LUTMAN'S THREE-WEEK FALL 2000 TRIP TO TURKEY

Report No. 5. Days 6 and 7.

Day 6 of 21. Friday, September 22, 2000. Southwest Turkey.

ANOTHER TRY AT THE HOOPOE

It's 7:30am and we are on the road out of Selcuk today, with a destination of Fethiye (FETT-ee-yeh), in southwest Turkey.

Yesterday at Miletos, we got great news that the Hoopoes were still in the area, were "everywhere," but we didn't see any. We will check again, take some photos of the sites there, and be off. It is only about a half-mile out of our way, so there is nothing to lose. And the world's best upgrade to gain. Our view of the Hoopoe was sort of like seeing a statue of Medusa without the head. Our bird has a crest that normally lies flat against the head, but projects out in the back when at rest. It puts it up when alarmed or startled. Its bill is long and projects from near the top of the head. So when you are looking at the outline of this bird, it looks a little like a hammer with a thin head. In the pictures anyway…

On the way to Miletos, we must take a little detour around a fire area that apparently got away from a farmer burning a field, because it is all over one large hill. We watch a military helicopter approach the fire and dump water on the fire. A little further down the road, we watch the same helicopter lower a huge bucket into a lake, fill up and return to drop it onto the fire. After some helicopter video, we head out again, checking birds here and there.

We learn from experience that there are two kind of shrikes around. One has a black tail (Red-backed Shrike) and the other a rusty red tail. We add a new life bird because we can see that the bird we are looking at, on the wire, has a rusty red tail and so is an ISABELLINE SHRIKE.

We get to Milet at a quarter after nine and start checking the trees and grounds for the Hoopoe. We are birding all around the ruins of this ancient site, and it gives me a sense that I could be hunting for this bird at this spot, centuries ago. Sharon spots a small flock of birds that at first glance look like sparrows in color, but then quickly notices that there are most definitely NOT sparrows. They have beautiful black and yellow on the wings and on the tail. They are GREENFINCHES and are a delight to watch. Also in the area are a few more Sombre Tits.

We drive past an orchard, to an old mosque surrounded by stone walls. I forgot to mention this yesterday, but we chased a woodpecker around till we could identify him. It was a SYRIAN WOODPECKER. These birds are generally black and white with a red "vent." That's the name for the underside of the tail, but up just behind the legs. And to get as descriptive as I can, it's also the area they poop from. The male has red on the back of his crown, while the female does not. The back and wings are black, with a white stripe on both upper wings, just next to the body. The neck, chest and belly are white. There is a black pattern on the neck that's too difficult to describe, but there are four or five woodpeckers that have slight variations of this pattern. They are different enough, though, that if you can get a good look, you can ID the bird. But no H-birds so we are off to Bafa Golu (Lake).

We find Bafa dried up where we are trying to bird. There are small channels of water, but nothing like our book described.

After that, we continue on and come to the main body of Bafa Golu. It is huge, and we are hungry, so we begin checking lakeside restaurants. We spot some gulls, and pull off the road, into the parking area for a restaurant. We grab our binoculars, scope and ID books, and go down to a large deck covered with vines to protect patrons from the sun. We check out the birds down there, but are again overwhelmed by all the different gulls. A young man comes down and waits while we are checking out the birds. He invites us to sit down, and we get the idea across that we are just birding, and after a bit, he goes back up to the restaurant. He also was checking to see that we weren't going to picnic there with our own food, because there are signs around that say that's not allowed.

LUNCH AT LAKE BAFA

We realize that this is a wonderful place for lunch, right on the water, so we go back to the restaurant, and they show us the things they have. We ask if they have "et" and they open the refrigerator door and we can see chicken and lamb, already on skewers and waiting to be cooked. I order chicken-ka-bobs, tomatoes and cucumbers. The air is cool in the shade, and it's hard to imagine a lunch spot better than this. A couple of cokes top it off. Then the sweetest watermelon for dessert.

But on the way back out to the picnic area where we will eat, we notice that some of the restaurant staff are eating a roll of some kind. Picture a cigar-sized and shaped object, made from a crepe, but deep fried. Then fill it with a smooth cheese. This was our first taste of burek (boo-WRECK) and was very good.

During our lunch, Sharon found the exact picture of one of the gulls we've been seeing. It is a BLACK-HEADED GULL, winter plumage edition, sometimes called the Common Black-headed in the U.S.

The lunch bill comes to five million lira (about $7.50), and I am running low in Turkish lira, so I tip one dollar U.S. After our great lunch we go back to the restaurant area, where they are also selling all kinds of nuts by the kilo. We choose some unshelled peanuts, pistachios, almonds and walnuts, corn nuts, and some grapes. They have many kinds of honey, and we both noticed bees buzzing around a large square hole with water in it about 20 yards from the restaurant.

We take our food purchase to the car and are off again. We are dropping down in altitude, out of the mountains we've been driving in a while, and a big body of water becomes visible for the first time as we round a corner. We believe this is our first look at the Mediterranean Sea. It is a little hazy, but the weather is warm and nice. A little too warm, so we have turned on the AC.

THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW

It's mid-afternoon and we are cruising down a curvy incline. I pass one car going fairly slowly (him). I have decided something about Turkish highway driving. There are speed limit signs, but very few people pay any attention to them, and so I conclude that when in Turkey, do as the Turks do.

As we start back up a hill, a policeman (POLIS is printed on the front doors of their cars), standing in the road, motions me to pull over. I can't quite figure out what he wants, but we'll soon find out. He finds that I don't speak very good Turkish, so he writes this on a piece of paper:

MAX 80
YOU 96

Uh-oh. I was 16 kilometers over, or about 10 miles per hour over the limit. He says the caught my speed from a "camera," but later, others tell me that it must have been radar. He asks for our car papers, my drivers license, our passports. After filling out some papers, he presents me with a fine for $17,100,000 TL, about $25. We had read that fines are paid on the spot, not later through the mail.

We come up with 17,050,000, but can't find the last 50,000 (about 8 cents). Sharon comes up with a 10,000 lira coin, which is about 2 cents. She offers it to him and he takes it. But after he looks at it, he laughs, gives it back and says for us to go ahead. I offer him a ten-million note, but he says no, no, we can go.

How generous.

My faith in humanity is restored, that somebody is officially doing something to enforce the speed limits, and I use this little adventure to vow to drive closer to the speed limit and double my defensive driving caution. We come to a city by a lake, both called Koycegiz, and pronounced something like KER-jeh-eez. We follow the directions of our "Where to Find Birds in Turkey" book, which takes us past around the lake a little ways, towards some reeds and marshes. But on the way, I stop to use the outdoor restroom, if you know what I mean, for the number one reason men do this, if you know what I mean.

Sharon steps out and checks some interesting birds in a tree while I'm busy. "Bob, come here. There's a bird with great colors up in this tree." I return and get out the scope. Some fly off, but one or two remain, and I get on them. I know what they are immediately. When in the air, you see that their wings are very pointed, as is their head, so their outline is like no other I've ever seen. It's like they are a four-pointed star, with the tail being one of the points.

These BEE-EATERS have a rusty red on the crown, neck and upper wings. They are bluish-turquoise on the chest and belly and lower tail. They have a yellow throat, and a black line dividing the yellow throat from the turquoise chest. They have one feather or feather-like part that projects out the back, past the tail, in the center. When in the air, they make an electric call with a penetrating ring. These birds migrate to Africa in enormous flocks, but our birds are buzzing the air for the larger insects – their specialty. What a lifer.

We are tired, it's five P.M. and we don't feel like making it to our day's destination, still an hour or more away. I try to use the phone card to call Fethiye, but I can't get the phone to work. I can't remember whether I already told you about the phone card phones or not, so skip this if you already read it: you slide your card in and it reads how many minutes you have left, then displays that number so you can actually watch your money disappear while you are talking. We have five cards, each with 60 minutes. Anyway, I try three times, then the fellow working behind the check-in desk comes out and shows me the last piece of the puzzle. Oh, yeah, you have to lift up the receiver…

I would like to believe it's because I'm tired.

So I get through to Fethiye, but our first and second hotel choices are already booked. The second place recommended a third place, but it isn't in any of our books. I am getting an idea when Sharon suggests that we stay right here. We'll be an hour behind schedule tomorrow, but hey, this is a great trade. We're tired, and it's nice here. Plus that friendly desk guy showed me what I was doing wrong on the phone card phone without making me feel like an idiot. For the millionth time, Sharon was thinking the same thing I was.

We check into the Hotel Kaunos, right on the lake with only a handful of customers, it seems. The relief we feel at the warmth of this hotel is incredibly soothing. It just makes you want to say, "Aaaaaah."

I call Cihan on the phone card telephone. We tell him about our progress of the day. He loves to follow us, and tell his parents, his sister, and Tara (his girlfriend/my daughter) about it every day. He says that his naval base is having a party tonight, saying goodbye to the summer.

After checking in, but not unloading our baggage, we return to the lake marshy area, and bird some more. We pick up another wonderful Kingfisher, buzzing across the water this way and that, and landing on reeds and overhanging bushes. And more buzzing Bee-eaters.

Each of the lakeside hotels is separated from the lake by a wide walkway, right next to the water. So people stroll up and down, enjoying the lake and the evening air. Our hotel also has a small garden and bar between it and the walkway. Do you call it a promenade? We have dinner outside, and are given lots of service, since there are so few customers. I have cold tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with salt. They are delicious. We also have lamb and french fries, as I recall.

A young couple manages this hotel, and they sit down to eat near us. They have a little daughter who is getting into mischief. She is slamming the glass door to the restaurant. The waiters try to stop her, but she says no, no, no and slams some more. Then she lets that go to pull all the tablecloth holders off. As she comes near, Sharon asks the mother if the little girl is two. "Yes," says mom, and she and Sharon both laugh. I say "Hello," to the little girl, but she is pretending to look at something on a little table. Her mom says something to her, and the girl says, "Hal-lo." After dinner, we walk by and stop in front of the couple and the daughter. We talk a little, complimenting them on the meal. While the girl is watching, I turn to Sharon and say, "Gimme five," and Sharon slaps my hand. I turn to the little Turkish girl and say it to her. She lifts up her little hand and slaps mine. Everybody chuckles and we head up to the room for some rest and Olympics-watching. As we are walking away, the little girl yells something at us in Turkish and the mom says, "She says to please come back again someday." "Tamam," we say, which means OK, and is pronounced tah-MOM.

Up in the room, I watch the Olympics while Sharon writes some postcards. When it comes time for the addresses, I get out our Palm III organizer, and supply street addresses and zip codes. Love the Palm.

New Life Birds: Isabelline Shrike, Greenfinch, Syrian Woodpecker, Black-headed Gull, and the wonderful Bee-eater.

Life Bird Totals: Today 5. Trip 44

Impressions of the Day: I am driving much more carefully now, and am glad for the speeding ticket. A reminder to drive safely. All those Turkish drivers who ignore the speed limits can do what they want, but I'm officially out of the group. The accident rate in Turkey is something like 14 times higher than the other nearby countries.

Turkish children are incredibly cute. I am taking some great video and stills of them. There are three actions that they take when they see us wave or smile. Some don't change expressions at all – sort of like Dad when he was playing the fiddle in his concentration. Others are very serious-looking till they see us smile. Then they do too, and the change in the face is a marvel to watch. Third are the animated ones, who yell, "Hal-lo," showing us that they speak English, even before we do anything.

Day 7 of 21. Saturday, September 23, 2000. The Beautiful Coastal Area.

It's 9:12 am, and we are on the road, heading for Antalya tonight, southern Turkey's premier resort city. There are two or three archeological stops we want to make during the day, with possible new birds too.

The service stations sometimes have car washes, of which there are two types. The first type is continuously running water, piped up to what can only be called a shower head, but taller than the tallest semi-tractor rig. At this type, off to the side from the main building and pumps, you just drive your car slowly under, and it knocks the dust off. The second type is more like a "no-touch" automatic carwash, where your car is slowly and automatically pulled through a series of washers, sprayers, soapers and dryers. In this second type, you park your car and the automatic stuff is mounted on a rack, which is an upside down U-shape with wheels. It passes over the car, while the car stays still.

Fascinating.

We spot 8-10 turkeys just before we take the turnoff to Letoon, one of the archeological stops, a temple to Leto, who loved water. The temple here is supposed to be flooded with water and the possibility of seeing water birds, but there isn't anything here. We talk with the ticket-sellers a little. They say the Hoopoe is everywhere, but we can't see any. A Jay flies across the road. These birds are incredibly wary. They always land so that they cannot see you, and vice versa.

We come to Patar (birthplace of St. Nicholas-Santa Claus, and I bet you didn't know THAT), another archeological stop, after winding through the countryside. It has a lake with many Little Grebes – maybe 50 or so. There are three large ducks on the water, but they are too far off to ID. Three swallows are on a wire and a Chiffchaff is working the trees. There are a few shrikes, some Crested Larks and doves, but no new birds. On the way into this site, we see a farmer preparing a camel for tourists to ride. Patar is famous for its beach sands, and the area is full of young people with swimming gear, walking out towards the beach.

At about 1:30, we round a curve and see a sign that says we are 23 kilometers from Kas (pronounced kosh, rhyming with posh). This is definitely the Mediterranean now. We see a two-humped island, reminding us of the one-humped camel we saw this morning. The terrain is rocky with scrub greenery.

As we continue on, I spot a bird that looks a little like a hawk. I park at a convenient pullout, and we get on this bird quickly. It is gliding, gliding, from right to left. Sharon can see falcon-like head markings, like a Peregrine, and the tail seems long. The front half of the bottom of the tail is light and the rear half is dark, though the split is not exactly 50/50. A check of the ID book reveals that this has to be an ELEONORA'S FALCON. Beautiful. I climb a ravine to use nature's services and the view is awesome. We continue on the curvy, winding road when we spot a dark bird down on the rocks by the sea. It is overall dark blue or steel gray and is a BLUE ROCK THRUSH. The painting in our "Where To Find Birds in Turkey" has the best picture of this bird, and there's no doubt.

LEAN YOUR EAR THIS WAY

We pass through the town of Demre where the legend of St. Nicholas began. He was a bishop here in the 4th century and gave anonymous gifts of money to poor girls who had no dowry, and thus little chance of marrying. He would drop bags of gold coins down their chimneys and this "gift from heaven" would allow them to marry. He is also the patron saint of pawnbrokers! The story goes that he dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a man who was in debt, and the three gold balls over a pawnbroker's shop are in memory of those three bags of gold.

In mid-afternoon, we are driving on a high road, overlooking a valley with flowing water emptying into a harbor. Sharon spots "tons" of waterbirds out there, so we make our way down and over. We view the Egrets, juvenile Flamingos, Grey Herons and a pair of terns. The terns are the magnet, because there are some here that we don't have. We can't get a good enough look, and have to let them go. Black bill, red-orange feet, dips but does not plunge into the water, black eye-patch. Oh well.

But there is another white bird, tall and moving its head back and forth in the water. It's a SPOONBILL and is great fun to watch feed. While backing away from the scope, Sharon trips over a big rock and goes down. She gets a couple of scratches on the palm of her left hand, and a couple of bruises, but is OK otherwise. She finds the first-aid kit and treats her wounds, ready for more vacation. I throw the rock down into the water. Bastard.

We make it to Antalya in the late evening, and after trying a couple of booked hotels, arrive at the Sheraton. They too are full, but we try next door at the Falez Hotel, another four- or five-star establishment. They have a double for $100 U.S., which includes dinner and breakfast. A sign on the wall says double rooms $225. It has TV and will get the Olympics. All right!

After settling in, we go to dinner, which is buffet style, all you can eat, but I want only half of all I can eat. This place is fully packed and is overwhelming when compared with the little places we've been staying in. It's very plush, fashionably decorated, but we agree that we like the smaller, less-filled ones much better. Oh well, I go ahead and have all I can eat.

New Life Birds: Eleonora's Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush, Spoonbill.

Life Bird Totals: Today 3. Trip 47.

Impressions of the Day: The rocky shoreline of southwestern Turkey is pretty close to the picture I have in my mind of what a Greek coastline would look like. Lots of rocks and little islands. The weather is hot and invites you to go to the beach. We have been warned and cautioned about the terrible curvy, two-way road along this stretch of Turkey, but I find that the road is better and wider than the coastal Highway 1 of California, south of Monterey.

We didn't get many birds today, but they were all three very enjoyable. There are so many archeological spots that you tend to say, "Oh well, another ancient aqueduct [or theater or old castle]." Then you just stop mentioning them, unless they have some outstanding physical feature. But what you are thinking is still how incredibly rich the area is in its multiple layers of ancient history.

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