Birding between the Black Sea and the High Caucasus

We proceed slowly along the edge of a stony mountain rim. Only there, some of the target bird species of our trip to Georgia are observable: Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Caucasian Great Rosefinch and Guldenstadt’s Redstart – the frosty grey giant of the rocks, the velvet black puffy guardian of the rhododendron patches, the blood-red jewel of the fields and the tricoloured big redtailed king of the stones.

The violet sky is hardly illuminating the landscape, but birds are calling and we need powerful optical devices to spot the shy four. After a while, we manage to find the first three of them. The redstart proves to be elusive and not at all easy to find. On our way down, the sunshine is now so glorious that the day is one of those you’ll never forget: a little Armenian church is visible in the valley, we see the majestic mountains towering all around us.

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Watching for snowcocks; the Greater Caucasus in the background. (Photo by Giuseppe Rannisi)

Here, along the coast of the crowded and polluted Black Sea, above the sky of the crazy touristic town of Batumi, every autumn (spring too, but in smaller numbers) the world’s third biggest continuous flow of migrating raptors (more than a million per season) is monitored by the BRC (Batumi Raptor Count) team. If you study raptors, if you love birds, if you enjoy nature…. this is the place to go!

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A wonderful adult male Caucasian Black Grouse. The fantastic bright white underwing is not visible, but in the field it’s striking. (Photo by Radames Bionda)

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Eagles, harriers and thousands of Steppe and Honey Buzzards… a Steppe Eagle seems to look right at me.. and there, Black Kites are approaching, with some Short-toed Eagles inbetween. I turn into another direction and watch a Crested Honey Buzzard and about 500 Red-footed Falcons passing by.

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The shadow of a Caucasian Black Grouse over the open fields of the high plateau of Kazbegi Mountain. (Photo by Radames Bionda)

Well, I could spend days trying to describe the emotional tsunami that overwhelmed me and every other birder who was there. You simply have to see this for yourself!

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Birding at the coastal city park of Batumi, at the shore of the Black Sea. That evening we found a record number for Yellow Browd Warblers, a tiny Siberian long distance migrant – a rare vagrant in this area. (Photo by Massimiliano Pettavino).

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