breeding birds, science

News from Max and the breeding birds

Text & Photos © Max Baumgarten
I continued my breeding bird survey in western Azerbaijan and May started superb with the discovery of an Armenian Gull colony. Although supposed for some years this was the first breeding record for the country and it might even be one of the largest colonies of this species in the world. An incredible find in terms of conservation! Thanks to Amir Ben Dov for evaluating the importance of this site. Hartmut Müller, who is one of the the naturalist with most knowledge of the country and me independently discovered breeding pairs and teamed up to look for the colony.
Armenian Gulls resting at a dump
Adult Armenian Gull
Besides searching for Armenian Gulls Hartmut and I continued surveying together for a few days and were able to find a yet unknown breeding site for White-tailed Lapwings, which might be the largest of the country. The same site also hosted other nice species like Marbled Teal and Ferruginous Duck, both of which are on the national red list.
White-tailed Lapwing
White-tailed Lapwing
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters
Continuing on my own I went to the foothills of the Greater Caucasus and started mapping the forests on the southern slopes. Green Warblers had now arrived and also some Semi-collared Flycatchers were present. Some of the forests are still in good condition and almost natural, while others are heavily degraded to 5m high impenetrable beech (Fagus orientalis) thickets.
Forest slopes in the Greater Caucasus
On 15th of May Raphael Woll a bachelors student from Greifswald University arrived and accompanied me to apply distance sampling for his thesis and to improve abundance data quality. Together we went into the ornithologically unexplored hills bordering the Georgian Vashlovani National Park and we found high densities of Woodchat Shrikes, European Nightjars and more Eastern Orphan Warblers for which several new sites were discovered.
Black-headed Bunting singing
well hidden Nightjar
Well hidden Nightjar
Penduline Tits are locally common
A pair of Imperial Eagles with their nest

Cuckoos are a common sight
Calandra Larks get along well with agriculture

The second half of May was more or less business as usual but we visited Kai Gauger and his tourist group to spent two nice days together watching Shikras, Terek Sandpipers and many other nice species in the Lenkoran lowland in southern Azerbaijan.

After leaving the tourist group we went to the Greater Caucasus and for the first time since my arrival we started working in alpine zone. We observed new species like Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Red-fronted Serin or Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris penicillata). Unfortunately a period of bad weather started shortly after our arrival in the mountains and mapping was impossible. We used the time to meet Michael Heiß and his tourist group in Laza and made the best of the situation.
The bad weather was good for the Vultures
Raphael in Snowcock country
Mt. Shahdag in the Greater Caucasus
All in all May was a fantastic month and while migration was still ongoing with some late species such as Honey Buzzards or Steppe Eagles, the breeding bird inventory was complete and all the colorful birds were present. Orioles, Bee-eaters, Kingfishers, Rollers and Hoopoes could often be observed in one spot during a usual 10min point count. 
With the second month over it feels like the end is near but there will surely be more news in June!


Honey Buzzards on migration
Colourful European Bee-eater

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