Monday, 9 February 2015

Two weeks in south-west Turkey

Last year, in April, I went with my girlfriend to south-west Turkey. It was mainly a Holiday for the two of us, but I was also fulfilling a wish to come and do some birding in this country I'd heard so much about.
Whinchat, Patara

I started doing a blog-post shortly after returning, but never got round to finishing it, but after looking through some photos the other night, I thought it'd be good to revisit it. It was a but long-winded though so I thought I'd rewrite it and make it a little more concise.

We went from the 11th-25th April 2014, flying into Antalya, and stopping at various locations around the Lycian Coast across the two weeks, before flying back from Dalyan. We used only public transport, which limited the amount of places I could visit for birding, but we still managed to find some decent places. I researched the trip by reading other trip reports, as well as referring to Dave Gosneys 'Where to watch birds in SW Turkey'.

I'll go through the trip by where we stayed rather than a day-by-day account, which was my original intention.


We stayed in the old town, 'Kaleici', which was a great place with loads of guesthouses, bars and restaurants. It also had a sea wall overlooking the bay, with amazing views of the Tauros mountains in the distance, and a nice harbour.

Laughing Dove, Antalya

We did a bit of 'urban birding' around the city, mostly around the park atop the cliffs and along the sea walls. On the first day we saw loads of Laughing Dove and White-spectacled Bulbul amongst the more familiar Collared Doves and House Sparrows. Down on the cliffs were a few Hooded Crows and during the afternoon a flock of a dozen or so Little Egret were circling the bay, with a couple of Cattle Egret in tow. The park had the expected birds in, mostly sparrows and Song Thrushes, although a Serin was heard and parakeets were a constant presence! In the evening hirundines and swifts hawked along the top of the cliffs along with bats as the night drew in.

White-spectacled Bulbul, Antalya

Heading south down the coast, our next place was the peaceful backpackers haven of Olympos. It was very quiet as it was low season, so only a few of the dozens of guesthouses and hostels were open. We ended up in an awesome little place with orange grves out the back, and we stayed in a little wooden hut on stilts.
   The resort is nestled in a rocky valley, with a river which runs through ancient Lycian Ruins, before reaching a rocky beach. The ruins and woody hills surrounding it looked like excellent habitat, but on first impressions I was a little disappointed, as there wasn't much seen on or initial walk down to the beach. However once at the beach things improved a bit, with a flock of Alpine Swift flying overhead, but nothing was moving on the sea. I wandered around the bottom of the cliffs to see if I could See anything, and managed a few Bulbuls and a Blackcap. Heading back I heard an unfamiliar call, and quickly latched on to a Middle-spotted Woodpecker, albeit briefly before it flew off. Before I left I flushed a Hoopoe which soon disappeared again into the vegetation.

The next day I started early with another walk to the ruins and the surrounding scrub and farmland. Jays and Blue Rock Thrush could be heard around the valley, but little else stirred. A common Kingfisher flew down river as I wandered down. In the scrub, things fared a little better, with  a large flock of Spanish Sparrows, singing Cetti's Warblers, a Whinchat and a Woodchat Shrike.

LRP, Olympos
Later on we headed down the beach to the small resort of Cirali, to try and find some different habitat. Besides a pair of Little Ringed Plover were on the beach, we didn't see much and didn't really get anywhere After sitting and having a picnic, we watched some Crested Larks at the top of the beach before heading back to Olympos. On the way back a Woodchat Shrike was bothering some more crested larks as well as a couple of wheatear, one of which was an Isabelline Wheatear.

Isabelline Wheatear, Cirali
In the evening we took a bus tour to the Chimaera - some natural flames coming from holes in a nearby mountain. The walk from the car park only took about half an hour but on the way we were in the company of Tawny and Scops owls. The flames were interesting too!


The town of Kas, on the southern tip of the Lycian Peninsula, was our next stop. At first I wasn't keen as it seemed a bit far-removed from any countryside, but it served as a good base for the next couple of days. The town itself wasn't very birdy, with mainly Collared Doves and Sparrows for company, though weirdly, Jays were sometimes seen flying round the rooftops.
   Just on the western edge of town is a small wooded peninsula, which I ventured to during the two mornings we awoke here. Highlights down the mile or so of road i walked up and down were Red-rumped Swallow, the Turkish 'black-capped' subspecies of Jay, Ruppells Warbler, amongst commoner warlbers such as Garden and sedge, as well as numerous Woodchat Shrikes

Nemoptera sinuata, Kayakoy
On our first day in Kas we took a boat trip out to some ruins and islands around the sunken city of Kekova. The trip itself was great and did allow for some new birds to be seen. We made a stop in a picturesque little bay and had a wander through some farmland, over to an ancient harbour. Ortolan buntings were seen and heard, as well as more Woodchat Shrike and plenty of Whinchat too. I had a little climb up a nearby hill, upon where i spotted an amazing lacewing style insect, Nemoptera sinuata, as well as one of my target species for the trip, Finsch's Wheatear. It was a very distant view but i did manage to see a few more on the walk back to the boat.

We went for a dip in the sea and visited Simena, a tiny village built into the cliffs. On the way spotting some green turtles and some very wild looking Rock Doves. In Simena we just climbed to the hill overlooking the town to look for wildlife. Here we saw big flocks of hirundines and in a little marsh down in the valley behind the village were a few Little Egrets and a Greenshank. There were a lot of dragonflies about too, including what I think is Red-veined Dropwing, Trithemis arteriosa.

Red-veined Dropwing, Simena

Another trip from our base at Kas was up to the mountain village of Gombe. I wanted to get to some upland habitat an d had read that this was a good base to start some walks from. We got on a bus for 2 hours and drove through some incredible scenery to get to the little village. Then we attempted to find the route to Yesil Gol (a mountain lake), but we failed miserably, no thanks to some crap directions in a guidebook. However I was happy as there were plenty of birds.

In the gardens of the village, Nightingale was a common bird, and Linnets were frequent too, as well as small flocks of sparrows with blackcaps in tow. Outside the village, highlights included Serin and Golden Orioles, the latter of which were seen flying around in the tops of poplar trees. This was an unexpected species here and was definitely the bird of the holiday. At higher elevations we saw a small flock of Red-fronted Serin, and in a building development, a Western Rock Nuthatch was seen flying in and out of an half built apartment. Before we left Krupers Nuthatch also gave excellent views in some ash trees along the river. Another Hoopoe was also seen, flying over some gardens.


Spotted Flycatcher, Patara

This place was one I definitely wanted to visit after reading about it in the Gosney Guide. This was the best place we came in terms of birding, throughout the whole trip. We stayed in a tiny village (Gelemis), which was at the top of a road leading down to a huge beach, which passes through a large archaeological site, surrounded by scrub and farmland. The road between the village and the archaeological site looked down on a large wetland, that is highlighted in the Gosney book, but it was pretty unproductive when we were there, with only Cetti's Warbler, Coot and Little Grebe seen. Turtle doves were heard from the parks/farms at the village end of the wetland though. The scrub either side of the paths were more productive, with loads of Spotted Flycatchers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats. A Black Redstart was also seen from here.

Crested Lark, Patara
In the archaeological site itself (which you have to pay to enter, in order to get to the beach!) there were also loads of birds. Yellow wagtails were seen everywhere, including a large pre-roost flock on one of the evenings we were there. Black-eared wheatear and Finch's wheatear were also relatively easy here, and Whinchats were everywhere. A common Sandpiper was seen in the ruins too and our only bee-eaters of the trip passed overhead.

White Stork, Patara
Further along, the farmland got a bit more verdant and Corn Buntings sang from all directions. Crested Larks were also abundant. White Storks were seen loafing around in the grassland. There were lots of birds to look at and the area certainly deserved more time than I gave it, but woodchat shrikes, yellow wagtails, warblers and hirundines all featured, as well as a Long-legged Buzzard.

Yellow Wags, Patara
The beach itself was magnificent, stretching down the coast for miles. Bird-wise it was quiet, even the dense scrub in the sand dunes to the rear of the beach. This looked like perfect habitat, but only really produced the odd spotfly, and a Northern Wheatear. I climbed the cliffs on the southern end of the beach and was rewarded with excellent views of a Peregrine, as well as hundreds of Alpine Swift, a Blue Rock Thrush and a Redstart.

The car park area at the back of the beach seemed quite attractive to birds and again I wish I'd explored it a little more, as in the short time I spent walking through it I saw a pair of Collared Flycatchers, a Redstart, a Wood Warbler and a pair of nesting Great Tits.
Collared Flycatcher, Patara
Redstart, Patara

Fethiye/Kayakoy/Olu Deniz

Fethiye was undoubtedly the worst place we stayed. It wasn't actually too bad, but just wasn't our kind of thing... a bit touristy and not much that we liked doing. We wandered to Calis Beach a mile or two up the coast from the town centre, as there was meant to be a little nature reserve called a Kus Cenneti (bird paradise). What we found was a litter strewn little marsh, nestled in between a horrible beach and lots of seaside developments... I wonder how long it will survive as a 'bird paradise'. There was a little tower hide from which we saw a green sandpiper and a few Ruff, and we did manage a couple of Flamingos in a shallow bay.

Short-toed Eagle, Kayakoy
We did go for a very nice walk from the ruins of Kayakoy to the amazing, but touristy beach at Olu Deniz. We barely saw anyone on the walk which climbed through the ghost-town of Kayakoy, up into the hills and through pine forest, before descending towards the turquoise sea down below. We were hoping for Rollers in the ruins and were lucky enough to get decent views, but very little else was seen around here. The woods were also very quiet, but from a clearing in the woods we did spot a Short-toed Eagle passing overhead, which was unforgettable. Otherwise it was very quiet, but the scenery and peace made it all worthwhile.


Our last stop was Dalyan, a pleasant town set along the banks of a reed-fringed river which led down to an excellent beach. The town is great but I imagine would be heaving in the tourist season. The wetlands were also quieter than I'd expected, but we still saw some good birds .Boat-based tourism was the order of the day here and we did take a boat trip which was well worth it for the close up encounters with green turtles, and the brief visit to lake Kayakoy where they took you 'birdwatching'. This consisted of parking the boat inside a stand of reeds and listening to a load of Great Reed Warblers. An interesting method, but I actually really enjoyed it, those warblers really can sing! We also saw loads of Squacco Herons flying about and a Purple Heron too, so I was in my element.
Squacco Heron, Lake Koycegiz

Around dalyan we did a bit of walking too,. We went over the river and walked towards the ruins of Kaunous, which is another large archaeological site, with some lagoons and stuff inside. However we weren't keen to pay to get in yet another place like this so we wandered up the road and looked down into the valley. It was a nice view and we did see 12 Little Egret and a Great white Egret too. Highlight of this walk was an all too brief male Masked Shrike. Either that or a wonderful tortoise that we bothered for some time.
Tortoise, Dalyan

We flew back from Dalaman Airport, and I went out with a bang, as in the trees outside the Terminal, there were several Rollers and in the distance I saw a couple of Spur-winged Lapwing. The Turkish security and police however, did not take kindly to me sneaking about with bins and a long-lens camera. They demanded to look through my pictures, and we happy to let me go once they saw that all of them were of wildlife!

Roller, Dalaman

So there we go... a brief run through of the 2 weeks. My main summary of the birding there is that there are some quality birds, but you have to look for them. There seems to be lots of areas which look like they should be crawling with birds but are in some cases totally devoid of any birdlife, ie the reedbeds at Dalyan or the sand dunes at Patara. It may have been that I was there a little early in the year, but I was expecting more quantity! I can't complain though as I saw some excellent birds which I probably wouldn't see outside Turkey, as well as some nice migrants and subspecies too.

Another point is that Wildfowl and Raptors were very scarce, I had expected more, but on the other hand Woodchat Shrikes and Hirundines were all over the place!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Divers and swans

Last weekend a nice Great Northern Diver paid a visit to Kilvington Lakes, only around 20 mins from my house so I thought I'd pop down last Saturday to go see it, and failed. I had until lunchtime to have a look there and walk around my patch too, so I felt rushed, so left kilvington after only scanning the lakes briefly. I realised my mistake when only an hour later it was reported as present, and everyone started to rush to go see it. Unfortunately for me it was too late and I didn't have time to go back. Luckily it stayed and I went on Sunday to have a look and got excellent views as it dived, doing clockwise laps round the lake. GND is a bird I've wanted to see for ages, shame it wasn't at HP, but a tick nonetheless!

My morning at the patch was pretty good, with 5 new birds for the year - Jay, Water Rail, Reed Bunt, Meadow Pipit and finally a Smew, a redhead which was on the usual 'works pond'.
  Otherwise on site it was a bit busier than recent times, with 30-odd Pochard and a few more Wigeon about too, and some Shoveler. There doesn't seem to be many flocks of birds about though, finches seem to be thin on the ground as do tit-flocks. I also failed to flush any snipe, although with there being a lot of standing water about, they are a bit spoilt for choice.

This weekend I planned to go out to some sites around the county, as I've now decided to keep a county year-list, as it seems to be going reasonably well. There's been some good birds around so I planned a trip beginning at Rufford, to try for Hawfinch (still never seen one), Lesserpecker and some other bits, before nipping into Eakring to bag a Garganey, and finishing at Besthorpe to grab me some yellow-billed swans and maybe some waders.

It started quite badly, there were plenty of people looking for Hawfinch and none seemed to be showing while I was there. I tried for a while for Lesserpecker in its favoured spot, before wandering round the woods to try my luck in there. It didn't happen, but I did see a few Marsh Tits coming to some seed and managed one semi-decent pic. I also ticked off Nuthatch for the year.

Marsh Tit, Rufford
I was just going back to try one last time for the Hawfinch, when I checked birdguides and realised a Garganey had been seen yesterday at Rufford, so in an attempt to save a trip to Eakring I had a good sniff around the lake. Unfortunately all there was were mallards and tufties, and a small group of Goosander. I therefore tried at Eakring, and after a while of seeing nothing but Mallard, I gave up. Both have since been reported at both sites. Pah!

Besthorpe was good, I haven't been for ages and there was quite a bit about. On Mons Pool were 3 Redshank and a Green Sandpiper, as well as about 15 Shelduck. I was really hoping for a Pintail, but sadly none were about, but there were good numbers of teal around the whole lake, definitely 150+ I'd say.

Whoopers and Bewicks Swans, Besthorpe
I got good views of the Whooper Swans and Bewick's Swans which have been on site for a while now, giving me 2 nice easy year ticks. Been ages since I've seen a Bewicks too so I was happy with that. I finished with a walk around the north end of the site but might as well have not bothered as I saw hardly anything! Not a bad day, but with only 4 new birds for the year, I feel it could have gone better, but it was nice to get to some places I don't visit often.