A 3 day tour.
Starting in Istanbul.
Finishing in Istanbul.
Max: 3 people.
Transportation: Sedan 4-door car.

Gerede Plains, in Bolu Province, 320 km E of Istanbul that can be covered in 4 hours from Istanbul city center. Gerede Plain is located at 1200 m a.s.l. and mainly consists of traditional agricultural land with small field and lots of wild pastures with wild flowers. The area includes many streams with riverine habitats. The Plain is surrounded by montane pine and fir forest which provide excellent breeding sites for large raptors. The area hosts the healthy populations of Cinereous Vulture, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Lammergeier, and Long-legged Buzzard.

There are many poultry farms in the area, that provide constant food supply to large raptors. The excellent natural environment combined with the additional food sources has created a very healthy raptor population near Gerede Plain.  As a result a Ankara based conservation group started with a Vulture Feeding Station where you can watch vultures and eagles from hides. The only observation and photography hide in Turkey provide us a wonderful opportunity.

The Vulture Feeding Station has its own rules. We need to wake up very early in the morning (04:30 AM) and leave the Hotel in Gerede for an half-an-hour ride to be at the hide before sunrise. We are provided some sandwiches and water. In the hide there are water boiler, tea, coffee and facilities. Then we will be waiting for the vultures to come. Usually first Raven arrives in big numbers to get their share. Then the Imperial Eagle and White-tailed Eagle arrives. Later with all the confidence the Cinereous Vulture arrives. It may take some time until they start marching to the carcass laid for them. The Lammergeier usually stays very briefly for 10 or less minutes and usually it is seen on wings only. We will be only allowed to leave after every single bird has left the feeding station, that will be after 2:00 PM. A two day visit would be enough to take good shots of the target species.

Itinerary

1 Arrival to Istanbul Airport, transfer to Gerede.
2 Early morning visit to the hide. Driving around in the afternoon
3 Early morning visit to the hide. Drive back to Istanbul.

Day 1

We will pick you up at your hotel in Istanbul and directly drive to Gerede, Bolu. We will cover about 320 km in four hours. In the afternoon and on route we will visit the sites around Gerede. Overnight in Gerede.

Day 2

We need to wake up very early in the morning (04:30 AM) and leave the Hotel in Gerede for an half-an-hour ride. We will need to enter to the hide before the before sunrise. We are provided some sandwiches and water. In the hide there are water boiler, tea, coffee and facilities. If the temperature is very cold, individual heaters will be available. Then we will be waiting for the vultures to come.

The main birds are the Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) and White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) oversummering at the region are present in summer. The resident Lammegeier (Gypaetus barbatus) tends to visit more frequently during July and August. On migration Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) has been observered.

Before the dawn we expect some feral dogs arrive here. Sometimes Grey Wolf arrive at the site, which is immediately noticed by the silence of the dogs. If you are very luck, a Brown Bear may show up, too. Usually first Raven arrives in big numbers to get their share. Then the Imperial Eagle and White-tailed Eagle arrives. Later with all the confidence the Cinereous Vulture arrives. It may take some time until they start marching to the carcass laid for them. The Lammergeier usually stays very briefly for 10 or less minutes and usually it is seen on wings only.

The Vulture Feeding Station has its own rules. The feeding station will be provided with cattle and chicken carcass 48 hours in advance to inform the animals. We will be only allowed to leave after every single bird has left the feeding station, that will be likely after 2:00 PM.

Day 3

This morning we have another change at the hide. Otherwise we will check the forest near the hotel. The mature pine and fir forest at the nearby hills are home to near-endemic Kruper’s Nuthatch (Sitta kruperi), Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus), and other forest species. In the afternoon we will stroll around Gerede Plain for other raptors. On migration up top 600 Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) has been observed. If we have time, we can drive up to the ski-resorts at Köroğlu Mountains where we can look for Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer), Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), Red-fronted Serin (Serinus pusillus) and Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). In the afternoon we will depart to Istanbul.