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A small village in the Kackar Mts, Sivrikaya is famous in ornithological circles as the only site of relatively easy access for Caucasian Grouse in the entire Western Palearctic region. This very local species is found only in the mountains of northeastern Turkey and the Caucasus and currently, at least, Sivrikaya is the easiest place to find them despite some habitat degradation in recent years.
This is a high mountain area reaching over 3700m where scree slopes, alpine meadows and rhododendron scrub support not only Caucasian Black Grouse but also the sought after Caspian Snowcock.
In the lower areas there are Mountain Chiffchaff (common in the woods to the west of the village), Green Warbler and Marsh Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Red-fronted Serin and Rock Bunting. Grey Wagtail and Common Dipper can be seen along streams.
Birds you can see here include:
European Honey Buzzard, Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Caucasian Grouse, Caspian Snowcock, Chukar Partridge, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Northern House Martin, Tree Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Wren, Common Dipper, Dunnock, Alpine Accentor, European Robin, Common Nightingale, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Eurasian Blackbird, Marsh Warbler, Blackcap, Green Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Red-billed Chough, Alpine Chough, Northern Raven, Common Starling, Rock Sparrow, White-winged Snow Finch, Chaffinch, Red-fronted Serin, Twite, Crimson-winged Finch, Common Rosefinch, Common Bullfinch, Rock Bunting, Ortolan Bunting
Butterflies are common and varied and include Apollo, Pontic Blue and various Copper species.
The rare and local Yellow Globe Orchid Traunsteinera sphaerica blooms in late summer on the upland meadows.
Areas of Interest
The best time to visit Sivrikaya for the grouse is May-June although it can be very difficult to see them even then and they are apparently only active at dawn and dusk. For the best chance of seeing them leave the village before dawn and reach the rhododendron scrub above the village as early as possible.
A local guide is sometimes available but if not the climb to the grouse site can be made unaided. There is a path a few hundred metres south of the tea house, past a graveyard and across a stream which leads up to the steep slopes. Shortly after the stream the path forks, take the left branch and this joins a larger track further up. Follow this until it crosses another stream and then forks again. Take the right fork which leads up to the rhodendron scrub and hopefully, the grouse. Reaching the upper slopes generally takes around 2 hours but it is a very steep climb.
There is an alternative site on the other side of the village that may be quicker and easier to reach.
A path leaves the road westwards to the south of the village and winds through the pinewoods until it emerges amidst the rhododendron scrub above the treeline. Continue upwards until the south side of the gully is fully in view and the grouse may be visible.
It may be possible to see the grouse from the road about 5km south of Sivrikaya looking west across the valley to the grassy areas and rhododendron scrub. The snowcock is best looked for on the high crags to the south of the village.
Access and Facilities
Sivrikaya is situated on the Erzurum-Rize road north of Ispir on the northern side of the Pontic Mts. The road is notoriously bad and may still be blocked by snow at the end of June.
The only accommodation in Sivrikaya is a very basic tea house although camping is possible and there are hotels in Ispir to the south and Ikizdere to the north.
Content and images originally posted by Steve