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

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.

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