Tuesday 30 June 2009

Turkey - Days 4, 5 and 6

Goksu Delta

Bearded Tit

Spur winged Plover

Purple Heron

Marsh Harrier

Cory's Shearwater

Day 4
The day began with a short drive to the Goksu Delta, an extensive area of wetland with large lagoons, reed beds and marshy fringes. We used a couple of tower hides although they were too small to accommodate the whole of our group without bringing the structure crashing to the ground. We scanned as best we could into the early morning sun. Many birds were quite distant such as Ferruginous Duck, Purple Swamphen, Red crested Pochard, Grey and Purple Herons and Ruddy Shelduck. Many others, however, showed well in or over the reeds around the hide such as, Marsh Harrier, Whiskered terns, Spectacled Bulbul, Graceful Prinia, Bearded Tit and Reed warbler. In the drier areas we saw Rufous Bushchat, Blackcap and Black Francolin.
We moved on to another hide but few people ventured inside as we noted some quite confiding Spur winged Plover on a small pool right in front of us. 3 White Pelican were seen in flight and both Citrine and Black headed Wagtails were seen at close range. We moved on again to some shallow lagoons which we could scan from an abandoned house. From the flat roof we could pick out a number of wading birds including Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Kentish plover, Black winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Greenshank. The heat haze was now pretty intense so we left our rooftop to get closer to the birds and got much better views of the Sandpipers in particular. We also picked out a Gull billed Tern.
So as the temperature rose it was time for something to eat and get out of the midday heat.
We returned to the far side of the Delta in the late afternoon. We parked the coach and walked to to the shore past some trees with a colony of Spanish Sparrows, there was also a large colony of Sand Martins in the river bank. The Audouin's Gulls we had come to see were nowhere in sight a couple of Little terns and that was it. Soner picked out some gulls on a spit at the end of a long deserted beach. He assured us that they were Audouin's but if we wanted to I D them for ourselves we would have to walk the length of the beach. Over half the group 'went for it' and were rewarded with not only close views of the gulls but also a passage of Cory's Shearwaters close inshore. As we watched the Shearwaters someone shouted 'Skua', we refocussed on two brown birds with white wing flashes flying low over the water. 'European Nightjars', said Vaughan. 'What!' but he was spot on. I was impressed.
As we walked back we saw the tracks of a Green turtle that had come ashore overnight to lay her eggs. We also picked out the silhouette of a Peregrine perched on a piece of drift wood at the estuary mouth - a good vantage point to hunt tired migrants coming in off the sea. As we watched the Peregrine took off low over the water at speed. It headed straight for 'our' Nightjars. As the Peregrine attacked the Nightjars split and the Peregrine missed. There was no further pursuit, the Peregrine flew slowly back to its perch.
Driving back we saw 3 Great white Egrets in the estuary and then passed through a series of villages. The houses were made from mud or dung mixed with chaff. Piles of chaff from the recent harvest could be seen outside nearly every house ready to patch up the houses for the coming year. We would pass many such villages as we journeyed further East.

Day 5

As usual it was an early start.We travelled inland to some tree covered hills with rocky outcrops which reminded me of Lesbos. The species we saw could also be found on Lesbos such as Cretzschmar's Bunting, Sombre tit, Ruppell's warbler, Black eared Wheatear, Blue rock Thrushes and Common Buzzard. More unexpected though were a pair of Little Swift which put in a brief appearance. Driving on up into the hills we stopped at a two thousand year old Roman settlement called Olba Diocaesarea. We wandered among the ruins which had clearly seen better days and I pondered on what the Romans had really done for us. I stopped at a cafe for a coffee. I was the only person there in this sleepy village and I'd completely lost touch with the rest of the group. Actually I was barely in touch with reality as I contemplated the meaning of life. I became mildly anxious that everyone was on the bus waiting for me, but I needn't have worried they were engrossed in their birdwatching. Someone had discovered a little orchard complete with a guard-donkey! The orchard held a number of species including Olive-tree warbler, Syrian and Lesser spotted Woodpeckers. We moved on to a pic-nic site in a Pine forest for lunch. While the lunch was prepared the group dispersed to see what forest species they could find. We didnt have to wander far as the canopy around the picnic area seemed full of family groups of Kruper's Nuthatch. Its a bird I've never managed to photograph successfully and so it remains. Swifts travelling at Mach 3 no problem but Krupers Nuthatch creeping about just above my head no chance. I did have more luck with a young Hoopoe before it was time for our picnic Bar-b-que of fish and tasteless green things with salad. We added Woodpigeon and Raven to the trip list but I missed the Spotted Flycatcher which several people saw. It was very pleasant having lunch in the forest, not only did we avoid the midday heat but we also got to sit down to eat at proper tables. After lunch we travelled back to the Delta to check out a different area. It was still extremely hot even though it was late afternoon and the tiring walk wasnt very productive. We did get glimpses of Moustached warbler and got Calandra lark and Night Heron on the way back to the bus.

Monday 29 June 2009

Turkey - 28th May-11th June 2009

The Taurus Mountains

Dinner will Bee along in a second

Eastern Orphean Warbler

Rock Bunting




Radde's Accentor

Caspian Snowcock-it is there, just to the left of the central peak

Day 1-3

The group met up at Heathrow for our flight to Istanbul, the start of a birding adventure 0rganised by Birdfinders. Vaughan Ashby travelled with us to Istanbul where we met up with local guide Soner Bekir. We transferred seemlessly to Kayseri in south central Turkey where we boarded a coach, yes a coach, none of your 15 seater mini-bus with luggage on the roof for us. Comfort all the way to a village called Camardi in the Taurus mountains. Our hotel had spectacular views of the mountains which were to be our destination the next day. First though, a stroll round the orchards immediately surrounding the hotel got our species tally moving with Eastern Olivaceous warbler, Syrian Woodpecker, Black headed Bunting and Tree Sparrow with Golden Oriole and Scops Owl heard but not seen. After our evening meal of Lamb soup followed by Lamb stew and rice, it was straight to bed as we had to be high up in the mountains before daybreak the next morning.
Day 2
After a quick coffee at 3.00am we were loaded on to 2 farm trailors for our journey up the mountain. The trailors had all mod cons, air conditioning, matresses slung on the floor and wheels with tyres. For over an hour the tractors climbed in the darkness until as the first light dawned the silhouettes of the peaks and patches of snow could be made out. It was cold up there, very cold. I'd got more layers than a thing with lots of layers and I was still cold.
As the light came up birds began to move. Alpine and Red billed Chough, Snow finch, and Alpine Accentor. We scanned the distant peaks and ridges for the special bird. We picked out the silhouettes of small flocks of Ibex and eventually a single Caspian Snowcock showed but at some distance.
A Radde's Accentor came quiet close to us keeping close to the ground but this was my only sighting of the species.
As the sun rose more Caspian Snowcocks were sighted much closer now, throwing back their heads as they called and showing their distinctive head pattern. It was still very cold and the group was very grateful to the tractor drivers who made us all tea. As we warmed ourselves with the tea a Golden Eagle drifted overhead and we had time to appreciate the magnificent mountain scenery.
The sun was now shining brightly as we started our descent on foot and birds were now more active on the slopes. Crimson winged finches showed well, but also Shore Lark, Black Redstart, Snow finch, Rock Sparrow, Rock thrush and Northern Wheatear were quite numerous. A Finsch's Wheatear and Water pipit were also seen. Star bird though was a Wallcreeper, spotted my by room mate Bob Swann. The bird was watched at quite close range on boulders before flying to its more usual habitat, high up on a cliff face.

We rejoined the chiropractors express for our bone crunching trundle down the rest of the mountain. The difference this time you could see where you were going, or might go. The track seemed very narrow at times, eroded by the torrents of melting snow. I must admit there were times I forgot I was a British birder, able to take any amount of discomfort in the quest to see a rare bird, as I contemplated my fate. Would I meet my end hurled against some rock in the valley below or would I be crushed as the trailor rolled slowly on top of me? I needn't have worried the tractor drivers knew their work. However, little did I know that a far greater threat to my health lay ahead.
Back at our hotel we had a belated breakfast, although it felt like tea time, and then off again to explore more of the area. Our coach driver was fast becoming a bit of a star in an unassuming sort of way as he took his coach boldly to places no coach had been before. The star coach Enterprise took us to the Emli valley in the afternoon. We saw a couple of Tawny pipits en route but the valley itself was a real delight. Red backed Shrikes were abundant but the best bird for me and my fourth new species of the day was Red fronted Serin. We had 3 feeding on the ground at close range, the illustrations in the guides I'd seen previously didn't do them justice. Other birds seen in the valley included Chukar, Blackbird, Blue Rock thrush, Black eared Wheatear, Goldfinch, Western Rock Nuthatch, Ortolan, Hoopoe, Coal tit, Rock Bunting, Woodlark and Turtle dove. Using Vaughan's tape we also managed to get excellent views of Eastern Orphean warbler. We enjoyed lunch about 3pm thanks to the heroic efforts of our driver who carried a picnic for 18 people up the valley for us.
Day 3
We had a lie in but were still up for a 6.00am stroll before breakfast. After which we travelled to the Aladaglar mountains. We took a gentle walk up a steep sided valley with Soner checking out likely roosts for Eagle Owl. Alas no Eagle Owl but we did see Finsch's and Northern Wheatear, Snowfinch, Isabelline Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Long legged Buzzard, Rock dove, Alpine Swift and Saker.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at a mountain pass which looked good for raptors. We did see Long legged Buzzard, a pair of Golden Eagles and Egyptian Vulture but my much hoped for Lammergeier unfortunately didnt show. Other birds at this site included, Red rumped Swallow, White Stork, White wagtail, Jay and Turtle dove.
We moved on to our Mediterranean destination at Tasucu. As we neared the town we stopped at a churchyard where Soner assured us we would find Masked Shrike. Sure enough we had good views of the Shrike and an Eastern Olivaceous warbler, a Hobby flashed over and a Preying Mantis created some interest.
Our hotel room overlooked the sea, the temptation was too much for my room mate Bob, a hardy Scot, who went for a dip. I whimped out. We picked up a few birds from our balcony, Laughing Dove, Common Tern, Shag and Yellow legged Gull.

Friday 12 June 2009


Short toed Eagle
Red tailed Wheatear

Blue cheeked Bee eater
Hill Sparrow

Friday June 2009

Hi Folks, been away for a bit catching up with a few Western Palearctic species I need in Turkey. Amazing trip, like going back 100 years full report to follow but I've got over 2000 images to sort out so bare with me.