Last Updated on 08 July 2016

Trip report mainland Greece

28/07 – 17-08-2001

Syrian Woodpecker, Sapès.

General Information
This is a report on a trip to Greece by my wife and myself in the summer of 2001. The main goal of the trip was birding as much as possible, but of course some sight-seeing was included, mostly near Athens and Delphi. Travelling from one place to another we took our time to bird around and when an interesting spot was known or suspected we took lots of time to explore it. We travelled about 4.500 km in three weeks.

Birding was done from the car mostly, because of the high temperatures (36 to 42 degrees Celsius), also the car is a perfect hide for taking photographs which was a secondary goal. Probably due to that a few target species were not found such as Olive-tree Warbler and Masked Shrike. The final list of 176 species (including about 15 lifers) was beyond our expectations. Especially since August isn’t the best time for birding as the breeding season is over.

Finding the sites to visit should be easy enough when you use the WTW bird guide mentioned in the “Literature” section below. Directions to each site are not given in this report unless the information in the book is outdated or extra information is simply needed to make navigation easier. The names of each bird and of all important places we visited are typed in bold. This should make it easier to scan through the report for the information you’re after or skip the blabla you are not interested in.

All photographs included are produced during this trip. For each photo details are included about what it depicts and where the picture is taken. All the major bird observations of this trip can also be found at Observado All other observations made during various other trips can be found at Observado as well.

Transportation and getting around
As you may already know, many birdwatching sites are not “designed” for being easy to reach by means of public transport. As a consequence we hired a car for transportation to and from each site. We rented a Opel Corsa that we tried to the limit, taking it over 4x4 tracks, through muddy pools and nearly overgrown goat tracks. Needless to say this caused some damage but no extra charges were made when we delivered the car to the rental company afterwards. The car itself was much suitable for two adults and the equipment birders usually carry around.

Travelling Greece is usually rather relaxing. Traffic mostly is not very busy especially in the northern part of Greece where roads are generally very quiet. Nevertheless many people lose their lives in the process judging the many monuments alongside virtualy every road. However we never encountered examples of the Greek’s, almost legendary, suicidal driving. Only when travelling south-wards towards Athens (by main road) things were getting increasingly busy which made it impossible to combine driving with birding. Also many roads were under construction causing many parts of the road to be either brand new or in desperate need of repairs. Traffic signs along busier roads are usually in both Greek and English making it easy to find your way around. Along smaller roads signs are in Greek only but if you practice yourself in reading both you should be able to figure out what they try to tell you.

The general weather during the summer months can be described as hot. Temperatures where generally between 35 and 43°C at sea level. Up in the mountains temperatures dropped to around 20°C. Usually summer is not a really wet season but we did encounter some rain occasionally. On most days however, skies were unclouded with the sun beaming down vigorously. Sunscreen is therefore a must have item for any traveller to this general area.

Generally speaking Greece is a very safe country.While birding at a few places we were asked about what we were doing. People responded friendly and interested and never was it a problem to enter someone’s privately owned land. The main concern to birdwatchers is the presence of military personnel in some areas. Signs that prohibit photography can be found anywhere near military buildings and complexes. Especially the border with Greece’s neighbour Turkey are highly sensitive. Although both countries are not in a state of war they are certainly no good friends either as a result of conflicts about land claims such as the island of Cyprus. The border with Turkey is heavily guarded and especially birdwatchers have to be very aware of what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. The optical gear that we carry could easily be mistaken for equipment used for espionage activities. The military has been known to arrest birders that were unaware of this and some of them were held in custody for quite some time.

Other than the first two nights of our stay no arrangements were made to spend the night. We did want to stay at some specific places, such as in or near Alexandroupoulis (close to both Evros and Dadia). On all but one occasion we found a hotel without too much trouble. Only around Mount Olympus we had some more trouble, probably due to it being a weekend, and so we decided to change our schedule and visit this area on our way back from Athens and Delphi. The accommodation ranged from basic – a room with two beds and a bathroom – to pretty luxurious.

Greece is part of the Economic and Monetary Union and as such the Euro is the national currency. ATM´s are readily available although not all of them accepted our cirrus bank card. On a few occasions we could only withdraw money from the second or third ATM that we tried but in the end we always succeeded.

For finding the best birdwatching spots we used two books: “The birds of Greece” (1997) by George Handrinos and Triantaphyllos Akriotis and “Where to watch birds in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus” (1996) by Hilary Welch, Laurence Rose Derek Moore, Bill Oddie an Harry Sigg. The birds of Greece is more the equivalent of a national avifauna rather than a site by site book and was used for preparing our trip when still at home. While in Greece the WTW guide was used. The latter has a well structured way of offering the information you need. It includes general information, what to see in which season and instructions on how to get to each site. It also includes the GPS coordinates of each site. For identification purposes the Lars Jonson field guide was used.

Optical gear
On most occasions it was enough to have binoculars at hand. Many forests and semi open areas are usually not birded with the aid of a telescope. When birding sites like wetlands or the vulture feeding station at Dadia forest a telescope is essential to identify your birds. For taking pictures a Nikon adapter - something similar to this - on a Kowa TSN1 telescope and Canon EOS 300 camera was used. Afterwards the picture were digitalized (in a not yet very digital era) which explains the noise and general lower quality of the pictures.

Sites visited
Mainland Greece offers many sites which cannot be ignored. Nevertheless you can’t have it all and choices have to be made. Therefore great sites such as Porto Lagos and Strymon Delta were paid only very brief visits. The itinerary included the following sites (in random order): Porto Lagos, Dadia forest and surroundings, Evros Delta, Mount Olympus, Athens, Delphi, Mount Parnassos and Prespa lakes. Most impressive was Dadia forest for it’s great concentration of birds of prey (a total of 20 raptor species were seen of which 14 in the Dadia area). The vulture feeding station is simply awesome but a grim scene as well with the scattered carcasses laying everywhere. Another highlight was the Akropolis although the temperature was well above 40°C at our visit.

If you you need any help on preparing your own trip after reading this report please do not hesitate to contact us.

Day-by-day report
28-07 Flight from Amsterdam to Thessaloniki airport. The first species was a White Stork at the airport while a Stone Curlew was heared there too. Picked up a car directly at the airport. The rental company offered us an air-conditioned car (with no extra charge), it proved to be a real relief as temperatures reached over 40°C at some days. Had a scenic drive to Ouranoupolis at the beginning of the third “finger” of the Halkidiki penninsula were we had made reservations for a room at the luxourious Eagles Palace Hotel. Birding began immediately which resulted in White Stork, Booted Eagle (light morph), Raven and a Hoopoe flying just over our heads while watching a group of hundreds of swallows including some 200 Red-rumpeds.

Relaxed at the hotel and did some afternoon birding in the area. Tried to visit the sanctuary of Atos at the most southern part of the peninsula but it turned out to be heavily guarded by the military. Apparently it’s only accessible with a special visa which we didn´t have. The general area is good for a few species like Audouin’s Gull, and Eleonora’s Falcon. A drive through the accessible part revealed Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Eleonora’s Falcon and a female Nightjar which had forgotten to fly off when a car approached it the other night.

Left Ouranoupolis for the beginning of our journey around the country. Headed east to Kavála since we wanted to spend one or two days in the vicinity of this town. Paid a brief visit to the Strymon delta which lies just along the main road to the east. Although the Strymon delta is not very large it holds a fair number of species and is certainly worth a visit. In only about 2 hours we encountered many Rollers, Crested Lark (numerous), Flamingo, Bee-eater, Little Egret, and Hoopoe and some waders including Kentish Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, and Litte Stint. Found a cheap hotel at Nea Péramos without airconditioning. Had a very tough night since the temperature in the room wouldn’t drop below about 32 degrees despite a rather heavy gail in the evening. After dinner, did some birding in the surroundings of Nea Péramos. The area held amongst others: Hoopoe, Cirl Bunting, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Syrian Woodpecker and of course the extremely common, but beautiful, Red-rumped Swallows.

Little Egret, Strymon Delta

Today we had a nice refreshing day at the beach and birding wasn’t done until just before dinner. We explored the area to the east of Nea Péramos. Which is nothing spectacular. Only additions to our holiday list were Wheatear, Peregrine, Rufous Nightingale, Linnet, Goldfinch and Shag.

Left Nea Péramos and headed for Alexandroupolis. Along the way we visited Porto Lagos. One of the best-known places in Greece and very nice to visit. In our attempt to reach Alexandroupolis today we only stayed here a few hours but they where very enjoyable ones. Dalmatian Pelicans where very numerous as where Little Egrets, Night Heron, Ruff, Curlew and Sandwich Tern. Our only Spotted Redshank and Cettis Warbler were encountered here. Unfortunately we didn’t plan to go here for more than a few hours, and were disappointed that we had to leave already, not knowing wat lay ahead of us at Evros delta.
Found a nice hotel just outside Alexandroupoulis with sea-view. In the evening we had an unpleasant surprise. After finishing dinner at the local Roma Pizza we decided to take a walk along the boulevard of Alexandroupoulis, home to a very busy market. When we came back to our car at 20:05 it turned out that parking was not allowed there after 20:00 resulting in a € 30 ticket.

Herons at Porto Lagos.

Overslept a little today but it didn’t really matter. Evros is only about 15 minutes from Alexandroupoulis so we didn’t have to rush. At first the Evros-delta was somewhat dissappointing. We had expected to find large lakes which were filled with waders, gulls etc. During a visit to the visitor-centre we learned that this year was the driest summer since 30 years. Sadly a famous place such as Drana Lagoon was all dried-out, and accordingly many specialties of the area became virtually impossible to find such as Spur-winged Plover. This didn’t hold us back in exploring a large part of the area, which led us to see Dalmatian Pelican, Grey plover, Redshank, Curlew, Red-backed Shrike, Black Stork, Squacco heron, Little Tern, good numbers of Purple Heron, Little Grebe, Black-headed Wagtail, Gull-billed Tern, Nightingale, Bee-eater, Sparrowhawk, Wheatear, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike and Little Egret. We where most excited in witnessing a superb Booted Eagle, soaring just over our car and landing about 50 metres away to consume it’s prey. We took some time to find Isabelline Wheatear and succeeded with very good, albeit somewhat distant, views of about 4 different individuals.

Before breakfast I installed myself on the balcony to look for Yelkouan Shearwaters. I soon found (only) one fouraging close to shore which provided satisfying views. Probably the shearwaters were difficult to find because of the northerly winds blowing almost all three weeks we where in Greece. Also an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was calling nearby and showed briefly but well. Paying our parking-ticket at city hall was really a challenge and took us about an hour!!!!! Only at about 10:00 we left for Dadia forest. Our expectations were high and we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Driving to Dadia was really nice. This is probably the most forrested part of Greece and is very different to the otherwise desolate dry landscape. Raptors seemed to be increasing every kilometre we got closer to the reserve. We enjoyed ourselves with a group of 3 Black Kites, Black Storks which are very common in this part of Greece as well as Rollers. Also we found our first Long-legged Buzzard and ofcourse we saw the “ordinary” ones too.

Welcome to Dadia.

Somehow we managed to miss the turn to Dadia city. When we stopped to turn the car, a large bird in front of us turned out to be a nice Golden Eagle soaring over the hills, a very pleasant surprise. First we went to the visitor centre to obtain some information on when to visit the hide. Early morning and a few hours before dusk were said to be best. Having to pay the parking ticket had prevented us of being there early morning so we decided to go explore the area ourselves and come back at about 17:00 to visit the hide. Again this was a bit disappointing but maybe we expected too much of it. We had good views of Honey Buzzard, Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Golden Oriole, Short-toed Eagle, Black Stork and (one of our target-species and actually a real certainty) Egyptian Vulture. Also we scared the hell out of a Red Fox. It was caught up entirely in playing in the middle of the road, so much, it didn’t noticed us coming round the corner. When he did, he jumped up for about a metre and rushed off. While waiting for the mini-bus to bring us uphill to the hide we noticed a male Eastern Orphean Warbler in the scrub next to the restaurant.

Unfortunately we were somewhat too early to see the Vultures feeding or roosting at the feeding place but they were already coming in, in small numbers. We counted no more than 15 to 20 Egyptian- 7 Black– and only 2 Griffon Vultures. Nevertheles we got superb views of all species. Other raptors included Black Kite, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle. We decided not to wait till dusk to go back by bus again, but instead we took the short trail to get back to the visitor centre. We caught up with some species we would not see another time: a group of Hawfinch flew over our heads and a Grey-headed Woodpecker was calling from nearby. Ofcourse some raptors were seen: 2 Griffon-, 3 Egyptian- and 2 Cinereous Vultures. Also Short-toed Eagles where flying while calling almost constantly. The tone of their sound was very different of what I expected it to be. In fact they where very vocal, really a pleasant “friendly” sound. As some sort of goodbye a Lesser Spotted Eagle crossed the road just ahead of us when driving just outside of Dadia city. A bonus-Barn Owl just missed our windscreen just outside Alexandroupoulis. Must have been it’s lucky day (and ours ofcourse).

Vulture feeding station. Dadia Forest.

Left Alexandroupoulis early today to drive a rather long distance. From the far east to the north-western part we wanted to reach the area of the Prespa lakes today. We decided to do not too much birding along the way. The only thing we wanted to see was the impressive colony (about 1,000 pairs) of Spanish Sparrows in the city of Sapès. This colony is situated in a small pine forest right in the centre of the village and is easily located. However we where very surprised to find this colony abandoned. A quick search in the area revealed not a single Spanish Sparrow!! While searching the village we noticed a Syrian Woodpecker foraging on the pavement amongst some House Sparrows. Also a Cinereous Vulture was flying around in the area, which was rather some distance away from Dadia. They may occur outside Dadia on a regular basis.
After this we rushed off to Prespa Lakes. Ofcourse birding never stopped while travelling. It was nice to see the landscape change very rigourously again. We had a rather good number of species along the road, probably because of the variety in habitat: Kingfisher, Flamingo, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Roller, Bee-eater, all shrike species, and many others.

Arrived at 19:15 at Psarades. An extremely small village with about 50 inhabitants. Situated at a dead-end road at a very quiet bay of one of the Prespa lakes it’s a very nice place to stay. Only the restaurants were not that good, but that’s just a matter of taste. Along the readbeds in front of our hotel were some Squacco Herons, Little Egrets, Night Heron, White- and Black-headed Wagtails and many Little Grebes. When the evening fell in a Little Owl started calling frequently, showing well on the rooftops of the village.

Today was another day to relax. Driving all day had been rather tyring so we didn’t get out of bed untill 11:30. Stayed at the hotel to have breakfast and relax. A nice surprise where the Pygmy Cormorants drying their little wings in the sun just at the other side of the bay. When the hottest hours of the day were over we decided to go and explore the area. We drove towards the border with Albania and Macedonia and again found some interesting birds. The best spots we encountered where the water holes for sheep and goats. These attracted many birds such as Jay, Blue Tit and Cirl Bunting. At the Prespa lakes itself where ofcourse large groups of Pelicans with only 1 White Pelican among them, also Pygmy Cormorants were seen.

Visited the visitor centre of the Prespa lakes. Unfortunately most of the information was in Greek so we couldn’t make anything of it. Pointing the birds in our bird book to the guard at the visitor centre learned us that we had seen most species occuring in the area so we decided to go to Lake Kastoria instead of Prespa, about 30 kilometres south of Psarades.We took a secondary route because the normal road was under construction. This turned out to be very fortunate. When crossing a bridge we spotted a male Semicollared Flycatcher !!! After having watched this bird for a while, we decided to move on again. Having driven only about 20 metres a small passerine landed in the scrub just beside the road. When we aimed our binoculars it turned out to be a stunning Sombre Tit. Two lifers only 25 metres apart from each other!

Kastoria is beautifully situated at the borders of the lake which is also called Kastoria. From Kastoria we followed a one-way road (in the wrong direction, but no one really cared) alongside the edge of the lake. This was an extremely scenic drive with reedbeds every now en then and many willows growing over the road, creating a very nice atmosphere. The view over Kastoria lake on one hand and a richly grown steep hillside on the other provided with very nice birding. On the lake species like Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Pochard, Tufted Duck and a probable but extremely far Ferruginous Duck. Also we encountered our first Rock Nuthatches and Great Reed Warblers and another Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. A muddy area on the other side of the lake proved to be a very good area for birds. The beach was absolutely loaded with Black-headed Wagtails and Black- and Whiskered Terns. Somewhat further on, some herons and Storks were present including some duck species such as Garganey and Shoveler.

Finished with exploring the Psarades area we decided to head south, in the direction of mount Olympus. It wasn’t too much of a distance so we took an alternative road. In doing this we arrived at about 17:00 at the city of Litóhoro. After searching a hotel unsuccessfully until 20:30 the situation seemed pretty hopeless so we decided to drive about 50 kilometres further south, where we hoped it would be easier to find a hotel. We arrived at about 21:30 at Larissa and the first hotel we checked finally had plenty of rooms. Larissa is a very busy and unattractive city with many decaying buildings and abandoned industrial areas with very depressing architecture. Typically a place you don't want to stay in a second longer than neccesary. Our best option was to head for Athens the next morning and visit mount Olympus on our way back. Thanks to the relaxed driving we could add some new species to our holiday list: Grey Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Marsh Tit and Lesser Kestrel.

Headed for Athens at about 9:00 and had a very prosporous drive. The roads are quite good here but onder heavy constuction. Some parts are already good quality highways and about half of the route are secondary roads with a maximum speed of 100 kmp/h. Traffic is intens and driving requires all attention so not much birding today. Having learned from our experience at Litóhoro we decided to look for a hotel about 50 kilometres from Athens and again this turned out to be difficult. Airconditioning isn’t installed in any hotel it seems so we had to settle for a room with a big ventilator on the ceiling, only after searching for about 2 hours. Yet a single addition to the list: a fly-by Stock Dove somewhere along the way.

A visit to Greece is not complete without a visit to either Athens or Delphi, actually we found it to be a must to visit both. Only having to travel about 50 kilometres to Athens, it didn’t take long to get there. When entering the city we got stuck in a traffic jam but this was the only inconvenience we had. Airconditioning turned out to be essential here since temperatures rose up to 42 degrees. Our first aim was to visit Acropolis but it wasn’t very easy to find. Finally it took us about an hour before we looked up to the impressive ruines of Acropolis. Although winds were very strong at one of the highest points of Athens it was not very cooling. Temperatures reached over 40 degrees here and this made it very exhausting to climb the path to the ruins and climbing even more at the ruines itself. This was one of the most impressing sites we ever visited. The ruins together with the museum in between them showed the best remains of ancient history and the beginning of civilisation in Europe. After visiting Acropolis we went to drive through Athens and visit some other interesting places such as the olympic stadium. Pretty soon we got so much overwhelmed by the heat and the burning sun that we decided to leave earlier than planned. Actually we also wanted to see Athens by night, but maybe some other time...... Birdwatching was restricted to some Alpine Swifts, a Hoopoe in the park at the entry to Acropolis and some unidentified warblers.

Acropolis under construction. Athens

Having been very busy the last few days we took a day “off” today. Had one of very few days at the beach.

Heading towards Delphi it was time to focus on some specialties of the area. Species as Blue Rock-thrush, Rüppels’ Warbler and Olive-tree Warbler are said to be best tried for in this area. On our way to Delphi we already connected with one of them: Blue Rock-thrush. Three birds where seen at various locations close to Delphi including 2 beautiful males. Other species seen: Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Stonechat, Short-toed Eagle and some Sylvia warblers.

Our initial plan was to visit the town itself today but for the second time we overslept. We intended to stay in the area for two days and use one of them for birding Mount Parnassos. Although we didn’t have a full day we decided to go there anyway. This was an excellent choice. Because of the high altitude temperature dropped to a convenient 20 degrees which gave us time to cool down a little. It made birding less exhausting too.

Mount Parnassos is one of the highest mountains in Greece and in winter is used for skiing. Acces is easy through the main road, up to a few hundred metres from the mountain peak. Where the main road ends a stony path goes to the top of the mountain. We drove it for a few hundred metres but returned soon because of the poor quality of the road. While driving up this path behind the ski-lifts we stopped to scan a little group of Linnets, when suddenly a larger pale-brownish bird popped-up in between them: a female Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush! This was one of the species we expected to be present here but sort of “forgot” to look for. Ortolan Buntings were present everywhere as where Tawny Pipit, Sky Lark, Black Redstart, Rock Nuthatch, Raven, Alpine Swift and Crag Martin. At the lower forested areas of the mountain tits where rather common also we encountered Firecrest (only at the lower parts of the mountain) and one of very few Robins seen this trip.

Parnassos ski area. Many good birds are found here.

Finally we got up early to visit what would be one of the highlights of our stay in Greece: Delphi. First we visited the busy streets of the town itself. Along two parallel streets is where it all happens. Souvenir shops are abundant as are hotels and restaurants. Delphi is visited by 1000’s of tourists a day so it’s wise to go early if one wants to combine birding with sight-seeing here.

We where a bit dissappointed that especially on the higher complex there was not much left of the once impressive building complex. We found it to be more a collection of, seemingly, randomly chosen piles of stone, with some pilars and altars and a largely intact amphitheatre. Nevertheless it was really impressing indeed. Especially when one imagines the rich history of monuments such as these. Don’t miss the oracle of Delphi situated at the lower part of the complex, this is the most beautifull structure of all as far as we’re concerned.

Even on the holy grounds of Delphi we just couldn’t stop birding. Sylvia warblers and Tits are rather common here. The ruines are teeming with Rock Nuthatches and Blue Rock-thrushes are also rather common. Albeit we only found one singing in a tree at the higher part of the complex. Since Delphi is situated at the foothills of a very steep cliff, this is also a very good place to look for Alpine Swift and Crag Martin. Having just parked the car at the entrance to the lower part of the ruines we noticed a female Rüppels’ Warbler skulking through the scrub just opposite of the road.

The Delphi Oracle. Delphi.

When leaving from our hotel this morning we where delayed a little. There turned out to be nobody present at the reception yet to deliver our key to. Asking if the shop-owners next door could contact the hotelmanager was not arranged within 30 minutes so with pretty some delay we departed at 10:30. The road to Paralia was quite good although for large parts the road was under construction. Arriving at Paralia as early as 14:00 we had enough time to look for a suitable hotel. Paralia turned out to be a nice town with many hotels and neat restaurants. As our earlier experiences with finding a hotel around this area where pretty disastrous we feared to be searching for hours again. Luckily this turned out different. The main road hosts the majority of the hotels and restaurants of the village so searching was restricted to a very small area. The second hotel had plenty free rooms so no problem at all. Paralia is a very busy town and it’s not reccomended to visit if you don’t like this. Night-life is very active and restaurants and shops are opened untill after midnight.

The day started to be very foggy and we where even afraid it would start to rain. Soon the fog cleared and temperatures where up again. We headed for the area some 25 kilometres south of mount Olympus. We where under the impression that mount Olympus is in no way accessible but we were proven wrong.

We chose to take the dead-end road from Góni to Kalipéfki. The ride was quite nice with nice changing landscapes and also birds. Many Sylvia warblers were present in the scrub. In a higher and rockier part of the area a male Blue Rock-thrush was flying off in front of us. Raptors were also well-presented with Honey Buzzard, Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a probable, but too brief sighting of a Merlin. At a small Bee-eater colony we tried to take some pictures but unfortunately lightconditions were too bad to succeed.

Best sighting was a group of four Griffon Vultures wich we discovered when they were still some 3 kilometres away. Eventually they came as close as a few-hunderd metres and provided excellent views.
Actually we rushed through this part a little too fast and while searching in the guide for other places in the vicinity of Mount Olympus, we came across a section that stated the presence of a road from Litóhoro to Prionia, which was accessible by car. After having searched a little for this road which starts just north of Litóhoro fun could begin. When entering the National Park you are “apprehended” by a warden which kindly asks if, and how many times, you have been to the park before and from which country you are. After this formality you are given a folder with usefull information and you are informed of the does and dont’s while you’re in the park. The folder states that you are allowed to stop at any place you want along the road and so we did. Because it’s the only road up the mountain traffic is rather heavy, as a concequence sadly it’s not possible to sit and relax quietly and enjoy some nice birding. At the wardens point we flushed a sparrowhwak which started hunting just aside the road. This bird gave us the time neccesary to reveal it’s true indentity: Levant Sparrowhawk!! This nice male was the only absolutely positive sighting of this species. Some others where suspected to be this species, but which we were unable to tell for sure.

After some 5 kilometres the road becomes more a survival than a road, but when driving slowly you will make it forth and back. In this forrested area Tits species are numerous with Crested-, Marsh-, Willow-, Great-, Blue-, Long-tailed- and Coal Tit al present in good numbers, as were Wren, Goldcrest. A few Robins were heard only. When finally reaching the car park at Prionia bird life had changed a little. The steep cliffs hold species like Raven, Crag Martin and Alpine Swift. Also an almost dried-up stream is running along the car park and this attracted many birds. In many places some water still remained and this attracted many birds. Grey Wagtails were common, other birds there: Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff and two Crossbills landed shortly in a tree-top and flew off very soon again. Although the species occuring here are not of very high quality it was nice birding with sometimes large groups giving the thrill of a possible good find.

Today only a small distance was crossed to get to Thessaloniki (some 90 kilometres). the final destination of our trip. So we left at about 10:30. We wanted to find a hotel close to the city so we wouldn’t have to drive for hours before taking our flight back, and we succeeded. Found a room in the Galaxias hotel in a small village just south of Thessaloniki and installed ourselves at our airconditioned room to relax. We only had one site left on our “wanting to visit” list: the salt works of Angelochori. Our plan was to only visit this shortly and then go back to the hotel and do nothing but relaxing at the beach. This went very differently; in fact the most intense birding was done the last days.

 Relaxed at the hotelroom untill about 14:00 and decided to do the last birding at Angelochori. Very conveniently the complex has some well paved roads around the entire salt-works and even in between the lakes itself. Also the agricultural area around it is well accessible. We took advantage of this and used the car as a moving hide. Expecting not too much of it in advance we did not bring our camera….

Acces to the saltworks was arranged easily and so birding could begin. Many of the saltpans are bordered by dirt roads on which a saloon car is perfectly able to drive. The pools closest to the roads where most crowded with birds: thousands of Black-headed, Mediterranean- and Yellow-legged Gulls together with Sandwich and Little Terns where present with some Slender-billed Gulls and a juvenile Whiskered Tern among them. Waders were also present in large numbers and good variety with Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Little Stint being most common. Other waders included Green- and Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, large numbers of Stone Curlew, a juvenile Marsh Sandpiper and (most surprisingly) two juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes!! Many other species were seen here including: Black-necked Grebe, Garganey, Common Teal, Dalmatian Pelican, Flamingo and Spoonbill.

When we became somewhat overfilled with impressions we thought to be slowing down a little by exploring the surroundings of the saltworks consisting mostly of agricultural grounds. This was absolutely not slowing down! Birds were everywhere and after (shamefully) not finding the Spanish Sparrows at Sápes we finally found only one male in a group of House Sparrows. Apparently these birds interbreed with the House Sparrows since this bird was accompanied by birds showing intermediate characters of both species.

Lesser Grey-, Red-backed- and Woodcat Shrike were common as were Hoopoe, Corn Bunting (hundreds), Short-toed- and Crested Lark. Other species observed were Black-headed Bunting (we are still puzzled how we managed to see only one BHB since these must be very common on some places, the same is true for Spanish Sparrow), Chiffchaff, Rufous Nightingale and amongst a large group of Starlings we counted no less than 7 juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings: a wellcome bonus to our list. We were very excited to find this many species on the last days of our stay, we managed to find about 15 species we hadn’t seen earlier. We decided to postpone the relaxing till we got home.

Got up early to try and take some pictures at Angelochori but upon arrival it was much more quite here and so we decided to go and try for Rufous Bush Robin at Epanomi Lagoon. Our guide described a good place for this species at the entrance of the EOT-camp site near Epanomi but we failed to find it. Whether the camping site was gone or we didn’t follow directions correctly remains unclear. Returning to Angelochori again we put some time in photographing and we succeeded nicely. Most species seen yesterday were still present such as the Marsh Sandpiper and Phalaropes of which I managed to take some medium quality photographs. Visiting Angelochori was the best thinkable way to end our extremely satisfying trip.

Got up at six to be at the airport ahead on schedule. Had no trouble in delivering the car. Did have some trouble checking in because the destinations of the check-in counters changed almost every minute, but finally we made it through. Arrived, after an undelayed flight, at clouded and rainy Amsterdam Airport. Home sweet home!!

Full Species List

English Name / Scientific name
Mute Swan / Cygnus olor
Shelduck / Tadorna tadorna
Pochard / Ayhtya ferina
Gadwall / Anas streperea
Northern Shoveler / Anas clypeata

Mallard / Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey /Anas querquedula

Common Teal / Anas crecca
Little Grebe / Tachybaptus rufficollis
Great Crested Grebe / Podiceps cristatus
Black-necked Grebe / Podiceps nigricollis
Yelkouan Shearwater / Puffinus yelkouan
Pygmy Cormorant / Phalacrocorax pygmeus
Great Cormorant / Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis
Shag / Phalacrocorax aristotelis demarestii
White Pelican / Pelecanus onocrolatus
Dalmatian Pelican/Pelecanus crispus

Night Heron / Nycticorax nycticorax
Squacco Heron / Ardeola ralloides
Little Egret / Egretta garzetta
Great White Egret / Casmerodius alba

Grey Heron / Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron / Ardea purpurea
Black Stork / Ciconia nigra
White Stork / Ciconia ciconia
Spoonbill / Platalea leucorodia

Flamingo / Phoenicopterus ruber roseus
Honey Buzzard / Pernis apivorus
Black Kite / Milvus migrans
Egyptian Vulture / Neophron percnopterus

Griffon Vulture / Gyps fulvus
Cinereous Vulture / Aegypius monachus
Short-toed Eagle / Circaetus gallicus

Marsh Harrier / Circus aeroginosus
Northern Goshawk / Accipiter gentilis

Sparrowhawk / Accipiter nisus
Levant Sparrowhawk / Accipiter brevipes
Buzzard / Buteo buteo
Long-legged Buzzard / Buteo rufinus
Lesser Spotted Eagle / Aquila pomarina
Golden Eagle / Aquila chrysaetos
Booted Eagle / Hieraaetus pennatus
Lesser Kestrel / Falco naumanni
Kestrel / Falco tinnunculus
Hobby / Falco subbuteo
Eleonora’s Falcon / Falco eleonora

Peregrine / Falco peregrinus brookei
Moorhen / Fulica atra
Comon Coot / Gallinula chlorophis
Oystercatcher / Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt / Himantopus himantopus
Avocet / Recurvirostra avosetta
Stone Curlew / Burhinus oedicnemus
Little Ringed Plover / Charadrius dubius curonicus
Ringed Plover / Charadrius hiaticula
Kentish Plover / Charadrius alexandrinus
Grey Plover / Pluvialis squatarola
Little Stint / Calidris minuta
Curlew Sandpiper / Calidris ferruginea

Dunlin / Calidris alpina
Ruff / Phylomagus pugnax
Common Snipe / Gallinago gallinago
Curlew / Numenius arquata
Spotted Redshank / Tringa erythropus

Redshank / Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper / Tringa stagnatilis
Greenshank / Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper / Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper / Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper / Actitis hypoleucos

Red-necked Phalarope / Phalaropus lobatus
Mediterranean Gull / Larus melanocephalus
Black-headed Gull / Larus ridibundus

Slender-billed Gull / Larus genei
Common Gull / Larus canus
Lesser Black-backed Gull / Larus fuscus

Yellow-legged Gull / Larus michahellis
Gull-billed Tern / Gelochelidon nilotica

Sandwich Tern / Sterna sandvicensis
Common Tern / Sterna hirundo
Little Tern / Sterna albifrons
Whiskered Tern / Chlidonias hybridus
Black Tern / Childonias niger
Stock Dove / Columba oenas
Wood Dove / Colomba palumbus

Collared Dove / Streptopelia decaocto
Turtle Dove / Streptopelia turtur
Barn Owl / Tyto alba

Little Owl / Athene noctua indigena
Common Swift / Apus apus
Pallid Swift / Apus pallidus brehmorum
Alpine Swift / Tachymarptis melba
Kingfisher / Alcedo atthis
European Bee-eater / Merops apiaster
Roller / Coracias garrulus
Hoopoe / Upupa epops
Grey-headed Woodpekcer / Picus canus
Great Spotted Woodpecker / Dendrocopus major

Syrian Woodpecker / Dendrocopus syriacus
Short-toed Lark / Calandrella brachydactyla
Crested Lark / Galerida cristatus meridionalis
Sky Lark/Alauda arvensis cantarella

Sand Martin / Riparia riparia
Crag Martin / Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow / Hirundo rusticula
Red-rumped Swallow / Hirunda daurica rufula
House Martin / Delichon urbica
Tawny Pipit / Anthus campestris
Meadow Pipit / Anthus pratensis
Black-headed Wagtail / Motacilla feldegg
Grey Wagtail / Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail / Motacilla alba
Wren / Troglodytes troglodytes
Robin / Erithacus rubecula balcanicus
Rufous Nightingale / Luscinia megarhynchos
Black Redstart / Phoenicurus ochruros gibraltariensis
Whinchat / Saxicola rubetra

Stonechat / Saxicola torquata
Isabelline Wheatear / Oenanthe isabellina
Northern Wheatear / Oenanthe oenanthe

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear / Oenanthe melanoleuca
Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush / Monticola solitarius

Blue Rock Thrush / Monticola saxatilis
Blackbird / Turdus merula aterrimus
Song Thrush / Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush / Turdus viscivorus
Cetti’s Warbler/ Cettia cetti
Icterine Warbler / Hippolais icterina

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler / Hippolais elaeica
Great Reed Warbler / Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Subalpine Warbler / Sylvia cantilans albistriata

Sardinian Warbler / Sylvia melanocephala
Rüppell’s Warbler / Sylvia ruepelli
Eastern Orphean Warbler / Sylvia crassirostris
Wood Warbler / Philoscopus sibilatrix
Chiffchaff / Phyloscopus collybita
Firecrest / Regulus ignicapillus

Goldcrest / Regulus regulus
Spotted Fly-catcher / Muscicapa striata
Semi-collared Flycatcher / Ficedula semitorqauta

Long-tailed Tit / Aegithalos caudatus
Willow Tit / Parus montanus
Sombre Tit / Parus lugubris
Marsh Tit / Parus palustris

Crested Tit / Parus cristatus
Coal Tit / Parus ater

Blue Tit / Parus caeruleus
Great Tit / Parus major major/aphrodite
Western Rock Nuthatch / Sitta neumayer
Nuthatch / Sitta europaea caesia

Short-toed Tree-creeper / Certhia brachydactyla
Golden Oriole / Oriolus oriolus
Red-backed Shrike / Lanius collurio

Lesser Grey Shrike / Lanius minor
Woodchat Shrike / Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay / Garrulus glandarius graecus
Magpie / Pica pica galliae
Jackdaw / Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow / Corvus cornix sharpii
Raven / Corvus corax
Starling / Sturnus vulgaris

Rose-coloured Starling / Sturnus roseus
House Sparrow / Passer domesticus balearoibericus
Spanish Sparrow / Passer hispaniolensis
Tree Sparrow / Passer montanus
Chaffinch / Fringilla coelebs

Serin / Serinus serinus
Greenfinch / Carduelis chloris aurantiiventris
Goldfinch / Carduelis carduelis balcanica

Linnet / Carduelis cannabina
Common Crossbill / Loxia curvirostra

Hawfinch / Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Yellowhammer / Emberiza citrinella
Cirl Bunting / Emberiza cirlus
Ortolan Bunting / Emberiza hortulana
Reed Bunting / Emberiza schoeniclus
Black-headed Bunting / Emberiza melanocephala
Corn Bunting / Miliaria calandra