Rulers of the Sky

In 2012 two hilltop villages near Batumi became one of the most important birdwatching sites for Ornithologists[1], where number of the counted migrant raptors reached a million.

Nowadays Batumi bottleneck[2] is the third largest long distance raptor migration site in the world (After Panama and Jerusalem watch point).

Above mentioned villages are Sakhalvasho and Shuamta in Kobuleti municipality, where the most of the raptors are saving energy by soaring in a thermal[3].

There are some days when rainy and windy weather conditions inhibit aerial activity among the raptors and up to 100 000 birds gathered in this area, fly between these villages. With its 360° visibility of the area, these watch points are the hub of the bottleneck. (Photo source: Wild horn)

Every autumn, when the migration starts, more than 500 ornithologists mostly from Western Europe visit bottleneck and divide into groups on that hilltops in order to count and observe migratory species.

The birdwatching starts early in the morning and requires equipment such as binoculars, camping chair, bird identification guide, bird counter, photo camera and so on, therefore visitors prefer to stay in an authentic style guesthouses nearby the hotspot in order to easily carry the gear.

There is a network of 24 guesthouses (run by the local people), where guests can enjoy local cuisine and overnight for a moderate fee. Majority of the Sakhalvasho and Shuamta based guesthouses are valid distance from the watch points and do not complain about the occupancy. Guesthouse owners have been trained by several organizations in order to improve the management practices and support further sustainable development.

Income generated by locals help them upgrade the guesthouse infrastructure, as well as increase awareness on importance of conservation and reduce illegal hunting of the migratory birds. (Photo source: Wild horn )

With the partnership of Local Guides Association and Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara (DTRA), 25 local guides got first time theoretical training on wildlife watching tours in order to deepen the knowledge in local flora and fauna and to get practical experience on how to apply theoretical knowledge in practice. As a result 30 % of the guides have already used received information in the nature based tours organized afterwards.

Every year, DTRA with local conservation organizations conduct Batumi Birding Festival in order to popularize these birdwatching sites along with other sites such as Mtirala National Park, Kolkheti Lowland and Chorokhi Delta, were rural population generate income from providing services to birdwatching tourists. (Photo source: Batumi Raptor Count )

Here is the short promotional video about birdwatching in Ajara created by Ecotours Georgia.

[1] Ornithologists- field of zoologist that studies every aspect of birds, including bird songs, flight patterns, physical appearance, and migration patterns.

[2] Batumi bottleneck- The corridor between black sea and the lesser Caucasus Mountains where migratory birds concentrate the route to Africa and Southern Asia

[3] Thermal Soaring– is a form of flight where the birds use the heat transfer of fluid-Sun and Black Sea in the case of Batumi bottleneck, to stay in the air without any additional power source-wings in the case of birds.