Located deep in the Caucasus, our birding tour to Georgia and Armenia is one of the most recent additions to our birding calendar. The end of the line as Europe is concerned, Georgia and Armenia stand at the cross roads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. For centuries both countries stood as Christian bulwarks against the Muslim tide sweeping across Asia Minor, before being dominated by the Mongols, Ottoman Empire, Iran and ultimately the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a rocky independence with military skirmishes and near economic collapse. Fortunately, both Georgia and Armenia are well on the road to economic stability and prosperity.
Beginning in Tblisi, we make our way along the Georgian Military Highway. Originally built to facilitate troop movements, it provides an excellent thoroughfare to some of the most spectacular scenery and birding sites on earth, never mind Europe. Our first days around Kazbegi offer us the opportunity for some high altitude birding and some of Europe’s most sought after species including the splendid Caucasian Snowcock (endemic to this single mountain range), Guldenstadt’s Redstart, Great Rosefinch, Caucasian (Black) Grouse, Caucasian Chiffchaff and Wallcreeper.
Heading south to Jandari Lake, we should find an isolated population of Pygmy Cormorant, our first Armenian Gulls and finish the day with a visit to the 6th century rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery of David Gareja. After a week in Georgia, we move south into Armenia visiting the sacred Mount Aragats. Here we shall be on the look-out for Semi-collared Flycatcher, Radde’s Accentor and Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch before taking in the scenic Amberd Fortress built in the 11th century.
We make a stop at the Armash fish ponds to search for three rare and elusive species, Marbled and White-headed Duck alongside White-tailed Lapwing before moving into the dry Vedi Hills to target Grey-necked Bunting, Finsch’s Wheatear, Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Trumpeter Finch. We end our day at another cultural highlight, the Noravank Monastry located with the narrow gorge cut by the Amaghu River.
Our last site on tour is Meghri, in the deep south of Armenia near the Iranian border. Of prime interest here are the few pairs of Red-tailed Wheatear, a species mostly restricted to Iran. Using 4×4 vehicles, we shall also ascend a high pass to search for what may end up being the bird of the tour, Caspian Snowcock. The high altitude also supports Bearded Vulture, Ring Ouzel, Red-fronted Serin and White-winged Snowfinch.