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.
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.
Hoopoe, Blue Tits, Serin, Coal Tit.
Finsch’s Wheatear, Serin with nesting material, Chukar, Scarce Swallowtail.
Road junction above Alan –
More Kruper’s Nuthatch, this time with a high pitched Wryneck-like call, Cirl Bunting, Wren, Short-toedTree Creeper
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In the village of Zorla-
Redstart of the Eastern race and a pair of very obliging Red-fronted Serins.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.