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A Report from

Central and East Turkey, May 2005, 2006 and 2007,

Klaus Malling Olsen

Turkey is one of the best birdwatching countries in the West Palearctic. Several species are best seen here, and with the good infrastructure, it is possible to cover all main areas with all target species within a two weeks holiday – the most usual tactic used by visiting birdwatchers.

A fortnight tour to Central and East Turkeyin offers an unsurpassed variety of birds in a spectular landscape, with dramatical changes from day to day. From the south Mediterranean deltas and maquis, the tested route goes northwards into the high mountains of Aladag and the flat Anatolian steppe with lakes (gölü´s) and swamps, and continues to the harsher Pontic mountains with their extensive forests, steep rhododendron-grown slopes and high snow-covered passes, as well as the Black Sea coatline with the raptor watch points at Hopa. Having passed the mountains the tour continues to the steppes of East Turkey, with several lakelands and marshes in front of the magnificent Ararat mountain, rising to over 5000 meters. The route then goes southwards along the Iranian border through dark lava fields before Van Gölö – the saline lake being the largest in Turkey. Following a long drive the Mesopotanian flatland is reached with more desert-like vegetation and a real middle East-touch, e.g at legendarical Birezik, before the circle is ended back in Adana.  

The aim with this report is to present our observations from three two-weeks tours in May 2005-2007, and to compare our findings with other birders`. Also, notes on identification of identifyable subspecies and similar looking species are presented, as well as informations of habitats, numbers a.s.o. For this reason, I have included informations from a lot of sources, especially recent reports on the Internet, all listed in the reference part of the report.

Several sources deals with birding localities. Of these, Green & Moorhouse (1995) and Gosney (1993) are especially useful, as well as Welch et al. (1996), the latter unfortunetaly being out of print.

Using the information and maps in the above mentioned sources, combined with a good road map (we used Türkei, Grosse Landkarte 1:800.000, RV Reise- und Verkehrsverlag) covering of main areas and target species is rather easy. However, some information given in the mentioned sources are inadequate, and road direction sometimes wrong or outdated.

I have not included detailed information of birdwatching sites, but detailed directions are given under each “target species” in the systematic part of the report.

Logistics and accomodation
We have booked on Turkish Airlines Copenhagen-Istanbul-Adana, which brought us closer to the birding hot-stops than a chartered flight to Antalya/Alanya would have done. Cost for a return ticket Copenhagen-Adana is recently around 500 Euro´s; the cost for going anywhere in Turkey from Europe is about the same, using the extensive net-work of the national career.

We hired car from Adana. A total of 4200-4600 km´s was covered on each tour. Petrol is rather expensive in Turkey, equal to prizes in Western Europa, but other costs are lower. In 2006, the tour was arranged through Istanbul-based AK Travel & Tourism, and a VW Transporter with driver payed for. This was only partly successfull, as the Istanbul based driver from Dogubayazit and onwards behaved angry and hardly collaborate. Maybe he felt like an alien in the Kurdish areas? If so, he should have hesitated in taking the job! Note that you are expected to pay extra tips to drivers, which we felt a bad value for money.

Accomodation is easy to find in larger cities, where we have used hotels with private facilities. The cost for a triple room was 30-60 Lira in 2005 (most extensive near tourist centres and large cities), slightly higher in 2007. However, cheaper accomodation can be found in a number of hotels if you are willing to exclude the confort of WC and shower – note that shared facilities includes “eastern style” wc = stinky bathrooms, left uncleaned for unknown periods!

May is outside the tourist season, and accomodation rather easy to find in major cities. In remote areas accomodation is sparser, but in many birding areas very good alternatives are found. Below I list recommanded accomodation in the best, off-the-beaten-track  birding areas:

In the village of Cucurbak, two pensions specialize in touring arrangements. Of these, we recommand Hasan Safak´s pension, which offers twin rooms and half-board accomodation (dinner and breakfast) and early morning tractor tour to Cimbar Bogazi for snowcocks and other Aladag specialities. The prize was  60 Euro´s per person by 2007. Hasan know the area and its birds better than anyone else. Contact for booking.

His brother, Ali, leads a similar pension opposite to Hasan´s, but albeit being a character he is more of a trekking than a birding guide. In 2005 he lead us back from Cimbar Bogazi by foot though the impressive, but trekkingwise difficult gorge leading to near the mountaineer´s lodge, without warnings – if taking this tour mountain footwear is absolutely essential, as it will include some climbing through the “miniature Hilly Step” (=a notorious passage at Mount Everest!). Alternatively, the mountaineer´s lodge could be used, but not all birders are treated well here. Having said that, we had only good memories from our 2006 stay here.

Sultan Sazligi:
This great area lies about an hour´s drive from the nearest accomodation in Nigde. Much closer - in the village of Ovaciftlik – is a good pension, Sultan Pansion, which offers accomodation and can arrange guided boat-tours. This is a perfect base for exploring the area. Twin rooms costed 40 Lira per person in 2007, not including dinner and drinks, which was somewhat overprized. Contact for booking.

Sivri Kaya:
This remote village has no accomodation, but a good hotel – Hotel Genesiz – is about 15 km. north of the village, offering confortable rooms or alpine huts. The hotel ground itself is among the best areas for Green Warbler. Nearby Ikizdere have a few modest hotels, but the area south of Sivri Kaya have no accomodation. If you have seen the grouse in the afternoon, an alternative is to drive to the Black Sea coast town of Rize, which have several hotels.

The town have one better hotel – Büyük Ardadan. Smaller “tourist hotels” were downworn and dirty, but offered accomodation for 30 Lira in triple room with shared facilities.

Nicknamed “dogshit”, this city have several hotels. However, Sim Er Hotel few km´s from the Iranian border, is a very good choice, as the view over Mount Ararat is fantastic, and the garden lies as an oasis, giving shelter to many migrating passerines. It is more extensive than the downtown alternatives, but the view and the passerine garden is worth the extra cost.

Nemrut Dagi near Kahta/Adiyaman:
Overlooking a beautiful lush valley at Karadut, several hotels lies immediately before the main gate to the well visited Nemrut Dagi with their famous stone-heads. We stayed at Hotel Euphrates, which in 2007 offered twin rooms including buffet dinner and breakfast for a modest 40 lira per person (children discount possible). Absolutely recommanded as the best “value for money” on the entire trip! The hotel has no e-mail, but could be contacted by phone: 0 212 232 01 49, or fax 0.212 233 56 57. Several other accomodations is found in the area. 

The well-run Hotel Mirkelam charged 22 dollars for a single room, 33 dollars for a double room in 2007. A conformable base in Birezik (including air conditioned rooms, much needed here!), but bring ear-plugs if you are placed in room facing the busy gas station.   

Turkey has a modern road-net with a number of highways. The traffic is not too heavy (affected by the high petrol costs), and only in more remote areas, countryside roads are tricky with a lot of pot-holes, in many areas being partly damaged by flooding. In Pontic mountains, road conditions in May may be difficult, caused by snow and snow-metling. In 2007 parts of the road Ispir-Ikizdere was narrowed by snow. The road Ispir-Tatvan was partly undrivably in May 2007.

A90 – the main road between Adana and the Iranien border, have been much enlarged by 2007 up to Sanliurfa. This part was nichnamed the “nightmare highway” in 2005-2006, but luckily a brand new highway was opened in 2007. We are not aware of the conditions further east.

A bewildering fact in Turkey is giving the same name to many localities! Nemrut Dagi is a good example. The famous archeological site and now renowned birding area is near Adiyaman, not Nemrut Dagi near Tatvan. “Kurtulas” is found both in the Göksu Delta and near Cizre, there are “Tuzla Gölü´s“ both north of Nigde and south of Adana a.s.o. On the countryside, many villages are unnamed, or names differs from the road maps. A compass is helpful e.g. when driving the area north of Bulanik, where even the larger villages are unnamed.  

Political situation
Parts of Turkey is sensitive, especially according to its borders towards Iran and Iraq, the straggles between Turkish military and the Kurdish separatists of PKK, and the many fugitives entering Turkey from Iraq. Travelling in the SE areas between south of Van and Cizre may take time with frequent road-checks. If you want to visit these areas you will need an extra amount of time and patience.

Formerly visitors have troubles in entering Bulanik, but we had no problems here in 2007. Also, the lava fields between Dogubayazit and Caldiran was in 2005 not possible to enter, but in 2006-2007 we had no problems; expect to be shown away by a gun-man if entering the village of Serpmetas! When entering Aktas and Cildir Gölü´s in the NE corner bordering Armenia, always contact the local military.

Having said this, Turkish military have always been polite towards us. Even following the “Muhammed drawing´s crisis” in 2006. At one case, near Trabzon - we were asked our origin country, and answered “Scandinavia” – “Oh, Sweden” – “yes” – “aaah Malmo” – “Yes”. The result was unpolite “showing knife across throat”, as the soccer team Malmö FF recently have beaten out Trapzonspor from one of the main European leagues. Soccer is more of a common language than politics in most areas!

Turkish people are among the most friendly you could think of. When entering private areas such as orchards, expect to be given presents or offered tea and other refreshments in stead of being chased away. A lot about politeness and kindness could be learned from these characters, which invariably have added to the great success on all three trips.

May is a perfect month of visiting Turkey. The mountain birds still occur in moderate altitudes and takes much less efforts than later in the summer, migration is still on its way and the temperatures not too high. At Birezik, we have experienced +38-40 degrees in the middle of the day on two out of three occasions however.

The northeast frequently have snow-covered roads onto mid May, and in the far East, thunderstorms are both regular and heavy.

Almost any visitor to Turkey have experienced minor stomach problems. In some cases participians have been enough affected to appear inactive for hours, in one case even a day. However, we had eaten freely what was served on roadside restaurants, even salads.

If hit by “the revenge of the sultan”, empty yourself, but after about a day, take Immodium. Two pills combined with one Cipro (something, depending on the factory company) is most effective.

Extensive travelling in Asia have proven that the best treatment is washing hands regularly, especially after shaking hands with the locals. While soap is not always present in toilets, most roadside restaurants offers “eau d¨cologne” after dining, which is an effective treatment. We even brought along our own bottle in 2007. Bringing cleansing tissues with you is effective as well.

A vaccination with Havrix (against Hepatitis A) before your trip is adversible. The first shot will protect you for about half a year, and if you are re-vaccinated ut will work for at least 10 years.    

Malaria is said to occur along the southeastern Mediterranian coastline, but as far as I know no visitors have been hitten by Malaria.

Every visitor to Turkey has experienced the size and agressive behaviour of Anatolian sheep-dogs. Straggling parties of semi-wild dogs may be a problem, so take care and bring stones to throw at the beasts if attacked. This is the method used among the locals.

Finally, bring ear-plugs. The mosques prays 5 times a day, including in very early mornings.

Citing Swedish birdwatcher and tour guide Göran Pettersson: “The greatest risk is not catching a disease, but to fall in love with a country so full of impressive landscape, friendly people and exciting birds as Turkey. And with so much new to discover”.


2005: 12-25 May. Participians: Jan Eske Schmidt, Claus Brostrøm Nielsen, KMO.

12 May. Flight Copenhagen-Istanbul (TK 1781, 1415-1740) and Istanbul-Adana (TK 1840-2040). Night Seyef Hotel, Adana.
13 May: Adana-Göksu Delta, where visit Akgöl (0940-1200). Afternoon drive to Cucurbak, night Ali Safak´s pension.
14 May: Morning Demirkazik (0430-1200); up by tractor, walk down through gorge. Afternoon Kalki Dag. Night Ali Safak´s pension.
15 May: Sultan Sazligi (0700-1200). Rest of day drive to Erzinzan, where arriving 1840. Night Hotel Berlin.
16 May: Drive towards Sivri Kaya (0700-1500), with stops Gelinkaya, Maden Köprubasi and Ovitdagi Gecedi. Afternoon Sivri Kaya. Night Hotel Genesiz, Ikizdere.
17 May: Drive to Hopa, where focus on raptor migration, onto 1235. Drive to Artvin and Ardahan. Afternoon visit Aktas and Cildir Gölüs, followed by drive to Kars, to
where arrival 2130.
18 May. Early drive towards Dogubayazit. Most of day at Ishak Pasa, with additional visits lava field between Dogubayazit and Caldiran.
19 May: Ishak Pasa (0525-1125) Mid day drive to Van, afternoon visits Erzek Gölü, Van Hills and South Van Marshes. Night Van.
20 May: Morning South Van Marshes (left 0900). Drive towards Birezik, where arriving 2000. Night Hotel Mirkelam, Birezik.
21 May: All day Birezik.
22 May. Morning 2 hours drive to Isikli and Durnalik,where most of the day spend. Afternoon (from 16.00) drive to Silifke.
23. May: Morning Demircili and Imamli. Afternoon Göksu Delta. Night between Silifke and Tarsus, after unsuccessfull attempt to reach the coast at Aphroditias.
24. May. Morning Tarsus Delta west. Afternoon south of Adana, at Tuzla Gölü and Creek. Night Adana.
25. May: Flight Adana-Istanbul (TK97, 0535-0705) and Istanbul-Copenhagen (TK1783, 1005-1245).

 A total of 257 species noted.

2006:13-27.5. ”Kipling tour 1” Participians: Erling Krabbe, Lasse Strandgaard, Morten Jenrich Hansen, KMO.

Tour changed from 2005 in including Eregli and Nemrut Dagi, excluding Aktas/Cildir Gölü´s, Isikli/Durnalik and Tarsus.
13 May. Flight Copenhagen-Istanbul (TK1784, 1725-2120). Night  Istanbul.
14 May. Flight Istanbul-Adana (TK 458,0835-0955). Afternoon (1410-1845) Göksu Delta, including drive along southern shore of Akgöl. Night Silifke.
15 May: Morning Demircili and Imamli (0750-1025). Then drive via Mut and Karaman to Eregli, and on to Demirkazik, where arrival around 1930. Night at the Mountaineer´s Hotel.
16 May: Early morning tractor drive to Demirkazik (0520-1000), visiting Cimbar Bogazi. Afternoon Kalki Dag, followed by drive to Nigde, where night spend.
17 May. Morning Sultan Sazligi(0825-1030), followed by drive to Erzinzan, where arriving 1840. Night Hotel Berlin.
18 May: Left Erzinzan 0740, drive towards Sivri Kaya with visits Gelinkaya, Maden Köprubasi, Ispir and Ovitdagi Gecedi. Arrival Sivri Kaya 1620. Night Hotel Genesiz, Ikizdere.
19 May: Morning Sivri Kaya (0700-1000). Afternoon Kalkandere and outlooks for raptor migration. Night hotel Genesiz.
20 May: Departure Hotel Genesiz 0730, then drive to Hopa, where raptor watch 1040-1230. Drive towards Ardahan, with stop Cam Gecedi (1650-1800). Night Hotel Büyük Ardahan.
21 May: Drive Ardahan-Dogubayazit, with several stops (0805-1430). Afternoon Ishak Pasa. Night Sim Er Hotel, Dogubayazit.
22 May: Morning Sim Er hotel and Ishak Pasa (noon to 1105), then drive towards Van with several stops Tendurek Gecedi, Gulicar and Bendimahi Marshes. Van Hills (1635-1720) and South Van Marhes (1745-1805). Night in Van.
23 May: Morning South Van Marshes. Left 0820, then drive to Siverik, with several short stops. Night Siverik.
24 May: Departure Siverik, then ferry across River Euphrates (0800-0815), followed by Kahta, where changing for 4 wheel drive to Nemrut Dagi (0940-1210), visiting road between Arsemeia and the national park. Afternoon drive to Birezik via Atatürk Baraji. Arrival Birezik 1615. Night Motel Mirkelam.
25 May: All day Birezik.
26.May. Morning Birezik. From 1100 drive to Adana, where rest of day spend. Night Hotel Seyef.
27. May: Flight Adana-Istanbul (TK 459, 1120-1245) and on to Copenhagen (TK 1783 1420-1840).

A total of 251 species noted.

2007:13-27.5 “Kipling tour 2” Participians: Carsen Mose Sørensen, Silas Mose Thorup, KMO.

Tour changes from 2005 and 2006 in including Bulanik and the southern border areas towards Syria, leaving out South Van area and Isikli/Durnalik from the itinerary.
13 May. Flight Copenhagen-Istanbul (TK 1784, 1414-1756) and Istanbul-Adana (TK 470, 1930-2110). Night Hotel Seyef, Adana.
14. May Drive Adana-Silifke, with visit Mezbahane valley. Afternoon Akgöl, Göksu Deltaet (12.15-19.45), including visits to Akgol and Paradeniz Point. Late afternoon at the new observation tower in the northern edge of Akgöl. Night Hotel Göksu, Silifke.
15 May. Morning Demircili and Imamli north of Silifke (0830-1045). Late morning agricultural land N of Göksu Delta, departure 1240. Afternoon drive to Demirkazik (arrival 1630), eventually Demirkazik and Pinarbasi. Night Hasan Safak´s pension, Cucurbak.
16 May: Early morning tractor tour to Demirkazik (0430-1000). Drive towards Sultan Sazligi, where staying at Sultan Pansion, Ovaciftlik. Afternoon Sultan Sazligi, visiting the sewage ponds and the canal, and ending with marshes north of Ovaciftlik.
17 May Departure Sultan Sazligi 0835. Visit Cöl Gölu (0855-1005). Drive towards Erzinzan with several short stops, arriving Erzinzan 1840. Night Hotel Berlin.
18 May: Departure Erzinzan 0735. Stop Gelinkaya, Maden Köprubasi and Ovitdagi Gecedi. Arrival Sivri Kaya 1630, observations onto 1730, then drive to Rize, where arrival 2030.
19 May: Departure Rize 0800. Visit Hopa 0935-1235, then drive to Ardahan via Savsat and Cam Gecedi. Arrival Ardahan 1745. Night Hotel Büyük Ardahan.
20 May. Drive Ardahan-Dogubayazit (0735-1400) with several stops at Ardahan, Kars, Halikisla and Saz Gölü. Afternoon Tendurek Gecedi, Sogotsu and Ishak Pasa. Night Sim Er Hotel, Dogubayazit.
21 May. Morning Tenrurek Gecedi and Sogoksu. Mid day Serpmetas, then drive towards Bendimahi and on north of Van Gölü to Bulanik, where observations 1630-1930. Then drive to Tatvan, with arrival  around 2200. Night Tatvan.
22 may. Drive Tatvan-Batman (0855-1200). From Batman drive to Hasankeyf and on to Oyali and Idil. Then on to Mardin, where night spend.
23 May. Morning drive to Siverik and on to “Feribot” – the ferry crossing River Euphrates (1410-1425). The ferry leaves as soon as the ferry is full. Quick drive to Karadut and Nemrut Dagi, visit in the national park 1540-1830. Night Hotel Euphrates, Karadut.
24 May. Morning Nemrut Dagi, took the detour via Arsemeia (onto 0955). Drive to Atatürk Barazi, and on to Birezik, where arrival 1625. 2 nights Hotel Mirkelam.
25 May. All day Birezik: morning areas N of the city, followed by River Euphrates south of Birezik. Afternoon Halfeti.
26 May: Morning Birezik. Then drive to Adana, and afternoon visits to areas south of Adana, including Tuzla Gölü.
27 May: Flight Adana-Istanbul 0500-0630, and Istanbul-Copenhagen.

 A total of 264 species noted.


Many birders have contributed to this report. I am grateful to Soner Bekir, Frederik Brammer, Lars Gundersen, Andreas Hagermann, Peter ter Heide, Olof Jönsson, Jan Kiel, Chris Lansdell, Christian Leth, Troells Melgaard, Paul Nilsson, Simon Berg Pedersen, Henning Vikkelsø Rasmussen, Hans Rudne, Hasan Safak, Kamma Sander, Troels Eske Ortvad and Carl Christian Tofte for variable information and help.

Thanks for great travel company to Morten Jenrich Hansen, Erling Krabbe, Claus Brostrøm Nielsen, Jan Eske Schmidt, Lasse Strandgaard, Carsten Mose Sørensen and Silas Mose Thorup.  

This report is regularly updated. Anyone wishing to supplying new information are most welcome to do so, and will be fully acknowledged. Please send ane-mail to:   

Full bird list and references (300kB.pdf)

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