Surprise

Starlings at Mogan

One of the major differences between bird watching back home on the Faroes and Turkey is the raptors. On the Faroes I’ve seen less than 10 species of raptors, but in Turkey I’ve seen 24 raptor species – and the last one was added to the list yesterday.

I took the 20 minutes drive to Mogan just to spend a few hours in the field. The first ting I noticed was the wast numbers of starlings present. I have no idea how many there were, but my guess is 100.000 or more. And such numbers attrack raptors.

Male Hen Harrier at Mogan

After two hours I had seen several Marsh Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, Steppe Buzzards, two Hen Harriers, a Peregrine Falcon, a few Merlins, several Kestrels – all of them doing their best to catch the starlings. What a sight it is to see the starlings move as if controlled by a single mind!

Marsh Harrier at Mogan

All of a sudden I see a large falcon chasing the starlings. At first I thought it was a juvenile Peregrine, but then it passed a Long-legged Buzzard and I realised that it was enormous. It came a little closer and I noticed white head, brown upper parts, very contrasting underwings, brown belly extending to the feet – YES!!! SAKER FALCON!

Saker Falcon at Mogan

The bird was moving very fast as it was chasing a small flock of starlings, so I jumped out of the car (which I had used as a hide in order to get closer to the starlings) and I managed to get some very distant shots – but good enough to document the bird.

Saker Falcon is a rare breeder in Turkey and mostly found in mountains, so seeing one at Mogan was a huge surprise. I’ve talked to Emin and other birders, and this might be the first record of this species at Mogan. And actually this was my first lifer in 2012!

Great White Egrets at Mogan

Silas Olofson

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The flip side of the coin

Göksu Delta – amazing birding, but for how long?

Admittedly I was very impressed with the Göksu Delta. And it is likely the area in Turkey where you can see most different bird species at any given time of year.

But there is a flip side to the coin. I got up early two days ago. Win, the dutch guy, had given me a tip that the eagles were roosting during the night in the mountains and shortly after sun rise they would fly out to the delta.

Marsh Harrier

So I got the spot Wim had pointed out and there I found Wim. Together we saw 9 Greater Spotted Eagles and afterwards he had a few hours of birding together. While birding he told me the alternative story for the Göksu Delta.

Göksu Delta is a Ramsar Area and on paper it is one of the best protected areas in Turkey. But the reality on the ground is very different. Slowly new areas are drained or used for agriculture. In fact the delta east of the river is almost totally cultivated.

Hen Harrier

Furthermore very intensive hunting and fishing is going on. Every day I noted gun shots, but Win has counted as many as 150 shots in an hour. The hunters shoot from their cars and sail through the reed beds with small boats shooting everything that moves. When we were watching the Great Spotted Eagles a very loud Crake was calling nearby. But suddenly it changed to a very loud Quail. And then Wim told me, that it was a hunter that was hunting by using playback. In a special area I had seen about 20 Cattle Egrets a few days earlier and Wim had counted 45 birds. But now they were gone. Wim had checked it out and found out that some fish farmers had either shot the birds or chased them away by firing shots.

4 Audoiun’s Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull

So the Göksu is under heavy pressure and the police accepts all the hunting by doing nothing. The numbers of breeding birds clearly indicate the pressure. Stone Curlews have decreased from 50 to about 3 pairs. Spur-winged Lapwing used to be very common, not there are 37 pairs left. Most herons and egrets have stopped breeding in the area. The Göksu Delta used to be the best place in all of Turkey for Marbled Teal. This year was the first year without any breeding records – it is gone it seems! Red-winged Pranticole is no longer breeding there and both Common Tern and Little Tern have disappeared.

Purple Swamphen ssp. poliocephalus

In fact the only bird that seems to be stable is the Black Francolin. There are about 45 pairs in the Delta. But 1/3 of them are in an old industrial area, and if that area is being used again they will disappear. Furthermore when hunters walk through the area hunting Quails I don’t think they’d hesitate to shoot a Black Francolin, if they flush one. And the Black Francolines are very vulnerable. They do occur further east, but the main areas for the birds in Turkey are the deltas along the mediterranean. This means that the birds primarily are found in small scattered pockets. If they are extinct in one pocket it will be difficult for these resident birds to come back from other areas.

Spoonbill

I almost got the feeling of another Malta when hearing about and seeing the hunting. Add that to the increasing cultivation and the future of the Göksu as a birding paradise is all but bright. So my guess is that if nothing is done the Göksu Delta will some be nothing but a shade of itself.

Spoonbills and Little Egrets

 

 

 

 

What a place!

Golden Jackal at Göksu – thanks for id comments!

When I woke up this morning a full day of birding at Göksu Delta was ahead. I was excited. So I left the hotel early and arrived not long after at Göksu. I started in the western part of the delta, where I checked lagoons, lakes and shrubbery.

I soon found a pair of Black Frankolin on the road, but these birds are rather shy and the flew off before I got any good shots.

Black Franko!

There were good number of warblers in the vegetation. Most of them were Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, but I also managed to find a few Bluethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, two Rufous Bush Robins, lots of Robins, one Zitting Cisticola, lots of Graceful Prinias, a few Sardinian Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes and a single Lesser Grey Shrike.

Graceful Prinia

Zitting Cisticola

I met a dutch guy. He had just seen an Imperial Eagle, so I started checking raptors. There is real migration going on at Göksu. Flocks of 10 or 20 Common Buzzards were coming and going. Furthermore I saw both Montagu’s Harrier and Hen Harrier, Peregrine Falcon and Merlin.

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

But there were two highlights. One was seeing at least 5 different Great Spotted Eagles including one which was less than 40 meters away.

The second highlight was a Lanner Falcon, that I managed to see twice during my stay. The first time it flew over Akgöl and the second time I flushed it from the side of the road. It was very shy so I only managed to get some very bad pics of this very large and impressive falcon.

Lanner Falcon

There were a few gulls around. Yellow-legged, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed, a few Slender-billed and a handful of Audouin’s Gulls were pretty much it. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls didn’t look like our faroese ssp. graelsii and yet they didn’t have the Baltic black mantle colour. So I guess they were Heuglin’s Gulls – and some of them did look a bit bodybuilder’ish.

Buff Water Pipit

There were good numbers of wagtails, but I only found Yellow and White Wagtail. A few pipits were also around. Red-throated and Water Pipits were the most numerous. I found a rather rusty coloured Water Pipit which surprised me somewhat. But I guess they just can look that way here.

Juv. White Pelican

Other birds included a White Pelican, several Common Kingfishers, tons of Stonechats and a few Sibirian Stonechats, a Whooper Swan, 5000+ ducks including Garganeys, Mallards, Shelducks, Teals, Wigeons, Pochard and Tufted Ducks. The breeding Marbled Teals have left the country by now.

Yellow Wagtail and a Cow Ear

Over all it was a very good days birding in a very good birding area – maybe the best in all of Turkey when it comes to the number of species present. And just before I left I found two Spur-winged Lapwings. Nice!

Spur-winged Lapwing

Silas Olofson

Göksu Delta

White-throated Kingfisher

This morning it was raining at Kizkalesi. So it was not good weather for chilling on the beach. So we all went to Göksu Delta instead. Göksu Delta is located south of Silifke and is one of the best birding areas in all of Turkey. So I was quite excited when we came to the place.

And what a place! As soon as we arrived at the beginning of the delta, which consist of mainly farmland, a White-throated Kingfisher was giving good views as it was posted on a wire next to the road. At the same time Yellow-vented Bulbuls were flying around us and Alpine Swifts were flying over us – what a place!

Yellow-vented Bulbul

A few minutes later we came across about 20 Cattle Egrets foraging with some cattle and a Sibirian Stonechat joined the Red-throated Pipits on a field nearby.

Sibirean Stonechat

A little later we arrived at Akgöl. Two Greater Spotted Eagles were soaring the area. An adult and a subadult. Around the lake good numbers of herons were present and two Purple Swamphens also gave fair views though distant.

Greater Spotted Eagle

 

Greater Spotted Eagle

 

Very distant Purple Swamphen

 

 

After watching the lake for a while I went to check the shrubbery around the lake. Several Graceful Prinias proved to be rather elusive, but Stonechats, Willow Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes, Goldfinches and Serins werepresent in good numbers.

Graceful Prinia

After walking around for a while I flushed a Black Frankolin and I managed to get a picture of it.

Red-backed Shrike – male

Black Frankolin

All in all the place looks very promising and hopefully a full day of birding will give a lot more!

 

Silas Olofson