Undiscovered Azerbaijan 2018

While Georgia has rapidly established its reputation as a must-visit for birders, Azerbaijan remains rather unexplored. But there is little justification for this. The country is home to all the famous Greater Caucasus endemics, has huge coastal wetlands hosting millions of migrants, subtropic lush forests where the only Shikra of the West Palearctic breed, vast steppes populated by herds of Goitered Gazelles, and dry rocky badlands with a fabulous assembly of range-restricted species typical for the Irano-Anatolian plateau. This new tour gives you exclusive access to this spectacular country, visiting all major hotspot on a 14-day tour. The itinerary is based on a 2016 trip trip by Tomas Haraldsson and Kai Gauger, where 100% of targets were seen. Be prepared to go birding long days, walk up a mountain and cover long distances - but you will come home with a stunning list of great species!

Map courtesy of AviFauna                                    
  1. Shirvan NP
  2. Kizil Agach
  3. Machmud Chala
  4. Masalli
  1. Besh Barmag
  2. Qubustan
  3. Nazli Bulaq
  1. Xinaliq
  2. Laza
  3. Nachivan

Our main targets: Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, See-see Partridge, Black Francolin, all four vultures, Shikra, White-tailed Lapwing, Terek Sandpiper, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Bimaculated Lark, Western and Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Rose-coloured starling,  Güldenstadt’s Redstart, Rufous-tailed Bushchat, White-throated Robin, Blue and Red-tailed Rock Thrush, Finsch's, Pied and Persian Wheatear, Alpine and Raddes’ Accentor, Semi-collared and  Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ménétries’ Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Green Warbler, Upcher’s Warbler, Pale Rock Sparrow, Red-fronted Serin, Caucasian Twite, Great Rosefinch, Trumpeter, Desert and Mongolian Finch, Grey-necked Bunting.

Day-by-day program:

Day 1: Flight from your country via Istanbul to Baku, arrival early morning on day 2 and immediately set off for our first birding!

Day 2: We travel north through an awakening Baku to the Greater Caucasus, a number of bus hours but also interesting stops en route. The landscape changes from semi-desert to much more humid conditions in the mountains. We stop at the colourful ‘Candy Cane Mountains’ with typical rock species like Rock Nuthatch and Finch's Weatear and pass further on the famous Besh Barmag migration bottleneck where we look out for some raptors and other late migrants.
In the evening we reach the mountain village Laza, where we overnight, tense with anticipation for tomorrow's highlight the Shahdag National Park.

Day 3: In the early morning we step out of the door and see the Caucasian Black Grouse displaying on the slopes above the village. Here on the lush north side of the Gizilgaya massive the low birch shrubs harbour Caucasian Chiffchaff and Green Warbler. On the meadows Red-fronted Serin and Caucasian Twite are common and we have the chance for Great Rosefinch. The scenery is spectacular with snow-capped 4000m peaks around. We spend one more night in Laza.

Day 4: In the morning we have the chance to complete our species list of this birding spot and drive back down and stop in the mountain forests to get a view on Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Our destination is the valley of the river Guidalchay that cuts in the Caucasus. In the evening we reach the Nazli Bulaq complex where we overnight.

Day 5: At dawn we pack ourselves into four-wheel drive vehicles of the classic Soviet model and begin our journey up through a dramatic mountain landscape. Along the road we can see Rock Bunting, Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. We pass the tree line and approach the legendary village Khinaliq at 2,100 meters above sea level which has been isolated from the outside world until quite recently. From here we hike the last meters of height to the flank of Gizilgaya mountain looking for Caucasian Snowcock, Bearded Vulture, Alpine Accentor, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Wallcreeper, Great Rosefinch and other alpine goodies. We stay in Khinaliq until the evening and spend the night again in the Nazli Bulaq complex.

Day 6:
In the morning we drive down to lower levels and take the road south to Baku. We pass Azerbaijan’s capital city to reach the country’s main pride for nature protection – Shirvan National Park – in the afternoon. Here we'll find an intact and vast steppe landscape, wormwood scrub and a floodplain lake with reed beds. A representative fauna and our first meeting with the country's birds are Black Francolin, Little Owl, Roller, Lesser Kestrel, Menetries and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. At the lake where there is both a "bird tower" and a hide in the reeds we expect to find Pygmy Cormorant, various herons, Purple Swamphen, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck.
From the park entrance it's half an hour to the city of Salyan where we spend the night.

Day 7: The journey continues through farmland and over the canals of the Kura-Araz lowland. After some stops along the road we reach Masalli in the country's far south. Here we will have lunch at the Shikra site with best chances to see these exclusive birds. After a few kilometres more we get to the huge coastal lagoon Kizil Agach. This offers a rich variety of wetland species, including thousands of marsh terns and all species of herons. At the sandy beaches of the Caspian Sea waders are resting and may include flocks of Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers. 
We overnight in the Tebbesüm complex within the green and subtropical Talysh Mountains and the border to Iran in the back.

Day 8: In the morning we walk around the complex enjoy the pristine character of the deciduous forest including sights of typical European forest birds and the endemic subspecies of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker (poelzami). In the afternoon we try to find the enigmatic Caspian Tit, which breeds around Lerik and was hard to find in recent years. If we do not succeed, we can try again on day 9. Night in Tebbesüm complex.

Day 9: We probably try again the Caspian Tit around Lerik and drive otherwise into the dry mountain semi-desert of Zuvand upland to search for Bimaculated Lark, Pale Rock Sparrow, White-throated Robin, Crimson-winged Finch and others. We stay in Zuvand until the evening and spend the night once more in the Tebbesüm complex.

Day 10:
 In the morning, we drive back to Baku and stop here and there along the way. In the afternoon we have time for sightseeing in this amazing capital with its historic city centre.

Day 11: 
We take the morning flight to Nakhchivan and start birding upon arrival. We stay three nights and explore the province with the main town as a base.

Day 12/13: 
NAR –Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic– is a separate part of Azerbaijan and borders Turkey, Iran and Armenia. Although the presidential family originates from here it arises the feeling of a forgotten part of the world with small villages, olive trees and dry valleys. The landscape is semi-desert-like and mostly barren and avifauna is similar to the Anatolian plateau in eastern Turkey. The highest mountains are however moist with alpine meadows. We are looking for Persian Wheatear, Mongolian, Desert and Trumpeter Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, Upcher's Warbler, White-throated Robin, See-see Partridge, Bimaculated Lark, Pale Rock Sparrow and the elusive Radde's Accentor

Day 14: 
Early morning we fly from Nakhchivan to Istanbul and further to our home destinations. 

Price includes:
E-visa to Azerbaijan
Expert birding guide – Languages: English, German
Accommodation in small hotels and guesthouses
All meals
All transportation in minibus and 4WD
Baku-Nakhichevan Flights
All entry fees
Price DOES NOT include:
International flights to Baku, return from Nakhichevan
Alcoholic drinks
Travel insurance
Personal expenses
Pictures by Josh Jones, Kai Gauger, Michael Heiss, Tomas Haraldsson.
May 28 - June 9
Please contact us for the detailed information about the prices