BBBMC, Besh Barmag, bird migration, count2020

Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count 2020

As a counter you will:

  • monitor the daily bird migration through a narrow coastal plain in Azerbaijan
  • work closely with a mixed team of Azerbaijani and international birdwatchers
  • learn and teach others in bird counting and bird identification
  • enjoy a frontier bird project in a little-known part of the world

The sacred Mountain Besh Barmag is situated 90km north of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Here, a coastal plain between the foothills of the Greater Caucasus and the Caspian Sea acts as a narrow bird migration corridor leading to a high number of bird species and individuals. In autumn 2018 about 2.8 million birds were counted and so far 320 species have been recorded.

Species and numbers vary throughout the autumn with thousands of Garganey, waders, terns, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Yellow Wagtails in August/September, up to 20 species of raptors on single days in September/October and tens of thousands of Calandra Larks, Little Bustards and waterfowl in October/November. Eastern species like Pallid Harrier, Saker, Pallas’s Gull, Black-winged Pratincole, White-winged Lark, Citrine Wagtail, Richard’s Pipit, Buff-bellied Pipit etc. are regular encounters. But always expect the unexpected, as rare eastern species, such as MacQueen’s Bustard, Little and Pine Bunting, Sociable Lapwing, White-tailed Lapwing, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, White-headed Yellow Wagtail and Long-tailed Rosefinch, were also observed in the last years.


Autumn 2020 from 22 August until 5 December. A participation of at least two weeks is expected. On weekends we take over the transfer costs between the airport and the accommodation, but you have to pay on your own on other days (~50$).


This project is open for birdwatchers with different skills and experiences. While the novice but dedicated birder is of great help for counting more common and easier identifiable species, the advanced counter will e.g. focus on seawatching or distant passerine migration.
However, everyone should be prepared to follow an every day diverse and challenging bird migration. Recording this requires team work in our heterogenous international team. As the project’s language is English, you should be able to communicate with the other counters in this.


We cover lodging, food and local transports. For a stay of 2 weeks (day 1 to day 14) the costs are 26$/day. For 3 weeks (day 1 to day 21) the costs are 21$/day. For 4 weeks (day 1 to day >21) the costs are 17$/day. You arrange your own flight tickets to Baku and digital tourist visa (convenient process, ~25$: If you can only stay for less than 14 days you may come as a birdwaching tourist for 35$/night with full board (see below).


You will stay in a simple apartment hotel in the village Zarat about a 20 minutes drive south of the counting spot. There are several units with sleeping rooms and a bathroom. Max 3–4 people will share each apartment with two rooms so be prepared to share a room. Breakfast and dinner will be in a common room with kitchen where you can also spend the evenings. A lunch package, snacks and drinks will be provided for the count in the field, where we count from sunrise to sunset.

Therefore, please read the experiences by the counters from previous seasons, to get an impression how migration counts at Besh Barmag are taking place:

Late November highlights at the Besh Barmag migration bottleneck

text by Ric Else and Hazel Watson Before joining the Besh Barmag counting team from mid November to the end of the month, we weren’t really sure what to expect at such a late stage in the migration season. We had been closely following the daily count data on Trektellen from the beginning of September,…

Late October / early November impressions by Michael Hoit

Text © Michael Hoit Bird counters at the spot © Michael Heiß Avian migration is a truly amazing natural phenomenon. The mass long-distance movement of birds across the world is quite familiar to most, but is still somehow underappreciated and taken for granted by many. To some of us, at least, it is inherently exciting…

October birding at Besh Barmag by Thibaut Riviere

What a wonderful place!!! I spent almost three weeks (2ndof October to 20th October 2018) at the famous Besh Barmag migration spot in Azerbaijan. It was an amazing experience for me. Indeed, this spot is one of the biggest places in the Western Palearctic to count birds. During my stay here, we counted no less…

First half of October at Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count 2018

Text © Pia Fetting Daily counting routine starts early © Leyla Muslim October brought new species for the season such as Yellow-browed Warblersand Oriental Sky Lark ( as well as Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (, increasing the touch of east by that . But also the intense migration of all possible occurring heron and bittern species…

Bird migration count at Besh Barmag in September 2018

Text © Manuel Tacke Photos © Marcel Tenhaeff From early morning on several flocks of Purple and other herons gave us great fun. Now the evening breaks in and from the already somewhat stale light a group of nearly 200 herons emerges and flies straight over our heads: 135 Purple Herons together with 55 Grey…

Where the sun burns the sea

Text & Photos © Martin Scott Caspian Sea sunrise “Where?”, “They have a Grand Prix there don’t they?”, “Isn’t that where Borat is from?”, “Didn’t they win the Eurovision Song Contest?” were just some of the responses I got when I said I was off on holiday to Azerbaijan. So knowledge on this country is…

Apply as a counter

Please provide us with some basic personal information about yourself. Tell us your preferred counting period and please give some details about your birding activities and your bird migration count experiences. You will find the application form below.

Apply as count coordinator

Are you an experienced migration observer and have you been coordinating counts at other stations or working in comparable projects?  Have you already been to Besh Barmag as a counter and you know the daily routine? So, you are probably looking for a free stay at Besh Barmag! Please send us your short application! You will be responsible for the coordination of the counting team on site and manage the data processing in the evening. This position is shared with our Azerbaijani coordinator who is in charge for the remaining stuff. Furthermore, the field periods of the count coordinators will overlap by a few days to guarantee a proper introduction and handover of the count.

Apply as a tourist

You can visit the counting station at Besh Barmag as a birdwatching tourist at any time you want. This is for free and you are very welcome! If you need food and lodging during your stay, you can join our accommodation and full board in the apartment hotel in nearby Zarat for 35$/night. As you are not directly part of the counting team you have to organise the transfer between accommodation and counting station on your own (5$ taxi costs for one-way or 1 hour walk or rental car).
The profit gained by tourists will support the Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count financially. Furthermore, we offer guided tours in the upcoming autumn and winter and you can request individually arranged short trip as well. The profit will support the count.

Interested? Of course you are!

Please fill in the application form below or contact us directly at to join an awesome birding experience this autumn. Some FAQs are listed below.


What is the accommodation like? – You will stay in a simple apartment hotel in the village Zarat about 20 minutes south of the counting spot. There are several units with sleeping rooms and a bathroom. Max 3-4 people will share each house with two rooms so be prepared to share room. Breakfast and dinner will be in a common room with kitchen where you can also spend the evenings.

Are single rooms available? – Space is limited, and counters have to share apartments with up to three (or even four) other counters. The apartments have a single room and a double room.

Is bedding provided? – YES, you get bedding and towels from the hotel.

Can I wash clothes? – YES, for a small fee clothes can be washed in the village.

Is there vegetarian food? – YES, most dishes will be vegetarian anyway and if not, a vegetarian option will be arranged. Though vegan food is possible, this would be less diverse/ more difficult in the Azerbaijani countryside.

Are there shops? – YES, there are grocery shops close to the hotel, where you can buy snacks, beer or whatever.

Can I pay in Euro? – YES, within the project you can pay in Euro, Dollars or the Azerbaijani currency Manat. Outside the project (shops etc.) you need Manat, which can be exchanged at the airport, in Baku or the nearby town Siyezen.

What do I have to bring for the count? – OPTICS, of course; binoculars and telescope both are very important. A camera can be a useful tool for subsequent identification of tricky species. There will be a sound recorder as a back-up for flight calls, but bring your own device if you want. We provide some tally-counters, but if you have them yourself, please feel free to bring them.

Do I get free days? – YES, we will always try to allow one free day per week if you require this and if there are enough counters to cover the work. Afternoon excursions to spots in the surroundings with part of the counting team will be arranged as well. But this highly depends on the number of available counters and magnitude of bird migration and is thus not guaranteed, but we try our very best to make you happy.

Is there internet connection in the hotel? – YES, there is rather slow but free WiFi in the hotel. Another possibility is a local SIM card, which can be purchased in most shops.

How is the weather? – DIVERSE. August and September are rather hot with possible temperatures above 30°C, but nights can be chilly. October can be warm (10 to above 20°C), but rain and cold is also likely. This is already the time to bring hats and gloves. November and December are late autumn months with temperatures mainly below 10°C, rather windy and fresh. First snowfall can occur. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap/hat throughout the counting season.

Which birds can I see? – MANY. The easiest is to pick out your period and check the daily count data on Trektellen, eg.

Local media visited us during the count in autumn 2018