70,000 honey buzzards migrating in one day


This 4 October 2016 video, recorded in Georgia, is called Raptor migration in Batumi (in Danish; with English subtitles).

From the Batumi Raptor Count in Georgia:

Batumi – Saghalvasho

Sunday 3 September 2017

Counting period: 6:37 – 17:55

Count type: Storks and raptors

Weather: The day was sunny and the high clouds covered the mountains in the middle of the afternoon

Observers: Aki Aintila, Hélène Larnac, Simon Cavailles, Fabrice Cochard, Michiel de Koster, Jaime Escobar, Martha Mutiso, John Wright, Kaarel Vohandu, Thijs Schipper, Janosch Becker, Andrea Maier, Felix Timmermann, Diego Jansen, Anne Grohmann.

Black Stork 5
White Stork 56
Honey Buzzard 69670
Black Kite 3235
Marsh Harrier 150
Pallid Harrier 29
Montagu’s Harrier 347
Hen/Montagu’s/Pallid Harrier 99
Levant Sparrowhawk 50
Steppe Buzzard 1
Lesser Spotted Eagle 3
Greater Spotted Eagle 1
Booted Eagle 77
Osprey 2
European Roller 39

Totals: 73764 individuals, 15 species, 11:18 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)

Comments: More birds coming! An incredible day for the harrier migration, also for the Pallid Harrier. Moreover, it was a big day for the Honey Buzzards who crossed sometimes very close of the station. Many broad streams glided over the Black Sea in the begining of the afternoon and later, all the streams crossing far in the mountains.

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Eurasian bird news update


This video is called Eastern Imperial Eagle.

From BirdLife:

31 Mar 2017

Welcome to the second edition of ‘The Bird Bulletin’ – our new weekly news brief. Every Friday morning, we’ll bring you bite-sized updates from all across Europe & Central Asia – now you can kick start every weekend with ‘what a little bird told me!’

EAGLE TRAGEDY – Sad news from our Georgian partner SABUKO. The state energy company JSC has destroyed an active nest of the red listed Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila helica). There were previously only 9 breeding pairs in the country – and now this falls to 8. As the great Ray Charles sang ‘oh Georgia, No peace I find’. Read more…

BREATH IN DEEPLY – Sea air is good for you right? Unfortunately, exhaust gases from cruise ships in the Mediterranean are harming human health and the environment. This week, a wide alliance of e-NGOs – including our partners BirdLife Malta, NABU (Germany) and HOS (Greece) – adopted the ‘Rome Declaration’ to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area (ECA). Read more…

Picture Perfect – A picture tells a thousand words, so many thanks to Greek photographer Anastasios Sakoulis for kindly donating a collection of stunning bird photos to BirdLife. See more….

ACT NOW – have your say in the future of EU food and farming! Only 4 weeks until the European Commission’s Public Consultation on the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) closes. Next Monday, BirdLife’s LIVING LAND campaign is launching a public E-Action to help citizens voice their support for nature-friendly farms. Keep updated and follow #LivingLand.

Stamp of approval for birds of Belarus: Belpochta, the Post Office of Belarus, has just issued a postage stamp celebrating the ‘Bird of the Year, 2017’ – an APB-BirdLife Belarus initiative that saw the Crested lark soar to glory. Start writing your love letters now…See more…

And the winner is….THE BIRDS! Finland’s ‘Arctic Redpolls’ team has won the Champions of the Flyways 2017 – and annual real-time bird spotting ‘race’ organised by SPNI (BirdLife Israel) at the migration hotspot of Eilat. £50,000 raised by the all the teams goes to Doğa Derneği (Birdlife Turkey) to fund their fantastic work to make Turkey safer for migrating birds – the real ‘champions of flyways’.

The Lark Ascending….As the triggering of Article 50 makes Brexit a reality, we listen to Vaughan Williams’s orchestral masterpiece ‘The Lark Ascending’ – an ode to the skylark and its song –  in the knowledge that we shall continue working side-by-side with RSPB (BirdLife UK) to protect the birds of our shared continent.

This classical music video from Britain says about itself:

29 mei 2012

Like Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia, this is a pastoral work of transcendent beauty and power. The Lark Ascending was inspired by George Meredith‘s 122-line poem of the same name about the skylark (Alauda arvensis). He included this portion of Meredith’s poem on the flyleaf of the published work:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Imperial eagle conservation in Georgia and Azerbaijan


This video says about itself:

8 June 2012

Imperial Eagle pair – five instincts is a documentary film about the life of eagles, which is called by nature lovers – a jewel of the European lowlands. Two filmmakers from Slovakia went on pilgrimage to capture on camera those globally endangered birds of prey.

During three years they were mapping daily lives of these predators, to show us relationships and connections how to survive in their natural environment where man is intensively damaging European lowlands. The shooting did not use animals bred in captivity. Unique footage was filmed from the nature. Specific behavior of the eagles was discovered, which no one captured on camera yet.

From BirdLife:

Impressive Imperial Eagle conservation in Georgia and Azerbaijan

By Guille Mayor and Elchin Sultanov, Tue, 12/04/2016 – 09:07

The Eastern Imperial Eagle is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Its global population estimates range from 3,500 to 15,000 individuals. This embattled bird is a lowland species whose population is globally declining and that has been pushed to higher altitudes by persecution and habitat loss in Europe. In central and eastern Europe, it breeds in forests up to 1.000 m above sea level, in steppe and agricultural areas with large trees, and nowadays also on electricity pylons.

Breeding sites are threatened by intensive forestry in the mountains, and by the shortage of large indigenous trees in the lowlands. Other threats are shortages of small and medium-sized prey species, loss of habitat to agriculture, human disturbance of breeding sites, nest robbing and illegal trade, shooting, poisoning and electrocution by powerlines.

Neighbouring countries Georgia and Azerbaijan are doing their bit to save this species from extinction.

Georgia: Man-made nests against man-made destruction

In Georgia, the species has its main breeding grounds in the east of the country, a vast bushy steppe and farmland area. According to recent surveys, no more than 40 breeding pairs remain in the country, mainly restricted to nesting in riverine forests and electric pylons due to the lack of suitable trees to build nests in throughout the land.

Since November 2015, SABUKO (Society for Nature Conservation) is carrying out conservation activities to improve the status of the Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) through direct conservation measures, awareness raising and education.

Before the start of the project, funded and supported by CLP (Conservation Leadership Programme), several breeding surveys were carried out during 2014 and 2015 to assess the population size of the Eastern Imperial Eagle in Georgia and the locations of the nests. Several abandoned electric pylons were also checked for suitability to install artificial nests, as the species is known to nest in them in some countries in the Balkans.

In November 2015, four artificial nests were successfully built and installed, following the suggestionsi of the Institute of Ecology at Ilia State University, Georgia and MME (Birdlife in Hungary). In the first week of March, an adult eagle couple was seen performing diving flights (a courtship ritual or territorial display) close to one of them.

However, artificial nest installation does not solve the threat of habitat loss. So other activities are also being undertaken. These include the assessment and protection of young forest patches in non-protected areas that can be potentially used by the Eastern Imperial Eagle in the future, as well as of mature forest patches in such areas, where the eagles are currently nesting.

SABUKO is also carrying out satellite tracking of juvenile birds with the help of MME and the Vashlovani Protected Areas Office. To raise awareness among locals, SABUKO is conducting activities such as eagle watchers’ training, talks and presentations in schools, and meetings with municipality representatives, farmers and landowners.

Azerbaijan: Research is conservation’s best friend

Azerbaijan is essential to these and other threatened birds of prey as breeding and feeding grounds. However, there was a lack of comprehensive surveys that give us exact data about their breeding and wintering numbers. That changed with the adoption of the Southern Caucasus Action Plan for the Imperial Eagle in 2006, which stated that a basic assessment of the breeding population of the species was a priority.

In April 2007, the Azerbaijan Ornithological Society (BirdLife in Azerbaijan) started a comprehensive survey of Imperial Eagles in the northwestern part of Azerbaijan. Data collected during this survey were the first and most detailed data about the Eastern Imperial Eagle for Azerbaijan. In nine days, they covered 6.000sq km (7% of Azerbaijan territory, which is 25% of the habitat suitable for the Eastern Imperial Eagle) where they found 25 breeding pairs of Eastern Imperial eagles and a five more active territories. It was estimated that for the studied area, the number of breeding pairs was 35-60.

The results also indicated that the Azerbaijan population of the species may be among the top three in the world and therefore needs to be further researched, including mapping the rest of their habitat. This survey, by providing us with information about current status and distribution of the Eastern Imperial Eagle and distribution model will be our guide for future activities and planning for the conservation of the species and the designation of IBAs.

The action plan has drawn up a list of activities to increase and stabilise the population as well as to improve our knowledge of the Eastern Imperial Eagle. This includes public awareness campaigns on the threats to this species, holding meetings with electricity companies to site pylons in a way that is not a threat to the birds, providing alternative nests to those affected by human activities, and improve enforcement of laws against illegal logging.

Thus, the Imperial Eagle project will provide the chance to learn more about the Eastern Imperial Eagle and improve the conservation of this bird in Azerbaijan with the involvement of the media, local community stakeholders, infrastructure companies and governmental authorities.

Bird Camp Besh 2016 – engaging young people in conservation in Azerbaijan: here.

Stop migratory bird killing in Georgia


This video from the Caucasus foothills in Georgia says about itself:

In September 2014, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity in attending the BRC, Batumi Raptor Count, 2014 and captured some of my experiences and adventures on my camera.

This video shows some of the flocks of raptors we saw, the two counting stations, but also the people involved in the project and gives a little insight into the life you have at your work as a counter at the Batumi Raptor Count.

From BirdLife:

Preserving the Batumi bottleneck

By Brecht Verhelst, Tue, 12/04/2016 – 09:08

Every autumn, millions of birds of prey make their way south from the Russian forests and plains to their warmer African wintering grounds. This migration takes them through high Caucasus, and along the shores of the Black and Caspian Seas, which are difficult to cross. Nowhere is this migration more impressive than in Batumi, Georgia – a 10-km wide corridor between the Black Sea and the Lesser Caucasus mountains – where over a million birds of prey (raptors) are recorded annually.

The phenomenon never fails to impress, both in diversity and in numbers: 36 species of raptors have been recorded here, and on peak days their numbers regularly reach over 100.000 (the all-time record count for the species stands at 271.000 on 2 October, 2014, after days of rain kept the gates of the Batumi bottleneck closed and made migrants accumulate in the north).

Late August sees the passage of virtually the entire eastern population of Honey Buzzards and loose flocks of hundreds of harriers. Bee-eaters are everywhere, and small flocks of rollers add colour to the mix. In mid-September, eagles start to migrate and towards the end of the month, Steppe Buzzards start building up.

Thousands illegally killed annually

Sadly, the abundance of birds during migration has also inspired a local tradition of illegal killing. The green hills are dotted with hides where locals target low-flying migrants, especially raptors. On average, about 13.000 harriers, Honey Buzzards and eagles are killed every year. This is illegal in Georgia, but law enforcement has been limited so far.

The coastal wetlands are also frequented by large herds of hunters. Although most of them have a hunting license, many fire indiscriminately at any birds they see, thereby killing many threatened species. Sociable Lapwing, Great Snipe, Baillon’s Crake and Purple Swamphen are just a few examples of the species that have been found shot in the area.

Moreover, the whole coastal area is threatened with infrastructure development, and huge amounts of money are being invested in the construction of new resorts. The Chorokhi delta – a 500 hectare mosaic of habitats that is home to 266 species – currently does not have any protection status and is under immediate threat.

Saving the bottleneck

The Society for Nature Conservation (SABUKO) in Georgia and the Batumi Raptor Count (BRC) have joined forces to ensure the protection of this unique area. A raptor count in 2008 put Batumi firmly on the map as a prime birdwatching destination and since then, hundreds of birdwatchers have visited Batumi. The guesthouses established in local villages have helped to generate a source of income for the local communities, and have played a major role in convincing them to give up illegal killing and hunting.

Through educational and awareness-raising campaigns, SABUKO has created strong public support for the protection of migratory birds. Responsible falconers have been involved in this work, and many of them have joined a ringing scheme, supported by the Champions of the Flyway, aimed at ending the killing of ‘bycatch’ in their nets.

All of this culminates in the Batumi Birding Festival, which will be held this year from 25 September to 1 October, 2016. During this event, BirdLife will showcase the conservation work done in the Batumi bottleneck.

It is also a unique opportunity to do some of the best birding anywhere in Europe, led by some of the most famous birders and conservationists, including Dick Forsman (a Finnish ornithologist and expert in raptor identification), David Lindo (writer and ‘Urban Birder’), Rob Sheldon (conservationist known for his work with the Sociable Lapwing) and Andrea Corso (a top Italian birder).

By participating in this event, you will help us raise funds for the development of SABUKO into a full BirdLife partner, and to allow BRC to continue its annual raptor counts.

Georgia’s ex-dictator Saakashvili no longer Georgian


This 20 September 2013 video is called Torture Tape Rage: Thousands protest Georgian prison horror.

That scandal of sexual torture in the prisons of Georgia led to the downfall of dictator Mikheil Saakashvili.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Georgia deprives former president Saakashvili of citizenship

Today, 14:36

The government of Georgia has deprived former president Mikheil Saakashvili of his citizenship. The government has done that in its own words because Saakashvili has Ukrainian nationality and Georgians cannot have dual nationality. …

Saakashvili was … president … until 2013. He then went to the United States of America and later to Ukraine this summer where he received Ukrainian citizenship and was appointed governor of the Odessa region.

In his own country Saakashvili is wanted for abuse of power. His Dutch wife, Sandra Roelofs, now has returned with her youngest son to her parents’ house in Terneuzen.

An earlier, 21 December 2013, NOS TV report said (translated):

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, has left his country, fearing to be prosecuted. His wife, Dutch Sandra Roelofs, said so in an interview with daily Trouw. …

Roelofs herself has remained in Georgia and let the newspaper know that she feels more like being married to the country than being married to her husband. She also criticized the political actions of her husband. He had too much haste and then “you will make mistakes and you will make enemies.” She says that Saakashvili refused to listen when she mentioned criticism she had heard on her travels through the country.