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This is premium tour of exceptional highlights, providing the great opportunity to see all most wanted bird species of the Caucasus, combined with other wildlife specialties and accompanied with gorgeous views of pristine landscapes, including the notorious Greater Caucasus, magnificent steppes, unique forests and colorful mountain grasslands and lakes. Historical sightings and cultural activities are well placed as additional attractions of this tour. These ten days of exciting trip ticks all boxes to be one of the most memorable birding experience for the rest of your life!

Grand Caucasus

Combined tour to Georgia and Armenia
10 – 20 May 2019

Target Bird Species: Caucasian and Caspian Snowcocks, Caucasian Black Grouse, Chukar, Eastern Imperial, Golden, White-tailed, Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Booted and Short-Toed Eagles, Bearded, Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Peregrine Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby, Little Owl, Scops Owl and Eagle Owl, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spottet, Greater Spotted, Syrian, White-backed and Green Woodpecker, Pygmy Cormorant, Red-crested Pochard, Marbled Duck, White-Headed Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Velvet Scoter, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Spoonbill, White-Tailed Lapwing, Avocet, Terek Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlews, Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, Redshank, Greenshank, Little Crake, Armenian Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Whiskered Tern, Golden Oriole, Roller, Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater, European Bee-Eater, Bimaculated Lark, Calandra Lark, Lesser short-toed Lark, Horned Lark and Skylark, Western Rock Nuthatch, Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Krüper’s Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Rose-Coloured Starling, Güldenstadt’s Redstart, Rufous-Tailed Bush-Robin, White-Throated Robin, Blue Rock Trush and Red-Tailed Rock Thrush, Raddes’ Accentor, Alpine Accentor, Semi-Collared Flycatcher, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Citrine Wagtail, Green Warbler, Menetries’ Warbler, Upcher’s Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Bearded Reedling, Red-Fronted Serin, Rock Sparrow, Pale Rock Sparrow, Great Rosefinch, Trumpeter Finch, Desert Finch, Crimson-winged Finch, White-winged Snowfinch, Grey-Necked Bunting, Ortolan Bunting and Rock Bunting, Northern, Black-eared, Pied, Finsch’s, Isabelline and Persian Wheatears.

Target Mammal Species: East Caucasian (Tur) Goat, Bezoar (Ibex) Goat 

Program:

10 May: Greater Caucasus and the Kazbegi

Upon arrival to Tbilisi, we will drive straight to the Greater Caucasus and Stepantsminda village, suited right at the bottom of Kazbegi Mt. This is our spot for next two days and during this time we will explore surrounding valleys and hills for target endemics and other highlights. On the way to the Stepantsminda we aim to make a short birding stops a few times, fist at the beautiful Jvari Pass for White-Winged Snowfinch and later at the Ananuri Forest, where we’ll look for Green WarblerSemicollared Flycatcher and Red-Breasted Flycatcher.

Buckthorn bushes at the Terek valley, riverine forests and small patches of pine forests near Stepantsminda village often provide wonderful views of Rock Bunting, Bulfinch, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrush, Dipper, Green Warbler and other interesting goodies, including well seen Wallcreeper on nearby cliffs along the river and possibly a CorncrakeEarlier in March and early April these places are full of large flocks of Great Rosefinches, Güldenstädt’s Redstarts and Caucasian Chiffchaffs acquiring everywhere, providing fantastic chance to bird photographers for make astonishing captures of these fabulous species. For the Caucasian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Great Rosefinches, Güldenstädt’s Redstarts and Caucasian Chiffchaffs we will drive up to the Gergeti Church, located on altitude of 2200m, and here we are more likely to see our first Grouse. At this time of a year we might be lucky to see them nicely displaying. Among other specialties on the spot, some interesting species can be found including Alpine Accentor, Red-Fronted Serin, Twite, Water Pipit, Horned Lark and Alpine Chaff. Among raptors, one can be regularly observed the Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Golden and Steppe Eagle. From the Church we will use a horse ride towards the glacier tip at 3000m, where most exiting birding still awaits us.

During this period we will also have chance to see a spectacle of Raptor Migration passing over the village, so we will surely pick a few interesting species among, while besides birds, we are more likely to see a few interesting mammals, including East Caucasian Goat, Chamois and occasionally Grey Wolf and Red Fox.

12 May: Shio-Mgvime & Krüper’s Nuthatch forest

In the early morning of our last day in Stepantsminda we aim to look around the valleys one more time to pick anything missing or twitch possible new species for our list and in the afternoon we will leave toward Shio Mgvime, located right at the northern bank of the Kura (Mtkvari) river, 30 km away from Tbilisi and on the top of the lovely historical town of Mtskheta. Shio-Mgvime is an old gorgeous monastery and important monument of VI century, located in a unique narrow limestone canyon, surrounded by walls with caves built by medieval monks.

The monastery is an important site for a few breeding pairs of Egyptian Vulture, nesting in ancient monk caves. Among other birds, one can be expected Black-Eared Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Ortolan Bunting, Corn Bunting, European Goldfinch, Tawny Pipit, Red-Backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Wood Lark, Crested Lark and many other interesting species. We’ll not stay long at the spot, while aim to get to the Krüper’s Nuthatch forest until sunset, located south of Tbilisi on about 35 minutes drive from the center. As soon as we twitch the bird we’ll drive back and spend the night in Tbilisi.

13 May: Javakheti Plain Lakes

Javakheti Plane is a mountain grassland area laying on southern part, along the border with Armenia and Turkey, which harbors many small and large lakes, with rich waterfowl fauna. This are provides one of the best birding spots in Georgia and home for several IBA lakes, so starting from Tbilisi early in the morning we will visit most interesting ones, including Khanchali, Paravani, Sagamo, Bugdasheni and Madatapa lakes.

This spot often provide a great opportunity to enjoy Velvet Scoter, Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck and may other duck species. Smaller lakes this time of a season host a Corncrake and Common Crake, Dalmatian Pelican, Red-Necked and Black-Backed Grebe, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glosy Ibis, Marsh and Terek Sindpiper and many more waders, gulls and terns, including Great-Black Headed Gull, Gull-Billed Tern and White-Winged Tern. Don’t be surprised to twitch here Yelkouan Shearwater, Sociable Lapwing or Black-Winged Pratincole, while these species are one of the major reasons, why lakes got status of the IBA. Among passerines, one of the most interesting can be seen a Citrine WagtailSurrounding villages are friendly hosting most important nesting sites for White Storks in the Caucasus and we will easily spot them seating on poles on top of the houses.

14 May: Jandari Lake and David Gareji Monastery

We will first explore Jandari. This is a medium-size lake, situated south-east of Tbilisi and surrounded by steppe landscape and shared among Georgia and Azerbaijan. This lake is a great spot for wintering, migratory and breeding waterfowl, including nice population of Pygmy Cormorants and several species of ducks including Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Garganey. Once all specialties been listed up at the lake, we’ll leave towards David Gareji, passing through colorful steppes, where an impressive numbers Rose Starling, Tawny Pipit and Calandra Lark breed. This site consists of Mediterranean-type arid badland landscape with multi-colored clay hills covered with shrub and steppe-like vegetation. David Gareji itself is a Monastery Complex created by Christian Monks in 5th Century. This is one of the most interesting sites in Georgia, where historical and wildlife attractions cohabiting side-by-side.

Among raptors, Steppe Eagle, Hen Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Steppe and Long-Legged Buzzards should be well spotted here, while the one of the main attractions we should not miss is a native Eastern Imperial Eagle, a few pairs breed nearby. This site also hosts breeding Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and some interesting passerines, like Pied Wheatear, Lesser Grey Shrike, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Redwing, Reed Bunting and many others, so we’ll walk around the monasteries and make some nice observations.

15 May: Dilijan Forest and Norashen Reserve

In the morning we’ll start towards customs control and smoothly cross the border. Our new bus and Armenian friends will pick us up and we’ll drive towards unique Dilijan Forest, our first destination in Armenia. Dilijan Forests (which is part of the huge Dilijan National Park), locates in the north-eastern part of Armenia. This site is great for raptors and we may spot the Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzards, Honey Buzzard and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Among the set of forest species, one can be see Great Spotted and Middle Spotted Woodpecker (ssp. caucasicus), European Nuthatch, Eurasian Tree-Creeper, Red-Breasted and Semi-Collared Flycatchers, Green Warbler and many other species.

From Dilijan we will drive to the fabulous Norashen Reserve, which is located on south-western shore of the Sevan Lake. The reserve was established to in order to protect a unique and well-known breeding ground of Armenian Gulls on the famous “Gull Island”. The massive number of colony of gulls boasts one of the largest in the entire Caucasus and the world, over 6000 breeding pairs observed annually, so if you never saw this bird before, your dreams will over realize here. This spot provides also nice set of interesting and well encountered waterfowl, including Great Cormorant, Glossy Ibises, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egrets, Spoonbill, Ruddy Shellduck and others. This area well known also for rarities, such in May 2017, first ever Namaqua Dove for Armenia was found here.

16 May: Sevan Lake, Vardenyats Pass and Noravank

In the morning we’ll move towards Noravank, passing tremendous Vardenyats Pass. This is probably one of the most spectacular places in Armenia, providing unforgettable landscape views. Vardenyats mountain pass is the shortest road that connects historical Gegharkunik with Vayots Dzor region. It is an interesting spot for common Ortolan Bunting, Common Rosefinch, and Rock Thrush and among raptors, one should be twitched Bearded Vulture, Lesser Spotted and Short‐Toed Eagles, which are regularly observed in the area. Once we reach lowland, we’ll stop by fascinating traditional village, hosting amazing specialties, including Rock Sparrow, Linnet and Twite, Radde’s Accentor, White-Winged Swnofinch, Bluethroat and massive flocks of Yellow Wagtails, where a few Citrine Wagtails can be found among.

After spending a few hours around the village, we’ll relocate to the Noravank. This site covers one of the most picturesque canyons in Armenia and consists of vertical cliffs, alternating with steep slopes and covered with red clay. This area is also known for its ancient Monastery of VIII century, placed right in the cliffs. This brilliant site well mixtures with local wildlife, hosting Eastern and Western Rock Nuthatch, White-Throated Robin, Upcher’s Warbler, Chukar, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-Fronted Serin, Linnet, Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagle.

17 – 18 May: Yeghegnadzor Mountains and Vedi Desert Gorge

Early morning we’ll drive up the Yeghegnadzor Mountains, to arrive at the Caspian Snowcock site by sunrise. Their characteristic calls can be heard well and be a lot appreciated and helpful for spotting exact location. The same area often provides Bezoar Goat and occasionally Caucasian Leopard, which is recorded by camera traps time to time. After twitching off the Snowcock, we’ll spend rest of the day birding around for other specialties of this astonishing place, like Bimaculated Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Alpine Accentor, Dunnock, White-Winged Snowfinch, White-Throated Robin and possibly Crimson-Winged Finch, while among raptors Peregrine Falcon and Bearded Vulture are most likely to spot on the site.

Vedi Gorge with its semi‐arid cliffs of vegetation and rocky slopes is a place of breathtaking beauty, holding another composition of interesting species, such as Grey-Necked Bunting, Pale Rock Sparrow, Black-Eared and Finsch’ Wheatear, Upcher’s Warbler, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Trumpeter Finch, Desert Finch, Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin and most likely Lesser Kestrel and Egyptian VultureVedi might also offer an interesting set of reptile species, so most likely to pick a few interesting ones, like Caucasian Agama, Caucasian Emerald Lizard and Snake-Eyed Lizard.

19 May: Armash and Oorts Mountains

Armash marshes is one of the Caucasus’ best birding site and the only place that boasts largest concentration and variety of Armenian birdlife with selection of attractive water birds and other highlights, including Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, White-Headed Duck, Marbled Teal, Great-White Pelican, Eurasian SpoonbillWhite-Tailed Lapwing and many more, while it might also be a chance to spot a rare Spur-Winged Lapwing, which is been twitched around already several Springs in row. This spot will definitely gives us a boost to collect long list of nice species. Also one can definitely excite the group Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater,  Bearded Reedling and Menetries’ Warbler, along with other residents.

Ooranots or Uranots is a semi-desert are with rocky outcrops located not far from the Armash, in the foothills of Oorts Mountains. The site hosts many interesting species such as Griffon and Bearded Vultures, Chukar Partridge, Eastern and Western Nuthatch, Woodchat and Red-Backed Shrikes, Red-Fronted Serin, Syrian Woodpecker and some other forest species, however the most attractive part of this site is Persian Wheatear, one of the rarities of Armenia, so we’ll put a best of our effort to drop this beautiful bird in focus of our optics.

20 May: Aragats Mountain and Return to Tbilisi

Our last birding destination Aragats Mountain rises on 4,090m altitude, making it the highest point of Armenia. This area provides excellent opportunity to observe interesting gradation of species changing depending on altitude zones. Radde’s Accentor, White‐Throated Robin, White-Winged Snowfinch, Horned Lark, Wallcreeper and Crimson‐Winged Finch will be our particular target and all are common in the boulder fields near the lake at 2,300m altitude, which is easily accessed by all means of transport.

At the same spot we can also visit another beautiful heritage of Amberd Fortress, the name given on 7th century, and translates as “fortress in the clouds“. It is also the name incorrectly attributed to Vahramashen Church, the 11th century Armenian Church near the fortress. That can be a nice ending of our great birding days in Armenia, before leaving back to Tbilisi in the afternoon.

This pack includes following services:

  • Transportation from and to the airport
  • Full-board accommodation
  • Full day guiding and transportation
  • Maps and other printed handout materials
  • Entry tickets and permits

This pack doesn’t include:

  • Flight cost
  • Personal expenditures
  • Travel insurance

Group Size: 6 – 10 Persons

For additional information and booking: info@birdingcaucasus.com

Pictures by:

  • Caucasian Black Grouse, Egyptian Vulture, Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Semi-collared flycatcher,  Crimson‐Winged Finch by Ilya Ukolov 
  • Armenian Gull, Radde’s accentor, White-throated Robin, Menetries’s Warbler by Alexander Rukhaia
  • Caucasian Snowcock by Dachi Shoshitashvili

Batumi Raptor Count, Batumi Birding, Batumi Raptor Wach, Batumi Raptors, Bird Migration, Raptor Migration, Batumi Eagle Week, Batumi Birdwatching Festival, Batumi Eagle Festival Week, Birding Georgia, Birding Caucasus, Birding Azerbaijan, Birding Armenia, Birding Turkey, Birding Georgia Tours, Georgia Bird Watching Holidays, Tours for Conservation in the Caucasus

2018-11-13T22:32:59+00:00 March 23rd, 2018|Birding Holidays|