by Alexander Rukhaia | 17.03.2023
Endless winter days, especially before the long-awaited spring, are always gloomy and sentimental, but, as a rule, it is these days that often awaken new thoughts and ideas. Something similar was happening to us before suddenly deciding on a short trip to eastern Georgia. Well, not completely sudden – this idea wasn’t really gathering dust on the shelf for very long, but anyway, in February, we somehow found the time and means to test the new location. I mean a new place where we always wanted to organize another ‘vulture restaurant’ for future photography tours, especially in winter.
Here, Asmus Schröter and I arrive to Dedoplistskaro – a small town in the easternmost Georgia, with an excellent location and close docking with several of the coolest protected areas of the country, and in particular with Chachun Nature Reserve and Vashlovani National Park – a real ornithological paradise and not only ornithological. That evening, meeting also our colleague Temo Popiashvili, we promptly organized the purchase of feed. The ration consisted mainly of whole sheep carcasses. There was more than enough of everything, but it’s a sin not to overdo it for the first attempt at a new place 🙂
After a not very long sleep, we get to work and organize a blind. The exact location was found and agreed upon long before that day, so the morning preparation was pretty quick. The place is just a miracle… and what views are around. And yes, during the preparation we heard several Red-fronted Serins along with other passerines, and oddly enough, two or three Eurasian Scops Owls constantly calling and responding back – not very typical in February. In short, without going into individual details, at dawn Asmus and Temo were already settled in their tent and I, wishing them good luck and crossing my fingers, retired from the territory, and in order to somehow cope with the excitement and divert thoughts, went birding the Shiraki Plains. It turns out that at the time when I was watching the mixed flocks of thousands Calandra Larks and Eurasian Skylarks, along with Eastern Imperial Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards, Hen and Pallid Harriers, Little Bustards and others, figuratively speaking, the temperature was gradually rising around Asmus and Temo. About a couple of hours after the start, Temo already sends me the first documentations of Griffon Vultures and Golden Jackals to my phone – amazing photos, albeit taken through the camera screen. I am absolutely delighted, as I am beginning to realize that this is a huge success on the first attempt. I can only imagine how the guys felt being in the epicenter of event.
According to Temo and Asmus, at first the birds behaved very cautiously – circled around but did not take risks. The guys had a limited view, only through the hole of the tent, but they constantly felt the presence of birds. Later, the big generals, that is Griffon Vultures, allowed the infantry, that is Eurasian Magpies and Northern Ravens to take the first step, and only then deigned to join the feast. Such an event certainly could not pass by the Golden Jackals. In short, soon there was a whole drama with scenes of confrontations and all that.
As Asmus later put it, it was a real ‘Vulture Spectacle’… sounds good event for the title of this new component, which will be added to the portfolio of our photo tours already from next year, and those who are up for such an entertaining holiday can already contact us and discuss the details. This is a unique place on the territory of the national park that conceptually meets all expectations, and despite the fact that on this day our restaurant was visited mainly by Griffon Vultures, virtually any other broad-winged birds of prey that are found in this region can be seen here. The most likely species, which for many reasons we also expect to see here in winter are Cinereous Vulture, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard, and, of course, there is always a good possibility for Bearded Vulture and Golden Eagle, because, firstly, they breed not far from here, and, in winter these birds can travel long distances in search of food.
Everything is still ahead. Soon we will publish an updated summary of the new features of photography tours.
Thank you for reading this brief report, and don’t forget to scroll down to see some photos of Temo from that day.