3–16 June 2018
Pre-tour extension 1–3 June
The many Western Palearctic target species will include Caspian Snowcock, See-see Partridge, Red-wattled Lapwing, Striated Scops-owl, Persian Nuthatch, Upcher’s and Ménétries’s Warblers, Iraq Babbler, White-throated Robin, Red-tailed (Kurdish) Wheatear, Radde’s Accentor, Grey-hooded Bunting, Mongolian Finch and Chestnut-shouldered Petronia. A pre-tour extension is primarily to look for the rare Brown Fish-owl.
Day 1 Flight from London, via Istanbul, to Antalya, followed by the drive to Manavgat, where we will spend the night.
Day 2 Brown Fish-owl has only recently been rediscovered breeding in the Western Palearctic, where it is critically-endangered. We will take an early-morning boat-trip on Oymapinar Reservoir to look for the species then drive to Akseki to search for eastern Mediterranean specialties including Eastern Bonelli’s, Olive-tree and Rüppell’s Warblers, Masked and Woodchat Shrikes and Cretzschmar’s Bunting. Overnight in Akseki.
Day 3 Today we will drive east to the Göksu delta, a journey of about six hours. There will of course be roadside birding en route and we will check spectacular Göksu River canyon for raptors including Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Griffon, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Snake-eagle. We may also have some time to explore part of the Göksu Delta before the rest of the group arrives. Night in Silifke.
Day 1 Flight from London, via Istanbul, to Adana followed by the drive to Silifke for a two-night stay.
Day 2 Full day in Göksu delta. The area abounds with herons, ducks, waders, gulls and terns and we will visit a number of localities including Lake Akgöl and Paradeniz Gölü. Among the specialities we shall look for are Marbled Teal, Black Francolin, Grey-headed Swamphen, Spur-winged Lapwing, Audouin’s Gull, White-throated Kingfisher, White-spectacled Bulbul, Graceful Prinia and Moustached Warbler.
Day 3 The morning will be spent inland at the ancient Roman city of Diocaesarea, where Syrian Woodpecker, Olive-tree, Barred and Rüppell’s Warblers and Masked Shrike can all be found and where we will enjoy a barbecue lunch whilst watching Krüper’s Nuthatches! In the afternoon we will drive Camardi, for a two-night stay.
Day 4 This special day will necessitate an extremely early start as we take a tractor-ride up to Demirkazik in order to see Caspian Snowcock at dawn. There are many other birds to be seen here including Golden Eagle, Bearded Vulture, Alpine and Radde’s Accentors, Finsch’s Wheatear, Rufous-tailed and Blue Rock-thrushes, Wallcreeper, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs, Fire-fronted Serin, Crimson-winged Finch and White-winged Snowfinch. Depending upon what we see during the morning we can choose to either walk back down the gorge looking for Chukar or return on the tractor.
Day 5 We can try again for Caspian Snowcock if the weather was unkind yesterday. Alternatively, we will visit the nearby Emli Valley for other montane species and where Eurasian Eagle-owl can sometimes be found. We will punctuate our long journey eastwards with comfort and birding stops. Booted Eagle and Short-toed Snake-eagle, Isabelline Wheatear and Black-headed Bunting are likely reasons for unscheduled pauses, while White-throated and Pied Kingfishers could be our reward for taking a short break at Kirmitli wetland. Longer stops will be necessary in the Isikli and Durnalik Valleys. Species we will look for here include White-throated Robin, Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Orphean and Upcher’s Warblers, Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit and Cretzschmar’s and Cinereous Buntings. In the late afternoon we will continue our journey to the wonderfully atmospheric town of Birecik, where we will spend three nights.
Days 6–7 Pistachio orchards, parks and the famous gorge are some of the sites we will explore in and around Birecik as we look for the semi-wild Northern Bald Ibis, See-see Partridge, Syrian Woodpecker, Alpine and Little Swifts, Eastern Olivaceous, Ménétries’s and Upcher’s Warblers, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin and Dead Sea Sparrow. Persian Nuthatch and Bonelli’s Eagle also occur close to a small town nearby, half of which is under the waters of a reservoir. Pale Rockfinch and Desert Lark are among the other possibilities here, while Pygmy Cormorant and Pied Kingfisher may be found along the Euphrates River. The marshes near Birecik hold a few Iraq Babblers and we will certainly look for these. Information from our local contacts may help us to locate the nomadic Cream-coloured Courser on the steppes. Local owls include Eurasian and Pallid Scops-owls and Barn and Long-eared Owls.
Day 8 Leaving Birecik, we will head eastwards to an area of grassland where See-see Partridge, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Finsch’s Wheatear can be found. Nearby we will look for Desert Finch. Moving on north-eastwards, we will break our journey at a mixed colony of Blue-cheeked and European Bee-eaters. We will continue round the vast Ataturk Reservoir until we reach the historical site of Nemrut Dagi. This is an excellent place for both Red-tailed (Kurdistan) Wheatear and Pale Rockfinch and there will also be an opportunity to see the famous statues near the summit. Overnight in Kahta.
Day 9 This morning we will cross the reservoir on a ferry and check for Spectacled Warblers in the lava flows at Karacadag Mountain. Bimaculated and Calandra Larks can also be found breeding here. In the afternoon we will visit the world heritage site of Hasankeyf with its spectacular cave dwellings and colony of Lesser Kestrels. Overnight in Batman.
Day 10 Today’s target species is Red-wattled Lapwing and we will systematically search river courses for one. Although the species is rare in the Western Palearctic, there are reliable places for it on tributaries of the River Tigris, well upstream of the militarily-sensitive Syrian border at Cizre. We will then continue our journey eastwards and, if there is enough time, we will visit Nemrut Crater Lake in the late afternoon. Overnight in Tatvan on the western shore of Lake Van.
Day 11 Lake Van, at 3755 square kilometres, is the largest lake in Turkey and we will travel along its northern shore. We will search the marshes for Paddyfield Warbler and check Sodaligol, a wonderful stopover site for migrating waders. Armenian Gulls are common here together with breeding White-headed Ducks, whilst migrant waders may include Marsh, Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalaropes. Two nights in Ercis.
Day 12 An early start will allow us to spend all day on and around Bulanik Plain, where Turkey’s highest concentration of breeding Great Bustards occur thanks to the continuing use of traditional agricultural practices. We also hope to see Cattle Egret, Montagu’s Harrier, Common Crane, Gull-billed and White-winged Terns, Lesser Short-toed and Calandra Larks and more passage waders. We may even be fortunate enough to locate Little Bustard or Black-winged Pratincole.
Day 13 We will drive to Doğubeyazit in extreme eastern Turkey near its border with Iran. At the spectacular Ishak Pasa, overlooking Mount Ararat, we will look for Grey-hooded Bunting, on the extreme western edge of its range here. Other birds we may see include Saker Falcon and Bearded Vulture. After lunch we will cross a pass with amazing rock formations created by lava flows from Mount Tendurek. The main reason for visiting this area is to look for Mongolian Finch, also at the extreme western edge of its range. Supporting birds may include Citrine Wagtail, Rock Petronia, Trumpeter and Crimson-winged Finches and White-winged Snowfinch. In the late afternoon we will make the two-hour drive south to Van, where we will spend the last night.
Day 14 Sadly it is time to leave, but fortunately it is only a short journey to the airport to catch an internal flight to Istanbul, where we will board our flight to London.
General Information The temperature will vary from cold in the mountains to warm on the coast; some rain is possible. The pace of the tour is moderate with generally easy walking, although some extra effort will be needed at high altitude. There are some special health requirements and you should refer to your doctor for advice. Insects will not usually be a problem except around lakes and marshes. Accommodation will be the best available, mainly with en-suite facilities. Transport will be by air-conditioned minibus or coach. Road conditions are generally good although some rough roads can be expected when accessing birding areas and there are some long journeys. Visas are required; they can be obtained on arrival at a cost of £10 for UK citizens.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader; 14 with 2 leaders.