TURKEY - WESTERN PALEARCTIC WONDERSSaturday 10th May
Saturday 10th - Monday 19th May 2014
Most of the group met early for our flight to Istanbul which eventually took off slightly later than planned but still within the time limits to catch our connecting flight to Gaziantep later in the afternoon.
As we came in to land at Istanbul with views of the Bosphorus, we suddenly went up as there was congestion on the runway! We circled the city and eventually made it down to find that we were thirty minutes late for our next flight. After queuing at Passport/visa control we made a mad dash through the domestic terminal to find that luckily there were still people waiting to board the flight!
On the plane we met up with Jane and Chris who had travelled from California and Kent respectively and had both spent a few days visiting the sights of Istanbul. We were so happy to see them and not to have missed the flight and we were soon on our way.
Arriving at Gaziantep, we collected our luggage except for one bag and we were assured it would turn up the following day! After meeting up with our guide Mitko, we loaded up the vehicles and headed to our hotel in the city of Gaziantep where we had just a short time before tucking in to our evening meal which went down well.
It was then off to bed to get some rest before our first full day of birding in Turkey.
Sunday 11th May
We met for breakfast at 7am and whilst the group were tucking in, Steve and Mitko were sorting out a second vehicle that had just been delivered. Formalities done, we were soon off through the city and heading to a site to the north of the city The journey produced a few LAUGHING DOVE which flew over and when we stopped for fuel several of the group saw SERINS on some nearby waste ground.
As we reached the first birding site, several RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS, a pair of SOMBRE TITS and a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER were seen nearby. After parking in the Main Street, we slowly wandered up a goat track to a wonderful area of rocky, scrub-covered hillsides. A fine male WHITE-THROATED ROBIN was seen perched on top of a bush and a few minutes later, the female was seen hopping about a dry-stone wall. Other species on our way up included the incredibly numerous BLACK-EARED WHEATEARS, OLIVACEOUS WARBLER, BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, WILLOW WARBLER and BLACKCAP.
Scanning the rocky outcrops paid dividends with EASTERN ROCK NUTHATCH perched up plus a fine male CINEREOUS BUNTING singing away in the hot sunshine. A LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD soared in front of the rocky outcrop and below us sat a WHITE-SPECTACLED BULBUL.
After a steep section of the walk, the path levelled out and suddenly across the path flew a superb male KURDISH WHEATEAR that went into its nest just up the slope. The bird flew back and forth and gave reasonable views as it did so. Up on the rocky crag, an EASTERN ROCK NUTHATCH went crazy as a small flock of ROCK SPARROWS tried to get access to its nest.
Carrying on our walk we had our first views of CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING on a rock whilst it was carrying food, so without disturbing it we carried on and a few minutes later came across two female and a male FINSCH'S WHEATEAR in an open rocky area, which although not close, gave good views.
By now the sun was beating down and this encouraged plenty of butterflies to fly, including BLACK-VEINED WHITE, SPOTTED and LESSER SPOTTED FRITILLARIES, EASTERN FESTOON and a BALKAN COPPER. Reaching an old orchard gave us the chance to catch up with one of Turkey's specialities, UPCHER'S WARBLER which gave good views as it flew from bush to bush and it perched on a rock where we had good scope views.
On reaching our final spot we connected with a small flock of BIMACULATED LARK, several of which showed well on stone piles on the plateau. Other species of note here included a flock of 40 EUROPEAN BEE-EATER, CRESTED LARK and PEREGRINE.
We then walked back down the mountain path and took a short drive to our lunch spot where we enjoyed a picnic. LESSER WHITETHROATS sang from the scrub and BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, SOMBRE TIT and RED-RUMPED SWALLOW were noted.
Leaving the area we drove eastwards and after a while, stopped in a large area of Pistachio trees, where almost immediately we had good views of a pair of YELLOW-THROATED SPARROW as they fed and perched in a tree. A pair of TURTLE DOVE flew through briefly before we slowly drove along the road seeing HOOPOE, CRESTED LARK and a pair of RUFOUS BUSH-CHAT on the ground.
Our last birding site of the day was a reservoir where LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD perched on some boulders and both RED-BACKED and WOODCHAT SHRIKE took advantage of the many insects that were flying around. Reaching the edge of the reservoir, it was pretty smelly but this attracted insects and both PALLID and COMMON SWIFT fed very close to us offering good photo opportunities.
Over the next hour or so we found three pairs of SPUR-WINGED PLOVER, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, WOOD SANDPIPERS, RUFF, four LITTLE STINT, three SHELDUCK, CATTLE EGRETS and a male GARGANEY.
The highlight was a pair of DESERT FINCH that fed in short grass on a track before being disturbed by a passing car. A smart male LESSER GREY SHRIKE was spotted near the water’s edge and a BEE-EATER hawked insects close to the vehicle.
We then drove eastwards and a short while later, arrived at Birecik. As we crossed the River Euphrates, a smart PYGMY CORMORANT flew past whilst under the bridge we noted two COOTS.
After checking in at our hotel we were able to have a cool shower before meeting in the downstairs restaurant, where we enjoyed a great local meal of either Chicken or Fish which was delicious. Whilst waiting for our meal to arrive, a couple of BALD IBIS were seen flying along the river as the sun was setting, a fine end to the day.
Monday 12th May
We all met at 6.00am for a journey to an area of gravel-pits close to the river. As we drove along a dirt track, we came across a small number of BALD IBIS feeding on Chicken manure close to the road, along with a single ROOK.
A FERRUGINOUS DUCK flew past and as it did so it clipped overhead wires but fortunately it got away unscathed. Scanning the reedy pools and scrub produced plenty of birds including our first MENETRIES WARBLERS and GRACEFUL PRINIAS as well as LITTLE BITTERN, GREAT REED WARBLER, PIED KINGFISHER, RED CRESTED POCHARD and a swimming GRASS SNAKE.
Exploring the tracks, we found good numbers of DEAD SEA SPARROW including some very confiding birds showing close to the path. Overhead flew small flocks of ROSE-COLOURED STARLING and a mixed flock of both BLACK-HEADED and SLENDER-BILLED GULLS. A SPUR-WINGED PLOVER defended his territory against a LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD and two DESERT FINCH were seen briefly along the track.
PURPLE and SQUACCO HERON flew over along with CATTLE and LITTLE EGRET and as we walked back to the vans we had good views of more MENETRIES WARBLERS and GRACEFUL PRINIAS. Unfortunately we failed to locate any Iraq Babblers so would have to go back the next day.
We then returned for a later breakfast than planned before driving eastwards for around an hour. Whilst driving we saw a few ROLLERS on wires and a SHORT-TOED EAGLE circled an adjacent field.
We turned off onto a dirt track and soon found our first PALE ROCK SPARROWS of the tour, along with good numbers of ISABELLINE WHEATEAR, SHORT TOED LARK and lots of HOUSE SPARROWS.
The track took us through some superb habitat with one of the highlights being up to 10 SEE-SEE PARTRIDGE that gave some good views as they ran through the grass, occasionally sitting on boulders. A stop to stretch our legs produced a few RUFOUS BUSH-CHAT and UPCHER'S WARBLER and in a small plantation we found SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, COMMON REDSTART and TURTLE DOVE.
Further along we found a small herd of GOITERED GAZELLE and had good views of FINSCH'S WHEATEARS in A rocky wadi. It was then time for a late lunch and whilst enjoying our picnic we found LITTLE OWL, LESSER SHORT-TOED LARK and SHORT-TOED LARK amongst the very common CRESTED LARK.
We then drove north, heading out into more open country with RED BACKED SHRIKES, BLACK-HEADED BUNTINGS and CORN BUNTINGS perched on roadside wires.
A little while later we arrived at a colony of both BLUE-CHEEKED and EUROPEAN BEE-EATERS and our time here was absolutely fantastic with amazing views of these brightly coloured birds, as they perched on the mound and flew around us. Another LITTLE OWL perched up close to us and over fields to the west we had distant views of GULL-BILLED TERNS.
We then left the area for our drive back to Birecik which was taken on good roads. A WHITE STORK and SYRIAN WOODPECKER were seen from the van before we arrived in the town. A quick detour was made to see both ALPINE and LITTLE SWIFT which nest on the cliffs adjacent to the river.
On our return to the hotel, we had time for a shower before another very enjoyable dinner to round off the day.
Tuesday 13th May
Once again we met at 6am for our second excursion to the gravel-pits where we spotted a single BALD IBIS feeding close to the van.
We drove slowly along a track which produced a RED FOX and while we stopped to look at it there were two IRAQ BABBLERS in the reeds in front of it!
Absolutely delighted, we scoped these new colonists to the area and had reasonable scope views as they perched up in the reeds. A small pit on front of us held MENETRIES WARBLER, GRACEFUL PRINIA and a pair of DESERT FINCH, whilst nearby were around six ROLLERS and several BLACK-HEADED BUNTING.
CATTLE EGRET, NIGHT HERONS and PYGMY CORMORANTS flew overhead and a PIED KINGFISHER zipped past. A distant flock of Sandgrouse were seen and were most likely BLACK-BELLIED but were too distant to be sure.
With our main target achieved, we drove to an area of gardens where an agitated STARLING revealed the presence of a PALLID SCOPS OWL roosting in a tree. Getting a good angle on the bird was difficult but we all managed to get good views as it quietly sat there.
It was then back for breakfast which was fulfilling and afterwards we said goodbye to Birecik and headed westwards, back to Gaziantep Airport where Martin's bag had at last turned up!
Whilst Mitko and Martin were in the terminal, the rest of the group had stunning views of a RUFOUS BUSH-CHAT perched on the perimeter fence where it was singing.
From here we had a long drive westward towards Adana before we stopped for lunch at an area of gravel-pits. On the first pond some of the group had brief views of a pair of WHITE-BREASTED KINGFISHER at the far end but they flew off into a deeper part of the wood. EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER were numerous as were RUFOUS BUSH-CHAT.
A walk around the pits produced a few NIGHT HERON plus CATTLE & LITTLE EGRET and good numbers of EUROPEAN POND TERRAPIN loafing on the sheltered banks. PAINTED LADY and EASTERN BATH WHITE BUTTERFLIES flitted along the tracks before we tucked into a picnic that Mitko had prepared.
Afterwards we took a walk to the river and saw PENDULINE TIT by the bridge and more EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLERS. A SHORT-TOED EAGLE soared over a distant ridge and down river a flock of 11 GLOSSY IBIS flew over. As we started to leave, a WHITE-BREASTED KINGFISHER flew across the river and away. The walk back to the van produced a LITTLE BITTERN that flew over the path.
We then left the area for another 3 hour drive towards the mountains and we made a stop close to our hotel where a beautiful double rainbow formed over the stunning peaks. After reaching the hotel we had some time to get ready before tucking in to a home-cooked meal. We then retired for the night as we had an early start the next day.
Wednesday 14th May
We met at 3.30am and after coffee and chocolate biscuits, climbed aboard a trailer that was towed by a tractor and driven by our host Hassan for an hour journey up to approximately 2400m above sea level.
It wasn't too bumpy and although still dark you could see the magnificent peak of Demicazik in the moonlight. Halfway up, half of the group got out as we reached an area of loose gravel and they walked up around half a kilometre to meet up again. Eventually we arrived at a plateau just below the high peaks and set up our scopes on the cliffs.
Within a few minutes, Hassan had located our first CASPIAN SNOWCOCK perched high on a crag and although distant, we had reasonable scope views. The Snowcock calls were curlew-like and echoed down from the cliffs. A Snowcock was spotted directly in front of us and it was great to see this large game bird calling, camouflaged against the rocks. A WALLCREEPER was seen briefly flitting across the rock face before flying directly past the Snowcock perched on the rocks!
Whilst watching these, there were plenty of other species to keep us occupied including some confiding SNOWFINCH that fed unconcerned around us. Several RADDE'S ACCENTORS were present although quite flighty, especially when the larger and more aggressive ALPINE ACCENTORS came on the scene.
Both RED-BILLED and ALPINE CHOUGH could be seen both on the ground and in flight around us and on the cliffs we had good views of many NORTHERN WHEATEAR of the paler white-breasted race libanotica. Scanning the rocks and cliffs produced a stunning male ROCK THRUSH and our first CRIMSON-WINGED FINCHES of the Asian form, a potential future split from the North African race.
After a hot tea or coffee most of the group wandered down to a small spring, where plenty of ASIA MINOR SOUSLIKS ran around and could be seen perched on rocks enjoying the morning sun. Eventually we spotted another two of our target birds, RED-FRONTED SERIN and HORNED LARK of the paler race pencillata. The former flitted around the boulders and the black and red head markings glowed in the light.
We then got back into the trailer for our journey down to around halfway, where we walked down to an area of sheep fields. The walk produced CRAG MARTINS, ROCK BUNTING, female BLUE ROCK THRUSH, RED-FRONTED SERINS and several of the group managed good views of a male WHITE-THROATED ROBIN.
Mitko picked up a male ORTOLAN BUNTING singing on a bush and we managed to get on it briefly before it disappeared from view and in the distance, a pair of WHITE-THROATED ROBINS frequented an area of trees and bushes.
It was then down to the hotel for brunch which was fantastic and well deserved after our early morning start. Whilst tucking in, several TREE SPARROWS were noted on power lines close to the balcony on which we sat to eat.
We then had a siesta but most of the group chose to wander around the Cherry Orchard behind the hotel which yielded NIGHTINGALE, our first CHAFFINCH of the tour and a pair of ORTOLAN BUNTING.
CETTI'S WARBLERS sang from the river-side as we drove northwards in the vans and just outside the village were a pair of HORNED LARK in a field along with good numbers of RED-BILLED CHOUGH. Our first stop was a large gorge which was being used by a group of rock climbers so we didn't expect to see much, but how wrong we were as down by their equipment, a pair of WESTERN ROCK NUTHATCH flitted around and then a stunning WALLCREEPER appeared and we had good but distant views as it moved around the cliff face, completely unconcerned about the people below it.
On the mud close to the road we found plenty of blue butterflies which included GREEN-UNDERSIDE BLUES. From here we went to another area and after Mitko had paid some park rangers National Park fees we had excellent views of a pair of RED-BACKED SHRIKE, BLACK KITE, LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD and three GOLDEN EAGLES.
The rocky areas were home to BLACK-EARED, ISABELLINE, NORTHERN and FINCH'S WHEATEARS which were good to see. We then drove southwards to a vast gorge where the journey yielded small flocks of ROCK SPARROW as well as BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, LESSER GREY SHRIKE and many more birds. A walk was taken in the gorge and over the next hour we found plenty of RED-FRONTED SERIN flying around as well as WESTERN ROCK NUTHATCH feeding on the ground, plus a couple of male WHITE-THROATED ROBINS and many singing LESSER WHITETHROAT.
The drive out of the gorge and to the hotel produced a perched WOODLARK and a pair of TAWNY PIPIT close to the van. It was then time to freshen up before dinner after what had been a most amazing day.
Thursday 15th May
After a good night’s rest, we met at a more civilised time for breakfast and then loaded up the vans to begin the journey to the coast.
After a refreshment stop we arrived at the Goksu Delta and one of our first birds was LITTLE BITTERN flying down a reed-fringed stream. The track took us along the edge of a lagoon on one side and the sea on the other and from here we had several views of BLACK FRANCOLIN and a distant view of a GREAT WHITE EGRET flying away.
We reached a tall watchtower which gave us a better view of the main lagoon and it didn't take long to spot FERRUGINOUS DUCK, around 75 RED-CRESTED POCHARD, MARSH HARRIER, PURPLE HERON and a few LITTLE TERN.
Lunch was then enjoyed on the beach and along the shoreline were KENTISH PLOVERS plus a few CRESTED LARK thrown in for good measure. Afterwards, some of the group went for a paddle in the warm Mediterranean Sea before we packed up and took a slow drive adjacent to a large area of shallow pools.
A LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was seen holding territory on a small pool and further on, we had good views of MASKED SHRIKE perched in an Oleander before it flew off over the vans. In an area of dry grassland there were a pair of STONE CURLEW and a pair of SPUR-WINGED PLOVER which were seen preparing a nest site by carefully moving stones from a shallow depression in the ground.
Over the next couple of hours we found good numbers of waders and waterbirds including summer plumage SPOONBILL, a very distant WHITE PELICAN, BLACK-WINGED STILT, LITTLE STINTS, GREEN SANDPIPER, CURLEW SANDPIPERS, BAR-TAILED GODWITS of which two had very long bills and were considerably larger and may have well been of an eastern race.
Mitko walked ahead of us and beckoned us over, as he had found two stunning BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER that fed unconcerned in the mud in front of us and we all had very good views. An OSPREY was seen distantly and SHORT-TOED LARK grovelled on the short turf nearby.
Our journey took us around several other lagoons and more notable species included GREATER FLAMINGO, CASPIAN GULL, LITTLE TERN, BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL, SLENDER-BILLED GULL, a very poorly looking oiled RINGED PLOVER and some summer plumaged SANDERLING.
The last leg took us through an area of agricultural land where three LITTLE OWL, BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL and JAY were seen before we arrived at our new hotel on the coast.
After a good shower, we walked into town where we had an excellent meal at a local restaurant before heading back to complete the bird list.
Friday 16th May
We awoke to find bright, sunny and very warm conditions, ideal for our visit up into the hills behind our hotel. After a good breakfast, we loaded up and drove for around 25 minutes, making a stop close to the remains of a roman settlement. Very soon we had located a singing male RUPPELL'S WARBLER, perched on top of a small pine.
Taking a walk up the track to the top of the hill proved productive with small numbers of LONG-TAILED TIT as well as a few MASKED SHRIKE and a couple of BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR.
The hot sun brought out lots of butterflies including BLUE-SPOT HAIRSTREAK, TREE GRAYLING and LESSER LATICE BROWN amongst others. As we strolled down the slope, OLIVE-TREE WARBLER was seen well but briefly before disappearing into dense scrub.
With the weather warming up nicely, we left the site and drove northwards to a small gorge nearby. On the cliffs above us we found a pair of WESTERN ROCK NUTHATCH, plus two BLUE ROCK THRUSH which showed well.
CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTINGS sang their Yellowhammer like song from the tops of pines and more RUPPELL'S WARBLERS were seen including one which showed well below us.
Taking a slow walk down the road, we heard the distinctive mechanical song of an OLIVE-TREE WARBLER and after a bit of searching we had good views as it sang from a pine. Other highlights included COMMON BUZZARD and MASKED SHRIKES.
It was then off to lunch at a picnic site where we went for a walk whilst Mitko prepared the food. We hadn't got far when a small party of KRUPER'S NUTHATCH were found in a pine and they gave good views as they fed each other. CHAFFINCH were numerous and also seen were MISTLE THRUSH, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, BLUE and COAL TIT and BLACKBIRD.
We then visited some roman remains and after paying our entrance fee, took a wander around this famous site, noting BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, BLACK-EARED and FINSCH'S WHEATEAR, SOMBRE TIT, MASKED SHRIKE and LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER.
After a refreshing drink in the village, we drove down the road stopping at various locations, but apart from SYRIAN WOODPECKER and a couple of RAVEN it was quiet.
Mitko then decided to spend the remaining part of the day on the Goksu Delta. As we drove along a reed-fringed ditch we had good views of SQUACCO HERON and nearby, three WHISKERED TERN flew over.
We reached the end where we had brief views of FERRUGINOUS DUCK as well as MARSH HARRIER, PURPLE HERON and two flocks of GLOSSY IBIS.
GREAT REED WARBLERS sang from high perches and a SAVI'S WARBLER was heard reeling. We then located a singing male MOUSTACHED WARBLER perched up on the reeds where it gave distant but good views. In the dense reeds we heard a brief male LITTLE CRAKE and looking along a small inlet we found a stunning GREY-HEADED SWAMPHEN which showed well.
We then returned to the hotel where it was good to have a refreshing shower before taking a walk into town for our evening meal.
Saturday 17th May
With a long drive ahead of us, the group met for a pre-breakfast walk around the harbour. Small numbers of COMMON TERN fed and a pair of RUDDY SHELDUCK flew past.
In a small park close to the harbour we had good views of several LAUGHING DOVE and WHITE-SPECTACLED BULBUL before walking to the end of the harbour wall. A scan of the sea produced more COMMON TERN and a first year SANDWICH TERN fishing offshore.
With time getting on we slowly walked back to the park and on arrival could hear a warbler singing. On closer inspection it was a stunning male BARRED WARBLER and eventually we had good views as it sat in some dead scrub.
It was then back for a good breakfast before loading up the vans and making a start on the 400km journey towards Antalya. The journey was pretty slow due to single carriageway roads and many lorries.
Some birds were seen on the journey including PEREGRINE, SHORT-TOED EAGLE, LITTLE OWL, ALPINE SWIFT and RED-RUMPED SWALLOW.
Lunch was enjoyed at a picnic site adjacent to the sea and although quiet for birds, we did find plenty of STARRED AGAMA'S basking on the rocks.
We arrived at our new hotel at around 5pm and after checking in, some of the group went to the bar next door which was next to the river. HOUSE MARTINS and YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS hawked over the river and a male OLIVACEOUS WARBLER was seen in trees next to us.
It was then time for a shower before meeting to walk to a local restaurant for dinner.
Sunday 18th May
After a relaxed breakfast we drove up to a nearby dam to arrange a boat trip for the following morning. After successful negotiation on Mitko’s part, we drove northwards to a fantastic valley that climbed up to around 2000 metres above sea level.
Our first stop produced a singing male RUPPELL'S WARBLER perched high upon a conifer, whilst the warm sun encouraged plenty of butterflies including WHITE ADMIRAL, LONG-TAILED BLUE, EASTERN ORANGE-TIP and SOUTHERN SWALLOWTAIL.
Moving further along the valley we stopped as a male EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER was seen close to the van before flying up the slope and disappearing. Another stop a kilometre further on, several EASTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER sang and one showed well as he sang from a tall pine tree, his body shaking as he did so. Another RUPPELL'S WARBLER was seen and perched on a distant tree was a fantastic female GOSHAWK.
The male GOSHAWK was seen displaying to the female but she didn't seem too impressed and carried on sitting there. We then had around a 10 kilometre drive along a bumpy track to our lunch spot close to a spring. On arrival we had excellent views of up to 12 ORTOLAN BUNTINGS that were drinking and bathing close to the vehicles. RED-FRONTED SERINS showed well and male FINSCH'S WHEATEAR perched high on a rock.
A GOLDEN EAGLE soared over a distant peak whilst we enjoyed our picnic lunch. We then drove to the end of the track whilst some chose to walk and along here we found small numbers of ALPINE CHOUGH, SHORELARK, ISABELLINE WHEATEAR, ROCK SPARROW, CRIMSON-WINGED FINCH, ROCK THRUSH, SNOWFINCH and a dead OTTOMAN VIPER that was photographed.
After turning around we retraced our steps noting RED-BACKED SHRIKE, MISTLE THRUSH and LESSER WHITETHROAT amongst others. We had a cup of tea at a petrol station in a local village after getting fuel and we made the drive back to the hotel.
After a hot shower we walked into town for our evening meal which once again was delicious before heading back to complete the bird list. It was then off to bed as we had an early start the next day.
Monday 19th May
We met at 4.45am for our drive up to the nearby dam where it was just getting light. Meeting with our skipper for our boat excursion into Green Canyon, there seemed to be a problem with the weather. He said it was too windy to get into the small canyon so he suggested that we had coffee and meanwhile hopefully it would calm down.
At 6.30am we got the go ahead and boarded the boat. Immediately we headed into the small canyon and he cut the engines. Within a few minutes, we found a female BROWN FISH OWL perched in a tree although it was obscured by bushes. Scanning of the opposite side yielded dividends with the male sitting behind some foliage. Careful manoeuvring of the boat gave us clear views as the owl just sat there watching us.
After a while it flew to join the female and we continued to watch and photograph these amazing birds as they sat on the roost tree, an absolutely amazing sight indeed! Eventually we left them and headed into the larger canyon, passing a large rock holding a YELLOW-LEGGED GULL colony as we did so.
WESTERN ROCK NUTHATCH and several BLUE ROCK THRUSH were seen as we motored on towards the other pair of BROWN FISH OWLS. We could see one in a small crevice but it was obscured and we realised how lucky we had been to see the first pair so well!
It was then back to terra firma and the drive back to the hotel for breakfast. We had some spare time for resting and packing before meeting up again at 12pm to head off for a spot of birding and later the airport.
We drove along the coast road towards Antalya and after around 30 minutes took a track down towards the sea. Parking close to a small fishing village we wandered over a bridge and down to a viewpoint overlooking an area where the river and sea both met.
A summer-plumaged BLACK TERN hawked over the surface often alongside a COMMON TERN. Small numbers of waders were spotted downriver and eventually these flew past consisting of seven CURLEW SANDPIPER and a few LITTLE STINT.
Three cracking COLLARED PRATINCOLE flew over us and luckily they came back, landing on a sand-spit with at least another 10 birds! LITTLE, SANDWICH and GULL-BILLED TERNS were seen around or along the river and a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULL flew by.
A scan of the area produced a very distant SHORT-TOED EAGLE plus COMMON BUZZARD and a female LEVANT SPARROWHAWK that was just too distant which was so frustrating!
After a while, a male LEVANT SPARROWHAWK flew across the river and was mobbed by HOODED CROWS and disappeared behind bushes. It was then time for lunch in the shade before driving round to the opposite side of the river, where although the light wasn't fantastic, we had some good views of the COLLARED PRATINCOLES as they bathed and sat on the sandbank. Several birds showed characteristics of Black-winged Pratincoles but we couldn't be sure.
With time running out, we made our way back to the main road and headed to Antalya Airport where we said goodbye to Mitko who was driving back to Bulgaria and to Jane who was flying back to Los Angeles via Istanbul and Heathrow.
After some spare time at the airport, our flight took off on time and four hours later we touched down at Gatwick.
It had been an amazing tour with some very special birds and good views of them all. Special thanks go to Mitko for looking after us so well and to the group who were great, with plenty of laughs throughout the tour.