This brilliant tour provides complex and one of the most rewarding birding opportunities, taking you to all major hot-spots of Georgia, offering great diversity of attractive habitats and high number of wintering specialties, including coastal, high-mountain and steppe species. This time of a year offers great views of colossal number of waterfowl along the Black Sea Coast and the notorious alpine targets in Kazbegi, including Caucasus Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Caucasian Chiffchaff, which are easy to spot, as they show up lower down on the valleys. South-Eastern Steppes of Georgia provide enormous numbers of wintering highlights, including large flocks of Little Bustards, Calandra Larks, where White Lark, Black Lark and Oriental Skylark are also often observed among, and great diversity of raptors, while Pallas’s Gull is another exciting highlight of inland lakes and river valleys. Within 10 days of our hard core birding expedition, you will see most of the winter treasures of Georgia.
Great Winter Expedition
Republic of Georgia
28 February – 10 March 2019
Chorokhi River Delta & Batumi Seaside
Chorokhi River Delta or Chorokhi IBA, which is located south of Batumi is a fabulous birding hot-spot due to its high variety in biotopes: bushes, dry & wet grassy plains, marshes, a boulder plain, the seashore… This area is one of the most important stopovers along the Western Palearctic migratory route during spring and the autumn, while winter period provides another spectacle of majestic species in great numbers, including Great created, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Red-breasted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Velvet Scoter, Ferruginous Duck, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Caspian Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Mew Gull and many other goodies, while a small flock of a Greater Flamingo can be an occasional highlight of this place in line with other possible rarities, so, there is one point about this place to expect unexpected. So, the Delta will be our first birding destination in Georgia, while in the evening we’ll relocate to other spots and one we won’t miss is Batumi Seaside Park and the Harbor right in the center of Batumi. High richness of the seaside park provides regular observations of Gulls and Terns, as well as many well approachable passerines along the pine forest in Batumi Boulevard, and we’ll definitely pick a few interesting species for our list.
In the morning we’ll hit the road towards Greater Caucasus & Kazbegi, while on the way we aim to make a long stop at the Kolkheti Wetlands IBA. This wetland forest is a large National Park and important destination along the Eastern Flyway migration route, located on the west of the Black Sea Coast. The area is surrounded by the Lake Paliastomi and river Rioni (Phasis) – the geographic center of historical Kolkheti (Colchis), well known from the Hellenistic legend “Jason and the Argonauts”. The combination of the ancient Greek names of the site and the river makes up the Latin (and English) name for Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) that is thought to have been introduced to Europe by Argonauts from the site.
Kolkheti is a home for many waterfowl birds, especially in the winter, as the site is an important wintering spot, hosting another set of wintering species, including Great crested, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Great Cormorant, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Greater and Lesser White-fronted Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, occasionally Smew and White-Headed Duck, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Marsh Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Great Snipe, Kentish Plover and many other attractions in line with many Gulls and Terns, including Gull-billed Tern, White-winged Tern, Sandwich Tern, Great Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, occasionally Mew Gull and many other interesting species, so we aim to spend quite of some time here… depending on the weather and waves’ level on the Paliastomi lake, we might even take 2 hors boat trip to glide deep along the narrow channel with exotic landscape, surrounded by marshes and peat-lands.
As soon as the task been complete, we’ll continue towards the Great Caucasus and Kazbegi, our spot for next 2 days.
Greater Caucasus & Kazbegi
During further two days we will observe target Caucasian Endemics and other attractions around Kazbegi. Buckthorn bushes at the Terek Valley near the Stepantsminda Village provide wonderful views on flocks of Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Caucasian Chiffchaff acquiring everywhere. This is truly fantastic chance for bird photographers to make astonishing captures of these fabulous species. Bulfinch, Alpine Accentor, Snowfinch, Red-Fronted Serin, Twite, Horned Lark, Water Pipit, Alpine Chaff, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrush, Dipper and Green Warbler are other beauties regularly seen on lower slopes along the river valleys and small patches of pine forests, while a few Wallcreepers can also be well spotted on nearby cliffs.
To see Caucasian Snowcock and Caucasian Black Grouse we will explore neighboring valleys and hills. Among raptors Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Golden and Steppe Eagle are regularly observed on the spot, while there is also a good chance to see other raptors among early migrants. Besides birds, it is most likely to spot an East Caucasian Tur on surrounding slopes. After spending another great morning in Kazbegi, we will drive South-East of Georgia towards Steppes, making a few birding stops on the way, including one for Krüper’s Nuthatch, located on about 35 minutes drive from Tbilisi. at This night we will stay in one of the most beautiful and historic towns of Signagi with magnificent views of Alazani River Valley and the Greater Caucasus.
Iori River Valley & Dali Reservoir
In the morning we will move towards Dali Reservoir passing giant Iori Managed Reserve along the Iori River Valley, surrounded by unique Tugai type forests and nice landscapes. Greenfinch, Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Scops and Little Owl are regularly seen on this way, composed by diversity of raptors, including Short-Toed Eagle, Long-Legged Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard and possibly Saker Falcon. To not miss all these beauties, we will make a few stops on the way, including the spot where most likely the native Pheasant can be seen as well.
The Reservoir provides second breath of great birding opportunity… here expect unexpected. This area is extremely attractive for wintering waterfowl, including Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and occasionally Smew. Other highlight of the day can be a White-Tailed Eagles which breed nearby and commonly seen around the reservoir. In the evening we will drive to Dedoplistskaro town and spend the night there.
Shiraki Plains & Vashlovani Savannah
On the way to Vashlovani we will explore surroundings of Shiraki Agricultural Plains. The number of raptors along the road makes it truly special providing nice view of Steppe and Long-Legged Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Saker Falcon, Steppe Eagle, Hen and occasionally Pallid Harrier. The meadows on both sides of the road host large flocks of Starlings and Calandra Larks, performing great motions for photo cameras. White Lark, Black Lark and Oriental Skylark are occasionally seen among, so we will spend some time looking carefully through. Small flocks of passerines, including Brambling, Pine Bunting, Spanish and Rock Sparrows, Yellowhammer, Siskin, Twite and possibly Red-Fronted Serin are another attraction of this spot, however more highlights are still expected in Vashlovani National Park, including native Griffon and Black Vultures and possibly Bearded Vulture.
The central part of the National Park provides gorgeous view of mysterious Sandy Canyon Valley and good chance to spot Chukar, Lanner Falcon and Rock Nuthatch. The same hotspot is a home also for a few interesting mammal species, like Grey Wolf, Red For, Golden Jackal, Brown Bear, Gazelle and Porcupine, which are possible, but challenging. At the end of the day we will drive back to Dedoplistskaro town and spend another night there.
Taribana Plains & Chachuna Reserve
In the early morning we will start exploring Taribana Plains for another highlight of our trip. This magical place hosting incredible number of wintering Little Bustarts… flocks of thousands stretching all over the planes, providing unforgettable experience to espy that great spectacle.
The same area is also nice to see large flocks of Northern Lapwing and again Calandra and Skylark.
In the afternoon we will continue towards Chachuna Reserve, with a few stops on the way, especially for raptors, including Eastern Imperial Eagle, which is resident to the area and breads nearby. On the same root it is most likely to see vultures again, while at the Chachuna Reserve we will have chance to walk among riverine forest and explore surroundings mainly for resident Black Francolin, however this place also provides nice set of woodpeckers, including Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, Syrian, Green and Black. In the evening we will drive towards Udabno Village near David Gareji Monastery Complex and spend the night there.
In the morning we will start exploring surroundings of David Gareji Monastery Complex. This area consists of Mediterranean-type arid badland landscape with multi-colored clay hills covered with shrub and steppe-like vegetation. David Gareji itself is a Monastery Complex created by Christian Monks in 5th Century. This is probably one of the most interesting sites in Georgia, where historical and wildlife attractions cohabiting side-by-side.
Among raptors Steppe Eagle, Hen Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Steppe and Long-Legged Buzzards should be well spotted here, while the native Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vultures and Eastern Imperial Eagle are main attraction of this site. Surroundings of Gareji provide also nice set of interesting passerines, including Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin, Finsch’s Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, Lesser Grey Shrike, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Eurasian and Western Rock Nuthatch, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting and many others.
Kumisi & Jandari Lakes
On our last day we will visit the Kumisi and Jandari Lakes. These are medium-size lakes, situated southeast of Tbilisi and surrounded by steppe landscape. These lakes are amazing for wintering waterfowl and high density of birds observed especially at this time of a season, providing nice diversity, including Crakes, Herons, Coots, Grebes, Egrets, Terns, Gulls including Great Black-Headed, dozens of Cormorants including Pygmy and several species of Ducks including Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Garganey… Black Stork can also be occasionally seen around, while Pallas’ Gulls and Dalmatian Pelican should be picked up as a highlight of the day.
Surrounding meadows and steppes might provide large flocks of Rosy Starlings, various songbirds, passerines and raptors, and we will look through to pop up our species list.
In the evening we will return back to Tbilisi.
Besides birding, this trip also includes several cultural activities, which are well described in the detailed program.
This pack includes following services:
- Transportation from and to the airport
- Full-board accommodation
- Full day guiding and transportation
- Maps and other printed handout materials
- Entry tickets and permits
This pack doesn’t include:
- Flight cost
- Personal expenditures
- Travel insurance
Group Size: 8 – 10 Persons
For additional information and booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Caucasian Snowcock by Dachi Shoshitashvili
- Northern Pintail, Gull-billed Tern, White-Tailed Eagles, Saker Falcon, Little Bustarts and Pallas’ Gulls by Ilya Ukolov
- River Valley and Eastern Imperial Eagle by Hugh Jansman
- Pallid Harrier by Quentin Dubost
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