I departed Heathrow on Saturday evening and arrived at Istanbul Ataturk airport early the next morning.
I struggled to kill the 9 hours I had till my Batumi flight, so I was delighted to learn of the presence of a 'veranda'. I had my bins in my hand-luggage (naturally) and I was keen to start my Turkey list (that's a list of birds in Turkey, not a list of species of Turkey! :-D ) .
Sadly, this turned out to be a 'cage' everyone used as a smoking area.
Despite the difficult viewing, I saw a few things through the mesh, including Yellow-legged Gull, Cormorant, and Hooded Crow. The first good bird was an Alpine Swift, dwarfing the nearby Common Swift. Several flocks of Yellow Wagtail flew over and Grey Heron and a Kestrel were spotted.
Then, just as I had to go to the gate, I remembered that Istanbul is a bit of a bottleneck for large migrants in itself, and I found a nice north-facing window to check.
Lo and behold, there was a flock of some 300 White Stork heading through!
Don't worry, the wildlife images shall improve!
There was also a couple of very high raptors, probably Black Kite, with them. Also from this window, I saw my first lifer of the trip with a nice rufous Long-legged Buzzard hunting, and it was good to see the familiar below the window itself with a dead Silver Y.
On arrival at Batumi airport I was taken on an impromptu tour of the city which included this rather rustic (and packed!) wine cellar.
On getting to the accommodation - the house of a Georgian family, I was immediately greeted by the calls of Bee-eater. This would set the tone of the trip really, as the 'prrrrp' was a constant soundtrack to our raptor counts. There were clouds of them!
With a couple of hours of daylight left, I mostly just pottered about the house balcony and garden to see what I could see. Along with a load of unfamiliar sounds (most of which I cracked later!) I managed to spot distant Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, a large unidentified Eagle, and my first ever Levant Sparrowhawk! This male was filmed later in the trip - notice the black, narrow wing-tips and unbarred underparts.
A nice warm-up for my first count day tomorrow!