• Fly from London via Paris to Yerevan. On arrival in the evening we meet our local guide and drive to our hotel in the capital, in time for a late dinner.
    • Accommodation: Yerevan, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • Today we take a city tour of the historical town of Yerevan and visit the renowned sacred sites of Garni and Geghardavank.
    • After breakfast at the hotel we drive to the Armash Ponds, where we spend the entire day birding and enjoy a picnic lunch. The spectacular wetland of Armash attracts a huge range of bird species to the open water, reed beds, muddy edges and surrounding drier scrub vegetation. These include pygmy cormorant, little bittern, purple, squacco, and black-crowned night herons, migratory passerines including stonechats, warblers, bluethroat, etc. On the open water we look for marbled, white-headed and ferruginous ducks, plus red-crested pochard among the wildfowl. Whiskered, white-winged and little terns hawk over the pools for insects, while in the wet meadows and muddy areas we can see glossy ibis and white-tailed lapwing. Among the large migratory birds we hope to see exquisite demoiselle cranes as they pass through. This site will also give us our best chances of finding some of the most localised breeding species in the lowland areas, including European and blue-cheeked bee-eaters and Menetries’ warbler. Towards the end of the afternoon we continue to Yeghegnadzor.
    • Accommodation: Yeghegnadzor, 3-nights on full board basis.
    • Today we drive along the Arpa River Gorge to spend the day exploring this rocky canyon with an old road that leads to the town of Jermouk and the tenth century Gndevank Monastery. Here, between the steep-sided walls of the gorge, we can expect to see resident bearded vulture and golden eagle, along with other raptors such as short-toed snake, booted and lesser spotted eagles, goshawk, peregrine falcon, and common and long-legged buzzards. Afternoon birding on the way back to Yeghegnadzor.
    • After an early breakfast we board local four-wheel-drive vehicles to drive up to a nearby area of high mountains in order to see Caspian snowcock. This area is a subalpine habitat with mountain steppe slopes and precipitous cliffs surrounding the site. In addition to Caspian snowcock, we focus on other high mountain specialists, such as red-fronted serin, wallcreeper, and crimson-winged finch. On our drive back, we stop in an area of semi-desert to see eastern and western rock nuthatches, and any other local birds that are present.
    • After breakfast we drive up and over the 2,410-metre high Selim (a.k.a. Vardenyants) Pass, stopping as necessary to watch (Asian) twite and rufous-tailed rock thrush. Close to the summit of the pass we pause to visit the well-preserved Selim Caravanserai that dates from 1332 and was built to provide shelter to merchants travelling on this branch of the Silk Road. We continue down towards the shores of Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest lake, to a rough wetland in the Lichk area where we search for migratory passerines as well as for waterfowl. The place attracts a resident pair of goshawks, and migratory Levant sparrowhawks are often found here too, but mostly we hope to find resting demoiselle cranes using the site as a stop-over on their migration. Following the western shore of the lake, we continue to Sevanavank at its northern end for an overnight stop.
    • Accommodation: Sevanavank, Lake Sevan, 1-night on full board basis.
    • After an early breakfast, we head northwest via Dilijan National Park to Vanadzor, then climb into the high mountains once again to visit Pambak Mountain Ridge for an opportunity to see Caucasian black grouse, along with other possible mountain meadow birds such as water pipit. (Note: depending on weather conditions we may use local four-wheel-drive vehicles for this trip.) On the way back down to Vananadzor, we stop to look for mountain chiffchaff in the woodlands.
    • Accommodation: Vanadzor, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • Drive north on a full day outing to Debet River Gorge where we have a reasonable opportunity of seeing griffon, bearded and Egyptian vultures, as well as passerines such as black-bellied dipper. Along the way we’ll stop as necessary to watch various migratory birds, and take lunch at a hotel in the gorge. In the afternoon we drive back to the hotel in Vanadzor, birding on the way.
    • This morning we head north to Stepanavan and its surrounding small lakes, dense forests and alpine meadows, with the aim of finding black-necked and red-necked grebes and other waterfowl, plus possibly common and demoiselle cranes, as well as to look for migratory passerines. After lunch we continue to Gyumri, birding en route.
    • Accommodation: Gyumri, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • Drive to Lake Arpi National Park for a full day’s birding in the vicinity of the lake to look for great white and Dalmatian pelicans, common crane, black stork, Armenian gull, western yellow, black-headed and citrine wagtails, greylag goose, ruddy shelduck, and other possible duck species, as well as a full selection of raptors. There is also a good chance of seeing white-winged snow finch, just one of the one hundred or so species found in this site that is protected under the Ramsar Convention. We have lunch by the ranger’s house in the national park, before returning to Gyumri in the afternoon, birding as we go.
    • Drive southward back to the capital, via the extinct volcano of Mount Aragats (4,090m), Armenia’s highest mountain, where we bird all the way from the lower dry steppe up to alpine meadows at 3,200 metres altitude. Among the species we aim to see are Isabelline wheatear, Radde’s and alpine accentors, rock sparrow, white-winged snow finch, water pipit, as well as griffon and black vultures – all common visitors to the mountains at this time of year. We stop to visit the C7th fortress of Amberd – “the fortress of the clouds” – standing at an altitude of 2,300 metres on the slopes of Mount Aragats. Lunch at a local restaurant.
    • In the afternoon we continue to Yerevan. Throughout the day we’ll make multiple stops to watch migratory raptors that may include Montagu’s and pallid harriers, black kites, booted, short-toed snake, lesser spotted and steppe eagles, steppe and long-legged buzzards, common and lesser kestrels, as well as rollers and lesser grey shrikes. This evening we head out for dinner in a traditional restaurant in the city.
    • Accommodation: Yerevan, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • This morning we drive south from the capital to Vedi, an area of semi-desert where we look for specialist resident species that we may not have seen elsewhere on the trip, such as trumpeter finch, eastern and western rock nuthatches, chukar etc. Later we continue to Armash Ponds once again and spend the rest of the day there with the aim of spotting more migratory passerines and other key species that we might have missed on our first visit. Return to Yerevan in the afternoon for our final dinner this evening.
    • Early morning transfer to Yerevan airport to catch a flight back to London, via Paris.

All prices are per person and include:

  • Services of the naturalist leader
  • Flights
  • Transfers
  • Accommodation
  • All meals
  • Guided activities

Accommodation

Hotels are Armenian three-star standard. All rooms have en suite bathrooms.

Meals

All meals are included.

Breakfasts and dinners in the hotels or at nearby restaurants, with the occasional cultural show. Lunches are largely picnics with the odd more leisurely sit-down meal in some of the region’s traditional restaurants.

Walking

The countryside we visit varies from flat to mountainous, with short walks (1-3 miles) mostly on easy tracks. Expect a few short uphill stretches along good trails in the mountains, all taken slowly.

Ground transport

By minibus, with four-wheel-drive vehicles where necessary.

Flights

Price includes return scheduled flights London – Yerevan – London.

  1. August 2016
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