Soğuksu Milli Parkı literally means Cold water national park. It is located about one hours drive north of Ankara where the flat central anatolian plateau meats the Köroğlu Dağları. So most of the park is more than 1200 meters above sea level. I really like to go to this particular park. Somehow it gives me a sence of “home” or “normalcy”, as it is takes me back to the good old days of birding for instance in Tiveden National Park in Närke in central Sweden.
Turkey is a vast country. If you drive 6-8 hours south you’re in a very middle eastern setting while the mountains in the north are very Scandinavian. This is also true when it comes to the birds there. Many of the species are the same as found in Scandinavian pine forests (Tengmalm’s Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker).
My target of going to the park was actually mostly just to get out. But I had also decided to try to put some emphasis into finding woodpeckers. Grey-headed Woodpecker has been recorded in the area, but not in recent years apparently.
When I came to the area I talked to a guard at the entrance. He explained vividly about bears, wolf, wild boars and foxes in the park. But they were all very difficult to see – which didn’t surprise me.
Already when talking to the guard I heard the first Krüper’s Nuthatches. After that I went hiking on the snow-covered paths into the forest. Just being away from crowded Ankara was worth it all – and basically when you get into the area is in a solid pristine state. Hiking was a little difficult due to the snow, but the sun was shining and passerines were very active.
Krüper’s Nuthatch was the most common passerine with more than 50 birds recorded. On my walk I also saw or heard about 10 Short-toed Treecreepers, several flocks of Common Crossbills, lots of Coal Tits, a few Great Tits and Bluetits, a few Common Nuthatches, several singing Serins, some Jays and only two Sombre Tits were seen. I was quite surprised to find two Rock Bunting in the middle of the forest and while walking 2-3 different Black Vultures flew over the tree tops.
But my aim was to see woodpeckers. In the forest I only found Great Spotted Woodpeckers. But frankly I was really happy to see them as I normally only see Syrian Woodpeckers in Turkey. And Great Spotted is just so much more colourful.
On my way home I checked an area north of the city of Kazan. I’ve previously found good numbers of Yellowhammers there, so there could be a Pine Bunting among them. The area is at a much lower elevation and is snow-free. I didn’t find any Yellowhammers at all – they’ve probably moved north. But two Syrian Woodpeckers and a Hawfinch were nice non the less. A stream is running nearby and the area looks perfect for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I tried playing the “drumming sound” and immediately a nice male Lesser Spotted appeared in front of me. Always a very nice bird to see!
It didn’t stay around for long though and the weather had become grey and rain was threatening. So after a nice encounter with this fine gem a good day of semi-scandinavian birding ended.