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Birdwatching in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a widely unknown country to birdwatchers although it offers a high number of very attractive species to look for and a wide variety of great landscapes and different habitats. On a trip to Azerbaijan you will encounter wide lowland steppe and semi desert ecosystems, huge wetlands with amazing birdlife, mountain deserts with lush floodplains, rich beech and dry oak forests as well as the stunning scenery of the high Caucasus Mountains.
Among the top species are Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Great Rosefinch, Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Shikra which has its only breeding site in the WP in the southern lowlands of Azerbaijan. Other highlights are e.g. White-throated Robin, Radde’s Accentor, Bimaculated Lark, Crimson-winged and Trumpeter Finch, but also more common species like Semi-collared Flycatcher, Green Warbler or Caucasian Chiffchaff.
Nearly twenty years after the breakdown of the Soviet Union the country becomes more and more open to westerners and international tourism is slightly developing. Travelling in Azerbaijan is not difficult with a guided group as the people are very friendly and hospitable and also the infrastructure of hotels and resorts is meanwhile well established.
Electronic map of Azerbaijan
Day 4 and 5.
"Asian Imperial Eagle"
Day 10 and 11.
Day 12, 13 and 14.
"Birch Shrubs with Caucasian Black Grouse"
Being fond of nature and birds, in particular, I have travelled the world a bit and taken part in quite a few special birding trips, self-organized or offered by various companies specialized in this field (Algirdas Knystautas, Rockjumper Birding Tours, Dr. Koch). Lately I attended two trips to Azerbaijan, i.e. in January/February 2006 and May/June 2007. The first one having been initiatated by NABU (of which I have been a member for long) in order to assist the Azerbaijanian colleagues in conducting a waterfowl count in winter. Here I met Kai Gauger for the first time when he was still a student of the University of Greifswald. He had travelled to Azerbaijan a couple of times already pursuing his studies on a special bird project i.e. the Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). This made him cross the country from east to west and south to north, exploring all National Parks and Nature Reserves as well as the Important Bird Areas. He masters the Russian language more or less fluently and thus was able to make easily friends with park rangers and people all over the country. It was him who organized the complete tour in all respects i.e. arranging for transportation, lodging (hotels and private accommodation), catering, etc. He is a skilled personality, friendly and very sociable behaving very well with people notwithstanding their age. His profound knowledge about nature and environmental subjects, in general, and birds - the Azerbaijan list comprising about 400 species - where and how to find them, in particular, inspired me suggesting to arrange for another trip to this exciting country in springtime to be able to get access also to the higher ranges of the Caucasus Mountains. In May 2007 we started on the second trip. This time the group consisted of four new members and me. Kai again had arranged for everything and showed that he was able to handle odd situations as well due to the experience he had gained before in respect of knowing the country and its people. Again the group was very successful seeing a huge numer of birds including a few outstanding specials in the higher ranges (3000 m) of the Caucasus Mountains. Last not least it should also been mentioned that whenever possible, along the general route, cultural sites have also been visited e.g. the Rock paintings and mud volcanoes in Gobustan, the Khan's Palace at Sheki, Baku and some others. To me these were rewarding trips and I am looking forward to taking part in some others hopefully to come.
In May 2009 Kai Gauger organized a wonderful tour to amazing places in Azerbaijan. We visited the mountains in the south as well as the central lowlands and the High Caucasus. Everything during those two weeks was perfectly organized, even details. Kai also showed flexibility - we have been a group of varied interests - and all of us enjoyed these days in this interesting country with its fantastic sceneries and birdlife.
In May 2009 we travelled to Azerbaijan in a group of six persons who were interested in both ornithology and botanic. Kai organised a great trip and thanks to his broad knowledge of the country and its nature we got to know an amazing variety of landscapes, plants and birdlife. We were very pleased with the birding spots and also transport, accommodation and catering were well selected. We saw more than 200 species in two weeks with Shikra, White-throated Robin, Güldenstad´s Redstart, Caucasian Black Grouse and Caucasian Snowcock being my personal highlights. This was an excellent trip to a very interesting country with a competent guide – highly recommendable!
Some facts about Azerbaijan.
The Republic of Azerbaijan lies between the mountains of Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The capital Baku is located on the Absheron Peninsula at the Caspian shore.
The territory includes the exclave of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic which is divided from the larger part of Azerbaijan by Armenia. Azerbaijan is bordered by Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. Nakhchivan boarders Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. Around fifty percent of the country is mountainous. The Greater Caucasus in the north and the Lesser Caucasus and the Talysh Mountains in the south surround the Central Lowland. Coastal plains border the Caspian Sea. The main rivers are Kura and Aras. The climate ranges from hot and dry semi deserts and steppes in lower altitudes to forest and up to high alpine regions in the mountains. The mean rainfall per year is as low as 200 mm on Absheron but reaches more than 1,800 mm in the subtropical Lenkoran region.
Area: 86,600 km²
Altitudes: Caspian shore at -28 m.a.s.l., highest peak is Bazardüzü 4485 m.a.s.l.
Population: 8,2 Million in 2009
Religion: over 90 % Muslims, minorities of Russian Orthodox, Christians, Jews and others
Language: mainly Azeri, Russian still widespread, minorities of others.
More facts about Azerbaijan.
Guide books and CD’s recommended:
Collins Bird Guide: Birds of Britain and Europe. Svensson et al.
Birdwatching in Azerbaijan - a guide to nature and landscape. Schmidt, Gauger, Agayeva (2008).
Birds of Azerbaijan. Patrikeev (2004).
The Bird Songs of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Schulze, Dingler (2007).
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Last update 20/02/2014