Thanks to all volunteers & staff
Over the past two weeks you elected a new Board, which will soon start preparations for a splendid 2013 edition of BRC.
This also means that my two years of leading BRC have come to an end. From now on, Johannes will be taking over as President. I would like to use this occasion to thank everybody who has been involved in BRC during this time, and highlight some of the achievements we've made over the past two years.
One of the most significant decisions ever for BRC has been to abandon the - rather dodgy ;-) - accommodation in Makhinjauri, and to move up to Sakhalvasho, where we have been welcomed with real Georgian hospitality. Therefore, my first thanks goes to Ruslan, Manuchar, Nuri, Merabi, their families, and everyone in Sakhalvasho who has been supporting our project in one way or another!
Living closer to the count station has given our raptor count a whole new dimension. Since 2011, we've managed to increase the quality drastically by involving dedicated count coordinators. I would like to thank all of them, especially Mael Sinoir, Simon Cavailles, Arthur Green and Jasper Wehrmann. The enormous amount of work done by all counters is greatly appreciated, and clearly has paid off. This year's count was full of surprises: 179.000 Honey buzzards on a single day, over A MILLION raptors in a season! Who would have thought that was possible when we started the project in 2008?
2011 saw several brand new initiatives, which were further consolidated in 2012. Rozita Aghamalyan and Mary Nasilyan came up with the idea to organize classes for local school children on raptor ecology. Under the skilful guidance of Siranush Tumanyan and Wouter Vansteelant, they developed an inspiring set of interactive courses on birds and migration ecology. In addition, the high investment in education during 2012 has resulted in two successful student exchanges, and the publication of a booklet for children about migration ecology. The latter is the outcome of months of hard work by Jenny Eikestam, Johanna Yourstone and Zoltan Turny. I would like to emphasize the crucial role Wouter has played in coordinating our education program.
Another new focus for BRC has been the ecotourism project. With the hope of generating some benefits for the local community and attracting more people to our project, we started to organize 'home stays' in local people's houses. This has been running well and growing fast, mainly thanks to the strong management by Lela Bolqvadze and the support by Marcin Zaremba.
And, of course, 2012 was the year of our Bird Festival, the official celebration of five years of counts in Batumi! Those who were there will agree that Johannes did a fantastic job putting this four-day event together! Johannes also took care of our finances during the past years.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Alex Rukhaia, who recently started working for BRC, and who has always been there for us when we needed his support when confronted with the Georgian bureaucracy, and Anna Sandor & Stijn Baeten, our interns for 2012, who helped us with so many things.
Sadly enough, BRC 2012 is now over. However, we hope to see many of you back at the 2013 spring count!