When he’s not working, writer and former UK journalist STEVE PARSLEY spends quite a bit of time walking the woods around Fethiye with four-legged companion Dillon and posting their discoveries on his Facebook page.
Fethiye Times asked if he would share some of his encounters with the local wildlife with us. This is the first of his accounts on what can be found in the forests.
Dog walk discoveries
When you’ve spent a little time walking the woods in Turkey it becomes easier to become used to the slow and ponderous rhythm of the seasons.
You come to expect the wood irises and anemones in early March, the bee eaters and the frog chorus in late April, the screech of the cicadas as the heat of high summer takes hold, and the long shadows and golden, mellow light of late September.
But if – like me – you walk your dog through the forest every day, there’s also quite a lot of pleasure to be had from discovering small, daily differences too; whether it’s the tracks left behind by the wildlife overnight or other clues to natural changes happening around you.
This year, for example, it’s been a milder winter and the spring flowers were quite a few weeks early. We’ve also had quite a lot of rain of late which has brought some of the beetles out of flooded burrows while some of the tortoises have also had to rethink their accommodation as well.
Porcupines on the move
But, for me, the most exciting discovery is the evidence of porcupines on the move. I’m finding discarded quills quite often at the moment, which suggests they’re feeling the sap rising, so to speak.
Mating in February and March, porcupines are mostly nocturnal animals. They “hole up” quite literally during the day and, although they will come out to sun themselves sometimes, they won’t be found far from the mouths of their burrows.
The young are born in early autumn – quite a lengthy gestation period – and arrive complete with quills which harden quickly and can be used both for defence and as a rattle to ward off predators. The porcupine is mostly monogamous and young stay with their parents for a couple of years before finding their own range.
The family will feed on roots and bulbs so, if you see scratchings along the paths in the forest, don’t automatically assume it’s the wild boar. Have a look around and you might even find a quill or two, which will confirm the culprit.
Bear in mind too that porcupines have broad, padded feet with sharp claws for digging so, if you can’t see cloven hoof tracks around disturbed ground, then it may be you’re on the trail of a porcupine.
However, as they can also develop a taste for agricultural crops, they’re seen by many as a pest and have been hunted ferociously in the past. As a result, they tend to be shy and finely tuned to human presence so you’d be extremely fortunate to spot one during the day. In the three and a half years I’ve walked the woods, I have been lucky enough to see one once – and for approximately five seconds.
It was slightly larger than a badger but stouter, quicker on its feet than I would’ve expected and remains one of my most exciting dog walk discoveries to date.
I’ll admit I’m still slightly embarrassed that the first thing I thought when I saw it was that it looked like a Womble – but, if I walk gently in the same area, try not to make too much noise and our paths cross again, maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to apologise.
Rebecca & Steve Parsley are both former journalists with experience in newspapers, magazines and on radio. Since 2006 they have run their own communications agency, specialising in social media and online content writing. They moved to Turkey just over three years ago and live in Kayaköy with their German Shepherd dog, Dillon – formerly a street dog – and two cats. When not slaving over their keyboards or walking in the local countryside, they enjoy watching motorsport – especially Formula 1 – and are also salsa dance addicts.