Thursday, 26 July 2012

Turkish Delight 2012 - Day 1 and 2

It has been a while since my return from Turkey in May 2012, and due to a busy schedule I have been unable to update this blog with details, anyway I hope to have a bit of spare time over the next few weeks, so here goes. For regular readers to the is blog, this trip followed the same itinerary as the trip in 2011, it was an Ornitholidays trip, co-guided by Mitko Petrakiev and me. We started in the Göksu Delta, before moving onto Curkurbag Village in the Taurus Mountains, Gaziantep and finally Birecik. I kept a daily diary and took many pictures so here goes with the first installment!

Monday 30th April
Our trip commenced with an early morning flight from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to Istanbul in Turkey, followed by an onward connection to the southern Turkish airport of Adana. Unfortunately, due to a 30 minute delay with our flight leaving Heathrow and a further 30 minute delay landing at Istanbul, we missed our onward connection. However, due to some extremely efficient ground staff at Istanbul, and by negotiating our passage through the fast track system at Turkish Immigration, we were swiftly booked onto the next flight to Adana. A further delay with this onward flight meant that by the time we arrived at Adana it was almost dark, and after the three hour drive to Tasuçu there was no time for any birding.

Tuesday 1st May
Our first day was spent around the Göksu Delta, and after the trials and tribulations of the previous day we opted for a leisurely start. The Göksu Delta is one of the most important areas in the region for breeding birds, with over 300 species recorded, and it was our intention to start in the west at a watchtower overlooking a large brackish lagoon and head east along the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Our approach to the lagoon took us over several irrigation canals where we saw our first Little Bittern, Eurasian and Great Reed Warblers, followed by  a single Woodchat Shrike and a fall of Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes.

Red-backed Shrike

The scrub around the watchtower was busy with migrants and supported Black Francolins, Lesser Whitethroats, Common Nightingales, Whinchats, Graceful Prinias and Barred Warblers. Continuing along the track we picked up more Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, our first Masked Shrikes, before we noticed a pale and washed out individual that turned out to be an Isabelline Shrike. This bird gave good views within an area of burnt scrub, before disappearing for long periods, only to appear again in the same place just when we had given up any further hope of seeing it. Isabelline Shrike is a vagrant to this area so we were very pleased to have seen it and hoped that it was good omen for the rest of the day.

Lesser Grey Shrike

The bird life present on the lagoon was fairly limited with a few Red-crested Pochards, Ruddy Shelduck and six Black-necked Grebes on the water, whilst Grey and Purple Herons and a lone Eurasian Spoonbill stood in it. Several Marsh Harriers hunted in the distance and a mixed flock of White-winged Black and Black Terns flitted back and forth over the exposed water. A scan of the scrub from the watchtower produced some prolonged views of Black Francolin, more Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Blackcaps and another glimpse of the Isabelline Shrike. 

Spur-winged Plover

Continuing in an easterly direction along the southern edge of the lagoon, we saw many Spur-winged Plovers, and occasional migrants which included European Roller and Rufous Bush Robin. A prolonged stop at a known site for Marbled Duck, failed to locate this species but produced a wealth of others. Most notably was an abundance of Thrush Nightingales. There were at least 20 birds flicking in and out of the bushes chasing and croaking at each other. Spotted Flycatchers were also present in large numbers, along with Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Common Redstarts and a lone Black-eared Wheatear. 

Thrush Nightingale

We continued our journey east, scanning the brackish pools as we went, Yellow Wagtails of the race Motacilla flava feldegg were numerous, but wader were very scarce, with only three Wood Sandpipers, a single Little Ringed Plover and a handful of Kentish Plovers recorded. We headed down to a small fishing creek and immediately picked up a couple of Stone Curlews and six Eurasian Curlews. A scan from a mound at the end of the track produced another Curlew, a couple of Greenshank and Redshank, five Bar-tailed Godwits and two cracking summer plumaged Broad-billed Sandpipers. Continuing east we stopped to scan a flock of birds roosting on another sand spit, this flock included Slender-billed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, a couple of Black-headed Gulls and a Grey Plover, whilst in the field behind us, a small flock of Greater Short-toed Larks fed.

Stone Curlew

Mitko had information about a small colony of Audouin’s Gulls breeding in the local area so we decided to check it out. Our destination was at the end of a series of small tracks which headed out across the marsh so we proceeded with caution, as the track was quite uneven and wet in places. Our first bird was a surprise in the form of a Common Crane, an immature bird that wasn’t in the best plumage, but a great bird nonetheless. Continuing on, the track opened up onto an area of tidal sand that was not safe to drive on, so we parked our vehicles and walked to the waters edge. The sea was easy to scan in the mill pond conditions and we quickly picked up a small group of four Bottle-nosed Dolphins that lazily swam east. 

Scanning along the foreshore produced better numbers of waders than what we had seen all day, including Kentish, Ringed, and Grey Plovers and a small flock of Little Stints, and undoubtedly the best find of the day...a Lesser Sand Plover. We were fortunate to have the other plover species present for size comparison, but even without them there was no mistaking this birds’ identity. It appeared to be in full summer plumage and showed a complete black band over the eyes and forehead enabling us to identify as the race Charadrius mongolus pamirensis. Apparently there are no confirmed records of this species in Turkey, unfortunately we were unable to get pictures to prove it, but at least the whole group got to see it.

With the light fading fast we headed back to our hotel, glimpsing another Black Francolin and the Common Crane again, on the way. 

To be continued.....

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