Conservation of Migratory Raptors in a Geographical Convergence Zone at the Eastern Black Sea in South West Georgia

11 Oct 2011 Kolkheti, Georgia, Asia

Wouter Vansteelant

Other projects

7 May 2013

Bringing together People and Birds in Eurasia’s Largest Bottleneck for Autumn Bird Migration

14 Jul 2015

Training Conservationists at One of the World’s Main Bird Migration Bottlenecks in South West Georgia

Batumi Raptor Count aims to construct community-based conservation of migratory raptors under threat of illegal hunting in Batumi, Georgia, by (1) hosting an international volunteer-based monitoring program and (2) research collaborators in local home-stays, (3) educating regional students and (4) developing sustainable socioeconomic models for exploitation of raptors such as ecotourism development.

Counters at work. © Bert Willaert.

Counters at work. © Bert Willaert.

Batumi Raptor Count develops long-lasting, community-based conservation at Georgia´s eastern Black Sea Coast, an important bottleneck for raptor migration. Over 800,000 raptors of 30 species migrate over the area every autumn, which offers great opportunities for long-term monitoring. Illegal hunting forms the main threat at the site for migratory birds. But also local conservation agencies are in need of capacity-building whilst conservation-related education, particularly with field practice, is widely lacking in the region. We address these issues by integrating scientific, educational and socio-economic aspects through close cooperation with local conservation partners. The 2011 edition of BRC supported with a Rufford Small Grant concerns (1) volunteer-based monitoring, (2) research and (3) education of regional students from the Caucasus.

Majestic Lesser Spotted Eagles, Pernis apivorus. ©Christian Gelpke

Majestic Lesser Spotted Eagles, Pernis apivorus. ©Christian Gelpke

(1) We involve up to 60 volunteering birdwatchers/researchers/students from around the globe every autumn from August 17th till October 16th to cover the whole migration of 7 main target species from two count sites. Additionally migration data on a dozen secondary species is collected.

(2) A variety of ongoing research projects on data from previous years include studies on the effects of weather on the spatial and temporal dynamics of migration at Batumi and an assesment of hunting pressure on –particularly endangered- raptor species in the Adjaria province (see als BRC weather page ).

BRC hosts international collaborating researchers with projects in the field of bird migration or conservation. In 2011 Michele Pannucio from MEDRAPTORS conducts a field survey to learn more about flight behavior of migratory raptors in Batumi. A bird ringing team from the UK will be hosted as well. Results will be used in the future for studying the effects of weather conditions on local migration dynamics, detecting trends for conservation purposes, …

(3) BRC will host 15 students from Armenia, Georgia and Turkey during a twelve-day Summer Course. The program covers basic introduction to migration monitoring with emphasis on conservation priorities. Students ultimately show diverse interests and whilst some will develop presentations for school children, others develop basic research skills during a field practice. In the long run, students can join the course in multiple years with increasingly challenging projects. Some may end up in thesis dissertations at the site.

The projects supported directly by Ruffords run simultaneous to side-projects focusing on local ecotourism development, education of hunters and children, … We will use 2011’s outcomes to solicit support from (inter)national institutions for developing long-lasting conservation and education programs.

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