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

Sonntag, 7. Juli 2019

Long-distance recapture of a Bluethroat ringed in Azerbaijan

Text © Pia Fetting

Bluethroat 'ZH39059' after ringing © Pia Fetting

In autumn 2017, around 2’400 birds were ringed at Besh Barmag bottleneck. After several of them were re-trapped during the same period on site already, the message of an individual re-discovered further away came up recently!

On 5 October 2017, a Red-spotted Bluethroat Luscinia svecica svecica was ringed as a first year male on its autumn migration. Birds of this subspecies breed from Scandinavia across Russia to China and North-Western America. Their wintering grounds are located in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Arabia and South-Eastern Asia ( Somewhere there the bird must have spent the winter before it was found on 1 May 2018 in Arzamas, south of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Dr. Evgenia Malafeeva, the head of the chair of Biology, Geography and Chemistry at the Arzamas branch of Nizhny Novgorod University photographed the Bluethroat in her garden 208 days after ringing about 1’600 km North-North-West of the ringing place.

The Bluethroat in Arzamas © Dr. Evgenia Malafeeva

Map of the ringing and re-discovery site

Big thanks to the observer and photographer, Dr. Evgenia Malafeeva, and the Bird Ringing Centres of Russia and Hiddensee/ Germany, as well as the volunteers in field who helped to catch and ring all the birds!

Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2019

First Crested Honey-buzzard and calcarata- Citrine Wagtail observed in Azerbaijan

Photos © Richard Ek

Contemporary to two guided birding tours, several small and self-organised birding groups visited Azerbaijan this spring. One of them, consisting of three Swedish birdwatchers, managed to observe two new sub-/species at once for the country! 

Between the 23 and 26 May, Richard Ek, Olof Strand and Jesper Segergren went birding in the southern part of Azerbaijan. While searching for Shikras around Masalli on 23 May, the three spotted a Crested Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) migrating north. Although Crested Honey-buzzards are wintering in Israel in increasing numbers ( and are regularly observed in Batumi (Georgia) on autumn migration (, there was no documented observation of this species in Azerbaijan until now. Previous claims of this species have been undocumented or considered as potential hybrids with European Honey-buzzards.

Just two days later the group had luck again. In the lagoons of Kizil Agach Bay they found a Southern Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola calcarata) on 26 May. This subspecies, recognisable by its black instead of greyish back, normally occurs in Eastern Iran and Central Asian mountains, wintering in lowlands from Southern Afghanistan East to Myanmar ( Apart from being the first sighting in Azerbaijan, this might only be the second observation of the subspecies in the Western Palaearctic after one individual in Anatolia (Turkey) on 18 May 2011 (

Mittwoch, 8. Mai 2019

Caucasian presentations at the IBOC 2019

Participants of the IBOC in Eilat © Yuval Dax

From 28 March to 1 April 2019 the 3rd International Bird Observatory Conference took place in Eilat (Israel).

The conference hosted 150 participants from 32 countries around the globe representing approximately 60 bird observatories and organisations. The five conference days were peppered with 11 keynote speakers, 71 lectures and 16 poster presentations. Two presentations focused on bird conservation projects in Azerbaijan and a few more from the neighbouring Caucasian countries, Georgia and Armenia, which are now online available.

Christoph Himmel: Research on waders in Southern Azerbaijan, one of the last under-surveyed areas of the Western Palearctic

Michael Heiss: The development of the Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count in Azerbaijan and its importance for the monitoring of Eurasian migrant birds

Lusine Aghajanyan: Perspectives of Bird Observatory Development in Armenia

Triin Kaasiku: Batumi Raptor Count: our strategy for monitoring more than one million raptors in the eastern Black Sea flyway

Aslan Bolkvadze: Illegal killing and Poaching of birds in Batumi Bottleneck

Dries Engelen: Age-specific trends in timing and abundance of autumn passage reveal population dynamics in migratory raptors using the eastern Black Sea flyway

- video not available - 

Freitag, 15. März 2019

Besh Barmag bottleneck activities for 2019

Besh Barmag bottleneck activities for 2019

Information update

The autumn 2018 was the most extenstive to date in terms of visiting birdwatchers/volunteers, birds counted, species noted as well as locals involved and the whole logistics operation. A research paper with the migration count results is being prepared for Sandgrouse , the journal of OSME (Ornithological Society of the Middle East, Caucasus & Central Asia), to be published during 2019.
News reached us in early autumn 2018 about a major new highway construction along the entire coast from Baku to the Russian border. The route of this highway will run through the Besh Barmag bottleneck and as it seems, straight through our observation post. We lobbied and tried to influence decision makers and authorities during the last autumn/winter but this was much too late in the process. Preparations for the construction is already underway and the work will reach Besh Barmag during September 2019 as we have heard. We are in close contact with local friends and partners to get updated information as this develops.

Map of the planned highway and the old counting spot
Wider view of the situation with the planned highway in the bottleneck area. Alternative counting spots need to be discovered, which can be tricky due to the narrowness of the coastal plain with various villages, roads and other infrastructure.

Plans and activities for 2019

Considering the highway construction is likely to have a severe effect on the birdwatching experience at Besh Barmag we have only some general ideas for autumn 2019. The most important thing, no major organised bird migration counts are being planned this year! We simply must see how the highway turns out and what can be saved in terms of the birdwatching sites, how much disturbance it gets, can alternative observation posts be used etc. We still know too little about alternative observation posts along the coast but this can of course be explored.
That does NOT mean that you can not go there yourselves! Nor that the birds will cease flying past in their millions!!! In order to keep the flame burning and have regular birding visits, we offer to organise your stay at Besh Barmag bottleneck and arrange accommodation, food, local transport and local host! Already there is international interest to come. We will use the same simple holiday units as in autumn 2018 and have full board available for visitors. English-speaking hosts from Nature Friends Azerbaijan will be on site during your time there.
We can also arrange your taxi transport from Baku International Airport to Besh Barmag and back. We can also put you in contact with trusted tour operators and rental car firms for more birdwatching in Azerbaijan.

For further visitors info please contact us through

But please be aware that you may face a road construction site upon arrvial at the observation post at Besh Barmag. We do not know the extent of the disturbance and damage of the road! Stay informed through this blog and Birding Azerbaijan on Facebook!

 Accomodation near Besh Barmag
  • Zarathustra Holiday Units
  • Zarat village, 7 km south of the Besh Barmag bottleneck
  • 3 to 4 beds per unit, four units in total. Toilet/shower in each unit
  • full board included (early breakfast, lunch pack and dinner)
  • regular cleaning and laundry
  • free wifi available, but limited
  • price per person per day 35USD (minimum two nights stay; profit will go to the autumn counts planned for 2020)
  • Optional: transport from lodging to observation post. 10USD per person per day
  • Optional: airport transfer Baku – Besh Barmag – Baku 80USD per taxi
Zarat is a very small rural village on the coastal plain with little else than the accommodation. Bird migration will flow over and sometimes through the hotel garden! A local supermarket is 100m from the hotel and more supermarkets and simple cafés can be found at the Besh Barmag rest houses for motorists.

Accomodation in Zarat
Accomodation in Zarat

Sonntag, 3. März 2019

Champions of the Flyway 2019

Members of the Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count team are soon travelling to southern Israel to participate at the famous birdrace Champions of the Flyway. The aim of the team is to find as many bird species as possible within thrilling 24 hours in the Israeli desert. Furthermore, each team has the task to collect donations for certain bird conservation projects. This year's donations will be in favour of Africa's vultures, which face a rapid decline due to poisoning and illegal killing. Several vulture species are already regarded as 'critically endangered' by the IUCN Red List with some species suffering a loss of 90 or more percent of their former population size.

Please consider to support the Besh Barmag team by donating! Africa's vultures will be very grateful!

Donation page:

Team page: