A Photographer’s Dream: Lake Kerkini in Winter
Dalmatian Pelican

At a 1 ½-hour drive from Thessaloniki, the National Park Lake Kerkini is easily accessible. Even this winter, with a “Corona tsunami” pestering the European continent, nature photographers and birdwatchers alike have arrived here to adore its many birds and stunning landscape. True, there were fewer travelers than expected. But there are other intriguing facts and developments that keep on attracting the natureloving crowds. 

Dalmatian pelicans in breeding plumage

Dalmatian pelican Greece
Dalmatian Pelican in winter – photo credit Dragan Simic

First, more and more people are aware of the beauty of Lake Kerkini and its drawcard during wintertime: the photogenic Dalmatian pelican (Pelicanus crispus). Their beaks are very bright and colorful from the end of December till the beginning of March.

Several photographers made their shot of a lifetime with the Dalmatian pelican in a leading role, and some even won an award for it. The photographers, that is, not the birds. Which makes one think: isn’t it about time the animals got their award for their poses and looks?

It is here that British photographer Carole Steele shot the winning image for “Bird Photographer of the Year 2019” with “Dancing On Ice – Dalmatian Pelican“. More recently, Hungarian wildlife photographer Bence Máté won the 2021 Siena International Photo award, with a brilliant 180-degree fish-eye picture that he aptly named “Pelican perspective”

Lake Kerkini in winter boat tour
Boat tour on the Lake Kerkini – photo credit Christos Kotselis

National Park Lake Kerkini, a birder’s paradise

Next, the number of bird species rank it amongst Europe’s finest wetland for the birdwatcher. The total number of bird species has exceeded 300. One can observe most bird species during spring migration, from mid-April till the end of May. But expect to see a larger total number of birds during winter. 

Last-chance travel

Lake Kerkini riparian forest Mount Beles
Lake Kerkini, the riparian forest and Mt. Belles -photo credit Christos Kotselis

Finally, there is the phenomenon of “last-chance travel”. From melting icefields and glaciers to the dying Great Barrier reef, travelers are visiting places to see things that may soon no longer be. In the case of Lake Kerkini we are dealing with receding water levels that threaten the very existence of the riparian forest. With a total of 10 bird species nesting in mixed colonies, this riparian forest, found in the northern corner of the lake, is unique for Greek and European standards.  

Responsible Wildlife Viewing 

Dalmatian pelican – photo credit Philippos Katsiyiannis

We have not yet mentioned the radical changes in the management of National Parks in Greece, with the recent announcement of plans for centralization of local park management. Let us be optimistic and not dwell on possible negative impacts for the region.

This may be the time to collect entrance fees from the National Park’s visitors, to raise funds for nature conservation. As done in the Samaria Gorge, on Crete Island.

A few other suggestions for the responsible traveler:

Useful links:

Lake Kerkini Birding Break organized by Natural Greece

Website of National Park Kerkini Lake  

Important Bird Area GR020 -Lake Kerkini 

Important Bird Area GR021 –Mount Krousia

Important Bird Area GR022 – Mount Beles/Kerkini 

The Lake of Beasts: Kerkini, Greece – 10.000 Birds blog by Dragan Simic



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