After the fish owl success, we took an internal flight to Adana, collected a car and drove to Birecik - excellent highway so very fast and comfortable drive. Arrived at Birecik in the afternoon, checked in at the Mirkelam and drove straight away to the gravel pits on the western side of the Euphrates. We went there to search for target species # 2: Iraq Babbler. First recorded in Turkey only in 2006, they are now easy to see in the reedbeds of the gravel pits. On the first afternoon the weather was bad - very strong wind and thunderstorm plus rain, but next morning we easily located a family group of an adult plus four juveniles rather quickly (lifer #2). They are very sweet birds, very small and delicate compared to our brute Arabian Babbler. They really reminded me of Thick-billed Warblers - small, rounded wings and long tail, open face. We saw them very well as they were moving through the reedbed, feeding and doing some babbler-stuff like preening each other and socializing. We had brilliant views but I did not manage to get any good images - we were there twice in the very early morning, before sunrise, for rather brief visits (good excuses, ha?).
Iraq Babbler - juvenile
The reedbed there is good for passerines and other reedbed-birds.Unlike European birders visiting there, we did not get very excited by Dead Sea Sparrow, Black Francolin, Little Bittern and Great Reed Warbler, but still plenty of other good birds around. Unfortunately there is massive shooting taking place there, which made the visit less enjoyable. As a result we saw nothing larger than a passerine - no ducks, swamphens, herons, nothing. I hope Doga (BirdLife Turkey) do something quickly to protect this special site.
I did enjoy watching Menetries's Warblers there. Plenty of families were seen in the scruby edges of the reedbed at the gravel pits, and along the Ibis Center wadi (see next post). I managed to photograph only some 2cy males - note the very worn and brown remiges and GC. These are of the duller subspecies rubescens.
Menetries's Warbler - 2cy male
Another serious attraction at Birecik is the Northern Bald Ibis project (lifer #3, though slightly dodgy - see below). Critically Endangered, the population breeding at Birecik has enormous global importance. Once breeding inside town, now all 20-30 pairs (150 birds in total) breed in the colony on the cliff of the center. Sadly, each year the whole wild population needs to get trapped and prevented from migrating, as the risk is too high - massive hunting in all countries they need to migrate through means zero survival rates.
Northern Bald Ibis
Euphrates & Birecik
The Ibises are evident almost anywhere in town: