This year in May/June 2010 we did trips with two groups from Germany. With rented Landcruisers we did the 'classic' routes including the Greater Caucasus, the eastern lowland, the coast and the Talysh Mountains.
Starting in Baku on May 20th we went north along the coast with a stop on Cape Gilazi, where there were six Greater Sandplovers at the beach. In the semi desert we had many Collared Pratincoles, Lesser Short-toed Larks and Isabeline Wheatears. Some scanning for migrating raptors on Besh Barmag the next day already produced a mega, the first Crested Honey Buzzard for Azerbaijan was circling among some Europeans. The wadi shrubs in the Candy Cane Mountains were full of resting migrant songbirds, mainly Marsh Warblers. Among breeding birds we had Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrike, Pallid and Menetries's Warbler, Rufous Bush Robin and a nice male Montagues Harrier. In the hills several Calandra Larks and Tawny Pipits were singing.
|Greater Sand Plover at Cape Gilazi, by Michael Heiß|
|Candy Cane mountains on the way to Alti Agach|
We went further to Quba and the Xinaliq region. We had the usual flocks of Red-fronted Serins, ochourus-Black Redstarts and Alpine Swifts above the canyon and a couple of singing Green Warblers. Several Griffon Vulture where sitting in the colony in Gudialchay Valley and we also saw single Black, Egyptian and Bearded Vultures. Along the road there were many Ortolan and Rock Buntings, Stonechat and a superb singing male Rock Thrush. On hay meadows around the villages dozens of Commen Rosefiches were feeding.
|Griffon Vulture near Qala Xudat, by Kai Gauger|
As usual there were many Snowfinches and Rock Sparrows arournd Xinaliq and we also saw Asia Minor Twite and Shore Lark. At about 2.800 masl we got some nice shots of Caucasian Snowcock and saw several Güldenstadt's Redstarts. Two Great Rosefinches were unfortunately only flying by. Another highlight were two Crimson-winged Finches, which we only recently discovered at this only known place in the Greater Caucasus. A Wallcreeper and several Alpine Accentors completed the species list for Xinaliq.
|Habitat of Güldenstadt's Redstart and Great Rosefinch, by Kai Gauger|
|Caucasian Snowcock at Qizil Gaya, by Michael Heiß|
We changed to the Laza valley where the weather was unexpectedly nice. Just the other morning we got good views of one ad and two second year male Caucasian Black Grouse. Around the resort there were many coutellii-Water Pipits, Red-fronted Serins, Twites and Common Rosefinches and we also had big flocks of Choughs with few Alpines among them. There were an Alpine Accentor, a Ring Ouzel and some singing Caucasian Chiffchaffs and Green Warblers along the rock wall above Laza. On the opposite site of the valley we spotted a group of about a dozen Caucasian Turs grazing on the flanks of Mount Shahdag.
|Zuvar resort and grouse lack in the background, by Kai Gauger|
|Alpine Accentor, by Kai Gauger|
We continued our trip with a short vistit in the Nabran region to look for Semi-collared Flycatchers wich are quite common here. In the evening there were several Nighjars and Scops Owls around.
In Alti Agach the gravel bed of the river was great with Pied, Eastern Black-eared and Finsch's Wheatear next to each other. We had several Booted, Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagles.
The next day we continued south to Gobustan, were many Rose-coloured Starling were flying around. We saw young Lanner Falcons at two locations, a flock of 16! Great Sand Plovers and two Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
|Black-headed Bunting in Gobustan, by Michael Heiß|
The Shirvan National Park held another highlight with the first Azerbaijan breeding record of Red-footed Falcon at the entrance of the sanctuary. Pallid and Menetries's Warblers were singing in the shrubs and a Scops Owl was roosting in the entrance of its nest hole. Two Black Francolins showed well on the way to the lake. There we had the expected Purple Gallinule, two male Little Bitterns and a couple of other wetland species. Just a few days before Mario Camici from Switzerland saw an Oriental Pratincole close to the scientific centre, another first record! A great non-birding observation was a Wolf chasing a young Goitered Gazelle.
|Goitered Gazelles in Shirvan NP, by Kai Gauger|
|Scops Owl in Shirvan, by Kai Gauger|
We followed the highway south to Masalli, where we found some new sites for Shikra, which was also breeding in the garden of our resort. It seems that really every patch of wood in the Lenkoran lowland holds this species! Other birds in the lowland wood were Syrian Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tits, Golden Orioles and a Hobby.
|Male Shikra near Masalli, by Kai Gauger|
The afternoon we spend in Kizil Agach where we saw many Black-crowned Night , Squacco and Purple Herons. There were seven species of tern (White-winged, Wiskered, Little, Caspian, Gull-billed, Sandwich and Common Tern), Slender-billed Gull, Kentish and Ringed Plover and two Terek Sandpipers. On the way to our reort in the forest we visited the colony of Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters in Liman, with some dozens of birds.
|Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in Liman, by Michael Heiß|
The next morning we started early to get to the Zuvand. On the way through the canyon we saw a superb male Blue Rock Thrush at the usual site behind the bridge. There were also Rock Sparrows, Finsch's and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts around. Two Golden Eagles were soaring above the ridge and two Long-legged Buzzards were carrying branch to their aerie. Just after reaching the upland we had two singing Bimaculated Larks and several Pale Rock Finches. In the floodplains there were the usual Cetti's Warblers, Syrian and Green Woodpeckers, Common Whitethroats and Red-backed Shrikes.
|Zuvand semi desert and floodplain, by Kai Gauger|
|Pale Rock Finch in Zuvand, by Michael Heiß|
The second day in Zuvand we spend and around Mistan where we had great observations of two Crimson-winged Finches and White-throated Robin, the most sought after species at this site. Other nice birds were several Barred Warblers, Ortolan and Rock Buntings, Alpine Accentor, variegata-Stonechats, Rock Thrush and Ring Ouzel.
Alltogether this was a rewarding trip with nearly 200 species and great sightings. We are looking forward to the next spring season!