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A Report from

Southern Turkey – June 2010,

John Clark

I had a meeting in Istanbul this June, and my wife (Mary Ward-Jackson) joined me because we had not been to Turkey together, and we had the time.  We decided to spend 9 days after our stay in Istanbul birding in Southern Turkey – for which we hired a guide – Kerem Ali Boyla (Birdwatch Turkey Tours).  It turned out to be a wonderful tour, which we hadn’t expected, because of the time of year and it isn’t widely seen as a prime area for birding.  Thanks for this largely go to Kerem, who was just about the best guide we have experienced.  He knew his birds brilliantly and where to find them, was very well-organized, had a great sense of humour and was a pleasure to travel with. 

Trip highlights were Caspian Snowcock, Bald Ibis, Black Francolin, Pallid Scops-owl, Radde’s Accentor, Upcher’s and Menetries Warblers, Iraq Babbler, Krueper’s Nuthatch, Dead Sea Sparrow, White-winged Snowfinch, Crimson-winged and Desert Finch, and many special birding moments including watching families of Chukar and learning to tell apart the Alpine and Red-billed Choughs.  In total we saw 187 birds, of which 54 were lifers for us.

In Istanbul (including a cruise up the Bosphorus) we saw quite a few birds, including Yelkouan Shearwater, European Honey-buzzard, Eurasian Hobby, Yellow-legged Gull, Laughing Dove, Rose-ringed and Alexandrine Parakeet (which breed in amongst the tourist sites in the old city), Sardinian Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and many species common in UK.  Then we flew south and met up with Kerem for the trip described below.

16 June. We started in Antalya and drove to Sütçüler where we stayed the night in a small hotel with lovely views over the valley. Great views of Chukar, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Northern Goshawk, Black-eared Wheatear, Orphean and Rueppell’s Warblers, Sombre Tit, the near-endemic Krüper's Nuthatch, Masked-Shrike and Cretzschmar's Bunting.  In the evening, we saw Eurasian Nightjar (and a large Eastern Hedgehog).

17 June. Climbed up to the highlands near Lake Kovada NP, lunch at Lake Eğirdir, then up to Lake Beyşehir where we stayed in a cabin in Lake Beyşehir NP with beautiful juniper forests. Long-legged Buzzard, Eur. Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Syrian and Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Wood and Horned Larks, Great Reed-warbler, Eastern Olivaceous, Bonelli’s and Olive-tree Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Lesser Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Red Crossbill, Cirl and Ortolan Buntings.  In the evening we had an unexpected treat; we were passed by a big fire-engine as we were walking in the NP and they stopped to give us a lift up to the top of the mountain, where we had stunning views over the lake.

18 June.   Morning birding in the Lake Beyşehir NP with beautiful juniper forests and islands. In the wetlands we saw Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Eur. Spoonbill, Cetti’s, Eur Reed, Great Reed and Moustached Warblers, Bearded Tit, and a colony of roosting Long-eared Owls; also various terns, gulls and buntings. When the sun got high, we started a long (350 km) drive across the Konya Plateau, the most arid part of Turkey. On occasional stops we saw Golden Eagle, Little Owl, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Calandra, Greater Short-toed and Bimaculated Larks, and Isabelline Wheatear. Night in Ürgüp, CappadociaWe arrived relatively early in Cappadocia so that we could visit some of the sights in this magical part of Turkey (also Eur. Golden Oriole and Rock Bunting). Night in Ürgüp, where we stayed in a wonderful small hotel, formed out of the natural limestone caves.

19 June.  We met up with a group of biologists (who had been attending an international conference on lice, of all things!) and drove to Demirkazık in Aladağlar Mountains, stopping en route at the Sultan Marshes (originally the most important steppic wetland, now much reduced, however still worth a visit).  Birds seen included Red-necked Grebe, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, G. Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-Winged Tern, Kentish Plover all are found there. Outside the marshes we had Lesser Short-toed and Crested Larks, Rock Sparrow and Egyptian Vulture. We stayed at a small guest house in a stunning location (in Çamardı) with views up to the snow-capped peak of Mt. Aladag for two nights.

20 June. We started at 3:30 for a drive by tractor-trailer to arrive at dawn near to the summit of Demirkazik.  Staggering scenery and great birds!. Caspian Snowcock (albeit at quite a distance, but well-seen through the scope), Radde's and Alpine Accentors, White-throated Robin, Finsch's Wheatear, Red-fronted Serin (brief looks), Crimson-winged Finch, White-Winged Snowfinch, Tawny Pipit, Ring Ouzel, and Rufous-tailed and Blue Rock-thrush.  Night in Çamardı.

21 June. Another day in Aladağlar for alpine species (amongst beautiful wild-flowers and mountain scenery). We had good views of birds seen the previous day but no new birds. Later in the afternoon we drove to Göksu Deltası where we had Ruddy Shelduck, Black Francolin, Kentish Plover, Spur-winged Plover, White-spectacled Bulbul, and Graceful Prinia. Spent the night in Taşucu.

22 June. In the morning we went inland and birded in areas of ancient Greek ruins among the hills along the river Göksu.  Good looks at expected species (especially some of the warblers), but nothing new except Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.  In the afternoon we explored other areas of Göksu Delta – which is a complex of habitats, with long sand dunes, a freshwater lake named Akgöl, brakish lagoons at Paradeniz Dalyanı and the agricultural fields of subtropical nature. We had Cory’s Shearwater, Audouin’s Gull and Little Tern. Overnight in Taşucu.

23 June. We said goodbye to the biologists – who went off with our minibus to catch their flight, while we took a bus (with Kerem) to Adana where we hired a car and drove about 3 hours east towards Biricek. New birds included Upcher’s Warbler (with its distinctive tail-wagging), Desert Finch, Eastern Rock-nuthatch and Cinereous Bunting.  The White-throated Robin appeared a much darker race than we had seen previously.  Night in a simple but good hotel in Biricek.

24 June. Final morning of birding in Biricek and surroundings, including some wetlands and the shore of a dammed lake south-east of town, and then drove back to Adana to catch our flight back to Istanbul.  In the Tea Gardens in Biricek after a lot of scouring we found a family group of roosting Palid Scop’s Owls – predicted, but nevertheless a memorable sight.  Also in town there is a captive breeding programme for the Bald Ibis, which makes them easy to see.  Most of the birds were in cages, but there were three non-captive birds, who looked like they were trying to get into the cages to join their friends!  Other new birds were Levant Sparrowhawk, Montagu’s Harrier, Armenian Gull, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Swift, Pied Kingfisher, European Roller, Menetries Warbler, Iraq Babbler, Dead Sea Sparrow and Chestnut-Shouldered Petronia.  Night in Istanbul.


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