Birdwatching diary

"We were driving on a track in the open landscape and everywhere one could see birds. Calandra and Lesser-toed larks on the road; while on the scattered bushes Balck-headed and Corn buntings were numerous, so as Isabelline weathear and Woodchats shrikes. Bee-eaters, Ruddy sheldycks, Black kites and Long-legged buzzards were flying above the most unusual landscape of the plateau. When we reached the site, I immediately understood why Giorgi was so excited. The view from the hide was breathtaking: the high and colorful badlands emerged from a green steppe, thus providing the most incredible setting for our pictures. Vultures were already soaring in the surroundings and the local people reported wolf sightings. I was very eager to start working. We woke up at 2AM on the following morning and Giorgi drove us to the hide, there we patiently waited two mornings and one afternoon. Already on the first morning we had several Raven, Black vultures, Griffon vultures and one Egyptian vulture in great light. An adult Imperial eagle sat in front of the hide for a few minutes, soon followed by two young individuals, offering us the most incredible sight of this rare species. When the sun was already high, we couldn't believe our eyes, when a wolf appeared on the horizon, not trusting yet to come closer, but still close enough for some images. The whole time, Menetrier's warblers were calling from the bushes around the hide. When we left the hide, we could still find incredible flowers, tortoises, agama lizards and other subjects for our cameras. So much biodiversity in just one place! Besides, the accommodation was good and really in the middle of nature, with birds in the day and jackals around at night. Giorgi Rajebashvili proved to be an experienced and really patient guide, seconding every request and reliable for the hard work the hide photography requested. We much appreciated his company and humor. This first experience left us with a deep longing to come back to Georgia and explore more of its unique photo opportunities.

Bruno D'Amicis (professional wildlife photographer) and Marco Andreini (professional film-maker)"



A recipe that included some of Europe's most enigmatic birds within what surely must be one of Europe's most spectacular landscapes - the Caucasus, made my spring visit one that will live long in the memory. From watching Caucasian Snowcock in the high mountains to close photographic encounters with Wallcreepers and Great Rosefinches to name just two has left me wanting to return as soon as I can. Great guide George Darchiashvili provided excellent service and comfortable accommodation.

David Tipling



April 21, 2006
Letter From Georgia
Birdwatching by a Remote Monastery
What might Georgia offer? You name it. Georgia is a birder's paradise, rich in varied habitat, from the thick forests and crevasses on the slopes of the Caucasus to the soggy Black Sea wetlands. It has most everything in between, including the parched badlands along the Azeri border. Moreover, it is a bird highway, receiving traffic from north or south as birds that breed in the Arctic Circle turn Georgia into a semiannual aerial corridor to and from wintering grounds. It also has a native population of the one of the grandest birds on earth, the lammergeier, or bearded vulture, whose wingspan can exceed 10 feet and which sometimes carries bones high overhead and drops them onto rocks, cracking them open so marrow can be yanked out by beak. Legend holds that the Greek playwright Aeschylus died by such antics, when a bird of the lammergeier's habit dropped a tortoise on his head. One of the rarest birds of prey in Europe, it can be seen here - if you are lucky.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/21/world/europe/chivers-birding.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

By C.J. CHIVERS



Wonderful people, spectacular scenery and lots of birds in a variety of habitats - what more can one ask for? From the slopes of Mount Kazbeghi to the shore of the Black Sea, our guide Zura Javakhishvili knew where to take us, what to look for and we were not disappointed. He took care of all our arrangements too - for meals, accommodations, transport all details were handled professionally. We are looking forward to our next trip to Georgia!

Jerry and Sharon Goldsmith
Washington, DC, USA