Text © K. Gauger & M. Heiß
Coming from the south we had a short stop at the Aggöl entrance, but we could not enter the national park. We then decided to check the nearby steppes, but due to bad road conditions we did not much birding in this area. However, we saw our first Red-fronted Serins of this trip, 5000 Little Bustards, a Great Grey Shrike and along the channels we found several Cetti’s and Moustached Warblers.
|So it is good to have 4WD © Michael Heiß|
We drove further north and reached Varvara in the afternoon. Varvara is a water reservoir close to Mingecevir and offers excellent birding opportunities. Stops at the dam and the surrounding wetlands produced 3 Whooper Swans, 40 Ruddy Shelducks, 1 male Ferruginous Duck, 30 Dalmatian Pelicans, several Great and Pygmy Cormorants, 45 Black-crowned Night Herons, 1 Black Vulture, 1 White-tailed Eagle, more than 30 Black-winged Stilts, about 25 White-tailed Lapwings, 10 Black-tailed Godwits, 45 Armenian Gulls, 12 Pallas’s Gulls, 8 Whiskered Terns, 1 Grey Wagtail and a few Red-fronted Serins.
|River sandbank full of birds and trees full of excrements © Kai Gauger|
|Distant Ferruginous Duck © Michael Heiß|
|Hunting Whiskered Tern © Kai Gauger|
|Pygmy Cormorant © Kai Gauger|
|Black-crowned Night Heron © Michael Heiß|
|White-tailed Lapwing © Kai Gauger|
|Black-winged Stilt © Kai Gauger|
We spent the night in a hotel in Mingecevir. The next day we birded around Mingecevir but found nothing special. Aftrer a stop at the huge bazar in the city we drove further to the reservoir. Unfortunately, the water level of the lake was too low to see any birds from the dam. So we wasted no time in this area and drove to the Ajinohur. But here we had the same problem. The lake was empty and the surrounding steppes were extremly dry, a result of a long-lasting drought. No waterbirds at all was a pity. Also the other birdlife was suffering from the bad conditions and we saw just 4 Black Vultures, 2 Imperial Eagles, 3 Hen Harriers, 6 Long-legged Buzzards, 1 Peregrine, 2 Little Bustards, 15 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 3000 Calandra Larks, 40 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Ring Ouzels and about 15 Rock Sparrows.
|Usually, there is water and some birds in the Mingecevir reservior © Pia Fetting|
|The Ajinohur lake was also empty © Michael Heiß|
|Calandra Larks, but no White-winged or Black Larks among them © Michael Heiß|
|Peregrine © Kai Gauger|
|Peregrine in flight © Kai Gauger|
|Goitered Gazelles from the reintroduction program © Kai Gauger|
|Ring Ouzel © Lukas Pelikan|
|Preparing the camp fire © Michael Heiß|
|Enjoying the camp fire © Michael Heiß|
|Working at the camp fire © Michael Heiß|
We spent the night in tents close to the Mingecevir reservoir. In the morning we saw 7 Greater White-fronted and 30 Greylag Geese, more than 35 Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Armenian and 5 Pallas’s Gulls. Once again we heard an overflying Red-fronted Serin. Close to the Georgian border we flushed 3 Black Francolins and saw about 10 Syrian Woodpeckers. In the bushes Hawfinches, Chaffinches, Bramblings, Robins, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcreast and Blackbirds were common. We also had 1 Chiffchaff, 4 Bullfinches, 2 Fieldfares and a Redwing.
A drive through the steppe around the Ajinohur Lake produced a homeyeri Great Grey Shrike, 650 Little Bustards, about 500 Calandra Larks and 150 Mistle Thrushes.We left the Ajinohur region a bit disappointed, missing the huge flocks of Little Bustards, Red-fronted Serins, larks, Flamingos or geese we saw in 2010.
|Camping site © Michael Heiß|
|Long-legged Buzzard © Kai Gauger|
|Merlin in the steppe © Michael Heiß|
|homeyeri Great Grey Shrike © Kai Gauger|
|Birding stop © Pia Fetting|
|Birding stop © Steve Klasan|
|You can make Shashlik out of these...© Michael Heiß|
|...but Fat-tailed Sheep are never alone © Michael Heiß|