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A Report from

Turkey, June 2006 ,

Katharine and Robert Higbie

From early April through late June 2006 my wife and I took a trip through central and eastern Turkey in search of birds and wildflowers. We flew to Antalya, where we had arranged by e-mail to rent a car from First Rentacar, which gave us a good price. (There are many other local car rental offices on the same street in Antalya, just south of the old section and the park and next to the sea; we chose this one because they answered our e-mail) We rented a Fiat Palio Weekend, which we chose because with its rear seat folded down and luggage up on the rear shelf there was (just barely!) room for us to sleep in the rear, thus saving hotel bills, which we needed to do since gas cost over 7 US dollars a gallon. We were usually able to find a place to sleep for the night out in the country, though there were a few problems (see below). We spent about 50 US dollars a day on gas when we had a long drive; luckily gas stations in cities take credit cards, at least Visa.

Food was okay if you don’t mind a total lack of variety and the necessity of eating lots of cholesterol. There were virtually no green vegetables. We had one restaurant meal a day, at 5 to l2 Lira for 2 usually. For breakfast and supper we bought bread (good), oranges and apples (good) and bananas and in June cherries, canned fish, UHT boxed milk (nonfat available at Migros supermarkets in cities), huts and dried fruit (those we brought from home were better than the local ones), cabbage (safe to eat the inner leaves) and carrots (we brought a peeler).

Hotels were 20 or 30 Lira a night for 2 people for cheapish but perfectly adequate ones, if you bargained them down. Including a hotel about every 2 weeks but not counting gas we averaged about 15 Lira a day. 1 Lira was about 75 cents US.

We saw 211 species; we’re average birders and missed some birds, eg several raptors.

Key sites:

AKSEKI: Going north on the highway you turn off to the east for Akseki.
Follow this road till it goes steeply up. At the top, where the divided road ends, turn right on the main street. Stick with this , which passes through a quarry and turns into the old highway, paved but potholed. You can drive this road all ther way over the passand rejoin the highway where the road to Cevizli forks off from it, but north of the pass the road is worse and probably won’t be drivable much longer. On April 7 the pass was blocked by snow, and the 2 tracks off to the west before the pass were also mostly under snow. We missed the White-backed Woodpecker then and in late June, though we did see some of the commoner mountain birds both times. In June we flushed a Nightjar in the woods east of the road just north of the 2nd track to the west, near the pass but not the track right before the pass.
South of Akseki: on the road east toward guzelsu we saw several Chukars in late June, one with chicks. After you pass a village off to your right you come to a T; turn right.
Just south of Akseki, west from the highway about 1 K toward Ibradi, fork left off that road and you can walked to a walled forest on your left. The trees are so big you can’t see much; no sign of Olive-tree Warbler in late June, but a Bonelli’s.
North of Akseki, past the road to Cevizli, just past a fancy new resort on the right, there’s a road off to the east (unmarked because of
construction) which is a very small but drivable and pretty road to Bozkir.
10 K east of Bozkir on the highway in oaks and junipers we did get a brief look at Olive-tree Warbler in late June. Orphean was near, & Middle-spotted Woodpecker.

KULU GOLU: probably any road east from the center of Kulu town will get you to the lake. You pass an Ataturk statue and a new twin-minaret mosque; keep bearing east as much as you can. Before the lake there’s a track north that gets you near the west side, and there are faint tracks on the east side. We never did manage to get all the way to the north side. We preferred the smaller lake south of the main (dirt) road, which had tracks on each side. April 8; distant view of a Pallid Harrier. Late June: pratincoles. A few White-headed Duck both times.

DEMIRKAZIK: 1 or 2 K north of the lodge, just before a very small village, there’s a track northeast up the mountain. On April 10 we were able to drive quite far up before the track was blocked by snow. We spent the night there (very cold) and hiked up across the snow next morning at dawn. We soon got a pretty close look at a Snowcock, perhaps lower down that early because of the snow. Its call is like the “wrong number” tones on a US telephone. You probably should get there early, because soon some ski tourists came along, who would’ve scared the bird off. Lower down the
track: Radde’s Accentor, Chukar.. We drove back down to the little village at the base of the track, turned right then very soon left down to a Trout
(Alabalik) place to have lunch, and on the walls by the water there were 2 Wallcreepers. Above the lodge were 2 Crimson-winged Finches.

ALAHAN Monastery, east of the highway north of Silifke:at the south end of the ruins,behind the church, there’s a ravine which April 12 had Ruppell’s Warbler.

GOKSU Delta: Going west from Silifke on the highway, a bit before Tasucu there’s a sign to the Liman (harbor). Turn south here, cut around to the left and follow this road which eventually makes 2 sharp lefts at a small bridge; just past this take the 2nd right, which goes through vacation condos and ends at a walled villa (till more condos are constructed). On the right side of this villa the lefthand fork of the path takes you through dunes (Prinia) to an obervation tower. Hard to see anything out on the lake; you need a scope. Black Francolin was calling early morning in mid April. Not that easy to see; near the tower was best. One block east of the road to the villa there’s a parallel road that gives some access to the marsh; we saw Cyprus Wheatear in this area. If you retrace your route back to the Silifke highway and take the next road south, just east of the one to the Liman and just before a gas station, it takes you (with perhaps some complications, butjust keep bearing south) to another observation tower, from which we saw a bit more, including a Little Crake nearby.
The road from Silifke toward Uzuncaburc had Cretchmar’s Bunting in mid April.

BELEN, just east of Iskenderun on the road to Antakya. We didn’t see anything special here, but when we spent the night along the dirt road that goes south from the pass we were robbed at gunpoint by 2 young men who’d been following us on a cycle. If you sleep in your car it’s evidently best to try to keep anyone from knowing it and not do it near a city.

DURNALIK: coming south from the highway near where the road curves up left to the village there’s a new road going on ahead up the hillside, and on the right the old road goes up the valley. We walked this. April 20:
Cretchmar’s and Cinereous Buntings, Eastern Rock Nuthatch. Singing Orphean Warbler in the area, on another road south, and many migrant warblers, not singing.

NEMRUT DAGI Nat’l Park: we took the northern approach, turning south just east of Malatya. It was a long road, but we got all the way to its end (it doesn’t connect with the road from the south) though there was lots of snow at the top on April 23. Persian Wheatear on the slope on the north side below the top. Trails mostly under snow.

BIRECIK: Turn south right after you cross the Euphrates (Firat) bridge, circle down and turn right on the main street which goes under the bridge.
Keep as near the river as you can going north and you get onto the road to the Ibis Center. Immediately past the Ibis Center there’s a gas station, and if you walk back through the right side of it you get into the wadi. We saw See See Partridges up at the rim of the wadi in the early morning as we walked in the bottom. Also Upcher’s Warbler. Menetries seemed best by the river. If you continue north on the river road you come to a fork. The left fork goes toward the dam, and soon north of the fork there’s a small road west to a sand pit (Kum in Turkish); didn’t see much there. The right fork goes eventually to Halfeti, where we saw nothing. A short distance north of the fork this road goes over a streambed lined with trees which might be worth walking along. On the west side of the Euphrates bridge, take the first road north (just west of the hotel). It passes a cemetery then some ugly buildings, and at the north end of the buildings if you turn right you can park and walk up a track to the river. First it passes a pond (Little Bittern, Pied Kingfisher) and then orchards (lots of Dead Sea Sparrows). Prinia in this area, and heard Black Francolin. April 24

CEYLANPINAR: Coming south from Viransehir, at the hilltop just before Ceylanpinar turn east (maybe signed to Kiziltepe). Soon you come to a bridge. We saw Red-wattled Lapwing here (new location?), and Black-tailed Godwit. The road on east was unmarked and we never got through; had to go back to Viransehir.

A bit west of Nusaybin we took the road north toward Akarsu and saw Hill Sparrow in the dry hills here, singing (if that’s the right word) and not hard to see.

On May 4 we saw what was evidently a juvenile Imperial Eagle, presumably in migration, soaring with Buzzards between Sirnak and Siirt.

VAN area: the main highway runs north-south through the western side of the city. To drive in to the center turn east at the traffic circle just south of the Migros supermarket. This road takes you to the main north-south street, at the corner with the Hotel Bayram. To get to Hosap Castle and Guzeldere Pass, go south on this main street; it crosses a pass, then stops at a highway where you turn east. To get to Van Hills and Ercek Golu, go back to the highway and take it to the next circle north of the Migros one; turn east (signed to Ozalp), and soon after you’ve left town you go up to a hilltop with a quarry on the right. To get to Van Castle, go west from the circle by the Migros.
Van Castle: from the clifftop you can look down on Lesser Kestrels flying. Driving back from the castle keep right staying by the fence, following it around to the south side of the park grounds, passing 2 mosques, and continue west on this road, which goes out into marsh. Citrine Wagtaiul was in the ditch by the road.
Van Hills: opposite the hilltop quarry there’s a dirt road north; Bimaculated Larks were common up here, and on rocks we saw Eastern Rock Nuthatch. We hiked up on the hills east of the quarry but didn’t see much.
Nor did we see much on east at Ercek Golu. The best area looked like the wetland north of the road just west of the lake, but pipe construction going through there may ruin it. We heard Nightjar at the southwest corner of Ercek G.
Southeast of Van, on the road toward Hosap Castle but west of it and east of the reservoir, less than 1 K west of a bridge, in a dry canyon north of the road, we saw 2 Mongolian Finches (new location?) On east of this, going down the east side of Guzeldere Pass, in the 1st or 2nd little canyon north of the road, we saw Gray-necked Buntings.
Bahcesaray, southwest of Van: We drove north through the town, keeping right, and came up a valley to an area of big walnut trees where there were Middle-spotted and Green Woodpeckers and Eur. Nuthatch going to a nest hole
on May 19. The pass east of B was blocked. We also tried the road on the
east side of the pass, driving west up from the road south to Catak. In the lower valley were Common Rosefinch and Ring Ousel. Some of these birds were beyond the ranges given in our book.
Tatvan Area: Nemrut Dagi road seemed blocked by construction of a funicular; couldn’t drive all the way up. Rose-colored Starling flock on the lower slopes, and one Gray Partridge (out of range?); but too bleak.
The road goes west from the highway south to Bitlis just south of the turn east into Tatvan. On north, there were Rose-colored Starlings in Ahlat cemetery (north side of the highway, west side of Ahlat. The marsh just southwest of this didn’t have much.
We had no luck seeking Demoiselle Crane in the Murat Valley, though 5 very distant flying birds looked like possible DC’s. From Yoncali village it was too muddy to walk, let alone drive, noreth toward the river. We went back later but waterways prevented our walking to the river. East of Bulanik it was possible to walk north to the river, but we didn’t see much.
2 Great Bustards by the road here.
North from Van:At the northeast corner of the lake there’s a Jandarma checkpoint. Just past this the old road forks right to Muradiye, and you can walk north from it to get some view of the marsh. If you take the left fork, soon get over onto the old road adjacent to it on the left (west) side and take it to the lower old bridge, from which you can get some view of the marsh too. White-headed Duck, Bearded Reedling, Moustached Warbler. North of this bridge the new highway to Dogubayazit forks right.
Going north on this highway you pass the side road looping off to the waterfalls on the left. In 1 or 2 K the next road right crosses 2 bridges (keeping left) and comes back down the other side of the river to a side canyon west; this area might have some birds. Dipper.
On the north side of Caldiran, just before a big govt building on the left, the road to Sermetas goes west. Keep right at fork, and soon you come to lava, 2 Mongolian finches by the roadside in the lava field. Continuing north from Caldiran towards Dogubayazit you come to more lava which aalso had Mongolian as well as Crimson-winged and Common Rose finches and a Rose-colored Starling.

ISHAK PASA: All we saw was trash and overgrazing. You’d have to hike far up to see more’ I’d guess.

East of IGDIR towards Aralik if you take the road south toward Aktas, there were Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters at the first village. Thanks to the Dutch couple who told us of this.

ANI, east of Kars, had some Rose-colored Starlings.

Just east of ARDAHAN on the north side of the road there’s a pond that had Common Crane and 2 Hobbie flying over it like harriers. On the west side of Cam Pass we saw 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles soaring.

GELINKAYA is the first village (I thin)on the road north to Ispir and Rize which leaves the highway west of Erzurum. Immediately after the highway crosses a bridge by the turnoff to the village we walked upo through the tree on the west side of the highway and saw a Semicollared Flycatcher high up in poplars.

SIVRI KAYA: Coming north down from the pass toward SK, just after you pass the sign saying Sivri Kaya, the wall on the right (east) ends and there’s a drivable track up to the east, though sometimes the chain on it may block it. You can drive or walk up to where the valley leaves this track and continue straight where the track goes left, walking across pasture up the left side of the valley, from where you can look north to the ridge on the other side, where we saw one very distant Caucasian Grouse. We found another pass where we had much better looks at the grouse later, but I’d rather not put that on the internet, though I’d be willing to pass on the info by e-mail to a serious birder. North of SK village there’s an old road parallel to the main road down on the west side by the stream, and there’s a trout restaurant there.

SUMELA Monastery: from the first parking area, by resort buildings, you can cross a footbridge on the right and take a steep trail up through woods to the monastery. We saw (but mostly heard) Green Warbler in the woods.
You can also drive up, keeping right, to the road end at a carpark and walk to the monastery; the trail up from below forks off right here.

KIZILCAHAMAM: on the highway north of town, just north of where the highway to Cerkes forks right, there’s a dirt road signed Ozdere, I think, turning left (west). Keep left. This road goes up a pretty valley with lots of birds, though the only special one was a soaring Black Vulture. South of Kizilcahamam turn west off the highway toward Ankara onto the road toward Celtikci. Just after the first bridge you can turn right onto a track beside the river. In the first part of this valley we saw Black Stork, Night Heron and Olivaceous Warbler.

ANTALYA: Nothing much. Too hot in late June. But taking the highway north toward Isparta from east of the airport we turned west onto a dirt road up a mountainside where there was a reservoir on the right, and in the pines here saw a Two-tailed Pasha. In Antalya itself, in the area south of the old section and the park just south of it (the park with an Ataturk museum, I think), down by the seaside, there were Bulbuls and Parakeets (Rose-ringed? Hard to see. Range extension?) And once I saw a dark falcon fly past over the water which may have been an Eleanora’s.

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