|So there are the days totals. This was a bad day by local standards, overcast at first, briefly, before the rain started, then developed into a thunderstorm and closed out with a spectacular electrical storm which lasted into the night. As usual we had breakfast at 6am. and I made my way up the hill to Station 1 at Sakhalvasho. A few Black Kite were passing, despite the overcast conditions and we had 61 birds straight away. A stunning adult male Pallid Harrier made getting out of bed worthwhile, a glorious bird. It was quickly followed be a 2nd Calender male Pallid Harrier, which gave even better veiws and allowed all the relevant features to be clearly seen. Although there was not a great deal of passage, it meant that we could really enjoy the birds that were passing and tune into the finer details...|
Huge cracks of thunder then rolled across the sky, the storm coming in off the sea. The rain began and was very heavy indeed and we were forced off the hill due to lightening. Gael and Arthur both have long hair and were standing looking at each other at one point, remarking to each other that their hair was standing upwards, the atmosphere electrically charged! It doesn't take a genius to work out that standing atop a hill, beside a carbon fibre tripod in an electrically super charged storm is not a good idea. We abandoned the station. Back at the headquarters the word came through that Station 2 had also been abandoned for safety reasons, though not before they had a huge juvenile female Saker Falcon in the early morning! We went to the local school to tell the kids that, due to the weather, a field trip to Station 2 would have to wait until another day. Then back to the headquarters, where, overlooking the hillside we had a spectacular view of the mother of all electrical storms, a pretty awesome sight. Then at around 15.30 the rain suddenly eased off and we went back up to Station 1, not really expecting many birds. There were in fact birds passing. Marsh Harriers were flying past at low altitude, then a juvenile Pallid Harrier, also at close range. Then there was a brief heavy push of Black Kites, as Filiep said to me, the gates of Mordor had been opened as hundreds of Black Kites flew in formation past the station, an amazing scene. 900 birds passed quickly and then it was over. Not quite though. A shout from Gael drew our attention to an animal on the hillside below us, which eventually showed itself. Initially, a Red fox was mooted, but then it paced out into the open and I saw the long legs and short tail and we realized were were looking at a Golden Jackal! The animal looked straight back at us before slinking away. I had heard them at night howling, though it was great to see one in broad daylight. Always nice to see a new mammal.
That night there was a huge banquet organized by the Batumi Raptor Count as the main event of the Batumi Bird Festival and we ate a huge meal of traditional georgian fare, it was a superb. The white wine was good and there was copious amounts of it too, soon the meal was over and a live band kept us entertained. In short, everyone had a fantastic night and I'll never forget Aki's air guitar rendition of 'Smoke on the Water' onstage! We danced the night away and went home around midnight, the next day, breakfast was a little quieter than usual!
The banquet, the main event of the Batumi Bird Festival. Superbly organized. many thanks to the team at BRC for the great night had by all..