Friday 12 October 2012

Circumnavigating the Black Sea

So I’ve now been home for a couple of weeks and time is flying by! I didn’t get to post anything during the Circumnavigation of the Black Sea that I did on the MV Clipper Odyssey with Zegrahm Expeditions, so thought I would post something now. We had a great trip starting in Istanbul, Turkey. This was my first visit to this part of the World, so most countries were new for me, and although we saw 124 species of birds during the trip, there were actually only a handful of new species for me, but those that were new were pretty nice!

Istanbul we of course visited the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, etc and then departed to sail up the Bosporus on sunset, with beautiful views back at the city with the setting sun. We had a couple more days in Turkey, visiting Amasya for the Pontic tombs (rock nuthatch was an exciting addition to the list and lifer!), Trabzon and the Sumela Monastry with beautiful forest and lovely views, and then to Georgia where we stopped at Batumi. Here we got to experience a local market with some interesting characters, the really nice botanic gardens (Kruper’s nuthatch and short-toed tree-creeper!!!) and a traditional lunch and dance show. Some pretty stylie moves!

Then it was on to Sochi in Russia, where Kevin and I led a walk into the hills behind Stalin’s Dacha. We were meant to walk to a waterfall (the birders were never going to keep up with the hikers though!), but the river was dry, the summer had been a very long and hot one and there was no waterfall. But we did see some good birds including migration of bee-eaters, common buzzards and a couple of sparrowhawks, and calling woodpeckers kept us on our toes, with green and great-spotted seen, and a third species heard. As we left the port and headed back out into the Black Sea a migrating short-eared owl flew past the ship – awesome!

Next day was in Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula, and the Sevastopol, before the city of Odessa the next day. Wow what a place!

But then finally it was a wilderness day (with a full day in the Danube Delta, Romania. We entered at dawn, with spectacular sunrise, and managed to see approximately 35 species or so by breakfast, including some good stuff like pygmy cormorant, white pelican, hobby, squacco heron, etc. Then after breakfast we boarded a local boat which took us through narrow channels for the rest of the day. All in all we saw 61 species during the day, with some really great views of a lot of things, and some nice close encounters with egrets, etc. Finally got my lifer white stork (plus black stork) as well as greenshank, spotted redshank, garganey, teal, etc. We then got back onto the Odyssey late afternoon and headed back out towards the sea, managing two species of woodpecker (great-spotted and green-headed) on telephone lines as we slowly cruised along. The countryside in Romania was really picturesque with very undeveloped farmland predominating.

Next day was near Constanta, Romania where we still managed a bunch of good stuff, mostly migrants with blackcaps, willow warbler, and red-breasted flycatchers all over the place. Even a vacant lot in the city had three species of flycatcher (spotted, red-breasted and semi-coll), three species of warbler (blackcap, garden and willow), oriole and other bits and bobs. Seeing visible migration like this was just so exciting for me as a New Zealander, as we just don’t get to see this sort of thing.

The last day was in Varna, Bulgaria, and again there were migrants still moving through. Nothing completely out of the ordinary, but some nice things to end on, and a stunning lunch in town! We disembarked the next day in Istanbul, where I overnighted before flying out the next day. Not before visiting the Grand Bazaar and a local carpet seller and getting a stunning carpet for the new house….now all we need is the new house! The start of the build is just days away…

Inside Topkapi, Istanbul

Inside the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

Stunning domed ceiling and lights in the Hagia Sofia

Worn entrance way into the Hagia Sofia

Kids feeding kittens outside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Interesting goods at the Spice Market, Istanbul


Sunset over the Fatih Mosque, Istanbul as we sailed the Bosporus

Looking down on Amasya from the Pontic tombs

Crag martins chilling out on….crags!

The Pontic tombs…never was sure who Mr Pontic was?

Sumela Monastry, perched on the cliff

Another angle

Almost there, looking down on the monastry

Market in Trabzon, Turkey

The people in Turkey were great, these guys just wanted me to take their photo.

Meat section in the market in Batumi, Georgia

The last customer that messed with this lady is….well that's whats left of him on the chopping block!

Leaping lizards! Dancing Georgian style.

A blur of colour

These guys like leaping!

A walk in the forest in Sochi, not a snowboarder in sight!

Modern church in Sochi.

Hummingbird hawk-moth - super ool little critter!

Sunshine and green leaves

Yawning yellow-legged gull

Submarine pens in Sevestapol, Ukraine.

Feral pigeon at the fountain in Odessa

Odessa was a great place to people watch!

Sunrise on the Danube

Purple Grey heron in flight, there were a lot of purple that day, should have looked at the photo before captioning it! ;)

Landing great egret

And in flight

Juvenile black-crowned night-heron creeping along

Cute as a kitten, a Bulgarian kitten pair.

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