Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Home again

Spent saturday and sunday with our friends in France catching up on their news and seeing the new building work done on their house since our last visit. Had a lovely wander through the woods behind them.
Set off to Calais on Monday afternoon stopping overnight at Nevers in motel then on to the ferry Tuesday afternoon. Arrived back in Warwick about 10.30pm fairly tired !!

Have spent today food shopping and washing etc and trying to believe that we actually went all that way ! We had a wonderful time and look forward to more adventures in the future.
Pete is now certain it was a Tengmalm's owl that kept him awake that night on the Black Sea coast thanks to a website link supplied by Peter B. so for those in the birding world we can now relax !! (Everyone else had forgotton it already ! .....their loss P.W.)

Friday, 25 June 2010

had a good few days in Preveza with our friends and we got the blame for the unseasonal weather conditions but it did mean we did more sightseeing.
We left on Wednesday to catch the evening ferry from Igoumenitsa to Brindisi (Italy) all well until 2.30 am when the ferry had to return to Igoumenitsa due to "technical problems".
Sooooooooooooo! we have spent a day on the boat docked at port.... fortunately still had access to our cabin so we could catch up on lost sleep. Tried pretending we were on a cruise but the standard of meals( and frequency) plus lackof evening entertainment didn't seem too convincing.
Fortunately the boat was fit to sail last night (thurs) so today we have driven the length of Italy and ended up finding a lovely hotel in Susa( just outside Turin) surrounded by fabulous views of the mountains, before we go through the Frejus tunnel to France on our way to the Ardeche to visit friends there.
Not much birding as autostrada all the way. Pete says he did manage to see a Montagues harrier just to prove me wrong!
Hope to get to see our friends for a couple of days then head back to Calais for the trip home next week.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Managed to meet up after Cath's trip back to England and have got together with the Donovans and the Barclays. As predicted by Marsha I have brought the rain with me, there have been torrential downpours yesterday and overnight so at last the temperature has dropped.Had a lovely picnic on the Moongrove Sunday afternoon and watched the sun go down over the gulf. A walk just outside Preveza yesterday then a long lunch at the turkish taverna. Hoping to visit Kasiopi (a ruined greek town) and take a walk up to see the Souli (completely wrong spelling) women monument if the rain holds off today. At least the temperature is more manageable for sightseeing and we're having a relaxing time catching up when friends.
The birdlife is more like home with Marsh Tit and Bullfinch though there are hordes of Zitting Cisticolas here, something I did not hear in Turkey.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

June 15th

I'm camped up on the East coast of Greece while Cath is back in UK for her Aunt's funeral; we meet up again on Saturday. For those of you who have camped on the Costa Brava the site is a mini Kim's; impossible to get the pegs in but the sea 200m from your tent is some compensation.

Had a trip up to Lake Kertini to see some more Pelicans but it is getting too hot(37C) to stay in the sun for long so after awile I gave up and headed back to the shade around the tent. I think I might get up early tomorrow and go for a walk in the foothills of Mount Olympus. It looks rather inviting. A couple of pictures from yesterday's trip I'll get Cath to load up some Istanbul stuff when she gets back.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Having just visited the Topkapi Palace and seen the jewel encrusted bling that was given by, and received by, the Ottoman Sultans this green stone seems a bit miserly of Ramses II as a gift to the Hittites. Cath thinks it looks like Kryptonite and so this could be the source of the Superman stories.
The moth and the mineral licking blue butterrflies were all seen in the park above the thermal springs; just a few of the myriad of lepidoptera seen on this walk up the hillside and ample compensation for the lack of vultures.

Ankara to Istanbul

Found a hotel just off the Ankara/Istanbul motorway at a place called Kizilcahamman in the Soguksu national park. Turned out to be a thermal resort town so had the added bonus of hot baths and steam rooms. Pete had read about it as a good vulture site but although they did have breeding black vulture in the park we didn't see any. On our walk the following day though we came across clouds of various types of butterflies. They were on the damp patches at the side of the path and flew up around us as we passed by.

It was a good stop off place and we drove back through the park to get back to the motorway the day after.

Carried on up to Istanbul and made good progress until the ring road when the congestion got worse and it was "everyone for themself" driving! we were heading for Sariyer a suburb on the Bosphorus but when we got there it was still very busy and no where to park so we carried on to look for a campsite we knew was on the coast. Found Mistik Camping and put up tent.

The following morning we took the dolmus to Sariyer,a sea bus to the city and then tram to Sultanhammet to find the Topkapi palace. Also had a wander round the bazaar and had lunch before heading back to the ferries at Eminonu for the slow ferry back to Sariyer(an hour and a half trip up the Bosphorus for a mere 1.5 TL) We also found the Rustem Pasa mosque which is smaller than the well known ones but tiled inside and out with the finest Iznik tiles.

having a relaxing day today .....were going to swim but the beaches are all private and we refuse to pay 30TL to get to the sea!

Pushing on to Greece tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Hittites and the steppe lakes

If Cath gets time I'm sure she will fill you in with who they were and what they did. In the meantime yet another historical site devoid of farmers and so full of flowers, birds and some very interesting rocks. Lots of buntings, rock nuthatches and long legged buzzards to watch whilst being amazed by ancient man's ability to move huge lumps of limestone. The site was called Hattusa and dates from 2500BC, as the buildings were made of wood and mud bricks on top of a substantial limestone base which is all that remains, unfortunately. The site is vast and took us three hours to get round it using the car to move between each temple, gate and fortress.
Camped overlooking the site and managed a beer at sunset, the first since Birecek which was over two weeks ago!!
Moved on to view a couple of lakes to try and find the other type of Pelican. Failed, but that was partly due to the rain and the Turkish farmers using so much of the lake water we cvould only just work out where the lake was. Kulu Golu, the second lake, was much better with hundreds of Flamingoes and good numbersw of tern, gulls and ruddy shelduck. WWe got too close to an Avocet's nest and were subjected to noisy display techniques. Just before the rain returned we found a Demoiselle Crane, miles from where it should have been. On the way to our next stop north of Ankara we stumbled across an Egyptian Vulture just to round off the day.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sumela ....if you look closely
sumela fresco
Blackcock site
chef at work

to the black sea

leaving Ardahan (Zalachenko territory alledgedly but no Natashas in our room) we drove through the Georgian valleys on our way to Iskedere. Having left behind the wheat growing plains of the Tigris basin we entered more lush countryside with grazing cattle and beautiful flower meadows. A fabulous drive up until Cath decided she wanted to see some georgian churches and we took the road from Yusufeli to Ispir wonder the local smirked when we asked the way. The road was either potholed at best non existent in some places and we had to ford a river at one point and I don't mean ford as in Kenilworth. It took us over three hours to do 90K and needless to say we were both shattered by the end of it ....Pete's driving skills were amazing and how he managed not to get the car stuck in the river I'll never know. Then of course there was nowhere to stay 'cos the hotels were presumably full of all the construction workers rebuilding the aforementioned road. Just about to leave town to find a camp in the hills we found a restaurant with rooms (and Idon't mean in the Guardian travel section way) Anyway it did us fine even though the bathroom door was half way up the wall !
Up the following morning at 5.30 (yes Cath as well) to set off over the pass to find blackcocks(no silliness please) Parked up and walked up a trail to the snow covered tops and eventually had a sighting of two females and on the way back down two males flew across the path. Pete was in 7th heaven and it cheered him up after the horrendous day before.
Had breakfast by the side of the road ...omlette and baked beans(I knew they'd come in handy) and apricots.
Drove on towards Trabzon and then took the road to Sumela monastery and found chalet/motel just near to the site. Up the next morning early to climb to the monastery ...fabulous place with amazing frescos in the rock church. Walked back down alongside the river in full flow and then had some relax time for the rest of the day.
Moved on from there along the coast road and found a campsite at Unye... Pete swam in the sea but cath just paddled due to black sand and jellyfish not sounding so inviting.
Left there this morning and the tea growing area gave way to hazelnut plantations. Have now arrived at Amasya and walked up to view the rock tombs and visit a good museum.
Spending the night here in one of the old ottoman buildings renovated to a hotel then on towards
the lakes around Kirsehir for more birding tomorrow.
I need someone to dig out the song of a Tengmalm's Owl as some bird in the middle of the night made more din than the road traffic and woke me up and I need to name the blighter!
Momentous day today we turned the map over and thus must be on the way back.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Turkey's eastern natural wonders

have just seen Nemrut Dagi crater, as against the tomb one, and passed Mt. Ararat in the last couple of days and they are stunning. The crater is 45sq. km in diameter so decided not to walk round it. Down at the bottom there are hot and cold lakes for those wanting to swim and masses of flowers and butterflies.
We stayed in Tatvan at the Dilek hotel and were taken up the mountain by Hakim in his old minibus as the roads would have wrecked the car. His father Mehmet was one of the original guides for the area and you can actually stay in their village if you want to. Up on the mountain we met his cousins and neighbours bbqing fish by the lake and looking for wolves so on the way down we were accompanied by two swarthy men with rifles and one with a pistol but they were very friendly and were polite enough to ask if it was Ok to smoke in the bus !!
That night we camped just below Ishak Pasa Palace outside Dogubayazat, fantastic scenery and our hosts were hospitable proud Kurds. Pete managed to find a Grey Necked Bunting and then after visiting the Palace we drove by the Iranian and Armenian borders. We were protected by a massive miltary presence and apart from the roads it all went smoothly. The drive has been fantastic, Lake Van is stunning, Mount Ararat is awesome and the steppe areas are dotted with marshes full of White winged Black Terns. Now in Ardahan on the way to the Black Sea coast.