Azerbaijan and the Besh Barmag project

Guest blog from Gunay Behramzade

MacQueen’s Bustard. Photo: Simon Carrington

Hello my name is Gunay and I’m an ecologist. Since my childhood I have a great passion for nature, but my great interest in birds started during my university years when I met German biologist Til Dietrich and did my first birding together with him. The first birds I identified were White Wagtail and Eurasian Jay and at that time I understood I indescribably enjoyed the identification of birds and decided that I should continue this. Unfortunately, birdwatching is not a common activity in Azerbaijan. I could not find people who share the same interest with me. But in 2016 I got acquainted with some foreigners on social network who travel to Besh Barmag for observation and ringing birds. Thus, in autumn 2016 and spring 2017 I participated in the international Bird Camp at the famous Besh Barmag bottleneck in Azerbaijan.

Counting migrants. Photo: Micha Heiss

In autumn 2017 and 2018 I was a part of the project and this great group. But the last project period was a little bit more special for me. I spent approximately one and a half month at Besh Barmag bottleneck and during my stay nearly 1,730,000 birds were counted and of more than 220 species. Everyday was full of dissimilar surprises and nobody could have imagined that Besh Barmag would surprise us with such exotic and wonderful birds during these days. Everyday was unique for me because unlike other counters I began to learn birds only few years back; so, I had more chance to see new species and learn the necessary information which made identifying birds easy to me and my all days were different, special and interesting.

But some days were unforgettable; for example, one of the more exciting days was on 30 November, when a male MacQueen’s Bustard flew above us and just landed south of the counting station and everybody could see this bird clearly.

Another memorable day was when I saw the biggest flock of Dalmatian Pelician of that season (5th November) and also observed Great Bittern on 18th November. That day I was extremely happy because I waited for it for a long time and I started to lose all my hope, it appeared suddenly when we decided to leave the counting spot and it was a great surprise. It is a regular bird at Besh Barmag but it is not common to see this bird in the end of autumn. But the most unforgettable day was on the 22th of November when I found Long-tailed Rosefinch on bushes near the observation station and Kai Gauger helped to identify it. It was the first record for Azerbaijan. Another exceptional day was 24th November when just in a few hours the Trektellen record for Marsh Harrier was broken and total number reached nearly 1400; and some large flocks of Little Bustard made that day wonderful.

Dinner at the Bird Camp (Gunay is on the right). Photo: Micha Heiss

One of the best aspects of participating in the international count like this is the chance to work together with professionals who can share their valuable knowledge and experience. With these projects I improved my knowledge and abilities. Working hard there I became very confident about my competence and it persuaded me that I can be very successful in my career.

Gunay Behramzade

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