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100,000 Raptors a day – Batumi, Georgia.

Batumi is located in the southwest of Georgia and this area acts as a bottleneck for many species migrating south through the region in autumn. The Black Sea to the west and the Caucasus mountains to the east funnel birds into a narrow coastal flyway that pushes them over the town of Batumi

Peak species day-counts: -

Honey Buzzards - 90,000

Steppe Buzzards - 80,000

Black Kites - 10,000

Pallid & Montagu’s Harriers - 3,000

Aquila Eagles - over 500

Booted Eagles – 500

Every year for the last four years, a team of volunteers has spent the autumn manning watch points on top of two high peaks north of Batumi. Their reason for being there is twofold: little was known about how many raptors passed through this region before the Batumi Raptor Count (BRC) started; and sadly, like many countries in the region, there is a local culture of hunting that adds to the pressure the migrating raptors already face on their long journey south. These two points are interlinked, since one of BRC's aims is to look into the effects of hunting pressure on the raptor population passing through western Georgia; but BRC is taking a proactive approach, too.

Unlike in countries such as Malta and Cyprus, the hunting community co-operates with BRC and its volunteerswhich is great, because it means BRC can work directly with hunters and assess the numbers and species that they're shooting. Some hunters undoubtedly hunt for fun, but the majority of what is shot appears to end up on the tablebe that the family's dining table or to feed the captive Sparrowhawks that many hunters keep.

The Sparrowhawks are used to hunt Quail and Corncrake, which then go to feed the family. Without condoning their hunting, it's easy to appreciate that, with years of hunting culture and no education to point out the wrongs of their ways, the residents of Batumi can be forgiven for not understanding the impact they were potentially having on the raptor populations. Indeed, they were unaware that the area acted as a bottleneck: as far as they were concerned, this spectacular (and productive) phenomenon was happening across the region and their activities would not change this. That is now beginning to change thanks to education programmes being provided by BRC in Batumi's schools and universities. Residents are also beginning to realise that there may be more valuable ways to exploit the raptor passage, namely ecotourism.

In 2012, BRC is celebrating its 5th year and there are several ways you can be involved: as a counter, as an ecotourist, or by attending the first Batumi Bird Festival. If you're interested in visiting Batumi or taking part in the raptor counting, details can be found on the Batumi Raptor Count Website –

The BRC works with the local community to organize home stays where visitors are offered accommodation on a full-board basis. The accommodation includes a comfortable private room in a family's house with shared bathroom. The family will prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for you, at the time you desire. It is also possible to ask for a packed lunch if you are planning on being out all day. During your stay you can attend the BRC count stations (Sakhalvasho, Shuamta) and visit other birding and/or cultural highlights in the region. Your home stay will be located close to one of the count stations, and transport to the other one can be arranged through BRC. They can also assist in organizing trips to some other popular destinations in the region (including Mtirala National Park, Chorokhi Delta, Kobuleti and Kolkheti National Park). Guides will be available from mid-September onwards. Upon arrival, you will receive a Georgian cell phone, which you can use for communication with BRC. Accommodation costs 50 Gerogian Lari (£19 at April 2012 rates) per person per night.

A fantastic opportunity

Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a custom tour for you.




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