Lake Kerkini & Lailias Ski Resort ~ Greece ~ April 4th - 7th .. '24

Thursday 25 April 2024

 Got a flight & car package with British Airways and a hotel down at the dam end of the lake, the drive from Thessaloniki airport to the hotel took nearly two hours arriving just after 10pm.

Up early on Friday 5th and began driving to various sites around the lake in a anti-clockwise direction and after a few hours at different sites the realization that the birding and photography was going to be much harder than i was expecting ..

These are the sites from Gosney & Ebird that I visited multiple times especially on the eastern side of the lake to the drainage channel approaching from different tracks each time ..

I tried a boat trip which was disappointing even at 8 euros the skipper just went straight through the massive raft of cormorants putting them all up with some pelicans, the rest of the tourists on the boat thought this was fantastic obviously the boat then drifted for five minutes before returning to dock ..

I then made my way down the western side of the lake ..

I managed 72 species for the first day which I was more than happy with and there was some great birds like Ferruginous Duck, Little Crake, Hen Harrier, Black Kite, Penduline Tit, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Stork, Short-toed Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Quail and both the Pelicans ..

Saturday 6th

I tried the drainage channel as the light direction was perfect but approaching a small run-off ditch from the hot spring water which i'd driven a few times already gave way and the car was now grounded with the passenger wheel just spinning, an hour later, after jacking up the car and making a ramp out of bricks & blocks I finally got it out .. 

After that little bit of drama I decided to head up to Lailias Ski Resort an hours drive and once out of Serres the scenery on route and then up Mount Lailias was great ..

The light for photography was already harsh by the time I was nearing the resort but the birding was good ..

  I tried a couple of locations for Rock Partridge as per Gosney and stopped on the way down scanning nice rocky slopes but unfortunately couldn't see any but I did have some good birds like Wryneck, Woodlark, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Crossbill & Common Rock Thrush ..

Back at the lake mid-afternoon trying the drainage channel before heading to Strymonas Bridge on the northern side driving out east photo targets were still hard work but 5 Tawny Pipits & an Ortolan Bunting were nice to find before they flew off ..

I also went back to the harbour hoping to find Vasilis but was given the run-around and gave up ..

Later at the restaurant after a nice meal & a couple of beers I found him on Facebook and sent a message, back at the hotel, batteries charged, showered and now asleep, I was woken by a strange buzzing it was my phone ringing and it was Vasilis, he was 300km away but he had arranged with a friend of his Nick Gallios for me to be on his boat in the morning, a few messages later and it was all sort, now i'm wide awake and can't go back to sleep and I need to be at the boat for 6:45 am ..

Sunday 7th

 It felt like I got next to no sleep and i've got a 20 minute drive to the boat but arrive with 15 minutes to spare it was just getting light and looked like it was going to be a good day ..

     Nick arrived with three other clients for the boat ..

So I know its really the wrong time of year for pelican photography, winter is best as they are in breeding plumage but it was a great trip out and Nick knew exactly what we all wanted out of our photography and where to position the boat ..

The 800 5.6 was definitely a bit to much focal length, and the others had nice silent mirrorless bodies and my 1dx mkII sounded like a sledge hammer but it was so good on the boat for the birds ..

 The 3 hour boat trip was great both Pelicans, Spoonbill, White-tailed Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff and Med Gull were the notables and more Great Cormorant than you can possibly imagine ..

I decided to get the two hour drive done so I was closer to the airport and headed for Kalochori Lagoon another really good site which I drove around and checked out all the areas ..

Notables here were Marsh & Wood Sandpiper, Slender-billed Gull and Little Owl ..

Total species for the trip 111 not to shabby at all ..

Definitely going for a winter visit .. 




Fuerteventura .. Feb 29th ~ Mar 3rd - '24

Thursday 7 March 2024

 I got a good flight & car deal with British Airways, then an apartment with which all came to £280 could of even had a cheaper deal with a hotel further from my main location saving £60 but location and restaurants etc was worth the extra staying in Villaverde ..

The plan was to stay mainly in the northern part around Tindaya and photograph the desert species which I did have success at up to a point, and this was hindered by being overcast in the mornings & evenings ..

Actually finding the birds, knowing they are in the area was hard enough and then needing them close to the tracks when the light was good proved even more difficult ..

Area's that I tried were ..

Tindaya, morning & evening everyday ..

Barranco de la Muley, Salinas del Carmen, Barranco Puerto de los Molinos, Embalse de los Molinos, Barranco Esquinzo, Corralejo PNat ..

Fuerteventura Stonechat was easy at Barranco Puerto de los Molinos with a pair next to the car park with a convenient  restaurant here as well ..

From here instead of going back on the main road I suggest taking the track which goes up literally beside the restaurant and eventually crosses Tindaya, the track runs through stepped areas that are worked either side of the track with at least 4+ more pairs of Chats ..

Only found two Stone Curlews which were by the main crossroad near Tindaya .. 

Small flocks of Mediterranean Short-toed Lark were at most of the sites I visited .. 

 Great Grey Shrike (koenigi) were not bothered by the car at all, to close to focus on at times just couldn't get a bird in a nice setting..


Houbara Bustard were easiest near the crossroad as per Gosney drive through the village on the main road which leads out towards the crossroad, a male & two females which were seen everyday both morning & evening visits, but never as a trio, two females together and the male alone ..
Others were seen 13 in total but not nice, close steady viewing as around the lead up to the crossroad ..

Cream-coloured Courser, I found 5 birds about 1km along the track at the crossroads which leads to Los Molinos, 3 just run and didn't stop running and two were so close I didn't even see them, eventually they moved to a focusing distance for the camera, defiantly not often you can say that ..

The last evening was beautiful light and I drove all the main tracks on Tindaya finding nothing close so drove tracks out west towards the coast but still no luck ..

Really enjoyable long weekend and one I would easily do again, cheap and a good calendar filler in between trips ..  


The Gambia & Senegal ~ January 5th-12th - '24

Saturday 3 February 2024

Booked a package deal with Tui as it was direct flights & hotel for under £800 and used the hotel as a base for a few days ..

Had a guide for the whole trip which was £700 each plus another £150 each for Senegal more on this later !!

You have to pay 20 $ or Euro to enter the country and again to leave, make sure you have 1000 Dalasi when returning to the airport as this is far cheaper than the 20$ ..

So having planned this trip with Jono L we met up at the check in desk on the Friday afternoon of the 5th January and finally got the trip underway, 6 hours later we were met at the airport by our guide who dropped us off at Hotel Palm Beach probably a 1 star hotel but it did the job being literally next to Koto Creek ..

January 6th

Next morning after breakfast our guide met us at 07:30am we did a 1 minute drive not kidding to Koto Creek Bridge and the birding got underway ..

Koto Creek was very productive as the tide was out and the mud was exposed so we had a few species of wader, herons, hirundines & kingfishers,  then we went out onto the nature trail we had a total of 49 species in less than two hours ..
Notable were White-faced Whistling-Duck, Giant Kingfisher & Fine-spotted Woodpecker ..

Next stop as we headed towards Tendaba was at Farasuto Forest NR there's a drinking pool to attract the birds in which we gave 30  minutes to then a walk out through the forest to a wetland area we had 31 species in two hours ..
Notable species Guinea Turaco, White-backed Night Heron & Greyish Eagle Owl ..

     Another stop was at Pirang Forest NR with a couple of short walks producing 13 species and the local forest guide taking us straight to the star birds ..
Notables here Northern White-faced Owl, Verreaux's Owl & African Green Pigeon ..
From here we were taken to the guide's Photography hide which for most people it would probably be good but having done quite a few Photo hides in other countries this particular set-up was awful for photography as no thought had gone into backgrounds, perches, pools or drinking areas we gave it 30 minutes had 9 species and moved on ..

Both Me & Jono were hungry so we asked the guide to stop for food so at the next village we were treated to bread, banana's & water, total definitely cost under £1 and trust me you probably wouldn't want to take a chance on eating much else from the road side stalls, so the food throughout the day to get us by was the above basically bread & water ..!!

Back to it, stopped again after a couple more hours driving at Kampanti Raptor Bridge, the light was nice and getting better as it was 4:30pm and this stop was a small wetland.
We had 22 species here and notable were Stone Partridge, Lizard Buzzard, Grasshooper Buzzard & Pearl-spotted Owlet ..

We arrived at Tendaba Camp with the daylight quickly fading so did a recce out by the jetty, then had a couple of beers & something much nicer than just bread for dinner ..

January 7th

Breakfast was at 07:00am, then it was out to the jetty for our boat trip through the mangrove which stopped halfway and we all had a walk out to a massive wetland which was viewed at distance, the walk out & back to the boat was good for species, but the boat was better in total we had 57 species in just under 3 hours ..
Notable species were Goliath Heron, Spur-winged Goose & African Woolly-necked Stork.
The boat trip is well worth doing if your in Tendaba, it looks like it would be fairly dark from the mangroves but it opens out, the light is good for photography and there is loads of birds to see ..

After a great boat trip we grabbed the gear and started the long drive towards the border, with quick stops along the way if we saw something that needed more time to work out the species.
Soma Saltmarsh was a good quick stop 10 species with Long-crested Eagle & Pink-backed Pelican.
More miles covered, and living the best life on bread & water we had another stop at Njauri Reservoir mid-afternoon with 18 species the best being Sahel Paradise-Whydah.
Late afternoon and the light was lovely our guide took us to Wassu Quarry, we had 15 species here and the notables were Sahel Bush Sparrow, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow & a small colony of Red-throated Bee-eater and like most returned to the same perch so once in position it was the waiting game for the good pose ..

We arrived at the Baobolong Bush Camp about 5:30pm dumped the gear off in the -5* room and went out birding the Georgetown Bush track for an hour totaling 23 species most notable were Four-banded Sandgrouse, Black-headed Heron, Hadada Ibis & White-crowned Robin Chat ..

January 8th

A bit of birding on the river from the garden of our Guest house at Baobolong Camp for 30 minutes before breakfast produced 6 species notable was Leaf-love ..
We had a long drive today to cross the border into Senegal again stopping many times just for a few minutes each time
before continuing on, notable birds were Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting-Goshawk & White-backed Vulture ..

Once we were through the two border controls, a Gambian & a Senegal one with a big strip of No Man's Land in-between, still with at least a 2 hour+ drive the birding on route got going in Senegal with notables being White Helmetshrike, Senegal Eremomela & African Golden Oriole ..

We finally arrived at Wassadou Camp mid-afternoon and had a 2 hour wait before our evening boat trip so stood under the trees watching river from camp and racked up 29 species notables being African Finfoot, Egyptian Plover & Palm-nut Vulture ..

The boat trip was another good one, a 2 hour trip in a small boat 6 people max unfortunately for Plover photos we went the opposite way first so by the time we found them the light had gone but still a great trip with 45 species seen from the boat ..
Notables being Spur-winged Goose, Adamawa Turtle Dove, African Finfoot, Greater Painted-Snipe, Northern Carmine Bee-eater & Egyptian Plover ..

What a fantastic day, target species seen well and some photographed and to top it off a mother & calf Hippopotamus in the river ..

January 9th

Sunrise at Wassadou Camp ..

A bit of birding as the sun came up at the river and around camp before breakfast, then we had a great morning birding for 3 & a half hours around camp and down river seeing 65 species notables African Finfoot, Gabar Goshawk, Senegal Batis, White Helmetshrike, Grey-headed Bushshrike, African Blue Flycatcher, Northern Black-Flycatcher & White-crowned Robin-Chat ..

We packed up and got back on the road about 11 towards Gambia, it was a very successful smash & grab taster trip for Senegal but we had hours of driving with a few stops just for identification of raptors mainly seeing Tawny Eagle & White-backed Vulture among the notables before a good stop early evening at Bansang Quarry for 45 minutes in good light notable species being Bush Petronia or Sahel Bush Sparrow & Gosling's Bunting ..

Back at the Baobolong Camp for the night, first dropping the gear off before meeting a local guide who took Me & Jono and our guide !! out with the torch ..
Went to the west end of Janjanbureh and in 30 minutes we had 5 Long-tailed Nightjar & 2 African Scops Owl ..

January 10th

Before breakfast we watched the river from the Baobolong camp garden for 45 minutes and racked up 28 species notables were Spur-winged Goose & Bruce's Green Pigeon ..  
After breakfast we went back out to the west end of Janjanbureh and had some great birding in nearly 2 hours we saw 55 species the notables were Violet Turaco, Black-headed Lapwing, Bearded Barbet, Eurasian Wryneck & Pin-tailed Whydah ..

Back on the road towards the coast with stops along the way, Fulabantang Village was a good one with Marabou Stork, Brown Snake-Eagle & Wahlberg's Eagle ..

Jakhaly Rice Fields was our next stop for 90 minutes yet another great location with  total of 47 species from only half a dozen fields that were productive that had been drained and were mud.
Notables were Black Crake, Kittlitz's Plover & Greater Painted Snipe ..

Another good stop was early afternoon at Dalaba Wetlands a short 20 minute stop produced 12 species and most notable was African Pygmy-Goose ..

We've had a few words already with our guide he seems to be ok one minute and completely not bothered the next, we've asked him to tell us the species rather than just saying duck or eagle !!
Picking out on call and telling us what it is so we can get to grips ourselves with calls especially new birds !!
We probably missed loads as he couldn't be arsed half the time, morning & evening light for photography but a few times he wants to leave and move on ... errrrr No ..
Still surviving on bread & water !!
We suggest can we try this location as per Ebird his reply we haven't got time its 10am !! Ffs ..

So rocking up to our next location Wurokang the light was getting better and we are here to find Courser's as it a known location.
We had a search over the area but no luck, but did have Bateleur so split up, Jono vanished and so did the guide, I started on the larks ..

I can here the guide in the distance shouting something, but I'm lying down with the Larks when Jono comes over and we walk back towards the 4x4 ..
Jono tells me he found a Temminck's Courser and smashed it at close range !!
The light was now great and it was on the far side on the next field.

The guide then said is time to move on ..!!

I believe, No I definitely had a meltdown and lost it, explaining we weren't going as the light was good and we were driving across the field for the courser, which we did ..
Jono lead Me to the birds whilst I was still ranting my anger, 5 birds now, 4 flush from 100 metres away and I couldn't get near the remainder so settled on a distant record shot ..

We did still have a 2 hour drive and it turns out he don't like driving in the dark ..
We came to take photos & do some birding which we certainly paid quite a lot of money to do so ..

January 11th

Breakfast at our base Hotel Palm Beach before meeting our guide at Koto Creek Bridge, the tide was high so not much to see, then we walked Koto Nature Trail out around the sewage works ..
Really good birding, 65 species in 4 hours with notables being White-faced Whistling-Duck, Northern White-faced Owl, Green Woodhoopoe, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird & Fine-spotted Woodpecker ..

  Our guide said he would meet us again later in the afternoon, apparently birding during the hottest part of the day isn't productive so the guides rest, He hadn't done that all week, anyway it was better to not have him tagging along ..
We ate lunch at our hotel and it was marginally better than just Bread & Water .. 
So after eating, Me & Jono went out around the Casino Cycle track and sewage works, 2 hours and 31 species of which the notables were Blue-bellied Roller, Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher & Eurasian Crag Martin ..

Meeting the guide again at Koto Creek Bridge for what was meant to be another boat trip up the Creek but the strong Ocean waves had blocked the Creek with a sandbar, so it was still high water as it couldn't flow out. 
More money in our guide's pocket !!
So Me & Jono had already come up with a plan knowing this was going to happen, We said take us to Tanji Beach ..
Not surprising that the answer was we don't have time ..
It's 4pm and only 20 minutes away ..
We argued and went to Tanji Beach !!
The least amount of money He has to spend out the more money He makes that's the conclusion We came too ..

Twenty minutes later and we are at Tanji Beach, a small fishing village crammed with people all existing literally on the high tide line. Its a great location with plenty of birds feeding on waste fish and more along the beach in the lagoons ..

We were here for 2 hours till sunset and 30 species seen, the notables were Caspian Tern, West African Crested Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit & Arctic Skua ..

January 12th

Met the guide at 07:30 and headed to Brufut Woods ..
We walked a few different areas Forest & rough scrub around buildings. We sat with two other groups at a drinking hide, the three guides were talking so much, I gave in and went off for a walk on my own. 
Great area covering a few sites seeing 43 species of which the notables were Red-necked Falcon, Fanti Sawwing & Yellow Penduline Tit ..

Moving a little further down the coast we tried Tujereng for 90 minutes racking up 31 species with Mottled Spinetail, Osprey & Shikra being the notable birds ..
 He seemed to be dragging the day out slowly, Me & Jono talked about this and felt like it was in order to limit time for the next location ..
Its Friday our last day and the itinerary has always been a Free Day so We said that Marakissa would be the next location ..
Ffs " We don't have time "
We ended up giving him 1000 Dalasi for fuel to take us there !!

We arrived at about 3pm and birded for well over 2 hours at a great site Marrakissa - Darsilami Bridge light was really nice and getting better all the time..
In total we had 37 species and the notables were Black Heron, Wattled Lapwing & Wire-tailed Swallow ..

And that was that, we ran out of time ..
Packed our gear away at the road-side and headed for the airport ..

Total species for Gambia was 210
Total species for Senegal was 104

Total Trip List of species seen 228

What an amazing trip !!