Sunday, 15 September 2019

Goodbye Batumi Raptors

Saturday 14 September

A mixed kettle of Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus and Black Kites Milvus migrans
Our last visit to the raptor points above Batumi as not only have we still to visit the local Botanical Gardens but consistent, heavy train is forecast from Sunday.  Up at Sakhalvasho by 9.30 for a further four hours and on this occasion the site was awash with visiting birds to add to the "official" counters.  Black Kites continued to dominate but there were plenty of Honey Buzzards and a good number of both Booted Eagles and a mixture of harriers, mainly Marsh Harrier.  As usual, the serenade from the passing Bee-eaters and the delightful sight of migrating Barn Swallows.

Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Other birds recorded included OspreySparrowhawk and Steppe Buzzard plus another Steppe Eagle.  It would appear that we now have mainly juvenile Honey Buzzards coming through following the adults and the stator the main Steppe Buzzard passage through this raptor bottleneck.

Booted Eagle Aquila pennata
Marieke convinced me that we ought to visit the second raptor watch point on the opposite mountain at Shuamta which, at the present time, was recording less than a quarter of the number of raptors passing by Sakhalvasho.  Shuamta really comes into its own later this month and into October with the arrival of the eagles which tend to pass closer rather than towards the sea near our present position.

Sakhalvasho Raptor Watch Point - top left on summit - seen from Shuamta watch Point

So off we went down the mountain noting both Chaffinch and White Wagtail on the way and up the other side with our local taxi driver, Rowland on whose land the watch point had been built by the local Tourist Board. Once at the end of the concrete road we met the vertical, stony track that you would think twice about walking up never mind use a 4 x 4 - and we were in an "ordinary" saloon.  But make it the car did, so all praise to this ancient Mercedes!  And most pleased was I that Marieke convinced me to make the journey.  Small and without the new luxurious facilities of the main site, Shuamta took you close to the mountains from which the raptors were arriving and whilst the numbers were lower you certainly seemed, during the hour plus that we were in attendance, to get a better view of the birds.  Interesting to read the prominent notice that in the event of lightning one should leave the site - especially knowing what was due to follow within twelve hours.  (Rain?  Absolutely through it down all night with continuous thunder and lightning.)

View down from Shuamta Watch Point
Lovely to get a closer view of the ten Black Storks moving across above us and watch the many "kettles" of mainly Steppe Buzzards soar and then stream away south.  During one such developing kettle the very experienced counters managed to identify the large red-ended buzzard and confirm a first Long-legged Buzzard for the day.

A flock of ten Black Storks Ciconia nigra passed over
Just to confirm the present dominance of the Black Kite, 9406 were seen today compared with the mere 436 Honey Buzzards at Sakhalvasho as the latter's migration pass comes towards an end.  And what of the birds seen during the past week whilst we have been visiting the site - but obviously not present for the whole of the average eleven hours a day counting?

SundayMondayWednesdaySaturdayTotals
Honey Buzzard27095802124343610190
Black Kite110133207591940621418
Osprey233311
Lesser Spotted Eagle165820
Booted Eagle8533312390820
Short-toed Eagle1491731
Marsh Harrier287732280462
Pallid Harrier2158126
Hen/Pal/Mont Harrier5835817118
Steppe Buzzard703555166326
Black Stork1152321
33443
A growing kettle of mainly Steppe Buzzards
Looking at the tools recorded at Shuamta today with a count of 3298 Steppe Buzzards passing close by set against the 1740 Black Kites and 774 Honey Buzzards it would certainly appear to confirm that the Honey Buzzard passage is drawing to and end and that the Steppe Buzzard migration is now well under way.  On the other hand, Black Kites just seem to go on coming and coming. 

Steppe Buzzard Buteo vulpinus
Similarly, given that Steppe Buzzards and most of the eagle species seems to keep further east then the arrival of these birds near the Shuamta watch point probably ties in conveniently with the drop off in counters as the mainly young, dare I say students, start drifting back to their respective home countries from mid-September onwards.

One further statistic before we leave the Batumi raptors, the following is the total number of confirmed raptors seen to date, quite awe-inspiring:

                       Honey Buzzard      506,576
                       Black Kite              140,701
                       Steppe Buzzard.        8,004
                       Booted Eagle             3,693
                       Lesser Spotted Eagle.   184
                       Marsh Harrier            4,553
                       Montagu's Harrier.     2,437
                       Pallid Harrier                137

And now for something different; to think that in a week's time I could be at the opposite end of the Mediterranean checking out the raptor migration in Tarifa!

And from these hills came forth the raptors to Batumi
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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