Thursday, 30 April 2015

Georgia Day 7


Today was mostly a day of travel as we moved from the east side of Georgia to the extreme south west. The weather from lunch-time deteriorated and when we were at 2000 metres it turned cold and violent. Thankfully we were in our vehicle but the migrating birds had nowhere to hide and everywhere we looked there were raptors. As usual Steppe Buzzards were in the majority, but also good numbers of Marsh and Montagu's Harriers, a couple of Honey Buzzards and new raptors for the trip included Lesser Spotted Eagle and Booted Eagle. This now puts our raptor list on 25 for the trip as a whole and still a couple of other possibles to go yet!

Eurasian Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles and hirundines also came tumbling out of the sky and downed passerines in the rain showers included Red-backed Shrike and Whinchat. Some reed-fringed ponds held Garganey, Little Grebe, Water Rail and Sedge Warbler. A crake or two didn't show too well but on the calls and brief views were thought to be Little Crake - a return visit is planned for tomorrow!

Other new birds for the trip included Cattle Egret and White Stork from the roadside as we headed for the Javakheti Plain area and our accommodation at the heritage site of Vardzia (famous cave complex).


Neil M

Green Warbler

Armenian Gull

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hit + Miss Birding !

Due to various reasons my birding has been very "hit and miss" over the past few days and restricted to Blueberry area ,Harrington airfield and the garden !
Birds around Blueberry area include 2 Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo, 2 male Whinchat, Wheatear and Barn Owl.
This afternoon at Harrington airfield there was a Common Redstart, 2 Wheaters, 2 male Whinchat, male Ring Ouzel and pair of Grey Partridge.  The Whinchats and Ring Ouzel were present on Monday[27th] along with a Peregrine.
The garden remains attractive to at least 6 male Reed Buntings, 2 + Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow.
There are good numbers of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat singing from the hedgerows and a profusion of Orange Tip Butterflies.

Regards   Eleanor

Georgia Days 4-6


My apologies for no blogs the last few days but our last venue was without an Internet facility.

The last few days saw us leave Kazbegi, drive back through Tbilisi and then drive to the eastern finger of Georgia in an area known as Chachuna.

Driving out through the mountains on Day 4 provided us with views of a couple more Wallcreepers and a Horned Lark in addition to more standard fare. One of our stops was in a hillside beech wood and provided us with a couple of Green Warblers and we heard a Caucasian Chiffchaff. Also present was a pair of Semi-collared Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart and our first Blackcaps and Nuthatch.

At our lunch-time stop we witnessed a Peregrine knock a Swift to the floor and then go to retrieve it, and other birds included Black-eared Wheatear, Ortolan Bunting and the first of many Corn Buntings and Calandra Larks.

On arrival in the Chachuna area we quickly connected with some new birds for the trip which included Imperial Eagle, Menetrie's Warbler, Egyptian Vulture and the first of many shrikes. Our accommodation was a 'cottage' some 30km from the nearest road and reached by sandy tracks.

Black Redstart


Rock Bunting

Red-backed Shrike

Day 5 commenced with an early morning walk amongst scrub and tamarisk below a reservoir dam. There was an astounding array of birds in this habitat which included Black Francolin, Quail, Menetrie's Warbler, Common Nightingale, Penduline Tit, Kingfisher, Roller, Lesser Kestrel and White-tailed Eagle. After another late breakfast we drove to an upland area which was dominated by large cliffs of sandstone, and a natural place for both breeding and migrant raptors. We went on to record 18 different species of raptor during the day which included Saker, Red-footed Falcon, Honey Buzzard, three species of vulture and three species of eagle.

The afternoon was spent checking the vast rolling plains of this region, and also tracking down the passerines inhabiting the dry wadis and light vegetated areas. We located good numbers of singing 'Eastern' Orphean Warblers, Pied Wheatear, Rock Nuthatch and Lesser Short-toed Lark. There were large numbers of Rollers and flock after flock of migrating Eurasian Bee-eaters.

After another full day out in warm sunshine and very pleasant conditions, it was time for our basic but comfortable cottage retreat! However a couple of Scop's Owls had other ideas and could be heard calling nearby on and off all night!

Black Francolin

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Short-toed Lark


Day 6 (today) was our last day in the Chachuna area and we tracked down Short-toed Eagle, Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove as well as plenty of repeats of the previous days...


Neil M

Lesser Whitethroat

An unlikely duo -
Black-headed Bunting
and Red-backed Shrike

Eurasian Roller

Female Woodchat Shrike

Calandra Lark

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Georgia Day 3


A very cold but dry morning was perfect for another wander up the mountainside in our efforts at seeking birds of the high tops. We were spoiled with a couple of Caucasian Black Grouse straightaway and could hear the Caucasian Snowcock calling loudly to each other. Then a dilemma when one 'scope user found a pair of relatively close Snowcock on a jagged peak at precisely the same time as the other 'scope user located an ambling Brown Bear! Thankfully they all stayed on view for a long period providing everyone with good views. A male Wallcreeper flew past us yodeling his flight song and alighted briefly before flying off to rock buttresses below us. Other birds included Chukar, Red-fronted Serin, Great Rosefinch, Twite, Ring Ouzel and others. The session concluded with both male and female Caucasian Black Grouse putting on a distant show of running, chasing and flying.

After another late breakfast we drove to a strange geological formation which is a breeding site for Kestrel, Red-billed Chough, Wallcreeper and Red-fronted Serin. We saw them all and also lots of Black Redstarts and a Tree Pipit.

We then ascended to the deep snowfields of the high peaks and the melt areas all held birds anxious to proclaim their territory for the summer. The target species of Snow Finch and Horned Lark were found with persistence and there were good numbers of Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart, White Wagtail and Twite. The fourth Wallcreeper of the trip briefly alighted on a bridge parapet.

A late lunch then left us time to explore the river valleys again and we were surprised and delighted to locate a migrant Moustached Warbler, a species we hadn't collectively seen for many years. Probably the same Wryneck was located again and there were plenty of Willow Warblers and small numbers of other migrant warblers, a smart male Red-breasted Flycatcher and an apparent 'Western' Common Redstart. New birds for the trip included a singing Hoopoe, Bullfinch and Common Treecreeper.


Neil M


Ring Ouzel

Red-fronted Serin

Red-billed Chough

Grey Wagtail

Horned Lark

Red Fox

Moustached Warbler

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Georgia Day 2


After yesterday's excitement of heavy snow falls, blizzard conditions and blocked roads, today was filled with warm sunshine and blue skies. However the montane landscape ensured it was below freezing at dawn and very dry and cold as we scampered up the mountainside. It was possible to keep warm whilst on the move but long periods of time were required to 'scope the vast mountain slopes above us in search of our quarry. It wasn't long before a couple of male Caucasian Black Grouse materialised, their strange down-pointing tails looking quite sad in comparison with their European counterparts.

Blackbirds and Ring Ouzels were vocal and flying around the scant bushes and finches included flighty views of Twite, Red-fronted Serin and Siskin. However the best finches were much bigger - the huge Great Rosefinch flew in and we ended up seeing quite a number of these birds as they crunched their way through the fruit/stones of shrubs looking very similar to something resembling Sea Buckthorn.

Pretty much all the time we could hear the far-carrying Curlew-like calls of the Caucasian Snowcock. They were very high up and John managed some very distant 'scope views as they flew among the snowy crags.

Despite the very cold conditions, oodles of Water Pipits flitted around us as they preyed on seemingly invisible insects and cold-looking migrant raptors were dotted about us. Dunnocks were very common in the bushes and other familiar birds included Wren and Mistle Thrush.

We returned to our abode for a late breakfast and then birded a small park in the town before meandering up a gorge and open fell area. Guldenstadt's Redstart was probably the favoured bird of this session. This is a big, gaudy redstart which is just on the edge of its range here in Georgia. The overflying raptors were easily dominated in numbers by Steppe Buzzards as they ran the gauntlet of mobbing Ravens and Peregrines. Other birds included Crag Martin, lots of Black Redstarts, Rock Bunting, Song Thrush and several Griffon Vultures which breed on the cliffs.

After lunch we birded the valley floor and the deciduous trees and bushes along the river. a surprise bird was a male Wallcreeper feeding around stones and small boulders at the river edge. Sadly it didn't permit a close approach! A migrant Wryneck was next and then another spanking Guldenstadt's Redstart and a flock of Choughs containing both species. A large number of Black Kites were attracted to a rubbish dump and a pair of Lammergeier put in several appearances.

The remainder of the day was spent watching repeat species and checking through migrant Willow Warblers, and adding Common Redstart, Dipper, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and Linnet to the day-list.


Neil M

Male Great Rosefinch

Female Great Rosefinch

Ring Ouzel

Water Pipit


Coal Tit


Friday, 24 April 2015

Georgia Day 1


Together with three colleagues, yesterday I flew to the country of Georgia for a short birding trip in the Caucasus Mountains and other areas. Yesterday was taken up with travel but today we spent some time committed to roadside birding as we traveled from Tbilisi to Kezbagi.

Despite rain and cloud lower down and snow and ice higher up, a variety of raptors were migrating northwards. Although not a migrant, the best raptor was definitely the amazing Lammergeier with a couple of individuals flying overhead. Plenty of Black Kites and Steppe Buzzards were on the move or loafing about, and we also saw Steppe Eagle, Golden Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby and Peregrine.

Summer visitors included wagtails, warblers, chats and hirundines plus Water Pipits, Night Heron, Purple Heron and Common Swift.

Heavy snow delayed us making it over the mountain pass to Kezbagi, with ice and blizzard conditions on the high tops and three snow ploughs working hard to keep the road open. Red-billed and Alpine Choughs kept us entertained while we waited.

Hopefully the weather tomorrow will be a little less severe!

Neil M

'Eastern' Common Redstart

'Eastern' Black Redstart

'Eastern' White Wagtail


Black Kite

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Pitsford causeway


Very little time for birding today, but a twenty minute stop on the causeway at Pitsford Res early this afternoon provided a first summer Yellow-legged Gull, two Oystercatchers, two Common Terns, a White Wagtail and a singing Garden Warbler.

Broadcast seed in the garden continues to attract at least four Reed Buntings, up to half a dozen Yellowhammers and two Tree Sparrows and the local Stock Doves have really tamed up and regularly feed just the other side of the window.


Neil M

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Pitsford Ringing


Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett completed some bird ringing at Pitsford Reservoir this morning, using the Old Scaldwell Road as their base. Thirty-five birds were captured, twenty-three of them being new birds. The catch comprised of nine Tree Sparrows, three Chaffinches, four Blackcaps, two Goldfinches, a Reed Bunting, twelve Yellowhammers, two Greenfinches and singles of Great and Blue Tit.


Neil M

Monday, 20 April 2015

Pitsford gulls


Eleanor's perusal of the Blueberry Farm area this morning yielded two singing Grasshopper Warblers but nothing else of note.

At Pitsford Reservoir today, a pair of Oystercatcher remain and seem likely to breed again on-site. A couple of pairs of Black-headed Gulls also look very maternal and are showing a great deal of interest in the rafts and pollarded willows in the Scaldwell Bay. Last year they made it to the egg stage but didn't seem to progress any further.

In most springs a pair or two of Lesser Black-backed Gulls scout around the reserve obviously contemplating breeding and then move on. Today a pair were doing just that and were very interested in a couple of Coots fighting (again) in the open water. The Coots as usual just kept fighting regardless!

A Wheatear and a Whitethroat were noted at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.


Neil M

Scaldwell Meadow,
Pitsford Res

Adult Black-headed Gull
Pitsford Res

Lesser Black-backed Gull
and Coots Pitsford Res

A Raven caught and
ringed today at Chase Park
Farm, Yardley Chase.
Image courtesy of
Nick Wood.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Kelmarsh birds


Eleanor took a wander around Harrington Airfield this morning but the only birds of note were two Wheatears and a pair of Grey Partridge.

At Pitsford Res today a Willow Tit was again singing near to the Fishing Lodge and a Whitethroat and an Oystercatcher were near to the Old Scaldwell Road.

The Kelmarsh Estate woodlands were full of birds this afternoon causing me to try and capture some of them in my camera lens!


Neil M

Blue Tit

Nuthatch. This bird is
exhibiting a growth
next to the bill.

Cock Pheasant