BRC 2018: August 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:

 

August 15th. Did you know these ‘Orcas’ have pale eyelids? Very adorable sleepers.

August 15th. From Ruslan’s balcony we could already enjoy migration of raptors whilst doing (mostly) administrative tasks before the start of the count. This — in essence — is not what we like to see and one of the reasons we have decided to start the count earlier in upcoming years.

 

August 18th. For the first weeks of the count we were joined by a group of Georgian falconers, providing excellent identification skills and lots of very sharp eyes to the count.

August 18th. You are never alone when counting with us. Station dog ‘Perrito’ kept us company in the first weeks.

August 18th. I’m not at all into Moths and Butterflies, but some are so obliging even I cannot escape from them. If I’m right this is a Striped Hawkmoth.

 

August 21st. Ruslan’s guesthouse not only hosts the BRC family during the season, but now also hosts a family of House Martins. The birds come back to the nest to roost during the nights.

August 21st. Juvenile Black Kites. I regret having so little proper photos of the Black Kites. They’re perhaps not considered to be the most interesting species passing in the bottleneck, but they have grown on me. At one point I hope to have a nice collection of photos to show the incredible plumage variability of this species.

 

August 22nd. One of the rare moments of rain this season. Our makeshift shelter was not able to withstand the downpour that ensued, so we had to resort to holding the tarp for a while. Luckily, there was no migration going on at that moment.

 

August 23rd. Pallas / Great Black-headed Gull, a very early record. For some reason this bird decided to fly right over our heads. Despite the crappy angle for photos, a great way to ‘bimbo’ (a bimbo = a lifer) this bird. There would be quite a few more observations of this species this autumn.

August 23rd. Adult male Pallid Harrier (photo compilation). Although the number of Pallids was very high early on, fully adult birds like this were quite rare. Instead, most birds were either juveniles or immature male and females. Surprisingly, many of the Pallids were actively moulting, something that’s highly unusual to observe this often in Batumi, as Pallid Harriers (contrary to Montagu’s) generally finish their moult before the migration commences.

 

August 24th. Injured birds are unfortunately quite common. From some angles they may look fine, but when you have a closer look… This juvenile Montagu’s Harrier (the bird on the left is the same as on the right) has most of the left wing shot. It’s a miracle it can still fly. Strong case of ‘zugunruhe’.

August 24th. One of many immature male Pallid Harriers we observed this season. It has a retained juvenile secondary in the left wing and 2 in the right wing that still have to be moulted.

 

August 25th. This bird truly scared the crap out of me when I saw it through binoculars. It was flying almost against the sun, so no plumage details were visible, but the silhouette looked very strange and resembles that of what I imagine an immature bird to look like. The photos, however, show that this is ‘just’ an adult with some moulting related problems.

August 25th. Same bird.

August 25th. Same bird.

August 25th. The largest flock of White Storks (423 birds) ever recorded by BRC.

August 25th. Showed a counter what the moon and nocturnal migration looks like in Batumi. This facial expression was guaranteed if people see birds flying in front of the full moon for the first time.

August 25th. Moonwatching turned into a popular evening activity as the season progressed.

August 25th. This is what you may end up seeing when you start peering at the moon through your scope. Note: I filmed this with my iPhone. Your eyes are able to see much more birds that the phone cannot pickup.

 

August 26th. Another immature male Pallid Harrier that’s still moulting some of its secondaries. It appears two secondaries are missing (one on both wings) and two secondaries (one on both wings) are still juvenile type.

August 26th. Montagu’s Harrier juvenile female.

August 26th. Lesser Spotted Eagle immature, one of the earliest birds. Second calendar year bird with replaced inner primaries and the typical barring throughout the secondaries all the way to the feather tips.

 

August 27th. Adult female Osprey with 2 nice Alpine Swifts circling around it.

 

August 28th. The birds are great, of course, but it’s people that keep me coming back to Batumi. Some photos from the station when we did not yet have a reconstructed shelter.

August 28th. All counters and a coordinator scanning the skies.

August 28th. Some diehards kept scanning the west side of Station 1, which was remarkably empty for most of the season. Quite strange, considering usually ‘the west is best’.

 

August 29. A luxury: Three coordinators on 1 station! One of which was taking photos rather than doing anything useful.

 

August 30th. Juvenile Purple Heron that circled in front of the station.

August 30th. Adult female Honey Buzzard.

August 30th. Terrible photo, equally terrible state of the plumage in this adult female Honey Buzzard, with 3 replaced inner primaries on right wing.

August 30th. Little stunner. Adult male Montagu’s Harrier. One day I’ll photograph one up close in beautiful light…

August 30th. When clouds cover the mountain, soaring raptors such as these Honey Buzzards are forced to fly through the bottleneck.

August 30th. Adult male Honey Buzzard. Notice that on the upperwing you can distinguish the trailing edge of the wing as well, a good feature to use for separating the sexes when you cannot see the underwing and head.

August 30th. Adult female Honey Buzzard. Quite similar to previous adult female, but a different bird. Apparently 3 replaced inner primaries on right wing and 4 on left wing.

August 30th. Lone raptor (the black dot on the right half of the image in the clouds) moving through the bottleneck in the beautiful light of evening.

August 30th. Almost every evening, when thermal activity has decreased, birds (like these Honey Buzzards) can be seen over Little Ginger (the mountaintop on the left), searching for a good tree to roost in. Unfortunately, hunters are aware of this as well…

August 30th. Overhead Honey Buzzard migration, a religious experience.

August 30th. Overhead Honey Buzzard migration.

 

August 31st. Adult male Marsh Harrier of the striking dark morph, presumably shot in the right wing. Notice the very dark body and underwing coverts, the light patch at the base of the secondaries and primaries, causing a strong contrast between the light patch and the dark trailing edge of the wing.

August 31st. Juvenile Honey Buzzard.

August 31st. Attempt at photographing a flock of overhead Bee-eaters. During the first month of the count, Bee-eaters continuously provided the background vocals. Wonderful, wonderful birds…