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Turkey/Kurdistan, May/June 2007 Trip Report (1 Viewer)


Oenanthe Birding Adventures
South East Turkey/Kurdistan, May/June 2007

This is my full report minus the photographs - please visit my website at http://www.freewebs.com/canarybirder to view the photos and many other trip reports

This trip was a carefully planned one to the very eastern fringes of the Western Palearctic and designed to provide us with a maximum number of new birds including some species on the very edges of their ranges. These included such enigmatic species as Red-wattled Lapwing, Mongolian Finch, Grey-necked Bunting and Iraq Babbler. All of which are respresented by very few birds the right side of the WP boundary.

The usual crew of myself, Justin and Andy flew into Adana airport in central southern Turkey via Istanbul from Stansted and picked up a hire car in the early hours of the morning. The companies we used were Turkish Airlines (which we found to be pretty poor in terms of service, communication and food!) and the local Zeplin Car Hire booked via Arguscarhire.com (which we found good despite being provided with a car with a broken back light!)

For those contemplating visiting Turkey the vast size of the country should not be underestimated, particularly if going 'all the way' east. In 10 days we clocked 2,500 miles. Driving in the country is interesting too - in towns and cities the roads are chaos and the drivers nothing short of lunatics. Away from urban area the motorway east from Adana to beyond Birecik is excellent and virtually empty. There are small tolls payable at booths but these are no trouble and very cheap. Where the motorway ends the roads are extremely variable. Some were fine for a while and then suddenly deteriorate into potholed tracks and in general the further east you go the worse they get. We found the road through the mountains between Diyarbakir and Tatvan to be particularly bad. Nutcase drivers are everywhere though! We had read a great deal about the military presence in the east but by avoiding the roads between Cizre, Sirnak and Siirt we avoided all potential delays and questioning. Indeed we were only stopped 3 times at checkpoints and these were all along the road running along the north side of Lake Van.

We pre-booked accomodation on only the first and last nights - at the very good Hotel Seyhan in Adana. Apart from arranging to stay at Pension Oz Safak www.ozsafak.net and taking advantage of a ride up into the high mountains of Demirkazik we just made sure we followed recommendations in our trusty Rough Guide. All of the places we found were perfectly adequate, most had air-con and varied in price between £8 and £17 for bed and breakfast. We stayed at:

28/5 and 7/6 - Hotal Seyhan, Adana (very good and within easy reach of the airport)

29/5 - Lades Motel, Tasucu (good with a great location by the sea)

30/5, 31/5 and 4/6 - Motel Merkalem, Birecik (average but handily located)

1/6 - Hotel Dilek, Tatvan (good and cheap)

2/6 - Buyuk Asur Hotel, Van (good but in a the middle of a very busy city)

3/6 - Balkar Hotel, Diyarbakir (good but again in the middle of a busy city with a very noisy record shop next door)

5/6 - Hotel Nahita, Nigde (very good and just out of the centre of a nice city/town)

6/6 - Oz Safak Pension, near Demirkazik (average but very useful for the mountain guiding and transport)

Conditions for birding varied a lot. We found the Birecik area the hottest but even there had a massive storm which flooded the town. In the main though conditions were comfortable with the most settled weather being in the west. The Lake Van area seems to have it's own very changeable climate probably as a result of the vast lake and the mountains. We experienced rain, wind and sun in equal measure!

The sites we visited were:

Demercili/Uzuncaburc (c25km north of the Goksu Delta)

Goksu Delta

Birecik (main wadi by the Bald Ibis Centre, gravel pits by the Euphrates, orchards and fields by the road towards Halfeti, Gulhane Tea Gardens)

Idil Reservoir

Van Hills

Van Marshes

Erzuk Golu

Serpmetas (near Caldiran)

Nemrut Dagi (the one near Kahta not the one near Tatvan)


Sultan Marshes


Essential and highly recommended reading are the 2 Gosney Guides to Turkey (although a little out of date now) and numerous trip reports found online. Those we found most useful were the ones by Tom Goossens, Klaus Malling Olsen and Chris Batty and our thanks go to those guys and also our Spanish friends Pablo and Clemente who did the Turkey rounds 2 weeks before we did and provided some very useful last minute news.

29 May 2007

Having secured our hire car at 12.45 am we were able to leave Hotel Seyhan in reasonable time in the morning, get onto the road and head west along the coast towards the Goksu Delta area. The drive itself produced only a couple of Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Laughing Doves, Hoopoe and a Black-eared Wheatear before we found the minor road heading inland (north) to the hill village of Demercili. A stop at some tallish pines just at the start of the village resulted in just 2 each of Sombre Tit and Masked Shrike so we drove through the scattered village and located the tiny graveyard on the left hand side of the road at the north end of the village. Almost immediately we located the target bird - a strongly singing Olive-tree Warbler. It proceeded to give some great views in a deciduous tree and sang (like a Great Reed Warbler!) on and off for some while. It shared it's territory with a pair of Masked Shrikes and a pair of Sombre Tits while the village itself had no less than 4 Little Owls sat out on wires and posts.

A few km further north along the same road takes you to the village of Uzuncaburc and a right turn here leads into mature pine woodland and a track on the right as soon as the woods start is a site we were given by our friend Pablo. We parked up and spent a highly productive hour along the track here. The target - Krupers Nuthatch took a little finding but eventually we were treated to some great close up views of a family party of 2 adults and 2 fully grown young. Additionally there was another singing Olive-tree Warbler (deep in the pine woods!), 3 Ruppell's Warblers, a nice male Eastern Orphean Warbler, 3 Cretzschmar's Buntings, 2 Black-headed Buntings, a showy Black-eared Wheatear and our only trip sightings of Booted Eagle, Serin and the Turkish race of Long-tailed Tit.

Along the road as we left a group of 12 Alpine Swifts entertained us as did 2 Blue Rock Thrushes and 4 Red-rumped Swallows.

After driving back down to Tasucu and securing our accommodation we headed down to the coast for an evening birding the Goksu Delta. After a little trouble finding the correct access (see the Goossens trip report for the best directions) we eventually found ourselves on the south side of the delta and quickly climbed up the observation tower. From here a good panorama of the delta and reedbeds is obtained and we easily found several Grey-headed Swamphens and a plethora of herons including Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egrets and 1 Great White Egret. Wildfowl were represented by Ferruginous Ducks, Marbled Ducks, Red-crested Pochards, Ruddy Shelducks and single Garganey. Scutinisation of a small tern flock revealed 3 White-winged Black Terns and 2 Whiskered Terns while an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and several Graceful Warblers sung below the tower. Seeing that another observation tower to the north side of the delta seemed to have closer birds we made our way there are despite the rather dangerous condition of the tower (!) we were treated to good views of 2 Glossy Ibis, c4 Night Herons, 1 Spur-winged Plover and c10 Black-winged Stilts before a movement in low broken reeds below the tower caught our attention. Despite the numerous 'fuscus' Reed Warblers around we all knew what we thought it was and so it proved when it moved into the open to reveal itself as a very welcome Moustached Warbler.

A quick dash back round to the south side of the delta before dusk and we soon had some good views of Black Francolin on top of a mound whilst a second bird was also calling. As darkness fell we made our way back towards Tasucu but as we did so a Golden Jackal was seen well in the dunes between the delta and the beach.

30 May 2007

Day 2 and our first sizeable drive of the trip - eastwards to Birecik. But not until after we'd had breakfast at the Lades Motel overlooking the Med and a chat and exchange of info with Steve Cale leading a British tour party.

The 4 hour drive was pretty uneventful and largely birdless as it was done on motorway for the most part. We only saw 2 Hoopoes and 6 White Storks of note.

Our first port of call once reaching Birecik were the pistachio orchards and electricity substation to the north of the town on the road to Halfeti. Please note that the substation is not at all obvious but it is on the right and opposite a wide gravelled track. A walk down the track and through the orchards produced 2 or 3 Rufous Bush Robins, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and an unidentified black and white woodpecker before we returned to the road and managed to find 3 Yellow-throated Sparrows in the top of a large conifer close to the substation. The roadside trees here also harboured 4 Dead Sea Sparrows while a Black Francolin was also heard calling a few fields back.

Having heard from some birders met by the substation that the famous 'owl cafe' in Birecik town was yielding one of our most sought after birds we then hot-footed it back into town and found the Gulhane Tea Gardens without too much trouble. Purchasing some teas we then wandered around under the trees in search of our quarry - to no avail! Having previously shown little inclination to help our waiter then took us to one side and pointed up into one of the largest trees about the fountain and we all soon got onto a superb roosting Striated Scops Owl. Despite a curious viewing angle and a lot of annoying leaves some photos were eventually obtained, those being taken when the bird woke being the most pleasing. The local children were very keen to show us the birds for money calling the Turkish word for owl - 'baykush' but were happy in the end to just look through our scopes!

After the thrills at the tea gardens we moved onto the gravel pits by the west bank of the Euphrates to the north of the bridge for the late afternoon and evening. Despite a thorough flogging of the area we were unable to locate any of the hoped for Iraq Babblers but nonetheless we clocked up an impressive list of species of which c25 Night Herons, 2 Squacco Herons, 4 Pygmy Cormorants, 1 Pied Kingfisher, 1 Roller, 4 Bee-eaters, 3 Little Swifts, 3 Alpine Swifts, c6 Great Reed Warblers, 2 Graceful Warblers, 2 Dead Sea Sparrows, a brief male Desert Finch and 2 Little Owls were the highlights. Black Francolin was also heard calling and 9 of the sadly now feral Bald Ibis flew over the pits in 2 groups. Then virtually at dusk whilst still looking in vain for babblers we stumbled upon a supurb singing male Menetries Warbler rounding off what had been rather a good day.

31 May 2007

Buoyed by the success of the previous day we were up bright and early, forefieted breakfast and headed straight to the main wadi at Birecik. We were to be brought down to earth with a bump though! A hike up the wadi initially produced some good views of a Menetries Warbler and then a pair of Upcher's Warblers at close quarters but all too briefly in the the bottom of the wadi. Having failed to locate any See See Partridges we made our way up and out of the top of the wadi on a narrow path to the right and spent a thoroughly hot, thirsty and frustrating couple of hours failing dismally with this species. We did have 11 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (over in groups of 6 & 5), several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, c4 Rufous Bush Robins, a Woodchat, Cuckoo and 2 Little Swifts but we evntually left the wadi feeling tired and a bit dejected (probably like the Bald Ibis's we saw plenty of!).

As we were staying in Birecik for a 2nd night we had the opportunity to put some time in at the gravel pits so we headed there next for several hours in the heat of the day! We gave the area a thorough working and visited all areas of water, reeds and bushes going north beside the river. Doing this we managed 7 Pygmy Cormorants, 4 Pied Kingfishers, a couple of Rollers, a Squacco Heron, c10 Dead Sea Sparrows, several Graceful Warblers, at least 5 Menetries Warblers, c5 Great Reed Warblers, a male Black-headed Bunting and a nice pair of Montagu's Harriers hunting to the north. Steve Cales group had also been in the area for a while as had 2 other British birders but these groups had left leaving 3 mad Englishmen out in the midday sun when Justin shouted 'Babblers!' just as he saw 2 disappear behind a bush. A heart stopping moment later 2 Iraq Babblers flew right across an open area, past the car and into an overgrown ditch on the the west side of the track. We ran after them and were treated to one bird being mobbed by several passerines and showing very well for some minutes before vanishing into cover. A phone call to our Finnish counterparts woke them from their slumbers at Merkalem and within 10 minutes they were on site. After an anxious wait they scored too!

Having retired back to our room at Merkalem for a rest and air-con we were then stuck in for a while when 90 degree temperatures suddenly gave way to hailstorms and a massive storm which flooded the town. When it finally died down we ventured outside to view the damage and check out the main wadi again. Upon arrival, after dodging rocks washed down onto the road we found the wadi to be a raging torrent of water and completely impassable! Instead we drove up to the substation again and enjoyed 3 Yellow-throated Sparrows, 3 Dead Sea Sparrows, 2 Golden Orioles, Syrian Woodpecker and 2 more Menetries Warblers before deciding it was time for an evening meal at the Kiji Restaurant behind Merkalem. Even after dark here we had 5 Pied Kingfishers moving along the river and a young Long-eared Owl calling and an adult in flight. we'd also recommend the restaurant for it's great setting by the river and and 'better than most' food.

1 June 2007

A new month and a lot of driving! After yet another abortive attempt in the main wadi (which has dried to a trickle but still disapponted in it's lack of birds!) we made the long drive eastwards to Red-wattled Lapwing territory. Having driven from Birecik to Idil and then on to Tatvan our day totals whilst driving were quite impressive. Highlights were c40 Rollers, c15 Woodchats, 2 Masked Shrikes, 3 Isabelline Wheatears, 5 Black-eared Wheatears, our first Calandra Larks of the trip, c10 Laughing Doves, a Little Owl, a Little Tern and 2 Alpine Swifts. These were eclipsed though by a fantastic roving flock of c500 Rose-coloured Starlings bewteen Idil and Midyat which in many ways were highlight of the day.

That real prize however has to go to the sheer relief and reward for 4 miles of walking around Idil Reservoir in the heat of the afternoon when we finally found one Red-wattled Lapwing in the last bay when we were almost back to the car! The reservoir also revealed a surprising number of late migrants including 2 Little Bitterns, 12 Grey Herons moving through, a Garganey, 2 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 2 Little Stints, 1 Little Ringed Plover and 5 White-winged Black Terns as well as a ringtail Montagu's Harrier, 2 Long-legged Buzzards, 3 Rufous Bush Robins, 1 Fan-tailed Warbler, 2 Black-headed Buntings and several Corn Buntings. Cue a sense of relief from a certain Mr Wilkinson who really wasn't keen on a trip into Cizre for the Lapwing! Idil Reservoir is easy to find about 4 km west of Idil village on the north side of the main road (and visible from the road).

A word of warning of a driving nature is probably valid at this point. Avoid the direct route from Cizre north towards Sirnak and Siirt if heading towards Lake Van - it is heavily militarised and our Spanish friends had nightmare delays and questioning at several roadblocks on this road. Instead do as we did and head back west to Midyat then north through Batman and finally east again to Tatvan. The road as it gets closer to Bitlis and Tatvan is awful though and we arrived in Tatvan at about 10pm absolutely knackered but grateful for a warm welcome and tea at Hotel Dilek!

2 June 2007

We began the day with the relatively short but picturesque drive along the southern edge of Lake Van to the city of Van. Along the way we clocked 2 Ruddy Shelduck, 2 Rollers, a Hobby, Night Heron and numerous Armenian Gulls along the lake margins.

First stop upon reaching Van were the Van Hills. They are situated NE of the city (see Gosney) and easily located. We parked by the roadside just past the large quarry and walked south of the road over the obvious grassy col shown on the photograph below.

By the road we had a great pair of Rock Thrushes on the wires and several Isabelline Wheatears. Around the col 2 Crag Martins and a superb hepatic Cuckoo were watched well and having dropped over the other side we soon picked out bunting song on the hillside over the railway line. Locating the birds was a different matter though and one brief sighting was all we could muster before a pair of Grey-necked Buntings put in an appearance on the much closer hillside on our right. In total we reckoned on 3 territories, 2 of these being on the opposite side of the railway line. The area also gave us our first White-throated Robin, 1 Western Rock Nuthatch, 2 Black Redstarts, c4 Black-eared Wheatears, c6 Rock Sparrows, a couple of Hoopoes and pair of Long-legged Buzzards at their nest.

With the weather starting to close in and get very windy we drove the short distance further NE to Erzuk Golu and from the road scoped the lake and it's marshy inlets. Here we managed to locate 4 White-headed Ducks, c9 Ruddy Shelduck, c25 Pochard, c12 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Little Grebes and a couple of Marsh Harriers while 2 Black-headed Buntings and 3 Great Reed Warblers were also in the area. With the weather getting worse we ventured back into Van, secured our accommodation at the Buyuk Asur Hotel and had a coffee and cheesy pastries while we waited for a window in the weather. This seemed to be developing so we drove to the western edge of the city to the shores of Lake Van and the South Van Marshes. Despite it being very wet we did manage to do some birding (mostly from the car) and scored with a surprisingly good list of species. The best of which were 2 Ruddy Shelduck, c50 Black-winged Stilts, 13 Avocets, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 7 Slender-billed Gulls, 16 White-winged Black Terns, c10 Black-headed Wagtails and my closest ever fly-by Hobby. We then had to give up and return to base where that evening we enjoyed another alochol free meal in the restaurant opposite the hotel and witnessed another torrential downpour.

3 June 2007

Having seen the potential of South Van Marshes (mainly through a wet windscreen!) the previous evening we returned first thing in much better weather conditions. In a very productive hour we hardly moved more that 100 metres on the soggy grassy marsh but very quickly scored with some excellent views of several Paddyfield Warblers singing in the degraded reedy patches (a WP tick for Andy) and also our other main target in the form of c4 Reed Buntings of the very distinctive chunky-billed caspius/reiseri race. A host of other species kept us amused and the trip list continued to tick along nicely. Apart from many of the same species as the previous evening we had 2 Lesser Kestrels (apparantly nesting around Van Castle), 2 Caspian Terns and c4 Citrine Wagtails while the numbers of White-winged Black Terns had increased to an impressive 43.

We then ventured to the other marshes slightly to the north and found that although the marsh itself was more pristine it was a fair walk to any likely looking areas close to the lake shore. Nevertheless we managed 1 Paddyfield Warbler, several more Reed Buntings, 2 Great Reed Warblers, Cetti's Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Rufous Bush Robin, numerous Black-headed Wagtails, Black-necked Grebes and 3 White-headed Ducks (on the edge of the lake itself) before returned to the car and headed NE towards the Iran border.

The next stop was our most easterly point of the whole trip. Right on the very edge of the WP and about 20 km from the border with Iran lays the village of Calderan. A left turn in the village led us along a poor road towards the village of Serpmetas and about 2km before the village is reached the road bisects the famous Serpmetas Lava Fields. After driving through the lava fields, turning round and returning the weather closed in once again and our optimism levels started to wane. When we got back to where thew road first enters the lava fields however we picked up a pair of small finches on some grassy ledges close to the road. Despite the rain we leapt out of the car and were quickly feasting our eyes on a pair of Mongolian Finches. Shortly afterwards these were joined by another pair and all were watched well sheltering in crevasses in the lava while we got soaked! Add to these a Bimaculated Lark, a Short-toed Lark, a Black Redstart (of the race semirufus) and 2 Shorelarks and we left the area damp but elated.

To get a bit ahead of our schedule and allow us time to visit Durnalik and make a return visit to Birecik we decided to spend the rest of the day driving to Diyarbakir for our overnight stop. Although lengthy the drive was without major complications. We did encounter 2 military checkpoints on the road along the north edge of Lake Van but these required only a passport check. A stop for tea (chai) at a roadside/lakeside village proved completely free (including a car wash!) but not without the usual crowd of inquisitive locals able to only speak the English words of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea! Birds seen en-route included 12 Ruddy Shelduck, 2 Marsh Harriers, c10 Rollers, c5 Black-headed Buntings, 2 Black-eared Wheatears and a male Blue Rock Thrush.

Arriving after dark and following a fraught drive into the city we found the Balkar Hotel without too much difficulty and were pleased to note a music shop next door pumping rather too many decibels into the street. Luckily the hotel had double glazing and we were too tired to care!

4 June 2007

This morning saw us on the road early and heading west to catch the car ferry over the Tigris barrage and onward to some mountain birding at the famous archaelogical site of Nemrut Dagi. Please note that this is a different Nemrut Dagi to the volcanic crater lake near Lake Van. On the approach roads we managed a male Cinereous Bunting and c5 Isabelline Wheatears whilst on the ferry 2 Pied Kingfishsers, 2 Griffon Vultures, several Alpine Swifts and c4 Long-legged Buzzards kept us from inspecting the locals on the ferry too closely!

Nemrut Dagi and the long steep approach proved to be one of the most spectacular places we visited for scenery and the birds. Our first real stop was forced upon us due to the car overheating a bit on the steep ascent but a rocky cliff gave us some great views of 3 Eastern Rock Nuthatches (a pair and 1 fledged young) and 2 White-throated Robins. We stopped several times on the drive to the top and notched up c5 Cinereous Buntings, c8 Kurdish Wheatears, 3 Finsch's Wheatears, c5 Black-eared Wheatears, 4 Northern Wheatears, c10 Shorelarks, 3 Black-headed Buntings, several more White-throated Robins and 2 Tawny Pipits. While at the summit and enjoying chai and a toasted sandwich we had 2 distant Snowfinches, c9 Rock Sparrows and both Chough and Alpine Chough.

After reluctantly leaving the site we drove back to the now familiar surroundings in Birecik. On the journey we saw c5 Rollers, 2 Woodchats, Blue Rock Thrush, 1 Little Owl, 1 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Chukar and a flock of 44 White Storks in one field. A quick look around a site on the eastern side of Birecik in fading light failed to produce anything (more of that site tomorrow) before we returned to rather more comfortable rooms at Merkalem than we'd enjoyed on our first visit.several days before.

5 June 2007

Early morning and one very last attempt at our bogey bird! Our friends the Finns had tipped us off by text about a site of shallow wadis on the eastern edge of Birecik (leave town centre on the main road leading east, pass through a tunnel and park in a large lay-by/truck stop on the right). Within just 2 minutes of arrival I called 'I've got one' and we all enjoyed some excellent views of See-see Partridge and after a walk managed to find another (both males) Phew!

Buoyed by that early success we drove west to Durnalik, a site we'd decided not to visit on the way east but instead use it to mop up on any missing species on the way back. As it turned out we didn't need to see anything new so visited the site with the aim of getting some more views of some species we'd already seen and hopefully get some more prolonged views of Upcher's Warbler. The plan worked to a tee with excellent views of c4 Upcher's Warblers, 1 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, 2-3 Eastern Orphean Warblers, 3 White-throated Robins, 1 Eastern Rock Nuthatch, 1 Sombre Tit, 1 Cinereous Bunting, 3 Woodchats and a Blue Rock Thrush.

It has to be said the rest of the day was a bit of a write-off. An abortive attempt to find the right place for Smyrna Kingfisher in a very busy and frustrating Adana, problems finding petrol and food on the motorway and a slow drive north through the mountains didn't put us in the best of moods but we eventually made it to the very nice city of Nigde where we found the excellent Hotel Nahita. We then had a very pleasant stroll around the place, ate something different from kebabs for a change and did some souvenir shopping before crashing out for the night to the sound of the call for prayers.

6 June 2007

A morning with enough time to stay in the hotel and have breakfast, there was a novelty! After our most leisurely start to a day yet we drove the pretty short distance north from Nigde to the Sultan Marshes (finding several Calandra Larks and Hoopoes on the way) and found the spot by Kanal 2 mentioned in Gosney and other trip reports. A wander off onto the dried up and parched salt flats resulted in easy located of several Asian Short-toed Larks most of which seemed to be feeding fledged young. In the eerily quiet but stifling atmosphere we also had c5 Egyptian Vultures, c6 Long-legged Buzzards and Isabelline Wheatears in amazing concentrations (at least 60). Also here were several Asia Minor Ground Squirrels.

After lunch we headed south east for the final leg to what we hoped would be a fitting place to wind the trip up - the Aladag Mountains near Demirkazik. The drive wasn't without a bit of hassle though - a 30km stretch of unfinished roadworks requiring very careful driving! We reached the area and headed into a the nearby village of C?? for chai and provisons for a treck into in the mountains the following day. This was a village where we really were the centre of attention and as soon as we set foot outside the car loudspeakers blasted into action (were they really saying 'we have infidels in the village, kill them now, this is a jihad, repeat this is a jihad'?!). After this amusing interlude and an incomprehensible chat with the locals over coffee we headed back down the road to find Pension Oz Safak and were met by Ali the owner's son. After settling in he escorted us a few mile towards the mountains to Demirkazik Gorge where we could easily walk from the road for a few hours of birding in the mountains before the main event in the morning.

The gorge proved an excellent introduction to the mountains and in a walk of about an hour up the gorge (and an hour back) we'd notched up an impressive list for the notebooks. Undoubted highlight were the c10 Red-fronted Serins which gave some marvellous views but add to that 1 Western Rock Nuthatch, 4 Black Redstarts, 1 Blue Rock Thrush, c4 Rock Buntings, 2 Chukar, 3 Rock Sparrows, c12 Chough, c6 Alpine Swifts, many Crag Martins, Sparrowhawk and a magnificent pair of Golden Eagles visiting a young at the nest and you'll see why we rated it so highly.

Back at the pension we 'enjoyed' supper provided by Ali and his son. Particularly Justin as he was handed a plate of trout which quickly had to be swapped for a bean stew before the table was pebble-dashed! During our meal we heard both Scops Owl and Nightingale to add to the trip list but to avoid the inane drivel coming from Ali and also because of a 4am start in the morning we retired early.

7 June 2007

Up at 4am and quickly readied we drove with Ali to meet his friend for a ride in his 4-wheel drive to the mountain of Demirkazik. Imagine our surprise that instead of a nice a Landrover we were greated by a 20 year old Lada Riva with a tramp driving it! Having negotiated our hire car up to the point where a normal car can go no further we all shoe-horned ourselves into the Lada a started to chug slowly up the steep and narrow track. Halfway up the vehicle over-heated and needed our driver to fill up jerry cans from a stream by a nomad camp and douse the radiator before we could continue. Amazingly we made it to the top! What followed though was worth every bit of pain and anxiety, and what Justin described as the best few hours birding we've probably ever had. Within minutes of leaving the vehicle (with just Ali staying with us to guide us on the walk down) we were hearing the mournful calls of Caspian Snowcock and after a frustrating time scanning the cliffs Andy picked one up as it flew though his scope view. In the next 3 hours we got some great views of that bird and also 3 others on the ridge on the opposite side of the grassy corrie. While we were grilling the first Snowcock Justin yelled Wallcreeper and we had 2 birds flying together across the face of the cliffs and off into the distance. 2 WP ticks for me in about 3 minutes! Around the spot we stood were tame Snowfinches, 5+ Black Redstarts, a male Rock Thrush and many Northern Wheatears whilst a wander down the slope and into the grassy/rocky hollow revealed 2 Water Pipits, 2 singing Ortolans, a Rock Bunting, 3 Rock Sparrows and 3 Chukar. Having turned round and almost re-traced our steps back to our original spot a Radde's Accentor popped up on a rock right in front of us and began to sing. Fantastic! We stayed in the same small area for some while adding several good views of Asia Minor Ground Squirrel and Ibex and taking some photographs and then just as we were about to leave for the walk down 2 Crimson-winged Finches flew onto some rocks at the base of a cliff to our right. Ripe for a species split these were very welcome indeed.

The walk back down was straightforward and not without its bird highlights too. Initially 2 Red-fronted Serins showed in the grass whilst Shorelarks were very conspicuous with at least 10 seen. 1 male Finsch's Wheatear, a couple of Linnets and a Black-headed Bunting finished the picture.

We made our way back to a very late breakfast at Pension Oz Safak thoroughly blown away by the birding we'd had. Despite the all too close attentions of our hosts who were just too keen to please we enjoyed breakfast watching the Tree Sparrows that nest aroud the pension before taking our leave and heading back towards the coast and Adana. The rest of the afternoon was spent crashing out at Hotel Seyhan in Adana and recovering before heading out into the urban bustle for something to eat.

8 June 2007

A day of travel but with an unexpected bit of birding thrown in! Managing to get on a 5am flight from Adana to Istanbul instead of a 7am one meant quite a few hours to kill at Istanbul airport before our onward flight to Stansted. Justin and I used the time to catch a taxi into the city and down to the shores of the Bosphorus. Despite several near death experiences in the taxi we got there in one piece (physically at least!) and were soon scoping c500 Yelkouan Shearwaters passing through the channel between Europe and Asia. Cue one bemused taxi driver! That really was the last bit of birding on what had been a memorable trip gaining me 25 new Western Palearctic birds in a trip total of 172.
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