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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Georgia - 12th > 26th September 2019... (1 Viewer)

The travel Guru Simon Calder was advising somebody who was travelling to Addis Ababba to book via Turkish Airlines and have a cheapo stopover at Istanbul and still save money as it doesn’t involve some sort of long haul tax.

You can get info about Shuamta from either the counters or leave an email at BRC or probably just Google it:t:

The Sak road is about 200 yards on the left as you emerge from the tunnel heading out of Batumi towards Chakvi - don’t blink or you mifht miss it and will have to carry on to a turnoff as it is a dual carriageway - there is little or no lane discipline so take care:eek!: The narrow road winds its way steadily uphill for about 2k. Then on the right is the track with watchpoint info saying 750m.
The first 10m is dirt and then the new concrete road begins, it has no edging so it looks like a lava flow! It is steep and winds its way past villagers houses eventually plateauing out..........then swings a hairpin right for a very steep section thru some rusty gates persevere and after a coupla hundred yards you have arrived. There is a cutting in the bank just past the steps that has been made. The road ends there but you can turn in front of the last house on the grass - they don’t mind. I have my own thoughts re: the steps etc and intend posting later and emailing BRC with my considered and personal shortcomings. Suffice to say warch those steps on the descent because the Gravel is edged by thin razor sharp sheet edging. Material has already been lost exposing the top. My girlfriend trod heavily on one of the last steps and cut halfway into her walking sandal (i have since superglued;)) God knows what would happen if somebody slipped and landed on a knee or a hand it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Will post ystdas stuff but bizzy at mo’ am being picked up earlier today at 9 instead of 10:30 as 2/3 of yatdas stuff had gone through by 11:30 leaving a very quiet afternoon from 3-6 but will detail later - still 13 spp of raptor iircc:t:

Good birding -

Laurie -
Sak road turnoff?

The Sak road is about 200 yards on the left as you emerge from the tunnel heading out of Batumi towards Chakvi - ………………….
Good birding -

Laurie -


Thank you so much! Mighty helpful, indeed. Just one question, is the turn-off for the Sak road not on the right? Looks like that on Google Earth or Google Maps.

Just about finished with my packing. :)


Thank you so much! Mighty helpful, indeed. Just one question, is the turn-off for the Sak road not on the right? Looks like that on Google Earth or Google Maps.

Just about finished with my packing. :)


I was thinking the same, from memory it's a right turn after the tunnel. Perhaps a typo. In fact, just checked on Google maps and it looks to be so. Enjoying the reports.
I was thinking the same, from memory it's a right turn after the tunnel. Perhaps a typo. In fact, just checked on Google maps and it looks to be so. Enjoying the reports.

Yes that's correct. Just got back from 12 days in Georgia staying in one of the guest houses up that road.
Yes - apologies:C

Don’t try turning left..........it’s a dual carriageway:eek!:

Mondays notes - got up late ystda and had to rush about shower etc to make the 9 o/c taxi.

Monday was a stonkingly stunning blue skies all day, warm and cloudless. Therein lies the ‘problem’. No cloud means the birds are able to kettle high well away from Sak and stream up whichever valley they choose. Consequently after hundreds of Black Kit, most before i got there at 11ish, numbers dropped off rapidly but still produced variety if not volume. To give you some idea even the watchers at Shuamta put over 400 large Eagles and over 10k medium-sized raptors and a shedload of Buzzards as ‘unidentified’. They are much nearer to the initial kettling so when these start streaming away they are just dots at Sak if you are lucky or be bothered to look without checking whether the specks are dust on your optics.

I did get some Storks of both species in close as well as middle-distance Lesser Spotted Eagles. The odd Steppe could be discerned compared to LSE’s but again not crippling views. The number of Eagles that are being recorded is teuly mouth-watering but the good weather means they remain statistics. Of note are the number of Sparrowhawks moving thru which are either not bothered with or not mentioned. For me i think they are great and have seen several stoop at passing Swallows and a number with full crops having dined elsewhere. Several Hobbies, all juvs, were recorded in the afternoon. The 3-6 period was particularly quiet with just the odd large bird but a steady trickly of Sprawks - i counted over 30 birds including a loose kettle of 5.

The highlight of the day was undoubtably the sudden appearance of 3 Red-footed Falcons, a male and 2 females. They appeared out of nowhere and flitted over but thankfully did a handbreak turn and hawked above the Station occasionaly stooping at one another. The US Air Force has a combat jet called the F16 nicknamed the ‘Fighting Falcon’ due to its nifty turning and dogfighting capability - being an aviation buff i thought the comparison rather apt:t:

Literally the last bird of the day and the ‘fat lady’ singing was a very obliging Osprey that i watchd drop into the Black Sea and emerge with what looked like a small Dolphin:king: Whatever it was was big.

Tuesdays notes follow very shortly and attached are the days totals from the counters at Sak and Shuamta.



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Wonderful trip, a pleasure to read, brings back nice memories.

On the negative side, is there still shooting on the adjacent ridges - I have less pleasant memories of the fairly regular shout of shots (also logged by the counters) anf even less pleasant occasional raptor spiralling down to the ground after being hit.
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Tuesday notes.....

I decided to get on site relatively early so no breakfast, a quick in hotel Coffee and a Schwarma purchased the night before and up to Sak for a tad after 9.

Once again the day was forecast like the previous stint so i have a foot in either camp. We get enough crap weather so i am not moaning about Sun and Blue skies. September iirc is the 3rd wettest month in Adjara with 1 in 3 days rainy. Thus far here in Batumi we have had one comlete day, 24 hours, of heavy rain followed by light showers until late morning up at an unproductive Argo Cafe so i think we have done better than average. The counters had every other day with rain of sorts the previous week. We only had a couple of hours one evening at Signagi so all in all:t: It rains on Thursday at Kutaisi and we arrive back in Blighty to bluster and wet - no not Bozza!;)

A steady stream of hundreds of mainly Black Kites until 11:30 with good numbers over the Station. A few Booteds and Honeys could be picked out with more adults of the latter than previous visits. The odd Marsh Harrier tried to conceal itself and the ever-present Sprawks punching above their weight and often thermalling higher than their cousins almost flicking a couple of outer primaries in the process.....

No Pallids noted (i had one the previous day) and later on some problematical Monties but clicking Canons and large lenses means little gets past unidentified. A brace of juvenile Montys made for eye-popping (for me anyway) - i just don’t see them in England:C Large Eagles were moving by about lunchtime with birds coming mid-distance and near to the Obs. It suddenly went cold as i was under the shadow of a magnificent juvenile Steppe Eagle - monstermonster:t:

3 Black Storks lumbered past later on and a gaggle of Whites over the Black Sea with an Osprey on their tail. Later on another Osprey, 3 Short-toed Eagles and a Gingery Egyptian Vulture move past a couple of Klicks away. It still went quiet from about 3ish until i left at 6 but several Hobbies, a juvenile Peregrine and the jaunty little Sprawks provided relief. I saw few people bothering with the Sprawks but i check them all as there must be the odd female Levantine rather than female/juv Sprawk. Last year down at Batumi Airport i had a superb hunting male so they do come through.

2 more Steppe Eagles were noted and lots of presumed Lessers in the distance. The counters/BRC need to put up a panoramic map of the vista c/w the nicknames they have for all the hills and salient points i.e. ‘Big Mama and Little Ginger’. The counters liase on walkie-talkie from Sak to Shuamta and i often stand close to pick up intel and it would make people feel a bit more involved. There can also be half a dozen or more languages being spoken which makes it confusing if one group spots something - as a lone Englander i think the protocol should be shouted in English when something interesting is seen..........but i would wouldn’t i;)

Today is forecast Sunny until lunchtime and then cloudy for the afternoon so i am hoping for a good final day.

Good birding -



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A few back-of-camera from yesterday - even the local Ravens photo-bomb...


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Could it be that you need to overexpose at least 1-2 stops? All birds look quite dark with few distinctive features to see on the underwings...

Reading your day-by-day account with much appreciation, I vividly recall my own Batumi experience back in 2008, the first year of the count. I had a bit more than a week at the end of september / beginning of October. I had an absolute field day around 3-4-5 of October with more than 50.000 birds (mainly steppe buzzards) and many, many eagles. Actually, the very top top periods are end of August / beginning of September for juvenile Honeybuzzards, and the end of September / beginning of October for Steppe Buzzards + large eagles. In between those peaks, activity is generally a bit lower, but variety is probably highest and the chance of a rarity or larger numbers of MonPals is maybe better, and larger numbers of storks and Rollers (I never forget a flock of around 20 Rollers coming through the counting station early morning first light: pure magic!).
You already tried for Kruepers Nuthatch in the botanical garden? Were you thinking about trying for Caspian Snowcock in Borjomi? Maybe I didn't read well and you did...

I keep postponing a return visit until my kids are a bit older and they can join me. I missed Great Rosefinch during a 2-day stay up the Kazbeg so that's a good reason on its own to go back (but will try in Svaneti next time), probably end of August when there are also some more passerines hanging around.
Wonderful trip, a pleasure to read, brings back nice memories.

On the negative side, is there still shooting on the adjacent ridges - I have less pleasant memories of the fairly regular shout of shots (also logged by the counters) anf even less pleasant occasional raptor spiralling down to the ground after being hit.

Yes, there was quite a bit of shooting both on the ridges and at Chorokhi. After more restrictions in recent years, apparently with recent elections has meant a softened stance and therefore more shooting this season.
I take your point re the posted images but they are BOC with a mobile phone and running thru lots they have exposed OK. I tend to use the AI setting a lot as they are record shots - the irony is that i taught BTEC level 2 Photography for 6 years when it was paper, darkroom and chemicals!

Now back in birdless Blighty after 15 hours travelling and waiting. Literally Planes, Trains and Automobiles finally finishing with the gas-powered Perry’s People Carrier from Stourbridge Junction to Stourbridge Town. For those who don’t have enough Anoraks in the closet it is the shortest scheduled service on the rail system:eek!: Sometimes locals have trouble using the single carriage as it is full of train-spotters on an annual, dare i say it, ‘twitch’;) - i have enough guilty pleasures including both birding and military aviation so i draw the line at chuff-choughs.....

My last day birding up on the hill followed the same pattern as previous with glorious sunshine but at least it clouded over from 2 onwards. The cover was high so lots of birds kettled and streamed in the distance. Movement took place over most of the day so at least there was always something to look at and sift through. A cheer went up amongst the counters as they received the news that Black Kites had broke 200k:eek!:

The counters have a job to do and i appreciate that. They had cordoned off an area where visitors were asked not to enter. I find that a pity as it made me feel a bit ‘us and them’. I also felt that they could communicate movement a bit better with other birders. Last year i had no problem talking about things with them and i did this in lulls between bird movement so as not to impinge on their work.

Suffice to say altho a proportion are very good and experienced a number are helping out for the experience. They do not see or identify everything i can assure you. There are a lot of extremely experienced birders visiting Sak who know their stuff. 3 birders i chatted to are members of a national rarities committee to give you some idea.

Birdwise there were lots of Black Kites with reasonable Honeys. Lesser numbers of Booteds and a handful of Short-toeds. Harriers were thin as Marsh had dropped off and a handful of identified Montys and a very close fem/juv Pallid skimmed the top of the Observatory. Large Eagles were again mid-distant to very distant but LSE’s padded them out and late afternoon 2 male RedFoots zippd thru down below at Mach 2. A couple of Ospreys and late Hobbies and a Peregrine were noted. Sprawks continued to strut their stuff with one in with a party of Bee Eaters - an incongruous bunch of fellow travellers if ever there was.

I will now go into my usual post-trip 2 week decline and basically Hermitize myself as i cannot face local patching. This attitude shot me in the foot last year because had i gone out first thing to my local puddle, about a mile away, i would have found a wind-blown Grey Phalarope:eek!:

I will post a few pics and an overview sometime over the coming days whilst ruminating and starting to check prices well ahead of the Eilat Spring Festival an event that has been bucket-listed since a friend went there in the early-80’s. I have to do it whilst a couple of marbles are still rolling around. I said i would do it at 60 and am now 63 so the clock is ticking.

Good Birding -

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The dust is now settling on what, for me, was a very enjoyable and educational trip. The Bride and i do other things than just bird and i am mindful that the locations and itinerary are based around my interests and not hers although she very much likes the fact that we go to places that her work colleagues and friends do not - i have none of the former and not many of the latter;)

This is only my 2nd visit to Georgia but not the last, either to there or the Trans-Caucasus region. It has a fascinating history in many aspects but its natural history including not just avifauna but also botanical roots whether it be the origin of the domesticated Apple with many wild varieties to be found, Georgia’s endemic Wild Almond or the 450+ varieties of Grape there is much to see in this crucible of an area:t:

Sakhalvasho and Shuamta have been chosen for their geographical position and proximity to Batumi - this is where the hunters chose to shoot passage raptors from so it makes sense logistically and practically to site 2 Watchpoints and now a bespoke Observatory from one of them. Visually you can see why the birds use these narrow valleys to descend from the surrounding high mountains and how the terrain makes for thermalling upcurrents for migrants to be able to spiral easily to 15k feet in large kettles and then stream out Southwards skirting the cooler Black Sea then around through Turkey and on to the Levant to Winter on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

My visit last year was timed to coincide with large movements of the key species for the sheer spectacle. I only visited Sak twice and had impressive 30k days. I also played a hunch by going to the Argo Cafe via cable-car and was rewarded with 2x 15k days. On my previous 4 visits to Tarifa during the same period 15k would have been a high total but here in Georgia in mid-Sept it is considered ‘slack’. I missed a couple of 50k days as i wasn’t in the area at the time. These large numbers gave me the opportunity to keep upping my game with subtle differences in identification which cannot be gained, for me, anywhere else. Sifting through thousands of Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Steppe Buzzards and Marsh Harriers allows comparisons with not only these species but the other raptors moving through. This year i chose a week or so later in order to see and improve my ID skills with the larger Eagles and also to age birds.

In addition to geographical factors the weather is what governs what happens, when and where. Last year it was more mixed with lots more low cloud. This meant birds a lot lower as the adjacent mountains were cloudy to low elevations so the birds moved lower and on a narrower front. Showers halt movement if they are heavy otherwise birds carry on regardless but tend to get lower. Periods of heavy rain can stop movement altogether and ‘bottle’ birds up until the conditions change. Wind can also hold things up or disperse birds over the sea...

This year during my week at Batumi we had one 24-hour period of really heavy rain followed by a morning of light showers until midday and that was it. The 4 days at Sak was mostly Blue skies, hot, with little cloud. This meant birds could kettle over more points and then stream out over a much broader front. Checking the daily counts, particularly Shuamta, show very large numbers of birds just assigned to ‘unidentified’ due to the height and distance. Many more birds passed to the East this year just on my observations.

I am ambivalent. The good weather makes it very pleasant. The birds gain more height for a more efficient passage. Very few are in danger of remotely being shot at. At the end of the day all this is beneficial to them and hopefully more arrive at their Wintering quarters in better condition to return next Spring. My 4 days probably averaged about 5k a day which is meagre fayre by BRC standards but every day was different, exciting and enjoyable and i will (hopefully) be back for more:t:

I will follow up with an annotated list of raptors seen and last thoughts

Good birding -

Laurie -
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A great summary putting your whole trip into context. I’ve heard great things a out Georgia from various sources and am increasingly tempted, especially given your wife enjoyed it too.

Don’t remind me Temmie:C

I saw yesterdays count and felt sick and wobbly but an additional gut feeling told me things would ‘move’...

Whilst in Batumi i had been watching the forecast for the Greater Caucasus closely - as you do! Despite the brilliant weather up ‘on the hill’ the important factors lie to the North and i had noted the heavy precipitation and blocking conditions in that region. Indeed the very low (for Batumi) numbers whilst i was there did make me wonder whether birds were just being held up or were being displaced and forced to move around the North of the Black Sea. Observers at Burgas and Sariyer/Camlica might be able to shed some light on this possibility?

I was going to limit my final posts on the trip to overview, thoughts and a list but the drastic change to the movement yesterday is worth mentioning to illustrate what the ‘bottleneck’ is usually like - as i have stated my 4 days were meagre fayre by the standards set over recent years and i don’t mind i do feel a little sick at missing a day like yesterday. I had serious doubts as to whether the counters would break 1M this Autumn and the 1.4M of a couple of years ago seemed like fantasy land but it ain't over until...........

I could just link but instead i will list the key species at both stations yesterday and it is truly mouth-watering in both numbers and variety and will ensure that the next time i visit it will be the last 2 weeks of September and you can quote me on that!:t:

Sakhalvasho -

Short-toed Eagle 460
Lesser Spotted Eagle 452
Greater Spotted Eagle 19
Steppe Eagle 15
Large Eagle spp 1734
Marsh Harrier 172
Pallid Harrier 11
Black Kite 7563
Steppe Buzzard 28163

Total 40228

Shuamta -

Short-tod Eagle 49
Lesser Spotted Eagle 201
Greater Spotted Eagle 7
Booted Eagle 55
Steppe Eagle 18
Large Eagle spp 116
Marsh Harrier 111
Pallid Harrier 6
Black Kite 688
Steppe Buzzard 83998

Total 85659

Bear in mind these are unduplicated counts - truly phenomenal:eek!:

On a brighter note i unblocked a 35-year hiatus yesterday by finally clicking with a Skua sp in the West Midlands - a smart juvenile Great Skua at a local reservoir that had been harassing the local Gulls and Geese and obligingly and uncharacteristically stopped since being spotted going to roost on Friday night:t:

Good birding -

Laurie -
Another 65k Steppe Buzzards at Shuamta today:eek!::eek!::eek!:

This takes the watchpoints to over 1M again this season:eek!::eek!::eek!:

Good birding -

Yes, there was quite a bit of shooting both on the ridges and at Chorokhi. After more restrictions in recent years, apparently with recent elections has meant a softened stance and therefore more shooting this season.

I'll continue here with my own part that involved five days at Batumi from 26 Sept to 30 October. The shooting was most severe over the weekend.

The attached picture shows hunters at the beach of the Chorokhi delta. They walked towards the cars and men seen in the background. We approached the group by car later on, but tried to keep our distance. We then witnessed an osprey being shot by one member of the group. It may have been the guy depicted here, but we were not sure as they were all behind the cars when the shot happened. The osprey fell, still alive, but could not be recovered from the water. Thus a simple waste. There are tons of large gulls from the nearby dump. But those seem not attractive. :C


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Another 65k Steppe Buzzards at Shuamta today:eek!::eek!::eek!:

This takes the watchpoints to over 1M again this season:eek!::eek!::eek!:

Good birding -


Yes it was truly phenomenal, actually all four days we were at the two watchpoints. Sunday was rainy, that's when we visited the Chorokhi delta. The last day, 30 October was similar to Laurie's last day, with the sky clearing up too much and the raptors thus flying higher and higher, at least being out of reach for the hunters then. But still excellent numbers. Thus passing the 1 Million mark happened early. However, checking the daily count results now also shows that the numbers have dropped dramatically since. Monday 29 Sept was the most exciting day number-wise. As so often, it was the day after the rainy period.
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