Saturday, March 31, 2018

Antalya Trip - 2

The first of two visits to the Korketeli Hills and other sites featured in the Gosney Guide for SW Turkey. A little early for species such as White-throated Robin, it was still worth having a look on the outside chance of a keen individual arriving on territory early. What did become apparent was just how out-of-date the guide was. Absolutely no fault of the author, four years is a long time in the development of the road network, particularly the new dual carriageway and connecting routes. The D-635 that leads to the favoured White-throated Robin site is currently closed while road-widening construction takes place. However, a minor road just to the right of where the main carriageway ends winds up the hill to some promising habitat.

Parking the car at a random spot, I walked into an area of scattered low pine. There was plenty of bird song and some real interest here. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear were notable, stunning birds as they sang from the treetops. A single Cirl Bunting was also in full song while a Black Redstart flitted between the vegetation, and a Common Cuckoo called from the middle-distance.

Then a surprise and one of my targets, two male Ruppell’s Warbler flew across and sang from the top of the pines, cracking birds characterized by their black heads and bold white moustachal strip. A really special bird.

A couple of Steppe Buzzard circled the valley, the backdrop bordered by snow-capped peaks and rolling hills. The sound of a light breeze that washed over the pure landscape, drenched by the warm sun that sparkled against a crisp blue sky.

The rest of the day was spent trying to prize out other species that involved spontaneous stop-offs, a couple of short climbs, and the scan of agricultural land offset from the main carriageway. These random forays yielded yet more Cretzchmars’ Bunting, and a couple of obliging Woodlark.

We managed to find the ‘Radio Mast’ site which was altogether very quiet, but did hold a stunning male Finsch’s Wheatear near to the ‘hollow’ as described in the Gosney Guide. A Spur-thighed Tortoise mosied along the rough land, and a small group of Rock Sparrow were present on the rocks. Two Red-billed Chough called as they flew over toward the valley. The area immediately surrounding the masts was deathly quiet.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Antalya Trip - 1

The rain had cleared and the morning started fresh, clear and sunny. The coming days would bring some welcome warm spring sunshine to momentarily banish the protracted drabness of the British winter.

The morning drive took us to the resort town of Side, 50km east of Antalya. The town dates back to the conquests of Alexander the Great and is characterized by the ruins of an old Roman settlement, and features an amphitheater that was well preserved and presented the focal point of the scattered remains.

Walking round the site in warm sunshine interspersed by an extremely laid-back lunch overlooking the bay was rather pleasant before commencing on a pedestrian wander around the ruins. A Whimbrel and Sandwich Tern were seen offshore.

It was rather quiet birdwise, but an adult Masked Shrike immediately captured my attention with two seen on our walk through the site.

A Little Owl sat on top of a remain of the old city wall before flying off as we approached. 

A surprise Purple Heron flew lazily over. An adult Woodchat Shrike sat alongside the second of the Masked Shrike, the two at odds with each other over what was apparently an ideally positioned bare tree.

A little bit of scrub revealed a Common Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat (which were common throughout the trip) and an Olivaceous Warbler.

Crested Lark were in full song, another bird commonly seen on the trip.

The area around the amphitheatre proved to be fruitful. At least five Cretzchmar’s Bunting were present here, calling and flying around the ruins. An Ortolan was associating with them. Using the scope to scan the restricted area, a male Whinchat basked in the sun accompanied by a couple of Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.

These Starred Agama were out bathing in the sunshine.

Side is well worth the visit both for the historical offerings and for its wildlife. I can imagine deeper into the Spring there would be a wider selection of species given its southerly location and mix of scrub and arid habitats.

From here, we headed over to Manavgat, and particularly the area alongside the river that winds through the region. A wide drivable rough gravel track was found without too much difficultly and heading along it brought the river closer to the road.  

Pulling up and walking a short way to the rivers-edge disappointingly produced very little other than six flyover Glossy Ibis, and a singing Cetti’s Warbler. However, there was plenty to see on the other side of the road, half a dozen sparkling Whinchat, a Black-headed Wagtail, Long-legged Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, four Tawny Pipit, a couple of Cretzchmar’s Bunting, a Sand Martin colony and the bird of the day, a magnificent adult Pallid Harrier that passed through with elegance and authority, a truly gripping sight. 

Inexplicably, I failed to continue further along the track which I’m sure would have yielded more.

Driving back into Antalya, was a brutal experience, discovering very quickly the culture of the road where surface markings were merely cosmetic, death a minor inconvenience, and gaps between vehicles were aggresively frowned upon. It didn’t take me too long to get my elbows out and join in the fun. To take note, do not hire a car and stay in the old town of Antalya – the two are utterly incongruous and not for the faint hearted.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

London WWT

A first visit to the London WWT since moving to the area in search of early Spring migrants.  It was a dull day across London and didn't feel at all Spring-like.  There was however a few interesting sightings today.

Six Siskin flew into Alders within the Wildside but it was generally quiet here but for a chanting Cetti's Warbler, and three Common Redshank from the hide. 

It was a little better on the south side, where a Jack Snipe fed out in the open with more no doubt hidden away within the marsh, with a few Common Snipe that were much more obliging.  A Water Pipit was seen distantly from the Peacock Tower, and my first singing Chiffchaff was in voice on the walk round the southside.