Mustafa and I went birding in Birecik today. It is one of the classic turkish birdingspots. It’s a small town close to the Syrian border on the brink of the mighty Euphrates river (Fırat). Turkey has no real deserts as the border to the south pretty much follows the natural line between the mountains in the north and the plains to the south. There are some minor exceptions to this around Birecik and Cizre-areas. This means that there is suitable habitat for birds not found elsewhere in Turkey.
We came early in the morning and the first good birds we saw were Pygmy Cormorants. Such good-looking fellows. They breed in a cluster of trees in the river along with egrets and Nightherorns.
We then continued further north, where we were greeted by the semi-captive Bald Ibises. The natural population was rapidly declining (maybe even exctint?) when captive bred birds were released. They now fly around freely and breed in the wild. But they are linked to a nursing centre and they are taken in every now and then – or so I understood. Non the less there are 152 Bald Ibises around Birecik and it is a magnificent sight to see these strange birds fly all day long over the Euphrates-river.
After enjoying the Bald Ibises we went to do some real birding in the wadis around Birecik. After a short while I flushed two See see Partridges, but we could not relocate them. After another while we found both a male Menetrie’s Warbler and two Pale Rock Sparrows, but both were quite distant and rather shy.
After finishing in the wadis we went to the famous Tea-garden Gülhane – known for its Pallid Scops Owls. When we came we asked the owner about the birds. He answered that several people had been there looking for them without seeing them. And he had not seem them either. So we guessed it was to early for them. But for old times sake we checked the trees and after 5 minutes I located not one but two Pallid Scops Owls side by side in a tree in the northern end of the garden. We photographed them and then we got some tea.
After drinking the tea we went to the gravel-pits on the western brink of the river. Soon we found another Menetries’s Warbler and then 5 Iraq Babblers. They were difficult to see well due to their foraging in the reeds, but we managed to get quite satisfactory views with some patience. On our way back to the car we first stumbled upon a male Dead Sea Sparrow and then two Desert Finches. Both gave amazing views.
We then headed to an area north of the town with some orchards. We found some Sombre Tits, Syrian Woodpeckers and two Menestries’s Warblers. They were two males fighting over a territory. They kept flying back and forth completely ignoring us. So we managed to get quite nice shots of the birds.
I must say that it is not as easy to distinguish Menestries’s (give the bird a real name…) from Sardinian as I had expected. But the birds showed a gradual limit between black cap and back, the eye-ring was not as red as in Sardinian, there was a slight red hue to the breast and the tertials were not that contrasting. Correct me if I am wrong on these birds. After enjoing them for a while we went on.
We then gave the See-see Partridge another shot and I managed to get a shot of a distant bird at last.
All in all a very good and warm day where temperatures reached 40,5 degrees. By the way Mustafa found a frog…