Messinia Bird Watching

The Hellenic Ornithological Society (considered the Greek partner of Birdlife International) has counted as much as 270 species of birds around the Gialova lagoon. Many of these birds, who fly to Africa during autumn, stop by the lagoon one final time to refuel before continuing the 3000-kilometre trajectory over the Mediterranean and towards the Sahara. Some stay at the lagoon over winter, while others return in spring to before continuing the journey back north.
The temperate climate of this region makes it ideal almost any time of the year. The winter is quite mild compared to the rest of Europe, with many sunny days that require no more than a light jacket. In winter the lagoon offers many opportunities for bird watching, particularly in the early morning hours. There are three designated bird-watching spots in the area (free entrance).
Overall, this small wetland is not as famous as larger ones in Northern Greece and has been designated relatively recently compared to other ones. Nonetheless, its small size allows for a larger concentration of birds in one area, with one or two hours in the watch tower being enough to spot most of the fauna there. This includes bitterns which are sometimes elusive, as well as eagles.
Many other species are best seen between September and May. Several are there as early as August, such as black-winged stilts, golden plovers, garganeys, grey herons, squacco herons, little egrets, glossy ibises, curlews, glossy ibises, kingfishers and more. The venerable osprey, however, arrives only in early September, so do other species such as pallid harriers, marsh harriers, most terns and waders, sandpipers, spotted redshanks, dotterels and avocets.
It is estimated that almost 20,000 birds are present around the lagoon in winter, the majority being coots and ducks. Over 500 of these birds are herons (little egrets, white egrets, grey herons), which have learned to catch fish like cormorants. In the morning, you can see the cormorants displaying an interesting "steamroller" pattern of fishing in the lagoon and canals, where the last line in a flock comes in front to fish, followed by another. They are sometimes joined by marsh harriers and hen harriers. Before dusk, you may very well see flamingos, as well as a few bitterns.

By late February spring migration beings, as thousands of birds make their way to the lagoon. These include herons, harriers, terns, swallows, wagtails and others. Some like the waders (including broad-billed and marsh sandpipers) arrive at night, while others like the curlews arrive by day. The most common waders are the wood sandpipers and ruffs though. April sees the arrival of greenshanks and spotted redshanks, followed in May by curlew sandpipers and turnstones. Curiously, some large birds such as marsh harriers and grey herons look like they're making a direct drop into the lagoon in spring, as if falling directly out of the sky. Spring also brings with it some 1,800 glossy ibises who pass through. The area even witnesses many breeding birds such as peregrine falcons, eagle owls, kestrels and black-winged stilts. If you're a birdwatcher or simply a nature lover, this part of Messinia – around the Gialova lagoon – is not to be missed.
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