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

Dienstag, 9. Oktober 2018

Bird migration count at Besh Barmag in September 2018

Text © Manuel Tacke
Photos © Marcel Tenhaeff

From early morning on several flocks of Purple and other herons gave us great fun. Now the evening breaks in and from the already somewhat stale light a group of nearly 200 herons emerges and flies straight over our heads: 135 Purple Herons together with 55 Grey Herons are a great observation for all and screw up the already enormous number of migrating herons. The day ends with a total of 757 Purple Herons, which almost reach the 1225 Grey Herons a few days before. Breath-taking numbers! This is the bird migration at the Besh!

Since the beginning of September the bird migration count at Besh Barmag is on and of course all data of migratory bird observations can be found on the website At the foot of the holy mountain Besh Barmag the counters are already at their posts before sunrise, the eyes wander from the Caspian Sea in the east to the foothills of the Caucasian mountains in the west. This time of the season it is mainly about seawatching, but also the view upwards should not be forgotten – as we have experienced several times. Beside herons, terns, spoonbills, ducks and other water birds there are many wagtails, swallows and different species of raptors on their way. The range of species often surprises us a lot. And the season is still in the beginning, what are we going to expect?

September brought several species we know well from Central Europe: swallows, starlings, various tern and duck species. But especially the numbers are often far above what you know from home (be it in France, the Netherlands or Germany). Who is really used to count Garganeys – with more than one hand needed? At least we are not... But we get used to it and also the characteristic call of the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, somewhat shriller and faster than the voice of its more familiar brother, the European Bee-eater, or the trill of the Black-winged Pratincoles (almost 6.000 have been counted!), one learns to recognize quickly. The birds are on the move from their breeding habitats in the steppe regions north of the Caspian Sea. These are the sort of observations that show the distance to our home patches. Sometimes it gets connected and provides big euphoria for the counters. Just like the group of four cranes that slowly crystallized out of the haze over the sea: "Hey, wait, two are much smaller!", "Yes, completely different proportions and in flight a completely different jizz than our cranes...", "Guys, we are looking at two Demoiselle Cranes!".

Such moments remain. Like many others. Even more important - and this applies not only to the Besh, but also to the rest of the world - is the fact that, in addition to all the birdwatching benefits, reliable data need to be made available. Here, too, it is first and foremost a matter of enjoying bird migration, but it is also about obtaining reliable data series that can be used to justify protective measures if necessary. The protection of migratory birds requires international efforts; birds see no borders! We are experiencing that here - on the very eastern frontier of the Western Palearctic - every day, lucky us!


Tired of migration? Resting Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.
Sandwich Tern
Slender-billed and Black-headed Gull
Little and Slender-billed Gull
Common Tern on the beach
Heron migration
Mixed flock of Purple and Grey Heron
Grey Herons
Hen Harrier at the counting station
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Caspian Tern
huge flock of Black-winged Pratincoles

Black-winged Pratincoles
Black Stork
Little Egrets
Always a pleasure - a male Pallid Harrier
Menetries Warbler in the bushes
flock of Little Gulls

Little Gulls at the beach

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