Travelled by car from Girona (Spain) to Istanbul and there changed the car for a previously arranged rent car, a Peugeot Partner which took us everywhere, including some really rough dirt tracks without any problem, not even a flat tire. A total of 13.000 km was made (6.000 being Girona-Istanbul-Girona and 7.000 in Turkey)
3rd and 4th August 2001
Driving: Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey
France: Carrion Crow. Italy: Italian Sparrow. Bulgaria: Lots of Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes. Turkey: Migrating Honey Buzzards on the Turkish-Bulgarian border and an Eurasian Green Toad (Bufo viridis)
5-8-01 Istanbul-Ankara- Camlik Milli Park
Istanbul: 1 Laughing Dove, lots of Alpine Swifts. Trip Istanbul-Ankara: 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles, lots of Long-legged Buzzards. Camlik Milli Park: 2 Masked Shrikes, 2 Peregrine falcons, 6 Oriental Bonelli's Warblers, and the distinct Turkish races of Long-tailed Tit tephronota, and Jay atricapilla.
6-8-01 Sumela- Black Sea -Sivri Kaya
Way to Sumela: Eastern Race of Black Kite, Chukar, Short-toed Eagle, Hobby, Rock Nuthach, Isabelline Wheatear, Ortolan Bunting, Olivaceous Warbler, Samaniscus Redstart, Crossbill and Long-legged Buzzard, lots of Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes. We also found a dead Eagle Owl on an electricity pole.
We got lost trying to reach Sumela Monastery from the south by rough tracks (Yailadere and Kostandagi Geçidi) but saw 1 Bearded Vulture, 1 Black Vulture, Twite brevirostris, Shore Lark penicillata, Water Pipit and Susliks.
Sumela monastery: it was very noisy and plenty of people. We failed to see any Green Warbler but got Marsh Tit and Goldcrest.
Took a quite unpleasant bath at the Black Sea (very hot water and plenty of jellyfish) and drove at dusk to Sivri Kaya. Managed to drive at the rhododendron scrub on the track that leads to the Summer Village (see Israelis' Trip Report Figure).
7-8-01 Sivri Kaya-Gelinkaya-Erzurum
Sivri Kaya: got up at 5 and quickly saw Scarlet Rosefinch and Mountain Chiffchaff on the shrubs down the track. Walked through the rhododendron scrub for about 2 hours and found two resting places of Caucasian Black Grouse with feathers and eventually flushed a female. August is definitively not a good month to see this bird. Other birds seen included Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Steppe Buzzard and Marsh Warbler. Drove up to the Summer (Mountain in Gosney's) Village (nothing to do with a tourist resort as one of us thought) and parked there. Asked a local for "keklic" and he pointed the summit of a mountain, so there we went. During the climb saw 1 Crimsom-winged Finch, Northern Weatear, Ring Ouzel, Alpine Accentor, Rock Thrush, Twite, Marsh Warbler, Whitethroat, Olivaceous Warbler, Cuckoo, Chough and found a Winchat nest with just hatched chicks. As we climbed higher, clouds began to cover it all and lightning began approaching. We found some Caspian Snowcock feathers and then at about 2.900 meters we heard the impressive song of this extraordinary bird. The weather was getting worse and it was getting foggy but managed to get some ghostly views through the scope of a Caspian Snowcock before running down to the car in the middle of the storm. On the way down we saw more Scarlet Rosefinches and Tree Pipits.
Gelinkaya: We stopped at the bridge that crosses the river and went for a walk around the area. We easily saw many Semi-collared Flycatchers but failed to see any male. Also saw 1 Syrian Woodpecker, Golden Oriole. Slept at Erzurum.
8-8-01 Erzurum - Balik Gölu - Dogubayazit - Ishak Pasha Palace
Balik Gölu: it is a lake where apparently Velvet Scoters breed, although we didn't see any. Saw Ruddy Shelduck, Shoveler, Montagu's Harrier, Armenian Gull, Caspian Gull, White-winged Tern, Citrine Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, 8 young Rose-coloured Starlings, 1 Lesser Spotted Eagle, 1 Finch's Wheatear, Black-winged Stilt, Temminck's Stint, Ruff and other waders. As there is no paved road to that place (just a track) locals are not very used to tourists. So everyone stopped to try to talk to us while looking at birds and even were invited to eat at a man's house. A pity that he only spoke Turkish and we didn't, so we had to talk using a phrasebook which is quite time consuming and very limited.
Ishak Pasha Palace: At Dogubayazit there are very nice views of the Ararat Mountain, but not from Ishak Pasha Palace. Birded around the palace and saw 1 Bearded Vulture, 1 Golden Eagle, Finch's Weatear, Rock Nuthatch, Twite, 1 Grey-necked Bunting, and a Fox. Took a track that starts at a very sharp bend 500 m from the palace and slept between the first and the second camp, in front of a steep gorge.
9-8-01 Ishak Pasha Palace-Selale-Bendimahi-Van-Ercek Gölu-Nemrut Dagi
Isak Pasha Palace: Woke up at 5 and birdwatched at the hills around and saw some Grey-necked Buntings, lots of Snow Finches, Finch's Weatear, Twite, Rock Nuthatch, a family of Chukars and a female and young Mongolian Trumpeter Finch. On the way back to the car, in a small gorge saw lots of House Sparrows, Rock Sparrows and 2 Hill Sparrows, which were completely unexpected here.
A Black-bellied Sandgrouse was seen during a military control near Dogubayazit. No Bimaculated Larks were seen but lots of Snow Finches.
Selale Waterfall: This place acts as migrant trap as it's a fresh wooded island in the middle of a very dry landscape. 1 Dipper, Hobby, Olivaceous Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher (again no male), Samaniscus Redstart, Grey Wagtail and the surprise was a Booted Warbler. It could be seen next to an Olivaceous Warbler that was of great help for comparison. It flicked its tail constantly upwards, unlike Olivaceous. Terrapins were seen in the river.
Bendimahi Marshes: Just looked just from the bridge: Little Bittern, Slender-billed Gull, Moorhen, Lapwing, Marsh harrier, White-winged Tern, Gull-billed Tern.
Van Marshes: it was very disappointing. Site 4 of Gosney's had literally disappeared. On site 2 there was no reed to be seen and it was plenty of people. Probably it is harvested during the summer. On site 1 there was a small patch of reed where one of us saw a Paddyfield Warbler. Other birds seen in the reed included Reed Warbler fuscus, Great Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting caspia and we heard but could not see an unidentified Porzana rail. Birds seen in the marsh: Mediterranean Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet and Lesser Kestrel around the castle.
Ercek Gölu: at the marshes next to the road there were Coots, Little Grebe and a pair of White-headed Ducks. The lake itself hosted hundreds of Black-necked Grebes and the marshes at Karagündüz village were plenty of birds, numbering thousands: Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Garganey, Snipe, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The marsh was plenty of terrapins.
Went to sleep inside Nemrut Dagi's crater. On the way up saw lots of funny looking Jerbos which were flashed by the lights of the car and could be seen very well, as well as an Eurasian Green Toad and a Fox.
10-8-01 Nemrut Dagi-Bulanik-Siirt
Nemrut Dagi: Looked for Velvet Scoters in the lake inside the crater, again with no success. Looked for Bimaculated Larks but just found Calandra Larks. There was not much birdlife around so we took the right hand track (see Israelis' report or Gosney's) until a small lake with some reed. There we saw Spotted Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, a superb Bluethroat in breeding plumage, 1 male and 2 females White-throated Robin, 2 Red-fronted Serins, Hoopoe, Ring Ouzel, Red-backed Shrike, Mallard, Olivaceous Warbler and a Griffon Vulture. On the way down from Nemrut Dagi, we found three big Testudo ibera turtles.
Tried to reach Bulanik through Ovakishla as the road passes through some very promising lakes (Nazik and Haçli), but it was closed due to PKKs activity. After having tea with the militaries at the control (exactly as Kristensen), had to go back and try an alternative route which was much longer and birdless apart from 2 Egyptian Vultures. If you try to reach Bulanik from Nemrut Dagi, go back to Tatvan and don't try our route!
Finally reached Bulanik much later than expected. Tried site 1 of Gosney's and saw Montagu's Harrier, Gull-billed Tern, White-winged Tern, Little Tern and Oystercatcher. Site 4 at Yoncali was the place. We crossed the village and went on a not very promising track. After a while saw a track leading to a gravel pit, which we followed. There we saw Asian Short-toed Lark and checking the river bank with the scope, saw very distantly 2 unidentified cranes. Drove cross country on that direction (there was no track but it was OK) until we were at distance far enough not to disturb the birds but close enough to see them with the scope and there they were: 2 superb adult Demoiselle Cranes. With them there were Ruddy Shelducks, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, 3 Great White Egrets, 1 Marsh Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plovers. After a while a rain and sand storm drew us out of there with an unrecognisable muddy car.
Then drove south finding some Testudo turtles on our way. Our intention was to reach Cizre but because of the extra time spend to reach Bulanik, it got dark just when we were past Siirt, although we had time to see 2 Eastern Rock Nuthatch, and a Blue Rock Thrush while taking a picture of the spectacular river Tigris canyon. We were stopped by a military control and were told to go back because that road is closed at night because of terrorism threat. Went back and saw many Nightjars, 2 Hedgehogs and a Fox. Slept at Siirt.
Tried again at dawn the road to Cizre but were told that it did not open until 7. So tired with military controls went back and drove through Batman making again many extra kilometres. After Batman one of us saw an adult Rose-coloured Starling and we saw some Bimaculated-looking Larks, but at 120 km/h it is hard to tell, and we could not stop because the road was very narrow and busy. A few kilometres before Cizre, at Idil the road crosses a wadi (see Prion's). We stopped there and saw a family of See-see Partridges (we did see See-see!) plus Finch's Weatear, Crested Larks and some Agamas. Reaching at last Cizre (after many military controls), crossed the Tigris River and looked for a vantage point. Didn't see any where we could stop but saw a perfect road but its access was blocked by a chain. As there was no one around, passed the chain and stopped at a suitable place. On a river island there were about 30 Red-wattled Lapwings! As we were looking at them some men came shouting to us and told us to get out of there as it seems that road was restricted to military use.
Then we drove to Birecik along the Syrian border, a very straight road and it began getting hotter and hotter. We reached 46'3º C! Once at Birecik went to Kiyi Restaurant (site 9 in Gosney's) which was our salvation. There we had a bath in river Euphrates and it was a temperature shock: water is freezing cold! Then ate delicious fish in a shadow next to the river while looking at Pygmy Cormorants, Pied Kingfishers and Olivaceous Warblers. An advice: don't drink much raki if you pretend birding in the afternoon. Went birding at the orchards mentioned in Gosney's and in spite of the raki managed to see: Rufous Scrub Robin, Desert Finch, Olivaceous Warbler, Upcher's Warbler and Ménétries Warbler. At dusk we went at the famous café and asked for some drinks. While being served, asked for "Baikush", which is Turkish for Owl, and the waiter quickly showed us a Striated Scops Owl perched on a tree. We rewarded the waiter with 5 million Turkish liras and he was really happy, but not as much as we were!
Woke up at 5 and went again to the orchards were we saw female and young Dead Sea Sparrow. We were quite disappointed not to see any male. Maybe at this time of the year males don't have the plumage shown in guides. There were also House Sparrows around, which were useful to compare size, bill and song. We also saw 4 Laughing Doves, 2 Rufous Scrub Robin and 2 Sombre Tits.
After that we visited the wadi next to the Bald Ibis Centre and failed to see Little Swift, Desert Lark and See-see Partridge but found some feathers of them latter. We saw many Ménétries Warbler, Rufous Scrub Robin and an Agama. Then visited the Bald Ibis Centre and at 8 scanned the river looking for Sandgrouses, but failed to see any.
Went at the gravel pits and saw some very beautiful Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, 4 Pied Kingfishers, 2 Yellow-throated Sparrows, 2 Desert Finches and Graceful Warblers. The surprise came with a persistent call that we identified as Black Francolin, which wasn't mentioned on that area in our bibliography. Failed to see that one but on our way back we heard a second one and after some scanning located it singing on a sand pile.
Took a refreshing bath in River Euphrates and had breakfast at Kiyi Restaurant and drove to Isikli. It was terribly hot but even though tried some birding and saw: a group of Hill Sparrows, Rock Sparrows, 2 White-throated Robins, Sombre Tit, Upcher's Warbler, Black-eared Weatear and 3 Cinereous Buntings.
Spent the evening at Durnalik and saw White-throated Robin, Sombre Tit, Great Rock Nuthatch, Black-eared Weatear, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Cinereous Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat and a Peregrine Falcon eating its prey.
Drove to Demirkazik and slept at the Israelis' place. It is a really rough track (how could they do it with a Renault 9?!) but somehow we managed to get there in the middle of the night. Saw a Fox and an Eurasian Green Toad on the way up.
Woke up late. We saw an Ibex, Chough and Alpine Chough. Started climbing to the chromium mine and on our way up we saw Crimson-winged Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Water Pipit, Shore Lark, Alpine Accentor and lots of Snow Finches. Eventually got to the chromium mine and saw about 7 Caspian Snowcocks. On the way down around the main stream we saw about 5 Radde's Accentors, Crimsom-winged Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrush, and hundreds of Snow Finches.
On the way down tried again for Bimaculated Lark but just found Shore, Crested and Woodlarks plus Ortolan Bunting. Slept on a mountain plateau between Geshilhi and Ürgup where Bimaculated Larks had seen by a Spanish birdwatcher some time ago.
14-8-01 Cappadocia-Göksü Delta-Dalyan
Woke up at dawn and quickly saw Bimaculated Lark (at last!) and a female Black-headed Bunting. Drove to Göreme Valley to have some views of the Cappadocia (Golden Oriole and Green Woodpecker) and drove south to Göksü Delta. It was very disappointing. Just saw Flamingos, Little Egrets, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Kingfisher and White-tinged Terns. Then drove west and realised for the first time that a lot of driving was needed to reach our next destination, which was Akseki, and a lot more the next day to reach Dalyan. So finally we decided to bin Akseki and go directly to Dalyan as we were quite tired of so much driving and intensive birdwatching and wanted to rest the following day. Got to Dalyan at 4 am. Stopped at a wooded area (approx. site 6 of Gosney's).
15-8-01 Dalyan-Resadiye Peninsula
"Slept" a little bit and woke up at 5 and quickly saw Cretzchmar's Bunting and Rüppell's Warbler and a Woodpecker on an olive-tree was a Middle-spotted Woodpecker! Also saw Red-rumped Swallow and Rock Nuthatch. At site 3 of Gosney's saw Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler and Penduline Tit. At the Liquidambar forest 2 more Middle-spotted Woodpeckers were seen. Then drove to Resadiye Peninsula via Marmaris and visited the Knidos roman ruins where Cretzchmar's Bunting was very common and Rüppell's Warbler also proved easy. All the afternoon was spent resting on a very beautiful and solitary beach.
16-8-01 Resadiye Peninsula
The whole day was spent resting and seawatching. Most interesting fishes seen were Grouper (Epinephelus guaza), Golden Grouper (Epinephelus alexandrinus), Parrotfish (Sparisoma cretense), Moray Eel (Muraena helena), Cardinalfish (Apogon imberbis) and Lizzard fish (Synodus saurus).
Birds seen: Cretzchmar's Bunting, Rüppell's Warbler, Chukar, Cory's Shearwater and Shag. Slept in another nice beach near Dösheme where we found II century AC amphora pieces while snorkelling!
17-8-01 Resadiye Peninsula-Manyas-Istanbul
Woke up and went to Datça to take a ferry to Bodrum. We almost run over a Chameleon, which we took out of the road and put on a tree. What an incredible creature! On the ferry we just saw some Cory's Shearwaters. Drove to Manisa where a Natural Park was shown in the map (Sipil Dashi) in a last attempt to see Krüper's Nuthatch but it was unsuccessful. Anyway we saw a possible Collared Flycatcher (again a female!) and one of us saw a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Then drove to Manyas where there were about 600 White Pelicans and some Dalmatian Pelicans. The scope was very useful as the observation tower is very far from the birds resting area! Took the Bandirma-Istanbul ferry.
In the Bosphorus there was a continual activity of passing Yelkouan Shearwaters and there were also Cormorants and Pilot Whales. But one of the highlights of the trip were the migrating White Storks with an incredible single flock of about 7.000 individuals!!! plus many other smaller flocks and some groups of Honey Buzzards and a Short-toed Eagle.
Did the conventional tourist things in Istanbul, including a Turkish bath which made disappear most of our supposed sun tan (!) and took a boat trip to the Bosphorus which provided great looks at the Yelkouan Shearwaters and Mediterranean Gulls.
Way back home, with a Goshawk in Croatia.
A total of 242 species were seen. August is not the best time to visit Turkey (nor anywhere else we think) but with effort (and luck) almost everything can be seen although plumages are not at their best (where have all the males gone?).
Although you know and have been told that Turkey is a very big country it is even bigger than you suppose. So a comfortable car and extra drivers are required if you intend such kilometre madness as ours. Big days passion has been a great training for this trip: little sleep, just 3 days sleeping in hotels, the rest bivouacs, little food, a lot of walking, very hot, and a lot, lot of driving.
In the east, almost no one speaks English. A Turkish phrasebook is essential and some German and French is of great help, for many Turks have been working in Europe. Also it is advisable to have some football vocabulary. When meeting a Turk, for instance in military controls, if they don't speak English of German, if you don't understand what the hell they are saying to you, say the name of your country followed by the word "tourist". Then say "football" and then ask: "Galatasaray or Fenerbaçe?" If the answer is Galatasaray then say: "Hagi, Popescu, Suat" which are names of players of that team and if the answer is Fenerbaçe then say: "Revivo". By signalling yourself say the name of one your country's football teams which he will for sure know.
Turks are very friendly people and have a great sense of hospitality. Don't be surprised if you are offered tea because of filling your car's petrol tank or without any apparent reason. In general tourists are treated very well and sometimes you will feel as if you were a fair attraction as everyone keeps staring at you without any complex. Their sense of time is completely different than ours, so take your time to do anything because they are not in a hurry.
Food is excellent and so is bread. We particularly liked rice, musaka, all kinds of kebab and many other things which name we don't remember. We were very careful with water and always treated non-bottled water and avoided raw vegetables when possible. Just one of us caught Turkish Tummy and the rest just had warnings that were quickly cut with proper medication. In some areas of the south, mosquito repellent is needed for it is said to be a Malaria zone.
Turkey is a very beautiful and BIG country. Probably a whole month is required to do what we did in a more relaxed way.