26 June 2009


One of the above dazzles with flashes of creative genius out of leftfield, the other is wondering what to do once his contract with Liverpool expires.

25 June 2009

In lieu of a trip report

As I am far too busy/ill/lazy to write-up anything approximating a trip report, here is the species list from my recent holiday. I doubt it'll keep you from the tennis for long but it does include all but one of our primary target species (and Plain Leaf Warbler was probably always a bit of a big ask).

18 June 2009

The bitter end

A day on the deltas (Ceyhan and Tarsus) produced White-breasted/Smyrna Kingfisher and Greater Sandplover. These two, and another three waders, have booted the trip list to a respectable 205. All in all a flipping good trip, all bar the fact that my stomach currently sounds like a washing machine and I haven't eaten for two days. Good ol' Turkish cuisine,... almost as reliable as Turkish driving.

What price one of these down at the wetlands?

17 June 2009

200 up, man down

Bagged Black Stork and Red-tailed Wheatear today which has resulted in the trip list hitting the 200 mark. Unfortunately, I have succumbed to some, as yet unidentified, ailment and spent the day drifting in and out of sleep. Now all pilled up, I hope for a return to form in the morning,... we will see.

16 June 2009

Not so rosy

Tried the Murat river valley for cranes, etc., unfortunately, as with every other major river we have seen the Murat is being stripped of it's aggregate. Two of the three former 'Demoiselle islands' had JCBs sat on them (despite the IBA status of the site), the agriculture in the area also appears to be intensifying, not looking good for the future for virgo here. Lots of Rose-coloured Starlings though (must think up a caption for the pic).

15 June 2009

Scree slopes and lava flows

Another slog over the scree at Isak Pasha produced nothing. Luckily we had the technology to remedy the situation, a couple of emails later and (many thanks to Richard Bonser [should you ever read this]), we were off on our way to the lava flows at Caldiran where 10 Mongolian Finches put on a show - 'Catchphrase' actually, their calls sound dead similar to the buzzer on the aforementioned quiz, Roy Walker would be proud. This is also a flipping easy site for the likes of Snowfinch, Crimson-winged Finch and brevirostris Twite too, and a stunning bit of geology - halfway between a dragon's graveyard and a petrified stormy hot chocolate sea.

14 June 2009

Do you like apricots?

Soldier: "Do you like apricots?"
Me: "Apricots?"
Soldier: "Yes, apricots,... you know [performs eating gesture]"
Me: "Oh, yes."
Soldier "OK!" [waves us on]

And so concluded the, as yet, most bizarre questioning at a Turkish Army checkpoint, just one element of a generally weird day. Firstly, Bendimahi Marsh appears to have been turned into a country park for the Turkish Army, although, as long as you don't mind birding under the watchful eye of gun-toting irregulars, you can still get to what remains of the site (it'll cost you 3TL though and there were very few birds - Gull-billed Tern and Quail were the highlight). Then came a brief stop at the Selale Waterfall which was rammed with joe out enjoying a sunny afternoon (again no birds). Then the frugivorous questioning at the checkpoint. And finally, we endured a full blown electrical storm at 2000+ metres by cowering under rocks before I had enough and, screaming like a girl, bolted (pun intended) for the car. It did clear and Grey-necked Bunting was bagged but the Mongolian Finch is yet to be gathered.

13 June 2009

Bobbing for entrails

No holiday would be complete without a visit to the local dump. Not content with the huge municipal festering mass at the roadside, we also managed to track down the nearby abattoir's refuse arrangements. The feral dogs, corvids, Armenian Gulls and an Egyptian Vulture seemed very pleased with the fetid pile of sheep intestines, skin and horn. The most prized offal appeared to be the bloating floating stomachs in the shallows of the adjacent reservoir. A photographic opportunity not to be missed. Earlier in the day several singing Paddyfield Warblers were the best of the bunch at the excellent Ercek Golu.

12 June 2009

Think of a pun with 'van' in it

Birding along the road to Catak failed to produce the, hoped for, Plain Leaf Warbler but did mean we bumped into the trip's first Rose-coloured Starlings. A long afternoon/evening on the Van Marshes produced: White-headed Duck, Slender-billed Gull and an unexpected Marsh Warbler and a host of trip-ticks; one week in and we're on 184. The Rough Guider seemed to enjoy his trippette and had apparently "never knowingly seen so many bird species in a day", another happy punter,... and we got a free lunch out of it and our very own interpreter for the day, everyone's a winner.

Bonus image: just in case you can't make it out, it's a large beetle.

11 June 2009

Are we nearly there yet?

A couple of pairs of Red-wattled Lapwing at Cizre were the highlight of a very long day in the car. We added another 10 species to the trip list but, apart from Armenian Gull, nothing ultra exciting. In the evening we bumped into one of the authors of the, soon to appear, Rough Guide to Turkey - he's going to tag along for the day tomorrow,... this could be interesting.

10 June 2009

Oops, forgot to add a title

Spent one of the better hours of the day breakfasting in the charming village of Halfeti not seeing Bonelli's Eagle and having to make do with more Little Swifts. We then explored a couple of tracks off the road back to Birecik. The first produced Cream-coloured Courser; and the second a roadside pool whose avian visitors included: Pale Rock Sparrow, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Desert Finch. We then embarked on the drive to Mardin. This journey was punctuated with: Lesser Kestrel; a drive up (and down) an unopened motorway; an aborted attempt at driving up a motorway slip-road in the wrong direction (during which two non-plussed Turks shot past going the other way); Short-toed Eagle; possibly the most entertaining road in the world ever (the D400 between Sianlurfa and Mardin); and two more Cream-coloured Coursers. I am now sitting in a hotel perched atop an outcrop overlooking the vast Mesopotamian plain. The Lonely Planet, displaying its signature reverse-snobbery, describe the Büyük Mardin Oteli as an eyesore,... what a load of wank.

Pure art, a Pale Rock Sparrow, complete with reflection, throwing-up after a hard night on the Raki.

PS. Just found out there's a Lesser Flamingo up-country, a slight change of plan is in the air.

09 June 2009

Birding Jedi-style

Given that the world-renowned 'See-see wadi' at Birecik is one of the more Tattoine-like places on the WP birding circuit, it should have come as no surprise to meet Ben Obi van den Burg halfway up said wadi. Peter and I became instantly star-struck, lost all self-control, and launched straight into a classic cheerleader-esque chant which started "Give me an A" and went right through to "Give me a G" despite the fact no-one had 'given us' any of the intervening letters; there followed a slightly embarrassing moment before we managed to paper over the cracks by exchanging information on various bits and bobs. In comparison to Arnoud the best birds paled into near insignificance although See-see, Pallid Scops Owl, Pied Kingfisher, Menetries' Warbler, Iraq Babbler, Dead Sea Sparrow and Yellow-throated Sparrow did vie with the aforementioned hirsute Dutchman for notebook space.

An ickle baby peering out from the riparian scrub/woodland alongside the, rather large, Euphrates River.

08 June 2009

Head east young man

Moving east and hoovering up goodies as we go, today, Upcher's Warbler, Olive Tree Warbler, Sombre Tit, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Desert Finch and Cinereous Bunting were all added to the trip list. Red-tailed Wheatear and Pale Rock Sparrow were not so forthcoming but second bites at these cherries are scheduled, no panic necessary,... yet.

07 June 2009

Dirty, dirty birds

Dirt birds today included the little blighter above; birds of a non-dirty persuasion included: Graceful Prinia, Purple Swamphen, Lanner, Marbled Duck, etc. Starting to get a little chicken shished out, must try some fish once I get to Van.

06 June 2009

Somewhere in the sprawling palearctic

Today we 'did' Demirkazik, very nice. Caspian Snowcock (6+) and Radde's Accentor rather stole the show but Red-fronted Serin, Crimson-winged Finch and Finsch's Wheatear also did their best to entertain. Slightly further south Bimaculated Lark, White-throated Robin and Golden Jackel kept the interest up; and the drive down to the coast was enlivened with White-spectacled/Yellow-vented Bulbuls.