Birdwatching news and bird photography from Transcaucasia - by Kai Gauger and Michael Heiß

Freitag, 17. Juni 2016

spring trip with Nakhchivan by Avifauna

text by Tomas Haraldsson and Kai Gauger, photos by Niklas Andersson and Kai Gauger

Swedish birds & nature tour operator AviFauna did a successful tour in Azerbaijan 6-14 May, planned and lead by Tomas Haraldsson together with Kai Gauger. In the group were 12 Swedes, one Dane and three German birders and the logistics and arrangements were co-ordinated together with travel agency Caspian Tour. It was a rather fast-paced trip aimed at seeing the exclusive species for the region and also with the last three nights spent in the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan. Very happy and satisfied at seeing all the target birds and some 220 species in total during 7 field days.

Some daily highlights:

In Shirvan Nationalpark we had a great selection of steppe birds as usual but with the flamingo lake pretty empty of birds. Hundreds of Rose-coloured Starlings in flocks, some 4.000 White-winged Black Terns on the sky, lots of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Menetries Warblers and the other "locals".

some 50 Steppe Buzzards were resting in the park, by Niklas Andersson

Lesser Grey Shrike, by Niklas Andersson

Lesser Kestrel, by Niklas Andersson

In Machmud Chala wetlands two female White-headed Ducks surprised us, one of the unexpected species for the trip. In Masalli we found the Shikras on breeding site but only giving short views however a pair soaring above our lunch was nice :)
Unfortunately it was a little rainy in Kizil Agach. On the Caspian coast and its bird-rich lagoons were hundreds of waders including 6 Terek Sandpipers, 17 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 2 White-tailed Lapwings, an adult Great Black-headed Gull and lots of other wetland stuff, truly an exciting area.

Gobustan rock art site producd the usual Pied, Eastern Black-eared and Finsch´s Wheatears and also a likely hybrid Pied/Eastern Black-eared, Rock Nuthatches, Woodchat Shrikes and more. A Steppe Eagle was heading north.
We had a short stop Besh Barmag but still some nice raptor migration. Within just one hour we saw Lesser Spotted Eagle 2, Steppe Eagle 3, Pallid Harrier 2, Montagues Harrier 13, Marsh Harrier and Hobby and also the local Black Vultures and Black Kites.

rocky habitat in Gobustan, by Niklas Andersson
hybrid Pied x Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, by Niklas Andersson
scanning Besh Barmag from the roadside Kafe, by Kai Gauger

In Xinaliq  we had a nice hike with perfect weather and saw 6 White-winged (Güldenstädts) Redstarts, 10 Caucasian Snowcocks, Lammergeiers, Alpine Accentor, Red-fronted Serins and lots of other stuff. On lower altitudes there were many Green Warblers and several Semi-collared Flycatchers at our lodging Nazli Bulaq.

Griffon Vulture, by Niklas Andersson
Bearded Vulture, by Niklas Andersson
Qizilgaya from the Xinalik side, by Kai Gauger
scanning for the snowcocks, by Kai Gauger

In Laza there were about a dozen displaying Caucasian Black Grouse right above our homestay in the village. During the morning also several Wallcreepers, Mountain Chiffchaff, Green Warbler, Caucasian Snowcock, 5 Lammergeiers and a lot more was seen. A bit unsatisfying was a short fly-by of two Great Rosefinches.

sunrise at the grouse courtship, by Kai Gauger

Nakhchivan was very exciting birding with species similar to easternmost Turkey. Several sites with Persian Wheatear, Pale Rock Sparrow, Upchers Warbler, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Trumpeter Finch, See see Partridge and Grey-necked Bunting. Bimaculated Lark and Desert Finch both at breeding site, also 3 Mongolian Finches likely so.  During our two full days also several records of Booted and Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Rufous Bush Chat, Armenian Gulls, White-throated Robin and in the driest semi-desert also Black-bellied Sandgrouse. High up at 2200m at Batabat we saw the Raddes Accentor. For many of us the bird of the trip!

Ilandag and Lesser Caucasus from plane and from ground, by Kai Gauger

overcast weather at 2000m asl in Batabat, by Kai Gauger
singing in the rain, Radde's Accentor, by Kai Gauger
my personal "bird of the trip", by Kai Gauger
Negram, with Mongolian Finch and many other semi desert species, by Kai Gauger

Greek Tortoisein on of the wadis in the lower mountains, by Kai Gauger
Desert Finch, by Kai Gauger
See-see Partridge on the run, by Kai Gauger

Caucasian Agama, by Kai Gauger
habitat of eg Irania, Grey-necked Bunting and Upcher's Warbler, by Kai Gauger
enjoing great views of Irania, by Kai Gauger
Grey-necked Bunting, by Niklas Andersson
Upcher's Warbler, by Kai Gauger

Thanks Aze and NAR for a very successful tour and hope to see you again soon!

Videos of birds and birding from the trip can be seen at Tomas' Youtube channel

Samstag, 28. Mai 2016

Trip summary 16-24 April 2016

Text © Tomas Axén Haraldsson
Photos © Andreas Sandberg

Four Swedish birders visited Azerbaijan 17-24 April 2016, focusing on the migration at Besh Barmag and two days in the Greater Caucasus. I helped them with planning, species and contacts. Their trip was overall successful but with some small troubles with rangers in Laza (not the first time) and overly curious locals at some place.

Migration at Besh Barmag was at times spectacular and at times quiet, as could be expected. Weather ranging from fine to overcast and strong northerly winds.

April 17th - 60+ harriers including Pallid Harrier 13 and Montagues Harrier 36. In the evening a rush with 2.915 Black-winged Pratincoles. Also a putative leucocephala "White-headed" Yellow Wagtail.

Putative White-headed Yellow Wagtail at Besh Barmag

Black-winged Pratincole on migration      

April 18th - 100 Black-winged Pratincoles, 10.000+ Yellow Wagtails, 30 Tawny Pipits, 60 Red-throated Pipits, 5 Steppe Eagles, 10 Imperial Eagles.

April 21st - up at the rock several Pied Wheatars, Rock Nuthatch and Blue Rock Thrush, on the beach Terek Sandpiper. Scops Owl and Nightingale calling at the tent site.

April 22nd - little migration but lots of resting migrants on the area! Green Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Moustached Warblers, Penduline Tit, Little Bittern, 28 Purple Herons, 50+ Red-breasted Flycatchers, 9 Citrine Wagtails, Jack Snipe, 25+ Hobbies and much more.

Green Warbler

April 23rd - Little Bustard, lots of Pied Wheatears. No visible migration.

April 19th - great day in Xinaliq where they hiked from the village (slept at a private homestay) up to some 2.700-2.800m and found 10 Caucasian Snowcocks, 9 White-winged Redstarts, 3 Wallcreepers, 4 Alpine Accentors and in the area also Lammergeier, Golden Eagle and Stonechats.

Greater Caucasus

White-winged Redstart

April 20th - in Laza they easily found the Caucasian Black Grouses displaying on distant slopes above the village, across the valley from the Suvar Resort. No Greater Rosefinches seen. Trouble with permits and national park rangers, so future visitors are advised to secure this detail beforehand.

Mittwoch, 6. April 2016

An Azerbaijan interlude with young naturalists

A post by Tomas Axén Haraldsson on the OSME website.

Enjoy reading!

Dienstag, 22. Dezember 2015

Trip Report Besh Barmag

A very detailed and excellent report of the bird migration count at Besh Barmag in October 2015 is now online available: Azerbaijan 25-30 October 2015

Enjoy reading!

Sonntag, 8. November 2015

Autumn migration at Besh Barmag

 Photos © Emil Lundahl
A Swedish birding group monitored the spectacular migration at Besh Barmag for a few days during the week 25-30 October. The group was from the youth committee of Swedish BirdLife on an initiative and leadership by me. We also met up with a local NGO, Nature Friends, that joined us for a day trip to Shirvan Nationalpark and also for dinner in Baku. We used a private home stay in the village of Qala Alty, about 30 mins driving northwest from Besh Barmag.

Swedish birder in steppe surroundings at Besh
In Besh Barmag we used the observation point from previous field studies (about 5 km north of the shops and cafés below the rock) and tried to count all migrating birds from dawn till lunch. The migration corridor is several kilometers wide and hundreds of passerines pass every minute but we got a fair grip of the numbers. Easily quarter of a million birds passed during our three field days 26-28 Oct with the majority being Starlings (nearly 100.000 on both 27 and 28 Oct) and also tens of thousands of larks (12.900 Calandra Larks on 27 Oct) and corvids. Also in their thousands were Pygmy Cormorants, dabbling ducks and Corn Buntings. Among the many highlights on migration were late records of Black-winged Pratincole (2), Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (2), a Short-toed Eagle and hundreds of Ruddy Shelducks, Great White Egrets and Short-toed Larks.
​​1000+ Calandra Larks resting on the steppe in addition to the thousands on migration
Searching through the steppe areas, coastal bush lands and marshes, the rubbish tip and the beach was equally exciting, if not even more so. With migration going on most of the day and lots of birds also resting, its a conflict of interest... Resident in the area during our days were 40+ Black Vultures, 5 Imperial Eagles, a 1cy Steppe Eagle, some 60 Little Bustards, 1000+ Caspian Gulls (among which we found a 1cy Great Black-headed Gull by scanning the photos afterwards...) and in the bush land many Red-breasted Flycatchers, Chiffchaffs, two Mountain Chiffchaffs, Moustached Warblers, hemprichii Stonechats and Bearded and Long-tailed Tits. Along the marshy lagoon were two Spotted Crakes, Jack Snipes, a Bittern (!), a Citrine Wagtail and to top off this amazing place were a fine male Desert Wheatear (about the 5th recent record for Azerbaijan) on the beach and a Yellow-browed Warbler in the bushes along the beach - a first for Azerbaijan!

​​Mountain Chiffchaff
Jack Snipe
​​Black Vulture
​​Moustached Warbler common along the wet part of the bush land/lagoon
​​A fine male Desert Wheatear on the beach at Besh
A putative tristis Chiffchaff...?
Some 60 Little Bustards rested in the steppe at Besh
​hemprichii Siberian Stonechat
A day trip on 29 Oct to Shirvan Nationalpark was also very nice with for example 9 Bewick´s Swan, 63 Marbled Ducks, 18 Ferrugineous Ducks, 9 Hen Harriers, 12 Purple Swamphens, 2 White-tailed Lapwings, both Short-eared, Long-eared and Little Owls and a Citrine Wagtail. A short visit inland to Haji Gaboul showed us a dried-out lake with a thousand dabbling ducks standing at a tiny pool in the middle of the vast lake and some gulls and waders around, notably a 1cy Black-legged Kittiwake which would probably be only the third record for Azerbaijan. Also a flock of 45 Little Bustards near the lake.
​​A pair of Little Owls at the Shirvan entrance
​​62 Marbled Ducks among dabbling ducks outside the hide in the flamingo lake, Shirvan NP
​​Spoonbill, GW Egret and Grey Herons
Black Francolin in Shirvan
​​This 1cy Black-legged Kittiwake was found at the lake Haji Gaboul

All in all a short, intensive and very successful birding trip that shows how amazing and easy just a short birding break can be to this place.