BRC 2018: October Photo & Video Report

It’s now been three months ago that I returned to The Netherlands from coordinating the Batumi Raptor Count of 2018. It has been an amazing season, with highly unusual phenology, but lots and lots of fantastic birds and people. In a few weeks we will officially open the call for counters for next year’s count, so be sure to keep an eye on our website.

During the season I have taken thousands of photos. Since that would take days to categorise (like I have done for previous seasons), I have decided to simply compile the best and/or most interesting photos per month from August 15th til October 19th. I hope this will give you an idea of what you can experience if you count with us, coordinate or visit as a tourist. However, the most complete overview of the past season, which will also go into detail about things not photographed, can be found in the Autumn Report of 2018 published on the BRC website.


I recommend going through the Photo & Video Reports in chronological order:


October 1st. Counters see the sun rise every morning. It requires waking up early, but more often than not it’s totally worth it.

October 1st. Lesser Spotted Eagle (sub)adult.

October 1st. Juvenile Honey Buzzard.

October 1st. Immature Steppe Buzzard (see the retained juvenile secondaries and outer primaries).

October 1st. Juvenile Steppe Eagle approaching in the distance. A beautifully sand-coloured individual.

October 1st. Same bird.

October 1st. Same bird.


October 4th. Quite dark adult female Marsh Harrier.

October 4th. Same bird. Underwing quite dark as well, especially flight feathers lacking warm coloration and showing signs of limited barring.

October 4th. Immature male Marsh Harrier.

October 4th. Immature male Marsh Harrier.

October 4th. Adult female Pallid Harrier. An individual with very limited barring in the hand.

October 4th. Typical rufous coloration of Steppe Buzzards.


October 6th. Small flock of Black Storks over Little Ginger.

October 6th. Plumage variety within juvenile Honey Buzzards is incredible. Everything from super dark to super light birds shows up in the bottleneck. Some plumage types often give the impression an Osprey is coming, others are Bald Eagle like. Although wing barring is generally quite prominent, this bird has surprisingly thin bars.

October 6th. Flock of Steppe Buzzards. Many SBs showed interesting behaviour this day, by flying progressively higher as the day went on, showing absolutely no sign of decreasing their altitude due to decreasing thermal activity. Not sure what was going on there…


October 7th. We took part in the EuroBirdwatch, so I went to the station much earlier than usual. Right at the moment I arrived at the top I heard the magical ‘grus grus’ sound. It doesn’t get better than this… In the remaining days of the count we would luckily hear that more often.

October 7th. Stock Doves rushing in small groups through the bottleneck. Unfortunately they often get shot. Accidentally had my shutter speed a little too slow for these rapid birds, but I guess it turned out OK.

October 7th. Juvenile White-tailed Eagle, probably replacing some accidentally lost secondaries on the right wing.

October 7th. Apart from the pale head, this is quite a dark juvenile Honey Buzzard. At a distance, this often very shortly gives a sort of Bald Eagle-like impression when the contrast between light head and dark rest of the body is emphasised.

October 7th. Immature male Lesser Kestrel, aged by the juvenile outer primaries and retained juvenile (barred) secondaries.


October 8th. Typical low-altitude, loosely organized, early morning migration of Black Kites.

October 8th. Counters counting a stream of Black Kites in the west.

October 8th. ‘Right Antennas’ is in the background, one of the most important landmarks on the west side of Station 1.

October 8th. Cormorants, really quite scarce in the bottleneck during the 2018 season. Probably we can count the number of birds that passed on 2 hands.


October 9th. Common Cranes.

October 9th. Another sub par shot of an Imperial and once again a juvenile.

October 9th. Juvenile Steppe Eagle. This birds has very little ‘kink’ in the wing.

October 9th. Boom! That’s more like it. Still a crappy shot, but my first ‘fulvescens’ type Greater Spotted Eagle. A juvenile. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the birds’ upper side, which is equally striking to say the least. The other bird is probably a Steppe Buzzard, but of the variety that is going to make separation from Common Buzzards very, very hard.


October 10th. Absolutely terrible light in this photo, but it emphasises the incredible diversity in wingshapes in Black Kites. Everything from rectangular to almost ringtail-like narrow-winged seems possible…

October 10th. Non-juvenile dark morph Booted Eagle with very limited headlights. Remember the immature Black Kite from the September post? See under September 16th how similar these birds are proportionately.

October 10th. Adult female Eurasian Sparrowhawk. One of the countless birds we had seen migrate through the bottleneck in October…

October 10th. And an adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

October 10th. Photo compilation of a juvenile dark morph Booted Eagle. A gorgeous bird!

October 10th. Photo by Diego Jansen. Very strange eagle. Plumage is very pale and blotchy, with underwing coverts lighter than remiges. Structurally a Greater Spotted and it could just be an aberrant plumage, but it’s hard to exclude some hybrid genes (especially at this distance).

October 10th. Older immature or possibly subadult Greater Spotted Eagle, still showing some light undertail feathers.

October 10th. Photo by Diego Jansen. Subadult or young adult Steppe Eagle, showing a clearly serrated dark trailing edge to the wing, but still many light feathers in the greater coverts.

October 10th. Aaaaand… another crappy shot of an Imperial and again just a juvenile bird. At least we’re starting to see some color…

October 10th. Juvenile Red-footed Falcon.


October 11th. Well, hello there! Juvenile Black Kite observing its observers.

October 11th. Adult Steppe Buzzard of the rufous morph, probably the only morph that can reliably be separated from Common Buzzards outside of the normal range. Unfortunately this morph, to this extent as shown in this individual, is not as common as I hoped.

October 11th. That’s more like it. Still very distant, but an adult Imperial Eagle is quite a nice observation in the bottleneck, with only a few birds seen every season.

October 11th. Adult Short-toed Eagle with stunning eyes.

October 11th. Juvenile Short-toed Eagle passing Station 1 low on the westside. A tricky altitude to fly at, with hunters along the ridge during intense migration and inclement weather. This bird made it through fine, though.

October 11th. Juvenile dark morph Booted Eagle. This bird, too, made it through safely.


October 12th. Sometimes the roles are reversed and it’s Accipiters that are harassed by other birds, like this presumably shot Eurasian Sparrowhawk chased by a Hooded Crow.

October 12th. Immature Greater Spotted Eagle. A bird with very clear barring in the remiges and interesting pattern on the undertail coverts.

October 12th. Juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle with fault bars in the remiges and tail, an indicator of possible nutrient deficiencies during some phases of feather development.

October 12th. Not quite sure of this one. Very dark, short-tailed adult bird. Wing shape and hand (short and rounded P4) most in line with a Lesser Spotted.

October 12th. Dark morph Booted Eagle (adult).

October 12th. Common Crane calling whilst soaring amongst eagles in a kettle that was almost overhead.


October 13th. Adult Steppe Buzzard. Typical bird.

October 13th. Steppe Buzzard juvenile. Another typical bird.

October 13th. These little buggers make scanning the sky on some days a real pain.

October 13th. Bush cricket spec? Impressively large.

October 13th. Crappy record shot of an adult male Honey Buzzard. Shape of the left wing is strange, probably due to an injury. A large proportion of the late Honey Buzzards has issues. I’ve seen all kinds of wing shapes, with some birds having one wing bend downwards and the other wing bend upwards unnaturally. But they will continue migrating nevertheless. Zugunruhe…

October 13th. Juvenile Short-toed Eagle. These birds will just refuse to look downwards.

October 13th. Adult Greater Spotted Eagle. Only a hint of carpal crescents. Not a very large hand, but still a reasonably long P4.

October 13th. Probably an immature Greater Spotted Eagle.


October 14th. Lovely flock of Common Cranes, truly sublime migrants. A group I will never forget, because I saw two birds plummet from the skies when they met Georgian hunters on their way south. A horrific sight.

October 14th. The same group, right before two birds perished…

October 14th. Another flock of Common Cranes, later on the day, popping out of the clouds.

October 14th. A flock of White Storks quite late in the season.

October 14th. Steppe Buzzard juvenile. Very cold toned plumage, with the exception of some rufous-y feathers at the leading edge of the arm.

October 14th. Immature Greater Spotted Eagle. Probably 3+ cy, because of two moult fronts visible in the primaries (see especially left wing)?

October 14th. Immature Steppe Eagle. Bird should be a 3cy, with most primaries and many secondaries replaced, but plumage is still quite neat. This is probably the kind of Steppe we struggle to age at a distance: would it be a rough looking juvenile, or is it an immature?

October 14th. Oh my… (Juvenile Imperial Eagle)

October 14th. Could it be that this time..? (Juvenile Imperial Eagle)

October 14th. Oh yes! Finally! What. A. Bird!

October 14th. Best bird of the season for me, clearly. I couldn’t wish for better views as it passed just over us. Luckily I didn’t screw up my camera settings either, so I now have a nice collection of pin sharp juvenile Imperial images.

October 14th. When looking up from viewing the photos of the juvenile above, I noticed a bird was trying to sneak past. Apparently the juvenile was flying together with a much more experienced 5th plumage Imperial. Although not the nicest plumage, obviously a much rarer bird to see on migration.

October 14th. Same bird.


October 15th. In the legendary ‘green machine’, a 30+ year old Moskvitch, which is still capable of driving all the way up to Station 2.

October 15th. Juvenile Honey Buzzard. Is it clear I can’t get enough of them by now? :-)

October 15th. Black Storks.


October 16th. The final day of the count. Nice sunrise, looking in the direction of Station 2 and Little Ginger.

October 16th. Lovely adult male Merlin (photo compilation).


October 18th. We spent the day birding in Mtirala National Park. Rather than living up to its name (Mtirala literally means ‘crying’ if I’m right), it was — like the whole region — quite dry when we visited. ALthough we didn’t see too much, it was great to spend a day here away from the counting sites.

October 18th. Mtirala National Park.

October 18th. Caucasian Salamander.

October 18th. Slug of some kind.

October 18th. Searching for Dippers near the Mtirala NP visitor center.

October 18th. White-throated Dipper of the caucasicus subspecies. I had some plans to photograph it in a specific way, but the birds (we saw quite a few) were not cooperative enough, so here is just a simple evidence shot.


October 19th. The final day of my stay we spent in the Chorokhi Delta. It was mostly empty already, unsurprising given the constantly nice weather for the whole season. There were a few dozens of Black Kites on the beach.

October 19th. Occasionally they would try to catch some fish from the sea that were close to the surface. The success rate appeared to be quite low…

October 19th. But apparently the success rate is sufficiently high to have a go at it… and succeed.

October 19th. Om nom nom…


The photos of October 19th conclude a fantastic two months in Georgia, an experience I will never forget. In fact, I’m planning to return in 2019 and coordinate again. Want to join as a counter or coordinator? Keep an eye on the BRC website and Facebook page for announcements.