Striated Scops Owl
Chestnut shouldered Petronia
Dead sea Sparrow
Rufous Bushchat /Opticron TBS 80
I'm fed up trying to retrieve my lost page so Im just going to do an abbreviated version lacking the usual quick wit and cutting edge social comment but thanks to the guys who responded to my appeal and tried to help.
We left early the next morning but we didnt get very far. As we pulled away from some traffic lights quite close to the hotel an expensive sounding crash was heard under the coach. It sounded as if we'd driven over a crate or a cat with armour. In fact the explanation was much simpler; the brakes had dropped off, discs, drum the lot. Thats when our facilitator Yeltsin got facilitating and we were getting on to our alternative transport, a mini bus in about 20 minutes. The mini bus took us to a village of smiling children all in their national school uniform of blue and white tunics. From the village the group walked up a fairly steep scree covered valley where Red tailed Wheatear were known to breed. Despite extensively searching the slopes there was no sign of the Wheatear. We did get good views of several other species though including Bimaculated Lark, Cinereous Bunting, Upcher's warbler, Black eared Wheatear and Pale rock Sparrow. We had a pleasant lunch at a restaurant and then drove back to be reunited with our coach complete with brakes. We drove on towards the river Euphrates and as we crossed the bridge to the town of Birecik I noticed a roadsign which seemed to sum up much of what we had seen in South eastern Turkey. A largely rural population living and working much as they had done for centuaries hardly touched by the 'westernised' modern Turkey further west, except for satellite television that is.
We drove straight to the 'tea gardens' in Birecik, an area of trees and park between the river and the town, with a series of cafes where the men drank tea and played cards. Soner went ahead of us and it wasnt long before he was pointing upwards to one of the trees. We gathered round him. there just above our heads in full view was a Striated Scops Owl. Wow. No tapes no torches the bird just sat there waiting for the Cicada feast to come. We tried to draw as little attention to the Owl as we could but we needn't have worried the children who surrounded us were more interested in sharing their picnic than looking at a bird. So how did we celebrate ? We had a cup of tea. Seemed very appropriate. Some of our more restless chums were soon on the move again and it wasnt too long before someone found a Long eared Owl roosting not too far away.
We checked in to our hotel close to the banks of the Euphrates and then went straight out birding. It was now 5.30pm but the temperature was still 41 degrees c. We stopped at some Pistachio groves where we had Chestnut shouldered Petronia and Dead sea Sparrow in the same tree. We were on a roll and moved on to an industrial area on the other side of the river. The area included a cement works and former quarry with extensive reed beds and pools which were the habitat of a small colony of Iraq Babblers. The Babblers proved difficult to see but did perch briefly in a dead tree in the reeds. Only having bins with me proved a real problem as the tree was some distance from our viewpoint. However there were other birds to seen such as a family of Menetries warblers, a fly over Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco Heron and Roller. Quite a day!
Even though we started early the temperatures rose quickly as the group climbed up a gorge to look for See see Partridge. We scanned the dry sandy ridges and eventually got distant views of See see Partridge. We tried another area futher away from the town. We had good views of Lesser Kestrel and Short toed Larks, we saw 5 migrating Honey Buzzards and plenty of Rollers but no sign of Cream coloured Courser. A Black bellied Sandgrouse flew past. We took lunch at a floating restaurant on a large reservoir keeping our eyes open for raptors but apart froma couple of Common tern and a Short toed Eagle we saw very little. We headed back to Birecik to have another look at the Menetries warblers and Iraq Babblers. I was delighted to have another chance to see the Iraq Babbler and I wasnt going to make the same mistake twice. I trained my scope on a branch of the dead tree and waited. It paid off and I was rewarded with the views I'd wanted.
While the rest of the group went off for seconds of Menetries warbler I moved to an orchard where Vaughan had found some Dead sea Sparrow's nests. The birds had been feeding on the ground so it was a good opportunity to take some photographes. The sparrows duly obliged and a Rufous Bushchat also got in on the act posing from my telescope!