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A Report from

Southern Central Turkey 26th May - 8th June 2003,

Simon Hartill

Simon Hartill, Southampton,  and Gordon Beck, Pulborough, 2 UK birders

We flew to Antalya on a cheap charter flight booked through WildWings for £149, 4 hour direct flight with Air 2000, £15 to upgrade to extra legroom seats well worth it. Total cost of trip all inclusive was £750 each,( inc 2 litres of duty free), very good value for money.

Hire car booked through Holiday Autos, was a 1.2 Fiat Siena 4 door with AC and a surprisingly large boot. Adequate, but a little underpowered when overtaking and going up hills. £408 for 2 weeks inc all insurance, £130 excess. We were not charged for the extra driver on the insurance. Ali Barut the hire car guy from Almira was exceptionally helpful and friendly meeting us at the airport, taking us to a café for tea and a chat to do the paperwork. When we returned the car early we phoned him and he spent 3 hours entertaining us with his interesting conversation about life in Turkey and his travels abroad until we could check in our luggage. A great guy, the most helpful hire car person I have ever met in all my travels!!!!  A+ for customer service.


Do not exceed 99 km per hour on the 2 way single roads (90 limit) or you will get stopped by the police and fined. We got stopped when Gordon was driving at 128 kph in a 90 limit, $98 on the spot fine!!!

The police had concealed their radar gun behind a tree 3 km before the actual police checkpoint, so even though Gordon slowed down when the checkpoint was visible 2 km away we had already been caught.

Police speed checks were commonplace on single 2 way roads but we didn't see any on the superb toll motorway (£1.50 for 300 km Gaziantep-Mersin) along the coast ,speed limit here 120 kph.

Advisable not to drive at night, Turkish roads are poorly lit and marked, we saw many vehicles and some animals without lights and poor lane discipline. Turkish drivers are worse than the Italians, overtaking on blind bends etc. Beware of the overloaded HGVs, saw several burnt out beside the roads.

Euros seem to be the favoured currency for hotels, restaurants etc particularly in the Germanic dominated tourist areas along the coast.

At the time of writing £1 = 2.3 mill T.lira, beware of the fact that many of the notes look similar

Most Turkish people were very friendly and helpful, although few speak English, learn a little Tukish B4 you go, it is well received by the locals.

Petrol price is similar to UK, Hotels averaged 20-30 million TL,

about £9-14, very cheap for a twin, en-suite room. Some were even cheaper, but were very basic

26/5 :  Arrived into Antalya on time at 0400, picked up our hire car from Almira and drove to Akseki. Arrived at site 4 in the Gosney guide at 7 a.m. 

Eastern Bonellis Warblers, BE Wheatears, Spot Fly, Krupers Nuthatch - 2, Crossbills, Orphean Warbler, Masked and Red backed Shrikes, but no Woodpeckers.

Akseki Cemetry 10 a.m.> BH and Corn Buntings, Turtle Doves, Orphean but no sniff of an OT Warbler. Booked into the reasonable Durat hotel in Akseki town, TL 20 mill

Walled Plantation 2 p.m. Golden Orioles, Cretzschmars Buntings, Rollers, Masked Shrikes, but little else, drove back towards Akseki, 0.5 km from the main Akseki bypass to Akseki town on RHS of dual carriageway we stopped speculatively and heard Olive Tree Warbler. We investigated and were rewarded with close, excellent views of 2 birds for 40 minutes, perched up and frequently flying around  rocky outcrops with bushes, very obliging. Never saw one at the famous Cemetry stakeout.

27/5 : Site 3, 7.9 km from Akseki along dirt track past the disgusting refuse dumping ground in otherwise pristine countryside. 6.30>

Ruppell's Warbler several males scoped. Rock Buntings, heard the soft "klip klip of the White backed Pecker but it never showed despite tape luring,

LL Buzzards. Went back to hotel and packed up after breakfast called in at our new site for OT Wa and saw them again on way back to main road. Drove via Konya to Kulu Gulu booked into Otel Atay for TL 20 mill twin room.

Late pm western side of Kulu Gulu Lake

Isabelline Wheatears, Asian ST Larks, C.Pratincoles, GB Terns, Med gulls, G.Flamingos, Ruddy Shelducks, RC Pochards, Quail, Purple Herons, M.Harriers, Calandra Larks, Feldegg Y.Wags, W.Storks, GR Wa, Bearded Tits, WH Duck- 30, Squacco Herons,L.Stint-20, Oystercatchers, Glossy Ibis, Kentish Plovers, LL Buzz.

28/5 : 6.30 > Started from the east and eventually circumnavigated lake by taking some rough tracks (be carefull!!)  thousands of hirundines, LRPs,

 SB Gulls, 3 BB Sandgrouse, Greylags, Black Wits saw a Hobby pursuing and eventually catch a Little Stint, similar birds to yesterday, a wonderful lake well worth visiting.

Left early pm stopping near Guzelyurt on way to Sultan Marshes, BE Wheatears, Nightingales, Calandra, Rock sparrows, Syrian Pecker, Orpheans, Olivaceous, Ortolan Bunting, shorelark, Tawny Pipit

Ciftlik-Golcuk  excellent view of 2 White throated Robins, videoed perched on phone line singing after heavy rain shower, Turtle doves.

Spent the night in Yayyahli, Otel Taruk, TL 7 mill each for a single room each, at last a respite from Gordon's snoring!!  The hotel was very basic but we had no choice, only other alternative was a long drive off to the big town north of Sultan Marshes in torrential rain.

29/6 : Sultan Marshes about 30 km from Yayyahli. Paid $40 for a 3.5 hour punt ride into the reedbeds and lake. Well worth it, the guy punting was knackered at the end, hard work!!!   Good views of Moustached, GR. Savis Warblers, Black Stork, Little Bittern videoed, Hobbies, GW Egrets, Whiskered Terns, Red necked Grebes, Caspian Reed Warbler (poss split). Drove to pumping stn and vandalised observation tower, alpine swifts, terns, Little Owl, LG Shrike. The marshes are slowly being drained virtually drying up in the height of summer we were told.

Drove to Demircazik and birded the area around the Mountain Ski Centre, Snow Finch, L'Throat, Choughs, Rock Sparrows. We could have stayed at the modern Ski Centre for TL30 mill for twin en-suite room but the staff were not friendly, spoke no English and there was no food available on site, a pity because it is a fantastic location for birding. Apparently it is owned and run by the government with courses for Turkish policemen, govn. officials etc. It is possible to camp here as well.

Stayed at the very hospitable and knowledgable  Hasan Safak's Pension, $75 for 2 nights all food and tractor ride up the mountain. An excellent place to stay, but not en-suite and no hot water if the weather is cloudy, (solar heating).

Hasan let me send an e-mail back home to UK, tea is always available and the trout is excellent!! Hasan has a website and his e-mail for booking accom Is, Tel 00 90388 7247039

30/5 : Demirkazik, up at 3.45 a.m. for tractor ride up mountain, it was overcast and windy not too good for Snowcock spotting!!!  Arrived at the top at about 5 a.m. Heard the curlew like call of the Snowcock but they refused to show. It started to drizzle and then rain hard, only managed 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 alpine Choughs B4 the weather became unbirdable and we admitted defeat. The tractor ride down the mountain was much worse than going up, got soaked to the skin and covered in mud from the tractor's wheels.  We were a sad couple of muppets on our return to the pension, quite a sight!!!

Ali put our wet filthy clothes into his washing machine and we had some breakfast inc. whiskey to warm myself up and raise my spirits. It was pouring with rain outside so we retired to bed for a kip. Still raining pm but we ventured out to the lower part of the gorge sheltering in the lee of the cliffs. 2 perched wet looking Golden Eagles, 2 Snow Finch, Crag Martins, alpine swifts were our only recompense.

31/5 : Mountains covered in fog/low cloud and still some rain so we abandoned Demirkazik till later on in the trip and drove all the way to Birecik through torrential rain for some of the journey. WT Robin, Cuckoo, Cettis en route nr Camardi. The new toll motorway is excellent and cheap.

Birecik, weather had cleared by now, sunny and warm in Birecik, saw the N.Bald Ibis on the cliffs, Pygmy Cormorants on the Euphrates, Menetries Warblers easy to see, Dead Sea Sparrows nesting in the Ibis Centre, LE Owls, Bee-eaters. Yellow throated Sparrows in the Pastachio Orchard as described in Gosney, Graceful Warblers, rufous bush robin.  Tried the Owl café beside the park and river in the evening LE Owls and a brief view of a Scops Owl Spp in fading light, it looked pale but we only had a 6 second view B4  it flew off into the gloom.  Booked into the v. comfortable Otel Merkalam by the bridge, TL 25 mill for nice AC room with sat TV inc BBC news 24.

1/6 : 6.20> ICBP Ibis Gorge, sunny warm. See-see Partridge- 3 flushed on rocky plateaux above gorge, seen 4 times in flight, distinctive "whip whip whip" call. Pale Rock Sparrows (buzzing call)` Menetries family feeding 3 young fledglings, BB Sandgrouse-25, Honey Buzzard.

Tried the CC Courser site mentioned in Gosney on way to Halfeti, no luck at all. Halfeti gorge north of village and lake through narrow track RR Swallows, PR Sparrows, Little Swift, Rock Nuthatch-3, RC Starlings- c100, Menetries.

Went back to the blue fountain café on the other side of the road from the park by the river. The café garden is next to a derelict wooded plot which is next to a big park. The LE Owl family were performing well.

At 7.30 pm I spotted a Scops spp Owl perched up high about 15 metres from the fountain, ( I had scanned this obvious perch 15 minutes B4 and there was nothing so the Owl must have flown in from elsewhere) We scoped it and studied the bird in detail over the next 20 minutes. STRIATED SCOPS OWL no doubt about it, rounder face less erect ear tufts, thin black streaks on pale breast, no white blotches in-between striations, lacked white spots on scapulars, buffish. Also the scops spp owl we saw briefly last night did not respond to a scops owl call played on my tape.  "Excellent" as Mr Burns would say!!! ( Sorry, I am a Simpsons fan)

2/6 : 7-9.30  Gravel working area by Euphrates,  Black Francolin, Night Heron, BB Sandgrouse-4, Rollers, Pygmy Cors, 1 BLUE CHEEKED BEE-EATER flew over calling. Park at the end of the dirt track by gate and walk up hump and along gravel pits to view you can then walk back beside the river. Tried again for the SS Owl but no joy, so left Birecik and drove along E 400 to Islikli signposted off the main road from Yesilice.

Isikli, valley through orchard to rocky moonscape plateaux.  Parked in village where the locals were curious but friendly. Upchers Warbler, all dark tail which it swings about, harsh "zack" call, PR Sparrows, BE Wheatears, Cinerous Buntings, Rock and Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Desert Finch, Sombre Tit, WT Robins, LT Tits.  No sign of the fabled Red tailed Wheatears despite 5-6 hours of intensive scanning and walking around the moonscape area. Birdquest saw some here in 2002.

Durnalik Valley lower part 5-7 pm, WT Robins, Cinerous, Sombre Tits, Olivaceous Wa. Drove back to Gazentep for the night, Otel Kazan TL 39 mill for nice ensuite, twin inc an excellent cooked breakfast buffet at 6.30am next a.m.

3/6 : Durnalik Valley 8-10.30, good views of Upchers Wa, Cinerous Buntings, ST Eagle, PR Sparrows, E.Rock Nuthatch, Cretzschmars, Sombre Tits, Desert Finch, BE wheatears, L'Throats.   We were 2/3 of the way up the valley about 2 km from the car when I looked back with my bins towards the car and saw to my horror kids around the vehicle attempting to break in. Gordon scoped them and told me one boy had a rock in his hand and was about to smash a window!!!  So I blew my trusty whistle as hard as I could, at which point the boys looked indecisive and ran off. We decided to take no chances as all our luggage was in the vehicle and we had not bought windscreen glass insurance, so abandoned our quest for the RT Wheatear and went back to the car fast. Phew!!! No damage. All OK, and Gordon collared one of the boys he recognised as the ringleader of the potential car thieves and "had words" involving violent gesticulations as to what would have happened to him if the car had been damaged, (Gordon is 6 foot, 3" and 15 stone) Would suggest if you visit this site that you park in the village where there are adults around and walk back down to the valley track.

Drove back to Demircazik through more rain which cleared when we got to the mountains, what a relief!!  Had excellent views of 100+ RF Serins in the nomad valley up from Cukarburg, Rock Nuthatch, Golden Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, Choughs , Shorelarks and a playful pair of Peregrines, couldn't string them into Sakers unfortunately, despite Saker being supposedly more common than Peregrine this time of year according to Hassan.

Stayed with Hassan once more with a group of 8 Dutch birders also staying there.

4/6 : Up again early for the dreaded tractor ride up the mountain at 4 am in the dark. However this time the weather was perfect, sunny and clear but rather cold first thing, (take a hat and gloves)

The Snowcocks were calling on arrival but again proved elusive, we only nailed them after 50 minutes of hard scanning, seeing Wallcreeper as well.

CASPIAN SNOWCOCK- 2 on distant crag about 1.5 km away rather unsatisfactory views `so myself and Gordon scrambled closer over the rocky scree so we could scope them from 500 metres away, Hasan returned down the mountain in his tractor. Much better scope views + we saw another 4 fly along the cliff face giving a different call to the usual curlew wail. Excellent!!!

Also found a Raddes Accentor nest a pair showing well, Crimson winged Finchs, Ouzels, Water Pipits, Alpine Choughs, Chukars, B Redstarts (more red on flanks different subspp) , Rock Thrush and Crag Martins. A stunning place to bird, but hard work climbing up the rocky scree.  Even managed to video the Snowcock through my scope but more of a record shot.

Walked down the spectacular gorge seeing a close but brief Wallcreeper 10metres away, Woodlark, and Apollo Blue butterflies. Descending the gorge is tricky, best done without the hindrance of a scope and tripod. You need to be reasonably nimble and fit as it involves a bit of rock scrambling. Well worth the effort though!!!!

Got back to Hasans at 2 pm for a late lunch with some ice cool pilsner then a kip in bed as we were knackered after our early am exertions. The Snowcocks were still calling and showing occasionally at 9-10 a.m. so it is still possible to see them later on if you are not an earlybird, getting up at 3.30 a.m. is no fun on holiday!!  Our best views were 6.30-7.30 a.m. Took it easy and kipped for a few hours in the afternoon, very tiring this birding lark ,but rewarding!!!!

5/6 : Realised we still hadn't seen Finsch's Wheatear so made a concerted effort to see some this morning. Male and female 0.5km left of Ski Centre on cemetry walls showing well, Ortolan, Shorelarks, Susliks, Tawny Pipit, LL Buzz. Went back to the Nomad valley up rough track through Cukarburg, more RF Serins, Peregrines, Golden Eagle. Paid Hasan, $85 for 2 nights accom, all food, 2 beers and another bone shaking tractor ride. Left Demirkazik at 1.30 pm and drove to the Goksu Delta, very hot. Booked into a hotel in nearby town TL20mill overlooking harbour where ferry goes to Cyprus. Drove through holiday village and checked out the beach. Lesser crested Tern flew past, a probable distant Audouins Gull, 13 Night Herons,

YV Bulbul and best of all, I picked up a distant skua shaped bird scudding over the sea which materialised into a stunningly agile ELEANORA'S FALCON, a lifer for me, a raptor I have longed to see. Blk Francolin calling.

6/6 : 8> windy and sunny drove thro holiday village to runway along sandy track to new observation tower overlooking Lake Akgol. V.windy, M.Harriers, Purple Gallinules, Little and Whiskered, WWB Terns, Raven, Stilts, Marbled Teal, W.Storks you can continue round and bird from the new hides as well all signposted.  The car decided to pack up, starter motor gone. Luckily Gordon's mobile worked in Turkey so we called the hire company and a mechanic arrived 2 hours later to repair the car, least we could bird in the interim. We drove another 3 km and then the car wouldn't start again. Called the mechanic back and he changed a cable and some electrics and the car worked, lost 4 hours fiddle/farting about with the car. Citrine Wagtail, Spanish Sparrows. Walked along the turtle beach site 8 in Gosney to scope the gulls at the end of the spit (The walk through the reeds by the river mouth was virtually impassable without wading through thick mud) so we abandoned the walk.)  Saw some turtle snouts and backs poking up out of the sea close to the beach probably green turtles.  Had excellent views of 2 AUDOUINS GULLS 3 km from site 8, + Sanderling sum plum, Grey Plover and a lovely adult Greater Sand Plover in the evening light. Fantastic!!!  Audouins was a lifer for me, I resisted the temptation to twitch the bird at Dunge  2 weeks ago, knowing I would see them in Turkey, great birds.

We had now seen all my target birds. 25 lifers in the Western Pale, not bad and probably unrepeatable for me to see that many lifers in the W.Pale in one 2 week trip. World list now about 2750 or so, need to work out my W.Pale list some time.

7/6 : Drove to the gorge 10 km north of Silifke, layby off D750. Excellent views of 2 dog fighting  Eleanora's Falcons around the cliffs, Rock Nuthatch, Masked Shrikes, Alpine Swifts, but no Krupers or Vultures as suggested by Gosney.. Drove the 350 km along the twisty turny coast road back to Akseki, very slow, but wonderfully scenic. We got done for speeding when the road straightened out and you could go faster, (see tips)  Back to Otel Durak, TL20 mill for 1 night.

8/6 : Didn't see or hear the OT Warbler at the site we found 2 weeks ago, Ruppells, Olivaceous, Masked Sh.   Went back to site 4 on Akseki bypass. Middle spot Pecker. Found a Krupers nest hole low down in a pine tree, LHS of clearing on slope. Excellent views for next 50 mins regularly visiting the hole every 4 mins or so to feed the chicks and carry away faecal deposits. Also Red Squirrel, Redstarts, Spot Fly, Sombre tits, LL Buzz, Common Nuthatch etc.

Returned to Akseki for lunch and wrote up notes and lazed around in afternoon till 8 pm when we drove back to the airport to check in for 2 am. 4.15 a.m. flight back to Gatwick. Had a lot of time to kill at the airport so Ali Barut the hire car guy kept us entertained with his tales of Belly Dancers and Russian prostitutes in Antalya town. Great character and perfect English!!!

Drove 3220 km in total, 201 species, and 25 lifers for me, not bad. We were contemplating going all the way up to Sivri Kaya for the Black Grouse but the days we lost due to bad weather put pay to that idea. Its also a hell of a long way, probably better to do it on a separate trip also taking in Lake Van or maybe even Armenia/Georgia for Great Rosefinch. Maybe next Spring!!!

Excellent trip, very enjoyable despite 2-3 days of bad weather , car breaking down temporarily, attempted break in and speeding fine!!!!!  Birding would be too easy if nothing ever went wrong!!!

We birded at a reasonable pace, usually up by 6-6.30 and often birding towards dusk. We avoided driving at night except for to and from the airport. Its much better to bird at a reasonable pace than burn yourself out attempting to fit in too much, you will definitely enjoy it more and have less risk of an RTA as you will be knackered the whole time. The charter flights into Antalya only went once a week so the choice was either a 1 or 2 week trip. You could cram in our itinerary in 7 days but any bad weather would scupper your plans and you would need to drive after dark which is ill advised based on our experience of Turkish drivers and road conditions.

Got some good video footage of many of the birds, definitely worth bringing a small camcorder with you.

Hope to return to northern Turkey some time in the future.

Systematic List :
(Full details of more interesting sightings in the report above. Highlights/specialities/notable nice birds in bold type)

Little grebe
Great crested grebe
Red necked Grebe
Pygmy cormorant
Night heron
Squacco heron
Little egret
Great white egret
Grey heron
Purple heron
White stork
Black stork
Glossy ibis
Northern Bald ibis
Greater flamingo
Ruddy shelduck
Marbled duck
White head Duck

Red-crested pochard
Golden eagle
Short toed Eagle
Marsh harrier
Long-legged buzzard
Honey Buzzard
Eleonora's falcon
Caspian snowcock
Black francolin
See-see partridge
Purple gallinule
Greylag Goose

Black-winged stilt
Collared pratincole
Little ringed plover
Kentish plover
Spur-winged plover
Greater Sand Plover

Grey plover
Black tailed Godwit
Little stint
Common sandpiper
Black-headed gull
Slender-billed gull
Mediterranean gull
Yellow-legged gull
Audouin's gull
Lesser black-backed gull
Little tern
Lesser crested Tern
Gull-billed tern
Sandwich tern
Common tern
Whiskered tern
White winged Black Tern
Rock dove
Collared dove
Turtle dove
Long eared Owl family
Little owl
Scops owl (heard)
Striated Scops Owl
Alpine swift
Little swift
Black bellied Sandgrouse
Blue cheeked Bee-eater
Green woodpecker
Syrian woodpecker
Middle spotted woodpecker
White-backed woodpecker (heard only)
Crested lark
Asian Short-toed lark
Calandra lark
Shore lark
Crag martin
Sand martin
Red-rumped swallow
House martin
Tawny pipit
Water pipit
Tree pipit
White wagtail
Black-headed wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Yellow-vented bulbul
Radde's accentor
Rufous bushchat
White-throated robin
Black redstart
Isabelline wheatear
Black-eared wheatear
Finsch's wheatear
Blue rock thrush
Rock thrush
Mistle thrush
Ring ouzel
Eastern Orphean warbler
Lesser whitethroat
Hume's lesser whitethroat
Menetries warbler
Ruppell's warbler
Graceful warbler
Moustached warbler
Savi's warbler
Cetti's warbler
Caspian Reed warbler
Great reed warbler
Olive-tree warbler
Upcher's warbler
Olivaceous warbler
Eastern bonelli's warbler
Willow warbler
Spotted flycatcher
Great tit
Coal tit
Bearded tit
Blue tit
Sombre tit
Long-tailed tit
Kruper's nuthatch
Rock nuthatch
Great rock nuthatch
Red-backed shrike
Woodchat shrike
Masked shrike
Lesser grey shrike
Red-billed chough
Alpine chough
Hooded crow
Rose-coloured starling
Golden oriole
House sparrow
Spanish sparrow
Dead sea sparrow
Rock sparrow
Pale rock sparrow
Yellow-throated sparrow
Red-fronted serin
Crimson-winged finch
Desert finch
Reed bunting
Cretzschmar's bunting
Cinereous bunting
Black-headed bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Corn bunting
Rock bunting



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