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Armenia

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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 11:34   #1
Egretta
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Armenia

Hello all,

in a bit less than a week I will be travelling to Armenia. Although the trip will mostly be centered around cultural/historical sights (the monasteries look wonderful from the pictures I have seen), I will be doing some birding.

Are there any bird species/distinctive subspecies I have to keep a special eye on in Armenia? Except for Armenian Gull around Lake Sevan, I have very little idea about the typical avifauna or good birding sites in the country (all my time preparing has been focused on monasteries and castles until now).

So, if anyone has information about some good birding locations or special species to keep an eye out for that would be very helpful!

Thanks, Niels
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 13:12   #2
temmie
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this is very personal as I have birded in Georgia and in e.g. India, but my main target species would be some species that I haven't seen, and that I know are 'fairly' easily gettable in Armenia (or are not so easy, but not so easy elsewhere either):

Caspian Snowcock - Tetraogallus caspius (hard to get anywhere, don't know how easy in Armenia and where, but for sure not a bird you will see just along the road, takes a dedicated effort in a good area)
Common Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus (truly wild birds, but hard to get and only in the mountains)
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - Merops persicus (widespread but would be a lifer for me and fairly common in Armenia)
Bimaculated Lark - Melanocorypha bimaculata
Eastern Orphean Warbler - Sylvia crassirostris
Menetries's Warbler - Sylvia mystacea
White-throated Robin - Irania gutturalis
Semicollared Flycatcher - Ficedula semitorquata
Red-tailed Wheatear - Oenanthe chrysopygia
Pale Rockfinch - Carpospiza brachydactyla
Radde's Accentor - Prunella ocularis
Asian Crimson-winged Finch
Mongolian Finch - Bucanetes mongolicus (not easy / many locations)
Desert Finch - Rhodospiza obsoleta
Red-fronted Serin - Serinus pusillus
Black-headed Bunting - Emberiza melanocephala

Vayots dor, Ararat and Aragats seem to cover quite some of the species mentioned above, but as said, most take a dedicated effort. Info on exact locations can be found on https://armenia.observation.org/index_map.php and https://ebird.org/ebird/map/
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 23:09   #3
SlowLowFlyingTurkey
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Hi Niels.

I did a similar sight-seeing and birding combination in May 2014, travelling cheaply and using mostly public transport. There are definitely plenty of birds to be seen around the cultural sites. Here are a few of my highlights:

Yerevan: If you visit the capital you'll almost certainly go up the Cascade - a huge set of sculpture-laden staircases climbing above the city and giving excellent views of Mt Ararat in Turkey. You can walk up the outside but there is also the option of a series of escalators inside (which I didn't find out about until I had walked all the way up three times in three days).

I had a Black-eared Wheatear on some rough ground at the side of the Cascade and, once at the top, the path skirts around a construction site that held Crag Martins.

Near the top is an obvious Soviet era monument and, by crossing the road to the east, you arrive at Victory Park, which I found to be the best city centre birding site:
A male Levant Sparrowhawk was seen briefly perched. A small scrubby area held a pair of Lesser Grey Shrikes together with a pair of Red-backed Shrikes, with two more RBS territories elsewhere in the park. Spotted Flycatchers and Nightingales were common and two Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were seen, as well as Common Whitethroats, Garden Warblers and Common Rosefinches.

Syrian Woodpeckers were seen here as well as in other city parks. Amongst other birds found easily in the capital were Laughing Dove, Hooded Crow, Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Turtle Dove, Hobby and Tree Sparrow. Four Honey Buzzards were seen on migration near the Hrazdan River and, just outside Yerevan, a Rufous Bush Robin was seen at the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral.

Lake Sevan: Visited on a small group day tour around the lakeside monasteries. Armenian Gulls were common here, with around 300 breeding-plumaged adults seen. Other birds here included the black-capped krynicki sub-species of Jay, Black Redstarts, Rose-coloured Starlings, Cattle Egrets, Choughs, Alpine Swifts, Crested Larks and European Bee-eaters.

Mt Aragats: I stayed at the astronomical observatory in Byurakan, that has accommodation to rent, and the extensive grounds held Syrian Woodpecker, Golden Orioles (common), Nightingales, Scops Owls, Long-eared Owl (one heard only), Hoopoe, Lesser Grey Shrike, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Penduline Tit and Rock Sparrow.

From this base I did two trips by unofficial taxi (many drivers here act as taxis and will either stop for you along the road or someone from your accommodation can organise one). First I was driven to Amberd Fort and then walked all the way back, seeing Long-legged Buzzard, Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike, Cuckoo, Ortolan, Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting, Ring Ouzel (ssp. amicorum), Lesser Spotted Eagle, White-throated Robin, Rock Sparrow and Woodlark.

The second trip was a shorter visit to the lake on Mt Aragats where I saw most of the same species plus Twite (ssp. brevirostris), Alpine Accentor, Shorelark (ssp. penicillata) and Water Pipit (ssp. coutellii). Of course, both of these trips would be easier with your own car.

Dilijan: Very relaxed place surrounded by woodland. Green Warbler was easy to find here at walking distance from town. Also in the surrounding woods and at nearby monasteries were Black and Common Redstarts, Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Raven and Tree Pipit. Caucasian Chiffchaff was heard around here but not seen very well.

Many of the birds mentioned were seen in multiple locations around the country. Other birds seen while travelling around included White Stork, White-winged Black Tern, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Roller, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Ruddy Shelduck, Dipper, Lesser Kestrel, Little Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Stonechat and Yellow Wagtail (ssp. feldegg), as well as some species that are common in Northern Europe.
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Old Saturday 25th May 2019, 05:34   #4
Richard Prior
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Hi Niels,
We visited a few of the classic cultural/historical sites last year and good birds were to be seen at all of them, I wrote an account of our trip, if you click the 'Search forums' tab towards the top right of the page, type Armenia you will find various threads , mine is titled Armenia 12 to 25 May 2018.
Have a great trip!

Richard
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