We flew to Antalya on a cheap charter flight booked through Wildwings for £149, 4 hour direct flight with Air 2000, £15 to upgrade to extra leg-room seats - well worth it. Total cost of trip all inclusive was £750 each (including 2 litres of duty free) - very good value for money.
Hire car booked through Holiday Autos, was a 1.2 Fiat Siena 4 door with AC and a surprisingly large boot. Adequate, but a little underpowered when overtaking and going up hills. £408 for 2 weeks including all insurance, £130 excess. We were not charged for the extra driver on the insurance. Ali Barut the hire car guy from Almira was exceptionally helpful and friendly meeting us at the airport, taking us to a café for tea and a chat to do the paperwork. When we returned the car early we phoned him and he spent 3 hours entertaining us with his interesting conversation about life in Turkey and his travels abroad until we could check in our luggage. A great guy, the most helpful hire car person I have ever met in all my travels! A+ for customer service.
Do not exceed 99 km per hour on the 2 way single roads (90 limit) or you will get stopped by the police and fined. We got stopped when Gordon was driving at 128 kph in a 90 limit, $98 on the spot fine!
The police had concealed their radar gun behind a tree 3 km before the actual police checkpoint, so even though Gordon slowed down when the checkpoint was visible 2 km away we had already been caught. Police speed checks were commonplace on single 2 way roads but we didn't see any on the superb toll motorway (£1.50 for 300 km Gaziantep-Mersin) along the coast ,speed limit here 120 kph.
Advisable not to drive at night, Turkish roads are poorly lit and marked, we saw many vehicles and some animals without lights and poor lane discipline. Turkish drivers are worse than the Italians, overtaking on blind bends etc. Beware of the overloaded HGVs, saw several burnt out beside the roads.
Euros seem to be the favoured currency for hotels, restaurants etc particularly in the Germanic dominated tourist areas along the coast. At the time of writing £1 = 2.3 mill T.lira, beware of the fact that many of the notes look similar
Most Turkish people were very friendly and helpful, although few speak English. Learn a little Tukish before you go, it is well received by the locals.
Petrol price is similar to UK. Hotels averaged 20-30 million TL, about £9-14, very cheap for a twin, en-suite room. Some were even cheaper, but were very basic
26/5: Arrived into Antalya on time at 0400, picked up our hire car from Almira and drove to Akseki. Arrived at site 4 in the Gosney guide at 7 a.m. Eastern Bonellis Warblers, Black-eared Wheatears, Spotted Flycatcher, Krupers Nuthatch - 2, Crossbills, Orphean Warbler, Masked and Red-backed Shrikes, but no woodpeckers.
Akseki Cemetry 10 a.m. Black-headed and Corn Buntings, Turtle Doves, Orphean but no sniff of an Olive Tree Warbler. Booked into the reasonable Durat hotel in Akseki town, TL 20 million.
Walled Plantation 2 p.m. Golden Orioles, Cretzschmars Buntings, Rollers, Masked Shrikes, but little else, drove back towards Akseki, 0.5 km from the main Akseki bypass to Akseki town on RHS of dual carriageway we stopped speculatively and heard Olive Tree Warbler. We investigated and were rewarded with close, excellent views of 2 birds for 40 minutes, perched up and frequently flying around rocky outcrops with bushes, very obliging. Never saw one at the famous Cemetry stakeout.
27/5: Site 3, 7.9 km from Akseki along dirt track past the disgusting refuse dumping ground in otherwise pristine countryside. 6.30 Ruppell's Warbler several males scoped. Rock Buntings, heard the soft "klip klip" of the White-backed Woodpecker but it never showed despite tape luring. Long-legged Buzzards. Went back to hotel and packed up after breakfast called in at our new site for Olive Tree Warbler and saw them again on way back to main road. Drove via Konya to Kulu Gulu booked into Otel Atay for TL 20 mill twin room.
Late pm western side of Kulu Gulu Lake. Isabelline Wheatears, Asian Short-toed Larks, Collared Pratincoles, Gull-billed Terns, Mediterranean Gulls, Greater Flamingos, Ruddy Shelducks, Red-crested Pochards, Quail, Purple Herons, Marsh Harriers, Calandra Larks, Feldegg Yellow Wagtails, White Storks, Great Reed Warbler, Bearded Tits, White-headed Duck- 30, Squacco Herons, Little Stint-20, Oystercatchers, Glossy Ibis, Kentish Plovers, Long-legged Buzzard.
28/5: 6.30 Started from the east and eventually circumnavigated lake by taking some rough tracks (be careful!) thousands of hirundines, Little Ringed Plovers, Slender-billed Gulls, 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Greylags, Black-tailed Godwits, saw a Hobby pursuing and eventually catch a Little Stint, similar birds to yesterday, a wonderful lake well worth visiting.
Left early pm stopping near Guzelyurt on way to Sultan Marshes, Black-eared Wheatears, Nightingales, Calandra Lark, Rock sparrows, Syrian Woodpecker, Orpheans, Olivaceous, Ortolan Bunting, Shore Lark, Tawny Pipit
Ciftlik-Golcuk excellent view of 2 White-throated Robins, videoed perched on phone line singing after heavy rain shower, Turtle doves.
Spent the night in Yayyahli, Otel Taruk, TL 7 million each for a single room each, at last a respite from Gordon's snoring! The hotel was very basic but we had no choice, only other alternative was a long drive off to the big town north of Sultan Marshes in torrential rain.
29/6: Sultan Marshes about 30 km from Yayyahli. Paid $40 for a 3.5 hour punt ride into the reedbeds and lake. Well worth it. Good views of Moustached, Great Reed. Savis Warblers, Black Stork, Little Bittern videoed, Hobbies, Great White Egrets, Whiskered Terns, Red necked Grebes, Caspian Reed Warbler (possible split). Drove to pumping station and 'vandalised' observation tower, Alpine Swifts, terns, Little Owl, Lesser Grey Shrike. The marshes are slowly being drained virtually drying up in the height of summer we were told.
Drove to Demircazik and birded the area around the Mountain Ski Centre, Snow Finch, L'esser Whitethroat, Choughs, Rock Sparrows. We could have stayed at the modern Ski Centre for TL30 mill for twin en-suite room but the staff were not friendly, spoke no English and there was no food available on site, a pity because it is a fantastic location for birding. Apparently it is owned and run by the government with courses for Turkish policemen, govn. officials etc. It is possible to camp here as well.
Stayed at the very hospitable and knowledgable Hasan Safak's Pension, $75 for 2 nights all food and tractor ride up the mountain. An excellent place to stay, but not en-suite and no hot water if the weather is cloudy, (solar heating).
Hasan let me send an e-mail back home to UK, tea is always available and the trout is excellent! Hasan has a website and his e-mail for booking accommodation. Is firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 00 90388 7247039
30/5: Demirkazik, up at 3.45 a.m. for tractor ride up mountain, it was overcast and windy not too good for Snowcock spotting! Arrived at the top at about 5 a.m. Heard the curlew like call of the Snowcock but they refused to show. It started to drizzle and then rain hard, only managed 2 Ring Ouzels, 2 Alpine Choughs before the weather became unbirdable and we admitted defeat. The tractor ride down the mountain was much worse than going up, got soaked to the skin and covered in mud from the tractor's wheels. We were a sad couple of muppets on our return to the pension - quite a sight!
Still raining in the afternoon but we ventured out to the lower part of the gorge sheltering in the lee of the cliffs. 2 perched wet looking Golden Eagles, 2 Snow Finch, Crag Martins, Alpine Swifts were our only recompense.
31/5: Mountains covered in fog/low cloud and still some rain so we abandoned Demirkazik until later on in the trip and drove all the way to Birecik through torrential rain for some of the journey. White-throated Robin, Cuckoo, Cetti's Warbler en route near Camardi. The new toll motorway is excellent and cheap.
Birecik, weather had cleared by now, sunny and warm in Birecik, saw the Northern Bald Ibis on the cliffs, Pygmy Cormorants on the Euphrates, Menetries Warblers easy to see, Dead Sea Sparrows nesting in the Ibis Centre, Long-eared Owls, Bee-eaters. Yellow throated Sparrows in the Pastachio Orchard as described in Gosney, Graceful Warblers, Rufous Bush Robin. Tried the Owl café beside the park and river in the evening Long-eared Owls and a brief view of a Scops Owl spp in fading light, it looked pale but we only had a 6 second view before it flew off into the gloom. Booked into the v. comfortable Otel Merkalam by the bridge, TL 25 mill for nice AC room with sat TV inc BBC news 24.
1/6: 6.20 ICBP Ibis Gorge, sunny warm. See-see Partridge - 3 flushed on rocky plateaux above gorge, seen 4 times in flight, distinctive "whip whip whip" call. Pale Rock Sparrows (buzzing call)` Menetries family feeding 3 young fledglings, Black-bellied Sandgrouse - 25, Honey Buzzard.
Tried the Cream-coloured Courser site mentioned in Gosney on way to Halfeti, no luck at all. Halfeti gorge north of village and lake through narrow track Red-rumped Swallows, Pale Rock Sparrows, Little Swift, Rock Nuthatch - 3, Rose-coloured Starlings - c100, Menetries Warbler.
Went back to the blue fountain café on the other side of the road from the park by the river. The café garden is next to a derelict wooded plot which is next to a big park. The Long-eared Owl family were performing well.
At 7.30 pm I spotted a Scops Owl spp perched up high about 15 metres from the fountain, ( I had scanned this obvious perch 15 minutes before and there was nothing so the Owl must have flown in from elsewhere) We scoped it and studied the bird in detail over the next 20 minutes. Striated Scops Owl - no doubt about it, rounder face less erect ear tufts, thin black streaks on pale breast, no white blotches in-between striations, lacked white spots on scapulars, buffish. Also the scops spp owl we saw briefly last night did not respond to a scops owl call played on my tape.
2/6: 7-9.30 Gravel working area by Euphrates, Black Francolin, Night Heron, Black-bellied Sandgrouse - 4, Rollers, Pygmy Cormorants, 1 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater flew over calling. Park at the end of the dirt track by gate and walk up hump and along gravel pits to view you can then walk back beside the river. Tried again for the Striated Scops Owl but no joy, so left Birecik and drove along E 400 to Islikli signposted off the main road from Yesilice.
Isikli, valley through orchard to rocky moonscape plateaux. Parked in village where the locals were curious but friendly. Upchers Warbler, all dark tail which it swings about, harsh "zack" call, PR Sparrows, Black-eared Wheatears, Cinerous Buntings, Rock and Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Desert Finch, Sombre Tit, White-throated Robins, Long-tailed Tits. No sign of the fabled Red tailed Wheatears despite 5-6 hours of intensive scanning and walking around the moonscape area. Birdquest saw some here in 2002.
Durnalik Valley lower part 5-7 pm, White-throated Robins, Cinerous, Sombre Tits, Olivaceous Warbler. Drove back to Gazentep for the night, Otel Kazan TL 39 mill for nice ensuite, twin including an excellent cooked breakfast buffet at 6.30am next a.m.
3/6: Durnalik Valley 8-10.30, good views of Upchers Warbler, Cinerous Buntings, Short-toed Eagle, Pale Rock Sparrows, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Cretzschmars Bunting, Sombre Tits, Desert Finch, Black-eared Wheatears, Lesser Whitethroats. We were 2/3 of the way up the valley about 2 km from the car when I looked back with my bins towards the car and saw to my horror kids around the vehicle attempting to break in. Gordon scoped them and told me one boy had a rock in his hand and was about to smash a window! So I blew my trusty whistle as hard as I could, at which point the boys looked indecisive and ran off. We decided to take no chances as all our luggage was in the vehicle and we had not bought windscreen glass insurance, so abandoned our quest for the Red-tailed Wheatear and went back to the car fast. Phew! No damage. All OK, and Gordon collared one of the boys he recognised as the ringleader of the potential car thieves and "had words" involving violent gesticulations as to what would have happened to him if the car had been damaged, (Gordon is 6 foot plus and 15 stone) Would suggest if you visit this site that you park in the village where there are adults around and walk back down to the valley track.
Drove back to Demircazik through more rain which cleared when we got to the mountains, what a relief! Had excellent views of 100+ Red-fronted Serins in the nomad valley up from Cukarburg, Rock Nuthatch, Golden Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, Choughs , Shore Larks and a playful pair of Peregrines, couldn't string them into Sakers unfortunately, despite Saker being supposedly more common than Peregrine this time of year according to Hassan.
Stayed with Hassan once more with a group of 8 Dutch birders also staying there.
4/6: Up again early for the dreaded tractor ride up the mountain at 4 am in the dark. However this time the weather was perfect, sunny and clear but rather cold first thing, (take a hat and gloves)
The Snowcocks were calling on arrival but again proved elusive, we only nailed them after 50 minutes of hard scanning, seeing Wallcreeper as well. Caspian Snowcock - 2 on distant crag about 1.5 km away rather unsatisfactory views `so myself and Gordon scrambled closer over the rocky scree so we could scope them from 500 metres away, Hasan returned down the mountain in his tractor. Much better scope views + we saw another four fly along the cliff face giving a different call to the usual curlew wail. Excellent!
Also found a Raddes Accentor nest a pair showing well, Crimson-winged Finches, Ring Ouzels, Water Pipits, Alpine Choughs, Chukars, Black Redstarts (more red on flanks different subspp), Rock Thrush and Crag Martins. A stunning place to bird, but hard work climbing up the rocky scree. Even managed to video the Snowcock through my scope but more of a record shot.
Walked down the spectacular gorge seeing a close but brief Wallcreeper 10 metres away, Woodlark, and Apollo Blue butterflies. Descending the gorge is tricky, best done without the hindrance of a scope and tripod. You need to be reasonably nimble and fit as it involves a bit of rock scrambling. Well worth the effort though!
The Snowcocks were still calling and showing occasionally at 9-10 a.m. so it is still possible to see them later on if you are not an early bird, getting up at 3.30 a.m. is no fun on holiday! Our best views were 6.30-7.30 a.m. Took it easy and kipped for a few hours in the afternoon, very tiring this birding lark ,but rewarding!
5/6: Realised we still hadn't seen Finsch's Wheatear so made a concerted effort to see some this morning. Male and female 0.5km left of Ski Centre on cemetry walls showing well, Ortolan, Shore Larks, Susliks, Tawny Pipit, Long-legged Buzzard. Went back to the Nomad valley up rough track through Cukarburg, more Red-fronted Serins, Peregrines, Golden Eagle. Paid Hasan, $85 for 2 nights accom, all food, 2 beers and another bone shaking tractor ride. Left Demirkazik at 1.30 pm and drove to the Goksu Delta, very hot. Booked into a hotel in nearby town TL 20mill overlooking harbour where ferry goes to Cyprus. Drove through holiday village and checked out the beach. Lesser crested Tern flew past, a probable distant Audouins Gull, 13 Night Herons,
Yellow-vented Bulbul and best of all, I picked up a distant skua shaped bird scudding over the sea which materialised into a stunningly agile Eleanora's Falcon, a lifer for me, a raptor I have longed to see. Black Francolin calling.
6/6: 8 windy and sunny drove through holiday village to runway along sandy track to new observation tower overlooking Lake Akgol. Very windy, Marsh Harriers, Purple Gallinules, Little and Whiskered, White-winged Black Terns, Raven, Stilts, Marbled Teal, White Storks you can continue round and bird from the new hides as well all signposted. The car decided to pack up, starter motor gone. Luckily Gordon's mobile worked in Turkey so we called the hire company and a mechanic arrived 2 hours later to repair the car, least we could bird in the interim. We drove another 3 km and then the car wouldn't start again. Called the mechanic back and he changed a cable and some electrics and the car worked, lost 4 hours fiddlingg about with the car. Citrine Wagtail, Spanish Sparrows. Walked along the turtle beach site 8 in Gosney to scope the gulls at the end of the spit (The walk through the reeds by the river mouth was virtually impassable without wading through thick mud so we abandoned the walk.) Saw some turtle snouts and backs poking up out of the sea close to the beach probably green turtles. Had excellent views of 2 Audouins Gulls 3 km from site 8, + Sanderling in summer plumage, Grey Plover and a lovely adult Greater Sand Plover in the evening light. Fantastic!
We had now seen all my target birds. 25 lifers in the Western Palearctic, not bad and probably unrepeatable for me to see that many lifers in one 2 week trip.
7/6: Drove to the gorge 10 km north of Silifke, layby off D750. Excellent views of 2 dog fighting Eleanora's Falcons around the cliffs, Rock Nuthatch, Masked Shrikes, Alpine Swifts, but no Krupers or Vultures as suggested by Gosney. Drove the 350 km along the twisty turny coast road back to Akseki, very slow, but wonderfully scenic. We got done for speeding when the road straightened out and you could go faster, (see tips) Back to Otel Durak, TL20 mill for 1 night.
8/6: Didn't see or hear the Olive Tree Warbler at the site we found 2 weeks ago, Ruppells, Olivaceous, Masked Shrike. Went back to site 4 on Akseki bypass. Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Found a Krupers nest hole low down in a pine tree, LHS of clearing on slope. Excellent views for next 50 mins regularly visiting the hole every 4 mins or so to feed the chicks and carry away faecal deposits. Also Red Squirrel, Redstarts, Spotted Flycatcher, Sombre Tits, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Nuthatch etc.
Returned to Akseki for lunch and wrote up notes and lazed around in afternoon till 8 pm when we drove back to the airport to check in for 2 am. 4.15 a.m. flight back to Gatwick.
Drove 3,220 km in total, 201 species, and 25 lifers for me, not bad. We were contemplating going all the way up to Sivri Kaya for the Black Grouse but the days we lost due to bad weather put pay to that idea. Its also a hell of a long way, probably better to do it on a separate trip also taking in Lake Van or maybe even Armenia/Georgia for Great Rosefinch. Maybe next Spring!
Excellent trip, very enjoyable despite 2-3 days of bad weather, car breaking down temporarily, attempted break in and speeding fine! Birding would be too easy if nothing ever went wrong!
We birded at a reasonable pace, usually up by 6-6.30 and often birding towards dusk. We avoided driving at night except to and from the airport. Its much better to bird at a reasonable pace than burn yourself out attempting to fit in too much, you will definitely enjoy it more and have less risk of an RTA as you will be knackered the whole time. The charter flights into Antalya only went once a week so the choice was either a 1 or 2 week trip. You could cram in our itinerary in 7 days but any bad weather would scupper your plans and you would need to drive after dark which is ill advised based on our experience of Turkish drivers and road conditions.
Got some good video footage of many of the birds, definitely worth bringing a small camcorder with you.
Hope to return to northern Turkey some time in the future.
Systematic List: Full details of the more interesting sightings in the report above.
Great crested Grebe
Red necked Grebe
Great White Egret
Northern Bald Ibis
White headed Duck
Little Ringed Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Lesser black-backed Gull
Lesser Crested Tern
White-winged Black Tern
Long eared Owl family
Scops Owl (heard)
Striated Scops Owl
Blue cheeked Bee-eater
White-backed Woodpecker (heard only)
Asian Short-toed Lark
Blue Rock Thrush
Eastern Orphean Warbler
Hume's Lesser Whitethroat
Caspian Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Olive Tree Warbler
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
Great Rock Nuthatch
Lesser Grey Shrike
Dead Sea Sparrow
Pale Rock sparrow