June 17, 2015, Adana, Turkey — At 9:00 this morning, near the top of Mount Nemrut, I snapped a photo of a Tawny Pipit, my 3,000th bird of the year. Just two thousand to go…and I haven’t even touched Africa, Asia, or Australia yet!
Nemrut’s 7,000-foot summit, which commands a panoramic view of southeast Turkey, helped put the “stone” in this milestone. During the first century B.C., a king named Antiochus was impressed enough with the view here that he commissioned a bunch of huge, Easter Island-like stone statues and had them laboriously carried to the top of the mountain.
The statues, which depict a variety of recognizable gods, still stand more than 2,000 years later, a little worn and cracked, gazing over the country. Archaeologists think Antiochus’s tomb must be nearby somewhere, too, but haven’t dug around enough to find it yet. Red-tailed Wheatears and White-winged Snowfinches flitted among the rocks.
It’s an incredible spot, and if this place were, say, in South America, it would be jammed with tourists. Except for a park guard and a bored-looking guy selling souvenirs, though, we had Mount Nemrut to ourselves all morning. General tourism in southern Turkey has taken a hit lately with Syria in the news (especially this week) even though there have been few security issues on the Turkish side of the border. In the past couple of days I have birded within about 30 miles of ISIS-controlled territory; at one point Emin pointed out several tents by the road and said they were Syrian refugees, but otherwise I’ve seen no signs at all of the conflict. It was strange to be next to one of the world’s current headline hotspots yet still so very far away.
My four days in Turkey came to a close this evening. Emin and I celebrated with kebabs (a particular Adana specialty) for dinner. He has been a wonderfully enthusiastic birding companion for this segment. (If you ever visit Turkey, he’d be happy to help guide your trip: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Meanwhile, on to Spain tomorrow!
New birds today: 15
Year list: 3010