Places mentioned above are all described in Finding Birds in Eastern Turkey by Dave Gosney, unless explicitly stated. It is generally true that all areas around Van Lake should be visited as early as possible in the morning. Unfortunately, because there are so many, we have not done this, for it would take quite some days.
At our arrival at the area, we visited the Bendimahi Marshes. Gosney's guide seems to be hopelessly dated here! As a start, the road from Muradiye drawn does not connect to the main road along the marshes south of the bridge crossing the River Bendimahi, but north! Gosney site 4 cannot be reached without crossing a military camp, so we did not try not to get in trouble. Also, site 2 is hardly viewable for the reed has grown very tall.
A nice observation was the large-billed subspecies of Common Reed Bunting Emberizza schoeniclus reiseri. Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens was easy on the cut cornfields south of the bridge and west of the road.
An early morning visit to a small marshy lake south of the road that runs south of Erçek Gölü turned out to be a good idea. Quite some ducks were present, including White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala. A Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon of the eastern subspecies mimicus sang next to the road and could well be observed. Along a track southwest of this small lake, Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura armenica was present in the fields.
The eastern shore of Erçek Gölü itself was also worth the visit. A good number of Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei was present on the water, as was an immense number of Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. Of course, many Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus rubber were present, too. We found the best place to watch the birds on the water and shore to be around a small river entering the large lake. It can be reached by following the main track through the village of Erçek southeast of Erçek Gölü that runs northwards for some kilometres. The water along this track after some kilometres north of Erçek holds many Caspian Terrapins Mauremys caspica.
After a visit to Erçek Gölü, we drove to the Van Hills that can be found quite nearby. We hoped to get good views of Grey-necked Bunting Emberizza buchanani at this site; it is well known for this species. We did not see it though, but instead found quite some singing Pale Rockfinches Carpospiza brachydactyla. The boss of the adjoining quarry invited us for tea, which of course could not be refused. He was surely interested in the birds, but shooting them seemed more logical to him
At the start of the afternoon, after our visit to the Van Hills, we headed for the South Van Marshes. The site numbered 1 by Gosney cannot be reached through the small track that runs north along the Van Castle. So, we drove a perfect sandy track south of the Van Castle westwards to site 2. The area is very much visited by local day-trippers and therefore very busy. We did not find many marshes: all reeds had been cut and replaced by a rubbish heap! It shocked us a little, especially seeing all the children playing in the water amidst the garbage. Some ducks Anatidae, terns Sternidae and waders Charadriiformes were still present. We were especially very happy with the observation of a total of five Citrine Wagtails Motacilla citreola werae, foraging along a small creek that runs along the sandy track mentioned, about 200 meters from the Van Lake itself. Some Lesser Kestrels Falco naumanni hunting near the Van Castle were also very amusing and could be telescoped from a short distance.