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Dalmatian pelicans of Lake Kirkini.

Europe has some massive birds in terms of both weight and size yet few can measure up to the charismatic Dalmatian pelican, truly a goliath of the bird world. Adult males weigh in at approximately 12 kg with a wing span just over 11 feet.

The fate of this fantastic water bird has been one of decline over the last 50 years or so. Habitat loss, competition for fish with humans and deathly power lines have all conspired to reduce numbers from over a million birds to something around 3000- 5000 breeding pairs.

Whilst habitat loss across much of Europe proceeds unabated there are a few silver linings and Lake Kirkini in northern Greece is one such beacon of wetland habitat creation. The valley was dammed in 1932 and once flooded, it rapidly became an internationally important bird reserve now accredited with amongst others, Ramsar status. The lake now holds a significant population of Dalmatian pelicans which breed here annually.

Many of the trips that I lead for Nature’s Images have target species in mind but a few trips specifically target one species alone. It was on one such trip last week that I spent a long weekend working with a great group of guests at Lake Kirkini. We had two fantastic days of weather. Storms and torrential rain each night boded ill for the following day yet each one was blessed with such mixed weather that we could experiment with various styles of photography.

I always love to explore new ideas but the opportunities to create the classic images, which I adore of pelicans against broody mountains proved irresistible.

The main idea is to work with groups of pelicans from both the shore and boats which readily trade their images for fish. I wondered if there might be a dependence on these fish but I found out that once breeding starts they move to the far end of the lake and fish for themselves.

I recently bought an 8-15mm and a 7Dmk2 (as a back up for my 1Dx and because it has the same frame rate and a 1.6 crop factor). Both of these performed brilliantly. I love the really wide perspective of the 8-15, though I also readily used both a 16-35 and 70-200 lenses.

I love all the trips I run, some are more challenging than others yet some run so smoothly with such great guests that at times it’s just like being on a perfect holiday!

A big thanks to Emile, Lucky and Blogo and the great banter, Cheers Ellie, Jim, Mick, Chris, Gladys, Michelle, Alan, and Pete (if only Ronaldo would come home!!!!).