We are happy to announce another bird migration counting season at Besh Barmag bottleneck for autumn 2022. After the very successful full season in 2018 a planned new highway crossed our plans for autumn 2019 and in 2020 and 2021 a global pandemic made the count impossible. This autumn, however, we are in good spirit and eager to run another long-awaited round of the epic bird migration count. With some highly motivated additions to our local team and keen old fellows the stage is set! Besh Barmag bottleneck is still one of the most promising frontiers of Western Palearctic birding with an amazingly diverse and intense bird migration and great potential for some big highlights.
What is your task? As a counter you will:
- monitor the daily bird migration through a narrow coastal plain in Azerbaijan at the shore of the Caspian Sea
- 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 Garganeys, 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. Anything is possible!
Check https://www.trektellen.nl/count/view/1533/20181020 and explore the numbers!
Autumn 2022 from 1 September until 30 November. A participation of at least two weeks is expected. Airport transfers from Baku to the counting spot will be arranged for a small fee.
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 for long days in the field and counting through all types of weather. Recording the whole range of birds from passerines to raptors requires teamwork among a heterogenous international team. The project language is English so you should have at least some basic English skills.
We cover lodging in a small guest house within the bottleneck area, food and local transports. The price will range between 35 € and 45€ per person per day. The final price will depend on the funds and donations we can secure and the number of participants that might come. Unfortunately, we could not generate any funds from our birdwatching trips during 2020 and 2021 making the daily fees sadly more pricy than in autumn 2018.
If you wish to stay for a longer period, but pricing is too high, we can try to offer lower daily fees, but it highly depends on our budget.
Additionally, you arrange your own flight tickets to Baku and digital tourist visa (convenient process, ~30$: https://evisa.gov.az/en/).
You will stay in a simple guest house in the village Zarat about a 20 minutes drive south of the counting spot. There are several apartments with sleeping rooms, kitchen 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. Lunch will be delivered to the counting spot on a daily basis.
To get an impression how migration counts at Besh Barmag are taking place, please read the experiences by the counters from previous seasons:
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,… Continue reading Late November highlights at the Besh Barmag migration bottleneck
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… Continue reading Late October / early November impressions by Michael Hoit
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… Continue reading October birding at Besh Barmag by Thibaut Riviere
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 (https://www.trektellen.nl/count/view/1533/20181006) as well as Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (https://www.trektellen.nl/count/view/1533/20181012), increasing the touch of east by that . But also the intense migration of all possible occurring heron and bittern species… Continue reading First half of October at Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count 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… Continue reading Bird migration count at Besh Barmag in September 2018
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… Continue reading Where the sun burns the sea
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 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 want to stay close to the count you can stay at the same guest house with full board for a higher rate per person per day. 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.
Interested? Of course you are!
Please fill in the application form below or contact us directly at email@example.com 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 guest house.
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 simple grocery shops close to the hotel, where you can buy snacks, beer or whatever.
Can I pay in other currencies? – YES, within the project you can pay in Euro, Dollar 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 or upon arrival at the airport.
How is the weather? – DIVERSE. September is 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 can be cold 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. https://trektellen.nl/count/view/1533/20181115
What about the highway construction at the counting spot? – We have no information about the current status of the highway construction. We might have to react flexible and alter the counting spot accordingly. We may not be able to count from the best spot all the time but will certainly witness good migration from anywhere in the area. We have even counted successfully from close by the hotel.