Thursday, July 5. Day 11 of 15. LEAVING KUTAHYA. CLIMBING ULUDAG (WELL, IN THE CAR).
We pack up but go down for breakfast first. Sharon stops to chat with an old desert warrior. Then the fellows at the desk help me get the luggage out to the car. One of the guys wants to go to America in the worst way, and Sharon spends some time talking to him. "Can you speak English?" she asks in Turkish. "No," he says. So that's Sharon's first directive to him. "Go back to school and learn English."
I take one last look at the hotel, and can see our room from here. We head south for a nearby lake, but we can't find it anywhere. There is a low, flat valley with a stream running through it. We drive up near an abandoned house. I don't like the feel of it so I stay in the car, but Sharon doesn't mind and gets out to look out over the valley for the lake.
I see a Hoopoe fly over and I jump out of the car to chase it to the back yard of the abandoned house. Not only do I scare it, but I also scare two owls of some kind off the roof in back, both of which fly off before I can have any chance at all of an ID. All this, and I'm birding without Sharon. Dohp!
She still can't figure out which of two roads to take to try to find the lake, and I frustrate her more by telling her what I've just seen. We debate the merits of birding separately a little, then take off in the car, chasing the Hoopoe. We park near where we think it is, and Sharon spots it. I decide to sacrifice the close look (which may scare it off) for a chance at a video, but it flies off before I can get any shots. Oh well. And we never do re-find the owls.
But as we're making our way back out of the Hoopoe/Owl chase, we notice a beautiful black and white bird. It turns out to be a *BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR.
We decide to give up the lake and head north. By 10:06, we're back in Kutahya, then head out for the highway. This morning one of the hotel fellows offered to take us to his brother's canary shop, which would open at ten o'clock. The other guy said he would take us to a good ceramic shop. The problem is that we don't know how to say yes to the ceramic guy, but no thanks to the canary guy. So we wimp out and don't do either.
Our destination today is the top of Mt. Uludag, via the city of Bursa. We were there last fall, but there should be birds here in the summer that aren't here in the fall.
We come around a corner and see a man moving hay with a strange-looking pitchfork. There are either two or three curved tines in the bottom, and one single one on top. Sort of like a hawk's claw when it's open and about to grab something.
He walks up to a pile of hay and slides the fork under it. He lifts that overhead and the hay slides down to the base of the forks. He repeats this pickup, lift movement till he has an enormous amount of hay in the fork. Next he walks over to the place where he's accumulating the hay.
In the middle of all this, he sees us stopped. He drops the hay and starts walking towards us. Sharon yells and points to the video camera. She motions him to continue and he gets it. He goes back and repeats one complete cycle for us to video. Then he drops his fork again, gets his son, who's about nine or ten years old, and they come over to the car.
He puts his head by our window. He shakes our hand. Sharon asks "Wheat?" but in Turkish. He says yes, for making ekmek, and then he asks if we're English. No, American, Sharon says. Then the man says, "I like basketball," then gobba gobba, then "Los Angeles Lakers," then "Shaquille O'Neal," then "Sacramento Kings," then gobba gobba.
Actually the last 'gobba gobba' sounded like a Turkish man's name, and it turns out that there is a fellow from Turkey on the Sacramento Kings. Turkey is a big basketball country, perhaps because Turkish men can be very tall, the same as Americans. Then the fellow tries to think of the other Laker star (Kobe Bryant), and I know who he means, but we both laugh because neither of us can think of his name. He shakes our hand goodbye, and Sharon holds her hand out to the boy. He shakes it and starts to leave, but his dad points to me. I lean over and put my hand out, which the lad shakes. We wave and wait for the dad to resume his work, so I can take a couple more photos. But before we can start to take off, the man yells something to the boy, who runs across the field, grabs a wooden rake and starts to rake up loose hay.
Then, about a quarter km down the road, we see a man standing at the edge of an uncut field of wheat. He has a long scythe and begins to cut in long, even, slow slices. We get this on video also, and it's pretty cool.
Then it's off on the long run to Bursa. We pass a big, long lake on the way and stop to observe a group of 15 or so RUDDY SHELDUCKS across the water. We also see a few White Storks and one or two BlackStorks. Flies start biting the heck out of my bare legs. I HAD to wear shorts today!
We notice three hawks interacting with each other in the air. We first think they're Buzzards, but soon change our mind. They are MARSH HARRIERS, though Sharon thinks that they might be Honey Buzzards. The books say the HBs are not here though.
As we continue on the highway, Sharon suddenly says "Look at those kids." I spin around in the driver's seat and see four or five boys, each with a slingshot pulled back, ready to shoot at the rear window of cars that come around their corner. Little Turkish punks.
We go through several speed traps, and I'm proud -- PROUD, I say, not to get a ticket at any.
11:37 and Sharon pulls out some cherry juice and pretzels. There are six left. I pick three and she busts up laughing. "What's wrong?" I ask. "You picked the ugly ones," she says, and that cracks us both up. Well, you have to know the joke, but I can't tell it here.
Soon we can see the back side of Uludag, but we have to drive around through Bursa to the other side. This we do, and we make our way up the mountain road. First we go through Bursa city streets, then through a university, then through upper terraces, then onto the sides of the mountain. Up, up and up we go, past high mountain estates, restaurants, then just mountain forests.
We finally come to the entrance to Uludag National Forest, pay our entrance fee, and head on up to hotel territory.
We get to the hotel, and make our choice. We walk up the steps and up to the lobby. "Do you have any rooms for tonight?" I always start off. "Of course," he says. Seventy million TL for a double, three meals included. About $50 now that the exchange rate has slid from 1.2 when we first arrived to 1.3 million TL/dollar. "Do you have suites?" I ask. Yes and they are 80 MTL. "Can we see the rooms?" I ask. "Certainly," is the answer, and before you know it, a bellman is showing us both. The suite suites us just fine, so we go back down to the lobby. Actually, the bellman called it a "junior" suite, but it's fine for us.
"How about the suite for..." and then I use my finger to draw a '75' on the counter top. "Just one moment," he says and disappears into the back room for about a minute. He returns and says, "All right," but he misunderstood my offer and gives us the suite for 70 MTL. I just hate it when people don't understand me.
We check in, and we would call this a four star hotel. All materials are very nice, modern and coordinated. The A/C and television work perfectly. The view is wonderful too. We unload our suitcases, get what we need and head out for some afternoon birding, since we don't know what the weather will be like tomorrow.
There is construction going on in the front of the hotel. They are repairing or rebuilding a stone wall. Birds are flashing around all over the place.
Dark birds with incredible orange coloration under the tail are ROCK THRUSHES. I had forgotten this flashy orange color.Another bird is flying around and is different. We have driven over to where a new hotel is under construction. This other bird pops its tail, and we later ID as a Yellow Wagtail, though at first we think it might be a Long-tailed Tit.
Vans are going back and forth, up the rocky, gravel road to the mercury mine, high on the mountain. We drive around the hotel and look down at a stream flowing under a bridge. There are Wheatears all over. Sharon sees a bird flying and is excited about it. It lands, but I'm looking through the curve of the windshield, and it's a bit blurry for me. We're afraid to get out, afraid we might lose it. Suddenly I yell, "Red headlight! *RED-FRONTED SERIN!" Sharon hasn't quite got the angle yet, but then she gets it too. A handsome little brown bird with white underparts and a bright red forehead.
We take a short walk along a stream, which cascades over some rocks, and get the same or another Red-fronted Serin. Gorgeous. Then we decide to drive the road up to the mine part way. This doesn't get us any new birds, but is a pleasant little diversion. A yellow flower is very attractive and there are several around.
We head back down, and I get a video of Sharon doing her distress call. Both SOMBRE TITS and COAL TITS come to give their assistance to whatever bird is asking for it. But they don't recognize Sharon in the video region, only the audio. Another little bird in the mixed flock finally reveals himself to be a *BONELLI'S WARBLER.
We return to our hotel and our room, stoked with the three new lifers today. Dinner is being served and we go to the dining room and help ourselves. It's buffet style. Choices, choices. There's so much variety that I can pick exactly what I like, or try new stuff. If I don't like the new items, I can just leave them.
[The following paragraph was written by Sharon] There are many children of various ages in the hotel for "English camp"; like summer camp where they play games and such but are supposed to practice their English skills. Acutally, we never do hear any of them speaking English unless we talk to them first and encourage them to use their English. Luckily for us, they eat in a separate area as they are quite noisy in a group. We also see some muscular guys eating dinner and Sharon guesses they are Turkish wrestlers. Finally she asks one and, yes, they are members of the Turkish wrestling team training here in the high mountains.
The light of the setting sun out the window is great, especially on a pink hotel below us.
After dinner, it's off to our room for R&R. We'll get up early tomorrow and bird an hour or so before breakfast, then take off for Istanbul.
Life Birds Today: 3 (Black-eared Wheatear, Red-fronted Serin, Bonelli's Warbler).
Life Birds for the Trip: 20.
Upgrades Today: 1 (Rock Thrush - much closer view)
Upgrades for the Trip: 7.
Trip Birds Today: 8 (The 5 lifers plus Ruddy Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Rock Thrush, Sombre Tit, Coal Tit, Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike).
Trip Birds Total: 77.
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