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 20 km from the Bulgarian border is actually the best wetland for birdwatching situated within 3 hrs 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 colorful 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.
The tour starts from Sofia around 05.00 a.m., while if you start from Bansko this would be at 06.00. The birding takes the whole day, so please allow more time and late arrival in the evening. Prepared in advance lunch packs could save some time and money, although the shade and the delicious food of the local “taverns” is rather refreshing in summer. ID of all passengers is required to cross the border with Greece.
– 1 person: 210 Euro/person (-15 Euro for pick up/drop off in Bansko)
– 2 persons: 140 Euro/person (-15 Euro for pick up/drop off in Bansko)
– 3-4 persons: 105 Euro/person (-15 Euro for pick up/drop off in Bansko)
Best period: “Law season” in Lake Kerkini could be considered October and March, although during that time there always might be something that could easily surprise you. The best time for birding is from November through to February (incl.) and from April to September.
The price includes: private transfers, pick up/drop off at any location in Sofia/Bansko, English-speaking driver/guide, fuel and all road taxes, use of spotting scope (one per vehicle)
The price does not include: meals and drinks, other personal expenses, tips