"But in the
book...," begins the Ardent Birder.
egrets." The Peerless Leader whirls to confirm the sighting of a roller
that is generating great excitement up near the road. Meanwhile, the four white
birds take off, wheel and resettle on the waters a few yards to the right of
their previous position.
over there," calls Peerless Leader, shifting his attention back to the
pond. "There are some little white herons—the species you were asking about
before. Just to the right of those geese."
Rostov was the
place where the schedule began to come unsoldered. Instead of a day-long motor
launch tour down the Don to the Sea of Azov, we are herded into the regular
passenger hydrofoil which makes a dash down and back in a little under two
hours. The vibration makes it almost impossible to use binoculars. But it
doesn't really matter. There are no birds.
En route to
Tbilisi, spirits are running high. We get a late start, but things look
promising. Towering mountain ranges lie ahead. "Should be good for
birding," offers the General, who has dressed in field clothes—khakis and
Wellington boots—in honor of the excursion. "Changing environment," he
We have before us
a day's bus trip through the Caucasus mountains on the Georgian Military Road.
The tour brochure describes it. "The most scenic mountain road in the
U.S.S.R.... splendid views of snowcapped mountains, glaciers and Alpine
The birders are
particularly excited about the next sentence: "Occasional stops will be
made for bird watching in significant places."
Our bus drivers
aren't having any of that. We have two drivers who spell each other every now
and then, a tribute to the terrain and primitive condition of the twisting
macadam road. We drive hell-for-leather for Tbilisi with hardly a pause.
it's getting dark and we must hurry," Galina explains. "Too dangerous
to drive the high passes at night."
We round a curve
and cross a bridge. We enter into a somber gorge. Someone spots a bird. Then