Birdingpals Trip Report

Turkish Delight September 07 to 14 2008.
by Birdingpal Paul Gaffan

On Sunday 7th September 2008 after depositing the car in the Long Stay Park Plus at Gatwick’s South Terminal we duly checked-in for our Onurair flight to Bodrum.
I must admit we had never heard of Onurair before but it is one of several Turkish Airlines which commute to destinations in Turkey from around Europe. The flight was uneventful albeit a little cramped and we landed on time at Milas-Bodrum Airport at the ungodly hour of 04:10 on the 8th. We were met by Sadrettin Ozkok the manager of the Club Natura Oliva Resort, Lake Bafa. Club Natura Oliva is one of four strategically sited resorts owned by Dr Koch Reisen and at the invitation of Dr Nik Koch we had arrived for a little R&R and a recce. Sadji drove us to the resort with a brief stop for çay at a roadside café in Pinarcik. Arriving at the resort we were shown to our appartment, which consisted of a spacious bedroom with double bed (covered by a large mosquito net), a well situated bathroom and shower and a balcony with wonderful views over the lake.
After unloading our gear and a quick change we started to bird the resort before breakfast at 07:30. Breakfast was a wonderful experience, typical Turkish fare of bread, cheese, tomatoes, olives, jams and honey complete with coffee and Ayran. Ayran is a Turkish drinking yogurt similar in many ways to the Russian Keffir, totally refreshing! Suitably replenished we started birding the grounds in earnest in the ever increasing heat. We later found that the temperatures reached 40 degrees around 11:30 so birding was a waste of time after this hour until around 15:00 in the afternoon. Despite the heat our obvious keeness kept us birding long after we should have done but the list was impressive for September and we managed to see Great Crested Grebe in hundreds, Meditteranean Gull again in hundreds, Great Cormorant also plentiful, Great Egret, Little Egret, many Eurasian Kingfisher. Along the shore of the lake apart from the omnipresent egrets were White Wagtail and Common Sandpiper and a few Yellow-legged Gulls and Mallard sat out on the lake itself. The grounds were equally busy with common species (for us) like Blackbird, Collared Dove, Spotted Flycatcher (the first of literally thousands seen on the trip), Hooded Crows overflew along with Barn and a few Red-Rumped Swallows but the tits and warblers were the stars of the show. We were in awe of the selection of warblers, so difficult to find at home, Lesser Whitethroat, Western Bonelli’s, Blackcap, Eastern Orphean, Eastern Olivaceous and Whitethroat were easily found. The tits were represented by Great, Blue and several Sombre Tits as well as Coal Tit being heard. Sparrows were also in abundance with House, Rock and small flocks of Spanish Sparrows with their distinctive flight calls in evidence, a singing Rock Bunting on the wires gave a virtuoso performance. The eastern form of Jay were seen everywhere and Eurasian Nuthatch was observed on an olive tree just below our balcony every day. The ridge behind the resort gave us a cruising Long-legged Buzzard and while we watched that a less than common Chaffinch appeared in a pine behind us. So an excellent start to the trip birdwise and the accomodation and service was just as good, lunch was superb and dinner even more so.
Exhausted we retired to bed early to ready ourselves for another day.

Tuesday saw us take a short trip to the eastern end of the lake after another excellent breakfast. Before breakfast however, we had found Cirl Bunting on our way to the restaurant.
Sadji drove us to Kapikiri before handing the keys over to me and getting himself a lift back to the resort. We had çay at a lovely restaurant before starting our exploration of this ancient village of Herakleia. The village and ruins themselves were interesting but the best birding was outside the village with Crested Larks, a perched Long-legged Buzzard, many Red-backed and Masked Shrikes and droves of newly arrived Northern Wheatears. The lake had the usual gulls and egrets but Coot was new for the trip. Leaving Kapikiri we headed into the foothills towards Akçali where a beautifully plumaged adult Short-toed Eagle looked for food. We took our food also, in the form of a packed lunch before heading to the western end of Bafa Golü. At the “famous” Dalyan roundabout, which is now infact a crossroads with traffic lights, we took çay before turning right and made our way to a track which led down to the lake. In hindsight this was a mistake in the heat but nevertheless we walked the track seeing Eurasian Bee-eater and Greenfich in the Cypress grove, our first Magpie and the ubiquitous Spotted Flycatcher. The track through the marsh gave up a female Marsh Harrier, many Grey Heron, several Yellow Wagtail, Moorhen and finally four circling Black Stork. The heat had taken its toll and we decided that prudence was the better part of valour and returned to the resort in time for a rest, shower and change prior to a superb dinner augmented with Gin & Tonic and/or beer.
We slept well!

Wednesday, we left before breakfast to get a start before the heat at the Büyück Menderes Delta, a wise choice! Again via çay at the Dalyan crossroads, this time turning left and making our way to Akkoy where a track leads through fields and olive groves to salt flats and the delta. Almost the first two birds seen along this track were a pair of Syrian Woodpecker which allowed us great views as they commuted from hillside to woodland, six Chukar flew over but despite some effort they could not be relocated on the rocky hillside. As the track emerged from the agricultural land into more arid landscapes the birds changed with Whinchat, Stonechat and Tawny Pipit becoming numerous. The track then led out on to a spit which gave good views over the water on both sides and soon we were seeing Greater Flamingo, Dalmatian Pelican, Shag, Little Grebe, Redshank, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Curlew , Grey Plover and strangely Willow Warbler. These warblers were right along the waters edge and were very yellow with a prominent eye stripe, one of the eastern races I presume? The track ran out when we reached some fishermen’s huts and a very kind gentleman directed us in a three point turn outside his hut. The return journey along the track was less rewarding as the heat had intensified and I was concentrating on keeping the car on dry land and then avoiding the potholes but a Hoopoe was seen. Halfway back to the main road we ate our packed lunch and then continued north to the northern end of the delta. We took a detour off the road at the ancient site of Milet where the stunning ruins were augmented by several souvenir stalls and a tea shop. With our purchases in hand and çay taken we resumed our journey. At Tuzburgazi we stopped for our customary çay before driving the shore line until we reached the hamlet of Karine, the only new bird here was Goldfinch. You can go no further here as the rest of the headland is a miltary area. We headed back to Club Natura with plenty of time to prepare for a sumptuous dinner.
We had made arrangements with our friends Sandra and John Lyles, who live in Turkey, to visit with them for a couple of days. With this in mind we went to bed early in preparation for the three hour drive to Candir near the real Dalyan!

At 05:00 on Thursday we drove south east via Milas, Yatagan and Mugla, stopping for breakfast at a very nice retaurant at Kabagünlük, to Döguşbelen where we left the main road and headed due south through the pine-clad mountains to Candir. Arriving around 08:45 we had a drink with Sandra and John before we all walked into the adjacent pine forest picking up Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Turtle Dove, a juvenile male Golden Oriole and several Coal Tit but not the desired Krüper’s Nuthatch. John had seen a family party of these delightful little birds an hour before we arrived..........that’s birding!
For lunch we ate on the banks of the river opposite Dalyan at Kaunos in a typical, rural Turkish pancake house which was excellent. Kaunos is another Greco-Roman site, Anatolia is saturated with similar sites and Kaunos is no exception with a fortress and amphitheatre. Returning to Candir we stopped on top of the hill overlooking Kaunos, immediately picking up a super Woodchat Shrike and an anomolous wheatear. This bird looked remarkably like a Persian Wheatear which breeds in far Eastern Turkey but lacked the definitive red rump, so we had to settle for an unusual Black-eared Wheatear despite much discussion. Back in Candir we walked the same circuit as the morning again hearing the nuthatches but not seeing them. John picked up some yogurt from a friend’s farm and we returned to a shower, change and a lovely meal prepared by Sandra. We slept soundly without the encumberance of a mosquito net!
N.B. The area around Candir, Kaunos and Dalyan is a major honey producing area and unfortunately the Turks believe that Eurasian Bee-eaters are detrimental to their honey bees and therefore their revenue. This can be understood as the air is filled with thousands of these birds from dawn to dusk. While we were there we heard many gunshots.........we have no evidence of slaughter and can only assume that the beekeepers were firing to scare the birds rather than kill them. Indeed we saw no injured or dead birds and even the local Mullah of Candir came back home carrying a shotgun, Moslems are dedicated to all of Allah’s creations!!!

Friday morning saw us drive back to the hillside ruins at Kaunos where we immediately picked up on the loud song of the Western Rock Nuthatch, at least two were seen before the ongoing construction work stopped them showing. Also at this site another juvenile male Golden Oriole was seen as was a summer plumaged Rüppell’s Warbler and a large flock of Spanish Sparrow. Moving on to the river we crossed by rowing boat, piloted by a lady as was all the ferries, to Dalyan. After çay in a café outside the mosque we caught the Dolmuş to Dalyan (Turtle) Beach, a run of some 11km, on the way seeing the only Roller of the trip. Turtle Beach as its name suggests is a breeding site for Green and Loggerhead Turtles and an ongoing study/protection plan is in action. This almost deserted beach is picturesque and the facilites at the car park/Dolmuş stop include a restaurant, rest rooms and a pancake house. The beach was not however our priorority and we soon headed into the “pine walk” towards a large rock face. Again we were hearing the small nuthatches but still could not locate them but at the rock face we had even better views of a pair of Western Rock Nuthatch. Somewhat deflated we started our return, stopping periodically to listen until Sandra spotted and put me on to a Krüper’s Nuthatch on the trunk of one of the large pines........success at last!
Back in Dalyan we had lunch consiting of Pide and Mezze at a non-tourist restaurant before shopping for heavies for Sandra and John. Transporting the shopping across on the row boat ferry was an experience but we all arrived back in Candir safe and dry. After a quick drink we said our farewells to Sandra and John and drove back to Lake Bafa stopping to rescue a large tortoise on the road and arriving at the resort in time for a substantial dinner and a few drinks. We needed no encouragement to sleep!

Our last full day! We skipped breakfast and left promptly while the heat was not too intense. We headed north west and at Sankemer we turned east heading for the little gem called Azap Golü. This is really a great site, reed beds, open water and wooded, hilly banks.........ideal! The bird list was fantastic, Dalmatian Pelicans and Spoonbills flew over, Penduline Tits cavorted in the reed beds and warblers including Reed and Cetti’s were everywhere. We moved further around the lake to a new vista and where instantly rewarded with at least twelve Pygmy Cormorant venturing out into the lake. Not content with these highlights we also found Night Heron, Little Crake, Little Bittern, Whiskered Tern and Wood Sandpiper. Some debate was had regarding a snipe sp. as to its species, either Great or Common, we eventually agreed on Common Snipe even though it is not so common here.
Around 11:30 we dragged ourselves away from this gem of a site as by now it was really hot and drove north towards Söke. For lunch we stopped at MacDonalds in Yenidoğan, this new facility is built within the largest retail outlet park I have seen outside the USA, but the food is still kak! Another poor decision took us on a siteseeing drive to Kuşadasi, never again, we did not stop as the place was filled with the type of British Tourist who give us all a bad name.....bit snobby I know but it has to be said. After our abortive trip to Kuşadasi we travelled to the Dilek Peninsular and in particular Milli NP. The park is mountainous and bordered to the north by the Kuşadasi Körfezi and the Greek island of Samos. There are several unspoilt beaches and a canyon walk that takes you through the mountains to the Menderes Delta on the other side. Unfortunately we had no time for the walk but we stopped at several locations and at Karasu Koyu we found our target species, a full adult (or two) Audouin’s Gull. Here also, we saw a family of Wild Pig dine on scraps from the trash cans to the amusement of a few Turkish beachgoers. A pair of Chaffinch were seen as we drove back but the target had been obtained!
We stopped again for çay at Güzelçamli but in a different tea house than the one we stopped at on the way down. After an unsuccessful endeavour to buy baclava we drove back to Club Natura for our dinner.

Sunday, our last day, so tinged with a few pangs of leaving pain, we took early breakfast and drove back to Kapikiri, not to the village this time as a man wanted to charge us 8 lire each to get in to the village..........yeh right! Instead we checked the rocks and boulder fields for birds. More Western Rock Nuthatch displayed themselves giving even better views than previously, a Long-legged Buzzard quartered the area, Blue Rock Thrush were evident and finally a pair of Peregrine screamed at each other over a food item. We turned for lunch before gathering our goods and chattels and departing for the airport. At the resort we had said our goodbyes to Suleiman the chef and Achmed the helper and at the airport we said our farewell to Sadji, a really nice man!
At Bodrum airport you can take water through to the departure lounge and I advise anyone travelling from there to do so as well as food as the charges the outlets make are criminal.
An uneventful flight until landing at Gatwick where the pilot suddenly took off again just as we reached the tarmac completed the trip apart from the usual hassle on Britain’s roads. We reached home safely having made seven lifers and enjoyed our excursion to the “Levant” greatly.
Birdingpal Paul Gaffan
Suffok, UK

Last update 22/01/2013