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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

South West Turkey, 6th - 19th April 2003,

Bob Swann

This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during a fortnight's holiday in south-west Turkey based at the resort of Dalyan with my (non-birding) wife. The timing of our trip, mid-April was to fit in with the Scottish school Easter holidays. We booked through Concept Travel and flew by Turkish-Cypriot Airways from Stanstead to Dalaman. Dalyan is a quiet resort, and was particularly quiet when we were there due to the Iraq war. We stayed in the Metin Hotel where we were the sole occupants for much of the time. The locals were, however, very friendly and welcoming. For the first three days we just visited local sites by foot, thereafter we hired a car (from Eurocar) it worked out at 22 per day. We could probably have got better deals from more local outlets. To get to a variety of different sites we had to do quite a lot of driving and did 1800km in the ten days we had the car.

6th April.
Arrived quite late in the afternoon. Took a stroll round the resort. It was very quiet. Few tourists about and many shops, restaurants still closed. About 100 Little Egrets flew up the river heading to a roost.

7th April.
We had a rude awakening around 5.00am as the mosque called the faithful to prayer. We turned over and went back to sleep. Got up 8.30am and after breakfast took a walk along the path following the river north from the centre of town. Lots of Cetti's Warblers singing from the bushes and a pair of Scops Owls calling from a tree, which gave us very close views. A scattering of migrants included Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and a female Pied Flycatcher. On the opposite side of the river a pair of Long-legged Buzzard soared back and forth along the crags, giving good clear views. At the end of the path we turned right and followed a track alongside a ditch. A high pitched call alerted us to our first Penduline Tits, a pair clinging to the reeds. The track ran alongside some fields. We had close views of 80+ Spannish Sparrows and a few pairs of Woodchat Shrike. Migrants included 15 Whinchat, a Common Redstart and several Tree Pipits. We also had nice views of both Ortolan Bunting and Cretzschmar's Bunting. We headed back into Dalyan for lunch.

In the afternoon we decided to walk down the road leading from Dalyan to Iztusu. This area passed through agriculture land with lots of Corn Buntings, a large mixed flock of Crested Lark and Tawny Pipit and lots of Goldfinch and Greenfinch. It started to rain so we sheltered under a palm tree. The frogs were croaking away and a Great Reed Warbler appeared out of the nearby ditch. Masses of hirundines circled overhead, mainly Barn Swallow and House Martin (both of which are common every where) but also quite a few Red-rumped Swallow (a pair were nest building under one of the bridges). As it cleared a pair of Long-legged Buzzards appeared and circled over us. About 5km out of town we came to an area of marshy fields. Here we had several Northern Wheatear, some cracking Black-eared Wheatears and more Tawny Pipits. On an area of scree just beyond the fields I had nice views of a Beech Marten as it bounded over the rocks. I did not know they occurred in Turkey. In the marsh to the west was a flock of 70+ Garganey and 10+ Common Teal. Finally we came to an area of pine trees next to the road. A small group of Eastern Bonelli's Warblers were flitting and fly-catching through the trees and I had fleeting views of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. It took us an hour to walk back. As we sat in our apartment that evening I spotted a Little Owl sitting on top of the building opposite us.

8th April.
We decided to take the rowing boat across the river and have a look at the rock tombs and the ruins at Caunos. By the track we had a smart male Ortolan Bunting. A marshy field just before Caunos had 60+ Little Egrets and a nice Purple Heron. I also flushed two Meadow Pipits. The scrub around Caunos was full of birds. A Masked Shrike gave good views. Common Nightingales were singing everywhere, but were tricky to see. We had at least 3 Orphean Warblers and a Sub-alpine Warbler. Along the fence line at the top of the site was a flock of about 15 Cretzschmar's Buntings along with more Black-eared Wheatears. We had good views of Jays (of the race atricapillus) and by bushes in amongst the ruins we had two Wrynecks. Below the site is a lake which held 6 Little Grebe and 4 Coot and 2 Common Kingfishers. At one end is a small pool and here we had excellent views of a pair of Penduline Tit gathering reedy down for their nest in a nearby tree. Overhead we had superb views of a pair of hunting Short-toed Eagles. As we walked back through the ruins we found our first Western Rock Nuthatch, which was feeding young in a nest in a wall. The only bird of note on our walk back was a large female Sparrow Hawk carrying prey.

9th April.
We followed the path from Dalyan up along the river again and then turned right and immediately left following a track that took us to the southern end of the large reed bed at the bottom end of Lake Koycegiz. Hunting over the reeds were a pair of Marsh Harrier and a pair of Short-toed Eagle. Lots of Reed Warblers were singing from the reeds and Chiffchaffs fed in the bushes. In open muddy areas there were large numbers of flava wagtails, mainly Black-headed Wagtails (f. feldegg) but a few Blue-headed Wagtails as well (f.flava). We flushed a Squacco Heron from a ditch and also saw our first Hoopoes. Overhead were lots of hirundines, mainly Barn Swallows and 40+ Alpine Swifts. In the afternoon it was hot and sunny as I walked round the two hills to the north of Dalyan, where I had good views of a pair of Western Rock Nuthatch. Over the fields to the north a male Montague's Harrier was hunting and a pair of Common Raven flew over. A Peregrine Falcon circled over one of the hills before disappearing to the south. On my way back to Dalyan I had close views of a Masked Shrike and there were 12 Cretzschmar's Buntings in the fields by the football stadium. In the evening I picked up our hire car.

10th April.
Our first day out in the car. We headed north from Dalyan and at the roundabout at the north end of town took the road going straight ahead, though it quickly deteriorated becoming very potholed. It passed through fields and small villages with lots of Collared Doves. We stopped by a large mature pine wood. Here we had a wee flock of Eastern Bonelli's Warblers, some Blackcaps, along with many Chaffinch and Great Tit. A Tawny Owl was hooting away. We headed for Koycegiz and then took the road along the north shore of the lake to Hamitkoy. By the roadside were flooded fields and marshes. One marsh contained a flock of 30+ Squacco Herons, others contained small flocks of Glossy Ibis and Little Egrets. We had at least 11 Purple Herons and 2 Great White Egrets popping out from ditches and reeds. The fields also contained lots of Whinchats and Corn Buntings. The bushes and reeds were full of warblers: Chiffchaff, Reed, Great Reed, Sedge, Cetti's, Willow and a single Sub-alpine Warbler as well as the ubiquitous Common and Lesser Whitethroats and a few Common Nightingales. I also located a Savi's Warbler reeling away and at least two Zitting Cisticolas. Along the ditches were lots of Common Kingfishers, a few Moorhen and at least 4 pair of Penduline Tits. Overhead there were lots of hirundines, mainly Sand Martins and a nice Short-toed Eagle carrying a long snake in its talons. A flooded grass field contained a mixed flock of waders: 32 Ruff, 3 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and 4 Little Ringed Plovers along with lots of Black-headed Wagtails and a Tawny Pipit. We went through Hamitkoy (seeing our first Common Magpie) then took the Ekincik road south to where a large bridge crosses the river. We did not see very much here, but heard a Common Cuckoo calling in the hills above.

We headed back towards Koycegiz and stopped at the north shore of the lake. There was a nice wood by a camping site. A walk round it revealed a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, another Hoopoe and a superb male Collared Flycatcher. We then took our bumpy road back to Dalyan. There was another nice looking deciduous wood by a small burn just below the road. I walked through this and had another Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, a Blue Tit and another cracking male Collared Flycatcher.

11th April.
My first big trip away from Dalyan. I headed east past Fethiye and Kemer, then NE up the D350 towards Korkuteli. I turned left to the village of Seki and followed the road to Elmali. This is quite a good road and takes you up to the Gugu Beli pass. Just before the pass by a goat herders hut near the road side I reached the snow line. The snow was melting fast in this area exposing pastures with colourful crocuses springing up every where. This spot was very rich for birds. Lots of Northern Wheatears were singing and chasing each other. I soon located a nice male Finsch's Wheatear and later found a second one. There were also a couple of Black-eared Wheatears. A small flock of 8 Red-fronted Serin fed on the damp pasture land with a few Common Linnets. The serins had bouts of feeding and then displaying, when the drooped their wings to expose the bronzy bits and their bronzy rumps. There were also 6 Rock Sparrow and up to 5 Horned Lark of the race balcanica. In the rocky areas I had two beautiful male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes singing, a pair of Woodlark, several Black Redstart, two pair of Rock Bunting, 2 pairs Western Rock Nuthatch and a few Wrens. Amongst the juniper bushes were Sombre Tits. One came out and started feeding on the pasture giving excellent views. More surprising were two Wrynecks singing against each other (this appears to be well out of their normal range). Finally on the snow patches above me were 5 White-winged Snow Finches. What a place!

I then drove up to the actual pass. Here I got good views of more Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes and also had two singing Blue Rock Thrushes. There were also a few pairs of Mistle Thrush as well as Blackbirds. I had more Rock Buntings and 2 Hoopoes.

I headed back down through Seki and out across a flat open plain. A few kilometres beyond the village the open fields looked good for larks. As I got out I had a few Skylarks singing. A few fields further in, by a large house I spotted a larger lark. I walked over and flushed a flock of about 150 Calandra Lark, 30 Skylark and 10 Short-toed Lark. They swirled around me calling and giving good close views. As I walked back to the car I flushed a male Pallid Harrier out of a ditch, where it had been eating a large lizard. I headed back to Dalyan, the journey took just under 2 hours.

12th April.
A hot sunny day so, after visiting the local market, we decided to drive down to Itzusu beach. Just above the car park was a nice pine wood. A walk through it revealed both Great and Coal Tit, lots of Chaffinches, a Krupper's Nuthatch feeding on large open cones, a few trilling Wood Warblers and some Tree Pipits. We then walked out along the beach. The lagoon behind the beach had a Green Sandpiper, but little else. The beach too was fairly birdless. A few pairs of Kentish Plover, a few Woodchat Shrikes, 4 Northern Wheatear and 6 Black-headed Wagtails. On the way back a wee wader flock flew by composed of 4 Dunlin and 2 Curlew Sandpiper.

In the late afternoon I went out to a small deciduous wood I had noted just east of Dalyan on the Ortaca road, it's a sort of picnic area. There were masses of Common Nightingales singing from the bushes. A ticking call alerted me to a late European Robin. Finally on a high tree I had a nice male Syrian Woodpecker.

13th April.
On the flight in I had noted a large area of wetland by the airport at Dalaman, so we decided to have a look at it. Just before the airport a road branches of to the left and follows the airport perimeter fence towards the coast. Between the fence and runways were marshy areas with 35+ Squacco Heron, 55+ Little Egret, 11 Grey Heron, 2 Purple Heron, 5 Great White Egret, 40+ Glossy Ibis and at the edge of a wee pool superb views of a feeding Great Bittern. Waders included 4 Greenshank, 35+ Wood Sandpiper, 2 Ruff and a few Little Stint. There were at least 2 White Stork nests, one full of nesting House Sparrows. At the southern end on a more distant lagoon were 14 Black-winged Stilts and a flock of 12 Collared Pratincole were aerial feeding in amongst a flock of gulls. Three Great Cormorants perched high on lampposts at the foot of the runway. Feeding above the airport was a large flock of 100+ Alpine Swift with a few Common Swift. The ditches by the road side looked good for crakes but all we saw was a Common Sandpiper, a few Moorhens and lots of Black and Blue Headed Wagtails. An armed soldier suddenly appeared inside the fence and indicated we should move on. He was probably a bit jumpy due to the Iraq war situation. We drove down to the beach where the sole bird was an immature Mediterranean Gull. I walked east along the shore and found more lagoons. Far fewer birds though apart from 4 Spur-winged Plovers, several Common Kingfishers and some Zitting Cisticolas. The lagoons to the west side of the road end were more productive with Little Grebe, Garganey, several Little Ringed Plovers, a Common Snipe and in the bushes Great Reed, Cetti's, Sedge and Willow Warblers, plus a Penduline Tit. In the distance were two hunting Marsh Harriers.

It was getting a bit cloudy and a cold wind was blowing up so we headed back to Dalyan. In the late afternoon I took a walk round the large rock to the north of Dalyan. Not much about apart from a few Willow Warblers, an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler "chipping" away and a flock of 42 Glossy Ibis feeding out on the marshes.

14th April.
During the night there had been violent thunder and lightning storms. It was still pretty cloudy so in the morning we went to visit the large market in Koycegiz. We then headed west towards Hamitkoy. Above the reeds we spotted a flock of 7 Red-footed Falcon (5 male, 2 females). Thunder threatened so we headed through Hamitkoy and took the Ekincik road to the new bridge. Before the bridge, where you first see the river, a small track leads down to the river side. I walked down and a splash of turquoise blue and white revealed a White-throated Kingfisher. We had brief views through the scope as it perched on a branch, before it disappeared amongst the bushes. Nearby we had a pair of Penduline Tit. It was now raining very heavily, with thunder and lightning all around us. We returned to Koycegiz and scoped the lake: 7 Great Crested Grebes, 7 Garganey, 2 Mallard and a Common Tern with the Black-headed Gulls on the shore. It was still raining so we headed back to Dalyan.

15th April.
A hot glorious sunny day! We decided to pay another visit to Kaunos so took the rowing boat across the river. The scrub around Kaunos was once again full of birds. Another Masked Shrike and recently arrived since our last visit several Ruppell's Warblers singing and song flighting giving excellent views. Also present were Orphean Warbler and in the trees near the pond a Barred Warbler. The Penduline Tits were still busy with their nest, which was now half built. We also had good views of Great Reed Warblers. Overhead were a pair of Long-legged Buzzards and the Short-toed Eagle pair. The ruins themselves were very interesting.

16th April.
Another hot sunny day. Before breakfast I headed south towards Itzusu and up into the pine clad hills. I had good views of Krupper's Nuthatch, 4 species of Tit (Great, Blue, Coal and a single Sombre Tit) and a male Pied Flycatcher. On the way back I had superb views of 5 Red-footed Falcons on the roadside wires (2 males, 3 females). It was such a nice day we decided to take a boat trip up the river to the lake and out to the furthest thermal springs. As we headed up the river we had close views of a large Nile Soft-shelled Turtle. Birds included 11 Black-crowned Night Herons, disturbed from their roost site by another boat, 2 Penduline Tits and a male Marsh Harrier. We also saw 3 swimming snakes. The lake itself held only a few birds: a Great Cormorant, 2 Little Grebe, and some Coot. At the pools we plastered ourselves in mud, washed it off after it had dried on us and then swam in the thermal pool. It was very pleasant.

17th April.
Got up very early to go to Bafu Golu and the Menderes delta. Left Dalyan at 5.40am. The roads were very quiet so made good progress. Little seen en-route apart from my one and only Turtle Dove of the trip and a little grey-brown squirrel type creature that crossed the road in front of me. It took two and a half hours via Mugla, Yatagan and Milas to get to the west end of Bafa Golu. When I arrived it was very cloudy with a strong cold easterly wind. Water levels at the lake were very high and the track down to the fisherman's hut that we had walked down in October 2001 was completely under water. The flooded fields, however, were teeming with birds: 80+ Little Egrets, 4 Cattle Egrets, 3 Great White Egrets, masses of Grey Herons, 1 Purple Heron, 30+ Glossy Ibis and in a deeper channel 4 Dalmation Pelicans. I walked along the embankment along the west end to get a better view of the lake. Out in the water were hundreds of Greater Flamingoes, 100+ Great Cormorant, 40+ Dalmation Pelicans, a few in courtship plumage with their orange pouch, lots of Coot, a few Great Crested Grebes and some Garganey. Viewing conditions were not ideal, due to the wind, so I decided to move on. By the track on the way out I had a nice Syrian Woodpecker. There are also lots of Common Magpies in this area. From the roundabout at the end of the track I headed to Akkoy. Here in the centre of the village I had good views of several Lesser Kestrels. I took the Soke road out of Akkoy and as I left the village I turned left down a track which in 2001 I had followed right out onto the southern edge of the Buyuk Menderes delta. As I made my way down the track it became impassable towards the bottom end, so I had to abandon the car and get out and walk down to the flats. The flats themselves were very waterlogged and it would have been impossible to get a car out along the track (even a local tractor had got bogged down). As I walked out over the flats I was surrounded by birds: 30+ Little Egret, lots of singing Calandra, Short-toed and Crested Larks, a nice Red-throated pipit and 40+ Ruddy Shelduck. I continued walking out to the first big lagoon. There were lots of Greater Flamingoes in it and swimming amongst them an incongruous mixture of duck: 60+Wigeon, 50+ Shoveler, 10+ Pintail, 40+ Garganey and 6 Common Shelduck. There were few waders about, mainly Kentish Plovers, but also 6 Oystercatchers and 2 Redshank. In the river channel both Common and Little Terns were feeding. As I walked further out towards the fishermen's huts I spotted a large colony of about 600+ Mediterranean Gulls on a small islet in a lagoon. Got nice views through the scope. One advantage of the cool cloudy conditions was that there was no heat haze. I could see that the fishermen had built a sturdy new track out to their huts to avoid the waterlogged flats. It came from the closest hill, but I could not work out where it joined the Akkoy track. I walked back to the car. It took me about 45 minutes. En-route I had excellent views of a pair of Isabelline Wheatear, with the male song flighting and displaying its broad black tail band.

I headed back up the track, got on the Soke Road and went north to Millet. The pools here at the side of the road, were very flooded. They contained 40+ Black-winged Stilts, 50+ Wood Sandpipers,2 Green Sandpiper and a pair of Spur-winged Plovers. As I drove further north I encountered flocks of Mediterranean Gulls feeding in recently flooded fields. At the top of the delta I turned left and took the road through Doganbey to get a look at Karine Golu. I had distant views of a lot more Greater Flamingoes and another 60+ Dalmation Pelican, but little else so I decided to start the long journey back to Dalyan.

18th April.
I decided to make a pre-breakfast visit back to the marshes at Dalaman. I stopped by the first marshy area but was moved on by a soldier. I headed down to the bottom set of marshes. There were no soldiers on duty here. A scan over the marshes revealed the usual array of waders, including 2 pairs of Spur-winged Plover. There were also lots of herons and egrets plus 21 Eurasian Spoonbills, which had arrived since my last visit. Six Black Terns and a Little Gull hawked over the marsh. I walked along the beach and had a flock of 22 Whiskered Tern come in off the sea and start to feed over the marshes, then 8 Black-crowned Night Herons came in. A large dark falcon came out of the marsh with prey but I couldn't get a decent view to identify it.

I went back to Dalyan and as it was quite cloudy we decided to go to Fethiye for the rest of the day. We arrived in the resort and followed the signs for Calis Plage. This took us along the side of Fethiye Bay. There were lots of terns and gulls in the bay. Yellow-legged Gulls plied back and forward and at one stage 50+ Black-headed Gulls spiralled down to land in the bay. There were lots of Common Terns diving into the water, a few Sandwich Terns and one Little Tern. Later a pack of about 20 Gull-billed Terns arrived, dipping down and taking food from the water surface. At the far end of the bay there was a small pool surrounded by reeds. A single Great White Egret sat motionless in the centre of it and 2 Purple Herons flew out of the reeds. Along the shore were 3 Little Stint, 2 Common Sandpiper and 2 Little Ringed Plovers. We carried on past the pool, going through some new housing developments, till we turned left and found a bridge over the channel, then cut back left along the channel. This brought us back to the shore and there was a nice wee 'saltmarsh' on one side. Here there were 49 Squacco Heron, 23 Little Egret, 16 Grey Heron, a Black-tailed Godwit, a nice Collared Pratincole and a Short-toed Lark. As I was watching a cracking White-winged Black Tern flew in off the sea, giving excellent views. We went back round the bay and had a flock of 26 Grey Heron and flock of 12 Glossy Ibis come in off the sea. This was quite a nice little site in a fairly busy town. On the way back we stopped in a pine wood in the hills just west of Fethiye. Here we had another Krupper's Nuthatch and the only Long-tailed Tit of the trip (of the race tephronotus).

In the early evening I went down the Itzusu road. Just south of Dalyan a farmer was flooding a field from an irrigation channel. This had attracted a lot of birds: 11 White Storks, 6 Grey Heron, 20 Yellow-legged Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 25 Little Stint and 3 Ruff, Hooded Crows, White and Black-headed Wagtails all feeding in the field. Above hovered 3 Common Kestrel, a Lesser Kestrel and a male Red-footed Falcon. The kestrels dropped to the field to grab a large insect? which they ate on the wing before going for another one. A very strong wind was now blowing, so strong it blew the roof of a house further down the road!

19th April.
Our last full day. I had decided to head back towards the mountains to see if any White-throated Robins had arrived. I left Dalyan at 6.40am. It was cloudy and raining. As I went east the weather got worse, torrential rain and low cloud. I considered turning back, but as it was my last chance I kept going. As I arrived at Seki the rain eased. I drove back up towards the Gugu Beli pass and soon got into thick cloud again. I was about to give up when the cloud started to break up and the sun briefly shone. In the pasture area I found 12 Red-fronted Serin, 2 pair Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, 4 Rock Sparrow and 2 White-winged Snow Finches before the cloud came back down and hid everything from sight. I decided to head back down. In an area of scrub, on the hillside at the top end of Seki I had several Ruppell's Warblers, Common Linnet, Coal Tits and two singing male Black-eared Wheatears. As I drove across the plain below Seki I had a Syrian Woodpecker on a telegraph pole and 3 Common Starling.

I got back on to the main road and headed up to Sogut. Here at the junction I turned left towards Cavdir. The flat plain to the east of the road was completely flooded forming a shallow lake. At the edge I had 13 Little Egret, 10 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Ruff and a Greenshank. I headed north and just after the high point before the road dropped to Cavdir was an area with scrub on either side of the road. It looked good so I stopped. I immediately found a few pairs of Ruppell's Warblers, an Orphean Warbler and a pair of Rock Bunting. Song-flighting below the road was an Isabelline Wheatear. I walked down into the gully below the road and got excellent views of a superb male White-throated Robin. It had cleared up a bit but there was still a strong cool wind blowing, making birding difficult so I headed back to Sogut and proceeded further east. About 20km east of the junction there was a rough grassy hillside with scattered bushes. I spent about an hour here criss-crossing the area. There were several Northern Wheatears, a few Black-eared Wheatear and another pair of Isabelline Wheatear. Higher up the slope were a pair of Horned Larks and a Tawny Pipit. Closer to the bushes were two pair of Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, 2 pair Rock Bunting, a pair of Cirl Bunting and another fine male White-throated Robin. As I moved down the slope I disturbed a flock of 25 Rock Sparrow. Finally at the top of the ravine below the road I had a male Finsch's Wheatear (four wheatear species in one place is not bad!). I started back towards Dalyan. On the plain just south of Sogut I spotted a male Red-footed Falcon. It took over 2 hours to get back to Dalyan and on the outskirts of the resort a European Roller flew across the road and perched on a tree giving me excellent views. I returned the car to the hirer, having done 1800km in 10 days and returned to the hotel to start packing. From the hotel we had a flock of 42 Grey Heron migrating north, followed by another flock of 45.

It had been a good trip. I saw 161 species and had 5 lifers. Mid-April is probably not the best time to come to this part of Turkey, but we were restricted in our timing by the school Easter holidays. The weather was very mixed, with some hot sunny days, but many cold cloudy ones as well. At least it meant heat haze was not usually a problem! The weather probably held up the migration quite a bit. We did, however see most of the birds we hoped we would. The car was also very necessary to get access to all the best birding sites.

Bob Swann

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