Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Göksu Delta, Southern Turkey - May 2011(Part 1)

The trip began with a flight from London's Heathrow Airport to Adana in Southern Turkey, via Istanbul, and after a couple of hours driving we arrived at the Lades Hotel, Tasucu which was to be our stop for three nights. This trip was going slightly earlier than many previous trips to the area, (30th April to 9th May), but that added an element of surprise to our trip which made it quite exciting. The first full days birding began with a visit to the Goksu Delta, and a chance to explore the lakes and surrounding wetland and farmland. The Goksu Delta consists of a large flat area where the Goksu river enters the Mediterranean Sea, and includes two lakes, Akgol and Paradeniz, and a huge sand spit which extends into the sea.

The southern watchtower, overlooking Akgol lake, was our first stop, and this gave us the chance to scan the lake and surrounding reeds in search of Purple (grey-headed) Swamphen and Marbled Duck, which are two of the local specialities. I did not see these species,  but enjoyed scanning over the reeds in search of different raptor species in amongst  the common Western Marsh Harriers.

Western Marsh Harrier - T. D. Codlin

The heat haze combined with the size of the lake made viewing difficult at times, and having to scan through hundreds of Common Coot in search of a Swamphen did not inspire me. However the mixed flock of White-winged, Black and Little Terns soon boosted the enthusiasm, and as I continued to scan a Great Bittern got up from the reeds and flew north whilst two White Pelicans soared overhead. Garganey, Ruddy Shelduck, Purple and Grey Herons were all recorded, and a flock of Alpine Swifts filled the skies above.

The nearby reeds and scrub were fairly dense and viewing was again difficult but we did end up with good views of a pair of Blackcaps, several Graceful Prinias, White-spectacled Bulbuls and a couple of Spur-thighed Tortoise.

Spur-thighed Tortoise - T. D. Codlin

After the southern watchtower, we continued through the dunes and pools in search of migrants. Apparently the lake was holding more water than usual and therefore most of the waders were on the pools, but unfortunately for us we had arrived on a Sunday, along with  most of the residents of the nearby village, so many of the birds had gone. Wading birds were still present in good numbers though with Little Stints being the most numerous. Little Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff were all recorded, but the most vocal and striking wader species were the Spur-winged Plovers.

Spur-winged Plover - T. D. Codlin

These birds were extremely photogenic, although they were constantly taking flight to 'see-off' the Marsh Harriers as they flew overhead. The Spur-winged Plover is considered to be a scarce breeder in South-eastern Europe, but in the Goksu Delta it was relatively common.

Spur-winged Plover T. D. Codlin

Of the passerine birds recorded in the Goksu Delta by far the most striking was the Yellow Wagtail, which in this part of Europe is represented by the subspecies Motacilla flava feldegg or Black-headed Wagtail. I have seen this subspecies many times before, but have never noticed the subtle white stripe between the black hood and the yellow on the cheek, at first I thought it might be a trick of the light but it was present on all the male birds I saw.

Black-headed Wagtail T.D.Codlin

For lunch we stopped near a narrow channel which links Lake Akgol with Lake Paradeniz; a sand bar extends in a southerly direction from this point, this provided an ideal roosting location for a few Yellow-legged Gulls, Sandwich, Common, a couple of Caspian Terns and a lone Grey Plover. A handful of Greater Flamingos fed in the lake behind. A chance meeting with a Belgian Birder tipped us off to the presence of a Cyprus Pied Wheatear in the area, and it was not long before we found the bird. Good views confirmed the identity of the bird, but it disappeared before I could get any photos.

Squacco Herons T.D.Codlin

Continuing east the farmland was an excellent area to explore, White Stork and Squacco Herons fed along the damp areas and Crested Larks were abundant along the tracks. Black Francolins were calling from the nearby fields, presumably from a suitably prominent perch, but despite our best efforts we were unable to find one.

White Stork T.D.Codlin

Our second days birding (2nd May) began with a visit to the north of Akgol Lake and the northern watchtower. Overnight rain had brought about a fall and migrants were everywhere. Whinchats, Red-backed Shrikes, Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroats, Black-headed Buntings and European Bee-eaters were all recorded but the highlight was a flock of around 20 Red-footed Falcons.

Black-headed Bunting T.D.Codlin

The male birds were stunning and showed off their silvery primaries as they hovered over the fields, whereas the females showed off their pale rufous underparts. Six Short-toed Eagles, a 'Steppe' Buzzard, two Common kestrel and a Hobby were also present, adding to the spectacle.

Female Red-footed Falcon T.D.Codlin

As we continued along the track we encountered several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Common and Great Reed Warblers and a Plain Tiger Butterfly. A singing Moustached Warbler was present in the reeds by the northern watchtower. I have seen this species on Majorca before and therefore was slightly surprised to the see how pale the underparts were, and then noted that this part of Turkey is represented by the subspecies Acrocephalus melanopogon mimicus.

Moustached Warbler ssp. mimicus T.D.Codlin

We spent a while looking at this bird as it sang from a prominent perch, its distinctive song and short primary projection confirmed its identity, then it was time to move on. Finished with the Goksu Delta, we next headed inland to the village of Uzunchaburc for the afternoon, I will write about that in my next post.

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