Posts in 2013
End of BRC autumn count 2013

BRC's monitoring of migrating raptors autumn 2013 is over! Yesterday, the 16th of October, was the final day of our monitoring program. In total, from both count stations together 1.229.199 raptors were counted this fall. This might be a new season record, although the data is not filtered yet on double counts.

After the strong flight in the first days of October, that made the count surpass the million, migration slowed down. The volunteers were treated with more slow paced migration, and had plenty of time to enjoy the different eagles. Especially the Imperial eagles migrated quite late this year. Strikingly, Steppe Buzzards waited for the last day to outnumber Honey Buzzards. This year we counted 445.084 of them. And as it was a last day present, a Golden Eagle flew over station two. An detailed season overview will follow soon.

big word of thanks should go to all people that contributed to this count. All this would not have been possible without the many volunteers that engaged themselves to work long days at the count stations. Especially to our three count coordinators Simon Cavailles, Clement Rollant and Rafael Benjumea. Respect for their day to day motivation, keeping up a high quality  count the full two months!  Special thanks to Amelie Armand, Daniel Towers, Florian Jacobs and Romain Riols, who assisted us during almost the entire season and were the backbone of our count team. Of course, a project like this stands out due to its meticulous preparation. Many thanks to Arthur Green, who was instrumental in setting up the monitoring, tuned the protocol and did a tremendous job selecting and communicating with the count volunteer team. Thanks to Dries Engelen, who took care of the practical preparation as an intern and his help during the first days of the count. And of course, big thanks to all others who volunteered in the count: Iva Sostaric, Bilgecan Şen, Pelin Yalçınoğlu, Matthias Lehmann, Claire Stavaux, Filip Collet, Wouter van Pelt, Rasmus Elleby, Zackarias Svensson, Albert de Jong, Simon Vyncke, Paul French, Aki Aintila, Dieter Coelembier, Kalle Meller, Jan Ranson, Csaba Tölgyesi, Marius Karlonas, Fabian Binard, Filiep T'jollyn, Jeroen Bossens, Olivier Dochy, Rien van  Wijk, David Herman, Vladislav Rudovskiy, Johannes Silvonen, Birgen Haest, Jo Bouwmeester and Irene Jiménez.

We much appreciated all the work of the host families where we were accommodated, thank you Ruslan, Nuri, Etheri, Merabi and all other family members. They have supported our count logistically in many ways, and were invaluable for our success.

And many thanks to all sponsors and grants who have made this season possible!

Hope to see you next year!

2013Johannes Jansen
Exciting Environmental Education Exchange

2013 was already the 3rd Autumn in which BRC organized an "Environmental Education Exchange" for students from Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. The exchange is supported by the Acopian Center for the Environment (AUA, Yerevan) and the Educational Development Center of Batumi (EDC, USAID). Participants join us for 10 days to learn about raptors, their migration and the conservation work of BRC, but most importantly to train their skills in environmental education work!

The main challenge during the exchange is for participants to develop their own lesson about birds or nature for high school children from the Batumi area. That sounds easy enough at first, but as our participants quickly find out, it is quite the challenge to give an exciting class in front of very young, curious school students….who can ask any unexpected questions at any time. Even our camp coordinator had to do some research when one pupil from a Batumi school asked “Why is the down of Sparrowhawk nestlings white?”. 

So ... how did we get there? This autumn we had a diverse group with 5 students from Georgia, 4 people from Armenia and a single Turkish participant. The exchange started with introductory lectures about raptors, migration and conservation. To test their knowledge in the field, students visited the BRC watch-sites and held field trips in the surrounding area.

In the second phase of the camp our participants got to put their skills to work by developing some lessons in small teams. The guys split up in three teams, each presented their own idea about what they wanted to teach at local schools and got to work on preparing their lessons. A first team made a lesson about the wetlands in Kolkheti National Park and, in particular, about the importance of the Chorokhi delta for migrating birds.

Our second team took to the schools with a lesson on biodiversity and raptors as top predators. And finally, our third team prepared a nice presentation about the life cycle of the Eurasian Sparrowhawk: the most popular raptor species in Batumi.

With these lessons we visited 9 classes in 4 schools of which the youngest kids were in 4th grade and the eldest in 8th grade. One additional special lesson for high school students of hosted by EDC.

Next to preparing and conducting their lessons for school groups our participants also developed a plan around environmental education for Chorokhi delta. Two very nice concepts were develop and the teams are still working on these at home and hope to be able to realize their concept with BRC in coming years.

Needless to say also this exchange did not go by without the necessary cultural evenings, a nocturnal swim in the Black Sea and a fantastic introduction to traditional Georgian songs and hospitality.

We thank all the participants for making this exchange so successful as they did!

Catch up on the season

This year’s autumn migration season has been underway for 21 days now, and so far everything points to another great experience for all participants.

Numbers of migrating Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier have been steadily rising over the course of the last 15 days. These “core species” of our count form the majority of passing birds (among Bee-Eaters) at the first half of the autumn migration. At the same time less abundant species like storks and Pallid Harrier have also begun their migration and show up in smaller numbers. As well as these expected species, there were also sightings of species one hopes to see so early in the season, including Greater SpottedSteppe and White-tailed Eagle and a couple of Crested Honey Buzzard.

So far numbers for Honey Buzzard are lower than they were at this time in BRC’s record-breaking 2012 season (2012: 593.830; 2013: 344.603). But still many individuals are expected to come in the next days. Due to heavy rains, high cloud cover in the entire Caucasus mixed with heavy storms, the numbers of migrants in general were quite low in the last days. During peak migration this rises the hope of incredible unblocked migration after the weather clears up. Watching out of the window - the clouds have gone – what can be happen tomorrow then?

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As every year the day-offs are seldom used to hang around but to go birding in the very attractive delta of the Chorokhi river just near Batumi. With its dynamic wetlands and the ponds the delta produce high diversity of migrating passerines and raptors usually coming there for feeding and resting. Read the article of a team of BRC counters who went to the Delta on a rainy day and made incredible observations.

The BRC’s team is daily reinforced by new counters from all over Europe and is preparing itself for the coming Honey Buzzard and Montagu’s Harrier peak days. The team now consists of people from all over Europe: Belgium, France, Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia, United Kingdom, and Spain. We are happy to not only have the diversity in birds but also in count-volunteers, team-members, sponsors and supporters.

Thanks to all – realizing together with us this tremendous autumn migration raptor count!

>> Watch the recent counts here

2013Jasper Wehrmann