Saturday, July 26, 2014

in search of snowcocks

The knocking on the door to our room was precisely at 3:00 a.m., as promised. I shuddered into a state somewhere between sleep and awake, while Pedro bounded out of bed in hurried excitement. We were at the Şafak Pansiyon in Demirkazık, a family-run guesthouse that specialises in guiding people into the bare, sharp mountains in search of the Caucasian Snowcock. Pedro was already out the door having a quick tea with Başar, our guide, while I was still fumbling around with my clothes in the dark.

To see the snowcocks, as with many birds, you must get up early (the term "early bird" exists for a reason— I think I am biologically engineered to be more of a night owl), and in order to get to the remote location where it is possible to see them at dawn, you need to hop into the rickety, yet powerful jeep of a bespectacled older man named Ramazan. The path up the mountain was wild; it seemed at any moment the rocks under our wheels would send us flying off the edge into darkness, only to be discovered later by some shepherd and his sheep.

I was awake now.

The ride was that weird sensation between frightening and exhilirating, and just before the first the first rays of sun hit the peaks and we were high above the valley, we heard the lonesome call of a snowcock. As Ramazan parked the car, we darted out and scanned the mountaintops trying to locate the bird from its call— which sounded a bit like a loon.

Through the telescope, we spotted a small band of young Bezoar Ibexes making their way up the cliff face. Then, out of the shadow of a rock on the very top of the mountain, a Caucasian Snowcock flew to a new perch in the sun. He stretched his neck skyward, and let out a long, high-pitched call. The moment felt like magic; and the bird was considerate enough to spend a good time on that rock so we could get a long look at him before flying off.

I need to develop into an early bird— there really is nothing like watching the sun rise amid birdsong, whether on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, or at home.

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