Sunday, July 8. Day 14 of 15 and our last full day. BIRDING TO THE BLACK SEA. THE HAMAM (TURKISH BATHS) IN ISTANBUL.
BIRDING TO THE BLACK SEA
6:43 and we are out on the road to go birding, headed northwest, for the Black Sea. A LAUGHING DOVE sits on the ground just past a waiting policeman. No tickets here, Mehmet. I fill up with ten million Turkish Lira (10 MTL) worth of Super Kurshunuz (unleaded) at what I call a Wolf Station.
We take off and Sharon reads me a story about World War II in Thrace. Thrace is that area of Turkey to the left (west) of the Bosphorus Strait, or Istanbul Strait, as Cihan says it's called in Turkey.
Once during World War II, Turkish soldiers were stationed in Thrace to defend their neutrality against the Germans, who they feared were going to come through there. There are still military installations all over the place. Anyway, there wasn't much ammunition to spare. It so happened that it was a terrible winter, and the wolves had it tough too. They began to prowl around, near the military outposts. A soldier asked his commander if they might spare a few bullets to use against the wolves. The commander said, "You are Turkish soldiers! Use your bayonets."
We head east on the main highway till we hit the north-south highway, then we turn north. After several miles, we come to the TEM (Trans European Motorway, I recently learned), and enter it, headed west. Into the heart of Thrace.
After about a half-hour, we leave the TEM and go north on the 571, towards Hadimkoy. There are speed bumps (called sleeping policemen in the Caribbean) near a military installation, and there are big exclamation point signs to warn you each time one is coming. I come to one without an exclamation point and jam on the brakes (just ask Sharon) so we don't go airborne. But it's just the shadow of a tree crossing the road. Fool me once.
Sharon sees a young soldier sweeping in front of his quarters and Sharon yells, "Oh sure, give the brooms with HANDLES to the young people!" A very common sight here is of an old, old lady bent over at the waist and often the back, sweeping with a no-handled broom.
We go into that town and buy some breakfast items (ekmek, soft peynir, cherry drink for Sharon, orange drink for me), then resume driving. Sharon fixes us bites as we continue north.
But not before I'm driving along about 40 km/hr, and see an upcoming tree shadow across the road. "You can't fool me on this one," I think, as I recall the earlier shadow that wasn't a speed bump. "Oh, crap!" I yell, as I suddenly spot the speed bump, INSIDE THE TREE SHADOW, with no exclamation point warning. I slam on the brakes, but we still go crashing across fast enough to lift the rear tires off. Sheez! I yell, "Thanks, Turkey." Meaning the designer of this speed bump placement.
A Black-headed Bunting and a Magpie continue their wire sit as we drive by. We are back out in the country. To the right is a big valley which drops down from the road, and there are crops there, some harvested already. To the left are more crops, but on this higher ground. Telephone or power poles are to our right. We pass two more birds as one stays and one flies. OK, Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wire...
7:50 and we are starting to get lots of sparrow-like birds on both sides of the road, but they are cautious and fly into the fields. We finally ID one as a CORN BUNTING. A flock of Jackdaws follow a small herd of cows on the move.
We pass through the town of Yassioren, where a dog is lying in the middle of the road, obviously dreaming of being a speed bump. Shortly after that we come to our next-to-the-last road, and turn right. Actually we have the option here to turn left, and going to the west side of Durusu Golu, but the east side is more developed and the road goes to a resort on the Black Sea itself. We get a Red-backed Shrike on a wire.
Although we can't see it, the GPS tell us that the Black Sea is about five miles ahead, when I zoom out enough ranges.
We pass several fantastic sunflower fields, a couple of Black-headed Buntings in the road, then come to the little village of Durusu. The marshes of the lake actually begin on the far side of Durusu, and we stop to check things out.
On our left, across a stone fence with blue iron railing and about 75 meters out is a bare tree with lots of limbs. Three dark birds sit in the tree with about 8 Little Egrets. We can tell that the three birds are cormorants, and could this be the bird we've been after since last fall here? It is! Three *PYGMY CORMORANTS. Short bill, brown head, long tail, smaller than the egrets. Lifer!
We continue on, passing a long arm of the lake, surrounded by reeds. Several birds, but nothing of interest, so we finally arrive in Karaburun, the village on the sea.
There is a small boat harbor to the left, then a cliff to the left of that, with buildings on it. To the right, stretching perhaps a mile, is a sandy beach packed with people. Several little eating places and markets serve the beach-goers.
We go off to the left, from where we have a nice look at the breakwater.Two soldiers on the cliffs to the left watch us, and Sharon gets a little nervous. She checks out the seabirds flying around, but again, there's nothing new. She picks up a rock that we'll give to Carrie's dad, Bill Mercer, back in Morgan Hill. I check the soldiers, but they have turned their attention elsewhere.
We finish our Black Sea watch and head back out, getting a good look of the beach past the harbor. It's only 9:13 am. Suddenly we see one of the most beautiful birds going. It's a great, breeding plumage WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN, called a White-winged Tern in America. Fantastic.
We make our way back out and come to the junction of a road that goes down to another portion of the big lake. Then we take a dirt road, which seems to end at a dump. But from the other side of the dump, a road continues, so we take it. It finally ends at what seems to be a private picnic area, so we turn around. As we start to drive out, Sharon yells stop. She heard some bird racket and wants to check it out
To our right is a house with two little ball things on the peak of the roof. In addition, there are two OTHER little ball things on top of a chimney, on the roof. Sharon spots the racket bird in a tree, and sweeps over in the direction that the bird is pointing. She comes to the chimney and finds two LITTLE OWLS in the chimney cutouts. She tells me to look up at the two ball things. Well, of course, I find the wrong ball things, and we both sit there saying. See the owls? I don't see no owls? Over and over till she finally says the magic word chimney, then I get them. The light is bad, but they are a great find.
We make our way back out, then find another branch to the road system. We take it down, down, down then up and eventually come to a gate with a guard. It's not military, but it's obviously private. I start to turn around, but the guard smiles and motions that it's ok to go through. So we do.
We follow the road down to an arm of the lake, then around a little ways, but the time is getting short and it's warming up, so the birds are sparse. We turn around and head back.
It's 9:59 and we're back up on the high road. We turn a corner and get one of our best upgrades, a breeding-plumage STONECHAT. What a beautiful little bird. Black and rust and white. It's behaving like a flycatcher. A Red-backed Shrike on a wire and a pair of Black-headed Buntings in the road complete the local bird picture. A Mercedes drives right for the buntings, but they fly away just in time. Sharon says "Cadessi Et," 'cadessi' being the word for street or road, and 'et' the word for meat. Roadkill. "Street meat," I say
We laugh. It's not that funny, but that in combination with the fact that we got a lifer and two great upgrades, and we're heading back to the hotel for a nap, and then the Turkish baths -- well, THAT'S cool.
11:12 and we stop for snacks at a Turkopet petrol station and market. While Sharon uses the tuvalet, I shop. She comes back and I ask if it was a squat toilet. She says yes, but the end result is the same. Is that her tongue in her cheek?
We're back in our room at 12:15, having turned the car over for valet parking. Sharon takes a nap, while I upload photos and then take mine.
THE HAMAM (TURKISH BATH)
We wake up about 2:45. I take a shower and call Cihan's cell phone. They are unavailable. At 4 PM, we head out for the Hamam. I load 10 million TL worth of petrol, then take a wrong turn, mistakenly following the sign for Topkapi. I should have followed the sign to the airport, THEN taken the signs for Topkapi. I am sending us straight into the heart of the tiny alleys and roads of the city rather than the freeway around them.
I use the GPS and Sharon is on the maps, but we get lost, then somehow show up at near the Covered Bazaar. Hey, we're not lost! We're just someplace we don't want to be. That's progress.
I ask about a dozen different people, two of whom speak English, where we are and tell them where we're going. We continue in this mode for proably 45 minutes and Sharon is getting more and more uncomfortable. She has a kind of claustrophobia about the tiny closed-in feeling of the little alleyways.
We are near a university, and finally through perserverance, luck, asking directions and the fact that if you drive long enough, everything will happen, we come to the hamam. I recognize Cihan's car, parked right in front. Who's da man?
We go inside, and the others have been here about ten minutes. They are seated on couches around a square pool with a fountain in the middle. I am not going to partake, so everybody leaves all their valuables with me. I take them out to the car and take some pictures. Somebody walks out of the entrance just as I'm shooting it, then I get a closeup of the name carved in marble above the entrance.
Back inside, I see a beautiful green robe with gold lettering while I wait for everyone to finish their approximately one-hour massages. First to appear are Cihan and Ross, looking, well, hot in their two towels each. One of the towels is on their heads. They are desert warriors.
When everybody is assembled, I take a picture of them with the manager, then we add Bob and Cihan's masseurs.
Because Cihan is friends with the manager, everyone's massage is free, but each person leaves a tip of five million, though the manager said 2.5 would be ok.
We head back and have dinner (I think) in the hotel, then sort out all the souvenir puchases. We have some of theirs and they have some of ours, so we soon get everybody with their own stuff.
After saying goodnight, Sharon and I pack up a little, then crash after a little of our last Turkish TV. It's fun to watch 'Friends' in Turkish.
BIRDERS: FINAL COUNTS BELOW.
Life Birds Today: 1 (Pygmy Cormorant).
Life Birds for the Trip: 23.
Upgrades Today: 2 (White-winged Black Tern - breeding colors, Stonechat - breeding
Upgrades for the Trip: 10.
Trip Birds Today: 6 (The 1 lifer plus Laughing Dove, Corn Bunting, White-winged Black Tern, Little Owl, Stonechat)
Trip Birds Total: 88.
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