The Suamta shelter. Photo by Jasper Wehrmann.

Shuamta, the Batumi Raptor Count’s second count station, is remarkably different from Sakhalvasho. After a 20 minute drive over a gravel road, you arrive in a tiny village in the middle of the forested hills. The watchpoint is situated on a ridge above the village, a walk of another 10 to 15 minutes. By 4x4 you can get much closer to the watchpoint, which reduces the walk by half. At the site, you will find a toilet, a watching platform and a lightning-proof shelter, courtesy of the Department of Tourism of Ajara. Just next to the watchpoint are the remains of an ancient monastery, of which hardly anything is visible, but it still forms a great place to pitch your tent.

Lesser Spotted Eagle. Photo by Folkert de Boer.

The migration here is rather different from Sakhalvasho, and this is usually a better place to stand from the second half of September onwards. Many of the eagles take a more eastern route, and pass over this station in greater numbers. In late September- early October, you get a pretty balanced mixture of Lesser Spotted, Greater Spotted, Steppe, Short-toed and Imperial Eagles. Around this time you may also be lucky to experience a 100,000+ Steppe Buzzardday. These often form huge ‘kettles’ above the mountains to the east, mixed with Eagles, Black Storks and Black Kites.

Juvenile Steppe Eagle amongst Steppe Buzzards. Photo by John Wright.

When the migration calms down for a moment, you can go for a stroll in the lush forests around. Although illegal logging in the 90s has done much damage and many of the larger oriental beech trees (Fagus orientalis) have been removed, the native vegetation around this place is still pretty impressive. Trails lead towards the top of Mtirala mountain, but many of these have become overgrown and can be hard to follow. Here you can spot White-backed, Middle, Lesser and Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Caucasian Chiffchaff and Green Warbler. Footprints of Brown Bear have been found right on the count station.