Autumn migration of waders is a really fascinating experience and all birders who enjoy observing waders will appreciate the richness of the well-preserved coastal lagoons of Northern Greece. The numbers of Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers here is amazing and looking for rarities among them is a tough, but very delightful birding practice. Other priority on this tour will be the wader’s closest relatives – the gulls and the terns, which like the waders, are present in big numbers in the coastal lagoons and some inland lakes of Northern Greece. Of course, we will not skip the local specialities like the Dalmatian Pelicans of Lake Kerkini and the raptors at the Vulture feeding station at Dadia Forest National Park.
The tour starts from Thessaloniki in the early afternoon and first we drive north to Lake Kerkini National Park, which is one of the best birding areas on the Balkan Peninsula. Famous for its resident population of Dalmatian Pelicans, it also attracts many species of waders and terns that prefer fresh water habitats – Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Northern Lapwing, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern and White-winged Tern. The forest areas around hold Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Our next destination is the Nestos Gorge with its magnificent vertical cliffs and rocky habitats – home to species like the Rock Partridge, Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting. Not far from here are the coastal lagoons of Nestos Delta, where we will look for Spur-winged Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull and Little Tern.
The coastal lagoons of Lower Thrace are another major stopover site for waders in Northern Greece, which also features big variety of wetland habitats that attract various species. Our targets here will be the Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, etc. Offshore birding could be very productive here and may produce Scopoli’s Shearwater and Yelkouan Shearwater, European Shag (ssp. desmarestii), Audouin’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (ssp. fuscus), Sandwich Tern and Little Tern.
The Evros Delta National Park on the border with Turkey is a vast area of mixed wetland and grassland habitats, as well as arable lands and pastures. It attracts big variety of birds on migration and our targets here will be the Spur-winged Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Red-necked Phalarope, Slender-billed Gull, Little Gull, Caspian Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern and White-winged Tern. This area might be very good for raptor migration, with Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles, Short-tailed Eagles, Levant Sparrowhawks, Montagu’s Harriers and Pallid Harriers among them.
The Dadia Forest National Park is not far from Evros Delta. The Turkish and Black pine forests there hold the only naturally breeding population of the European Black Vulture on the Balkan Peninsula. There we will visit the vulture feeding station, which attracts many other species of raptors, such as the Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, White-tailed Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Black Kite. Other resident birds in the area are Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Black Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Sombre Tit, etc.
From here we will travel back to Thessaloniki, where we will explore the Axios Delta National Park. Situated close to the big city, it attracts a lot of people, including birders, but also many waders, gulls and terns, which are quite used to human’s presence and allow close observations. Here we will search for Eurasian Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Terek Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Little Tern, etc.
During this trip commoner species of waders, such as Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Curlew and Ruff, as well as Yellow-legged Gull, Common Black-headed Gull, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern, will be observed almost every day.