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Georgia Edge of Europe

A 9-day birdwatching tour to Georgia

Among European birds there are a special few that attain near-mythical status, for they occur only at the outermost extremes of the Western Palearctic region. Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Grouse, Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch are all names to conjure with... and far-flung Georgia, now opening up to tourism, is home to all four! This superb tour is timed to give the best chance to see them - plus there is of course so much more to enjoy along the way. Join us as we return to the spectacularly scenic mountains of the High Caucasus and the dry rolling hills of the Iori Uplands on a wonderful 9-day trip to this fascinating country on the 'edge of Europe'.

Tour Dates





Brian Small
local guides

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 9 Days

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Cost: £2295

including return flights from London Heathrow to Tbilisi with Lufthansa

Deposit: £400

Single Supp: £160

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If you have any questions about our tours or require further information, we are always happy to hear from you.
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Great Rosefinch. Giorgi Darchiashvili resized

The beautiful alazarin-crimson male Great Rosefinch stars near our hotel in the Caucasus Mountains © Giorgi Darchiashvili, ecotours.ge

Following the outstanding success of our 2017 tour, we are thrilled to be travelling to Georgia again in April 2018. It is an exciting destination to travel to, with largely unspoilt landscapes and amazing bird life.

North of Tbilisi, at the end of the old Russian highway, lie the High Caucasus mountains that straddle the border between Europe and Asia. Set amidst some of the highest peaks on the continent – five of which rise above 5000m - lies the town of Stepantsminda, scenically situated below the glacier-clad Mount Kazbeg. This developing town is an excellent base from which to explore the region and to search for four near-mythical birds that occur here at the eastern edge of the continent. Mere mention of their names is enough to get the birding juices flowing: Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Grouse, Great Rosefinch and Güldenstädt’s Redstart. Georgia, now opening up to tourism, gives the best chance to see all four and this exciting early spring tour amidst the rich montane landscapes of the High Caucasus range is timed to catch them before they follow the retreating snow line higher and deeper into the inaccessible mountains.

From our conveniently located hotel, the hills are but a stone’s throw away and we start early for two of the key targets - for it is at this time that jumping Caucasian Grouse perform their lek on grassy slopes, while Caucasian Snowcocks give their presence away by their haunting, diver-like calls high above. Patches of buckthorn are places to search for crimson male Great Rosefinches and handsome white-capped Güldenstädt’s Redstarts. With three days to explore this fascinating mountain region, we have a great opportunity to see all four of these local specialities against the fantastic backdrop of Mount Kazbek.

The timing of our visit in spring gives us the chance to see the grouse and snowcock before they return to higher elevations for the summer. In catching the snowmelt just right, other high-altitude species come down from the mountains. On rockier pastures from which they pick on seed heads, Red-fronted Serins hop about the boulders, whilst Caucasian Chiffchaffs sing in budding trees with bright Green Warblers. On cliff-faces, Wallcreepers flutter like outsize butterflies, flashing crimson, black and white wings, while Bearded Vultures soar high above accompanied by passing raptors. White-winged Ring Ouzels of the distinctive form amicorum and Common Redstarts of the samamisicus race are both smart and well worth catching up with. The mountain cols act as pathways for migrants heading through the Caucasus into Russia, as passerines such as flycatchers - including Red-breasted and Semi-collared - warblers, Yellow Wagtails and Red-throated Pipits track north. 

Dragging ourselves away, we return south to Tbilisi and enter a very different environment. In contrast to the high, snow-capped mountains, the warm rolling steppes and hills east of the capital attract a very different range of species. Here we can find rainbow Bee-eaters and Rollers flashing ultramarine blue in display, while scratchy Ménétries’s and melodious Barred Warblers sing from bushes. Perched atop mounds, Black Francolin utter their grating calls and a wealth of wheatears feed on beetles, with closely related and smartly dressed Pied and Black-eared (as well as numerous hybrids between the two), Isabelline (already with well-grown young) and the elusive Finsch’s to look for.

Amid a landscape inhabited by Golden Jackals and Wolf, where prominent trees act as perches for vultures, the grassland rings to the sounds of spring lark song and the simple phrase of black, rufous and yellow Black-headed Buntings. We will keep an eye open for passing harriers - Montagu’s are common as they float across the flowering grasslands, and Eastern Imperial Eagles will be nesting. Exploring lines of trees and verdant streambeds we will hope to come across a surprise migrant or two…

There are many special things to enjoy on this superb tour to Georgia, with its unspoilt and charismatic landscapes and fine scenery - plus some truly wonderful and special birds. Why not join us for the adventure?

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Another star bird of the Caucasus range - the equally gorgeous Güldenstadt's Redstart © Giorgi Rajebashvili, ecotours.ge

Days 1-2

Our spring birdwatching tour to Georgia tour starts with a Lufthansa flight from London to Tbilisi (via Munich). Early morning arrival in Tbilisi on Day 2, where we will be met by our local guide - and our adventure begins!

Heading north towards the magnificent mountains of the Greater Caucasus that loom ever larger in our view as we drive, we will stop along the way to enjoy anything of interest. As we begin to climb higher, we’ll pause at Ananuri, where migrant birds rest in the foothills cloaked in oak and beech forest. In spring weather, vocal Green Warblers and perhaps singing Red-breasted or Semi-collared Flycatchers will be present. Around the monastery, flocks of Ortolan Buntings or Whinchats may gather. Our destination today is the town of Stepantsminda, nestled in the Tergi Valley and dominated by the snow-capped peaks of the High Caucasus - notably that of Mount Kazbeg, which at just over 5000m (16,400ft) is one of the highest in Europe.

Following lunch, we arrive at and settle into our new and comfortable hotel, then have our first chance for a stroll and to explore this interesting town. A wealth of birds await and we will set out for a local patch of budding buckthorn, hoping to pick out our first superb Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch! High above, we may well see our first spiralling birds of prey above the mountains. However, it will have been a long day and we will settle to bed early ready for the exciting days ahead. Night Stepantsminda

Days 3-4

Rising early we have our first chance before breakfast of two of the ‘star’ birds of the tour: Caucasian Grouse and Caucasian Snowcock. It is important to get out close to dawn as these shy grouse are most active during the first hours of daylight and can soon disappear as the sun rises. 

The snowcock sit high above the grassy slopes and we should hear their eerie, diver-like calls echoing about the valley. Caucasian Grouse, a lyre-tailed and all-black relative of the Black Grouse, strut about on lower slopes and are generally easier to see. If we didn't manage to spot one yesterday, we further opportunities to look for Great Rosefinch – the gorgeous males' deep alizarin crimson bodies flecked with white. Hopefully we will return for breakfast well and truly ‘full’ of birds!

After breakfast, a stroll around town may reward us with more good species – perhaps a variety of migrants or ‘seconds’ of Great Rosefinch and the white-capped Güldenstädt’s Redstart. This region is the only location within the Western Palearctic that offers the chance of seeing these birds, so we will spend some time checking.

With Stepantsminda as our base for three nights, we can explore the spectacular and winding roads that lead to the higher passes. South at the Truso Valley we will encounter a number of mountain birds, with tame flocks of Twite (of the race brevirostris), Shore Lark (of the race penicillata) and White-winged Snowfinches feeding alongside the road and often giving excellent photographic opportunities. As we scan the slopes, we will start to see our first raptors, as Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle and Bearded Vulture appear above a hill top.

Small flocks of the stunning black and 'red-polled' Red-fronted Serin can be found amongst the boulders and crimson-winged Wallcreepers flutter about the sheer rock faces, while Red-billed and Alpine Choughs wheel above. White-winged Ring Ouzels of the amicorum race are stunning here and other ‘montane specials’ include Alpine Accentor plus abundant Water Pipit, Black Redstart and Northern Wheatear.

If the wind is in the right direction, this region is a flyway for raptors heading into the vastness of Russia to the north. Northern Goshawk and Steppe Buzzard, plus Steppe Eagle, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, and the season's first Red-footed Falcons could well be passing through the valleys at this time. Ortolan Buntings, Willow Warblers, Bluethroats and Barred Warblers may also be passing through, while Yellow Wagtails of various races and Arctic-bound Red-throated Pipits can be feeding in grassy fields. Caucasian Chiffchaff is common here and often calls from the birches about the hotel! Taking our time exploring the small copses we will hope to see a fine Semi-collared or Red-breasted Flycatcher.

There are a number of interesting mammals in the region, such as East Caucasian Taur and Chamois. If we are incredibly lucky, Eurasian Wolf or Brown Bear are sometimes seen, too. Two further nights Stepantsminda

Day 5

This morning we will make the most of our time in the mountains and get out early for one final chance to enjoy the snowcock or grouse. After breakfast, we may check once more for migrants or try for Alpine Accentor or Snowfinches (here of the paler race alpicola) as we head over Jvari Pass or stop at the peace monument at Gudauri.

We'll stop for lunch near Ananuri, where the fortress and surrounding trees often hold stunning white-winged samamisicus Common Redstarts – often known as ‘Ehrenburg’s Redstart’. Red-backed Shrikes and smart Semi-collared Flycatchers, Barred Warblers or Ortolan Buntings are among other highlights to be found here in spring.

As we approach Tbilisi, we will make another roadside stop to check the hillside woodland that might produce Green Warbler, passing raptors or Black or Syrian Woodpeckers. Night Tbilisi

Days 6-7

So as to make full use of our day in the field, we will depart Tbilisi promptly after breakfast to head east towards our next base, Dedoplistskaro, where we stay two nights. The landscape here is very different to the mountains, being dry and Mediterranean or savanna-like steppe country - and this brings a range of very different species.

Stopping at various sites as we drive, we should find open fields full of birds: numerous Montagu’s Harriers skydance in display; Corn Buntings jangle their keys from almost every perch; Nightingales, Red-backed Shrikes and Black-headed Buntings sing and flowering hedges harbour singing Common Whitethroats and Barred Warbler.

The Iori Uplands are a line of hills set amidst rolling plains and incised with several gorges. On the edge of the steppe lies the town of Dedoplistskaro, our home for two nights, where the variety of birds is amazing and certainly not to be missed! Over the next couple of days, we will visit the local lake, checking for raptors such as Lesser Spotted Eagle and Black Vulture; perhaps the edge of the water will be adorned by Black-winged Stilts or Ruddy Shelducks, whilst Bee-eaters pass by and Rollers perch on isolated trees. Yet more Corn Buntings chase about and Quails call (invariably unseen!) from the fields.

Just north of the town is the Eagles Gorge, where Egyptian Vulture and Black Stork may be breeding. A late afternoon walk here should produce Booted and yet more Lesser Spotted Eagles, or maybe even an Eastern Imperial. The limestone crags can be zapped by Alpine Swifts, but also harbour some superb wildflowers and a few early butterflies. Scops Owls call from the pines around the hotel and we will have a look for them on at least one occasion.

We have one long but outstanding day to drive from Dedoplistskaro to the Chachuna Managed Reserve. The open steppe along the way can produce many great birds and often starts with a variety of larks including Calandra, Greater Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed. Rock Sparrows call wheezily and Little Owls should be looked for on small stones. Hoopoes and elegant Demoiselle Cranes may be found amidst poppy studded hillsides, where Eastern Imperial Eagles breed. As the habitat becomes drier, Isabelliune Wheatears and Woodchat Shrikes become very common, with the former already feeding well-grown young.

At the Dali Reservoir, specialities such as Black Francolin, Chukar, Ménétries’s Warbler and both Eastern Olivaceous and Eastern Orphean Warblers could well be found in the scrub below the dam. Amongst the reeds, Penduline Tits call and pools can hold Kingfisher, while the trees may reveal an incongruous Green Woodpecker. A small colony of Lesser Kestrels wheels about an old dam building.

There is a slim chance of finding Finsch’s Wheatear on rocky outcrops, though Black-eared or hybrid Pied x Black-eared Wheatears are rather more common. All the while, Black, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures loaf about and noisy flocks of numerous Rosy Starlings are a joy to watch as they chase about after grasshoppers or sing from bushes. If we are lucky, we may find a Golden Jackal – and if we are extremely lucky a Wolf might also put in an appearance as we explore this fascinating region. Two nights Dedoplistskaro

Day 8

With the whole day to travel back west to Tbilisi, we will take our time today, perhaps visiting a breeding spot for Semi-collared Flycatchers or diverting south to the monastery at David Gareji – another superb open steppe region and hillside close to the Azerbaijan border. More raptors drift above the open landscape and perhaps a Saker Falcon or Pallid Harrier will sail by. This will also be our final chance to see a party of migrating Demoiselle Cranes resting on their long journey north before they attempt to pass over the high mountains.

The rocky and scrubby slopes by the monastery could well provide us with our best chance of Pied Wheatear amongst the hybrids and Black-eareds, while Ortolan Buntings sing from the bushes. Blue Rock Thrush can be found here too, and migrants such as Eastern Orphean Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Bee-eater pass over the fascinating rock formations. Armenian Stonechat – a form of Siberian Stonechat – can sometimes be seen on the rocky fields.

As we arrive back in the capital for our final night, we’ll take our evening meal at a typical Georgian restaurant, where we can sample some of the local foods and also sip a glass of one (or more!) of the fine wines of which the country is rightly proud. Retiring early will give a chance for some sleep prior to our early morning transfer to Tbilisi Airport and our flight home.

Day 9

We check in early this morning for our Lufthansa flight back to London (via Munich), where our superb spring birdwatching tour to Georgia concludes.

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Caucasian (or Mountain) Chiffchaff is common in the Caucasus range and can often be heard calling from birches about our hotel © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

What To Expect

Our visit to Georgia and the Caucasus is timed to run in late April and early May, when there is still the chance of snow lying - which keeps some of the high mountain specialities at lower elevations for us to find them! In the steppe around Dedoplistskaro, it will be warm-hot.

Birding in the mountains will require some physical effort so a reasonable degree of fitness is required for this tour. We shall naturally want to make the most of our days at the peak of early morning bird activity, so on this tour please note we will be starting early each day (around 06.00am) with optional early birding, returning later for a sit-down breakfast (around 08.00am).

This tour involves four longish drives (each of around 3 hours travelling time) - from Tbilisi north to Stepantsminda and back a few days later, and from Tbilisi east to Dedoplistskaro and again back a few days later - though on each we shall stop along the way for birding and for lunch.

The drive to the reservoir near Chachuna is over a 30km track - great for birding and we will stop regularly - but some going here will be rough and bumpy.

We will experience a difference in climate between the two different regions we visit. In the mountains, the weather in late April is cold-cool and changeable, with the winter snows beginning to melt. Daytime temperatures here typically vary from 5-15°C (41-59F), but drop quickly at night.

The southeastern steppes of Dedoplistskaro in early May average rather warmer, with daytime temperatures in the range of 13-26°C (55-79F) and periods of sunny skies and more overcast or rainy conditions. It can feel cool here, especially at night. There is a high chance of some precipitation on this tour (most likely falling as rain but snow is still possible in the mountains).


150-180 species   


5-10 species


7 nights accommodation in Georgia, where we stay in a modern hotel at Tbilisi (for one full night plus one part night on our last full day); and at Stepantsminda in the Caucasus Mountains (3 nights) and Dedoplistskaro in the southeast (2 nights) in simple yet comfortable hotels run by the Ilia State University Research. Rooms are warm, a little small at Stepantsminda, but the food served is home-cooked. All rooms have en suite facilities, but there are no kettles for making drinks in the rooms. Wifiis freely available in the rooms at all of the hotels.


All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with breakfast on arrival in Georgia on the morning of Day 2 and concluding with dinner in Tbilisi on the evening of Day 8. Lunches will be a mix of picnics and sit-down meals according to weather and location.


Easy to moderate, with some uphill walking inevitable in the mountains – though precisely what we do and where we go is dependent upon weather conditions at the time as well as the snowline. Wear sturdy waterproof walking shoes or boots with stout corrugated soles for good grip. We will be taking things slowly with plenty of time for breaks.

Altitude  In the mountains, we will be spending most of our time at elevations of around 1900-2200m (6200-7200ft), although we may reach 2500-3000m (8200-9800ft) depending on snow conditions at the time of our visit.


We fly with Lufthansa from London Heathrow-Tbilisi (change of planes in Munich). Based on current airline schedules, flights arrive and depart Tbilisi very early in the morning.

Ground Transport   Minibus with local driver.

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Stunning amidst the sweeping southern steppe, seven Demoiselle Cranes on our April 2017 tour © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

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