A Weekend of Nature

This weekend was mostly spent communing with nature. Istanbul, a city that has been a city for thousands of years, now is a true concrete jungle with few parks and no quiet places. The few green places inside the city are cemeteries and the occasional trash-filled park. On Saturday, I went with a friend to pet feral dogs in a little visited Adile Sultan Kasrı which is not even featured on maps as a park. There I identified a number of plants which, like most of the plants on this planet, I did not know.

I guess some of my favorites include:

  • Muscari Botroides
  • Veronica sp.
  • Euphorbia Helisconia
  • Borago officinalis


One of the cool surprises of the day was seeing the wild form of Rocket (Roka) otherwise known as Eruca sativa! Like so many of the foods of Europe it also belongs to the cabbage family (just like canola, mustard, and brusselsprouts).

I took my friend to this park because many of the wild dogs who live there had puppies about a month ago. She, like any decent being, loves puppies.


The next day I went to Kuş Cenneti –a poorly kept little bird reserve on the south side of the sea of Marmara. This was my second visit. As right now birds are making their way north I saw a very different set of birds from the ones I saw three weeks ago. In total I saw 42 species of birds.

Highlights include:

  • Common Moorhen
  • Flamingo
  • Spoonbil
  • Black-tailed Gotwit
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Lapwing
  • Syrian Woodpecker
  • Night Heron

I also got to see two species of turtle and one species of tortoise.

Walking back from the park to the highway, I saw the carcass of what was probably a Scops Owl. I suspect it was it by a car and later mauled by the three Kangal dogs that also harassed me as I walked by. After seeing the owl, I walked into the cemetery across the road. I thought it would be a good place to look for woodpeckers and possible sleeping owls. I didn’t hear any woodpeckers and so I decided to rest for a while. Cemeteries are great places to rest. I put my gear down by a nice shady tree and rolled up my coat to use as a cushion. As I looked down to clear the ground of pine cones, I saw a familiar shape: an owl pellet.

I didn’t get to see a living owl this trip – just the carcass of one and the balled up indigestible parts of the voles and mice that some owl, perhaps even the deceased one, ate.

Back in Bandırma, the town closest to Kuş Cenneti, I had some of the best tavuk şiş that I have ever had. The soup was good too. The veggie plate came with two pieces of Çiğ Köfte which was made very differently from what I am used, yet very delicious. It reminded me of Mercimek Köftesi as it had parsley in it and the bulgur was coarse. I also treated my waist-line to a portion of Kadayıf.


I took a long walk out the jetty into the Marmara and enjoyed watching the Yellow-legged Gulls having their supper.



Birding in Texas

Saw some birds in Galveston island and Austin, Texas.
  1. Common Loon
  2. Pied-billed Grebe
  3. Brown Pelican
  4. Neotropic Cormorant
  5. Reddish Egret
  6. Little Blue Heron
  7. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  8. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. White Ibis
  11. Roseate Spoonbill
  12. Turkey Vulture
  13. Black Vulture
  14. Sandhill Crane
  15. American Coot
  16. Great Egret
  17. Snowy Egret
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. Laughing Gull
  20. Herring Gull
  21. Royal Tern
  22. Common Tern
  23. Caspian Tern
  24. Semipalmated Plover
  25. Black-bellied Plover
  26. Sanderling
  27. Spotted Sandpiper
  28. Willet
  29. Lesser Yellowlegs
  30. Long-billed Curlew
  31. Short-billed Dowitcher
  32. Marbled Godwit
  33. Black-necked Stilt
  34. White-winged Dove
  35. Mourning Dove
  36. Rock Dove
  37. Inca Dove
  38. Gadwall
  39. Lesser Scaup
  40. Bufflehead
  41. Mallard
  42. Northern Shoveler
  43. White-tailed Kite
  44. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  45. Northern Harrier
  46. Red-tailed Hawk
  47. Osprey
  48. American Kestrel
  49. Belted Kingfisher
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker
  52. Eastern Phoebe
  53. American Robin
  54. Northern Mockingbird
  55. Loggerhead Shrike
  56. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  57. Palm Warbler
  58. Orange-crowned Warbler
  59. Carolina Chickadee
  60. Blue Jay
  61. Marsh Wren (H)
  62. Northern Cardinal
  63. Common Grackle
  64. Boat-tailed Grackle
  65. Great-tailed Grackle
  66. Eastern Medowlark
  67. Black-headed Grosbeak
  68. Northern Cardinal
  69. American Robin
  70. European Starling
  71. Harris’s Sparrow
  72. Song Sparrow
  73. House Sparrow
  • 1 small, dead whale
  • 3 dolphins of unknown species surfing the prow of a ship
  • 1 Coyote
  • 2 Dumpster Cats
  • 1 Monarch Butterfly

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