June 14, 2015, Camardi District, Turkey — My redeye flight landed in Adana, Turkey, at 2:55 a.m. this morning, where Emin Yogurtcuoglu, a 29-year-old birder from Istanbul, was waiting in the dark. The two of us headed straight out of town to be birding in the nearby hills at dawn.
Emin was born 18 days later than me (in February 1986) and also got into birds at a young age, so connecting with him was like finding a Turkish twin! He has seen more species of birds in Turkey than anyone (though his closest competition is only one bird behind at the moment) and is a full-time bird expert who works on various projects—kind of like me. We’ll spend the next four days in southern Turkey, from the coast to the high mountains, on a fast-paced itinerary.
Today was a full-on introduction to Little Asia, as the country is sometimes called. This is my first stop in the region and everything is new—the birds, the landscape, the culture, the language, the food. Bird-wise, we saw more than a hundred species today and more than half of them were new year birds, which makes today the “highest-scoring” day since early February.
Around lunchtime Emin and I met a professor of ornithology at the University of Nigde named Ahmet Karatash. Ahmet took us around a marsh full of birds next to campus, then sat us down for lunch at a nearby restaurant. We had iskender, a very tender sliced meat dish, with a full array of small side plates—various salads and sauces, hummus, grilled onions, a mint yogurt mixture, thin bread, and vegetables. Two of Ahmet’s friends joined us, including a professor of English at the university who, halfway through our conversation, pronounced my accent as “similar to someone from Texas.” Eh, close enough… y’all.
Emin and I planned an afternoon boat trip around the Sultan Marshes, a large system of wetlands, but it was canceled when a lightning storm passed directly overhead. A local guy jumped in our car and we went off-roading in the rain around the wetland’s edges, seeing hundreds of ducks, shorebirds, herons, and, perhaps most surprising, a golden jackal running around the flats.
The past week has been an intense stretch: Since leaving the U.S. six days ago, I’ve crossed seven time zones and immigrated into three countries with nary a shower or even a bed (two overnight flights, an all-nighter, and three short nights camping). Given my short time in Iceland and Norway, it was good to maximize daylight in those places—but it’s nice now, in Turkey, to be somewhere where it actually gets dark! After dinner, Emin and I went looking for owls, with a refreshing shower and clean sheets a welcome reward.
New birds today: 57
Year list: 2942