Absolutely wonderful to go birding in a normal country where we don’t have to look out for police and militaries all the time. Normal customs, normal traffic, normal. The goal was to visit Kazbegi National Park. We rented a 4WD in Tbilisi and drove to Stepantsminda which is the mountain village at the foot of the impressive Kazbegi mountain.
We did a number of short road stops, the first by a small river which had some nice birds, nothing spectacular though.
Next short stop was better, with Green Warbler and Red-throated Flycatcher.
Nice lunch en-route where we, after traveling many muslim countries, could both satisfy our cravings for pig meat and some alcohol.
While eating a Lammergeir came flying over the lunch restaurant. A bird we have been worrying a bit over.
Finally, at Stepantsminda, we went birding immediately. New WP ticks came flying in directly. The Caucasian Snowcock calling from the mountainside, a few Red-fronted Serins and two Caucasian Black Grouse displaying on the mountainside.
The second day we started birding the bushes along the valley in Stepantsminda. We’d spoken to a few birders we met and apparently both the Great Rosefinch as well as the Güldenstädt’s Redstart had been seen in the valley. Griffon vultures were very common.
Scanning the bushes below the petrol station I (Klacke) see one Güldenstädt’s Redstart flying over, the others were not able too see it though. This would be a horrible species to have on the Difference List. We searched for that bird to no avail.
Close to the village a sure spot for Wallcreeper was easy. This was a lifer for both Erik and me. One of those birds that stand out like a beacon in the Collins Birdguide.
After lunch we went with the car up to the famous Gergeti Trinity church on the mountain.
No Redstarts and no Rosefinches. A couple of Cinerous Vultures came soaring. Also a difficult WP bird which was very good to get.
Scanning slopes is the birding tactics in Kazbegi
Now the Güldenstädt’s Redstart and the Great Rosefinch both sailed up to an unthreatened position of most wanted bird, thus we decided to hike up the mountain next day. Both these species are true high altitude species. They winter in the valley, but as spring come they go high. Unbelievably high, it’s hard to fathom how birds can live during such harsh circumstances. We started early in the morning in light rain. As we came higher the rain just continued to pour. Eventually it became snow which was easier to handle, but cold and windy.
Birding conditions were poor, however the high altitude species were active. The Snowcocks were playing like crazy in the mountains. Once we got up sufficently high, we were able to relatively easy locate the Great Rosefinch, we saw at least 10 birds.
No Redstarts though and eventually we gave up, cold and wet. One of the most common birds on the mountain was the Ring Ouzel, they were resident at very high altitude as well as way down in the valley.
In the afternoon the skies cleared and Erik and Mårten decided to make yet another attempt climbing the steep hill just below our hotel.
You see them as two small dots in the far. Again, the Snowcocks were displaying and Mårten managed to shoot a video.
Still no Redstart though. Next morning we decided to pursue the tactics of searching bushes in the valley. It had rained all night, and the theory was that with such bad weather, some birds might have decided to fly down to the valley. We went to a new place recommended by Frans De Schamphelaere just north of the village and – dang – we found one Güldenstädt’s redstart after just 5 minutes of scanning. Took the car down to those bushes trying to get better views and maybe a photograph, but we were never able to relocate the Redstart. Did get the best picture of the fast moving Mountain Chiffchaff though.
Also found a group of Rosy Starlings (new WP tick) and the best picture of Common cuckoo.