We stayed at the Mediterranean Princess Hotel which lies between Paralia and Olympic Beach village in the Pieria region, Northern Greece.It is 75 km southwest of Thessaloniki.
The impressive snow peaked Mount Olympus is not far away and dominates the scenery to the south west.
It was an eleven day holiday between 2/5/18 and 13/5/18. We went with Thomas Cook.
The hotel was great. It is Adult Only with a peaceful atmosphere and a very friendly staff. It was on a half board basis.
There were so many birds and pleasant walks locally there was no need to travel far. If you want to explore the Pieria locality, a car would be best but there is an efficient bus service from nearby Katerini which covers the Pieria region. There is a bus every 15 minutes from Paralia to Katerini.
Thanks to the Birdforum correspondents for providing me with information about the wetlands north of here. The bird watching locally was so good at this time of year we didn’t get that far- so maybe another time.
Between Paralia and Olympic Beach
There is a mixed habitat of small wetland areas, reed beds, small woodlands, grassland, farmland and, of course, the sand and sea.
The area around the Mediterranean Princess Hotel was by far the best for bird watching. The area is open to the public. If you are travelling by car leave it parked in front of the hotel or on the promenade.
The hotel is bordered by two small wetland areas. The one on the left as you face the hotel was the best. A resident Marsh Harrier was seen every day usually being harassed by one of the many Hooded Crows in the area.
A Black Kite was around for a couple of days when we first arrived but not seen subsequently.
A very loud Great Reed Warbler seldom stopped singing all the time we were there. Four Squacco Herons were seen on 9th May and this heralded their arrival in the area for the summer. There were some Cetti's Warblers nearby. A Mallard with a young family was resident here. Moorhen were sometimes heard.
There’s a derelict building with some stairs next to the area, a good high vantage point to watch the birds. Standing there one evening I noticed a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. A male was seen a few days later. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also around most days.
The reed beds and shrubs on the other side of the hotel were home to a few Reed Warblers, Cetti's Warblers and a Water Rail which was seen one evening.
A pair of Scops Owls were resident in the woods either side of the hotel and could be heard every evening. They kicked off around 9 pm.
The woods and shrubbery were also home to some Common Nightingales which were very common around here and Eurasian Golden Oriole which arrived in the area on the 5th May. Thereafter they were heard in any suitable habitat.
There were Hoopoes in the fields behind the hotel which were both seen and heard.
A Common Cuckoo was calling throughout the stay and seen one evening.
Other birds around here were Spotless Starling, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow [very common], Common Magpie, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and Common Kestrel.
White Stork, Grey Heron and Little Egret were seen flying overhead on a few occasions.
There is a large area of grassland in front of the hotel which extends north. Corn Bunting are very common here, and were often seen perched singing. Another regular was the Crested Lark which were numerous.
If you take the road west from the dilapidated funfair more Corn Bunting and Crested Lark were around as well as a flock of European Bee-eater one evening.
Taking the first rough track south a black-headed Feldegg Yellow Wagtail was spotted on every visit. It was joined by 13 blue-headed males and some females on 6th May. They were obviously on passage. More Cetti's Warbler, Common Nightingale and Reed Warbler were heard on this walk.
Looking out to sea, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Common Shelduck, Cormorant, Little Egret, Mediterranean Gull, and Yellow-legged Gull, were often spotted.
A Little Owl was perched on a wire fence one evening, just south of the hotel, off the main road.
Just north of Paralia there was yet another small wetland site at the edge of the Sentido Hotel. I found a Penduline Tit here with some Reed Warblers, Cetti's Warbler and another Marsh Harrier.
The tracks south of Ocean Beach Village
This was an outstanding area for walking, great scenery and birds.
The Beach Track
Leave the south end of Olympic Beach village and head along the beach.
There was a massive number of Barn Swallows and House Martins at the start of this walk. The style of roofs in Olympic Village are tailor-made for nesting House Martin.
On your right is a huge reed bed and scrubby area, home to Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler. A couple of Hoopoe were seen here as well as the inevitable Crested Lark.
There were three Black Kite here, seen on most visits.
Some Common Buzzard were often seen as well as Common Kestrel and two Eurasian Sparrowhawk. A couple of Raven passed overhead on our first visit.
Eventually you arrive at a stream flowing into the sea. Sometimes when the tide was out it was possible to walk across a sandbar. If the tide was in then you have to wade across.
On the other side head inland till you find a track heading south.
This area was teeming with European Bee-eater. A large colony was here for the entirety of our stay.
It was also home to a pair of Stone Curlew which were seen regularly.
On 10th May three Tawny Pipit turned up but they had gone the next day. Two migrating Whinchat were seen on 12th May. A couple of Hoopoe were seen nearby. A Red-backed Shrike was perched here on 12th May.
Carrying on south, parallel to the beach. a hidden lake is situated on your right. There were some Common Tern here as well as a couple of Little Tern.
A flock of roosting Little Egret were in the trees behind and 12 flew over one evening.
Another Common Cuckoo was heard as well as the inevitable European Golden Oriole, Common Nightingale, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler. Other birds seen included Cormorant, White Stork, Oystercatcher, Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull.
Eventually you reach a wide river mouth where you can either cross or return whence you came.
The Farmland Track
Instead of heading along the Beach Track head west alongside the southern edge of Olympic Beach Village. Keep the villas on your right and almost at the end of the buildings the road is unmade. A tarmac road then crosses the stream. It's a lovely area of small agricultural fields, tall trees, dense shrubbery and fields that have been left to grow wild. An added bonus is the great views of Mount Olympus. There is only one dog on the loose. He barks then hides in the long grass till you've passed by.
A Squacco Heron was in the ditch below the crossing as you start the walk. It flew up to the nearest tree on two occasions. A Common Cuckoo was often heard around here. Just to the right a Red-backed Shrike was seen twice. This was were we first heard the newly arrived Golden Orioles within a few days of our holiday.
As the tarmac road bears right take the rough farm track south. There are magnificent views of Mount Olympus ahead. The track bears right and two Black-headed Bunting were seen here on 5th May. Probably they were on the move as they were not seen again.
There was a huge flock of sparrows here, a mixed flock of House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow and Tree Sparrow.
European Bee-eater were often hovering around here.
Carrying on I saw a Hoopoe on two trips, four passage Whinchat [and a single on another day], a Woodchat Shrike plus several Common Kestrel and a couple of Buzzard. There were often two Corn Bunting singing around here as well as Crested Larks.
Eventually the track meets a T-junction. Turn left towards a small dilapidated villa with an exposed chimney. Just past here is a hedge of thick shrubs, There were at least half a dozen Common Nightingale in here as well as some Cetti's Warbler.
On your right there is an enclosed field with poles and wires crossing. On the 5th May not only did I see the first arrival of shrikes round here but three species all on one line of wire at the same time! A Red-backed Shrike, a Lesser Grey Shrike and a Woodchat Shrike. There was also a Penduline Tit here as well, on one visit.
The track fizzles out just beyond here. Just before it does there is an overgrown furrowed field which held 6 passing Whinchat on 9th May. On 11th May two Common Cuckoo were seen here as well.
Olympus National Park
We paid a couple of visits here more for walking rather than bird watching. It is easily reached by a regular bus from Katerini to Litochoro. There is, in turn, a regular bus from Paralia to Katerini.
There was a Grey Wagtail in the Enipeas Gorge and we heard some Blackcap around Litochoro. There was a huge number of Common Swift, House Martin and Barn Swallow in Litochoro as well as the inevitable European Golden Oriole and Common Nightingale.
On the coach journey back to Thessaloniki airport a Marsh Harrier and Common Kestrel were hunting over a reed bed in a wide central reservation on the busy motorway. Quite an unusual sight!