Georgia & Armenia

26 April 2015 – 05 May 2015

Peter Zeller

Participants: Claudio Koller, Lucas Lombardo, Daniela Corrodi, Beni Sutter, Peter Zeller

Visited Sites

General Travelling Information

Despite their small size, Georgia and Armenia offer some of the most sought-after bird species in the Western Palearctic. Nowhere else the chance of seing Great Rosefinch, White-winged Redstart, Mountain Chiffchaff, Caucasian Black Grouse and Persian Wheatear are this good. Apart from the famous observation area in Kazbegi, there are other, extremely exciting observation areas. Especially during spring migration period between mid-April and mid-May, when bird species from Central Asia and Russia migrate across Georgia. By the way, this is also the best time for the local specialities mentioned before, which mowe down from their high altitude breeding habitats because of the snow and are thus easier to find in (early) spring. Contrairly, in Armenia, specialties such as Persian Wheatear, Grey-necked Bunting, Green Warbler, Upcher’s Warbler and Pale Rock Sparrow only come back during may from their wintering grounds.

We rented cars from cars4rent.ge which worked very well. It is important, however, to nota that if you have a damage or breakdown, you must immediately inform the insurance before moving the car. If you want to folow up to Armenia with a car hired in Georgia, you need a certified translation of the lease and of the permission. The car rental can do this for you in advance. When entering Armenia, you will have to make an insurance for the rental car again, even if you already have one. Discussing was pointless ;-)

For navigation, the OSM App has been very helpful. The big advantages is that you can use the app offline and that the maps are extremely detailed. It is best to save the exact places already as favorites at home, which saves a lot of time in the field. For longer distances (over 200 km) you should divide the route with intermediate destinations.

Kumisi Reservoir

Kumasi Lake is located near the capital Tbilisi (approximately 1 hour by car). Especially on the northern shore you can find some good wetlands and some dams from where you have a god view over the lake. During migration you can see virtually every wetland species to be expected to turn up in Georgia. This included Pygmy Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, Pallas’s Gull, Armenian Gull and White-winged Tern. Many passerines are resting here on migration like Red-breasted Flycatcher, Bluethroat, variegata Stonechats, Black-headed Wagtail and some Black-eared Wheatears and Pied Wheatears. Migrating raptors can be seen in the sky. According to local birdwatchers Demoiselle Crane is also seen from time to time.

Target species

  • Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo

  • Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus

  • Pallas's Gull Larus ichthyaetus

  • Armenian Gull Larus armenicus

  • Bluethroat Cyanecula svecica

  • Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva

  • Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka

Fields between Rustavi and Jandari

The field between Rustavi and Djandara Lake are a known site for Demoiselle Cranes on migration.

Target species

  • Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo

  • Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus

  • Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca

Stepantsminda

Stephansminda, also known as Kazbegi, is the best-known birding spot of Georgia. Nowhere else are the chances better to see the birder’s "Big Five" of the Caucasus (Caucasian Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Caucasian Chiffchaff and Great Rosefinch). The best time is early May when the high alpine grouses, the Redstart and the Rosefinch are found much lower because of the snow. They can be found then on the slopes around the village. The bushes south of the village are the best spots to find Güldenstädt's Redstart and Great Rosefinch (in winter to end April). In the small forest below (N42°39'27.82", E44°39'35.06")  Red-fronted Serins can be seen and from the coordinates itself you can scan the slopes for grouses and East Caucasian Tur. Caucasian Chiffchaff and other species like Twite, Horned Lark, Lammergeier or Chough can be found around the village. A popular spot to scan for Caucasian Grouse is the famous church of Tsminda Sameba west of the village (N42°39'45.32", E44°37'13.31"). It’s especially worth if the snow has already melted far up.

Target species

  • Caucasian Snowcock Tetraogallus caucasicus

  • Caucasian Grouse Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi

  • Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus

  • White-winged Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus

  • Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla

Other wildlife observed

  • East Caucasian Tur

Mount Aragats Summit road

Target species

  • Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina

  • Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

  • Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus

  • White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis

  • Bluethroat Cyanecula svecica

  • Radde's Accentor Prunella ocularis

  • Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguineus

Facilities & accommodation

Hotel:  40.296550° 44.296394°

Jandara Lake

The lake holds the same species like Kumisi Lake.

Vedi Hills

The Grey-necked Bunting is easy to find around the watering hole. In addition, Finch’s Wheatear, Eastern- and Western Rock Nuthatch is present, too. From mid-May onwards you can also find Upcher’s Warbler and Pale Rock Sparrow.

Target species

  • Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

  • Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus

  • Upcher's Warbler Hippolais languida

  • Western Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer

  • Eastern Rock Nuthatch Sitta tephronota

  • Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii

  • Pale Sparrow Carpospiza brachydactyla

  • Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus

    extremely rare

  • Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani

Facilities & accommodation

There are very few hotels in this region. We stayed in the very basic hotel oazis (39.920219°,44.752764°) in the neighboring village Dashtakar. From here you are quickly in the Vedi Hills and not too far away from Armash Fish Ponds.

Armash Fish Ponds

The Armash Fish Ponds are a very impressive wetland with thousands of terns, waders and other birds. Among them you can spot specialties such as White-tailed Lapwing, Thrush Nightingale, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Paddifield Warbler. During the migration season, you may find rare species such as Black-winged Pratincole, Terek Sandpiper, Great Snipe and Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Since the Armash Fish Ponds are private, Ananian Vasil (vasil.ananian@gmail.com) has organized the entry for us.  He can also provide other useful tips for your trip.

Target species

  • White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus

  • Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola

  • Menetries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea

  • Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia

Meghri

Right here on the border with Iran is the most reliable place for the Persian Wheatear.

Facilities & accommodation

Overnight we stayed in the budget hotel Mila (38.919238°, 46.222163°) just above Meghri.

Dilijan National Park

Dilijan National Park is best known for the high densities of Green Warbler. But you can also find the rare semi-collared Flycatcher here.

Target species

  • Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina

  • Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus

  • Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata

Species List

Order: systematic | alphabetic | highlights first
Published: 04 April 2019
Last updated: 05 April 2019
Orniverse: Georgia & Armenia (26 April 2015 – 05 May 2015)