LUTMAN'S THREE-WEEK FALL 2000 TRIP TO TURKEY

Report No. 8. Day 12 and 13.

Day 12 of 22. Thursday, September 28, 2000. Birding the Goksu Delta

It's 7:24 AM, we've had our breakfast, we're on the road, and my GPS batteries have just given out. This is the first of the Turkish Jinpao batteries that I've tried, and they lasted 30 minutes. Something's wrong here. I put in four more, and they last about 25 minutes. OK. Just because they look like Duracells on the outside ...

We are winding through small towns and farms, headed for the coast, when we see a flock of birds feeding on thistles. They are more of the Greenfinches we first saw at Miletos, over by Selcuk. We are following the track to Akgol Lake, part of the delta national park, when we encounter two soldiers with machine guns. Sharon says in Turkish that she is looking for birds. We show them pictures on the front of our books, they break into big grins and say to go ahead, pointing straight ahead, and move out of the way. I figure that they are there to prevent bird hunters from getting into the protected area. We pass.

South towards the delta coast we wind our way, and encounter a sign that points to an observation blind. We work our way through the tall grass, on the narrow roadway, which opens to a small parking area near the blind. There are two more soldiers with machine guns. They want to check our passports. One asks if I am Robert. Yes. They let us into their hut. They also have binoculars and are watching the birds too.

We see thousands of ducks, which turn into Coots [I didn't realize it at the time, but this coot is a different species than the other ones we have seen, and so it is a life bird. But I do not include it in the daily and trip subtotals at the bottom of this day's report], upon closer examination. We also see a pair of little shorebirds, but we can't ID them. We see a Purple Gallinule and a couple of Moorhens. We say goodbye to the soldiers, and have to back out of the winding road so as not to get stuck in the sand.

We make it out to the main road again, and head south once more. We see a kind of hawk which takes off before we can examine it very carefully. A little later, we have a bird kiting (hovering) in place. It's not chocolate brown, but a sort of rusty color. He turns and we can see dark on the outer upper wings, and rust on the lower. It's a RED KITE, and it's fun to watch him behave just like the White-tailed Kites of California. The White-tailed Kites used to be called Black-shouldered Kites, a name I liked much better. You have to keep up.

We are now driving through a small village and we spot some birds larger than the many, many Spanish Sparrows and/or House Sparrows we've been seeing. Sharon gets on one that doesn't fly, and she yells out its name. It is partially hidden from me, then it flies off. But then its mate appears in the same place, and I get the YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL. I had forgotten to expect this bird. It is only seen in this delta area.

There are lots of raptors flying around as we continue on towards the coast. At about 10 AM, we see a flock of little birds zooming around, but they are multicolored, with light and dark tan, and with yellow and black wing marks. At first, we think they are Greenfinches, and they land in some more reeds. It is very windy, and the reeds are blowing all around, but we catch a touch of red on the forehead. They are GOLDFINCHES, but are quite different than the several types of Goldfinches in California. Beautiful.

We follow one path by car, which is supposed to end up at a farmer's house, but a locked gate prevents us from going further. There is a sort of oasis, but there aren't any birds in it. We go back to the road, then on to the end of a channel of water, where there are many reeds. I see a bird quickly come up and go back. I think it may be a Graceful Warbler, with its long tail and graceful appearance, but I don't get a good enough look to ID it, and Sharon never sees it at all. One of the benefits of being out here so far is that there is almost never any people, at this time of year, so Sharon decides to use nature's facilities. The only problem is that a guy on a motorcycle pulls up from nowhere, parks and gets off. He just sort of stretches, so we take off, looking elsewhere for Sharon.

Sharon gets a bird over a dry meadow, across from the oasis we visited earlier, and it's some kind of swallow or martin. She makes it out to be a Sand Martin, known as a Bank Swallow in the U.S. Just before noon, we get a half-dozen Bee-eaters or so. We can now recognize the shape and the call of these birds, and I enjoy them each time we encounter them. We take the road all the way to the end, where it terminates at a big lagoon. There are a couple of different kinds of gulls on it, and for the first time, we have a chance at an identification. One type is the large AUDOUIN'S GULL, and we can make out both first and second winter ages. Another is SLENDER-BILLED GULL, very elegant. There is a third, but we can't make out what it is. We turn around and head back, stopping to check out some kind of a falcon, but we can't get the ID.

We head back toward the main road, and it starts to rain, coming down pretty hard by the time we get to the main highway. Our first Turkish rainstorm. We find a store that sells batteries. It's a little shop next to a petrol station. I ask for batteries, but he doesn't understand. I describe them and he says, "Ah, peen." So the Turkish word for battery is pin, pronounced peen. Don't think I'll ever forget that. I get four packs of four for 2.4 million TL, and they are Panasonic AA size. We return to the room for an afternoon of R and R.

Sharon naps and I watch the Olympics, type up some more of the next trip report, and try in vain to connect to the internet about 20 more times. Not even a bronze medal. We have dinner again, and this time, I think there are only 3-4 people in the restaurant. Tonight we order lamb chops, and they are just as good as last night's ka-bobs.

New Life Birds: Red Kite, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Goldfinch, Audouin's Gull, Slender-billed Gull.

Life Bird Totals: Today 5. Trip 68.

Impressions of the Day: The Goksu Delta is a lot slower, birdwise, than I was expecting. I decide that we should stay here only two nights, and "bank" the extra day for future use. Sharon agrees, subject to tomorrow's birding results. We love to do this, "spending" the saved-up day when the time is right. Whenever that is. It's so much fun to arrive at such a place and time (the unpredicted future one), and you say, "I wish we could stay an extra day, this is so great." And then you DO, because you have saved up that extra day. We tell the desk clerk that we are going to be leaving early in the morning, and he says "Tamam."

I love to figure out the conversion factors between U.S. dollars and foreign currencies. For example, if something here costs X million Turkish Lira, you throw away the million, and add half of the X to the X. In other words, you increase it by half. So something that is 8 million TL costs $12 U.S. Simple. Conversely, if something costs $30 US, you knock off a third, making it 20, then tack on "million." So $30 is 20 million TL. See?

Of course, the conversion rate is changing pretty fast, in the dollar's favor, so next year, this won't work.

Day 13 of 22. Friday, September 29, 2000. Goksu Delta to Kappadokya, with Uzuncubarc in Mountains.

It's 5:34 AM, and we have just heard the Imam doing his call. We are beginning to look forward to this ritual, like a friendly alarm clock that goes off five times a day. When we were at Aysel and Kemal's in Isparta, the evening before we left, I was out on the balcony when the Imam began his call. Joining him were about a dozen dogs howling right along. It was pretty funny.

I check us out and examine our hotel bill. Everything is as expected except a 14 million TL charge for the minibar in our room, about $22. I have him break down the cost of the two cokes and two candy bars we had. $4 for each coke and $7 for each candy bar. I ask him if this is true, and he says in English, "Mini bar very expensive." I can't help but laugh out loud, and can't think of anything to add, so I wave and take off.

This morning, we are heading away from the Mediterranean, towards Uzuncaburc, a mountain village with lots of montane habitat around it. We pass through a small town, and there is a little fruit cart on the side of the street. I pull off, having spotted the peaches. There is a man's jacket lying over the peaches, covering about half of them, but no one is around. I see two men standing in a doorway of the bread or pastry shop they are operating, and I yell "Nerede?" Where is he? They shrug their shoulders, with arms out to the side, palms up, in their best Italian. I pick out four peaches, give them a million lira and point to the fruit stand. One nods and says he will give the money to the vendor when he returns, and that I should go on my way because it's "No Problema." I laugh, hop in the car, and we're off, through the village, heading up the mountain.

After perhaps a half-hour, we spot a number of hawks circling high above, so I find a pullout and stop the car. We get out and it's the most unbelievable site you can imagine. I count a fraction of the birds in about one eighth of the sky that contains these birds. Then I multiply by eight, and I get about 400 hawks, falcons, kestrels and other raptors. They are swirling in a big, slow hurricane, called a kettle. We say the hawks are kettling. I always have an image of an old gypsy woman stirring a big kettle filled with some liquid, and the bits of food in it swirl round and round, rising to the top, then falling to the bottom. I take a video of this activity, and later we watch it. It's like a dust storm, with birds as the dust particles. Truly a fantastic experience to see. The birds are gathering together for one purpose, to migrate from Turkey, across the Mediterranean, to Africa. We watch for perhaps ten minutes, then continue up the mountain.

We are after one bird in particular. Our "Where To Find Birds in Turkey" book says to drive up towards the village till you get to the mountain forest area, find any small side road, pull off and check the surrounding conifers. So this we do. Sharon gets her binocs cranked up in the closest tree to the car, and says, "I think this is a nuthatch of some kind." Magic words, because the bird we're after is a type of nuthatch. We first heard little chip, chip, chip calls, like woodpeckers, but also like nuthatches. There are also several small warblers, but they fly out, leaving the nuthatch-type bird. I am all over the ground, under the tree, trying to get it in the right angle and the right light. Finally, we can clearly see all the right stuff. Black crown, black line through the eye, and the telltale large rusty spot on its chest. It's a KRUPER'S NUTHATCH, and we are tickled to laughing. We drove right up the road, turned off on a random side road, picked the first tree we saw, and our bird was right there. This isn't normal birding. This is lucky birding. First stop, first tree, first bird.

We head back down, and I stop to take a photo of a couple of ancient buildings. One has columns and is two stories. As I'm snapping, I hear an unusual call, sort of like some kind of quail, though I've never heard it before. I go back towards the car, and motion for Sharon to come. I use the Turkish "come here" motion, which is like you are scooping something in front of you back towards you, but then you angle off to one side so that your hand passes by your hip. COME HERE, SHARON. She comes and we start following this wonderful call. I get a glimpse of a large ground bird ducking behind a bush, but it's my only look and Sharon never sees it. I really think it was a quail, but we can't count it, of course. We follow the calls as they make their way up the incredibly rocky hill, and over the top.

But meanwhile, back where we still are, we hear a chip chip, and get a great LESSER WHITETHROAT calling and chipping. Sharon spots another bird, which is a shrike. Usually this is no big deal, because we have seen probably a thousand shrikes, but this one is different. Nice gray and black with a white wing patch, so it has to be LESSER GREY SHRIKE. All right, Sharon! The town we're in is called Demercili. While we are watching, an old man comes slowly walking over, and is very curious about what we are doing. As we explain, and he understands, he shows a wonderful smile. We show him one of our books, and he looks at a few of the pictures, smiling all the time. After a bit, he gets tired, I guess, as any normal person does when they hang around us while we are birding.

We go back into the "four peaches" town, and try a couple of spots for the White Kingfisher, but have no luck. We get Little Ringed Plover, Crested Lark, and the normal (gorgeous) Kingfisher. Then we're off again, headed for Kappadokya. In America, where it's spelled Cappadocia, you say capp-uh-DOE-shuh, while in Turkey, you say cop-ah-DOE-kyah. The Turkish way seems more normal to us, and that's what we say the rest of our time here. When you get up early, you get a LOT done by late morning.

It is only 9:50 AM, and we are stopping to take a photo of Maiden's Castle. Sharon has told me something cool about this castle, but I can't remember it. Sorry. I THINK it's about a father who stashed his daughter out on the castle, which appears to be floating in the water. He had a dream that she was bitten by a snake and died. She's surely safe out there. But her boyfriend smuggled her some apples. Guess what was in among the apples? An Asp. Bit her and you know the rest.

We are approaching Tece (TEH-jeh), and we know that the coast road is paralleled by a superhighway somewhere around here. I try to find the road to it, but can't. I finally pull into an O/PET petrol station, and show them the map. The fellow says we have to stay on the coast road all the way to Mersin to catch it. It's not completed yet. Our map, which shows the future freeway, is too new. It was apparently made a year from now, and sent back in the time machine.

In Mersin, we stop to ask another petrol station worker how to get out to it. He describes the route, and I successfully follow it. Two more roundabouts, and a left turn at the last. But while we're maneuvering around in Mersin, we get four more Yellow-vented Bulbuls.

We come upon a Carrefour supermarket. This chain started in France, and is a very successful operation in Europe. There is another chain that has started in Europe that Cihan shops at now, because he says it is just as good, but cheaper than Carrefour. It is called "Real." These markets are similar to the Walmart Supercenters, I think.

We get out to the freeway, called autobahn by most Turks we ask about it, and it is smooth as glass. Speed limits are 40 km/hr min and 130 max. Over 80 miles per hour. I like to do about 120 under these conditions, and we are humping. By 11:30 AM, we are starting to see wet pavement. It has rained recently, and is sprinkling slightly now. As we ride along, with Sharon sleeping, I see more raptors kettling and wheeling, including two storks.

I pull into a service exit about noon. The exit sign said mechanic, food and gas, but there is absolutely nothing here. Except the men's restroom, if you know what I mean. Some time later, a little after noon, I leave the autobahn and have to pay the ticket. About $1.15. We decide to pull off and try some gosleme at a restaurant advertising "fast food." It turns out to be a buffet place, but they also make gosleme, so we're in business. This has a sort of spicy pink filling, between two squares of something like pita bread, which has been heated on the grill for us. A little too hot for our taste. Sharon also orders some chicken fast food. We have our cokes and take off after a bit.

We hit the turnoff that goes to Ankara and Kappadokya, and head north. We spot some black birds and one Bee-eater. We check this last bird carefully, because there is another kind of Bee-eater possible, but it is our familiar one. About 2 PM, we begin seeing some black crow-like birds, but they have sort of gray beaks. They are our first ROOKS. When I was a kid, we had a card game called Rook. On the back of each card was a picture of a black bird. I don't recall how we played that game, but I do recall the card backs. At first Sharon doesn't get them, but there are plenty around, in the cut wheat fields, and she soon gets them too.

At about 3 PM, we see several falcon-type birds off to the right. This is upsloping land, going up to low mountains. There are perhaps a half-dozen birds, and at first we think we won't be able to do any ID. But we are persistent, and begin to notice a couple of different types of bird. First, one type is sort of sandy. It occasionally stops to hover. It has a light tail, with a black terminal band. These two features nail down this bird as a KESTREL. In America, this bird is rarely seen, and is known as a Eurasian Kestrel. Hey, that means we're in Eurasia!

The other bird is very dark, and we decide at first that it might be a Hobby, which would be a lifer. We look for a white mark on the head, sort of like a Peregrine Falcon, but it has none. Then suddenly, the dark bird stops to hover. Sharon reads that the Hobby never hovers. During one of the dark bird's banking turns, I thought I saw some red on the belly, and now I know what this bird is. It's one of the birds O'Brian mentions in his British Napoleanic War series. The RED-FOOTED FALCON. This bird is migrating to Africa, but has stopped in this field just for us. Tessakur Ederim, Mr. Red-foot! The other possibility for the Kestrel is the Lesser Kestrel, but the book says the Lesser seldom hovers, and our Kestrel hovered twice in five minutes.

We begin to reach Nevsehir, and make the right-turn necessary to get to Urgup, our destination for the night. Our book has recommended Hotel Perissia. I have called them and got a price of $60 for a double room, with dinner and breakfast included. We check in and get room 504, with TV, the Olympics, A/C and very elegant. Up on a hill outside Urgup. It is the destination for lots of tours and several tour buses are parked in the lot each night. After driving in, and reviewing the birds that may be here, plus realizing the enormity of the region, we decide to spend our bonus day here. We will stay three nights.

We check in, have our luggage delivered, and I finally get off my first two trip reports. The birding and touring have been so great, I haven't had any time left for the computer. Oh how awful. When the bellman checked us in, we let him look through our birding scope. He is blown away. "Cok Guzel!" he says. Pronounced CHOKE gyu-ZELL, and meaning very beautiful, or cool scope, in this case.

We have a buffet-style dinner, and it is superb, targeted to attract every class of tourist, up to the most discriminating. There are fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, so I have this as a salad every night. Turkish salads and other dishes, main course choices of chicken, roast beef, liver one night (I know, I know), lots of kinds of potatoes. And the dessert table is about half a city block in size. Fantastic Turkish desserts, plus lots of fruits. We aren't used to this quantity of food at one sitting, but we persevere. What can you do?

We call Cihan to tell him where we are and summarize the day. We call Tara, who is in San Jose and about to leave for the airport in a few hours. Then I check the email again, and finally settle in for more serious Olympics-time. Cok Guzel.

New Life Birds: Kruper's Nuthatch, Lesser Whitethroat, Lesser Gray Shrike, Rook, Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon.

Life Bird Totals: Today 6. Trip 74.

Impressions of the Day: I had hoped for 60 birds this trip, and had estimated the cost of the trip to be about $6000, including rental car, petrol, hotels, airfare and souvenirs. That would break down to $100 per bird. I am fascinated with this cost-per-bird thing. The first bird we got, in 1995, was free. The birds we got in Florida, Trinidad, Tobago, St. Lucia and Belize were about $60 per bird as I recall. As you see more and more birds, the dwindling remaining unseen birds become harder and harder to get to and see, and so cost more. Just think what the last bird must cost. Let's see, Sherpa support team, Everest guide, fifty tents, 200 oxygen bottles ...

We have moved away from the Mediterranean now, and inland. The birds are different, and we are excited about that. We are also extremely excited to be in Kappadokya. We decide to spend one day mostly for birding, and one day mostly for seeing the features of the area. The history of this region dates back to the year zero and beyond. The year zero, by the way, wasn't called that at the time. Sort of like the Superbowl, nobody knew what this thing was going to become, and the first superbowl wasn't even called a superbowl. I think it wasn't until three or four had been played, that sportswriters and fans began to call it that. Then they had to go back and number the ones that had already been played.

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