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Exploring the Caucasus: Europe and Asia's Natural Bridge | Extra Long Documentary

May 31, 2024
In southern Russia, between Europe and Asia, stands an imposing mountain range... the Greater Caucasus. The influence of these mountains reaches the valleys. From the glaciers of the main ridge to the canyons of the Caspian Sea... a wilderness with incredible diversity. Rugged, shrouded in legends and still largely unexplored today. The mountain worlds of Europe are the stuff of legend. The Pyrenees, the Alps and the extensive arc of the Carpathians cross the continent from west to east. However, in the far east, beyond the Crimea and the Black Sea, appears a 1,000-kilometer-

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mountain range that dwarfs everything else: the Greater Caucasus, which has more than a dozen peaks higher than the highest Alps. high.
exploring the caucasus europe and asia s natural bridge extra long documentary
The mountains begin just behind the spa town of Sochi. Its proximity to the Black Sea makes the Western Caucasus one of the snowiest regions in Europe. Just a stone's throw from the bustling coastal metropolis are magical virgin forests, which by late autumn are already covered with thick snow. The forests are the home of the last Cauc

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n sages. The freezing cold doesn't bother them at all. But their food is increasingly difficult to find under layer after layer of snow. And twigs are a poor substitute. Soon, these animals, which weigh almost a ton, will not be able to meet their daily energy needs.
exploring the caucasus europe and asia s natural bridge extra long documentary

More Interesting Facts About,

exploring the caucasus europe and asia s natural bridge extra long documentary...

Today there are again about 500 wise men. In the late 1920s they became extinct in the wild. Only the release of reverse race creatures ensured their return. Driven by hunger and instinct, the herd begins to move. The animals sense that the ground will soon be covered by three or four meters of snow or more. Too much even for the largest land mammal in Europe. At some point, the alpha bull gives a signal and begins a

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and arduous journey. The migration is uphill, out of the low clouds to well above the tree line. There is less snow up here, but it is colder and more exposed.
exploring the caucasus europe and asia s natural bridge extra long documentary
A frozen wasteland, high altitude, inhospitable and arid. The herd is getting higher and higher. What drives you forward? Many high-altitude valleys are snow-covered and dangerous. One wrong move and the bulky animals could fall or sink into a crevice. Other herds join the trek, advancing through endless expanses of snow. At the end of their ascent, the wise men reach the territory of the chamois. In white nature, even these huge animals seem tiny and lost. But they resist. What are they waiting for? The answer comes with the southerly winds. The towering clouds collide strongly with the mountains and stick together quickly.
exploring the caucasus europe and asia s natural bridge extra long documentary
The steep slopes of the mountains are no obstacle to the wind. Within minutes, the plateau is hit by a storm, accelerated by icy air currents. It ends as quickly as it started. The sky over the plateau remains wonderfully clear. An area of ​​high pressure clears the clouds. The winter sun can now warm the plateau that has just been freed from snow. Well preserved under the frozen blanket, herbs remain nutritious. For a brief moment, summer gives way to Cauc

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n winter. It is now clear why it was essential for the wise men to weather the storm. Only at this altitude can they find pasture in winter and thus survive the cold season.
Surprisingly, the grasslands at 3,000 meters above sea level in the Western Caucasus are ideal winter pastures for serious vegetarians. And the Devil's Gate provides a spectacular backdrop. To the north of the Caucasus are extensive plains, in the rain shadow of the main range. Here begin the steppes of Kalmykia, with its special inhabitants. Saiga antelopes are inhabitants of the steppes. They prefer to be outdoors, as they seem to be permanently on the run, regardless of what provokes them. Winter in the steppes is harsh, although they are three kilometers below the sages' pastures. The saiga trunk was a mystery to science for many years.
Today we know that it provides animals with a kind of air conditioning. To protect the lungs of these long-distance runners, the icy air of the steppes is moistened and warmed in their conspicuous nasal sacs. If you approach the Caucasus from the north, you cannot miss the twin peaks of Mount Elbrus, more than 5,600 meters high. Situated on one side of the main range, Europe's highest mountain rises majestically above the foothills. A dormant volcano that rises about 800 meters higher than Mont Blanc. Beyond the other double summits of Mount Ushba in Georgia, Europe gradually becomes Asia. It is difficult to imagine that this rock-filled landscape could support life.
But towards the end of April loud screams echo in the mountains. Caucasian snow roosters. They live on rocky cliffs up to the vegetation line. Early travelers called the shy birds "mountain turkeys." The ibexes are nervous. Spring is avalanche season. Thousands of tons of snow fall heavily into the valleys, turning the mountain slopes into deadly zones. It is not clear whether the animals have an internal avalanche warning system, a kind of sixth sense. If they do, at least in the Caucasus, it does not always seem to help, as many animals are victims of avalanches. The snowmen certainly don't mind.
The ibexes hesitate. Will the snow hold up? It is much faster to descend the smooth surface of a thawed snowfield than it is to descend a scree slope. Caucasian ibexes are also called turs. The females form small flocks away from the adult males. In spring almost all females give birth and are therefore even more cautious than usual. Bears, wolves or lynxes are not usually found this high, but when there are many cubs, it is tempting for predators to try to climb up here. Children rush headlong down the mountainside, good practice in case of emergency and always within sight of their mother.
These joyous capers usually do not last long. In spring, phases of good weather can last only a short time. You can't trust the seasons here. In 24 hours, autumn can turn into a hot summer day and then into intense winter. Storms and cold temperatures are part of everyday life here. This is probably why many animals we know from the Alps, especially marmots, have not settled in the Caucasus. However, the combination of the region's rich landscapes and its harsh climate have produced an enormous diversity of wildlife. On the eastern promontory of Dagestan lies a gigantic wandering sand dune, the Sarykum.
The dune, 260 meters high and about a kilometer long, is a miniature version of the huge deserts of Central Asia, here on the edge of Europe. An agama with the head of a toad. In times of danger, the agama puts on a disappearing act. Like agamas, long-eared hedgehogs have their largest populations in Central Asia, with a European outpost here in the Eastern Caucasus. Its striking ears not only serve to hear, but also regulate the animal's body temperature. The woman only has one goal in mind. As their name implies, wandering dunes are in constant motion, driven by the wind, without which the dune would be overgrown with weeds for a long time.
No plant can take root with this continuous sandblast. Agamas have adapted: special rows of scales protect their eyes and nasal openings. Far from the sandstorm, in the basement of the dune the hedgehog nurses its babies. Long-eared hedgehogs are extremely fertile animals. In good years, litters can have up to ten individuals. In this case, the mother only has two babies to care for, but she still needs an occasional break. In a few days, the baby hedgehogs will embark on their first excursions. In the meantime, they are simply trying to avoid painful piercings. The morning after the storm is calm and promises to be a hot day in the desert.
The hedgehog will postpone the departure as long as possible. Like their short-eared relatives, they stay out of the scorching sun. Agamas, on the other hand, hunt during the day. A poor choice of prey. The beetle protects itself with a caustic secretion that kills, if not the predator, then at least its appetite. This time... A serving this size will keep the agama going all day. Dinner or danger? Neither nor. The little Montpellier snake is just looking for a bit of shade. In the dry northern Caucasus, spring is short and intense. You have to make good use of your time.
A centipede on the hunt. These aggressive arthropods eat everything they find, neutralizing even larger prey with their strong toxin. The young hedgehog is not immune to the effects of the centipede's venom. It's all about speed... and making sure you bite the right end. As desert specialists, hedgehogs can go long periods without water. However, without food, they will only survive a few days. The Sarykum dune, small, isolated and yet the only real sandy desert in Russia. The origin of the dune is located nearby. The valleys of the eastern foothills are lined with towering sandstone cliffs. In the Western Caucasus, limestone canyons lead to high-altitude summer.
In early July, many of the mountain meadows are in full bloom. A botanist's dream, the Caucasus is home to more than 6,500 types of plants, a quarter of which are only found here. In the shadow of a glacial valley, the turs bow to each other. They lean on their elbows to reach the salty earth. Salt is scarce at high altitudes, which explains the intensity of the Turs' efforts. Although their hooves are not suitable for this task, the animals scrape the dirt like addicts. Has the boy next to you found a better place? That can spell trouble. Heads are bumped everywhere: a good opportunity for a test of strength.
Even if it's playful. All this activity does not go unnoticed. One floor up, they are also scraping and scratching. The chamois, however, are not looking for salt, but for refreshing snow, softened by the sun. Which for children means all the fun of the slopes. The older chamois still hesitate. The snow is not the right consistency yet. Who dares to be the first in the arena? Each one tries to look more than the other. Then they leave. And the snowy slope becomes a dance floor. The undecided have to join, whether they like it or not. In the end, everyone is standing.
With increasingly wild movements, the chamois jump down the snowy slope. Their seemingly limitless energy is due to the fact that, having adapted to life at high altitudes, the animals have

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-large lungs. Pirouettes only count if they are performed with a successful landing on all four feet. Second try. No problem! The chamois' behavior has no deeper meaning, but simply seems to express its enthusiasm for life. Confident and agile, they show what they are made of. The cumbersome tours are left with the role of spectators. Another change in time is coming. From the Black Sea, heavy clouds cover the ridge.
The animals are nervous. They may very well feel the surge of electricity well in advance. The Western Caucasus is one of the rainiest regions in Europe. The storm breaks. First rain, then hail and then snow. Winter reappears, although it may not seem like it, in the middle of summer. For species hardened by the Caucasus, it's no big deal. Morning fog in the steppes of Kalmykia. In the shadow of some of the highest peaks in the Caucasus begins a branch of the once gigantic steppe belt that stretched from Mongolia to Eastern Europe. It is not easy to have a good overview in this sea of ​​grass.
For Saiga antelopes, it is the beginning of an exciting period. As always, the herds wander restlessly across the steppes. The females, however, little by little are separating themselves from the rest. They are very pregnant and not as mobile as usual. One after another, they slip away. White storks on their way north stop in the steppes. Totally focused on the hunt, they ignore the saigas' growls. Omitted! Understood! The sand lizard doesn't stand a chance. Or not? It instinctively grabs onto anything that is moving. But the lizard has simply discarded its tail. The stork has to make a quick decision: starter or main course?
What happened to the rest of my lunch? Long ago. Life goes on... or starts again. Last night the first babies were born. Well hidden and the size of a hare, the children have to fend for themselves. The mother only comes in the morning and afternoon to breastfeed. How they manage to find their young in the endless steppes is a mystery. Not all children stand firm. This one seems to be injured and abandoned. He bleats pitifully at every adult female he sees, but the saigas only accept their own young. Even if a mother lost her child, she would not adopt an orphan.
The young antelope is still hungry... and alone. For now he can only take cover, since, especially during the birth period, danger lurks everywhere in the steppes. His fate appears to be sealed. If the herd continues forward, it is lost. Once again, a detached mother approaches. This is the call the boy was waiting for. Thelittle saiga has a day to gain strength and learn to walk. The antelopes are getting restless. Once again, it is the males who push. Nothing can stop the saigas. Our little straggler cannot afford to miss the train. The last saigas in Europe are in extreme danger of extinction, as their horns are sold in China as enhancement products.
Since it is almost impossible to prevent poaching, the proportion of males has fallen to five percent. Autumn comes to the Western Caucasus already in August. The field is shrouded in fog. It takes a while for the sun to dissipate the persistent veil of fog. The mountain sages again left the forest and ascended to the open plateau. This time it is not hunger that has brought them here. It's mating season for the giants and weeds and weeds get in their way. Bulls need a good view. And lots of space. Although the sun has finally broken through the clouds, it will take a long time to drive the fog out of the valleys.
Finally, the flock girds its loins. The young bulls try to herd the cows together to form small harems. This inevitably leads to conflict as they argue with each other about moving cows from one group to another. Older bulls are less active and prefer to watch and wait. When all the cows are gathered, they select those that are willing to mate. Young and tired bulls are chased away. Grizzly bears are no match for a wise adult. This female has every reason to keep her distance. The bulls are much more aggressive than usual and escaping into the open is not an option.
On the slope, things are getting serious. The hill is disputed as an important viewpoint. While the young bulls fight, the wise alpha takes the decisive step. These three have sensibly decided to stay where they are... and start grazing. Caucasian brown bears are mostly vegetarians. For today, the winner is clearly established. The boss features the huge side view of him. That should be enough to impress his young rivals. It's time to dress up a little. And wherever the wise men wallow, new habitats are formed. A hoof print, a few dry grass stalks... and the bumblebees can now make a nest.
Inside the miniature haystack, the queen is incubating her eggs. Worker bees collect nectar in nearby flower-filled meadows. The bushes, some as tall as a man, are a haven for insects in late summer. Small birds are magically attracted to these gardens. Some develop surprising hunting strategies. The warbler shoots upward through the umbel like a diver surfacing. Attacked from below, flies don't stand a chance. Others don't even wait for their prey to land. Late summer is the best time of year in the mountains. Periods of good weather last longer and not every rain cloud brings a full-fledged storm.
It is as if nature is gathering strength before the arrival of the merciless winter. In summer you can clearly see how the large glaciers of the Caucasus are shrinking. At the same time, new, albeit smaller, glaciers are forming. A protective layer of dust and debris covers the snow, slowing the melting process. Even today, the power of more than 1,000 glaciers shapes the Caucasus and the mountains far beyond its borders. Meltwater and heavy rain have formed wide valleys in the plains of the Caspian lowlands. In the middle of the semi-desert, lush riverine forests, called Tugai, have formed. Imperial eagles build their nests in tall, unique trees.
Here they have excellent surveillance of their surroundings, but they themselves are very visible and open to attack as soon as they appear in the nest. This lesser shrike irritates the old eagle so much that it finally takes off again. Thousands of years of erosion and flooding have carved a unique landscape into the soft sandstone. The canyons rich in reptiles are the territory of short-toed eagles. The female has killed a highly venomous Levantine viper. Snake eagles make a clear distinction between venomous and non-venomous. Venomous snakes always have their heads removed before taking home dinner. The male was too fast and has to adopt a holding pattern.
Flash floods have gouged out the sandstone near the shore. At the bottom of these potholes, desert ants search for flood victims. The lobster is injured and cannot escape. In a few minutes, the much larger insect is overpowered and heads to the anthill. The eaglet is insatiable. His parents bring him one snake after another. But when it comes time to consume them, the chick is left alone. The young of the owlets that live beneath the nest also await provisions. Snake eagles eat their prey whole. The longer the snake, the longer it takes. Owls hunt smaller birds, insects and reptiles.
The parent bird hesitates. The eaglet needs a rest. For the last time, the father owl brings his prey home. Tomorrow the little owls will begin to learn to hunt for themselves. The final bite. Autumn in the mountains is short and at any moment it can turn into the deepest winter. For the wise, it is time to leave the plateau and go down to the forests still free of snow. Autumn also makes an appearance here. The tall bushes are dying, leaving rich crops for the wise. The hairy giants advance through the jungle of withered vegetation. The giant hogweed dwarfs even the good-sized animals of the Caucasus.
The deer are becoming more restless every day and abandon the protection of the forest. As the females try to return to the valley, the deer push them further and further into the mountains. Their journey takes them through fields of rhododendrons to the snow line. Males also want to be outdoors during mating. Every day new arrivals join them at 3,000 meters. In autumn, spending so much energy is risky. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the weather changes. Snow covers the plateau. In less than an hour winter has arrived. The chamois have been taken by surprise while searching for salt, but are otherwise undisturbed.
Their mating season also takes place in late autumn. Chamois were made to live at high altitudes. Deer are less comfortable at such heights, as evidenced by the arduous climb. In the air, this deer is tensing all its muscles and will have no strength left for a duel. The old deer moves on without a fight. The highest mountains in Europe, the last refuge of the wise men of the Caucasus. A region unique in its rich diversity. The influence of these mountains reaches far beyond their borders... and leaves its mark on the land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
The mysterious mountain world of southern Russia. The Greater Caucasus. A thousand kilometer long fortress between Europe and Asia. The Greater Caucasus. But what is behind these mountains? A world full of surprises and almost tropical diversity. Rare animals in ancient cultural landscapes. Hot desert basins in the middle of frozen alpine plateaus. Hunters... and the hunted. Here it simmers, beneath the surface. Elemental forces cause mountains to explode and, in return, create paradises. In the Lesser Caucasus, between two seas and biblical mountains. It's an old question: where does Europe end? And: Where does Asia begin? The search for answers takes us to the mountains between Türkiye and Iran.
A very unknown mountain framed by the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea: the Little Caucasus. To the north, the area borders a vast mountain range: the Greater Caucasus, where Russia begins. The peaks over 4,000 meters high have barely been used to this day. Steep domes of ice and snow divide countries, habitats and cultures. Even if we compare it with the Siberian cold fronts, there is no way to pass through here. In the Eastern Caucasus, the climate is determined by the Caspian Sea. Newly fallen snow forces many animals to leave the highlands. The pastures of the East Caucasus ibex remain buried under meters of snow.
The herd slowly follows the tracks of the older male. The steep snow-covered slopes pose a risk even to the ibex. Their instincts take them to the southern edge of the mountains, where the wind and sun first melt the snow. The Eastern Caucasus rises above the clouds like a sky-blue coast. Animals can only feed on its outer edge. The few high, open meadows and stone ditches are a magnet for Caucasian snowcocks. Patches like these are essential for them. Chickens look for safe places to nest and eat continuously. Very soon they will lay up to eight eggs. Snow roosters are monogamous.
Couples stay together their entire lives. You only have to win over your partner once. But every year you have to find a safe place for reproduction. Snowcocks acoustically conquer suitable territories. When the best spots have been chosen, a noisy song contest begins. The roosters surpass each other in a loud crescendo that carries for miles. This is the sound of these mountains. Like the ibex, snowcocks depend on the few snow-free pastures. Like a fata morgana, the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus seem to float above the horizon. It is barely 150 kilometers in a straight line. But they are worlds apart.
Three thousand meters below the snowflakes, the ground is dusty and hot. A deep basin separates the Caucasus Mountains along their entire length. Protected from the cold Siberian air, fertile cultural landscapes accumulated in Georgia and Azerbaijan. The rivers of the Caucasus are the only veins of water in the arid wastelands. They are crossed by lush forest pastures: the tugay. Imperial eagles control the sky over the river valleys. Their nests sit on the tallest poplar trees. Imperial eagles hunt anything they can dominate: birds, reptiles or small mammals. Even chickens from nearby towns often land in the eagles' nest.
An adult then expertly carves them to the size of a beak. Turtles, on the other hand, open like cans and cleanly empty both halves of their shells. The river valleys, so reminiscent of oases, have been home to shepherds and wild animals for millennia. Slowly, the water drips into the container. The land becomes increasingly dry and river valleys turn into ravines. The vultures glide down with the thermals and keep a close watch. Open sheets are ideal for your search flights. Three species of vultures live here, and they all gather periodically whenever there is something worth gathering about.
Vultures are observed from great distances. When one of them changes its flight pattern, the neighbors react immediately. That's why it often seems like dozens of these huge birds are found out of nowhere. In this case, however, the ground forces arrive before the rest. If vultures have brilliant eyesight, golden jackals have a very fine nose. They know that time is short. Although no vultures have been seen so far, it won't be long before they take over the feeding area. Until then, the work must be done. The omnipresent magpies try to distract, but the herd has divided into groups.
The Egyptian vultures do not represent an obstacle either. Smaller than geese, the small omnivores must be careful around jackals. The first griffon vulture. The magpies can't stop him. Things are getting difficult. The black vulture weighs approximately five times more than its small relative. Very soon it will be full of them. It's time to act. The jackals proceed with skill. Two of them cause a real stir among invasive vultures. During the melee, the third manages to grab a piece of meat. And not as soon as now, the vultures take over. The less the food, the more irritable the mood.
Black vultures dance around the corpse. None of the birds manages to swallow a few mouthfuls without being disturbed. Again and again, a new attack. The huge birds attack like kickboxers. Everything seems to be allowed. The winner finally swaggers away with pride. But even he had to fight more than he actually ate. Fresh supplies are not far behind. Without farmers and their flocks, there would not be even half the number of vultures in the basin between the Greater Caucasus and the Lesser Caucasus. Not far away large swarms of birds graze. Little bustards have escaped the cold of the Russian and Kazakh steppes.
The semi-deserts surrounding the Lesser Caucasus are the largest wintering areas for bustards. Every year, more than 100,000 of them pass through the Transcaucasian basin. A marvel of bird migration at the lowest point between the two mountain ranges. Nine hundred years ago, the world collapsed on the highest ridge of the Lesser Caucasus. An immense earthquake blew up the top of Mount Kapaz. Probably in a matter of seconds, millions of cubic meters of rocks created a completely new landscape. Entire valleys simply disappeared. Rivers were blocked, forests flooded and lakes dammed. Since then, this land on the border with Nagorno-Karabakh remains intact.
A cascade of crystal clear lakes connected through mountain streams that have found their way throughof the scree. The landscape as we see it is several centuries old, which, geologically, barely lasts more than a few seconds. Born from a catastrophe that could be repeated tomorrow here in the Little Caucasus. Volcanic activity and earthquakes created this mountain. Beneath the mountains, the Arabian Peninsula moves inexorably toward Eurasia. In the westernmost highlands, the Christian-Islamic religious border crosses the Lesser Caucasus. In the shadow of the twin peaks of Mount Ararat lies Armenia, an arid land and ancient cradle of Christianity. In winter, temperatures usually drop below 20 degrees below zero.
Bezoar goats are the wild ancestors of all domestic goats. Today, their domesticated relatives increasingly push them further into the inaccessible highlands. Only in winter do animals seek protection in the lower latitudes. Despite the scarcity of settlements, the mountains of Armenia are also cultural landscapes and ancient pastures. Herds have roamed the arid plateaus for more than two millennia. Ancient churches hidden in valleys, many of them more than a thousand years old. Noravank Monastery existed long before the Mongols arrived in Europe. The Armenians were able to save their modest but strong form of Christian faith despite all the foreign domination.
No one, not the Romans, not the Persians, not the Turks, managed to change that. Over the course of centuries of cultural anguish, social cohesion in the small country only grew stronger. The mountains breathe history in every corner. The Ughtasar petroglyphs are more than 4,000 years old. They were carved into volcanic basalt by Bronze Age artists and have been expanded over the centuries. Bezoar goats, warriors or leopards are frequent motifs in this archaic open-air gallery with its more than 1,000 works of art. On the next slope, it is as if the drawings have come to life. Bezoar goats have moved to snowless latitudes.
In autumn, the otherwise solitary billy goats follow the larger herds. The obvious reason for your interest? It's mating season and you don't leave the ladies waiting. The older man reviews the situation for hours. When he finds what he is looking for, he purses his upper lip to amplify the effect of female pheromones. The hunt has begun. Strangely enough, the males work together. Young and old can be found in herds of females, and can get quite wild. This can be very dangerous in terrain like this. As the hunt becomes wilder, both sexes sweat. This exhausting coming and going lasts for days.
Many fall and injuries are common. After several days, many of the males are on the verge of collapse. No one knows why bezoating goatsneed such strenuous foreplay. Is this how women test the suitability of their potential partner? Not everyone is convinced of the results. But it's so close to home that he won't take no for an answer. The tête-à-tête on the rocks continues. After about two weeks, the male and female bezoars go their own way for another year. The twin peaks of the Ararats, four and five thousand meters high, mark the westernmost tip of the Little Caucasus, the border with Anatolia.
Jungle cats spend the whole year here in the reedbeds of the fish ponds. Although they are carnivores, like all cats, they usually eat plants. They are hunters. Jungle cats stalk their prey on shorelines in daylight. They are not picky either. The cat is young and curious. As if taken for granted, he follows the turtle across the pond. You cannot dive in shallow water. The attack should not be taken seriously. The cat has eaten enough and now the little one just wants to play. The brother is more focused. The ponds are emptied periodically and then dry fished.
Whoever stays in shallow water quickly becomes an easy meal. The cats just have to wait until the catfish swims close enough to shore. They are in their element. Jungle cats, by nature, are not afraid of water. Fishing has never been easier for cats and they don't have to waste time intensely hunting for birds in the reeds. Once it reaches land, it's all over for the already weakened catfish. Surrounded by cultural land, the fish ponds in the foothills of Mount Ararat offer ample space for wild animals. Despite having seemingly superior neighbors, tiny Armenia has been able to retain its independence for millennia.
Its arid mountain is the heart of the Little Caucasus. The steppes of Nagorno-Karabakh's eastern promontory are home to nomadic shepherds. Many families have Persian roots. Iran is only a few kilometers away. Hundreds of blue-cheeked bee-eaters swarm the cattle trails. The birds established their colony directly in the backyard of a small farming family. Neither guard dogs nor other animals stop the lively flock. It's like the birds belong there. The reasons for this neighborhood are simple. Bee-eaters reproduce underground. The more open the ground is, the easier it will be to build nesting burrows. It is amazing how bee-eaters manage to dig tunnels, sometimes a meter deep, with their short feet.
The most difficult is the root network directly below the surface. That's why there is always someone looking for suitable building structures. An innocent expression. But the owner smells bad and doesn't hesitate much. Blue-cheeked bee-eaters hunt exclusively flying insects such as dragonflies, wasps or robber flies. Their colonies can often be found near steppe lakes or irrigation canals. The cables are tastefully used as viewpoints. Food is so abundant that bee-eaters can choose their nesting sites virtually anywhere. If you breed on the ground, you will have to take tenants into account. Desert ants specialize in leftovers. They are like an ant version of a vulture.
Its orientation is determined by smell. They approach against the direction of the wind, allowing them to sniff out dead insects along the way. The grasshopper is not available yet. The giant centipede knows exactly what the ant is looking for. After a while, he gives up and grants his will to the irritating guest. Tropical bee-eaters populate the farm as domestic birds. A colorful side by side that can only occur where humans provide shelter to wild animals. Golden jackals keep their distance. Caucasian sheepdogs are not toyed with. The small herd returns to its hiding place in the ditch.
They sleep among the reeds to protect themselves from the heat of the day. But young jackals do not like to go to bed early. Just one more game. The two youngest play as if they hadn't spent the whole night hunting. While another hunts mosquitoes. And the fourth tries to give life to the cane stalks. Weary parents gracefully accept their fate. The first rays of sun present a surprising spectacle. Whose reflection is that? Can you jump on me? Even the waves look a little different today. The sun is rising. Bedtime. The canal is connected to a large steppe lake, the Ak-Goel.
It is a relic of the once vast marshes of the Kura and Arax rivers. The two main water veins of the Lesser Caucasus carried their annual flood into a vast plain and created a unique aquatic nature. As a breeding and resting place for hundreds of bird species, the Ak-Goel is of inestimable value. All nine species of European herons nest in this shallow lake, as well as the brilliant ibis. The abundance of fish in the lake is immense. But a good balance is necessary, since cane stalks are not the best seats. For the pygmy cormorants with their webs, a real challenge.
Its advantage is in the water. Herons' legs are also not designed for perching on reeds. The spoonbill prefers to stay in the water while others try to grab the redeemer reeds above it. Each in their own way, rarely elegant. It gets quite sporty when the young, hungry herons start shaking the stalks of the reeds. The defense of the crab-eating egret requires the greatest precision. On faltering stems, pecking can be quite dangerous. Only interested parties know which egret feeds whom. At the neighbors' house things are even harder. It is almost acrobatic how older birds manage to balance on a square centimeter of reed stem.
As often happens in a rodeo, the ride ends abruptly. Peace returns with the night. The reed lakes in the ancient marshes of the Kura and Arax rivers form the most important bird sanctuary in the entire Lesser Caucasus. Every year, the abundance of fish ensures the survival of thousands of migratory and breeding birds in the dry cultural landscapes of southern Azerbaijan. On the Georgian promontory of the Greater Caucasus, two tributaries of the Kura have created a spectacular landscape: the Vashlovani canyons. Calm reigns in the depths of the canyon. The culebrera withstands heat, although it is reminiscent of an oven.
If there is a breeze, you want to store as much fresh air as possible. The little eagle watches the silhouettes flying over the canyon for hours. He is, as is usual with snake eagles, the only young in the nest. Like a fata morgana, an old bird sails aimlessly in the hot mist of the cliffs. But it doesn't land. The other parent is the one that brings the desired prey. And like all birds of prey, young snake eagles are altricial birds. Until they are ready to fly, they have no chance of getting anything to drink. In this desert environment it is not worth waiting for it to rain.
Therefore, for the young eagle, each snake is doubly vital. They not only refer to food, but also to water. This means that when you eat a lot, you simultaneously quench your thirst. Like all vertebrates, snakes are made up of about two-thirds water. However, it is essential to keep liquid from food in the body. The variety of habitats in the Little Caucasus region never ceases to fascinate. Vashlovani canyons are one of these

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wonders. Despite their aridity, they still belong to the most diverse regions, spread between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus. Towards the east, the canyons progressively become dry steppes.
They flow into the Caspian Sea basin, whose coast is 28 meters below sea level. A world as if it were on another planet. Nowhere else are there as many mud volcanoes as in the Caspian lowlands of Azerbaijan. Funnels are cold volcanoes. From the Earth's crust, clay minerals and methane make their way to the surface. Where there are mud volcanoes, there is usually oil. Huge reserves lie dormant beneath the crust of Azerbaijan, at the bottom of the sea. Two centuries ago, people already knew about the endless, increasingly scarce oil wells from which fuel could be

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cted by the bucketful.
Meanwhile, most oil is produced offshore, but the old onshore pumps never stop either. Day and night, for decades. Shirvan National Park has the feel of an African savannah. A small group of goiter gazelles jostle in the morning cold. The Shirvan semi-desert is the last important refuge of these gazelles in the Trans

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. The animals were widespread in the surrounding lowlands until the middle of the last century. Excessive farming and poaching have decreased the population. Virgin desert steppes, such as in Shirvan, are very rare. Thanks to strict protection, around 2,500 of these animals live in Azerbaijan. Goiter gazelles live exclusively in deserts and semi-deserts and are therefore well adapted to water scarcity.
The only water they get is in food. It is difficult to imagine when you look at its variety of forage plants. In the coastal basin of the Caspian Sea, gazelles often graze in dry waterholes and salt meadows. Many plants have adapted to the soil of the coastal zone by tolerating excess salt or discarding it. In summer, Greek tortoises are only active in the early morning or evening. For good reason. Despite being reptiles, temperatures that are too high are more dangerous than cold. Small animals' bodies heat up quickly and can overheat if they can't find shade somewhere.
The male turtle overheats in a completely different way. The Greek tortoise is known for its enthusiasm for flirting. Rough pushes and hits are typical of the species and are designed to put hesitant females in the right frame of mind. Once a female is detected, no time is wasted. However, if the chosen one faces an uphill climb, then everything will be a test. That is better. It's much easier downhill. Cold blood turns into a brand. The somersault has less to do with making love. If the mating was successful, she will soon lay her eggs on this dune wall.
The water level of the Caspian Sea rises and falls in irregular cycles. The land reappears or disappears in large lagoons and marshes. For Caspian gulls, these areas are ideal breeding grounds. When the water recedes, residents' legacies become visible. Obviously this does not bother theseagulls. Otherwise. Branches are rare in areas without vegetation. Without further ado, the new materials are integrated into the construction of the nest. When combined with

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raw materials, denser and warmer nests are obtained. Thus making a necessity a virtue. In the heat of the day, two goitered gazelles head to the sea. The animals do not look for grass or escape from irritating horseflies.
The water-saving kings drink. They drink in the troubled sea. More and more animals cross the lagoon towards the open sea. Are all the salt-tolerant plants in Shirvan the ones that make desert animals thirsty? Gazelles do not feel safe in the water at all. When one jumps, the rest run away without knowing why. The flight reflex can save lives. This time the panic was unfounded. Wild boars are not interested in gazelles. They comb the reeds in search of something edible and chew here and there tender straws of reeds. They spend the whole year among the reeds of the Caspian basin.
A flock of greater flamingos flies over the alpine background of the Lesser Caucasus. Flamingos usually fly long distances, always in search of shallow waters rich in plankton. Where does this troupe come from? Africa? Central Asia? Hard to say. The Caspian lagoons are an ideal place to rest. The flamingos will filter through the bay for a few days and then fly away again. At midday, when it is too hot, the wild boars settle on the beach. They have everything they need there and they don't have to worry about attacks. Neither from the farmers nor from the annoying horseflies.
The gazelles return to the sea. Why they do that and how they tolerate liters of salt water remains a mystery. Behind the largest inland sea in the world lies Iran. The Absheron peninsula is the last extension of the Caucasus that here, after more than 1,000 kilometers, so to speak, sinks into the Caspian Sea.

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