We drove slowly up the road checking the surroundings (Corn Buntings, Magpie, Cuckoo, Booted Eagle, Buzzard) before pausing for a tasty breakfast (dolma, salads, pickles, bread) in the continuing drizzle. A small group of Ortolan brightened up the picnic place. A bit further on, perched on some rocks by the roadside we came across another Aragats speciality - the first of many Radde's Accentors!
Just after this was the surprise of the trip - a flock of ~250 Waxwings. Ani had reported this very unusual irruption ten days previously and we were surprised to see they were still on site. Wow!
A plentiful supply of food is what is keeping them here.
Rock thrushes - gorgeously coloured, common and easily seen.
More White-throated Robins - females and males checking out breeding territories.
Linnet - very common but this individual was quite possibly the brightest one I've ever seen.
A single Merlin flew over - unusual at this time of year and perhaps kept here by the profusion of Waxwings?
Ring Ouzels, Ravens, Red-billed Choughs, Long-legged Buzzards, Swifts, Swallows, White Wagtails (including the Siberian dukhunensis ssp) and Rock Nuthatches at Amberd. We then retraced our steps down the mountain in order to take the road up to the meterological station. We checked out Lesser Spotted Eagle and a kettle of 15 or so Honey Buzzards but above the snowline things got more interesting. A few Twite (Caucasian variety) showed themselves briefly. Water Pipits marking out snow patches and then suddenly - Horned Larks. A whole flock of them. Lovely little birds.
Even further up we came across the bizarre spectacle of a Cuckoo sitting on a rock in the snow.
It was starting to get late in the day and at our last scanning spot we finally caught sight of Alpine Accentor. Four of them and unfortunately not close enough for even a record shot. So ended our first day and we were more than a little impressed. Such a profusion of birds!
Ani and Artem deserve another mention - their field skills were awesome and very little escaped their notice.