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

Donnerstag, 29. Juni 2017

Documentary of the Bird Camp Besh Barmag

This documentary shows the activities of the latest bird migration camp at Besh Barmag bottleneck in April 2017 and was kindly produced by an excellent team of

Dienstag, 27. Juni 2017

Volunteers needed: Bird ringing at Besh Barmag

© Emil Lundahl & Pia Fetting

The Besh Barmag bottleneck near Siyezen (coordinates: 40°59'N, 49°13'E) has recently been identified as a major flyway, where high concentrations of migrating birds are funneled through a narrow coastal plain between the Greater Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The existence of a bottleneck was proven in extensive field studies in 2007, 2011 and 2012. These studies mainly focussed on visual field observations, hence, several bird species are often failed to notice. In the coastal plain, a woodland with some freshwater lagoons is surrounded by inhabitable steppe and therefore acts as an ‘oasis’ for resting and re-fuelling migrants.
By using mist-nets, data of elusive species (e.g. warblers), which could not be studied by migration counts, can be obtained. The area is expected to be an excellent mist-netting site, but except from occasional, nevertheless promising short-term ringing, no comprehensive research has been done yet. The method of mist-netting would be quite new to Azerbaijan, thus several new discoveries regarding species composition and phenology, but also new species for the country can be expected.
After a long period of development, bird ringing during the entire autumn season will finally take place this year. To broaden the preliminary knowledge of this bottleneck of global importance, our main target will be to catch and ring as many birds as possible. But temporarily there will also be others doing migration counts and we will have some time for birding as well.

So come to Azerbaijan with me and help to explore one of the least known migration hotspots at the edge of the Western Palaearctic!

This invitation goes to everybody who is interested in bird migration and ringing and has at least some experience in one of these topics. Considering the long journey, you should be able to stay for two weeks at least.

We will set up mist-nets in the woodlands and mainly catch birds. Mist-netting will daily start at sunrise for at least six hours. Depending on the circumstances (number of present people, wheather, migration etc.) this timeframe will be extended. The freetime can be used for bird watching and excursions in the surroundings.

The fieldwork will be between mid August and mid November 2017. This timescale is a minimum; depending on the number of volunteers, weather, migration etc. and it might start earlier/ end later.

Where to stay?
The bottleneck area is quite remote, there is neither electricity nor running water available. On site we will build up a real field camp, sleep in tents and look after oneselves. The site is optimal for camping; the ground is soft and dry, the forest provides fuel wood and the Caspian Sea for swimming is close by. We also will have a car to buy groceries and electricity via a solar panel on its roof.

What to bring?
The participants have to bring all their personal equipment (including a tent and sleeping bag) with them. You need your binoculars and if available telescope and photo camera. Also bring some dishes, a cup etc.

Flights to Baku are coducted for example by Turkish and Azerbaijan Airlines. For the board you should calculate about 40 € per week. Transportation between the airport and the survey area can be arranged by a local travel agency for about 50 €. This agency can also organise visa for about 85 €.


Besh Barmag in September 2016 © Pia Fetting

Sonntag, 25. Juni 2017

Besh Barmag Bird Migration Counts 4-18 November 2017

You have probably heard about Batumi Raptor Count in Georgia, but do you know Besh Barmag in Azerbaijan? Where Batumi is situated at the western end of the Caucasus, Besh Barmag is its counterpart at the eastern end. A bottleneck for migrating birds between the Caucasus mountains and the Caspian Sea that is just being explored, at the easternmost edge of the Western Palaearctic. Join us!
Besh Barmag is situated 90km north of the capital Baku and is one of the most impressive migration watch points in the Western Palearctic but still hardly known to European birders. Millions of passerines, up to 150.000 Little Bustards, tens of thousands of herons, Pygmy Cormorants, waterfowl and waders, thousands of Dalmatian Pelicans and also a great variety of raptors (up to 20 species in a day) pass the narrow coastal plain each season. The site offers great birding possibilities with a wide natural steppe, woodlands full of resting passerines and great views over the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus foothills.
Some possible species in early November: Lesser White-fronted Goose, Pygmy Cormorant, Ferrugineus Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Great White Egret, Dalmatian Pelican, Black Vulture, Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Great Spotted Eagle, Golden Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Hen Harrier, Saker, Peregrine, Long-legged Buzzard, Little Bustard, Dotterel, Pallas´s Gull, interesting Larus complex, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, White-winged Lark, Oriental Skylark, Richards Pipit, Asian Buff-bellied Pipit, Caspian Stonechat, Moustached Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Penduline Tit, Pine Bunting. Good chance of eastern vagrants with eg Taiga Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Little Bunting and Isabelline Shrike seen.
Now is your chance to join us for one or two weeks of low-cost birding adventure and exciting migration studies during 4-18 November 2017! We will stay in a small hotel nearby and do daily counts at the watch point and in the process also train young Azeri naturalists in bird identification and counting skills. There will also be additional excursions to other areas like the Greater Caucasus or the famous Shirvan National Park, both of which are a few hours drive away.
You buy your own air ticket (f.ex. Turkish Airlines, starting from 250€ return trip from many European cities, see ) and online tourist visa (80€) and on site we share transport, accommodation and food. Total cost per person an estimated 700€ for one week and 950€ for two weeks.
Interested? Contact leader Kai Gauger and read more about previous birding trips to Besh Barmag at our web