Tuesday 7th – Thursday 16th May 2019GEORGIA – SPRING BIRDING IN THE CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS
This new tour takes us to the edge of Europe and the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Caucasus Mountains. Our targets are the ‘Caucasian Big 5’, Caucasian Snowcock, Great Rosefinch, Caucasian Black Grouse, Güldenstädt's Redstart and Mountain Chiffchaff. These species breed in the high mountains and are easier to see in early spring when snow cover forces them to lower altitudes.
Other species we hope to see include Demoiselle Crane, White-throated Robin, Red-fronted Serin, Menetries's Warbler, Wallcreeper, Common Rock Thrush, Finsch's Wheatear and many more.
Our tour takes us to the best habitats, from high mountains through to reed-fringed wetlands and semi-deserts, making this a tour not to be missed!
Tour Leader: Dobromir Domuschiev & Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 14
We take our flight from London Heathrow via Munich or Istanbul to arrive in the early hours the following day. Then make our transfer to the small village of Stepantsminda which will be our base for the next two nights.
Our journey will be broken with several birding stops which should provide us with White-winged Snowfinch, Wallcreeper, Red-billed and Alpine Choughs plus the local
Menetriesi race of Common Buzzard.
Days 2 - 3
We will be exploring the surrounding slopes, ridges, river valleys and scrubby areas for the main five Caucasian specialities, Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Great Rosefinch, Mountain Chiffchaff and Güldenstädt's Redstart. The slopes above us should still be covered in snow and the species will be at lower levels. Sometimes the latter three species can be found foraging in the village!
The higher peak of Mount Kazbek rises to over 16,000 feet and holds the majestic Lammergeier, whilst lower elevation sites can produce Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor and the smart semirufus race of Black Redstart. Other species that occur in large numbers include Twite and Water Pipit of the races brevirostris and coutellii respectively.
Migrants pass through the area and may include Red-breasted Flycatcher, Thrush Nightingale, Red-throated Pipit and even Corncrake and Common Quail! We will also keep our eyes peeled for the Caucasian Tur, a goat-like species that occurs in the Greater Caucasus Mountains at heights between 2600 and 13000 feet.
After a good breakfast we make our way towards Tblisi with several stops en-route where we search for European Wryneck and Common Rock Thrush amongst others.
Days 5 - 6
The next couple of days will be spent exploring areas around the Dafit Gareja Monastery plus several wetlands close to the border of Azerbaijan.
The monastery dates back to the sixth century and is located high in the mountains overlooking the Azerbaijan border. It is home to species such as Black Francolin, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Pale Rock Sparrow and Menetries's Warbler. With migration in full swing, we hope to locate Isabelline Wheatear, Green Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling, Black-headed Bunting, Common Rock Thrush, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Barred Warbler and Finsch's Wheatear as they feed amongst scrub on the rocky cliff faces. Overhead, Long-legged & European Honey Buzzards, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and Egyptian Vultures soar over the ridges.
The nearby wetlands are an ideal stopover site for many species including Demoiselle Crane, Armenian Gull and flocks of terns such as White-winged, Black and Whiskered. Pygmy Cormorants nest in large numbers and White-tailed Eagles are a common sight.
Days 7 - 9
We leave Udabno and head southeast to the savannah-like open area of Chachuna. With rolling hills, rocky crags and riverine forest, this area is home to a great mix of species.
Raptors are very common and have one of the largest breeding communities in the Caucasus with Black Kite, Levant Sparrowhawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Saker Falcon, Northern Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard and Eastern Imperial Eagle all making it their home.
The vast open steppe area produces Chukar, Black Francolin, Rose-coloured Starling, Black-headed Bunting, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes, European Roller and European Bee-eater, with a good chance of the occasional Blue-cheeked Bee-eater thrown in for good measure.
We say goodbye to our friendly hosts and spend the morning birding before catching our flight home to the UK after what will have been a fantastic tour!
Flights from London Heathrow to TbIlisi via either Istanbul or Munich
Full board accommodation for 9 nights
All ground transport in Georgia
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Food until our arrival in Tblisi
Easy to moderate, one to two miles walking per day. Some mountain walking will be undertaken, all at a slow pace
Expect around 160 - 180 species
Ground Price: £1795
*Air Price: £300
Total Tour Price: £2095
Single Supplement: £150
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs