Trip Report – September 2023
This was definitely not a real birding trip. We were here to experience the raptor migration over the Bosporus but other than that it was really the wrong time of year. So, we made it about seeing the country and the history and picking up some life birds along the way. Because of that, I will make notes based on areas rather than days.
We found it easy getting around in Turkey – and the scenery, historical sights and people made it a great trip.
Izmer – Pammukale
We had arrived late at night in Izmer (Turkish airlines is a bit of a disaster), minus one of our bags so didn’t make a really early start the next day.
Once we got going, we went in search of Kruper’s Nuthatch – there had been sightings in the hills of Ovacik Tabiat Park to the east of Izmer, which was enroute to Pammukale. It was about 14 km of dirt road to get to the area but we were rewarded by getting the bird at our first stop – also had Thrush Nightingale – which was a bonus.
We then proceeded to get completely lost as google maps kept telling us to take dirt roads that didn’t exist. We were finally rescued by a very nice Turkish man (the only person we had come across in 2.5 hours) who had us follow him back to the main road.
One of the things we loved about Turkey was the people – they had a great sense of humor and fell over themselves to help us.
We stayed at the Melrose House hotel which, while basic, was quite nice and possibly the best option in town.
We spent the morning over at Lake Acigol which was beautiful. Quite birdy, although the only new things for us were Cretzchmar’s Bunting (distant view) and Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear. There were Winchat by the dozen and quite a few migrating warblers.
After a restful afternoon, we visited the Traventines in Pammukale – still quite busy even in the late afternoon but really worth it – we wished we had taken binoculars with us as there were a lot of wheatears at the top, among the Roman ruins. The walk down the Traventines was great and really worth battling the crowds at the top.
Pammukale – Kalkan
We left Pammukale for a few days with friends in Kalkan.
On the way we picked up an area on ebird (Korkuteli Hills) for several of the species we wanted and so spent a couple of hours exploring yet another spectacular area. It was very birdy and we enjoyed many of the expected species but the only new thing for us was Ruppell’s Warbler.
In Kalkan, the only birding we did was around the ruins at Patara – this was partly because we were with friends and partly because it was 38c!! Nothing new for us but lots of birds around.
While this area is just full of ‘all-inclusive hotels’ (not our thing!!) the birding was actually quite good AND our lost bag finally turned up!! We located a couple of good spots in town from eBird (Titroyen Golu)and, late in the afternoon we had Delicate Prinia, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Levant’s Sparrowhawk.
The next day we drove up to Olympinar Dam, thinking we would be the only people up there, only to discover that it is a major tourist destination and there were coach loads of people. Not what we had expected but it was stunning area and we lucked out with a Pied Wheatear on the way down.
Cyprus wasn’t what we had planned because Turkish airlines delayed our flights so much that we could no longer get our car across the border into the Greek side – it
closes at 2pm. We decided just to stay on the Turkish side for our 4 days and it worked out well.
We found a bird guide (Robin) who was able to take us out the next day and we saw lots of birds. The only new ones for us were Cyprus Wheatear, Cyprus Warbler and Eastern Orphean Warbler but it was a great day and there were plenty more species to enjoy
We just did one more day of birding heading out to the point on the Western Cape but, while beautiful it didn’t provide anything new for us.
Cappadocia – Aladag Mountains
Cappadocia is an amazing place and we thoroughly enjoyed playing tourist for a few days – although it was packed!!! Definitely worth a visit and a hike in the Red & Rose Valleys can be quite birdy – and stunning. Nothing new for us, but a great few days.
From there we travelled south to a small pensione (very basic) to stay with our guide Bashir who took us up into the Aladag mountains. It was an early start and very cold when we got up to the top at 3,000 metres – 2 of our species turned up immediately – White-winged Snowfinch and Crimson-winged Finch. We hoped to get additional views of them but they disappeared quickly and we didn’t see them again. Then it was the hunt for Caspian Snowcock. We could hear them flying around us but only managed quite distant views. Still mission accomplished.
One target left – Fire-fronted Serin was surprising illusive but we finally found one on the way back down.
Another couple of trips to cover a few areas suggested by Bashir were very birdy but nothing more new for us here.
We drove onto Gaziantep and it was fascinating to see how things changed. We left the very European western side of Turkey and, not only did the landscape change
to the more barren, dry, dessert steppe but the friendliness of the people changed as well.
We had hired a guide (Mustafa) for the late afternoon (he wasn’t available in the morning) but he gave us directions as to where to find Iraq Babbler and Northern Bald Ibis in Birecik, which was very successful.
Unfortunately, we were really too late for most of our targets but we did get fabulous views of Pallid Scops-owl and Eastern Rock Nuthatch.
Wow – this is really an amazing city to visit but incredibly busy. Camlica Tepesi. It was a bit of a trek to get there but we were thrilled when we arrived. The guys were very welcoming and after a quiet start over 1300 birds moved through in about an hour. It was just what we had wanted to experience. Great day – topped off by a life bird, Yelkouan Shearwater, from the ferry on the way back.
Our original plan was to go from Istanbul to Alexandrouplis to visit the Evros Delta and Nadia Forest. Unfortunately, a fire had all but destroyed the forest and our transport let us down so we ended up flying to Athens, renting a car a spending a couple of day in Larissa in order to get to Thessaloniki where we were meeting family.
There was little of birding of note but we did get a couple of great experiences: –
– 50 plus Lesser Kestrel coming in each evening over our hotel swimming pool in Larissa
– more than 40 European Thick-knee near lake Karla (we couldn’t get very close to the lake because of a massive flood that had happened the week before.)
– Dalmatian Pelican and thousands of other birds at lake Kerkini.
Izmer – Swisshotel
Pammukale – Melrose Viewpoint
Antalya – Hotel Villa Mahal
Side – TUI Blue
Cyprus Concorde Tower – Lefkosia
Cyprus – Gillham Vinyard Hotel
Capadoccia – Museum Hotel
Ozsafak – Ozsafak Pension
Gaziantep – The Grand Hotel
Istanbul – Sirkeci Manion Hotel
Larissa, Greece – Grecotel Larissa Imperial
Guides & Resources
Robin +90 548 886 86 84
Bashir +90 536 230 31 20
Mustafa + 90 536 718 59 13
Birds of the Middle East, Richard Porter and Simon Aspinall
Birds of Europe, Lars Svensson
Ebird for locations (although this app is not very well used in Turkey & Greece)
Various David Gosney’s ‘where to find birds in.….’ leaflets – although these are pretty out of date now unfortunately.