Category Archives: Birds

A weekend in Akyaka

Akyaka-balcony-scene

Taking a break from Central America, and home, we headed off for a weekend in Akyaka.  It is a good place to go late April or early May, it is before it heats up, and before the throngs descend, well, unless you go May bank holiday weekend, in which case it is very busy.   Akyaka is an easy two and a half hours away along good highways so also serves as an excellent opportunity to blow the cobwebs off the bike and check that all is well post winter.

Akyaka-Nova-apptWe stayed in our usual apartment hotel, a simple and comfortable place with facilities to make a breakfast of eggs, cheese, bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, honey and strawberries, along with copious quantities of tea.  It would have been possible to cook an evening meal, but why.  Part of the whole point of going to Akyaka is to partake in the local restaurants, many of which are a cut above those in other resorts.   We indulged, a seafood dinner of fried squid and prawns in garlic and tomatoes along with a huge salad and mezes.  Then there was slow kid, an utterly delightful kebab of aubergines and meatballs (not served in the usual way) which we went back for the following night, and slow roast lamb shank in onions and mint.  Then there was ice cream, hand made goat milk ice cream, Hilary discovered the one with roast almond and honey.  So yes, we ate very well. Akyaka-river-and-beer

Between indulging in food and the occasional beer by the river, we had a couple of days out, one walking in the nearby farmland and wetland.  We were hoping to see bee eaters but beyond a possible long distance sighting did not.  We did see a red backed shrike, egrets, storks and a glossy ibis.  The second day we went to Kaunos, it’s an easy day out from Akyaka, in part along a winding road with stunning views of lake Koycegiz, but with a poor surface so we did the return via the small ferry into Dalyan.

Kaunos is a great site, one we have been to a few times.  It is really well maintained and in a wonderful setting, so there is great wildlife in what feels like an archaeological park.  We saw the expected rock nuthatches around the theatre, but the best wildlife is around the old harbour.  Egrets, loads of tortoise, lizards – star agama mostly, and a snake, well we thought it was a snake but it turned out to be a glass snake which is actually a limbless lizard.

 

Lake Prespa

prespa-walk-view-down

We left Kerkini in very windy weather.  For this part of the journey we were glad not to be on the bike.  The wind was pushing the car around and trees were falling into the road ahead of us.  We went by a scenic route – bits of highway and bits of very windy mountain roads.  Something to repeat on the bike at some point in the future as the scenery was spectacular.

We were headed for Lake Prespa through which run borders between Greece, Macedonia and Albania.  We did not encounter any snow but there was plenty to be seen on the mountains that surround the lake.

On our first evening we walked from our hotel in Psarides along the shore of the lake.  We saw caves that belonged to hermits, we saw lizards and we had to crawl through a cave to get around a headland.

On our first full day we drove out to various sites where we hoped to see many Prespa-wildcatbirds.  We were not very lucky when it came to taking photographs though we did hear nightingales and cuckoos and Ashley saw an oriole.  We saw more lizards.  We then went across a causeway to an island that used to be attached to the mainland.  There was some very pleasant walking there and we encountered a wild cat.  Well, it was wild about tummy rubs and ear scritches…  It followed us for quite a long way.  Using our monoscope we were able to see the many, many pelicans on their islands in micra Prespa but we have no means of taking photographs at that sort of distance.  It is a pretty island though!

Wildcat-island

 

 

On the last day we went walking upwards through an ancient Greek Juniper grove.  The flora were spectacular.  Fields full of flowers including quite a lot of orchids.   The views out over the lake were amazing.

 

 

Traveling season

pelicans-pygmies-and-friend

We were in the UK and Ireland in February then, in April, at Hilary’s father’s 90th birthday party in London.  Pretty well as soon as we got back we took of on the ferry to Kavala, hired a car (with some difficulty, as it was a Sunday and everywhere was shut) and drove straight to Lake Kerkini.

Kerkini village is a delightful place.  On this occasion there was a (very well behaved) school party staying in the hotel so we were treated to three nights in a beautifully restored house.  Beers were taken at our favourite bar in the village and meals at the Oikoperigitis where our friend Vasilis is a guide.

black-kite-2On our first day we traveled around the lake, visiting favourite places and taking photographs of birds.  The next day we went up to the monastery, above which is a small reservoir where we were lucky enough to see a black kite perched, motionless in a tree for about twenty minutes. We went on to a spot near the Bulgarian border where rollers are often found but we can’t honestly say that we found any.  It was only a short drive on some extremely good roads.  We did see a very long line of trucks waiting to cross the border.

We also went out on Vasilis’ boat.  This is always a magical experience and different every time.  This year the level of the lake has been kept low to avoid flooding of the villages.  This has not been a totally good thing for the wildlife.  We were not able to enter the drowned forest (which is, sadly, slowly dying) though we did get quite close.

It was, of course, perfect biking weather (we left the bike at home).  But the next part of the trip was very windy so we were, eventually, glad of the hired car.

 

 

 

 

 

Pamucak Wetlands

Pamucak Mar 1610On Sunday we went walking in Pamucak wetlands.  This is about 20 minutes by Dolmuş from Selçuk and a place of stunning natural beauty.  It seems to be constantly under threat from industrial waste, development and tourism but, for the moment, it remains protected.  Jeep ‘safaris’ and quad bikes run through it as well as horse back tours.  None of those happening at the moment, though we did see a couple of guys working out quad bike routes.

We were fortunate to see three adult and two sub adult flamingos.  They pass here (stopping off for lunch) on their migration to places further north.

The asphodel is flowering right now – well, beginning to flower in our area.  We saw black bees gathering the pollen.  And butterflies.  We saw quite a few butterflies and two large tortoises, quite awake.  We heard a lot of frogs.  We saw buzzards and larks (lots of larks) and sparrows, goldfinches and masses of magpies.  Not to mention the Kentish plovers.

 

Today we saw storks flying high and several swallows.  So spring is definitely in swing here in Selçuk.

Lesvos – another face

Leaving aside the ongoing human tragedy and the biker stuff which will be the subject of a later post.

There was another ride out planned for the Sunday, but we had to be back in Mitilini for 4pm so would have needed to leave mid lunch.  So, we made our own fun.  We went bird watching around Skala Kaloni.  Early October is not the best time, the Bee Eaters are gone south for winter, many other species have migrated, and the wetlands are at their driest, so waterbirds are more scarce.

In a couple of hours and not really trying hard.  2 Black Storks, a Peregrine Falcon, a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Egret, Night Heron.  Along with all the usual suspects, Grey Heron, finches, larks, sparrows, buzzards, gulls.  Sadly not many pictures, we only had the pocket camera with us.

blackstork

Oh, and for completeness on avian matters, from the day before, Theo, Hilary’s friend.  Theo is multilingual, speaks, Greek, English and Turkish.

Theo

 

 

 

Back to Lake Kerkini

Meanwhile, as the Izmir festival continues……  Back to Kerkini, Greece.

http://kerkini.gr/eng/

As you can probably tell Lake Kerkini is fabulous for watching water birds.  It is also good for eagles, buzzards, black kites, bee eaters, rose starlings, and more.  There are also water buffalo, easy to see, and by repute other large mammals including wolves and jackals which of course are less easy to see.

Kerkini22

There are a few hotels in the area, two in Kerkini, and others nearby in other villages.  The hotels may fill up at the weekends (Kerkini is less than an hour from Thessaloniki) and during migration but, when we were there we had no problem finding a place to stay.  We chose Oikoperiigitis which is in the village of Kerkini.  Not the cheapest option, but is it a lovely hotel which does really great inexpensive food.  One of the specialties is lumps of slow cooked buffalo on pasta, simple and utterly delicious, even more so with a carafe of local wine.

http://www.oikoperiigitis.gr

There are a few other bars and tavernas in the village, along with loads of nesting white storks.  We have got a bit blase about white storks, we see them all summer back home in Selçuk.

The hotel is able to organise various tours and boat trip in and around the lake, but we guess all the hotels in the area can do this.  We took an early morning boat trip with Vasilis, a friend, who we met the year before.  Vasilis is fantastic, really knowledgeable about the area and birds, and incredibly helpful.  The boat trip was amazing and the source of most of the bird photos from an earlier post including this one of a spoonbill and pygmy cormorant

Kerkini9

It is a stunningly beautiful area, one we will return to.  We are already thinking about next year and maybe getting to Lake Prespa as well.

Kerkini23

The Birds

We may publish flocks of corvids sitting on buildings, in trees, on wall, watching humans and muttering nevermore…..  But we can do most of that here at home in Selcuk with the vast flock of jackdaws.  Oh and a shower scene, or am I getting fiction and film mixed up?

Poe and Hitchcock aside……

We will say more on Kerkini soon, but for now, the bird photos.