Turkey, Bosphorus migration - 14th - 19th September 2008

Published by Marc Van de walle (marc.vandewalle AT inbo.be)

Participants: Marc Van de walle, Doreen Heald


Practical information

Flight: Brussels-(Zürich)-Istanbul-(Genève)-Brussels: 308,83 Euro, incl taxes, Swiss Airlines

Accommodation: Kafkas Hotel, Hüdavendigar Caddesi, 35: Good value, friendly and helpfull staff, nice roof terrace, a bit noisy (mainly due to a bunch of Australian schoolgirls) or very noisy (in case of a front room where the tramway scrapes the bed), 45,00 Euro/night, double room-breakfast. Conveniently located close to the quay of Eminönü (10 min walk), to hop on the ferry to Üsküdar (for the Çamlica hills)


14 Sept: Arrival

Arrived in Istanbul at 16:30. Very busy in the airport with very long waiting queues for visa and passport. Enough time was lost, so we took a taxi to our hotel (30 min drive, 30 YTL). Kafkas Hotel is located in a very busy and noisy street, so we asked for a room at the back. The roof terrace compensated for not having a room with a view. After checking in, we went for a walk in Gülhane Park, but it was getting a bit too dark, and too busy with people and parakeet.

15 Sept: Yıldızpark

Got up at 8:00 and had breakfast on the terrace. Nice view over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The weather was fine, so we headed for the Büyük Çamlica. In spite of excellent weather conditions, hardly anything was passing. Bad conditions over Bulgaria interrupted the flow. Took a dolmus back to the shore (1,5 YTL/p) and then a ferry to Beşiktaş. Saw Little Gull in addition to the ever present Shags, Yelkouan Shearwaters and Yellow-legged Gulls. It was around noon and we had a nice lunch outside at restaurant Beltaş, next to the ferry harbour of Beşiktaş. Fettucine and ice tea, 29 YTL for two. It was getting quite hot by now, so we decided to look for shade and birds in the Yıldızpark, just 20 minutes away. This large former palace garden is very wooded, with plenty of undergrowth, providing excellent habitat for small migrants. Spotted flycatcher was abundant. Also: Common Redstart, Syrian Woodpecker, Persian Squirrel. On the way back we had a break at the Çırağan palace, located right at the shore. A magnificent place! For dinner we went to restaurant Magnaura (Akbıyık Caddesi, 27), not far from the Aya Sofya, vegetarian sauté and wine, excellent and 22 YTL/p. But we had more drinks nearby: “Just Bar”, great 70’s and 80’s rock music, wine at 7 YTL, friendly and relaxing, but as ever as we’re having fun, we kinda loose track of time..

16 Sept: Burgazada

Shame, shame, shame, 9 o’clock already, sunny and warm. Went up on the terrace to check for migrants but besides one Black Kite there were none. Figured it might not be a good idea to go to the Çamlicas. Instead we took the tram to Kabataş and then the ferry to the Princes’ Islands. We got off at the second stop: Burgazada, a delightful little island. Hard to believe we’re in the vicinity of Istanbul. No cars, no noise, no tourists. The trip to Burgazada takes just a little more than an hour (2,80 YTL, one way). Many Shags and about 50 Yelkouan Shearwaters along the way. On arrival we decided to have a coffee first and while relaxing in the shade and waking up this way, we spotted 3 Bottlenose Dolphins. In fact, the small island is a steep hill and we had some urge to climb it. Luckily it was worth it. Whinchats and lots of Spotted Flycatchers in the scrubby gardens on the way up. Some parts of the higher ground are covered with small trees, while the more open areas are excellent to spot migrating raptors: Honey Buzzard (12), Steppe Buzzard (1), Black Kite (1), Marsh Harrier (10), Hobby (8), Common Sparrowhawk (3), herons (flock of 20, mixed Grey and Purple). At 18:00 we hopped on the ferry back to Kabataş. We had read that there’s a really good vegetarian restaurant in Istanbul, called Nature and Peace, and on the map we saw that it was not very far from the ferry harbour. The restaurant is located in the Taksim district, but that means a steep climb up. To get there it took us a lot more time than expected. Compared to this climb, Burgazada was just silly hillock. Anyway, we also got lost a bit and walked and climbed endlessly in hunger before reaching the right place. Quite a classy restaurant and the meals were very nice, but we decided that it had not been worth the effort. Had a drink nearby in this very lively neighbourhood, in a nice pub called Fermentasyon, 6 YTL/ gl wine. We finally made the long walk back to the tram stop. Fell in bed around 23h.

17 Sept: Büyük Çamlica

Anoher visit to the hill and it was not too bad this time. We stayed till around 15:30. Here are the totals:
Hobby 1
Osprey 2
Lesser Spotted Eagle 30
Booted Eagle 5
Short-toed Eagle 1
Honey Buzzard 1
Common Sparrowhawk 2
Levant Sparrowhawk 276
Goshawk 1
Black Stork 94

Back to Eminönü by dolmus and ferry. We visited the Spice Bazaar, took pictures of the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapı Palace, had delicious chocolate cake, and great pide (Turkish pizza), strolled and wandered.. In the evening it began to rain very heavily..

18 Sept: Büyük Çamlica

Our last day and things did not look very good. Overcast with drizzle at times. Breakfast on the roof was not possible, everything up there got blown away. This was literally a grey ending to our raptor migration trip. Nevertheless we decided to go to the hill. What else was there to do? But once we arrived there, instantly it became clear that our prediction was wrong, very wrong. The (dark grey) skies were full of birds. And there is even a possible explanation. Although weather was bad over the Bosphorus area, it had cleared up over Bulgaria, were migrants were jammed and packed together because of bad conditions the preceeding days. This, together with a very dramatic temperature drop overnight, had triggered a lot of birds to move, even though it looked and felt as if there were no thermals at all. Here are the numbers:
Booted Eagle 19
Black Stork 730
White Stork 15
Lesser Spotted Eagle 1360
Short-toed Eagle 21
Common Sparrowhawk 14
Long-legged Buzzard 1
Buzzard 11
Great White Pelican 1
Peregrine 1
Greater Spotted Eagle 1
Levant Sparrowhawk 450

We stayed till 16h. This last day had made the whole trip worthwhile. Went back to the hotel to pack and then to Magnaura Restaurant for something to eat (grilled vegetables and wine, 22 YTL each). Quickly to Just Bar as a last resort and then to bed at 9:30 in order to get up at 4:00. What a day it was...

19 Sept: Departure

At 4:30 we took a ‘taksi’ to the airport, 45 YTL (price 50 % higher than during the day). Flight to Brussels (via Genève) at 6:40..

Species Lists

Yelkouan Shearwater – Puffinus yelkouan – Yelkouanpijlstormvogel
Great Cormorant – Phalacrocorax carbo – Aalscholver
Shag – Phalacrocorax aristotelis – Kuifaalscholver
Great White Pelican – Pelecanus onocrotalus – Roze Pelikaan
Grey Heron – Ardea cinerea – Blauwe Reiger
Purple Heron – Ardea purpurea – Purperreiger
White Stork – Ciconia ciconia – Ooievaar
Black Stork – Ciconia nigra – Zwarte Ooievaar
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus – Visarend
Short-toed Eagle – Circaetus gallicus – Slangenarend
Booted Eagle – Aquila pennata – Dwergarend
Lesser Spotted Eagle – Aquila pomarina – Schreeuwarend
Greater Spotted Eagle – Aquila clanga – Bastaardarend
Black Kite – Milvus migrans – Zwarte Wouw
Buzzard – Buteo buteo – Buizerd
Long-legged Buzzard – Buteo rufinus – Arendbuizerd
Honey Buzzard – Pernis apivorus – Wespendief
Marsh Harrier – Circus aeruginosus – Bruine Kiekendief
Goshawk – Accipiter gentilis – Havik
Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus – Sperwer
Levant Sparrowhawk –Accipiter brevipes – Balkansperwer
Peregrine Falcon – Falco peregrinus – Slechtvalk
Hobby – Falco subbuteo – Boomvalk
Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus – Torenvalk
Common Sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos – Oeverloper
Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis – Geelpootmeeuw
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus – Kleine Mantelmeeuw
Little Gull – Larus minutus – Dwergmeeuw
Sandwich Tern – Sterna sandvicensis – Grote Stern
Laughing Dove – Streptopelia senegalensis – Palmtortel
Swift – Apus apus – Gierzwaluw
Pallid Swift – Apus pallidus – Vale Gierzwaluw
Alpine Swift – Apus melba – Alpengierzwaluw
Syrian Woodpecker – Dendrocopos syriacus – Syrische Bonte Specht
White Wagtail – Motacilla alba – Witte Kwikstaart
Nightingale – Luscinia megarhynchos – Nachtegaal
Whinchat – Saxicola rubetra – Paapje
Common Redstart – Phoenicurus phoenicurus – Gekraagde Roodstaart
Sardinian Warbler – Sylvia melanocephala – Kleine Zwartkop
Chiffchaff – Phylloscopus collybita – Tjiftjaf
Goldcrest – Regulus regulus – Goudhaan
Great Tit – Parus major – Koolmees
Blue Tit – Cyanistes caeruleus – Pimpelmees
Long-tailed Tit – Aegithalos caudatus – Staartmees
Spotted Flycatcher –Muscicapa striata – Grauwe Vliegenvanger
Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix – Bonte Kraai
Jackdaw – Corvus monedula – Kauw
Jay – Garrulus glandarius – Gaai
Magpie – Pica pica – Ekster
House Sparrow – Passer domesticus – Huismus
Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs – Vink

Persian Squirrel – Sciurus anomalus – Kaukasuseekhoorn
Common Bottlenose Dolphin – Tursiops truncatus – Tuimelaar