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

Donnerstag, 15. Mai 2014

Azerbaijan Trip 5-13 May 2014

Text © Tomas Axén Haraldsson
Photos ©  Johan Stenlund

The third (following April 2012 and October 2013) arranged group trip by Swedish birders took place 5-13 May 2014 and included the highlights of eastern Azerbaijan: a few days in the Greater Caucasus, the steppes of Shirvan, the wetlands at Machmud Chala and Kizil Agach as well as the rich forests around Masalli.

Driving up through mountains and forests along the Guidalchay river yielded many Green Warblers and Semi-collared Flycatcher with Lammergeiers and Steppe Eagles overhead. The fogs were thick around Xinaliq but driving up to 2600m and then hiking, out of the fog, to some 2900m on the Gizilgaya massif proved successful - Caucasian Snowcock, Güldenstädt´s Redstart and a flock of Greater Rosefinches. 
 
Semi-collared Flycatcher
Green Warbler
The group then switched to next valley northwards and to Laza where they stayed with local families in the village on 1800m. An afternoon with Wallcreepers, Red-fronted Serins, Mountain Chiffchaffs, more vultures and eagles were followed by an exciting morning - eager swedish birders getting out of the houses at dawn and discover displaying Caucasian Black Grouses basically from the doorstep! Some 15 birds seen during the morning, on the slopes with birch scrub opposite Laza village and Suvar resort.
 
Red-fronted Serin
Wallcreeper
Short visits at the bottleneck site Besh Barmag with little result, some Rufous Bush-chats, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Menetriés Warblers.
 
Continuing south to Shirvan Nationalpark where the expected collection of birds showed - Black Francolin, Roller, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Ferrugineous Duck, Dalmatian Pelican. The wetlands at Machmud Chala are vast to overlook at a short visit but had some waders, 300 Greater Flamingoes and more. 

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
The strips of oak forest south of Masalli proved yet again to be a safe bet for Shikra with a pair at breeding site seen on several visits. The team also searched for the elusive and semi-mythical Hyrcan Tit in the wooded foothills of the Talysh Mountains without finding it but well Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers. The smaller southern part of Kizil Agach lagoons had lots of waders including Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Black-winged Pratincoles as well as thousands of Whiskered Terns and herons.
 
Shikra
Driving back to Baku with visit at the Gobustan petroglyphs and the local Rock Nuthatches and Pied Wheatears, but no Finch´s seen. All in all some 220 species during the week and with nice weather (perhaps a little too nice, many days with above 30°C!) and smooth logistics. We will come back to Aze thats for sure!

Thanks to Johan Stenlund for providing some photos (more: http://www.pbase.com/johanstenlund/azerbajdzjan_may_2014).

Tomas Haraldsson (planning and organizing the tour) & Ulf Ottosson (tour leader together with Elchin Sultanov).
 

Montag, 7. April 2014

Article published about bird migration at Besh Barmag

Text & Photos © M. Heiß

The analysis of the bird migration study from autumn 2011 and spring 2012 at Besh Barmag is still going on and produced the first article:

"The Importance of Besh Barmag Bottleneck (Azerbaijan) for Eurasian Migrant Birds"
Acta Ornithologica 48(2):151-164. 2013.

The bottleneck is important for several species occuring in high numbers according to their world or flyway population. Dalmatian Pelican and Little Bustard are just two of them.


Dalmatian Pelican migrating through the coastal plain in November 2011

Sometimes White Pelicans can be found among them

Flock of Little Bustards in November 2011

Gone Pishing

Are you interested in recent bird observations and great photographs from Azerbaijan?

So, check out Clive Temple's birding blog:

http://gonepishing.blogspot.de

Donnerstag, 7. November 2013

Swedish Birders visited Azerbaijan in autumn 2013


Text © Tomas Axén Haraldsson, Sweden

In April 2012 me and three friends travelled in Azerbaijan for a week of birding adventure. The main source of inspiration, knowledge and help in planning was Kai Gauger and to him we owe the success of our trip. One purpose of that trip was to scout and plan for future organized group trips.
The first such trip was made 3-11 October 2013 by the Swedish bird tour operator AviFauna with me as tour leader.

We were 16 Swedish birders accompanied by Elchin Sultanov of the AOS and with the ground support/logistics by Caspian Tour. Our programe covered the east of Azerbaijan, travelling within some 250km of the capital Baku, from Greater Caucasus in the north to the coastal lagoons of Kizil Agach in the south.

One of the highlights was Besh Barmag, the spectacular bottle-neck migration site some 90km north of Baku. Here we spent 2 hours on October 4th and 6 hours on October 6th in windy and cloudy conditions but with lots of birds: a few hundred migrating raptors of 20 species including Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Short-toed and Imperial Eagles, 12 Pallid Harriers, Rough-legged and Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Peregrine and the resident Griffon and Black Vultures.
In the tamarisk scrubs on the beach we found Rufous Bush-chat, Green Warbler, Desert Wheatear (3rd modern time record?), Jack Snipe, Nightjar, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Short-eared Owl and a Richards Pipit.
Desert Wheatear at Besh Barmag 6 October © Stefan Andersson


Nightjar at Besh Barmag © J-M Breider
 After wet and misty conditions in the Caucasus with no snowcocks or other exclusive birds we were happy to see the rich bird life in the shallow lowland lake of Haji Gaboul in eastern central Azerbaijan. An estimated 3.000 dabbling ducks and similar numbers of waders kept us busy for an afternoon. Shoveler, Teal, Ruff and Little Stint were the bulk but we also found some some Garganeys and a lone Ferrugineous Duck, 30 Marsh Sandpipers, 7 White-tailed Lapwings and 1 Sociable Lapwing.
River valley scenery at Xinaliq, Greater Caucasus 5 October © Tomas Axén Haraldsson
 Shirvan Nationalpark was rather windy and, at times, poor in birds. The steppes are vast but with time the list of species picked up - all four harriers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Black Francolin, hemprichii-Stonechats, a 1cy Red-footed Falcon, a flock of 300 Calandra Larks and more. The ”flamingo lake” on the other hand was thick with birds in the open space of water visible from the hide in the reeds: Dalmatian Pelicans, Glossy Ibises, Pygmy Cormorants, egrets and herons, Purple Swamphens, Red-crested Pochards, Kingfishers and more wetland stuff.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Shirvan NP 8 October © Peter Berglin
Spoonbills © J-M Breider
Red-footed Falcon Shirvan NP 8 October © Peter Berglin
Another highlight, perhaps the most pleasant day of the trip both in terms of weather and birds, was the lagoon of Kizil Agach. We visited the southern, accesible lagoon area and the flat sandy island connected by the road built from Liman. Our first views of the lagoon made us stop and we stayed there for hours. Lots of wetland birds and from the reeds emerged Little Bittern, Little Crake, Great Reed and Moustached Warblers, Bearded and Penduline Tits. Here we also found Citrine Wagtails, some 20 migrating Steppe Eagles, Pallid Harrier as well as splendid views of the snow-capped Talysh mountains on the Iranian border.
The rest of the day at the northern tip of the island, around Baliqcilar, provided nice records like Isabelline Shrike, a magnificent Saker, many Menetriés Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Short-toed and White-tailed Eagles and lots of more migrants.
Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus hemprichii) Kizil Agach © J-M Breider
Menetriés Warbler at Kizil Agach © J-M Breider
Red-breasted Flycatcher at Kizil Agach 9 October © Peter Berglin
A full trip report with photos will be published soon. Azerbaijan is indeed an extraordinary birdwatching destination in the south-east corner of the Western Palearctic.

Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2013

Spring Trip from 21 May to 13 June 2013 (Part 2 - Greater Caucasus)

Text & Photos © M. Heiß
The second half of our round trip through Azerbaijan led us along the Greater Caucasus range. We visted the alpine zone of the Shahdag National Park around the villages Laza and Xinaliq, which produced some good views of the Caucasian specialities.
Welcome to Laza - steep gravel roads need good driving skills
Red-fronted Serins are common around the village of Laza
Male Ring Ouzel in the high mountain area
Common Rosefinches can be heard everywhere
The old village Xinaliq
Xinaliq from another perpective
Horned Lark are common around Xinaliq
Snowfinches are also quite common around Xinaliq
 
Displaying Caucasian Twites
Typical habitat of the endemic Caucasian Snowcock...
...which is easier to hear than to see
Caucasian Snowcock in flight


Shepherd dog takes care of a sheep
Lammergeier
Griffon Vulture
 We then drove further west along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus.

Black-headed Buntings are widespread in the dry foothills
Eastern Olivacous Warbler
Ruins of Yeddi Kilisa, the 'seven churches' complex near the village Lekit