June 1st 11th 2009

June 7th : After a walk round our cottage and breakfast we left Shirvan at 08:30 heading for Makkhmod Chalar Lake a 20,000 hectares wetland where we hoped to pick up some water birds. We birded our way along the causeway and donated another couple of pints of blood to the local insect population. Under darkening skies we arrived at the farm where our guide had arranged for us to have refreshment at one of his local contacts house and Shahin and family duly obliged. Just as we were discussing whether to take a boat trip out onto the lake it started raining very hard and we had to beat a hasty retreat guided by one of Shahins sons back to the paved road. The highlights here were White-tailed Plover and Penduline Tit.
Drove through the rain storm and decided to stop for lunch in a forest strip near Mesalli. This proved to be very rewarding as Syrian Woodpeckers were very evident and we discovered a breeding pair of Shikra as well as added Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch and Little Owl to the trip tally.
Our next site en-route to our overnight lodgings near Hirkan at Alexevka was another area of wetland called Little Ghyzlgaghaag Bay, what a fantastic area where unfortunately time constraints limited our birding. According to our guide the whole bay was only about one meter deep and was absolutely alive with Whiskered Terns, I estimate at least 4000 birds were in the air, a brilliant sight. Lots of herons were also in evidence and Feldegg Yellow Wagtails and Flamingos were added to the list. We arrived at our lodgings at 20:00 and were treating to a fine supper including fresh fruit grown in the owner´s garden, the strawberries were excellent.

June 8th: Left lodgings at about 09:00 heading into the Talish Mountains via Lerik and birded our way into the mountains despite some heavy showers and low cloud. Woodlarks, Rock Sparrows, Bee-eaters, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-headed and Rock Buntings, proved to be common and widespread but the pick of the birds on the trip was a singing Bimaculated Lark over some high rocky grassland. Arrived in a mountain village, which lies about 3Km from the Iranian border where we birded until dusk. We had intended to travel back to Alexevka (60 miles) but due to our protracted drive we had run out of time and luckily met a local shepherd, Oulduz, who let us stay in his guest room and provided supper, potatoes and onion never tasted better. It´s good to say that we arranged this "accommodation" thanks to Pavel´s Russian knowledge and the fact that Azerbaijan was part of former Soviet bloc countries where local people still speak the Russian language.

June 9th : After breakfast out on the hill by 07:30 birding the meadows and valley above the village. Right at the head of the valley at about 2200 meters we found the holy grail, a superb singing male White-throated Robin. After this the rest of the day turned into a bit of a non event despite some hard birding and walking several kilometres in some excellent habitat in the Xanagan area about 1Km from the Iranian border we failed to find anything of any consequence, except Bimaculated and Horn Larks, Black-eared and Pied Wheatears, a single Booted Eagle, Rock Nuthatch and a Ruffous-tailed Rock Thrush. Headed back to Alexeevka, very tired for a late supper and bed.

June 10th: After breakfast visited Hyrcan National Park an area of ancient woodland. Lots of Red-breasted Flycatchers and an Icterine Warbler been the pick of the birds on offer. Set off back towards Baku and after a relatively uneventful (by now dodging cattle on the motorways, been overtaken from every direction and not stopping at red lights, were accepted as been normal) journey we arrived back in Baku at 19:50.

June 11th: After a lie in and leisurely breakfast, sorted out kit and did a bit of sun worship before getting ready for the trip home. Back at the airport Patrick and myself checked in for our scheduled late afternoon flight home, again via Istanbul.

Dave Bowes
13 Deep Ghyll Walk
Ripon, North Yorkshire
United Kingdom


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