After fooling us into assuming he was taking the eastern migration route, Vyan has headed back north-west and then flown straight to Azerbaijan, another unusual direct flight across the Caspian Sea. Five of the tagged birds are heading towards the Middle East and North Africa, with Sanjar already in Iraq. Nikoo and Shirin are taking a break on the Muş-Bulanık plains in Turkey, while Ajaz and Canan are still in Russia (and although Viktor Fedosov has been looking, Ajaz has remained elusive and there are few sightings of any Sociable Lapwings).
Further east, the survey team in Turkmenistan has been sending regular update texts from the field. With the help of coordinates from tracking Maysa, the first night (1st October) yielded a total of 720 Sociable Lapwings – much to everyone’s excitement. With colleagues on either side of the border, the two teams are able to co-ordinate counts and warn of arriving flocks – and daily tension is mounting to see if the previous counts can be beaten:
2nd October – 3,100 in Turkmenistan, with another 1,000 in Uzbekistan.
3rd October – 3,200 in Turkmenistan, with another 1000 across the border
4th October – 3,340 in several flocks in Turkmenistan – a new record!
While eight of the birds are providing us with new knowledge of migration routes and patterns every day, one bird is surprising us in a different way. Kiryl still hasn’t left the breeding grounds. Getting a bit worried that he may have met an unfortunate end, we have looked at his latest movements and not only does he appear to be very active, there are several transmissions from the weekend.[Header image Viktor Fedosov]