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

Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016

Summary of the days before the bird camp 2016

Text © Pia Fetting 

This blogpost covers the time between the 4th and 16th of September before the BirdCamp at Besh Barmag started. During these days Chris and I were in Azerbaijan, later joined by Micha. We mainly did migration counts (the numbers are available on trektellen: at Besh Barmag and went to some other places on excursions.

Dunes at Besh Barmag © Pia Fetting

When we arrived at Besh Barmag in the beginning of September, temperatures were still above 30 degrees celsius and there was not much visible migration going on. Unfortunately, the lagoons were completely dried out, but there were lots of Red-breasted and Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroats and several other species of warblers in the shrubs around. For waders and other waterfowl, of course, the conditions could have been better. The rubbish dump of the local chicken factory provided food for numerous gulls and raptors, Rooks and Starlings. Among them we observed up to 20 Black Vultures, some Imperial Eagles and single Black Storks together with several Marsh Harries and Black Kites.

Red-breasted Flycatcher © Christoph Himmel
Field camp © Christoph Himmel
On one afternoon we went for a brief visit close to the village of Shabran. Red-footed Falcons, Lesser Grey Shrikes, European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were roosting on the wires everywhere along the roads and finally we found some waterbirds. Including, 11 species of waders, two first calendar year and one adult Collared Pratincole, 130 Little Egrets, 160 White-winged Black and 30 Whiskered Terns feed and rested on the mud flats of drained fish ponds.

Collared Pratincole © Christoph Himmel
Heuglin's Gull © Pia Fetting
Lesser Kestrel © Pia Fetting
Our main ambition, however, was doing migration counts and numbers of migrating birds and species diversity increased day by day. Before noon Yellow Wagtails, Starlings with still some Rosy Starlings among them, Barn Swallows and Sand Martins were the most numerous species in the coastal plain. In the afternoon we switched to the dunes for seawatching. Here, different species of dabbling ducks (like Shoveler, Pintail, Garganey, Teal) and terns (like Common, White-winged Black, Whiskered, Gull-billed and Caspian Tern) dominated. The most exciting day was on 15th of September (Link: as migration already was great, but we also saw 11 Sociable Lapwings migrating just above our heads.

Seawatching © Pia Fetting
A single Sandwich Tern between Gull-billed and White-winged © Christoph Himmel
Squacco Heron at the beach © Christoph Himmel
Another trip was to the steppes of Gobustan and Shirvan National Park, where we found the anticipated Wheatear – species (Finsch´s, Black-eared melanoleuca, Isabelline) and had close views to some Ménétries´s Warbler. Additionally about 15 Black Francolin showed up in Shirvan NP quite well and even a Purple Swamphen appeared for some seconds at Flamigo Lake.

Finch's Wheatear © Christoph Himmel
Black-eared Wheatear © Pia Fetting
Isabelline Wheatear © Christoph Himmel
Black Francolin © Christoph Himmel
At the Flamingo Lake © Pia Fetting
The day when Micha arrived we drove up to the mountaintop of Besh Barmag, which not only provided a great panorama but also brought new species. On the way up we spotted a late juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a Pied Wheatear welcomed us at the top. Blue Rock Thrushes were around, a pair of Rock Nuthatch displayed in front of us and we saw Egyptian Vultures plus Long-legged Buzzard on eyelevel. Further in the Candy – Cane Mountains at the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus we found tasty figs and surprisingly high numbers of Chukar: in total 36 birds were counted here!

Blue Rock Thrush © Christoph Himmel
Fantastic view from the hilltop © Pia Fetting
Birding in the Candy Canes © Pia Fetting
Chukars © Christoph Himmel
Yummi... © Pia Fetting

Just the day the BirdCamp started temperatures dropped and we had the first rain since our arrival. However, for the arriving participants this was nothing to worry about since the change in weather conditions increased migration. The reports on the BirdCamp can be found in older posts.