Day 11: Between Birecik and Cizre

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

After 10 days of intensive birding we were getting a little tired yesterday. And since we had got all of our target species in Birecik we decided to sleep till 7:00. That was nice. After waking up we packed the car and got breakfast at the hotel.

We then started to drive towards Cizre. We had planned to check a few sites on the way, but in Birecik and further east a dust-storm made visibility very bad. So we kept driving east untill the dust-cloud was finished.

Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Then we started birding at Ceylanpinar. There were good numbers of birds around including Lesser Grey Shrike, Rufus Scrub-robins, Spotted Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtails.

And finally Simmi and Bjøssi got to photograph a male Citrine Wagtail that gave very good views.

But the best birds at the area were two Red-wattled Lapwings, that Yann located on a field. We saw them actually very well as they flew around the area. A very charming and charismatic bird.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

After enjoyng the lapwings for a while we headed east towards Cizre, which is located on the banks of the mighty Tigris River (Dicle). As we were driving less than one kilometer from the Syrian border we saw black smoke rise on several occasions. Of course we do not know the origin of the smoke with certainty, but it brings the conflict in Syria closer than ever before.

Dark smoke over Syria

Dark smoke over Syria

We reached Cizre and stopped at the Tigris river. There we located another Red-wattled Lapwing and a Spur-winged Plover. Then we headed south along the river, which also constitutes the border with Irak. We reached a small village and the area around the village looked very promising for birding.

But as soon as we entered the village we got stopped by a local villager. We had to obtain permission from the military command to explore the area. So he phoned the military and soon an officer came. We had apparently entered an area forbidden for foreigners. So we had to follow him to the military headquarters. It was forbidden to photograph the area, but luckily none of us had done that.

After about 30 minutes we were allow to leave the area, but birding was not possible there. It shall be said that the military was very polite and we didn’t feel intimidated at all.

We then headed for some hills a few kilometers away. There we saw two Tree Pipits, Ortulan Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Common Whitethroat and a few other common birds – but no surprises there at the border of the western Palearctic.

Yann and Bjøssi with some Kurdish friends who sold ice cream to them in the middle of nowhere

Yann and Bjøssi with some Kurdish friends who sold ice cream to them in the middle of nowhere

We then headed towards our hotel in Cizre. As we entered the hotel we heard  loud “bang”. It was a pepper-spary bomb that had been fired and landed close to the hotel. Soon our eyes started itching and our eyes got wet. We had entered a conflict area. The locals didn’t seem to stressed by the situation, so we went out to eat. After eating some delicious turkish pizza we drove back to the hotel. This time we passed several armoured viechles and some of them were firing more pepper-spray bombs. So we rushed back home. During the night we heard several shots and in the morning there was a dead cow outside the hotel.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

The situation is rather unstable after all – at least around Cizre. We talked to some people who offered us military escort if we wanted to go through with our plans about looking for Plain Leaf Warblers in the mountains. But we agreed that we didn’t wanna take the chance.

All in all an eventful day, but stay away from Cizre if you can.

Silas Olofson

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