Pyrenean stars

12 06 2015

“I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward”

– David Livingstone

Probably the best way to escape Barcelona’s crazy hot temperatures is going to the Pyrenees and, among all the nice Pyrenean areas, the best is probably Val d’Aran, the only Catalan region in the north face of the cordillera. Apart from exclusive species (not only birds) restricted to this area, to be in the north face has of course advantages and disadvantages: in one hand, the weather: it’s fresh and nice and you don’t sweat as in Barcelona’s underground. In the other hand, the weather: it can start raining at any time and the fog can turn up surprisingly quick.

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During the last three days, Martí and I have got both feelings, but all in all we’ve managed to have a good time. Maybe for the first time, we had 2 main targets: the first visit to our UTM square for the new Catalan Breeding Bird Atlas and a new search for the Black hairstreak Satyrium pruni, a new butterfly for Catalonia we found last year.

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We started with the UTM. As usual in early summer, the track was still full of snow, so we had to walk all the way up to Liat Mines. Snowfields, showers and a hole in my boots made it hard, but an unexpected prize awaited in the top. Almost the first bird we saw in our square, however, was a nice adult Lammergeier flying over.

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Apart from that, the area was packed with Water pipits and Northern wheatears, but nothing else. We had just sit and were taking a breathe when a lizard showed up nearby. We had found a still unidentified dead lizard some metres away and we knew we were in the exact location where Aran rock lizard occurs. Therefore, we were already paying attention to the rocks. And yeah, there it was. To be honest, we didn’t know how to identify it. Martí was sure it didn’t look like anything we regularly see. I agreed, but, despite I was not updated in terms of lizard taxonomy, I knew there had been several changes, with some new species described.

iberolacerta aranica1

This species is restricted to the Mauberme massif, right in the Spanish and French borders. It was not until 1993 that it was formally described, together with its close relative Aurelio rock lizard, which inhabits similar habitats 100km east.

iberolacerta aranica2

After such an unexpected lifer, we came down to Bagergue to take the car and spend the afternoon looking for butterflies. Sadly, it was cloudy and raining at any time so we ended up having nothing to do. After a couple of cups of coffee (each) that brought us back to life, we decided to visit the area where a Brown bear is usually seen. It spends the early summer there, and goes into the beech forest when it gets too hot. In the area, we came across Marc Gálvez, nice chat while waiting for the Bear. However, time went on and the sun suddenly showed up. Martí and I were already considering to actually look for some butterflies in our way to have a proper dinner in a bar when I spotted the Bear sat on a rock, apparently sleeping.

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After a while, it woke up and started feeding on plants, branches and all sort of vegetables. I’ve been asked if I was not scared while looking at the bear. The ones who have seen one know this is just a very stupid question.

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The same meadow from which we were looking at the bear was full of orchids, mainly pink morph Elder-flowered orchid Orchis sambucina. While looking at their refined dessign, I saw an ant whatching out for a spider. I’m new in the “macro world”, but it looks like I’ll spend some hours sat on the ground in a nearby future… No clue about the name of the ant or the spider [yet]

dactylorhiza majalis

It was sunny in the morning so, after a walk through the last 1×1 UTM square we had to check, we finally looked for butterflies. Despite the usual high diversity in most of flowered Val d’Aran meadows, we didn’t manage to find the hairstreak. However, we found a surprisingly high density of both Sooty Lycaena tityrus and Purple-edged Lycaena hippothoe coppers instead.

lycaena hippothoe

And a Sombre goldenring Cordulegaster bidentata was hunting in the edge of the meadow. Another nice life of a dragonfly only found in the high Pyrenees.

cordulegaster bidentata

Time to come back home, to the hot and sweaty Barcelona, but it’s only a month until we’ll be back in Val d’Aran to the second round of the breeding bird survey. What a nice excuse for another 3 days in paradise.





Israel’s top 5

12 05 2014

“Walls gone over the sea, but not for me.”

The Canals of our city,  Beirut

Although it does seem it was a year ago, it was this April when we went to Israel. First time for all three of us. I’m sure birders from all around the world remember their first time in this strange country full of birds… and so do I. Of course I do, it was less than a month ago, but what a month! A new round in the Canaries looking for Barolo shearwaters (this time especially successful) has buried some of my memories, but, since it was my original purpose to avoid a full trip report and limit myself to highlight the best moments, those which have survived the filter of the time deserve to be in my Israel’s top 5 that follows.

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– First impression at Nizzana: After several springs/winters considering going to Israel, the urge to step on its sandy south was quite extreme. Unfortunately, we landed at Tel Aviv airport late at night so an inevitable night drive to Nizzana was needed before start birding. To be honest, there was not that much in the small pine tree forest together with the fenced village of Nizzana. The first 10 minutes of sunlight brought some Turkish calls back to my head: Graceful prinia, Chukar, Balkan warbler. Nothing exceptional until we stopped to watch a 2cy Pallid harrier and 2 MacQueen’s bustards suddenly flew over us. The mixture of success and excitement puts these first hours in the country in the top 5.

Clamydotis macqueenii

– Seawatching at North Beach: As always, Stephen found the right words to describe the situation: “such a strange place for birding… surrounded by both western-like topless Israeli girls and Muslims covered with a kerchief”. I would add the barbet wire fence that constitutes the Jordan border and the line of armed ships that constitutes the offshore continuation of this border. However, I felt bizarrely comfortable there. Maybe due to the White-eyed gulls usually sat on the buoys or maybe due to the White-cheeked terns appearing and disappearing among the flocks of Common. Even it’s not one of the most-likely next first for Spain that comes to my head, it was especially interesting to get prolonged views of 2 1st summers. Finally, an unexpected Striated heron foraging in the Jordan fish farms was the icing on the cake.

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larus leucopthalmus

– Black bush robin: While walking back to the car after having twitched the Black bush robin at Dote Palms (Eilat), Martí summarized the experience: we went to Israel and we saw it. Even it’s still a very rare bird in the WP, the increasing number of sightings in the last years turns it into a target species and leaves you with a bad taste in case you fail to see one during a spring trip. According to a helpful guy from the IBRC, there were 2 during our stay: a nice one at Hazeva and a shy one at Dote Palms. For the sake of seeing 2, we decided to try both, almost immediately going to the shy one and leaving the nicer for the day after. The shy one turned out to be one of the nicest birds of the trip. We got very good views and I got some doubts about Israeli sense of shyness. By the way, we failed to locate the nice one at Hazeva.

Cercotrichas podobe3

– Arabian warbler family group: The well-known Sheizaf Nature Reserve was the spot we got to look for this currently endangered species. For whatever reason, I felt attracted by this dull Sylvia and it secretly was one of my most desired species. However, after 3 hours walking through the wadi under a burning sun I was close to give up. One of the worst things about going to Israel in mid-April instead of mid-March (when everybody does) is not the lack of some species such as Asian desert warbler but the hot temperatures from 8.30 in the morning on. However, the first contact with a large Sylvia shaking the tail well paid the effort. After the first joy, we realized there was more than one, a family group actually, so we sit down to enjoy the show. The video below is not edited just because I like it this way.

– Syrian serin and Mount Hermon. We went to the worldwide famous Hula Valley but, although probably good for birds, the place turn out to be awful for birding. We denied to rent a boogie and hire a guide to get close to a big lake and so we ended up with no more places to visit. The small fishponds north of the reserves were empty of birds and all the tracks were forbidden. A Little crake on a small pool (my only this spring, embarrassing…) was the best so we ran towards Mount Hermon without looking back. Since every cloud has a silver lining, our fail at Hula Valley meant more time to spend at Mount Hermon. We camped in the way up to the top, but a strong wind during the night pushed us down. If I had been asked at 3 AM, I would had said the day after was going to be another epic fail. However, early in the morning the wind had dropped almost completely and the birding was more than pleasant. After a first stop that produced some nice migrants such as Masked shrikes, Eastern Orphean and Balkan warblers (plus Syrian woodpecker), we carried on up to the top. Just by the road, we spotted a black and white wheatear that I first thought was a late Finch’s. The bird turned out to be a black and white Black-eared wheatear, but while looking for it some Syrian serins flew over us and some Cretzschmar’s buntings started to sing. We thought we were gonna see more of them, but those ended up to be the only.

Emberiza caesia WP

serinus syriacus

That’s it. I would like to say thank you to Martí and Marc for a wonderful trip and sorry to Lichstenstein sandgrouse, Tristam’s grackle, Hooded wheatear, Long-billed pipit, Little green bee-eater, Eastern imperial eagle and the rest of jävla najs species that, for whatever reason, my top 5 misses. Oh, and to Sinai rosefinch: “We’ll be back”.





Falsterbo – Kiruna – Andøya

18 11 2013

“I am a big Lady Gaga fan”

– Aron Anderson

End of the season in Falsterbo, time to come back to Barcelona, the city that can be considered my wintering range. In the last weeks, some people has asked me what do I think about Sweden. Well… bearing in mind that, apart from 2 seawatching days in Båstad and another one-day trip in March to Vombs Angar, Skryllegården and Hackebergasjon (in central Skåne), I’ve been the whole 8 months in the Falsterbo Peninsula, so it was impossible for me to give an opinion about Sweden. Hence, when Aron suggested that I should join him on his way to Kiruna (Norrland) my answer was yes.

The plan in the beginning consisted in renting a car in Malmö and driving all the way to Kiruna, stopping at some places to do some birding targeting the northern species that I’ve missed in Falsterbo. However, after realizing how expensive was to rent a car if you are not Swedish, the trip ended up in a 6-hour train from Malmö to Stockholm + a 14-hour train to Kiruna. Then, we were gonna burrow a car and carry on north, up to Andenes in the Norwegian island of Andøya. This guy down here is Aron in the train, and he is extremely happy for either going back home or the big burger he’s just eaten:

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As soon as we arrived to Kiruna, I realized it was something completely different. I wouldn’t say the real Sweden, but admittedly the image of Sweden that we have in the south of Europe. Snow, forest and frozen lakes. Also some nice birds, mainly visiting feeders, like this Siberian tit.

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Without more time for birding the area, we departed to Norway and we didn’t stop until we spotted a Northern Hawk owl sitting in the top of a tree, some kilometers before Abisko National Park. Even this is probably the only species of “northern owl” that I had seen before (bizarrely together with Snowy owl), still an stunning bird.

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A walk in the National Park didn’t produce anything but a flock of Willow tits, nice landscapes and a warming cup of coffee in Aron’s former work place.

It was already dark night when we crossed the border, a step obviously accompanied by Aron’s classic quote “welcome to Norway, fucker”. The weather forecast made me forget about Northern Lights: it was meant to be raining/snowing all day long the day after. Maybe even more worryingly, the birding was going to be hard. Of course, when you’ve been ringing for one month in a row, need a day off and there’s rain forecasted, it’s always wrong. In the other hand, when you only have 2 days for exploring such an amazing place like Andøya, the forecast is right and the birding hard.

However, we managed to see some good birds: there were several Little auks around Andenes harbor, Greater scaup, Black guillemot, Red-throated diver… but no sign of neither King eider nor Yellow-billed diver. We decided to check as many harbors as possible, so we started with Bleick, a small village in the west coast of the island. No northern specialties again, but hundreds of Purple sandpipers feeding in the seaweed.

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Since the west coast didn’t look so promising, we decided to cross to the east. The central part of the island is just stunning. Pure tundra surrounded by high snowed mountains. The rain was annoying, but this landscape must be seen in a cloudy day. The icing on the cake was an adult female Gyr falcon sitting in a mossy rock. I would never forget this image!

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The day finished with the feeling that there were loads of birds in the island, but the weather and the lack of information had led us to miss the good stuff. The forecast for the day after was promising: really strong westerly winds and cloudy, but no rain. The whole Lofoten archipelago was in orange alert due to the winds, but, as usual when this happens, we were happy.

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The first thing we did early in the morning was to check Andenes harbor again. As soon as we arrived, we realized it was a completely different story to the day before. There were at least 40 Glaucous gulls of all ages, big flocks of Long-tailed ducks, a similar number of Little auks than the day before and a female King eider among some Commons.

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Seawatching in the west coast was almost impossible due to the strong winds and the lack of sheltered places. Hence we crossed again to the east coast, where the sea was completely flat and the birds easier to spot. From the tiny Myre’ harbor, apart from a surprisingly high number of Slavonian grebes, the highlight of the day was a flock of 8 King eiders (sadly all females again) and a stunning landscape.

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Time to head back to Kiruna, under a strong snow shower and already thinking about coming back to Andøya. The island offers very good birding possibilities. The lack of information (almost no reports at all in November) and the bad weather conditions forced us to invest one day in exploring the island looking for the best places. Of course, the already limited number of light hours doesn’t help neither. However, the number of birds (mainly sea-ducks, auks, gulls and divers) is impressive and with good weather conditions it’s probably possible to see most of arctic specialties. The landscape, as in the rest of the Vesterålen archipelago, is impressive, in my opinion especially in winter time.





A Song to say Goodbye

7 07 2012

“Und die Vögel singen nicht mehr…”

– Ohne dicht, Rammstein

I am already in Barcelona again and I have in mind a post about this city (she deserves it) but I must talk about my last day in Tenerife, out in the field.

Natacha told me about a route from Los Silos to Monte del Agua, probably in my favorite place of the island (as I said before) and I could not imagine a better way to say goodbye to Tenerife. The route starts in a low bushland area and goes up entering the heart of the laurel forest. In the first part of the ascent, you pass beside some old typical Canary Islands constructions, surrounded by fruit trees and water courses. Some of that old houses are deserted and you feel obliged to think about the possibility of living there.

A few meters above, you cross an underground gallery built in the past times to transport water throw the mountains. When you exit the tunnel, everything is green, you heard the pigeon’s wings clapping in the trees and then you realize you are already in the laurel forest. Just when we leaved the gallery, we saw that Epaulet skimmer Orthetrum chrysostigma resting on the ground.

The whole trip was very nice. We were all the morning trying to identify as many plant species as possible. Sometimes we managed to do so, but some others were a bit more exasperating. Just as the butterfly Gonepteryx cleobule! I’ve been 5 months in Tenerife and it has been impossible to take a miserable picture of it. Some of them flew over us while consulting our plant field guide, one was even almost sat on a flower for a while, but it never stopped flying actually. Just another reason to come back.

One of the most stunning stages of the trip was the path surrounded by Isoplexis canariensis, a flower called “rooster-crest” by local people. This plant is pollinated by birds and therefore its whole structure is designed to attract birds and impregnate them with the pollen. The anthers are placed in the upper part of the flower, a part that birds can’t avoid to touch with the nape when sucking the nectar. Moreover, the color is in the orange wavelenght, like most of ornithophil plants.

It was also nice to see the Canaries madrone Arbutus canariensis without the bark, showing a stunning pinkish red trunk. There were many of them in what probably is their best area, as it is for many other localized plant species. The landscape was incredible and we decided to have lunch. Thank you Natacha for the sandwich and specially Esther for the honey!

In the way back, we saw some deserted houses again. As usually, walls were plenty of Tenerife lizards Gallotia galloti and we had to share the prickly pears we had collected since they seemed to be hungry.

Later on, already close to Los Silos, some dragonflies such as Red-veined dropwing Trithemis arteriosa fulfilled my thirst just enough to forget about wildlife for the rest of the day and enjoy a music festival at Buenavista del Norte. Esther defined the day as “perfect” and I couldn’t agree more.





Turkey – April 2011

31 12 2011

Introduction

We planned the trip following the reports around the first week of may, when there is more information. April seemed to be a good month for migrants but not for the Turkish specialities, since there are many that arrived later. However, our hopeness was to found them out of their breeding grounds, even we already knew it would be hard in some cases. We didn’t expected to manage to find neither Pale rock nor Chestnut-sided sparrows and our luck with Upcher’s warbler was not insured. The informations we handled exclude also the Green warbler from our targets.
Weather predictions indicate it would be a lot of snow in the mountains and we didn’t know it it would be possible to reach the areas where the Snowcocks breed.
Nevertheless, the migration must be in its peak and we rely on that to make the trip successful.

The initial route was to land in Adana and go east to Birecik the same night, to start birding the gravel early in the morning and go to Halfeti in the afternoon and sleep in the tend in the way to Nemrut Dagi. Birding here all the day after and cross the stony plateaux to Van area. This place must be one of the highlights of the trip since our purpose was to enjoy eastern migration.
From Van, directly to Serpmetas, Dogubayazit and the northeastern wetlands. Then, a long drive to Erzurum to try to go up the Pontic Alps and make an attempt to the Caucasian black grousse and the Caspian snowcock. From here, go to Sumela monastery, the most famouse place for Green warbler (too close to resign just because of the dates) and then cross the Capadoccia to reach the southern mediterranean mountains and the Deltas of the Goksu and the Tarsus, with a day-stop in Sultan Marshes and Göreme National Park.
Finally, we had an extra day to cover some gaps in our list or to enjoy raptor migration at Toprakkale.

Our idea was to alternate the tend (in warm areas) and hostels (in the cold ones).

Day 1 – April 15th

We arrived at Birecik late at night, around 4 AM and we went to the Tea Gardens to see the Pallid scops owl hunting below the lampposts. We were looking for the famous blue fountain when Xavi spotted a Scops owl sat on a sheap statue. The light was enough to identify it as a Pallid scops owl! 10 minutes later, we were enjoying a couple of them feeding on moths. We get close views and we even heard a male calling. The bad new was that we only had half an hour to sleep in the car. We went to the gravel and tried to have a rest.
As soon as we woke up, we started making lifers. The first one was the Black francolin. There were plenty of them singing. A Pied Kingfisher flew over and there were lots of Pigmy cormorants flying northwards. The lagoons were apparently empty of birds, but we managed to see a Little crake and a Bittern.

The pistacho fields around the gravel were plenty of Dead sea Sparrows, Menetries’s warblers and Syrian woodpecker. There we found also the first migrants: some Wood and an Eastern bonelli’s warbler. A chanel in the west of the river loop produced Savi’s warbler, a Spotted crake and large amounts of migrants such as Bluethroat, Sedge warbler, Lesser whitetroat and an Olivaceus warbler seen only by Albert.
Late in the morning, we explored the Pistacho fields in the north of Birecik, where the sparrows are suposed to be in late may. No signs of them but more migrants, specially Eastern bonelli’s warblers. The first surprise there was a 2 cy female Pallid harrier soaring up close to us. The best was a couple of See-see partridge that Marcel flushed in a little gully while pursuing lizzards and butterflies.

Then, we decided to go to the main wadi to see the partridges (Marcel was the only that had seen them) and the Eastern rock nuthatch. It was already too hot and there was not much activity in the wadi. A big walk along produced the chicken-like Bald ibis, a Long-legged buzzard and some Yellow-vented bulbuls. We decided to go up to the plateaux and there Xavi flushed 2 more See-see. We got poor views since we were not able to locate them in the ground. A flock of Ortolan buntings and the first Eastern black-eared wheatears complete the list for the moment.

Our next stop was Halfeti, where we had the coordinates of a watering hole where the Desert finches come to drink (N370 10’ 14.9”, E0370 57’ 51.7”). We saw at least 2 in the surrounding hills, together with the first Isabelline wheatears and some Lesser kestrels. With the last light, in the stony hills close to Halfeti, we found a couple of Eastern rock nuthatch just before a long drive in the way to Adiyaman.

Day 2 – April 16th

We had slept near a reservoir 30 km south of Adiyaman. It was not a good place for birds, but we saw a Pied kingfisher, some Bee-eaters and more Eastern rock nuthatch.
We arrived to Nemrut Dagi in the afternoon and we went directly to the top of the mountain. In the way up, we saw Eastern rock nuthach (higher than expected), Blue rock thrush, Shore lark and a male Kurdish wheatear. In the top, around the heads, there were Snow finches making display and Xavi found a flock of Crimson-winged finches. We saw also a couple of distant Golden eagles. No signs of Finch’s wheatear there. In the way down, another male Kurdish wheatear and a male Finch’s wheatear. Finally, we arrived at Arsemia, where it’s possible to sleep for a good price and a friendly treatement.

Day 3 – April 17th

We had planned to bird Nemrut Dagi all the morning and the place actually deserves more time. From the hostel we heard an aproachable male Cinereous bunting and Albert found a male Collared flycatcher. The oaks around Arsemia were plenty of Eastern bonelli’s and Wood warblers and the Chukars were singing from the top of a nearby hill.

Going down the mountain again we came across a couple of Semi-collared flycatchers together with 2 Eastern rock nuthatch feeding on a crop surrounded by a wall. The next stop at an even lower altitude produced a couple Eastern orphean warbler and another male Collared flycatcher.
Nemrut Dagi was the place we had to see the White-throated robin but maybe it was too early for that species in that place, so in that moment we decided to spend the last day of the trip in Durnalik.
We started going eastwards, taking the ferry that crosses the Attaturk reservoir. There were at least 3 Armenian gulls in the reservoir, but nothing else.
Later on, an extremely long drive to Tatvan were we had to sleap.

Day 4 – April 18th

The day after, we tried to see the Nemrut Gölu, but the road was penty of snow and we were not able to reach the top of the volcano. In the way up, plenty of both Isabelline and Eastern black-eared wheatears. We decided to start birding the wetlands south of the lake, starting near Görundu. Before reaching that place, there were lots of Armenian gulls feeding on the rubbish dumps together with Rooks and a group of Siberian stonechats feeding on a little reedbed near the main road. In that place, a probable Grey-necked bunting pass throw but we were not able to confirm the identification.
The wetlands near Görundu were not as good as we had expected and if you have not a lot of time, it’s worth to skip that area and dedicate more time in the eastern part of the lake. Even though, there were at least 4 Citrine wagtails, some Bearded tits and more or less a hundred of Red-throated pipits. We also flushed a Jack snipe while trying to find a great one. In the shores there were some Marsh sandpipers and our first Spur-winged lapwing. Returning to the car, a Greater sppotted eagle flew over at a high altitude.
We set the afternoon to the Erçek Gölu marshes, maybe the first stunning eastern wetland. The best here was a group of 96 Red-necked phalaropes near the observation towers and another female Pallid harrier. There were a lot of Marsh sandpipers and it was nice to see the Redshanks and the Lapwings doing display. Here also another Spur-winged lapwing, a Rook colony which is nice for southern birders and a Montagu’s harrier rooster.
We slept at Muradiye, were is possible to sleep in a teacher’s residence if you ask for in the Jandarma.

Day 5 – April 19th

First of all, we went to the Selale waterfalls, where theorycally is possible to see the White-throated robin. No signs of it but at least 5 Semi-collared flycatchers around the parksite. In the poplars of the valley it was nice to see an Eastern redstar with a prominent white wing panel. In the dry slopes there were also some interesting birds such as Rock nuthatch, a male Finch’s wheatear, our first Bimaculated lark and another Pallid harrier. Take care of the dogs if you are planning to visit that place!
When going back to the car, we detect some raptor migration and we decided to take a breakfast in the lockanta close to the waterfalls. There were lots of Steppe buzzards going northwards and here we saw our first Lesser sppotted eagle and yet another Pallid harrier.
From here, we went to Bendimahi marshes where we expected large amounts of wetland birds and at least the first Rose-coloured starling. No signs of the Starlings but very nice place, with hundreds of White-winged terns, at least 26 Little crakes, at least 14 Citrine wagtails (mainly males), hundreds of Bearded tits, 26 Caspian terns, 3 Collared pratincoles, around 20 White-headed ducks and lots of Bluethroats and Moustached warblers.
Saciated with wetland birds, we went to Serpmetas lava fields, the first place known to see the Mongolian finch. As soon as we arrived, we saw a bird sat on the grass around the lava, but the observation was too short. Walking around the lava fields seemed a good way to detect the finches, but it only produced 2 Bimaculated larks, some flocks of Twite (nice to see how different is the brevirostris race!) and lots of Isabelline wheatears. In a string in the way to Serpmetas village we saw 2 more Citrine wagtails, some Ortolan buntings and a Lesser sppotted eagle that flew close to the road.
the village seemed good for migrants and here we saw the only Red-breasted flycatcher of the trip.
The only contact with the Mongolian finch apart from the first one was a group of 4 birds flying to the lava fields… too poor for such a myth!
It only rest for us quite a short drive to Dogubayazit, crossing the impressive mountains and wetlands near Çaldiran.

Day 6 – April 20th

Wake up extemely early to visit Ishak Pasa area. We took first the track not to the palace but to the right. There were a few birds… just some Crimson-winged finches, a couple of Golden eagles, Chukars… the typical staff. Also the firsts Asia minor ground squirrel of the trip. Higher in the plateaux, more Crimson-winged and a single Bimaculated lark. As always in the northeastern high altitudes, lots of Shore larks (here more conspicous penicillata), Snow finch and Twite. In the way back to the palace, Albert and Manolo heard a putative Grey-necked bunting but only once and too distant to make sure.
Around the palace, more Chukars, a Tawny pipit and the first tourists of our trip. Anyway, it’s nice to see the building and I think it deserves a visit even if you have a few extra time.
After a morning without birds and lifers, we needed an afternoon plenty of them, so we went to Saz Gölu, in the side of the Ararat mount, 10 km north of Dogubayazit. That wetland is extremely nice. A vast wet plain surrounded by snowed mountains. Firstly we saw some waders such as Temminck’s stint, thousands of Ruffs (for sure the commonest wader that days in Turkey), Marsh sandpiper, Black-tailed godwit and the omnipresent White-winged tern. We had took the track that surrounds the lake by the east side when it started raining hard. It seemed a good idea to do 500 m. stops and check the marshes with the only scope that fit in our van. In one of that stops, Marcel spotted one of the highlights of the trip: a male Caspian plover. After all of us had seen the bird, we decided to aproach it and try to take pictures. We managed to do it and while we were lied in the ground only 3 m. from the plover, 2 Pallid harriers (a 2cy female and a 2cy male) were hunting above us and a Bittern was singing from the nearby lagoon. Maybe the most magical moment of the trip!

We had just 30 more minutes of light and 300 km to drive in the way to Erzurum, so the most sensible thing was to go away. However, our excitement forced us to make the last stop in a wet grassland area, were Albert spotted another dream bird: Demoseille crane! There was one feeding on the grass, too furaway from us to enjoy it actually.
We went to Erzurum with a smile in our face and a lot of incredible pictures in our memory cards.

Day 7 – April 21st

That day was signaled in our agendas as the “Snowcock day” but weather conditions didn’t let us achieve our targets. The day started superb. Our first stop at Gelinkaya produced quite a lot singing males Caucasian mountain chiffchaff. We kept on going up until Ispir, where we knew about a Levant sparrowhawk nest. No signs of it and no signs of winged life actually. It was the hour of the grousse…
We tried to reach Ovitdagi Gecidi, but there was a metre of snow above the road and we had to admit it was not possible to see the grousses. Not happy with that, we decided to explore the Ovitdagi area looking for some other birds. The biggest surprise was a Bittern flushed from the side of the mountain. It flew above us and, after considering the options, it decided to land in the other side of the mountain. The place was plenty of migrants: Red-throated pipit, Common redstart, Black-headed wagtails, etc… but the best for us were the Radde’s accentor. There were at least 6 birds in that area. Other interesting birds include both Chukar and Grey partridge and 2 Ring ouzels (the beautyful amicorum race).
Already in the bottom of the valley, we detected raptor migration and we decided to take profit of it. We saw more than 200 Steppe buzzards in less than an hour, together with at least 3 Levant sparrowhawk, 2 Lesser sppoted eagles and the rest of commoner species.
The end of the day brought us another surprise, althought it was not good enough. We kept on looking at raptor migration in the lower part of the turkish side of the Çoruh Valley, from the …………. Gecidi. The flux of rators had already stopped since it was too late but Manolo and Marcel heard a Caspian snowcock from the top of the mountain pass. Too late to go for it…
A long drive to Zara, sleeping at Demiryurt Gölu.

Day 8 – April 22nd

It’s always nice to wake up in the place where you are going to bird, even if it’s not the best place in the world. We saw just some Citrine wagtails, lots of Ruddy shelducks, Glossy ibises and the abundant Ruffs and Marsh sandpipers just before a long drive (again!) to Göreme National Park.
We dedicate the first half of the afternoon to the Capadoccia, a crowded place and maybe overrated… Talking about birds, a Rock nuthacht nest was the best of that spot.
The last lights took us to the Sultan Marshes, where we started seing a group of Black Storks just before it started raining again.
We slept at Sultan Pension. Nice to talk about birds with a local and accomodation for a reasonable price.

Day 9 – April 23rd

It had been all the night raining and that fact forced us to look for migrants. In the tamariks near the pension, a stunning male White-throated robin, some Ortolan buntings and lots of isabelline wheatears. In the orchards and poplars around the pension, a Long-eared owl trying to sleap even the noise of the cameras, lots of Wood warblers and a nice male Collared flycatcher. We went to the observation tower (see map) where is possible to see the Greater sand plover, but no luck with it. Just more Citrine wagtail (several), a bird always nice to see, and some singing Moustached warbler.
We realized we had all the afternoon free, so we decided to go to Demirkazik area. Even if the road would be plenty of snow and the snowcocks would be impossible, there were still some species we needed to see, such as Red-fronted serin.
That place deserves a whole day even if you had gone to the Pontic Alps. Is the easiest place to see the serin by fur and some other interesting species such as Radde’s accentor and Finch’s wheatear can be easyly found there. We saw a flock of Red-fronted serins just 1 km up, near the track. There were also at least 2 Radde’s accentor in the bushes around and the highest density of wheatears is a bit upper.
Albert and David decided to so some trekking, trying to reach the snowcock level, while the others went to the southern plateaux to have better views of the until that moment elusive Bimaculated lark.
Albert and David managed to hear a snowcok below them, but again it was too late to localize the bird. The other group found the larks feeding on the few cropps present in the plateaux. Also a Tawny pipit and a Brown hare.
In the cliffs around the snowcock area, it’s easy to see some Wild goats and lots of Asia minor ground squirrel around the road.
After another dose of mountain, we faced south to complete the mediterranean targets.

Day 10 – April 24th

The mediterranean place selected was Demircili, just 20 km north of Adana. As soon as the sun goes up, we found the first Masked shrikes, Cretzschmar’s buntings and Rueppel’s warbler. Also Eastern orphean warbler, lots of Olivaceus warblers and a single Barred warbler. In the pine forest around the oak area, we saw 2 Krüper’s nuthatch and a group of alpinus Long-tailed tit. We guess all of that birds are common in most of the southern mountains, but maybe Demircili is a good spot to find them since it is close to the Göksu Delta, a place visited by most birders, and that was just the place we had in mind to the afternoon.

The marshes seemed empty of neither waders nor wildfowl, so we focused our energy on passerines. There were lots of Ortolan buntings everywhere and also some Masked shrikes, Barred warblers, Collared flycatchers, Lesser whitethroats and Olivaceus warblers in the bushy vegetation. Also Black francolins singing.
In the marshes, just some Spur-winged lapwing and Temminck’s stints. Maybe the best here was a group of more than 200 White pelicans resting in a lagoon until a childs shoot one down…. That must be a common practice in the country, but still denounceable.
Fortunately, the last image of the day was more than 300 Red-footed falcons feeding above the Göksu river, near Kurtulus.

Day 11 – April 25th

Wake up near Tarsus, in a place good for White-breasted kingfisher. Easy bird in all the channels surrounded by Eucaliptus, where there was nothing else except for a Golden oriol.
In the way from Tarsus to Karatas, we got one of the most stunning images of the trip: a flock of thousands of pelicans in active migration. They flew just over us and we were able to heard their wings soaring in the air, impressive! It’s nice to take the road that follows the river Tarsus. There is a heron colony in the poplars of the river, with lots of Glossy ibises, Purple herons and Cattle egrets.
There were more waders in that Delta than in the Göksu, but again nothing interesting. Just more Spur-winged lapwing and some Collared pratincoles. We looked for passerines again: more Barred warblers, Masked shrikes and the firsts Black-headed buntings of the trip.
A heavy storm forced us to stop in Karatas (a good excuse to take a beer in a nice pub above the harbour) and we took profit to do some seawatching. The best was an unexpected Great skua and a single Scopoli’s shearwater.

In the hills near Karatas, Albert flushed a Corn crake but noone else was able to see it. More singing Black francolines, Masked shrikes, Black-headed buntings, a female Collared flycatcher and a Marsh warbler.
We slept in Osmaniye in a nice and cheap hostel.

Day 12 – April 26th

We had that extra day to have a rest after 11 days of intensive birding. We were all the morning in the castle of Toprakkale, seeing raptor migration. Good numbers but not much diverse, the best being 31 Lesser-spotted eagles, a Pallid harrier, 2 Levant sparrowhawks and 12 Black storks. Also 2 flocks of migrant Glossy ibises.
In the afternoon, we visited the Aslandag national park, were there we saw Eastern orphean warbler, Masked shrike, Black francolin, Spur-tighed tortoise and some interesting orchids such as ………

Flight from Adana to Istambul.

Day 13 – April 27th

Just 3 hours in Istambul, before taking the flight to Barcelona. We weren’t lucky with the weather but the city still looked nice. From the ferry that crosses the Bosphorus, large amounts of Mediterranean shearwaters, some Common tern, a single Little gull and some Caspian gulls. Also nice to see the Shag’s nest in the breakwater!
In the gardens around Topkapi palace, there was a female Manolo found a female Collared flycatcher and a few more migrants such as Wood warbler and Lesser whitethroat. The place didn’t seem good for Olive-tree warbler, as said in some guides.








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