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

Dienstag, 30. Oktober 2018

October birding at Besh Barmag by Thibaut Riviere

What a wonderful place!!!
I spent almost three weeks (2nd of October to 20th October 2018) at the famous Besh Barmag migration spot in Azerbaijan. It was an amazing experience for me. Indeed, this spot is one of the biggest places in the Western Palearctic to count birds. During my stay here, we counted no less than 771.363 birds and for me it was a total of 183 species that I have seen. 

counters at work
 I will remember this day for all of my life, the 8th of October with flocks and flocks of herons (8 species) during the day. It was a great atmosphere at dusk when a group of 63 Little Bitterns raised up of the trees and flew south together with Night Herons and Great Bitterns. I remember also thousands of Calandra Lark, Starlings, a big day with 5698 Whites Wagtails (the 6th of October), some surprises and targets for me like the Oriental Skylark that I have seen four times, the Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, first for Azerbaijan just before my departure (19th of October) found with Antony Chaillou just near the spot…. A lot of things like this but I can’t explain all of them!
The first Pallas's Leaf Warbler for Azerbaijan
A wolf running past the counting spot

Spotted Crake in the lagoon

Resting Great Bittern
Huge flock of Calandra Larks

A special dedicate to my friend Gabi staying almost all the season, a very good counter, it was a pleasure to count with you in particular the flocks of ducks when seawatching, not easy but for sure together we tried to do our best ! “Bon courage”
I also like to thank the two coordinators, Pia Fetting and Christoph Himmel for the good organization during my trip, their good mood all the days, very friendly and for their big engagement for this project, congrats! For sure, days were better thanks to our cook Miryusif, big thanks to him for the very tasty food! Finally, I would like to thank all the team, local Azeri staff, birders, counters, thanks for all!
Good luck for next counters !

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Black Kite
Long-legged Buzzard
Imperial Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Sunrise over the Caspian

Montag, 22. Oktober 2018

First half of October at Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count 2018

Text © Pia Fetting

Daily counting routine starts early © Leyla Muslim

October brought new species for the season such as Yellow-browed Warblers and Oriental Sky Lark ( as well as Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (, increasing the touch of east by that . But also the intense migration of all possible occurring heron and bittern species except Cattle Egret, continued, which makes Besh Barmag an extraordinary site for the migration of these groups. Days like the 8th of October ( with huge numbers of almost all possible the mentioned above species were experiences that will stick in one´s mind.

Migrating flock of Great White Egrets © Christoph Himmel
Great Bittern © Christoph Himmel
Yellow-browed Warbler in the bushes © Christoph Himmel

During the following days, numbers of counted birds rose rapidly with the migration of Starlings and Calandra Larks ( This caused for several days in a row the highest numbers so far of the season, with the peak on 15th of October, when 170.000 birds were counted  (
Especially the 14th  ( was characterised by big flocks of different species, like several clouds of 1000+ Rooks, or the wall of 28.000 Starlings along the shore, blocking our view to the sea. Also the passage of raptors was good that day, with several eagles and 180 Marsh Harriers, passing the counting spot in flocks and small streams.

Greater Spotted Eagle overhead © Christoph Himmel
Booted Eagle © Christoph Himmel
Peregrine chasing a massive flock of Starlings © Christoph Himmel

At the very same time, seawatch was dominated by ducks. Mixed flocks of up to six species in one, in case of beneficial wind directions sometimes close to the shore, offered good practice of duck ID in flight ( &

Mixed flock of ducks above the Caspian Sea © Christoph Himmel
...and another one © Christoph Himmel more © Christoph Himmel
Busy counters © Leyla Muslim
Never tired © Leyla Muslim
In the beginning of October, an excursion of the Baku State University visited the spot despite strong winds and thereby unpleasant weather conditions. The students listened interestedly to explanations about the discovery, development of the bird migration bottleneck and current bird counts.

Students from the Baku State University visited the counting spot © Rovshan Allahverdi
Presentations informed about the importance of the Besh Barmag bottleneck © Rovshan Allahverdi

The long-awaited observation shelter finally found its way to the counting spot. It was built and brought by people from Zarat village. With this big improvement, the count can even continue in unfavourable weather conditions. The shelter was welcomed by the counters at that time and subsequently used the day after in strong winds.

The shelter arrived © Pia Fetting
Pure excitement © Pia Fetting
Back to work © Leyla Muslim
Short-eared Owl in the dunes © Christoph Himmel

Prepared for the colder days and with the mass migration period still ahead, there surely will be more astonishing observations, numbers and unprecedented news. Stay tuned!

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