Friday, June 9, 2017

Georgia and Armenia with Batumi Birding

Just a few more pics for you that I had previously missed then I can tell you about our hols !

Black-headed Bunting 

Black-winged Stilt 

Caucasian Mountain Chiffchaff 


Moustached Warbler 

Persian (Red-tailed) Wheatear 

Red-backed Shrike 

Rock Sparrow 

Upchers Warbler 

White-tailed Lapwing 

White-throated Robin

We have been back nearly two weeks now and already the holiday seems like a distant memory. We have come back to the worst summer weather in living history, and a general election! 

Our holiday was booked through a birding company based in Georgia, Batumi Birding. The trip was very reasonably priced and covered all the main birding spots. Their choice of hotels was spot on, especially the Silk Road Hotel, that was simply fabulous. I have already told you about the culinary delights at our first hotel, but apart from that, the food and accommodation were first class. Batumi Birding also treated us to a couple of excellent nights out in Tblisi, with local dancers, musicians, good food and excellent wines and beers. A little touch that made the holiday a bit special, good choice Batumi.

We then come onto the guides and drivers who, to be honest, were the weakest park of the trip. We have traveled the world and we can say that they were probably the worst we have ever had.  The driver we had in Georgia, although a likeable chap that always had a smile,  didn't seem to be able to drive below 60mph, even through the towns and cities. I did ask him many times to slow down as I felt it was dangerous, but no, we went everywhere at racing car speed. Many times we asked him to stop for birds....straight past them we went every single time. There were fields of orchids that some of us wanted to look at......straight past them also. I am sorry but I have to tell you this but on the way home he was driving so fast and couldn't stop and he ran a dog over. That is one of the memories I have of the trip. 

The second driver we had in Armenia was far more careful, which was a very welcome change, but a non-smiler ! The  downside here with this driver is that  he  wouldn't stop for birds either but would also not turn the heater off in the back of the bus. It was in the high 20's outside and we had heat pouring out and every time we got in the bus we asked for it to be turned off but no, on it stayed. We were sometimes treated to air-con, but with the heater still on. Ludicrous!  This driver had never taken birders out before and moaned constantly about mud on his floor. He also liked to rev his engine, so when we did stop birding all we could hear was constant foot to the floor revving.  It does make you appreciate all the excellent drivers we have had over the years in many countries. Good guides must hold onto good drivers as they can make or break a trip.

Our guides, well what can I say really. Both very likeable lads with a great sense of humour, but afraid not bird guides. Staying out on the town drinking until 3am and then trying to be away for 7am to go birding was a non-starter. They were late every day and to be honest, 7am is a very late start on any birding trip so we felt we missed out on alot of good birds as, by the time we drove anywhere, it was mid-morning and far too late. Our guides did a fair whack of sleeping in the van and birds were very rarely called. They were also unsure of some of the locations which resulted in lost time.  Our days had no structure, no timetable and no leader, it was chaotic. 

Although we saw some good birds, we didn't see many of them and at times, it was flipping hard work. This was probably due to the time we birded (who birds a desert in the heat of the afternoon?!), and there were ten of us on the trip which is the largest group we have ever birded with. But a good group that gelled with some excellent birders in there.  The scenery more than made up for the lack of birds without a doubt, it was mindblowingly good. Two countries that we would like to return to one day and both we can highly recommend.  Having said all that, we did manage around 200 birds on the trip with 20 of those being new to us. 

Looking forward to our next trip already ! 

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