iBirdz

Birecik

We left the Goksu Delta at around four o clock in the afternoon and hit the motorway missing out on the main cities such as Adana which are slow to travel through due to the many traffic lights on the roads. I would recommend using the motroway as the traffic on it is very light and it only cost us about 1 to travel a couple of hundred miles. Also we saw Little Swifts flying over the motorway.

We arrived at Birecik in the evening and booked into the Merkalem Motel which is situated on the left of the main road between a petrol station and a 24 hour cafe just before you reach the bridge over the Euphrates. The cost of a double room with shower and ceiling fan was 5 for the night, pretty good value I thought. It was basic but comfortable after driving several hundred miles that day.
Merkalem Motel We arrived at Birecik in the evening and booked into the Merkalem Motel which is situated on the left of the main road between a petrol station and a 24 hour cafe just before you reach the bridge over the Euphrates. The cost of a double room with shower and ceiling fan was 5 for the night, pretty good value I thought. It was basic but comfortable after driving several hundred miles that day. Birecik Over The Euphrates
The cafe next door is basically a 24 hour truck stop for lorries heading to Syria and Iraq. However, it was excellent value. Although it was meant to be self service the owner gave us some help in pointing to the food, he spoke no English and we spoke no Turkish, so this didn't help much but he was very friendly and I still don't know what we ate but it tasted pretty good. A main course with side salad, a pudding (rice pudding only), a drink and as much bread as you could eat cost about 3 each.

After the meal we retired to our room to plan the following days birding. From the room we heard Long-eared and Scops Owls.

We rose at about six thirty and headed down to the river to look for Sandgrouse on the shingle banks site 3 in the guide. Unfortunately there are now no shingle banks low enough for Sandgrouse to drink from due to the dredging of the river for gravel and the Ataturk dam altering the water level.

We decided to try the Wadi, site 2, next to the Ibis centre. However we walked up the wrong wadi initially. We ended up in a small wadi further up the road from the main wadi. Whilst walking up this wadi we saw and heard a small party of Black-bellied Sandgrouse overhead and when looking up I noticed two animals looking back down at us. These were a pair of Jackals. We climbed out of the wadi onto to the bare grassland above. Here we saw Long-legged Buzzard, Desert Lark, Desert Finch and Bee-eater. No sign of any See-see Partridge though.
Our next port of call was the Bald Ibis center, site 1, where Ibrahim, the warden introduced himself to us and proceded to show us about five Bald Ibis that were present at the time. After allowing us through the ropes to keep people back, in order to take some photographs, he invited us into his little hut for a glass of tea. He spread his small wooden table with some newspaper, put out some wooden bowls, pulled up two stools and offered us his breakfast of goats cheese, marrow, tomato and bread. This was typical of the Turks in areas not subject to tourism, they were all very generous. Around the car park and under the trees outside the Ibis centre were numerous confiding Dead Sea Sparrows.
After spending some time going through an old dutch bird guide with Ibrahim, we headed off up the correct Wadi.
The Ibis Centre
The Wadi By this time (10 o clock) it was already becoming extremely hot and we tried to keep in the shade. Up the wadi we had excellent views of a family party of Upchers Warblers and a male Menetries Warbler was found singing from some vegetation hanging from the rock face at a right hand bend approximately half way up. See-see Partridge could be heard from the grassland plateaux above the wadi but unfortunately we didn't see these birds.
We next headed off to look for Yellow-throated Sparrow. We didn,t find any in the Orchards at site 4 or around the electricity sub-station site 5. There were plenty of House Sparrows in these areas. However, one or two were seen flying in and out of the large trees in the gulley at site 4. Whilst sitting in the car at this site a single Blue-cheeked Bee-eater was seen flying along the river. Apparently some local bee keepers have shot most of these gorgeous birds and the gravel extracted from the river appears to have been dumped
at site 11 and around the area where the Bee-eaters have been seen in the past. Another bird we missed out on was Pied Kingfisher. We visited several spots along the river but saw none.
We next headed for Halfeti, site 7, checking the Cream Coloured Courser hill, site 6, on the way. We had no luck here. At Halfeti the results of the Dam are obvious with the large reservoir stretching through the valley bottom. At Halfeti we saw no Little Swifts or Bonelli's Eagle, although we didn't stop for long. Little Swifts were however, evident in Birecik between the town and the Ibis centre, flying along the cliffs next to the road. We drove back towards Birecik stopping at the roadside in an upland area just ouside of Halfeti. Here we saw and heard Great Rock Nuthatch. A pair of these birds were taking food to young in a crevice in the rocks and a Roller was also spotted visiting a nest site in a rocky outcrop up on the hillside.
At around half past five we re-visited the Ibis colony, as it was feeding time. Approximately forty or more birds appeared in the sky, diving down to the feeding area where Ibrahim was putting chunks of meat out for them.
Above Halfeti
The final visit of the day was to the Tea House site 8 for Striated Scops Owl. On entering the tea house we were quickly ushered to a segregated area around the back. We didn't realise that women are not allowed in such places. I asked the waiter several times if he could show us the Owls, but was not rewarded. They were extremely busy and I did not wave any money at them. We sat in the tea house for a good 2 hours checking out the relevant areas until the light became too bad. No sign of any owls unfortunately. We also checked out the Kiyi Restaurant close to our Motel for Striated Scops Owl. Again we were unsuccesful. We saw one owl flying around in the dark but could not identify it. One species that was fairly common in the town was Laughing Dove of which we did see several.

Although we missed out on a couple of species, we had an excellent days birdwatching. Its just a shame that the area is being ruined by damming and gravel extraction. I suspect that the motorway which is still under construction will eventually reach Birecik and who knows what effects this will have on the area.

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