Dalyan, Turkey, 10th - 24th May 2004

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by Mike and Caroline Rigg

This was our 15th stay in Turkey and 3rd holiday in Dalyan, which is a small town inland from the coast but scenically situated on the Dalyan river. This was a package holiday staying at the Plane Tree Hotel in the centre of the town. Dalyan is a good mix of quiet and scenic with enough small shops and eating places to keep you occupied when not out bird-watching! The town is about 20 minutes away from the airport at Dalaman.

Most Turkish people - though friendly and hospitable - seem to find it baffling that anyone would actually want to go out walking and watching birds. However, the Dalyan Delta is a conservation area and the beach (Iztuzu Beach) where marine turtles lay their eggs is fully protected (when we were there in May we saw the remains of many newly hatched turtle eggs on the beach and one distinctive track where a turtle had come up the beach, laid her eggs and returned to the sea). Turkey as a whole is not exactly renowned for nature conservation and bird-watching here is generally hard work - a lot of effort seems to result in very few birds seen, especially given the apparently perfect habitat and conditions.

As we don't drive our birdwatching is limited to that which can be achieved on foot. There are a lot of relatively easy walks around Dalyan, the longest one to Iztuzu (Turtle) Beach via the mountain road - very scenic and productive for birds but a very long hot slog. Trips to historic sites and ruins also provide good birdwatching opportunities. There is no denying that without a car you are limited in the birds you can expect to see but, given that restriction we had a pretty good tally. As well as birds we saw plenty of (harmless) water snakes, freshwater turtles, blue crabs, tortoises, lizards, and frogs. Sadly, no Hoopoes, Bee-eaters, Kingfishers or Syrian Woodpeckers though we have seen all of these here in years past.

Sites

Iztuzu Road - a long hot level stretch of road initially through farmland then with a high mountain crag on one side and reed beds and lagoon on the other, leading to a winding stretch up and over the mountain to Iztuzu Beach. This walk is quite an endurance test but you can always catch a Dolmus (mini-bus) back to Dalyan from the beach or only do the first stretch as far as the lagoon. Incidentally, before tackling the mountain stretch, suggest you stop at the Ekin Club (not as swanky as it sounds - nothing is in Turkey!) on the shores of the lagoon for a cool drink and a honey pancake.

Dalyan Delta - the conventional way to get to the beach if you don't want to walk or catch a Dolmus is to take a water taxi from Dalyan. These take you on a 30-40 minute scenic trip down the main channel of the river through the reedbeds of the delta (and will also drop you off at the ruins of Caunos across the river from Dalyan on request). However, not usually very good for birdwatching as the boats cause too much disturbance.

Iztuzu Beach - a long sweeping and (in May at least) virtually deserted stretch of sandy beach, backed at the western end by the river and lagoon and at the eastern end by a low rocky outcrop, small shallow lake and low mountain range. The western end is served by the water taxis from Dalyan and the eastern end by Dolmus via the road.

Fields and wetland between Dalyan and the sea - a lane at the southern end of Dalyan leads out into farmland (sometimes with flooded fields), bisected with rhynes (irrigation channels) and leading on to a small expanse of wetland.

Dalyan River and Koycegiz Lake - organised trips can be arranged or boats hired to go up the river from Dalyan to Koycegiz Lake, a very large and beautiful expanse of water bordered on one side by mountains and on the other by extensive reedbeds.

Fields and rubbish dump(!) behind Dalyan - a pleasant riverside path takes you out of Dalyan to open fields around the local sports stadium and a craggy hillside which hides the town rubbish dump.

Species List:

Greater Flamingo - a single bird in all white plumage seen on 2 occasions in the shallow lake behind Iztuzu Beach (at the "road" end of the beach).

Purple Heron - very common around the whole area; several seen in flight over Dalyan as well as individuals seen in the wetlands from the Iztuzu Road

Grey Heron - not as common as Purple Herons but several seen in the wetlands, reedbeds and lagoon.

Squacco Heron - 2 seen perched in reeds in Dalyan river on the way to Koycegiz Lake and a party of 3 flying low overhead and then perched in low trees in farmland wetlands behind Dalyan.

Little Egret - very common in the area; seen regularly in the wetlands and at the base of the crag on the Iztuzu Road.

White Stork - extremely common everywhere in and around Dalyan. A pair with 2 young occupied a nest on a telegraph pole within yards of our hotel and other nesting pairs where everywhere.

Mallard - not as common as you'd expect but a pair seen in the lagoon by the Ekin Club

Golden Eagle - 1 pair seen from the Iztuzu Road flying above the mountain crag opposite the wetlands.

Long Legged Buzzard - 1 seen from the Iztuzu Road flying above the mountain crag opposite the wetlands.

Common Buzzard - seen on a couple of occasions from the Iztuzu Road and flying over the Dalyan River.

Lanner Falcon - 1 seen flying from the wetlands over the Iztuzu Road.

Red Footed Falcon - 1 female seen perched on the telegraph wires along wetlands stretch of Iztuzu Road.

Kestrel - very common; seen most days and in most areas around Dalyan, especially Iztuzu Road and near the Dump.

Lesser Kestrel - a pair flying round the crag next to the Iztuzu Road.

Little Owl - common around Dalyan; 1 seen every day in the chimney cavity of the house opposite the hotel.

Scops Owl - common; heard all over the place (even in daylight) and a pair were chased away from our hotel balcony one night by a little owl which then perched in triumph in the tree a few yards away!

Coot - 2 seen swimming in Dalyan River

Kentish Plover - a pair at the road end of Iztuzu Beach

Woodpigeon - fairly common in the farmland areas.

Collared Dove - very common everywhere!

Swift - small numbers

Alpine Swift - 1 or 2 interspersed with swifts.

Swallow - hundreds everywhere (and nesting all over Dalyan!).

House Martin - common in amongst the swallows.

Roller - 1 perched on the reeds in the River and a pair nesting in the mountain crag next to the Iztuzu Road.

Jay - just 1 seen, near Iztuzu Road.

Red Backed Shrike - just 1 (in the past we have seen them everywhere) perched on a fence in the fields behind the town.

Crested Lark - common on farmland areas and several seen beside Iztuzu Road.

Isabelline Wheatear - 1 seen on the mountain crag next to the Iztuzu Road.

Yellow Wagtail - 1 (male) seen at the beach.

Rufus Bushchat - common in the farmland areas.

Reed Warbler - common everywhere

Black-headed Bunting - several seen in the fields next to the Iztuzu Road.

Blue Rock Thrush - 1 (male) on the mountain crag next to the Iztuzu Road.

Rock Nuthatch - several seen on the mountain crag next to the Iztuzu Road and in the ruins of historical site at Tlos.

Spotted Flycatcher - 1 seen hunting from the telegraph wires beside Iztuzu Road

Raven - 2 flying over Iztuzu Road from the wetlands

Hooded Crow - very common and seen everywhere, especially farmland and rubbish dump.

Penduline Tit - several nests seen (hanging from trees over the rhynes in wetland area and over the river) plus 3 separate sightings of both male and female birds.

Great Tit - common.

Greenfinch - 1 or 2 seen in trees in front of hotel.

Goldfinch - common in the fields.

Redpoll - small flock seen in the fields next to Iztuzu Road.

House Sparrow - very common everywhere.