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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk
South East Turkey, 18th-25th May 2010,
Planning started some eight months beforehand with Chris sorting out flights, an itinerary and accommodation. Thomson’s were starting a new service from Doncaster, our local airport, to Antalya and we decided to use that. Previous trip reports from the internet were researched and we finally came up with a schedule as follows:
May 18 Doncaster – Antalya. Departing at 16.30 and arriving at 22.00
May 19 Antalya – Akseki – Nigde
May 20 Nigde – Kaynarca / Camardi road – Demirkazik. (Ozsafak Pansion)
May 21 Demirkazik
May 22 Demirkazik – Birecik
May 23 Birecik
May 24 Birecik – Durnalik – Konya
May 25 Konya – Akseki – Antalya Airport.
Return flights were booked with Thomson’s Holidays, at a price of £285 each, from Doncaster Airport.
Mick used Eurocar to book a Renault Traffic seven seater, at a cost of £517, which upon pickup turned out to be an eleven seater minibus. This gave us a great deal of space and comfort but we were only allowed to use two named drivers, namely Mick and Ian. A Michelin map of Turkey was used.
Some accommodation was pre-booked and we took pot luck with the rest.
As well as scouring the internet, and gleaning parts from earlier trip reports, we also took Dave Gosney’s “Finding Birds in Turkey - Ankara to Birecik”. Old it may be, but most of the birding areas still hold up.
After landing at Antalya, and paying our £10 for an arrival visa, we cleared the airport and picked up the car. It was dark and we were heading for the “Sabah Pansion”. As well as the directions from the hire car person, we had our own, and so, we sallied forth into the darkness of Antalya. In ten minutes we were lost. We made several enquiries and even had a taxi lead us, and he couldn’t find it. After a frustrating thirty minutes we saw two hotels together. The first one we entered wanted 40 Euros per person; far too much, so we went into the second one - Hotel Safari - and Chris negotiated a rate of 150 Turkish Lira for all of us.
We departed the next morning at 06.30 and headed east on the D400, and thence north to Akseki, arriving there about 08.30. From the Gosney book we followed the directions to the “walled plantation”.
The first bird we saw was an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, which was a good start. The surrounding area of the plantation consists of rough grazing interspersed with rocks, bushes and trees. In the next couple of hours some impressive birds were seen including Ruppell’s, Olive Tree, Eastern Orphean and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. Other birds of note were four each of Lesser Grey and Masked Shrikes, along with European Roller, Hoopoe, Raven, Short-toed Eagle and Syrian Woodpecker.
We retraced our steps to the main road and drove through Akseki village along the old road to a lay-by 7.9 kilometres beyond, as per the Gosney map; the target bird being Kruper’s Nuthatch. After about ten minutes Chris picked up on one atop a pine tree calling away. We also had Serin, Blue Rock Thrush, Western Rock Nuthatch, Dunnock, Mistle Thrush and 6 Common Crossbills.
We continued along this road hoping we could join up with the main road again. The farther on we drove the more dilapidated the road became with parts of it collapsing down the hillside. We made it through and proceeded to start on the long drive on to our next fixed birding area at Nigde, by way of Bozkir and Karaman. Here we had our first issue of the trip when our driver, Ian, was pulled over by the police for speeding. The class of vehicle we had hired was limited to 88 kilometres per hour, other than motorways. We had been caught in a radar trap and Ian was doing 95, which resulted in a 130TYL fine (and 10 Turkish penalty points on his licence).
Along the way we saw Isabelline Wheatear, of which there were many, Fan-tailed Warbler, Black-headed and Corn Bunting, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Lark, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Long-legged Buzzard, White Stork and Little Owl.
The place at Nigde we were heading for was the Akkaya Baraji, an expanse of water behind the University to the south of Nigde. We arrived there at dusk to see thousands of European Starlings going to roost, loads of Swifts in the air and a flight of about fifty Greater Flamingos overhead. It looked promising for the morning.
We drove into Nigde, again in the darkness, looking for our pre-booked accommodation at the “Hotel Sahiner”. Yet again we were scrambling about. A policeman gave us directions, which came to nothing. Chris once more nipped into a shop and the shopkeeper immediately left his counter, jumped into our car, and took us there through a maze of backstreets. We were to meet this kind helpfulness by the Turkish people again before the end of the trip. This night’s stay consisted of bed and breakfast, at 24 Euros each. As we were departing before breakfast they kindly packed us some sandwiches.
The next morning we set off for the Akkaya Baraji, driving south out of Nigde and taking the first left turning after the last university building. We drove along this track and past a sports arena on our left, across some scrubland and parked up near the water’s edge. To the left was the north end of the Baraji, and we set the scopes up and focused on this area.
Waterfowl seen were a pair of White-headed Duck, Garganey, Teal, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Little, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebe and two pairs of Ruddy Shelduck with ducklings. Egrets seen were Squacco, Little and Great White with Purple, Grey and two Night Herons, along with a Eurasian Spoonbill, White Stork and the magnificent sight of about 500 Greater Flamingos. All the wader species on the trip were seen here with Spur-winged Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Common Sandpiper and Redshank being recorded. We also had a Common Tern and two Black Terns patrolling the water.
The air was alive with Common Swifts, House Martins and a single Sand Martin carved its way past us. In the reeds Reed Warbler and Greater Reed Warblers were calling out their repetitive song. On land, good views were had of Crested, Lesser (Asian) Short-toed and Greater Short-toed Larks, along with Isabelline Wheatear.
A Souslik ground squirrel entertained us with his antics around his burrow; we were to see many of these throughout the trip. As we drove back to the main road a pair of Greater Spotted Cuckoos were chasing each other around, and a European Roller was sat on the fence of the sports arena. When we reached the road, we crossed the carriageway, and turned left, left again and along a track which brought us to the south end of the Baraji; the actual place we were at the previous evening.
Some tamarisk was near the water’s edge and a couple of Olivaceous Warblers were flitting around them. An adult and juvenile Penduline Tit gave fleeting views and Cetti’s Warblers were calling away. Four more Ruddy Shelduck flew by. We followed the road round and came upon a rocky outcrop with caves in it, and on the right was a large concrete culvert. Around here we had Rock Sparrows, Linnet, Greenfinch, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrike, with four European Bee-eaters flying around overhead. We followed the track trying to get back to the main road and ended up at a dead end in a farmyard with a brook alongside the track. A Cetti’s Warbler was in full view on the track for a few seconds. A White Wagtail was also seen and Reed and Greater Reed Warbler were again singing away.
Back on the main road we continued to head east, intending to reach Ozsafak Pansion at Cukurbag in the early evening.
From a trip report, (www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/turkey/turkey25/demikazik-may2005.htm), we had taken a printout of the Kaynarca – Camardi road which the author, Michael Grunwell, states is “certainly the best road for birding I have encountered away from South America”. I would not disagree with him, for during the next few hours we had three target birds and this enabled us to make changes to our itinerary.
After passing through Kaynarca we soon had 3 White-throated Robins, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and a couple of Common Redstarts. Following the directions we passed through the village of Haloc and had a comfort stop. A Nightingale was singing and an Upcher’s Warbler was perched on the wires for some minutes. A Golden Oriole was heard calling, Goldfinch were seen, Lesser Grey Shrike were numerous and overhead a pair Long-legged Buzzard were circling.
A little farther along the road we had Ortolan Buntings, Corn Buntings, Isabelline Wheatears and a single Northern Wheatear. Chris had walked on along the road and seen a pair of Red-fronted Serin at a water trough and had a Bimaculated Lark flying above. We, too, picked up on this and then a small bird with a black face was seen high on top of the escarpment. We watched it for a while but it wasn’t giving anything away. Mick and Ian climbed to the top of the escarpment where the bird was then identified as a Shore Lark penicillata. We later on had close up views of more of these and also Bimaculated Larks on the ground.
We arrived at Ozsafak Pansion (www.ozsafak.net) late afternoon and were warmly greeted by Basar Safak. After a welcoming beer we set out for Demirkazik Gorge, where as we alighted from the car, a Golden Eagle flew over being mobbed by two Hooded Crows. Crag Martins were flying all around and Common Swifts were high above the cliffs whilst a party of six Alpine Swifts flew through. Other birds seen were Black-eared Wheatear, Kestrel, Rock Sparrow, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting, Red-fronted Serin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Turtle Dove and Chukar.
Back at Ozsafak Pansion all the family were there, including kids and Grandad, and this created a nice family atmosphere. Basar was very good to us and even travelled to the next village to sort out our speeding ticket.
The next morning we were up at 4.00am for the trip up the mountain to see the Snowcocks. Chris, Mick and Ian went up first in the 4 x 4 vehicle; Len and I went up 30 minutes later. By the time we got up everything was staked out for us. Two Caspian Snowcocks were feeding on a slope across a valley giving good views. At the foot of the rock face behind us a pair of Radde’s Accentors (of which we eventually saw 6) were flitting around to be joined a few minutes later by a pair of Alpine Accentors. Up to ten Snowfinches were present with a pair of Alpine Choughs patrolling the rock face and several Red-billed Choughs flying around.
We were accompanied by Basar and his cousin whilst we were up there and when Mick decided to clamber back down the hard way, by going back down the gorge, the cousin went with him. The rest of us elected to walk back down the track with Len and I being picked up later on by the 4 x 4.
We kicked off down the track and a few birds were seen on a rocky outcrop to our right. Chris walked through these identifying Snowfinch, Shore Lark and Rock Thrush and then our first Finsch’s Wheatear of the trip, with more being seen towards the lower slopes, together with Ortolan Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Rock Sparrow, Red-backed Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, Woodlark and three Chukar. A flock of thirty Rose-coloured Starlings flew up and down the valley, presumably searching a way through the mountains.
Mick beat us to the bottom. Towards the opening of the gorge he had a brief glimpse of a Wallcreeper and walking back to the car had also seen Black Redstart, Robin, Syrian Woodpecker, Woodlark and a Stonechat. Len and I went and staked out the cliff where Mick had the Wallcreeper but it never showed again.
After a late breakfast back at the Pansion, in the afternoon we drove to the Nomad area (page 15 in Gosney) having Tree Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Nightingale, a few Rock Sparrow, Red-backed Shrike and a Long-legged Buzzard. We then returned to the Gorge for the remainder of our stay, seeing the same birds we saw yesterday, whilst Mick walked a way back up the mountain to get the Finsch’s Wheatear which he’d missed on the way down.
The cost of our stay at Ozsafak was 25 Euros each per night, to include breakfast and evening meal, plus 30 Euros each for the trip up the mountain.
We had an early breakfast the next morning and then set off for Birecik, arriving in the afternoon. We found a place to stay and then five minutes by the river produced Squacco Heron, Little Egret, a single Bald Ibis and about twenty Pygmy Cormorants.
We drove up to the Bald Ibis centre to see the colony. Some fifty plus were in residence, mostly being free-flying, with a few coming and going, some seen to be without rings. Here, also, were Olivaceous Warbler and Finsch’s Wheatear on the ridge above.
Around the back of the centre is the wadi for See-See Partridge. We started into it and a pair of Menetries Warblers were spotted in a shrub. Chris rounded a corner and a See-See Partridge got up and flew up the wadi and around a corner. Here, the wadi was blocked and it was a climb to carry on. While I was scaling this a further three See-See’s flew up, which I never sighted. The going was too tough for me and I came out of it.
We then decided to do the downstream area on the east bank of the Euphrates and on our way we passed the area around the café where the Striated Scops Owl hangs out. This we would check out later.
Approaching the reedbeds we had very good views of a Dead Sea Sparrow, this being the first of many. The first birds we saw at the waterside were a flock of Graceful Prinia which were being stalked by a cat, showing their black gapes as they harassed it. Many Reed and Great Reed Warblers were calling. Three Little Bitterns were seen and Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco, Purple Heron and Night Heron were flying along the river. Running down the landside of the flood bank was a large concrete culvert. Four Rufous Bushchat were flitting along this with a Little Owl sat on a post. In the reedy area were Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey and four Ferruginous Ducks. Pygmy Cormorants were constantly flying up and down the river, where also, six Common Tern flew north upriver and a large immature Gull, considered probably Caspian, flew south. On the landward side were Crested Lark, Laughing Dove, Red-backed Shrike and a Little Owl.
We drove back to the owl café for the Scops and parked up in the café grounds. It was about 20 minutes to dusk and a local, who worked for a Turkish tour company, came over to sit with us. He knew exactly why we were there and turned out to be helpful to us and as dusk fell he took us into a garden at the rear of the café where the blue fountain is situated. We walked through this garden and the trees there continue into a public park. He then looked at several trees before locating the owl. Standing with your back to the café, the bird was in the last tree on the right down by the road which runs across the end of the park. It was too dark to get anything positive on it then and as it flew from tree to tree. Nearby, we also saw a Long-eared Owl with four owlets.
We also met a birder in the café who had seen Iraqi Babblers that day in the gravel pits north of the bridge, so the next morning we drove to the upriver gravel pits, taking a right fork, and walked the area beyond the track where it crossed between two pools. The air was full of hirundines, mostly Sand Martins. Little and Cattle Egrets, Grey, Purple, and Night Herons, along with over fifty Bald Ibis were flying around. Menetries and Olivaceous Warblers were seen with a pair of Pied Kingfishers showing well on the overhead wires and four European Rollers and three Bee-Eaters also present. A Short-toed Eagle passed slowly overhead, its tail being plucked at by Hooded Crows. After about two hours the Babblers turned up. Firstly, one was seen in the top of the reeds, then we saw up to four before they soon disappeared. Good views were had by all.
We next travelled up to Halfeti. We were aware there had been some changes, but what we did not realise was the whole area had changed since the Gosney book had been written. The original village had been submerged by the creation of the dam. We walked along the waterfront trying to find a track to the old cemetery, to no avail. We did see a Honey Buzzard fly over the water and round a hill, a couple of Little Swifts and several Red-rumped Swallows.
We drove back up the hill and the road widened out into a little square, with a narrow road leading off to the left which we drove down as far as we could and parked up. On the house wall in front of us was the sign “Degirmendere Sokak” and to the left of it in a black triangle was the words “oto park piknik alani”. We decided to walk down the track and came to a wadi, with a stream running through it, where some very friendly locals were picnicking. In the pools were small fish, tadpoles and green frogs with brown spotted backs.
We picked up on several Rock Sparrows and then the next birds seen were pairs of White-spectacled Bulbuls and Menetries Warblers. Long-legged Buzzard and a Peregrine flew over. High on rocks above six Eastern Rock Nuthatches were seen and another pair of Olivaceous Warblers were seen closely. The last thing we saw here was a mammal - a very small black vole, only the size of a finger, which looked to have lost its parents.
We then retraced our steps out of the wadi and Halfeti and drove back towards Birecik, and when near there, looking for a turquoise coloured bus shelter and an electricity sub station. We eventually found the shelter, but not the substation. The directions are as follows: after leaving Birecik, heading towards Halfeti, drive under the motorway bridge. The turquoise bus shelter is on the right, just set back off the road. The track can more easily be identified because pylons run down both sides of it. Drive up the track, pass over a small bridge, and you are in the area where Yellow-throated Sparrow were seen, of which we had three, plus a further pair as we were driving off.
We spent the rest of the evening again at the downstream gravel pits, but nothing new was seen. Our last intended call in Birecik was to try again in daylight for the Striated Scops Owl and fortunately our luck was in and we dropped right on, for as we pulled in alongside the park two Italian birders had already got a scope set on one high in a tree. With no trouble at all, we got good views of the bird. We also saw two White-spectacled Bulbuls feeding young in the garden of a house across the road from the owl tree.
At 05.30 the next morning we were on the road, heading west, to Antalya and because we had made up time we decided to break the journey at Durnalik for a couple of hours, where we arrived about 07.30 and worked the area on page 17 of Gosney’s guide.
On the rocky slopes the first bird seen was Upcher’s Warbler, with several more then being seen. A couple of Woodchat Shrikes were around and we picked up a pair of Eastern Orphean Warblers. These two species appear to like each other’s company, as we had them together in Spain (i.e. the Western varieties). A pair of Olivaceous Warblers were flitting around and numbers of both of Western and Eastern Rock Nuthatch were seen along with Black-eared Wheatears, Black-headed and Cinereous Buntings, a couple of Sombre Tits and Blue Rock Thrush carrying food.
Lower down in the orchards Chris picked up on a singing White-throated Robin which gave good views whilst duetting with a nearby rival. A Red-backed Shrike was also seen and at the water trough an Olive Tree Warbler sang from the tree above.
We drove round to Isikli but didn’t walk up the tracks, as time was against us, so then continued on the long journey heading west and spending the night in the wonderful town of Konya. We stayed in the Hotel Dagarh at 16 euros for bed and breakfast.
The next morning we headed on to Antalya intending to stop again for a few hours at Akseki, where we started the trip. En-route we made a comfort stop near Seydisehir picking up Western and two Kruper’s Nuthatch, three Great Tit and a Goshawk carrying prey.
North of Akseki we turned right at the water tap, as per Gosney, page 31, and drove into a very scenic area with shepherds working their flocks. Birds seen here were Masked Shrike, Sombre Tit, Coal Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Common Redstart, Jay, Serin, Siskin and Short-toed Treecreeper. In a clearing here we heard a strange loud knocking sound and sat quietly to try and locate its source, looking intently at the canopy above, but after a puzzling interlude it stopped and so we moved elsewhere. However, Ian remained behind and a while later came up to say he’d discovered the cause and took us back to the scene, where two Spur-thighed tortoise were mating - the sound being made by their shells contacting – violently!
The next stop was the graveyard in Akseki village. This was a large wooded and scrubby area, neglected as a graveyard. Syrian Woodpecker was seen briefly, whilst trying to pin down calling Olive Tree Warblers was a bit difficult due to the deep growth. Kruper’s Nuthatch was seen feeding young and two Masked Shrike were seeing a Jay off. Some wonderful Bee Orchids were seen, and three other species were found.
The next and final stop of the trip was where we first started, the area around the walled plantation, into which a pair of Persian Squirrels went. We walked the scrubby fields again seeing Lesser Grey and Masked Shrike and disturbing a Dwarf Snake. A European Bee-eater was perched up. Olive Tree Warbler was seen, as well as a Ruppell’s, a Raven flew round the hill and Chris picked up on a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - this turned out to be the last bird of the trip.
At 18.15 we set off on the two hour trip to Antalya Airport. The car had to be returned for 21.00 and our flight departed at 23.25. However, we were involved in a very large, slow moving traffic jam and only got into the Airport at 21.30 and then entered the wrong terminal. We raced back to the hire car driver and managed to get to him before he departed. Our departure terminal was some three miles around the Airport and we finally managed to check-in ok.
We had a good trip, thanks to Chris’s planning and Mick and Ian’s driving. Len and I had the hardest part - sat in the back trying to keep awake.
We found the Turkish people very friendly and helpful, even when issuing speeding tickets.
All the places visited were from Dave Gosney’s book “Finding Birds in Turkey, Ankara to Birecik”, except for the Akkaya Bariji, at Nigde and the Degirmendere Wadi at Halfeti.
Great Crested Grebe
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Pale Scops Owl
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Rufous Bush Robin
Blue Rock Thrush
Great Reed Warbler
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler
Eastern Bonellis Warbler
Eastern Rock Nuthatch
Western Rock Nuthatch
Lesser Grey Shrike
Dead Sea Sparrow