Newcastle Airport is much like a London airport, except not absolutely awful.
Hats off to the Toon - it really was an absolute pleasure.
We had a couple of drinks in a lounge bar overlooking the runways. We may have paid over the odds for the experience - but it passed the time nicely and eased us into the holiday vibe.
The flight was similarly pleasant with BrewDogs available for purchase and a chatty gent completing our row of three. He was a Turkey veteran, having holidayed there for nine consecutive years. Everyone we spoke to loved Turkey and waxed lyrical about the place - when we landed people literally whooped and clapped with delight. I’ve never landed anywhere with that reception!
The flight was ahead of schedule and smooth as you like. I should point out at this time - I am not sponsored by Thomas Cook. But I am willing to be. Mr Cook, tap me up @Jonny09Jonny on the Twitter.
Moving onto more pressing matters - we literally did not have a visa. I let my better half organise the holiday and as such absolve myself of all and any responsibly for this blunder - which was quickly rectified by parting with £20 each. Hey ho. We now have a visa and a nifty stamp in our passports.
Our shuttle bus ride was undertaken in the dark, through kiss-me-quick, tourist hotels, bars and restaurants. It was otherwise unremarkable except for the blind drunk Russian? couple who wilfully abandoned their young girl on the mini-bus at any opportunity to smoke. A particular career highlight for this pair was the moment the woman, writhing around on the back-seat, shrieked ‘driver pull over - I am dying’ between wails and sobs.
This holiday-low was quickly replaced by a heady high, when moments from the hotel as we descended into Turunç the taxi headlights illuminated a Wild Boar! The first I’ve seen and still young enough to sport the humbug stripes. Absolutely awesome.
Our room smelt like someone had literally just finished smoking an entire pack of fags. A constant of Turkey is the second hand smoke, but this is perhaps the legions of tourists as much as the locals. We have a balcony with a view over the Mediterranean and I am eagerly awaiting the dawn to start bird watching!
It’s 05:00 and I’ve had less than 10 hours sleep over the last 3 nights. Do you even... ?
Mammal list: 1 Wild Boar.
Butterfly list: 0
Bird list: 0 saw a Sparrow when the minibus pulled in for a short break on the way to the hotel. Not entirely sure of species.
Sleep quota now up to 13 hours in 4 nights. I am basically invincible.
Saw Painted Lady, cicadas and a small blue-looking butterfly on the way to brekkie.
The first bird this trip was, drum roll please; COLLARD DOVE plus an as yet unidentified bird calling from hotel-side vegetation.
We started our holiday with a walk from the Turunç Mosque to a mountainside canyon, only about 3km from the centre of Turunç - but it felt utterly wild and exciting scrambling up the single track then climbing an outcrop at the canyon top.
The walk back down and into Turunç got the ball rolling on our trip list with; Blackbird, Jay, Yellow-legged Gull, Red-rumped Swallow and House Sparrow complementing the breakfast Collard Dove.
Butterfly wise in addition to Painted Lady, we encountered a skipper type, which I believe is Muschampia proteides - Anatolian Skipper, Scarce Swallowtail and Two-tailed Pasha.
A firm favourite, heard at 13:00 and again at 17:00 is the call to prayer emanating from the mosque. It’s super evocative, especially whilst looking out to the Mediterranean with a Ostro* wind whipping up the pines and cicada calls ricocheting around the balcony.
*it might be an Levante wind. Sue me for trying to engage with the Mediterranean wind names. Jeez.
Mammal list: 3. Wild Boar now joined by rabbit and mountain goats.
Bird list: 7
Butterfly list: 4
Brekkie proved that the Turks do not mess around. I had bread, tahini, tomato’s, basil and olives for a rampant vitamin hit straight out of the stable.
We then did a lap of honour exploring the resort, this cumulated in us finding what is now affectionately called the ‘crows nest’ a somewhat unkempt platform at the very top of the resort. We quickly stashed a sun lounger and seat at our new go-to vantage, just a moments walk from the room and at the point where the tree line takes over before the scree and cliff meet the sky.
Tantalisingly, I glimpsed two crow species, a distant raptor - probably eagle species and a closer-to falcon species. Non of which I categorically identified. Remember kids; life is cruel, try and live in the moment and not worry about ‘could have beens’.
We are all born to lose - it’s enough that we live to win...
Having managed a canyon top hike yesterday I was keen to clock some miles so clocked 4 hilly miles with 740 ft of ascent before lunch.
We then attended a meeting at reception giving the various excursion options and have booked a boat trip for Wednesday. Fingers crossed this results in some birds, as beautiful as the scenery and butterflies are - it is incredulous that we aren’t seeing more birds. The habitat looks great - I do wonder if the heat of the day keeps things down, or they avoid the coastal belt?
After lunch, we explored Turunç walking to the far south east of the bay, before the coast line becomes private and concludes where a rock promontory with a Turkish flag flying takes over.
Whilst the beach area is nice, I am delighted we are at the north western end of Turunç and up a level on the mountain side. It’s serene and the views to the Mediterranean and surrounding Taurus Mountains are off the scale.
We spent an hour or so on the beach - enjoying our second lemonade and mint and Turkish coffee of the trip. Both are splendid specialities and worth an afternoon ritual. I am still very young in the swimming game, but clocked a few hundred yards utilising my breast stroke come doggy paddle hybrid.
Having waited for a bus that didn’t stop we once again walked the 1.4 mile climb back to the accommodation. It would be easy to be aggrieved by the driver’s unwillingness to stop at the bus stop, ignoring our wafting hands. But the jokes on him, whilst he creaks home to an ugly wife and health issues we clocked another mile or so of climbing and cracked a cold beer in the crows nest. Plus, I glimpsed my second Red-rumped Swallow or the trip. A species I’ve only seen once before in the UK.
A shower and some Motörhead later, we trotted down to dinner. The Turks know what’s up. We dined pro-show again. You can feed a rabid vegan with no issue in Turunç - seriously. It’s pure gains.
Although it’s just after 20:00, the light is dropping and we’re shattered, so we’re off to bed. Another day tomorrow - more exploring - more awesome....
Cumulative stat attack:
Mammal list: 4. Wild Boar, Rabbit, Goat, Squirrel.
Bird list: 8. White Wagtail to add to yesterday’s tally.
Butterfly list: 5. Addition of Maniola telmessia - Turkish Meadow Brown.
Started the day necking an instant coffee then legging in to my first ever yoga lesson. I smashed it. I was the happiest baby there. When the teacher said ‘We give thanks to Mother Earth’ I knew I had arrived. Having donned the prayer position and touched our thumbs to the forehead - we then lowered to the heart...
I do GIVE PRAISE TO MOTHER EARTH every flipping day.
Moving on, after devouring sesame seed bread rings, wholemeal seeded croissant, tomatoes and olives (amongst other things), we dropped into Turunç to get our hike on. Upon arrival on Day 1 we did a canyon hike - which was epic and gave great views... this hike, however, was next level.
Again, we started at the mosque in central Turunç before ascending a steep goat path to a plateau of sorts, more of an inset in the mountain side, with cow bell clad goats and rough huts, we then ascended 1200 feet to a mountain pass which dropped us into Dionysos and then the ancient ruined city of Amos. Amos dates back to 200 B.C and we could still discern the ramparts and side walls. By this point, despite only clocking a Parkrun in distance, we were petty fried! So I engaged some Dove Step learnt administration; shoes off, water on the crown and down the back and put in some food and water in the shade. This rejuvenated us enough to make the return Parkrun distance back to Turunç. With the sweat, dust and scratches from spiked vegetation we looked a little rough compared to the others waiting for the bus back to our resort. Still, we earned our berry sorbet and afternoon swim in the pool.
Post-swim we retired to the crows nest - see Day 2 if you missed explanation of the crows nest. It’s fair to say that IT KICKED RIGHT OFF. I found out that they do EFES (the local Pilsen brew) in litre cans - for better hydration. With a couple of EFES, from the crows nest I was able to watch; hunting Peregrine, passage Swift and ALPINE SWIFT, Blue Rock Thrush and SHORT-TOED EAGLE. The Alpine Swift and eagle both colossal lifers.
The eagle in particular ended up giving an immense showing, passing close-by and ultimately perching on a ridge in clear view. Even Fee was super impressed with this once in a lifetime encounter - just look at the pictures - it’s off the hook...
Remember, we are all born to lose - but it doesn’t stop us living to win...
Cumulative stat attack:
Mammal list: 4.
Bird list: 19 Short-toed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Tawny Owl, Swift, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit all new for day.
Butterfly list: 6. With Limenitis reducta - Souther White Admiral added today.
Moth list: 2. Hummingbird Hawk-moth and Jersey Tiger both new.
After chatting into the night over a bottle of duty free whisky we bedded down later than planned - unfortunately I then woke up for several hours in the middle of the night - presumably a side effect of the alcohol.
This led to a leisurely start, even though I’d planned to photograph the sunrise - I’ll give this another crack tomorrow.
Still, another glorious morning and post brekkie we retired to the crows nest. I had a little dawdle about and noticed movement up in the pines; a bird - hurrah! A nuthatch - hurrah! Wait there - a different nuthatch - what manner of voodoo is this?
I consulted the Collins and realised I was optics-to-beak with a Krüper's Nuthatch! Work and life were so busy ahead of this trip I did zero research into what I might see. My only other trip to the Med was to Greece back in August 2017 and that was bird lite with just 16 species recorded and one lifer via Scopoli's Shearwatwer. As such, this trip is basically beast mode. With 4 more species already in the bag - of which 3 are lifers. Yay!
Also, if you ask any discerning ornithologist what their favourite birds are after ducks, they will say eagles and nuthatches.
Ok, 11:00 came round and things started to get a little freaky...
We strolled down to the spa and promptly removed all our clothes and donned the paper (paper based? porous plastic? recycled cardboard?) pants. Effectively an elastic band with a posing pouch of unclassified material, that just about contained the required bits, with a spectacularly low slung waist line.
The best part of the authentic Turkish bath and massage (Hamam) experience was getting to do it side-by-side with Fee. Otherwise, there would have been no one to decompress with after, no one who truly understands the confusing de-robed, marble slab, exfoliating bubbles, wash-down, massage chaos of the exercise. Before you know it you’re sat in a face mask questioning where 90 minutes have gone and if you need to report what happened to someone...
They touched me here, here and also here officer. I do feel pretty supple and clean though, if not a little oily.
After lunch and a recuperative nap in the crows nest we freshened up with a mid arvo swim. I trialed some silicone ear plugs which could be game changers once I am used to them. The right leaked a little, but the left held tight throughout. If I can get a solution that maintains dry ears then I can dabble in open water swimming and that opens all kinds of doors for someone dancing the trans-continental dance that is Dove Step. Watch this space...
Post swim we dried off in crows nest and enjoyed more Alpine Swift action with up to 8 birds in the air at once and the local Peregrine - which glided about and even perched for a while looking regal AF. Although no eagles today - I did glimpse two larger raptors which I hope to get better views of over the next coupe of days...
A mellow evening and early to bed, ready for a boat trip in the morning. I am daring to dream pelican and shearwater dreams and who knows what else we could bump into on the trip. Genuinely hyped. I do not even dare to think about dolphins or turtles.
Cumulative stat attack:
Mammal list: 4.
Bird list: 20 with Krüper's Nuthatch the big two-zero just meters away from the accommodation!
Butterfly list: 6
Moths list: 2
Having missed it the day before I ensured I was up pre sunrise and knocking about the resort. This didn’t add any new species for the trip but I enjoyed better views of the local Jays which are much darker in the head - giving them the appearance of any all together different bird - if it wasn’t for the white rump and familiar squark.
I followed this up with a 3 or so mile run down to sea level and back - this gained me 600+ feet of ascent and was a pleasing training run, given I am literally on holiday.
We then headed for the quay and our pre-booked boat trip. This consisted of top hospitality and drifting from bay-to-bay for a swim. Works for me.
I had hoped for some birds and even lifers, I got Yellow-legged Gulls and a Marsh Harrier - both of which I could literally see down Livermere tomorrow. Still, cannot be ungrateful - both great birds in their own right. By that I mean the Harrier is great and the gulls are proper shit*.
*Jokes, but really.
Francisco or Paco for short - go figure - was our one eyed, 71 year old rock and jazz loving host for the day. He translated Turkish to English for us and generally doted. As well as Queen, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones stories, he generally exuded awesome e.g. he has seven children via seven women in seven different countries. I am not condoning that - but sh*t son. He made the 60’s, 70’s and probably 80’s count. Fair play,..
We did have a Marsh Harrier fly over one of the bays - which did little to alleviate the utter, unbelievable lack of birds. Otherwise, a day enjoying the sea and scenery. I think we ventured out of the Mediterranean and into the Aegean Sea at one point.
Overall; wonderful, mellow, sunburnt and with the Who as a soundtrack this eve I cannot complain.
Last day tomorrow...
Cumulative stat attack:
Mammal list: 4.
Bird list: 21 with Marsh Harrier the sole addition today.
Butterfly list: 6
A day of convalescing and enjoying the Labranda Loryma Resort including, of course, the crows nest.
Spending the time around the resort and crows nest paid dividends - adding one last lifer to the trip list and another couple of butterflies.
I am not 100% on the I.D. but I am thinking Ypthima asterope - African Ringlet and Hipparchia parisatis - White-edged rock brown or similar for the two new butterflies.
The apartment beneath the crows nest had the sprinklers on which was creating puddles and opportunity for birds to bath - I got brief views of a Sylvia type warbler as it shook down after bathing, it stumped me - as I now realise because it was a juvenile. There was no such confusion when the adult male popped up on the fence line; Ruppell's Warbler! What a bird and a fitting way to end the birding for the trip. Just 22 species, albeit with four whopping lifers in there.
The journey back was silky smooth, once again I cannot say enough good things about Thomas Cook (it’s @Jonny09Jonny - hit me up Thomas).
That’s it. Our Turkish debut, great birds, great people, great chill, wonderful landscapes and mountains. The hype is real...
Cumulative stat attack:
Mammal list: 4.
Bird list: 22 with Rüppell's Warbler the first warbler and last addition to the trip list.
Butterfly list: 8
Reptiles: 2. Anatololacerta oertzeni - Rock Lizard and a further as-yet unidentified lizard.