Text © Gabi Caucal
December 2022 at Besh Barmag: beautiful and interesting count extension!
As in 2018, the monitoring continued during the first ten days of December.
After a second part of November, overall very calm with a very slow movements of waterbirds (example: only 3 sequences with Greylag Goose data, 4 with Red-crested Pochard data), the December month has probably made it possible to make up for a delay, observed for many species.
Thus, the dabbling ducks passed by thousands during these days.
During the days of 5 and 7 December, the mixed flock shows of Gadwalls and Mallards were fantastic and, above all, uninterrupted with groups often exceeding 100-120 individuals. By cumulating these two days, respectively 6715 Gadwalls and 14 761 Mallards were counted, i.e. half of the total numbers for these two species!
Well present in October and during the first half of November, the Northern Pintail, also experienced a third peak during the first five days of December with in particular 12 031 birds on the 4th and 5th, sometimes in groups exceeding 250 individuals in pure flocks!! Finally and as for the two previous species, nearly half of the seasonal total was counted during this extension.
These last days of the season were also fantastic for the diving ducks. Unlike dabbling ducks, their movements were very concentrated with, for example, 12 284 Aythya (including 1 568 Tufted Ducks and 485 Red-crested Pochards) on 4 December. During this sequence, the first hour was particularly intense with 2394 individuals, mainly pochards.
A few days later, the Goldeneye and Smew, two much rarer species in Azerbaijan, were present in high proportion with 426 and 100 birds, respectively, on a single day (7 December)! During this fabulous day, it was not uncommon to see groups of ten Goldeneyes with one Smew in between! For comparison, only 47 Goldeneyes and three Smew were counted in 2018 in total.
Against the Caucasus ridges snow and with the south wind throwing these birds closer to the ground, the migration of swans and geese was regularly magical around us. 2808 Greylag Geese and 373 Whooper Swans were counted during the first ten days in December. The mix of groups of swans was often appropriate, these individuals emitting many calls during their passage, creating a particularly moving atmosphere of migration.
King of this end of the season, the Pallas’s Gull, was present by hundreds during the last 5 sequences. Much more numerous than during the 2018 season (total of only 519 birds), the day of 7 December will remain for a long time in the memories of the observers. During the first four hours, the streams of 50 to 100 birds moved at the same time, very close to the station, along the beach or above the Caucasus ridges. Flying loosely and sometimes with their heads already quite black, our gazes were magnetized by the shine tips of their wings.
With a Long-tailed Duck (2nd sighting for the project) as the icing on the cake on the penultimate day, this last part of the season will have allowed to count 209 666 birds. A new proof that this bottleneck always holds surprises from the beginning to the end! Viva Besh Barmag and again a huge thank you to all the 31 participants who greatly contributed to raise of all this data!
And once more, the count organisers also thank our donors and supporters: OSME, Birding Caucasus, Azerbaijani Diaspora Committee, Camping Azerbaijan.
Photos © Leyla Muslim
Photos © Elvin Məmmədsoy
Photos © Pia Fetting