birdwatching inthe Caucasus Mountains
These high-mountain villages in the Guba and Gusar regions respectively are among the most unique and picturesque in Azerbaijan. Previously too remote to visit, greater accessibility has placed them firmly on the tourist map in recent years. Located at 2,300m, Khinalig boasts an incredible hilltop location, unique stone houses, inhabitants who speak one of the world’s rarest languages and even a Zoroastrian fire temple. Moreover, the sparsely vegetated terrain around Khinalig is home to Caucasian Snowcock, Güldenstädt ́s Redstart, Alpine Accentor, Rock Thrush, Wallcreeper and Lammergeier.
Laza is no less scenic, situated at 1300m surrounded by emerald-green slopes. The locals are Lezgi, another of Azerbaijan’s ethnic minorities, and in the area around the village you can look for such key species as Caucasian Black Grouse, Great Rosefinch, Mountain Chiffchaff, among other high alpine species.
What to see:
Caucasian Grouse (Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi)
Caucasian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus)
Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla)
Green Warbler (Phylloscopus nitidus)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart (Phoenicurus erythrogastrus)
Mountain Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus sindianus)
Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus)
Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)
Red-fronted Serin (Serinus pusillus)
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Grey Patridge (Perdix perdix)
Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis)
Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris)
Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
When to visit:
Late spring and summer, best in mid-May to mid-June. Also a winter visit, if the snow level permits and roads are open, is very scenic but many of the target species are migrants and will have left.
Where to stay:
There are a number of guesthouses and homestay options in both Khinalig and Laza.