Holiday birding around Alanya

Rueppels Warbler - generally a quite common bird on the southern slopes of the Taurus Mountains.

Rueppels Warbler – generally a quite common bird on the southern slopes of the Taurus Mountains.

I get the question quite often: Which birds can be seen around Alanya (or other tourist destinations)? Right now I am on a family holiday in Alanya, so I’ve been looking into the options of birding myself.

The hills behind the city contain some good birds. Blue Rock Thrush, Black-headed Bunting, Rueppel’s Warbler, Eastern Orphan and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler can be found quite easily. Furthermore I managed to find a few Cretzmar’s Buntings and Olive-three Warbler should be around even though I haven’t seen any.

Juv. Krupers Nuthatch

Juv. Krupers Nuthatch

But the main attractions are of course the Brown Fishing Owls at Oymapinar Dam. So if you can either talk your family into going for a tour or if you can use a day there you a quite likely to connect with the owls.

Another option is to head for some mountain pine wood birding a few kilometers north of Akseki. I did just that today. I left Alanya at 4:00 and arrived just after dawn. The first good birds started to show up just after Akseki, as I found 3 Finche’s Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush and Cretzmar’s Bunting. But I were eager to reach the forest as soon as possible, so I didn’t spend much time with them.

A Weasel really put on a show too...

A Weasel really put on a show too…

After arriving to the forest I went out and almost right away I heard a calling and drumming White-backed Woodpecker. But it was quite far away and I never saw it, so I continued and after about one hour in the forest I had heard at least 3 different White-backed Woodpeckers. But they were impossible to see – until I saw a distant bird that just flew across a wide valley.

Bingo - White-backed Woodpecker

Bingo – White-backed Woodpecker

I searched for more than four hours for them in vain. Or actually it was not in vain as I saw 30+ Krüper’s Nuthatches including a family group of 7 (I presume). And I got the opportunity to study the juvenile plumage. Other good birds around included the odd turkish Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, two juvenile Steppe Buzzard (vulpinus), Common Crossbills and a single Hoopoe.

While looking for the White-backed Woodpeckers I all of a sudden heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker calling. I really didn’t expect it to be this far south, but I managed to flush it and get brief views, which confirmed the sighting (after checking it to night it is actually known to breed in Akseki).

Why not see 3 birds in the same tree when you're at in anyways?

Why not see 3 birds in the same tree when you’re at in anyways?

Around 11:00 it started to get really warm and bird activity rapidly decreased. So I sat down under a tree – and out of nowhere two White-backed Woodpecker came to forage on a trunk just 20 meters away. I got to see and photograph them quite well.

White-backed Woodpecker: Probably female.

White-backed Woodpecker: Probably female.

They have a strange habit of foraging close to the ground for long periods. As there were two birds they constantly uttered a contact call. It was like a weak “Great Spotted Woodpecker”, but could only be heard from less than 40-50 m distance.

The birds disappeared, but after another 30 minutes I heard the calls again and now 3 birds were present in a tree. It is probably the same two and one extra, but I am not sure.

White-backed Woodpecker

White-backed Woodpecker

All in all I heard at least 3 birds in the morning and then two and then three were seen together. So I think it is safe to say, that there were six birds or more present in the area. But finding them can be quite hard.

Foraging on a trunk 1 meter above the ground.

Foraging on a trunk 1,5 meters above the ground.

The question now is if the White-backed Woodpecker ssp. lilfordi actually is a just a race or a full species. More on that later…

Silas Olofson

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