Lake Kerkini, Greece - Feb/Mar 2011

Dalmatian Pelicans

or as I like to call them: The Punky Pelicans :-)

I recently had the opportunity to visit Lake Kerkini, Greece as the bilingual guide for an exploratory instructional photo tour led by Arthur ("Artie") Morris and Robert O'Toole.  The primary subjects were the endangered Dalmatian Pelicans that spend their winters in various parts of northern Greece. 


While we had to deal with cold, rain, snow, and predominantly grey, overcast conditions (with the exception of one 4 hour period of sunshine one day), it ended up being some of the most fun (and most work!) I've had photographing in a long time.


Below are the highlights of my trip.



 (Clicking on a thumbnail image below will bring up a larger version of it.)

First, let's meet our fishermen - the pelicans have come to love the fisherman since they regularly give the pelicans some fish &/or scraps of fish.

(I have observed a similar relationship between fishermen and pelicans in many places around the world, and in the case of the Dalmatian Pelicans, it appears to be helping them rebuild their population numbers.)

Fisherman Thomas (and a rare bit of sunlight)

Gregory (Thomas's son)


Watching these pelicans fly around following the fishermen was a hoot.  They are large birds (~3m wingspans), yet amazingly graceful (most of the time).

"Water skiing" pelican :-)


Pair of pelicans; parallel departure



The Dalmatian Pelicans in this lake are wild birds and tended to be a little bit skittish - swimming or flying away when approached by people.  However, they have come to know the fishermen and tended to be much more tolerant of people around the fishermen and/or the fishing boats - especially if they could tell that there were fish nearby! 

As a result, Artie had to work very hard to get us close to the pelicans :-)


Lake Kerkini - where long lenses are optional!  As are the boats ;-)


Of course, you did have to keep an eye on the fish - if you didn't, the pelicans were sure to take advantage of the opportunity!


George and Robert defending our fish from a different batch of pelicans.



I just love their head feathers...


...and punky "hair do's"



White Pelican (called Rosé in Greece)


"Fish toss" - flipping it around to swallow it.



The weather was never really 'great' - I'd call it tolerable with a chilly, damp overcast most of the days - though it was nice not having to worry about sun angle ;-)

 On one of the more drab & dreary days, we ventured out into the snow to photograph the Black-headed Gulls.



Are we having fun yet? ;-)

Gerald pouring some hot coffee for Theo.

Gull in snow fall.


Black-headed Gulls at different levels of maturity



The other aspect about these pelicans that was a hoot was their eagerness to get a fish from the fisherman.

How I feel about chocolate ;-)



"Gimmee that fish!"


"Say 'Ahhh!'"


We reckon that the fish these pelicans catch naturally must be a fraction of the size of what they get from the fishermen which is why they get so excited when a fisherman tosses a fish.


Did somebody say "Fish?!"




That's all for now - I suspect I'll be back there again though!

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