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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Western Turkey, May 24-June 7, 2006,
This is a report of the birds found during our two week trip to Turkey for sightseeing and visiting family. My wife's parents own a summer house on Alibey (Cunda) Island, near Ayvalık in western Turkey. Visiting them at their house provided the impetus for our visit to Turkey. I had never thought of Turkey as an interesting birding destination, but after doing a little research on the web, was pleased to find that even western Turkey would provide a lot of excellent birding possibilities. The nearest sites to Turkey that I'd birded previously were Germany and Hungary, so a good number of species would be new to me. My wife and I took a brief trip south of Ayvalık for both birding and sightseeing, staying one night in Kuşadası, three nights in Dalyan, and one night at Pamukkale. We spent the final four nights of the trip in Istanbul with her parents, with little birding in the city.
During the two weeks in Turkey, I managed to find a little less than 100 species, about a third of which were life birds for me. I consider the total a satisfying number, given my lack of familiarity with Eurasian species and the fact that this trip was intended to be more of a family holiday. I was usually able to dedicate a couple of hours each morning before breakfast for birding. I was not able to get out for much birding in the evening, since mealtimes were usually set times at the hotels or spent with the family, so that disappearing then would not have been all that polite. Fortunately there was favorable habitat (both olive groves and pine forest) within a 20 minute walk of my in-laws' house in Alibey. I was able to get up early for birding four of the six mornings in Alibey (the first and last were impossible due to travel), and all but one morning on our southwestern trip. It would have been ill-advised for me to crawl out of bed at 5:30am on the morning of our wedding anniversary. Otherwise birding was limited to what could be found while visiting tourist sites, what could be seen and identified from the car while driving, and what could be found at brief roadside stops in places that looked interesting
Itinerary: Date - Where woke up (day activity)
May 24 - In flight from Philadelphia (arrival Istanbul, ferry to Bandırma, evening ride to Alibey)
May 25 - Alibey (recovery)
May 26 - Alibey
May 27 - Alibey (drive to Ephesus, Efes marshes)
May 28 - Kuşadası (Bafa Gölü, drive to Dalyan)
May 29 - Dalyan (drive to Fetiye, Ölüdeniz beach trip)
May 30 - Dalyan
May 31 - Dalyan (drive via Kale to Pamukkale, visit Heiropolis)
June 1 - Pamukkale (drive back to Alibey)
June 2 - Alibey
June 3 - Alibey
June 4 - Alibey (drive to Istanbul)
June 5 - Istanbul
June 6 - Istanbul
June 7 - Istanbul
June 8 - Istanbul (fly home)
We had no problems communicating in western Turkey. German and English (our languages) are widely understood, particularly in areas visited by tourists. I learned some basic Turkish phrases (hello, good day, good evening, thank you, the counting numbers, etc), and my wife dusted off some basic Turkish she had studied years ago. It was more than adequate for making purchases, getting help at gas stations and hotels, ordering meals, etc. And when we were with my father-in-law, we had an easy time of it, since he speaks Turkish fluently. The Turkish people were polite, friendly, and genuinely interested in speaking with you--ignoring, of course, all the restaurant and hotel touts who can be annoying in their attempts to get your attention. Early one morning at Pamukkale I had an interesting conversation in German with a 60 yr old Turkish shepherd. He wanted to know where I was from, what I did for a living, married, kids, etc, typical friendly curiosity. We met many others who wanted nothing more than to share friendly conversation or tea--sure, tea is often an entry to business transactions, but it is also a welcoming gesture, too.
Recently Turkey lopped six zeros off their currency, creating the new Turkish lira (Yeni Turk lira), abbreviated YTL. However, it was obvious that the old mentality still remained, since we often were given prices in million lira, for instance, "on-besh million" (15 million) lira when the cost was obviously 15 YTL. I think saying "million" is just easier to say than "yeni turk lira." It also makes it clear it is not the "old" lira, which were only removed from circulation in January 2006, I think. But it was very interesting to observe how frequently we heard it. Some priceboards still showed a lot of zeros as well. We obtained cash from the plentiful ATMs located in every town or city. We paid for gasoline and hotels by credit card, but all other purchases were with cash YTL.
We booked our hotels ahead of time through a Turkish travel company (original contact via my wife's uncle), Arya Tours [http://www.arya.com.tr/]. Prices were quoted in Euros, but converted to Turkish lira at time of payment (by credit card). Prices included room, breakfast buffet, and dinner buffet, and ranged from EUR 35 to EUR 55 (per two persons). The Başar Hotel in Dalyan was the best and most pleasant of our stay, with a lovely swimming pool; interestingly, it was also the least expensive (EUR 35 per night). [http://www.basaroteldalyan.com.tr/]. The Grand Ozcelik in Kuşadası http://www.kusadasihotels.com/grandozcelik/ and the Villa Lycos in Pamukkale were decent quality but rather unremarkable. We felt that Pamukkale itself was somewhat of a disappointment, and were glad we had only one night in the area. The impression is of a fantastic natural site that has been tremendously and permanently overwhelmed by visitors and development. This discouraging perspective is mitigated, I suppose, by the knowledge that for the last 2000+ years the site has been occupied and altered by its human residents, so perhaps the present situation is only a rougher push in the same direction. In Istanbul we stayed at the Hotel Turkoman (EUR 55, per two persons, breakfast only, also booked through Arya Tours). It is located practically right on the Hippodrome; some rooms have a view of the Blue Mosque, but the breakfast terrace has very nice views; the breakfast itself was excellent. There are some nice rooms in the hotel, but also some less desirable ones. Our first assignment was off the lobby (noisy), so at our request we were changed to a room with no AC on the third floor under the kitchen (both hot and noisy). After one night there, they were able to move us to a nice room on the ground floor (AC and quiet enough). The staff was very pleasant and did their best to accommodate us; this is not a luxury hotel, but is reasonably priced and very convenient to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.
We rented a car (Fiat Palio) in Ayvalık from Light Rent-a-car for $340/seven days, with insurance and unlimited KMs. We were forced to pay cash rather than use a credit card since the machine was "not working." This made me a little uncomfortable; next time I would probably pay a little more and book through Avis (also in Ayvalık). From the start, the car had a problem with second gear evidenced by a grinding noise almost every time second gear was used. Light Rent-a-car acknowledged this in advance but assured us it was "no problem." Fortunately, with all our misgivings, we had no car trouble for 1500 km other than a slow air leak from one tire, which required filling once during the week. Driving in Turkey was, well, quite different from at home in the US, but I feel I made the adjustment to the Turkish driving mentality without too much difficulty. However, I would not have enjoyed driving in Istanbul at all, where the Turkish driving mentality is tested in heavy traffic and tight spaces. Fortunately my father-in-law did all the driving there (and I often just closed my eyes). Gas is quite expensive (approx. $7.50/US gallon). However, roads are excellent in western Turkey. The only hindrances to rapid travel are occasional construction areas and steep grades that can trap you behind heavy trucks.
The food in Turkey was terrific. Yes, there were a few things I didn't care for: I am not a big olive eater, and some of the sweet cakes dripping in syrup were not my favorites. However, the selection of fresh vegetables and fruit at this time of year was very good. Salads and seafood were great. I loved the cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, plums, and cherries. Don't miss a visit to the local market. The honey we bought at a roadside stand was superb. The buffet meals prepared at the various hotels were also very good. And there will always be good fresh bread on the table at every meal. We were careful to wash fruits and vegetables from the market before eating them, but did not stay away from salads and fruit plates in the hotels. We drank bottled water and beverages, and washed our hands whenever possible. We each experienced a small amount of diarrhea at times, but it was nothing serious enough to affect our enjoyment of the trip.
Finding Birds in Western Turkey - by Dave Gosney
A Birdwatchers' Guide to Turkey - by Ian Green & Nigel Moorhouse
Dominic Bates' May/June 2004 Report - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/turkey/turkey18/dalyan-jun-04.htm
Bob Swann's April 2003 Report - http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/turkey/turkey12/turk-apr-03.htm
An excellent source of other trip reports is from travellingbirder.com: http://www.travellingbirder.com/tripreports/default.php
Excellent Turkey birdlist (Excel) with names in English, Latin, and Turkish: http://www.kustr.org/kustr.php?modul=trkus&page=2
Internet guide with good maps to some birding sites: http://www.birdwatchingtoursturkey.com/?BASLIK=72
Really cool satellite photos (just search for any village name): http://www.indexmundi.com/search.html
Alibey (Cunda) Island - We stayed at my in-laws' house. I had fun photographing a Little Owl on the neighbor's chimney. A ten-minute walk uphill brought me through wheat fields into olive orchards. Continuing uphill another ten minutes through the orchards led to a pine forest beneath the radar/radio installation on top of the tallest peak of the island. I enjoyed a great view of Syrian Woodpecker on my first afternoon walk in the olive groves. I thought it odd that I saw this species at four locations on the trip, but it was the only woodpecker species I found. Over my time I on Alibey, I found Cirl and Black-headed Buntings, Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, and Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, among other common birds. Eleanora's Falcons were seen very well on two occasions. There was even a flyover Ruddy Shelduck. I was unable to find Krueper's Nuthatch in the pine forest over the course of three visits, so they were very quiet or absent. I also put some effort into finding Olive Tree Warbler, but failed at that, too. It was really tough for me to distinguish some of the warbler songs on my CD and in the field, since they are new to my North American ears. I probably missed other ordinary birds that would have been noted as a matter of course by an experienced European birder. Late one morning we took a drive north on the dirt road toward the unimaginatively named villages of Birinciköy ("First Village") and İkinciköy ("Second Village"). Highlights on that trip were another Little Owl and Stonechat. Just south of Ayvalık along highway E87 are some salt evaporation ponds where I found Greater Flamingo, Kentish Plover, and Little Tern. Check out the cool maps of the area at www.indexmundi.com (search for ‘birincikoy’ or ‘alibey’). The evaporation ponds can easily be seen in the indexmundi.com aerial photos of the Ayvalık area.
Ephesus - The ancient site had a few species, although it was swarming with visitors and extremely hot the day we visited. Red-backed Shrike was the only notable species found at the ruins. We followed up with a drive to Meryemana (The Virgin Mary's House) where we spent about an hour in the cool mountaintop glen. The highlight there was a Great Spotted Cuckoo in the trees around the parking lot. Also I persuaded my wife to allow me a couple of 15 minute stops at the Efes marshes (see Gosney's book) on our way to the hotel in Kuşadası. Here I found Marsh Warbler, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, and the first Spanish Sparrows of the trip.
Bafa Gölü - This was a late morning visit on the way to Bodrum from Kuşadası. We took a short walk in the grove of trees but I didn’t find anything of note. The chained dog barked but didn't look too worrying, and the dog's owner was very friendly, inviting us to walk through his property. We also walked the dirt road from the levee to the edge of the lake. The first of our Red-rumped Swallows were seen at the levee. More Ruddy Shelducks, Coots, and Black-winged Stilts were found on the northern shallows of the lake. Distant white birds on the lake could have been pelicans, but they were just too far to identify.
Bodrum - picturesque harbor town for lunch - no birding
1) I birded the road west to Iztuzu beach, but only to the gate which was closed daily until 8am. I never actually made it down to Iztuzu beach. We drove the road up to the radar station early one morning; turn left just before the gate down to Iztuzu beach. This place has fantastic views of the beach, Dalyan, and the Aegean coastline. Here I found the first Black-eared Wheatear. All the reports said that Krueper's Nuthatch was a common bird in the pines. In the two mornings I birded these pine forests, I heard it only twice, and never got a look.
2) The hill to the north of town is cited in Gosney’s book. I circled to the north (clockwise) until the path disappeared in weeds and brush. This appears to be a dumping area for debris and even animal carcasses. It is no longer possible to circle the hill to the south (counter-clockwise), since there appears to be a fenced water treatment plant there now.
3) I also briefly birded the forest near Tepearasi, which was alive with song. Mostly common birds were here, but a Semicollared Flycatcher stood out.
4) The Kaunos Ruins are across the river from town (rowboat round trip was YTL 2.5 each). Our visit there was late in the afternoon. There were lots of tame Rock Nuthatches and excellent looks at Rollers. We enjoyed the view of Dalyan from the acropolis (the steep hill of the ruins), but I unfortunately did not have time to explore the trail down to the marshy area and pond below the ruin site.
5) Another promising area can be found just outside Dalyan by taking the highway towards Ortaca, and then turning right at the first cobbled road, only about 1 or 2 km from the main Dalyan roundabout (well before the Ley-Ley Restaurant). There is good patch of forest at a restaurant on the corner of the main highway there (sorry, I don't remember the name). The road goes back until it hits the edge of the mountain and continues west along its northern base. I found this spot just as I had to return to breakfast, but would have liked to explore it some more. A decent map of town can be found here [http://www.dalyan.co.uk/contact.php], but this area is just off the edge of the map.
Ölüdeniz - beach day - no birding
Road from Muğla to Denizli via Kale - a few birds seen from the car, during lunch, and during few brief stops along the highway. This is scenic route through pine forests and mountains (max 1200 m elevation). Along the way: Raven, Red-backed Shrike, Rock Bunting, Skylark, Black-eared Wheatear, Buzzard, Masked Shrike. There is a wonderful restaurant along the highway (right side just a few km east of Kale) out on the agricultural lands, a wide flat green plain surrounded by rocky mountains. We enjoyed delicious food and outdoor dining with marvelous views of the landscape.
Pamukkale – I birded the ruins in the afternoon and the following morning. The best area was just in front of the first upper car park, overlooking the main canyon drainage. Few people parked in this lot, since most visitors come by buses which park near the baths. The afternoon visit was quite windy, but in the morning there was a lot of bird activity in this rocky, scrubby habitat. I was proud of myself for being able to identify a female Finsch's Wheatear even before a few males showed up. I had an excellent view of Rufous Bush Robin from just a couple meters away at the edge of the parking area. I finally found a small flock of Cretzschmar's Bunting here. Also noted were Chough, Rock Sparrow, and another Little Owl. I had brief view of a likely White-throated Robin, a dark thrush-like bird with a long cocked tail; but it flew off before I could get a really good look. Not the kind of view you want of a lifer.
Istanbul - city birding with a trip up the Bosporus and back on both sides with the car. Ferry crossings Yenikapı-Bandırma on arrival and Eskihisar-Topçular on return. Alpine swifts screaming through the city are a wonderful memory; also I’ll remember the view from our hotel of swifts and Yellow-legged gulls gliding above the minarets and domes of the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet) in the spotlights at night.
Yelkouan Shearwater - groups of 20 or more seen frequently on Sea of Marmora and Bosporus
Cormorant – common Sea of Marmora and Bosporus; 200+ in river along roadside near Susurluk
Shag – only a few seen along Bosporus, one in Alibey
Dalmatian Pelican – one seen from highway in flooded area outside Selcuk
Little Egret – Bafa Gölü
Great White Egret - Bafa Gölü, Dalyan delta
Grey Heron- Bafa Gölü, river along roadside near Susurluk (between Balıkesir and Bursa)
Black Stork - one near Susurluk (between Balıkesir and Bursa)
White Stork – Dalyan fields and other locations from the car
Greater Flamingo – 15+ on salt evaporation ponds south of Ayvalık
Ruddy Shelduck – Efes Marshes, Bafa Gölü, and a flyover on Alibey
Sparrowhawk – seen from the car in suburban Istanbul
Buzzard – the only one identified along highway between Muğla and Denizli
Long-Legged Buzzard – one seen from car near Selcuk
Booted Eagle – Dalyan flyover
Lesser Kestrel – cliffs on hill north of Dalyan and along road to Iztuzu
Eleonora's Falcon – one pair and another single bird at different places in the forest near Alibey
Coot – Bafa Gölü, Efes Marshes
Black-Winged Stilt – Bafa Gölü, Efes Marshes
Kentish Plover – three birds on salt evaporation ponds south of Ayvalık
Mediterranean Gull – a couple of smaller gulls seen from Yenıkapi-Bandırma ferry probably this species
Yellow-Legged Gull – common around Istanbul and Ayvalık, with a few at Dalyan
Gull-Billed Tern – seen along shoreline by highway north of Izmir
Common Tern – Alibey causeway
Little Tern - several birds on salt evaporation ponds south of Ayvalık
Rock Dove - common
Collared Dove - common
Turtle Dove – common in brush outside towns
Laughing Dove - Istanbul
Alexandrine Parakeet – most likely large psittacid (pair) seen flying near Hagia Sofia in early morning
Great Spotted Cuckoo – Virgin Mary’s House parking lot (near Selcuk)
Scops Owl – heard along the river one evening in Dalyan
Little Owl – Alibey backyard, Ikingikoy village, Dalyan rooftops, and Pamukkale near the bridge
Swift – common smaller swift, all towns
Pallid Swift – probable Pallid observed returning to nest at an Istanbul mosque
Alpine Swift – Istanbul, Alibey, Dalyan; one of my favorite species to watch
Bee-Eater – one good look near Bafa Gölü, another brief sighting from the car outside Istanbul
Roller – seen near the cliffs on the Iztuzu road and two at Kaunos ruins
Syrian Woodpecker – olive groves on Alibey island twice, Ephesus, Dalyan, Pamukkale
Crested Lark – common on roadsides and brushy open areas everywhere
Skylark – Alibey, Pamukkale
Crag Martin – roadside stop between Muğla and Denizli
Swallow – common
Red-Rumped Swallow – Bafa Gölü, Dalyan, and Pamukkale, sometimes very numerous
House Martin - common
Pied Wagtail – widespread, several seen
Rufous Bush Robin – Bafa Gölü, Muğla/Denizli road, and excellent view at Pamukkale
Nightingale – heard more often than seen; seen near hotel in Dalyan
White-Throated Robin – brief sighting at Pamukkale
Stonechat – one seen in low scrub on northern Alibey
Black-Eared Wheatear – Radar station off Iztuzu Rd, Muğla /Denizli Rd near Kale, Pamukkale
Finsch's Wheatear – a few at Pamukkale
Blackbird - common
Cetti's Warbler – fairly common near fresh water in Dalyan area
Marsh Warbler – one Efes marshes
Reed Warbler – one Bafa Gölü
Great Reed Warbler – two, Bafa Gölü
Olivaceous Warbler – common everywhere, esp. olive groves, even heard Buyuk Camlica (Istanbul)
Sardinian Warbler – seen couple of times on Alibey
Orphean Warbler – a couple places on Alibey and one at hill north of Dalyan
Lesser Whitethroat – one, Alibey
Chiffchaff – on Alibey and forest near Tepearasi (Dalyan area)
Semi-Collared Flycatcher - forest near Tepearasi (Dalyan area)
Sombre Tit – just one on Radar summit (Iztuzu)
Coal Tit – Alibey and Dalyan
Blue Tit – Iztuzu road and Dalyan town
Great Tit - common
Krüper's Nuthatch – a couple heard in pines along Iztuzu road
Rock Nuthatch – common near cliffs Iztuzu road, Kaunos ruins, and Pamukkale ruins
Penduline Tit – two nests found near hill north of Dalyan
Golden Oriole – one from car Muğla /Denizli road
Red-Backed Shrike – Alibey and Ephesus
Woodchat Shrike – on Alibey and at a stop on Muğla /Denizli road
Masked Shrike – seen well a couple of times on Alibey
Jay – seen in many habitats
Magpie – common in open habitat
Chough – at Pamukkale gorge bridge
Jackdaw – fairly common
Hooded Crow – common everywhere
Raven – small group seen along Muğla /Denizli road
Starling – common, but didn’t seem as common as in North America!
House Sparrow – too common
Spanish Sparrow – seen at Alibey, Dalyan, Pamukkale, Efes marshes
Rock Sparrow – Pamukkale ruins
Chaffinch – common in woodland
Greenfinch – fairly common
Goldfinch - common
Cirl Bunting – only found on Alibey, but seen at a couple locations
Rock Bunting – roadside along Muğla /Denizli road
Cretzschmar's Bunting – small flock at Pamukkale ruins
Black-Headed Bunting – Alibey, Dalyan, and Pamukkale
Corn Bunting – agricultural lands along Iztuzu Road (Dalyan)