Caucasian Snowcock

Tour Dates: Tuesday 28th April – Friday 8th May 2020 (Tbilisi to Tbilisi)
Tour Price: £2,150pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Tbilisi approx. £350 return
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 – £250
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Birds: Caucasian Snowcock, Caspian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Bearded Vulture, Great Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Radde’s Accentor, Mountain (Caucasian) Chiffchaff, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Menetrie’s Warbler, Upcher’s Warbler, Green Warbler, Red-fronted Serin, Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch, White-throated Robin, Persian Wheatear, Wallcreeper and much more!

Tour Summary
This new tour covers five nights each in Georgia and Armenia and is packed full of some high quality birding in absolutely stunning scenery! The beauty of this tour is that it visits two different countries with very easy access and allows the opportunity to see some very localised species against some fabulous landscapes and fascinating history.

ACCOMMODATION: 5 nights Georgia and 5 nights Armenia
Comfortable hotels and guesthouses
3 nights Stepantsminda / Kazbegi, 2 nights Tbilisi, 1 night Sevan, 1 night Yeghegnadzor, 3 nights Yerevan
Inclusive Meals: Full board

DAY 1 GEORGIA: Road to Kazbegi
After an early arrival at Tbilisi airport, we will drive straight to the Greater Caucasus mountains to the village of Kazbegi which will be our base for the next three days. Our main aim will be to get to the mountains in good time to give us the afternoon birding the mountainous area. We will make various stops en route to to look for forest species that may include Green Warbler and the Caucasian subspecies of Mountain Chiffchaff, as well as Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale. Overnight Stepantsminda

Great Rosefinch by Gocha Kakulia

DAY 2 GEORGIA: Kazbegi
During the first day in Kazbegi, we will explore the valleys by a mix of walking and driving. One of our first stops will be a nearby church and a good place to observe to true specialities of this fabulous landscape, Caucasian Black Grouse and Caucasian Snowcock! Hopefully, after succeeding with the main event, more great birds await us as we look for Bearded and Griffon Vultures, Mountain Chiffchaff, Twite, Red-fronted Serin and Water Pipits of the Caucasian race coutellii. Exploring the bushes down in the valley can be exciting as the are often teeming with migrants, while raptor migration can be quite spectacular too!
Overnight Stepantsminda

DAY 3 GEORGIA: Kazbegi
Today we will leave early and make our way up the mountains by vehicle to an altitude of around 2,200m, and from here we will walk towards the glacier. The specialities today will be two very colourful and impressive species, Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch. Overnight Stepantsminda

Güldenstädt’s Redstart by Gocha Kakulia

DAY 4 GEORGIA: Return to Tbilisi
We will spend the morning birding the bushes and marshes along the river for migrants. On the way back we will make a few stops in the spectacular Jvari pass where we should find White-winged Snowfinch. We will also make a stop by a forest that can be good for Semi-collared Flycatcher as well as the expected Green Warblers. Overnight Tbilisi

DAY 5: Davit Gareji Monastery
East of Tbilisi, a vast semi-arid landscape begins, with Steppe and rocky outcrops, shallow lakes and riverine forest. Our first stop will be Jandari lake which is a great stopover site for numerous migratory waterfowl. The lake also has a good population of Pygmy Cormorants and several pairs of Eastern Imperial Eagles breed near the lake. After exploring the lake we will then drive east towards the rock monasteries of Davit Gareji, passing through habitat where huge numbers of Rosy Starling, Tawny Pipit and Calandra Lark breed. We will walk visit the monasteries where we should find Western Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and Pied Wheatear. Overnight Tbilisi

Menetrie’s Warbler by Gocha Kakulia

DAY 6 ARMENIA: Tbilisi – Dilijan Forests – Lake Sevan (Norashen)
The Dilijan Forests and associated Dilijan National Park occupies around 24,000 hecatres of land and is located in the North-Eastern part of the Republic of Armenia. It is a great birding site, particularly for raptors and we should see Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, European Honey-Buzzard and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. In addition to the raptors we will see a good selection of forest species including some interesting subspecies which may include Great Spotted and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers (ssp. caucasicus), European Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Red-breasted and Semi-collared Flycatchers, Green Warbler, Eurasian Jay (atricapillus) and many other commoner forest species. Overnight Sevan

DAY 7 ARMENIA: Sevan – Vardenyats Pass – Noravank Gorge – Yeghegnadzor
Vardenyats mountain pass (2,410M) connects historical Gegharkunik with the Vayots Dzor region. It is another good birding area where we may find Ortolan Bunting, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Rosefinch, Common Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Bearded Vulture, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagle, Long‐legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard and many other raptors. We should also see Rock Sparrow, Linnets and Twite. More tricky species that we will be looking for include Radde’s Accentor and Bluethroat. Overnight Yeghegnadzor

White-throated Robin by Gocha Kakulia

DAY 8 ARMENIA: Yeghegnadzor Mountains – Vedi Gorge
Once again we will be up early, this time to try our luck in the impressive Yeghegnadzor Mountains for another key species, the Caspian Snowcock. We will spend much of our time in these high mountains to look for Caspian Snowcock as well as species like Northern Wheatear, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Skylark, Meadow and Water Pipits, Alpine Accentor, Dunnock, Common Rosefinch and Peregrine Falcon.
Later in the day we will visit Vedi Gorge with its unique semi-desert vegetation and rocky slopes. Here we ill look for new species such as Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Grey-necked Bunting, Desert Finches and Pale Rock‐Sparrow. Other species such as Eurasian Nuthatch, European Roller, Blue Rock Thrush and both Black-eared and Finsch’s Wheatears. Overnight Yerevan

DAY 9 ARMENIA: Yerevan – Armash – Oorts Mountains
A visit to Armash fish farms will certainly keep us busy as this site hosts a variety of birds such as Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, White-tailed Lapwing, Glossy Ibis, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Roller, Eurasian Spoonbill, Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck.
After lunch we will visit Ooranots, a semi-desert with rocky outcrops located not far from Armash in the foothills of the Oorts Mountains. This site hosts more interesting species such as Griffon and Bearded Vultures, Chukar, Eastern and Western Nuthatches, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes and Red-fronted Serin. However, the real prize here will be the Persian Wheatear, one of the rarest birds to be found in Armenia. Overnight Yerevan

DAY 10 ARMENIA: Yerevan – Aragats – Amberd – Yerevan
Mount Aragats rises to around 4,090 meters, making it the highest point within the Republic of Armenia. It is an excellent area to observe woodland, meadow-steppe, and subalpine species. In particular, we will be searching the subalpine zone for Radde’s Accentor, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel complete with their distinctive white wings of the form amicorum. Perhaps the most exciting bird we will look for in this habitat is the stunning White-throated Robin.

Mountain Chiffchaff (Subsp. Caucasian), Georgia by Gocha Kakulia

Higher up in the boulder fields we will look for Alpine Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch, Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch, Horned Lark, and Red-billed Chough. We also have good opportunities to see various raptors such as Common Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard and Lesser-spotted Eagleas they soar over the woodland areas. Whereas, Short-toed Snake Eagle and Black Kite frequent the meadow‐steppe regions. The precipitous crags surrounding the crater is where we will focus some time to find one of the most beautiful birds of this area, the stunning Wallcreeper.
Later in the day we will visit Amberd, a 7th century Armenian fortress located at around 2,300M on the slopes of Mount Aragats. It lies at the confluence of the Arkashen and Amberd Rivers in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia. The name translates to “fortress in the clouds” and it will be a fitting end to this tour which will have been packed full of amazing scenery, fabulous birds and welcoming people. Overnight Yerevan

DAY 11: Yerevan – Tbilisi
We will depart early for our return journey to Georgia and Tbilisi airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local bird guide
Included in cost: All accommodation, all meals, bottled water, ground transport, entrance fees and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Accommodation: Clean and comfortable hotels in ensuite rooms
Single Supplement: TBC
Transport: Minibus throughout tour
Difficulty: Moderate
The majority of birding is done in close proximity to our vehicle, but there will be some longer walks with steeper trails in the mountains. Note: Snow in areas will make some walking more difficult.
Climate: Varied with cold temperatures (even snow) in the mountains and warmer temperatures 15 – 20 degrees Celsius in the lowlands
Tour Start Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Tour End Point: Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi airport, Georgia
Suggested Airlines: Lufthansa

Rosy Starlings by Gocha Kakulia