Armenia is internationally recognized as a significant birding–also known as bird watching–area. Britain’s prestigious Birdwatch magazine has identified Armenia as the “next big birding hot-spot.”
Local tour organizers have begun to recognize the appeal of Armenia to birders, and are now offering bird-watching trips. The Birds of Armenia Project of the American University of Armenia also organizes tours. Their primary mission is research, but one of the purposes of the research is to create greater public awareness and so it’s no surprise to see that they are leading tours, too.
There are several good birding locations within about a one-hour drive from Yerevan.
Lake Sevan’s Seagull Island, which is located just off the lake’s northwest shore, is home to a large colony of Armenian Gulls. These gulls belong to a species that is unique to Armenia. The Selim Pass, which is located south of Lake Sevan, is a habitat to Black Vultures and Griffon Vultures. The Armash Fish Ponds, in the Ararat Valley, are also home to a significant population of birds-of-interest. These are man-made ponds, surrounded by reeds. Mt. Aragats and Garni Gorge, both of which are less than 45 minutes by car from Yerevan, are also good birding locations. The gorge’s river, cliffs, and tree cover combine to make the Garni Gorge a prime spot.
The Lake Gilli Watershed, located in the southeast corner of the Sevan basin, is one of Armenia’s most popular birding sites. This area was once a complex wetland ecosystem. Lake Gilli was the focal point of the watershed, and had a water surface area of about 860 hectares. This had been a major habitat for migratory waterfowl and aquatic species until the early 1960s, when the lake was drained so that the lake bottom could be used for agriculture.
Today the area is mostly a dry area with open peat mines and croplands. As a result, the entire Sevan basin now has fewer bird species than had previously existed in the Gilli area alone. Today, many of these bird species are registered in the Armenian Red Book of Endangered Species. Despite the loss of this wetland area, the Gilli area is still considered to be a good birding location.
Adapted with permission from The Stone Garden Guide: Armenia and Karabakh, by Matthew Karanian and Robert Kurkjian, ? 2008 Stone Garden Productions, www.StoneGardenProductions.com