Mtirala National Park

Mtirala National Park

Being situated in a Biodiversity Hotspot, the even more region-specific climate of Batumi further increases the potential to see some unique species in the area. Though most resident birds are widely distributed, a lot of regional subspecies are known. When it comes to endemics, especially plants provide botanists from all over the world a splendid time. The old-grown forests of Mtirala National Park sport good forest bird species.

Mtirala literally means ‘crying’, which refers to the high annual rainfall in the park, exceeding 3,000mm in some parts. Here, the Lesser Caucasus mountain range is covered in lush beech and chestnut forests, with an understory of evergreen shrubs. The area is notably rich in Colchic endemics (the Colchis region is a forested strip along the East Black Sea Coast, running from East Turkey to the Russian Caucasus). Moreover, in May and late September, the mountains are covered in pink and yellow of flowering rhododendrons. This area is of the highest value for conservation as it is mainly determined by a relict Colchic flora and plays an important role in ecosystem services such as natural water resources and the prevention of erosion. The park provides nature enthusiasts with the best representation of what the natural condition of forests in the area looks like. The flora contains 16 species of endemic plants including 3 only occurring in the Adjara region. The Rhododendron vegetation is a particular highlight, whilst the Canopy is mainly characterized as either mixed broad-leaved Colchic, Chestnut, or Beech forest, depending on soil type and altitude.

When it comes to wildlife, many species of (endemic) amphibians, reptiles, and mammals occur in the park and the surrounding forests including Caucasian Viper and Toad, Lynx, Brown Bear ... Combined with a splendid traditional local background of the people, the park provides visitors with an example of world-class standard of nature conservation.

Greater, Middle and Little Spotted Woodpeckers have heard quite often whilst Black Woodpecker and especially White-backed Woodpecker prove harder to see. Migratory passerines can be seen foraging from tree to tree, including the common Spotted Flycatcher and Red-throated Flycatcher. Widespread residents displaying local varieties of the nominate plumage include Chaffinch, Jay, and Long-tailed Tit. To a lesser extent, Tawny Owl can be heard and several records of Sombre Tit have occurred in the duration of the project. White-throated Dippers (ssp. Caucasicus) are easily spotted on the large boulders lying in the mountain rivers. Whilst exploring the mountains one would definitely see huge numbers of migrating or hunting Bee-eaters (their distinctive calls can be heard constantly in September) accompanied by some decent numbers of Roller, Crossbills, Siskin, Tawny Pipit, and Ortolan Bunting.

Almost all European species of woodpecker can be found here: Greater, Middle, and Lesser Spotted, Green and Grey-headed, Black and White-backed. Late winter and early spring are the best seasons to find them. The woods also hold many red-breasted flycatchers and green warblers, while dippers and grey wagtails can be spotted along the Chakvistskali river. Of particular interest are several rare species of reptiles and amphibians that can be found inside the park: Caucasian salamander, Clark’s Lizard, and Caucasian viper. From March to June you should also keep your eyes open for the Caucasian Festoon, a brightly colored butterfly which only occurs along the Eastern Black Sea coast. In summer and early autumn, the forested mountains offer a welcome refreshment after the hot coastal lowlands. The river is always cold but excellent for swimming, particularly in a small, natural lake – which is a bit hard to find though. The small and authentic village of Chakvistavi has several restaurants that offer tasty local food and fresh drinks. You can also stay overnight in a local homestay and enjoy the quiet beauty of the mountains at night. The park offers about 15kms of trails, some of which are of moderate difficulty and involve a change of over 1000 meters of altitude, while those along the river are easy and allow a leisurely walk.