After last year's great success, I decided to organize another long-weekend trip to Turkey. With my current family status I am unable to go for longer trips, so E Turkey was again the ideal choice for a low-cost, short-distance but high-quality birding destination. I got valuable advice from good friends about planning the trip - thanks Silas Olofson, Emin Yoğunrtcuoğlu and Michael Opitz!
Early in the morning of Thursday June 20th I flew out with my brother Gidon and with Amir Balaban, first to Istanbul and from there to Van. We hired a pre-booked car (Avis) and headed off straight away.
Our first stop was at a nice wetland in the NE corner of Van Gölü, where a river crosses the road near the village of Karahan, 38.937552° N 43.660620° E. We had no info about this site but the short midday was very productive. Several Paddyfield Warblers were singing, with some Moustached and Great Reeds as well. We weren't able to see the paddies, but I'm sure that a visit at proper time of the day would produce good views. Other good birds there were Bearded Reedlings, Black and White-winged Terns, and Baillon's Crake.
From there we drove on to Serpmetaş / Caldiran Lava Fields ( 39.183091° N 43.908898° E). Near there we checked a nice meadow that had some Black-headed wagtails and one Citrine, and a nice-posing Hobby:
Around the lake it was nice and sunny, but as we started climbing up the weather deteriorated. When we reached the impressive lava fields it became very cold, wet and windy - far from ideal birding conditions. In fact we saw very little on the lava fields - only some Rock Sparrows and the ubiquitous Northern Wheatear:
We pushed on from there and arrived near Tendürek mountain pass pretty late. We had a productive stop at the edge of a huge lava field north of Soğuksu ( 39.256291° N 44.045836° E). The sun came out for a few minutes and we saw some good birds there - brief views of 6-7 Mongolian Finches (WP tick #1) and 2 Crimson-winged Finches (they're difficult to photography in Turkey too). I was very pleased with a family of White-winged Snowfinch - lovely birds and another WP tick for me. They showed really well as the parents were feeding two young, and the male was still singing and displaying.
White-winged Snowfinch - 1cy
From there we drove on to Iğdir. On the way we drove right on the border with Iran - very impressive landscape there; wish I could go there. We stayed overnight at Hotel Imparator - good value with good rooms and free wifi. We were completely knackered after a sleepless night, so no night activity apart for some juv Long-eared owls screeching from the poolside garden - very nice.