Half-season report for 2016 is out

The 9th season of Batumi Raptor Count has reached halfway! Once again we are witnessing the rush of raptor migration, eagerness to learn more on raptor identification, several surprises and some historical moments.

First half of the season was yet again a feast for Honey Buzzard migration. Even though it was the first species to pass our count stations this year we began to feel anxious by the end of August when numbers were still very low compared to previous years (“Where are the birds?”), but eventually things started to happen... big time! After a relatively slow build-up, we had our first good day of Honeys at 27th Aug with 28.000 migrants, most birds flying over Station 2. After that, the numbers started to increase even higher. Until 30th Aug when we counted more than 94.000 Honey Buzzards! Once the migration kicked off, what we were witnessing was no longer a stream: it was a wall of raptors, 5 km wide and hundreds of meters high, and our count station was right in the middle of it. Raptors all around, clicking frenzy and visiting birders in awe. Additionally we had more then 50.000 Honey Buzzards per day on 28th and 29th Aug and 2nd and 3rd Sept.

The harriers kept us waiting even longer. For some time, we speculated the reasons behind the timing of autumn migration. Eventually 30th Aug left us no reasons for speculation when the harrier migration exploded; we counted more than 1.000 Montagu’s Harrier and MonPalHen Harriers (unidentified Montagu's/Pallid/Hen Harrier) combined, coming in single, small streams or even groups of +30 individuals. The 2nd Sept and 11th Sept were also excellent days for harrier migration, with 780 and 1.060 counted harrier totals! Naturally we have observed nice migration during other mornings as well, so it all seemed to be worth the wait and the count as rewarding as ever!

As every season, we got our surprises this year as well. When the volunteers climbed up to Station 1 during first morning lights, probably they had no idea on the outcome of the day. After a slow start with famous Roller migration, these charismatic birds started to roll over Batumi in record-breaking numbers and our team counted a daily total of 447 Rollers! Biggest flocks covered more than 50 individuals. This was the best single day for Roller migration in Batumi and we were happy to write another page of BRC (Batumi Roller Count) history. Might be a matter of coincidence, but during the same day we counted more than 760 Turtle Doves, which happens to be the second highest daily total of the species in the site. These two species remain on the focus of our count as highly enjoyable species.

On 11th Sept we witnessed a complete turnover in species composition, we started to count more and more kites and other buzzards towards mid-September and that day we counted 17.000 Black Kites! With another 10.000 kites on September 13, we also started to see increasing amounts of Booted Eagles, culminating to over 500 that day! And there’s lots more to come! Other goodies of the first half include a total of 2 Dalmatian Pelicans, 7 Crested Honey Buzzards, 23 Egyptian Vultures, 37 Steppe Eagles and 83 Ospreys! We are now heading towards the most diverse phase in migration and looking forward to observe 20 raptor species in one day! Towards the end of September we start to wait for the peak migration of Steppe Buzzards and large eagles, so stay tuned and remember to check our daily totals on our raptor migration count site.

More photos and recent news on our public facebook page.

The BRC count-coordinators!

Count totals till 18th Sept 2016

Honey Buzzard: 545,769
Black Kite: 97,364
MediumRaptor: 30,869
Steppe Buzzard: 28,821
Booted Eagle: 6,371
Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier: 3,747
Levant Sparrowhawk: 3,627
Marsh Harrier: 3,612
Montagu's Harrier: 2,999
European Roller: 1,251
Lesser Spotted Eagle: 697
large eagle sp: 424
Short-toed Eagle: 395
White Stork: 383
Black Stork: 302
Osprey: 125
Pallid Harrier: 80
Steppe Eagle: 42
Egyptian Vulture: 26
Peregrine: 9
Crested Honey Buzzard: 8
Red-footed Falcon: 7
White-tailed Eagle: 5
Greater Spotted Eagle: 5
Hen Harrier: 4
Saker Falcon: 1
Total raptors: 727,094

Read on the full season report autumn 2016

2016Jasper Wehrmann