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 far as Europe is concerned, Georgia and Armenia stand at the crossroads 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, Persia (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 now well on the road to economic stability and prosperity.
Beginning in Tbilisi, we make our way northwards 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. Our first days around Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) offer the opportunity for some high-altitude birding and some of the Western Palearctic’s most sought-after species including the splendid Caucasian Snowcock (endemic to this single mountain range), Güldenstädt's Redstart, Great Rosefinch, Caucasian Grouse, Wallcreeper, and the Caucasian (lorenzii) subspecies of Mountain Chiffchaff. These higher altitudes also support Bearded Vulture, Ring Ouzel, Red-fronted Serin and Alpine Accentor.
Heading south to Jandari Lake, we should find an isolated population of Pygmy Cormorants and our first Armenian Gulls, and will make a visit to the 6th-century rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery of David Gareja. After a week in Georgia, we move south to Dilijan in Armenia, stopping en route at the ancient Haghpat Monastery.
Moving further south we will drive along the shore of the mighty Lake Sevan and over the uninhabited Selim Pass before dropping into the lush Arpa valley. From our base in Yeghegnadzor we will explore Jermuk Gorge and various sites in the Arpa valley and beyond. Using 4x4 vehicles, we will ascend Mount Gndasar to search for our second snowcock species of the trip, Caspian Snowcock. We will also spend time at Armash fishponds to search for three rare and elusive species, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, and White-tailed Lapwing, as well as a feast of warblers. Returning to Yerevan, we will visit the dry Vedi Hills and Oorts Mountains to target Grey-necked Bunting, Finsch’s and Red-tailed Wheatears, Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Desert Finch.
Finally, we will drive to the sacred Mount Aragats, to the north-west of Yerevan. Here we will be on the look-out for Radde’s Accentor, White-throated Robin, Bluethroat and perhaps Asian Crimson-winged Finch, before taking in the scenic Amberd Fortress built in the 11th century.
White-headed Duck, Caucasian Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock, Caspian Snowcock, Pygmy Cormorant, Bearded Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Demoiselle Crane, White-tailed Lapwing, Armenian Gull, Middle Spotted & Syrian Woodpeckers, Woodchat Shrike, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, Bimaculated & Calandra Larks, Mountain Chiffchaff (Caucasian), Menetries's Warbler, Krüper's, Western Rock & Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Wallcreeper, Ring Ouzel, Bluethroat, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Finsch's & Red-tailed Wheatears, White-winged Snowfinch, Alpine & Radde's Accentors, Desert Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Grey-necked & Ortolan Buntings.
Caucasian Squirrel, Least Weasel, Altai Vole, East Caucasian Tur
alpine heath, wetlands, marshes, arid scrub, snow line
typically European alpine, rather mixed with patches of rain and sunny periods. Warm at lower elevations to cold or very cold at high elevations or inclement weather
6 with 1 Local Leader, 7 - 12 with 1 RJ Leader + 1 Local Leader
relaxed, some hiking at higher altitudes
comfortable to very comfortable
mostly easy with some tougher species
Gergeti Trinity Church, Armash Fish Ponds, Mount Kazbek, Jandari Lake, rock monasteries of Davit Gareji, Debed Canyon, Mount Aragats, Mount Ararat, Noravank Gorge and monastery
good to excellent
A great tour! Both guides (Nigel Redman & Attila) were very good at sharing their knowledge and experience of that part of the world.
The Georgia and Armenia Tour was wonderful. It was a joy traveling with Nigel Redman and Attila. The birding was fun and the scenery was absolutely spectacular. I would travel back to those countries for the scenery and wonderful culture and people in a heartbeat.
Both Nigel Redman and Attila were excellent birders and very good tour guides.
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