A (not so…) usual daily excursion

There are some times, when in order to take pictures of species rarely seen in Greece, you are “forced” to make some not so close daily trips. One such case was a few days ago. Near the mouth of the Gallikos river, just outside the city of Thessaloniki, appeared almost simultaneously a Long-tailed Duck and two Velvet Scoters. These species are breeding in the Arctic Circle and they rarely descend so South even in winter. Whenever I tried to see them here in Greece, either I haven’t managed to find them, or they were so far away into the sea, that you can only spot them with a telescope. The bad thing was that I had very limited time available, so one Sunday several hours before dawn, I started my 500km  journey for Thessaloniki with Michael and George, two fellow Nature photographers.

Our first goal was to find the Long-tailed Duck. Our info was that she wasn’t feeding far into the sea as usual. Instead she was found in one of the seasonal water ponds created between the estuaries of Gallikos and Axios rivers. We did manage to find her easily. However taking pictures of her, proved to be not an easy task. The Duck was feeding at the other side of the pond and she didn’t seem to be approaching the point where we were waiting. At some point it seemed that she was moving slowly towards us. However a passing Marsh Harrier forced the Long-tailed Duck to quickly flee into the sea! Luckily, after a while the duck returned to the same spot and after a long wait, she finally made a quick pass close to the point that I was sitting. I managed to take a few decent photos just in time, because we were running out of time!

It was almost noon when we left the Long-tailed Duck to search for the two Velvet Scoters, which were spotted some kilometers away. On our way there, we had some more nice photo opportunities. We saw almost all common wader species (Common Redshanks, Common Greenshanks, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, Dunlins, Little Stints among others) and in addition Pygmy Cormorants, European Cormorants, Dalmatian Pelicans, various other common duck species etc.. In addition among the great number of Black-necked Grebes that we spotted in the sea, we found a Horned Grebe (Slavonian Grebe) that was feeding very close to the shore. A small number of them is spotted every winter in the area, but I had never managed to get that close before. The light was nice and soft, so we made a quick stop and took some pictures.

It was afternoon when we finally got to the spot where the two Velvet Scoters were. They were feeding on crabs, far into the sea. However they were slowly approaching the shore. The beach was facing South so the light was far from perfect, but I had never seen this species so close, so I took some pictures even though quality is certainly not the best.

We left for Athens after the sunset. I arrived home at 22:30 having photographed two bird species for the first time. Not bad for a daily excursion.


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