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 fast-paced 8-day tour. The itinerary is based on a 2016 trip by Tomas Haraldsson and Kai Gauger, who will be guiding this one as well, 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 south through an awakening Baku to the country’s main pride for nature protection - Shirvan National Park. 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 3: 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 Shrikra 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 Masalli with the green Talysh Mountains and the border to Iran in the back.

Day 4: A long day of transport to the Caucasus in the north, a number of bus hours but also interesting stops en route. The landscape changes from green and lush to semi desert and again to much more humid conditions in the north. We stop at Gobustan archeological site with typical rock species like Rock Nuthatch and Finch's Weatear. We pass Baku and further on the famous Besh Barmag migration bottleneck where we look out for some raptors and other late migrants. 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, tense with anticipation for tomorrow's highlight Khinaliq.

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.
In the afternoon we slowly drive back down and stop in the mountain forests to get a view on Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher.
We continue north to Qusar and into the next river valley to the village of Laza where we overnight in a homestay.

Day 6:
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 yesterday's 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 another chance for Great Rosefinch. The scenery is spectacular with snow-capped 4000m peaks around.
In the afternoon, we drive down to lower levels and take the road south to Baku in decent time. In the evening we fly to Nakhchivan for the third and equally exciting part of the trip. We stay three nights and explore the province with the main town as a base.

Day 7-8: 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 9: 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.
Please contact us for the detailed information about the prices