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Return to Armenia, Sept 2019

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Old Sunday 13th October 2019, 13:21   #26
Richard Prior
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Originally Posted by MKinHK View Post
Some quality birds there - I never knew Black Francolin got that far west.

Cheers
Mike
Thanks Mike and Chris,

In fact Armenia is further east than several countries where the Black Francolin is found, eg Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Cyprus. Apparently Yerevan is on the same latitude as Baghdad!
Cheers
Richard
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Old Sunday 13th October 2019, 16:21   #27
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A few photos: winding down to the southernmost part of Armenia; looking into Iran across the Arax; Iranian lorry
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Old Sunday 13th October 2019, 17:05   #28
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Spectacular scenery Richard!

Chris
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Old Sunday 13th October 2019, 17:40   #29
Richard Prior
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Spectacular scenery Richard!

Chris
Yes indeed, and the roads were much improved since last year!

19 September

Today was to be our longest drive, from Meghri by the Iranian border all the way to near Khor Virap just 45 minutes from Yerevan. I managed a bit of birding before breakfast, an obliging Tree Sparrow in the B&B’s garden and a 1st year Syrian Woodpecker the best birds. We were on the road for around nine hours, so my notes written up at the end of the day don’t do justice to the spectacular scenery we passed through and most birds were glimpsed from the moving car. Two new birds of prey species were added, a Goshawk circling around near a Steppe Buzzard (good for size comparison!) and a nice male Honey Buzzard at one brief stop. More Griffon Vultures and Lesser Spotted Eagles were noted, a Semi-collared Flycatcher in practically the same place as the one we saw on our way down to Meghri, more Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear and Red-billed Chough and two Trumpeter Finches and two Corn Buntings were additions to the trip list as we approached Vedi. The sun was just about setting when we located the village where the B&B I had booked for two nights on line was located –supposedly! I had memorised the location from Google Earth and the Booking.com site (four roads after the Winery etc etc) but the people at the house shrugged their shoulders and suggested there was no such establishment there........ We were extremely frazzled by now and darkness was falling so I drove onto the motorway in the direction of Yerevan, vaguely remembering that a trip report on Cloudbirders mentioned a roadside hotel in that area. We found it and booked ourselves in and ate the pie and pastries we’d bought en route for our supper. It was a strange place, we saw just one other guest and just two cars when we arrived and loud music blared in the garden until midnight! Finally getting to sleep I was awoken at 2am by a couple arriving with a bang in the next bedroom who promptly started playing their own sound system. Even when it eventually stopped the lady spent the rest of the night coughing!
Even before the middle of the night disturbance we made an executive decision and decided not to try and locate the B&B in the morning. My idea had been to spend that day in the wadis and desert habitats around Vedi but we had seen some cracking birds already and the idea of wallowing in a bit of luxury in Yerevan for an extra night was too tempting (yes, I am a bit of a lightweight as a birder I admit it, especially now I’m past the first flush of youth (and the second, third etc…). A quick call to the hotel in Yerevan and another to Europcar re. returning the car a day early and all was sorted.
Photos: Steppe Buzzard, Black Redstart ssp ochruros and Northern Wheatear
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Old Monday 14th October 2019, 04:57   #30
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Great stuff - the garden disco would have been ‘terminated with extreme prejudice’ likewise the couple arriving Sleep is important and non-birders need to be made aware of that fact

Laurie
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Old Tuesday 15th October 2019, 10:28   #31
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20 September

Leaving the ‘Hotel California’ with its foam fountain (!) early in the morning we nipped back down the motorway a few kms to do the last birding of the holiday around Khor Virap. The site is one of Armenia’s most-visited, not only a group of ancient buildings where St Gregory the Illuminator had been imprisoned by King Tiridat way back in the 3rd Century, but its raised position gives the best, and closest views of Mount Ararat whilst still remaining in Armenia. So it’s also the most photographed site! A young Red-backed Shrike photobombed our classic image of Khor Virap with Ararat and Little Ararat in the background. We turned off the approach road down a muddy (well, dusty) track and parked up at the edge of a massive reedbed. As we’d found earlier in the trip at Masis, reeds have grown pretty high by September so once again seeing any open water was a challenge. Still it was quite birdy and we clocked up a nice selection of species including five ‘new’ ones in the wetland and surrounding fields: Marsh Harrier, Pygmy Cormorant, Armenian Gull, Water Rail, Coot, Moorhen, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, male Black-headed Wagtail, Common Redstart, Ménétries’, Paddyfield and Reed Warbler, Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, loads of Red-backed Shrike 1st years, Common Starling, Hooded Crow, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw and Tree Sparrow. The Khor Virap car park was already heaving (Ararat is best viewed in the morning before cloud hides its snowy summit so tour buses start their days there it seems) and the young man selling (very nice ) coffee was keen to discuss the merits of Chris Rea’s music with me We walked up onto the dry hillsides overlooking the reeds and found a weary Northern Wheatear warming itself up in the sun.
We stopped near the refuse dump at Masis on our way to the airport to drop off the faithful Lada Niva, still plenty of White Storks, Armenian Gulls and a few Black Kites, but no Steppe Eagles (well, I tried ..).
Photos: The Persian Wheatear spot at Meghri (note the author in summer plumage); 'Mixed bag' on Aragats; Rock Doves at K Virap, photobombing RBS in our postcard shot of Mt Ararat and Khor Virap.
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Old Tuesday 15th October 2019, 11:58   #32
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20 September

Leaving the ‘Hotel California’ with its foam fountain (!) early in the morning .
I thought you can book out any time you like but you can never leave?

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Old Tuesday 15th October 2019, 12:45   #33
Richard Prior
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I thought you can book out any time you like but you can never leave?

John
Ha ha, well, to continue the Eagles theme we wanted 'A Peaceful Easy Feeling' so we were 'Already Gone' before the guards, err, reception had arrived for the morning
To wrap up:
21 and 22 September

An increase in cafés, restaurants and children’s fairground style attractions in Yerevan’s central ‘Green belt’ has reduced the greenery in the city’s parks over the last few years, Victory Park on the northern side that we visited in May 2018 is probably the best for bird species variety, but this time we contented ourselves with visiting museums, the market and the smaller more central parks during our last two days. Stock Dove and Greenfinch were added to the trip list and it was interesting to see Crag Martin and Syrian Woodpecker as city centre birds. The 10 days went too quickly and there’s still a lot of Armenia we haven’t seen, so who knows, maybe I’ll be writing a third report in the next couple of years..............
A few final Armenian atmosphere shots to finish.
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Old Tuesday 15th October 2019, 14:46   #34
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A thoroughly enjoyable report from what looks like a very interesting country! Many thanks for taking the time to write it Richard!

Chris
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Old Tuesday 15th October 2019, 15:01   #35
Richard Prior
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Thanks Chris, maybe the Armenian Ministry of Tourism will pay me as a ‘consultant’.
Forgot to mention, the overhead pipes you see in the Meghri photo are a real feature in the country, it’s gas, with the region being so prone to having earthquakes it’s more practical not to bury them underground!
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