Friday, 14 November 2014

Cyprus 5 – 20 November 2014 – part 1


5 November

We arrived on the 4th and stayed at Larnaca overnight so we could do some birding in the area before heading over towards Paphos. It is light just before 6am and very dark by 5.30pm, so early starts are the order of the day. First port of call was Larnaca Salt Lake which had a small group of Greater Flamingos present, plus a single late White Stork, a single Willow Warbler and winter visitors in the form of Water Pipits, numerous invisible Robins, Bluethroat, Stonechats, Moustached Warbler and Reed Bunting. 

 Greater Flamingoes

We then dropped into the Sewage Works lagoons which held four Black-necked Grebes, and single Shelduck and Pochard. We headed over to Limassol next,  Zakaki Marsh where we saw the main reason for dropping by, the Green-backed (Straited) Heron, plus Spotted Crake, Water Pipits, Blue-headed Wagtail, and a single Penduline Tit.  

Then a brief visit to Phassouri Reed-bred, which produced seven Water Pipits, and two of, Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, and Reed Bunting, as well as a single Lesser Whitethroat. Our final port of call as we headed west was Kensington Cliffs where at dusk coming into roost we saw eight Griffon Vultures, and also present were five Eleonora’s Falcon s, a Peregrine, more invisible Robins, everywhere and a single Blue Rock Thrush.

Griffon Vultures at Kensington Cliffs

6 November

We had to head over to Polis to collect the rings and on the way dropped into the Evretou Dam where we found, at the shallow end, a mixed flock of Pipits consisting of Meadow, Red-throated and Water, plus a Long-legged Buzzard, a Black-headed Wagtail, and a male Finsche's Wheatear.

Evretou Dam

 After collecting the rings we went over to Paphos Headland were we saw four Greater Sand-plovers, seven Woodlark , two Blue-headed Wagtails and two Tawny Pipits, sixteen Black Redstarts,  three Lesser Whitethroat , and a single Whitethroat.

 Greater Sandplover at Paphos Headland

7 November 2014

We headed back to Evretou Dam to give the collection of pipits some attention and were pleasantly surprised to find that the wind was very light indeed. Unfortunately, the soil beneath the thick carpet of green vegetation, that attracted the pipits and wagtails, was rather  difficult to work with, being sticky and cracked into deep fissures due to heat from above while kept moist from the stream that flowed to the dam underground. As expected, we didn’t get a lot of birds but of the six pipits, three were Meadow and three Water Pipit. We didn’t manage to get any of the Red-throated Pipits present. While there we had a small group of Wood Lark pass through, two Long-legged Buzzards spiralling above the ridge and a Bonelli’s Eagle that drew a strong reaction from the many Jackdaws in the vicinity.

Water Pipit

 Common Stonechat male

Total : 8

Water Pipit - 3
Meadow Pipit - 3
Stonechat – 1
Sardinian Warbler – 1

After a midday coffee with AC, a walk up the  Avakas Gorge failed to produce any Wallcreeper, but a single Blue Rock Thrush, eleven Rock Sparrow and a solitary Goldcrest were seen by CL who persevered to the farthest point, with again numerous mainly invisible Robins present.

Avakas Gorge 

8 November

Our second ringing visit was to the reeds at the bottom of the Xeros Potomas river by the desalination plant. We were not anticipating a big catch, but we only managed to equal yesterday’s 8, though we did catch one of our expected species, a Moustached Warbler, although the Great Reed Warbler was unexpected.

Moustached Warbler

 Great Reed Warbler

 Sardinian Warbler female

Total : 8

Robin – 1
Moustached Warbler – 1
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler – 2
Chiff-chaff - 2

We then made a visit of one or two local sites to see what was looking good, or not. Cyprus in early winter has a Western European feel, with many winter visitors we expect in the UK, though the exception really is the Wallcreeper and Finsche's Wheatear, with the odd winter vagrant from Turkey such as Rock Sparrow, Red-fronted Serin and Rock Bunting. And, though whilst in winter Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Brambling,  and Siskin, are present, quite a few can be difficult to see or need a visit to the Troodos, and an available drinking pool! During our local site visits we had around 80 Sky Lark a Mandaria, a Wheatear at Kouklia, Asprkremnos Dam apart from a very low water level and few birds, did have a single Great Crested Grebe, and our final visit to Anarita Park enticed us to put up the nets again. We managed nine birds this time, though the session did produce Denise’s first Serin and Corn Bunting! Also a Quail flew in and landed 5 feet from the net and immediately disappear into a bramble clump, and it was not even a shooting day!

 Corn Bunting

Total : 9
Robin – 2
Common Stonechat – 1
Sardinian Warbler – 2
Chiff-chaff – 2
Serin – 1
Corn Bunting – 1

9 November

Today was a run up to Troodos to look for some of those less than easy to see winter visitors, unfortunately being a Sunday it was also a hunting day (the other being a Wednesday). Around Troodos village we found a single Mistle Thrush, plus Short-toed Treecreeper and the endemic species of Jay and Coal Tit. We then paid a visit to the Troodos Botanical Gardens which is located at the site of an old Asbestos mine, we had a Water Pipit, which was slightly odd considering the location, more a summer location than winter, and four Hawfinch coming into drink at the pools by the small lake. On the way back we visited a couple of the picnic sites, and one, Livadi tou Pashia had a medium size wet area at the start of the entrance track that was bring birds down to drink and after a while sat there we saw fourteen Blackbirds, a single Ring Ouzel, six Song Thrush, three Mistle Thrush, three Fieldfare, a single Redwing, five Hawfinch and four endemic race Common Crossbills. At the Kampos tou Livadiou Picnic site we had a flock of around 60 Fieldfare.

 Asbestos quarry disused buildings

Fieldfare

10 November

We returned to Anarita Park and did an am session, that also turned into a return pm as we found a small area of water in the old quarry. Sixteen birds were processed in the morning and a further six in the late afternoon.  In addition to the birds processed we also saw four Wood Lark, two male Fincsches Wheatears and a male Blue Rock Thrush.

 Black Redstart juvenile male

 Serin male

Total : 20 (2)
Robin - 2
Black Redstart – 1
Common Stonechat – 4 (1)
Sardinian Warbler – 3 (1)
Great Tit – 1
Serin - 1
Goldfinch – 7
Greenfinch – 1

11 November

We were going to ring at the Achelia reeds by the sea, but when we got there it was not really suitable and stopping at the nearby soakways the area seemed about the best we had found so far, so we set up, slightly later than wished for, but we processed 39 birds, making it worthwhile and an area to visit again for sure. In addition to the processed birds we also saw a couple of Bluethroats, Great Reed Warbler, Penduline Tit, Red-backed Shrike (which seemed to have a deformed bill, not hooked and looked slightly elongated) and Reed Bunting.

Willow Warbler

 Bluethroat

Total: 39
Robin - 2
Dunnock -1
Bluethroat - 1
Cetti’s Warbler – 5
Moustached Warbler – 2
Blackcap - 7
Chiff-chaff – 17
Willow Warbler - 1
Goldfinch – 3

Before going back late pm to Anarita Park to give the quarry pools another try, with a different set up, we dropped by Mandria, which was quiet with around 120 Sky Lark and a single Wheatear, though two juvenile Bonelli’s Eagles on the outskirts of the village was good.
Anarita Park quarry puddles proved to be another non-event, and on that basis we will leave them to the birds, slightly topped up from our two visits. One of the male Finsche’s Wheatears was feeding within the quarry whilst we sat there for a couple of hours.

Finsche's Wheatear

Total: 2
Goldfinch -2

12 November

We decided to make a return visit to the puddle at Livadi tou Pashia picnic site in the Troodos as the day after our last visit, as well as a few Yellowhammers, it also had a Pine Bunting coming down to drink or bathe. When we arrived three local photographers were there, with the front nearside wheel of their 4x4 almost in the puddle. I commented they will not get anything coming down if they are that close, so they moved back by about 2 metres, and partly blocked our view of the puddle area near the juniper which was the birds’ main route down to the pool. So we had to drive through and park up on the other side, further away than the photographers, but still closer than we would have been. For some reason two of the photographers spent some time walking around, and get in and out of the vehicle, and even when in the vehicle were not overly quite, so though a few birds came down, very few did and aby late morning we had a period of over an hour and a half with nothing coming down at all. At 1pm they gave up and left and we moved back further up the track, and it was not long before the number of birds coming to the puddle resumed and though it never got as busy as Sunday , the number of birds visiting did improve, with in the end one Water Pipit, Song and Mistle Thrush, two Blackbirds, Crossbill, and a male Siskin and up to nine Hawfinch, plus the local Coal Tits and Chaffinches. In a way a bit of a disappointing day through the lack of birds using the pool and so much time spent sat in the car, and a missed chance to at least have potentially have got to see Yellowhammer in Cyprus, although the Pine Bunting was really too much to expect to have seen.

 Still too close, even after moving back at our request.

The view from our vehicle after they left, and we re-positioneed to a
position further back and the birds started to return back to the pool

Hawfinch

Cypriots go in for picnicking in a BIG way.
Some sites accommodate 1600+ people!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Chobham Common - 31 October 2014

As it's some while since we visited the common, we decided to try a brief session at a spot that has been quite good for Redpoll in the past. As it turned out there were very few around, and the situation was probably not helped by the fact that an area that usually has shallow water beneath a stand of birch trees was completely dry. The only return for our effort was a Wren and two Goldcrests.
We returned after lunch to try for Dartford Warblers but the wind was strengthening and although we saw two or three none were captured, with one going to the net, but not held, returning in the direction it had come from.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Norfolk weekend 16 - 18 October 2014

This was meant to be a bit of an autumn UK catch up after 5 weeks in Georgia, getting the last of the easterly drift migrants just before the wind turned westerly for the rest of the autumn.

Friday 16

Was a day spent on a bit of a chase around, starting off at Stiffkey, where we picked up 2-3 Yellow-browed Warblers, along with a really nice flock of Brambling, before heading off to Warham Greens to join the crowd looking at the wrong set of bushes before someone re-directed everyone to the right one, where good close views were had of the Isabilline Shrike. Then off to Burnham Norton for good views of the Steppe Grey Shrike, and finally Holme for distant views of the Great Grey Shrike and slightly obscured views of the Palla's Warbler, but which time we both suspected we were coming down with a flu type virus.

Saturday 17

We decided to have an easy day at Holme obs, unless anything turned up to stir us into a slight more active mode, but it did not. When we arrived a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling loudly by the Broad Water but would not give itself up. Ringing was slow, with an increasing westerly breeze and with two of our RG already there we left them to do the ringing, except they had the Pipit traps going, and we made a bid for any Rock Pipits caughtas they had both ringed Rock Pipit previously. Around 9.30am, a Rock Pipit was extracted which was initially thought to be of the Scandinavian littoralis race, which was given to Denise. Unfortunately for the RG colleagues, who had not rung Water Pipit, despite an intial query, after the bird had been photographed, I re-checked one or two features, to confirm the ID as Water Pipit, the first one rung at Holme Observatory.
  
Water Pipit

Water Pipits - some of the features that tend to indicate Water Pipit, are brown grey back, rather than greeny grey, less obvious streaking on the underside, being browner and more defuse, less heavily streaked, including the flanks, dark black legs whereas sometimes Rock can appear with a reddish tinge to them, particularly in bright light, white covert tips and outer tail feather, rather than grey white, plus the 5th tail feather has a different pattern to it.

 Water Pipit 5th and 6th tail feathers, above bird having the deep white wedge on the 5th tail feather

littoralis Rock Pipit 5 and 6th tail feathers

 Sunday 18

Was aborted, as neither of us managed to rise before 9am, and apart from breakfast in King's Lynn, we headed home, both feeling rather rough.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Georgia Ringing Camp - autumn migration - 9 September to 11 October 2014


We arrived at Batumi, Georgia on the 9th of September, planning to settle in for a few days before taking over from the Belgium team who had been on site since mid August. We spent time at the ringing camp in order to familiarise ourselves with some of the expected species, understand potential difficulties - hunters and cows included - and to get to know the local area.

Although our camp organiser arrived a couple of days after us we made good use of our time, seeing how the Belgians managed high volume days, manned the site 24 hours a day and handling some of the ringed birds.

 River Warbler

 Red-breasted Flycatcher

 Blyth's Reed Warbler

We also came across the sad results of hunting. Many hunters shoot at everything as well as the official species of Turtle Dove, Quail, Crakes and Ducks.

 Great White Egret

 Marsh Harrier remains

Marsh Harriers are shot, the wings cut off and the carcass taken for food. It was made clear that hunters were not to be challenged, a rule of the Batumi Raptor Count organisation, as this may damage the efforts to change the hunting traditions via other means.

The Belgian team compare European Bee-eaters.

We were also able to find ourselves more suitable accommodation going from this, where 6 lodgers shared one toilet and shower with a family of 10.............
 
 

........to a bungelow with twin bedded rooms, each with its own toilet and shower. I couldn't imagine 30 days in a room with no storage or place to sit down and where we had to access the bathroom through the other communal bedroom. Zouri and Zaira, our new hosts were very hospitable and brought us traditional Georgia food to seal the deal. We did our best to explain our reason for being in the Chorokhi Delta, achieved mainly by MH who spoke some Russian, and Zouri brought out his gun to show us what he hunts with. We showed some of our photographs of captured birds and it became clear that he hunted only the allowed species. One of his sons hunts geese and the other does not hunt at all.
 
Our room in what became the ringers' bungelow.

There was also time to watch raptors overhead.

Short-toed Eagle

On the 13th came the official hand over. We took over at 14.00 and these were the first three birds out of the nets. Being a pm hand over, our first afternoon, as it was most days, was relatively quiet, with only 21 birds processed.


I started off with a Thrush Nightingale from our first round. I was also handed a Hoopoe, Hop in Dutch, that turned out to be the only one caught.

 
Hoopoe

The next day, the 14th we started at 05.30 keeping the nets open until 19.00 - which brought several extra species from the previous day, Chris processing his first Water Rail and there were more Redstart and a Bluethroat, but it was not an especially hectic day with 220 birds processed, of which 135 of these came from the evening Hirundine roost.

 Water Rail

Adult male and juvenile Redstart


 Bluethroat

That evening there were thousands of Swallows around roosting time.

Hirundines preparing to roost

On the 15th we again opened at 05.30 with the nest staying open until 20.00. There were quite a few hunters around. The first bird of the day was a Spotted Crake that I ran and extracted from the net, a first for MH. There was also a Baillon's Crake for MV.

Spotted Crake

Baillon's Crake

Some birdwatchers reported a live Roller floundering in the river and WH waded in to rescue the bird that was in very poor condition, even if there appeared to be no wounds. WH and GT decided to try feeding it and it took grasshoppers with no problem. We all knew the most likely outcome given its condition but little hope seemed better than just letting it die and feeding continued.

After rallying at first the Roller failed to thrive and didn't survive to be released.

The afternoon brought a capture of Bee-eaters then another large roost catch included the first Red-rumped Swallow ringed in Georgia and possibly the seventh record of the species (awaiting verification). In all 505 birds were processed, with 357 coming from the roost again.

 Red-rumped Swallow

European Bee-eater

Soon it was expected that the reedbed nets may become unuseable as a forecast of severe rain expected 80mm in one day followed by 40mm the next. So some more nets went up at additional locations on the 16th and a small Wagtail roost was taken at the end of the day. There were some problems with cows getting into the net rides - several lower panels received damage. The day's total was around with X birds processed, with only 34 Hirundines and 18 flava Wagtails. A small team decided to stay overnight, resulting in the nets being left over night and open for 24 hrs over the next three days. 152 birds were processed.

 Browsing cows too close to nets inevitably mean gapping holes!

There was a big change on the next day, the 17th, as Scops Owl, Little Bittern and Nightjar were caught over night and in the early morning, together with 13 Water Rails. The day was slightly busier than the previous days with 601 birds processed, though, again, 415 were from the Hirundine roost.

Scops Owl

 Nightjar

 Little Bittern

There was an influx of Red-backed Shrike and Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Levant's Sparrowhawk for MH.

 Red-backed Shrike

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Levant's Sparrowhawk

MH with the Levant's on his last day

The 18th was the first real fall day. Suddenly there were Acros coming from the marsh nets, including Marsh Warblers carrying a lot of fat. There were 50 Water Rails caught overnight, together with Little and Spotted Crakes, a Barn Owl, and some Blyth's Reed Warblers and the first Booted Warbler was caught today. CL ringed a Blyth's and DKL did Scops and Barred Warbler.

Barred Warbler

CL, MV, TH, WH and RH with six Scops Owls

 Booted Warbler

There was visual migration too with large flocks of Black-winged Pratincoles going through overhead with a range of raptors. It began to rain with moderate rain during the early evening and a roost was not possible, although the rain ceased after dark and the nest remained open until the following morning. 365 birds were processed, with only 13 Hirundines in this total, though there were 56 Crakes/Rails.

 AVA, NE and GT at the ringing table

The 19th saw 205 birds captured, with again no roost being done. There were two particular low points on this day, the first when a shot Marsh Harrier was found and had to be put out of its misery and the second when a nearby shot rang out and lead shot showered down into bushes just a matter of feet from where we were sitting.

An unusual capture from the crake trap - Southern
White-breasted Hedgehog


It rained a great deal after dark with lightning all night. We started at 6.30am with heavy cloud  and Wheatear was amongst the first birds from the nets. A huge group came to watch the ringing, bringing food, Georgian wine and Chacha - all for consumption before 8am. It came on to rain very heavily and the whole group took refuge in the tents. Nets were closed from 8.30am to 1.30pm. After a brief spell rain began again and continued all night, so the nets were closed quickly again, and only 81 birds were processed.

On the 21st the water was rising fast and streams running through the site.

The pool that had been quite shallow on our arrival  soon rose and flowed into the area with our net rides.




Water was running through the campsite and the tent soon started to flood so everything that might spoil or be ruined was raised onto chairs or tables.


We were very concerned about the Chorokhi River that flowed just behind the campsite. It was close to bursting its banks and things were made worse by the fact that a dam upsteam was periodically opened, raising the level by a great deal in a short time. Jan couldn't remain on site any longer so he moved to the ringers' house. Of course, there was no ringing today.

 Our rented bungelow

The next day, the 22nd was better in terms of water level, but there was a lot of mud inside all the tents and the river had clearly flooded through during the night. It seemed to have flowed through at a level of 30 to 40 cms.The day was quite pleasant and with a bit of warmth there were again hopping frogs and shoals of small fish in the shallows. I ringed a River Warbler and the first European Sparrowhawk actually remained in the nets. Nets were opened from 0700 until 2000, with a total of 199 birds processed, including 93 Hirundines.

River Warbler

The 23rd was again a slow, slow day. Reedbed nets were not useable, we couldn't play music over night and the catch suffered as a result. On a positive note, we are developing a relationship with a local catcher who brings his unwanted birds to be ringed. Three were brought today and two yesterday. Nets were open for roughly the same periods as the day before, with 180 birds processed, again including 130 Hirundines.

First year female Sprrowhawk, known as a Mimino to the hunters.

On the 24th there was more rain as forecast and no ringing was possible. The state of the river was very worrying and more rain fell all night. On the 25th we delayed our visit to check the site and found two car batteries (to power the music) gone. A few nets were dropped. During this time. Black Kites were passing overhead and many chose to roost on the freshly re-emerged river island. There were a lot of low flying birds and while enjoying the sight of them close by, this seemed a little selfish and watchers tended to will the birds higher in order to be out of range of the hunters' shots. We got a short period of ringing in from 1500 until 1800 with only 34 birds being processed.

The next morning, the 26th, some 300 kites left en masse. There were shots but no birds were seen to plummet from the sky and one bird with several missing secondaries and primaries on one wing was still able to fly strongly.

Catching was steady with our newly sited nets bringing Common Rosefinch and the first Tawny Pipits to be caught in Georgia. There were also two Green Warblers and another Booted Warbler.

The days total was 168 birds, but with a very good mix of species.

 Common Rosefinch

 Tawny Pipit

Green Warbler

Booted Warbler 

AVA's time with us came to a close the following day (27th), and we found out that two Dutch ringers, due to camp, would not be joining us due to the weather and flooding situation. The bird numbers were down but there was the first capture of Blue Tit for the site. I had some more cow problems while on my own but avoided any further net damage. In the evening we took a small Swallow roost with WH and GT and had stunning views of Hobby. Slightly fewer birds were processed, with 148, though this included 88 Hirundines.

FB, DKL and JV process the catch.

We expected to manage the morning of the 28th, before rain, but actually were able to continue until 15.00. We ringed the first Goldcrest for Georgia. There was also a Levant's for DKL. In all we managed to process 98 birds.

 Juvenile male Goldcrest

Levant's Sparrowhawk

 

The Levant's was brought by the local hawk catcher. Birds are caught and female juvenile Common Sparrowhawks favoured. But birds are chosen on traditional criteria, number of bands on the tail and nature of breast feather patterning. The three birds below were all rejected, so bought to us for ringing and release. As was the Levant's. Many Levant's are killed by catchers as they believe the numbers will become too great if they are released and out compete the commons. This is incorrect as the Georgians do not know the population situation of the two species. A definite case for education. Georgians call these birds Mimino.

Mimino delivery

This is a very old style form of Falconary, where the hunters catch Sparrowhawks to use for hunting Quails etc. The Sparrowhawks are often released at the end of the season. They use Red-backed Shrikes as lures, with the eyes covered by caps fixed with wax. The birds are held on sticks and moved around when Sparrowhawks are seen to lure them in, to be caught in large mesh nets which causes no harm to the Shrikes, which are also released at the end of the Sparowhawk catching period. It is almost an eco-friendly quaint form of hunting, certainly a lot less destructive than a 12 bore shotgun. BRC is working with the hunters to ring the bird or other raptor by-catches they do not want before release, mainly around the BRC two count sites, whether our guy had heard about it or not, he was very co-operative at bringing along the birds he did not want, alas the Pallid Harrier they caught, was released as they did not think we might want it - we did!

On this date there were several birds overhead including a flock of seven Spoonbills and a juvenile Goshawk flew through low.

Another day (the 29th) with ringing not possible. We awoke to atrocious wind and rain so went to breakfast in Batumi with JV, NE, WH and GT before the lads flew home, then went birdwatching from the vehicle before checking the site. Flooding looked likely again. We did some how manage a couple of hours late pm, processing only 6 birds!

The Chorokhi river after heavy rain, above, and on a quieter day below.


There was no flooding on the 30th and another bonus was the presence of GT and WH whose flight was cancelled due to the weather. We were joined by FB and ED and there was a good fall of birds, including Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler. This and the next day were undoubtedly our best days with 356 processed, with very few Hirundines in that total.

The mud was never going to dry out. Wellies were an essential purchase.

Everything was damp, but the sunshine soon dried out the birdbags.

 Quail (carefully released out of sight of the hunters)

The 1st of October brought our first Song Thrushes, Stonechats and some Lesser Whitethroats with different wing formulae. All very interesting and DNA samples taken. The number of birds processed also exceeded the previous day by 4, with 360, and again very few Hirundines in that total.

 Caspian Stonechat

 Lesser Whitethroat

Wryneck

On 2nd, there was rain from quite early on and nets were closed at about 10am. We had some time to ourselves and went for an early lunch at about 3pm. From the restaurent, we witnessed kettling above the lower Caucausus and raptors setting off in the direction of Turkey. This turned out to be one of the biggest migration days for the BRC as birds blocked by the earlier weather systems took their chance. We went back in the evening and tried, unsuccessfully for Crakes, but there were a few incidental Swallows and the first Blackbird for our team effort. The day's total came to 159.

The 3rd was another slow day, but we at least managed to get the tents down and put them away dry, though we only managed 79 birds!

 Drying the tents

Bluethroats became more frequent on site

The 4th of October was a slow bird day again, though we did manage to process slightly more than the day before with 114. We were now hearing Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes every day and it seemed very similar to autumn in the UK - apart from the Bluethroats and Red-breasted Flycatchers. FB was called away for the game show filming and everyone, other than us will be at the BRC linked to this on the 6th. A lot of rain is forecast and we tried to bring our flight forward but were unable to do so without considerable cost. This evening Jan was handed an injured Stone Curlew. There is no rehabilitation scheme in Georgia so it was released back into the marsh after it survived the night.

 Injured Stone Curlew

Thunderstorms were forecast for the morning so it was agreed not to ring on the 5th. But, the sky looked quite good at 8am and JV, NE and ED decided to go. They returned at 10am in a torrential downpour having done few birds. We spent the afternoon at the site, doing a few Bee-eaters and the Robins, Chiffs and Willow Warblers that were around, processing only 44 birds.

Bee-eater

With no more camp, CL in his natural environment, ringing out of the back of a car.


There was just CL and DKL for the 6th. Our best capture was a Moustached Warbler, out of 57 birds handled.

 Moustached Warbler


Meanwhile JV was busy with gameshow filming. The Dutch programme pairs celebrities and birders to undertake bird related activities. The role for JV was to ring the birds caught in the nets that each of the four teams had sited, verify the identification and process the captured birds. Amazingly, the first bird out of the bag was a first (ever) for Georgia - a Raddes Warbler. And no, the birder couldn't identify it!

 Raddes Warbler - BRC Station 2

The 8th brought just under 100 birds for the morning. An effort for Stonechats in the afternoon saw 9 captures. The Caspian and Common birds were straightforward but the potentially Siberian birds were more difficult. DNA taken. The day ended with 107 processed, of which 10 were Stonechats, Common, Caspian and Siberian.

 Caspian Stonechat

 


Siberian Stonechat


There were a lot of Kingfishers captured during the project, but not all were caught and ringed.


It really is clear that the area is less productive at this point in the season. Perhaps worsened by the floodng, but there are definitely better ringing sites off the marsh for general species. Today (9th) NE was given a Spotted Crake for her list, and we had a late spurt with 132 birds processed.

The moon sinks over the marsh.

 Spotted Crake

Still slow on site and above migration really seemed to be over. There was nothing special today.

 Red-breasted Flycatchers still trickle in.

On our last ringing day, the 10th, a new ringed species for Georgia - Dunnock! This was out of 26 birds processed, with us taking nets down at 10.00


The nets were all taken down and the marsh returned to the birds and hunters.

Rustic poles were finally taken down.

Hunters and dog

There is certainly a lot of work to be done in Georgia and change will not happen over night. Hunting traditions go back hundreds of years and there are different types of hunters. There are the hunters who only take what is permitted, some actually talking about the need for enforcement of regulations regarding what's shot and the dates when this happens. It is also understandable, when seeing the standard of living for some families that an additional food source is vital. There are then the hunters who go out without a dog, wearing PVC jackets and trainers and shoot anything that flies, leaving the carcasses behind. It is also interesting that our host, Zouri, a hunter who showed us his gun when we first arrived, also told us when we left that he had not been out shooting the whole time that we had been working in the marsh. Whether due to not wanting to kill one of 'our' birds or from respect for what we're doing is unclear - but it is a little progress.


The pool was still running into the marsh rides on the last day. 

The ringing totals for our part of the site survey are below, with full daily details of the expedition can be found on Trektellan.

In addition to the birds rung, during our period on the delta between 9/9 and 10/10, 173 species were seen.

On our last day, the 11th we visited the Batumi Raptor Count before our flight home, where certainly at station 1, the migration was all but over.

 View of Batumi from Station 1

 View towards station 2

There were a few eagles over station 2, which were just visible in the distance, too distant to even readily claim any specific species from our vantage point, through a passing Griffon was fairly obvious, even at some distance.

 Counters scour the sky to the north

Some of the optical equipment donated to the BRC by Linda and Phil Burnham,
 in memory of Trevor Burnham.


Totals:  4393 (92)


Little Bittern 3 (2)
Levant Sparrowhawk 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 17 (1)
Hobby 1
Water Rail 74 (1)
Quail 2
Spotted Crake 4
Baillons Crake 1
Little Crake 4
Moorhen 2
Snipe 1
Scops Owl 16
Barn Owl 2
Nightjar 1
Kingfisher 47 (12)
Bee-eater 17
Hoopoe 1
Wryneck 17 (6)
Sand Martin 360
Swallow 1088 (1)
Red-rumped Swallow 1
Tawny Pipit 16
Tree Pipit 12
Blue-headed Wagtail 59
Dunnock 1
Robin 104 (7)
Thrush Nightingale 37 (15)
Bluethroat 78
Redstart 171
Common Stonechat 5
Siberian Stonechat 4
Caspian Stonechat 11
Whinchat 7
Northern Wheatear 4
Blackbird 1
Song Thrush 4
Savi's Warbler 92 (3)
River Warbler 4
Sedge Warbler 26
Moustached Warbler 8
Blyth's Reed Warbler 7 (1)
Marsh Warbler 107
Reed Warbler 390 (2)
Great Reed Warbler 95 (3)
Booted Warbler 2
Barred Warbler 2
Lesser Whitethroat 61 (3)
Whitethroat 28
Garden Warbler 257 (6)
Blackcap 616 (22)
Green Warbler 2
Willow Warbler 226
Common Chiffchaff 136 (1)
Siberian Chiffchaff 2 (1)
Goldcrest 3
Spotted Flycatcher 25 (1)
Pied Flycatcher 1
Red-breasted Flycatcher 55
Blue Tit 4
Great Tit 2
Red-backed Shrike 35 (4)
House Sparrow 2
Chaffinch 5
Greenfinch 23 (1)
Common Rosefinch 2