Tuesday, 17 May 2011

NiBirding Turkey Trip Report

Every NIBirding Trip at some stage a local does a little Irish Jig for us

Four clueless birders Chris Baines, Chris Hinds, Tristan Reid and Derk Charles thought one winters night that it might be a good idea to go to Turkey to see if they could identify any of the birds out there, saying they could identify very little over here. It would be a good chance to top up the sun tan and try and hit on the local girls. This sounded like a good plan.

The land before Turkey also known as the Land Time Forgot (Ireland that is)

Using the Royal Wedding as cover i slipped across the border once more. I always new it would be an Alexander McQueen dress with a 5 foot train. And that everyone would be wearing a hat by some hat guy in the south (39 people!, that’s a lot of hats at 5000 y0yos a touch.)
With a trip list of 3 i abandoned the car and checked in. Why is it always so much easier here than in Belfast? No asking if you packed it yourself, if you have a baby panda in your bag, no weighing hand luggage just a cheery hello and a quick wink with her left eye. Through security no problem after i explained to them that i had a metal plate in my head and that’s why i kept setting the alarm bells off.
Moments later disaster struck, i got mugged. In broad daylight in Dublin Airport. 15 yoyos for Shepherd's Pie. Well, i wasn't having that but after the girl at the checkout explained she was in the Russian Mafia i had to cough up. It was good however with real mince and some nice vegetables. But 15 big yoyos i don't think so!!! I did nick some butter when she wasn't looking so that saved me 20 cents, a small victory against The MAN.
So i set about getting my own back. Immediate success, free baileys and whiskey tasting. I think 16 free samples was a bit over the top but i had to wash the taste of Rip-off Ireland out of my mouth. I staggered towards Boots. Some 2 for 1 deal, i will have a bit of that, don't know what it is but it smells good. 34 yoyos bound to be good at that price and i suspect its pure alcohol into the bargain so will have a bottle on the plane.
Talents good however, despite being pie-eyed, and the good weather really brings the big girls out if you know what i mean. I suspect none of them are Dub Girls except for the load of girls (who like their food) who are going to Bernie's Hen Nite in Benidorm (pink t shirts!) I do hope Bernies future husband has a stag month and keeps drinking even on the day of the wedding, you really wouldn't want to sober up!
Decided to play the unattended bag game but like all airports they are all talk and no action and my bag hasn't been blown up yet! I live in hope.
Must go as they keep calling my name or at least i think it is as they keep saying Passenger Charles Final Call.

Turkish Airways are brilliant but it’s a pity I am a bit stupid. Free meals and drinks and there was me thinking it was the Easyjet of the East. The in flight movie was Yokie Bear which was so much better in Turkish than English and was almost bearable to watch.

Istanbul Airport was class all signs and friendly staff, Dublin and Belfast Airports take note. They are now 3rd world Airports.

No Sign of the other 3 International Travellers and it was getting to the stage where I was going to have to decide to go on the Internal Flight alone or create a diversion and try and get the flight delayed. Maybe the Yokie Bear movie would come in handy after all! What would Jack Bower do in this situation?

But no in the nick of time Chris, Chris and Tris appeared all smiles and hi fives and walked straight onto the Flight to Adana. Once again Turkish Airlines delivered us on time and even more unbelievably all our bags arrived as well. We picked up the hire car in the car park which was very bizarre and found our hotel very easy. The Hotel insisted we put the car keys in a box which we didn’t understand and we fell into bed exhausted (different beds incase anyone thinks was a funny type holiday)

Signature Bird of the Trip (they were bloody everywhere)

First bird of the trip and lifer for me!

Day 1

A quick look out of the Room Window at first light produced my first lifer. A Yellow Vented Bulbul and also Laughing Dove, Red Rumped Swallow and Golden Oriole.

Soon after at the Hotel Lobby confusion reined as our hire car had been moved and no one knew where the keys where. We assumed it had been doing Taxi – ing around Adana all night but after a rummage around a big box of keys Chris H found them and we then found the car in the Hotel Car Park, we had no idea it had a car park!

We drove to Karatas and into the Harbour for some Hot Seagull action. Half a dozen boyos and we had no idea what they where! Great start and by a process of elimination we decided they where gulls we had never seen before so must be a tick. Eastern Caspian Gulls if such a thing exist! I am sure someone will tell us when we send them dodgy photos.

A look at some gardens nearby just really produced some Red Rumped Swallows.

Now for the serious stuff. First good bird was a White Breasted Kingfisher on a wire. Flippen eck what a start and one we thought we might struggle with a lot.

Then down to the lake at Tuzla Golu. This is where it kicked off properly with pandemonium breaking out with our first Spur Winged Plovers, scoping them in amazement. If only we had of known that everywhere we went they would become virtually unflushable and you would stop photographing them as they were that common. 50 Collared Pratincoles, Lesser Short Toed Larks, Wagtails we didn’t know the name of and various waders. Then a good view of 3 Broad Billed Sandpipers. Fantastic but when the waders flushed bang up they went and never to be seen again, the only ones of the trip which was a bit of a surprise. When we got back we found out that one of the three Broad Billed Sandpipers had flown off to Cumbria and TRistan seen it when he went home. The other 2 flew to Cork.

Then it was the long drive to the Snowcocks. Navigator Chris H knows a good road when he sees one and we circumnavigated Adana in the rain and then we took our chances with the Toll Roads. In effect you can get on them without paying but you can’t get off them without paying unless you run the barriers but there is no one in the booths to pay! We worked it out eventually! Off the Motorway and up the mountain. A quick stop produced one of the few Finchs Wheaters off the trip along with Tawny Pipits and assorted goodys.

Another stop close to the Finca produced a Long Legged Buzzard and 150 Brambling. OK they weren’t Brambling but Tree Sparrows but that’s the way we operate on our trips. Chaos rules!

Then off to Bazzas House and we found it straight away as he was standing on the side of the road and flagged us down! Result! We threw the gear out and headed for an hours birding in the gorge and ticked off Red Fronted Serin (see picture above) and also seen Wallcreeper and Shorelark but they are not really Shorelarks, wonderful looking things!

Then back to Bazzas place for Dinner. The usual load of bread which you get with every Turkish Meal. But boy was it cold and I went to bed in Wooly Hat, Gloves and Socks!

Word on the Snowcocks was not good as weather was predicted to be poor so we were not expecting a 3.30am call

Snowfinch what a little darling


3.30am and a knock on the door from Baza it was on we were off to the Border, weather looked good. Senses half scrambled (I actually forgot my binoculars) and 10 minutes later out of the gloom appeared a small tractor. 5 of us plus the driver and a small tractor how was this going to work. Anyway we set off people hanging on every bit of the 30 year old tractor. We were all glad it was dark but you could sense driving up the mountain track as it slowly would round that there was a big drop on one side. I closed my eyes and dreamt of yesterdays Gulls, hey they must be Steppe Gulls, couldn’t be anything else a small Eureka moment. On and on up the mountain track towards the snowline as the night lifted slowly. Four guys praying although no one was speaking. I wonder were Bazza and the Tractor Driver also praying.

45 minutes later and the tractor stopped and we all litterly fell off the tractor, someone was listening to our prayers. Just another half an hour hike and we were there! Even better we could hear a Snowcock. Lungs bursting we reached the viewpoint and birds came think and fast with Raddes Accentor, Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Crimson Winged Finch, Wallcreepers and finally 2 Snowcocks. What a success and what a bird indeed what a few hours birding and birding. One of the Highlights of the trip. Then fear struck us all as we walked back down to the Tractor. We seen the tractor again! I burst into tears and the others followed! This time it was daylight and we could see the very living mountain we had to transverse! We jumped on again and started praying again (I don’t think we ever stopped). I would like to say we all enjoyed the stunning scenery and Chuckars on the way down but I fear that would be a lie and I did promise the Big JC upstairs that I would stop lying on one of my prayers coming down the mountain. But once again they smiled at us and we got down safely and off for Breakfast.

We had been given a tip off by the Finns or Dutch or Swedes who we had met about a Bimaculated Lark site nearby so we headed there. At least 30 birds all singing away along with Issabelline Wheaters, Rock Buntings.

We birded the general area all day adding 10 Golden Eagles, Goshawk, 6 Wallcreepers, Ortolan Buntings to our every burgening list.

This area is a must visit site on a trip to Turkey and Bazza is the number one guide.

Then it was back to the igloo and dinner was Mushroom Surprise. The Surprise was that it was just Mushrooms. Now for 2 people who hate Mushrooms this wasn’t what we wanted to see on the table. To be fair to one brave soul he overcame his paranoia. It wasn’t me and I went to bed with more cloths on than the night before and an empty stomach.

Ortolan Bunting, we found a field full of them!

Issabeline Wheatwear all leggy and easy to identify (we think)

Finchs Wheatear

Day 3

Four dirty little boys waved Bye Bye to Bazza the next morning. We were very sad to leave but none of us attepmpted a cold shower in two days. The Bathroom was colder than the bedroom and there was no way I was getting the woolly hat wet. Today was the long drive to Biracheck. We stopped along the way to pay homage to the Finchs Wheatear and various other bits and pieces.

Yellow Throated Sparrow, Biracheck

We thought this was a ghost when we found it because it was sooo pale. And on several of my photos there is no Owl there, so maybe it is a ghost or im just a crap photographer!

Dead Sea Sparrow Biracheck

UptheThree Warbler, Biracheck

What great roads in Turkey and all without EU money once again putting Turkey well above Ireland in the World Rankings! We made it to Birechek with time to go and tick Little Swifs and Bald Ibis. There we had our first tet a tet with Birechek Sammy. More on that later.

That evening we had the “Pizza Incident” which we have promised not to mention ever again but while Chris H and Tris seen and heard a Long Eared Owl Chris B and myself seen 2 Pallid Scops Owl including one that nearly landed on Chris’s head. Half the team went to bed happy.

Biaracheck Sammy guards the Bald Ibis with his life, i mean his wife! She keeps her inside making Tea, which costs 2 lu lus a cup. Magnums are also 2 Lu Lus and he keeps 3 different flavours.

Day 4

Early morning in the Marshs and Iraq Babbler and Pied Kigfisher fell quickly. One a Stunning bird and the other a bit of a European Mega! Let you decide which is which. A strange call we just couldn’t work out what it was but mystery seemed to be solved when a Little Crake appeared. Great views but five minutes later the mystery of the call was solved when we seen and heard Black Frankolin. What a bird and some great views! Lots of Rollers and Bee Eaters and did I mention Pygmy Cormorants! All before breakfast and we found a great café in Bireck for bread and Ommletts (four eggs) and all for only a few Lu Lus (our name for the Turkish currency)

Then Birechek Sammy gave us a top tip for See Partridge complete with Map. So off we set and about 6 hours later we still hadn’t found the spot. Plenty of good habbo and some good birds but no See Partridge.

So it was back to Gravel Pits for more Babbler action. Take your chances while you can.Our team is made up of Babblers but Iraqi was the star of the show. A perplexing Hippo turned out to be an Ickky so that was it for the day

Then we made our way to the Riverbank Kayi Restaurant nearby. Kayi in Turkish means bloody expensive. Bear that in mind if you ever meet any Kayi Turkish Prostitutes.

Ferruginous Ducks one of the few duckys we seen on whole trip

Laughing Dove. Would not like to have to survey the numbers of this species. Estimated population in Turkey 50 Trillion. Still they are very nice.

Disgraceful Prina, this lovely replaces Fan Tailed Warbler wherever we went

Roller! The bird that needs NO description

Leachs Petrel or Little Swift i don't know which

Pygmy Cormorant

Little Crake

Pied Kingfisher, one of the stars of Birachek

Iraq Babbler
Day 5

The guys still needed See See Partridge so up they went the main Shadow ”wadi”waddy. All 3 miles of it through jungle and rapids but no partridge. Meanwhile I sunned myself and drunk coconut milk under a palm tree. They came back all Wadied out, a new plan or a rehash of an old plan was needed.

But first we headed off to the Fish Farm to see some Seagulls. And very nice they were too. Armenian Gulls no less but you couldn’t get to within 2 mile of them so we have no proof. Our only Red Foot Falcon of the trip was another highlight.

So it was back to Birechek Sammy who after tea and a bit more arm waving jumped on his Suzuki 50 and beckoned us to follow. We had no choice it could have been a trap and we could have been sold into Slavery in Albania but Steve McQueen brought us instead to the Promised Land where we finally ticked off the magical See Partridge. The only Lesser Kestrel and Montys were also seen in this area. Ken arrived soon after and wanted to take us on his tractor up another mountain to see more Partridges but we had to decline his kind offer.

Shortly after we had our interaction with the Turkish Army. Very pleasant young men who waved us on our way after a look through the camera. And there was us thinking that we were going to have to sacrifice Mr Baines to the young Turks.

Another look at the Armenian Gulls just to confirm how brilliant we really are with gulls before a last desperate attempt by Chris H and Tristan to see the Pale Scops Owl. Meanwhile Chris B and myself had an early night. Chris and Tris scored the Owl and this lead to a desperate trawl for beer by the happy boys. This lead to a Shebean at the edge of town and an encounter with Sinbad. What goes on tour stays on tour

Calandra Lark

Hat of the Trip. The Turkish Police and Army knew not to mess with us once Sherriff Baines put his hat on.

Look at the length of the legs on this Buzzard


An early morning trip to the rubbish dump on our way out of town answered the age old question “Why Do Seagulls Have Wings?” To get to the dump before the gangs of scavenging Arabs! No Seagulls they had been flushed by the Arabs.

So we were on our way again to Durnalik. All the same species as before but what quality Cinereous, Ortoland and Cretzmars Buntings, Olivaceous, Orphean and Olive Tree Warblers, Sombre Tit, Eastern and Western Rock Nuthatchs and loads of White Throated Robins to name just a few.

The next valley over Isiki was the spot for Kurdish Wheatear. We knew it wouldn’t be easy so Sherpa Tenzing and the boys set off straight up the mountain. A Goshawk and Rock Sparrow were welcome attractions but luckily just before our oxygen bottles ran out we hit a plateau. This was it all or nothing. Luckily we located a pair without too much trouble although we were too exhausted for hi fives. We only had an hour of daylight left for the accent. Ok that’s a lie but we headed for the nearest café to celebrate. More ommlettes of course we had learnt the Turkish word for eggs!

The long drive to the Gokshu Delta followed. We arrived with an hour or so of daylight left and in that time found one pool. We believed the Delta had been drained and had now disappeared. There was nothing for it but a night on the Vodka and Raki. It was very messy.

Male Black Headed Bunting

Red Footed Falcon

Kurdish Wheatear one of the stars of the show

Sombre Tit, anything but Sombre

Cinereous Bunting another star, you betcha


Next day wasn’t good. For some reason 3 of our group were ill. It could have been something they had eaten! The Raki was definitely not too blame. Birds were good between naps, the Highlight being a female Pallid Harrier. Tick that put it on my Irish List as well. Afternoon snooze was called for and it nearly turned into an all day snooze. At least Chris B found an internet café and was able to confirm that Dumfries and Galloway was birdless. This wasn’t a great surprise. Dotterals and White Stork news from Northern Ireland put me straight back to sleep. In the afternoon we found the Delta. Small place, about 20 mile by 10 mile, easy to miss! Crammed full of birds of all kinds some of which we were even able to identify. Thank goodness for the Collins Guide. Its amazing how difficult it is to tell Black Kite / Steepe Buzzard and Booted Eagle apart! I felt like I was on a Birdforum thread in real time!

I would like to say we went out again that night and straight back on the Raki but it was an early night, earlier for some than others!

Pallid Harrier

Purple Heron with a baby shark

Black Headed Wagtail

One thing i noticed is that Ruddy Shelducks are terrible parents. If i was a Marsh Harrier i would build my nest near a nesting pair!

Little Bittern

Day 8 + 9

Two great days on the Delta, birds just kept coming. Highlights included White Pelican, Elenoras Falcon, Hobby, Purple Boghen, Citrine Wagtail, Marbled Teal, Red Throated Pipit, Moustached Warbler and many many more. You name it we seen it! Also a Tortoise which was kind of cool. Tristan set up a mist net and trapped it and after 8 eight hours it moved the 6 inches into the trap so Tristan was able to pick it up and examine it. It was a genuine migrant. Tick. We forced him to put it back and not take it home.

The longest billed Curlew in Turkey. That long in fact we think its a messenger from the East

Glossy Ibis

Tortoise after being trapped and ringed

Marbled Teal are the masters of disguise. You can hardly see them through the sticks.

Citrine Wagtail!

A Brucie Bonus

Day 10

This morning it was off to Demercilli for passerine action. Great area which produced loads of Masked Shrike, Olivaceous, Hoopoe, Orioles and some Ruppells Warblers. The holy grail of warblers and we all got good views. Tristan even photographed a stuffed one he brought in his camera case. A bit sad but you wouldn’t know from the photo. An Eleanoras Falcon blasted over our head and the world was a good place to be. Some strange looking Lizards (why do they always remind me of Bryan Ferry). Chris seen a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and was approached by some German Sightseers for a bit of who knows what. Seemingly they had been travelling for over a year and had become bored. They spotted Chris alone with his camera and must have thought their Turkish Lottery numbers had come up. After decideing not to leave Chris with the Germans we had a last look at the Delta and the Black Kite which we had identified as everything under the sun for 3 days!

Photograph courtesy of Chris Baines, The only Woodpecker photo of the trip

Masked Shrike practicesing for the shot put in the London 2012 Olympics

Mystery Bird of Prey

Day 11

Lucky break as we filled up with diesel the guy spotted our tyre going flat. A few doors down the street the guys had the tyre whipped off and fixed in no time all for a few lu lus. None of this “o that doesn’t look good” “you will need a new tyre” or heavy sighing. It was out with the Sledgehammer and get the job done.

Another trip to Tuzla Golu and we are glad we did. A fall of migrants included a staggering number of Thrush Nightingale, Barred Warblers and Masked Shrikes. Fantastic stuff and last new bird of the trip a Dunlin, bloody hell!

Another look at Karartas produced more Gull action this time with Barabensis Gulls. All legs and chest with big hooters. A probable Baltic Gull caused .00002 seconds of excitememnt.

We had to end on a high so a search for White Breasted Kingfisher nearly ended in disaster with the car getting stuck but we finally had great close looks at this stunner. What a bird, what an end!

Then it was off to the Carwash. Free carwashs in this country, what a great place! We really needed to put ourselves through it as well.

It is very shy and doesn't like its photo being taken

Normal view of a Thrush Nightingale

Not in Turkey however!

Last bird of the trip, and a good un

Next Morning…

5.15 am start and taxi to Airport. Taxi Driver tried to charge me 40 lu lus for the 400 m long journey. After a lot of arm waving and shouting I left him standing and didn’t pay him anything. Into security and my camera bag was flagged up. 5 minutes later myself and 3 customs staff were outside looking through the bins and scopes. They thought it was amazing and called me a professional! If only they knew. Then it was all hand shaking and goodbyes. In the meantime a big queue had built up, what great people.

The check in was slightly more complicated with a UK Passport flying into an Irish Passport. More arm waving and words like VISA being thrown about and I had to explain to them about the Irish Famine, Plantations and the Good Friday Agreement. I also through in a little bit about Dissident Republicans just to keep Sad and Lonely happy. Then this girl came over and I was ushered through with more smiles and handshakes. Brilliant!

Flight was on time pity I couldn’t partake of the free drink and then unfortuneatly I hit third world Dublin Airport. My god. Passport Control was a mess. One guy on for both Non EU and EU and it was absolute pandemonium with people jumping queue and no barriers or staff. Mozambique could do better, Ireland is this the best you can do, really is it? One hour later I got through passport control. One hour worse than ridiculous. I stopped in the shop for a bottle of water 3.99 yo yos for a bottle of water. This wasn’t rip of Ireland this was rip off rip off Ireland. I declined this great offer.

Finally in the car on way home and struck gold with some McCooey FM Dublin Radio Station. First song up Under Pressure by Freddie Mercury. “People on Streets de da de de” Brilliant I miss Freddie. Then it was “I got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas . Then “Drop the Pilot” by Joan Armourplating. Great songs but lost the reception north of Dublin…

Then it was back to the Forkbill Local Dublin FM "Go To Teds" for all your carpet needs. I would have only i was a bit tired and wanted to go home.

Thanks to Chris Baines, Chris Hinds and Tristan Reid for being great companions and great birders.

Thanks also to Turkey, the great Motorways and the People of Turkey. 235 or 236 species we don't know because we can't count and don't really know what we seen. As for subspeices i think we can treble that figure. A full species list will be added in due course.

Bird of the trip. No doubt about it, the boy below. Look at him all legs and breast, what a looker.

Well to hell with the seagulls and birds, the real bird of the trip is pictured below. The Police gave us a caution for pestering her all i wanted to know was did she know if the gull was a Barabensis? A reasonable request i thought...