One for the Future !

One for the future !

Geyik Canyon (Deer Canyon)

 

 

I came across Geyik Canyon (Deer Canyon) after seeing a sign for it whilst driving to Pamukkale from Dalyan. Shortly after Köycegiz the road turns right and heads over the hills towards Denizli. Brown tourist signs for Geyik Canyon are soon seen on this road taking you towards the canyon away from the road to Denizli. Geyik Canyon is roughly 20-kilomemeter long. The canyon, which is surrounded with large and small waterfalls, has been drawing interest from nature, sportsmen and photographers in recent times. Named Geyik (deer) Canyon because it is on a transitional route deer take, and is home to many different types of plant species, wild animals, as well as many unique waterfalls. It is the only area in which mountain goats live, not the ones seen herded in Dalyan and surrounding areas. Known as a “hidden nature heaven” according to one newspaper report I researched, claiming the local government of Muğla has invested money in making the area an alternative tourist venue to the obvious seaside and historical sites mostly visited. Our visit suggests other than a car park and initial information sheets there, little else has been done on this front, which in my opinion is a good thing, commercialism always spoils areas of natural beauty if not carefully and sensitively approached.

The canyon itself is within the borders of Ula district’s Arıcılar village in the western province of Muğla. The meandering river that carries many tons of water during the snowmelt and ferocious storms of early spring has carved out a narrow section between the tall cliffs creating a gorge.

 

The road route from Dalyan itself has many favorable looking birding stops on the way and eventually starts to follow an enormous dried river bed (The Namnan River) probably a quarter of a kilometer wide in places and this gives you an idea of the amount of rain and snow melt water that rushes through this valley in the winter months.

Naman River

Naman Rive

We briefly stopped to make our way to the river bed which is easily accessible and still had water running through it when we went in June, Little Ringed Plover been plentiful here. Shortly before leaving this road to turn towards Geyik Canyon the road cuts through the hill side next to the riverbed and gives fantastic stopping point to photograph Crag Martins which nest just on the road side. The wind coming through the cut allowing the martins to hover motionless next to their nest sites providing a good close up opportunity for an otherwise difficult bird to get.

 

Little Ringed Plover

      Little Ringed Plover

 

Crag Martin

Crag Martin

Crag Martin

Crag Martin

When you arrive at the entrance to Geyik Canyon there is a small car park on your left. There is also a small area with a hut and a couple of tables. On the table we found faded laminated information sheets comprising of photographs of the canyon, caves, plants and waterfalls, but no directions as to where you go to enter the canyon. The hut looks like at times it provides food and refreshments but when we arrived it was deserted and looked like it had not been open for some time. There is a warning sign saying ‘Do not enter the canyon without a guide’ but we guessed that this was one for groups who may be brought up there by tourist companies. There was no obvious entrance to the canyon so we chose to follow the road leading away from the car park heading into the valley. Fully equipped with spotting scopes, tripods, camera equipment, binoculars, rucksacks with water and light refreshments we set off following the road in the now 40 degrees’ centigrade heat!

 

With no shade on the road we turned back after fifteen minutes of walking and arrived back at the car park, no obvious birds other than goldfinch. When we approached the car park a group of four Turkish walkers accompanied by an elderly man, were walking down the road towards us. They stopped at a completely inconspicuous track leading off the road to the left shown to them by the elderly man, this was the entrance to the canyon, about 50 meters down the road from the car park, we would never have known. We asked the old man, obviously a local man, in our limited, yet functional Turkish, if this was the entrance to the canyon and he said it was, he gestured with his finger to go down the steep track, get to the bottom and follow the river track.

 

The track was narrow an had a steep drop on one side with no hand rails or ropes for assistance and had a ‘tunnel’ effect undergrowth cover which provided much relief from the heat. Underfoot-loose shale made for extra caution so we decided just to venture down to the riverbed level. With caution this was not over difficult and took about ten minutes or so but emphasized that a spotting scope would be useless in the canyon and binoculars and cameras are best put away during the decent. Once at the bottom a track crisscrossed the still flowing shallow river and it would require at times wading through the water so suitable footwear would be necessary.

Shady undergrowth leading down to Geyik Canyon

Shady undergrowth leading down to Geyik Canyon

It’s one for the future and although the canyon itself may provide limited birding it looks like it would make an interesting and enjoyable walk. Like I mentioned earlier the areas on route to the canyon and the road which continues to following the Namnan river bed before you turn off for the canyon looks like it will provide good birding spots.

Namnan River Bed

Namnan River Bed

Birding Namnan River

Birding Namnan River

 

 

 

The route :

From Dalyan, drive through Eskiköy and follow the road towards Köycegiz. At the D400 turn left towards Köycegiz, and follow the road past the outskirts of Köycegiz turning right shortly after crossing the River Namnan towards Karabörtlen, you will shortly see a sign for Geyik Canyon, the route then generally follows the Namnan River bed before turning off up the hills to the canyon.

I have pasted the route from a cycle app below that we used to track the journey. As can be seen the canyon car park is about 64 kilometers away from Dalyan and took about and hour and forty five minutes to reach, with some birding on the way. My Tom-tom took us on this route when Pamukkale was typed in, so a useful piece of kit if you have it.

 

Click on the link below for Google map.

http://cyclemeter.com/2f3ff8b6fa3a304b/Cycle-20140626-1033

 

 

dalyanbirding.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Setting the Scene

As a late edition I thought I’d add a few scene-setting shots to give the locations for some of the places I mentioned a bit more meaning for those who haven’t been.

Before I saw the area for the first time last year it’s fair to say I had absolutely no idea as to what it would look like and any preconceptions I did have were 100% wrong in almost every case, so I hope these will be useful to anyone who is fancying the trip in future.

 

First Photo. The view along the valley to Keyabasi from the drinking fountain a couple of kilometres above Zorlar on the Gogu Beli road. The fountain itself was a good spot for serin, red-fronted serin, black-eared wheatear and, on one visit a white-throated robin was hopping around the bushes near the road. A trip along the valley from Keyabasi to Zorlar a few days later gave a fertile valley crammed with birds including woodlark, short-toed lark, black-headed buntings, isabelline wheatears and a pair of lesser grey shrikes.

032-View-from-the-Zorlar-Drinking-Fountain-web

 

 

Second Photo. Western approach to Seki. The fields on both sides of the road were good for birds. The turn-off to Temel from the ‘apple roundabout’ for scrub bursting with white-throated robins, Ruppell’s warblers, buntings and other stuff is just up the road into the village.

049-Seki-from-the-west-web

 

Third Photo. The track above the ski centre on Eren Dag at the point the rain started and we turned back for the car. Horned larks, red-backed shrikes and pairs of chukar were amongst the birds on the mile or so from the car.

 073-Eren-Dag,-a-mile-along-the-track-above-the-ski-centre-web

Fourth Photo. A view of the town of Koycegiz and the lake beyond it.

142-Koycegiz-&-lake-web

Fifth Photo. One of my favourite locations around Dalyan. The Eskikoy Outcrop. The scrub held rufous bushchats, olivaceous warblers, black headed buntings etc and the streams by the tracks were good for terrapins and water snakes.

110-Eskikoy-Outcrop-web

Dalyan. One of the streets in the centre, leading down to the row-boat ferry to Kaunos. Some of the rock tombs carved into the cliffs on the other side of the river can be seen in the background.

004-Dalyan-web

Kaunos.  amphitheatre with rain advancing from the west. An excellent spot for rock nuthatch.

034-Kaunos-web

Alan Gillbertson

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Dalyan 2nd – 16th May 2014

 

The trip report I did last year South West Turkey, 10th – 24th May 2013 covered most of the ground that I visited this year and a bit more, so I’ll just post photos with brief descriptions here. This year I didn’t bother making the trek to Bafa Golu on the east coast and spent a bit more time in the hills. It’s a pity we didn’t get more sun and less cloud at crucial times for some of the photos that I’ll be posting over the next few days now that I’ve got all the deleting done and I have some time for some editing.

 

1 Olivaceous Warbler in early morning sunlight on the first morning. This little chap kept us company with his incessant singing at the bottom of the garden from the first day to the last

01 Olivaceous-Warbler-(5)-web

2 Great Reed Warbler. This one put me on the back foot when I spotted it. It was hopping through bushes on a scrubby mound on the Eskikoy track, well away from reeds. I didn’t know what to make of it when it popped up. I’m used to seeing them sitting high on a reed with the crest puffed up, not all sleek and pretty like this one.

02 Great-Reed-Warbler-(2)-web

3 Kruper’s Nuthatch. One of many in the pine forests we drove through. This one was in the forest east of the Itzuzu Beach road

03 Kruper's-Nuthatch-(1)-web

4 Masked Shrike. Next to the road near Tepearasi. Pity it was cloudy.

04 Masked-Shrike-Tepearasi-(9)-web

5 Rufous Bushchat (or Bush Robin if you must). They seemed to be all over the place singing from perches and wires. This one was at Koycegiz, next to the river. Cloudy again.

05 Rufous-Bushchat-(1)-web

6 Spur-winged Plover. On our first visit to the river mouth at Koycegiz this friendly bird was on a shingle bank before it relocated to the edge of the rubbish dump nearby. It was very accommodating and walked all around the car feeding. It’s a pity the same can’t be said of the white breasted ( I prefer Smyrna) kingfisher that flew low over the car and landed on a reed stem only 20 metres away or so. By the time I pointed the camera at it, it was gone. Another cloudy spell that heralded a wet day ahead.

06 Spur-winged-Plover-(23)-web 

7 Ruppell’s Warbler. The sun came out again on the 6th and we had an early start for the hills around Seki for a very productive day. Even the fact that I found the fuse on the car cigarette lighter socket had blown, leading to a flat satnav battery just as we got there didn’t mess it up.

07 Ruppell's-Warbler-(3)-web

8 White-throated Robin. The first of many.

 08 White-throated-Robin-(2)-web

9 Red-fronted Serin. This one was a bit of a surprise. I’d expected them further up towards the pass, but this one and two or three others were hanging about with a flock of linnets and serins just off the road from Seki to Temel.

09 Red-fronted-Serin-(2)-web

10 Black-headed Bunting. Their song was everywhere for the whole two weeks.

10 Black-headed-Bunting-Seki-(3)-web

11. Ortolan. The only one of the trip, this bird perched briefly near the road on the outskirts of Seki just long enough for a couple of shots, then it was off, over the car and up the hill out of sight.

11 Ortolan-(3)-web 

12. Black-headed Wagtail. This bird was one of about half a dozen males flitting about in a field next to the road at Seki. I must have had the timing right this year. There were groups of these, mainly males, in several locations (including Dalyan) during the first week, but the following week, I saw only one. This ties in with my experience last year when I saw only one on the whole fortnight, which began a week later than this year’s trip; maybe coincidence.

12 Black-headed-Wagtail-Seki-(8)-web 

13. Finsch’s Wheatear in typical barren habitat near Kizilcadag, west of Korkuteli. The sun went in just as I found this bird and its mate. There was another male nearby, presumably a different bird.

13 Finsch's-Wheatear-(2)-web 

14 Red-backed Shrike. Well represented on the trip, with more males than females; mainly well inland. This one was at Kizilcadag.

14 Red-backed-Shrike-Kizilcadag-(9)-web

15 Cretschmar’s Bunting. The 7th of May dawned bright and clear, so it was off to the hills above Beyobasi as far as Covenli Yaylasi. This bunting was singing next to the road at Alan.

15 Cretzschmar's-Bunting-Alan-(3)-web

16 Sombre Tit. A trip around the perimeter of Alan gave us this sombre tit and a Syrian woodpecker that flew across the car bonnet and landed at the base of a tree a few metres away, just long enough for my camera to begin focussing before it flew off. There was another sombre tit in Covenli Yaylasi, but the village wasn’t the bird-fest that I experienced on my first visit last year. The village roads there were also fulfilling their secondary role as watercourses after the recent rain, but were passable in the Renault.

16 Sombre-Tit,-Alan-(9)-web

17 Little Bittern. Back down from the hills when cloud started to thicken there at midday and I spotted this beauty stalking a ditch near Hamitkoy. It kept us entertained for almost 10 minutes at close range as it moved along the channel.

17 Little-Bittern-(10)-web

18 Spanish Sparrow. Part of a small flock taking a dust bath on the track at Eskikoy. It’s a good spot for Spanish sparrows.

18 Spanish-Sparrow-(12)-web

19 Black-eared Wheatear. Another sunny morning at Seki on the 8th. Unfortunately it didn’t last and by early afternoon the heavens opened and forgot to stop for the next day and a half. The trip up towards Eren Dag produced multiple singing Eastern Orphean Warblers, white-throated robins and a singing woodlark well above the treeline.

19 Black-eared-Wheatear-(1)-web

19 Chukar. We followed a track up Eren Dag to an apparently abandoned (but only recently opened!) ski centre, starting off in sunshine, but climbing into increasing cloud. Walking uphill on a soggy track among patches of snow from the ski centre car park gave us three or four pairs of horned larks, numerous northern wheatears, red-backed shrikes, a hoopoe and two pairs of chukar that flew off from next to the road. Just as we got back to the car the light rain turned heavier and the heavens opened so it was time to go. This chukar was one of a pair I spotted from the car at the start of the descent.

20 Chukar-(3)-web

20. Red-footed Falcon. One of the three birds I referred to in an earlier post, taken two days after the chukar, as the rain finally began to clear.

21 Red-footed-Falcon-(6)-web

21 Lesser Kestrel. One of twelve birds hunting in a field just next to the track adjacent to the Dalaman River near Sarigerme and major players in the ‘falconfest’ of 10th May

22 Lesser-Kestrel-(3)-web

22 Roller. This was the bird on the wires between Ortaca and Sarigerme. First seen in the dull light of morning in clearing rain, it was still there in the sunlight in the afternoon.

23 Roller-(8)-web 

23 Peregrine. Brother and sister sparring overhead. The other major players in the falconfest. This photo was taken on the return visit the next morning.

24 Peregrine-(75)-web

25 Steppe Buzzard. On the way back from the falcons this buzzard flew across the track in front of us, carrying what looks like a Balkan green lizard. One major difference between this year’s trip and last was that last year long-legged buzzard was seen in numerous places with only a couple of steppe buzzards. This year the situation was reversed, with only one definite long-legged buzzard sighting (on the first morning at Eskikoy) and steppe buzzards in several locations, often paired up.

25 Steppe Buzzard (8)-web

26 Rock Nuthatch. The price of the ferry over to Kaunos and the entry fee to the ruins (entry 10 lira, up from 8 last year) was definitely money well spent. This was one of a pair of resident birds. It flew onto a rock right next to me and spent the next five minutes knocking five bells out of this bush cricket, breaking it up into manageable pieces for the chicks it was feeding. It’s a pity the sun chose that time to disappear behind yet another rain cloud.

26 Rock-Nuthatch,-Kaunos-(28)-web

27 Wryneck. A final trip up to Seki turned up the goods again. There were a number of sparrows feeding on the grass verge on the southern edge of the village, and one of the sparrows looked a bit more erect than the others so I gave it a second glance. That ‘sparrow’ was a wryneck.

27 Wryneck-(2)-web

28 Rock Thrush. The trip up to the Gogu Beli pass produced more red-fronted serins at the roadside, but the sun went behind another cloud that seemed to hover just where I didn’t want it. The valley below was in sun, so I took the track down to Keyabasi and came across a pair of rock thrushes on the road side as we started the descent. I drove west along the valley from Keyabasi to Zorlar and enjoyed the sight of a pair of lesser grey shrikes when I stopped to photograph a woodlark.

28 Rock-Thrush-(2)-web

29 Isabelline Wheatear. In contrast with the single bird of last year’s trip, this year produced dozens of Isabelline wheatears. Shortly after I took this photo west of Seki, I drove up to Kinik for a quick look before going back to Dalyan and there was yet another one on roadside wires and about 30 metres into a field was a group of six clustered together in an area less than a square metre.

29 Isabelline-Wheatear,-Seki-(11)-web 

30 Rock Bunting. Late afternoon west of Seki and this fellow flew into a bush right next to the car.

30 Rock-Bunting-(2)-web

 

31 Cirl Bunting. Singing its heart out just over the track from the rock bunting and about 25 metres away from yet another male red-backed shrike.

31 Cirl-Bunting-(2)-web

 

 

32 Smyrna Kingfisher. The first of two birds we saw that day at Hamitkoy. This one had just flown out of sight into trees on the other side of the river when another, which had been calling further downstream flew past us and perched just downstream of the bridge for about 10 minutes.

32 Smyrna Kingfisher (2)-web

33 Alpine Swift. These turned up in groups sporadically several times and gave good displays, mixed with smaller numbers of common swifts. This one was on the last morning on a track that led from Tepearasi towards the lake.

33 Alpine-Swift,-Tepearasi-(7)-web

Well that’s all folks. :)

 

Alan Gillbertson

http://www.dalyanbirding.com

Posted in Dalyan Birdwatching | 1 Comment

Trip report to South West Turkey, April 2014 Dougy Wright and Greg Adams

Trip report to South West Turkey, April 2014

Dougy Wright and Greg Adams

 

 

Day 1 – Thursday 10 April 2014

 

We stayed in a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment at The Royal Links, Sarigerme, and can thoroughly recommend both the location (which is enhanced for birders by the planned golf course opposite having not been built) and the accommodation itself (bookable by contacting Mariannemorffew@aol.com.). Our route today and for most of our outings was as recommended on the excellent websitedalyanbirding.com, drawing particularly on the routes mentioned in Alan Gilbertson’s thorough and helpful trip report posted on that website.   The first route was up to Covenli Yaylasi in the mountains high above Koycegiz. The afternoon was spent mostly in and around Koycegiz. We went on to the Namnam river at Hamit Koy, but failed to raise the White-breasted Kingfisher – or much else – in that location. We were out for nearly 12 ½ hours, but quite fresh after the restorative break at Yuvarlakcay restaurant. A useful birding tip is to take a supply of dog biscuits. They seemed to be expected by the various (very friendly) dogs we met, especially two three-legged ones.

 

From the balcony of our apartment at The Royal Links, Sarigerme –  

Cetti’s Warbler, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Moorhen and a flock of 50 Sandmartin

 

Along the by-road leading from Sarigerme to the D400 –

Pied Wagtail, Corn Bunting, White Stork, Jay, Hooded Crow, Greenfinch, Crested Lark, Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroat.

 Untitled 

 

Beyobasi where you turn right (i.e. inland) at the traffic lights and head for the hills-

Barn Swallow, Collared Dove, House Martins, Hoopoe.

 

 

At the junction to Akkopru –

The first of many Kruper’s Nuthatch (alarm call rather like a higher-pitched Jay) Red-rumped Swallow.

 

At various lookout points between the Akkopru junction and Savar Merkez-

Possible Sombre Tit and another Kruper’s Nuthatch, Blackbird, Chukar,

Nightingale, Ruppell’s Warbler, Linnet, Masked Shrike, Buzzard calling, Sardinian Warbler, Wood Pigeon, Black-eared Wheatear, Goldfinch, Cretzchmar’s Bunting, Blackbird, Red-rumped Swallow.

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Savar Merkez-

Hoopoe, Blue Tits, Serin, Coal Tit.

 

Alan

Finsch’s Wheatear, Serin with nesting material, Chukar, Scarce Swallowtail.

2

 

Road junction above Alan -

More Kruper’s Nuthatch, this time with a high pitched Wryneck-like call, Cirl Bunting, Wren, Short-toedTree Creeper

3

On the ridge between Alan and Covenli Yaylasi

Western Rock Nuthatch, Coal Tit, signs of wild boar, Raven; and later on the return journey Sombre Tit, Buzzard

 

Covenli Yaylasi

Northern Wheatear, Song Thrush, Lesser Kestrel, Roma lorry with 2 mules on the back, Woodlark.

4

 

Yuvarlakcay restaurant (a delightful outdoor restaurant on a platform over a rushing river) -

Grey Wagtail and putative Emperor Dragonfly.

 

Koyzugiz, in and around the river bridge on the road leading North –

Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Sandpiper, Ruff Greenshank, Squacco Heron, Magpie, Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Redshank and just up the road Fan-tailed Warbler.

5

Road back to Sarigerme

6 Spanish Sparrows.

 

 

 

 

Sarigerme, opposite the Royal Links

Reed Warbler, Red-footed Falcon.   Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Alpine Swifts migrating down the valley interspersed with smaller numbers of Common Swifts. Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler.

 

From the balcony of our apartment at The Royal Links, Sarigerme –

A Purple Heron closely followed down the valley by a Hobby rounded the day off very nicely.   Also, as dusk fell, a small falcon headed back up the valley, possibly the Red-footed Falcon.

Tawny Owl and Little Owl were heard on the walk into Sarigerme for dinner.

 

Day 2 – Friday 11 April 2014

The day began cloudy and damp with a fresh South Westerly wind. A quick look at the valley into the murk revealed at least 3 of the electricity pylons topped with White storks’ nests. After a delay waiting for Dougie’s practising to take over the “faffing” mantle, we were ready to set off at 6.50, but the faffing worked to our advantage as we were still in the apartment as the heavens opened.

Once we were on our way, another lament from Dougie about his broken telescope reminded us that Greg’s was left in the apartment, so it was after 7.00.a.m. when we eventually left, and as close to full daylight as it would become by the time we reached our first destination. The wind was uncomfortably strong. Later in the day we had torrential rain, thunder and lightning, followed by a drier afternoon.

This turned out as another 12 hour day including the meal, harder work than yesterday in view of the weather and distance walked but a “red sky at night” promised better things tomorrow.

 

 

The mudflats alongside Sulungur Lake

The only birds were a Meadow Pipit plus a repeated scolding call from the limestone cliffs, which was tentatively identified later as Rock Bunting. Unfortunately each of us had left it to the other to bring birdsong CD’s. Plus Wren and Gulls flying over. The lake itself seemed devoid of bird life apart from a solitary Yellow-legged Gull.

 

Iztuzu beach

The leeward side of the hill at the Southern end of Iztuzu beach was peaceful and still, but the birdsong and movement were pretty half-hearted.   A Fire Salamander brought some colour to the morning, closely followed by a Hermann’s Tortoise.   A stand of mature pines below the road stone store at the top of the hill gave a glimpse of a black and white Woodpecker flying away. This may have been my long-awaited Syrian Woodpecker – but probably wasn’t as Greater and Middle Spotted are apparently also present. In fact we were to see none of these during our 4 days.

The bar between Iztuzu beach and lagoon produced a flock of 20 plus Spanish Sparrows on arrival. As we walked further we saw an unidentified Pipit, Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover, 3 Kentish Plover and Little Stint. Further up the lagoon – amidst thunder and lightning and a real downpour – 7 Greater Flamingo (immature) and a Northern Wheatear.   4 Crested Larks, 2 Whimbrel and a Little Egret. The rain was now a deluge but this brought out the colours of a freshly dead Loggerhead Turtle further up the beach, but we saw none of the live ones which lay their eggs in this location. The rain had stopped by the time we reached the second lagoon which produced Kingfisher and Purple Heron. A similarly sized – probably the same – group of Spanish Sparrows worked their way North. Different techniques were adopted to dry out when the rain stopped. Greg perched with his telescope in the wind on top of a dune overlooking the lagoon and sea, while Dougie walked on to the ferry end of Iztuzu beach. The return to the car park produced another 6 Northern Wheatear plus White Wagtail, still a few Spanish Sparrows and also House Sparrows, 2 Whinchat and 2 Woodchat Shrike. Meanwhile Dougie picked up Great White Egret, 12 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 60 Common Tern, and a Hoopoe.

The alarming drive up to the radar station produced nothing as we ascended into cloud.   The descent – even more alarming – produced a Cuckoo and a Goldcrest.

6 78

 

Sulungur again

At the limestone cliff the mysterious bird (Rock Bunting?) called again briefly.   45 Little Egrets were out on the marsh and a Buzzard was also calling from the top of the cliffs.

 

The next stop was Dalyan, where we were rowed across the river to the rock tombs of Kaunos.

The weather by this time was dry and bright and we were flagging a little, having not stopped for lunch, but were enlivened by close views of a Goshawk spiralling up, and then disappearing over, the limestone cliff into which the tombs have been carved. As we climbed up alongside the tombs a noisy party of 60 plus Spanish Sparrows flew overhead. A party of House Martins also rose up in the sunshine. On the way down a Kestrel or Lesser Kestrel perched at the top of the cliff flew up and out of sight just as I got my telescope on it.   A Red Squirrel was in the graveyard and a Balkan Terrapin was pottering around under the jetty as we waited for the row-boat back.

9

 

Dalyan Boatyard –

We tried in vain to find the sewage works described on the website and concluded that either our navigation was at fault (entirely possible) or it had been replaced by a boatyard.   This swelled our list by 2 not very exciting finds – Black-headed gull and Great Cormorant.

 

Sarigerme –

Returning down the road to Sarigerme (where we were impressed by 6 Spanish Sparrows the previous evening) we saw a flight of several hundred passing overhead, and Woodchat Shrike just opposite the apartments as we drove into town for a meal. A quick visit to the beach brought us large numbers of Alpine Swifts around the rocky island offshore. A last walk around the marsh opposite the apartments gave us 6 Reed Warblers, Kingfisher, 2 small groups of Spanish Sparrows and uncountable hirundines, mostly Barn Swallows.

 

Day 3 – Saturday 12 April 2014

Our destination today, also recommended by Alan Gilbertson on the dalyanbirding website, was the Korkuteli Mountains. We also used “A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Turkey” by Ian Green and Nigel Moorhouse – this is a very useful guide. This turned out to be a 13 and a half hour day without even a proper lunch stop, but was thoroughly enjoyable and successful despite the long hours.

 

 

Ceylan and nearby reservoir -

Climbing up into the mountains on the obviously newly improved D450, not far short of the junction to Ceylan and Seki we stopped to watch a splendid Long-Legged Buzzard on a tree just beside the road. It was being mobbed by a crow and took off just as we turned round to photograph it.

At this point an obviously newly flooded reservoir seemed to be a magnet for birds including our first Chiffchaff of the holiday. Faced with such a choice of accessible habitat we split up.   Dougy followed the wood margins to find Ruppells Warbler. Around the area where we had parked, near the Tepe restaurant, I found Serin and Rock Sparrow.   Woodlark and Northern Wheatear were prevalent.    We joined up briefly then split up again but clocked up pretty much the same birds – Woodlark, Stone Curlew, Black- eared Wheatear, Greenfinch, Coal Tit, Great Crested Grebe, Cirl Buntings and a pair of Hoopoes. A pair of Ruddy Shelduck flew over the lake as we faffed around at the car.

10

 

Seki area -

The flat plain between Ceylan and Seki looked uninspiring but produced Calandra Lark, and also Linnet and a pair of Starling, and a Black-headed Wagtail.   Climbing out of Seki we stopped again in a wide grazed valley for Short-toed Eagle, Woodchat shrike, Common Whitethroat, Red-fronted Serin, Tree Pipit,   Finsch’s Wheatear, Hoopoes, Orphean Warbler and Ruppell’s Warbler

11 1213

 

In the village of Zorla-

Redstart of the Eastern race and a pair of very obliging Red-fronted Serins.

14

 

Gogubeli Gogu Pass and slopes -

The fountain near the top of the pass was too cold and windy a location for us, and seemingly for the birds, but just round the corner, out of the wind and in the sun, were Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting and Rock Nuthatch.

15

At the top of the pass (1850 metres) was an interesting mix of mountain and garden birds including a pair of Red-billed Choughs, a Red-fronted Serin scratching around behind the car, Black Redstart, Woodlark, Song Thrush, Rock Thrush, and Greenfinch.

16

 

Dougy – amazingly alert as always – picked up the first (and best) view of White-Throated Robin on a tree 30 yards from the road as we began our descent. There turned out to be a pair which flew off up the hill. Stopping at virtually every layby we had fleeting views of a total of at least 6. All fairly disobliging – flying up into the bottom of trees and remaining there.

Seki area –

A repeat of our stop just above Seki produced nothing new except for a couple of Cirl       Buntings. We stopped in Seki for delicious bread and appalling cheese, which we ate on the plain, again seeing nothing new. After a brief stop we drove towards the newly filled reservoir (“Lake Tepe”), and just North of it Dougie spied a Shrike.   We turned round and went back to look at it, and were very glad we did so. It was one of the many Woodchat, but beyond it were a pair of immaculate adult White-tailed Eagles spiralling up from the hillside.

 

Returning to “Lake Tepe” we saw Grey Heron, a pair of Little Ringed Plover, a total of 8 Great Crested Grebes and the Stone Curlew again.

 

We detoured through Gocek and Dalaman, and in the unlikely setting of urban Dalaman a Sparrowhawk dashed across the road in front of us.

 

Day 4 – Sunday 13 April 2014

Sarigerme

A quick visit to the wasteland and ponds opposite the apartment produced Little Crake (excellent views of 2), a party of Blackcap, pinging Bearded Tit (not seen) Masked Shrike and Chiffchaff.   On the wires coming up the by-road from Sarigerme were 3 Lesser Kestrels – 1 classically marked male with blue secondaries, 1 possibly younger male without, and 1 female.

 

Roadside field North of Ortaca -

A partially flooded field full of “white things” seen from the highway deserved further investigation. Mostly White Storks, they also included a pair of Black Storks and some waders which deserved closer inspection.  This involved a fair amount of unmade track, in the course of which Jay and Hoopoe took flight from the track in front of us.   Closer inspection revealed the waders to be Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper and a Greenshank.   Black-headed and Blue-headed Wagtails were also present on the drier areas, along with Serins, Little Ringed Plover, and 3 Whinchat.

 17

 

Koyguzi river East of Beyobasi-

Down the Western bank of the Koyguzi river opposite the Liquidamber forest we found Common Sandpiper, Nightingale and Green Woodpecker, a man “tickling” trout under the bank -or so we thought until we saw his spear gun – and Long-tailed Tit. After a long and unexciting walk downstream on the Western bank we crossed to the Eastern bank, and in a small sunlit glade on the far side of the footbridge everything livened up immediately. First with Collared Flycatcher and 2, possibly 3 Wood Warbler. Then 2 Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, another Nightingale, Blackcap, the ubiquitous Cetti’s of course, Hoopoe and 2 unidentified green lizards. All this in a 150-yard stretch after a mile and half of tedium. The spot was also scenically very attractive, woodland and a wet meadow full of buttercups in front of us, and the river behind.   Ok, there were poly-tunnels full of tomatoes beyond the river, but people do need to make a living!

 

On the way back up the Eastern bank we disturbed Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper feeding in the river margins. Crossing the river on two tree trunks (15 feet wide and rushing strongly at this narrowest point) was the most exciting part of the walk. A Squacco Heron flew downstream and a Kingfisher upstream in the last few yards to the car.

 

Sarigerme

After a fruitless visit to Dalaman Lakes. Greg switched off to faff around and lie beside the pool, but Dougie persisted and was rewarded with Moustached Warbler, Turtle Dove and Roller.

18

 

Dalaman Airport

A Barn Owl (dark phase) as we arrived for our night flight out brought our total for the 4-day visit to 137. This despite some notable gaps in the birds potentially to be seen in the area, as can be seen from other trip reports posted on the dalyanbirding website. We thought a visit just a fortnight or so later might have produced a longer list. A longer visit would probably also have increased our list, but 4 days was just right for us.

 

http://www.dalyanbirding.com

 

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Memories of a bygone visit.

Memories of a bygone visit  from 2008

 

General

This was to be our first trip to Turkey – indeed we’ve only been to the Eastern Med once before – and it was intended to be more a family holiday for Mrs R and myself…. although of course, we wanted somewhere nice to go, and a few good birds would certainly not go amiss!

With a few recommendations from friends and some BF-ers, we settled on Dalyan in Turkey, and what a wonderful choice it was… Dalyan is a small town, set on a decent sized river, with a distinctly ‘villagey’ feel to it. You have to get a boat, dolmus or car to get to the beach, so not too attractive to the bucket-and-spade brigade, plus there are some great restaurants and the natives are friendly – all in all, it was one of our favourite holiday destinations yet….The area is designated as a nature reserve – primarily due to the breeding loggerhead turtles at the nearby beach – so development is under some sort of control and the absolutely stunning environment is looked after to some extent.

Bizarrely, we found that to book a package holiday was actually more convenient and cheaper than booking flight only and sorting ourselves out, so that’s what we did – staying in a small, family-run hotel near the outskirts of town and just a few minutes walk from the river, which had a very attractive river-side walk into town.

We hired a car – which cost a fair bit, but probably our own fault as we didn’t shop around at all, and it was a good bit older than the average hire-car, having 133k km on the clock. We breathed a sign of relief when it got us through the week OK, as we had been to some pretty remote places – a fair way from the nearest RAC man, we were thinking. As it happened, the car failed to start when the chap from the hire car office came to pick it up, so maybe justice was done after all!

In Dalyan, English is widely spoken (just as well, since we knew zero Turkish!) but in the hinterlands zero English is spoken, so communication was ‘interesting’…

Local airport is Dalaman, which is only 25 mins or so away… Driving in Turkey was no problem, if a little anarchic…. on more than one occasion, I looked up to find someone pootling towards me on the wrong side of the road, happily gazing out of the window or chatting to their friends – no accidents though… As someone mentioned, they do seem to consider that road-signs are for wimps, but it couldn’t have been too bad, since we covered about 750km and didn’t get lost once!

It was HOT, with temperatures in the mid/high thirties each day and not a cloud in the sky all week. Dawn was about 05:30 and it got dark around 20:00.

We arrived mid-afternoon, and were a bit pooped after the journey, so just flopped out by the pool. House Sparrows hopped around our sunbeds and Collared Doves sang from roofs and wires. A few birds flew over – a Purple Heron and a couple of White Storks, and it was nice to hear Cetti’s Warblers singing in the reeds that bordered the hotel garden. Butterflies were everywhere, but extremely active (and mainly unfamiliar!) so not really easy to id what they were.

 

Day 2 Dalyan

I woke up early and decided to go for a dawn stroll to start to familiarise myself with the area – asked Mrs R if she wanted to come and was quite surprised that she knew such bad language! …just me and the BINs then!

Creeping out of the hotel, I heard and saw much the same birds as yesterday, but additionally a Little Owl was sitting on the hotel roof and I could hear Turtle Doves purring away from somewhere. Running the gamut of the many dogs that seem to consider the road outside their houses as part of their own personal fiefdom, I made it down to the river. Looking across to the other side, my eye was drawn to a flash of bright turquoise – kingfisher, I thought… but no, it was actually a Roller, and subsequently I saw quite a few of them in much the same place, so I reckon there was quite a colony over there.

A Cormorant and Little Grebe were seen on the water, and a Grey Heron flew over. Three juvenile Night Herons flew up the river and landed in a tree opposite me, which was good – and then I had a real find…. a Penduline Tit had built its wonderful nest right next to the path – just a bit of perseverance, and I was able to get great views of both male and female going into the nest and a well-grown youngster sticking its head out – magic. Another bonus was that Penduline Tit is a bird that I often have trouble hearing – something to do with the particular pitch (plus distance!) I reckon, but I couldn’t fail to hear these as they called away as such close range.

Swallows and House Martins zoomed around the river and a pair of Jays announced their presence noisily – these seemed to me to be rather darker than our UK birds and the blue on the wings was a fantastic iridescent colour. Making my way back to the hotel, I passed large numbers of Greenfinch and Goldfinch feeding on the copious weed and wild grass seeds and a single Fan-tailed Warbler was heard calling nearby. A large bird got my attention as it came in from distance – with a body shape and a flight action that seemed unfamiliar and interesting, but as it got closer it turned out to be a Hooded Crow – not the last one of those I’d see all week!!

We took the public river boat to the beach after breakfast, and I was quite disappointed not to see some other good birds as we wended our way through the reedy channels, but it was just more of the same – mainly flyovers…

Dinner that night was good, as we watched large numbers of mainly House Martins zooming around the roofs – just how many became clear when a Magpie unwisely entered the area and was seen off by several hundred Martins chasing it in a high-speed aerial dogfight – quite a sight! Swifts circled higher up, and as darkness fell, two Scops Owls started to call to each other from the town and other side of the river – magical!

Dalyan1(bf) Dalyan2(bf)

Penduline%20Tit%20(bf) Penduline%20Tit2%20(bf)

Day 3 – Korkuteli Hills

Even though this was not a birdwatching holiday, we promised ourselves one day at a ‘proper’ birdwatching site, and the place that we chose was the Korkuteli Hills area which is roughly 170km NW of Dalyan. Information for this site was obtained from Dave Gosney’s book “Finding birds in Western Turkey” which proved to be a good purchase.

With the hot weather and dawn at 05:30, it was not too tricky to get an early start, and 06:15 found us on the road and heading inland. The first part of the journey is on the main D400 coast ‘motorway’ passing Dalaman and Fethiye before heading in-land on the good quality D350. As soon as we started on this road, we left almost all of the traffic behind and were able to relax, choose our own speed and start keeping an eye out for birds!

As you head inland, you immediately start a slow and steady climb higher, and it wasn’t too long before we started to get views of some higher mountains in the distance, many still with snow in the sheltered areas – it was bizarre to be driving through such heat and yet seeing snow not too far away.

First birds seen were many of the usual suspects seen and heard from the car – Hooded Crows abounded, Corn Buntings could be heard jangling frequently and Crested Larks tested your nerves by sitting in the road until the last possible minute! A Buzzard sp. was seen briefly between the trees but not for long enough to identify it – which was a shame, as this was our first raptor and there was a reasonable chance of it being Long-legged…. but it just went on the list as a buzzard.

First proper stop was a road-side drinking trough just NE of Kavdir, and we found this place no probs and pulled into the layby and settled down to wait and see what birds might come to relieve their thirsts in the blistering heat. After a few minutes, I became aware of some movement in the trees above and caught a glimpse of vivid yellow and black plumage – Excellent, I thought, a chance to get a really close view of a Golden Oriole – but no, as it came down into the open, it turned out to be a Black-headed Bunting…. even better, a lifer for me! Unfortunately, I hadn’t had time to get my scope and camera set up, so the moment went unrecorded, but Mrs R and I enjoyed the sight of this beautiful bird.

Becoming aware of a kerfuffle going on in a nearby stand of trees, I started to scan and found a small non-descript bird calling for food. When the parent arrived, we were able to id them as Sombre Tits – this was getting better and better!

As if this wasn’t good enough, I then caught the briefest glimpse of a bird starting to make its way down through the canopy towards the water, and this was enough to let me know that it was my number 1 target for the area – White-throated Robin. After a while, it made its way down to drink and I was able to get a few pics – although the bird was surprisingly nervous and would only stay put for a few seconds at a time.

This was great!! Our first site, 30 minutes sat at a picnic table eating pistachio nuts, and 3 lifers!! …does birdwatching get any better?

Given enough time, I’m sure that quite a list of species could be built up at this one spot, but we had already spent 3 hours getting here and we had lots of other places in mind, so we packed up and moved on.

Re-tracing our steps back to Cavdir and Sogut we continued to pass good habitat and saw quite a few birds – particularly Larks, including quite a few Calandra Larks which are amongst my favourite species.

Heading due east now, we entered an area of extensive roadworks, which was a shame, as it meant that despite seeing plenty of promising looking places, we weren’t able to stop the car to look. We just had to content ourselves with looking at the lovely scenery.

We made it to Korkuteli without any problems and headed S, following the route and stops as outlined in the Gosney Guide and at his roadside stops we managed to see Isabelline Wheatear, Finsch’s Wheatear and Northern Wheatear. Another Wheatear that baffled me at the time has subsequently been identified as the white-throated form of Black-eared Wheatear. In fact, if you like Wheatears, this is the place for you, as the whole area abounds with many of these birds.

An intriguing bird by a quarry got me briefly excited, but it turned out to be ‘only’ a female Blue Rock Thrush, shortly joined by its male partner. Just as we were setting up to leave, a buzzard moved past overhead, and this time we got the good look that we needed to confirm it as a definite Long-legged Buzzard – fantastic!

It was now about 2:00pm, so we thought we’d start making our way back, as I wanted to stop at a drinking trough in the middle of the roadworks which we weren’t able to access on the way up. As it happens, this was no longer a quiet little oasis, but was proving very popular with construction workers and lorry drivers coming to fill up their water bottles, and a group of police were taking their ease at one of the tables of the nearby cafe/bar. We thought that we might as well stop anyway and ordered up a couple of soft drinks and sat down. Mrs R fancied a packet of crisps, so went off to a display-case to get some, only to be waylaid by the proprietor, upon which a lively discussion took place…. I say ‘lively’, perhaps “involving a lot of arm-waving” would be a better description, since Mrs R has no Turkish and the chap had no English…. Anyway – not quite sure how it came to pass, but we ended up not getting any crisps but instead getting a large sea-bream, bowl of salad and shoulder of lamb (plus more drinks) and it was all absolutely great! Equally great was the bill, which came to a princely YTL30, which is about £12!!

Continuing on our way, I almost immediately took a small side-road heading N off the main road, which I had thought looked to be going through a promising area when I had noticed it on the way up. This proved to be an inspired choice as it quickly led away from the main road (and roadworks!) and passed through some excellent habitat of scrubby vegetation and rock outcrops.

First good birds seen were a family group of Rock Sparrows hopping around and making their screaming calls – this was really good to see close up, but the best was yet to come as going around the corner, we came face-to-face with a fantastic male Rock Thrush sat on a road-side boulder! This bird has been my number 1 target for a couple of years now and every time that I am in suitable high ground, I always have a good look around with this species in mind – but no joy until today! We moved on for a few hundred metres until we could find somewhere safe to dump the car and then got out for a proper look around, and quickly added the female Rock Thrush to our list. Watching them, it became obvious that they had a nest in the rocky outcrop near where we had first seen them and we enjoyed watching both birds hunting around the area and making frequent stops back to the nest-site.

Also in the same area were lots more Wheatears and I was able to get some excellent views and a few pics of birds that came close. This was a great area and one that I would happily spend many an hour!!

Unfortunately, time was passing and we were a loooong way from home, so reluctantly we had to pack up and start making our way back. The journey home passed without incident and we treated ourselves to a few further stops when we saw really good spots but didn’t really see any new birds. The most significant incident was when a Black-headed Bunting perched up on a nearby tree and I was able to snatch a quick pic, which partially made up for the one that I’d missed at the first drinking trough earlier on.

We arrived back at Dalyan at about 20:00 – it had been a great day, but a lot of km, and the first beer of the evening slipped down a treat!!!

Finsch's%20Wheatear%20(bf)    Isabelline%20Wheatear%20(bf)  River%20Turtle

Black-headed%20Bunting(bf)  White-throated%20Robin%20(bf)

Day 4 – Dalyan

As has been mentioned, Dalyan is a major breeding area for Loggerhead Turtles, but in order to protect their breeding area, the beach is closed between 20:00 – 08:00 each day so you can’t actually get to see them. What you can see though is what the locals call River Turtles – actually the Nile Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx triunguis) – which themselves grow to an impressive metre or so in length… method being to get a hireboat from Dalyan up towards the lake at Koycegiz, so that’s just what we did.

The local boatman use traditional rocky sites where the turtles know that they will get a free meal – which the boatman provide in the form of chicken skins and bones which are draped over the rocks, forcing the turtles to haul themselves partially out of the water if they want to get at it. This is good, since it gives you a good chance to see these huge creatures – one that we saw was massive… over 100kgs and 100 years old the boatman reckoned!

Part 2 of the boat trip is to chug further up-river to the southern end of the lake and then push through some channels cut through the reeds ‘African-Queen’ style (which was filmed here btw…) For bird watchers, this is great, since you get to see many of the reed-dwelling birds at close quarters and even snap a few pics.

As we passed by, we also spotted 3 Rollers perched up very close on a metal frame, but I couldn’t get any pics before they flew.

All week, I had been hearing something which sounded a bit like Woodlarks coming from the opposite side of the river, and now a couple of brief glimpses and a quick page through Collins enabled to belatedly suss that they were actually Rock Nuthatches – another lifer!

We enjoyed our boat trip and after a quick coffee at one of the waterside bars, we started to walk back alongside the river for a late breakfast. This turned out to be good, as I spotted a couple of birds that I had been on the look out for….

Hearing a bird which sounded like a gentler version of a Reed Warbler (many birds in Turkey sound a bit like Reed Warblers, it seemed to me!!!) but clearly wasn’t, I was able to track it down to a small Warbler flitting about in the upper branches of a tree, acting rather like a Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler in fact. Luckily, I had boned up a bit, and this bird’s habit of continually flicking its tail downwards enabled me to id it as an Olivaceous Warbler.

Second good bird was a Masked Shrike, seen well flitting between two favourite trees as it hunted insects. What a handsome bird this was and now that I knew where it hung out, I was able to return on a subsequent day with digi-gear to get some close pics. On another day, I was able to watch 2 males disputing territory. As often happens, once you get your eye in, it is a good deal easier to see these new species, and now that I had ‘broken my duck’ with Masked Shrike and Olivaceous Warbler, I started seeing and hearing them all over the place! Great birds though.

The rest of the day was spent down the beach…..I did spend a bit of time late afternoon going through the pine woods looking (particularly) for Kruper’s Nuthatch – I did see a couple of distant Nuthatches, but nothing I could confidently id as Krupers, so that will just have to wait for another trip.

Great%20Reed%20Warbler     Masked%20Shrike(bf)   Masked%20Shrike2%20(bf)

Day 6 – Koycegiz

Saturday is market day in Dalyan and Mrs R and I came to an accommodation – she would spend the morning shopping and I would go and stand in a swamp. We were both happy!

My target today was to try to find some of the exotic Kingfishers (White-throated & Pied) that live in Turkey – I had been keeping an eye out all week, but no joy, and such literature as I had found was peppered with phrases like ‘Have been reported here, but none seen for several years’ etc so it wasn’t looking good.

05:00 found me on the road heading round the lake, through Koycegiz town via Hamitkoy to a bridge over the Namnam river which has been mentioned as a possible site for White-throated Kingfishers. I had in mind being on site for first light (mission accomplished) but I needn’t have bothered since the place was as dead as a dodo! You could see that this would be a sizable river at certain times, but it was now reduced to a trickle, and all that was to be seen at first was a flock of 24 Little Egrets which I disturbed from their night-time roost and the House Sparrows that were nesting under the bridge – Turkey is a great place to come if you mourn the passing of this bird from the UK – they are everywhere!

As things started to warm up, so a few birds appeared. Using my new Turkish id-ing skills, I was able to identify a few Olivaceous Warblers in the river-side trees and Swallows and House Martins started to zoom around. An adult and juvenile Grey Wagtail came and sat on the guard-rail next to me, looking very much like they were thinking “What the heck are YOU doing here?!” and I was starting to wonder much the same myself…

This area is very active for agriculture, and quite a few farmers were bombing past on a variety of dodgy cars, tractors, trailers, bikes and scooters and each one would wave and smile. Some would shout out – I couldn’t understand what they were saying but, judging by their general demeanour, it probably wasn’t “Oi, w*&%er.” or “Gerrof moi land.” …. not like good old Blighty then!

I had explored some rough tracks in the area of the bridge and hadn’t really come up with much – Turtle Doves purred from the wires, Hooded Crows hopped around in the nearby orchards and a Night Heron passed over. Re-tracing my steps, I headed back to the car and drove a bit further down the road alongside the river in the direction of the lake, but I couldn’t really find anywhere to stop that looked promising for Kingfishers. Apparently, if you follow this road, it takes you all the way around the western shore of the lake to the ruins at Kaunos, which are directly opposite Dalyan on the other side of the river…. Not that this helps much, since there is no bridge or vehicle ferry, so you have to drive all the way back round again in order to get home, but it would probably be a productive drive in Winter when the lake hosts large numbers of over-wintering water birds.

Passing back over the bridge again, I stopped for one more try – no good, so I tried driving down a rough track which I hoped might lead down to the banks of the river…. It didn’t, and furthermore soon turned into a raised bund which was too narrow to turn the car around – I had to drive for miles before I found a spot where I could do a 17-point turn and head back!

Arriving at the junction of the main-road, I had a choice…. turn left (give up, go home) or turn right for one last try at the bridge: thankfully, I chose the latter.

Just pootling along, I heard a strange call – bit difficult to describe… but a bit like a horse whinnying with undertones of Marsh Frog. Pulled over to the side of the road and started scanning down in the direction of the river to try to find what might be making it. I couldn’t see anything, but luckily the bird’s nerve broke first and it emerged from a stand of trees, flew right past me and headed down-river towards the bridge – White-throated Kingfisher!!

What a bird – a decent size (seemed almost the size of a dove) and bright iridescent turquoise and rich chestnut brown and with a whopping great carrot of a bill stuck on the front! It was beautifully lit with the early morning sun behind me and a great, great sighting.

Jumped back in the car and headed down to the bridge, hoping that the bird might have fetched up somewhere I would be able to see it – I couldn’t, but I could hear it calling from nearby, so it was still around. This bird was obviously quite shy of human presence, since it quickly broke cover again, flew under the bridge right below me (wow!) and perched up on a dead tree about 300m away. I was able to get some good views through the scope but it would have been hopeless to try to digi-scope it due to the distance and heat-haze.

I was happy now and headed back home for a late breakfast and a look around the Dalyan area – not seeing anything new apart from finding a nest-site for Red-rumped Swallows close to our hotel – not sure how I’d managed to miss it up ‘til now!

As Sod’s Law would have it, when passing through an attractive marshy area to the W of Koycegiz town, a second WT Kingfisher flew across the road right in front of the car! In view of the distances between sightings, I’m pretty sure this must have been a second bird.

Conclusion

This was our first trip to Turkey and we absolutely loved it! …so much so, in fact, that we are already booked up for a return trip in October. The town, habitat, people, food, climate & atmosphere were all fantastic and I hope that it can remain relatively un-spoilt for a while yet. There are warning signs though, with large numbers of tourist-style houses under construction and the area already home to quite a number of ex-pats taking advantage of the things enumerated above.

Bird-wise, it’s a bit funny. Even though there are lots of birds around, you somehow get the feeling that there aren’t quite as many birds as there really should be in such first-rate habitat. As a birdwatcher, you would be constantly saying to yourself things like.. “Look at that fantastic dead tree in the marsh – I bet there’ll be something perched up on that!” Snag is, there almost invariably wasn’t! My own theory is that late May/early June was not really the best time to come – many birds were obviously raising young (or recovering!) and the heat was impressive – it was cracking the flags by 09:00 every morning. I reckon a trip earlier in Spring or maybe Autumn/Winter might be more productive. If you were prepared to get up early, go to some good places and put some effort in, many good birds could be found – it’s just that (unlike many Med holiday destinations) a ‘sunbed list’ would probably not get into double-figures!

Another thing that really struck home was that I was very much out of my birding comfort zone!

As many of you will know, I’m far from the world’s best or most experienced bird-watcher, but back in the UK it is relatively rare these days for me to struggle to id any bird that I get a reasonable look at… In Turkey, the L-plates came back on big-time!!

Up in the mountains, it was Wheatears and Larks! If you get a good close look at these they are not too bad, but id-ing unfamiliar species of Wheatear at distance can be a bit of a nightmare, but this is nothing compared to trying to id the birds that are calling from the marshes around Dalyan – to my un-tutored ear, they all sound like slightly different versions of Reed Warblers!! Reading through my literature, I think there is probably every chance that I saw/heard River Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Rupell’s Warbler etc but I just couldn’t differentiate all the different calls that I was hearing from barely seen birds! As you can imagine, this was quite frustrating and I will be making efforts to bone up on likely species before we go out next time.

Butterflies were everywhere – but I guess due to the heat – extremely active and therefore difficult to id. All I can say is that they were numerous and impressive, but I quickly made a command decision that I had enough on my plate trying to id the birds, so butterflies took a back seat I’m afraid. I will attach a picture of one impressive species that I managed to photograph – Eastern Festoon – which is about the size of a small pterodactyl!

Other wildlife is plentiful, with lots of dragonflies, lizards, water-snakes and turtles being seen everywhere, and it was bizarre to come across many tortoises just making their slow way around the countryside (and roads!)

As I say, a great place and a wonderful experience for us and one that we will be repeating in not too many months time…

Ray Barker

 

http://www.dalyanbirding.com

 

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Lifer on the Lake

Lifer on the lake

Brief report on sightings and trips from two visits to Dalyan in February and early April 2014.

February
Winter flights to Dalaman before April from Manchester were unavailable so this meant flying into Antalya and driving to Dalyan either by the mountain route or costal route. We chose the mountain route which is roughly two hours shorter at 4 hours with a nervous passenger at 70 km per hour for the majority of the journey.
Before departing we took the decision to down load the map of Turkey for our Tom Tom and this proved to be vital. I had downloaded route planner and other paper directions, but in reality driving through Antalya from the airport required eight pairs of eyes (and there was only two of us), and following the road signs and paper directions along with keeping up with the flow of traffic, which approached us from all directions cutting you up from left and right would have been nigh impossible if you wished to keep your insurance excess intact! Once we left Antalya and took the D400 the rest of the journey was a pleasure passing through snow covered Swiss like mountains and plateaux’s although the nervous passenger stress was ramped up as road signs suggesting we apply snow chains to the tyres as we went further up the mountains . She needn’t have worried as we managed to stay below the snow line for the entire journey, although I know this isn’t always the case at this time of the year.
The February trip wasn’t a bird watching trip but still produced a decent haul (in my opinion)and only included visits to the beach and the rocky outcrop at Eskiköy along with a circular route of Dalyan. My biggest surprise was the numbers of ‘British’ birds seen; Blackbirds are common enough in Dalyan, however the following were seen in much increased numbers : Common Robin , Magpie, Blue tit , Mistle Thrush, Starlings and Song Thrush. Other birds in noticeable large numbers were Black Redstart, Whitethroat, and Chaffinch (every where) Raptors few and far between Short toed eagle been the only one seen. Paul Hopes book ‘Walking and bird watching in South West Turkey’ suggests that Köycegiz lake has rafts of Coots and other wintering birds, however, they were not present in those numbers on my visit, with the numbers been in the hundreds only. My highlight for the week, 6 pairs of Night Heron roosting in the trees opposite the hotel nearest to the new boat yard, and a pair of Sardinian Warbler s near Antalya airport on the journey home.
List for February as follows: White Wagtail, Hooded Crow ,Jay, Short toed Eagle, Robin, Kingfisher, Kestrel, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit, White throat, Stonechat ,Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Crested Lark, Moorhen ,Serin, Greenfinch ,Redstart, Scops Owl (heard),White Stork, Immature flamingos, Yellow legged Gull, Cormorant ,Blue Rock Thrush male, Common Sandpiper, Black Redstart, Blackbird ,Grey Heron, Gt White Egret, Gt Spotted Woodpecker, T eal, Night Heron, Little Grebe, Starlings ,Rock Nuthatch, Cetti’s Warbler, Song thrush ,Magpie, Mistle Thrush, Blue tit, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Swallow ,Crag Martin, Corn Bunting ,Meadow Pipit ,Fan Tailed Warbler, Blackcap ,Sardinian Warbler ,Collard dove ,House sparrow

The April trip was more of a birding week in which we took in the usual places, beach, Kaunos, Rocky out crop at Eskiköy, Çővenli Yaylasi and Köycegiz Lake. We also arrange a trip up to Lake Girdev.
One of the best birds seen was in fact just passing over Dalyan /Ockular an Imperial Eagle, a huge bird which at first we struggled to id, plumping for a Juvenile bird with its pale coloring.
The highlights of the local birding were Hen Harrier and Flamingo down at the beach, Finschs Wheatear, Ortalan and Cretzscnar’s Bunting and Alpine swift up in the mountains at Çővenli Yaylasi, Imperial and Lesser Spotted Eagle in the Dalyan area. Lake Köycegiz provided Green shank and a lifer for me with a splendid pair of Black Winged Stilts on a spit of shale on the east of the lake were the Yuvarlakcay enters the lake near Kavakarasi.

Black Winged Stilts

          Black Winged Stilts

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron                                                   

Little Egret

Little Egret

Greenshank

Greenshank

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Cretzschmar’s Bunting

Trip up to Lake Girdev. 7.4.14

Lake Girdev

Lake Girdev

Itinerary: Set off 7:30 am from Kaunos tours, Dive towards Seki have breakfast, bird stops on the way to Lake Girdev , return Kaunos Tours 6pm .
We booked a 7 seater Dacia through Kaunos Tours for £39, with a driver for an additional £20 + his lunch. Fuel £12 and tip 10 lira each (our choice he did an exceptional job driving) (6 passengers and a driver) total cost per person roughly £ 15 bargain
Paul Hopes book describes Lake Girdev as follows ‘This is one of the most spectacular routes in the area, reaching an altitude of 2000meteres (6562 feet).it is one of the most productive areas in terms of bird species; 119 recorded to date’ He goes on to say ‘in April and the first half of May it is only possible to travel so far up the road as it generally remains blocked by snow until mid May. If it has been raining it is virtually impossible to go up the road unless you have a 4WD’. We had been warned by Kaunos Tours that we may not make it up to Lake Girdev because of the pre mentioned problems, however, luck was in our favour, because despite not having a 4WD vehicle, the snow level was a little higher, there had been no rain so with great skill from our driver we made it to the lake.
Our bird tally for the day was only 30, perhaps we are no more than enthusiastic amateurs and probably missed a lot of ID’s, perhaps we went a little early in the season it is World Migratory Bird Day on the 11.5.2014 and this may be a better time to go, but we had a great day out, and the company was great too (thanks Mick, Pete Karen, Paul and John)
World Migratory Bird Day on the 11.5.2014 link

https://www.facebook.com/events/730271466994971/?ref=22

A cautionary tale: Paul Hope also writes ‘..one can soon leave behind the tourist developed areas and head inland where in remote villages you can experience a way of life that hasn’t changed for centuries…..for those that love remoteness of this area, one free from the sound of motor vehicles, then this is about to change! (referring to developments pandering to touristic needs) ‘ Alan Fenn also takes up the cautionary tale “As so often happens with wild, unspoilt places that take a bit of effort to get to, tourism catches on and has the effect of altering or, in some cases, totally messing up what Toprakana-Mother Nature seemed to think was really pretty good in the first place. Accesses gets ‘improved’ and before long ways are being found to commodify and exploit the place by upgrading the environment. So it is with Girdev which is a sort of Crater Lake in that it is totally surrounded by mountains. Rain and especially snow-melt feeds the seasonal waters. No rivers flow from the lake and it drains through a sink-hole near the north end before emerging as the Kazanpınar Spring some 18 kms away near Elmalı in Antalya province. Nature’s balance meant that as the lake dried great swathes of wild flowers emerged, particularly Orchis palastris – the Marsh Orchid. Girdev is also home to many different species of birds and insects as well as the great flocks of sheep brought up there each season by the traditional nomadic herders.
That was then, this is now – tourism has come! A permanent ‘camp’ has been built to house those who want to visit this unique place for longer than a day-trip. Nothing wrong with that I say .What is sad is that, pandering to money from those who know no better, a shallow dam has been raised restricting the flow to the sink-hole and creating a permanent lake where one never existed before and this has been stocked with carp. Nature will adapt and species will change – my question is ‘Why does money always have to trump nature?’ There will always be consequences – nomadic herders have lost much of their traditional grazing grounds; to make ends meet will they have to resort to opening restaurants and gözleme (pancake) stalls around the lake? And what about the water quality at Elmalı as tourism expands? That said, Girdev is still yet a lonely and wildly beautiful place – as long as you miss the Jeep safari crowds!”
Link to Alan fens article: http://archersofokcular.com/wow-eds-view-whilst-wandering-wild-places/
The list for the day:
Hen (that’s for you John) Collard Dove, Gt Tit, Little owl, Swallow, House Martin, Little Egret, House Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Pied Wagtail, Blackeared Wheatear, Goldfinch, Crag Martin, Crested Lark, Jay, Blue Rock Thrush, Twite, Red fronted Serin, Ruddy Shell Duck, Snow Bunting, Rock Thrush , Black Necked Grebe, Yellow Wagtail, Gt Crested Grebe, Crag Martin, Chaffinch, Coot, Grey Heron, White Stork. Of which Red Fronted Serin and Ruddy Shell Duck been new lifers, so pleased with that. No White-throated Robins on this occasion, maybe next time!
http://www.dalyanbirding.com

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South West Turkey, 10th – 24th May 2013.

South West Turkey, 10th – 24th May 2013.

 

Based at Dalyan.

 

Alan Gilbertson.

After many visits to the west end of the Mediterranean in spring and autumn over the years, this year it was time to take a look at the eastern Mediterranean to pick up a few new species. Black-headed bunting, Cretzschmar’s bunting, Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant and a good few more were on the list of lifers that could come, so with a view to the pelican and cormorant I chose the south-west corner of Turkey as a base and because some of the targets were late migrants I chose mid-late May in preference to my normal spring break of the last few days of April into mid-May.

The strategy certainly worked as far as the late arrivals were concerned, but the downside was that I seemed to miss all but the tail end of migration and some of the birds I thought I might pick up had already gone through.

The trip wasn’t about building a big trip list. I wanted to pick out some specialities and spend time trying to get some reasonable photos of them.

Of the resorts, Dalyan seemed to fit the bill – close to Dalaman airport and not too far away from the Aegean coast in one direction and hill bird territory in the opposite direction in the hills north of Antalya. Proximity to main roads for access to those areas was also a plus factor, but in hindsight I was a little optimistic on the traveling times to my more distant destinations. The hills for instance were only 70 miles away, but speed restrictions, single carriageway roads and the extensive road-works involved in upgrading some of those roads meant that a 70 mile trip was a two hour drive.

Dalyan also seemed to be a good birding prospect in its own right – not over-commercialised, standing in open country next to a river a few km inland from a protected beach it looked just the job. Our accommodation was on the north side of the town in an area where David Gosney stayed as mentioned in his guide to the area. Google Earth showed it to be an open area with separated houses and open ground. The photos were some years out of date and there has been more housing inserted into the open spaces and the masked shrikes and Syrian woodpeckers that Gosney saw in the gardens were sadly displaced, but that didn’t detract too much from the area.

Our literature for the trip consisted of my Collins and Gosney’s guide to Western Turkey. Navigational aids were my Garmin sat-nav with the full European maps (which gives adequate coverage of Turkey) and the Bartholemew South West Turkey Holiday Map at the less than ideal scale of 1:435,000. Larger scale maps just couldn’t be found before the trip.

I also used information from various trip reports and the site descriptions on the Dalyan Birding website.

We arrived late at night on 10th May on a Jet2 flight and Dalaman airport was no trouble at all. A tenner each for visas at the desk next to passport control and we were through.

Our car was pre-booked through dlmcarrental.com and their representative was waiting for us as we came out of the airport with a very clean and tidy Renault Symbol (a Clio with a boot) with just short of 20,000km on the clock. The paperwork was completed in the car-park (my cap lamp came in handy) and the rep drove us as far as his rental office on the main road on the edge of Dalaman town where we dropped him off.

Driving in the dark was interesting, particularly when the sat-nav decided that the back road from Ortaca was the best way to get to Dalyan. This introduced us to the massive potholes that characterise many roads and the need to be constantly ready to move onto the wrong side of the road to avoid them (and also to be ready to encounter a car coming in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road that is avoiding potholes of its own). High speed on these roads is to be avoided at all costs – even in daylight. We also encountered a motor cycle coming towards us in the dark, its presence only advertised by the small cap lamp on the rider’s head – the only illumination the vehicle carried. Expect the unexpected seems to be the way to go on.

Other interesting observations on driving that I made in the first few days included the fact that if a Turkish vehicle flashes his headlights, there is no ambiguity involved. It’s not an invitation for you to proceed as it often (but not always) would be in the UK. It means ‘Get out of my way, I’m coming through’.

I also learned that small motorcycles can seat up to four in comfort – one driving, two on the pillion and one on the tank, a Vespa scooter can carry three – one driving, one on the pillion and a small child standing on the floor between the driver and the handlebars and that carpets can be transported with ease along main roads, rolled up and slung cross-ways across the tank of a motorcycle.

We arrived at our rented house at just before midnight and a Little Owl calling from a nearby roof was the first bird of the trip.

Day 1. Saturday 11th May. Around Dalyan.

 

The muezzin’s call to prayer at about 5.20am, broadcast over the town’s loudspeaker system woke us rather earlier than we were expecting, but it’s a rather comforting sound and we drifted back off to sleep for another couple of hours. This was to be the routine for the first few days, but then we got used to it and stopped hearing the call.

I decided to spend the first day locally to see what could be seen and to resist the temptation to head for the hills. Overnight cloud cleared at daybreak.

The DalyanRiver was just a couple of hundred yards away, so at 8am I headed there first while my wife stayed at the house. On the way I picked up Yellow-legged Gull, House Sparrow, House Martin, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Cetti’s Warbler and Swallow. A warbler singing from the top of a bush in one of the remaining open spaces turned out to be an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, the first lifer of the trip. I thought this was a bit of a feather in my cap, seeing it only ten minutes after starting out. Little did I know at the time that I would be seeing dozens of the things in all sorts of habitat, including the wires over our garden, bushes, trees, reed-beds and anywhere else a bird could find space to sit. They were everywhere.

The path north along the river produced White Wagtail, Blackbird and Great Tit.

Turning east between a drainage ditch and a pomegranate orchard there was White Stork, Reed Warbler, Goldfinch, Little Egret, Chaffinch and Red-rumped Swallow, then back to the digs via the riverside again for a group of four juvenile Night Herons in flight and Blue Tit.

We then took the car to explore slightly further afield. The hill beside the sewage works on the northern edge of town was only a few hundred yards, so that was the first stop. Woodchat Shrike on the wires, Nightingale in the undergrowth and a group of Hooded Crows over the top of the hill and a Common Kestrel were the first things we saw, followed by a pair of Rollers that flew off croaking from the cliff.

The road between Dalyan and the beach was a bit of a disappointment. The roadside pools were dry after a dry spring and there were none of the expected terns or water birds, although we did see Fan-tailed Warbler, Crested Lark, Moorhen and Common Swift.

Just before the beach car park we took the track off to the left up through the forest and on the way up there was nothing of note, although when we stopped at the top to scan we saw the second lifer of the trip – a ruffinus Long-legged Buzzard, the first of many we were to see on the trip. Prior to this I’d seen the cirtensis race of Long-legged Buzzard. This was my first ‘real’ one. Of the raptors we saw on the trip, I’d say that long-legged buzzard turned out to be the commonest.

The trip back down the track with the windows open gave us another lifer only a few minutes later – a pair of Kruper’s Nuthatch feeding in the trees next to the road and making a racket while they did so.

After seeing a Hoopoe, as we got back close to the junction with the main road, a flash of black, white and red streaked across the road just in front of the car and stuck itself onto the trunk of a pine tree. Another lifer – Middle Spotted Woodpecker.

Back at Dalyan a late afternoon walk to the river produced one of the local race of Jay and a very confiding Penduline tit building a nest on a low branch overhanging a jetty right next to the footpath.

Kruppers Nuthattch

Kruppers Nuthattch

Penduline Tit

Penduline Tit

Day 2. Sunday 12th  May.  Lake Koycegiz and Kaunos.

 

The day started fine and sunny and we set out in the car for Lake Koycegiz, the southern end of which was just a mile or so up the river, but not accessible without a boat. As we drove north near the village of Tepearasi we saw the first Masked shrike of the trip sitting on roadside wires. This would have been a lifer, but I twitched the juvenile that turned up in Fife a few years ago, in the days when I could be bothered with such shenanigans.

 

Just west of Koycegiz town we parked up and walked a track up a small river, adding Marsh Sandpiper that flew off calling Ringed Plover, Redshank, Red-backed Shrike (in a bush with another Masked Shrike), Magpie, Bee-eater, Cormorant, Grey Heron and Turtle Dove to the list.

 

 

A stop at the Namnam River, which is reported as being a site for White-breasted and Pied Kingfishers yielded nothing. We followed the road down the west side of the lake and eventually arrived at the boat landing at Kaunos, the site of the ancient city ruins only about half a mile from our digs, but because of the intervening river, over an hour and a half by car. I parked at the boat landing and walked the track back to the ruins, hoping for some of the Cretzschmar’s Buntings I’d read about in a trip report. Not a feather.

 

At the ruins (very reasonable entrance fee; 8 Lira each) we went first to the amphitheatre. I was blown away. Firstly by the condition and location of the ruins, which are well worth the fee and secondly by the lifer that bobbed about on the amphitheatre steps just in front of me, occasionally too close for the 3.5m minimum focusing distance of my camera. Western Rock Nuthatch.

Western Rock Nuthatch

Western Rock Nuthatch

A walk through the ruins and along the river at the other side gave Cattle Egret and Peregrine.

 

On the drive back north along the lake road a pair of eagle-like silhouettes circled over the road against the sun. On further inspection they turned out to be a pair of Honey Huzzards. We saw what were presumably the same birds again in the same place from the opposite bank of the Namnam river a few days later.

 

The only other new bird of the trip was Jackdaw near Tepearasi.

 

 

Day 3. Monday 13th May.  Dalyan.

 

Heavy thunderstorms overnight and early morning shot down any idea of heading for the hills, so at 7.45 I set out on foot to look along the tracks north of the town around and past the sewage works. A huge dark thundercloud moved in from the sea and 15 minutes later the first heavy drops started to hit just as I was passing the local football pitch.  I took shelter in the roadside grandstand to sit out the shower. What I hoped would be a short stay extended to over two hours as the heavens opened and stayed open.

 

Entertainment on the pitch consisted of a white stork that flew in and probed the grass for food between the five-a-side nets. The local Rollers flew in from the nearby cliff and perched at the top of the cypress trees at the other side of the pitch, getting wet for a while before flying off to get wet elsewhere.

 

Next a pair of Little Owls turned up and one of them perched on a floodlighting tower and the fence next to it and engaged in what I can only describe as taking a shower. It sat leaning forward with its head dipped and its wings outspread for a minute or two before giving itself a good shake, then repeating the exercise several times, getting a good soaking from the downpour. I’m guessing it’s a way of getting rid of feather parasites, but I’ve not seen anything like it before.

 

By about half past ten it was safe to continue my walk. A large crab in a fresh puddle on the tarmac road was the first life I encountered.

 

The tracks west from the sewage works and past a refuge full of rather large, energetic and noisy rescue dogs produced the only new bird of the day, an Eastern Orphean Warbler. Another Masked Shrike was hunting from the wires and bushes at the edge of town next to the sewage works tracks. The intermedia subspecies of banded demoiselle and many scarce chaser dragonflies gave good views in the vegetation over the drainage ditches.

 

The afternoon saw the return of some rather spectacular thunder storms, so that was that for the day.

 

 

Day 4. Tuesday 14th May. Eskikoy and the hills north of Beyobasi – Çövenli Yaylasi.

 

The forecast was for thundery showers again, so again the trip to the hills to the west near Korkuteli is put on hold. It’s no good going and seeing a Red-fronted Serin if a millisecond later you provide a temporary pathway to earth for a million amps of electricity as a reward.

 

Four days in already and not a bunting seen. What’s going on?

 

Despite the forecast, the day began sunny and warm and I took a look along the track described as Eskikoy on the Dalyan birding website. It’s actually a track that bears off towards LakeKoycegiz and the nearby fields from the road between Dalyan and the nearby village of Eskikoy. Driving along the track in from the road the ditch alongside was full of basking Balkan terrapins and the occasional snake crossed the track to get to the water. Later examination of photos taken a little further along the track a few days later showed that they would have been dice snakes and grass snakes. We saw a small group of Greenfinch before I stopped at a T junction to take the left-hand track to a rocky outcrop that stands proud from the flat lands around. My wife said there was a ‘sparrow thing’ on the wires at her side, so I pulled the car around to take a look. Oh, dear! The sparrow thing was a cracking male Black-Headed Buntingsinging its heart out from the wires only a few yards away. About 60 yards further along the wires was another one. They were the first of about 6 Black-headed Buntings we saw on the track that morning and after a total dearth of them in the days before, we managed to see at least one on every day for the rest of the trip. A little further on a Corn Bunting sang from some stems.

Blackheaded Bunting

Blackheaded Bunting

We arrived at the outcrop and parked up to take a walk. A Squacco Heron flew by and then out of nowhere the sky above us was full of Swifts and hirundines amongst which were a good number of Alpine swifts and Sand Martins. At a bridge over the stream I heard birdsong that came from a friendly Rufous Bushchat (or bush robin if you like) perched on top of a nearby bush, one of three we found in the next quarter of a mile. A Common Buzzard and a Long-legged Buzzard drifted past. A Spanish Sparrow picked grit from the track.

 

I stopped at a place where the track passes a wooded mound to photograph a Black-headed Bunting singing on the wires and once more the sky was suddenly full of Swifts and hirundines, but this time they had company. A large falcon showed just over the brow and then another. A pair of Eleonora’s Falcons was hunting the flock and I managed to fire off a couple of hasty shots with the camera before they stooped out of sight behind the hill and they were never seen again.

 

Back on the main road it was approaching mid-day.

 

The weather was still fine and although there were a few clouds over the hills to the north the forecast thunder showers hadn’t arrived. I decided to do a bit of exploring and drove north, turning off the main road at Beyobasi to follow the road beyond there into the local hills to see what could be seen. The road quickly rose and entered extensive pine forest that persisted for almost the whole trip. A Masked Shrike sat on wires just outside Beyobasi.

 

After about 15km the trees opened up to be replaced by a scrubby hillside for a kilometer or so. A couple of small birds flew by. They were probably Blue Tits, but I stopped just in case and was rewarded by a bunting song from nearby. On top of a bush was my first Cretzschmar’s Bunting singing his little heart out, sounding like an Ortolan that couldn’t manage the high notes. A little further on there was a village called Alan on the right hand side of the track. It looked promising, but a drive in and out didn’t produce anything so we pressed on.

Cretzschmar’s Bunting

Cretzschmar’s Bunting

The track was back into woodland by now but the first bend, overlooking open ground held a singing male Eastern black-eared Wheatear of the black-throated variety, singing from both perch and in flight. On we went, by now in solid overcast with the occasional spot of rain and the sound and occasional sighting of Kruper’s Nuthatch.

 

A clear area with boulders after another 15km or so had a common buzzard that took off as we arrived, a Northern wheatear of the very white local race next to the road and another Cretzschmar’s Bunting. A Green Woodpecker called nearby and a Cuckoo flew over. A Raven passed carrying twigs and a Coal Tit was feeding in the pines. About a kilometer further on a bend on the track produced a flock of Serin that flew up with some Greenfinches and Chaffinch.

 

The road dipped and after a couple of hundred metres I came to what was probably my favourite spot on the entire holiday. A hidden valley opened up in front of us, covered with tiny fields and dotted with a few houses. It wasn’t on my map, it didn’t have a signpost that I could see, so I didn’t know its name. It wasn’t until I got back to England and interrogated Google Earth that I discovered from the labels on some of the photos that the village is called Çövenli Yaylasi.

 

I call it a little bit of heaven, whatever its official name is. After the green sterility of the deserts we call farmland in England it was like stepping back a century to a time of basic farming techniques, a lack of pollution and a collection of birds to make your mouth water. It’s only about a kilometer square and it’s brilliant. I’ve brought it to the attention of the local birders who have included it on their Dalyan website. Highly recommended.

 

The first bird we saw was an impossibly bright male Caspian Stonechat that unfortunately flew off just as the camera was focusing on it, never to be seen again. It was the only one of the trip. Then straight away the first of several Eastern race Common Redstarts popped up next to the road. Then a Lesser Whitethroat hopped through a bush, then Cretzschmar’s Bunting, then Black-headed Bunting, then only 300m or so into the village a female Red-Backed Shrike carrying nesting material into a bush with her mate hunting caterpillars on the opposite side of the track, then another Black-eared Wheatear. The place was just studded with gems.

 

Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

Unfortunately time was pressing on, so with a promise to come back before the holiday was over we headed back downhill for a feed.

 

On the way back down, near Alan a small bird sitting on a power line caught my eye. A male Ruppells’ Warbler. If not for an all too brief view of a female on migration three years ago at the southern tip of Sinai, this would have been another lifer.

 

The end of an exceptional day.

 

 

Day 5. Wednesday 15th May.  Bafa Golu.

 

With a good forecast, but still the risk of cloud in the hills to the east we set off on the trip west to the Aegean coast and the huge lake of Bafa Golu in the hope of finding Pygmy Cormorant and Dalmatian Pelican. The early start at 06.45 (aided by the muezzin’s call at 5.30) was justified, because although the distance didn’t seem too great at first glance, the map was misleading and it turned into a three hour drive for the 201 km (125 miles) to the first stopping point near Dalyan roundabout at Bafa Golu. On the road we added Starling to the trip list.

 

Driving west beyond Mugla the landscape changed into what I would normally describe as Mediterranean, with scrub-covered limestone hills. Before we arrived in Turkey I was of the impression that it would all look a bit like Spain dragged eastward and I was surprised when I arrived and saw it in daylight at how green the country around Dalyan and the surrounding area was, with extensive forests, fruit plantations, reed cover and other greenery. West of Mugla it was more like my preconception.

 

Bafa Golu is huge and the first impression was that apart from Cormorants it was devoid of life, but as we proceeded other stuff appeared. From the roundabout confusingly named Dalyan we took the track east and then drove for several miles north east along a dead straight raised embankment that was for the most part frustratingly distant from the lake. There were birds over the lake, but the best I could do with the distance and heat haze was make them into gulls and terns, with no certainty as to species.

 

After a while I spotted a handful of Great White Egrets at a distance, but little else until we got to the north end of the embankment where a number of Black Terns were passing. At the end of the track we came to the village of Sercin, where things started looking up. The canal there had Little Grebe and when we got out of the car and walked out along an earth mound a pair of Spur-winged Plover flew noisily around overhead. There were several Ruddy Shelduck out on the lake and the shore and Gull-billed Terns hunted the lake.

 

The levee we walked out on had Crested Larks, Sand Martins, a Bee Eater colony and the only Isabelline Wheatear of the trip. I set up at the end of the mound and scanned the lake with my scope. Out in front of us, a good distance away beyond an expanse of dried out mud and a wide belt of tamarisk scrub a Dalmatian Pelican sat on the water. We walked out over the mud to close the range, but the tamarisk scrub turned out to be a trackless mass with flooded channels running through it. We turned back to the car, but after only a couple of hundred yards the sun was blotted out by a shadow and when I looked up there was our Pelican, come to see us, flying low directly overhead.

 

Dalmatian Pelican

Dalmatian Pelican

The lake side at the village added Black-winged Stilt and Coot to the list and a patch of bare ground on the edge of the village where I stopped to watch Bee-eaters contained a Rufous Bushchat. Beyond the village we walked up along a watercourse with expansive Reedbeds, finding further Rufous Bushchats, about a million very noisy marsh frogs and a couple of Little bitterns,

 

We took an alternative track back south-west from there to pick up the main road back near our starting point at the roundabout. Great Reed Warblers called from the reeds, a Short-toed Eagle drifted overhead and just before we reached the road I spotted a couple of Night Herons at the edge of the reeds on the other side of a canal.

 

From there we headed north in the direction of Soke, turning off west at Tuzburgazi for the coast on the north side of Karine Golu. As we arrived on the shore a second Dalmatian Pelican flew along the shore towards us. Some medium-sided dark-looking birds roosting out in the heat haze on a sand bar turned out to be Oystercatchers. We followed the road down to the point at Karine, but none of the hoped-for Pygmy Cormorants were there. Good views of several Black-headed Bunting, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, a singing male Ruppell’s Warbler and very distant views of a group of Dalmatian Pelicans in flight and on the water had to do for compensation. A very close view of a Caucasian squirrel sitting on a wall at the side of the road was a welcome surprise.

 

The afternoon was pressing on and after a look along a canal-side track or two I headed for the village of Akkoy and the colony of Lesser Kestrels in the village centre. I don’t know if it was bad timing on my part, or the presence of a new-looking minaret on the village mosque, but there was neither sight nor sound of any kestrel of any species in the village, so mindful of the three hour drive home we called it a day. We’d not got all we’d hoped for, but the area deserves more time.

 

 

Day 6. Thursday 16th May.  Dalyan.

 

The day began with a bit of a difference. I barely noticed the muezzin and just drifted through his call. Just after 6am I felt a sensation as of someone was  shaking the bed, then about 10 or 20 seconds later an even gentler shake, then another, almost imperceptible.

 

‘Earthquake’, I said (actually a minor earth tremor, but if the UK press can over-sensationalise them I suppose I can too). My wife had been woken by it too, as had all the town dogs, which began barking. When the dogs stopped I rolled over and had another hour or two. No rush to get up today.

 

I found out later from an internet search that the tremor was a 4.9 one – bigger than I’d thought and centred in the Dodecanese islands at a depth of 10 km. If I’d been outside doing something I’m sure I’d not have noticed it at all. There was another later on, at about half past midnight while I was looking at the laptop. A very faint sensation, like someone walking on a wooden floor (our floors in the villa were concrete) and a gentle rattle of a loose wrought iron stair-rail. That one was a 2.6 on the Richter scale, centred 5km below the Dodecanese/Turkey border. Again, I wouldn’t have noticed it in anything other than a silent room in which I wasn’t engaged in activity.

 

Interesting at the time.

 

The birding for the day was relaxed and local. A walk around the village produced nothing we hadn’t seen before and later we had a drive down towards the beach. The cliffs above the dried-out wader pools on the east of the road had Rock Nuthatch. A pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were calling and feeding in pines next to Gokbel village. The track up through the forest that we’d taken on Saturday produced more Kruper’s Nuthatch and dozens of the ever-present starry agama lizards on various boulders and outcrops.

Near Ortaca we explored the track that starts opposite the Ley Ley restaurant and went on foot through a very attractive gorge. A Long legged-Buzzard on the cliffs above was the star of the show.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Day 7. Friday 17th  May.  Korkuteli Hills

 

A clear sky after overnight rain and at last we were heading for the hills around Korkuteli, setting off at 8 am. I was forewarned by reading recent trip reports that the Gosney information on places to stop is now sadly out of date and the single carriageway roads have largely been upgraded to dual carriageway and the stopping points are largely meaningless today.

 

Fortunately I was also aware of a magnificent route through the hills that somehow doesn’t appear in the guide. This road crosses the Gogubeli pass and it’s a cracker.

 

The drive up to our first stopping point at Kinik was slower than I’d expected because of speed restrictions and road-works where they are upgrading the main road to dual carriageway. The 70 miles or so took 10 minutes over two hours, 20 minutes longer than the time suggested by Google Earth, but once the road upgrade is complete no doubt this will reduce.

 

On the way up we saw Crag Martin over the road.

 

Kinik is a small hamlet standing a few hundred yards from the main road, with houses on either side of a central track that then continues up a scrub and grass-covered hill with rocky outcrops. As we passed the first house a red squirrel that had been sitting on the low roof made a dash for a tree just too quickly for my camera and White Throated Robins flew up from the track in front of us. These robins would have been lifers if not for the one that came to visit us in the north east of England in the famous Hartlepool Headland incident of 2011. Fortunately I got to see that bird early on, before it retired from the bowling green to the doctor’s garden and the masses turned up with their ladders to see it over the wall.

 

We followed the track uphill for a couple of kilometres until it became rutted and I didn’t want to chance getting into somewhere I couldn’t get out of. Better ground conditions could have allowed more exploration.

 

After turning the first thing we saw was a male Ruppell’s Warbler singing from the bushes at the side of the road, so the car morphed into its secondary role as a photographic hide and we spent some time making the most of it before heading back down.

 

Ruppell’s Warbler

Ruppell’s Warbler

As we came to the first of the houses on the way back down we came face to face with another example of the wildlife of Turkey. The huge yellow bulk of a kangal came bounding from an open door and ran alongside my open window, barking loudly in my ear. I ignored it and kept going, pulling away. The dog obviously felt spurned by this lack of good manners and responded by having a bite at the rear wheel-arch of the car as it passed. An examination later in the day showed teeth marks right through the plastic trim.

 

I was pleased I wasn’t on a bike.

 

We looked along a track on the other side of the main road and saw the first Calandra Lark of the trip, before doubling back to the road and heading for Seki, the next stop.

 

Just before Seki I spotted a large raptor sitting on a roadside power pole. As I drove past I was face to face with a lovely Long-legged Buzzard. There was no other traffic so I stopped. Amazingly the bird didn’t fly off as raptors usually do in these circumstances. It just sat on its pole looking at me and I had time to take a few close range photos. Even when I eased the door open to take a more comfortable position with the camera and the bird flew, it only sauntered to the next pole and perched again, allowing a couple of flight shots showing tail detail and some more perching shots as it landed.

Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

White Throated Robin

White Throated Robin

At Seki we spent some time watching and photographing White-throated Robins, Black-headed Buntings and Crested Lark. If we’d had more time, I’d have liked to head further south to LakeGirdev, but unfortunately we had to press on.

 

Onward and upward, the GogubeliPass beckoned and after probably too long at Seki we set off east again. Our map for some reason shows that the road doesn’t go beyond Seki, but reality is different. It’s tarmac all the way to Elmali.

 

Leaving Seki I saw a Common Redstart by the side of the road and a little further on, just beyond a place called Zorlar a stop at a roadside fountain produced a close Rock Nuthatch and a Black-eared Wheatear. As we climbed further and approached the pass a pair of small dark birds flew in front of the car and were immediately lost in a roadside bush. Getting out of the car to investigate produced nothing at first. A wagon drove past and blew his horn in greeting, seemingly emptying the bushes before I reached them, but as I turned back to the car a pair of Red fronted Serins – flew across the road at eye level, close enough to see the red fronts. They flew into some open scrub just over the road so I followed them, adding Chough, Black Redstart and a smart male Rock Thrush to the trip list in the space of about five minutes.

 

A couple of kilometres further saw us at the pass itself, where on the loose gravel underneath the altitude sign, a mixed flock of Red-fronted Serins, Serins and Linnets picked grit from the roadside. A Blue Rock Thrush perched on an outcrop nearby.

 

An unsurfaced track in good condition leading from the other side of the road caught my attention, so I followed it to see where it went. It turned out to lead to the village of Kayabasi that lies in the valley bottom amid agricultural land. Here we found more Black-headed Buntings, Mistle Thrush, Cirl Bunting and Woodlark.

 

Day 8. Saturday 18th  May. Dalyan and Hamitkoy.

 

A change of pace for today. We took the public boat from Dalyan down to the Iztuzu beach, 10 lira each for the return trip. The intention was to spend a few hours on the beach and also to check out the reedbeds on either side of the river on the way there and back. You never know, we might see something like a rare kingfisher. (That was the hope, anyway). In the event the reedbeds proved remarkably birdless, although we saw one or two snakes and as the river widened into a series of lagoons as we approached the beach a Nile soft-shelled turtle that had come up for a breath dived just as I got my camera onto it – it looked about the size of a dustbin lid. The birdlife of the beach wasn’t much to write home about – a group of loafing Yellow-legged Gulls was about it, but the importance of the beach as a breeding area for loggerhead turtles was illustrated by fresh turtle tracks that led from the water’s edge to a new nest, showing that eggs must have been laid only a few hours earlier.

 

We took the return boat in the early afternoon and then set of for the Namnam river at Hamitkoy, where this time we followed a track on foot south from the bridge and were rewarded after a kilometre or so by the raucous call of a White-breasted Kingfisher that flew along the river calling before flying across an orchard to land at the top of a eucalyptus tree a field away from the river.

 

Jackpot!  My wife says this photo reminds her of a flying Zoom iced lolly.

 

White Breasted Kingfisher

White Breasted Kingfisher

Day 9. Sunday 19th  May.  Dalyan.

 

Solid overcast in the morning meant that a planned return to Korkuteli hills was postponed, so we spent a fruitless day looking for Syrian Woodpecker in the vicinity of Dalyan. One of the forays took us back up the track from the beach road. Nearing the top of the track we turned off left and went on a broad track downhill to see where it took us. The answer was Ortaca. Nearing Ortaca the track passed a cliff with some more of the ancient rock tombs like those that so characterise the cliffs on the river opposite Dalyan. There wasn’t much in the way of birds to report from the drive, but I’m sure it has potential.

 

 

Day 10. Monday 20th  May.  Çövenli Yaylasi, a return visit.

 

A return trip to the village in the mountains beyond Beyobasi, Çövenli Yaylasi. The drive up was similar to the previous visit regarding birds although a distant Golden Oriole was a new addition to the trip. I went through the village and looked a short way up a track beyond. An Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler flicked and hovered as it fed in bushes next to the track. A Rock Bunting flicked between trees and boulders nearby, a Masked Shrike hunted from overhead wires and there was a very confiding Black-eared Wheatear.

Blackeared Wheatear

Blackeared Wheatear

 

I stopped the car in the centre of the village to photograph the resident pair of Red-backed Shrikes that were feeding along a fence. A pale Northern Wheatear also spent time close to us. Out of the blue a bird that had eluded us so far flew overhead, but maddeningly passed on without stopping in the orchard next to us. Syrian Woodpecker! Just after a very small grey bird flew past and landed in a bush near the shrikes and was never seen again. I thought I knew what it was, but couldn’t identify it at the time.

 

A couple of kilometres from the village on the track home, the unidentified grey bird became identified, when in a clearing of boulders and sparse bushes a Sombre Tit gave us good views, sufficient to confirm that the bird in the bush was one of the same. A Short-toed Treecreeper was feeding nearby.

 

 

Day 11. Tuesday 21st  May. Eskikoy.

 

A late start on a hot, sunny day because our hire car was due for service and a replacement was brought out to us.

 

We spent the morning on the Eskikoy track before moving on to Hamitkoy and the Namnam river where we were treated to another good view of the White-breasted Kingfisher that we’d seen there on Saturday. It flew up from the river and perched in the top of a tree in the woodland opposite. New birds for the trip were Common Whitethroat and Song Thrush.

 

The 36° heat was becoming uncomfortable and the birds were taking a rest, so we headed back to the digs and cooled off for the rest of the day in our pool., entertained by an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler that included our garden in its territory and a fleeting visit by a Beech Marten that came in under the garden gate, ran between our car and the pool and disappeared behind the house. I found it hiding in the gas bottle store, before it disappeared along our path into the next garden.

 

 

Day 12. Wednesday 22nd  May.  Korkuteli Hills.

 

The forecast was cloud, but I was impatient to get back to the Seki and the Korkuteli hills. A good move, because the cloud broke shortly after we arrived and the altitude kept the temperature comfortable.

 

Just west of Zorlar we stopped at a drinking fountain and were rewarded by a pair of Red-fronted Serins that landed on the wire fence right in front of us. Just before the summit we stopped again with good views of Rock Sparrow and another Sombre Tit that turned up while I was scanning for Wheatears. At the summit Red-fronted Serins pecked for grit with Linnets, Serins and Goldfinches. Nearby we added Wren to the trip list and another eastern Bonelli’s Warbler obligingly hovered in front of us.

Red-fronted Serins

Red-fronted Serins

North of Elmali at  the turn-off near the village of Calpinar two Syrian Woodpeckers flew across the road in front of the car and landed in some trees across a field, calling. Driving onward we survived another close encounter with a kangal when a flock of sheep crossed the road, but their protector decided to take a lump out of the wheel-arch of a wagon that happened to be coming the other way rather than going for us. It obviously wanted the prestige attached to going for the bigger target.

 

A track off the new dual carriageway west of Korkuteli turned up with the goods for the day. Northern Wheatears abounded and when we got out to walk the hillside we added Short-toed Lark and Tawny Pipit to the trip list. The same walk resulted in some evidence of the recent thunderstorms that had prevented our earlier trips to the hills. A small bush had been turned entirely to charcoal, presumably by a lightning strike. Its charred main stems still projected to a height of about a foot and a half above the ground, but all twigs and soft vegetation were gone. It stood in a perfect circle of about three feet in diameter of burnt ground, the vegetation around that circle completely untouched, probably protected by heavy rain that doused the fire before it could spread from the strike.

 

A male Rock Thrush was eating a worm on an outcrop and a little further on I found myself looking down from the car onto the back of a bird that wasn’t immediately familiar, grayish and almost game-bird like in shape, but it wasn’t there long enough to get a proper view and the confusion increased when it was attacked by another of the same kind. I had an impression of grey and white with black tails and black heads as they squabbled and it wasn’t until they settled that I realised I was looking at the penicillata race of Shore Lark.   I was surprised at how grey they looked and also how large they appeared in comparison with the northern shore larks that I’d seen in the past. A very smart bird indeed, that isn’t done justice by the illustration in my Collins.

Penicillata race of Shore Lark

Penicillata race of Shore Lark

I little further on my wife pointed out a Wheatear flying up from a boulder, where it briefly hovered. The brief view I had of it was enough to get me out of the car and up the hillside. A short climb put us into a boulder-lined hollow that hosted a family group of Finsch’s Wheatears; a male, a female and either two or three juveniles.

 

What a great day this was turning into.

 

After that we headed south to the reservoir south of Elmali, Avlan Golu where the day got even better. After adding Mallard and Great Crested Grebe to the trip list I noticed a bird splashing in the water near some distant flooded trees, clearly smaller than the Cormorants that rested in the trees. My tentative ID was confirmed when two more flew past it, looking a bit like an all-dark Brent Goose in flight.

 

Pygmy Cormorant! I had given up hope on them when we didn’t get them on the trip to Bafa Golu.

 

On the way back through Elmali another Syrian Woodpecker cocked a snook at us, flying up from the middle of the road right in front of the car as I slowed to a crawl, before it disappeared forever into a line of roadside trees. This was getting silly – we’d looked all over for them for days and now that were coming thick and fast, but all annoyingly in situations that wouldn’t allow photographs.

Finsch’s Wheatear

Finsch’s Wheatear

Day 13. Thursday 23rd  May.  Hamitkoy and Eskikoy.

 

After the long day in the hills we took it easy. A milky haze soon cleared to another hot and sunny morning. The morning was spent at the Namnam river near Hamitkoy watching and hoping for another view of our White-breasted Kingfisher. Unfortunately for another English birder we met there who was on the same mission, the hoped-for kingfisher didn’t make an appearance.

 

In the afternoon a visit to the Eskikoy track added Black-headed Wagtail to the list.

 

 

Day 14. Friday 24th  May.  Kaunos.

 

The final day of the trip, but an evening flight meant that we had time to take the row-boat ferry across the river for another walk around the ruins of Kaunos, where a recently fledged family of Rock Nuthatches put on a good show.

 

On the walk to the ruins from the ferry, refreshed by cool fresh pomegranate juice bought from one of the many stalls along the path, we added an unexpected bonus bird to the trip.

 

A Chukkar Partridge was on the hillside between the track and the ruins.

 

 

Conclusion.

 

A very enjoyable first trip to a place that was a delight to visit. Plenty of good birds and if all goes according to plan another visit is on the cards, perhaps a few days earlier to catch some of the other migrants, even though it may be at the expense of more views of the local buntings.

 

Many thanks to John Codling, who kindly went to the trouble of lending me his book of local walks while I was there.

 

And finally, a photo of birding heaven – Çövenli Yaylasi

 

Çövenli Yaylasi

Çövenli Yaylasi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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