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A Report from

Birding in Eastern Turkey, 2nd - 15th of June 2003 ,

Lars and Joachim Enger


To all the birders who would like to visit Turkey, especially the Eastern part of Turkey. Here is a short report from our recent trip to Turkey.

Some General Information

How to get to Turkey: We booked our flight and a rental car through Carlson Wagonlit Travel. The flight Frankfurt-Istanbul-Adana-Istanbul-Frankfurt with Turkish Airlines cost us 372,75 Euros/person.

Renting a car: A 4 doors Fiat Sienna from Sixt cost us for 14 days including all insurances and unlimited kilometers 504,00 Euros. Even though  there is no car rental office at the airport (all offices are in the center of Adana) we asked to pick up the car and leave it on our departure at the airport. This was granted without any additional charge.

Fuel and gas stations: The price for unleaded gas was between 1.840.000 TKL and 1.880.000 TKL. 1.000.000 TKL equaled 0,60 Euros during our stay. There are gas stations all over Turkey. Absolutely no problems in the Eastern part of the country.

Travelling by car in Turkey: Most of the streets had just been fixed. But still be aware of huge potholes and big stones. Some of the roads are still unpaved and dusty. We drove our car through some VERY rough dirt roads without any problems. If possible avoid to drive at night. Be aware of radar controls. In most cases  the car with the radar (not always an obvious police car) is situated on the opposite site of the street. You will soon recognize that the car has at least two (sometimes three) antennas.

Police and Military controls: We drove 4932 kilometers and had only one police control (ca 50 km before Erzincan) and three military controls in the southeast (Kurdish area) of Turkey. The officers just asked for our passport and destination. Not once was our car or luggage investigated.

Iraq war: There was absolutely nothing to see that there had been a war a few weeks ago some miles away.

Accomodation: Here are the hotels were we stayed:

(1) Safak Pension in Cukurbag for 25 Euros/person per night including breakfast, one meal, toilet and warm shower;

(2) Hotel "Berlin" in Erzincan for 18 Euros for two persons per night with toilet and hot shower;

(3)  Hotel "Genesis" in Sivrikaya for 24 Euros for two persons per night with toilet and hot shower;

(4) Hotel "Ararat" in Dogubayacit for 18 Euros for two persons per night with toilet and hot shower;

(5) Hotel "Asur" in Van for 18 Euros for two persons per night including breakfast with toilet and hot shower;

(6) "Merkalam" Motel in Birecik for 15 Euros for two persons per night with air con, toilet and hot shower;

(7) Hotel "Güven" in Tarsus for 12 Euros for two persons per night, no toilet and hot shower in the room; and

(8) Hotel "Ipek" in Adana for 21 Euros for two persons per night with air con, toilet and hot shower.

Note: The most uncomfortable place was the Hotel "Güven" in Tarsus. If possible, avoid to stay in Tarsus. For us this was the dirtiest town we ever saw on our trip.

Money: ATM's are all over Turkey. We never had any problems withdrawing money with our VISA cards from the ATM's.

Food: Food is generally cheap and very good. For instance, we got 4 Döners for 2,40 Euros!!!

People and language: The Turkish people are the most friendly people we have ever met, especially the ones in the country side. It is absolutely necessary to have at least a little Turkish dictionary. Only very few people know English or German outside the big cities.

Literature: The following material was of great value:

(1)        "Euro Cart"-Map 1:750.000 "Türkei" from the RV-Verlag.      

(2)        A Birdwatchers' Guide to Turkey by Ian Green and Nigel Moorhouse

(3)        Finding Birds in Turkey and

(4)        Finding Birds in Eastern Turkey by Dave Gosney

(5)        Travel guidebook The Rough Guide to Turkey

(6)        Travel guidebook Lonely Planet -- Turkey

A summary of a summary of our birding tour
(under each new date only the new birds will be mentioned; were necessary, additional information is given):

2 June 2003

Arrival in Adana. Heading towards the Safak Pension in Cukurbag.

3 June 2003

The trip with Hasan Safak into the Demirkazik mountains cost us 75 Euros. The reward: Several Caucasian Snowcocks, Radde's Accentor, Red-fronted Serin, Wallcreeper, Alpine Chough, Chough, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Snow Finch, Water Pipit, Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Chukar, Ring Ouzel, Northern Wheatear, Finsch's Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Little Owl, Crimson-winged Finch, Rock Nuthatch.

Aladag: Serin, Yellowhammer, Rock Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Corn Bunting, Lesser Grey Shrike, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Starling, Golden Oriole, Shore Lark, Woodlark, Short-toed Lark (longipennis), Marsh Warbler, Nightingale, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Linnet, Magpie, Carrion Crow (C. C. Cornix), Carrion Crow (C. C. Corone), Raven, Red-backed Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, White Wagtail, House Martin, Crag Martin, Swift, Hoopoe, Cuckoo, Cetti's Warbler, Jay.

4 June 2003

On our way to Erzincan with side-trip to Göreme: Coal Tit, Long-legged Buzzard, Swallow, Greenfinch, White Stork, Rose-coloured Starling, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Rook, Lapwing, Marsh Harrier, Alpine Swift, Steppe Eagle (immat.), Red Kite, Black Stork, Roller, Bee-eater.

5 June 2003

Ride to Sivrikaya: Yellow Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Kite, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Hering Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Armenian Gull (Larus cachinnans armenicus).

Sumela Monestary: Green Warbler, Wren, Grey Wagtail and Dipper.

Sivrikaya area in the afternoon: ( 1/1) Caucasian Black Grouse, Robin, Scarlet Rosefinch and Bullfinch.

At Ovitdagi Gecidi (2640 m): Twite and Alpine Accentor.

6 June 2003

Early in the morning at 4:20 am we drove up again the trail (the second after the cemetery) were we saw at least 13 male and two female Caucasian Black Grouses. If you are up that early you have a good chance to get very close to the birds. We were as close as 10-15 meters to one female. Lars filmed them with his camcorder.

Ride to Dogubayazit: Redshank, Egyptian Vulture, Common Sandpiper, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Montagu's Harrier, Common Tern and Hobby.

7 June 2002

Area around Isak Pasha Palace: At 4:30 am we saw (10+) Mongolian Trumpeter Finch and (2) Grey-necked Bunting. 

From Dogubayazit to Van: (3+) Bimaculated Lark, (2/1) White-headed Duck plus 1 unidentified female duck (looked like Falcated Duck) at Van Lake, Whinchat, Great Reed Warbler, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Coot, Pochard, Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, (2) Paddyfield Warbler, Citrine Wagtail and Palm Dove.

8 June 2003

From Van to Birecik: Little-ringed Plover, Avocet, White-throated Robin, Cattle Egret, Tawny Pipit.

9 June 2003

Gravel Pits area: (1) See-see Partridge, (10+) Black Francolin, Pygmy Cormorant, Rufous Bush Robin, Olivaceous Warbler, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Nightjar, Stonechat.

Birecik, "Owl Cafe": (2) Striated Scops Owl. We saw them each day of our stay there. Mürret (we hope we spell his name right) who is in charge of the cafe told us that nearly all of the birders just take a look at the owl when it has been discovered (usually they only find one) and then leave immediately. We suggest: find the bird, enjoy it a while, order a cold drink or a hot tea, have a chat and then say good-bye. It leaves a much better impression.

Gravel Pits area: (4) Pied Kingfisher, Moorhen, (5) Long-eared Owl, Dead Sea Sparrow.

Birecik, Bald Ibis breeding station: Bald Ibis and Syrian Woodpecker (breeding at the station). Ibrahim, the guard told us that there are right now 62 adult and 14 juvenile Bald Ibises.

Birecik: Menetries's Warbler

NOTE: The habitation of the Blue-cheecked Bea-eater as described in Dave Gosney's "Finding Birds ..." has been totally destroyed. We looked everywhere for the birds, but they have disappeared. The whole area has been changed dramatically.   

10 June 2003

Birecik: Woodpigeon, Graceful Warbler, Hawfinch, Sand Martin, Desert Finch, Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Little Swift.

Halfeti: Great Rock Nuthatch

Birecik, the "small grove or eucalytus plantation" just behind the Merkalam Motel: Yellow-throated Sparrow

Birecik area: If you drive south, a little side-road, located a little after the Merkalam Motel, you'll reach after about 30 km a HUGE reed area, with lots of Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, etc.

11 June 2003

From Birecik to Tarsus:

Isikli: Pied Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, (10+) Pale Rock Sparrow, Sombre Tit, Upcher's Warbler, Wood Warbler, Bonelli's Eagle, Cretzschmar's Bunting.

Tarsus, picnic site Karabucak (eucalyptus forests): Masked Shrike, White-breasted Kingfisher

12 June 2003

Tarsus, picnic site Karabucak (eucalyptus forests): Common Buzzard, Spanish Sparrow, Yellow-vented Bulbul

13 June 2003

From Tarsus to Adana

Adana, Tuzla lake area: Spur-winged Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Tern, Collared Pratincole, Peregrine, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern

Adana, Lake Abyatan (no real access; only distant viewing possible): Stone Curlew and Greater Flamingo

In addition to the above mentioned birds we also saw

Amphibians: frogs and toads (species ?)

Reptiles: lizzards (species ?), geckos, terrapins, tortoises (some on film)

Mammals: 3 foxes (on film), 1 hare, 2 chamois, 13 Ibex, 3 dead hedgehogs, 1 mungo (on film), many susliks (on film)

Butterflies & Dragonflies: a lot of different species (?)


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