Flight was with Turkish Airlines from London Heathrow to Adana transferring in Istanbul. You go through Turkish immigration in Istanbul and must purchase an entry visa which is valid for 3 months. This costs £10 or €15.
Flight left London at 06:55 arriving in Istanbul at 12:50. Transfer Flight to Adana left Istanbul at 14:15 arriving in Adana at 15:45.
Return Flight left Adana at 09:25 arriving in Istanbul at 11:00. Transfer to London left Istanbul at 13:10 arrriving back at London Heathrow at 15:15.
Total Cost of Flights was £183.80. Inflight meals and drinks are included
Car Hire was done though economycarrentals and the local partner was Sun Car Hire. I was given a Hyundai Accent Diesel which is a good car for driving on Turkish roads. The Car is delivered full of diesel and you must also return it with the tank full. Driving in Turkey is fine in general but be careful in urban or built up areas as people often jaywalk. One should also be careful with speed as there are traffic cops everywhere. I had no encounters with the traffic police although I frequently saw roadside checks. The only car trouble I experienced was a slow puncture and getting stuck in the sand at the Goksu Delta which resulted in getting towed out by tractor and trailer.
Cost was €350 for 2 weeks.
Adana – Adana Airport Hotel
Good but quite corporate and sterile.
I stayed here on the first and last nights in Turkey. Standard breakfast of bread, cheese, olives, jam and coffee. Located on the right hand side of the dual-carriageway as you approach the centre of Adana from the airport. Car Parking is at the rear of the building. Bed & Breakfast costs about €45 per night.
Tasucu – Lades Motel
Good and has a “birdy” feel to it. Terrific views over the Medierranean from the bedrooms. Standard breakfast of bread, olives, cheese and fruit. Owner is knowledgeable about birding and very helpful. He arranged for my car to be towed out of the sand at the Goksu Delta when I became stuck. Beware of Mosquitoes at night – I awoke in the mornings with several bites
Located just off the Main Street in Tasucu on a side street on the left as you drive through the town. Bed & Breakfast costs approximately €40 per night – this is more expensive than the norm in Turkey. http://www.ladesmotel.com
Tel – (0090)3247414008
Demircazik – Pansion Ozsafak
Good and is almost like staying at somebody’s house. Ali has several guest rooms in his pansion and his brother Hassan also operates a pansion across the road. Between them, they have the accommodation situation in Cukurbag covered. Ali is a great host and cooks some wonderful meals in the evenings. I had some very nice trout and also some really succulent barbecued lamb served with a side salad. His wife produces some cherry jam which is to die for – great on crusty rolls in the morning
Located on the right-hand side of Cukurbag village as you approach from Camardi just down from the main road.
Snowcock Trip costs €80 ( but this includes accommodation, breakfast and evening meal ) Standard Bed & Breakfast at Pansion Ozsafak costs €25 per person per night.
Tel – (0090)5362303120
Gaziantep – Otel Katan
Adequate but quite plain. Helpful staff. Across the road from Gaziantep futbol stadium and some busy kebab joints which can be noisy at night. Limited Car Parking available. Bed & Breakfast costs approximately €20 per person per night. Breakfast Room shows Turkish Soap Operas which appear to be mind-numbing drivel – definitely puts “Fair City” in the shade.
Tel – (0090)3422306969
Birecik – Merkelam Motel
Good with excellent air-con. Owner seems interested in promoting the place as a birdwatching destination. Breakfast fare is a bit limited though Merkelam is primarily a coach stop on the route east with buses and trucks pulling in at all hours for tea, coffee and meals. Located on the West Bank of the Euphrates just before the bridge and on the left hand side as you approach from Gaziantep. Single Room costs approximately €15 per night. Breakfast is extra.
Tel – (0090)4146521178
Overall there were few negatives. Mosquitoes are a problem especially in Tasucu and its probably worth bringing some repellent for the nights. I encountered a few feral dogs in Birecik but not as many as other birders seem to have come across in the east of the country. Kids ( and Adults ) can be a problem as they always want to look through your bins and scope and tend to invade your personal space a bit. I found myself taking refuge in the car a few times just to avoid getting into conversation with them. I experienced this most in Durnalik/isikli. Heat can be a problem around Birecik as it often reaches the 40’s in the middle of the day making birding hard going. Another problem is food poisoning and stomach cramps which can leave you incapacitated for days although it seems hard to avoid unless you eat nothing but bread or chocolates and biscuits. I suffered two bouts of tummy trouble, the first in Gaziantep after eating at the “Doner Restaurant” and the second in Birecik after eating a lamb dish at the Kiyi restaurant ( which actually comes highly recommended in most trip reports!) Best policy is to rest and drink lots of bottled water.
A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Turkey Ian Green & Nigel Moorhouse Prion 1995
Finding Birds in Turkey - Ankara to Birecik Dave Gosney 1991
Collins Bird Guide Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom, Grant
Euro Country Map – Turkey Euro Map
The Rough Guide to Turkey Various Rough Guides
Internet Trip Reports used for research
Chris Landsdell (2006)
Tom Goossens (2006)
Thomas Lindblad (2006)
Seyhan Delta (Havutlu)
Seyhan Delta (Tuzla Golu)
Seyhan Delta May 9th – May 10th
After checking into my hotel in Adana, I decided to have a reccy about the area and headed east out of the city towards Gaziantep on the main highway passing an enormous mosque on the way which is apparently one of the biggest in the world and has a capacity of 28,000. I took the right turn for Karatas at the first big roundabout outside the city. Several Laughing Doves were noted along the roadside. After about 10 Km you enter the village of Havutlu, go straight through and watch out for the Pepsi Cola factory on the left-hand side. After the factory there is a bridge over a tributary of the river Seyhan – turn right immediately after this bridge and continue until you come to a fork in the road where a track leads off to the right. White-Throated Kingfisher breeds in this area. I soon found European Serin and Yellow-Vented Bulbul and there is a large area of orchards on the left where there were many Greenfinch, Goldfinch and House Sparrows. Laughing Dove and Collared Dove were seen on the nearby telegraph wires. After a while I became aware of a high-pitched “tittering” call coming from the orchards but it took me a while to associate this with White-Throated Kingfisher. As it was getting near dusk I spotted one on the telegraph wires – what a start to the trip! I noted the long heavy red bill, chestnut coloured head and body and the broad white cravat. The following morning I made straight for the same spot, determined to get some better views. I was surprised to find a group of UK birders already at the scene! They had scored with the Kingfisher and also Penduline Tit. I soon located another Kingfisher - it was up on the wires which seem to be it’s favoured song post. I was able to get much closer views and had another one flying over the river. The Kingfishers often sing from the waterside trees as well, although it can be harder to see them here in the dense foliage.
Some Eurasian Reed Warblers were also singing from the water’s edge and all around one could hear the croaking of marsh frogs. After spending the morning here I set off westwards towards the Goksu Delta taking the new toll motorway around Tarsus and Mersin before returning to the older D400 coastal highway. From the motorway I had several splendid European Rollers and also some White Storks.
Goksu Delta May 10th – May 13th
Upon arriving in Tasucu, I checked into the Lades Motel on the main street. After dumping my stuff, I set off for the Delta armed with a handy photo map which the owner has prepared specially for birdwatchers and gives the locations of all the observation platforms and hides. To get to the Delta, head east from Tasucu towards Silifke ( passing an abandoned factory on your right ) and turn right just before a bridge. Take an immediate left after this and continue straight until you reach a small bridge over a creek on your left. Cross the bridge and drive though the holiday village (swerving right as you go) until you come to the track which leads towards the old airstrip. Drive to the end of the old airstrip until you come to the stabilised road which runs between the dunes and the sea. I took the track into the dunes leading towards the first observation tower on the southern side of Akgol. This first observation tower overlooks a vast area of tall reeds which obstruct the view of Akgol from the ground. Out on the lake itself I soon picked out several Red-Crested Pochards, Coot, Yellow-Legged Gull, Purple Heron and some Great Crested Grebes. Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedbeds lazily and a Ferruginous Duck appeared for a brief fly-by. My attention was grabbed by noise from the reeds below – short bursts of grinding, mechanical reeling which betrayed the presence of a couple of Graceful Warblers flitting from reed stem to reed stem. They appeared quite similar to Zitting Cisticola, although paler and with an obviously longer tail. Also singing from the reeds below were many Fuscus Reed Warblers pumping out their throbbing, rhythmic chirrup-ing. Twangy calls like a guitar string being plucked heralded the arrival of a troupe of splendid Bearded Reedlings, although it was hard to get prolonged views of these as they invariably dived into thicker reed cover.
As I was catching the action in the reeds, I heard a short burst of bugle-like notes from some nearby scrub. Although I couldn’t see it, I knew it was Black Francolin. Some Yellow-Vented Bulbuls also put in an appearance as well as Lesser Whitethroat, European Bee-eater and Blackcap.
I moved on from the first tower to some of the other hides and picked up several stunning European Rollers in the dunes and also some Turtle Doves as well as the first Great Reed Warblers which really do sound like a stone-crusher. There were also many Common and Little Terns in evidence, hawking over the lake. As I moved around towards the eastern side of Akgol, the taller reed cover gave way to open views across the lake. In the margins several waders came into view which upon closer inspection were revealed as Little Stint but with a couple of Broad-Billed Sandpipers thown in. Also present were Wood Sandpiper, Ruff , Kentish Plover and many Spur-Winged Plover. A few of the hadsome Feldegg race Yellow Wagtails puttered about the water’s edge. The surrounding saltmarsh was alive with the song of Short-Toed and Crested Lark. As I moved further east, a second more rickety viewing platform loomed into view. This was located beside a small creek which was buzzing with hirundine activity – hundreds of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows were forming avian clouds. I scaled the small platform and was soon scoping some Marbled Duck, more Red-Crested Pochard and Ruddy Shelduck although I could not locate any Purple Gallinules (these would come later).
I drove back towards the stabilised road which skirts between Akgol and the vast sandy spit on the Mediterranean and headed towards the “upside-down” drainpipes (which Dave Gosney mentions in his Guide). In the open area surrounding these upside-down drainpipes I found myself literally in Shrike Heaven! Obviously there had been major passage the previous night as the place was swarming with Lesser Grey, Red-Backed, Masked and Woodchat Shrikes. I was able to get some crippling views of hunting Lesser Grey Shrikes. Distracting my attention from the Shrike-fest, another Black Francolin was calling at tantalisingly close range, but again, I could not see it! I had to be content with a brief Rufous Bush Chat and some gorgeous male Red-Backed Shrikes.
It was getting near dusk, so I decided to drive back towards Tasucu. I had gotten about halfway down the road flanking the dunes when I caught sight of a blackish head poking out of a mound of scrub. I slowed and quickly focused on a trademark white cheek-patch belonging to a male Black Francolin! I was then almost deafened by the bugling 7-note call as he sang away, seemingly oblivious to my presence. He was sitting quite high in the crown of the bush but became spooked shortly afterwards and flew off.
I decided to hit the Delta early the next morning as this is when the Francolins are most active. I was down at the edge of the dunes by 5:30 the next day, waking up the resident Crested Larks and Rollers in the process as they flew in front of my headlights. It was still dark but the Francolins were already calling in the dunes and scrub. I carefully scanned each mound and was soon rewarded with another view, athough this bird became spooked by a passing car and disappeared. Also perched Sentinel-like on the bushes were some lingering Lesser Grey Shrikes. A desolate croak from above revealed a Night Heron returning to its day roost and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers perfomed at the edge of the road. Driving back as the Sun was up, I spotted another Francolin, again occupying the crown of a small bush and was able to get good views of it’s mottled flank plumage before he slithered into the foliage.
I returned to the Motel for breakfast before hitting the Delta again in the afternoon. An organised Tour Group from the UK were staying at the Motel but seemed to have been unlucky with the Gallinules like myself.
That afternoon, I returned to the open area around the upside-down drainpipes and immediately had a stunning young male Pallid Harrier quartering. At one point he flew directly over my head. Right on his coat tails a Peregrine flew through the area, high and fast before heading towards Akgol.
A drive around the eastern fringe of Agkol turned up some more migrants as I spotted an Ortolan Bunting flying up from the gravel track towards cover. There were about 8 in the area feeding on seeds at the edge of the road as well as a Spotted Flycatcher. An April visit would surely turn up a far more varied host of migrants – probably Pied and Collared Flycatchers, Whinchats, Wheatears, Warblers etc. As it grew dark, I spotted a Golden Jackal in the saltmarsh on my left and noted the small “foxy” head although overall, it appears somewhat bigger than a fox (I saw another one the following day in broad daylight close to the first observation tower).
The following day I decided to explore the Northern side of Akgol which is reached by driving back towards Silifke ( in fact you pass a sign marking the Silifke town limits ) and turning off to the right just after a Shell Garage. This quite poor road which follows a creek will bring you through some orchards and finally down to more vast reedbeds and another viewing platform which is quite flimsy although it affords superb views over the Northern shore.. I had been tipped off that this was a good spot for both Moustached Warbler and Purple Gallinule. I sat and waited and soon had several Marsh Harriers which often dropped into the reeds for long periods before emerging. Beyond the reeds some Purple Herons were standing like statues and also many Squacco Herons. After about an hour my attention was drawn to some rapid Sedge Warbler like song coming from the flattened reeds beyond the creek to my right. I was struck by the ascending “Nightingale-like” notes and was pretty sure that this was Moustached, although it took me a while to actually scope one. They are a dirty buff-grey below with the characteristic well-defined white supercilium and quite unobtrusive were it not for the song. I was suddenly jolted by some deep braying calls coming from the same area of flattened reeds and glimpsed a large coot-like bird dropping with dangling legs into some cover – Purple Swamphen! Before long another emerged and actually walked around in the open giving good views of the greyish head and bright red legs. I returned to the same location later that afternoon and managed more terrific Gallinule action, this time out on the lake itself as I had up to 6 feeding out on the surface vegetation, clutching plant matter with their feet as they quietly nibbled it just like in the book. At one point two actually chased each other through the water. These are truly awesome birds.
Also in evidence were many White-Winged Black Terns hawking around the reedy islands. Driving back along the creek, I had many singing Great Reed Warblers, some gathering nesting material and also numerous Fuscus Reed Warblers, Graceful Warblers and Olivaceous Warblers. Right beside the track I had a Little Bittern clutching a length of reed mace and in no way spooked by my presence. As I entered the Orchards, singing Rufous Bush Chats became apparent, often flexing those long red tail feathers, revealing the white tips. Black-Heading Bunting, Crested Lark and Jay were also in evidence.
Over a large open area, I saw up to 5 Short-Toed Eagles hunting, circling lazily, hovering and sometimes dropping right down close to the ground before rising again. Attending close by was a Male Lesser Kestrel.
Demircazik May 13th – May 16th
After spending some days at the Goksu Delta, I headed back east along the Mediterranean Coast and then inland towards the Aladag Mountains taking the newish motorway ( O-21) which is a toll road. After going through Pozanti, I took a road to the right marked “Camardi” which brings you up into the Mountains. I had arranged to stay at the well known Ozsafek Pansyion which is run by Ali Safek who organises morning expeditions up to the snow-covered peaks to see the famous Caspian Snowcocks. The Pansyion is located in the village of Cukarbag which is between Camardi and Demircazik. After having a tea with Ali who showed me some notes left by birdwatchers over the years, I set off towards the Mountain Lodge in Demircazik to explore the area. I parked just outside the Lodge and quickly scanned the crags beyond. Straight away I had a Golden Eagle looking down intently from the heights and several Alpine Swifts flying across the rock face. I decided to try the track on the right-hand side of the Mountain Lodge which is mentioned in Gosney. Within half an hour, I had scored a whole host of Mountain specialities. A flock of Snowfinch appeared to my right and I noted their nasal wheezy calls. The breeding males are very smart with their black bills and crisp white plumage. Singing alerted me to my first Shore Larks who were extremely confiding, allowing very close views. The hotspots along this track seem to be close to the drinking troughs and waiting here usually produces the goods. A couple of Rock Sparrow put in a brief appearance and a rapid trilling heralded the arrival of some Red-Fronted Serins. These are very striking birds and a real Turkish speciality. They have golden-brown plumage streaked with black and a poppy-red splodge right on their foreheads. They don’t seem to hang around for long though and are extremely active like Twite, moving constantly. I followed the track further up to where it becomes difficult to drive and was rewarded by Finsch’s Wheatear singing on a distant rock. Many Northern and Isabelline Wheatears were also present in the rocky fields and I watched some of the male Isabelline Wheatears display-flighting. At one point I observed a pair of Isabelline Wheatears mobbing an Asia Minor Ground Squirrel or Souslik who must have been trespassing close to their nest. Both birds repeatedly dive-bombed the mammal, pecking at it’s flesh. Coming back down, I observed both Red-Billed and Alpine Choughs feeding on the hillsides. Linnet are also very common here as well as Red-Backed Shrike ( which was the only Shrike species observed in the Mountains ). Upon reaching the Mountain Lodge I took the road leading off to the left which leads to the Demircazik Gorge. I pulled in here just at the mouth of the Gorge and met the same organised tour group that I had encountered in Tasucu. As we were chatting, the tour leader yelled “Wallcreeper!” and we were soon looking at one creeping around the vertical rock face at quite close quarters giving flashes of the crimson wing plumage. I moved further into the Gorge and soon had a singing male Rock Thrush on a pinnacle. As he turned in the sunlight, I could clearly see the white mantle. Sub-song which sounded like paper being rustled alerted me to Turkish Black Redstart.
The Gorge is alive with nesting Crag Martins and these seemed to be constantly flitting up and down as well as occasionally singing from the rock face. At the summit of the Gorge wall another majestic Golden Eagle peered down and also flew briefly, displaying the massive wingspan.
The ascent into Demircazik Gorge is not a really steep gradient and you can go quite far up without exerting too much energy. Near the hollow at the top of the Gorge, I had more Alpine and Red-Billed Choughs, Finsch’s Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Kestrel, Wren and Blackcap as well as several Rock Doves. Rapid chattering calls from the rocks revealed some Western Rock Nuthatches. Some Rock Sparrows were also chirping nasally at the Gorge Exit and I was able to scope in on the yellow throat plumage.
There had been a report of a White-throated Robin in the area of rocky scrub opposite the Gorge mouth but I failed to connect with this. I did get Lesser Whitethroat, Red-Backed Shrike, Black-Headed & Ortolan Bunting and Rock Nuthatch there.
The following morning saw a 4:00 am start as I arose for the much-anticipated Snowcock trip. We drove in my hire-car up to the Mountain Lodge and then piled into the old Lada Niva “Jeep” for the ascent up the mountain (in darkness). I decided to keep my scope firmly in my lap for the duration because of the bone-shuddering vibrations. About an hour and a half later we reached a parking area where myself and Ali got out and climbed for another 30 minutes before reaching a crag which was to be our Snowcock stake-out. While it was still semi-dark, we heard the first eerie curlew-like bubbling calls coming from the snow-covered peaks in front. Its enough to give you shivers down your spine. Quite a while was to elapse however before actually catching a glimpse of an actual Snowcock. Black Redstarts were beginning to sing all around and some Alpine Accentors and Snow Finches showed on the rocks as well as a couple of distant Crimson-Winged Finches. Alpine Choughs wheeled overhead creating a cacophony. Even though we could hear the Snowcocks quite well, it was difficult to see them as they do not stand out terribly well against the rock. In frustration I began to scope the rock face hoping to detect movement somewhere and at last I saw something moving on some distant scree. I zoomed up and sure enough, there it was like a plump game hen – a Caspian Snowcock! Occasionally he would throw his head backwards and emit a bubbling “coooor-leeeeeeeeeee”. Ali, jokingly mimicked the bird’s calls – he seemed delighted that I’d managed to get one. We had some tea and over the next couple of hours scored some even better Snowcock action. Another was calling much closer in front of us and I could see all the characteristic features like the white bands on the throat and spotting on the flanks. These are quite simply legendary birds, words could not do justice to experiencing them at close range in their native environment – its an almost supernatural experience. I also had the chance to connect with Ibex and we spotted a herd of maybe 30 animals in total. After thoroughly overdosing on the Snowcocks (I would estimate seeing about 6 in total) we started to make our way down the mountain. The trip down is on foot and you get a chance to take in some more Finsch’s, Isabelline and Northern Wheatear, Shore Lark and Red-Fronted Serin. The only one I missed out on here was Radde’s Accentor but an English Birder was more successful the following day. I decided to crash for a while after the Snowcock extravaganza but did some lazy birding in the afternoon around the Mountain Lodge. Staking out the water troughs paid off with a pair of bright Crimson-Winged Finches flying in for a drink as well as some stunning bathing Ortolans.
I returned to the gorge for the afternoon and had some more nice views of Rock Bunting, Rock Thrush, Crimson-Winged Finch, Black Redstart, Rock Nuthatch, Red-Fronted Serin.
Back at Pansion Ozsafak there were singing Black-Headed Bunting, Nightingale, Scop’s Owl in the Cherry Orchard and Tree Sparrow on the balcony.
Durnalik May 16th – May 18th
With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to the mountains and began the descent back into the lowlands. I took the motorway south towards Adana and then turned east on the E-90 towards Gaziantep. En route, I had a Long-Legged Buzzard hovering near the motorway and also many White Storks. Near Nurdagi I turned off the motorway onto the older D400 road which takes you though some nice farming country with plenty of singing Corn Buntings, Black-Headed Buntings and Woodchat and Red-Backed Shrikes on the Telegraph Wires. I was watching out for the turn-off for Durnalik and sure enough, there it was opposite the lime kiln (as mentioned in Gosney). This road takes you upwards on a reasonably steep trajectory and you can follow it all the way up to where it terminates at a quarry at the top of the Durnalik valley. The track mentioned in Gosney is near the start of the new road on the right and leads into the valley itself. I followed the new road up almost to the head of the valley and explored the area to the right, quickly locationg Eastern Orphean Warbler, Black-Headed Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Lesser Whitethroat and Red-Backed Shrike. There is a path directly overlooking the valley floor and the “piles of stones” mentioned in Gosney. From here I located my first Cinereous Bunting on a nearby rock – a beautiful olive-green male, sporting the characteristic yellow moustachial stripe. Several lizards were sunning themselves on the rocks and a Western Rock Nuthatch put in a brief appearance.
I continued on up towards the quarry and parked near the entrance, scanning down at the scrub on the right-hand side. Within a few minutes, I had located another of my target species – White-Throated Robin. This one was having a tussle with some Rufous Bush Chats and I watched them sparring for a while. This Bird was of the buff-breasted variant type and over the next couple of days, I observed both this type and the deep orange breasted type. It is one of the commonest birds in the area and I saw many. The song is an extremely rapid twittering, not too dissimilar to Rufous Bush Chat.
Also near the quarry were singing Black-Headed and Cinereous Buntings. Durnalik was the one area in Turkey where I seemed to be getting constant hassle from kids and locals, wanting to look through the scope etc. It became quite tiresome after a while as I found myself being interrupted from the birding all too often. My advice would be to hide in the car for a while if any carts pass and you’ll keep the unwanted attention to a minimum.
I moved back down the new road to the point where there is a vista over the Durnalik valley (there is a small hollow quarry opposite). Here I located Eastern Rock Nuthatch and was able to observe all the distinguishing features like the broad black bands on the sides of the nape and the larger size than Western Rock Nuthatch. This one was feeding a brood near the hollow and was constantly moving back and forth with insect larvae. Also in this area was a very confiding Upcher’s Warbler which is obviously bigger than Olivaceous Warbler in the field and with a longer bill and tail. It swung it’s tail in exactly the way mentioned in the Collin’s Guide! On the pylon nearby there was a singing Cretzschmar’s Bunting and I thought it sounded a little different to the birds I have heard in Western Turkey, possibly a regional accent(?) Also nearby was an Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear, Linnet, Olivaceous Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and some Red-Rumped Swallows collecting nesting material. A Blue Rock Thrush put in a brief appearance.
I decided to call a halt around 5 o’clock and seek accommodation in Gaziantep. There is no hotel accommodation in either Durnalik, Yesilce or Isikli. I booked into the Otel Katan which is a multi-storey building opposite the futbol stadium. The following morning I was back in Durnalik at 5am – I decided to walk the track mentioned in Gosney which leads through the valley floor and passes some orchards and a stream. Here I located Sombre Tit (with the distinctive wedge-shaped markings on the face), Great Tit, Syrian Woodpecker, Western Rock Nuthatch, Cinereous Bunting, White-Throated Robin, Olivaceous Warbler, Willow Warbler, Linnet, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat and Black-Headed Bunting. Hovering above the ridge opposite was a Long-Legged Buzzard.
In the afternoon, I did a bit of driving around Isikli hoping to locate Pale Rock Sparrow or Desert Finch but I struck out with both these species. Nor did I get Red-Tailed Wheatear (although I didn’t walk the “lunar landscape” area at the top of the Durnalik valley which is said to hold this species).
I spent a bit more time doing some lazy birding around Durnalik, enjoying some nice views of singing Cinereous Buntings and White-Throated Robins before moving on east towards Birecik and the Euphrates.
Birecik May 18th – May 21st
Upon entering Birecik, I noticed the Merkalem Motel on my left just before the main bridge and turned in here to secure my accommodation. The first thing I noticed about Birecik was how much hotter it was here than the other sites I had visited. There is a digital temperature guage in the town centre which was displaying 45 degrees centigrade when I passed by. I decided to try the Halfeti Road site mentioned in Gosney and headed north out of the town along the east bank of the Euphrates, noticing some of the introduced Bald Ibis on the cliffs along the way. The road is not in great condition and you have to slow to a crawl where it passes under a new bridge. I was looking out for the famous electricity sub-station but could not see it (its extremely well concealed behind some trees, the only real marker is a gravelled road opposite on the left). As it turned out, I located an even better site slightly further on. About 7Km outside the town there is a turquoise-coloured bus shelter on the right. I took the track leading to the right here which leads through some pistachio orchards and crosses a kind of wadi. I parked here and had a walkabout, quickly locating the target species – Yellow-Throated Sparrow. There were several pairs in the area and the males were singing. They appear slightly elongated with a narrower bill than house sparrows and I was able to see the distinguishing chestnut shoulder plumage and bright yellow throat markings. Many Rufous Bush Chats were present here, Pistachio seems to be their preferred habitat. A Syrian Woodpecker undulated through the orchards and a couple of Hoopoes dropped in to seek shade. The temperature here was stifling. On the way back to the town, I spotted the electricity sub-station and stopped briefly. Dead Sea Sparrow was soon located as well as Hoopoe and a Black Francolin was trumpeting somewhere in the fields behind.
After resting in the motel for a while, I tried the gravel pits to the north of the town on the west bank of the Euphrates. To get here, head west past the Merkalem and take the first road to the right. Go straight ahead, past a graveyard and you eventually reach the gravel company buildings. The road curves sharply right here and then left bringing you to the extensive complex of gravel pits and reedy pools beside the river. I spotted European Roller and Hoopoe on a pylon and a Rufous Bush Chat was singing nearby. Many Dead Sea Sparrows and Crested Larks were buzzing around in the fields on the left. In the reedbeds I could hear both Great Reed and Eurasian Reed Warbler singing. European Bee-eater also breeds here but I could not locate Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater which is mentioned in Gosney (possibly the gravel workings have displaced the colony). There are huge Sand Martin Colonies in the gravel pits and some of the earthen banks are peppered with nest holes. Hooded Crows seemed to be harassing the Sand Martins. I drove to where the road meets the Euphrates and scoped around, picking up White-winged Black Tern over the gravel pits as well as a distant Pied Kingfisher hovering over a ditch. An early morning visit to this location produced some spectacular displaying Rollers who were keeping up a constant “rahk-ak-ak” chatter and also a pair of Black-Bellied Sandgrouse who took off from the river’s edge. Hirundines moved up and down the Euphrates, primarily Sand Martins but also Barn Swallows and Common Swifts. A Couple of Whiskered Terns were spotted moving down the river. In some trees opposite, a Common Cuckoo was calling.
I decided to get up at the crack of dawn the following morning and try for Iraq Babbler. From studying trip reports, I figured that south of the town was the best option and headed past the area of Tea Gardens (including the famous Gulhane Scop’s Owl Café). After reaching a dead-end, I turned left and then sharply right onto a gravely track which winds through housing and orchards (Golden Oriole in the Poplars here) before you come to series of white concrete fence posts on your right. Turn right through the fence posts and this brings you onto a raised track which runs south right alongside the Euphrates.
One word of warning – packs of vicious feral dogs frequents the area around the fence in the early mornings! From the raised track I had Eurasian Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler in the reedy islands before catching sight of a medium-sized pale brown bird with a long fan-like tail flitting from one island of reeds to the next. It looked like an overgrown Bearded Reedling and flew with rapid wing beats, the long tail giving it the impression of a flying shuttlecock. I knew it was Iraq Babbler but had to wait for some better views. It seemed to favour the very last reedy island before open water and kept flying into deep cover here, so my guess is that there was a nest there. This is a terrific area in the early mornings with massive bird activity. Flocks of Night and Squacco Herons move down the river to their roosts with Purple & Grey Herons in singles, Pygmy Cormorants fly by, mouths open as if panting for breath. Flocks of the introduced Bald Ibis also move up and down the river. Large flocks of Coot loaf by the river bank with the odd Garganey and Little Grebe mixed in. A Common Sandpiper foraged by the reeds. Occasional Marsh Harriers drift up and down, quartering the reeds. There are also Black Francolin here trumpeting and I caught sight of one walking on some distant piles of gravel. A pair of the distinctive Middle-Eastern Little Owls were hanging out near the fence posts, one of which was enjoying a dust bath! A Hoopoe was foraging on the waste ground nearby. Red-Backed Shrikes occupy telegraph wires and the crowns of bushes and Graceful Warblers grind out their relentless mechanical song. I also located my first pair of Menetries’s Warblers here near the Iraq Babbler site. The male appeared very similar to Sardinian Warbler but closer inspection revealed the black head plumage giving way to a greyish nape.
After a highly productive morning, I returned to the motel for some R&R.
That evening I decided to try for Pallid/Striated/Bruce’s Scop’s Owl at the Gulhane Tea Gardens. I headed down around 8 o’clock and ordered a tea and some dondurma ( ice-cream) hoping to pick up some intelligence about the owls. I got into conversation with the locals but none had any real idea and suggested coming back during the day when the owls would be day-roosting.
The following day I did some more birding around the gravel pits on the north side of the Euphrates and scored cripplingly close views of a singing male Iraq Babbler. This bird was located in the reedbeds right beside the road in the first large pool on the right where there were some people fishing. It is truly an odd-looking bird with a comical decurved bill. It looks almost as though it was dreamed up as a joke. It eventually spooked and fled into deep reed cover. A drive to the east of Birecik produced my only sighting of Desert Finch. If you go though the tunnel after the Euphrates bridge and continue east for a few kilometres, you will see a road to the right beside a bus shelter. This brings you through arid country to a gorge or wadi. While scanning the gorge, a pair of Desert Finch flew up from the floor and landed in some nearby bushes.
I had dinner that evening at the Kiyi restaurant on the river which is noted for being good for watching Pied Kingfisher. I didn’t see any Kingfishers but a European Nightjar popped in to kiss the surface of the river.
Dining at the Kiyi had brought on another bout of the Sultan’s revenge and I lost about 1 day recuperating. As soon as I began to feel better, I set out to tackle the wadi which cuts through the cliffs around the Bald Ibis centre, the goal being See-See Partridge. The wadi entrance is to the left of the Ibis centre and I set off at about 9 o’clock in the morning, encountering some Austrian birders on the way. We had a brief exchange of information before they left and I continued on up the dry river bed, encountering the Rock Sparrow colony and a Common Kestrel. I walked for a good 2 - 3Km and saw very little else apart from Menetries’s Warblers and began to despair of seeing the Partridges. I turned around and had got about half the way back when something whirred upwards from the wadi floor about 20m ahead. It took cover behind a small bush on the canyon wall and I was able to scope in. I soon spotted the trade mark white stripe of male See-See. He peeped out from behind cover once or twice before flying off over the top of the gorge. Elated, I almost jogged back to the car.
This was my last day in Birecik and I headed back to the Gulhane Tea Gardens around 11 o’clock, eager to catch up with Pallid Scop’s Owl before leaving. I searched a few trees fruitlessly before asking one of the staff if he had seen the Owl. He dropped what he was doing and began to help me search for the Owl, even getting another guy to help (this is the sort of friendliness that the Turks are famous for), Eventually he pointed upwards towards the canopy of a tree near the Tea room. This guy had terrific eyesight because I could not see it even when it was pointed out to me. I had to get the scope before finding the small grey owl tucked into a cleft in the trunk. We could see the beak and eyes and he occasionally peeped down at us. A much larger Long-Eared Owl also roosts in the Tea Gardens.
Seyhan Delta May 21st – May 22nd
After leaving Birecik, I took the D400 and then the motorway back towards Gaziantep and Adana, a journey of about 250Km. Upon arriving back in Adana, I again booked into the Adana Airport Hotel since it was conveniently located near the Airport from where I would be departing on Saturday morning.
I decided to explore the Seyhan Delta area which is mentioned in the Gosney guide so on Thursday evening I again took the road south towards Karatas before turning right for Tuzla at Solaki. That evening saw some of the best birding of the whole trip. After going through the fishing village of Tuzla you arrive at Tuzla Golu and there is a kind of causeway leading up to the edge of the Mediterranean. I parked on the causeway and scanned the lagoon to my left. A small island held a noisy colony of Little Terns, many of which were sitting on eggs. There were also breeding Black-Winged Stilt, Kentish and Spur-Winged Plover and some Common Terns flew over. I scanned a group of feeding waders and picked out Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Ringed Plover and moving anonymously among the Little Stints – a Temminck’s Stint. It has a jizz very like a small Common Sandpiper as described in the book and it’s pale legs helped to distinguish it from the Little Stints. Some downy young Kentish Plovers were just out of the nest and racing about on the sand.
On the right hand side of the causeway there were some loafing Yellow-Legged Gulls and feeding Little Egrets. I took a drive around the sandy path skirting the edge of the lagoon, picking out Rufous Bush Chat, Spanish Sparrow, Red-Backed Shrike, Mediterranean Gull and a solitary Greater Flamingo.
Driving back towards Tuzla, I took a track off to the right into the extensive saltmarshes and stopped to scan the area. I soon picked out the white rumps and tern-like action of Collared Pratincoles buzzing around to my north and a Marsh Harrier cruised the area, being occasionally mobbed by the Pratincoles. More Spur-Winged Plovers lurked on the rough ground towards the edge of the saltmarsh. Short-Toed Larks were singing everywhere, both on the ground and in their soaring display flight. The area is very reminiscent of the Buyuk Menderes Delta area in Western Turkey which I have visited before and it holds many of the same species but the Tuzla Golu area is undoubtably under-visited despite featuring in the Gosney guide. I would describe it as a hidden treasure and it should be on every birder’s itinerary.
I moved eastwards through the saltmarshes along the agricultural tracks, passing a solitary farm on the left until I arrived at a marshy area on my right which held an incredible wealth of birds. The air was filled with the frizzling “scheereeps” of Calandra Lark ( one of my favourite species ) and I watched these magnificent Larks display-flighting and having aerial tussles. Many were parachuting into the heathery salicornia, where I guessed the nests were. In the marsh, Black-Winged Stilts were nesting and fending off the attentions of Black-Headed Gulls. It is incredible to watch them crouched on the nest with those massive legs folded up underneath. Whiskered Terns seemed to be breeding here as well, although many appeared to be loafing or preening. Collared Pratincoles patrolled the fringes of the marsh and as the evening drew in, several Night Herons began to appear in the longer vegetation as well as Squacco and Purple Herons. A solitary Glossy Ibis (and the only one on the entire trip) kept to itself in the middle of the marsh. Scanning the reeds produced a couple of Garganey and a single Redshank fed quietly. I could see the heads of a flock of Ruff bobbing up and down in the vegetation. The margins held Rufous Bush Chat, Red-Backed Shrike, Black-Headed Yellow Wagtail, Crested Lark and Graceful Warbler. Several Black Francolins were by now beginning to crow and some showed well out in the open which amazed me as I think this area is under quite a bit of hunting pressure.
Right beside the agricultural track, I located a nesting Short-Toed Lark crouched down tight on her eggs. About 2 metres away was a nesting Kentish Plover sitting on 3 eggs. Both these birds must have had a death wish as the nests were located inches from where the tractor tyres pass!
After an evening in paradise, I headed back to Adana, passing a White-Throated Kingfisher right by the roadside just before the village of Solaki.
I headed back to the same location the following day (Friday )for some final action before catching the flight back to London at 9:25 a.m on Saturday. This time I took a detour to the left before Tuzla down to the area that Gosney describes as “Tuzla Creek”. This area is superb for Great Reed Warbler and I had some singing at point-blank range from the car window, the orange gape wide open and pumping out that unearthly grinding song. Also common here are Eurasian Reed Warbler, Graceful Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. A Little Bittern flew across the creek before settling in some reeds and Spanish Sparrows were to-ing and fro-ing with nesting material. The euchalyptus trees on the far bank appear to hold a sizeable colony. I finished up back at the saltmarsh at Tuzla Golu catching some more Pratincole, Whiskered Tern and Lark action.
Species, Latin Name, Location
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Birecik
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Goksu Delta
Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus Birecik
*Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus Goksu Delta, Tuzla Creek
Black-Crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Goksu Delta, Birrecik, Tuzla Golu
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Birecik
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu, Birecik
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Durnalik
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Tuzla Golu
Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita Birecik
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia Goksu Delta
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Tuzla Golu
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Goksu Delta
Mallard Anas platrhynchos Goksu Delta
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Goksu Delta
Eurasian Wigeon Anas Penelope Goksu Delta
Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris Goksu Delta
Garganey Anas querquedula Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina Goksu Delta
*Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca Goksu Delta
*Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos Demircazik
Short-Toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Goksu Delta
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu, Birecik
*Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus Goksu Delta
Long-Legged Buzzard Buteo Rufinus Durnalik
Steppe Buzzard Buteo vulpinus Pozanti
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Birecik
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Goksu Delta
Peregrine Falco peregrinus Goksu Delta
*Caspian Snowcock Tetraogallus caspius Demircazik
*Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Chukar Alectoris chukar Demircazik
*See-See Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis Birecik
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Goksu Delta
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Goksu Delta, Birecik
*Grey-Headed Swamp Hen Porphyrio poliocephalus caspius Goksu Delta
Black-Winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Tuzla Golu
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola Tuzla Golu
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Goksu Delta
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Tuzla Golu
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Goksu Delta
Spur-Winged Plover Vanellus spinosus Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Dunlin Calidris alpina Tuzla Golu
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Tuzla Golu
*Broad-Billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus Goksu Delta
*Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii Tuzla Golu
Little Stint Calidris minuta Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Goksu Delta
Common Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Birecik
Redshank Tringa totanus Tuzla Golu
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Tuzla Golu
Greenshank Tringa nebularia Goksu Delta
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Black-Headed Gull Larus ridibundus Tuzla Golu
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus Tuzla Golu
Yellow-Legged Gull Larus cachinnans Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Little Tern Sterna albifrons Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Common Tern Sterna hirundo Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
White-Winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus Goksu Delta, Birecik
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Black-Belled Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis Birecik
Rock Dove Colomba livia Demircazik, Birecik
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Goksu Delta, Demircazik, Birecik, Durnalik
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Goksu Delta, Durnalik, Birecik
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Adana
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Birecik
Long-Eared Owl Asio otus Birecik
Little Owl Athene noctua lilith Birecik
*Pallid Scop’s Owl Otus brucei Birecik
*European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus Birecik
Common Swift Apus apus Goksu Delta, Birecik
Alpine Swift Apus melba Demircazik
Hoopoe Upupa epops Birecik
*White-Throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis Havutlu, Solaki
*Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Birecik
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
European Roller Coracias garrulus Goksu Delta, Birecik
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus Durnalik, Birecik
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Goksu Delta, Durnalik, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Greater Short-Toed Lark Calendrella brachydactyla Goksu Delta, Tuzla Golu
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Tuzla Golu
Shore Lark Eremophila alpestris Demircazik
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris Demircazik
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Durnalik. Goksu Delta
Red-Rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Goksu Delta, Demircazik, Durnalik
House Martin Delichon urbica Durnalik, Birecik
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Birecik, Goksu Delta
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg Goksu Delta,Birecik, Tuzla Golu
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Demircazik, Durnalik
*Yellow-Vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos Havutlu, Birecik, Durnalik, Goksu Delta
*Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris Demircazik
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Demircazik
Rufous Bush Chat Cercotrichas galactotes syriacus Goksu Delta, Durnalik, Birecik
*White-Throated Robin Irania gutturalis Durnalik, Isikli
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros ochuros Demircazik
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Demircazik
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina Demircazik
Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear Oenanthe melanoleuca Durnalik
*Finsch’s Wheatear Oenanthe finschii Demircazik
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius Durnalik
*Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis Demircazik
Blackbird Turdus merula Durnalik
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Goksu Delta, Demircazik
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris Durnalik
*Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca Goksu Delta, Demircazik
*Menetries’s Warbler Sylvia mystacea Birecik
*Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Golu
*Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon Goksu Delta
Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti Birecik
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus fuscus Goksu Delta, Birecik
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus Goksu Delta, Birecik, Tuzla Creek
*Upcher’s Warbler Hippolais languida Durnalik
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallid elaeica Durnalik, Goksu Delta
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Durnalik
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Goksu Delta
Great Tit Parus major Durnalik
*Sombre Tit Parus lugubris Durnalik
*Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus Goksu Delta
Western Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer Demircazik, Durnalik
*Eastern Rock Nuthatch Sitta tephronota Durnalik
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria Demircazik
Red-Backed Shrike Lanius collurio Goksu Delta, Demircazik, Durnalik, Birecik
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Goksu Delta, Durnalik
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus Goksu Delta
*Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor Goksu Delta
*Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris Birecik
Magpie Pica pica Demircazik
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius atricapillus Goksu Delta
Jackdaw Corvus monedula Birecik
Red-Billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Demircazik
*Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus Demircazik
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix Birecik, Demircazik
Raven Corvus corax Demircazik
Starling Sturnus vulgaris Demircazik
*Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Birecik
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Goksu Delta, Demircazik, Birecik
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Tuzla Golu
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Demircazik
*Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus Birecik
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia Demircazik, Birecik
*Yellow-Throated Sparrow Gymornis xanthicollis Birecik
*Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis Demircazik
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Durnalik
Linnet Carduelis cannabina Demircazik
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Goksu Delta
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Havutlu
European Serin Serinus serinus Havutlu
*Red-Fronted Serin Serinus pusillus Demircazik
*Crimson-Winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguine Demircazik
*Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta Birecik
*Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana Goksu Delta, Demircazik
Cretzschmar’s Bunting Emberiza caesia Durnalik
*Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea semenowi Durnalik
Black-Headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala Goksu Delta, Durnalik, Demircazik
Corn Bunting Milaria calandra Durnalik
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia Demircazik
* = First Time Sighting