Tour Dates: Monday 14th – Monday 21st September 2020 (Tbilisi to Tbilisi)
Tour Price: £1,499pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Tbilisi approx. £350 return
Deposit: £350 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 – £250
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people
Raptors: European Honey Buzzard, Crested Honey Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, White-tailed Eeagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier and Red-footed Falcon
Passerines & Waders: Kruper’s Nuthatch, Citrine Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit, Green Warbler, Wryneck, Black-winged Pratincole. Plus Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans and numerous Woodpeckers!
Other: Caucasian Salamander
Batumi has certainly put itself on the map in recent years as the place to witness incredible raptor migration and that is the simple aim of this tour, to experience the spectacle of huge numbers of migrating raptors!
It is the bottleneck at where the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus and the Black Sea meet, that produces such great migration spectacles at Batumi, but of course it all depends on the weather! In most years at Batumi it is the beginning of September that sees large numbers of Honey buzzards and Black Kites passing through, but by the second and third weeks the numbers are still impressive, but there is more species variation and that is why we have chosen the dates of this tour. During the tour we hope to see a good selection of raptors from Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, to Booted Eagles, Short-Toed Snake Eagles and Lesser Spotted Eagles. We also hope for some of the scarcer species such as Steppe Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle and maybe Crested Honey Buzzard too!
Of course there are plenty of other exciting passerines that can be seen around Batumi and during our stay we will be taking various half-day trips out to witness some of these other species. There is also a high potential for finding rarities at this time of year.
Accommodation: 7 nights in Georgia
7 nights in a comfortable guest-house with shared bathroom and great home cooked food with other passionate raptor enthusiasts!
Inclusive Meals: Full board
DAY 1: Arrival Georgia
Upon arrival at Tbilisi airport we will transfer to our base for the next seven nights. The journey time is around six hours by road. Overnight Batumi
DAY 2: Kruper’s Nuthatch – Sakhalvasho Raptor Watchpoint
We will take a breakfast at around 7am and then pick up our packed lunches ready for a full day in the field. First we will take a drive to Batumi Botanical Garden which is a pretty reliable spot for Kruper’s Nuthatch. We will spend an hour or so at this site before it will be time towards the pull of migrating raptors! We will head up to the Sakhalvasho Raptor Watchpoint and spend the whole day here. It will simply be a case of making ourselves comfortable (a fold-up chair is essential) and then simply look up and wait! Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 3: Chorokhi Delta – Black Sea Coast – Sakhalvasho Watchpoint
After breakfast we will take a short drive to Chorokhi and then explore the area on foot. The habitat here is varied with reedbeds, mudflats, scrub and the beach. Chorokhi Delta is an Important Bird Area (IBA), only recently designated in 2015. It is great for waders, including specials like Sociable Lapwings and Black-winged Pratincoles which regularly pass through the site. The nearby meadows often hold Corncrake and Great Snipe too.
As with all migration hotspots, at this time of the year almost anything can turn up. For example, in 2015, several Daurian Shrikes and a Black-crowned Sparrow-lark were found here! Having checked this area thoroughly, we will then continue to the Batumi Boulevard, an incredibly good spot for passerines. Here the options are endless and may include species like Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale, Short-toed Lark, Green Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lesser Grey Shrike, Moustached, Blyth’s, Paddyfield and River Warbler and so the impressive list goes on! We will walk a 2km circuit which should take 2 – 3 hours birding time. We will then be picked up by our minibus and once again be dropped off at Sakhalvasho Raptor Watchpoint to observe the afternoon migration movement. Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 4: Shuamta Watchpoint
Today we will take a drive to to Shuamta Raptor Watchpoint which is located right in the heart of Batumi Flyway, or bottleneck. The area is included in the Batumi IBA and it is well catered for with a very good infrastructure, such as toilets, shelters and viewing platforms. The September period is a peak for Steppe Buzzard migration and it is possible to witness 100,000 raptors pass through here on a single day! We will also be hoping for some diversity of Eagles in particular with chances for Lesser Spotted and Great Spotted, Steppe, Imperial, Short-toed, Booted and White-tailed Eagle! Red-footed falcon is another numerous avian guest during this period, whilst many beautiful male Pallid harriers also pass through. We will spend whole day at this beautiful spot. Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 5: Kolkheti Wetlands
This morning we will take a longer journey time of approximately one hour so we can visit the Kolkheti wetlands. This is an area of vast open water bodies including the River Rioni, one of only two rivers in the world where the critically endangered European Sea Sturgeon still spawn. Here we will enjoy a boat trip across Lake Paliastomi, exploring the small wet channels and we may find Osprey and White-tailed Eagle fishing, alongside flocks of Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans. Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 6: Mtirala National Park – Sakhalvasho Raptor Watchpoint
After breakfast, we will take a drive to the visitor centre at Mtirala National Park. The journey time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on birding stops on the way! Once we arrive at the site we will then take a walk of around 3km where we will explore some of the subtropical forest. The area is great for Woodpeckers and we will look for White-backed, Grey-headed, Black, Lesser and Middle Spotted. Mtirla is also rich in endemic amphibians and reptiles and we might get lucky with a Caucasian Salamander.
After our morning trip to the Mtirala, we will then return to Sakhalvasho and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and early evening watching more raptor migration. Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 7: Chorokhi Delta – Black Sea Coast – Sakhalvasho Watchpoint
Today will be very similar to our very first day as we try and pick off any species that we may be missing. We will take time to look for newly arrived migrants at the Delta and then check the spots along the Black Sea Coast.
During the afternoon, we will visit Shuamta Watchpoint and enjoy our last migration spectacle! Overnight Batumi Guesthouse
DAY 8: Transfer to Tbilisi
This morning we will take the transfer to Tbilisi airport where the tour concludes.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local bird guide
Included in cost: All accommodation, all meals, ground transport, boat trip, entrance fees and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £200
Transport: Minibus throughout tour
The majority of birding is done in close proximity to our vehicle, though some optional walks with steeper trails in the mountains.
Climate: Varied with cooler temperatures in the mountains and warmer temperatures 15 – 20 degrees Celsius in the lowlands
Tour Start Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Tour End Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Suggested Airlines: Lufthansa