JAVAKHETI UPLAND AND ALPINE LAKESThe Avifauna of Javakheti Upland is very attractive for birders and may be considered as one of the most interesting and important birdwatching area not only in Georgia, but in whole South Caucasus. The part of territory of Javakheti is included in the list of Important Bird Areas (IBA- GE009).
The area support many interesting and rare bird species, from which the most attractive for birdwatchers are water-associated species, raptors, White Stork, various passerines, etc.
The Javakheti Upland gives birdwatchers a great opportunity to enjoy observation in summer of 170-180 bird species, up to 220 species in the spring and in fall and in some years more. Especially high diversity and density of birds is observed during seasonal migrations, when area harbors large aggregations of numerous bird species – in spring (end of March-1st decade of May) and in fall (end of August-1st half of October). Key bird species are waterbirds, raptors, passerines. The net of roads, soft relief, vegetation, meteorological conditions during snow-less period in Javakheti simplifies observations of birds. The distance between key birdwatching sites in Javakheti is 10-40 km and two-three sites are available for one-day excursions. Taking into account that study area contains about 60 lakes, including six of the eight largest natural lakes in Georgia, many marshes, wet meadows, the most attractive for birdwatchers species are water-associated birds. The following species should be mentioned:
- Pelicans: Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) and Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus);
- Storks: White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) and Black Stork (Ciconia nigra);
- Geese and ducks: Greylag Goose (Anser anser), Velvet Scooter (Melanita fusca), Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), some other duck species;
- Birds of Prey: almost all common European birds of prey can be recorded in Javakheti, especially during seasonal passages, including Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Western Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeroginosus), Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), Montagu''s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis orientalis), Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina), Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus). Raptor breeders include Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeroginosus), Montagu''s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Caucasian sub-species of Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo menetriesi), Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), Caucasian sub-species of Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrines brookei), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus); other raptor species can be seen during breeding season frequently;
- Corncrake (Crex crex);
- Waders: various species, especially during seasonal passages, when sometimes at least 20 species are presented at wetlands of Javakheti Upland;
- Gulls and terns: in first turn Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus), White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus), Black Tern (Chlidonias niger);
- Alpine Swift (Apus melba) sometimes can be watched in Paravani canyon, along slopes of Javakheti and Samsari ridges and in rocky areas of western parts of Javakheti;
- Passerines: among all numerous passerines, the most interesting for visitors are the following - race Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava feldegg) of the species Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola), Radde’s Accentor (Prunella ocularis), White-winged Snow Finch (Montifringilla nivalis), Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys sanguinea), Caucasian Chiffchaff (Phyloscopus lorenzii); Horned (Shore) Lark (Eremophila alpestris), Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) occasionally can be watched in alpine belts of Samsari Ridge and at Mt.Didi Abuli