Friday 24 May 2024

Armenia 2023 - Part 3

The day started at a place called Vedi Springs, which sits to the east of the famous Armash fish ponds and is an area of dry canyon with a gorge that slowly runs up into arid hills. We parked at the spring being serenaded by several Hoopoes on arrival.

We walked up the gorge either side of a dried out wadi that held small numbers of common migrants such as Common Whitethroat, several Spotted Flycatchers and a Lesser Whitethroat. At the end of the wadi there were a few Isabelline Wheatears and some Greater Short-toed Larks. In truth we needed to go further up the gorge to see better birds but we didn't know that at the time so feeling a little disappointed we retraced our steps back to the car. Back where we parked I picked up a largish falcon chasing a flock of Rosy Starlings which turned out to be a Sakar. This was a lifer for me and a WP tick for Nick. Driving out from Vedi Springs we came across a male and female Finsch's Wheatear (another lifer for me), we spent a little bit of time with these birds but left them alone when we realised they were visiting a nest. The road on the way out was a bit like driving through a landfill site but it didn't stop this smart Rufous Bush Robin from singing its heart out amongst the rubbish and debris.


Our next port of call was only a short distance away (Vedi Hills), much the same habitat and much the same birds. Both Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Finsch's Wheatear had recently fledged young. Red-backed Shrikes were also present and a Little Ringed Plover was seen along the mountain stream which ran parallel to the path. I had several Rock Sparrows and a pair of Trumpeter Finch near the top of that gorge. From there we moved to another spot known as Oorts Gorge or Vedi Gorge (it gets confusing and I'll refer you at this point to Nick's Blog for a very helpful geography lesson).

Oorts Gorge was a where we were hoping to find Grey-necked Bunting. The intent was to drive as far a church called Surb Nshan and search the area beyond it. I say church, it was actually a cave. We endured a slight mishap with the 4x4, but once Nick figured out the settings we were back on our way. We parked up near the church / cave and began walking the area searching for our Buntings. Once again we failed to come up with the goods but we did have what was for me one of the top birds of our trip, a female rufous phase or hepatic Cuckoo, a form neither of us had up that point seen before.

Rufous-phased or Hepatic Cuckoo


I also had fleeting views of a small bird of prey that my guess was it was a Levant Sparrowhawk.

Probable Levant Sparrowhawk

I also had a male Red-backed Shrike which as it perched up I noted it had a steel ring on it left leg which appeared to have the numbers '35651'. I'd love to know the origins of this ring so if you're reading and think you might be able to help then pop a message on the comments section and I'll forward some photos.

Ringed male Red-backed Shrike (number possibly 35661)

After that we returned to what would be the last night at the excellent Areni Wine Cellar guesthouse. We took dinner early and indoors this time as thunder and lightning rumbled and flashed outside.

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