South West Turkey
16th –22nd October 2001
This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during a week’s holiday in south-west Turkey based at the resort of Marmaris with my (non-birding) wife. Late October is perhaps not the best time for birding in this area nor the best resort for a birder to be stationed in. We were restricted, however, both by the timing of the Scottish school holidays and the availability of late ‘cheap deals’ from Scotland. In the end though we had to fly from Newcastle.
Marmaris is a typical package holiday resort with plenty of cheap accommodation, restaurants, pubs, shops full of end of season sales and lots of people. It is at the head of a very sheltered bay (which was very bird less) and surrounded by steep pine clad slopes (where locating birds could be quite difficult). Although it would be possible to use buses to get about (especially the cheap Dolmus) birding would be very restricted without hiring a car. We had pre-booked one with holiday autos. It was quite expensive at £184 and it would probably have been possible to haggle for cheaper deals once we had arrived at the resort. To get to a variety of different sites we had to do quite a lot of driving and did over 1700km in the week.
After a late arrival and a restless nights sleep had a late start to the day. Decided to walk up into the pine forest behind Marmaris. This was actually quite difficult as there were few paths and a lot of prickly scrub. Eventually I found a track and started walking. Lots of Common Blackbirds, Song Thrush, European Robins and Spotted Flycatchers feeding amongst the scrub. In fact we were to see these species everywhere there was scrub. Bird watching in the pines was difficult though I did flush a Chukar, had a soaring Eurasian Sparrowhawk and saw a party of Long-tailed Tits of the subspecies tephronotus (more streaked on the head and breast than our birds). Also lots of Eurasian Jays, which were very common everywhere, again these were a Turkish sub-species atricapillus. I headed back to the resort as we had arranged to pick up the car at 2.00pm. In the afternoon we drove west out of the resort. At the top of the first hill there was a large firebreak where the pine wood opened out. We stopped the car at a track end (opposite a small grave yard) and walked out along the firebreak. We soon came across a small valley with much scrub. This had lots of birds including migrants like Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Redstart and Willow Warblers but also two pine wood specialities. In one of the pine trees there were at least two Krüpper’s Nuthatch (which gave themselves away as they tapped at something on the tree) and a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, with its smart red crown. We then headed further west along the toad until we reached some open agricultural land. Here there were lots of Crested Larks, a pair of Sky Lark and some Spannish Sparrows with the House Sparrows. Also a couple of pipits that we couldn’t quite get to grips with.
Early morning drove north from Marmaris and then east to the north end of Lake Koycegiz. At Dogusbelen took the first right (sign posted to Hamitkoy) which went down through narrow winding roads. After passing through Hamitkoy there was a large ditch running alongside the road and then a bridge over another large ditch. This area was very good for birds. In the fields there were lots of Crested Larks. Migrants included a late Yellow Wagtail, several young Red-backed Shrikes, Spotted Flycatchers, lots of Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warblers and Blackcaps in the scrub. A Zitting Cisticola ‘zitted’ over. The ditches exploded to the sound of Cetti’s Warblers and with patience they gave good views. Numerous Common Kingfishers shot up and down the ditches. Perched on a reed just up from the road bridge I got superb views of a White-breasted Kingfisher. Later I saw another as I walked down a track along the channel heading towards the lake. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flitted over the channel in front of me, giving brief but good views as it landed in a small tree. I then drove up to Koycegiz and looked over the lake. It was fairly birdless. Several Little Grebes and a few Common Coot were on the water. A Little Egret, Common Snipe and two Water Rail were at the edge of the reeds. In a wood by the lake there was a Green Woodpecker.
An early start as had to undertake a long drive passing Mugla, Yatagan and Milas to reach the wetlands in the east around the Buyuk Menderes delta. First stop was Bafa Golu a very large lake. At the village of Bafa we turned right down a narrow road to Golyaka. From here we had good views over the eastern end of the lake. There were hundreds of Greater Flamingos, dense rafts of thousands of Common Coot with Grey Herons and Little Egrets in the shallows. A Long-legged Buzzard flew low over us giving good views. We returned to Bafta and drove along the main road following the southern shore of the lake. In some of the bays were more large rafts of Common Coot, a few Common Pochard and 2 Great Crested Grebes. Eventually we came to a roundabout (the turn off to Akkoy). We went right round it and taking the last track on the right headed down towards the west end of the lake. Going down by a large channel towards the fishermen’s huts we had good views of three Great Egrets and a male Black Redstart. At the western end of the lake there were 100s of Little Grebes and more huge rafts of Common Coot and a Great Cormorant. On the shore were 20+ Common Redshank, 3 Common Greenshank and a sickly young Black Tern. Two Marsh Harriers hunted over the reeds. It was very windy here so we returned to the roundabout and took the turn off to Akkoy. On leaving Akkoy on the road heading north we turned left down a track (just by the reserve sign) and this took us through agricultural land with lots of Crested Larks and Corn Buntings down towards the large coastal lagoons. The track was well maintained and took us well out through the lagoons towards some fishermen’s shacks. There were hundreds of Greater Flamingos scattered throughout the shallow lagoons, many Grey Herons, Little Egrets and about 15 Great Egrets. Waders were surprisingly scarce apart from several Common Redshank, a few Grey Plover, Kentish Plover and Eurasian Curlew. Just past the huts two Caspian Terns were diving down into the main lagoon channel. We then retraced our steps back to Akkoy and then headed north to Balat and then Milet a large archaeological site. Here we had good views of a Syrian Woodpecker in the car park. Also two Green Sandpiper in a flooded channel and a Grey Wagtail.
We continued north up to Atburgazi and turned left along side the northern edge of Karine Golu (more large coastal lagoons). Here in the distance on a large sandbank were 50 Dalmation Pelicans, which were soon joined by another 30 that glided in to join them. Also on the sandbank were a group of Pygmy Cormorants and there were more on the water beyond them, again about 80 in all. At one stage the pelicans and cormorants all started feeding in a dense flock moving quickly through the water. We headed out further west to the edge of the lagoon and on an outer sand bar were 22 Greylag Geese, 50 Grey Herons and 70 Great Egrets. We stopped by a deep gorge leading down to the road and soon spotted a Blue Rock Thrush, a Western Rock Nuthatch and another male Black Redstart. It was now 4pm so we headed back to Marmaris a journey that took three and a quarter hours.
Another very early start as I had decided to head west to the Korkuteli area. This mountainous area is very good for birds in spring but I was unsure what it would be like this late in the season. I drove along the coastal road past Dalaman to Kemer then headed NE to Korkuteli. Again this was another long drive of over 3 hours. Around Kayabasi in fields near a large quarry by the road side I had excellent views of a flock of 30+ Rock Sparrows, feeding alongside Common Linnets. There was also a single Northern Wheatear and lots of White Wagatails which were just everywhere. At the road junction at Sogut I headed east for another 21kms till I reached a house by a sign that said Saksaganli (just prior to a deep ravine). I stopped here and walked up through the stony grassy hillside above the road. Got very good, close views of about 20 Horned Larks in three small parties. Unfortunately, I did not find much else. I drove to the far side of the ravine. The hillside here was full of juniper scrub. I walked through a lot of this but apart from a few Red-backed Shrikes and a covey of Chukar I saw very little. Down below the road at the foot of the ravine I could see a wee pool of water where the river was flowing a bit. I sat and watched to see what came to drink. There was a steady stream of birds arriving including 2 Corn Buntings!, 2 Rock Sparrows, 3 Horned Larks and a single Crimson-winged Finch. I spent an hour here and then headed back west towards Cavdir. Just past Cavdir I took the road to Tefenni. About 13km from Cavdir the road reached the top of a hill with a layby on the right hand side of the road. There was a water trough here that attracted a large number of birds including 3 Mistle Thrush, 2 Eurasian Serin, a Cirl Bunting and my first and only Sombre Tit. Meanwhile a lot of birds were moving up through the line of trees towards the layby. These included a fine male Syrian Woodpecker, a Short-toed Treecreeper and several Willow Warblers. Meanwhile a Long-legged Buzzard and a Common Raven flew overhead. It took about three and a half hours to get back from here to Marmaris. I had seen a lot of good birds but no Red-fronted Serins or Finch’s Wheatears which I had hoped for.
Decided to go back to Hamitkoy and the Lake Koycegiz area. Around Hamitkoy there appeared to be a lot more migrants around than during our previous visit. In the fields and amongst the scrub there were many more Red-backed Shrikes, several Wryneck, Whinchats and a late European Roller. Along the reedy channels we spotted Reed Warblers and a Sedge Warbler. Amongst a group of Barn Swallows we had one Sand Martin and one Crag Martin. We then headed down to Dalyan at the southern end of the lake. Just as you enter Dalyan there is a large isolated hill at the southern end of an extensive reedbed. We walked round the west side of this rock getting good views of Blue Rock Thrush and Western Rock Nuthatch. A Long-legged Buzzard soared low over us. The reed bed was too large for us to see much apart from a few Chiffchaffs along the edge. We spent the rest of the afternoon in Dalyan itself visiting the market and so on.
We had seen surprisingly few raptors and decided to try the hills north east of Mugla. Just before Mugla we turned up the road to Denizli. We were soon in amongst steep pine clad hills and seeing lots of Eurasian Jays crossing the road in front of us. At the village of Yaylasogut the forest opened out to reveal an area of open fields interspersed with shrubs and trees along narrow ridges. It looked interesting so we stopped. The scrub was full of masses of Common Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and a few Mistle Thrushes feeding on berries. Amongst them were Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps. There were also lots of finches mainly Chaffinch but also European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch and a party of European Serin along with a male Eurasian Siskin. We also flushed a Quail. Amongst the trees we spotted a Cirl Bunting, 3 Black Redstarts and a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers which gave excellent views as the fed low down on the more mature trees. We headed on further up the road towards the pass. In an area of re-planted young pine trees we had 3 Wood Larks. We stopped at the top of the pass for a while where we got a good view of the surrounding countryside. The only raptor we saw, however, was a Eurasian Sparrow Hawk. We turned round and headed back to Marmaris. We made one detour down to Akyaka. Here there is a large reed bed where some river channels came down to a large bay. On the shore were a few Black-headed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and a Kentish Plover. Amongst the reeds were Common Moorhens, a few Common Kingfishers, some Grey Wagtails and a Whinchat. A Marsh Harrier hunted over the area. Once again access to the less disturbed open channels was difficult.
Our final day and no car. We spent most of the day doing touristy things around Marmaris. Saw very little in the way of birds apart from a Peregrine Falcon which flew over carrying an unfortunate pigeon.
In all we saw 101 species of birds. I found birding at times quite difficult and without a car and the ability to go for some long drives I think we would have struggled to find things. In the woods in particular you had to search very hard for the birds. This was the same in the hills around Korkuteli. Often the best bet was to stay near water and let the birds come to you. The coastal lagoons at Buyuk Menderes were so large that views were often distant and often looking into the sun. Most of the summer visitors had gone and there was no visible raptor movement. On the other hand we did get some superb views of some Turkish specialities and I got nine lifers. We will certainly go back but probably in spring to see how things are different.