[one of our non-Australian entries]
By guest author Arpi Kazaryan
Bird Watching in the South Caucasus
Due to the diversity of the landscapes and climatic zones, the South Caucasus region is extremely rich in flora and fauna. It is a great destination for wild nature lovers.
Today we’re going to tell you about one of the most interesting activities of wildlife lovers – birding in Armeniaand Georgia. You will learn the most curious and awe-inspiring places for the observation of unique migratory birds included in the Red Book.
Birdwatching in Armenia
In a small territory of Armenia, there is a diversity of climatic zones and geographical landscapes, which implies a diversity of flora and fauna. Recentlylocal tour operators began to actively organize bird watchin tours in Armenia inthe most picturesque corners of the country. The wild nature lovers are offered towatch birds from high peaks of mountains and cliffs and at the same time enjoy the pure nature of Armenia.
The country is on the path of birds migrating from Europe to South Africa. During the migration season, you can watch the greatest variety of birds. There are about 360 bird species in Armenia (1/3 of the number of bird species in Europe), many of which are included in the Red Book.
Lake Sevan, the largest freshwater lake in the CIS, is located on the territory of Sevan National park. The protected area also includes natural and historical monuments
About 260 species of birds are registered on the territory of the national park. Most of them are migratory, so it is best to visit Sevan in spring and autumn. In the winter months, you can watch the flight of swans, Charadrii, herons and Cormorants. On the island, you can watch the colonies of Yellow and Little egrets, Glossy Ibis and Black-crowned night herons.
The territory of the Sevan National Park includes the Norashen Reserve with its “gull island”, inhabited by Armenian nesting gulls. Besides seagulls, the island is inhabited by a Mallard, Hoopoe, Ruddy Shelduck and a Northern Wheatear.
The resort town of Dilijan and Dilijan National Park are considered the most valuable treasures of Armenia, so don’t miss them during yourtrip in the Caucasus. Most of the Dilijan reserve is covered with forests, the Aghstev River flows through the park, there are also several lakes and mineral springs. Rich in nature, the park has no less rich fauna.
The park is inhabited by a Semi-collar flycatcher, a Small flycatcher, Hawfinch and others.
Closer to the shores of Dilijan lakes, you can see a Green sandpiper and a Little Ringed plover. During the migration period, geese and Common Shelducks are also seen. Common Pochards, Red-crested Pochards and Eurasian teal stop by the lake for a rest.
Mountains and gorges
Mountain peaks and deep gorges of Armenia are the main treasures of the country. The rocky mountains are attracting more and more lovers of active sports. In addition, the mountain peaks give a great opportunity to observe mountain birds.
On Mount Vardenis, you will have a chance to see the Caspian Snowcock, Rhodopechus, Red-fronted Serin and other mountain birds. During the trip, you will visit the medieval monastery Novarank built on a cliff and watch the Western rocky nuthatch.
Mount Gndasar and its alpine meadows is an interesting destination for birdwatching. At an altitude of 2945 meters, you can see the Caspian Snowcock, White-winged snowfinch, Alpine accentor and other mountain birds. On the way to Karahunj (the oldest stone monument), you can find mountain Twite, Common rosefinch and Red-backed shrike.
Mount Aragats is the highest peak in Armenia. The road to the four peaks of the mountain passes through the alpine meadows. Here you can watch Bimaculated lark, Whinchat, Bluethroat, Radde’s accentor and forest raptors like the Short-toed snake eagle, the Lesser spotted eagle and the Common buzzard.
Birdwatching in Georgia
Georgia has a greater variety of natural and climatic zones; therefore, the fauna here has more than three hundred rare species of birds. This kind of tourism is quite developed in the country, and in order to attract a larger audience, an international bird watching festival has been organized in Adjara since 2012. Every year about a million migratory birds fly through this region (European honey buzzard, Kite, the Short-toed snake eagle, Lesser spotted eagle, and Booted eagle). During the festival, participants watched the migratory birds near the Chorokhi River, in the Kolkheti National Park, in the villages of Chaisubani and Sakhalvasho.
One of the most popular areas of birdwatching in Georgia is Kazbegi National Park. This highland park with an area of more than 9 thousand hectares represents a huge variety of flora and fauna. The national park has two climatic zones, and both are rather harsh. Most of the fauna is listed in the Red Book of Georgia.
Twite, White-winged snowfinch, Griffon vulture and Golden eagles are the inhabitants of the heights of the Caucasus Mountains. Migratory birds such as the Common buzzard, the Black kite and more than 20 species of birds also fly by.
On the alpine meadows, you can see the permanent inhabitants like the Caucasian black grouse and the Caucasian Snowcock.
Kolkheti National Park is another ideal destination for birdwatching. The reserve zone is located on the Kolkhida Plain which is washed by the rivers Tikuri and Supsa on both sides. Due to the natural features of this region, its flora and fauna are quite diverse. Birds can be observed in the National Park of Kolkheti at any time of the year. According to the latest data, more than two hundred species of birds can be found here, most of them are permanent inhabitants of the reserve.
The most common bird species in the reserve are White-tailed eagles, Bearded reedlings, Egrets, Short-toed snake eagles and Eastern imperial eagle. In addition, here you can observe the migration of swamp birds from Africa. Migratory birds are found in the park in spring and autumn. During this period, a Black stork, European honey buzzard, Black kite, Lesser spotted eagle, Levant sparrowhawk, Steppe eagle may also be found. These months are the most active. From January to the end of spring, you can watch swans, ducks and geese gathered around the shores of Lake Paliastomi for the winter.
Chachun and Iori reserves are especially popular among birdwatchers. The desert and semi-desert reserve of Chachun in the southeastern part of Georgia has a rich variety of fauna. In protected lands, there are specially equipped places for observing the flight of birds. A Long-legged buzzard and Montagu’s harrier hunt in the desert fields of protected areas. The colonies of Rollers and European honey buzzards live on sandy rocks, on the way you can also find a Calandra lark, Black-headed bunting, Black-eared wheatear, Lesser short-toed lark, Black vulture and others.