Day 20: Kizilirmak Delta

Middle Spotted Woodpecker a

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

We had come to the last day of birding on our 20 day trip in Turkey and Georgia. So we decided to use this day fully. We woke up at four and drove off towards Kizilirmak Delta north of Samsun. We made our first stop at the forest area around Yörükler. There we got the breakfast that the hotel had prepared for us and then we went birding.

I stayed around the car, which was a quite good birding spot. Common Nightingale was singing constantly and suddenly a Wryneck and a Middle Spotted Woodpecker appeared.

After checking the forest we headed to Kizilirmak Delta. It is probably the best preserved of the large deltas in Turkey. 342 bird species have been recorded and there is a ringing station, which is in use from march to end may and mid august to end of october – and impressive species like Lesser Yellowlegs, Arctic Warbler and several Yellow-browed Warblers have been ringed there.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

We wanted to visit the ringing centre, but on our way there we got interrupted by 50+ Ferruginous Ducks, lots of Egrets and Herons and other birds.

Ferrugionus Duck a

Ferrugionus Duck a

We finally made it to the ringing station where Kiraz Erciyaz, leader of the ringing station, offered us coffee, which we of course accepted. She had just caught both an eastern Reed Warbler and a Garden Warbler. We got to see the birds being processed and released. Kiraz hoca gave us a ton of advise on where to go to see what in the delta – and off we went.

First we stopped at the visitors centre, where we saw 7+ Lesser Spotted Eagles and lots of Black Kites and a few Common Cranes (of the interesting Turkish breeding population – more on that later).

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Then we headed further into the delta. Along the shore we found 15+ Black-throated Divers, Arctic Skua and Merlin. In a forest patch a few Red-breasted Flycatchers and a bit further on a few Moustached Warblers were present.

We then headed back to the ringing station, where Jói finally managed to see a Bittern and birds like Dalmatian Pelican, Purple Heron and Squacco Heron.

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Black-throated Diver was our species number 300 on the trip. Other new birds to our trip list at the delta were Red-breasted Flycatcher and Merlin. We also saw and heard Pheasant, but according to Kiraz they are introduced and thus we will not add them to the list.

Common Crane

Common Crane

Common Crane

Common Crane

Kiraz told us that Mute Swan could be found in the delta. And she and her husband were so kind to show us the place where the birds normally forage. And soon we located two Mute Swans on a flooded field. There might be less than 10 breeding pairs of Mute Swan in Turkey, so it is a really good bird to see at this time of year.

Kiraz hoca and her helpers at the ringing station

Kiraz hoca and her helpers at the ringing station

The Mute Swan proved to be the last addition to the list, which ended on 304. We then headed to our hotel in Samsun and early next morning we  said good-bye at the airport in Samsun.

The Kizilirmark Ringing Station

The Kizilirmak Ringing Station

Thank you Jói, Bjøssi, Simmi, Rasmus, Yann, McE and Emin for a superb trip!

Simmi got all emotinal when we had to say good-bye

Simmi got all emotinal when we had to say good-bye

Byebye

Byebye – and have a good spring in Húsavík!

Silas Olofson

Day 19: Sivrikaya

Caspian Snowcock

Caspian Snowcock

We woke up at 6:30 and had a nice breakfast at the hotel in Rize. Then we drove off to Sivrikaya. Our first stop was Genesis Hotel just before Sivrikaya. There we found 5+ Green Warblers, Bullfinch, some Tits and Jays.

Jay

Jay

We then headed to Sivrikaya. We checked the slopes for Caucasian Black Grouse and rock faces for Wallcreepers, but we didn’t find any.

Caspian Snowcock

Caspian Snowcock

Then we headed towards the pass. About 1 km before the pass we stopped to check the mountains. Soon we heard a Caspian Snowcock and a little later we located 3 birds on the mountains on the other site of the valley. We even saw them flying at one point.

The pass

The pass

Dryed fish enjoyed in the heights

Dryed fish enjoyed in the heights

Suddenly Rasmus shouded “BEAR!!!” He had located a Brown Bear above the snow limit. Wow! Probably the biggest surprise of the trip so far. It was a little distant, but could be seen even with the naked eye. It was probably a big male as it seemed to walk around marking its territory.

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

We watched the bear for about 30 minutes as it was walking around and really put on a show. This was mammal species nr 15 for the trip – and a mammal tick for all of us.

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

After enjoying the bear we got something to eat and then we headed towards Samsum. On the way we stopped to look for Shags on two occasions. At the first place we only found Cormorants, Common Dolphins and Harbor Porpoise ssp. relicta, but at the second place we found 106 Shags, Harbor Porpoise and Bottle-nosed Dolphin. So 3 species of cetaceans in 30 minutes is quite ok for the Black Sea.

Coughs

Coughs

Silas Olofson

Day 18: Between Stepandsminda and Rize

Caucasian Snowcock

Caucasian Snowcock

As we have not been birding together all the time but walked in different groups in Kazbegi we had different wishes for the last morning. Yann, Rasmus and McE went to look for a Corncrake while Jói, Simmi and I wanted to get better views of the Caucasian Snowcocks. The three of us drove to the east side of the village and walked up to a gorge, where up to four Snowcocks had been seen. We heard the birds calling right away and soon we found a male and a female walking on the opposite site of the gorge. We got very good views for about 20 minutes when the birds decided to fly to our site of the gorge.

Caucasian Snowcock

Caucasian Snowcock

They disappeared into the gorge, but we followed a path and soon we found the bird foraging just 40 meters away from us. What a nice experience! If it wasn’t for the early hours, very bad light and grey gorge photos would have been supreme. But we cannot complain.

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

At the same place we also saw a few Ring Ouzels – maybe ssp. amicorum – with very much white in the wing.

White Wagtail

White Wagtail

And then there are the White Wagtails with almost purely white lesser, median and greater coverts. At least it is something eastern…

Green Warbler

Green Warbler

Green Warbler

Green Warbler

Yann and the other managed to get good views of the Corncrake, and just before leaving the hotel a few Green Warblers gave good views in the garden. So we were all very happy when we left Kazbegi before noon. We had a long drive in front of us to Rize. We did a few stops, but didn’t find anything extra ordinary except a few very nice Coughs.

Cough

Cough

The crossing to Turkey went well and at 23:00 we arrived at our hotel in Rize.

Silas Olofson

Day 17: Full house in Kazbegi

The majestic Mount Kazbegi

The majestic Mount Kazbegi

We didn’t wake up all too early this morning. We knew that we had a long climb ahead of us if we wanted to find the Great Rosefinch and Güldenstadt’s Redstart. So we decided to get a solid breakfast at the hotel before hitting the mountains.

While waiting for the breakfast a brief look into the hotels garden gave 2 Green Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff and 2 Bullfinches.

Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

But at about 9:00 we drove to the Sambea Church above Stepandsminda and started climbing. Soon we heard some Caucasian Snowcocks calling in the gorge besides the track and we also found some  Shorelarks, Alpine Accentors, Rufus Rock Thrushes, a few Twites and a some Griffon Vultures.

Caucasian Black Grouse female

Caucasian Black Grouse female

We had walkie-talkies with us on as we climbed the mountains. And after about one hour of climging Rasmus and Yann reported two Great Rosefinches. We soon got together and started looking for the birds. While looking we flushed a female Caucasian Black Grouse from just a few meters distance. But after climbing a bit further we found a male and 3 female Great Rosefinches at 2960 meters altitude.

Great Rosefinch

Great Rosefinch

Great Rosefinch

Great Rosefinch

As we had reached the snow limit Yann, Rasmus, Bjøssi and Edward decided to stop and check the area with the scopes. Emin and I continued on the snow to look for the Güldenstadt’s Redstarts.

Walking in the snow

Walking in the snow

It was not too difficult to walk on the melting snow and soon we got a nice reward as 2 males and a female Great Rosefinch gave supreme views. Those males are simply terrific!

Great Rosefinch

Great Rosefinch

Emin has been to Kazbegi twice before without seeing Güldenstadt’s Redstart, so he was determined to find the bird.

Guldenstadt's Redstart

Guldenstadt’s Redstart

Our system with the walkie-talkies actually worked very well. Yann and Rasmus scoped small passerines in the distance with the scope and guided us to them. It gave Shorelarks, Alpine Accentors, Black Redstarts and all of a sudden “Güldenstadt’s Redstart” sounded over the walking. Emin had located a male just in front of him. The guys with the scope soon saw the bird and Emin and I got some supreme views of the magnificent bird.

Guldenstadt's Redstart

Guldenstadt’s Redstart

Guldenstadt's Redstart

Guldenstadt’s Redstart

After watching it for about 10 minutes we returned to the church. On the way back we saw additional 3 males Great Rosefinches. Combining the numbers of the group at least 19 Great Rosefinches were seen besides the male and the female Güldenstadt’s Redstart.

Green Warbler

Green Warbler

So with Green Warbler, Caucasian Snowcock and Caucasian Black Grouse, Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch it was pretty much a “Kazbegi full house” today.

Well, there is a short cut to get the species:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzYYGfi8oMM&feature=youtu.be

Silas Olofson

Day 16: Kazbegi

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Stepandsminda

It took 22 hours to go from Dogubeyazit to Kazbegi (including birding). So we were all very tired when we arrived at 2:00 in the night. Non the less Yann, Rasmus and Bjøssi woke up at 6:00 and went out birding. I must admit that I were too tired after so many hours behind the wheel.

View of Stepandsminda and Kazbegi

View of Stepandsminda and Kazbegi

When they came back they of course told fairytales about Güldenstadt’s Redstarts and Great Rosefinch. But well, they didn’t find any of those, but they managed to find Caucasian Snowcock and Caucasioan Black Grouse, Green Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Accentor, Dipper and Goshawk.

Mountain Chiffchaff

Mountain Chiffchaff

Inspired by this we all went out to the hotels garden, where Green Warbler and Mountain Chiffchaff were seen again along with a Treecreeper.

Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture

After having breakfast we went climbing in the mountains. They weather was cloudy with occasional showers. But we soon managed to find two males Caucasian Black Grouses and a some Snowcocks were also calling from the mountains.

Yann takes a rest during the long and hard climbing

Yann takes a rest during the long and hard climbing

We decided to split up in order to cover a greater area. On my walk I found a Ring Ouzel collecting worms for its offspring. Other birds included a few Red-fronted Serins, one Caucasian Black Grouse and at least one Snowcock, several Water Pipits, two Black Redstarts ssp. ochurus and one male ssp. semirufus.

Green Warbler

Green Warbler

The last two weeks have been rather warm in Stepandsminda. This means that the two difficult target species Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch have moved far up the mountain slopes – probably to the snow limit. But hopefully we’ll managed to find some tomorrow.

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

And if we don’t just seeing this magnificent place is worth all the effort.

Silas Olofson

 

Day 14: Between Van and Dogubeyazit

White-headed Duck

White-headed Duck

We woke up and left our hotel in Ercis at 4:00. Turkey is a very long country, but the time is the same all over the country. This means that dawn comes very early in the morning in the east.

White-headed Ducks

White-headed Ducks

First we headed to some marsh areas north of Van. It was simply amazing to see the numbers of birds present. Thousands and thousands of birds to check. At the first site where we stopped almost 100 White-headed Ducks were present and we used 30 minutes to observe their interesting display.

Black-bellied Sandgrouses

Black-bellied Sandgrouses and White-winged Black Tern

The days first good birds w Pranticoles at a small lake. They flew off as we passed them, so I didn’t get any pictures. At the same site 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouses, some Lesser Short-toed Larks and a Yellow Wagtails ssp. lutea were present.

Yellow  Wagtail ssp lutea

Yellow Wagtail ssp lutea

Very long-billed Curlew

Very long-billed Curlew

We continued a bit further, where we found 3 Broad-billed Sandpipers, a very long-billed Curlew, 5 Red-necked Grebes and lots of White-winged Black Terns were present.

Crimson-winged Finch

Crimson-winged Finch

Then we headed to the legendary lava fields of Sarpmentas. There we found Bimaculated Lark and a Crimson-winged Finch gave amazing views.

Crimson-winged Finch

Crimson-winged Finch

We then headed a bit further north to a small stream. There we found a few Citrine Wagtails, two Crimson-winged Finches and the days biggest surprise – a Great Snipe.

Great Snipe

Great Snipe

After seeing the Great Snipe we went to look for Bluethroats and we soon located 3 birds of the subspecies magma with completely blue throat (except when singing as a small white patch is visible). At the site there were also a few Common Rosefinches and Whinchats.

Bluethroat ssp. magma

Bluethroat ssp. magma

Citrin Wagtail

Citrin Wagtail

We then headed to Ishan Pasa. It is an old castle near the city of Dogubeyazit. There we found Grey-necked Bunting, two Lammergeiers, Blue Rock Thrush, Shorelarks and a few Griffin Vultures.

White-winged Black Tern

White-winged Black Tern

All in all a very good day with awesome birding.

Silas Olofson

Day 15: Between Dogubeyazit and Kazbegi (Georgia)

Golden Oriole

Golden Oriole

This morning we got up at 3:30 and left the hotel in Dogubeyazit at 4:00. Our first stop on the long drive towards Georgia was the village of Tasburun. Menetri’s Warbler of the pink-breasted subspecies mystacea is known from the area.

Great Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

We stopped at a few different sites without finding anything except about 10 Great Reed Warblers and some Penduline Tits. But at our last stop we got lucky. Soon we located first a female and then a male Menetri’s Warbler, but to our surprise it wasn’t really pink-breasted, but looked quite a lot like the rubescens birds of Birecik.

Menetri's Warler ssp. mystacea

Menetri’s Warler ssp. mystacea

The site was actually very nice and at least 6 Golden Orioles were around including two adult males – one of which gave amazing views.

Golden Oriole

Golden Oriole

Another good bird was the first European Nightjar of the trip, which was also a lifer for Simmi and Bjøssi.

Nightjar

Nightjar

We then headed further north and made a brief stop at a ringing station. They had caught both Red-breasted Flycatcher and River Warbler this morning, but we could not relocate either of them. But two Spotted Flycatchers were caught while we were there. But we were in a hurry so we left the area after less than 30 minutes.

Demoselle Crane

Demoselle Cranes

We then headed towards the Kuyucuk Lake, where Demoselle Cranes have been seen earlier this year. Emin Yogurtcuoglu, who joined us in Isikli, soon located 18 Demoiselle Cranes on the opposite site of the lake. Up to 58 were present at the site in late april and some are still lingering. We got good views with telescopes, but the birds were a bit distant for photography.

At the lake we also saw Grey-lag Goose, Common Crane and about 2500 White-winged Terns. Really a place where you’d rather have a whole day than just a few minutes to go birdwatching.

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

In order to get White and Dalmatian Pelican on the trip list we drove by Aktas Lake on the way to Georgia. We found both species easily. We then headed to the border and just at the crossing we heard the first Mountain Chiffchaff, which brought our trip list to 282 species.

Silas Olofson