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Armenia has only recently been discovered by Western birders but promises to be one of the great destinations of the future providing the political situation remains stable.
The Armash Fishponds area, situated in the arid and salty semi-deserts of the Araks (Araxes) Valley, is one of the best known birding sites in the country. This is the largest fishery in the area with nearly thirty ponds where various Carp species are farmed. There is much marginal vegetation in places and reedbeds can be extensive providing excellent habitat for a range of waterbirds during the breeding season, passage periods and winter.
With the loss and degradation of other wetlands in Armenia this site is becoming increasingly important and thoroughly deserves official protection.
Breeding species include Pygmy Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe and ducks including Common Shelduck and Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck and small numbers of Marbled Duck. A few White-headed Duck are usually seen here but their status is uncertain.
Larger wading birds are common and include Glossy Ibis and White Stork as well as Little Bittern and Great Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron and Purple Heron and Little Egret and Cattle Egret. Collared Pratincole breeds and Black-winged Pratincole is a regular migrant. White-tailed Plover and Savi's Warbler are recent colonists, Kentish Plover and Little Ringed Plover also breed.
A good range of wetland warblers is possible in the reedbeds here with Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Moustached Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, [Eurasian Reed Warbler|Reed Warbler]] and Great Reed Warbler all present.
Among the species to be seen in the surrounding farmland is one of the Western Palearctic's most beautiful birds, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, which gathers here in late summer. In addition, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater and European Roller are common in summer. Less colourful are Crested Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark and Tawny Pipit, but the arid-land passerine of most interest is the localised Menetries's Warbler, common in this area.
Passage waders include Little Stint and Temminck's Stint and Curlew Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper. Migrant Greater Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope are also possible.
Gull-billed Tern and all three marsh terns occur on passage, White-winged Tern in particularly good numbers, as well as Common Tern and Little Tern in summer. Slender-billed Gull and Armenian Gull occur in on passage and in winter and a wide range of other species occur as migrants through the valley including waterfowl, both pelicans and both storks.
Raptors passing through can include Steppe Eagle, Pallid Harrier and Montagu's Harrier and Lesser Kestrel. The first Armenian record of Long-tailed Duck was a bird here in June 2002.
Birds you can see here include:
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Great White Pelican, Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Stork, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Whooper Swan, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Tufted Duck, White-headed Duck, Smew, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Steppe Eagle, Osprey, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon, Northern Hobby, Common Quail, Water Rail, Baillon's Crake, Moorhen, Grey-headed Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Greater Sand Plover, White-tailed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Pallas's Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Armenian Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, White-winged Tern, Feral Pigeon, Common Cuckoo, Little Owl, Common Swift, Common Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Hoopoe, Greater Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Tawny Pipit, Black-headed Wagtail, Sykes's Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Cetti's Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Menetries's Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Bearded Tit, Golden Oriole, Lesser Grey Shrike, Common Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Common Starling, Rose-coloured Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Black-headed Bunting, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
The Armash Fishponds are situated in the south of Armenia close to the border with Turkey. It is privately-owned land but access is usually allowed and no birding visitors to Armenia should miss this site from their itinerary.
Accommodation is scarce in Armenia outside the capital Yerevan.
Content and images originally posted by Steve