Birdwatching in TURKEY
(June 5-20, 1999)
by Andreas Kristensen
NUMBER OF SPECIES REPORTED: 224
HIGHLIGHTS of this trip & ENDEMICS: Caspian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius) See-see (Ammoperdix griseogularis) Caucasian Black Grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi), Striated Scops Owl (Otus brucei), Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida), Dead-Sea Sparrow (Passer moabiticus), Yellow-throated Sparrow (Petronia xanthocollis), Pale-rock Sparrow (Petronia brachydactyla), Red-fronted Serin (Serinus pusillus), Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys sanguinea), Cinereous Bunting (Emberiza cineracea), Grey-necked Bunting (Emberiza buchanani) and much more!
To further info please contact:
Participants: Frederik Brammer, Andreas Hagermann, and Andreas Bruun Kristensen
Travel info: We booked a flight via the Danish tourist agency Star Tour and flew with Maersk Air. The cost was app. $300 for a return flight Copenhagen Antalya. The total cost of the trip (per person) including the air ticket, rental car, accommodation, gas, etc. was app. $850.
Car: We booked a Fiat 121 via Budget Pitzner. The car was booked from Denmark. Budget Pitzner was the most inexpensive of the rental car agencies (Hertz, Eurocar, Avis) situated at Antalya Airport. The total cost for two weeks, free milage and including insurance was app. $500. The rental car agencies at Antalya airport are situated at the domestic terminal. Take a taxi. It takes three minutes. We used "super" gas not "normal" during our trip. Our travel guide advised us to tank "super". It is app. 10% more expensive than "normal".
Driving: The Fiat 121 (44000km) had four doors and we did not have any problems with it despite driving on very rough tracks. Do not bring your own car! On the steep mountain roads it would have been useful with a more powerful engine but since the trucks here drive very slowly we were able to pass them with only little risk. In general there is not very much traffic on the Turkish roads except on the main road to Iran (E80) and the stretch between Alanya and Sanli Urfa (E90 and E24). The roads are of very variable quality. Especially the road up to Sivri Kaya is a bad dirt road with several and big pot holes. It would not be advisable to drive this road by night. In the east it seems like everyone is driving as fast as possible. Interestingly all three of us were allowed to drive the car even though Andreas Hagermann and I were 20 years old. In Denmark we were told that you needed to be at least 21 years old. Perhaps the rental car agent in Antalya did not know or he just plainly accepted our Danish Driver Licenses. This trip would not have been possible with only one driver.
Money: It is a good idea to bring some cash (USD, DM) with you as you cannot get cash with a credit card in Antalya Airport.. However in the bigger towns you can find cash mashines that accept VISA. We did not bring traveler's cheques.
People: We did not experience any problems with the locals. In fact just about all the Turks (and Kurds) we met were very friendly. Expect to be offered a cup of tea when you get gas at the gas stations. We were also offered dinner at a slaughter house near Birecik (at the abandoned Blue-cheeked Bee-eater colony). Apparently birders have had problems at both Durnalik and Isikli (someone trying to break into their cars, throwing rocks etc.).
Food: Various kebab is commonly offered in small restaurants. We tried to avoid having raw vegetables but in the end of the trip we could not resist the sometimes delicious salads. We did not drink tap water - only bottled water and a lot of Coca Cola and Pepsi. According to tourist guides it is not recommended to drink tap water or eat raw vegetables.
Weather: At Aladag Mountain and to a lesser extent Sivri Kaya it was pretty cold in the morning (5C). A sweater is essential. Several days we experienced rain fronts coming through in the afternoon and Frederik Brammer and Andreas Hagermann got soaked at Isikli when a hail storm came through. Do not forget your rain coat. On the south coast (Birecik, Tarsus Delta, Göksu Delta) it was generally very hot (+35C) around noon. In the deltas it was also rather humid. Therefore birding cannot be recommended here between 11:00am - 05:00pm. At Isakpasa Palace we experienced one day (June 10) with very strong wind making birding difficult.
Military: East of Lake Van you will see military everywhere and there are several check points along the roads. We passed 16 of them on our trip. The military did not seem to mind that we were carrying cameras and tele-lenses, telescopes, and binoculars. At Ovakisla 50km south of Bulanik we were forced to turn around by the military since PKK activity was going on along the road from Ovakisla to Bulanik. Therefore we had to "bin" the Demoiselle Cranes since it would have meant at least 400km extra driving.
Police: We got a fine ($30) on the south coast for passing a truck where we should not have done it. Since the trucks drive very slowly (sometimes 30-40 km/h uphill) sticking to the rules would have meant that a trip like this would have lasted a month. We were happy only to be fined once since we (and all the other cars) were making illegal passes all the time. In general there is much more police on the south coast than anywhere else - at least that was what we experienced.
Comments on literature:The gen proved to be excellent with hand drawn maps leading you to the best birds in Turkey. Even though it only covers relatively few localities it was by far the most important source of information to get the best birds. Buy it. A Birdwatcher's Guide to Turkey has a lot of information about birding in Turkey with many localities. The introduction includes a lot of useful information about birding in Turkey. Perhaps the descriptions of the localities are not quite exact enough to get the best birds but it is useful anyway. In the back of the book there is a checklist of all the birds that have been known to occur in Turkey. Buy it. Hellström 1998 is excellent with detailed information about especially the Birecik area. It also includes useful information about accommodation in Akseki, Tasucu, and Birecik. Find it on the Swedish Club300 web-page (www.club300.se). Harrap 1984 is impressive since it covers a two month trip. It also includes interesting details about Armenian Gull. Since it is 15 years old it may be a little out-dated but drawn maps of almost all the localities Harrap visited in the east are included. McDowell 1993 covers two weeks of exhaustive birding in Western, Central, and Eastern Turkey. I guess they have been driving at least 7000km and seen almost all the Turkish specialties in only two weeks. Unfortunately it does not give any site descriptions only comments like "the "gen" is not very accurate; it would be advisable to get more specific gen before going". The trip report does not tell what the gen is but I assume it is A Birdwatcher's Guide to Turkey. Find it on Urs Geiser's web-page: www.xnet.com/~ugeiser/Birds/TripReports/TripReports.html.
Localities: All the localities are mentioned in the gen (except one). Therefore if the gen is correct I will not mention how to get to the site since you should buy the gen anyway. The lists from each locality are not complete. I have only mentioned the species I found particularly interesting. A lot of the road side birds (e.g. Isabelline Wheatear, Crested Lark, Black-headed Buntings) are often not included.
Maps: I called the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen and they sent me a 1:850000 map covering all Turkey. It proved excellent and with the maps in the gen it was not a problem to find (most of) the localities.
Total: 5200km. The km's are approximate, since we only looked at the mileage at the beginning and at the end of the trip. I have tried to measure the distances on our map.
We arrived at 23:45 at Antalya Airport.
We were on the road at 00:30. It took us three hours to reach Akseki. Since we arrived at 03:30 and would be birding within a few hours we slept in the car outside Akseki Graveyard. After a few hours sleeping in the car outside Akseki Graveyard we awoke at 04:00.
A Scops Owl flew over the car. Akseki Graveyard is a well known Olive-tree Warbler locality and we easily taped them out although getting several glimpses we never actually got real good looks at these elusive birds. Scops Owl 1, Olive-tree Warbler 3, Turtle Dove 1, Syrian Woodpecker 1, Grey Wagtail 2, Masked Shrike 2, Corn Bunting 1, Black-headed Bunting 2. We continued at 06:45. Along the road to Akseki New Site: Mistle Thrush 10, Coal Tit 7, Hoopoe 3, Crossbill 3, Krüper's Nuthatch 2, Short-toed Tree-creeper 2, Redstart 1, Masked Shrike 3, Woodlark 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1, Orphean Warbler 1, Wryneck 1, Cuckoo 1.
Akseki New Site 08:20 -10:00. Willow Warbler 1, Coal Tit 8, Redstart 2, Middle-spotted Woodpecker 3, Krüper's Nuthatch 5, Masked Shrike 1, Alpine Swift 5, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler 1, Peregrine 1, Long-tailed Tit 1, Woodlark 1, Sombre Tit 1.
Akseki produced all the expected species although we had to go back later to recover White-backed Woodpecker and Rüppell's Warbler. The most unusual sightings were Wryneck, Spotted Flycatcher, and Willow Warbler which according to the Handbook should not occur in the area. The latter was singing. Harrap 1984 writes: 5 [Willow Warblers] at South Van Marsh on the 4th of June . Perhaps these are late migrants but breeding birds are also a possibility
Akseki to Eregli 10:15 - 15:30 (most sightings at Eregli marshes). Serin 50, Masked Shrike 1, Black-eared Wheatear 10, Lesser Kestrel 8, Cretzschmar's Bunting 1, Hoopoe 13, Long-tailed Tit 4, Bimaculated Lark 9, Calandra Lark 30, Short-toed Lark 8, Skylark 1, Lesser Grey Shrike 1, Bee-eater 40, Roller 3, Rock Sparrow 6, Little Owl 4, Hobby 1, Marsh Harrier 8, Tawny Pipit 1, Asian Short-toed Lark* 2, Isabelline Wheatear 150.
*) According to BWP Lesser Short-toed Lark is split into two species, with the population in Central Turkey (aharonii belonging to a "new" species called Asian Short-toed Lark, Calandrella cheleënsis. Unfortunately we were unable to locate any water at Eregli Marshes. We both tried the track leading west and north from Bögecik village.
After a good nights sleep we continued the relatively short distance to Demirkazrik in the Aladag Mountains 06:20 - 09:45. Common Swift 20, Black Kite 1, Red-rumped Swallow 3, Nightingale 2, Shore Lark 1, Long-legged Buzzard 1, Tawny Pipit 1, Isabelline Wheatear 5.
At Demirkazik we both tried the track (site 4) and a walk in the gorge (site 2) in the gen. Both localities were fascinating especially the gorge 10:00 - 14:00. Golden Eagle 2-3, Cretzschmar's Bunting 1, Northern Wheatear 25, Red-fronted Serin 20, Alpine Swift 10, Finsch's Wheatear 4, Olivaceous Warbler 1, Alpine Chough 1, Chough 20, Grey Wagtail 1, Snow Finch 30, Black Redstart 8, Rock Bunting 2, Rock Sparrow 10, Egyptian Vulture 1, Blue Rock Thrush 1.
We had hoped already here to see Crimson-winged Finch, Radde's Accentor and Wallcreeper. Perhaps we did not walk far enough up the track (site 4). In fact we did not see any species here that we did not see at other localities, except Alpine Chough, so if you are short in time go for Aladag Mountains part two as mentioned in the gen.
Aladag Mountains part two 16:00 - June 8, 09:30. This was perhaps the most spectacular part of the trip. Aladag Mountain part two can only be recommended if you are in good physical shape and like outdoor life more than a boy scout! The gen is essential although (in my eyes) not completely correct. First the birds:
Lammergeier 1 adult, Red-fronted Serin 20, Northern Wheatear 20, Black Redstart 30, Crimson-winged Finch 3, Caspian Snowcock 6, Goldcrest 1, Radde's Accentor 3, Rock Bunting 3, Alpine Accentor 1, Ortolan Bunting 1, Rock Thrush 1, Rock Nuthatch 1, Scops Owl 1.
Directions: Follow the directions in the gen (p.14). Drive through Cukurbag and continue through "the village" (see the gen). From here the track is pretty rough. Before the stony plateau there is a small inconspicuous track to the right. Do not take this track. Continue to the stony plateau and take the right hand fork. In the gen the map says "drop into a gorge" and thereafter two lines parallel to the track. After these two parallel lines to the track look at the mileage and drive 5.2km further down the track. You will drive through several nomad camps (at least several tents and sheep along the track. In the gen there is only drawn one nomad camp. Do not be fooled by this. After you have been driving the 5.2km (the last app. 1.5km without any nomad tents) park the car. This track is extremely rough - a place you would never bring your own car. From now on the adventure begins. Follow the (sometimes rather inconspicuous) track on foot through the pine forest for about an hour. Thereafter the pine forest ends and on your right hand you will see a wide gorge. This is easily recognized since it is the first gorge on your right hand after you get out of the forest. A very high pinnacle in the "bottom" right of the gorge is easily seen before starting the climb up through the gorge. The track coming out from the pine forest continues out in the open and starts windling up through the gorge. Continue up this track through the gorge. After two hours (after you have walked through the forest) you will reach a plateau in the gorge. The two hours included several 5 minutes breaks. We found that others have used this plateau to camp as well (snowcock twitchers?). We are unsure if this is the place mentioned in the gen since the gen does not mention the obvious pinnacle and more importantly says that there is a nomad camp further up the gorge (which was completely snow-covered) and the track seemed to terminate at the plateau. Furthermore the map in the gen does not seem to match the gorge and the last part of the track looks wrong according to the track we took. After about 3 hours and 15 minutes from the car you have hopefully reached the plateau where you must camp.
Birds and camping:
Aladag to Sultan Marshes 09:30 - 12:00.
Sultan Marshes 12:00 - 15:30. Cattle Egret 10, Black-winged Stilt 8, Pygmy Cormorant 250, White Stork 30, Great Reed Warbler 2, Marsh Harrier 5, Purple Heron 3, Spoonbill 40, Red-crested Pochard 15, Asian Short-toed Lark 5, Reed Warbler 5, Moustached Warbler 2, Reed Sparrow 2, Black-headed Wagtail 2, Red-winged Pratincole 1, Roller 1, Squacco Heron 40, Little Egret 20, Great Egret 15, Black Stork 1, Whiskered Tern 1, Gull-billed Tern 1, Common Tern 30, Slender-billed Gull 1, Black-headed Gull 10, Spur-winged Plover 2, Isabelline Wheatear 15, European Flamingo 9, Green Sandpiper 3
Sultan Marshes to Erzincan 15:30 - 21:00. Hoopoe 1, Roller 1, Long-legged Buzzard 5, Egyptian Vulture 4, Calandra Lark 18, Golden Oriole 1, Black Kite 2, Lesser Spotted Eagle 1, Lesser Grey Shrike 1.
Erzincan to Sumela Monastery 08:15 - 12:15. Hoopoe 1, Dipper 2, Shore Lark 7, Rock Bunting 3, Common Sandpiper 1, Raven 1, Grey Wagtail 6, Common Rosefinch 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Tree Pipit 2 Sumela Monastery 12:15 - 13:15. Grey Wagtail 1, Blackcap 1, Green Warbler 2. Green Warbler is found by walking up the gravel road from the cafe towards the Monastery. You will eventually hear (and see) a few green warblers. We had good looks of these potential splits by taking a narrow foot path that divides from the drivable track towards the Monastery app. 400meters after the cafe. Sumela Monastery via Trabzon to Sivri Kaya 13:15 - 16:45. Yellow-legged Gull* 200, Mediterranean Gull 1, Great Cormorant 1, Lesser Black-backed Gull 1.
*) Apparently both cachinnans and michahellis occur around the Black Sea. Most of the birds we saw were non-breeding immatures. Since none of us are gull experts we did not make any attempt to identify them to (sub)species level.
Sivri Kaya 16:45 - 20:00. Scarlet Rosefinch 8, Dunnock 1 , Mountain Chiffchaff 3, Rock Bunting 1, Twite (brevirostris) 4, Alpine Accentor 6, Water Pipit 2
We had Mountain Chiffchaff (3) in the famous chiffchaff wood across the river. This locality is easily found using the gen. We found the track leading up to the blackcocks at the cemetery as mentioned in the gen. We continued up the track for 20 minutes. When we reached the stream it got dark and we turned around. See the gen for details. We hoped that by walking the first part of the track we could get through faster the next morning.
Accommodation: We asked if we could stay overnight in the tea-room as mentioned in the gen. The answer was: No! However at Camlik (5km south of Sivri Kaya) there is a big hotel on the east side of the road named Genesiz Motel. It was difficult to find in the dark but at least there is a sign on the east side of the road. The hotel is mostly hidden by tall trees. If you do not succeed finding the hotel ask a local: Genesis? And he will point in the direction to go! The owner spoke Norwegian (he had lived there) and English. His first offer for accommodation was much too high but after some hard bargaining we got the room (3 people) for app. $11 per person, but still expensive in this part of Turkey I think. However at 22:00 we were happy at least to get a bed to sleep in since we had to get up early next morning.
Sivri Kaya 04:00 - 07:30. At 03:20 the alarm clock rang. We had looked forward to a nice breakfast that was included in the price. Unfortunately the only thing the hotel could offer (despite we had told them that we would get up at 03:30am) was peaches and tea! They did not even have bread. At 04:15 we arrived at the cemetery and started the walk. An hour after leaving the car we had seen our first blackcock and within 45 minutes we had counted 10 males (two displaying) and 3 females. Other birds of note were Mountain Chiffchaff 2, Chukar 2, Marsh Warbler 3, and perhaps most surprisingly a quail that we flushed from the track almost up at the blackcock site. The famous Caucasian Blackcocks seemed easier than the snowcocks. With the gen in your hand you will not need an expensive guide! The birds: Common Rosefinch 25, Monutain Chiffchaff 2, Twite (brevirostris) 2, Alpine Accentor 2, Water Pipit 15, Quail 1, Chukar 2, Caucasian Blackcock 13 (10 males, 3 females), Whinchat 3.
Directions: We decided to try Mustapha Saris "kekliks' site" (Caucasian Blackgrouse in Turkish). There are at least two other localities around Sivri Kaya including the road site birds 5km south of the village. However we thought Mustaphas site was the best bet! The three localities are all mentioned in the gen. Comments to directions to Mustapha's site (as drawn in the gen): Follow the track between the houses. The track can at places be very difficult to see since there are several tracks leading up to the different houses. Note: We did not find "the three buildings side-by-side" as mentioned in the gen. There is one important thing to remember. Cross the first stream as shown in the map. When you reach the second stream (15 minutes from the first stream do not cross it (I do not think it would be possible to cross it here anyway). Climb up parallel to the second stream and after 10 minutes you will meet a wide (2m) gravel road that leads up to the blackcocks. Even though there is no obvious track parallel to the stream you are on your way to the blackcocks and when you after 10 minutes climb, up the grassy slopes, eventually meets the wide gravel road, there is only about 20 minutes walk to the blackcocks. Follow the wide gravel road for about 20 minutes and slopes with dwarf rhododendrons will appear (the habitat for blackcock). Dawn is probably not essential and it is recommended to do the hike when there is at least a little daylight. It would be worth investigating where the gravel road starts. Try perhaps to follow it on your way down and across the second stream.
Sivri Kaya to Ispir 07:30 - 09:30. Golden Eagle 1, Finsch's Wheatear 1 male
Ispir 09:30 - 10:30. Golden Oriole 2, Rose-coloured Starling 120, Olivaceous Warbler 2, Nightingale 2, Tree Sparrow 2, Nuthatch 1. We had hoped to find Semi-collared Flycatcher here and the area certainly looks good for flycatchers, especially at the river. However, the gen does not mention one particularly place to look for them only the general area. More specific gen would be advisable.
Ispir to Isakpasa Palace (near Dogubeyazit) 10:30 - 16:15. Long-legged Buzzard 1, White Stork 2, Roller 1, Bank Swallow 8, Hoopoes 1, Oystercatcher 2, Rose-coloured Starling 1.
Isakpasa Palace 16:15 - 19:15. Rock Nuthatch 12, Grey-necked Bunting 4, Crimson-winged Finch 3, Golden Eagle 1, Red-fronted Serin 1, Alpine Swift 15, Hoopoe 4, Finsch's Wheatear 4, Woodlark 2. During the last five years Isakpasa Palace has become known as the most reliable place in the Western Palearctic to find Mongolian Trumpeter Finch (MTP). According to Birding World up to 40 has been rePorter. The gen does mention that two birds were seen here in August 1992. But that is all about Isakpasa Palace. A Birdwatcher's Guide to Turkey is better here with suggestions where around the palace to look for MTP. BW suggests that you look around the palace, and the cafe and alternatively try the track running south from the cafe. However trawling the area for three hours did not turn anything up.
Isakpasa Palace 06:50 - 12:10. Whiterhroat 2, Rock Nuthatch 10, Grey-necked Bunting 6, Twite (brevirostris) 2, Blue Rock Thrush 1, Chukar 1, Mongolian Trumpeter Finch 1 female, Rock Thrush 1 male. At 11:50 after an exhaustive four hours' search we finally located a single female feeding app. 1000m SE of the palace. Good views were obtained in 10 minutes before it flew off. The bird resembled the female pictured in BW. MTP is not difficult to identify but beware of Crimson-winged Finch but more importantly male Twite (brevirostris) in flight since it shows distinct red rump and pale wing markings. We were fooled once! Grey-necked Bunting another Western Palearctic bird with occurrence restricted to Eastern Turkey should easily be found at Isakpasa Palace. They were singing during our visit.
Isakpasa Palace to Bendimahi Marshes 12:10 - 15:00. Hobby 1, Bee-eater 1, Semi-collared Flycatcher 1 female, Hoopoe 1, Snow Finch 5, Cetti's Warbler 1. The Semi-collared Flycatcher (SCF) was found at Muradiye Selalesi - a locality mentioned in A Birdwatcher's Guide to Turkey as Selale Waterfall (although it does not mention SCF as a possibility). This locality is not mentioned in the gen. We found the bird by walking across the bridge and following the stream north. App. 800m north of the bridge we found the SCF sitting in a tree close to the streams. It was also here we heard Cetti's Warbler. The SCF was mainly identified because of the lack of any other "pied flycatchers" breeding in Eastern Turkey (the Handbook). Also it showed a pale patch on the upper rump - not normally shown by Pied Flycatcher. We were unable to see the pale tips on the median coverts.
Bendimahi Marshes 15:00 - 15:30. Black-necked Grebe 1, Great Crested Grebe 20, White-headed Duck 4 (2 males, 2 females), Lesser Short-toed Lark 2, Ruddy Shelduck 8, Pochard 1, Redshank 5, White-winged Black Tern 15, Black-winged Stilt 10, Avocet 1, Shelduck 2, Bee-eater 1.
South Van Marsh 15:30 - 20:00. Roller 12, Hoopoe 5, Black-necked Stilt 100, Ruddy Shelduck 10, Redshank 50, Marsh Sandpiper 1, Little Ringed Plover 3 (2 adults, 1 pulli), Alpine Swift 20, Paddyfield Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 2, Gull-billed Tern 1, Great Reed Warbler 5, Common Tern 2, Little Tern 1, Shelduck 2, Avocet 2,* Yellow-legged Gull 100, Moorhen 1.
*) Apparently both cachinnans and armenicus occur around Lake Van. We never got (we really did not try that hard!) any real good looks at the Yellow-legged Gulls around Lake Van. Therefore they are all named Yellow-legged Gull.
Most birds were seen at site 2 (see the gen). A very good spot with the Paddyfield Warbler being the highlight. It was seen at "can drive to here" as written on the map in the gen on the right side of the road. We got excellent views of the bird by playing Marsh Warbler song. We tricked it! The mudflats looked very good and have to be loaded with birds during spring and fall. A Marsh Sandpiper was a surprise although we saw several on the rest of the trip.
Van Marshes to Birecik 08:30 - 20:00. Roller 19, Hoopoe 3, Bee-eater 15, Black-necked Grebe 10, Cetti's Warbler 1, Nightingale 1, Whiskered Tern 14, Black-winged Stilt 1, Pochard 8, Ferruginous Duck 1 male, White-winged Black Tern 2, Citrine Wagtail 2 males, Little Tern 6, White-headed Duck 1 male, Ruddy Shelduck 3, Squacco Heron 3, Sedge Warbler 1, Caspian Tern 2, *Yellow-legged Gull 200, Gull-billed Tern 1, Great Crested Grebe 1, Long-legged Buzzard 1, Booted Eagle 1. The waterbirds were seen mainly on two localities. The first being the one we visited the previous evening (including Citrine Wagtail, White-headed Duck 1 male, Ferruginous Duck 1 male, and Caspian Tern 1). The other locality was on the west side of Lake Van (small pools along the road between Tatvan and Ahlat: Caspian Tern 1, Whiskered Tern 14, Squacco Heron 3). Since we felt we had enough time left we planned to try the Demoiselle Cranes near Bulanik. However in Ovakisla there was a checkpoint with big rocks on the road and a huge "No Entrance sign". Here we were stopped by the military and had tea with their boss (uncharming) who told that the gravel road continuing to Bulanik was not open due to PKK activity. To our ears it sounded like Bulanik was "safe" - it was only the road between Ovakisla and Bulanik that was unsafe. The Demoiselle Crane locality is a little south of Bulanik and since it would mean a lot of extra driving (without being sure that we in fact could enter the locality) we decided to "bin" the demoiselles. If this had been a Turkey-endemic we would have tried. Therefore try to approach Bulanik from east (driving anti clock-wise around Lake Van). The rest of the drive to Birecik was pretty tough with lots of checkpoints and windling roads. At one checkpoint we had to wait 45 minutes in a queue of vehicles (however at the post office in Tasucu we had to wait 35 minutes to buy 16 stamps!).
Birecik 20:00 - 21:00. Striated Scops Owl 1, Scops Owl sp. 1 We followed the directions to the famous cafe as outlined in the gen (and even better by Hellström 1998). Hellström writes that they found the Striated Scops Owl (SSO) 5-10m SW of the blue fountain (no water in it) located in the SW corner of the park surrounding the cafe. This was exactly the same place we saw the SSO this evening (as well as the next day). If you find the exact directions (where around the cafe to look) to the SSO a little confusing you just have to enter the cafe with your binos around your neck saying baykush (owl in Turkish). Then someone will show you the area where the owl uses to roost during daylight. When we were there it seemed to be the owner that knew most about SSO. He even showed us the Macmillan Guide to European and Middle East Birds signed by Hadoram Shirihai. However both evenings we found the SSO ourselves but the owner was helpful to point out the trees were it used to roost. After 20:15 it got too dark to identify the Scops Owls and we had a Scops Owl sp. flying around and perching in various trees. We stayed overnight at Merkalem Motel just west of the Euphrates. Directions can be found in A Birdwatcher's Guide to Turkey as well as in Hellström 1998.
1-5km north of Birecik 05:30 - 07:45. Menetries's Warbler 6, Olivaceous Warbler 12, Dead Sea Sparrow 20, See-see 3 (1 male, 1 female, and 1 unspecified), Desert Finch 5, Syrian Woodpecker 1, Little Swift 4, Black-bellied Sandgrouse 2, Yellow-throated Sparrow 1 male, Nightingale 1. According to the gen all the birds were where they were supposed to be. The See-see's were found 100m into the wadi just north of the Ibis center. Another bird was seen on the plateau just north of the wadi (we walked 500m into the wadi and then climbed the northern side). We failed to find any Desert Larks here. We saw the Bald Ibis's in their cage and bought a cup each, depicting a Bald Ibis, from the warden. According to the warden they had bred and raised young in 1999. He only spoke Turkish. He was apparently keen to show us Great Horned Owl (at least he said bubo, bubo, bubo, bubo frequently) but none of us likes the idea of paying money to be shown a particular species.
1-5km north of the hotel 07:55 - 08:30. Bee-eater 12, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 4, Black-bellied Sandgrouse 2, Hoopoe 2. The Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were no problem in the sand quarry as mentioned in the gen and more precisely by Hellström 1998. We even saw a pair mating and they provided excellent photographic opportunities.
Birecik to Halfeti 08:50 - 10:00. Roller 2, Woodchat Shrike 3, White Stork 1, Little Owl 2 The Little Owls looked much more sandy coloured than the rest we had seen on the trip and resembled (perhaps a little darker) the lilith or saharae subspecies depicted in Svensson. We also tried for the Cream-coloured Coursers as mentioned in the gen but were unsuccessful
Halfeti 10:00-14:00. White-throated Robin 1 female, Rufous Bush Robin 2, Orphean Warbler 1, Olivaceous Warbler 3, Upcher's Warbler 3, Desert Finch 1, Eastern Rock Nuthatch 3, Hoopoe 1, Red-rumped Swallow 6, Long-legged Buzzard 1. Upcher's Warbler (UW) is bigger than Olivaceous Warbler (OW). OW appears Reed Warbler like which UW does not. UW's tail is longer and blacker (at least it appears darker). In flight I noted that UW flew with dangling legs. Has anyone experienced this before? Also UW seemed to prefer areas higher up than OW with fewer bushes. Eastern Rock Nuthatch was often perching in trees and bushes. We noted only once or twice this behaviour by Rock Nuthatch despite seeing a lot at different localities (Isakpasa Palace, Durnalik, Aladag) The highlight of the way back was a big Anatolian dog feeding on a dead cow by the road side. As with the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater it provided excellent photographic opportunities. Also Long-legged Buzzard 1. The afternoon was spent resting at the hotel since it was too hot for any decent birding.
5km north of Birecik (north of the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sand quarry) 17:00 - 18:00. Rose-coloured Starling 1, Roller 4, Bee-eater 10, Pied Kingfisher 1, Graceful Warbler 1, Dead Sea Sparrow 20. All the birds were where they were supposed to be according to Hellström 1998.
The SSO Cafe 19:00 - 20:30. Olivaceous Warbler 1, Striated Scops Owl 1, Scops Owl sp. 2. We discovered the SSO at 19:40 and it gave excellent views 10m SW of the fountain. It did not show the pale stripe on the scapulars as (most) Scops Owls do. It only had a couple of buff coloured tips to the feathers. The face was paler, more sandy coloured than the rest of the head. It had distinct but thin black stripes on the underparts. The tail and wing fell equal in length. In general it was paler, more sandy buff in colour than those photos I have seen of Scops Owl. We had excellent views of Scops Owls (sp.) catching grasshoppers and landing on the ground just outside the barbed wire surrounding the cafe (50m south of the fountain) between 20:20 - 21:00.
Halfeti 05:25 - 06:30. Blue Rock Thrush 1, Desert Finch 2 (male, female), Olivaceous Warbler 2, Hobby 1, Syrian Woodpecker 1, Rufous Bush Robin 1, Yellow-throated Sparrow 1. Interestingly it seemed there was much more activity at this locality yesterday even though one would expect more birds earlier in the day. Therefore we decided quickly to drive to Yesilce. It was on this stretch that we got fined.
Durnalik 08:30 - 12:10. Orphean Warbler 3, Olivaceous Warbler 5, Cinereous Bunting 8, Upcher's Warbler 1, White-throated Robin 3 (male, female, unspecified), Sombre Tit 4, Lesser Whitethroat 10, Pale Rock Sparrow 8, Black-eared Wheatear 40, Bimaculated Lark 2, Rufous Bush Robin 1, Long-legged Buzzard 1, Rock Nuthatch 2, Eastern Rock Nuthatch 1, Woodchat Shrike 1.
Isikli 13:30 - 17:00. Pale Rock Sparrow 4, Black-eared Wheatear 40, Cinereous Bunting 12, Chukar 1, Tawny Pipit 4, Blue Rock Thrush 1. We drove back to Gaziantep to find accommodation. This proved difficult because the fancy hotels in downtown were expensive ($25-38 per person). Eventually we found a small very basic hotel ($6.5 per person).
Gaziantep 17:30 - 19:30. Laughing Dove 2.
Durnalik 07:00 - 10:00. White-throated Robin 2 (male, unspecified), Eastern Rock Nuthatch 4, Rock Nuthatch 12, Pale Rock Sparrow 8, Upcher's Warbler 8, Black-eared Wheatear 50, Turtle Dove 8, Rufous Bush Robin 1, Red-rumped Swallow 2. Unfortunately we missed Red-tailed Wheater (RTW) despite 7 hours and 40 minutes at Durnalik and 4.5 hours at Isikli. We followed the directions in the gen but it did not help. Hellström 1998 gives directions to RTW at Durnalik. Unfortunately we were unable to locate a red painted pile of stones where the RTW's were seen in 1998. East of Isikli we tried the gorge as mentioned in the gen (in fact there are two gorges east of Isikli). We walked up through the most southern and back through the northern. These gorges will lead you to a spectacular moon landscape on the plateau. We were surprised to find such good numbers of both Pale Rock Sparrow and Cinereous Bunting. Beware however with Black-headed Bunting - a species that is numerous everywhere. Especially the juvenile plumage may resemble Cinereous Bunting. I would be interested to hear if anyone had luck (or not) with RTW at either Durnalik or Isikli in 1999. We continued west on the newly built 6-lane highway to Tarsus. Excellent road - only a pity that the Fiat 121's top speed was about 115km/h when loaded with Danish birders and birding and camping equipment!
Tarsus Delta (west, site 1 in the gen) 14:15 - 16:00. Penduline Tit 2, Red-rumped Swallow 35, Masked Shrike 5, Yellow-vented Bulbul 1, Rufous Bush Robin 12, White-breasted Kingfisher 2. This place is easily located following the gen. We parked at the picnic area and walked east through the picnic area. After you exit the picnic area there is a canal leading east (away from the road to Bahsis). We followed this and eventually saw the kingfishers (also on the way back). They appeared very shy and we only saw them in flight before disappearing in the dense eucalyptus-forest north of the canal. The bulbul was seen right after exiting the picnic area. The Rufous Bush Robins performed brilliantly along the track along the canal and was probably the most common passerine in the area after Spanish Sparrow (we only identified a few of the sparrows and they were Spanish Sparrows). House sparrow is probably equally common!
Tarsus Delta (east, site 3 in the gen) 18:00 - 19:30. Kentish Plover 50, Little Egret 12, European Flamingo 20, Black-winged Stilt 2, Little Tern 12, Graceful Warbler 8, Spur-winged Plover 3, Red-winged Pratincole 1, Spoonbill 3, Grey Heron 1. We met a team from Hungary studying the behavior of Kentish Plovers in the Tarsus Delta. They told they had been in the delta April to June during the last three or four years. They live in the camp right next to the sea when you continue south through Tuzla. We went there and paid $6.4 per person for a nice room with three beds, a real toilet and a shower. They told there were (if I remember right) 1500 pairs in the delta! Furthermore they told us that Richard Porter had swung by "a few days ago" and seen a Caspian Plover. They did not mention whether it was a male or female type. Clearly the Tarsus Delta has great potential and the mudflats looked much better for shorebirds than the Göksu Delta did. Earlier in 1999 they had seen a White-tailed Lapwing and a few years ago they had had a Cream-coloured Courser.
One important thing to remember: According to my travel guide the Adana area is the only place in Turkey where you can get malaria (the Tarsus Delta is 80km south of Adana). Since I forgot to shut the window overnight I awoke next morning with at least 100 mosquito bites · Remember to close the windows even though it is very hot.
Tarsus Delta (east, site 3 in the gen) 06:10 - 11:00. Night Heron 20, Squacco Heron 8, Gull-billed Tern 1, Red-winged Pratincole 5, Marsh Sandpiper 3, Dunlin 1, Black-tailed Godwit 21, Kentish Plover 80, Spur-winged Plover 11, Slender-billed Gull 110, Audouin's Gull 1 (3rd-cal/4th-cal), Sandwich Tern 3 (1st-summers), Little Egret 15, Calandra Lark 8. The Audouin's Gull was seen flying west along the coast. Directions to Tarsus Delta (east, site 3 in the gen): The road through Tuzla divides in a fork (right before you leave the village coming from north). The road to your left (east) will take you past a military camp on the east side of the road. 1km after the military camp you will reach the Mediterranean Sea. Between the military camp and the Mediterranean Sea there are extensive mudflats on both sides of the road. 100m south of the military camp there is a narrow track leading east across melon fields. Following this track you will cross a stream (via a narrow bridge) after app. 200m. Continue on the track for app. 200m after the stream and park your car. Walk north through the melon fields. After walking for 10 minutes we found a little mudflat with water left in it. This was where we had the godwits, Marsh Sandpiper and the single Dunlin. It was apparently here that Richard Porter had seen the Caspian Plover. The track through the melon fields would easily become impassable if it starts raining! If you continue out towards the camp turn left (east) right after the mudflats on your left. A tracks leads south here and it was here we saw all the Slender-billed Gulls, terns etc. You can also take the right fork (towards east). After 1km you will se Tuzla Golu (as mentioned in the gen) on your left hand. Park your car along the road and walk through the melon fields. We did not see anything special apart from lots of Kentish Plovers, Red-winged Pratincole, and Spur-winged Plover but the area looks good. We arrived at Tasucu near the Göksu Delta (just west of Silifke) at 16:00.
Accommodation: We followed the directions in Hellström 1998 and quickly located Hotel Fathi in Tasucu (south side of the road). This was a fine hotel with a very reasonable price (but I cannot remember how much it was). However a fan in the room would have been much appreciated since it was very hot!
Göksu Delta (site 4,5,6 in the gen) 16:45 - 19:30. Purple Gallinule 5, Stone Curlew 2, Ruddy Shelduck 3, Spur-winged Plover 6, Fan-tailed Warbler 1, Graceful Warbler 8, Crested Lark 30, Kentish Plover 5, Peregrine 1, Black-winged Stilt 100, Common Tern 20, Marsh Sandpiper 2.
Göksu Delta (site 4,5,6,7,12,13 in the gen) 05:10 - 11:00 and 16:20 - 20:00. Black Francolin 2, Stone Curlew 3, Purple Heron 15, Little Egret 30, Green Sandpiper 2, Squacco Heron 60, Grey Heron 6, Short-toed Lark 2, European Flamingo 3 (1 adult, 2 immature), Greater Sand Plover 1 1st summer, Curlew Sandpiper 1 adult, Sanderling 1, Little Stint 1, Purple Gallinule 3, Night Heron 65, Marbled Teal 12 (2 adults, 10 pulli), Ruddy Shelduck 1, Ferruginous Duck 9 (3 adults, 6 pulli), Bearded Tit 1, White Stork 45, Peregrine 1 adult, Glossy Ibis 3. The Black Francolins were seen very well (05:15 - 05:40) singing from top of low bushes at site 4 as they were supposed to do according to the gen. Just south of "the unfinished hotel" as mentioned in the gen we found an excellent wader pool where the sandpipers and the sand plover were seen. The Marbled Ducks were first discovered in the evening at site 4. Stop along the sandy track running parallel to the sea and walk through the dunes and bushes until you see Lake Akgol. It was here that we saw almost all the ducks. There are also inconspicuous tracks you can drive towards the lake ending at small fishermen's huts. We climbed some of the huts to get a better view of the lake. The Purple Gallinules were seen at site 5 and also where the gen writes "BBS" (Broad-billed Sandpiper). We did not find any White-breasted Kingfishers at site 12 or 13 but site 12 was excellent for herons, egrets (and the ibis's) flying to roost in the evening.
Göksu Delta 07:00 - 09:00. White-breasted Kingfisher 1, Slender-billed Gull 1, Sanderling 1, Cetti's Warbler 1, Roller 1. The White-breasted Kingfisher was heard at the breeding locality found by Scania Ornitological Society (SkOF) (www.skof.se) mentioned in Hellström 1998. See Hellström 1998 for a detailed direction to the site. Unfortunately I did not feel up to any birding in the am. However I was feeling well enough so we could continue the trip by 10:30 although I had to "feed the ants" 150km west of Tasucu. We arrived at Akseki at app. 18:00 and stayed at hotel Duruk. See Hellström 1998 for directions to the hotel. It was a bit expensive ($13 per person) but very nice and including breakfast.
7.9km north of Akseki (site 3 in the gen) 06:30 - 07:30. Red-breasted Flycatcher 1 female, Krüper's Nuthatch 5, White-backed Woodpecker 1 male, Wryneck 1, Red-backed Shrike 1 male, Cretzschmar's Bunting 1 male (Akseki village). The highlight was the White-backed Woodpecker that we saw in "the second clearing" when you walk down the track on the west side of the road as mentioned in the gen. The bird was easily taped out and we had excellent views of the bird for ten minutes. The Wryneck was unexpected since it is not supposed to breed here (the Handbook). Akseki "Walled Plantation" (site 1 in the gen) 08:00 - 09:30. Long-legged Buzzard 1, Rüppell's Warbler 1 female/1st cal. We saw several unidentified Sylvia warblers but only one well enough to be identified as Rüppell's Warbler. Apparently they are much easier to see earlier in the season. Hellström 1998 had app. five birds (at least three males) May 8, 1998. At 13:00 we arrived at Antalya Airport and returned the Fiat 121. We were grateful that this little car which is built in Turkey had not caused any problems during the 5200km sometimes on dreadful roads. We rested at the airport until our flight departed on schedule.
Birds seen on the trip: Note that some of the commoner species (seen from a Danish birders' eyes) and typical road-side birds may have been seen on other localities than the ones I have mentioned.