Spectacular migration at the Batumi bottleneck!

Good day to you all,

as expected it has been a very busy week for the team in Batumi as the peak migration of Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus is right on time! Since the last update weather conditions changed from bright and sunny to cooler conditions on September 4th. With some rain during the nights and some low cloud cover at daytime, migrating raptors were not only numerous but they were also flying closeby. A nice bonus for our counters and students indeed!

We start on Sept 4th and 5th when Honey Buzzard migration exceeded 60.000 and 35.000 individuals respectively. On the 5th also the 2nd juvenile Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis of the season was seen whilst a fly-by of a Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo was spectacular to say the least! 

The 2nd Juvenile Steppe Eagle - Aquila nipalensis - of the season at Batumi on Sept 5th

The following day (Sept 6th) was a rainy one, halting migration greatly. Still, when the sun returned the day after another great boost off Honey Buzzards was recorded with over 48.000 ind. yesterday. A Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus lingering around the Makhindjauri counting station was a special sight as well. However, today (Sept 8th) was again a calm day as intense rainfall limited the soaring potential for broad-winged raptors.

An adult male Honey Buzzard - Pernis apivorus

So far the following impressive totals have been recorded thoughout the season: ca. 310.000 Honey Buzzards, 10.000+ Black Kites Milvus migrans, 6.000+ Montagu´s Circus pygargus and Pallid Harriers C. macrourus (mostly C. pygargus) and no less than 1.000 Rollers Coracius garrulus.

It seems the Georgian and Turkish students joining the BRC team this year have come right in time to enjoy large amounts of birds under good observational conditions.

 Determining age of Honey Buzzards is done carefully. After a while however, it might lead to a case of scope-eye ...



Clear communication in between stations is important to avoid as much double counts as possible ...

Also at Kazbegi the number of migrant raptors has been rising, though Honey Buzzard is a rather scarce species here indeed. Especially large flocks of Black Kite make up the bulk of raptor migration here so far, whilst harriers are also flying in large numbers. As expected, Pallid Harrier seems to be quite numerous here. For the counters here, a Blue-cheecked Bee-eater Merops persicus was a nice surprise in between a passing flock of European Bee-eaters M. apiaster.

Other bird news comes from the harbour in Batumi and the Chorokhi Delta. Due to mild rain at night very large numbers of passerines and wading birds can be found in the shrub during the morning hours. This has resulted in observations of a 1st yr Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka and a Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis in the harbour along with dozens of other birds. 

It is no surprise then that also the Belgian ringing team in Chorokhi has had tremendous succes during the last week. Impressive numbers of Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus, River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis and many other species have been ringed succesfully. Several hundreds of birds have been caught this way on several days but most spectacular was the record of Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata on Sept 6th. A first for Georgia!

Allthough there have been no extravagant reports of raptor shooting from the hills, hunters in the delta are proving to be a real threat to all that flies past. Species that were observed to have been shot include Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Grey-headed Purple swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio poliocephalus, Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus, Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni, and many more.

Many of these species are protected under international law. Let us hope the spectacular records of the ringing team will be enough to persuade local officials to do something about the illegal shooting of these birds. In the mean time, the youngsters from the area are as enthusiastic and curious as ever. A new generation of birders and conservationists that need to be looked after!

In this respect we are thrilled to announce that BRC is having good communications with the Georgian Centre for the Conservation of Wildlife in order to adress the conservation challenges from the region in a sustainable manner!

Another future conservationist for Georgia? With the combined efforts of BRC and GCCW, we aspire to make it happen!

As always, we will keep you posted!

Nahuamdis! Untill the next!

The BRC Team