Reaching an altitude of 5047 m, Mount Kazbegi is the seventh highest peak in the Greater Caucasus range and the third highest in Georgia. Its summit lies just 10 km southwest of the main border post with Russia. Given the international highway passing its eastern flank, Kazbegi is the most accessible site for observing high altitude specialities endemic to the region. Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caucasicus occurs only in the Greater Caucasus. Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus and Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla are found nowhere else in Europe, but are more widely distributed in the mountains of central Asia. Their Greater Caucasus populations are considered endemic subspecies.

It was already late June when Arnoud and René visited Georgia in 2005. Any later and the high altitude specialities would have retreated so high up the mountain that only mountaineers could find them. As it was, our team had to climb to over 3000 m with all their gear and sleep in the open air on the mountain, to spend the early morning with these birds the next day. The effort was worth it, although not all the birds gave their full cooperation. The redstart posed for photographs but remained silent, while the snowcock sang but stayed mostly out of sight. A good excuse for us to go back some day!

Caucasian Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutellii is common at Mount Kazbegi. Recent genetic research has shown that it is far less closely related to western European Water Pipits than previously assumed. See if you agree that its flight calls are also subtly different. Caucasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hyrcanus is another potential split, and in the recording below it gives some high-pitched calls that seem quite unfamiliar to western European ears. Caucasian Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus lorenzii is a regional endemic species that also occurs beyond the Greater Caucasus, in eastern Turkey and in Iran. For an example of its song, a further example of Caucasian Wren and photographs of both, click here.

 

Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caucasicus, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 20:18, 21 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Flight calls as three individuals descend from the tops of some cliffs. Background: Caucasian Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutellii.

Mount Kazbegi, Georgia

Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 21 June 2005 (René Pop)

 

 

Mount Kazbegi, Georgia

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 24 June 2005 (René Pop)

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 12:01, 24 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of a male. Background: Caucasian Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus amicorum, Caucasian Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutellii and Red-fronted Serin Serinus pusillus.

Mount Kazbegi, Georgia

Caucasian Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutellii, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 22 June 2005 (René Pop)

Caucasian Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutellii, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 16:27, 20 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Flight calls and an alarm call. Background: song of another individual.

Caucasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hyrcanus, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 16:22, 24 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song and two call types, one of which is very high-pitched and seems unfamiliar to western European ears. Background: Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus.

Caucasian Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus lorenzii, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 07:49, 25 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Calls of a female. Background: Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus, Caucasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hyrcanus and Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs.

Mount Kazbegi, Georgia

Caucasian Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus amicorum, near Kobi, Kevi. Georgia, 21 Jun 2005 (René Pop)

Caucasian Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus amicorum, Kazbegi, Kevi. Georgia, 25 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Tok calls. Background: Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus and Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs.

 

Mount Kazbegi, Georgia

Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 23 June 2005 (René Pop)

Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus, Kazbegi, Kevi, Georgia, 25 June 2005 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Calls of a female. Background: songs of more than one distant male, Common Rosefinch Erythrina erythrina.