will be transferred to our guesthouse at Lake Kerkini. A special presentation about Lake Kerkini in the guesthouse will prove to be a great introduction to this place before we will settle in and then enjoy the local specialty cuisine at a nearby restaurant.
Overnight: Guesthouse Limnaio, Kerkini
Grey-headed Woodpecker can be seen in the forests of northern Greece.
Day 4. Lake Kerkini and the Dalmatian Pelican
Lake Kerkini is simply magical. An early morning sitting by the shore, watching pelicans, egrets, and herons, while being serenaded by Common Nightingale and Eurasian Golden Oriole, is a real pleasure. The lake and the surrounding area have a bird list of over 300 species, and we will spend the full day (our first of two here) exploring the Lake Kerkini area.
Lake Kerkini is home to two of Europe’s most iconic species, the Near Threatened (BirdLife International) Dalmatian Pelican and the odd-looking and fairly localized (in Europe), Pygmy Cormorant, both top targets. The surrounding forest area holds a wonderful diversity of warblers, including Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler (a total stunner), Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, as well as Common and Lesser Whitethroats. Common Nightingale and Common Cuckoo are never too far away either, their distinctive songs giving away their presence.
Overnight: Guesthouse Limnaio, Kerkini
Dalmatian Pelican is the star species at Lake Kerkini. We will take a boat ride out onto the lake to enjoy fantastic close views of this huge bird (photo Lavrentis Sidiropoulos).
Day 5. Lake Kerkini boat cruise and woodpeckers
After an early breakfast we will wrap up our lakeshore birding, before departing for a morning boat cruise on Lake Kerkini, where we will witness an incredible diversity of waterbirds. We will visit the special raft where the Dalmatian Pelicans breed, which allows for wonderful close-up views. The Birding Ecotours tour leader will guide you through the best ways to photograph these stunning birds with the still water of the lake giving the opportunity for sensational photos.
The extensive number of waterbird species here includes Great White Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Great Cormorant, White Stork, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Great (White) Egret, Squacco Heron, Greater Flamingo, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, and Eurasian Spoonbill.
After a picnic lunch we will spend the afternoon birding in the forests on the Bulgarian border, where we have the opportunity to see seven different (and all stunning) woodpecker species, these being Great Spotted Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, European Green Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, and the huge Black Woodpecker. Other interesting birds to be found here include Western Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Eurasian Penduline Tit, and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Overnight: Guesthouse Limnaio, Kerkini
Reedbeds throughout Greece are home to numerous passerines, such as the highly vocal Eurasian Penduline Tit.
Day 6. Alpine birding on Mount Pangaion and at Kavala
After breakfast we will depart the Lake Kerkini area for Mount Pangaion. We will bird our way up the mountain, but the main focus will be on the higher slopes (weather/snow permitting), looking for, among others, Alpine Chough, Ortolan Bunting, Yellowhammer, Water Pipit, Rock Partridge, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Tawny Pipit, Alpine Swift, Coal Tit, and the striking Common Rock Thrush, males of this species glow!
From here we will depart for the town of Kavala, amphitheatrically built on the slopes of Mount Symvolo, one of the most picturesque cities in Greece, with a rich cultural heritage. After arriving in the late afternoon, we will wander on the cobbled streets, admire the medieval castle, and enjoy dinner in a fish taverna along the shore. The perfect end to what will have been another amazing day in wonderful Greece.
Overnight: Egnatia City Hotel & Spa, Kavala
Day 7. Nestos Delta to Evros Delta
After a relaxing breakfast we will start two days of birding in the brilliant delta habitats in northeastern Greece. First, we will visit the Nestos Delta with its series of lagoons supporting a huge number of migrant and resident species every year.
There are too many potential species at the site for us to list here but some of the highlights we will look for include Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, European Shag, Little Tern, Greater Flamingo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Roller, Syrian Woodpecker, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Spur-winged Lapwing, Squacco Heron, Long-eared Owl, and Little Bittern.
One of the stars of the spring migration is the European Roller. This species is simply an explosion of color (especially when in flight) and is a highly popular species on our tours. It is amazing to see these gorgeous birds along the roadsides as we drive around the picturesque landscapes of northern Greece.
The delta is also an excellent area for birds of prey, drawn here by the volume of prey on offer. Key species possible include Western Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, and Lesser Kestrel. This area is also good for shrikes, and we should see Woodchat Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, and Red-backed Shrike without difficulty. While in the delta we will keep our eyes peeled for Golden Jackal, an interesting canid species that ranges widely from southeast Asia to southeast Europe.
After wrapping up the morning’s birding and enjoying a picnic lunch we will make our way to our next stop, the Evros Delta. The huge Evros Delta offers us the chance to see real European rarities, due to its eastern location on the border with Turkey. We will have the full day here tomorrow too.
Once at the Evros Delta, we will get straight into birding this large site by combining some time on a boat as well as birding by foot. The Delta’s varied habitats results in a vast bird list and this should lead to some unforgettable experiences during our time here. Impressive species we will be looking out for here include Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Spur-winged Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Stork, Whiskered Tern, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling (Bearded Tit), Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Great Reed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, and Collared Flycatcher.
Our local team will organize a video presentation, a tour, and a boat trip on the delta for us, which will be a great introduction to the area.
Overnight: Hotel Isidora, Loutra Trianoupolis
Red-backed Shrike is a common bird in this part of Europe.
Day 8. Evros Delta
Today we have a full day birding in the Evros Delta, exploring the mixture of habitats present in the area. The Evros Delta is arguably Greece’s premier birding site. The River Evros is the Balkan Peninsula’s second largest river and this, combined with the multitude of habitats, makes it a hugely attractive area for migrant birds. In the region of 320 bird species have been recorded here and the delta is also home to several interesting and rare mammals such as (European) Wild Cat, (European) Grey Wolf, and (Central European) Wild Boar. It will be a thrill to see any of these.
On top of some of the species we could have seen in the area on the previous day we should also encounter several others, such as Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Bittern, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo, Long-legged Buzzard, European Roller, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, and Isabelline Wheatear. It is sure to be a very “birdy” day!
Overnight: Hotel Isidora, Loutra Trianoupolis
Eurasian Stone-curlew is a secretive, largely nocturnal bird that we will look for on the tour.
Day 9. Dadia Forest
We will leave early in the morning and drive to the nearby Dadia Forest, where we will spend a full day birding. This mountainous area is one of the best places in Europe for the observation of birds of prey. An outstanding 35 out of 38 diurnal raptors occurring in Europe have been recorded here, along with seven out of nine owl species. To find as many of them as possible will be our focus across the day. Species regularly recorded here include Cinereous Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby, Common Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Northern Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Pallid Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, and European Honey Buzzard.
The pale phase of Booted Eagle is an absolutely stunning bird of prey and we stand a good chance of seeing them in the Dadia Forest.
The Dadia Forest is however not just about the birds of prey and the area is home to a huge range of other species which adds to its reputation as one of Europe’s top birding locations. Other key species here include Black Stork, White Stork, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Syrian Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, and Chukar Partridge.
The forest is also superb for passerines including Ortolan Bunting, Crested Lark, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Barred Warbler (the males are particularly strikingly plumaged with their bright white eye), Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting, Sombre Tit, and Masked Shrike. The early morning bird song here at this time of year will be enveloping and we are sure to have an exciting time birding the area.
Cinereous Vulture is a giant among birds. It has a wingspan of almost 10 feet (3 meters) and stands 4 feet tall (1.2 meters) (photo Philippos Katsiyiannis)!
While in Dadia Forest area we will also have the amazing experience of visiting a vulture feeding station where we can watch the spectacle of these amazing birds as they come to feed. This should give us some great views of Griffon Vulture, with other species such as Egyptian Vulture and Cinereous Vulture possible too. If we are lucky, we may even observe Eastern Imperial Eagle, and Golden Eagle here, two spectacular apex predators.
The woodland here is also home to plenty of other widespread and common European species such as Eurasian Woodcock, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Common Blackbird, European Robin, Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Wren, Common Firecrest, Goldcrest, Eurasian Blue Tit, Great Tit, Black Redstart, Hawfinch, Common Chaffinch, European Goldfinch, European Greenfinch, Eurasian Siskin, and Common Linnet. In the late afternoon we will have a short drive back to our hotel.
Overnight: Hotel Isidora, Loutra Trianoupolis
With all the amazing migrants and localized residents on this Greece tour, we will not want to forget about the stunning widespread European birds, such as this Eurasian Blue Tit that are equally gorgeous.
Day 10. Drive to Thessaloniki and departure
Today we will depart for Thessaloniki, with stops at wetlands along the way as well as a picnic lunch en route. After lunch we will make our way to the Thessaloniki International Airport where we should arrive around mid-afternoon for our outbound flights, either home (please liaise with us before booking your late afternoon/evening flight), or your continued travel in Greece (which we would highly recommend). If you would like to extend your time in Greece, we would love to host you on our Greece: Lesvos in Spring Extension, this short trip will pick up the island specials such as Cinereous Bunting, and Krüper’s Nuthatch, as well as a myriad of spectacular and sought-after migrants.
Prior to leaving, the local guide and Birding Ecotours tour leader will be on hand to answer any questions relating to the trip list or identification of species we have seen on the tour.
Overnight: Not included (we can book you an extra night in Thessaloniki or Athens if required)
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes must use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Greece Birding Adventure with Extension to Lesvos Trip Report
2 – 15 MAY 2016
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While coming to Greece on a Birding Ecotours adventure is most definitely about the birds, one simply must visit some of the archaeological sites around Athens as well as prepare oneself for the incredible ‘wining and dining’ that the country has to offer! The Acropolis of Athens, the majesty of Lake Kerkini, the beauty of the Dadia Forest, and the wonderful island of Lesvos make the Greece birding adventure, with the Lesvos extension, one to remember.
Pre-day, May 2. Arriving in Greece
After touching down safely in Athens we were transferred to our hotel, which was five minutes walk from the Acropolis Museum and Acropolis hill. That evening before dinner we had a guided tour of the Acropolis of Athens. The roots of the Greek word “Acropolis” would be translated to “city edge”, (acro – edge, polis – city). Seeing the Acropolis and its important historic buildings, such as the Parthenon, up close is just fascinating and gives a really good foundational knowledge of the rich history of the city of Athens and Greece as a whole. A birding highlight for the afternoon was watching both Common and Alpine Swifts cruise all around us while walking on the Acropolis.
Day 1, May 3. Cultural Highlights and European birding introduction in Athens
Athens, which can be considered the historical capital of Europe, has an incredible charm. Walking the streets of this modern metropolis allowed us to get the true feel of the city. After having visited the Acropolis the night before, we visited some of the surrounding area and many other important sites, such as the Areopagus hill (from where the below photograph of the Acropolis was taken), Philopappou Hill, the Roman Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, as well as the Athens National Garden. Some of the species that caught our attention throughout the day were Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Common Blackbird, European Robin, and Eurasian Magpie. An authentic Greek-style dinner in the Plaka neighborhood was complemented by the beauty of the Acropolis under floodlights.
Day 2, May 4. Athens birding and flight north to Thessaloniki
A quick breakfast at the Acropolis Boutique Hotel kicked off the day before we were picked up and taken to the Hymettos Mountain, which lies to the east of Athens, for a morning’s birding before making our way to the airport for our short local flight to Thessaloniki. The birding was good and gave us more of an indication of what was to come. Some of the species we managed to find were Rüppell’s Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jay, Short-toed Treecreeper, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, and Black-eared Wheatear. Once we had landed in Thessaloniki we were picked up by Lavrentis, who was to be our guide for the Northern Greece leg of the trip. After picking up some Western Jackdaw and a single Rook, we made one stop on the way north to Kerkini, where we had some really nice sightings of Lesser Kestrel, both males and females. We also managed to improve our trip list with the addition of some of the more common species in the north; these included Red-rumped Swallow, Common House Martin, White Stork, and Common Buzzard. The town of Kerkini is peaceful and is a perfect spot from which to explore the region. Dinner was just a thirty second walk from our guest house, and yes, it was really good!
Day 3, May 5. Lake Kerkini and the Dalmatian Pelican
A fairly early start in Kerkini allowed us to catch some of the morning light, and with that came a lovely pair of Red-footed Falcons perched up on some of the telephone lines. It was also a good day for Cetti’s Warbler – a very confiding individual singing his lungs out gave us a bit of a show and even allowed for some ‘in the open’ photographs, a real treat from a master skulker. The morning’s birding was mainly around the eastern bank of Lake Kerkini; here we had our first taste of this beautiful lake and the birds that call it home for the summer. Species that entertained us that morning included some real European specials. Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant both showed well that morning along with other waterfowl, such as Great Cormorant, Great White Pelican, Great-crested and Little Grebes, Little Bittern, Eurasian Spoonbill, Squacco and Purple Herons, and Black-crowned Night Heron. Eurasian Golden Oriole, Common Cuckoo, and Common Nightingale were all in full song throughout both days around Kerkini; sightings of these species weren’t too common, though. On the raptor front European Honey Buzzard and White-tailed Eagle entertained us with fairly brief fly-bys, while Western Marsh-Harrier and Black Kite were around in good numbers. European Green Woodpecker obliged by landing quite low alongside the road just as we started to move off from the lakeside. The afternoon warranted a visit to the well known Serres quarry for the likes of Western Rock Nuthatch and some raptors. We did well in the general area, managing to find Cirl Bunting, Subalpine Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, a very brief view of Black Redstart, and Common Buzzard, as well as Short-toed Snake Eagle. One of the highlights of the trip in fact was watching some territorial Levant Sparrowhawks in some aerial displays as well as some aerial duels in the area of the quarry.
Day 4, May 6. Lake Kerkini boat cruise and woodpeckers
After traveling to some parts of the lake yesterday, today we had an organized boat ride to get a little closer to some of the specials that the lake offers. Once again a beautiful morning greeted us, and the birds certainly did not disappoint. All three species of Chlidonias terns, namely Whiskered, White-winged, and Black Terns, were present throughout the boat trip – some showing off some acrobatics as they skimmed the water surface. Once again both Pelican (Great White and Dalmatian) and Cormorant (Great and Pygmy) species showed exceptionally well, and add to that the advantage of being on a boat and you have some amazing photographic opportunities! A few of the other species that we saw from the boat included Pied Avocet, Common Shelduck, Common Pochard, and Mute Swan. The boat trip was truly a highlight and any boat trip adds fantastic dynamic to any birding tour. Both Black and White Storks were seen during the afternoon birding session, which we had near the lake and in the surrounding areas. One of the main targets for the afternoon was Grey-headed Woodpecker, which breeds in large stands of trees along the lake. We picked up on some drumming nearby, and after finding Great Spotted Woodpecker first, we also heard the call of Grey-headed Woodpecker. The bird took a little while to locate, but once we were onto it extended views were had. Some other species that afternoon included Black-headed and Corn Buntings, Crested Lark, Syrian and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Little Owl, Northern Raven, the brilliant Blue Rock Thrush, and a smart-looking Long-legged Buzzard.
Day 5, May 7. Alpine birding on Mount Pangaion and at Kavala
We departed from Kerkini after breakfast and made our way to Mount Pangaion, which reaches an elevation of 1956m above sea level. Mount Pangaion would offer us a few “alpine species” that enjoy the higher, colder, mountainous terrain. A brief European Roller sighting kicked off the trip toward the mountain, and before we knew it the temperature was dropping and the mist was rolling in. One of the specials of the area, Rock Partridge, occupies the rocky hillsides and was one of the biggest targets for us for the morning. Common (Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush showed rather nicely, while the calls of Ortolan Bunting and Black Redstart rang up from below us. We spotted a single Rock Partridge ahead of us and were more than satisfied with good scope views. A pair of Alpine Chough cruised over, but disappeared all too quickly back into the thickening mist. We ascended further and had some lunch near the top of the mountain – alongside a couple of new species for our trip list; these included Common Linnet, Horned Lark, Woodlark, Eurasian Skylark, Tawny Pipit, and Northern Wheatear. The drive back down was quiet bird-wise, but we did add sightings of Common Chiffchaff and Song Thrush. A successful day up on Mount Pangaion indeed, and all that was left was a scenic drive to the city of Kavala. Dinner right on the beach of this picturesque city, which is built on the slopes of Mount Symvolo, was the perfect way to end the day.
Day 6, May 8. Nestos Delta and Evros Delta
Leaving Kavala behind we headed to the delta habitats of Nestos and Evros. Our first stop was at the Nea Kessani salt pans. Driving in we picked up Zitting Cisticola, Whinchat, and Bimaculated Lark throwing around some mimicry. In the summer the pans are home to good numbers of Greater Flamingos, shorebirds, and other waterfowl; some of the species we found here were Black-winged Stilt, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, and Common Redshank. A group of four Gull-billed Terns was feeding over a nearby field on our way out. The afternoon was spent birding some of the quieter back roads on the way to our accommodation in Dadia. At some local wetlands and lakeside patches we picked up the likes of Eurasian Penduline Tit, Western Yellow Wagtail, Collared Pratincole, and Common Snipe, as the booming calls of Eurasian Bitterns resounded through the reedbeds. We moved on to some woodland in search of woodpeckers and potentially some shrikes too and were rewarded with a fantastic sighting of a roosting Tawny Owl sitting high up in a mature tree. Some of the other species seen on the way to Dadia included Eurasian Nuthatch, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, and Corn Bunting, as well as Spotted Flycatcher. Before dinner we were sure to add European Serin and European Goldfinch to our day list, both species hanging around the beautiful pine trees surrounding our accommodation for the night.
Day 7, May 9. Evros Delta
Today saw us head out to parts of the Evros Delta, where really good numbers of waterfowl, waders, and wetland species were lingering. The local ‘parks officials’ showed us a short introduction video on the Evros Delta and surrounds, which helps one to realize the vastness of the area. The birding started out alongside some small pans, which held the likes of the striking Little Gull, Northern Lapwing, Northern Pintail, Garganey, and a flock of Ferruginous Ducks. The delta really was teeming with bird species, and European Bee-eaters provided us with some entertainment, swooping around hawking insects. The coastline was also productive, and here we added Grey Plover, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Mediterranean Gull, and the large Yellow-legged Gull. We headed deeper still into the delta through some pretty wet terrain and added some waders, including a few new ones for our trip list: Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew, and Spotted Redshank. Another highlight for the morning’s session was a couple of Ruddy Shelducks alongside large flocks of herons, egrets, and Common Shelducks. Continuing in the delta region in the afternoon we targeted Masked Shrike, which enjoys perching on the sides of thick bushes and shrubs alongside the roads. We were not disappointed and had both males and females pose fairly well for the cameras. We also had the likes of European Turtle Dove, Common Reed Bunting, Glossy Ibis, Great Reed Warbler, Squacco Heron, and Purple Heron.
Day 8, May 10. Dadia Forest
The Dadia Forest is well known for its vulture feeding station with observatory, and this was our first stop of the day. From the observatory one can get exceptional looks at Cinereous Vulture and Griffon Vulture, as well as the rare Egyptian Vulture, and, sure enough, all three species were on show for us today. Really good scope views of about six Cinereous, two Egyptian and over ten Griffons were had. The subtle call of Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler started to ring through parts of the forest, and soon enough we tracked one down and had exceptional looks at this tiny Phylloscopus warbler. After we had spent as much time as we needed at the observatory and in the forest area we drove to another mountainous spot close by; here we had lunch and found species such as the sought-after Sombre Tit, Rock and Ortolan Buntings, Lesser Whitethroat, Hawfinch, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, and Mistle Thrush. The last spot that we visited that day catered for warbler species in some road verge thickets, most of which we had already seen on the trip, but they are always worth a second look: Common Whitethroat and Sardinian and Eastern Orphean Warblers, the latter giving us the runaround.
Day 9, May 11. Drive to Thessaloniki and departure for Lesvos
We set off quite early from the Dadia Inn so that we could catch our local flight from Thessaloniki to the island of Lesvos.
5-DAY EXTENSION TO THE ISLAND OF LESVOS
Day 1 (Day 9), May 11. Mytilene to Skala Kalloni
Arriving in Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos, we already knew by the scenery, the beautiful calm sea, and the lovely sunshine that we were in for a real treat during our time on the island. Migration was in full swing, and many species were still on the island, some of which had already started breeding. A forty-five minute drive from the Mytilene airport to our accommodation in Skala Kalloni allowed us to get a good feel for the habitats on the island. Lesvos is well known for the production of olive oil, with approximately eleven million olive trees on the island, but it is also renowned among European birders as one of the migration hotspots during the spring. After arriving at our accommodation we enjoyed a lovely Greek-style lunch and later met up with our local guide, Eleni, to discuss the birding plans for the Lesvos leg of the trip.
Day 2 (Day 10), May 12. Achladeri Pine Forest and Kalloni Gulf wetlands
We kicked off the birding along some of the wetland patches around the Kalloni salt pans, targeting Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin among others. The robin was soon heard calling nearby, and on our second attempt we managed to have some nice looks. A pair of Little Terns bred in a canal next to where we found the robin, and so we had some nice views of them feeding over the canal. Krüper’s Nuthatch is one of the more obvious targets for the island, and so we decided that we would dedicate the rest of the morning to look for the nuthatch. After spending a good twenty minutes wandering through a nearby pine forest, the preferred habitat of the nuthatch, we were alerted to the presence of one individual by its simple contact call. Krüper’s Nuthatch normally moves around in little family groups, and so this single individual didn’t hang around too long; we were going to have to give it another try. We did manage to see Long-tailed Tit, which we dubbed “flying teaspoon”, as well as European Serin and Great and Eurasian Blue Tits. Eleni managed to locate a couple of roosting owls in some nearby groves, first a Long-eared Owl and then a couple of Eurasian Scops Owls. We also found out firsthand why Olive-tree Warblers are named as such after finding a few inside olive groves in different spots on the island. Our afternoon birding session included another shot at Krüper’s Nuthatch, and after some searching we managed to find a parent bird clambering around collecting food among the pine cones for one of its young following nearby, a marvelous sight!
Day 3 (Day 11), May 13. Western Lesvos
Today we headed out toward the western parts of Lesvos, known as the drier, rockier area that brings a few different species to the party. Our first stop, quite high up one of the steep hillsides, allowed us to add Chukar Partridge, Northern and Isabelline Wheatear, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Western Rock Nuthatch, Black-eared Wheatear, and the sought-after Cinereous Bunting to our list. Keeping our eyes to the skies eventually paid off as we spotted a couple of Eleonora’s Falcons as well as some Lesser Kestrels and Northern Raven. In total we managed to see one dark morph and two light morph of Eleonora’s Falcon. A very confiding Little Owl gave us some nice photo opportunities, while a couple of Common Linnets were also rather approachable while feeding on some plant seeds. A flock of wild-type Rock Doves was preferred to feral populations in cities. Other attractions during the day included Icterine Warbler, Pallid Swift, European Shag, Eurasian Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Snake Eagle, and Yelkouan Shearwater offshore while doing some sea-watching. Unanimously, today was one of the most enjoyable days of the trip.
Day 4 (Day 12), May 14. Kalloni wetlands and parts of Central Lesvos
Today was to be our last full day’s birding, and so we had a few things in mind, but mostly just set out to enjoy the last day of what had been a fabulous birding adventure. We started off with a family of really obliging Sombre Tits and a little further up the road managed both Western Rock Nuthatch once again and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. Eastern Orphean Warbler was heard a couple of times along the track and took some work before any good sightings were had. Masked Shrike and Olive-tree Warbler were once again active, while Common Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler made themselves heard. We spent quite some time staking out an area in some olive groves in order to get some visuals of the elusive Middle Spotted Woodpecker. The woodpecker kept landing behind stands of trees, but after a while we managed to see it climbing up some branches or flying across the road in front of us. We headed through some villages into the hillsides and found the likes of Alpine Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Short-toed Snake Eagle, and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, as well as two separate European Honey Buzzards. Our last species, of which we eventually got some really nice pictures, was Subalpine Warbler, a stunning Sylvia warbler, to finish proceedings.
Day 5 (Day 13), May 15. Mytilene town and departure
A relaxing morning was had on this our final travel day. We made our way to Mytilene, where we had some time to walk around, do some final shopping, have lunch, and catch our flights back to Athens. We didn’t give up on the birding completely, however, and had a Peregrine Falcon cruising around above the waterfront of Mytilene. That, however, was the last species we added to out trip lists, bird species number 199.
Looking back on this fantastic tour; the combination of Greece’s rich history, fascinating archaeological sites, and western Palearctic spring migration really made for a superb trip. Many thanks to everyone for an unforgettable trip, and happy birding!
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.