Dalyan Protected Area …Really?

Is it too late for Dalyan !

I am currently in the process of revamping the website http://www.dalyanbirding.com , it’s looking a little dated, clunky and has many errors, but don’t hold your breath, I think this is going to take some time to sort. I am looking to remove some of the birding sites due to development around Dalyan and add a couple of new ones involving a days birding by car within my limit of a two and half hour journey in one direction , which makes for a long but enjoyable days birding.

I have talked in the past of having a ‘target bird’ list for visiting birders and have settled on a list of 24 birds that maybe achieved by visiting the sites proposed and at the times of the year suggested .I have also been researching birding sites suggested by others and I recently visited  Çalış Plaj and Çalış North Marsh near Fethiye (February 2017). How sad it was to see.
Once a birding hotspot and originally promoted by Paul Hope in his book “ ‘Walking & Birdwatching’ in South West Turkey, it is now a sorry shadow of it’s former glory. In his 2005 second edition forward he wrote regarding developments at the time ‘Such rapid development puts an enormous strain on the environment. Little thought has been given to creating ‘green’ areas. Instead, every inch of land is utilised with houses crammed together. Marsh areas are been filled in and built upon. The Çalış North Marsh ,described in detail in the birdwatching section has virtually been destroyed. Despite been a protected area, someone has been able to fill it in for yet another foreign development. Only a small area including the open water, remains, but few birds now use it. A sad and unnecessary loss. The developers are ignorant of the part such marshes play in managing surface water or don’t care anyway in their pursuit of financial gain, it is, after all, only the environment that suffers. Mediterranean marshlands perform a range of functions that deserves conservation and better management’. That was twelve years ago and I fear Dalyan may be sliding in the same direction, but more of that later !

Paul Hope’s book contains a comprehensive list of the birds seen by the author during his time working in South West Turkey and he describes many birding sites, some of which have now been sadly over developed. The birding list has a key to the likely occurrence of each bird as observed by the author. His key is as follows :

The list comprises of 266 species which have been recorded by the author in the areas as indicated. The occurrence and abundance of the different bird species was based on the judgment of the author. The occurrence and abundance of each species is indicated by letters as follows:
Occurring in such numbers that an experienced observer at the appropriate time and place might identify in a single day.

A-Abundant over 500
C-Common 101-500
F-Fairly Common 26-100
U-Uncommon 6-25
S-Scarce 1-5
R-Rare Known only from a single or occasional record.

I have taken a look at Paul Hopes list with particular reference to the suggested 24 target birds for the website http://www.dalyanbiring.com I have ordered the 24 birds in order of frequency seen (and alphabetically) as suggested by Paul Hope as follows:

1: Lesser Kestrel: -Common- Seen Lake Girdev area

2: Cretzschmar’s -Fairly Common – Seen Lake Girdev area

3: Little Bittern: -Fairly Common -Seen Dalyan area

4: Red-fronted Serin: -Fairly Common – Seen Lake Girdev

5: Black-headed Bunting: -Uncommon- Seen Dalyan area

6: Black Storks:-Uncommon – Seen Okcular area

7: Blue Rock Thrush -Uncommon- Seen Dalyan area

8: Finsch’s Wheatear: -Uncommon—Seen Lake Girdev

9: Long Legged Buzzard: -Uncommon- Seen Dalyan

10: Krüper’s Nuthatch: -Uncommon – Seen Iztuzu & Çővenli Yaylası

11: Penduline Tit: -Uncommon – Seen Dalyan

12: Red-footed Falcons: -Uncommon- Seen Okcular

13: Rufous Bush Chat: -Uncommon- Seen Eskiköy

14: Rüppells Warbler: -Uncommon- Seen Okcular & Kaunos

15: Sombre Tit: -Uncommon- Seen Ğöğübeli Geçi

16: White-throated Robin: -Uncommon-Seen at Seki

17: Little Crake: – Scarce – Seen Eskiköy Canal Route

18: Ortolan Bunting: -Scarce – Seen Eskiköy

19: Short-toed Eagle-Scarce – Seen around Dalyan

20: White Tailed Eagle: -Scarce— Seen Köycegiz Lake & Iztuzu Beach

21: White-throated Kingfisher: -Scarce— Seen Eskiköy & Dalyan River

22: Syrian Woodpecker: Rare- Seen Okcular

23: Montagu’s Harrier: Not mentioned -Seen Rocky Outcrop Eskiköy

24: Spotted Crake: Not mentioned- Seen Eskiköy Canal Route

The occurrences cited above do not reflect my own experiences over the last few years and I feel a reappraisal of the occurrence of birds and a reflection on why this maybe is is needed.
This list below is based on my own sightings from February 2013 to February 2017 for the period in which I was in the Turkey, which was only for 8 months of each of the years due to Visa and other restrictions. Each bird seen in each month was given one tick to represent that the bird was seen in that month. A full 12 months for each year would be 48 sightings .The total maximum sightings for the 8 moths of each year would be a maximum of 32 sightings per bird . The list below is the total number of months the birds were sighted during the four year period.

1 : White-Throated kingfisher : 21

2 : Penduline Tit : 18

3 : Long-Legged Buzzard : 15

4 : Rufous Bush Chat/Robin : 14

5 : Short-toed Eagle : 14

6 : Black-headed Bunting : 6

7 : Blue Rock Thrush : 6

8 : Rüppells Warbler : 6

9 : Finsch’s Wheatear : 4

10: Cretzschmars’s Bunting : 4

11: Krüper’s Nuthatch : 4

12: Black Stork : 3

13: Little Crake : 3

14: White-tailed Eagle : 3

15: Little Bittern : 2

16: Montague’s Harrier : 2

17: Sombre Tit : 2

18: Ortalan Bunting : 1

19: Red-Footed Falcon : 1

20: Red-Fronted Serin : 1

21: Syrian Woodpecker : 1

22: Spotted Crake : 1

23: White-throated Robin : 1

24: Lesser kestrel : 0

The most obvious difference between the two lists is that of the Lesser Kestrel and White-throated Kingfisher, were the Lesser Kestrel is top of Paul Hope’s occurrence list and bottom of my own sightings, similarly the White-throated Kingfisher is most frequently seen bird from my list of 24 where as in Paul Hope’s occurrence list it is 21st in the list and regarded as scarce .

Indeed the White-throated Kingfisher is scarce , but does frequent three sites in and around Dalyan now , and you don’t need to head to Hamit Koy which was the favoured location in recent years to see this bird. By knowing the correct sites and the birds ‘call’ it’s presence is more easily detected. It still remains a shy and wary bird that doesn’t like to be approached and a few visits to each site might be required before a sighting is made. Regarding the Lesser Kestrel Paul Hopes sightings referred to Lake Girdev & Bafa Lake both sites that I have only been to once each in April in the last 20 years. The sightings are also at specific times of migration with Paul Hope describing seeing over 200 Lesser Kestrel, one October at Lake Girdev.

So from my own experiences and also through the sightings others have reported I have attempted to create my own classification on occurrence and likelihood of seeing each of the 24 target species at the sites that will appear on the updated website.
My Classification below is based on, where ,when & chances, for the incidental birder who is not not on a weeks birding holiday but may do the odd day out birding at one of the mentioned Birding Sites:

Eskiköy Rocky Outcrop
Dalyan River Walk  and Köycegiz Lake
Iztuzu Road and Dolmus End of Beach
Okçular  Walk
Çővenli Yaylasi
Rocky Outcrop Canal Route
Ğöğübeli Geçi & Avlan Golu
Lake Girdev
Kavakarsı Forest
Tuzla Golu

Tuzla Gol (near Milas/Bodrum) is within the outer limits of my two and half hour drive away from Dalyan making it a similar distance to the birding trip to Ğöğübeli Geçi and Avlan Golu


Very Good Chance (VGC) : should see it, fairly common at this site, at this time of year.

Good Chance (GC) : Should see it with a little preparation at this site (learn bird call)

Fair Chance (FC) : Should see it with a little preparation (learn bird call) at this site and frequent visits.

Some Chance (SC) : May see it, with preparation (learn bird call) , low in numbers , may be seasonal.

Reduced Chance (RC) May see it, with preparation (learn bird call) , bird may be transient at many of the sites, low in numbers , may be seasonal, and a little luck is required.

1 : White-Throated kingfisher : Resident (GC) at Eskiköy Rocky Outcrop & Canal Route

White-throated Kingfisher

2: Penduline Tit : Resident (VGC) atEskiköy Rocky Outcrop & Canal Route

Penduline Tit

3 : Long-Legged Buzzard : Resident (GC) though transient at many of the sites

Long Legged Buzzard

4 : Rufous Bush Chat/Robin : Summer Visitor (VGC) at Eskiköy Outcrop & Canal Route

Rufus Bush Robin

5 : Short-toed Eagle : Resident (FC) though transient at many of the sites

Short-toed Eagle

6 : Black-headed Bunting : Spring Visitor (May,June) (VGC) at Eskiköy both sites

Black-headed Bunting

7 : Blue Rock Thrush : Resident (FC) though transient at many of the sites

Male Blue Rock Thrush

8 : Rüppells Warbler : Summer Visitor (SC) Okcular & Kaunos

Rüppells Warbler

9 : Finsch’s Wheatear : Summer Visitor (RC) Lake Girdev or high mountains


10: Cretzschmars’s Bunting : Migrant Spring/Autumn (SC) though transient at many of the sites

Cretzschmar's Bunting

11: Krüper’s Nuthatch : Resident (SC) Iztuzu Woods & Çővenli Yaylasi

Kruppers Nuthatch

12: Black Stork : Migrant (SC) Spring/Autumn Spr/Okcular Aut/Avlan Golu

Black Stork

13: Little Crake : Summer Migrant (Aug/Sept) (RC)Eskiköy Canal Route

Little Crake

14: White-tailed Eagle : Resident (RC) Iztuzu & Köycegiz Lake

White Tailed Eagle

15: Little Bittern : Summer Visitor (RC) any of the reed beds


16: Montague’s Harrier : Autumn Visitor (RC) (October) Eskiköy Rocky Outcrop

Montagus Harrier

17: Sombre Tit : Resident (FC) water troughs at Ğöğübeli Geçi

Sombre Tit

18: Ortalan Bunting : Summer Visitor (RC) though transient at many of the sites

Ortalan Bunting

19: Red-Footed Falcon : Autumn Migrant (October) (SC) Okcular

Red-footed Falcon

20: Red-Fronted Serin : Resident (GC) Lake Girdev


21: Syrian Woodpecker : Resident (RC) Okcular Walk

Syrian Woodpecker

22: Spotted Crake : Autumn Migrant ? (RC) Eskiköy Canal Route

Spotted Crake

23: White-throated Robin : Spring Migrant (April) (VGC) at Seki/ Ğöğübeli Geçi

White Throated Robin

24: Lesser kestrel : Autumn Migrant (GC) ? Lake Girdev


All photos taken in the last four years at sites suggested.

You’ll notice above I have put a ? next to Good Chance for the Lesser Kestrel and this refers back to the ‘development’ that takes place at the different birding sites for financial gain in one way or another, whether that be for a new use of the land for property development, reclaiming land by draining it for crop production or changing natural drainage by deliberate flooding of land to promote fishing which is what has happened at Lake Girdev.

Lake Girdev

Lake Girdev

This is how Paul Hope described the Lesser Kestrels at Lake Girdev in 2005 “When the lake dries up, the sheep graze on the lush surface but the heat of the sun soon dries the grass to a brown colour . Amongst the dried up grass are thousands of grasshoppers and in October the migrating Lesser Kestrel gorge themselves on these, on one occasion I counted over 200” Unfortunately things have changed due to tourism and next is a snippet form a previous blog of mine ‘Lifer on the Lake’ which highlights the problem.
‘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!’

Nature does adapt that is true, the adaptation in this case is the once dried up grass with thousands of grasshoppers is now an unnatural lake, no grasshoppers means no Lesser Kestrels ! Can development be stopped when money drives development ? I am not sure, but recent observations around Dalyan continue to cause concern. Last year saw the continued attempts to commercialise Iztuzu Beach and for now that has been thwarted. However, there have been reports of possible ‘illegal burning’ of the reed beds near Candir and I have noticed a section on the Eskikoy Canal route where, not only has the reed bed been burnt but bulldozed over as well probably to reclaim a little land, it is only about 500 sq meters, but I’m sure that will creep over time. It may just be paranoia on my behalf, thinking such a lovely natural habitat that is part of the charm of Dalyan will eventually be squeezed to death just like it has at Çalış Plaj and Çalış North Marsh near Fethiye. To me it is as important as the Turtles that Dalyan is so famed for.

Burned Reed Beds

Burned reed beds as seen on the website Dalyanli

As mentioned earlier Paul Hope expresses the importance that marsh land plays

‘firstly they play a role in regulating the often huge variations in annual rainfall. Coastal wetlands sponge up rapidly accumulating quantities of water during heavy rainfall and then serve as a source of surface water during dry spells. Thus they can help buffer and alleviate the potential devastating effects of storms, if properly managed. Second, wetlands are habitats for wildlife . many of them are hotspots of diversity for many rare species of plants, insects, fishes and birds. nearly 50% of Europes bird species and 30% of the plant species depend more or less exclusively on wetland habitat’ (in reference to Fethiye he also says) ‘I have seen this particular marsh during heavy rainfall , when water one meter high has been spread over the whole area. Now with that area vastly reduced where will the water go? The housing development behind the hill (Karatas) was built in a marsh and despite housing been built one meter above ground level, I have seen them flooded. Turkey should learn from the mistakes of other north Mediterranean countries and exercise more control over such developments. I feel the paradise that is Turkey is going to be lost under a sea of concrete in the not too distant future’

I wonder is it too late for Dalyan?! , I hope not. Again Paul Hope in discussing Dalyan itself and talking in particularly about the reed beds to the right of Iztuzu Beach road ‘To reach Sulungur Lake ,take the road out of Dalyan towards the beach signposted ’Iztuzu’ , fields on either side of the road my be flooded. It is possible to walk over the marsh area to the right. After about three kilometres you will see a track leading into the fields. In early spring several areas are flooded and it is a good place to find waders.Whilst walking in this area you will see the Stripped-necked Terrapin (Mauremys caspica) in the drainage channels together with several species of frog and the Fresh water crab (Potamus edulis) .The Water snake (Natrix tessellate) is also common here as is the Green lizard (Lacerta viridis ) Otters also frequent the area as there are many fish in the channels. The area was included in the specially protected I.B.A. until 2014 but unfortunately financial interests have superseded protection status and yet another area of marshland will be lost under concrete to accommodate yet more foreigners . Plans are in hand to build 400 villas in the area. One has already been constructed in the centre of the marsh . At the moment I am writing a biodiversity report on the marsh area in the hope that it can be save.’

I am not sure how far Paul Hope progressed with his report. I understand that he no longer lives in Turkey and I wonder who is left to champion the cause. My own belief is that it should be the local Turkish residents of the area who should campaign to protect the marsh, as they have done with issues at Iztuzu Beach. However, Turtles are more of an emotional pull than marshes, only time will tell , it is but a creeping disease! Maybe its is not all doom and gloom .

As mentioned earlier I am going to include some new birding sites, one of those been, Tuzla Lake near Milas . Again Paul Hope describes this area as ‘This is an excellent area for birds but viewing can sometimes be difficult due to its large size and accessibility. At the present moment (2005) plans are been drawn up to drain the lake and convert it into a golf course. D.H.K.D. (The Turkish Nature Preservation Society ) is opposing such developments” I was there in February 2017 THERE IS NO GOLF COURSE ! thank god. Someone get the D.H.K.D. to Dalyan !

Those of you who follow this not so frequent blog will know that I am not obsessed with lists or numbers, but thought you’d like to know I reached bird number 213 for Turkey, a Firecrest , whilst walking around the ruins at Olympos . Olympos was an ancient city in Lycia. It was situated in a river valley near the coast. Its ruins are located south of the modern town Çıralı in the Kumluca district of Antalya Province. I was flying back to the UK later that day. I like to stay within striking distance of the airport on the day of departure, so instead of driving all the way from Dalyan we always book in at a hotel nearer than the 4-6 hour drive from Dalyan when having to fly from Antalya Airport .
Çıralı was a  good choice , the ruins at Olympos has some good birding and at this time of year (February) fewer leaves on the trees and virtually no tourist which I believe is a very different story in the summer. Another attraction within three kilometres of where we stayed is the “Eternal Flame’ or Chimera . The story goes as follows:

Eternal Flame in Olympos

King of Pyra’s son Hippones kills his brother Belleros during a hunting party and takes the name Bellerophotes, which means ‘the one who ate Bellarus’ . Ephyra Kingdom sends Bellerophontes into exile and he takes refuge behind the King of Argos. The King of Argos considers killing someone that took refuge behind him as a lack of self-respect. So he sends Bellerophontes to the Lycian Kingdom.

The King of Lycia doesn’t also like the idea of killing this young man because of the miserable situation he is in and he wants him to fight with the monster living on Mount Olympus whose head is a Lion’s, whose body is a goat and his tail is a snake’s , who scatters flame from his mouth. Bellerophontes rides his winged horse Pegassos to fight with the Chimera. The Chimera attacks and Pegassos goes up into the sky. While coming down Bellerophontes hits the Chimera with his his lance and enters him to the underground, but the Chimera goes on scattering flame. The myth which is related by Homer in this way has been told for thousands of years in Anatolia. According to the myth the eternal flame is coming from the Chimera’s mouth. So as to celebrate Bellerophotes victory people of Olympus arrange a race . The athletes burn their torches with Chimera sacred flame and run down to Olympus city. This is the first Olympic game in Anatolia. In time many different branches of sport are added to this race. The Olympic Torch is the symbol of the eternal flame of Chimera’s Flame today.

Eternal Falmes


On a final note whilst at Olympos which was like been in an Indana Jones movie I came across the monumental tomb of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius c172,

Tomb fo Marcus Aurelius

Tomb Notice

you know the one, Maximus, as depicted in the film Gladiator, within less than twenty four hours I was sat in a dentist waiting room in Darwen, Lancashire … Hmmm

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3 Responses to Dalyan Protected Area …Really?

  1. Chris Jones says:

    Hey.. an excellent article Bren. If you need more pics don’t hesitate to ask or just use. Nice one!

    • Hi Chris ..thanks for the comments…if you have any pics from those with no image available I’ll use them … they’ll need t0 have been taken in the last four years and from one of the sites mentioned to keep it recent and within the area described .. Bren

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