Will I successfully get myself to the top of Camlica Hill in Istanbul, Turkey, to watch the migrant raptor show?
My husband and I are going on a fantastic cultural tour, staying in Istanbul for a few days before boarding a sailing ship and traveling from there through the northern Aegean to Athens!
BUT WHAT ABOUT BIRDING?
I’ve been on these trips before, and invariably I am the only birder.
I have found that–with a good field guide and a bit of luck, you can actually tramp around ancient ruins, listen to smart professors as they lecture, and spot good birds all at the same time.
But I’ve had to be resourceful in my preparations. Finding birding guides off the beaten path is challenging. They have to speak English, for one thing. And for another, I usually have to squeeze my birding in whenever possible.
You can get on the internet and find good trip reports from other birders who’ve visited Istanbul. Usually, they’re British travelers and they’re very knowledgeable.
But I really wanted someone there in Istanbul to act as a field guide.
Last May, I began e-mailing Kerem Ali Boyla . He’s the founder (and one of the few practicing guides?) of Birdwatch Turkey.
He finally responded to my e-mail in July and was most cordial. When I outlined what dates I would be visiting Istanbul this month, he said he was sorry but he had a group of 20 Danish folks that would be totally occupying him.
However, if I wanted to get myself to the top of one of two hills: Camlica or Toygar — both on the Asian side of the Bosphorus with commanding views of the surrounding area — I could join his group of Danish birders.
The Bosphorus is famous not only as the channel of water that separates western and eastern Istanbul (not to speak of two continents!), but as a pathway for migrating birds from Bulgaria and parts of Europe on their way to southerly wintering grounds.
Theoretically, I could see storks and all sorts of raptors, if conditions are good.
In his last e-mail, Kerem took pity on me and sent me the name of a man to contact who would meet me in Uskudar (to which you take the ferry from our hotel) and drive me up to one of these hills to meet the group.
So my question is this: just how many of these unfamiliar birds might I be able to i.d.? Will they be just specks so high in the sky that I can’t see them with binoculars? Or will I see the Black Storks, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles, Levant Sparrowhawks, etc., for which this site is known by birders worldwide?
I’m leaving soon.