Enthusiastic Amateurs: The Lists of Dalyan
There are several terms associated with birdwatching. Bird-watcher, Birder, Twitcher and Ornithologist are the ones that command some sort of respect. There are plenty of others that people use to describe those of us that enjoy ‘birdwatching’ that are not so respectful and when you have birds called ‘Great Tit’ and ‘Bearded Tit’ it can only add fuel to theses non respectable terms to describe birdwatchers. Interesting enough I once came across a site of American birdwatchers saying ‘birding is not for softies’ they wanted to dispel the myth of birders been nerds and wimps. These guys were bikers, clad in army gear and leather, black leather gloves and tattooed to the hilt and did extreme birding, hanging off cliffs and enduring harsh conditions to get their bird lists and I guess they took no shit!
One of the principle motivations of birding is list making, or to put it another way, identifying species and counting how many different species you have seen. In his book ‘ Little Black Bird book’ Bill Oddie discusses what bird watching is and what to call yourself. He says a bird watcher ‘collects birds’ A bird watcher collects birds by identifying them. They put a name to it, identify the species and they ‘tick’ off that bird as a new one, one more to your collection of identified and more importantly ‘seen’ birds.
In a nutshell, a ‘Bird-watcher’ is mainly seated, knows their birds and collects their lists, but it doesn’t suggest any dynamic process, it’s a passive activity waiting to see what birds come to you. A ‘Birder’ on the other hand is more of a local hunter for the territory that they find themselves in, it suggests movement, progression and been dynamic in their pursuit of new species. It’s an activity involving skill, patience and quite often, a level of endurance were alertness, high accuracy and speed is of the essence. A ‘Twitcher’ is much more obsessive, manic you could say in their pursuit of new birds. They race around the country frantically collecting rare birds for their lists as one person put it to Bill Oddie” if I know that there is a new bird around the corner, nothing will stop me seeing it-NOTHING” to someone with this philosophy distance and danger are no barriers. Twitchers frequently cover vast distances in their pursuit of rare birds. An ‘Ornithologist’ implies a high level of expertise of a scientific nature. Bill Oddie suggests that unless you have a biology or zoology degree, or are an expert on some particular obscure area of bird behavior, don’t claim to be an ornithologist. Collecting lists is not the obsession of an ornithologist. If you call yourself by the wrong title you’ll arouse all sorts of expectations, which may embarrass you. I think I’m a ‘birder’ though my wife might disagree! Like any label there will be a spectrum along that category and a friend of mine called us “enthusiastic amateurs” which I think sums it up nicely.
Birding is like hunting, with the only shots taken, if any, are by a camera and like hunting skills are required. Trying to get up close and personal with wild birds and identifying them requires knowledge. What does the bird look like, Shape, size, and plumage, behavior and flight pattern, the sounds it makes, relying on auditory clues is essential at times. What time of day do they feed, and where they do it, what are the corridors through which they move, or flight paths through which they migrate. What kind of habitat each species prefers. Discovering all of these is an on going learning curve that adds to a lifetime of enjoyment.Many factors influence the involvement and motivation of individuals in birding.Generally, birders motivations are, seeing birds (especially new or rare birds), being with friends, gaining the opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors, contributing to wildlife conservation, fascination with specialized equipment, and being able to escape from daily social responsibilities, enjoying isolation, these are all factors which drive people to birdwatching as a pursuit.Bird watching is an extremely personal passion and so is the making and keeping of bird lists. Many bird watchers enjoy keeping a list of all the birds they have identified. It can be a thrill to see a species for the first time and add it to your life list. Life lists reflect bird species you have seen and where you have seen them. They are a good way to record memories. Seeing a new species may remind us of a special trip, a wonderful hiking experience, the memories of a former home, or past trips with bird-watching friends.
Birders make all sorts of lists of birds they have seen, some obsessively as we see in the case of the ‘twitcher’. What’s nice about keeping a bird list is it’s one of the few things in life where you can make your own rules. A bird life list is a record of the species of birds you’ve sighted over time. Typically, Depending on your particular bird watching exploits, you can keep daily lists, trip lists, lifer lists, garden list any list you like. I was thinking about this the other day and realized I only keep a lifer list for Turkey, no other county not even the UK and again keep a monthly list for Dalyan and surrounding districts but for no other area/district. I guess I’m not obsessive about my lists, but enjoy keeping it. I know there are new birds around the corner here in Turkey, but I am not one of those who will stop at nothing to see them, I’ll bide my time and hopefully pick them up over the years with planned trips. Not all birders choose to keep list as they feel adding a species to a list becomes more important than actually enjoying the bird itself and keeping a list detracts from this. A similar feeling is experienced if like me you are also interested in bird photography as well; you have to ask yourself the question, am I birding, or am I out doing bird photography. There is an emotional difference in seeing the bird through the camera lens and that of a good scope or binoculars and this can be a dilemma, I tend to compromise and try and do both, there are times when I have just watched a bird and thought after that would have been a great photograph and others were I tried to get a shot, failed and missed both the photograph and the enjoyment of seeing the bird in a more relaxed state. We shouldn’t get so obsessed with collecting names/photographs that we begin ignoring the beauty in birds and bird habitats.
So what of the lists of Dalyan, my current list to date is 182 species (I think I said I wasn’t obsessive!) and bearing in mind I include a driving time from Dalyan of two and a half hours in one direction for the website www.dalyanbirding.com which takes in a vast area, its not so impressive compared to others. I also said I was an enthusiastic amateur and not an expert or even a very good birder and those who know me understand that I have to be absolutely certain before I id a bird. I am not one of those people who will credit an id on seventy percent certainty; I have to be absolutely sure before I count it. There are birders who visit Dalyan who are far more experienced than me in bird identification and are therefore ‘seeing’ birds I am still to find. Some of them are very common but still elude me. I am still to see those ‘Bloody’ Red footed Falcons, Eleanor’s Falcons and Lanner falcons that everybody else seems to pick up with ease. I am sure I have seen them, but not had a good enough view to pass my standard of certainty. Back to ID school for me! Having said that I am a regular observer of the White Throated Kingfisher and even had a Great Spotted Cuckoo last year, which not all visitors to the region can say. There is a saying ‘right place, right time’, which rings true for birding and some birds are not going to be seen unless you are in the right place at the right time, and then you can throw in another element ‘Luck’. The right place and right time refers to the seasons and habitat. You are not going to get the mountain birds down in Dalyan hence the two and a half hour drive time for some trips up into the mountains, and your not going to get the migrant passage birds in summer, or the summer birds in winter or the wintering birds in summer, so what you are likely to see will depend on when you visit and where you go when you visit. I was out last year with a very good birder (they had an impressive list) and he cites a number of birds that ‘serious’ birders may want to see if they came to Dalyan, those birds are included in the following list and I have added others that I a non ‘twitcher’ would also be pleased to see:
Blue Rock Thrush
Rufous Bush Chat
Blue Rock Thrush
Olive Tree warbler
From the above I am still to see:
White Throated Robin (right time right place May/ June/ later ? up the hills)
Sombre Tits (with certainty)
Calandra Larks (would I recognize one if I saw it?)
Bonelli’s Warbler (ditto)
Eleonora’s Falcon (it’s another id thing)
Spur-winged Plover (right place, right time and luck)
Red-footed Falcons (see above)
Montagu’s Harrier (again, would I recognize one if I saw it?)
Lesser Kestrels (with certainty)
Rock Bunting (right palace)
Stone Curlew (needs luck. And lots of it)
Olive Tree Warbler (need to go to right place)
This year I am going up in the Korkuteli Hills near Seki so hopefully I will get White Throated Robin and although not strictly in this region (two and half hour drive away) I am also visiting Lake Bafa to try and get Dalmatian Pelican, another case of right place, right time and luck!
You can check out my photographic attempts in the link below, attempts is the correct term, professional I am not, I haven’t got the artistic eye or skill, or the correct equipment or even the budget for the correct equipment, but I am an enthusiastic amateur and happy to be one.