After about 20 km cycling from Rustawi over asphalt roads in perfect condition with almost no traffic as soon as you leave the city behind, Jandari Lake suddenly appears. Located on the border with Azerbaijan, it forms a little sanctuary in the surrounding steppe landscape.
Already along the way it is worth to have an eye on the lush floodplains the asphalt ribbons cut apart. With their bright whiteness the Little egrets are the most obvious ones to spot. On the electric wires bee-eaters line up. Sometimes a shrike breaks the order. Over Mzianeti’s farm houses flocks of starlings swirl in ever changing clouds. Only the last kilometer to the lake the road turns into a string of potholes. The lush floodplains have changed to dry steppe. The foothills of the range in which David Gareji is hidden form the horizon mark the border. On the open shore between two reed belts, fisher boats are resting. Short behind, anglers in a rubber boat try their luck.
In the 19th century, the shallow and salty lake often dried out during summer. In order to provide water for irrigation, the Gardabani canal was constructed 1870, feeding the lake with water from Mtkvari River. The lake was turned into a water reservoir fed also by another canal starting at the . Tbilisi Samgori water reservoir.
But poor water management put the lake on risk. Increased pollution from Mtkvari River and the reservoirs increase the level of pollution in the lake. The expansion of irrigated land in both countries, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and uncoordinated use of water by various users are decreasing the water level again.
Despite the pollution, the lake is popular for fishing. It also provides an attractive resting and wintering side for water birds. Lake Jandari is used by over 20,000 water birds for wintering and large numbers of waterbirds stop by during migration.
On the muddy shore Grey, White, Citrine and Western Yellow wagtail search for food along with Common snipes, sandpipers, plovers and other waders. The reed belt is bursting with live. Warblers and starlings are looking for insects on the stems, while closer to the bottom, Little crakes and Little bitterns are rustling around. Suddenly an unidentified mammal slides into the water – maybe a nutria? Caspian turtles are taking a cooling bath nearby.
Close to the mouth of the canal cattle are grazing and suddenly get joined by more than a hundred Cattle egrets.
An Eastern imperial eagle checks by. A family has its nest in the floodplains closer to Rustavi.
With the help of a spotting scope we check on the gulls on the other side of the lake. Among the Armenian gulls and White-winged terns we discover more than 80 Glossy ibises. Suddenly a Swamphen pokes out from the reed, soon joined by a second one.
Meanwhile the sun is burning. We enjoy a final look at the kingfishers swishing back and forth right in front of us, suddenly stopping in mid-air, swirling – and diving to catch a tiny fish.
On our way back, we stop at one of the many fig opuntia growing in this arid area. The fruits are delicate to harvest, due to the small spines on the thick skin. The ripe fruit is a juicy and healthy refreshment.
SPA 6 / IBA GEO27 http://aves.biodiversity-georgia.net/spa-n-6
Our Waters: Joining Hands Across Borders : First Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters,United Nations. Economic Commission for Europe, Rainer Enderlein
United Nations Publications, 2007
Trans-boundary cooperation in Georgia and Aserbaijan – Kura River Basin: Sharing costs and benefits. Matanat Avazova, MoE of Azerbaijan Tatiana Efimova, OECD
Geneva, February 6, 2018