Shocking news was waiting for me when I arrived in Greece ahead of my tour this year, the 400 dalmatian pelicans that were there busy feeding a few days before had gone missing. The tour location was blasted by a historic storm that plunged the temperature down to -12 C or 10 degrees F freezing the surface of the lake, our main location, and blanketing it with snow. Minus twelve degrees C may not seem like a lot to you but this area has a humid subtropical climate and last time the locals saw the lake freeze was 2001 and before that, 1975! One local woman in her 90s she that had not seen that much snow and temperatures that low since she was a child.
The situation seemed almost impossible but in my 12 years of leading tours the lake freezing just gets added to the list of natural events that I have had to work around over the years. This list includes more than one volcanic eruption resulting in a photography stopping ash cloud, more than one tsunami warning from the harbor master has kept our charter at the harbor, and even a tornado warning (not just a watch) causing major headaches on a workshop!
Luckily on the first day of the tour large holes had started to appear in the ice and the birds were starting to return, from about 50 on the first day to at least 100 birds by the end so the photography opportunities turned out to be pretty solid but not as it should have been due to the ice leaving our charter boats frozen in place. Photographing the birds skidding on the ice and swimming through and breaking through thin ice was a bonus. Many thanks to my tour participants for being very understanding about the situation and for our host Nikos for working non-stop to make the best of the situation.
Each year hundreds of dalmatian pelicans spend January and February feeding on small bait fish to fatten up before they nest on the lake in spring. These birds once numbered in the millions but the worldwide population has declined to only about 3,000-5,000 breeding pairs. Thanks to the efforts of the management authority of the lake the birds have been very successful here with over 200 fledglings in 2016.
If you are interested in joining us in 2018, without all the ice of course, please follow this link for more details about the tour: http://www.robertotoole.com/dalmatian-pelican-tour/