A remarkable day, during which I was so busy that I never used my camera! The mooring was good wether wise and we figured that there might be some good passage, the mood was good on the way to Shuamta. I was glad to be on Station 2 as I figured it might see the greatest number of birds and on arrival things started off reasonable well, with the usual passage of Pallid Harriers, with the odd Marsh Harrier group passing. After the early morning, passage saw an upturn as a few Black Kite began to move through, as well as the first Steppe Buzzard. The weather remained a concern and though the early morning had been quite clear there were signs of increasing cloud cover as the Steppe Buzzards really began to pick up in the east. Once again I was in the east, this time with Johannes Silvonen. Before long the stream became a heavy one and we were very busy and hundreds of birds soon became thousands.
Today was a day when we were mindful that a good passage of raptors could see us pass 1,000,0000 birds for the season, always a special landmark. It quickly became apparent hat his would indeed be possible as the Steppe Buzzards began to stream in hundreds, so we concentrated hard on these. There were a few other species, with plenty of Black Kite at one point. Far to the east in the Steppe Buzzard stream came Aquilla eagles, too far to specifically identify. There were good birds however and the first of theses was a lovely juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle. A Steppe Eagle and second Immature later followed. giving us excellent views. From Station 1 came news they were also seeing birds, remarkably for the last day of September there were 7 Rollers south, as well as good numbers of Red Footed Falcon. Back on our station there were now a few Short Toed and Booted Eagle passing, still a few Harriers, whilst 26 Common Crane were noteworthy. In the afternoon a female Crested Honey Buzzard was a highlight. There were birds overhead and in the east, whilst passage was slowing in the west as bad weather closed in..
Still we concentrated on the count at 10,000 Steppe Buzzard were soon logged. We were watching the totals closely after 20,000 birds were reached and were in close contact with the other station as the one million mark approached. Then at around 3pm the cloud finally began to cover the mountain tops and passage slowed. A huge kettle in the north would have seen us pass one million birds had it passed, but it was not to be and the birds with to the mountainsides to roost as the rain started to fall. We were just a few hundred birds away by the end of the count, despite scanning carefully in the rain for the odd Steppe Buzzard, some Black Kites also passing late on. By the end of day were very very close, we knew the next day would see a million birds for the season and the mood was good. John Wright and I debated what to do as we had a day off, deciding to go to Station 1 early the following day to be part of the landmark 1,000,000 birds before heading out to search for migrants or gulls. We didn't want to miss a big day of raptors though and decided it best to play it by ear and make the decision from station in the morning...
Batumi - Shuamta