Birwatchers will delight in the region around Lake Karla and Mavrovouni as it is home to many types of birds. Not far from the delightful seaside city of Volos in Central Greece and the gorgeous mountain resort villages of Pelion, Lake Karla and its surroundings are designated as an Important Bird Area and a NATURA 2000 site . Ducks and birds – including pelicans and flamingos – love the lake, while the mountain of Mavrovouni attracts chiefly birds of prey. The recently restored Lake Karla was once the second largest wetland in Europe, and EU efforts are helping to bring it back to its formal glory.
Courtesy of NCC
Cormorant, coot, and mallard duck are just some of the types of waterfowl living in Lake Karla, which has developed into a very important wetland that’s home to many types of birds. Noteable recordings of local bird species include the Wigeon (Anas penelope), teal (Anas crecca) and some Pochards (Aythya ferina), as well as species of ducks such as the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) and the Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus). Also of great importance is the presence of pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus), and grey herons (Ardea cinerea).
According to the Hellenic Ornithological Society, over 200 different kinds of birds have been documented in Lake Karla (with 450 in the whole of Greece). The Society's winter counts in mid-January revealed that Lake Karla was buzzing with over 22,700 birds in 2012, ranking fourth in the number of waterfowl, right after the country's large key wetlands (Ambracian Gulf, Evros and Messolongi).
In 2015 the Society recorded 660 pelicans in Karla, making it the fourth largest colony in Greece for this emblematic bird species threatened with extinction. Note that Greece hosts 20% of the world population of the species, making it the most important country for the species on a global scale.
The Lesser Kestrel – protection of a species
The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi in Greek) is one of the most characteristic examples of birds have adapted their lifestyle in order to coexist with humans, feeding mostly on larger insects and small rodents. It is a small bodied falcon with no particular requirements for nesting – which is why it has managed to create its home in man-made buildings – under rooftop tiles, inside warehouses or even churches. The traditional style of buildings with tile roofs in the villages of Thessaly was an ideal abode for this species. But as architectural styles and construction methods changed over time, it became increasingly difficult for the kestrel to find suitable nesting spots in the region’s villages and towns. This is one of the reasons why its population declined significantly over recent decades.
As a result, the Greek Ornithological Society, in cooperation with the nearby municipalities Riga Fereiou and Kileler, created more than 150 artificial nests for kestrels in 11 villages across the plain of Thessaly, under the EU-funded LIFE program. Thanks to these efforts, in 2015 the Society recorded more than 600 lesser kestrels in four villages neighbouring the lake.
This is an important habitat for raptors and the falcons, which spend its summers here. Breeding species include the European honey buzzard Pernis apivorus, the Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, the Levant sparrowhawl Accipiter brevipes, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the Roller Coracias garrulus and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius.
The wider Mavrovouni area falls under the protection of the EU-funded LIFE programme for wild flora and fauna. Two rare species of eagles survive here, the Golden Eagle and the Snake Eagle. As much as 364,540 acres of the area are in the care of the Mavrovouni Special Protection Zone. This relatively low mountain with gentle slopes attracts woodland birds and breeding raptors. White-backed Woodpeckers breed in the mountain's woods, so do Black Storks and Rock Partriges. Breeding birds of prey include the Short-toed Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Booted Eagle. You'll also see visiting birds such as Long-legged Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon. Winter will bring many Peregrine Eagles and Spotted Eagles.