If you have read my previous few blogs, I have been birding in Turkey recently, and we were staying around Side, near Manavgat in Antalya. I read a few trip reports online that were raving about ‘Side ancient ruins’, which is quite a large expanse of Roman ruins throughout the historic town centre of Side. I had to check it out as it was on my doorstep and it was quite an impressive place visually. If you like history then you will be in your element! I wasn’t hear for archeology though, I was here to see the rare Brown Fish Owl, but was staying in this lovely resort town. I have read numerous bird reports about the ruins, some praising it and some saying how poor it was for birds. Granted, it’s a very touristy area, with hoards and hoards of tourists walking around at midday, checking out the big marble columns and amphitheatres that the Romans left behind. I made sure I was there at the crack o’ sparrows, just after sunset to avoid the crowds, so timing is everything around here.
There was literally nobody to be seen at 6am, and my first bird was this Laughing Dove, a very common bird here, but nonetheless less a good tick for the trip.
As I walked through the all the ruins, I began to realise that I’d timed the visit to perfection, as there seemed to be a warbler ‘fall’ event on this small peninsula of a town. Every tree and bush was alive with warblers, it was hard to choose where to look and what to focus my camera on. I decided to hang around one single tree and try to ID and photograph everything in and around it. In true warbler style it was very hard to get the camera onto anything before they flew off, especially with the heavy Canon 500mm lens I was using.
The following birds were all photographed in the one tree above.
Then before I moved off, I saw the below bird fly out of the tree, which really puzzled me. My first thoughts were Olive-tree warbler as I’d been searching for them earlier in the week. They are not an easy bird to see as they are so skulky, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see one in a beachside tourist resort like this. The bird was moving too fast to get any crystal clear shots, but I managed to get a few off.
My thoughts were Olive-tree warbler mainly due to the massive size, white edges to the primaries, very short thin supercilium, pale wing panel and sloped head. But the bird was very showy, and didn't skulk too much which is unusual for Olive-tree. There were also a lot of Barred warblers about, to which juveniles look very similar. If any experts are reading this then please let me know your thoughts.
Moving through the ruins, there was still plenty scrub to check and birds to discover. I was super shocked when out of nowhere I got attacked by a pack of puppies 😂. There was no mother to be seen, they were wild, and they definitely wanted me dead. But it was quite laughable to see their cute attempts at aggression. Maybe in a few more years it ill be a different story but for now they were fun. In fact, I saw quite a few stray dogs and puppies on my travels in Turkey, some in really remote places. The people didn’t seem to have the same respect for dogs as they do for cats in Turkey. For some reason they seem to idolise cats, and some hotels (including mine) had extravagant cages and feeding stations for the seemingly endless amount of stray cats around. It would be interesting to put a number on the deaths they are causing to birds in Turkey, no doubt in the millions per year.
After fighting the puppies off my jugular, I continued my quest for rarities in Side Ancient ruins. Every corner revealed new birds, and I got my first ever opportunity to photograph these great looking Masked Shrike. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near them, so only managed distant shots like this:
I will stop waffling now, but all in all Side ancient ruins was a top place to go birding, especially if you are in one of the local hotel resorts around it. Here are some of the other birds I saw at the ruins. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other blogs about birding in this beautiful area of Turkey.
Lastly, here is the eBird checklist with associated GPS locations.