26 May to 10 June 2002
My wife and I were birding in Turkey from 26 May until 10 June, driving an Avis rental car from Izmir to Trabzon. We had also hoped to take a ferry from Tasucu to N Cyprus for a couple of days but abandoned this when told that we could not take the rental car.
A few notes on the more interesting birds (apologies for lack of correct Turkish characters in place names):
Buyuk Menderes Delta – many birds at Karine Golu, but distant. Close views of 2 birds from end of track W of Akkoy (see Gosney Note 2).
Goksu Delta (Akgol), with young.
2 at Griffon Vulture site 5.5km E of Ispir.
Caucasian Black Grouse
Several males plus 1 female scoped from road at various points between Sivrikaya and Ovitdagi Gecidi. Males also seen from track S of Sivrikaya cemetary (now driveable for only a few 100m due to landslides). All birds seen were displaying on open grassy areas, not amongst rhododendrons.
Took tractor ride with Hasan Safak to Demirkazik plateau – Snowcocks called continuously but only got flight views of 3 birds. Weather later deteriorated, preventing a repeat trip the following day. Hasan claimed that the new site (chromium mine above Pinarbasi, discovered by A&K.Gancz in 2000) was unreachable, even by tractor/4WD, due to the heavy snowfall last winter. At Sivrikaya went on foot with Mustafa Sari at 03.00 one morning to try for better views, but track blocked in several places by very steep snow/ice fields. Finally decided it would be too dangerous to continue. Close views of Blackcocks were some compensation. Much work will be needed before this track (which is the one to Mustafa’s
traditional Blackcock site) is driveable again – following the severe winter there are landslides in many places.
Several around Birecik main wadi.
Common at Goksu Delta (Akgol) and around gravel works at Birecik.
4 adults, 3 juvs at Goksu Delta (Akgol) in obvious lagoon in cleared area beside main track, early morning and evening.
Cizre – good views from Sirnak road to N of town. Only distant flight views from tea gardens S of town near Syrian border. Distant views also from Iraq road – tried to take track down to river (as per
A.Comas et al 2001?) but immediately intercepted by Jandarma – clearly a sensitive area. We were lucky to get to Cizre at all – when initially approaching Cizre from W on main route along Syrian border, we were stopped at a Jandarma checkpoint c20km before the town. They said there was a risk of terrorists and it was too dangerous for tourists to go to Cizre. When we explained that we were birdwatchers it made things worse – the NCO claimed that we needed to apply for a permit in Diyarbakir to study birds in the area! Luckily a very helpful conscript who had studied in England argued for us, and after an hour we were allowed to proceed. In Cizre we stayed in an incredible new hotel (Grand Hotel Onsar) opened 6 months ago and totally out of place in this rough border town. The staff were amazed at why tourists would ever visit Cizre. In the evening we were visited by 3 plain-clothes policemen who were very friendly but wanted to know why we were there. We spent about an hour showing them our maps, bird guides etc. Eventually satisfied that we posed no threat, they assured us that we would be able to travel to Van the next day via Sirnat/Siirt with no problem. However when we tried that route we were again held at a Jandarma checkpoint for an hour and then ordered to go back and travel by the longer route via Batman. You have to work hard for those plovers!
Common Black Sea coast.
Common Lake Van area.
Van city centre.
Striated Scops Owl
Roosting in small wooded park immediately behind the famous tea garden with the blue fountain. Luckily for us the bird had just been found by 4 Swedish birders who had spent 2 days fighting off the attentions of the crowds of kids! Located again the next day in the same tree.
Desert Little Owl
Adult with juv on roadside pole in Karaotlak (near Halfeti). Another between Midyat and Gercus.
Little Swift – Birecik, over main wadi.
Several on wires at Birecik gravel works, one Cizre.
Lilford’s White-backed Woodpecker
Heard only, early a.m. at Akseki old road, despite much searching. Also tried new road site without success.
Common near Tatvan on lower slopes of Nemrut Dagi. Also around Caldiran.
Asian Short-toed Lark
Around Hotamis (especially abundant at Aksayazi).
Van Marshes – singing male on S side of castle.
2 pairs on Demirkazik plateau.
Quite common in expected areas.
Male on wires alongside Ercek Golu.
Pair at Pammukale (as per Gosney), many later seen elsewhere.
Western Red-tailed Wheatear
Excellent views of male amongst ruins on W terrace of Nemrut Dagi (near Kahta, NOT Tatvan – see D.Occhiato, Birding World 14:343). Ignore touts in Kahta selling excursions who will tell you it cannot be reached by 2WD car.
Common in reeds Goksu Delta.
Van Marshes – N side of castle.
Caspian Reed Warbler
Common Tasagil and Goksu Delta.
Isikli orchards, Birecik.
Birecik main wadi.
Sivrikaya (Gosney ‘Chiffchaff wood’), Sumela (several singing near monastery).
Caucasian Mountain Chiffchaff
Gelinkaya (common in riverside trees), Sivrikaya.
Akseki old road.
Eastern Rock Nuthatch
Isikli, Birecik, Halfeti, Nemrut Dagi (Kahta).
Several flocks encountered in Van region.
Dead Sea Sparrow
Nest building at Birecik Bald Ibis centre.
Pale Rock Sparrow
E of Damlacik (between Kahta and Nemrut Dagi).
Birecik pistachio orchards.
Demirkazik (shallow valley, plateau), Sivrikaya.
Common Demirkazik, Nemrut Dagi (Kahta), Serpmentas.
Mongolian Trumpeter Finch
4+ on lava flows around Serpmentas (7km W of Caldiran, per I.Merrill).
Isikli, Nemrut Dagi (Kahta).
Van Hills, near railway cutting.
Thoroughly recommended – incredibly friendly people (offered tea by police,
Jandarma, at petrol stations, at remote farms and houses, in shops, at
hotels, by field workers…), driving easy, hotels & restaurants great
value. Only problem was dogs. Wife was badly bitten on second day, at Buyuk
Menderes Delta, requiring 3 rabies vaccinations over the following week –
hospitals/doctors very helpful. Subsequently rather nervous when chased by
aggressive packs of wild dogs near Akseki and in Van Hills!
e-mail me for any further gen.