Posts in Batumi Raptor Count
Harriers, harriers, harriers

The last week of August and 1st week of September of the Batumi Raptor Count are great for Harriers, as the migration of Montagu's peaks and some Pallids are already in the mix. In hindsight I wish I had taken more photos of them, but in the heat of the moment, identifying and finding loose flocks of harriers is hectic enough as is. And it's definitely more enjoyable without a camera in front of your face…

Juvenile male Montagu's (Circus pygargus)

Juvenile male Pallid (Circus macrourus)

Adult male Montagu's (Circus pygargus). Truly gorgeous birds, despite the generally bad condition of the plumage by this time of year (or the typical Batumi overcast skies).

Loose flocks of ringtails that often either pop up out of the valley, like these birds, or are high in or above the streams of Honey Buzzards.

Adult male Montagu's (Circus pygargus) passing in between flocks of mainly Honey Buzzards.

And the cracker: A dark morph adult male Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus). Luckily I got to see 3 of these during my stay, but I'm still waiting for the moment one passes by close at eye level.

It's not just raptors at Batumi Raptor Count

Obviously it's not just raptors that can be seen in Batumi. Throughout the count, groups of (European) Bee-eaters provide backing vocals to the music of rapidly clicking counters. Early in the morning, when the Bee-eaters and raptors are not so active yet, migration of Turtle Doves — moving in compact groups at an incredible pace — is silent, but nevertheless very enjoyable!

Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur)

Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur) — In typical Batumi light…

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster)

Birding the Chorokhi Delta

The days before the official start of the count I explored the Chorokhi Delta with fellow travellers. While we were there perhaps a bit too early in the season to really experience the potential of the delta, the area was already chock full of birds: there were thousands of Yellow Wagtails, plenty of waders, good numbers of terns, most bushes were already filled with warblers and there was a nice diversity of raptors present. We later on discovered the big news: from this year on hunting was banned entirely in the Delta and the army was enforcing that. As this was only my first ever visit to the delta, I cannot compare the birding with previous years, but the lack of hunters sure made it an incredible birding experience!

Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

 

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio poliocephalus) were showing very nicely. Alive and kicking rather than hanging on a hunters’ belt.

Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) with some 'eastern' characteristics: white underwings, very fine streaking (not crossed) on flanks and quite pale upperwing (not on this photo)

 

Rosy Starlings (Pastor roseus

Very impressive roost movement of Yellow-Legged and Caspian Gulls. Video by Elien Hoekstra.

 

The first signs of what would be a very eventful evening in terms of weather. Out of the blue — in typical Batumi style — a massive rainstorm hit us and luckily we could be saved by a few friendly Georgians with a pickup truck. If not, surely some passports and expensive camera gear would not have survived…