A one-day birding trip to lake Kerkini in Northern Greece might look too exotic if you are already in Bulgaria, but this amazing site just 20km from the Bulgarian border is actually the best wetland for birdwatching situated within 3hrs drive from Sofia. All the year round the avifauna of this semi-natural water reservoir, fed by Strouma River, could keep your eyes busy, watching the stunning diversity and numbers of breeding or wintering birds.
During spring and summer Lake Kerkini is veritable paradise for birdwatchers and photo hunters alike. The flooded forests and the shallow waters in the north-eastern parts of the lake, where Struma River flows in, give shelter and food to a huge number of waterfowl, namely few hundred pairs of Pygmy Cormorant, 2000+ pairs of Cormorant, appr. 100 pairs of Spoonbill, several hundred pairs of Grey and Squacco herons, thousands of Night Herons etc. Glossy Ibises, Crested and Black-necked grebes, colonies of Whiskered and Common Terns (incl. Black Terns among them), Purple Herons, hundreds of White and Dalmatian (breeding) pelicans, Ferruginous Ducks, Black Storks etc. add extra flavor to this colourful picture. In the Poplar belts around the lake and the hills nearby one could also find Levant Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Penguline Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Masked Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Olivaceous Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Semi-collared Flycatcher etc. Good numbers of waders and other raptors on passage could also be expected early in spring.
During winter masses of waterfowl take the advantage of spending the elsewhere harsh cold months in a gentle and rich in food environment. Highlights in this month are thousands of Greater Flamingos, hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of Dalmatian Pelicans, a few Greater Spotted Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, small flocks of Lesser White-fronted Geese, Pygmy Cormorant, Black Kite, Ferruginous Duck etc. The other water-connected birds, numbering sometimes dozens of thousands, comprise of Pochard, Crested Grebe, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Cormorant, Avocet etc. Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Goshawk, Marsh Harrier and other birds of prey disturb regularly the dense flocks of ducks as well as the mobile gatherings of less numerous waders.