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.
On 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.
On 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.
A couple of years ago we wrote about our trip to Boz Dağ with Zirve Club. On that occasion we hoped to find snow but failed. This time we found rather a lot of snow. We think we arrived in the village later than anticipated partly because we stopped off for breakfast before we even got to Tire and partly because the road was snowy and slippery. After a brief stop in the village we headed up the mountain. Knee deep in snow much of the way. One group stopped just below the tree line. We went up quite a bit further and a third group went right to one of the lower peaks.
Going up was easier than coming down. Hilary needed a lot of help and still fell over (snow makes for a soft landing). There was then a longish stop to appreciate the snowman, fail to light a fire and to wait for the final group to rejoin us.
There was another break in the village for lunch (and warming up by the tea room soba) before we headed back for the bus. We were supposed to go to Gölçük but that part of the trip was cancelled, due to a combination of the late hour and the poor road conditions (not to mention the traffic jam) and we headed down to Birgi where we had a wander for half an hour before heading home.
We have seen a travel site that insists that Turkey always has ‘bikini weather’. Beautiful this was, but…. not bikini weather.
This was our first walk with Zirve this year. They have been on two outings but we were in Lesvos for the first one and Bodrum for the second.
This walk started in Guzelcamli, up, over part of a hill then down to the coastline. Along the shore to Aydinkoy (which is the second beach and one much favoured by wild boar). The weather was absolutely perfect for walking. I think the high was around 26 degrees, the sky was blue and the sun shone upon us.
We started with a minute’s silence for those affected by the bombs in Ankara last weekend. We then walked a marked trail – it was mostly very easy going with a few steep bits. There were a total of 170 of us. Rather too many for our liking though, as ever, there was a great sense of camaradie, our Turkish was practiced and new friends were made. There were about 25 of us on the bus from Selcuk, plus the Mugla, Izmir and Soke branches and a busload from Kusadasi.
All along the way we came across indications that refugees had also taken this path. We found discarded clothing, bags, certificates, ID papers, exercises in English for Arabic speakers, water bottles, juice cartons, medicine packaging, food packaging, cigarette packs. On the shoreline we found a pump, clearly used to inflate a boat. Several life jackets were retrieved. Yes, it makes a mess in a National Park, but people are people and people are more important.
After lunch at Aydinkoy (with the boars) some swam and others didn’t. We then walked up, mostly along paths and road, back to Guzelcamli where we had a chance to visit Zeus’ cave before getting the bus back home.
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.
Oh, and for completeness on avian matters, from the day before, Theo, Hilary’s friend. Theo is multilingual, speaks, Greek, English and Turkish.
Meanwhile, as the Izmir festival continues…… Back to Kerkini, Greece.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.