Shikahogh Forest

Thousands of huge oriental planes (Platanus orien­talis) grow along the riverbanks, boasting a history of 400-500 years, according to English dendrologists' estimates.

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Shikahogh Forest

SHIKAHOGH  PRESERVE

This preserve is located in the north-east of the Armenian highland, occupying the south-eastern edge of the Lesser Caucasus. The network of mountain ranges and spurs creates vast diversity of natural conditions, each gorge remarkable for its own microclimate. Overall, Shikahogh is notable for its warm and mild climate. The high Zangezur mountain range traps humid air stream generated by the Caspian Sea, while Meghri mountain range, along with some others, blocks hot air masses from Iranian deserts.

The flora of Shikahogh is strongly influenced by that of Iran. However, due to the mild climate it also boasts Caucasian and other types of vegetation.  It is the only existing habitat for virgin oak forests and a number of rare endemic species listed in Armenia's Red Data Book. Among them are Symphyandra zangezura (Zangezur Symphyandra), Pyrus zangezura (Zangezur pear), Rosa zangezura (Zangezur rose), Papaver zangezu­rum (Zangezur poppy), Linaria zangezura (Zangezur toadflax), very rare orchids (Epipactis microphylla, Ophrys oestrifera, Steveniella saty­rioi­des), beautiful tulips with large flowers (Tulipa confusa and T. sos­nowskyi).

Shikahogh is especially rich in relict plant species. Species from past geologic epochs have been retained in small enclosed gorges along with Tertiary flora-covered islets. The area includes a yew grove with ancient species. Another miracle of nature is the royal platanus grove, the largest one in the Caucasus. Thousands of huge oriental planes (Platanus orien­talis) grow along the riverbanks, boasting a history of 400-500 years, according to English dendrologists' estimates. The preserve also includes the only grove in the south of Armenia with Oriental Beech (Fagus orientalis), Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and many other rare species growing.  

Located on the northern slopes of the Meghri mountain range at elevations 700-2400m above sea level, this reserve and its surrounding area attract a variety of bird species.

Landscape diversity creates a vast range of habitats for species of almost all ecological groups of birds. The entire intact area of the broadleaf forest offers a unique environment which is radically different from the rest of the landscape habitats. The lush undergrowth, forest floor, herbage and small forest glades covered with shrubs create favorable conditions for birds. The crowns of old-growth oak, hornbeam, maple and European ash trees provide nesting grounds for such birds of prey as European Honey-buzzard, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Booted Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Black Woodpecker can be seen and heard in the depths of the forest. Great Spotted and Eurasian Green Woodpeckers occur in open woodlands, with Syrian and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers seen at the edge of the forest. The noisy Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Blackbird, Common Wood-pigeon, European Turtle-dove will guide you through the trail, while elusive Hawfinch and brightly-colored Eurasian Bullfinch may occasionally capture your sight in the area. The forest is home to Spotted Flycatcher and rarities such as Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers. Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Great and Coal Tits occur in the understory and on the fringe shrubs. At night you may hear the monosyllabic whistle of Eurasian Scops-owl and the howls of Tawny Owl.

The upper tree line and the subalpine zone are home to Astragalus and Acantholimon plant species which provide refuge for Rock Bunting, Eurasian Skylark and Water Pipit. While traversing the uppermost edges of the forest you may flush the Caucasian grouse (endemic to the Caucasus), lurking in the tall grass. At the highest mountain zone the reserve which is outstanding for its relief-dissection and abundant scree slopes intermingling with grassy hillsides will give away the far-reaching call of Caspian Snowcock that is first heard and then seen.

Patches of mountain steppes interrupted by forest areas also boast a variety of birds, with scree slopes, rock outcrops, wild rose bushes and hawthorn shrubs attracting species such as Ring Ouzel and Rock Thrush. Eurasian Chiffchaff, Greenish Warbler occur deep in the shrubs, with Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat found on top. Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Snake-eagle and Common Kestrel can often be seen in the sky scanning the area for food.  Shikahogh reserve is also home to Common Redstart, Isabelline Wheatear, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Tawny Pipit and many other brightly-colored passerines.

 

 

 


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