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

Sonntag, 9. Oktober 2016

Last days at Besh Barmag in autumn 2016

Text & Photos © M. Heiß

The rush of nature and bird friends from the Bird Camp Besh Barmag ebbed away and after the wonderful dinner in Baku Pia and I drove back to the bottleneck area. We counted together for the next 1,5 days and after she left to do migration counts in Batumi I continued  for the next three days. Kai did one last count on 25 September. Bird migration slowly changed in species composition and numbers. Yellow Wagtails and Blue-checked Bee-eaters still occurred in good numbers, but were decreasing day by day. In contrast, numbers of White Wagtail and Common Starling increased.

The most exciting day was on 21 September when strong and hot winds from southern directions, which later became a sand and dust storm, dominated the day. Unfortunately, bird migration in the coastal plain was almost absent with only few individuals on migration, among these were, however, two Sociable Lapwings. Despite the negative effect of southern headwinds for migration in the plain, bird migration offshore turned out to be just brilliant. Ducks, waders, terns and gulls still continued their journey, often very close to the shoreline, which produced some very close encounters. This made identification of species very easy and gave excellent photo opportunities. Ducks were still dominated by Garganeys which reached a day maximum count of 3834 individuals for this season. Further species were Pintail, Shoveler and Teal. Almost all migrating waders were Calidris-species. Here, the Dunlin peaked with 1341 migrating individuals that day accompanied by 57 Sanderlings, 12 Curlew Sandpiper, 118 Little Stints, 2 Ruddy Turnstones, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, 104 Avocets and 156 Common Ringed Plovers. A great surprise was a mixed flock of 17 Common Snipes with a Kentish Plover, four Common Ringed Plover and three Caspian Plovers. Caspian Terns were still migrating and also flocks of Slender-billed Gulls were struggling with the headwind.

In the bushes Red-breasted and Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Red-backed Shrikes and Cuckoos were still common. It’s always exciting to see a Phylloscopus-warbler with bright wing bars, which was, however, just the Green Warbler from the Caucasus. Once again the Besh Barmag turned out to be an excellent site to study bird migration!


Camping in the shrubs
Pallid Harrier hunting a Calandra Lark
Colourful Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Black Stork overhead
Resting Cuckoo
Chiffchaff well hidden
Red-backed Shrike
First flock of Dalmatian Pelicans arrive
Huge flock of Garganeys
Mixed flock of Pintails, Garganeys and Shovelers
Incoming flocks of waders
Mainly Dunlins were migrating...
...but also a few Curlew Sandpipers
Dunlins and spray
Common Snipes migrating with Caspian Plovers
Sanderlings resting at the shoreline
Flock of Pied Avocets
Evidence of hunting along the Caspian Flyway
Bar-tailed Godwits are rarely observed on migration
Flock of Slender-billed Gulls
White-winged Black Terns struggeling in the sandstorm

Caspian Terns
Purple Herons starting migration in the evening
Soaring Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl

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