Birding in the Chorokhi Delta

The first of september 2013 was a day that will be long remembered for us, four lucky BRC counters that decided to spend their day off in the Chorokhi delta.


Not because of the weather though. When we arrived at 8 am the rain poured down already and it wouldn't really stop. The heavy rainfall of the night before resulted in much higher water levels than normal, making an otherwise easy walk now a challenging exercise, and after one hour we were completely soaked, cold and trembling, even considering to go back. Given the fact that it couldn't get any worse we decided to give it a try and worked our way to the beach. A day that started with rain ended with rain, but also with a lot of birds.

Despite the heavy rain and our limited use of optics, the bushes on our way to the beach produced good numbers of passerines. These including several olivaceous warblers, barred warbler, wryneck, shrikes, whinchats and (hemprichii) stonechats. In the open areas in between these bushes we found ortolan buntings, yellow and citrine wagtails and a flock of 40 short-toed larks. In one of the flooded areas we found our first two broad-billed sandpipers, several wood sandpipers and a nice flock of 25 little gulls. When we arrived at the beach, one of the first birds we found was a beautiful though rain-soaked black-eared wheatear. During a brief intermission in the rain, we decided to try our luck over the sea. This was very productive, with 4 arctic skuas, 75 garganeys, a red-necked grebe with some great crested grebes and an astonishing 674 yelkouan shearwaters in two time frames of 30 min!

Walking north we flushed 3 little bitterns from the small bushes on the beach, as well as lots of willow warblers, whitethroats, wheatears, wagtails and a great reed warbler. Even more spectacular were the lesser whitethroat, 5 hoopoes, 3 nightjars and 1 roller that we saw coming in from the sea. Good numbers of yellow wagtail were migrating south, with 300 of them in a five-minute frame only. The river mouth was very interesting, with 5 additional broad-billed sandpipers and a terek sandpiper in a nice mixed flock of waders. A huge flock of 400 white-winged terns400 little terns, 30 gull-billed terns, several common terns, whiskered terns and a couple of caspian terns was continuously flying around. The air was filled with mixed groups of up to 110 greenshanks, 90 wood sandpipers, 100s of calidris sandpipers, 22 night herons, tens of grey and purple herons and much more.


The downside of this nice day (besides the pouring rain and fogged up optics) was the presence and activity of hunters. We counted 194 shots during our time in the delta and saw at least a dozen hunters. Several herons were flying round with broken legs or damaged wings. The most heart-breaking part was the moment when we had to euthanize a ringed plover laying on the beach, wounded from a gun shot.

This day showed us the importance of the Chorokhi delta as a stopover place for a great variety of birds. Although it may be cold and wet, Chorokhi delta may be very well worth a visit on a rainy day!

Wouter van Pelt, Rasmus Elleby, Zackarias Svensson and Filip Collit

    Passing Staying Comment
Shoveler Anas clypeata 3    
Wigeon Anas penelope 2    
Garganey Anas querquedula 75    
Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis   2  
Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus 6 2  
Red-necked grebe Podiceps grisegena 1    
Yelkouan shearwater Puffinus yelkouan 674   Passed during approx. one hour
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo   4  
Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus   3  
Night heron Nycticorax nycticorax   35 13 + 22, probably 2 birds shot
Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides   2  
Little egret Egretta garzetta 6 10  
Grey heron Ardea cinerea 50 10  
Purple heron Ardea purpurea 10 20  
Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus 1 2 One immature male coming in from the sea
Montagu's/Pallid harrier Circus pygragus/macrourus   2  
Honey buzzard Pernis apivorus 1   Coming in from the sea
Hobby Falcon subbuteo 2    
Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus 1    
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus   9  
Ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula   3 1 shot bird
Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola 35    
Turnstone Arenaria interpres   1  
Dunlin Calidris alpina   100  
Broad billed sandpiper Limicola falcinellus   7  
Little stint Calidris minuta   24  
Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola   90  
Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus   10  
Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos   1  
Terek sandpiper Xenus cinereus   1  
Greenshank Tringa nebularea   110  
Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa   9  
Whimbrel Numerius phaeopus   1  
Ruff Philomachus pugnax   5  
Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus   4 juv
Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus   1  
Slender-billed gull Chroicocephalus genei   1  
Yellow-legged gull Larus michahellis   2000  
Little gull Hydrocoloeus minutus   25  
Little tern Sternula albifrons   400  
Gull-billed tern Gelochelidon nilotica   30  
Common tern Sterna hirundo   10  
Caspian tern Hydroprogne caspia   4  
White-winged tern Chlidonias leucopterus   400  
Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida   8  
Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur   14  
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus   3 Coming in from the sea
Hoopoe Upupa epops   9 5 coming in from sea
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis   4  
Roller Coracias garrulus   2 1 coming in from the sea
Wryneck Jynx torquilla   1  
Shorttoed lark Calandrella brachydactyla   40 large flock
Sand martin Riparia riparia   200  
Barn swallow Hirondo rustica 250 120  
House martin Delichon urbicum   30  
Tree pipit Anthus trivialis   10  
White wagtail Motacilla alba   50  
Yellow wagtail Motacilla flaca 300 150 flava/thunbergi/feldegg. 300 birds passing in only 5 minutes
Citrine wagtail Motacilla citreola   10  
Trush nightingale Lusciana lusciana   15  
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe   50  
Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe melanoleuca   1  
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra   15  
Siberian stonechat Saxicola maurus hemprichii   3  
Barred warbler Sylvia nisoria   1  
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla   5  
Whitethroat Sylvia communis   15  
Lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca   2  
Great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus   4  
Olivecious warbler Iduna pallida   5  
Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus   20  
Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata   1  
Great tit Parus major   2  
Penduline tit Remiz pendulinus   1  
Lesser grey shrike Lanius minor   1  
Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio   50  
Hooded crow Corvus cornix   35  
Golden oriole Oriolus oriolus   3  
Ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana   16  
Shots   194    
Shot birds        
Ringed plover     1  
Night heron     1  
Purple heron     1  
Chorokhi DeltaAdmin