The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia

TURKEY, GEORGIA & CYPRUS – the ‘Ottoman’ endemics and specialities tour

Tuesday 26th April – Thursday 12th May 2022

Leader: Dani López-Velasco

17 Days Group Size Limit 8
Wednesday 26th April – Friday 12th May 2023

Leader: Pete Morris

17 Days Group Size Limit 8

TURKEY, GEORGIA & CYPRUS: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Turkey birding tour combined with Georgia and Cyprus is a unique combination of three splendid bird watching destinations. Our Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus birding tour records a fantastic suite of regionally-endemic (or breeding-endemic) specialities. These include Yelkouan Shearwater, Caucasian and Caspian Snowcocks, Caucasian Grouse, See-see Partridge, Cyprus and Pallid Scops Owls, Bimaculated and Turkestan Short-toed Larks, White-spectacled Bulbul, Iraq Babbler, Radde’s Accentor, Cyprus, Kurdish and Finsch’s Wheatears, White-throated Robin, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Olive-tree, Upcher’s, Cyprus, Rüppell’s, Ménétries’s and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff (the Caucasian form is sometimes split as Caucasian Chiffchaff), Semicollared Flycatcher, Sombre Tit, Krüper’s, Western Rock and Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Masked Shrike, Dead Sea and Yellow-throated Sparrows, Pale Rockfinch, Desert Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Asian Crimson-winged Finch, Great Rosefinch (the Caucasian form is sometimes split as Caucasian Rosefinbh), Cretzschmar’s and Black-headed Buntings, Cinereous Bunting (both forms!) and, following its recent rediscovery in Turkey, the magnificent Brown Fish Owl (the western form being a potential split).

In Georgia, we will explore one of the least birded yet most bird-rich and spectacular mountain ranges in Europe, the Great Caucasus. During our Georgia birding tour, we will be enjoying some magnificent scenery as we seek out the endemic Caucasian Snowcock, the near-endemic Caucasian (Black) Grouse and such other specialities as Armenian Gull, Güldenstädt’s (or White-winged) Redstart, Green Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Semicollared Flycatcher, Wallcreeper, Red-fronted Serin Great Rosefinch and the Central Asian form of the Twite (a potential split).

Georgia was for centuries a Christian bulwark that resisted the Muslim tide that swept across Asia Minor, the Caucasus and deep into Russia. A mixture of necessity and cultural ties led Georgia first to forge alliances with Czarist Russia and ultimately to seek union with her much larger neighbour. After a long and turbulent history, Georgia is now an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union and fiercely keen to maintain its hard-won independence.

The Georgian Military Highway, which we shall explore as it winds its way across the highest mountain range in Europe (yes, Europe ends here!), was first built to facilitate troop movements, but it now provides visiting birders with access to some of the most spectacular mountain country on earth.

At this time of year, migrant birds use the broad Tergi valley to cross the Caucasus and we should see a good selection of species. Many raptors use the route to access breeding ranges further north and among these the star attraction is Levant Sparrowhawk, which we have a very good chance of encountering.

The mere mention of the name Cyprus conjures up images of warm sunshine, classical ruins overlooking an azure sea and villages of whitewashed houses with red terracotta roofs. Cyprus never disappoints the visitor and for the birdwatcher, it offers some of the most enjoyable birding in the Mediterranean.

Spring arrives early in Cyprus and at this season ‘Aphrodite’s Isle’ will be at its freshest and best as we explore this varied island. Cyprus boasts three very exciting specialities, the recently split Cyprus Scops Owl (which is probably an endemic resident), Cyprus Warbler (some of which leave the island to winter in the Middle East) and Cyprus Wheatear (which breeds only on Cyprus but winters in northeast Africa, and which is a bird very hard to see away from the island). Other birds of particular interest include Black Francolin, Masked Shrike, Black-headed Bunting and the restricted-range Cretzschmar’s Bunting. Throughout Cyprus’s long history, as Greeks, Romans, Ottoman Turks, Crusaders, Venetians and the British successively battled for control of the island, the spring and autumn migrations continued unabated.

We will be based throughout our stay in the Kyrenia (or Girne) area, strategically positioned on the north coast. The sheer pleasure of watching birds in the Mediterranean spring sunshine, when the air is permeated with the scent of aromatic herbs, the attractive landscapes are enlivened by wildflowers and birdsong, and there is the constant promise of some new migrant just around the corner, make this a most enjoyable and rewarding island to visit.

Southern Turkey in the springtime offers some of the most exciting birding in the ‘Western Palearctic’ (the zoogeographer’s term for the avifaunal sub-region encompassing Europe, North Africa and Southwestern Asia). Here is some of Turkey’s finest scenery, some of its most hospitable people and undoubtedly some of its best birding. In no other region in the Western Palearctic can one see such a range of environments from semi-desert to dense forest, from high steppe to Mediterranean maquis, from saline lagoons to volcanoes, from marshes to snow-capped peaks, from cotton fields to alpine meadows, and from mud-walled villages to modern cities. This diversity explains Southern Turkey’s extraordinary avian riches, which include a host of specialities.

From Cyprus, we travel to the beautiful western Taurus Mountains of southwestern Turkey, where our first birding site will be the inland town of Pamukkale, famous for its cascade of travertine terraces formed by natural, calcium-rich springs and now a World Heritage Site. Here we will be seeking out the uncommon and very restricted-range nominate form of the Cinereous Bunting.

After returning to the Mediterranean coast, we will explore the maquis-covered and wooded slopes of the western Taurus where the major specialities include White-spectacled Bulbul, Olive-tree, Rüppell’s and Eastern Bonelli’s (or Balkan) Warblers, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch and the near-endemic Krüper’s Nuthatch. We will also visit a recently-discovered site for the splendid Brown Fish Owl, here of the rare but distinctive western form that is a potential split.

Next, we explore the rugged and spectacular eastern Taurus Mountains in search of specialities such as Caspian Snowcock, Radde’s Accentor, Finsch’s Wheatear, Red-fronted Serin and Asian Crimson-winged Finch amidst some dramatic alpine scenery. Bonus birds here are Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeier) and the wonderful Wallcreeper. We will also explore the superb wetlands and strangely eroded uplands of the Central Plateau, home to Long-legged Buzzard and Greater Sand Plover.

We end our birding in the arid landscapes of the southeast. Here we shall explore rocky, scrub-covered hills that are home to Bimaculated Lark, the fantastic White-throated Robin, Kurdish Wheatear (the western component of the split Red-tailed Wheatear), Upcher’s Warbler, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Pale Rockfinch (or Pale Rock Sparrow), Desert Finch and Cinereous Bunting of the very distinctive eastern form (a potential split).

We will also search the rich vegetation along the Euphrates valley and the surrounding dry semi-desert steppe in search of such special birds as See-see Partridge, the little known Pallid (or Striated) Scops Owl, Ménétries’s Warbler, Dead Sea and Yellow-throated Sparrows, and the recently-colonizing Iraq Babbler.

Birdquest has operated Turkey birding tours since 1981, Georgia birding tours since 1982 and Cyprus birding tours since 1995.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good or medium standard throughout (and many people rate the food in Turkey and Cyprus highly). Road transport is by minibus or car and roads are nowadays mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus birding tour is mostly easy, but there some moderate grade walks. There will, if need be (they sometimes descend the mountains almost to the level of our hotel, and in any event can generally be ‘scoped from lower down), be one optional fairly demanding hike in the Caucasus to get good views of Güldenstädt’s (or White-winged) Redstart.

Climate: Rather variable. It is generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, although cool and overcast conditions are not infrequent. There may be some rain. At high altitudes, temperatures can be cool or even cold early in the day.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus birding tour are quite good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The spectacular scenery of the Great Caucasus, birding at the base of the impressive Mount Kazbegi, an awesome 5,053m or 16,579ft high
  • Watching Caucasian Snowcocks and Caucasian Black Grouse with only very limited walking effort
  • Observing raptor migration over the mountains, from the scenic Gergeti Trinity Church
  • Additional high altitude specialities like (Caucasian) Great Rosefinch and Güldenstädt’s Redstart, sometimes next to our hotel
  • The fantastic, butterfly-like Wallcreeper, usually easy to see on this tour
  • Breeding Green and Barred Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaffs and Semicollared Flycatchers
  • Delightful 'Mediterranean Spring' birding colour, with bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes and Golden Orioles!
  • Seeing Cyprus’s three endemic breeders – Cyprus Scops Owl, Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler
  • Witnessing Spring migration in progress, with great migrants from Little Crakes to Collared Flycatchers
  • Wonderful Masked, Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes
  • Enjoying the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site at Pamukkale, as Finsch’s Wheatears and Western Rock Nuthatches hop on the ruins
  • Getting to grips with Eastern Mediterranean buntings, including both forms of Cinereous Bunting, wonderful Cretzschmar’s Buntings and abundant Black-headed Buntings
  • Exploring olive groves, home to Ruppell’s, Olive Tree, Eastern Olivaceous and Upcher’s Warblers, and gorgeous White-throated Robins
  • Eyeball to eyeball encounters with the rare and recently rediscovered ‘Turkish’ Brown Fish Owl
  • Birding Akseki’s pine-clad mountains, complete with Krüper’s Nuthatches, Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers and a variety of woodpeckers
  • Caspian Snowcocks, Radde’s Accentors, White-winged Snowfinches and Asian Crimson-winged Finches with the backdrop of the wonderful scenery of the Aladag Mountains
  • Extensive wetlands with a great variety of species such as White-headed Duck, Greater Sand Plover and Moustached Warbler
  • Finding southeast Turkey’s special birds including See-see Partridge, Pallid Scops Owl, Iraq Babbler, Kurdish Wheatear and Eastern Rock Nuthatch

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Tbilisi airport. Drive to Stepantsminda (Kazbegi).
  • Days 2-3: Exploring the Stepantsminda region in the Great Caucasus.
  • Day 4: Return to Tbilisi.
  • Day 5: Fly via Istanbul to Ercan airport, Nicosia, Cyprus. Drive to the Girne (Kyrenia) area.
  • Days 6-7: Exploring Northern Cyprus. Overnights in the Girne area.
  • Day 8: Return to Ercan airport and fly to Izmir in southwestern Turkey. Drive to Pammukale.
  • Day 9: Pammukale, then drive to Side.
  • Days 10-11: Exploring the Side and Akseki areas.
  • Day 12: Drive to the Demirkazik area in Nigde region.
  • Day 13: Demirkazik area.
  • Day 14: Sultansazligi, then drive to Gaziantep.
  • Day 15: Gaziantep area, then drive to Birecik.
  • Day 16. Birecik area.
  • Day 17: Drive to Adana airport for late morning tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include this flight: Nicosia (Ercan)-Izmir.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2022: £4050, $5790, €4710, AUD7460. Tbilisi/Adana.
2023: provisional £4120, $5890, €4800, AUD7590. Tbilisi/Adana.

Single Supplement: 2022: £390, $560, €450, AUD720.
Single Supplement: 2023: £390, $570, €460, AUD730.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

TURKEY, GEORGIA & CYPRUS BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 1  The tour begins this morning at Tbilisi airport.

(If you are not arranging your primary flights to and from the tour through us, we will be happy to arrange for a flight from Istanbul to Tbilisi for you if you find this more convenient. Just let us know.)

The capital city of Georgia is situated along the banks of the Kura River and is one of the most attractive cities of the region, with many fine old churches in the Georgian style and an ancient fortress that dominates the valley.

From Tbilisi, we follow the historic Georgian Military Highway over the Jvari (or Krestovyy) Pass to Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi) for a three nights stay.

At first, the road runs through the cultivated Kura Valley, but soon we are climbing through the forested foothills until the trees are left behind and we wind our way upwards through the magnificent scenery of the Great Caucasus (often simply referred to as the Caucasus, although there is a Lesser Caucasus range further south). The top of the pass (the unmarked border between Asia and Europe) is situated at 2395m and from there we drop down the Terek valley to Stepantsminda, the view dominated by a continuous wall of huge, snow-capped peaks including the great white dome of Kazbek (5047m), the highest mountain in the Central Caucasus. We will stop along the way in the wooded foothills to look for both Green Warbler and Semi-collared Flycatcher.

Other likely species today include Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Common Swift, the lovely European Roller, European Bee-eater, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Common Redstart (of the interesting form samamisicus, in which the male has a white wing panel, known as Ehrenberg’s Redstart), Common Blackbird, Eurasian Blackcap, Long-tailed, Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jay, Hooded Crow, Common (or Northern), Raven, Common Chaffinch, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch and Eurasian Bullfinch. We also have a chance for Black and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers.

During the afternoon we will begin our exploration of higher altitudes, having our first encounters with a number of the species mentioned for Stepantsminda.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Days 2-3  During our stay at Stepantsminda, a large village on the Terek river, we shall explore the high Caucasus in search of a fabulous suite of very special birds.

The star attraction of the alpine meadows and rocky slopes is the impressive Great Rosefinch (the endemic Caucasian form sometimes being treated as a distinct species, Caucasian Rosefinch), while amongst the snow patches and boulders we should encounter the striking Güldenstädt’s (or White-winged) Redstart, another species restricted within the Western Palearctic to the high Caucasus. In the more open areas, amongst the high altitude azalea scrub, the regionally-endemic Caucasian (Black) Grouse is to be found. The males flutter into the air, revealing their gleaming white underwings, as they strive to impress the cryptically-coloured females. Amongst the high crags, Caucasian Snowcocks (a species endemic to these mountains) give their curlew-like whistles and we should soon spot our quarry.

Rocky gullies are the haunt of that avian butterfly, the delightful Wallcreeper, and overhead we will look out for the dramatic silhouette of the Lammergeier, as well as Golden Eagle and Red-billed and Alpine Choughs. Areas of high altitude scrub are home to Mountain Chiffchaffs (the local form is sometimes split as Caucasian Chiffchaff) while open areas attract White-winged Snowfinches, Red-fronted (or Fire-fronted) Serins and Twite of the Central Asian form (which may represent a distinct species).

Other species we are likely to encounter during our stay include Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Corn Crake (much easier to hear than see), Common Sandpiper, Common Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Horned Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Common House Martin, Water and Tree Pipits, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Alpine Accentor, White-throated Dipper, Eurasian Wren, Dunnock, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Common (or Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush, Common Whitethroat, Common Linnet, and Common Rosefinch.

Migrant species will also be passing through this major route through the Caucasus and typical species at this season include European Honey Buzzard (often in large numbers), Black Kite, Montagu’s and Western Marsh Harriers, Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Common Buzzard and Eurasian Hobby. Best of all, this is a reliable area for seeing the much sought-after Levant Sparrowhawk, a bird that many have failed to see elsewhere as few bird tours visit places where this species occurs regularly, at least at the relevant time of year.

Migrant passerines often stop off here, especially during unfavourable weather, and likely species include Red-throated Pipit, Blue-headed, Grey-headed, Black-headed and Sykes’s Wagtails, Bluethroat, Barred and Willow Warblers, Red-breasted and Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Grey Shrike and Black-headed Bunting.

As well as possessing many fine birds, these wonderful mountains hold the East Caucasian Tur, a close relative of the Ibex, and we may well see some picking their way across the precipitous mountainsides. There is even a slim chance of Grey Wolf and Brown Bear. As we walk amidst the simply awesome mountain scenery, our progress will be enlivened by myriads of alpine flowers, the swards dominated by primulas, gentians and fritillaries.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 4  After spending most of the day in the mountains, we will make our way back to Tbilisi for an overnight stay. We will make a stop along the way to look for Armenian Gull at a lake they regularly frequent. Other waterbirds we may well encounter include Little and Great Crested Grebes, Great Cormorant, Little Bittern, Great and Little Egrets, and Grey and Purple Herons.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 5  This morning we will take a flight to Istanbul in western Turkey and then an onward connection to Ercan airport in northern Cyprus. From there we will transfer to the Girne (or Kyrenia) area, where we will stay for three nights. Girne is an attractive town situated on the northern coast of Cyprus.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Days 6-7  Near to our hotel are extensive areas of fruit groves and small fields, divided by cypress trees and low limestone walls, as well as maquis covered hills. This is prime territory for all three of Cyprus’s breeding endemics and it should not take us long to track down the attractively marked Cyprus Warbler, whilst a strange buzzing song should lead us to the sprightly Cyprus Wheatear. Both species are pleasingly common on the island. Some careful searching may well reveal the presence of a diminutive endemic Cyprus Scops Owl at its daytime hideaway (although it is easy enough to locate at night if need be).

Much of our time on Cyprus will be spent in these types of habitat and during our wanderings, we will encounter a number of other interesting breeding species including Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, the lovely Masked Shrike, Spanish Sparrow and Black-headed Bunting, all of which occur alongside Common Kestrel, Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Common House Martin, Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Great Tit, Eurasian Magpie, Western Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Common Linnet and Corn Bunting.

The areas of cultivated land and their brushy margins hold Black Francolin, an elegant and impressive gamebird still found in some numbers in Cyprus. Its strange, rather machine-like, grating call typically reveals its presence long before it can be seen. Often the guttural sounds of calling Chukars will herald the imminent appearance of a covey on the skyline. Once they see us they will probably scuttle away, uttering their ‘chukar’ call as if surprised and embarrassed by our presence.

In some places invading Sardinian Warblers chatter away, having displaced the native Cyprus Warblers. At higher altitudes in the coastal range, we are likely to encounter Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and the attractive, restricted-range Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

We will also visit a number of marshy areas and some quite extensive pools. During the migration period, these often hold interesting birds. Some spots regularly hold Little Bittern and Little Crake, although the secretive crake can prove hard to see, and there is even a slim chance for Great Snipe. (The latter is a rare but regular migrant that can sometimes be found hiding at the edge of marshy pools. Cyprus is a known staging post on their long journey from tropical Africa to the marshes of Poland, the Baltic States and Russia.)

Other species that we may come across in wetland habitats or elsewhere include Little Grebe, Western Cattle, Great and Little Egrets, Squacco, Black-crowned Night, Grey and Purple Herons, Glossy Ibis, Western Marsh Harrier, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Common Snipe, Common Greenshank, Marsh, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, White-winged Tern, Common Kingfisher, Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow), Western Yellow Wagtail (Black-headed and Blue-headed forms predominate, but we may also see Grey-headed), Red-throated Pipit and Sedge, European Reed and Great Reed Warblers.

Richer areas of agricultural land are prime habitat for Greater Short-toed Lark and especially the impressive Calandra Lark, which we may well see displaying, when it appears even larger than usual, flying with wings-outstretched in a manner resembling a pratincole! Areas of low Salicornia scrub hold the sometimes secretive Spectacled Warbler.

To the northeast, the wild and rugged Karpaz Peninsula possesses a variety of beautiful landscapes. This is an excellent area for finding migrants in spring, and among. Those we will be looking out for here and elsewhere during our stay are Common Quail, European Turtle Dove, Great Spotted and Common Cuckoos, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Eurasian Wryneck, Tree and Tawny Pipits, White and possibly Citrine Wagtails, Woodchat, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Common Redstart, Common Nightingale, Whinchat, Northern and Black-eared Wheatears, Barred, Garden, Wood and Willow Warblers, Eurasian Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Spotted Flycatcher, the elegant Eurasian Golden Oriole and Ortolan Bunting. At this season, European Pied and Collared Flycatchers can sometimes be found together, providing the observer with a rare opportunity to compare these species in the field. Often at this time of year, Red-footed Falcons are on the move and we will keep an eye out for this spectacular falcon.

Here one can also find Peregrine Falcons and truly wild Rock Doves (of the subspecies gaddi) though even here there is probably now some limited hybridization with feral pigeons. Along the coast, Audouin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls, as well as European Shags of the interesting southern form desmarestii, can be seen. A seawatch at the tip of the peninsula may well produce Yelkouan Shearwater and perhaps Cory’s Shearwater. With a bit of luck, we will also encounter the slim and dashing Eleonora’s Falcon. At this time of year, they occur regularly on migration, or simply as wanderers prior to the late start of their breeding season. Eleonora’s Falcon has a most unusual breeding strategy, laying its eggs in July or August and raising its young on birds caught on the wing during the southbound migration. Eventually both the adults and juveniles set course southwards in late autumn, bound for winter quarters in Madagascar.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 8  This morning we will return to Ercan airport and catch a flight to the city of Izmir, situated on Turkey’s southwestern coast. From here we will drive eastwards to the town of Pamukkale (which means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish) for an overnight stay.

We will arrive in time for some initial exploration, and here our prime target is the nominate, grey-bellied form of the restricted-range Cinereous Bunting, a subspecies that breeds only in western Turkey and on the island of Lesbos.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 9  We will have another opportunity to observe Cinereous Bunting this morning and we will also visit the famous travertine terraces that cascade down a mountainside outside the town, a place where people came to benefit from the calcium-rich mineral waters for over 2000 years! Nowadays bathing is no longer allowed, but you can still visit this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site and enjoy the vivid pale blue pools and white and yellow crystalline deposits that make up the terraces.

Afterwards, we will drive through the spectacular western Taurus Mountains to the coastal city of Antalya and continue a short distance eastwards to the resort town of Side, where we will spend three nights.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Days 10-11  Most of our time in the Side region will be spent exploring the southern slopes of the beautiful western Taurus Mountains, as far inland as the Akseki area. The Mediterranean scrub (maquis), limestone crags and forests in this area harbour a suite of restricted-range specialities that we will not have seen in Cyprus, and in particular White-spectacled Bulbul, the large Olive-tree Warbler, the smart Rüppell’s Warbler, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch and the pretty little Krüper’s Nuthatch (virtually endemic to Turkey). Other new birds are likely to include Short-toed Snake and Booted Eagles, Laughing Dove, Syrian Woodpecker, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Coal and Blue Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Jay and Common Chaffinch.

The Akseki area is still largely forested, with the rugged, limestone peaks of the Taurus rising high above, and is an excellent place for finding Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Eastern Bonelli’s (or Balkan) Warbler. Birding in this lovely area is a pleasure and we are also likely to come across European Green Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Common Redstarts of the interesting form samamisicus, which has an obvious white patch in the wing, and Common (or Red) Crossbill. White Storks still nest in good numbers in the Akseki area.

A big highlight during our visit to southern Turkey will be a visit to a recently-discovered site for the magnificent Brown Fish Owl. The rare western form, semenowi, is paler and less heavily streaked than the eastern forms, so this is a possible split for the future.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 12  Today we will head for the Demirkazik area in the Nigde region for a two nights stay.

First, we pass through the western Taurus Mountains, but eventually we emerge onto the dry, rolling uplands of the Central Plateau. Life in this harsh landscape has become easier in recent years, but the villages still seem pretty rough and ready and the shepherds still have their flocks guarded by ferocious-looking dogs equipped with spiked collars to deter attacking wolves. We will keep a lookout during the journey for such species as Black Kite, Rook and Common Raven.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 13  Today we will explore the high valleys and mountain slopes of the Aladag range, part of the Eastern Taurus, which rise to 3910m (12,829ft) at the summit of mighty Demirkazik. The scenery is magnificent and our birding will be carried out against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks, jagged crags and sheer cliffs. There are many interesting birds here and we shall be looking in particular for Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeier), Finsch’s and Isabelline Wheatears, White-winged Snowfinch, the attractive little Red-fronted Serin and Asian Crimson-winged Finch. By hiking to higher levels we should see four other great birds: Caspian Snowcock, Radde’s Accentor, Alpine Accentor and the remarkable Wallcreeper. Also to be found are Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Horned (or Shore) Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Common (or Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 14  This morning we will visit the famous marshes and lakes of Sultansazligi, an internationally important wetland area. Amongst the many species we may encounter in this fine area, dominated to the north by the towering volcanic cone of Erciyas Dagi (3916m), are Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby, Greater Sand and Kentish Plovers, Northern Lapwing, Whiskered Tern, Turkestan Short-toed Lark (found here in an isolated population, restricted to Central Turkey), Eurasian Skylark, Savi’s and Moustached Warblers, and perhaps Bearded Reedling and the nomadic Rosy Starling.

Afterwards, we will travel to Gaziantep, situated on the southeastern fringes of the Taurus mountains, where we will stay overnight.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 15  The drier country of the Gaziantep region holds some very interesting birds.

Here we will explore the rocky hillsides, crags and scrub-covered slopes looking in particular for two very special birds, Kurdish Wheatear (the former Red-tailed Wheatear is now split into this species and the more easterly Red-tailed or Persian Wheatear) and the eastern, greenish-yellow-bellied semenowi form of the Cinereous Bunting (geographically separated from the nominate form and a potential split).

Other good birds in this area include Bimaculated Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Upcher’s Warbler, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Desert Finch and White-throated Robin (which can often be seen display flighting over the maquis). We should also be able to find Pale Rockfinches (or Pale Rock Sparrows) trilling away like grasshoppers.

Later in the day, we will travel eastwards to Birecik on the Euphrates for a two nights stay.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 16  Amongst the rolling semi-desert with its steep erosion gullies, or along the Euphrates river valley around Birecik we shall look for such major specialities as See-see Partridge, Ménétries’s Warbler, Dead Sea Sparrow and Yellow-throated Sparrow (or Chestnut-shouldered Petronia). Even more importantly, this area harbours the restricted-range Iraq Babbler (a recent colonist from Iraq/Iran that first invaded Syria and then southeast Turkey along the Euphrates valley). We also have a good chance of finding the little known Pallid (or Striated) Scops Owl, either at its daytime roost or after dark.

Other new birds we should find in the Birecik area include Pygmy Cormorant, Little Swift, Pied Kingfisher and Graceful Prinia.

The captive breeding project for the last Northern Bald Ibises in Asia is based at Birecik. Our pleasure at seeing this rare species will be tinged with sorrow at its seemingly inexorable slide towards extinction in the wild: indeed the species only survives here (in semi-captivity) thanks to intensive human assistance, although it is increasing thanks to supplementary feeding.

Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus: Day 17  Today we will drive to Adana airport, where our Turkey, Georgia & Cyprus birding tour ends in the late morning.

(If you are not arranging your primary flights to and from the tour through us, we will be happy to arrange for a flight from Adana to Istanbul for you if you find this more convenient. Just let us know.)

 

CYPRUS & SOUTHERN TURKEY TOUR REPORT 2019

by Pete Morris

View Report

GEORGIA: THE CAUCASUS TOUR REPORT 2018

by Dani López-Velasco

View Report

Other birding tours by Birdquest in the southeast of the 'Western Palearctic' include: