What is happening at Besh Barmag bottleneck?- News from Azerbaijan

A guest blog by Michael Heiss, member of the Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count team

Birders counting birds at Besh Barmag, Azerbaijan
Despite no official Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count being organised for autumn 2019, some birdwatchers travelled to Azerbaijan to witness bird migration at this amazing place.

No Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count was organised for autumn 2019. That is sad. The organisation team made this tough decision, because it was unclear how far the construction of a new highway will affect migrating birds and their counters. Dust and noise from the construction site would definitely diminish the extraordinariness of this place for counters and surely leave no good impression. But what was finally the situation at Besh Barmag in autumn 2019? Did anybody come to visit this place? And was the road situation as bad as feared? Our team went there to find out in November.

A highway being built to connect Iran via Baku with Russia.
Too bad − the new highway will be built next to the old counting spot. This highway will connect Iran via Baku with Russia.

During the year a wide and deep lane for the highway was made, which was a grim and obvious sign that the highway will finally be built right next to the former counting site. But for unknown reasons the construction work has stopped for now, and the few lucky birders that made their way to Azerbaijan could enjoy the observation of migrating birds without any unpleasing dust and noise.

The first group came in the middle of October from Britain (http://birdingaze.blogspot.com/2019/11/migration-report-from-besh-barmag-late.html) and more birdwatchers arrived in late October and early November, when up to ten persons were standing at the small ridge and counted migrating birds. It felt like autumn 2018 and brought back good memories! In total, the teams counted more than 770,000 individuals in just a couple of weeks (https://trektellen.nl/site/totals/1533/2019).

Besh Barmag an unpleasant weather conditions, such as hot sunny days, strong winds, heavy rain or freezing cold temperatures
Unpleasant weather conditions, such as hot sunny days, strong winds, heavy rain or freezing cold temperatures, are a main issue for the counters at the observation spot. So, a good observation shelter at the right spot would be mandatory for any future activities.

Some members of the organisation team of the Besh Barmag Bird Migration Count visited the bottleneck site and also met up with a representative from the state Tourism Board. We scouted for alternative places, which might be also suitable for migration counts. The new place should be far away from the new highway, but should also provide a good overview of the bottleneck area. We found a few places, which are probably not as perfect as the former spot, but the new highway will be far enough and most of the migration will be visible and audible. So, even with a noisy highway nearby the situation is not as bad as feared and birdwatching tourists will still enjoy Besh Barmag.

Dalmatian Pelicans passing through Besh Barmag Azerbaijani n hundreds on some days
Among the more spectacular species is the Dalmatian Pelican, which passed through in hundreds on some days.

At the moment the organisation team is in contact with the Azerbaijani Tourism Board to plan how a birdwatching and visitors site can be harmonized with the highway and its surrounding infrastructure. Both motorists and birders would like a cup of coffee and a toilet at a planned pitstop nearby, and the birdwatching sites will still have space. So we do have enough information, a tentative agreement with the authorities and a new site for the shelter to announce this:

There WILL be a full autumn migration count for 2020!

Save the dates 22 August – 5 December in your calendars and make plans for a week or some more, either as official counter or just as a birdwatching tourist, at one of the most awesome bird migration hotspots in Eurasia!

More information to come.

A samovar with hot tea helped us during the cold days.
A samovar with hot tea helped us during the cold days.

3 Responses

  1. Lasse Patrick Simensen says:

    Great news! What a place!

  2. Tom Tarrant says:

    How do you apply to join Autumn 2020?

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