Georgia

The small state of Georgia is situated between the Black and Caspian seas, south of Russia, with most of its territory occupied by the mighty Caucasus. The vast and seemingly numerous rocky peaks with snowy caps are rough and beautiful. It is a tough land, with tough people but wonderful to explore, moreover not many birders have been here yet. Still there is a rich variety of very different habitats in the rest of the country – from wet forests and wetlands to steppes and semi-desserts. Thus the country offers excellent birding and for some of the species here it is one of the very few places in the Western Palearctic where they can be seen – namely the Caucasian Snowcock, the Caucasian Black Grouse, the Great Rosefinch and the beautiful Giuldenstadt’s Redstart.

Beside the Caucasus, Georgia has the world’s biggest raptor migration! Although relatively small, the Black sea is still big enough to force the migrating raptors to avoid it, flying along its coast. Another obstacle for the raptors lies just east of the coast. Emerging virtually from the sea are the Caucasus. Both the sea and the mountains create a very narrow gap where the raptors funnel through. The result is nothing short of spectacular, it is the biggest raptor migration in the world. This migration route was known in the past of course, but was poorly studied until few years ago when professional monitoring of the migrations was launched. Nobody was really prepared for what was to be discovered. Last September (2012) the migration the team recorded over ONE MILLION raptors passing through. To make this figure even more staggering, the count did not include both sparrowhawks, both kestrels and smaller falcons – Red-footed and Eleonoras!

The numbers are truly amazing – we expect to see thousands of birds migrating in a single day. Figures of 10 000 large eagles (Imperial, Steppe and both spotted) or Black kites, 30 000 steppe buzzards and 50 000 Honey buzzards are not unusual. The highest number recorded in a single day was over 180 000 Honey buzzards, a mind blowing number really. Not only the numbers are huge but the variety is great and virtually all the European raptors have been recorded here, except the Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Gyr Falcon, including rarities such as the tundra Peregrine (Falco peregrinus calidus), Oriental Honey Buzzard, the dark morph of the Western Marsh Harrier etc. There are also many Black storks and cranes.
Another great thing about the migration here is that you do not see dots in the sky or beyond the horizon. In fact huge numbers of birds, especially in bad (which means favorable in this case) meteorological conditions, will fly very close to the raptor watching points we will be using. This will be an excellent opportunity to improve our birds of prey in flight ID skills as we will see different species, of different ages, plumages etc., virtually in the same time. For example you can have Sparrowhawk, Levant Sparrowhawk and Goshawk in your bins in the same time. The same can be said for harriers, eagles and buzzards.

The whole area is really nice – numerous green hills around us, with some higher ridges visible towards east, while westwards, but very close is the Black Sea.  Beside the raptor migration we will also pay attention to the coast line, as well as some wetlands for other migrants, these might include Citrine Wagtail, through Terek and Broad-billed sandpipers to Greater Black-headed Gull.

Georgia in Spring

Georgia in Spring

Saturday 29th April - Sunday 7th May 2017

COST: 1 680 EUR

Group size: 6 - 12 + leader

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Raptor Bonanza in Georgia

Raptor Bonanza in Georgia

Sunday 1st - Sunday 8th October 2017

COST: 1 400 EUR

Group size: 6 - 12 + leader

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