Ba­tumi, Ge­or­gia

There are many birds to ad­mire on a trip to Ba­tumi. For ex­am­ple, look up and marvel at the vast num­bers of raptors mi­grat­ing over­head

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

De­spite from sound­ing like a des­ti­na­tion in dark­est deep­est Congo, Ba­tumi is in fact a re­sort city on the Black Sea coast of Ge­or­gia. Sit­u­ated on the western side of the coun­try and a short Honey Buz­zard flight from neigh­bour­ing Turkey to the south, Ba­tumi has an in­ter­est­ing his­tory. For­mally un­der the con­trol of Rus­sia and lat­terly despot war­lords, it is now the play­ground of oli­garchs hell-bent on build­ing yet more skyscrap­ing ho­tels in this city of 155,000. Its ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion­ing is also per­fect for ob­serv­ing tran­sit­ing raptors from fur­ther north and east en route to their sub-sa­ha­ran win­ter­ing quar­ters. In­deed, be­tween mid-au­gust and the end of Oc­to­ber in ex­cess of one mil­lion raptors pass over the bird count­ing sta­tions in the moun­tains sur­round­ing Ba­tumi, mak­ing the area one of the best places in the world to ob­serve this kind of mi­gra­tion. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that the mi­gra­tion over Ba­tumi has only come to light to the wider world within the last 10 years. The main rea­son for this sup­pres­sion was that back then the con­trol­ling war­lords banned the use of binoc­u­lars in pub­lic places! Of course, things are very dif­fer­ent now. The city ac­tively in­vites bird­ers and the Ba­tumi Rap­tor Count work closely with the govern­ment in spread­ing the con­ser­va­tion mes­sage among both cu­ri­ous lo­cals and the, for­tu­nately, di­min­ish­ing num­bers of hunters. De­spite be­ing pretty built up, with con­struc­tion in­creas­ing at a rate of knots, there are still a cou­ple of bird­ing sites not to be missed in the city.

Coastal strip

The first is Ba­tumi Sea­side Park, as it is lo­cally known. It’s of­fi­cial name is Ba­tumi Boule­vard and is right in the heart of the down­town area start­ing at the Ba­tumi State Univer­sity, which is pep­pered with restau­rants and usu­ally teem­ing with day-trip­pers. Look be­yond the hu­man­ity and you will find that it is a four-mile long coastal strip, dom­i­nated by pine trees and small bushes, run­ning along­side a very peb­bly beach. Dur­ing au­tumn mi­gra­tion, you may find Red-backed Shrike, Spot­ted Fly­catcher and East­ern Oli­va­ceous War­bler lurk­ing among the more reg­u­lar Green­finches, and Blue and Great Tits. An­other war­bler to look out for is the Moun­tain Chif­fchaff. Imag­ine a brown-and­white Chif­fchaff, with a prom­i­nent su­per­cil­ium and furtive be­hav­iour, and that’s your Moun­tain Chiffy right there! In­deed, Ba­tumi Boule­vard is not a bad place to be af­ter a night of bad weather as, dur­ing the au­tumn, passer­ines like Red-breasted Fly­catcher can some­times be com­mon­place along with the oc­ca­sional mi­grant Night­jar that can be found rest­ing on the branches of trees. Set your scope up along the shore look­ing out to sea and you may be re­warded with sight­ings of Pal­las’s Gull and Yelk­ouan Shear­wa­ter. As ever, don’t for­get to look up be­cause with the right wind con­di­tions, you may wit­ness har­ri­ers com­ing in low off the sea – there’s a high prob­a­bil­ity for a gor­geous Pal­lid Har­rier to drift through.

There is lit­tle doubt that the best place to be ur­ban bird­ing in and around the city is within the mouth of the Chorokhi Delta on the south-west out­skirts of the city, very close to Ba­tumi Air­port. It is gen­er­ally a bril­liant spot for bird­ing and, dur­ing the au­tumn, it can be a very ex­cit­ing place to be. There are a va­ri­ety of habi­tats to be found around the mouth of the River Chorokhi that flows into the Black Sea, in­clud­ing scrub, dry and wet grass­land, marsh­land and the coast.

Check care­fully

Ex­pect any­thing and ev­ery­thing, from Booted and Barred War­blers skulk­ing in the coastal bram­bles to Red­start, Red-backed Shrike, Wry­neck and Rose-coloured Star­ling. On the shore­line, watch out for rov­ing flocks of Short-toed Lark, waders such as Broad-billed and Terek Sand­pipers, plus check the Her­ring Gulls for pos­si­ble Heuglin’s and Caspian Gulls in their midst. In the marshy ar­eas, be on the look­out for Lit­tle Crake, while Snipe, Green Sand­piper and Glossy Ibis will be more ev­i­dent. Black-necked Grebe, Gar­ganey and Fer­rug­i­nous Duck can be looked for on any stretch of open water; while around the edges could be Pur­ple Swamphen, Pur­ple Heron, Citrine Wag­tail with Mous­tached and Great Reed War­blers, pos­si­ble in the ri­par­ian veg­e­ta­tion. The gen­eral shrubby wet mead­ows at­tract par­ties of Rollers, pip­its and rest­ing raptors, such as Lesser Spot­ted Ea­gle. This is just a tiny se­lec­tion of the birds that could be found in this area. The main chunk of the Chorokhi Delta is largely on mil­i­tary land, mean­ing that hunters, who are preva­lent through­out Ge­or­gia, are not wel­comed. The coastal part of the Delta is easy to ex­plore, es­pe­cially at the east­ern end that is ef­fec­tively a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Ba­tumi beach line. But, be care­ful when look­ing through the hin­ter­land, and stick to the roads wher­ever pos­si­ble be­cause there is still a slight dan­ger of un­ex­ploded land­mines. Per­mits to gain en­try to the Chorokhi Delta can be ob­tained from the tourist board. As men­tioned pre­vi­ously, Ba­tumi is world fa­mous for its rap­tor mi­gra­tion. A great place to wit­ness it within the city lim­its is to stand on the el­e­vated ter­race of the ‘Top Sta­tion’, ac­ces­si­ble by us­ing the Argo Ca­ble Car. While in­dulging in tea and the wicked choco­late cake ob­tained from the ideally sit­u­ated on-site café, you can en­joy views of the city and the Black Sea with the hordes of sight­seers. If you look up, and the winds are right, you could wit­ness spec­tac­u­lar rap­tor mi­gra­tion. Led by le­gions of Honey Buz­zards also ex­pect to see lots of Black Kites along with smaller num­bers of Steppe Buz­zards plus Le­vant and Eurasian Spar­rowhawks. What a great way to end your stay!

East­ern Oli­va­ceous War­bler

Roller

Red-backed Shrike

Honey Buz­zard

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