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AsiaPageArmenia21 & 214Bhutan215 & 238Borneo21 & 216-217China218-219Georgia220India20, 22, 24,221-243 & 271Kazakhstan22 & 244-246Malaysia247Maldives272Nepal 15, 20, 22-23, 25, 232, 234 & 248-255Sri Lanka 14, 23, 25 & 256-259Thailand23213

Nestling in the snow-capped CaucasianMountains andoverlooked by Mount Ararat justover the border in Turkey,Armenia is a gem of a naturalhistory destination. Despite its small size,not much bigger than Wales, and the factthat it is landlocked, this former SovietRepublic is home to over two-thirds ofEurope's regularly occurring bird species,including many that are rare or difficult tofind elsewhere, and boasts a fantasticallydiverse flora reflecting a location at themeeting point between Europe and Asia.Unusually in a region where the Moslemfaith predominates, Armenia is a Christiancountry and its capital, Yerevan, bustles witha lively juxtaposition of old churches, athriving jazz scene, and such reminders ofthe Soviet era as the impressive RepublicSquare, while at weekends the huge andatmospheric 'vernissage' open-air fleamarket attracts locals and tourists.Elsewhere, 13th century bridges, and well-preserved 'caravanserais' - stopovers fortraders plying the silk route in the 14thcentury - serve as fascinating reminders ofArmenia's long history and strategiclocation. As well as offering a wealth ofbirdlife, as yet little-explored by Westerners,the country is home to many interestingArmenian Orthodox churches andmonasteries, some dating back as far asthe 9th century, such as Haghartsin nearDilijan, and Sevanavank, which enjoys ascenic location on a promontory extendinginto Lake Sevan.Following an early morning arrival in Yerevanwe begin our exploration by visiting MountAragats which, at 3,190 metres, is thehighest of Armenia's mountains. With eachchange of altitude we will encounter adifferent selection of birds, beginning withWhite-throated Robins and the distinctivelocal race of Bluethroat at lower levelsbefore entering the windswept world ofHorned Larks, Alpine and Radde'sAccentors, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushesand White-winged Snowfinches at higherelevations. This alpine region also offers usthe chance to see some of the special localplants, including Fritillaria caucasica,Orchisstevenii,Orchis schelvcornikova,Gladiolustenuisand Scilla armenia. Throughout thislargely unspoilt and sparsely populatedcountry, bird of prey populations remainhealthy, with several eagle species,Lammergeier and Levant Sparrowhawklikely to be among the highlights. Our 9-daytour covers each of the country's mainhabitat types but, being such a smallcountry with generally good infrastructure,travelling times between areas are usuallyshort, allowing us to maximise the amountof time spent in the field.Next we exchange mountains for wetlandsas we drive to the Armash Fish Ponds,Armenia's premier area for waterbirds whereattractions include breeding PygmyCormorant, plus Marbled, White-headedand Ferruginous Ducks. This wonderfulcomplex of lakes and marshland is teemingwith birds and other highlights could includeGlossy Ibis, White-tailed Lapwing, White-winged Black Tern, and such passerines asMoustached, Great Reed and PaddyfieldWarblers. Meanwhile the surroundingcountryside holds Menetries' and Upcher'sWarblers as well as a small colony of exoticBlue-cheeked Bee-eaters and some ofArmenia's rarer plants, including Salviagrossheimii, Gladiolus atrovioleceusandVicia cappadocica.We again turn our attention to themountains during a couple of days based inYeghegnadzor. Close to the town liesNoravank, one of Armenia's best-knownchurches, situated in a narrow gorge by theAmaghu River. From Yeghegnadzor we'lljourney to Mount Gdnasar in search of theelusive Caspian Snowcock and a fineselection of montane species such asLammergeier, Red-fronted Serin, Crimson-winged Finch and Wallcreeper. Then we willtransfer to Dilijan, stopping en route to scanLake Sevan, the largest lake in Armenia anda nesting site for the rare Armenian Gull.Here we may also see Iris paradoxa,Cleome ornithopodioidesand Gypsophilaelegans. During our 2-night stay in Dilijan,we will look for Caucasian Black Grouse onan early morning visit to their favouritedisplay areas, and walk through verdantdeciduous forests where Green Warblers,Redstarts and both Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers will be defending theirsummer territories and feeding young.Our tour of Armenia concludes with twofurther nights based in the capital, fromwhich, before it is time to leave this smallbut fascinating country, we will enjoy yetmore exciting birding and botanising duringvisits to nearby Garni and Geghard where,in a landscape of steppe and rocky gorges,we will hope to encounter Finsch's andIsabelline Wheatear, Roller, Lesser GreyShrike, Bimaculated Lark and Rose-coloured Starling, as well as such plants asAlkanna orientalis, the bellflower Campanulachoziatowskyi, Achillea filipendulina, thescabious Scabiosa micranthaand Lotusglebelia.Armenia - Spring Birds & FlowersA 9-day birdwatching and botany holiday amid the mountains of Armenia. Saturday 1st June - Sunday 9th June Cost: £1,995Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Yerevan.Day 2Mount Aragats, fromYerevan.Day 3Armash Fish Ponds;overnight Yeghegnadzor.Day 4Mount Gdnasar;overnight Yeghegnadzor.Day 5/6Lake Sevan; overnightDilijan.Day 7/8Yerevan.Day 9Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels inYerevan and Dilijan, each room withprivate facilities. Elsewhere we usea small guesthouse/homestaywhere facilities may be shared.FoodAll included in the price.Grading A/B. Slow-paced day walks, but inthis mountainous country some ofthe walking will inevitably be onpaths of varying steepness.Focus Birds and botany.LeadersChris Kehoe (ornithologist) and PaulHarmes (botanist). Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: ARM02214Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryAZERBAIJANTURKEYIRANGEORGIAARMENIADILIJANSEVANYEREVANYEGHEGNADZORARMASHMOUNT ARARATMOUNT AVAGATSLAKESEVANWhite-throatedRobinRadde's AccentorRocce, Noravank