We had one final morning before we had to return to Tbilisi for flights back home. Where else to go then but the famed Armash fish ponds? Targets here were White-tailed Lapwing and Paddyfield Warbler.
Visitors need a permit to enter here but it is straightforward to arrange. While we were waiting at the gate we saw a vast number of Sand Martins sitting on the telegraph wires. Then a cracking male Menetries Warbler popped up on the fence for a quick song. I had somehow managed to turn the autofocus off on my camera and my hurried manual focus wasn't that accurate so I missed the best opportunity so far for a close and perfectly lit portrait. Ho hum.
After we'd completed formalities we drove to the first big pond. It contained a large number of waders - Black Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover (seen by Ani), Ruff (breeding plumage), Common, Wood and a single Broad-billed Sandpiper, Avocet, Redshank, Little Stint, as well as Little,
Gull-billed, Whiskered and White-winged Terns.
Rod picked out a Black Tern amongst the roosting White-winged - a good bird for here. My attention though was firmly on the drier fields where several White-tailed Lapwings were. Another lifer!
Next up was a delightful Bearded Reedling - so long since I've seen them.
A Great Reed Warbler (with an engorged tick above its eye) perched photogenically on a reed to pluck insects out of a spider's web.
As one would expect ducks were well represented. Tufted and Red-crested Pochard
Pochard, Teal, Garganey, Ferruginous
and White-headed Ducks were quickly seen.
Lots of fine looking Great Crested Grebes in full breeding plumage.
Pygmy Cormorants and Glossy Ibis were everywhere. Gulls (I admit not spending a great deal of time with them) included Armenian, Slender-billed and Black-headed. Herons included Grey, Night and Purple
Rod found a Paddyfield Warbler which, agonisingly, evaded me for some time before giving brief but clear views and disappearing into the reeds to sing. We drove a little further along the bank stopping for Yellow Wagtail (feldegg) and a couple of distant pratincoles presumed to be Collared. Savi's Warbler reeled evocatively in the reeds while highly cryptic Lesser Short-toed Larks fed in the dry fields and flew up to sing.
Suddenly we saw this startling bird in the reeds.
Reed Bunting ssp caspia (Caspian Reed Bunting). Wow - that bill!
One of the last birds seen before we had to leave was this . . . .
Clouds gathered and large drops of rain put a timely end to birding and any temptation to linger. We had a taxi booked and a long journey ahead of us back to Tbilisi. One last gem though, as we drove back out through the rain, were these Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, arguably the most beautiful of WP species and a fitting end to an incredible two-and-a-half days in Armenia.
With special thanks to Ani Sarkisyan and Artem Muradkhanyan for their great kindness, hospitality and birding skills. They made our short visit into an exceptional birding trip and one that we enjoyed tremendously.
I look forward to returning.