The plan this morning was to drive right on a small track out of the Ozsafak Pension and across the open plains for about 10 km to the wooded valley of Emli Bogazi, where Eagle Owls are reputed to hide. However, once inside the wadi just before the cut in the mountains, and just after the end of the open plains, we picked up a male White-throated Robin skulking from bush to bush. This was to be the first of at least 3 male robins (and a single female), and also the reason for staying here for three hours before moving back to the pension and leaving for Birecik. The views of the mountains at the head of the wadi, and the wadi itself, were enough reason to stop here, but the birds seemed to constantly spring up as we stayed. We spent some time trying to get better views of the robins, which by and large stayed under cover, and then picked up a singing Eastern Orphean Warbler to the rear of the bushes. This was close to one of the two male Red-backed Shrikes here.
The track ran the full length of the wadi, and was flanked by the narrow flat base, which was sparsely covered by low lying bushes and some prickly ground cover. The cliffs on the South side held colonies of Rock Sparrow and Crag Martin, with choughs and a trio of separate Long-legged Buzzards overhead. Rock Buntings were frequently seen along the ledges and on the open rocks, as were a couple of Black Redstarts. There were probably two singing Eastern Orphean Warblers, with calling and singing Lesser Whitethroats common in the bushes. One of two Chukars made brief and scrambling (as they legged it) appearances, with one calling from the top of the ridge. A single lark was in the wadi – Lesser Short-toed Lark - and on the return across the plains, we found a single Tawny Pipit.
On this return, the odd wisp of cloud across the peaks was spectacular, with the sun bleaching out the low vegetation on the plains.
The journey from Cukurbag to Birecik was shorter (about 5 hours) and much different to the one to Cuckurbag two days earlier. The first 40km or so were on a minor road which was in the main being renovated, leaving the whole of the road in a state of disrepair during the process. The rest of the journey was on the newly built motorways, and at speeds of the regulation 120km/hour. There was very little chance of any birding from the car during this journey, although a Short-toed Eagle was seen flying over the motorway at one point.
Once in the very noticeably hotter Birecik, we quickly found the Motel Mirkelam, just before the bridge over the Euphrates, and negotiated a price. We then headed out to find our bearings for the next morning, and found a couple of seats in the Gulhane Tea rooms. We were immediately befriended by a chap who purported to be the “owl guide” for the establishment, and how lucky we were to find one of the few people there who spoke English! After a chat about the common language – football (always say you are a Fehnerbahce supporter here!), he took us to a tree next to the entrance, and after being unable to find one of the Pallid Scops Owls, told us that the tourists the previous evening who had used flash may have frightened them from their usual spot. However, with a little help from the owner, one of the birds was found high up in the tree. The “guide” was pleased with this, and even more pleased with the TL30 (he had asked for TL40) for the pleasure of showing us this bird. A group of local kids also dragged us into the park next door, to point out a couple of Long-eared Owls – they were more insistent that we gave them money in response to this small task. We didn’t, on the request of the “guide”, but couldn’t really see where the difference between the two lay.