Friday, 16 October 2015

East of Antalya, Turkey - 3rd-9th October 2015 - Birds and trip report

Following Danni's PhD hand in, we went a bit mad and decided to go away for a week. We had a search around looking for some sun and decided Spain and Turkey were our best options. We went with Thomas Cook and ended up (with a little help from a TC employee on the messenger chat within their website) booking at Crystal Waterworld Resort & Spa at Belek, Turkey. This was an all inclusive holiday for 7 nights (for an astonishingly good value £255 each!) and flew out to Antalya. We then got a shuttle bus to our hotel in Belek with Resort Hopper which took just over an hour and cost £23 each. We arrived late on the 2nd and finally got into the hotel in the wee small hours ready for some sleep and ready for a nice early start. Staying at a resort with a large pool, loungers, free cocktails and an on site waterpark, I think our reasons for waking up early were rather different (I had a trip list to start!)!

Day 1
We awoke just after sunrise and sat on the balcony seeing what birds were present around the hotel airspace. Grey Wagtail was the first bird followed by the standard House Sparrow, White Wagtail and Collared Dove. It didn't take long for White-spectacled Bulbul and Laughing Dove to make an appearence (on my life list!) though, along with Tawny Pipit flyover and several singing Crested Larks in the distance. Most of the day saw us sunbathing, but flyover Steppe Buzzard and Osprey kept me busy. Late afternoon I went for a little explore and found a small weedy river, scrub and sandy wasteground where species such as Little Crake, Red-backed Shrike, Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark and Great Reed Warbler were present in good numbers. Two Graceful Prinia added a lifer to the trip along with a sound I didn't recognise. I learnt to know this call well!

Day 2
Danni joined me on a similar walk at dawn the following morning and it was almost a repeat of the evening before except with more birds. Penduline Tit flew over several times along with Golden Oriole, Spanish Sparrow and 2 Red-footed Falcon. Once the heat became a little too much, Danni went back to the hotel and I decided that I wasn't done and explored further along the road to Boğazkent. Here I got Calandra Lark (lifer), a very good passage of Red-throated Pipits, Wryneck and brief excitement of a pied woodpecker which sadly 'only' turned out to be a Great Spotted and not the hoped for Syrian. I did see an interesting Redstart though that appeared to show black centres to the median coverts and a pale pannel in the secondaries indicative of samimisicus or Erhnberg's Redstart. Walking back to the hotel I had to Honey Buzzard fly over. Late in the afternoon Danni and I walked that road again and got fantastic views of Red-backed Shrikes and Prinia, but the heat kept a lot of things down.

Day 3
We decided that a day out of Belek was needed and as we were so close to Managvat and the famous Green Canyon, we booked onto a boat trip with Vigotours with the blind hope of seeing Brown Fish Owl. We were taken past one of their favoured spots and did indeed see some poo from the owls, but during the mid-day heat and not stopping or even slowing down to have a look, we stood a very slim chance of seeing them. We still had a wonderful trip though and managed to see several Eastern Rock Nuthatch and couple of flythrough flocks of Rock Sparrow. In addition there were several birds of prey in the area with Levant Sparrowhawk, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Steppe Buzzard plus a couple of eagles I'm yet to ID as my photos were awful and it was only when I was looking at them that I realised how poor at raptor ID I am!
Late afternoon I explored the hotel area even further and tried to get to the mouth of the Köprüçay river. I managed to get several Whiskered Terns and several migrant Lesser Whitethroat. A really nice Squacco Heron fishing on the river meander was the highlight of the walk however along with a very pale Little Owl that sat on a wall near to our balcony indicative of one of the eastern intermediate races.

Day 4
Danni joined me the following morning for a similar walk and we got nice views of Purple Heron (self found lifer for Danni), Squacco Heron and a cracking juvenile Little Bittern. We had quite a lazy day aside from this with a little walk to the river mouth in the afternoon but two Purple Herons were really the only birds of note except a single Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling at the mouth which were my only waders of the trip

Day 5
Another early morning wander saw us head to some scrub and wasteground and almost immediately we had a Little Bittern in flight which was then chased by another. The second landed at the top of some reeds which was very approachable and gave astonishingly good views! This for both Danni and I proved to be the bird of the trip despite not being a lifer. A walk along the Boğazkent showed more of the same, as did the evening walk to the sandy wasteground and river yielding yet another Little Crake.

Day 6
The final day saw very little birding and just enjoying the last of the hot sun before our late afternoon depart. I got some superb views of a perched Laughing Dove as I was collecting my bags, but very little else of note was seen. It was my no means a birdwatching holiday and by no means was that a bad thing. It was purely a holiday for Danni and I to get away as we start new chapters and also spend our first holiday together. The fact that there were lots of fantastic migrants and new birds within 500m of our hotel was a massive bonus.
Little Bitern - Bird of the trip

Eastern Rock Nuthatch
The fabulous Green Canyon
Laughing Dove
White-spectacled Bulbul
White-spectacled Bulbul 
Graceful Prinia
probable (but elusive) Erhnberg's Redstart
Little Crake
Juvenile Red-footed Falcon
male Spanish Sparrow
juvenile Golden Oriole
ubiquitous Crested Lark
I feel like I nailed this flight shot of a Crested Lark
Calandra Lark
Red-throated Pipit
Honey Buzzard
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shirke (or wheatear?)
Squacco Heron
Whiskered Tern
Great White Egrets
juvenile Turtle Doves were very evident on passage
Cetti's Warbler - The most common sound on any walk
Kingfisher - one of the most common birds of the trip!
Very few sunsets beat a Turkish Sunset!

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