Birding Trip to Turkey 7-14.8.2008

Birding Trip to Turkey (Alanya, Akseki, Göksu, Demirkazik) – 7.-13.8.2008
U. Paal

General Information PICTURES

This was basically a family trip combined with some intense birding days.

Rene and Uku were accompanied by nonbirding Leeni, Maria and 1 year-old Raul. We booked rental car in Antalya airport and an apartment in Alanya beach-resort (sorry!) for 6 days and this was our starting point to trips to Akseki, Göksu+Demirkazik and surrounding areas. We got our information from the trip reports plus from one of the guidebook (can’t remember which one because we copied only relevant pages – thanks Tarvo!).

I hope this report is useful to those sorry (family)birders who get stuck up in the Alanya beach-resort. I couldn’t find any good information about Alanya’s birding possibilities so this writing might help some people a bit. Plus other sightings might give you some updated information about the other sites visited. I added co-ordinates of some of the new sites i found useful. You’ll find info and maps about Akseki, Göksu and Demirkazik easily from the other sources, although these places are not visited in the tourist-season too often. As we saw, summer-time birding in Turkey is definitely underestimated. I guess the heat is pretty much the same from June to August so it doesn’t make big difference when to go to Turkey if you have limited free time in summer vacation. We managed to see 153 species which was brilliant result considering the limited time spent and distances covered.

Weather was what was expected – hot! Usually around +35 C. Overall feeling about Turkey was absolutely positive. Nice friendly people. English-speaking people are rare sight outside beach-resorts. The tradesmen weren’t that eager as we had heard previously, polite “thanks no!” worked well. Food was excellent and we didn’t have any signs of “Turkish tummy”. We used tap-water to brush the teeth and ate all the salads offered. Maybe the situation is different in more remote areas. Traffic is surprisingly ok, because we were prepared for “drive-for-your-life” experience. Only 2-3 life-threatening situations were encountered. So i guess we did pretty OK. Roads were in good condition in our visited areas but serpentines take time, so extra time is always needed if you want to be back on time. We didn’t have any police check-ups.


Flight to Antalya and drive to Alanya. Although we keeped our eyes peeled, we didn’t see any raptors or shrikes. Seems like this area is not worth birding. Short stops didn’t improve our list at all.

Birds seen from the car window:
Crested Lark – common
House Sparrow – common
Barn Swallow – common
Hooded Crow – common
Collared Dove – common
Yellow-legged Gull – few birds seen

We reached Alanya in the midday and booked in our hotel. Rene manages to see Rufous Bushchat in the hotel garden. Very strange sighting indeed. I missed the bird (as i always do). The rest of the night was spent in the town and we visited Alanya castle in the sunset. Nice place but pretty crowded. Lots of bats flying around.

Alanya, Tosmur (36°31’35.87“N 32° 3’4.37“E)
Rufous Bushchat 1

Triplist 7 sp

Since me and Rene were itching for some birding we woke up early and headed to the mountains surrounding Alanya. Road to Üzümlü seemed fine and if you want to get some background stuff it works well. Lots of pine forest (good for Kruper’s NH) plus some mountain slopes with lower vegetation (good for Ruppell’s W). Later we drove bit north from our hotel area and walked around the river which is in the eastern part of Tosmur (eastern part of Alanya town). In the last light we drove around the river.

Birds seen on the route Alanya-Üzümlu-Alanya.
Roller – 2 birds seen
Yellow Wagtail – 1, race unidentified
Blue Tit – common
Coal Tit – common
Jay – common
Kruper’s Nuthatch – at least 4, first target happily ticked
Ruppell’s Warbler – 2 birds seen, both juvenile or female
Lesser Whitethroat – common
Great Tit – common
Olivaceous Warbler – 1
Rock Thrush – 1 male seen rushing down the slope
Chukar – 1 bird flushed from the slope
Alpine Swift – 70+
Chaffinch – 2
Masked Shrike – 3 juveniles in the gardens of the Üzümlü villag
Spotted Flycather – 1
Hoopoe – 1
Wood Pigeon – common
Short-toed Eagle – 3
Turtle Dove – 2

2 km east from Tosmur
Yellow-vented Bulbul – 10+, common bird in orchards, especially banana-plantations
Kingfisher – 1 bird sitting on the rocks on the beach

River mouth (36°31’28.22“N 32° 3’19.30“E)
Common Sandpiper – 1
Little Egret – 1
Moorhen – 1 ad 3 juv
Garganey – 4
White Wagtail – 1
Kingfisher – 1
Lesser Grey Shrike – 1
House Martin – common
Little Owl – seen in the evening at the concrete (?) factory, 2 km east from Alanya town (36°31’57.10“N 32° 4’38.22“E)

Wood Sandpiper – 1 migrating

Triplist 38

Three of us (me, Rene, Leeni) woke up at 3:00 and headed to Akseki. It’s about 120 km drive. We arrived in pitch-dark and tried some owls but without success. Birded at walled plantation first. I don’t know why this place is called walled plantation because it’s actually an old graveyard in my opinion. Nice spot with different habitats around. Lots of Persian Squirrels (Sciurus anomalus) in the park. After that we head to the WB Woodpecker site and make some stops en route. WPWP spot is nice with old pine forest, but it’s sensible start here in the first light (for better bird activity) and visit other spots after that. Akseki graveyard is actually bigger than we imagined. Since the trees are quite low here it could be excellent place for photography. We found a nice birdwave here and picked up Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler among the hordes of Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits and other passerines. One “larger” Hippolais dissapears without a trace and we can’t id it for sure. We scan the mountain ridges for a short period in the hope of raptors but can’t find any. In the daytime heat we make a short walk to the local market and buy some fruits. The prices are not that cheap as we expected (or we just got ripped off). No English-speaking people here, but no communication problems anyway.

Walled plantation and surrounding fields
Sombre Tit – 3
Black-eared Wheatear – 3
Masked Shrike – 1 male
Nuthatch – 3
Garden Warbler – 1
Orphean Warbler – 1 male
Syrian Woodpecker – 4
(Red) Fox (Vulpes vulpes) – crossing the road in the carlights

15 km north from Akseki, open area on the mountain slope
Long-legged Buzzard – 2
Mistle Thrush – 2
Black-eared Wheatear – 7
Red-backed Shrike – 1 juvenile
Crossbill – 1 heard

WBWP site (2,5 km N from the junction)
Redstart – 1
Middle-spotted Woodpecker – 1
Kruper’s Nuthatch – 10
Booted Eagle – 1 adult flyover

Akseki graveyard
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler – 1
Black-eared Wheatear – 2
Lesser Whitethroat – 2
Syrian Woodpecker – 3
Kruper’s Nuthatch – 1
Jay – 3
Hippolais sp- 1, potential Olive-tree Warbler, not seen well
Long-tailed Tit – 10
Willow Warbler – 1, overall colouration of our bird was weird, had a warm-brownish tinge which remainded Radde’s Warbler a bit. Never seen such Willow Warblers in Estonia.

Akseki village, trip to the local market
Rock Nuthatch – 2 on the rooftops
Feral Pigeon – 1 at last!

Road to walled plantation, short roadside stop
Woodchat Shrike – 1

On the way home, small pool by the roadside produces:
Red-rumped Swallow – 1
Kingfisher – 1

Triplist 62 sp

Morning birding at the old deserted garden near hotel Bora Bora. The garden is approximately 200×300 meters in size. I spent about an hour and half there. Birds weren’t easy to find, but waiting paid off. If you don’t see anything during the first minutes it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any birds. Just wait and look! Surprising what you might find in the places which look completely hopeless in the first glimpse. Since small skulkers are among my favourites i enjoyed this small patch very much. A large lizard added some excitement and i got some nice shots of it.

Alanya, Tosmur (36°31’35.87“N 32° 3’4.37“E)
Jackdaw – 20 flyover
Barred Warbler – 1 juvenile
Savi’s Warbler – 1
Orphean Warbler – 1 juvenile
Olivaceous Warbler – 5
Spotted Flycatcher – 1
Masked Shrike – 1 female
Yellow-vented Bulbul – 5 +

During his morning jog Rene flushes two flocks of Quail (15 +7) near the Tosmur river ( 36°31’54.38“N 32° 4’16.49“E).

Approximately 13:00 three of us head to the east. Maria stays at hotel with little Raul.

Birds seen on the road
Roller – 5
Egyptian Vulture – 1 adult flyover

After 5,5 hours of exhausting drive we arrive to Tasucu and great birding can start. We head straigth to the western part of Göksu delta and it’s raining lifers. We criss-cross the roads and sandflats surrounding the lake and try to scope the lake from different angles. Especially pleasing is a male Black Francolin that is crossing a road in the last light. There are thousands of waterbirds on the lake, although hard to identify because of the distance. Local folks have occupied the birdtower and have turned the place into nightclub. We expected peace and birds, instead we got 5 drunk Turkish lads, Turkish disco, lots of empty beer bottles around and seems (and smells) like the gentlemen are using the tower as a public toilet as well. Althought the guys are very friendly it leaves bad impression after all and i try to avoid any discussion with them. We see that too often at home and it’s disgusting to admit that such stereotype behaviour has spread all over the world. We thought that it’s good idea to sleep on the beach and when the sun has set we hop in our sleeping bags. It’s quite windy and it’s cooling a bit. Beautiful, but… after 2 hours the wind settles down (the heat is unbearable again) and small nasty mosquitoes appear. We give up the fight with them and head to Tasucu and book in the first hotel at 23:00 (50 lira for 3 people is a real bargain).

Birds seen:
Black Francolin – 1 male
Marsh Harrier – 1
Great White Pelican – 1
Penduline Tit – 10+
Rosy Starling – 4 + 7 juveniles
Common Sandpiper – 5
Crested Grebe – 20+
Coot – 2000+
Ferrugineous Duck – 1
White Stork – 900 heading to roost
Isabelline Wheatear – 5
Curlew – 1
Greater Flamingo – 20
Shoveler – 3
Little Ringed Plover – 1
Wood Sandpiper – 2
Sand Martin – 1

Triplist 81 sp

We wake up at 5:00 and head to the western part of the delta again. Little Owl is found in the first light. Peregrine Falcon (or 2?) is flying above the sandflats. When we hear the first Graceful Prinias we follow the calls and try to locate the birds. It’s not that easy walk among the thorny bushes, but we flush female Francolin during the operation and finally nail the prinias as well. Lots of passerines everywhere including Rufous Bushchats, Pendulines, Bulbuls etc. Waders prefer the sandspit on the south-eastern part of the lake and we find 4 Audouin’s Gulls among the flock of Yellow-legged Gulls here. The rice paddies on the northern part of the delta are packed with herons, waders and other birds. Probably numbers are ten times higher in September/October. We don’t waste too much time on scanning the paddies since we have some specific targets and limited time. We navigate ourselves to a small birdtower here and scope the lake again in the hope of Marbled Duck. Birds are still too distant and heat-haze doesn’t help either. Lone Black-necked Grebe shows very well, Kingfishers everywhere and several Purple Herons flushed from the reedbeds. There’a a huge flock of White Storks visible in the east and we decide to head there after we pick up our stuff from the hotel and have lunch. There are lots of orchards in the eastern part of the delta and we try different roads here scanning the wires in the hope of White-breasted Kingfisher. Supposedly it should be fairly common bird here but despite extensive searching (2 hours) we can’t find any. Rollers and Bee-eaters are common though. But the shock comes when we locate the White Stork flock seen earlier. The fields are tightly packed with them and there are several huge flocks in the air as well. We estimate at least 12 500 birds, but there are probaly more since we can’t scan the whole area properly. This is definitely the most exciting birding experience during the trip so far. The roads among the fields and orchards are endless and it takes at least two days here if you want to cover the Göksu area thoroughly. Absolutely stunning place and hopefully it stays like that for the years to come. Since our schedule is tight we have to head to another legendary birding spot in Turkey – the almighty Demirkazik. We leave the area approximately 15:00.

Göksu delta (western and eastern part, plus surrounding fields)
Little Owl – one on the wire
Oystercatcher – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 1 ad
Marsh Harrier – 2
Greenshank – 1
Sanderling – 4
Grey Plover – 1
Redshank – 3
Audoins Gull – 4
Slender-billed Gull – 10+
Grey Heron – 10+
Graceful Prinia – 50+
Rufous Bush-chat – 4
Great Reed Warbler – 8
Kestrel – 1
Francolin – 1 female flushed
Woodchat Shrike – 50
Bearded Reedling – 10+
Hoopoe – 3
Reed Warbler – 3
Cattle Egret – 73
Purple Heron – 7
Common Snipe – 2
Yellow Wagtail (feldeggi ssp) – 5+
Garganey – 20 +
Temminck’s Stint – 4
Glossy Ibis – 1
Spur-winged Lapwing – 30
Black-necked Grebe – 1
Laughing Dove – 1 in the village
Green Sandpiper – 1
Black Kite – 3
Kentish Plover – 3
Bee-eater – 25+
Night Heron – 1 juv
White Stork – 12 500!!!
Squacco Heron – 1
Roller – 10

The road to Demirkazik is in good condition but in some parts trucks slow down the traffic. When you approach the Aladag mountains the landscape changes drastically and the scenery is fantastic in the excellent evening light. We do some shopping in Camardi and we are offered a hotel for a ridiculously cheap price. Since we want to be on the spot as early as possible we decide to head straight to the mountains. Anyway, if you are on the budget then it’s not sensible to hassle with the famous Safak clan. The price in the ski-centre is reasonably cheap as well. And you don’t need a tractor ride to see the Snowcock, unless you are wheelchaired, dead-lazy or severly overweight. Mountain climbing is fun which shouldn’t be missed. Especially in the pitch dark!
We decided to head to the chromium mine site. You can find the maps and other details describing the place from other reports. It was a good choice. We drove almost to the “jeep road” junction with our small rental car. During heavy rains the road can get worse of course but currently it was driveable with some effort. Some rocks had to be thrown aside from the road and for steeper climbs other passengers hopped out of the car. But at least first 5 km’s the road is driveable with any car. First Shorelarks and Crimson-winged Finches seen on the road.
We parked the car to the shoulder (place where the road starts to climb down again). Since there aren’t any mosquitoes here it’s cosy to sleep here even without the tent (we didn’t took one with us). Since our sleeping bags weren’t too warm it got bit chilly after 3:00 o’clock, but not unbearable. But the athmosphere was supercool. Stars in the sky, Nightjar churring next to us, Scops owl singing in the gorge (what are these birds doing up here in the stony habitat?) and you are at 3000 m altitude waiting to tick off the Caspian Snowcock next morning. Night to remember. What more can a birder want?

Magpie – 1

Hobby – 2
Linnet – common
Wheatear – common
Shorelark – 3, Chromium mine road
Crimson-winged Finch – 2, Chromium mine road
Nightjar – 1 heard, Chromium mine road
Ring Ouzel – 1 heard, Chromium mine road
Scops Owl – 1 heard, Chromium mine road

Triplist 119 sp

We packed our stuff and started to walk up the jeep road at 4:20. It took about 1,5 hours when we got up and heard first Snowcocks and one of the most memorable birding experiences started. We located birds fairly easily and during our 2-hour stay we saw at least 4 individuals. Just when we started to come down one bird climbed in the very top of one of the mountains. Scope is necessary if you want see them properly although you can find them with binoculars too. We found several flocks of Red-fronted Serins, Crimson-winged Finches and huge flock of Snowfinches. At least two family parties of Chukars were seen. When we moved down, 2 Golden Eagles appeared. We birded the stream near the jeep road junction and there were lots of passerines drinking there. One Finsch’s Wheatear was found in the Demirkazik cemetary (the stony outcrop behind the cemetary). One Golden Eagle flew over here as well. When we were birding the cemetary a guy with a motorbike arrived and tried to explain that we have to buy tickets from here. As i had read from the previous trip reports some other people have had the same thing. OK, since one ticket cost only 1,7 lira we bought them without any complaining hoping the money will go for the good cause. The area is nature reserve or something similar and to be in the area you have to buy the ticket (if you get caught by the bikeman). Where the reserve starts and where it ends remains mystery. We birded the Demirkazik gorge in the heat and it produced only Blue Rock Thrush and White-throated Robin. The river was completely dry. We missed Accentor, Lammergeier and Wallcreeper but we didn’t had any time left and had to leave this fantastic area.

Red-fronted Serin 10
Snowfinch 300
Golden Eagle 3
Chukar 20
Kestrel 1
Alpine Chough 20
Chough 5
Caspian Snowcock 4
Alpine Accentor 5
Ortolan Bunting 5
Crag Martin 7
Crimson-winged Finch 25
Black Redstart 5
Rock Sparrow 1
Water Pipit 2
Wood Lark 4
Finsch’s Wheatear 1

Wild Goat (Bezoar Ibex) (Capra aegagrus aegagrus) – at least two
Asia Minor Ground Squirrel (Near East Suslik) (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus) – common
European (Brown) Hare (Lepus europaeus) – 1 seen

Demirkazik gorge
Blue Rock Thrush – 1 pair
White-throated Robin – 1

To Akkaya Baraji
Serin 10

Akkaya Baraij is a fantastic lake which is probably underwatched. Its about 80 km’s up north from Demirkazik area. We arrived there in the hottest time of the day but the birding was still excellent. The lake was packed with birds and there was nice flock of flamingoes there. Best birds were Ruddy Shelducks and 3 Greater Sand Plovers.

Akkaya Baraji
Greater Flamingo 500
Little Stint 15
Green Sandpiper 40
Wood Sandpiper 40
Greenshank 5
Common Sandpiper 30
Black-winged Stilt 60
Ruddy Shelduck 4
White-headed Duck 7
Little Grebe 50
Greater Sand Plover 3
Garganey 300
Coot 70
Greater Short-toed Lark 5
Marsh Sandpiper 1
Lapwing 5
Black Tern 15
White-winged Black Tern 7
Little Ringed Plover 40
Ruff 200
Pochard 30
Shoveler 5
Long-legged Buzzard 2
Spur-winged Lapwing 5
Black-necked Grebe 1
Slender-billed Gull 30
Great White Pelican 1 juvenile

We decided to go back to Alanya through Konya and Akseki because these roads are faster than the coastal road. It was good decision. There’s a vast steppe area between Eregli and Konya and you could spend several days birding the road. We were surprised to find flock of 1200 Rook in the middle of the steppe. But the real surprise came when we found the roosting area of Lesser Kestrel. During our drive we scanned wires all the time in the hope of Lesser Kestrel since it was potential lifer for both of us. We didn’t see any Kestrels at all and when i saw first Kestrel in the last light near Yarma we stopped right away to check it. Well, there was another Kestrel on the same electric post and since it was male i jumped out of the car. Fine, it was a Lesser. But on the next post there were 4, and on the next 9 birds and etc., suddenly the air was filled with falcons. We scanned all the posts and counted all the perching birds plus tried to estimate the number of flying birds. Seemed like we had missed some of them already, we should have been there an hour earlier to see the roost migration from the start. We counted at least 300 Lesser Kestrels here and later heard from our Finnish friends that this is the area where the biggest colony of Lesser Kestrel is. We just didn’t knew it. Anyway, a very stylish way to pick up a lifer.

Ereglia to Konya
Calandra Lark 3
Rook 1200+ at Merdivenli
Lesser Kestrel 300+ at Yarma

Triplist 152 sp

Alanya, Tosmur
Last morning before leaving is spent near our hotel on my new “local patch” again. Seems like at least some new birds have arrived to the garden during the last days.
Nightingale 1, Masked Shrike 1 juvenile, Olivaceous Warbler 3, Orphean Warbler 1 juvenile

Triplist 153 sp