Turkey 2013

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].


Report 12. Day 12.  Wednesday, October 9, 2013. Guided Birding Around Istanbul


In bed early last night. I was pooped.

The alarm goes off, and my subconscious is not quite used to the new iOS7 operating system for my iphone, and its alarm music doesn't always wake me. Suddenly I become aware. I get up, walk across the room to where I have my iphone plugged in for recharging, and see that it's a few minutes before midnight That's my last warning of the day to take my evening medication. Wait. What? I turn the alarm off, double check the rest of my settings for today, make sure the 530 am one -- the one we need -- is set, take my meds, and then its back into bed and off to sleep.

I next wake up at 330 but its an internal alarm that tells me it's time to go to the bathroom. Which I do. Then it's back to bed again. Two more lovely hours to sleep. Aaaaah.

So the serious alarm goes off at 530 and we hear a zzzzzt sound, indicating a mosquito in the room. Sharon buries her face, as her body chemistry attracts them while they don't like mine. Lucky me.

I dress. The last few items are photography vest, fanny pack with water bottle and jacket. I load the rest into a backpack. Tara, who is going to accompany us to the bus stop, is up about 6:05. We double check our gear, and the three of us walk out to the bus stop. We are about ten minutes early, so we wait and watch the early morning activities on the road and in the shops across the street. {Bob says "at this time of day the only shops open are where you can buy Simet or beer." I think he's wrong about the beer but the simet is being cooked and ready for sale. It is like a round pretzel with roasted sesame seeds on it. Very tasty and there are people all over Turkey with simet on sticks for sale. You see them in traffic, by the ferries, and trains for those who want an early morning treat. Yum!}A vehicle approaches from our right, and stops across the street. We think this might be our ride. He seems to be checking his map or something. After a half minute or so, he takes off to our left. If he's our guy, he'll go up the street, make a U turn and be back in a couple of minutes.

Which he does. We introduce ourselves to our guide, Kerem Boyla. Tara talks to him in Turkish a bit, then we pack our gear. He has a four-seater, what I'd call a mini SUV. It's a Skoda, which used to be located in Czechoslovakia, I think, but Volkswagen bought them. But still the markings and label are Skoda. A nice ride for us. Pretty new, he bought it in January. We see a baby seat in the back, and he says he has a new baby, four months or so, and a two year old, both boys.

He says we should head out quickly to try to beat the morning commuter traffic to the bridges that cross the Bosphorus Strait from the Asian side of Istanbul to the European side. There are two bridges that cross, the lower one, #1, and a new upper one, #2. We are making for the #1 bridge, but the traffic is starting to get terrible. Kerem makes the decision to turn to the north and make for the second bridge, but we immediately run into equally bad traffic there. After some fits and stops and restarts, Kerem finally makes the decision to change the order of the places we're going.

We will stay on the Asian side, bird in the hills and watch the famous bird migration that goes along the Bosphorus.

We get off the blocked-way (my name for the freeway in its current state), and take local streets. Revered in Turkey are very, very old houses, and we pass an unrestored one. {We visited some of these restored houses on our last trip. The lower level was the stable for the animals and their heat helps heat the upper levels in winter. The inside of the ones we visited were beautifully panelled with carved wood. Very beautiful.}


We are on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, seen below, driving northward, in the direction of the Black Sea, when we see this eye-catching red ship, heading south. There are two grey vessels or rounded containers on-board that we can't figure out.

I add this to the list of other stuff I can't figure out. It's a big list, you know.


In the mid-1400s, two castles were built by a sultan, one on the east (Asian) side and one on the west (European) side. This enabled him to control sea traffic on the Bosphorus, coming from the direction of the Black Sea. The castle below is on the Asian side. {Kerem and I share a story that the "great Flood" stories may have been a retelling of when the Black Sea, which used to be a fresh water lake, was flooded by the salt water from the Bosphorus when the land bridge broke between the Bosphorus and the lake. It flooded the villages along the Black Sea and began the tale of the great flood that God sent to earth. The other thing about the Black Sea now is that the lower depths sustain no life whatsoever because of levels of hydrogen sulfide. Because there are no "wood worms" as in most seas, ships that sink are not destroyed over time. I saw a documentary about this and how they can raise ships from the bottom of the Black Sea that look like they sank last week instead of hundreds of years ago.}


We come upon a beautiful double minaretted mosque with a Turkish flag flying between the towers.


Kerem finally gets to the hill access turnoff, and up, up we go. He stops at a little shop, and buys some food as he says he always does, a small contribution for the workers at the top of the hill we're heading for. As we crown the hill, we see a two-story white block building with access to the flat, fenced roof, a huge red truck with giant tires, and a couple of cars.

This is a fire lookout tower, and is manned by workers, whom I later meet while using the toilet. {Well, maybe on his way to the toilet, not actually when using it.} [Yes, what she said]

The name of our hill is Toygartepe. I heard Kerem pronounce it, and I could only guess at the spelling. I input my version, and good old Google correctly gave to me the name. When I image-Googled it, I found lots of pictures of overflying hawks and eagles. {This is where many birders go to count the raptors during migration. The birds mass on the European side, waiting for thermals to lift them so that they can cross the open water. Southbound now and northbound in the Spring.}

But now, back to now. The sun is out (good), but it is a little cool and a little windy. We start scanning, below left, and later in the day, Kerem says he counts 23 birds in one "kettle". That is a swirling, vertical swarm, much like a tornado. The birds are each flying in a circle, some high, some low, and the whole system is moving across the countryside in migration.



So following is a transcript of the entries, with entry number, that I make on my digital audio recorder. Non-birders or everyone, for that matter, can skip down to the next photo if you wish. Not that I have to tell you that.

24 where are they? Group of mistle thrushes, few ring ouzels. Gorgeous

25 chaffinch flyover. Did you tell that from flight and call, or just call.  “call” he says.l

26  five or six rook flyover. [forgot left recorder on]. Xxxx. Kerem: birds are moving, that’s good.  Noise.

27 red-throated pipit [LIFER!] flyover. You got that from the call? Kerem? Yes, like ---, melancholy call, like x---.

28 great lesser spotted eagle, I say (repeat). Kerem. Good to see lesser spotted eagle now because chance to see greater spotted eagle later today, to compare.

29 song thrush, for calibration purposes it’s 9:48 on 10/9/2013 in the morning [not-yet-date/time-changed recorder says 10/8/13  9:53 pm]. So recorder date is slow by almost exactly 12 hours. The “almost” is because the recorder minutes is fast by 5 minutes. Knowing this enables me to get entry times by what recorder says, adjusted by calibration.

30 in Belgrade [Forest, we will go to later] they [not sure which bird he's talking about] can approach us.  Jay flying down hill really fast.

31 great short toed eagle [LIFER!]. kerem says he’s a snake-hunting eagle. Gorgeous.

32 wren [ we call Winter Wren in the U.S.] real close here. [Heard it. Later saw it.]

33 {1034 pm indicated time.} Sardinian warbler, flew to left behind woodpile. Poor look. [Great look later.]

34 {1041 indicated time} birds we just saw [asking about 5-6 birds in a kettle, very close to us]? Kerem? One buzzard, one goshawk, two sparrowhawks [actually saw many more sparrowhawks before this entry],  hobby. [I think a couple of buzzards, too -- not vultures, as in the U.S. but rather hawks].

35 we’re watching two lesser spotted eagles, circling around each other, giving great sunlit views.  Heard woodlark [I did’t hear it] flying behind us.

36 1135 [all times are indicated, from this point on, without any enclosing brackets] woodpigeon flyover. [Later saw it, but not this time.]

37 1141 now 1136 much warmer I use the eastern toilet... {Wow! I hope most of you just jumped over that posting. It was confusing to me and I was there.}


I ask Kerem if there is a toilet here, and he says yes, and he'll take me to it. We walk around the building, enter a door, turn right, and there is the door to the door of the toilet. I ask myself, "Western or Eastern?" meaning type of toilet. In Europe and Japan, they would call a "squat" toilet -- the Eastern version. I push the door open, and there it is, an opening in the floor with a ceramic insert. I won't go into what I think of these. It multiplies by a factor of about 5 how long it takes me, but I get through it. As I move to the outer room, which turns out to be the lunchroom, workers are eating, and they motion for me to join them and share a meal. I say no thiank you, but thank you, and out I go.

When she gets back she shows me a photo she took of an ornament nearby, like a heron or an egret.



OK, back to the recorder transciption. {Oh no, not again}


37 [last half of entry\ ...lots of kettles now, mostly buzzards. Kerem counted 23 in one.

38 1152 yandex, a Russian equivalent to google, yandex maps Kerem was using to get update on traffic.  All data coming from users position, speed and direction data. Slick.

39 1154 solitary hobby over woodpile.

40 1157 beautiful butterfly, smallish, not big either, red with white markings around wings. Kerem says might be red admiral. [I checked, was not. Not sure what it was. I have probably changed its appearance in my mind, and it probably was a red admiral]

41 1158 white wagtail flyover

42 1203 so Sardinian warbler popped up, brush into bush of red berries. While I was in bathroom, they saw long tailed tit and blue tit.

Note: End of recorder transcription.

We drive down out of the hills, and stop for lunch. Sharon and I both have Iskender, she has a coke, I a diet coke and guess what, a plate of sliced tomatoes. {There is a little cat under our table who stays there as I begin to feed it bits of bread (of course I do). Don't know what the restaurant owners think of my encouraging it but it looks so hungry and it delicately picks pieces of meat from my fingers between its front paws. So polite and cute.}

Then it's back in the car, and headed for the bridge - #2, the new one, the northern one.


Traffic is extremely light as we enter the bridge. At right is the view to our right (north). Fabulous buildings and scenery in the next few shots.


We're headed for the Belgrade Forest, where we hope for woodpeckers. We go through the little isolated village of Boçaköy (say Botch'-uh-koy, and you'll be close), and in short order we enter the Belgrade Forest. It costs about 5 lira to get in, and we supply that.


Now I'm going to resume my audio recorder entries:

44 141 grey wagtail flyover. By the sound I think.

45 142 heard short toed tree creeper. which we later see well -- LIFER.

46 145 beautiful grey wagtails in the sun.

47 150 house sparrow

48 202 bathroom stop, 2 oclock.

49 203 they got red breasted flycatcher whne I was in john.

50 205 so I got my own red breasted fly. Paralleling us on the right.


51 206 great tit


52 213  marsh tit and nuthatch. Kerem doing grey-headed woodpecker sound to call closer one he thinks he saw

53 217 blue tits, more marsh tits

54 224 wren behaving like treecreeper, kerem says treecreepers derived from wrens [evolutionarily speaking].

55 252 great look at a middle spotted woodpecker, spotted flycatcher.

56 252 spotted fly across road, up high



During the walk, I recorded the following two photos. The one on the left is called the firebug in Europe, and the red bug in the US, where it recently turned up for the first time in California. The photo at right is a nice little European Robin, or as the people over here say... Robin.



So at the end of the day we get three life birds. Kerem had estimated about six in his email yesterday. This morning he said 4-6, 7 if we are lucky. So we fall short of my expectation, but I am not disappointed with the truth. The lifers are Short-toed Treecreeper, Short-toed Eagle (gorgeous) and Red-throated Pipit (flyover).

We head for home. I'm a little pooped, but we enjoy the buildings and I'm not driving. Yaaay.


Kerem takes a connection road to the southern bridge, which we cross. Traffic is slow but not S..........L..........O...........W, like this morning.


More great sights from the bridge and highway on the other side.


Kerem lets us off, and we settle up moneywise. I had called Tara a little earlier, to tell her we were ten minutes from the bus stop, and she said she'd walk out and meet us. {He also tells that the swifts that we see in this area may be Pallid Swifts which would be lifers for us. We have seen the swifts from Tara's balcony and now need to see if we can identify the pallid from the common swift. Kerem says the pallids nest on the roofs of the buildings in this area. We read later that at night the swifts fly very high up in the sky and then sleep on the wing!!! Their positioning , altitude and wind adjustments remain alert and active while the rest of their brain sleeps. Amazing.}

Durng the day, upon inquiry from me, I learned that Kerem is in fact the guide that takes birders on the two-week trip into eastern Turkey, to Lake Van for the company "Living Anatolia.". I looked at an incomplete list of the birds that they see on that trip, and it would get us lots of lifers, so earlier I told Sharon we might do this some day. Meeting Kerem, getting to know him and his manner is going to cost us some day. And I mean that in the best possible way. I ask the cost of this, and am amazed at the relatively low number. The likelihood of doing this takes another leap up the probability ladder.


We walk around the corner, pass the security gate, and find this little kitten, who's all warm and friendly and rubbing with Sharon. {We also meet Oner and his daughter . they tell us the sailors on duty here put out food for this kitten and Oner's daughter has named it (I think Tasik} named after a spice that is this color.}


Then its on up to the apartment, unload all our gear, and have a great relaxing rest of the evening.

Guten Abend (Good night/auf Deutsch),

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