Searching For The Big Five In Georgia A Winter Wonderland Part Three

We were out and about at dawn again for some pre-breakfast birding around the Sno Hotel, Kasbeki. Another cold morning but the cloud was higher and we could see more of the mountains, we were hopeful for another of the big five after breakfast. Four Twite landed in the bushes behind the hotel where we also watched Whinchat, Stonechat and Ring Ouzels. Walking over to the small river there were more birds than the previous day, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtails and a Common Sandpiper fed alongside many Water Pipits. Then a splash of lemon yellow caught our eye, a beautiful male Citrine Wagtail! This so pretty bird was chased around by the Grey Wagtails but still allowed us some wonderful views. Breakfast tasted good after our exciting find.

We headed out to try for number four of our target Big Five in Georgia, Caucasian Snowcock. We needed the cloud base to be reasonably high for us to have a good shot at seeing this mountain species and our guide Dachi considered the clouds still too low, frustrating. So we returned to the bushes and enjoyed more Great Rosefinches not to much hardship. Slowly the clouds were lifting so we decided to try for the Snowcock. We drove steeply up hill to a monastery and then walked, slowly, up a snow covered hillside to a level spur where we could set up the telescopes and scan the vast cliffs and hillside above us, talk about giant haystack and a needle! We had only been in position for a minute or so when we heard the beautiful rather Curlew like call of a Caucasian Snowcock! They were up there, now all we need do is spot one! This was not easy, it was very hard to pin-point the call that echoed off the massive rock walls above us. We all scanned and scanned. The calls kept floating down to us, both taunting us and encouraging us to keep scanning. At last Dachi said the words we had all been waiting for “I have one!” whew. Telescopes were trained on the area of rocky slope and at first we struggled to pick out the birds, but once seen it was easy to follow this “giant Red-legged Partridge” across the slope and we were thrilled to see it join a second bird, even better. The birds stopped to throw their heads back and after a little delay the beautiful call drifted down to our ears. This was a simple superb bird in a spectacular setting, it is why we watch birds, for moments like these, magical. High fives and bear-hugs all round, number four of the Caucasian Big Five seen.

That evening we had a change of local guide with Dachi leaving us and Alexander Rukhaia joining us. Next day we set off to look for more of the amazing birds the Kazbegi valley has to offer and hopefully the last of the Georgia Big Five that we hoped for.

We marvelled at a huge flock of Alpine Chough poured past us!

The weather was superb, stepping out of the hotel we were met with 360 degree views of spectacular snow covered mountains with the bluest sky above wow! We marvelled, again, Wallcreepers so close we could see every feather detail hard to tear ourselves away from these delightful rock climbers. Walking down a track, drinking in the spectacular scenery, we watched a huge flock of Alpine Chough pouring over the hillside, a black river of birds, thousands! Bushes here held a mobile flock of Great Rosefinches including more of those gorgeous raspberry coloured males. Guldenstadt’s Redstarts seemed to be everywhere here just stunning in the warm sunshine and we looked long and hard at each one, might be awhile before we see any again.

Sorry not a great photo but a lifer - Caucasian Chiffchaff.

Alex then took us to a small stream with some bushes alongside, at first glance it seemed empty, but we waited and scanned and then saw movement. A small warbler was feeding low down in the bushes, number five of the Caucasian Big Five, Caucasian Chiffchaff also known as Mountain Chiffchaff. It has to be said not quite so exciting as the previous four but a new bird for us non-the-less and we had all the five possible lifers for us, brilliant! A lovely male Red-breasted Flycatcher shared the bushes with number five and we soaked up the views of this little stunner.

This male Red-breasted Flycatcher shared the same bushes as the Caucasian Chiffchaff.

Later we watched another Caucasian Snowcock peering down from a high cliff, a Horned Lark ran across snow patches as Guldenstadt’s Redstarts whizzed around us, two Alpine Chough circled overhead and a flock of 29 Great Rosefinch fed nearby and all in glorious sunshine with spectacular views everywhere we looked! Life was very, very good right there!

Huge thanks to Birding Caucasus for all their help with this amazing trip. Lots more birds lay ahead in Georgia please check back soon for more blogs and photos.

Please email us here to arrange your very own Birdwatching Trip…..

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you soon!

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