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A Report from

South eastern Turkey, April 2003,

Neil Fox

During April, 2003, I enjoyed a weeks holiday in Side on the South eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, about 50 miles East of Antalya International Airport. This area is a regular tourist spot and many visitors to the area will, like me, have family commitments as well as an interest in the fantastic archeological treasures such as Athena's temple in Side and the magnificent amphitheatres of the region.

Consequently birding opportunities were rather limited and I was unable to visit some of the most well known site such as Burdur. However, Side itself proved to be something of a treasure trove as a migrant stopover and on at least 2 days I enjoyed a tremendous fall of migrants with birds turning up so fast that I frequently found myself not knowing quite which way to turn.

Side itself is a busy town almost totally built around tourism and the main street will have few attractions for most birders and the hotels tend to be built up to the edge of the beaches. To the East of the main town there is a half mile or so of coastal scrub behind the shoreline and just before it meets the road there is a huge refuse dump bordering the scrub to the West and the town's sports stadium to the North side. At the refuse site there is almost constant burning of rubbish making the whole area seem quite an unlikely spot for birds.

On the day of our arrival we got caught in a torrential downpour and whilst sheltering watched 3 raptors, probably Buzzards but the torrential rain prevented anything more specific than that, at least 3 Woodchat Shrikes and a probable Masked Shrike glimpsed only briefly. Clearly the area had potential and a return after a day of dreadful weather was amazing. In a little over an hour I had dozens of Lesser Whitethroats, Northern Wheatear and Spanish Sparow, a couple of Eastern Black Eared Wheatear, Subalpine Warbler, a single Olive Tree Warbler - just huge! - a Short Eared Owl, Stone Curlew and probably the pick of the bunch, a Great Snipe which I flushed twice.
Flying over were a flock of 37 Night Herons, a single Purple Heron and 35 Glossy Ibis

Over the next few days I added up to 15 Hoopoe, a single male Lesser Kestrel, several more Black Eared Wheatears, 15 'feldegg' (Black Headed)Yellow Wagtails, a couple of Crezchmers Buntings, 2 Bee-Eaters, a single Masked Shrike and on patchy grassland and low shrubs around the hotels a couple of Yellow-Vented Bulbuls.

To the East of the football stadium and adjacent to the road is a small area of water with a limited reedbed, sandy banks and low scrub on what lookes like a very poor habitat. It proved to be anything but as it played host to a good selection of birds including 4 Black Winged Stilts throughout the week, up to 15 Curlew Sandpipers, 7 Little Stint, a couple of Ruff, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, both Upcher's and Great Reed Warbler, a stunning male Citrine wagtail, 3 Squacco Herons, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis and Kingfisher.

Visiting the beach itself, as all family men get roped into instead of birding!- we had the best view Iwe have ever had of a Short Toed Eagle cruising barely 10 yards over our heads on the coastal srub behind the beach and at the coast itself whilst being rather disappointed with the numbers of seabirds - by some way the fewest we have ever seen from a beach - we did have a fly by of 4 Slender Billed Gulls and 6 Gull Billed Terns and the star here, a first summer Great Black Headed Gull which just loafed around all afternoon allowing certain identification.

Nearby, just a short 'Dolmus' ride away is Titreyan Golu, a small lake surrounded by hotels and the associated holiday camp type features with building work still going on. Less than optimistic we walked around the lake and found with little difficulty 2 Yellow-vented Bulbuls, 1 of only 2 sightings during our stay, Kingfisher, Great Reed Warbler, female Subalpine warbler, a large flock of Herons - probably the same ones as Side containing Night Heron, Purple Heron and Glossy Ibis - Little Bittern and Graceful Warbler amonst others. The reed fringing the lake is narrow so excellent views were had of most things, only the Little Bittern evading close scrutiny.

The edge of the town itself had Bee-Eater and Scops Owl with Blue Headed Wagtail, Black-Eared and Northern Wheatear on the car parks but surprisingly nothing at all in or around the harbour - I have never seen a harbour without at least Herring or Black Headed Gull loafing around for scraps from either fishermen or tourists! Still, that was worth a visit just to see the awesome Temple of Athena - go by moonlight when the white stone exudes a compelling atmosphere.

With just a week at a peak migration time I cannot say if the birds we saw are regular visitors, breeders or rare for the area but for a visitor from England it was a superb place and for all but the most serious birders would allow some quality viewing of exciting birds to be combined with a family holiday without needing to take too much time out or go to the expense of car hire.

If any one does have any comments on the above brief notes please e-mail me at and I will be happy to enter into any discussion or expand on anything.

Good birding!

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