14th - 23rd May 2011

 

This trip was primarily in search of the Caucasian endemics and in that we were not disappointed with great views of most of them.

There were three of us on this trip.

 

Tour Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 - Tblisi to Kazbegi

We left London Heathrow on an afternoon flight to Tblisi where we were met by our guide and driver very early on the morning of Day 2.

We then drove some 150km. north to the magnificent mountains of the Greater Caucasus.

Our destination was the town of Kazbegi, nestled in the Tergi valley, but along the way stopped at some lakes to look for a variety of wetland birds including White-winged Black and Gull-billed Terns.

As we reached the foothills we stopped again to explore some of the oak and beech woods that cloak the lower slopes, where we found Green Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Semi-collared Flycatcher. Reaching the small town of Kazbegi in the late afternoon we settled in for our overnight stay in Hotel Stepantsminda.

 

Day 3 - Stepantsminda (also called Kazbegi)

The day began with a short drive to Sameba Temple (2200m above sea level) where careful scanning of the high alpine meadows should revealed the dark shapes of Caucasian Black Grouse.

During the day we found Guldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch and also come across Caucasian Chiffchaff, Green Warbler and a variety of migrants, including European Bee-eater, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Red-throated Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and Ortolan Bunting.

Overnight: Hotel Stepantsminda

 

Day 4 - Stepantsminda

We birded the area around Kazbegi on foot, encountering our first mountain birds, with surprisingly tame flocks of Twite, Shore Lark of the penicillata race and White-winged Snowfinch feeding alongside the road, all giving excellent photographic opportunities.

We also started to see our first raptors such as Griffon Vulture, Peregrine and the mysterious Lammergeier as well as Levant Sparrowhawk and, as we stared our climb up the slopes, we heard the male Caucasian Snowcock’s call echoing around the mountains. With this eerie call to guide us, we found these birds relatively easily though they remained somewhat distant on the mountainsides.

 

Day 5 – Stepantsminda to Chachuna

We set off straight after breakfast to drive the 300km. to Chachuna. The Chachuna Nature Reserve is a part of a region called the Iori Upland (200 – 800m) that lies at the far eastern end of Georgia. Here we find steppes and savannah– like landscapes, arid woodlands and semi– deserts, and an abundance of relic and endemic plant species, birds of prey, and large predators. We made several birding stops en route.

Chachuna is noted for one of the largest communities of breeding birds in the Caucasus. Raptor breeders that we saw over the next couple of days included Long– legged Buzzard, Lesser and Common Kestrels, Black Kite, Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures, Levant and Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Northern Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Eastern Imperial, Lesser Spotted, and Short– toed Eagles, Eurasian Hobby, and Lanner Falcon.

Overnight stay in the lovely nature reserve cottages.

 

Day 6 - Chachuna

We spent the day birdwatching in the Chachuna Reserve.

Riparian forests and grassland provide the habitats for Black Francolin which we found by their calls and then watched them as the jumped up in display from the long grass.

A few pairs of Black Storks nest in the area though, unfortunately we did not come across any, though White Storks were plentiful.

A typical bird of the site is Chukar which showed obligingly.

European Bee–eater, European Roller, and Hoopoe frequented the cliffs’ steep banks and tree holes.

The stunning list of passerines to be found at the site includes Calandra Lark, Crag Martin and Rufous– tailed Scrub Robin all of which we saw, though we dipped on White-winged Lark.

We visited some canyons where we found Finch’s Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush,  as well as various species of warbler, Rock Nuthatch, Lesser Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Rose–coloured Starling, Rock Sparrow, Black– headed and Ortolan Buntings to name but some.

 

Day 7 – Chachuna to Davit Gareji

After breakfast we all piled into the vehicle and drive some 160 km toward Davit Gareji.

In Davit Gareji we saw the breeding colonies of Eurasian Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, breeding Imperial Eagles, Roller, Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush andlarge aggregations of Bee-eaters, Rock Dove and Chukar.

Other attractions included are Black Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, and Saker Falcon and passerines such as Calandra Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Isabelline Wheatear, Finsch’s Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, Orphean Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Rock Nuthatch, Spanish Sparrow and Rock Sparrow.

This is one of the most spectacular sites in Georgia, where historical and wildlife attractions are located side-by-side and can be enjoyed at the same time.

Here in these Mediterranean-type arid badlands, with multi-coloured clay hills covered with shrub and steppe- like vegetation, is the site of one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world.

Today we visited the fascinating ‘cave city’ at Vardzia – a whole town carved into a limestone hillside. It was here that we had very good views of Rock Nuthatch and Wryneck.

We spent the night in a private country house where the owner served us copiously with home made wine and spirit!

 

Day 8 – Tbilisi to Javakheti Plain

We drove 250kms. to Javakheti Plain birdwatching on the way.

This is a mountain grassland area in southern Georgia, along the border with Armenia and Turkey. The lakes and their surroundings support breeding populations of many bird species. This site gives birders a great opportunity to see Ruddy Shelduck and several other species of wildfowl, though we did not find any Ferruginous Ducks as expected but there were plenty of Armenian Gulls.

 

Day 9 - Javakheti Plain to Tiblisi

We visited Lake Khanchali where we can found Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Common Crane, Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Red– necked and Black– necked Grebes, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Great White Egret and Eurasian Spoonbill.

Despite searching the volcanic mountains of Javakheti we were not able to find Radde’ s Accentor; quite a disappontment.

The villages of the area are perhaps the most important nesting sites of White Stork in the Caucasus.

 

Day 10 – Departed Tiblisi, arrived London

 

  SPECIES SCIENTIFIC NAME SIGHTINGS  
1 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 5 22
2 Gadwall  Anas strepera 3  
3 Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 2  
4 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 1  
5 Garganey Anas querquedula 2  
6 Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1  
7 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 2  
8 Chukar  Alectoris chukar 1  
9 Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caucasicus 2  
10 Black Francolin  Francolinus francolinus 2  
11 Caucasian Grouse Tetrao mlokosiewiczi 3  
12 Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis 1  
13 Red-necked Grebe  Podiceps grisegena 2  
14 Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus 5 c.60
15 Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps nigricollis 2 100+
16 Eurasian White Stork  Ciconia ciconia 1  
17 Great Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 2  
18 Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus 2  
19 Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus 2 c.60
20 Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus 1 c.80
21 Little Bittern  Ixobrychus minutus 2  
22 Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea 4  
23 Purple Heron  Ardea purpurea 1  
24 Great Egret  Ardea alba 1  
25 Little Egret  Egretta garzetta 2  
26 Cattle Egret  Bubulcus ibis 2  
27 Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 2  
28 Black-crowned Night Heron  Nycticorax nycticorax 3  
29 Eurasian Spoonbill  Platalea leucorodia 1  
30 Lammergeier  Gypaetus barbatus 1  
31 Egyptian Vulture  Neophron percnopterus 1  
32 European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus 8 Danny and Tom saw 10,000 a day during the autumn migration
33 Eurasian Black Vulture Aegypius monachus 2  
34 Eurasian Griffon  Gyps fulvus 5  
35 Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus 1  
36 Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina 3  
37 Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 1  
38 Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca 2  
39 Golden Eagle  Aquila chrysaetos 1  
40 Eurasian Marsh Harrier  Circus aeruginosus 9  
41 Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus 1  
42 Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus 4 14 in one field!
43 Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes 1  
44 Eurasian Sparrowhawk  Accipiter nisus 1  
45 Northern Goshawk  Accipiter gentilis 1  
46 Black Kite  Milvus migrans 3  
47 White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla 1  
48 Common Buzzard  Buteo buteo 13  
49 Long-legged Buzzard  Buteo rufinus 5 We saw one chase, catch and kill a Marsh Harrier
50 Eurasian Common Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus 5  
51 Eurasian Coot  Fulica atra 5  
52 Common Crane Grus grus 1  
53 Eurasian Thick-knee  Burhinus oedicnemus 1  
54 Eurasian Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 1  
55 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1  
56 Little Ringed Plover  Charadrius dubius 2  
57 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1  
58 Common Redshank  Tringa totanus 2  
59 Ruff Calidris pugnax 1  
60 Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei 1  
61 Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4  
62 Armenian Gull Larus armenicus 7  
63 Gull-billed Tern  Gelochelidon nilotica 1  
64 White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus 1  
65 Whiskered Tern  Chlidonias hybrida 1  
66 Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 1  
67 Rock Dove  Columba livia 12  
68 Stock Dove  Columba oenas 2  
69 Common Wood Pigeon  Columba palumbus 5  
70 Eurasian Turtle-dove  Streptopelia turtur 4  
71 Eurasian Collared Dove  Streptopelia decaocto 1  
72 Laughing Dove  Streptopelia senegalensis 1  
73 Common Cuckoo  Cuculus canorus 15  
74 Eurasian Scops Owl  Otus scops 2  
75 Little Owl  Athene noctua 2 The pale indegena subspecies
76 Northern Long-eared Owl  Asio otus 1  
77 Eurasian Nightjar  Caprimulgus europaeus 1  
78 Alpine Swift  Apus melba 2  
79 Common Swift  Apus apus 12  
80 Eurasian Hoopoe  Upupa epops 5  
81 Common Kingfisher  Alcedo atthis 2  
82 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  Merops persicus 1  
83 European Bee-eater Merops apiaster 10  
84 European Roller  Coracias garrulus 6  
85 Eurasian Wryneck  Jynx torquilla 1  
86 Great Spotted Woodpecker  Dendrocopos major 5  
87 Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus 2  
88 Green Woodpecker  Picus viridis 5  
89 Eurasian Kestrel  Falco tinnunculus 8  
90 Saker Falcon  Falco cherrug 1 A pair at their nest site
91 Peregrine Falcon  Falco peregrinus 1  
92 Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio 16  
93 Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor 7  
94 Woodchat Shrike  Lanius senator 4  
95 Eurasian Jay  Garrulus glandarius 4  
96 Eurasian Magpie  Pica pica 18  
97 Red-billed Chough  Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 5  
98 Alpine Chough  Pyrrhocorax graculus 2 Flocks of 30+ in the mountains
99 Eurasian Jackdaw  Corvus monedula 14  
100 Rook  Corvus frugilegus 1  
101 Hooded Crow  Corvus cornix 14  
102 Common Raven  Corvus corax 10  
103 Calandra Lark  Melanocorypha calandra 3  
104 Greater Short-toed Lark  Calandrella brachydactyla 1  
105 Lesser Short-toed Lark  Calandrella rufescens 1  
106 Crested Lark  Galerida cristata 4  
107 Eurasian Skylark  Alauda arvensis 5  
108 Woodlark  Lullula arborea 2  
109 Horned Lark  Eremophila alpestris 3  
110 Sand Martin  Riparia riparia 6  
111 Eurasian Crag-martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 5  
112 Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica 21  
113 House Martin  Delichon urbicum 10  
114 Coal Tit  Periparus ater 8  
115 Sombre Tit  Poecile lugubris 1  
116 Blue Tit  Cyanistes caeruleus 1  
117 Great Tit  Parus major 13  
118 Eurasian Penduline-tit  Remiz pendulinus 2  
119 Long-tailed Tit  Aegithalos caudatus 2  
120 Eurasian Nuthatch  Sitta europaea 2  
121 Krueper's Nuthatch Sitta krueperi 1  
122 Rock Nuthatch  Sitta neumayer 1  
123 Wallcreeper  Tichodroma muraria 2  
124 Winter Wren  Troglodytes troglodytes 7  
125 White-throated Dipper  Cinclus cinclus 3  
126 Goldcrest  Regulus regulus 2  
127 Cetti's Warbler  Cettia cetti 4  
128 Willow Warbler  Phylloscopus trochilus 8  
129 Common Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita 2  
130 Mountain Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus sindianus 9  
131 Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix 1  
132 Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus 4  
133 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler  Iduna pallida 1  
134 Moustached Warbler  Acrocephalus melanopogon 1  
135 Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus 2  
136 Eurasian Reed Warbler  Acrocephalus scirpaceus 5  
137 Great Reed Warbler  Acrocephalus arundinaceus 2  
138 Blackcap  Sylvia atricapilla 2  
139 Garden Warbler  Sylvia borin 5  
140 Barred Warbler  Sylvia nisoria 1  
141 Lesser Whitethroat  Sylvia curruca 3  
142 Menetries' Warbler  Sylvia mystacea 2  
143 Greater Whitethroat  Sylvia communis 6  
144 Spotted Flycatcher  Muscicapa striata 10  
145 Rufous Scrub-robin  Cercotrichas galactotes 1  
146 European Robin  Erithacus rubecula 2  
147 Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia 1  
148 Common Nightingale  Luscinia megarhynchos 5  
149 Semicollared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata 1  
150 Common Redstart  Phoenicurus phoenicurus 5  
151 White-winged Redstart  Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 1  
152 Black Redstart  Phoenicurus ochruros 16  
153 Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush Monticola saxatilis 4  
154 Blue Rock-thrush  Monticola solitarius 1  
155 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 5  
156 European Stonechat  Saxicola rubicola 2  
157 Northern Wheatear  Oenanthe oenanthe 9  
158 Finsch's Wheatear  Oenanthe finschii 3  
159 Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka 1  
160 Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe hispanica 3  
161 Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 4  
162 Ring Ouzel  Turdus torquatus 4  
163 Eurasian Blackbird  Turdus merula 12  
164 Song Thrush  Turdus philomelos 2  
165 Mistle Thrush  Turdus viscivorus 5  
166 European Starling  Sturnus vulgaris 9  
167 Rosy Starling Pastor roseus 7 Flocks of up to 70
168 Common Myna  Acridotheres tristis 1  
169 Alpine Accentor  Prunella collaris 1  
170 Dunnock  Prunella modularis 5  
171 Western Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla flava 8  
172 Citrine Wagtail  Motacilla citreola 2  
173 Gray Wagtail  Motacilla cinerea 2  
174 White Wagtail  Motacilla alba 15  
175 Tawny Pipit  Anthus campestris 2  
176 Tree Pipit  Anthus trivialis 3  
177 Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 1  
178 Water Pipit  Anthus spinoletta 10  
179 Rock Bunting  Emberiza cia 4  
180 Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana 4  
181 Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala 9  
182 Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra 11  
183 Chaffinch  Fringilla coelebs 11  
184 Eurasian Bullfinch  Pyrrhula pyrrhula 2  
185 Common Rosefinch  Carpodacus erythrinus 13  
186 Great Rosefinch  Carpodacus rubicilla 1 A pair at Stepantsminda
187 European Greenfinch  Chloris chloris 4  
188 European Goldfinch  Carduelis carduelis 14  
189 Twite  Carduelis flavirostris 5  
190 Eurasian Linnet  Carduelis cannabina 4  
191 Fire-fronted Serin Serinus pusillus 6  
192 House Sparrow  Passer domesticus 8  
193 Spanish Sparrow  Passer hispaniolensis 1  
194 Eurasian Tree Sparrow  Passer montanus 6  
195 Rock Petronia  Petronia petronia 2  
196 White-winged Snowfinch  Montifringilla nivalis 2