Turkey

10th September 1983 - 25th September 1983

10th September.

The 2nd Wingspan tour to Western Turkey, I met the eight member group at Heathrow for an early morning flight to Istanbul, arriving early afternoon, local time, we drove to our hotel on the Asian side of the city. Later, we met our guide Oktay and driver Ismail and saw our first eastern birds, a couple of pairs of Palm Doves. New species for me will be in bold.

11th September.

After breakfast, we left the hotel driving south to Kartal, where we boarded the ferry to cross the Sea of Marmara to Yalova. During the one and three-quarter hour crossing we saw 13 Mediterranean Gulls and 17 Yelkouan Shearwaters, all the way across the surface of the water was carpeted in small and large jellyfish.

From Yalova we drove to Bursa, where after checking into our hotel and lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the lower slopes of Mount Uludag. In the pine woodland we saw lots of Chaffinches and tits, 10+ Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Kruper's Nuthatches, 2 Icterine Warblers, 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, 6 Crossbills, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Mistle Thrush. On the way back we stopped to look at a large flock of hirundines which were wheeling over the road and perching on telephone wires, there were 500+ House Martins, 60+ Red-rumped Swallows, 10+ Swallows, a Sand Martin, 6 Swifts, 2 Pallid Swifts and 40+ Alpine Swifts, quite a spectacle. Also seen here were 30+ Bee-eaters, 4 Blue-headed Wagtails, a Wheatear and an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.

12th September.

A full day on Mount Uludag, we left Bursa early and drove up through the slopes of pines to the Ski Village, then across an open plateau towards the cliff-face of Mt. Uludag. Here we saw 41 Ravens, 9 Wheatears, an Isabelline Wheatear, c80 Water Pipits, 61 Red-fronted Serins, 4 Black Redstarts, c20 Crag Martins, 30+ Red-rumped Swallows, 3 Pallid Swifts, 2 Hobbies and an immature Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Peregrine. Also of interest were the number of butterflies at this height, presumably migrants, new for me were 4 Apollo and a Camberwell Beauty, we also saw 2 Hummingbird Hawk Moths.

Later, we made our way down the mountain stopping frequently, seeing 2 Grey Wagtails, a (Black-bellied) Dipper, lots of Chaffinches, 7 Jays, 9 White Wagtails, 17 Crossbills, 100+ Willow Warblers, 6 Stonechats, 14 Spotted Flycatchers, lots of Coal Tits, 11 Whinchats, 14 Serins, a Blue-headed Wagtail, a Pied Flycatcher, 3 Kruper's Nuthatches, 2 Firecrests and 3 Woodlarks.

13th September.

An early start and a drive west from Bursa to visit Lake Apolyont. This massive lake is almost like an inland sea, along its western side are reedbeds and small pools and there are places to see the open water of the main lake. During the day we saw 2 Bee-eaters, 50+ Little Egrets, 30+ Grey Herons, 6 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Green sandpipers, 7 Marsh Harriers, c250 Pygmy Cormorants, 35+ Whiskered Terns, an Osprey, 6 Hobbies, 14 Kingfishers, 50+ Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Red-backed Shrikes, 4 Black-headed and 40+ Blue-headed Wagtails, 30+ Coot, 45 Lapwing, 2 Wood Warblers, 100+ Willow Warblers, 9 Snipe, 60+ Wood Sandpipers, c200 Garganey, c40 Mallard, 6 Black Terns, 5 Tree Pipits, 14 Little Grebes, 16 Squacco Herons, 4 Syrian Woodpeckers, 2 Common Sandpipers, c12 Redshank, 10 Greenshank, 100+ Ruff, 2 Rollers, 22 Night Herons, 2 Dalmatian Pelicans, 14+ Penduline Tits, 12 Glossy Ibises, 6 White-winged Black Terns, 2 Spotted Redshank, a Marsh Sandpiper, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Steppe Buzzard, a Little Owl, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, 2 Great White Egrets, 2 Slender-billed Gulls, c60 Collared Pratincoles, 32 Little Ringed Plovers, a Little Bittern, 3 Whinchats, a Water Rail and while we were watching a feeding group of 9 Curlews, a smaller bird caught our attention, at first we thought it was a Whimbrel as it was about that size, but the bill was slim and curved gently to a point, it had very pale, whitish underparts with dark streaks, the dark sides of the crown made the white supercilium stand out, as did the white chin. Even at a distance we could see it clearly and watched it for a long time, we finally decided that it was a Slender-billed Curlew, although very rare the time and place were good for an immature bird to turn up, and, most modern records have come from Western Turkey.

14th September.

This morning we headed west again, this time to Lake Manyas, a similar sized lake to Apolyont. Our journey took some time as we kept stopping to look at interesting birds, a Black Stork, 2 Rollers, a Hen Harrier and 5 Lesser Kestrels. Finally, we arrived at Kuscenneti National Park, an area of willow woods, which at this time of year is dry,  and so, can easily be walked through, here we saw 15+ Spotted Flycatchers, a Tree Pipit, 3 Wood Warblers, 30+ Willow Warblers, 4 Syrian Woodpeckers, an Isabelline Shrike, 4 Spanish Sparrows, a Nightjar, 10+ Corn Buntings, 7 Wheatears and lots of flava wagtails.

In the afternoon we explored other parts of the lake seeing 2 Hobbies, 2 Black Terns, 34 Grey Herons, 5 Red-backed Shrikes, a Little Owl, 5-600 White and Dalmatian Pelicans, 25+ Little Ringed Plovers, 8 Little Egrets, 400+ Little Stints, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 3 Sanderling, 100+ Ringed Plovers, 8 Ruff, a Turnstone, 44 Curlew Sandpipers, 6 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank, c50 Whiskered Terns, 13 Glossy Ibises and 3 Short-toed Larks. 

Nightjar. 

15th September.

Today we left Bursa and drove south to Bergama, on the drive we saw 18 Crested Larks, 8 Lesser Kestrels, a Syrian Woodpecker, 3 Wheatears, a Lesser Grey Shrike, 2 Short-toed Eagles and 3 Little Owls. We stopped for lunch in an area of pine woodland, where we saw a Short-toed Treecreeper, Chaffinches and tits including a Marsh Tit, a Kruper's Nuthatch and 4 Spotted Flycatchers.

16th September.

An early start to visit the Acropolis, situated almost 1,000 feet above the town of Bergama. Around the ancient Roman remains we saw 2 Little Owls, a Lesser Kestrel, 8 Wheatears, a Tree Pipit, 8 Rock Nuthatches, a Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Sombre Tits, 3 Blue Rock Thrushes, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Redstart and a Willow Warbler.

Leaving Bergama we drove to Lake Marmara, on the way seeing 24 Bee-eaters, 4 Lesser Kestrels and 2 Red-backed Shrikes. At the lake we saw a Short-toed Eagle, 30+ Stripe-necked Terrapins, 5 Little Egrets, masses of Wheatears, a Little Ringed Plover, 8 Greenshank, 6 Green Sandpipers, 5 Wood Sandpipers, a Black-winged Stilt, a Spotted Redshank, 3 Temminck's Stints, 16 Ruddy Shelduck and lots of Pygmy Cormorants.

Later, we drove west stopping at Salt House, a fully restored Roman Temple which is well worth the visit, also seeing an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and a Blue Rock Thrush. We continued to Kusadasi, a town on the Aegean coast.

Rock Nuthatch. 

17th September.

From Kusadasi we drove south to Lake Bafa, eventually gaining permission to enter, we found the water level was very low, but still saw 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Hobbies, a Cuckoo, 10 Pygmy Cormorants, lots of Mallard, Cormorants and Coot, c200 Little Grebes, 8 Kingfishers, 10+ Redshank, a Great White Egret, a Common Sandpiper, 6 Ruff, 11 Avocets, a Whiskered Tern, 6 Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Sparrowhawks and a Long-legged Buzzard.

Later, we left the lake and drove south to Didim, where we had lunch, after finding a secluded beach, where some went for a swim and the rest went birding, seeing 2 Hoopoes, 3 Shags, 6 Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Sardinian Warblers and other common birds. We left the coast and started our journey back to Kusadasi, as we passed near Lake Bafa, there was a shout to stop, we got out of the minibus and walked back along the road, and, sat on twig overhanging the roadside ditch was a Smyrna or White-breasted Kingfisher, very rare in Western Turkey. We watched it for about 10 minutes before it flew along another channel, also in this area were 5 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Collared Pratincoles, 2 Kingfishers and 2 Cetti's Warblers.

18th September.

A free morning and later a drive north, after lunch we visited Ephesus and spent around two hours walking around this magnificent ancient city. Also seeing 3 Short-toed Eagles, 3 Lesser Kestrels, 4 Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Rollers, 5 Rock Nuthatches, 2 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, c100 Bee-eaters, 10+ Spotted Flycatchers and c20 Alpine Swifts.

Later, we drove to Izmir Airport, where we left Ismail and the minibus, and, took the hour flight to Istanbul, then back to the hotel on the Asian side of the city. At the hotel we said goodbye to Oktay and met Tuna, who was our guide for our second week.

Roller. 

19th September.

Our first day on the hills, reaching Little Camlica by 9am, walking up through the woodland it was alive with birds, the best being a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Sardinian Warblers and a Red-breasted Flycatcher. From the summit there was no heavy migration, but birds passed over throughout the day, we saw 20+ Swifts, 40+ Alpine Swifts, 9 Hobbies, 55 Sparrowhawks, 39 Tree Pipits, 23 Short-toed Eagles, 12 Buzzards, 31 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 13 White Storks, 4 Black Storks, 6 Red-footed Falcons, a Black Kite, a Booted Eagle, 11 Griffon Vultures, 2 Long-legged Buzzards and an Imperial Eagle, rare here. 

20th September.

We returned to Little Camlica Hill, again we spent time searching the woodland before walking to the summit, we saw 14 Wheatears, 5 Redstarts, 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Sardinian Warblers, a Wryneck, a Roller, an Isabelline Wheatear, a Pied Flycatcher, a Whinchat, a Golden Oriole and 6 Turtle Doves. Passage today was different with 100+ Alpine Swifts, 33 Grey Herons, 43 Red-footed Falcons, 11 Kestrels, 16 Hobbies, 26 Tree Pipits, 10 Sparrowhawks, a Hen Harrier, a Pallid Harrier, 2 Marsh Harriers, a Montagu's Harrier, 4 Buzzards, 9 Honey Buzzards, a Goshawk, 45 White Storks, a Lanner, 8 Short-toed Eagles, a Booted Eagle and a Spotted Eagle, which is scarce here.

21st September.

We started at Little Camlica Hill again, where the weather had changed, being misty and overcast and there was an increase in small birds, with us seeing in the woodland and around the hill, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Wryneck, 5 Redstarts, a Black Redstart, 3 Sardinian Warblers, 14 Tree Pipits and 4 Golden Orioles, As raptor migration was rather slow, people began to search other areas around the hill, 3 of our group came back saying they had seen a bird they couldn't identify, a pale sandy bird which had flown low from the ground, from a burnt patch on the side of the hill. They said it was like a Nightjar, but smaller and no white patches - it could only be an Egyptian Nightjar. All the birders on the hill then searched the area for some time, but were only able to flush 2 Nightjars and a Quail.

There had been some migration and we saw 5 Buzzards, 2 Kestrels, a Golden Eagle, 5 Hobbies, 7 Honey Buzzards, 12 Sparrowhawks, a Marsh Harrier, 6 Lesser Spotted Eagles and a Red-footed Falcon. Around 2pm it began to rain, so we abandoned the hill.

We decided to visit Kucukcekmece Lake to the west of Istanbul, there were lots of Coot, Mallard and gulls, a few terns, 18 Pygmy Cormorants, a Black-necked Grebe and a flock of about 1,000 Spanish Sparrows which we were able to see at very close range.

Lesser Spotted Eagles and a Griffon Vulture.

22nd September.

Back to Little Camlica Hill, where the overnight rain had produced a small fall of migrants, seeing 16 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Nightingales, 2 Turtle Doves, 8 Ring Ouzels, 200+ Alpine Swifts, 13 Tree Pipits, 13 Redstarts, 2 Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Golden Orioles, c30 Bee-eaters and an Isabelline Shrike. Raptor migration was slow, apart from an early Bonelli's Eagle, then a bit later we saw 6 Hobbies, 4 Honey Buzzards, 33 Buzzards, 2 Short-toed Eagles, a Montagu's Harrier, 16 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 2 Lanners, 14 Sparrowhawks, 2 Booted Eagles, 82 White Storks and a Black Stork, then it went quite again.

We spent the afternoon in the Covered Bazaar and sightseeing, returning to the hotel we learned that we had missed big flocks of storks and pelicans, and, a male Pallid Harrier!

23rd September.

Today we started at Big Camlica Hill, from the hilltop-straddling restaurant patio we started to see a movement of raptors, mostly passing very low. We saw 2 Lanners, 78 Buzzards, 12 Sparrowhawks, 3 Levant Sparrowhawks, 2 Kestrels, 10 Honey Buzzards, 6 Short-toed Eagles, 8 Lesser Spotted Eagles, a Booted Eagle, a Goshawk, a Griffon Vulture, 4 White Storks and 2 Black Storks. Around the hill we also saw 9 Tree Pipits, 4 Sardinian Warblers, 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, a Turtle Dove and 5 Redstarts.

Later, we noticed that the direction of the birds had altered, so we quickly made our way to Little Camlica. There, there had been similar migration, but higher numbers, but the large numbers were yet to come, and, over the next couple of hours we saw 219 Buzzards, 73 Short-toed Eagles, 44 Sparrowhawks, 611 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 4 Egyptian Vultures, 5 Booted Eagles, 10 Hobbies, 65 Levant Sparrowhawks, 2 Honey Buzzards, 2 Spotted Eagles, 22 Common Cranes, 599 Black Storks and a White Stork.

24th September.

It was a cold, wet morning with a strong northeasterly wind. By the time we arrived at Little Camlica it had stopped raining, in the woodland and around the hill there were 8 Tree Pipits, 7 Redstarts, a Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Ring Ouzels, 11 White Wagtails, a Black Redstart, 7 Wheatears, 2 Stonechats, 2 Serins, 4 Whinchats, a Red-backed Shrike, Alpine Swifts and 2 Hobbies. Apart from an Egyptian Vulture and a few eagles, there was very little migration, so, about midday we were all feeling quite chilled and decided to forsake our packed lunch and go for a hot meal. 

We arrived back at the hill about 3pm, only to be told we had missed 2100 Lesser Spotted Eagles going over, still at least now we were warm! And, during the next couple of hours we saw 36 Buzzards, 193 Lesser Spotted Eagles, a Spotted Eagle, 46 Short-toed Eagles, a Long-legged Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawks, a Levant Sparrowhawk and 2 Black Storks.

25th September.

Our last day in Turkey, as the flight home was not until 6.30pm we packed the luggage onto the coach and then went to Little Camlica Hill reaching it about 10am. We started by walking through the woodland and searching the area around the summit, seeing 3 Sardinian Warblers, a Wheatear, 8 Tree Pipits, 5 Spotted Flycatchers, 7 Red-breasted Flycatchers, lots of Willow Warblers, 2 Redstarts, 3 Syrian Woodpeckers, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Crossbill, 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, a Red-throated Pipit, a Kestrel and 3 Hobbies.

Then about noon the migration began, with wave after wave of eagles and storks passing overhead, at one stage there was a continuous flock of Lesser Spotted Eagles stretching back into the haze over Istanbul, all in formation. During the next two hours we saw 246 Buzzards, 182 White Storks, 933 Black Storks also a distant flock of c300 mixed storks, 149 Short-toed Eagles, 2273 Lesser Spotted Eagles, a Spotted Eagle, 132 Sparrowhawks, a Booted Eagle and a Long-legged Buzzard. This was the Bosphorus experience at its best, by 2pm the sky was clear and we made our way to the airport.

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