A 1700 Km long Birdwatching Weekend (Part 1)

The plan was simple. Departure from Athens was scheduled at Friday afternoon and we were suppose to spend the night at Thessaloniki, so that I could be at Galikos river delta early in the morning. The reason for this visit was one Red and five Red-necked Phalaropes that were observed there some days before, but the truth is that I was looking forward to visit the place for quite some time now. The place is located just outside the city of Thessaloniki at the place where four rivers (Gallikos, Axios, Loudias and Aliakmonas) meet the Aegean Sea. For that reason the place is known among the birdwatchers as GALA. These rivers create a huge wetland that hosts a vast number or birds especially during the migration period. My only problem is, that it is 500 Km far from Athens where I live. It was 19:00 o'clock when we left Athens after filling the tank in a Gas station nearby. After 250 Km and 2 hours drive we made a stop at Stylida for refueling just to find out that we have left our only keys for the gas tank to the last Gas station back in Athens! This was quite a shock but it was Friday night and our options were very limited. In fact we had no options but to return to Athens. He had just enough gas to do that. The day ended at midnight and instead of spending the night at Thessaloniki we were back in our home in Athens... Nevertheless the team was ready again Saturday morning at 5:00. The morale was high, the tank was full again, and most important we had the keys for the gas tank secured! It was a 5 hours drive and everything went smooth this time. Only some drops of rain worried us for a moment, but the weather was on our side that day. For as long as we stayed at the field it was cloudy but it didn't rain at all. The Wetland was a pleasant surprise for me. For once it is HUGE. Fortunately Odysseas, Savvas and Michalis which are very experienced birdwatchers and are visiting this place regularly gave me all the required info for finding my way into the place. For a start I managed to observe and take pictures of one Red and five Red-necked Phalaropes. I am afraid I shouldn't have spent that much time for that. We have had already lost valuable time because of out late arrival and there was not enough time for getting around for as long as we wanted. Nevertheless I had seen enough. It is a complex of canals, ponds, swamps, tiny islands with low vegetation and even several trees adjacent to the canals. This complex creates habitats for birds of all kinds. One could easily spot all kinds of waders. Marsh Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Dunlins, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Snipes, Little Grebes, Moorhens, Coots all were there. There were also dozens of Curlews and you could even spot Whimbrels with some effort. I have seen that species only once before. I easily spotted four Tern species (Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Caspian Tern). I even saw Dalmatian Pelicans, Shags, Avocets, Herons and many more. The list is endless! Finally as we were leaving the place by crossing the Danio mound we spotted 4 Golden Orioles, Chiffchaffs, a Common Buzzard, and a Marsh Harrier while an Osprey flew above us holding a big fish. I think that the place which gives the best photo opportunities is the path that leads to the Aphrodite's island. You are at the sea level passing by swallow waters and tiny islands full of waders. It is better to be there at noon when the light is not harsh and the sun is behind you. We left the place with a big smile and not even the heavy rain could spoil the fun. I will definitively visit the place again soon. We left for my father's village at Fokida where we would spend the night. The next day we visited the highlands of Giona mountain but that is another story.

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