Monday, 4 May 2015

Georgia - 2015

26th April -  2nd May 2015

Travelled to Tbilisi in Georgia via Istanbul on a tour organised by Birdfinders. From the airport we drove through the Caucasian mountains via the Krestovy pass to our base at Stepantsminder on the Terek river next to Kazbegi. We stopped several times at the pass and soon started picking up our target species such as Caucasian Snowcock on the snow covered slopes and Guldenstadt's Redstart, but by far  the commonest birds were Ring Ouzel and Water pipit on the lower levels. Despite a complete lack of sleep the previous night the adrenalin from seeing so many exciting birds kept us going. After a 5.30am breakfast day 2 began with a check of some areas of bushes not far out of the village. We saw our first Caucasian Black Grouse but struggled to see another target Great Rosefinch. We knew they were around but they were not showing at all. Until, having started to search on my own a male popped up right next to me on top of a bush. What a moment that was. I gently raised the camera and took a few shots. The bird seemed totally unconcerned and started to sing quietly. The rest of the group were some way away but eventually responded to my gestures. It was a great start to the week with all the group seeing 4 out of the 6 target species.During the remainder of the week we visited a number of sites around Kazbegi either in the river valleys or in the foothills of the mountains which towered above us. We saw a number of Raptors including; Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Black Kite, Steppe Buzzard,and Peregrine soaring overhead and evidence of migration with flocks of Purple Herons and Demoiselle Cranes passing through the mountains. On the whole the weather was good although we did have prolonged rainfall on a couple of occasions. I should at this point mention the local drivers who ferried us about the mountain roads/tracks, which were challenging if not downright hairy.
Having failed to see Wallcreeper at a couple of sites in the pass we revisited the sites again where we found 2 pairs of Wallcreeper this time. I was particularly fortunate in having a close encounter with one of the birds.
The remaining two target species proved to be more difficult. Largely because they hadn't 'arrived' in any great numbers yet and because they weren't so obvious in the leafy habitat and the numbers of Common Chiffchaff and Willow warblers. Eventually by the end of the week Mountain Chiffchaff were arriving and Green warbler was also found on the last day close to Tbilisi.So an excellent weeks birding with quality birds throughout.
Great Rosefinch
Great Rosefinch
Guldenstadt's Redstart
Griffon Vulture
Horned Lark
Rock Thrush
Great Reed Warbler
Red backed Shrike
Off road
Water Pipit
Purple Heron
Thrush Nightingale
Red breasted Flycatcher
Rock Bunting
Alpine Accentor
Finally a big thankyou to the Birdfinders team for their organisation, knowledge and good humour.

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