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Eastern Turkey 23 May - 07 June 2010

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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 10:39   #1
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Eastern Turkey 23 May - 07 June 2010

Introduction

This trip - originally planned for 2008 - was finally organised and set in motion last year and undertaken by myself and two good mates, Mark and Dave, combining a number of the usual Eastern Turkey birding sites with a side adventure into Georgia on public transport. This proved to be a very successful and very economical way to attempt the Greater Caucasus endemics without too much critical additional travelling as most of the distance was covered by an enjoyable overnight sleeper train from the Black Sea to the capital Tbilisi.

Back in Eastern Turkey after our first day in the Pontic Mountains we visited sites along the Georgian, Armenian, and Iranian borders before heading to the famous birding spots along Van Golu and the River Euphrates near Syria. The final leg of the trip was into the eastern Mediterranean, first heading north to the Aladag Mountains, and then onto the coastal wetlands of the Goksu and Tarsus Deltas. We had also intended to cross over to Turkish Cyprus to see Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Pied Wheatear, but weekend ferry timetables meant little practical time birding Cyprus compared to cost, so we stuck to Turkey. If we had hit the mid week ferry schedule, we would have gone across.

The most memorable birding sites were the high mountains of the Pontics and Greater Caucasus, and the far eastern high altitude grasslands and mountains of Kurdish Eastern Turkey. Turkey is a beautiful country with stunning scenery and from our personal experience, friendly people. Below are details on this very enjoyable trip.

Itinerary
The itinerary is provided in the table below.


Costs (Exchange Rates at time: £1 = c2.5Turkish Lira = 3 Georgian Lari)


Flights from Heathrow were £300 pp for arrive in Trabzon and depart from Adana, the split destinations increasing the cost by about £100. Turkish Airlines.

Hire Car from Hire Car 3000. Expensive at £530 + £70 one way drop off Trabzon to Adana, Renault Clio saloon. We experienced problems prior to leaving with this company, but all were eventually resolved. Watch them like hawks!

Overnight Train from Batumi to Tbilisi 23Lari pp for standard class, four beds per cabin. For first class the costs are not that much more, but only two beds per cabin so with three of us we would either have to have purchased two first class cabins or nominate one of us to share with a stranger.

Taxi From Tbilisi to Kazbegi 100Lari for car (probably quite expensive). From the taxi rank outside the train station. Be aware of trick to change agreed fare (eg driver saying we agreed 100Euros not 100Lari… etc)

Mini Bus (Marshrutka) from Kazbegi to Tbilisi (bus station) <£10 pp. If on a tight budget would recommend the mini bus option both ways along the Georgian Military Highway. They run three a day minimum by the looks of it whilst we were there. The bus station in Tbilisi is a two minute taxi ride from the train station.

Hotels In Eastern Turkey & Georgia cheap less than £10 pp per night. More expensive from Bericik westwards. We quite often found triple bedded rooms for the three of us keeping costs down.

Cyprus Ferry c80Euros pp return (without vehicle)


Gen
All the various Gosney Birding Guides to Eastern Turkey and Med Turkey were purchased and although now getting old they are definately recommended as still very useful for providing detailed hand drawn and written directions to many birding sites in the covered areas, more than we had time to visit.

Some of these have been updated on the Birdguides website.

https://www.birdguides.com/estore/c-...spx?&pagenum=2

Eastern Turkey Updates:
http://www.birdguides.com/products/f...rdsin/BKET.asp

Central Turkey Updates:
http://www.birdguides.com/products/f...rdsin/BKCT.asp


A great many trip reports were researched from Travelling Birder through to google searches, too many to list here. The following were very detailed and interesting reads:

Hendricks, KP (2004) http://home.planet.nl/~hend0845/Turkey2004/general.html

Olsen, SN (2007) http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...-turkey-07.htm

Merrill, I (2001) http://www.osme.org/osmetrip/turk16.html

For Georgia the trip report from Chris Batty was very useful, Chris kindly emailing the Mount Kazbek map from his trip report through to us, and he recommended the R. Bonser trip report which we also found useful:

http://www.fyldebirdclub.org/abroad.htm#AG
http://www.freewebs.com/richbonser/georgiamay2008.htm

The Birds of Turkey by Kirwan et al Helm 2008, with its glorious atmospheric cover art by John Gale, is a very detailed and interesting account of the countries avifauna, with each species being given an overview in terms of latest taxonomy, status & distribution (inc. maps) and breeding information.
http://www.acblack.com/naturalhistor...irds+of+Turkey


Misc
A Mepmedya Yayinlari 1:400,000 Road Atlas was used in Turkey. It was expensive and necessary but not altogether accurate, and not just a result of the many new motorway roads in the process of being built. http://www.stanfords.co.uk/stock/tur...-atlas-181941/

In the following daily account a list of target species and then others is provided. This is a personal target list and even in the others section many good birds may have been left unnamed as it is mostly written from my memory.


Pre trip planning
The map shown below, with info on the individual markers, is available on Google Maps at the following link:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl=...018ee7&t=h&z=5

All subsequent maps to be provided below are based on Google mapping resource. nb none of the distance covered maps below are at the same scale, for distances covered see Itinerary.
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 10:43   #2
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Daily Account

24/25 May 2010 Trabzon to Ispir. Birding Sivri Kaya and Ovitdagi gaditi

General

We arrived in Trabzon without our hold luggage which was not going to turn up until the next day. This meant no tripods and not all of our cold weather gear. We managed ok on both fronts though – and luckily Id been using two woolly hats as camera lens padding! Sivri Kaya was shrouded in mist by the time we managed to get birding the mountains and the Ovitdagi pass on the first day. The pass was open but probably only relatively recently as some pinch points still had extensive snow either side of a single passible track. A distinct lack of accommodation was apparent as the only hotel in the near vicinity, Hotel Genesis was closed. We eventually opted to stay above a row of shops on the northern edge of Ispir, driving pre dawn to the pass the next morning. This was cheap and we had an excellent traditional goat stir fry here to introduce us to the culinary delights of Turkey.

The 25 May saw good weather conditions and we birded from pre-dawn until lunchtime.

Time from accommodation on the northern edge of Ispir to the mountain pass was about 40mins - 1hr.

Targets:

Caucasian Black Grouse Small groups displaying at dawn high up to the south of village and west side of the valley.

Caspian Snowcock One bird on eastern side of pass early morning, calling birds around pass area

Green Warbler Many calling birds around Sivri Kaya and lower down towards Ikizdere

Caucasian Chiff Chaff Again relatively common in low scrub south of the village

Others
Also present along the pass road: Wallcreeper, Rufous Tailed Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, White Winged Snowfinch, Horned Lark, Common Rosefinch, Water Pipit, Peregrine, Kestrel, Long Legged Buzzard, Crag Martin, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, White Throated Dipper, Jay.

Photos:
(1) Caspian Snowcock habitat on the Ovitdagi Pass
(2) A calling Caspian Snowcock (honest) pre-dawn at Ovitdagi
(3) Alpine Accentor on territory, Ovitdagi
(4) Rufous Tailed Rockthrush on territory, Ovitdagi
(5) Rhododendron caucasicum and Juniper scrub, Caucasian Black Grouse habitat south of Sivri Kaya
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 10:51   #3
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25 May: Travel Ispir to Sarp then into Georgia (with stop at Airport to retrieve our luggage that arrived a day late)

General
Ispir to the coast road is c2hrs. From Sivri Kaya to coast road c1hr.
The coast road is mostly duel carriageway, which has destroyed the coastline here but is very handy to get to the Georgian border quickly. It can be done in 2hrs from the airport, but it may be better to programme in 3hrs.
Sarp border crossing took roughly 1hr. No visa necessary. Our car was left to the coastal side of the border gate in a small dusty taxi parking and loafing area. Felt like a dubious parking spot, but the car was ok on return 3 days later.
Sarp Border crossing to Batumi Railway Station leave c1hr and expect to pay taxi between 10-20lari.
Overnight sleeper train was at 22:40 arriving 07:00. The return journey was 22:15-07:00. Be aware Georgian Train website gave 21:10 as departure time from Batumi! It probably varies.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi is c3hrs. There is potentially good birding sites along the Georgian Military Highway, including Semi-Collared Flycatcher sites, but time limited, we didn’t stop apart from Krestovvy Pass.

Maps
(1) Travel on first day from Trabzon to Ispir to bird Sivri Kaya and Ovitdagi Pass
(2) Travel on 25 May from Ispir to the Black Sea resort of Batumi (Georgia)
(3) Overnight train Batumi – Tbilisi (Georgian capital)
(4) Map of main route to the summit of Mount Kazbek (see 26/27 May)
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 10:56   #4
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26/27 May: Mount Kazbek

General

The snowline had retreated to 3000m by the end of May 2010. We therefore had to climb to encounter the main target species, camping overnight on Mount Kazbek at c2,900m. The patchy snow melt proved very difficult to navigate over 2,800m and many areas of good looking snow melt were inaccessible. We had to cross some snow patches on slopes, which should really have been done with crampons. We used our tripods instead. The weather was excellent, but this meant a very cold night and with the ground frozen it was difficult to stay warm even with a 3 season sleeping bag and wearing everything Id brought up with me. Water in my water bottle was frozen in the morning, go prepared if camping at altitude.
On the way up we opted to take a 4x4 taxi to the trinity church to save an hours walking.

Targets:

Caucasian Snowcock Lots of Snowcock droppings visible from about 2700m on the walk up but we didn’t see the Snowcocks until dawn the next morning. Many birds all around the campsite at c2,800m. Best views were of birds slightly lower on a ridge in the ravine across to Mt Kazbek.

Guldenstadt’s Redstart Two adult males and a single female. The first views were of a pair on inaccessible snow melt at upto 3,500m on Mt Kazbek itself. Even at 60x in our scopes the views were bad. A second male was found on the last area of accessible snow melt before the glacier proper. We had excellent scope views of this for over 30mins as it zipped about the landscape.

Great Rosefinch Only one possible female that frustratingly vanished in a scree slope nr the campsite.

Green Warbler, Caucasian Chiff Chaff, Red Fronted Serin Numerous in the Birch scrub and Pine Woodland from the Trinity Church down to the village of Gergeti. Red Fronted Serin in Gergeti itself.

Others
Wallcreeper, Black Redstart, Alpine Accentor, Twite (ssp. brevirostris), Water Pipit, Northern Wheatear, Griffin Vulture, Alpine Swift. Corncrake in the garden of our Gergeti Pension accommodation.

Mammals Eastern Tur (a small group of female with young on the sides of Mt Kazbek at dusk on the 26May); Red Fox at c2400m




28 May: Kazbegi

General

Having failed with Great Rosefinch we decided to spend the 28 May checking out the mountains on the eastern side of the valley. We couldn’t find any discernable paths above the pine plantation so we set off up hill on the easiest looking section. This was a very steep grassy valley (see photo in next post). It was relatively quick to get to the two viewpoints we used, but very steep and hard work. To get between watchpoints we had to pick our way through a bank of scree, which was not easy. This brought us to within scoping distance of the highest patches of snowmelt on the edge of a ravine. I do not particularly recommend this route and none of us enjoyed it one bit! If you are not good at heights or at climbing/scrambling don’t do it. After a few hours the cloud fell and it began raining hard. Luckily we could see the bad weather coming in so made a quick exit down to Kazbegi for lunch and our 3pm minibus to Tbilisi, then after some more local food and a walk around the market area near the train station, the 22:15 train back to Batumi overnight. Travelling whilst sleeping is the way to do it!

Targets

Great Rosefinch Eventually we picked out at a great distance 3-4 Great Rosefinch, including one bright male. We watched the snowmelt for c2hrs.

Caucasian Snowcock Further views of a couple of Snowcock were had from the second view point.

Others
Wallcreeper (our third in four days!), Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Twite, Ring Ouzel, Red Fronted Serin, Siskin, Green Warbler (latter in plantation)

Mammals Red Squirrel (introduced in the Gtr Caucasus)



Photos:
(1) Pasque Flowers above the Tsminda Sameba Holy Trinity Church
(2) Our Campsite with Mount Kazbek summit in the background
(3) Male Caucasian Snowcock, Mt Kazbek
(4) Caucasian Chiff Chaff, Birch scrub by the Trinity Church
(5) Red Fronted Serin in Gergeti Village
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 11:34   #5
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A few more photos:

(1) A view down to Kazbegi from the west
(2) Mount Kazbek and Kazbegi at dawn
(3) Route taken up eastern side of Kazbegi 28 May
(4) Green Warbler
(5) Black Redstart (ochruros)
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 12:38   #6
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Excellent report and useful annotated photos Gareth. This is probably the area of the WP I'd most like to go birding - great birds, superb scenery and really interesting cultures. Look forward to the rest.
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 14:26   #7
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Is this the template for all trip reports? Superb!
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Old Friday 11th February 2011, 16:29   #8
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Thanks Edward, you've summed it up nicely, its a wonderful part of the WP! Rob, thanks, its probably a bit short on narrative of daily events compared to some of the great reports on here...


29 May: Batumi/Sarp – Pontics – Aktas Golu-Dogubayazit

General

This day was a major driving day as we weren’t sure how much time we would need to give each site back in Turkey. On the way through the eastern Pontics a brief stop at the edge of the new reservoir above Borcka, in the Coruh Valley produced a singing Flycatcher that was probably Semi Collared. However it was singing in forest on top of a steep cutting on the eastern side of the road with no access, so we couldn’t get to it!!

Further up the valley as the road heads towards the Artvan-Ardahan pass (c2400m) the road snakes its way up the Pine and Spruce dominated hillside of Karagol Sahara Milli Parki (41°13'54.35"N, 42°26'10.67"E). Stops here produced a few Kruper’s Nuthatch. The pass shortly past here also looked pretty impressive with Cinereous (Black) Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Long Legged Buzzard, Booted Eagle and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck on a high pool just from a couple of brief stops. Out of the Pontics and into the Ardahan & Cildir region we soon hit good high altitude (c1800-2000m) snowmelt wet grasslands with numerous Armenian Gull, White Stork, Montagu’s Harrier and our first flocks of Rose Coloured Starling.

We decided to explore briefly the crater lake Atkas Golu on the Turkey/Georgian border. Recommendations are to inform the military police prior to visits but we settled for stopping at the military check point near the border. The two young guards were very nervous of our stopping and approaching, but producing the bird guide and pointing to pelicans and the lake we were sort of waved on. The Lake produced some good birds including White and Dalmatian Pelican & marsh Terns. We couldn’t make out the Velvet Scoter, other than a couple of possibles very far out, and decided not to push our luck by driving closer to the Georgian border. In retrospect we would probably have been fine driving round the corner to view the remaining extent of lake.

Late afternoon we stepped on the speed to get to Dogubayazit for the evening. Taking the route that crosses very close to the contested border with Armenia it was dark by the time we reached Igdir. At a point very close to the Armenian border before Igdir a Golden Jackal ran across the road.

Looking back it would have been better to have spent an extra day exploring the far eastern Pontics and grasslands and crater lakes here. We did this beautiful area no justice at all! And we shouldnt have given up so easily on trying to find a Semi-Collared, as that was our chance gone for the trip.

Photos

(1) Map - Sarp to Dogubayazit
(2) Kruper's Nuthatch
(3) Aktas Golu crater lake
(4) White Pelicans
(5) Whiskered and White Winged Black Terns



...more after the weekend
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Old Saturday 12th February 2011, 10:26   #9
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Gareth,

Enjoying your trip report, very interesting. Good idea of visiting Georgia as well as Turkey seems sensible to me. I've visited Western Turkey & will be going to Eastern Turkey at some point in the future & I was thinking of going to Georgia also. Like yourself & many others we found the country both very friendly & scenically beautifull. I look forward to reading more.

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Old Sunday 13th February 2011, 09:57   #10
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Agree, this is a quite superbly set out report. Excellent stuff!
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Old Sunday 13th February 2011, 11:53   #11
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Hoping to bird the Caucasus either this Spring or next, so many thanks for posting. You've got me thinking about taking in Turkey now too, esp as i don't think Mongolian Trumpeter has been seen in Armenia since Chris Battys group, more than 5 years ago. Would be interested to know if that's not the case.
Great stuff, looking forward to more!
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Old Tuesday 15th February 2011, 08:43   #12
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Hi Guys,

It was great to sneak into Georgia to go and see the Greater Caucasus, one of the highlights of the trip for us. We cant take credit for the original idea though, it came from this trip report:

http://www.netfugl.dk/trip_reports/e...Turkey2006.pdf

I should have put that in the introduction, as it was the initial spark for us that Georgia is quite do-able from Turkey. These guys hired a driver and car from the border, but I think the sleeper train option is a much more time efficient and cheaper way of covering the majority of the distance - and actually quite enjoyable. It also avoids going along the central motorway through Georgia, parts of which I think British citizens are still advised against traveling along (although that may have changed now - see the UK travel advice). Note the timing in that trip report, and also the previous Georgia trip report from Jos on here. We had to work hard as all the birds were well up in patchy snow melt. The Pontic spring seems to be a little behind that in the Gtr Caucasus (at least in 2010), so you also have to factor in when mountain passes are drivable over in Turkey - the Ovitdagi pass is, from reading various reports, often still closed mid May (the Black Grouse are on the northern side). There was a lot less snow on the Artvan/Ardahan pass than Ovitdagi during our visit.

With regards to the Mongolian Finch, we connected as most do with birds at Serpmetas (see below), but they were not easy, we spent a whole afternoon wandering around the lava fields. Looking at Google Earth, there are loads of lava fields in the general area so searching any others would probably be of benefit if Serpmetas doesnt produce the goods, although I would be slightly aware of proximity to the Iranian border when wandering around! I know a new site for Mongolian Finch was found last spring near Ishak Pasa, but dont know the details. They seem to be seen most regularly above the Palace post breeding, ie later in the year, if I recall correctly.



30 May: Ishak Pasa – Serpmetas – Van

General

Dawn to lunch was very enjoyable at Ishak Pasa Palace area walking up the valley from the Palace itself. The afternoon was spent hopping over the lava fields around Serpmetas, connecting with the main targets here was much harder than we had expected and we only got to Van City by dark.

Targets

Grey Necked Bunting
A singing bird at the furthest point walked up the valley at Ishak Pasa

Crimson Winged Finch A couple of brief views of birds at Serpmetas

Mongolian Finch This proved much more difficult than we were expecting. It took us a couple of hours before a couple flew into an area of lava field by us. The views through the scope were good but brief, and a further two hours searching we only had one further view of a bird. Im sure birding it early morning would be more productive.

Bimacultated Lark Having probably driven past hundreds the day previous, it was good to catch up with song flighting birds on the edge of Serpmetas Lava fields. The views were not great though.

Caspian Snowcock It was surprising to see a bird on the cliffs at Ishak Pasa, and nice to get better views than at Ovitdagi Pass.

Others
This was a good day for boosting the trip list with goodies such as Rock Nuthatch, Isabelline Wheatear, Chukar, White Winged Snowfinch, Rock Thrush, Woodlark, Tawny Pipit, Ortolan, Rock Bunting, Black Headed Bunting and a hepatic Cuckoo amongst others.

Mammals Asia Minor Souslik

Photos

(1) Map - Route from Dogubayazit to Van
(2) Mount Ararat at Dawn - the highest peak in Turkey - from the entrance to Ishak Pasa
(3) Issy Wheatear below Ishak Pasa
(4) (Western) Rock Nuthatch Ishak Pasa
(5) Ortolan Bunting Ishak Pasa
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Old Tuesday 15th February 2011, 08:48   #13
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Some more photos:

(1) Ishak Pasa Palace
(2) Caspian Snowcock on the ridge above the valley at Ishak Pasa
(3) Singing Grey Necked Bunting far up the valley at Ishak Pasa
(4) Serpmetas lava fields
(5) Green Toad at Serpmetas
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Old Tuesday 15th February 2011, 17:05   #14
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31 May: Van Area and then to Mt Nemrut Dagi

General

From dawn til lunchtime we birded South Van Marshes (taking the track north of the castle and the track south – see Gosney for the detailed directions) and Ercek Golu to the east of Van. We decided not to do Van Hills. This gave us many of our target species quickly, so we then thought best to head west hard to give us as much time as possible in the birding hotspots along the Euphrates.

This meant a long drive passing many good birding sites along Lake Van. We also didn’t bother heading for the Red Wattled Lapwing site on the Syrian Border as all three of us have seen plenty in India. The police check points were more frequent here and we got stopped for the first time at one point for c20mins whilst they checked us out as potential drug smugglers – they were very friendly though and gave us a chai, chatting to us more than any thorough searching. We got to the ferry crossing (kahta-Siverek Feribotu) across to Narince in plenty of time for the final ferry of the evening (c10pm) and phoned accommodation on Mt Nemrut (from the lonely planet I think). They agreed to meet us in Narince central to show us the way up the mountain in the dark, which was very helpful.

Targets

Moustached Warbler
A singing bird at dawn showed nicely at the track that leads from the north. Heavy rain had made the tracks very slippy and we eventually got the car stuck driving down a track we really shouldn’t have (my fault), but we managed to pull it out after 20mins of fighting.

Paddyfield Warbler Late morning at south Van marshes the southern track around the castle. Here a singing bird in the reedbed near to the lake.

Citrine Wagtail Both from the southern track of Van Marshes and also along the eastern edge of Ercek Golu

Armenian Gull Plenty of birds on Lake Van from Van Marshes

White Headed Duck On Ercek Golu along its southern edge.

Others
Flocks of hundreds of Rose Coloured Starling around Ercek Golu really impressive in the extensively farmed areas that were full of Poppies and Cornflower. Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Egyptian Vulture, Reed Bunting, Black Headed Bunting, and many wetland species.


Photos

(1) Aerial of Van Marshes
(2) Nutrient rich wet grassland at Van Marshes with Orchids (I think probably 'False' Loose-flowered Orchid Orchis (Anacamptis) pseudolaxiflora - but certainly one of the palustris group)
(3) Armenian Gull Van Marshes
(4) Slightly obscured singing Paddyfield Warbler
(5) Adult Lesser Grey Shrike on Henbane
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Old Tuesday 15th February 2011, 17:12   #15
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Ercek Golu Area:

(1) Aerial of Ercek Golu
(2) Rose Coloured Starlings flocking in extensive cultivated areas with abundant Poppies and Cornflower
(3) Citrine Wagtail at Ercek Golu
(4) Black Headed (Yellow) Wagtail at Ercek Golu
(5) White Stork feeding in wet grasslands with abundant Orchids (as previous post)
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Old Wednesday 16th February 2011, 10:29   #16
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01 June: Mount Nemrut Dagi

General

The lower slopes of Mount Nemrut before the entrance gate to the mountain road are cultivated with open woodland and scrub. We drove above our accommodation and stopped a couple of times before the entrance gate. Here we saw a few target species. After the entrance gate the vegetation becomes sparser. The birding up to the summit café is good with all targets being seen well. After a walk around the touristy bit with the false peak and ‘heads’ (seeing only our second fellow tourists of the trip – the first being at Kazbegi) we headed back down to drive to Birecik. Stopping enroute at only a couple of locations, seeing Pied Kingfisher on one arm of the large reservoir that is now the Euphrates at this location (the first bit of close water south from Adayiman), a roadside stop for larks gave us Calandra Lark lots of Spanish & House Sparrows, more Pale Rockfinch, and then finally on the eastern edge of Birecik we stopped at a wadi for See-see Partridge - for which see tomorrow's entry.

Targets (Mt Nemrut Dagi)

Olive Tree & Upcher’s Warbler
On the lower slopes before reaching the entrance gate

Rufous (Grey Backed) Bushchat More common on the lower slopes seemingly

Pale Rockfinch Past the entrance gate and further up towards the summit at least 5 or 6 strongly territorial birds. Surprisingly entertaining species!

Kurdish Wheatear A few pairs mostly on the higher parts, including a territorial male on the summit by the metal building round from the heads.

Finsch’s Wheatear Singing birds encountered half way up to the summit

(Eastern) Cinereous Bunting A few singing birds about a third way up from entrance gate and then another at the summit

White Throated Robin Most activity seemed to be third of the way up

Eastern Rock Nuthatch A possible bird just before the entrance gate

Others Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sombre Tit, Syrian Woodpecker, Woodchat Shrike, Short Toed Eagle, White Winged Snowfinch, Horned Lark, Rock Nuthatch, Alpine & Red Billed Chough, Laughing Dove, Rock Sparrow, Eastern Black Eared Wheatear.

Photos

(1) Map from Van to Mt Nemrut Dagi
(2) Plan of Mt Nemrut Dagi - Im not totally sure of the accuracy of the markers here, the yellow road (from Google Earth) is presumably the newish hard surfaced road right to the summit cafe
(3) Lower Slopes of access road - good for Upchers, Olive Tree, Eastern Orphean Warblers, Bushchat, Syrian Woodpecker, Sombre Tit, Woodchat Shrike, and Nuthatches.
(4) White Throated Robin attending a nest
(5) Eastern Cinereous Bunting
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Old Wednesday 16th February 2011, 10:38   #17
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Some more from Nemrut:

(1) Pale Rockfinch
(2) Finsch's Wheatear
(3) Kurdish Wheatear
(4) Horned Lark (penicillata), looking for handouts at the cafe
(5) White Winged Snowfinch
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Old Wednesday 16th February 2011, 10:50   #18
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and a few more landscapes:

(1) The summit of Mt Nemrut, with the man made extension!
(2) The much more arid landscape of south east Anatolia, with the river Euphrates and its reservoirs in the background, and the access road.
(3) An Eagle with the false summit in the background
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Old Thursday 17th February 2011, 11:32   #19
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01/02/03 June: Birecik and Helfeti

General

Arriving late afternoon on 01 June we added See-See Partridge in the Wadi east of town without much effort. Then we birded the northern gravel workings site of the first recorded Iraq Babblers. Later on having a beer at the famous ‘owl’ café. We stayed at the hotel just west of the river.

The next day we birded the south gravel workings at dawn, then headed to the pistachio orchards north of town, before a break at the Ibis centre café, then drive north to Helfeti for lunch and birding the heat of the day on the dry grasslands south of Helfeti (mad dogs etc..). Late afternoon we walked along the Ibis wadi until getting dark, we didn’t stay for the regular Eagle Owl. Evening was back at the ‘Owl’ café where one of the locals promised us the best Kebab in turkey, whereby he duly summoned his mate to slope off and purchase us three kebabs from somewhere in town. Next morning was an early start for Gaziantep.

Targets:

See-see Partridge
Small group in Wadi east of town, scoped from large disused house furthest from town on southern side of wadi, where wadi splits. Brief views in Ibis Wadi

Iraq Babbler
Adult and two recently fledged young in newer workings south of Birecik. Viewed from main track along river.

Pallid Scops Owl Roosting bird seen just pre dusk in park area south of the café. Whilst having ‘the best kebab in Turkey’ we watched presumably this bird hunting around the lights of the café at the southern end of the café area. Lots of Long Eared Owl activity too.

Eastern Rock Nuthatch Just outside Helfeti as the road rises and there is a large ‘s’ bend with valleys to the south/cliff face to the north, a pair in the valley.

Bimaculated Lark Having driven past most of the Turkish population of this sp. without any really good views this was probably our last chance so we spent a couple of hours in the heat of the afternoon walking transects through the grasslands between Helfeti and Birecik (i.e. the Gosney sites). Eventually managed to get an immature bird on the deck.

Chestnut Shouldered Petronia Good views in the pistachio orchards, especially the area marked by Gosney trip reports

Dead Sea Sparrow Good views at newer gravel workings south of Birecik with the Babblers, and also in the Pistachio orchards

Desert Finch Completely missed this species here, usual spot is the Pistachio orchards or Wadi’s

Menetries’s Warbler & Graceful Prinia Around both sand and gravel workings.

Spectacled Bulbul In riverine scrub, eg opposite the petrol station marked on the map.

Purple (Grey Headed) Swamphen An adult with two dependant young from the northern gravel areas was unexpected.

Others
Loads of good stuff from Ferruginous Duck and Pigmy Cormorant to Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Photos

(1) Map from Mt Nemrut to Birecik
(2) Aerial of main sites in Birecik
(3) See-see Partridge - the small group of birds east of Birecik seemed to be disturbed by us even though we were only really at scoping distance, definitely skittish. Photo 100% crop
(4) The Ibis Wadi at Bericik
(5) Part of the feral population of Northern Bald Ibis, late afternoon in the WWF Ibis wadi
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Old Thursday 17th February 2011, 11:41   #20
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Some More Photos:

(1) Eastern Rock Nuthatch at Helfeti
(2) Pallid Scops Owl at dusk, south of Owl Cafe
(3) Chestnut Shouldered Petronia, or perhaps Yellow Throated Sparrow, singing in a Pistachio Tree
(4) Spectacled Dulbul
(5) Dead Sea Sparrow edge of Wadi behind Petrol Station (see Aerial)
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Old Thursday 17th February 2011, 20:54   #21
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I've only just seen this thread (thanks Edward!) and I have to say it's really mouth-watering stuff. It's great to see excellent photos of the landscapes as well as the birds.
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Old Friday 18th February 2011, 10:39   #22
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Thanks Stuart, if you think what we saw was mouthwatering, here is a list of some of the harder species we missed/didnt try for: - Demoiselle Crane, Great Bustard, Saker, Lammergier, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Black Bellied Sandgrouse, Cream Coloured Courser, White Backed Woodpecker (couldnt find a Pontics site for this potential split), Blue Cheeked Bee-eater, Trumpeter Finch, Plain Leaf Warbler (must be out there somewhere?). Some of them we didnt personally target as seen on other trips, but the Demoiselle Crane would have been very nice. The state of wetlands in Turkey has, from reading literature, deteriorated markedly over the last 20+ years, sadly.

As Edward stated, this part of the WP is chocked full of great birds and top birding.

03 June: Birecik – Durnalik – Demirkazik

General

Early morning start to get to Durnalik (Gosney site) to the west of Gaziantep, before the heat of the day. We birded the usual path where there are pools of water that attract many species. We didn’t spend too long here or really do it justice and didn’t try for species such as Trumpeter Finch, which has been found in the local area in the past. After a couple of hours here with the heat of the day we headed west to Demikarzik, missed our turning off the new motorway and had to head past Nigde and then south again – quite a big detour! Although a relatively long journey, it is motorway most of the way so we made very good time. Arriving at Demirkazik mid afternoon we birded the slopes past the Mountain Centre until dusk. Staying at the Safak Pension.

Targets (Durnalik)

Desert Finch Three birds coming to drink along the pathway pools

Cretzschmar’s Bunting Bird singing from the roadside

Eastern Cinereous Bunting Singing from roadside

White Thoated Robin & Menetries’s Warbler farmland adjacent to trackway

Eastern Rock Nuthatch was calling from the valleys further on

Others
Black Headed Bunting was numerous, and Lesser Whitethroat came to drink at the pools

Photos

(1) Map from Bericik to Demirkazik via Durnalik
(2) The farmed landscape at Durnalik
(3) Black Headed Bunting - young bird coming into drink
(4) Syrian Woodpecker
(5) Laughing Dove
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Old Saturday 19th February 2011, 15:06   #23
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03/04 June: Demirkazik

General

Birded both the Chromium Mine track and the track heading past the mountain centre, just to its south (driving past the tented camp). Basically drive as far as you dare in your chosen vehicle. We had a flat tyre on the Chromium Mine track, and we didn’t take the turning uphill to the Snowcock area toward the mine itself, heading straight on further along the valley. After the morning in the mountains on the 04 June we headed back south, getting the tyre fixed in the town before the motorway (10Lira with free Chai thrown into the deal!) and then heading on the slow coast road to Tasucu closest to the Goksu delta.

Targets

Raddes Accentor
Birds both along the Chromium Mine track in valley past the 'saddle' and after the right hand turn off for the steep uphill bit to the Chromium Mine; and on the mountainside high above the tented camp (by taking the track to the south of the Mountain Centre).

Crimson Winged Finch at the same locations as Raddes Accentor

Caspian Snowcock We could hear them calling at dawn the morning we drove the Chromium Mine track, but didnt do the climb for them.

Red Fronted Serin Along the Chromium Mine Track

Finsch’s Wheatear Male not far from Mountain Centre

Others
Golden Eagle, Red Backed Shrike, Scops Owl, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Thrush, Horned Lark, Snowfinch, Water Pipit, etc

Mammals Asia Minor Souslik, Wild Goat

Photos

(1) Map of Demirkazik Area
(2) Chromium Mine Track looking into valley after turn off to the mine. Stream area was good for Red Fronted Serin, Radde's Accentor and Crimson Winged Finch. Rather remarkably this was the only road where we had a flat tyre - not bad for 2 weeks - we did loose all our hub caps on the non-metaled and metaled but climate stressed roads in far eastern Turkey (put them in the boot at pick up is the advice here).
(3) Cracking views of Golden Eagle
(4) Male Crimson Winged Finch - from Chromium Mine Track
(5) Radde's with recently fledged young, Chromium Mine Track
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Old Monday 21st February 2011, 10:20   #24
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04/05/06 Goksu Delta

General

Having made very good time around our destinations thus far we made a mistake here that we thought we had plenty of time for our remaining plan to take an overnight car ferry as foot passengers to Northern Cyprus (http://ferries-turkey.com/turkey-cyp...s-main-en.aspx). Unfortunately we had forgotten that the weekend timetable starts on a Friday, so there was no overnight ferry, the only option being a high speed cat on the Saturday at noon. This meant that our practical birding time on Cyprus would be limited to Saturday late afternoon and evening (return cat was 09.30am). Given the costs of the ferry this was no longer really a viable option for us, so we had to settle for more time on the Med coast in Turkey. This was a bit of a shame as it would have been more preferable to spend that extra day in what to us was more exciting birding and landscape in far-east Turkey.

In the meantime however we spent the late afternoon of Friday on the eastern side of the Goksu delta adding a few waders to the trip list. The next day we birded the Goksu, driving the whole length of the coastal track, and also took some quarry roads above Tasucu into Pine forest to the north. The following morning was a final look at Goksu, bumping into only our second birding group of the trip – three guys fresh in from Malta, before the drive to Adana and the Tarsus delta. In the end a very chilled final couple of days.

Targets
Ruppell’s Warbler
This was the only real target, and I was the only one of us who had never seen one before. So in some ways the missing of Cyprus was to my benefit as unlike the Dave & Mark I have seen Cyprus Warbler and Wheatear previously. We had a singing bird in the Pine forests to the north of Tasucu in the heat of the day, where quarry roads cut through the forest.

Eleonora’s Falcon Good views of upto three birds over the delta on a couple of occasions.

Audouin’s Gull A walk out along the beach to the mouth of the river where the regular flock resides one afternoon provided us with reasonable views of birds on the sea, mostly non breeders.

‘Scopoli’s’ & ‘Yelkouan’ Shearwater On the evening of the 04 June there was a strong onshore wind. From our hotel balcony in Tasucu we spent half an hour seawatching which produced a handful of distant Scopoli’s Shearwaters (not that we got the pale tongues on the under primaries!). We failed to pick out a Yelkouan but that may have been partially down to laziness and half arsed approach to the ‘seawatch’. No Monk Seals either.

Brown Fish Owl We didn’t try any night time excursions in the local area (apart from to the local bars and a restaurant) but bumped into our first fellow birders of the entire trip here on the Goksu, two intrepid Belgium birders who were trying to source their own European Fish Owl. I don’t think they succeeded in their quest.

Others
There were plenty of other decent birds including White Fronted Kingfisher, Spur Winged Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Masked Shrike, Black Francolin, and the usual Med species, Red Rumped Swallow, Kentish Plover, Purple Heron etc.

Photos

(1) Map of Med Locations
(2) Goksu Delta at Dawn from the south west viewing platform
(3) Ruppell's Warbler
(4) Spur Winged Plover
(5) Eleonora's Falcon
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Old Monday 21st February 2011, 10:24   #25
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Some more shots from Goksu:

(1) Kentish Plover
(2) Purple Heron
(3) Spur Thighed Tortoise (young one)
(4) Masked Shrike showing off its long tail
(5) Black Francolin
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