Update from snowy Ankara

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

I’ve been rather lazy posting lately. But I’ve been around doing some winter birding. January and February have been cold. Down to -23 C. It is still freezing, but only -5. So spring feels a bit far away.

But the typical winter birds are in place. A few weeks ago I went to Kazan to search for Pine Buntings. But maybe due to very cold temperatures the normally large Yellowhammer flocks were almost gone. But Kruper’s Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Bramblings and Firecrests are always cool. But the highlight was close encounters with a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker male.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

 

Around Mogan spring is slowly starting to show in spite of ice and snow. Meadow and Water Pipits have arrived in small numbers as well as a few Green Sandpipers.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

 

But it is still the winter birds that dominate. Hundreds of Chaffinches and Bramblings are around the cultivated areas.

Brambling

Brambling

A few Skylarks, Serins, many Goldfinches, Bearded Reedlings and Penduline Tits are around.

Skylark

Skylark

But the biggest surprise has been Yellowhammer flocks of more than 20 birds. Some have been close to female Pine Buntings, but still no cigar.

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

Silas

 

Winter in Ankara

Bullfinch male

Bullfinch male

 

Winter has come to Ankara. It is cold and in a few days time they promise down to minus 20 degrees. When it gets cold in Ankara it is kinda Scandinavian birding – or so it feels.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Bullfinch

Bullfinch

On January first I did the traditional birding around here. Bullfinches, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Goldcrests, Coal, Great, Long-tailed and Blue Tits. Might as well be Central Sweden for that matter.

Coal tit

Coal tit

But a nice surprise was a cool Firecrest. Regular, but not common in Ankara.

Firecrest

Firecrest

A visit to Lake Mogan gave 300+ Ruddy Shelducks, some Great White Egrets, Wigeons and Teal.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

But Bearded Tits decided to be very very tame and gave amazing views.

Bearded Tit b5

Bearded Tit b2

Bearded Tit a9

Other birds included some Penduline Tits, Cetti’s Warblers and even a single Yellowhammer. Soon it is time for Nallihan, Kazan and the other cool places during winter :)

Penduline Tit a1

Penduline

 

Skylark a1

Skylark

 

Magpie a1

Magpie

 

Bullfinch a4

Bullfinch

Bullfinch a3

Bullfinch

 

Silas

Yellow Wagtails of Central Anatolia – Turkey

Yellow Wagtails - different variations

Yellow Wagtails – different variations

Yellow Wagtails are fascinating. The males are striking yellow birds that light up any dull day. Furthermore they have a very wide distribution, which again means that there is a huge variation between different subspecies or races (some would even say species).

If we stick to adult males there are subspecies ranging from black to white-headed. There in between there are many shades of gray and yellow. No matter the head colour birds can show a white or sometimes yellow eyebrow/supercilium. The eyebrow can be anything from very strong to just a hint (or of course totally absent).

In Turkey you can see almost every combination imaginable on the thousands and thousands of Yellow Wagtails migrating through Turkey during spring.

The black-headed birds with an obvious supercilium are those turning up first (early/middle of march). which could indicate that they move the furthest north.

After that a lot of different variations turn up. In this blog I wish to share some of the types of Yellow Wagtails I’ve seen in Turkey.

To keep it simple let’s use the variations mentioned in Collin’s Birdguide.

Birds resembling the ssp. beema are regular, but not common in Turkey:

Yellow Wagtail c5

Yellow Wagtail c11 Yellow Wagtail c12

Yellow Wagtail c13

Yellow Wagtail c14

Yellow Wagtail c16

The same is the case for Dombrowskii-types. Their head is overall darker than ssp. beema and thge cheek is grey.

P3229805

Yellow Wagtail a33

Yellow Wagtail c15

YW3

YW4

The superciliaris-types are not uncommon as there are individuals as dark as the feldeggs, but with an obvious supercilium. As there is a gradual movement from light grey to dark gray/black it is a bit difficult to place each and every bird in a specific category.

P3229883

White Wagtail a1

Yellow wag a1

Yellow Wagtail b4

Yellow Wagtail b7

Yellow Wagtail b10

Yellow Wagtailc17

Feldegg is the black-headed type that breeds quite commonly in Central Anatolia. A good number show a white malar stribe. There birds are sometimes called melanogrisea.

54195_UU_46978_Yello_agtail_a4

Gul vip a2

Gul vip a3

Yellow Wagtail a1

Yellow Wagtail a3

Yellow Wagtail a6

Yellow Wagtail a8

Yellow Wagtail a10

Flava-types are also fairly regular migrants to Turkey.

Yellow Wagtail b5

Yellow Wagtail c1

Yellow Wagtail c2

Yellow Wagtail c3

Yellow Wagtail c4

Yellow Wagtail c7

Yellow Wagtail

YW1

Lutea is rather rare in Turkey, but I have seen 3 individuals. They are probably more common in the east.

P5104143

Yellow wag 2

Yellow wag a3

Yellow Wag

Several birds seem to fit the thunbergi variation.

Yellow Wagtail b8

Yellow Wagtail e3

The book “Pipits and Wagtails” also mentions the xanthophrys as an integrade between lutea and feldegg. This variation is also regulas in Central Anatolia.

Yellow Wagtail b1

Yellow Wagtail b2

Yellow Wagtail b9

Then there are all the birds not really fitting the books:

Yellow Wagtail 1

Yellow Wagtail 2

Yellow Wagtail a5

Yellow Wagtail b3

Yellow Wagtail c8

Yellow Wagtail c9

Yellow Wagtail e1

Yellow Wagtail e2

Yellow Wagtail e4

No matter what I find the Yellow Wagtails of Central Anatolia to be very very interesting. Maybe it is close to impossible to make categories for all of them, but they are awesome anyways.

And just to add some more fun cosmic mind blowers also occur:

hybrid-a1

hybrid-a2

hybrid-a3

hybrid-a4

Silas

Akseki – a birding hot spot

Coal Tit

Coal Tit

Akseki near Alanya is know pretty much for one bird species. White-backed Woodpecker of the (sub)species Lilfordi.

White-backed Woodpecker is actually relatively wide-spread in Turkey but the density is very low. If you combine this with their large territories it turns out to be one of those birds that you hope for, but not really count on. But Akseki has been an exception. When people dedicate time for it, it is actually found probably more than 50% of the times.

White-backed Woodpecker ssp. lilfordi

White-backed Woodpecker ssp. lilfordi

Yes, I have a thing for woodies. And today I had the possibility to look for the White-backed. At 5:30 I started looking and after about two hours I had a bird calling.

Kruper's Nuthatch a1

Kruper’s Nuthatch

Soon I located it to the exact same area as I had seen a juv. and two adults last year.

Persian Squirrel

Persian Squirrel

But to my great misfortune a loud shouting shepard with 100+ goats came to exactly that area just after I found the bird. It took off not to be seen again.

 

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

Sweedish birder Michael Hellström has been posting a few posts on the Turkish Birding Facebook page about a plateau east of Akseki, which in early spring holds species Crimson-winged Finch and Red-fronted Serin.

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

On the way there Magnus had also seen good birds like Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Rueppel’s Warbler and more. To good not to check out was my thought.

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush

I decided to check the area. And trust me I was not disappointed.

First of all there was the drive between Akseki and the plateau. You drive on a gravel road through lush green vallies and an amazing scenery.

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

And the birding is awesome. Rueppel’s Warbler was regular along the road. As I was able to stay inside the car most birds were seen very well.

Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

Between Akseki and the plateau I also found 3 Masked Shrikes, Woodchat Shrike, Eastern Oliveacious Warbler, Rock Nuthatch, Black-headed Buntings, Steppe Buzzard and Lesser Whitethroat.

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - adult

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler – adult

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler - juv.

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler – juv.

But the best surprise were 7 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers. Just like White-backed Woodpecker it is not a numerous bird in Turkey. I takes a little luck to find them. And a lot of work to get pictures.

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler

But it seems like it is a fairly common breeder in the area. And finding the birds did not prove too difficult. And again as I was able to stay in the car they just gave amazing views.

Asia Minor Souslik

Asia Minor Souslik

At the plateau a new kind of birding started with a more alpine feel to it.

It is a rather large plateau with low vegetation, grasing goats and rocky hills.

Finsche's Wheatear

Finsche’s Wheatear

The most common birds were wheatears. Black-eared, Norhtern, Isabelline and a few Finsche’s.

Ortolan Buntings were spread throughout and a single Cretzmar’s Bunting was seen.

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Shorelarks were foraging on the grass and two Coughs were seen flying over.

The plateau also contained lots of Asia Minor Sousliks.

Shorelark

Shorelark

Not surprisingly alpine species like Crimson-winged Finch, Red-fronted Serins and Rock Thrushes were all gone. But earlier in the season this would be a very good spot for those species.

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

This is truly a wonderful area combining wonderful nature and awesome birding is the finest way possible.

Exact driving directions and more can be found on the Turkish Birding Facebook Page. Thanks to Magnus (ptbbis) for all the information.

Rueppel's Warbler

Rueppel’s Warbler

If you are doing a holyday trip in Alanya and have a day off, this is probably where you should go birding!

Silas

Birding in the Sanliurfa region

Svende Erik birding in the semi-desert of the Sanliurfa region

Svende Erik birding in the semi-desert of the Sanliurfa region

Along the Syrian border between Karkamis and Ceylanpinar there are wast areas of semi-desert. These areas provide excellent birding and a variety of good species.

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge - male and female

See-see Partridge – male and female

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge can be found in Birecik, but it is much easier to get very good views further east.

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge - female

See-see Partridge – female

See-see Partridge - male

See-see Partridge – male

See-sees are not exactly shy as long as you stay in the car and views down to just a few meters is not uncommon in this area.

See-see Partridge

See-see Partridge

But if you are walking they are much more difficult and tend to run or fly away at quite some distance. When Svende and I visited the area we obtained amazing views of almost 20 individuals.

Desert Finch - male

Desert Finch – male

Desert Finch - male and female

Desert Finch – male and female

Other good birds in the area include Desert Finch, which breeds in orchards. At the nesting site this otherwise rather shy bird can give very good views.

Finsche's Wheatear

Finsche’s Wheatear

The most common wheatear in the area is Finsche’s Wheatear, but Isabelline is also around in good numbers.

Pale Rock Sparrow

Pale Rock Sparrow

Pale Rock Sparrows are also quite common in the area, even though they are more often heard than seen.

Pale Rock Sparrow

Pale Rock Sparrow

The Lesser Short-toed Larks in the area are quite different from the ones in Central Anatolia being more rufous over all.

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Close to Ceylanpinar just a few kilometers from the Syrian border Red-wattled Lapwings are occurring. Svende and I managed to find 1-2 birds in the area.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

But visiting gave more than good birds. An arab family invited us for tea and we have a good time together. And of course we had to see the families pride – a ram with four horns :)

 

Ram with four horns

Ram with four horns

In the area there is a population of Goitered Gazelles. These always provide a nice addition to the birding.

Goitered Gazelle

Goitered Gazelle

Silas

Birding in Birecik

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

After birding around Isikli Svend Erik and I went to Birecik, where we stayed for a few days. It is one of my favorite birding areas in all of Turkey with many quality species just minutes away from the city.

White-speckled Bulbul

White-speckled Bulbul

It is possible to get all the target species in just one day, but I would surely recommend everybody to use at least two days in the area – and to use some time checking the area between Birecik and Karkamis/the Syrian border.

Rollers and Bee-eater

Rollers and Bee-eater

Yellow-throated Sparrow is one of the target species around Birecik. They can be found in orchards all the way from the border to areas around Halfeti. But it is not that common.

Yellow-throated Sparrow

Yellow-throated Sparrow

Yellow-throated Sparrow

Yellow-throated Sparrow

Dead Sea Sparrow is much more common. They build huge nests in trees and are very vocal at the breeding sites.

Dead Sea Sparrow

Dead Sea Sparrow

Dead Sea Sparrow

Dead Sea Sparrow

Iraq Babbler is found in suitable reed beds along the Euphrates. Exactly how far north the occur I do not know, but they are present all the way between Birecik and the border.

Iraq Babbler

Iraq Babbler

Pallid Scops Owl is also quite common in the area. I took a walk in the evening along the shore within the city limits and at least four different birds were heard. Long-eared Owl was also present. Otherwise Pallid Scops Owls are roosting during the day around Gulhane Caybahcesi.

Pallid Scops Owl

Pallid Scops Owl

The Bald Ibises breed both in a vadi north of Birecik and in captivity close by. Not the most wild experience, but when being around, you should take a look at them.

Bald Ibis

Bald Ibis

Bald Ibis juv.

Bald Ibis juv.

Bald Ibis

Bald Ibis

Little Swift is present in small numbers in Birecik. We were lucky enough to see at least 6 birds drinking.

Little Swift

Little Swift

Pied Kingfisher is quite common too along the river and we saw at least 4 birds during our stay.

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Menetris’ Warbler is very common, but rather unobtrusive. They breed where ever there is decent shrubbery.

Menetris Warbler

Menetris Warbler

We used some time looking for White-cheeked Bulbuls between Birecik and the Syrian border, but we didn’t find any.

Spanish Sparrow

Spanish Sparrow

Rufous-tailed Robin

Rufous-tailed Robin

Snake

Snake

But well, the birding was still awesome with lots of Pygmy Cormorants, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Hoopoes, Rollers, Bee-eaters, Woodchat Shrikes, Spanish Sparrow, Ferruginious Ducks, Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robins, Common Nightinggale and much much more.

Pygmy Cormorant

Pygmy Cormorant

Little Bittern

Little Bittern

Ferruginious Duck

Ferruginious Duck

Common Nightingale

Common Nightingale

 

Silas

 

 

Black-eared Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear

After birding the lakes south of Ankara we continued south to Osmaniye. The Osmaniye area is like a border between the Mediterranean and eastern birds. So out target was to pick up Ruppel’s Warbler and Cretzmar’s Bunting on the way towards Birecik. And at the first promising looking spot we stopped – saw – and conquered. Both species were easy and within minutes we obtained views of both.

Ruppel's Warbler

Ruppel’s Warbler

We then headed to the Ceyhan River to get White-breasted Kingfisher on the list – and it was also very easy. Additional species in the area included Black Francolin, Rufous-tailed Robin and the first Menetri’s Warblers.

White-breasted Kingfisher

White-breasted Kingfisher

We then headed to the area around Isikli and Durnalik, where the birding was more than awesome. Species after species made their way to the tour list and Sven Erik turned out to get a total of 12 lifters.

Upcher's Warbler

Upcher’s Warbler

Species include 10+ Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Cinerous Buntings, Upcher’s Warbler, Pale Rock Sparrow, Finsche’s Wheatear, Irania, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Specktacled Warbler.

Silas