After being turned away from the hotel I had booked (they had sold the room to someone else...) we eventually found a place back near the airport - in fact west of the airport, so not ideal for our early start heading east. The plan had been to spend the morning doing vizmigging over the Strait, but this and a realisation that the distance that we needed to cover was immense meant we changed plans and got on the road after a quick spot of pre-breakfast birding. The Quail we had heard before falling asleep was still going for it, and we got the list off to a pleasant start with just under 20 species seen in a short walk, including buzzing Tree Pipits, a Syrian Woodpecker, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Little Owl. Crazy numbers of Alpine Swifts over the motorway on the western side of the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge - impossible to count on the move but thousands.
First stop Izmit, on the eastern edge of the Sea of Marmara. We arrived mid morning and started birding immediately, albeit that it is suprisingly difficult to get to the most interesting bits of the shoreline. Keep trying is my suggestion - we entered via a restaurant, and you can drive to reasonably close to the canal at the northern end. There were birds everywhere, and we had our first views of Greater Flamingos and Pygmy Cormorants - we were definitely a long way from home! Coots and Black-headed Gulls dominated (perhaps not so far after all...), and a good selection of waders fed on the mud - Grey Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Ringed Plover. We picked out a handful of Black-necked Grebe offshore amongst the more numerous Great Crested and Little Grebes, and a Marsh Harrier patrolled the reeds. We racked up about 30 species all told here, a good taster of things to come and an easy place to break up the journey about an hour and half from the airport.
We continued east for another two hours towards the town of Bolu, beyond which the landscape became more agricultural. I was aiming for the village of Dortdivan, picked from obscurity by virtue of a decent eBird list earlier in the month that had been heavy on raptors. There is no particular spot to go birding, we just parked the car by the side of the road in a series of good-looking spots. Locals were quite curious, and I showed some of them birds through my scope. The list here included many Long-legged Buzzard in the fields, ofter just sat on the ground, an Imperial Eagle, a Black Stork, Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow Wagtails and lots of obviously migrant Willow Warblers, plus a good selection of chats - resident Black Redstarts, and migrant Whinchat and Wheatear. We spent a lot of time here, probably more than we should have - a common feature of birding travel.
From here we headed north through Gerede and into the mountains. The target was Kruper's Nuthatch, the first lifer on the list. Research had suggested they were common, but we couldn't find one, and in fact it was slim pickings all round. A Crag Martin was a bonus about half way up, but the pines held only Goldcrest and Coal Tit. A quick check of eBird suggested another site half an hour south east (ie the right direction), Camkorus Tabiat Parki, which we reached by 6pm. Bird activity was low, but on the point of leaving I heard the Nutchatch and scrambled up a slope and into the trees to get a view, guided by ear. And sure enough, way up at the top of a pine a lone bird was mooching about. My view lasted about 10 seconds, if that, before the bird flitted further away. By the skin of my teeth - I was glad to have found it as the bird is only in certain habitats and I didn't want to have to devote another site to it on the way back.
|Looking south towards Gerede|
It was now getting dark, and with no accomodation booked we got back on the main road heading south to Ankara. Our first birding site tomorrow was under two hours away, so we figured it made little difference how far we got this evening and found a hotel about half way - a immense ugly edifice called the Connect Thermal Hotel. But it was reasonably priced and came with dinner and a Barn Owl in the garden, so pretty perfect for our purposes. I don't think we managed to take single photograph of a bird all day, but we had covered 450km, notched up 78 species under blue skies, and most importantly were over halfway towards Aladaglar NP where we had accomodation booked for the following night.