• Bearded Vulture

Georgia & Armenia

Birding Amongst the Caucasus
With Ecotours Wildlife Holidays

  • Duration

    24 April 2020 to 7 May 2020

  • Location

    Georgia and Armenia

  • Led by

    Balazs Szigeti & TUB Tour Leader

  • For assistance with booking flights

    call Sacha Barbato
    at Travel Counsellors +44 (0)1603 360 099
    sacha.barbato@travelcounsellors.com

  • Please contact us if you have any other queries

    Email: tours@theurbanbirderworld.com

  • Price

    £3,999 per person plus flights

  • Single supplement

    £250

  • Deposit

    £790 per person

  • Group size

    up to 6 participants

  • Remaining balance due 60 days before travel start date

    Second Payment: 24/02/2020

Free loan of Leica Ultravid binoculars is available for the duration of the tour – subject to availability.

Please ask for details.

About Georgia and Armenia

This will be a fabulous journey to the edge of Europe amongst the mighty Caucasus Mountains. We will be visiting Georgia and Armenia – two countries that are full of natural beauty and great eastern bird specialities such as White-headed Duck, Bearded Vulture, Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, White-tailed Lapwing, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Radde’s Accentor, White-throated Robin, Güldenstadt’s Redstart, Finsch’s Wheatear, Green & Upcher’s Warblers, Caucasian Chiffchaff, Great Rosefinch, Grey-necked & Black-headed Buntings.

Both countries are of exceptional beauty: diverse in nature and ancient history. Thus far few birders have been lucky enough to witness this paradise so join us to see what awaits you in this new birding destination straddling Europe and Asia.

Expected birds

GEORGIA
Kazbegi area
Bearded & Griffon Vultures, Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Güldenstadt’s Redstart, Caucasian Chiffchaff, Green Warbler, Great Rosefinch, Alpine Swift, Shore Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Wallcreeper, Alpine & Red-billed Choughs, White-winged Snow Finch, Red-fronted Serin, Twite & Common Rosefinch.

Davit Gareji and Jandari Lake
Pygmy Cormorant, Eurasian Black Vulture, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Armenian Gull, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Pied & Isabelline Wheatear, Paddyfield Warbler & Rose-coloured Starling.

ARMENIA
Mt Aragats
Radde’s Accentor, Siberian Stonechat, Crimson-winged Finch, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Short-toed, Booted & Lesser Spotted Eagles, Shore Lark, Alpine Accentor, Bluethroat, Isabelline & Finsch’s Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Barred Warbler, Twite, Common Rosefinch, Rock & Ortolan Buntings.

Vedi Hills
Mongolian Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, Chukar, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Bimaculated Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Isabelline & Finsch’s Wheatears, Upcher’s Warbler, Eastern & Western Rock Nuthatches, Rock Sparrow & Trumpeter Finch.

Armash marshes
Pygmy Cormorant, White-headed Duck, Marbled Teal, Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Glossy Ibis, White-tailed Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Armenian Gull, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Black-headed Wagtail, Siberian Stonechat, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Savi’s, Paddyfield, Ménétries’ & Eastern Olivaceous Warblers.

Meghri area
Caspian Snowcock, Chukar, Bearded & Egyptian Vultures, Long-legged Buzzard, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, White-throated Robin, Red-tailed, Isabelline & Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Upcher’s & Eastern Orphean Warblers, Eastern & Western Rock Nuthatches, Bimaculated Lark, White-winged Snowfinch, Crimson-winged Finch & Rock Bunting.

Itinerary

April 24 – Arrival to Tbilisi

We suggest an Air Baltic flight from Gatwick Airport leaving on April 23rd with a stop over in Riga eventually arriving in Tbilisi airport at 03.30am. Transfer to the hotel. Today will be an easy day of relaxation and birding locally.

Overnight: Hotel Kalasi, Tbilisi.

April 25 – Tbilisi to Greater Caucasus – Georgia

After breakfast in Tbilisi we will head towards the Greater Caucasus mountains. On the way we will stop at the Zhinvali Dam near Ananuri to look for woodpeckers and migrating songbirds. Later, we will drive up to Krestovy (or Jvari) Pass to witness the incredible vistas. There are a number of high altitude birds to be possibly found including Bearded Vulture, Water Pipit, Horned Lark, Twite, Alpine Chough, White-winged Snowfinch, Ring Ouzel and even Wallcreeper. In the afternoon we will arrive at the village of Kazbegi – or Stepantsminda as the locals call it. The village is situated below mighty Mt Kazbek with its snow-capped peak of some 5047 metres. Kazbegi will be our base for the next three nights.

Overnight: Kazbegi.

April 26/27 – Kazbegi in the Greater Caucasus – Georgia

Over the course of the two days we will visit several locations around the town of Kazbegi.

One morning will be spent above the small church and cemetery facing the Kuro Mountain. From here we will scan the slopes for Caucasian Black Grouse and listen for the eerie calls of Caucasian Snowcocks from the surrounding hills. We may be lucky to find a male perched atop a cliff. We are also likely to see Bearded and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Twite, Red-fronted Serin, Alpine Accentor, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit and Black Redstart at this location. An interesting mammal that we may find is the East Caucasian Tur (a mountain dwelling goat) that is also sometimes to be seen on the rocky slopes.

Bad weather and snowfall may push Güldenstadt’s Redstarts and Great Rosefinches from the higher regions. We will hope to find these two beautiful and very sought after species in the buckthorn thickets around Kazbegi. These bushes attract migrating passerines too and we will always be on te lookout for migrating raptors overhead including Black Kites, Steppe Buzzards, Steppe Eagles, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers.

We will also drive up to an altitude of 2200m to the Gergeti Trinity Church overlooking the valley below and the peak of Mt Kazbek admiring the wonderful views.

There will be several sites for us to search for the stunning Wallcreeper. Time permitting, we will also visit the picturesque Sno Valley that is usually a great place for migrating passerines.

Overnight: Kazbegi.

April 28 – Kazbegi to Tbilisi – Georgia

We spend the morning birding the bushes and marshes along the river for Barred Warbler and migrants. On the way back to Tbilisi we will make several stops again looking for birds at the spectacular Krestovy pass and at the forest near Ananuri. If the weather conditions are favourable there can be good numbers of raptors flying north following the course of the valley. We shall arrive late afternoon to Tbilisi for a two night stay.

Overnight: Hotel Kalasi, Tbilisi.

April 29 – Jandari Lake, Davit Gareji – Georgia

East of Tbilisi lies a vast semi-arid area with steppes, rocky outcrops, shallow lakes and riverine forest. We will first visit Jandari Lake, which is a great stopover site for migratory waterbirds. The lake also has a good breeding population of Pygmy Cormorants. We should see our first Armenian Gulls of the trip here too. Several pairs of Eastern Imperial Eagle breed near the lake so we will look out for these magnificent raptors.

Later, we will drive east to the rock monasteries of Davit Gareji passing through steppes where Tawny Pipit, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks breed. We will walk around the monasteries where Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and Pied Wheatear are all possible.

Overnight: Hotel Kalasi, Tbilisi.

April 30 – Tbilisi to Yerevan – Armenia

Today, we will leave Georgia and drive to Yerevan in Armenia. The border crossing should not take too long, but the drive to the Armenian capital is about five hours. The journey will take us through the impressive Debed Canyon. Nearly every village along the Debed River has a church, a chapel and an old fort. Two World Heritage listed monasteries draw the most visitors here. We will make several stops to enjoy the scenery and the numerous raptors including Eurasian Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard. We will arrive to our hotel in Yerevan by the late afternoon. Time permitting, we may do a bit of urban birding and look for Levant Sparrowhawk and Syrian Woodpecker in the city park.

Overnight: Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan.

May 1 – Armash Fishponds, Vedi Hills – Armenia

From Yerevan it will take us about 90 minutes to reach the famous Armash area. The Armash fish ponds are one of Armenia’s richest ornithological hotspots. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Ararat, the commercial fish ponds are on the border of Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It is an extensive wetland area in the arid lands of south-western Armenia. There are pools, natural salt marshes, irrigation channels, standing fresh water and warm springs with extensive reedbeds. These provide refuge and breeding habitat for grebes, egrets, herons, ducks and a nice array of waders and terns. Armash is the only site in Armenia where Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck and White-tailed Lapwing breed. We will bird among the lakes to find those species as well as Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Armenian and Slender-billed Gulls, Gull-billed Tern, Bearded Tit, Moustached and Paddyfield Warblers. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater should be flying around above us whilst we look for Lesser Short-toed Lark, Black-headed Wagtail, Penduline Tit and Ménétries’ Warbler. May is a perfect month for observing thousands of migrants that should include White-winged and Whiskered Terns, plus a variety of waders and sometimes even Black-winged Pratincole.

The arid cliffs of Vedi are situated south of Yerevan. The hillside is characterised by low ridges and loose rocky slopes barely covered with short semi-desert vegetation and scrub. There are several gorges here with dry river beds, rocky walls and outcrops. Our main targets here are Grey-necked Bunting, Finsch’s Wheatear, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Trumpeter Finch and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. A small stream attracts birds coming in to drink and this is where the scarce and nomadic Mongolian Finch is sometimes seen. Common birds here include Chukar, Eurasian Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and Black-headed Bunting. Breeding raptors include Egyptian Vulture and Long-legged Buzzard.

In the afternoon, we will drive further south toward our next base stopping at the spectacular Noravank Gorge and monastery. We should arrive at our hotel in Yegheghnadzor by the late afternoon.

Overnight: Arpa Hotel, Yegheghnadzor.

May 2 – Yegeghnadzor to Meghri – Armenia

We will leave Yegeghnadzor in the morning and start our long drive southwards. We will traverse three mountain passes before reaching the town of Meghri. During the drive through lowland areas we should see a good selection of the region’s more common birds like Eurasian Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Crested Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes. Raptors could also be abundant and stops at suitable habitats might produce Bimaculated Lark, White-throated Robin, Green and Eastern Orphean Warbler, Finsch’s Wheatear and White-winged Snowfinch. We should reach our hotel by the late afternoon.

Overnight: ML Hotel, Agarak.

May 3/4 – Meghri area – Armenia

In the morning, we visit a gorge that holds a few pairs of Red-tailed Wheatears; a species mainly disrtibuted further south in Iran. Chukar Partridge is amazingly common here and See-see Partridge might also be found with a lot of luck. Other birds in the area include Levant Sparrowhawk, Bearded and Egyptian Vultures, Long-legged Buzzard, Syrian Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, White-throated Robin, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears, Eastern Orphean and Menetries’s Warblers, Eastern and Western Rock Nuthatches and Rock Bunting. In the afternoon we visit a valley and search for the attractive Sombre Tit that occur here.

The next morning will see us ascending up into the mountains in our four-wheel drive in search of Caspian Snowcock. Hopefully the track will not be too muddy enabling us to drive up high to the snowcock site where we should hear their characteristic calls. It will require some effort and luck to them on top of the rocky cliffs. We will spend the rest of the day birding in the mountains with good chances for other mountain species including Siberian Stonechat, Ring Ouzel, White-winged Snowfinch, Red-fronted Serin along with raptors and some of the more common highland birds.

Overnight: ML Hotel, Agarak.

May 5 – Meghri to Yerevan – Armenia

This will be a travel day from Meghri back to Yerevan with birding stops along the way.

Overnight: Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan.

May 6 – Mt Aragats – Armenia

Today we will visit Mt Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia, offering an amazing diversity of habitats and species. We will drive up to 3200m altitude where the road ends at a small lake. Here we will seek Semi-collared Flycatcher and migrant warblers in the forest and overhead raptors including Short-toed, Booted and Lesser Spotted Eagles. Radde’s Accentor above the tree line in the Juniper zone will be one of our main targets. Several other good species are also possible including White-throated Robin, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Barred Warbler, Twite, Common Rosefinch, Rock and Ortolan Buntings. Horned Larks are common in the plains near the lake, Water Pipit, Alpine Accentor and Crimson-winged Finch are also often seen too.

On a cultural note, we will also stop at the scenic Amberd Fortress built in the 11th century.

Overnight: Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan.

May 7 – Yerevan

We drive to Yerevan airport for the flight back home. Air Baltic flights will leave 04.20am landing in Gatwick after a stop over in Riga at 08.40am.

Special trip notes

This trip is suitable for all ages and abilities.

Although there will be a moderate amount of walking involved, generally, there will be no long walks. The only exception is the Caspian Snowcock site in Armenia. In previous years, we have needed to walk uphill a kilometre or more when the track was too wet for the 4×4 vehicles.

Recommended field guide

Collins Bird Guide – Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney & Dan Zetterström

Book now

  • Duration: 24 April 2020 to 7 May 2020
  • Price: £3,999 per person plus flights
  • Group size: up to 6 participants
  • Single supplement: £250
  • Deposit: £790 per person
  • Remaining balance due 60 days before travel start date

    Second Payment: 24/02/2020

  • Flights

    We suggest the following flights:

  • For assistance with booking flights

    please contact Sacha Barbato at Travel Counsellors
    +44 (0)1603 360 099
    sacha.barbato@travelcounsellors.com

  • Please contact us if you have any other queries

    Email: tours@theurbanbirderworld.com

  • Passenger details

    Once you have booked your tour with us, please complete this form:
    Client Travel Form

Clear

Price includes

  • Full board accommodation
  • Drinks and meals
  • Transport in a comfortable minibus
  • The services of your guides TUB guide and Ecotours Wildlife Holidays guide
  • The optional loan of a pair of sexy Leica binoculars for the duration of the tour – subject to availability –

Price does not include

  • Airline tickets and airport taxes
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Entry fees to monuments and museums (if desired)
  • Incidental refreshments at cafes and bars, plus all additional drinks