birdwatchingin the Talish Mountains
In lower parts of the Talish Mountains the climate is subtropical and much of the region is covered by the Hirkan Forest, an internationally significant refuge of tertiary relict flora which is protected by the Hirkan National Park. The most interesting species living in this forest is a very localised subspecies of Great Spotted Woodpecker (poelzami). Higher up, the hillside bushland and forests of the Lerik region is the only place in Europe inhabited by the elusive Caspian Tit, spotted here for the first time in decades in 2017. Similarly the Shikra, another regional speciality which is similar to a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, was seen in the Talish Mountains region in 2008 for the first time since 1968, though today you have an excellent chance of seeing them. Beyond Lerik is an area known as Zuvand consisting of semi-arid highland scattered with thorny bushes and small oases of luxuriant forest. Here you may encounter species otherwise limited to the exclave of Nakhchivan like White-throated Robin, Pale Rock Sparrow and Crimson-winged Finch.
Black-throated Thrush (Turdus atrogularis)
Caspian Tit (Poecile hyrcanus)
Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)
When to visit:
Late spring or late autumn.
Where to stay:
The forest huts at Tabassum restaurant along the Lankaran-Lerik road are a popular option with birdwatchers because the surrounding forest is the home of the Caspian Great Spotted Woodpecker. A little further away, the city of Lankaran has a good range of hotels. You can also stay at hotels in Masalli, close to the main Shikra site.