TURKEY 2001 TWO-WEEK TRIP

Wednesday, July 4. Day 10 of 15. PUT ON YOUR BINOCS, WE'RE BIRDING AGAIN! DRIVING TO KUTAHYA.

We get up about 5:30, and did most of the packing last night. We get the luggage and birding gear downstairs via the lift, in a couple of trips. The bellboys, as in every hotel I can think of in Turkey, have been sleeping on couches in the lobby. One jumps up and carries our luggage out to the car while I check us out.

I like the roadside lamps as we drive off the island.

6:25 and we're headed up the western shore, retracing yesterday's fishing expedition's path. The GPS is plugged into the cigarette lighter again, all our luggage is on board, our bird books and binoculars are out, and life is sweet.

Sharon sees a bird running up a rock. A Rock Nuthatch? I thought maybe a Rock Sparrow, but no, it has the wrong head markings. Then I concentrate on the salmon-colored throat with a gray head. It's a *CRETSCHMAR'S BUNTING and a life bird. Ah, the day is off to a great start.

6:36 and a ROCK NUTHATCH flies in with a pair of fledglings, who keep fluttering their wings for food. About five minutes later we get a thrush-like bird with black and white on its throat. Rock Bunting? Maybe not. We later realize that this is a beautiful *WHITE-THROATED ROBIN, but for now we are stumped. A couple of Rock Nuthatches complain to Sharon.

Next we get a bird with a dark head, and I've seen this bird's picture before, so I rifle through the book, and there it is. It's an *ORPHEAN WARBLER, very handsome. It's actually a pair of them.

We laugh because of how slowly we are advancing. Bird ten minutes, drive a hundred yards, bird again. We see a brown and yellow bird, and it's a common bird but very beautiful. It's a *BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, and it's our first.

7:50 and we get a nice LESSER GRAY SHRIKE in an orchard. About five minutes later, we get another lifer - a smashing *MASKED SHRIKE.

A Greenfinch sounds like a cricket buzzing, then does a song, then buzzes, then the song again. This bird can make the strangest sounds.

We drive a little further and get out again to chase a woodpecker. It's our first SYRIAN WOODPECKER of the trip. We continue on and come to the fishing turnoff, but drive on past. Ah, new territory.

Several Hooded Crows are near the lake shore as are lots of Swallows and Sparrows. We pull over again because we see a large turtle in the road. Sharon puts her hand on top of the turtle, for size comparison. But also to cover the hole that somehow got bashed on the top of its shell.

I say "Hold up the turtle so it can pee on you," but Sharon just stands there. I'd say six seconds later, we watch this growing puddle coming from underneath the turtle. "Hah," says Sharon. Then off we go again.

We stop again and ID a couple of *TURTLE DOVES. Lifer! When I was growing up in Missouri, I heard that term used to describe the doves around there, but by the strict definitions, those were Mourning Doves, not Turtle Doves.

We move just a little further up the road because Sharon has noticed a great marshy area below us, on the right. We scan the birdlife for nuggets and at first we see familiar birds. There are lots of Little Grebe families down in the marsh, plus some Grey Herons. A Coot with babies. Little Egrets, ducks and the like. But I notice a single bird, all alone, in a grassy area between a grove of trees and the marsh. It looks very unusual, and I ask Sharon for the scope. I check my bird book and one at a time, I verify each characteristic. It's a bird we've been after since we first set foot in this country, a *GREAT BUSTARD. What a lifer! It alternates between just standing there and preening. A grey head, rufous color at the neck, brown on the back. The wingtips, which are folded so that it looks like the tail, are black. It stands tall on relatively long legs, and all alone. Finally it takes a nap. Can't argue with that.

Meantime, Sharon has heard lots of commotion above the road, in the brush, and she yells that it's a *RUPPEL'S WARBLER, with its white mustache. And she's right.

Back to the marsh, what I first think is a Water Rail turns into a Common Moorhen. Dangit. Three babies follow it.

9:44 and we get a nice White Stork nest atop a concrete telephone pole. There are two adult-size babies standing tall. The beaks are sort of dark red, as opposed to the bright red of an adult. One parent flies in as I'm taking video. Fantastic site. The parent has a twig in its beak, which it drops. The babies crouch down, fan their wings, and peck at the parent's beak. This causes the parent to start the regurge process, and the little ones start their brunch.

As we are watching the adult, it throws its head back so the top of the head touches the top of its back. Then it starts rapidly clicking its beak as it then swings the head back to the normal position. I would call this mating behavior except that its mate is nowhere around. Great, great sight.

An old (eski) Turkish gentleman comes up to Sharon to ask what we are doing and when she says we are looking at the stork he says, "leylik", their word for stork. They talk some about the storm we had last night and then we bid him goodbye.

10:30 and we are trying to find a small shop that sells ekmek and soft peynir (cheese, like Laughing Cow), but we can't find any.

Things in the health department are nearly normal, because I'm actually getting hungry.

I say, "Let's check out what high mountain birds would look like," and Sharon starts looking up each one in the book. When I say White-throated Robin, she looks it up and realizes that this is the bird we saw early this morning, but couldn't quite identify.

A couple of Hoopoes fly over, and I love seeing my current favorite bird.

We come to a major intersection and decide that although it's 20 km out of our way, that we should go into Senrikent to find our breakfast. A Bee-eater flies over. A gray horse is actually sitting down on the ground. They should write a song. Sharon breaks into, "The Old Gray Mare, she ain't what she used to be." Perfect.

We go into town and find a market. They have what we want. We get eckmek, soft peynir, some drinks and I get some bonibons -- M and Ms, sort of. We head back to the intersection, where we will turn left, continuing our drive into the mountains.

11:22 and a bird lands ahead of us in the dirt. It has a black throat necklace, and permits us to stop beside it without flying off. It's our best view ever of a CALLANDRA LARK.

11:33 and we are in the middle of a traveling lunch. Sharon opens a wedge of soft cheese, spreads it onto a torn-off piece of bread, and passes it over. Yum. She got cherry juice and I got apricot nectar. Hers is great, mine not so. She shares her cherry juice with me. Thanks Sharon.

I learn that nectar means cloudy and juice means clear. And in this case cloudy is crap and clear is the thing.

Just before noon, we leave the main road, catching an old gravel road to the right. It is expected to take us about 30 km, around a marshy lake called Karamikbatakligi. But after about 100 meters, it's clear that we don't want to drive our car on this cut up road. I turn around and go back to the main road.

We see a bird on a wire, and first we think it's a Jay, but it's a beautiful Roller. A little later, we see a HEN HARRIER cruising over the land to our right. Then we see a mom and pop Kestrel with two fledglings on the tiled top of a building. One baby has a lizard.

We see a group of wild donkeys, including a little one by itself, and a mom with a baby.

From a side road comes a man on a vehicle I don't recall seeing before. It's like a wagon with four sides, which you would expect to be pulled by a tractor. But the front side is moved back about five feet or so, and two seats, a steering wheel and an engine are installed right up front. I think of it as a self-propelled wagon.

Anyway, the fellow slows the vehicle down, stops, gets out and comes over to us. He introduces himself and gives us a Hos Geldiniz - welcome. We talk a little bit when Sharon yells, "Look out, your wagon is moving!" And it is. It begins heading down the road about 1 mile an hour or so. The guy just laughs, waves his hand at it and keeps talking. Sharon asks how to get to the town we see on our map. He points ahead, then right.

After a minute or so, he sort of jogs after it, catches up, and climbs up into the driver's seat, then takes off. Remarkable. We take off too.

Sharon is getting pretty good at building Turkish sentences out of the few words she knows. Yesterday, when they were in Isparta at the "gold store," she knew that the proprieter was a new father. She also knew how to say baby, and how are you. So she puts the two together, figuring that the man would understand that she was asking how the baby is. Cihan busted out laughing, then said, "Sharon, you just said, 'How are you, Baby?'"

That's ok. He got the idea.

We continue up the road when we come upon a group of men working on some grain. There are storks around, and one flies over the hay.

We arrive at the northern point of the road system, turn right and begin heading southward, down the eastern side of the lake. After a few kms, we suddenly get tons and tons of Squacco Herons. There are also Little Egrets, one GLOSSY IBIS, several BLACK-WINGED STILTS, a few White Storks -- there are birds everywhere.

A little further down the marsh, we come upon a flock of perhaps thirty LAPWINGS, then a couple of Yellow Wagtails, with their black heads. Next comes a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER.

About 1:25 and we spot a beautiful mostly black bird with a long, straight beak. A shorebird of some kind. We quickly look through our books and Sharon nails it as a wonderful upgrade (one had only winter plumage last fall) to our SPOTTED REDSHANK. As it flies, we see a white stripe down the back and lighter patches on the wings. Beautiful.

Another upgrade is around the next corner, as Sharon gets us a visual on a Water Rail, as it skulks around the edge of a patch of reeds. A little farther and we get an entire family of *GREAT REED WARBLERS, a lifer for us. We continue till we're about halfway down the length of the lake, as seen in the GPS as our current position on the GPS map. We about face and head back north again, picking up the same birds going out as we saw going in.

A Long-legged Buzzard is handsome as it flies past and away. Then Sharon picks up a DUNNOCK, reminding us of the one we saw at Amberley Castle in England only a couple of months ago.

We come to the junction with the main highway, and turn left, towards Afyon. This is to be our first how-tired-are-we checkpoint. If "very," we'll stop. Otherwise, we'll push on for Kutahya. If we turned right, we'd head for Konya and Whirling Dervish country.

We arrive in Kutahya and after several false starts, find Hotel Cozer. Just our speed. They have regular rooms for 20 or suites for 30 million TL. I try to offer 25 for a suite. But actually, I offer yedi-besh million at first which is actually 75 million and we all have a good laugh about my negotation skills. Especially Sharon, who is gettin' the hang of this language more than is totally comfortable for me, at times like this. So then I offer yermi-besh million, and they accept). About $20. A friendly, English-speaking fellow helps us up with our luggage, and our suite is large and comfortable, though a little bit dated. No matter, we have TV, comfort, and loads of space.

Later, we go downstairs and ask about a place for dinner. They steer us towards a Kebap (kebob) place downtown, and off we go. Tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken and lamb kebaps, a couple of Fanta orange sodas, and I'm ba-ack.

We pick up some desserts from a shop on the way home. I take about two bites from my feaux-ice cream and trash can it. Sharon gets her tatli all the way back.

I set up the computer and do some work organizing photos and the like. Then we crash. Well, Sharon has already and I join her.

Life Birds Today: 9 (Cretschmar's Bunting, White-throated Robin, Orphean Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Masked Shrike, Turtle Dove, Great Bustard, Ruppel's Warbler and Great Reed Warbler).
Life Birds for the Trip: 17.

Upgrades Today: 2 (Callandra Lark - closer view, Spotted Redshank - breeding colors)
Upgrades for the Trip: 6.

Trip Birds Today: 20 (The 9 lifers plus Rock Nuthatch, Lesser Gray Shrike, Syrian Woodpecker, Callandra Lark, Hen Harrier, Lapwing, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank and Dunnock).
Trip Birds Total: 69.

What a FANTASTIC birding day we had today. It will surely be the best of the trip, don't you think?

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