28/11/2018
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Turkey

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Brown Fish Owl - Dominic Mitchell
Brown Fish Owl - Dominic Mitchell

Dates: 15-20 June 2019

Price: £1,345 including international flights

 

The rediscovery of Brown Fish Owl in southern Turkey is an amazing story, and firmly puts one of the most little-known and genuinely enigmatic species in the Western Palearctic back on the map. Although a number of pairs are now known, the chances of an encounter are effectively zero away from one particular site where the species is known to breed – indeed, it is the only readily accessible site anywhere west of India. That location is our first stop on this midsummer trip to southern Turkey.

To maximise our chances of seeing this notoriously difficult species, we will spend two nights in the area not far from its breeding site. A very early start on the first morning after our arrival will involve a drive and then a boat trip to visit the site where the species nests. The owls are not active by day, but with luck will be roosting within view, and adults may even have young at this time of year; however, the birds sometimes roost completely out of sight, so sightings are never guaranteed. If the most accessible pair proves difficult to locate, we may try for a second pair which have bred further away on this huge water body. At all times, we will avoid disturbing the birds by a careful approach by boat, and by remaining quiet and keeping movement to a minimum when close to their breeding cliffs, which are not viewable from land.

We have a reasonable chance of seeing this special nocturnal predator on our first visit, after which we will be free to spend the rest of the day exploring a range of habitats as we work our way towards Akseki, our base for the second night. Should it prove necessary we’ll make a second attempt to see the owls the following morning, but otherwise Akseki will provide fantastic birding.

The star species in the area is Krüper’s Nuthatch, which is almost endemic to Turkey and another major target. Other birds of pine forest, open woodland and juniper scrub in the Akseki area include Short-toed Eagle, Great Spotted Cuckoo, White-backed, Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers, Red-rumped Swallow, White-throated Robin, Olive-tree, Eastern Orphean, Rüppell’s and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, Western Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Masked Shrike, and Cretzschmar’s, Ortolan and Black-headed Buntings, and though some (especially White-backed Woodpecker and Olive-tree Warbler) are hard to find, we will aim to add as many species to our trip list as time allows before heading on to Eregli for our third night.

A large area of marshes near Eregli will provide more diversity the next day. Possibilities include Pygmy Cormorant, Purple Heron, Great White Pelican, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, raptors including Montagu’s Harrier, a range of waders, Slender-billed Gull, and Great Reed and Moustached Warblers. Having further boosted our trip list we will drive on to a village at the foot of spectacular Demirkazik, a peak in the Aladağ range, and stay at a family-run pension for two nights.

A very early start will be necessary today to give us the best chance of encountering Caspian Snowcock. We will be driven up the mountain by tractor to look for this species at dawn, and then explore the fantastic high-altitude habitats for other montane specialities, including Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Shore Lark, Radde’s and Alpine Accentors, Finsch’s and Black-eared Wheatears, Common Rock and Blue Rock Thrushes, Wallcreeper, Chough, Alpine Chough, Rock Sparrow, White-winged Snow Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Asian Crimson-winged Finch and Rock Bunting. After what should be an exhilarating time birding on the mountain, we can either head back by tractor or walk down, during which journey further species could include Chukar.

After our last night in Turkey, we have the option of a very early start again should another attempt at the snowcock be necessary. Otherwise, we can bird at lower altitude and maximise our last few hours in the field for any remaining trip ticks, before it’s time to move on to Adana for our afternoon flight via Istanbul back to London.

This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by WildWings (fully bonded and licensed through the CAA, ATOL licence 5429). The price includes international flights, ground transportation, guiding, accommodation and meals. For an itinerary and reservations, email wildinfo@wildwings.co.uk or call 0117 965 8333.

 

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