Turkey Trip Report

I spent ten days looking for mammals and birds in southern Turkey last month. I rented a car in Adana and drove to various sites, including those around Aladagar, Birecik, and Silifke. Here’s a map: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zYDb-QrzyM6k.k3bVOESrlrEc. For additional logistical information, please refer to the many useful birding trip reports available on cloudbirders.com. I posted my photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tremarctos/.

My main mammalian target was Mediterranean Monk Seal, but my efforts were thwarted by rough seas. The original plan was to search for Seals for four days at the beginning of my trip. However, the local fisherman who I was in touch with told me that the weather was bad and I delayed it. Even with the delay, the conditions were good for less than a day and a half. There are not many Seals in the area, and they spend much more time hunting when the water is calm. The conditions are supposed to be better in July and August.

The local fisherman knew the caves where the Seals haul out, and we traveled to them by boat in the early morning. The entrances to the caves are underwater, so our hope was that we would see them leaving or entering. We also tried scoping the ocean from a headland from which two of the caves were visible. In retrospect, I believe that this was the better approach. Surprisingly, we did not see any other marine mammals.

I have left out the name and location of the fisherman on his request (because of some issue having to do with the permits). If you would like his contact information, or any other information, email me.

Mammals seen:
1. Southern White-breasted Hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) – One animal crossed the road at night near Birecik. Common roadkill throughout southern Turkey.
2. Northern White-breasted Hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus) – two at Belgrad Forest on the European side of the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul.
3. Long-eared Hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus) – three seen at night at Ahmet’s Farm in Yeniakpinar near Birecik. To get in touch with Ahmet, contact Mustafa and the Bald Ibis Center (naturparkcafe@hotmail.com). Probably widespread in the area, but I was cautioned not to walk alone at night because the local people might shoot trespassers.
4. Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) – One in a pine forest near the Monk Seal site.
5. Goitered Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa)- at least four (including a mother with two young calves) at the steppes in Kizilkuyu near Şanlıurfa. They were on the left side of the road when driving from Birecik.
6. Bezoar Ibex (Capra aegagrus aegagrus) – two groups totaling about thirty individuals seen above an alpine meadow at Aladaglar. To reach the meadow, you can climb up the Demirkazik Gorge (highly recommended) or get a ride in a 4WD vehicle from the Ozsafak Pension (http://www.ozsafak.net/).
7. European Hare (Lepus europaeus) – one in the fields before Emli Vadi at Aladaglar.
8. Persian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus) – present in the open, rocky oak woodland around Uzuncaburc. Also found in similar habitat in the hills above the Monk Seal site. The population in Istanbul is introduced.
9. Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) – a melanistic individual in Belgrad Forest near Istanbul.
10. Asia Minor Souslik (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus) – very common at Aladaglar.

Other possibilities:
1. Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) – reportedly easy to see at the Goksu Delta near dawn.
2. Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) – sometimes seen by birders who travel to more remote areas in eastern Turkey.
3. Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) – ” ”
4. Caracal (Caracal caracal) – Ahmet mentioned that they were possible near Halfeti.
5. Euphrates Jerboa (Allactaga euphratica) – present around Birecik, but I got conflicting information from the locals on where to look for them (including to habitat that seemed wrong). Two were collected by researchers somewhere near Arslanlı Köyü.

Benjamin Schweinhart


  • Jurek

    Hi, I think we met in Birecik! In the meantime, I saw a nice burrow with family of desert Red Foxes in Birecik, 37,018316 37,950189 approximately on Google Maps. It is when you drive SE of Birecik on a dirt road and cross under some gently curving railway embarkment (well visible on Google Maps). A little further this railway and the dirt road both cross a sort of small dried riverbed. The burrow were in a sort of island in this small riverbed.

    I must say, I am not sure if I recommend Mr Ahmed in Yeniakpinar. He has a habit of chasing after birders in his tractor and forcing them to use his ‘guidance’ wherever you want it or not. He speaks no English. Many of these mammals and birds are probably widespread in the surrounding farmland, especially whenever there are riverbeds with some water.

    • geomalia

      Hi Jurek, yes we did. Thanks for the tip on the E. Bonelli’s Warbler site! Did you have any luck with Desert Lark or Trumpeter Finch?

      I agree with you about Mr. Ahmed. All of the birds he shows to clients are easy to see elsewhere, and I believe the Hedgehog is too. However, Mustafa led me to believe that it wasn’t safe to walk alone at night in farmland near Birecik, as locals might think you are stealing their pistachios. The Gazelle site might be a good bet, but it’s a long drive if you’re staying in Birecik. Anyway, Mr. Ahmed charged me very little to show me the Hedgehogs that were right outside his door, and it was nice to get some photos (I haven’t figured out how to hold the light and aim my camera at the same time… anyone have suggestions on this?).

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