breeding birds, photography, travels

Azerbaijan Trip 5-13 May 2014

Text © Tomas Axén Haraldsson
Photos ©  Johan Stenlund

The third (following April 2012 and October 2013) arranged group trip by Swedish birders took place 5-13 May 2014 and included the highlights of eastern Azerbaijan: a few days in the Greater Caucasus, the steppes of Shirvan, the wetlands at Machmud Chala and Kizil Agach as well as the rich forests around Masalli.

Driving up through mountains and forests along the Guidalchay river yielded many Green Warblers and Semi-collared Flycatcher with Lammergeiers and Steppe Eagles overhead. The fogs were thick around Xinaliq but driving up to 2600m and then hiking, out of the fog, to some 2900m on the Gizilgaya massif proved successful – Caucasian Snowcock, Güldenstädt´s Redstart and a flock of Greater Rosefinches. 
Semi-collared Flycatcher
Green Warbler
The group then switched to next valley northwards and to Laza where they stayed with local families in the village on 1800m. An afternoon with Wallcreepers, Red-fronted Serins, Mountain Chiffchaffs, more vultures and eagles were followed by an exciting morning – eager swedish birders getting out of the houses at dawn and discover displaying Caucasian Black Grouses basically from the doorstep! Some 15 birds seen during the morning, on the slopes with birch scrub opposite Laza village and Suvar resort.
Red-fronted Serin
Short visits at the bottleneck site Besh Barmag with little result, some Rufous Bush-chats, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Menetriés Warblers.
Continuing south to Shirvan Nationalpark where the expected collection of birds showed – Black Francolin, Roller, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Ferrugineous Duck, Dalmatian Pelican. The wetlands at Machmud Chala are vast to overlook at a short visit but had some waders, 300 Greater Flamingoes and more. 
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
The strips of oak forest south of Masalli proved yet again to be a safe bet for Shikra with a pair at breeding site seen on several visits. The team also searched for the elusive and semi-mythical Hyrcan Tit in the wooded foothills of the Talysh Mountains without finding it but well Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers. The smaller southern part of Kizil Agach lagoons had lots of waders including Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Black-winged Pratincoles as well as thousands of Whiskered Terns and herons.
Driving back to Baku with visit at the Gobustan petroglyphs and the local Rock Nuthatches and Pied Wheatears, but no Finch´s seen. All in all some 220 species during the week and with nice weather (perhaps a little too nice, many days with above 30°C!) and smooth logistics. We will come back to Aze thats for sure!
Thanks to Johan Stenlund for providing some photos (more:
Tomas Haraldsson (planning and organizing the tour) & Ulf Ottosson (tour leader together with Elchin Sultanov).

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