Black-winged Kite in the Chorokhi Delta
A few days ago the spring count team made another visit to the Chorokhi Delta, as the weather was unlikely to offer good migration conditions for raptors. The area right on the southern edge of Batumi is an important breeding area, stopover site for migratory birds and a hotspot for rare vagrant birds. This time the area did not disappoint once again: the BRC team found a Black-winged Kite, the 2nd individual for Georgia!
Sunday 21st, 2019: As the weather was not looking very promising on the station, we headed out for the Chorokhi delta. Right after entering the delta we found 2 Greater Spotted Eagles flying, with a possible third one next to them. The surroundings around the road provided us with Tawny Pipits and some Short-toed Larks. Further in de delta we found a stunning Whiskered Tern and Citrine Wagtails. Another hunting Greater Spotted was a welcome sight after seeing them only casually flying around.
After we came back from the river mouth, Ron realised he lost his phone somewhere. We retraced our steps towards the place Ron had slipped, thinking that it might have dropped out of his pocket at that place. Unfortunately, we were not able the retrieve the phone, but... as we were walking back to the beach, Erik — who first thought he was looking at a strange hovering Hen Harrier — suddenly exclaimed 'Grijze wouw! Grijze wouw!'. It took a second before he realised he didn't follow the protocol and shouted equally excited as before, 'Black-winged Kite!', giving the non-Dutch-speakers the much needed translation.
The bird was extremely polite and allowed us to have good views on it and to identify it as a 2nd calendar year bird of the subspecies vociferus, with the darker secondaries almost forming a trailing edge (like in Hen Harrier, hence the confusion). The closest known breeding location for this subspecies is in Israel, which is quite a distance away for a non-migratory bird. We enjoyed the bird for a couple of minutes while it was hovering just a few meters away, then it flew of out of sight.
There are very few records of this species in Georgia, and the species has not been seen from our count stations during the raptor counts (but is high on the wish list). According to this article about Black-winged Kite occurence in the WP (Ławicki & Perlman, 2017) the breeding population (of the subspecies vociferus) is increasing, and it is becoming more likely. As for Georgia, according to this article, it is only the 4th individual of this species in Georgia. But we doubt this information, as there was only one individual in the georgia.observation.org database observed by several observers. We checked this information at the source, and Alex Rukhaia confirmed he is not aware of other records then this single one in september-october 2013 that lingered around Ninotsminda for several days. The one individual mentioned in the Dutch Birding publication, in summer 2014, is probably a mistake. So according to our knowledge, this is only the 2nd record in Georgia.
It goes without saying that we concluded it was a very good day in the delta and at dinner we enjoyed it even more with some famous Georgian wine.
Ławicki, Ł. & Perlman, Y. (2017). Black-winged Kite in the Western Palearctic: increase in breeding population, vagrancy, and range. Dutch Birding. 39. 1-12.