Birding Porto Lagos Lagoons, Greece, or the snake-cold Vergina lager – 10,000 Birds

Go to to our subsequent nationwide park in Greece began with a superb fish dinner within the Porto Lagos harbour, overlooking the pine forest with a heronry, and we had Black-crowned Night time-Herons, Little Egrets and Gray Herons coming and going, a lone White Stork, a Widespread Tern, and quite a few Yellow-legged Gulls within the harbour, along with half a dozen cats round our desk.

Mainly, Porto Lagos is a hamlet constructed, you bought it, round a harbour, on an isthmus separating Lake Vistonida (extra about it later) from the Aegean Sea. On its jap aspect lies a small archipelago of tamarisk-overgrown islands and reedbeds (recognized among the many overseas birders because the Church Marshes) and with a sequence of half a dozen massive coastal lagoons farther east. To the west, there are a number of extra lagoons and the saltworks.

Throughout Porto Lagos (220 km / 140 mi east of Thessaloniki) lies the most important nationwide park of Greece, Nestos Delta and the Vistonida-Ismarida lakes and lagoons complicated, based in 2008. Its shoreline has a complete size of 100 km and is mainly sandy with easy, low-relief coasts. Farther on, intensive areas of sand dunes, salt marshes, coastal lagoons, aquatic lake-vegetation, moist meadows, reedbeds and riparian forests seem. The world is without doubt one of the most essential in Greece for birds, comprising greater than 270 species. Lastly, of the at the very least 20 species of mammals current right here, the otter, the jackal, and the wildcat actually deserve a point out.

The most effective birding season right here is the winter when waterbirds come to overwinter in these lagoons, adopted by migratory seasons and, to a lesser extent, breeding season. And we had been right here within the final days of June, simply after that “to a lesser extent” good season. Alright, there are additionally seashores, swimming, sun-bathing? As everyone knows by now, sun-bathing is a life-threatening exercise, and for swimming, one wants to find a seaside the place the ocean can be greater than knee-deep. Luckily, late June is the best season for the domestically brewed snake-cold Vergina lager within the deepest shade by some gull-filled seaside. 

We had been based mostly on the finish of Porto Lagos, overlooking the ocean and consistently having a salty sea breeze. I don’t keep in mind such salt-scented air anyplace else in Greece. Dalmatian Pelicans and Eurasian Spoonbills had been flying above the seaside, typically above the resort backyard, whereas Golden Oriole and Scops Owl might be heard.

West of Porto Lagos lies Mandra Seashore, a number of kilometers lengthy, consisting of 1 seaside bar, one camp, one tavern, a line of summer time cottages, and several other momentary wetlands within the hinterland, often flooded in winter and spring. In late June, solely smaller lakes and some ponds remained. There have been a number of Collared Pratincoles (quite common and widespread within the space) and one Levant Sparrowhawk even earlier than the seaside turn-off. Quickly after it, singing Black-headed Bunting awaited me on a wire on the proper, with two Woodchat Shrikes within the bush on the left-hand aspect of the street. I hadn’t reached the ocean but when one Eurasian Oystercatcher flew by the sting of a principally dry marsh.  

Within the marshland behind the summer time cottages there have been Black-winged Stilt and Black-tailed Godwit, three dozen Collared Pratincoles, Western Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Hoopoe, a number of European Bee-eaters, Widespread Kestrel, Eurasian Penduline Tit, quite a few Crested Larks, Widespread Reed Warbler, Nice Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler (it’s heard in any wetland, however seeing them is a completely completely different factor – one was lower than a metre from me, however on the different aspect of a really dense oleander bush), in addition to two Calandra Larks (this time I had my binoculars prepared in time).

Lunch on the tavern introduced a European Serin, and the drive again added a Little Owl on an indication put up by the street, and some hovering birds: White Stork, Nice White Pelican and a Quick-toed Eagle. A bit in a while, saltworks contained greater than 100 Better Flamingos, plus one in every of a number of roadside European Rollers.

Instantly north of Porto Lagos lies large Lake Vistonida – the lake on the coronary heart of a scandal that introduced down the Greek authorities 15 years in the past! Constructed within the tenth century, Vatopaidi is one in every of 20 monasteries at Greece’s self-governing monastic group of Mount Athos. Amongst their Byzantine manuscripts, the Vatopaidi monks discovered a title, bestowed within the 14th century by Emperor John V Palaiologos, to the Lake Vistonida (now a nationwide park) and by some means satisfied authorities officers that the land across the lake was price excess of the 55 million euros an unbiased appraiser later assessed its worth. Then, they used that increased valuation to ask for one billion euros’ price of presidency property. Ultimately, the monks exchanged their lake, which generated no rents, for prime, state-owned actual property that did. Within the trade they obtained 73 completely different authorities properties, estimated between 1 billion and a pair of billion euros. The brand new Minister of Finance filed a lawsuit towards the Vatopaidi Monastery, and the case went on for years, till all these concerned, each monks and ministers, had been acquitted. How the monks did this remained unclear.

East of Porto Lagos lies the Porto Lagos Lagoon, a.ok.a. Daliani Lagoon, a.ok.a. Church Marshes. The turn-off is just not marked by any signal, giving the guests the impression that it should be a improper flip. The street, principally tarmac, but additionally a good macadam, leads by means of the archipelago of tamarisk-overgrown islands. The jap aspect of this space can also be seen from the street to the Fanari Village. There have been a number of Widespread Shelducks and 100 extra Better Flamingos (beneath), Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Nice White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Spoonbills, European Honey-buzzard, Quick-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Bee-eaters, Lesser Gray and Woodchat Shrikes, Penduline Tit, Crested Lark, Crimson-rumped Swallow, and so forth.

Giant lagoons farther east are at their finest in winter, however I ought to point out yet another chook. I used to be heading to Lake Ismarida, as it’s recognized amongst birders beneath its new title, however I acquired misplaced and requested some farmers for Ismarida – they clearly have by no means heard of it (ask for the outdated title, Limni Mitrikou). No matter, they pointed me to the closest lagoon and that’s how I discovered myself on the isthmus between the ocean and Ptelea Lagoon (cowl picture). There’s a abandoned seaside on the isthmus, with solely 7 sun-umbrellas and no folks! Deep contained in the lagoon, there have been quite a few pinkish-white blobs shimmering within the warmth: some 500 Better Flamingos. But, a lot nearer to me, on a naked salty floor, a bit of brown chook took flight singing her coronary heart out. I recorded the tune, which Merlin app recognized as a Skylark’s, however I had sufficient expertise to know higher: it turned out to be a Better Quick-toed Lark.

Now, I’m achieved. Again to Fanari for some well-deserved snake-cold Vergina Lager.

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