Posts in 2014
African-Eurasian day record from Batumi: 264.891 raptors

On 2nd October 2014 our counting team witnessed the largest passage of raptors ever seen outside of the Panamerican Flyway and counted 264.891 raptors in a single day!

The early morning started with outstanding Marsh Harrier migration. Later on, some flocks of Black Kites migrated one by one in a lazy flight. But suddenly after noon Steppe Buzzards started to kettle east and west of both our stations. Their large and wide streams covered all the sky, ending up in monster kettles, where complex kettles just merged with other nearby kettles. It was impossible to draw a line between the huge kettles as everything was connected.

In Sakhalvasho at our Station 1, the streams of Steppe Buzzards became streams of large eagles, including Lesser Spotted, Short-toed, Booted, Steppe, Greater Spotted and Imperial Eagles. The counters were intensely busy counting streams and identifying the Aquilas. A similar situation happened in nearby Shuamta at our Station 2 where Steppe Buzzards covered the sky. Everywhere around the station raptors dominated the air and this astonishing natural wonder took our breath away. It was hard work and not always enjoyable when you have to count them all and identify as many as possible. But at the end of day we were overwhelmed by being witness to the 2nd biggest raptor flyway system on Earth. Enjoy the photos and videos and visit us next year to support the raptor flyway.

Gaumardjos to the raptors!

Till the 2nd October the total of raptors counted in Batumi in autumn 2014 was 1,309,622.

2014Jasper Wehrmann
Halfway through the count

This season we started with some very positive upgrades to Sakhalvasho village. The days of fighting with the blue tarp are finally over… at least on station-1… We now have an actual shelter and proper stairs leading there. Also new is the Green Café that opened its doors for counters in need of some relaxation after an intense day of clicking. It’s also a great place to mingle with ecotourists, people involved in other projects and some of the locals.

So what about the count!? Usually the first month of the count is always dominated by large numbers of Honey Buzzards passing through the Batumi Bottleneck. This year was no different except that we counted more HBs than during any of the previous seasons. Three peak days of 81.500, 88.000 and 91.500 definitely helped reaching the current total of 659,527 counted individuals. Now it’s mostly some juveniles left before all of them have reached Africa.

This was not the only record set so far! Some big flocks of White Storks (328, 220 & 198) contributed to the total of 1553, where the previous peak year (2011) only saw 573 of them.  Also the number of Rollers is incredible this year and it seems the BRC (Batumi Roller Count) finally lives up to its name. Mandatory dress code on station-1 and the Rawhide theme song (Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’) certainly helped, boosting their numbers to 2288. Finally the record peak day of Booted Eagle migration was impressive with over 1000 of them counted.

Other ‘happy ending’ moments so far have been the beautiful view of a Saker Falcon circling next to Station-2, the Short-eared Owl passing Station-1, the ‘white-flashing’ Peregrine (ssp. calidus) in a stream of Black Kites and a flock of over 3000 Black-winged Pratincoles.

Up until now the weather has been above all expectations, but as we entered the second half of the season, the notorious subtropical rains of Batumi have finally arrived. For the last 48 hours it has been raining more or less non-stop and today was the first non-counting day. This gives us time to take proper rest before counting the next tsunami of birds, particularly Steppe Buzzardslarge eagles and Black_é_Storks!


Stay tuned for more or follow or daily count results on trektellen: Station 1 & Station 2

2014Dries Engelen