Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Not long back from an eleven day trip to Georgia and Armenia. I went with Garry Armstrong, Davy Steele, Wilton Farrelly and Ian Graham where we spent three full days in the Kazbegi area of Georgia. From there we moved South into Armenia where we picked up Paul French who joined us for the rest of the trip.
The trip got off to a disastrous start for me as my Canon 7d had a very nasty fall from the back of the bus when leaving Tbilisi airport in the early hours of 1st May. It along with the 400mm lens was out of action for the duration, a very sickening feeling.
So anyway I had to make do with a little bit of good old fashioned digi-scoping, not quite the same but better than nothing I suppose.

We managed to get two the main target birds on the first day -Caucasian Black Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock. I haven't had much luck with some alpine species in Spain and Morocco in the past so it was good to finally see Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor and White-winged Snowfinch.
The Georgian part of the trip was timed to coincide with a low snow line which normally comes right down to the village of Kazbegi/Stepantsminda and with it Great Rosefinch and Güldenstädt's Redstart also have to come down with it. However there wasn't much snow this winter in the area and with the Spring melt, the snow line was up around the 3000m mark unlike the normal 2200m. Paul had both species in the village while leading a Sunbird tour here the previous week but no one had seen the redstart during the whole week we were there and only a handful of rosefinches had been seen down low.

We hiked up to 2900m on the second day to see if the two species had retreated up to the higher elevations. After a bit of searching we managed to track down 6 - 8 Great Rosefinches which gave distant but prolonged views. The males were amazing looking things. Despite much searching and upteen Black Redstarts (both semirufus & ochruros) we just couldn't kick out a Güldenstädt's. Other good birds seen over the course of the three days included several Lammergeier (cracking birds & WP tick), Golden Eagle, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Horned Lark, Water Pipit (very common), Rock Thrush (another WP tick), Mountain Chiffchaff, Wallcreeper (feeding on a four feet high stone wall in the village of Kobi), Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-fronted Serin and Rock Bunting.

I'll update the blog in the next while with the Armenia part of the trip.

amicorum Ring Ouzel, huge amount of white on the wings, amazing looking in flight.

amicorum Ring Ouzel

Caucasian Snowcock, squint and you can just see it!

Caucasian Snowcock

First-summer male Caucasian Black Grouse. This guy was hidding under a rock from us. Note reduced red wattle and brown tones to head, forehead in particular hinting at the age.

Tree Pipit, common in the conifer plantations.

Red-fronted Serin, quite common around the village, took a while to get good views. 

White-winged Snwfinch, only one pair seen in the entire trip.

Male Red-backed Shrike

Male Wallcreeper

Male Wallcreeper
Kazbegi village with Mount Kazbek in the background.

Gorge up from Sameba Church which had Great Rosefinch.

Gergeti glacier on Mount Kazbek.

Kazbegi from the Mount Kazbek side with the conifer plantation and the monsterous Rooms Hotel beside it.

Russian border with Georgia, a Georgian solider appeared from the bushes shortly after this was taken to tell us to feck off!

The white splashes near the top of this cliff face were Griffon Vulture nests.

Male Eastern Tur

Group watching Caucasian Snowcock which was first picked up by Chris Lansdell, Justin Lansdell and Andy Wilkinson.


  1. Great shots - apologies about your camera! Just curious is the Wallcreeper in the area you were in of a specific race? The face down appears extremely dark...

  2. They are supposed to be of the nominate race there, the darker nipalensis race occurs East of Turkmenistan. The bird we had was an adult summer male which normally show alot of black about the head and upper breast anyway.