A nine days birding tour exploring semi-deserts, wetlands and the Caucasus for Georgia's specialties and migrating birds.

Georgia in Spring

Wednesday 17th - Friday 26th April 2019

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 Giuldenstaedts Redstart. These four are not easy to see and would normally require a lot of walking, or better trekking, throughout most of the year to catch sight of them. However, our tour is designed to coincide with a short time window in the spring when the birds can be seen more easily, as they are much lower down then their breeding sites, forced to be there by the thick snow cover which still blocks them.  To find them, we will be based in the village of Stepantsminda, at 1800 meters a.sl - the best location in Georgia to find its Caucasian specialties; and close to Kazbegi peak, the highest in the Caucasus at 5033 meters.
Before it we will visit few wetlands and semi-deserts in the south of the country, where the birdlife is very different. We expect to record over 160 bird species on this tour.

ITINERARY

Day 1   Early arrival at Tbilisi airport and 3 hours transfer to the small village of Stepantsminda for a three night stay. We will stop at few very good sites on the way to break the journey and start seeing the smart Caucasian birds - Snowfinch, Wallcreeper, raptors passing through and many others.  At noon we shall reach the village and check in, have lunch, then start looking for the local specialties. 

Days 2 and 3  These days we will explore surroundings slopes, ridges, river valleys and patches of bushes. Our main targets here are the four Caucasian specialties - Snowcock and Grouse, as well as Great Rosefinch and Giuldenstaedts Redstart. Hopefully, the slopes above us will be still covered by snow, so we can find the first two species very close to the village, while the other two can even be seen in the village. In any case we have secured enough time and shall have good views of all four species.
Along with them we will also see other species, some of them no less attractive at all. The slopes of the Caucasus are constantly patrolled by the majestic Lammergeyers and one pair breeds nearby the village. The beautiful Red-fronted serins are around too, as well as the Wallcreepers, Alpine Accentors and the smart local race of the Black redstart - semirufus. Also,  large flocks of both species of choughs, numerous Water pipits, Twites and Ring Ouzels.  Many migrants can turn up Mountain (or Caucasian) Chiffchaff, Red-throated Pipit, Thrush Nightingale, White-throated Robin, Red-breasted Flycatcher, even Corncrake and Quail were recorded. Raptors we will see are Golden eagle, Steppe Eagle, Peregrine, Pallid,  Montagus and Hen harriers, Short-toed eagle, Goshawk etc. On the slopes we can see the East Caucasian Tur.

Day 4   We shall leave the area and return towards Tbilisi, with stops on the way again, and we will have three nights stay in the village of Udabno.

Days 5 and 6  We will explore David Gareja area and a couple of wetlands near to the Azerbaijan border. Migration will be in full force, with most of the local breeders already on site, so we expect Demoiselle cranes, Armenian Gull, crakes, various terns, Rollers, Bee-eaters (Blue-cheeked is also possible), terns, waders, Pygmy Cormorant; also Citrine Wagtail,  Eastern Orphean, Barred and Paddyfield Warblers, Western Rock Nuthatch, Isabelline, Black-eared, Pied and Finches wheatears,  Rosy Starlings in big numbers, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Thrush, few species of buntings, shrikes and many more.

Days 7 to 9  We leave Udabno, this time heading south-east to Chachuna. The area around Chachuna has a fantastic landscape with savannah-like open areas, mixed with rolling hills, rocky area and riverine forests: an exciting place with some very good birds, also Golden Jackal and Jungle Cat. Chukar, Black Francolin, Black-headed Bunting, Finch's Wheatear, White-throated Robin, Menetries's Warbler, Eastern Imperial Eagle are among the birds we will look for. Chachuna is also noted for one of the largest communities of breeding birds of prey in the Caucasus - raptors include Long-legged Buzzard, Black Kite,  Levant Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Eastern Imperial and Lesser-spotted eagles and Saker Falcon. We stay here for three nights.

Day 10 Birding in the morning, as much as our time permits. Then drive to Tbilisi for our return flight home.



TOUR MAP