Swedish birds & nature tour operator AviFauna did a successful tour in Azerbaijan 6-14 May, planned and lead by Tomas Haraldsson together with Kai Gauger. In the group were 12 Swedes, one Dane and three German birders and the logistics and arrangements were co-ordinated together with travel agency Caspian Tour. It was a rather fast-paced trip aimed at seeing the exclusive species for the region and also with the last three nights spent in the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan. Very happy and satisfied at seeing all the target birds and some 220 species in total during 7 field days.
Some daily highlights:
In Shirvan Nationalpark we had a great selection of steppe birds as usual but with the flamingo lake pretty empty of birds. Hundreds of Rose-coloured Starlings in flocks, some 4.000 White-winged Black Terns on the sky, lots of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Menetries Warblers and the other "locals".
|some 50 Steppe Buzzards were resting in the park, by Niklas Andersson|
|Lesser Grey Shrike, by Niklas Andersson|
|Lesser Kestrel, by Niklas Andersson|
In Machmud Chala wetlands two female White-headed Ducks surprised us, one of the unexpected species for the trip. In Masalli we found the Shikras on breeding site but only giving short views however a pair soaring above our lunch was nice :)
Unfortunately it was a little rainy in Kizil Agach. On the Caspian coast and its bird-rich lagoons were hundreds of waders including 6 Terek Sandpipers, 17 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 2 White-tailed Lapwings, an adult Great Black-headed Gull and lots of other wetland stuff, truly an exciting area.
Gobustan rock art site producd the usual Pied, Eastern Black-eared and Finsch´s Wheatears and also a likely hybrid Pied/Eastern Black-eared, Rock Nuthatches, Woodchat Shrikes and more. A Steppe Eagle was heading north.
We had a short stop Besh Barmag but still some nice raptor migration. Within just one hour we saw Lesser Spotted Eagle 2, Steppe Eagle 3, Pallid Harrier 2, Montagues Harrier 13, Marsh Harrier and Hobby and also the local Black Vultures and Black Kites.
|rocky habitat in Gobustan, by Niklas Andersson|
|hybrid Pied x Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, by Niklas Andersson|
|scanning Besh Barmag from the roadside Kafe, by Kai Gauger|
In Xinaliq we had a nice hike with perfect weather and saw 6 White-winged (Güldenstädts) Redstarts, 10 Caucasian Snowcocks, Lammergeiers, Alpine Accentor, Red-fronted Serins and lots of other stuff. On lower altitudes there were many Green Warblers and several Semi-collared Flycatchers at our lodging Nazli Bulaq.
|Griffon Vulture, by Niklas Andersson|
|Bearded Vulture, by Niklas Andersson|
|Qizilgaya from the Xinalik side, by Kai Gauger|
|scanning for the snowcocks, by Kai Gauger|
In Laza there were about a dozen displaying Caucasian Black Grouse right above our homestay in the village. During the morning also several Wallcreepers, Mountain Chiffchaff, Green Warbler, Caucasian Snowcock, 5 Lammergeiers and a lot more was seen. A bit unsatisfying was a short fly-by of two Great Rosefinches.
|sunrise at the grouse courtship, by Kai Gauger|
Nakhchivan was very exciting birding with species similar to easternmost Turkey. Several sites with Persian Wheatear, Pale Rock Sparrow, Upchers Warbler, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Trumpeter Finch, See see Partridge and Grey-necked Bunting. Bimaculated Lark and Desert Finch both at breeding site, also 3 Mongolian Finches likely so. During our two full days also several records of Booted and Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Rufous Bush Chat, Armenian Gulls, White-throated Robin and in the driest semi-desert also Black-bellied Sandgrouse. High up at 2200m at Batabat we saw the Raddes Accentor. For many of us the bird of the trip!
|Ilandag and Lesser Caucasus from plane and from ground, by Kai Gauger|
|overcast weather at 2000m asl in Batabat, by Kai Gauger|
|singing in the rain, Radde's Accentor, by Kai Gauger|
|my personal "bird of the trip", by Kai Gauger|
|Negram, with Mongolian Finch and many other semi desert species, by Kai Gauger|
|Greek Tortoisein on of the wadis in the lower mountains, by Kai Gauger|
|Desert Finch, by Kai Gauger|
|See-see Partridge on the run, by Kai Gauger|
|Caucasian Agama, by Kai Gauger|
|habitat of eg Irania, Grey-necked Bunting and Upcher's Warbler, by Kai Gauger|
|enjoing great views of Irania, by Kai Gauger|
|Grey-necked Bunting, by Niklas Andersson|
|Upcher's Warbler, by Kai Gauger|
Thanks Aze and NAR for a very successful tour and hope to see you again soon!
Videos of birds and birding from the trip can be seen at Tomas' Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/Tomas06560656/videos