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Aladag Mountains

We visited the Aladag Mountains, travelling from Birecik and Durnalik, taking the motorway as far as Pozanti, then following the minor road to Camardi. We arrived at The pension marked as Ali's House in Gosneys Guide. Here we met Ali and his brother Hasan. We booked in to the Pension and discussed the birding in the area over a glass of tea with the brothers. Hasan now takes the guided tours into the mountains for people interested in birdwatching walking or climbing. We arranged with Hasan that we would get up at half past three the following morning and take a tractor ride up close to the top of Demirkazik Mountain to look for Caspian Snowcock and the other rarities to be found at this height.
Aladag Mountains
The Gorge We walked for a way up the gorge to a point where the main path heads off to the left and a second short track heads to the right. In the gorge we saw a Golden Eagle overhead, along the high sides of the gorge were many Alpine Chough, a couple of Chough and several Alpine Swifts and Crag Martins. At the bottom of the gorge was a pair of Black Redstarts and a Water Pipit. Further up we saw Snow Finch, Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Lesser Whitethroat and Sardinian Warbler. The following day we checked out the fields close to the bottom of the gorge and were rewarded with good views of Finsch's Wheatear along with other Wheatear species. We headed back to the Pension for our evening meal which is included in the price of the stay there. The meal was excellent, especially with a glass of beer, looking out over the mountains.

The next morning we rose at half past three in the dark and cold. A coat or thick jumper is advisable at this time of the day as it is fairly cold. We set off at about ten to four, sitting one either side on the wheel arches of Hasans tractor. The ride was very bumpy, you'll need a soft seat the next day, but it did save on having to walk up the mountain the night before and camp out on the top. We didn't see much on the way up except for a few birds caught in the headlights of the tractor. We were busy hanging on and we both nearly fell off a couple of times. Hasan said that he was going to improve the seating arrangements on the tractor in the future. We reached the top as it was getting light and immediately we could hear at least three Snowcocks calling.
Looking for Snowcocks Hasan called back to them in an attempt to get them in a bit closer. I gave Hasan my telescope to look for the birds. After about half an hour or so he located a Snowcock high up on a ridge on the top of the mountain. The bird remained for 10 minutes or so giving reasonable views. A little later we heard a Snowcock that sounded much closer but could not locate the bird. The bird on the ridge was the only one we saw. Scanning along the top ridge of the mountain we also saw a large male Ibex with an impressive set of horns.
Hasan next took me to look for Radde's Accentor, whilst Sarah had a sleep on the grass.
We walked about two hundred yards to a hollow in the mountainside where after a couple of minutes I located a Radde's Accentor. After a few more minutes I had seen around 15 in total.
Hasan decided at this point it was time for a sleep. I waited around in the same area and found two Alpine Accentors on the cliff face opposite. There were many Snow Finches flying around this area and after waiting for another half an hour a single Crimson-winged Finch flew in. Unfortunately there were no Wallcreepers around. Hasan said that we were probably too late in the year for Wallcreepers at this altitude as thay had moved even higher up the mountain for the summer.

The journey back down was probably more bumpy than on the way up and I managed to pull the light cover off the back of the tractor as I was hanging on so tightly. We headed back to the Pension for breakfast. A good meal of cheeses, bread, cold meats and Honey.

Next Hasan took us to a gorge in the mountains where he knew a good site for Red-fronted Serin. I think it was somewhere around the first nomad camp marked on Gosney's map. After passing through a heard of sheep and some vicious looking dogs we parked the car on a flat grassy area and walked through a short gorge to a second tented Nomad camp. Here we saw Ring Ouzel and various other mountain birds. Just past the camp we saw four or five Red-fronted Serins feeding on the ground. Three of these were very brightly coloured males.
We were next invited into a large brown Goats wool tent for tea with Hasans Shepherd friends. It was surprisingly cool in the tent, compared to the scorching heat outside. Hasan informed us that they had lost several sheep to wolves in the area over the winter. Wolves are now protected in the mountains which is a national park and hunting is prohibited. For this reason the shepherds keep Anatolian Sheepdogs. These have long metal spiked collars to protect their necks from being bitten by wolves. Whilst drinking our tea in the tent several Red-fronted Serins hopped around on the ground just outside the tent.
We drove back to Hasan's for a bottle of Cola before packing, saying good-bye and heading off for a sight seeing trip to Cappadoccia.

Nomad Camp
For more details and photographs of the Safak Pension click here.

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