GREECE, HALKIDIKI 

 

20/8/07 – 27/8/07

 

James and Emma Packer

 

james.packer@somersetbirder.co.uk

 

Back to The Somerset Birder

 

 

Background

 

2007 will be known in the UK as the year with no summer.  The whole of the summer season was blighted by wind, rain and low temperatures and it was for this reason that we decided to get away from it all for a week.

 

We’d always fancied going to Halkidiki.  There was a potential of a few new European species for James and nice beaches for Emma.  Booking only a month or so in advance we were limited to accommodation choice, but choose the Julia Apartments in Fourka, or more accurately Fourka beach, on the western side of Kassandria.  Kassandra is the western most peninsula of Halkidiki, and the one most popular with tourists.

 

We booked a package through Thomson, not an option we usually consider, but it was cheap, coming in at just over £300 for flight and accommodation.  We didn’t use their coach transport, instead booking a small car with holiday autos.

 

Flying to Thessaloniki airport was easy and the short drive to Halkidiki straightforward. 

 

The Julia Apartments were what you’d expect for a cheap package to Greece.  Very basic but spotlessly clean.  I’ve nothing much to recommend it, other than that is was situated just outside the main town so it was nice and quiet.  It was supposed to be self catering, but the cooking facilities were so hopeless that it would have been impossible to cook with them. No kettle, toaster and the fridge was inadequate.  This didn’t matter, as the food from the restaurants in Fourka was fantastic!

 

Birding Potential

 

I spent ages researching information about birding this area and I found nothing - ziltch!  A couple of trip reports were available from people who had done the same as me and been here with a partner on a non birding holiday but some of their identification seemed unconfident and sometimes decidedly suspect!

 

There were four target species I thought I might see relatively easily – Western Rock Nuthatch, Levant Sparrowhawk, Pygmy Cormorant and Dalmation Pelican.  I succeeded with two!  I thought Olive-tree Warbler might have been possible, I’m sure it was, but I certainly didn’t see one.

 

If your trip was purely for birding purposes, you’d certainly not go here in August.  That would be very foolish, as the hot temperature and lack of water make the general countryside relatively birdless.  I noted a few migrants, but other than that, the birding was hard work.

 

I’m sure winter or spring would be much better, and if you could travel a bit further afield to Lake Kerkini or the Evros Delta, you’d have a fantastic time. 

 

Sites visited

 

Fourka

Birded the Olive groves most mornings where a good selection of migrant warblers were present, except Olive-tree. Doh!  The minor road going south from the entrance to Julia Studios seemed as good a place as any to search for migrants. 

 

Sani Resort Bird Reserve

This site was just a few minutes drive from Fourka on the west side of Kassandra. Sani is a really posh purpose built holiday resort, but there is a potentially nice wetland and area of pine woodland adjacent to it.  This wetland was totally dry in August, except for a smelly ditch that crossed the reserve.  A water pumping station has a few leaky pipes that attracted a few birds.  Follow signs to Sani Resort (on all maps) and keep turning right when you get to the main junction.  You’ll see the (dry) wetland on your right.  You can drive up a track to the pumping station and continue past some houses (seemed to be Sani staff accommodation?) to a sign that states ‘No entry’.  Another track crossed the (dry) wetland to a locked gate on the far side.  This track followed the only water present in August – a horrible smelly ditch.

 

Neo Potidea

On the eastern coast just north of the canal was a beach that attracted a few gulls.  This beach extended for several kilometres north to another dry wetland that looked like it should have huge potential in the winter/spring.  There was only one small area of water – another stinking pool that had a small selection of birds.  Wandering around here with a pair of bins and a camera did look quite suspicious as the beach was on the other side of the road.  Just smile and shout “malaka” if anyone gives you funny looks.  Works every time!

 

Lakes Koronia and Volvi  (23/8/07)

The only proper birding sites we visited.  These lakes are east of Thessoloniki, and about 2-3 hours drive from Fourka.  Most people don’t bother to mention them with regard to birding, as they usually visit Lake Kerkini to the north.  However, if, like us, you’re staying on at Halkidiki, this seemed to be the best birding site within a reasonable days drive.  The western lake (Koronia) seemed to be polluted and the water level was quite low.  It seemed to be impossible to easily view the lake from anywhere convenient, but a vast flock of Greater Flamingo were present in the centre.  Lake Volvi was much better, but still difficult to view from most areas.  We stopped at Loutra Volvis, Nea Maditos, Mikri Volvi and Megali Volvi.  Other tracks were present towards the lake that could be explored with more time.

 

Sitonia

Sitonia is the second peninsula of Halkidiki.  It’s much quieter and more attractive than Kassandra, but a drive around the circular road didn’t produce many birds.

 

 

Systematic List

 

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Small numbers at Lake Volvi

 

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Common at Lake Volvi

 

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Abundant at Lake Volvi

 

Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus

At least ten, Lake Volvi and we only probably looked at about 1% of the lake. There were certainly many more here.

 

Pygmy Cormorant at Lake Volvi

 

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus

Small numbers (about 20) on Lake Volvi.  Mostly immatures.

 

Dalmation Pelican at Lake Volvi

 

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Common, Lake Volvi

 

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Single, Lake Volvi

 

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Up to six, Sani.  Common Lake Volvi.

 

White Stork Ciconia ciconia

Several on nests around the towns surrounding Lake Volvi

 

White Stork on a street light at Lake Volvi

 

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus.

Difficult to count, but several hundred, possibly thousands on Lake Koronia and smaller numbers at the eastern end of Lake Volvi.

 

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Two juveniles at Neo Potidea on 26th.

 

Teal Anas crecca

Up to 50 at Sani and five at Nea Potidea

 

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Regular at all water.

 

Pochard Aythea farina

Small numbers at Lake Volvi

 

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca

A pair at Magali Volvi, Lake Volvi

 

Ferruginous Duck at Lake Volvi

 

Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus

A single seen over the Julia Apartments, Fourka on two occasions.

 

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

One at Nea Potidea on 25th

 

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

Common

 

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 

A few of this of Lesser Kestrel around Lake Volvi. Always seen from a moving car with no stopping places.

 

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

 

Coot Fulica atra

Large numbers at Lake Volvi

 

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Regular at Sani and Nea Potidea

 

Little-ringed Plover at Sani.  Only when I looked at the image did I realise it was ringed

 

Little Stint Calidris minuta

Single at Sani and up to three at Nea Potidea

 

Little Stint at Sani. It’s legs looked yellowish but I think it was the horrible water.

(Photo by Emma Packer)

 

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Single at Sani on 26th

 

Snipe Gallinago gallina

Several at Sani

 

Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Up to five at Sani

 

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Small numbers at Sani and Nea Potidea

 

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

The most abundant wader at Sani and Nea Potidea

 

Wood Sandpiper at Sani (Photo by Emma Packer)

 

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Small numbers at Sani and Nea Potidea

 

Common Sandpiper at Sani (Photo by Emma Packer)

 

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus

Several tens at Nea Potidea, a few around Sitonia

 

Tatty second year Mediterranean Gull at Nea Potidea

 

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Common and regular

 

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans

The only abundant gull

 

Feral Pigeon Columba livia

 

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Very common and abundant

 

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

Two in the pine woods at Sani on 21st

 

Little Owl Athene noctua

Just one roosting in a chimney pot at Afitos on 25th

 

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

Up to ten at Nea Potidea

 

Pallid Swift at Nea Potidea

 

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Small numbers at all wetland areas

 

Hoopoe Upupa epops

Three at Sani throughout plus odd ones scattered elsewhere

 

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major/ Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopus syriacus

One flew across Sani but wasn’t identifiable to species

 

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Common

 

Sand Martin Riparia riparia

Small numbers at wetlands

 

Swallow Hirundo rustica

Common and abundant with some indication of southerly passage throughout

 

Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica

Certainly common and abundant at Fourka and elsewhere

 

House Martin Delichon urbicum

Small numbers throughout

 

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris

One, Sani on 26th

 

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

Regular at Sani and Nea Potidea, all seemed to be Grey-headed Wagtail

 

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba

Single at Sani

 

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

Up to five at Sani

 

Whinchat at Sani

 

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

Single at Nea Potidea on 25th

 

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

Pair at the southern end of Sitonia on 25th

 

Blackbird Turdus merula

Common

 

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis

Singles at Sani and Nea Potidea

 

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida

At least one at tne at the Fourka olive groves on several dates

 

Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris

Caused a bit of an ID headache - but one or two present in the Fourka olive grove throughout. One always in the same bush but elusive (see photo!)

 

Marsh Warbler, Fourka.  If you have any views on this ID, either agree or disagree, would you let me know!

 

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

 

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans

Single juvenile at Julia Studios on 24th

 

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Small numbers (less than 5) at the Fourka olive groves throughout

 

Whitethroat Sylvia communis

Single at Fourka on 26th

 

Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis

Several grey juveniles at Fourka throughout

 

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala

Common at Fourka but skulking. Others throughout.

 

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Up to three at Fourka olive groves from 26th

 

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Small numbers at Fourka

 

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

There seemed to be a small fall at Fourka with probably 50 present from 24th

 

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa sriata

Very common everywhere

 

Great Tit Parus major

 

Red-backed Shrike Lanius colluria

Surprising common and abundant

 

Red-backed Shrikes, juvenile top and adult male (Photo by Emma Packer)

 

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor

One juvenile present at Sani on several dates

 

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator.

Much less abundant than Red-backed but scattered over a wide area.

 

Magpie Pica pica

 

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

 

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix

 

Raven Corvus corax

Two at Afitos on 26th

 

Common Starling Sternus vulgaris

A small group (c50) at the Sani pumping station were the only ones we saw

 

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

 

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

A single with House Sparrows at the Julia Apartments and several in storks nest around Volvi

 

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Only singles at scattered localities

 

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

 

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

 

Linnet Carduelis cannabina

 

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirius

Several singing around the Fourka olive grove

 

Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

Several in the pine woods behind the Julia Apartments, including a female drinking from a leaking pipe.

 

 

Pond turtle and Stripe-necked Terrapins at Sani

 

Keeled Skimmer at Siviri

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