Tuesday 28 May 2013

Armenia; Armash - Vedi

Final instalment of the Armenian trip. We spent an entire day at the much hyped Armash Fish Ponds on the way back North to Yerevan which was to be our base for the remainder of the trip. Armash has been described as one of the premier wetland areas in the Western Palearctic. Claims like that nearly always leave one disappointed. However this site lived up to its fame and for me exceeded expectations. The day spent birding here was one of the most enjoyable and productive days birding I've ever had. It's a huge area of manmade fish ponds very near the Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran border area. We only visited a small fraction of the area. Probably the one stand out aspect of the day were the sheer numbers of birds. We made a conservative estimate of 5000 White-winged Black Terns in the area and Sand Martins must have numbered in the tens of thousands. I've uploaded a video of one the ponds showing some of the White-winged Black Terns, Pygmy Cormorants, Coots, etc.
The warblers of the ponds were also amazing with Moustached, Caspian Reed, Great Reed, Paddyfield, Cetti's, Savi's, Eastern Olivaceous and Menetries Warblers all seen during the day. Bearded Tits were particularly numerous in spots. Just to give an idea of the quality of the birding on the day here's a list of wetland species I managed to see myself - Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Little & Great crested Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night (particularly numerous), Squacco, Grey & Purple Herons, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Marsh Harrier, Osprey (one and only one of the entire trip), Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed, Ringed, Kentish & Grey Plover, Lapwing, Little Stint, Ruff, Black-tailed & Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, Black-headed, Slender-billed, Caspian, Armenian Gulls, Gull-billed, Common, Little, Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns. Add to this Blue-cheeked & European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Roller, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Bearded Tit and Rose-coloured Starling.
Paul and a few others had distant flight views of a White-tailed Lapwing but I just couldn't get onto it. We ended up being about 2 or 3 hours late getting back to the hotel in the centre of Yerevan but it was definitely worth it!

One of the many fish ponds at Armash. Those are mostly Sand Martins on the wires.

The lads trudging through extremely sticky clingy soil, a bit of a work-out!

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Pair of Feruginous Ducks, common at Armash.

White-winged Black Terns mostly.

The next day we headed on up to Mount Ararat where we easily caught up with the rather understated Raddes Accentor in Juniper scrub.

Amberd Church

White-throated Robin

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

Rock Thrush

Lesser Spotted Eagle, digiscoped from within the bus with the window closed, not bad considering.


Fruitless search in the clouds for Crimson-winged Finches.

The Greater and Lesser Ararats, Turkey, Noah's old hangout.
Our last full day was spent in the Vedi area. Although we missed the Mongolian Finch target the brilliant selection of quality species made up for the miss. It was an excellent day for birds of prey. At the end of the wadi which overlooks a largely flat plain with a not too distant hill peaks we had Black Kite, Lammergeier, Egyptian, Griffon, Black Vultures, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Steppe, Long-legged & Honey Buzzards, Golden & Booted Eagles, Kestrel and Hobby, an amazing selection.

Vedi Wadi

Vedi Wadi

Eastern Rock Nuthatch at empty nest.

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Male Finsch's Wheatear

Long-legged Buzzard

Upcher's Warbler

Isabelline Wheatear

Black Vulture

Grey-necked Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

Add caption
In the end we had a total of about 225 in Armenia and only had around 10 species in Georgia that we didn't have in Armenia. I managed to get 22 ticks for my trouble - White-headed Duck, Caucasian Black Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock, Caspian Snowcock, Levant's Sparrowhawk, Armenian Gull, Bimaculated Lark, Raddes Accentor, Alpine Accentor, White-throated Robin, Finsch's Wheatear, Persian Wheatear, Moustached Warbler, Upcher's Warbler, Menetries Warbler, Green Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Alpine Chough, White-winged Snowfinch, Red-fronted Serin and Great Rosefinch.
I've only just sent off the 7d and the lens for repair - still hurts ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dermot,
    My name is Karen Aghababyan and I coordinate European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 in Armenia.
    May I ask: do you submit your records anywhere?
    If not, can I suggest to submit those to us for the Atlas. Please note that your records will be fully acknowledged.
    Please feel free to write on my e-mail address: karen@aua.am
    All the best,