Batumi Raptor Count
Birds of Armenia (Armenia)
Youth in Action Programme (Belgium)
Raptors are essential part of the wildlife, indicating the health of ecosystem. Change in the Raptors’ number might indicate different type of environmental issues. One of the easiest ways to get imagination of the abundance of different raptor species is to count them on migration since they are getting together on special areas, called “bottleneck sites”.
One of such sites is situated close to Batumi in Western Georgia (Ajaria), on the Black Sea coast, which is close to another raptor counting place – Borchka in Eastern Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of raptors fly through the area during autumn migration (from late August to October).
In 2008 the activity involved 28 volunteers and student trainees from Belgium, Holland, Georgia and Armenia.
In 2009 other countries have joined the initiative, such as Turkey, France, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Georgia etc. Apart from participation in the count BOA also took part in organizing and implementing the “Young Birdwatchers Exchange Program”, which aims to bring together birdwatchers from a number of countries. In frames of this project BOA has distributed a recruitment announcement in Armenia, interviewed applicants and selected the most appropriate candidates. Before leaving to Batumi the selected applicants were provided with preliminary training in Armenia, both in auditorium and in the field. BOA provides each of the local candidates with a copy of “A Field Guide to Birds of Armenia”, a pair of binoculars and a spotting scope for use throughout the count.
Upon arrival to Batumi Karen Aghababyan as a leader teacher gives an intensive raptor identification course for the first three days for all the students of “Young Birdwatchers Exchange Program”.
To teach the student BOA using a part of the Bird Identification Training Course (BITC).
During the counting period (by 6-22 /Sep/2008), there were counted 815374 raptors in average more than 67000 per day. We had huge number of Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, etc., and also Snake Eagle, Osprey, Lesser Spotted and Steppe Eagle, etc.
During the count of 2009 the Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) was recorded, the second time for Caucasus.
To this day AUA Acopian Center for the Environment continues its cooperation with the Batumi Raptor Count (BRC) by developing and delivering environmental education programs to youth from all parts of the Caucasus. In 2013, Hasmik Ter-Voskanyan (in August) and Siranush Tumanyan (in September) led youth groups, including some from Armenia.
In early September, Dr. Karen Aghababyan, AUA Acopian Center chief scientist, attended the International Batumi Bird Festival organized by BRC. During his visit, Dr. Aghababyan discussed opportunities for expanding cooperation between the organizations through development of nature-based tourism as well as strengthening environmental-education and bird-monitoring programs.
“This is a relationship we want to develop further,” says Alen Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center. “Batumi provides an unparalleled setting in the Caucasus to educate and conduct research on the environment. Importantly we are able to do this jointly with people from all parts of the Caucasus and Europe. Developing this type of cooperation is essential for addressing environmental protection needs,” says Amirkhanian.
BRC is a vital nature conservation program in the region. It monitors the more than 850,000 birds of prey that migrate through the “Batumi Bottleneck” every fall. It also works to protect the birds from illegal shootings and trappings, practices that continue to this day.
Batumi is a Black Sea coastal city in the Ajara region of the Republic of Georgia.