bird migration, Qizilagach, science

First impressions of a wader study at the Caspian coast

Text & Photo © Christoph Himmel

Greater Sandplover at Neftcala beach
This blog post will introduce you to a research project about waders in the area of Gyzylagach (southeastern Azerbaijan). It gives you brief insights into the fieldwork and informs about nice sightings and numbers of waders.
The aim of this project is to update the old numbers from 1984/85 by A.O. Shubin. This project covers nearly the whole autumn migration period of waders from July to October 2017. Furthermore, it is planned to catch and equip eastern Black-tailed Godwits with satellite transmitters and search for the Steppe Whimbrel (subspecies N. p. alboaxillaris). For a detailed description please visit:
The journey began on 4 July when I arrived with my friend Stella in Baku. In the first days we were just birding for fun in Shirvan and Gobustan national park, Talysh mountains and Zuvand region. On 8 July Sönke arrived and the team was complete.
Since then we started exploring potential sites for shorebird counts along the coast and also did some additional bush- and steppe birding to get some local breeding birds.
We decided to count on three sites in the Gyzylagach area: a beach near Neftchala, Machmudchala wetland complex and the nearby fishponds and at the beaches of Narimanabad.
Map of the study area

Highlights of the first two weeks of counting were some incredible numbers for western European standards with flocks of at least 1600 Marsh Sandpipers, some nice sightings of Terek Sandpipers, Greater Sandplovers, impressive 43 Caspian Plovers, the second Grey Phalaropefor Azerbaijan and a sighting of a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Terek Sandpiper at Neftcala beach
Nice variety of waders in Gyzylagach
Relaxed Caspian Plovers
Wader paradise Gyzylagach
Mixed flock of Black-tailed Godwits and Eurasian Curlews
Grey Phalarope (right) – A true highlight and only the second record for Azerbaijan
Unfortunately, the permission for trapping and tagging Black-tailed Godwits has not been granted so far but I will try to get the permission at least for the next year as long I am doing the fieldwork in Azerbaijan.

But nevertheless, I am quite exited of what the next few weeks will bring to Gyzylagach and the nearby beaches.

3 thoughts on “First impressions of a wader study at the Caspian coast”

  1. Hello,I am trying to contact the author – Christoph Himmel – about his study. Specifically interested in how the species composition, numbers and timings compare with my own observations the last 4 years along the western coast of the Caspian in the republic of Dagestan (Russia) to the north.Would be grateful if someone can provide an email address for him.Thanks!Peter Humphrey


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