The wild population of Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) accounts for some 15 000 birds, which breed mostly in Asia and less in Europe. Therefore, there are not many sites in Europe, where these magnificent birds can be observed.
About 100 pairs of this globally threatened species nest in the Srebarna Lake (UNESCO heritage site), Northeastern Bulgaria.
At the same time, near 500 Dalmatian Pelicans typically winter in several Bulgarian lakes and reservoirs, where they can be successfully photographed. However, the Lake of Kerkini in Greece undoubtedly remains the best Dalmatian Pelican observation and photography site.
The lake is located only 10 km away of the border with Bulgaria and 30 km away from the border site. It is closer to Sofia (some 3 hours drive) than to Athens and is a favorite destination for the most of the Bulgarian wildlife photographers.
The closest international airport is the Thessaloniki Airport.
Impressive number of birds of various species can be observed throughout the year, yet the Dalmatian Pelican remains the most attractive species for both photographers and birdwatchers.
About 100 pairs of Dalmatian Pelicans nest on specially constructed platforms inside the lake. They remain in the lake during the winter, joined by additional pelicans- mainly from lake Prespa. The Pelicans generally change their behavior and favorite foraging sites depending on the particular climatic conditions and human presence.
The following information would probably be of interest for the bird photographers:
Best period for photography
From the second part of January until mid March. The Pelicans are then in their brightest and most impressive breeding plumage. Fishing is also allowed in this period and the most successful way to approach the Pelicans is to stay where the fishing nets are. In April fishermen retreat while Pelicans raise chicks and the birds are generally more cautious and difficult to photograph.
In winter Pelicans can be observed in various sites of the lake and with a little bit of luck, they can be closely approached. Yet the Pelicans in the Southwestern part of the Lake, where fishermen locate their nets are the most “human-tolerant” ones. There is an option to rent a boat to approach and lure the Pelicans with fish, yet the best pictures I have ever seen (and taken) have been taken from the shore. At the side, during clear sunny days (as most of the days here are) the most pleasant light for shooting appears after 2 pm. However make sure to stay around for the entire day. The Pelicans remain just as magnificent in foggy or cloudy days and you can unleash your creativity, experimenting with your photo equipment and skills.
The Pelicans of Kerkini provide the unique opportunity of using an extremely wide variety of lenses - from super wide-angle to super telephoto lenses.
The small flocks of Dalmatian Pelicans are often accompanied by single White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Common Cormorants, Coots and Gulls contributing to the overall excitement and colour.
Typically our winter workshops combine several days with the Pelicans of Kerkini with photography of Golden Eagles and other species, such as Long-eared Owl , small raptors, Woodpeckers and other song birds. The workshops also provide for picturesque landscape photography as an additional opportunity. .
Great experience with the Dalmatian’s
Jan. 28, 2011