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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Republic of Kazakhstan 2003,
Blitterswijckseweg 3, 5871 CD Broekhuizenvorst, The Netherlands (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kazakhstan is the eighth largest country in the world, situated on the edge of the Western Palearctic area. It stretches almost 3,000 km from the Volga Delta in the west to the west border of Mongolia in the east, and 1,800 km from Russia in the north to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the south. It occupies a territory of no less 2,717,300km². Of the landscape plains cover 60%, hummocks 30% and mountains and foothills up to 10%. Central and northern Kazakhstan holds the majority of the 34,500 lakes. The largest and well-known lakes are the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea, and lakes Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz and Kushmurun. The majority of rivers such as Ural, Irgiz, Turgai, Sarysu, Nura, Ili etc. belong to the closed catchment areas of large lakes. Only the rivers Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol flow to the Arctic Ocean.
Kazakhstan is rich in oil, gas, coal, copper, iron,
zinc, lead, aluminium and uranium. It has a network of oil and gas pipelines,
railways and motorways, and modern telecommunication and aviation. Kazakhstan
mainly produces grain and meat.
Kazakhstan has a great diversity of landscapes: different types of steppes and north desert, foliaceous and coniferous forests, large lakes, and river valleys, huge mountains with magnificent gorges and white-capped picks. The northernmost region is represented by the forest-steppe ecosystems of the Western-Siberian Lowland. Further south, these ecosystems change for the steppe ones followed by extensive desert covering over 44% of the total area of the country. The mountains belts include different types of forests, alpine meadows, tundra, permanent snow belts and glaciers.
This geographical location and diversity provide a rich composition of flora and fauna with over 6,000 species of vascular plants and 835 vertebrate species. There are 495 (and a 449 extra more subspecies) bird species, including 396 breeding species, the rest are migrating and wintering species. Also 400 species of butterflies, 50.000+ species of insects, 178 (and an extra 244 subspecies) species of mammals, 49 (35 subspecies) species of reptiles, 12 (and a 9 subspecies extra) species of amphibian, 104 (and a extra 71 subspecies) species of fishes and 3 species of cyclostomata.
Animal life in Kazakhstan varies by region. The republic is home to the extremely rare Saiga Antelope, which is protected by government decree. The Saiga inhabits the steppes, as do Siberian Roe Deer, Wolves, Foxes and Badgers. The Bukhara Deer is exotic as there are only about 300 animals of this species left in the world. At present, the population of wolves in Kazakhstan has reached 125,000 animals and continues to grow. The Ermine and Sable are found in the hills. Various animals thrive in the deserts, including Goitred (Persian) Gazelle; rodents, such as Gopher, Sand Rat, and Jerboa; and reptiles, such as Lizards and Snakes. Wild Boars, Jackal, and Deer are found near the rivers and lakes. The mountains are home to Asian Ibex (Siberian [Himalayan] ibex, Lynx, Wolf, Wild Boar and Brown Bear. The endangered Snow Leopard, which has long been illegally hunted for its fur, also lives in the mountains, preying on Ibex. Few endemics can be found like Desert Dormouse and Selvin's Mouse the endemic of the Western Tien-Shan is very interesting and also Menzbier's Marmot. And extensive hunting on the Kazakhstan territory, since mid-20th century caused the extinction of a Kazakhstan Asiatic Wild Ass species and Turan Tiger, in 70th - Tugai Deer and, probably, Cheetah.
The target species for most birdwatchers in Kazakhstan are Sociable Lapwing, Relict Gull, Yellow-eyed Stock Dove, White-throated Bushchat, Dalmatian Pelican, Pallid Harrier, Black-winged Pratincole, Panders Ground Jay, Saxaul Sparrow, Black Lark, White-winged Lark, Ibisbill and Demoiselle Crane. But there is so much more to find and see in this enormous country!
I wish to thank the people who accompanied us for some time in Kazakhstan. Mostly many thanks to Andrey Gavrilov for inviting us, the excellent cooking and the generous hospitality. Many thanks also to Vladimir Kolbintsev, Arend Wassink, Arman Dichanbaev, Andrea Corso, Wim Nap, Edward Gavrilov, Klara Sarsekova en the rest of the very kind people at Chokpak station. Also thanks to WN, AW, AG, VK for correcting an earlier draft on mistakes!
11th September 2003 Arrivals in Almaty
and transfer to the house from Arman.
12th September 2003 Morning spent in arranging visa, afternoon spent in Botanical Garden and Zoological Institute. Slept by Arman!
13th September 2003 Day spent travelling from Almaty to Chokpak, some afternoon bird watching.
14th September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
15th September 2003 Travelling to Kyzylkol, some bird watching at some stopovers and at Kyzylkol.
16th September 2003 Whole day Kyzylkol.
17th September 2003 Whole day Kyzylkol.
18th September 2003 Whole day Kyzylkol.
19th September 2003 Travelling to Chokpak, some bird watching at some spots.
20th September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
21st September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
22nd September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
23rd September 2003 Travelling to Almaty, brief bird watching during travelling.
24th September 2003 Travelling from Almaty to Big Almaty Lake, afternoon bird watching here.
25th September 2003 Morning bird watching at Kosmos Station, travelling back to Almaty.
26th September 2003 Flight home.
I try to outline short how and where the locations are situated globally and what birds you could encounter. As we where in company of people from the Zoological Institute from Almaty we didn't have to search for the locations they just drove us to the spots.
Situated on the foothills of the Western Tian-shan, Chokpak ornithological station is a unique place in Kazakhstan. This is about 600 kms west of Almaty, Nearest big cities are Chimkent, 80 km to west and Taraz (before Zambyl), 90 km to east; nearest villages - Chokpak railway station (3 km from spring camp and 1 km from the autumn camp) and Vysokoe (4km), (42o31'N 70o38'E). The ringing station is named after the Chokpak Pass (1200 M above sea level) between Dzabaglytau (part of Talassky Alatau) and Boroldai Ridges being of part of Karatau. It's not far from both borders of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
It's in existence since 1966 and operated in spring and autumn, and the main aim is the study of bird migration, mainly ringing and catching is carried out, yearly visual accounts are done of migrants. Before the opening of the ornithological station, there was already a history of 40 years of bird ringing in the Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve (nearby) (The first birds in reserve Aksu-Dzhabagly were ringed in 1968). The first ringing started as early as in 1926 by the zoologist V.A. Selevin.
To catch the birds at Chokpak there is the use of several mist nets (put up around the camp) and 3 large Heligoland type traps of 12 meters in height, 40 meters width and 65 to 70 meters long. Up to date now over 2 million birds have been trapped of more than 180 different species. The daily record on 3 may 1977 is up to 14.470 birds! Yearly between 14.000 and 50.000 birds are caught; sparrows form main substance!
287 bird species that breed on the territory of Kazakhstan,
Kyrgizstan, Siberia, Mongolia and China
and winter in India, Pakistan, on Middle East, in Africa and in southern Europe are met here. Only those birds that need to fly in eastern direction go through Chokpak Pass, some of them in great numbers. Because of this reason number of some bird groups is very different at spring and autumn.
Species include: Bee-eater, Nightjar, Red-headed Bunting, Rufous Turtle Dove, Roller, Spanish and Indian Sparrows, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and Sand Martin, Hobby, Rose-coloured Starling, Golden Oriole, and several different Wagtails all regularly caught in the spring. You can observe the migration of numerous birds of prey in the autumn. Some of them are caught with traps, for example: Shikra, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu`s Harrier, Common Buzzard (subspecies japonicus), Long-legged Buzzard, & Honey Buzzard. In autumn days with up to 2.000 raptors an hour passing per hour is no exception! Good species to find here are Eastern-honey Buzzard, Yellow-eyed Stock dove and Yellow-breasted Tit.
Accommodation is available in the van or tent. The dates for visitors are: 20th April - 30th May, and 1st September - 30th October. Participants arrive at Almaty airport, then take 1-2 days in the city for registration (accommodation in hotel) and transfer to Chokpak station by car (12 hours duration); the distance between Almaty and Chokpak station being 600 km.
This lake is between the city's Chulakkurgan and Kumkent and can be found at 43°, 60' and 69°, 40'. It's 165 km northwest of Dzhambul in central-south Kazakhstan and lies on the southern edge of the steppes and deserts
This lake what is salty has few freshwater rivers floating into the lake. The lake is surrounded by steppe landscape, and is sparsely vegetated around. In the reddish hills around the lake there can be shark teeth found up to 342 meter above sea level!
In the vegetation near a small river we caught birds in mist nets and we erected some nets on the edge of the lake to catch waders.
In the area many birds breed and migrate through.
Just as recent as September 2001 in autumn for the first time the large gathering of White-headed Ducks was found here. The lake appears to be an important post-breeding area for White-headed Duck from the northern steppes of Kazakhstan. In spring of May 2000 only 12 birds where found, and maybe the species even breeds here. Between the 75.000 birds here on the lake no less then 2.838 White-headed Ducks where counted here in September 2001! And as recent as July 2001 a group of no less then 400+ Caspian Plovers where found here!
Lake Kyzylkol freezes from about end November - mid-December and it is likely that the wildfowl disperse before then, White-headed Ducks probably moving west to winter in the Caspian area or even Turkey.
Ili-Alatau National Park
The Ili-Alatau National Park is one of the young national
parks of Kazakhstan, it has been formed in 1996 for protection of a unique
natural complex of the mountains Zailiisky Alatau and rare species of animals
and plants. The territory of the Park covers 180.000 ha. It includes a central
part of Zailiisky Alatau from the Chemolgan River in the west to the territory
of the Turgen River in the east. The reserve of Almaty and other forestry's
are also included into the territory of the Park. The protection of the park
is provided by a constant control of its inspector's staff located on 25 cordons,
on periphery and key cordons.
The landscape of the region differs by its variety. In the mountain of Zailisky Alatau you can see an alternation of the natural areas from steppe to tundra and polar ice. There are over 10 lakes, which are the real pearls of Zailisky Alatau. The Big Almaty Lake is one of the beautiful places of the Park.
The flora of the Park consists of more 1500 species, 40 of them are found in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan and 30 species are endemic only for Kazakhstan. The fauna of the National Park is rather various. The list of the vertebrates consists of about 200 species. The fauna of fishes includes 8 species and only 1 (Ili Marinka) meets in the rivers of the Ili-Balkhashsky river basin. List of amphibians and reptiles of the Park includes 10 species.
The avifauna of the park consists of more than 130 species of birds. You can find species like Red-mantled Rosefinches, Red-fronted Serins, White-tailed Rubythroat, Sulphur-bellied Warblers, Black-throated, Altai and Brown Accentors, White-winged Grosbeaks, White-browed Tit-Warbler (Svertkovz Tit-warbler), Hodgson's Mountain-Finch, Brandt's Mountain-Finch, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Alpine Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, Ibisbill, Himalayan Snowcock, Golden Eagle, Blue-capped Redstart, Songar Tit, Sulphur-bellied, Hume's and Greenish warblers, Lammergeier, White-bellied & Brown Dipper, White-winged Grosbeaks, Oriental Turtle-Dove and Eversmann's Redstart.
The fauna of mammals includes more than 40 species, only 7 species are found in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan (Stone Marten, Snow Leopard, Lynx and Brown Bear, Argali of Tian-Chan, Porcupine, Manul). Snow Leopard and Argali of Tian-Chan are found in the International Red Data Book. 5 species of the hoofed mammals such as Maral, Siberian Mountain Ibex, Roe Deer and Wild Boar excite a big interest of tourists, amateurs of the nature and experts. You can meet also Argalis of Tian Shan in the Park.
To get up to Big Almaty Lake there is a bad road, but in case of desire you may walk by foot. You need buses number 27 or 93. They stop at the bus stop near intersection of Navoi Street and Al-Farabi Ave. Usually this route is very crowded, so it's better to come early. You need to get off at stop "Vtoraya Ges" and then walk along the road near 15 kilometres. It is rather long way, but the aim is worth it. In winter time the lake freezes over. In reminding time it shines from within by tender bluish-greenish light on the white peaks background. From the lake the road rises to Jusaly-Kezen pass, where station of space rays is located. The distance from the lake to station is 8 kilometres. Walking by the road you will meet the road forking (3 kilometres from the lake). There is an astronomic institute. Rooms for rent are available. Having agreed to heads of observatory one can look through telescopes on stars.
The Tien-Shan (GAISH) observatory beyond Big Almaty Lake is a challenge to reach both for hikers and drivers. Visits are usually scheduled for weekends. Star watching plus a lecture costs $10 for a group of 10 persons or less. For bigger groups, the charge is $20. Astronomers speak some English but translation is preferable. You can (actually, you will have to as only kamikaze can drive back in the middle of the night) stay overnight on the observatory's site in houses ($10 per person) or hotel ($15). 3 meals a day are an additional $10 charge. Director Kenes Kuratov can be reached at 25-20-92 (some English), Sholpan at 24-66-70 (evenings, only Russian). They arrange transportation by car (10 persons) or bus (25 persons) for $5 per person, i.e. $50 for a car and $100 for a bus. Please note that the road condition to the observatory (especially its part to the Big Almaty Lake) is disastrous. So I advise that you do not drive yourself unless you are good at driving on mountain serpentine roads.
VISA & COSTS
The ticket cost about 860 Euro, visa 86 euro and an other 54 euro and the cost in Kazakhstan where about 425 euro.
We bought a Lufthansa ticket from Amsterdam to Frankfurt an Main and the straight to Almaty. We arranged the visa via the embassy at Bruxelles, and at Almaty we have to arrange an other permit via the Tour firm that cost us 54 US dollars.
Further the Institute arranged everything for us: food, accommodation and transport.
People in Almaty like to get paid by US dollars but prefer now euro as this is a more stable coin then the Tenge (rate proximity 100 tenge is 9 eurocent).
Contact for Chokpak:
Institute of Zoology
Travelling through Kazakhstan felt save, as normal a bigger city like Almaty are more risky then life in the country. Roads where bitumen, some parts where real worst, but most was ok (not compared with roads in Holland, where you can find hardly any bump in the roads).
Food is very good, and many European things can be even found in the smaller local shops. Things like Shaslik are extremely good and grains are wonderful to eat too.
Although our Russian (most spoken still rather then Kazak) is not good (if fact even we don't speak it at all), people where very friendly and cooperative.
The electricity net is the same as Holland, and most things you can buy in the larger towns. It's good to take medicines etc with you when you travel to areas outside the main cities.
At night it cools down well and warm clothing is advisable. Up in the mountains it can even freeze so be prepared. During the day temperature's can get up very high and then suns cream is a must.
In mountains you can drink the water easily from the rivers (bit a muddy taste but good drinkable) at Kyzylkol we only drunk from the well that came from deep down the surface (very nice water albeit a bit salty).
11-September-03 Arrivals in Almaty and transfer to the house from Arman.
Already on 10 September I left after work to a friend of mine to be closer to Amsterdam Airport. On the 11th Eus van den Burg brought me to the airport and at 7 o'clock I walked in and soon I met my travel mate Wim Nap with his parents at the airport.
We where airborne around 9. and after a flight of a little over an hour we arrived at Frankfurt am Main airport.
12-September-03 Arranging visa.
After a good night's sleep we had some breakfast and went with our taxi-driver and Arman to the airport to check if AC's luggage had already arrived. But sadly not, the first birding however produced the first species like Common Myna, House Sparrow, Eurasian Magpie, Great Tit, Collared Dove and Western Jackdaw of the soemmeringii race. Of the last one was remarkable to see how the variation is in the brightness of the sides of the neck. Also the Great Tits looks a bit paler than our Tits here in Holland although it is the same race.
Very nice was a feeding Humming-bird Hawk-mot Macroglossum stellatarum feeding at a Centaurea spec. near the airport. As there was just a good influx in Holland during the same period and the already seen bird species around me felt like I've not been from home yet, but things changes rapidly..
A short drive we took to the visa office where we could pick up our passports again in the afternoon ($ 54, -- less in the wallet). And then we drove to an exchange office, and after exchanging some money we took a walk to the Zoological Institute. We hoped to do some birding in the Botanical Gardens, but changes in management did no allow us to enter the park, but as bird watchers tend to do, we found a hole in the gate and entered it from the back. We soon found a group of birds what contains few Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers, Yellow-browed Warblers (minority), Blyth's Reed-warbler, Common Pheasant and a Sulphur-bellied Warbler (a new species!). Also commoner birds like Magpie and Great tits where around. Very nice was to note the difference in call between both Hume's and Yellow-browed Warbler. Surprisingly the Hume's Y-B Warblers had several calls, and that reminded me of a bird that I saw on 2 January 1996 at The Hague in Holland, this bird had also various calls and caused some ID problems.
We took a stroll through the city (very green, loads of trees) and after getting a stiff neck because of the beautiful woman walking at the streets; we finally arrived at the Zoological Institute. During our stroll we recorded several Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Red-rumped Swallow of the common rufula race, Common Kestrel, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail and Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow and Bath White.
In the museum after a short lunch we went into the collection to study the various skins present in the museum. It took several hours to finally complete our quest. A look outside the museum produced a nice second year dark morph Booted Eagle and some Wood Pigeons. Afterwards we had a beer at a restaurant and we went to Arman's home again. We had at his place a very nice diner because his son would turn 4 the day after and we could not say no to a few glasses of Vodka.
Late at night around 12 AC heard that his luggage arrived at the airport and so AC and Arman went to the airport to collect the luggage. And finally we all could go to sleep for the travelling we'd do tomorrow.
Two new species today: Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Common Pheasant!
13-September-03 A day of travelling between Almaty and Chokpak (600+ kms)
Today was the day of the long journey to Chokpak. We left Arman's house at 7 o'clock and after an hour we where outside the city.
With Sasha and Arman in front and we with three persons in the back of the Lada it was a hard journey. It took about 10 hours to get to the destination (costs 150 dollar) and was about 600 kilometres.
During driving we saw some species and few with some stops on the way. We recorded 2 adult and 2 juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings, Merlin (1), Golden Eagle (2), Red-throated Pipit (1), Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Waterhen (1), Common redshank (2), Garganey (4) and many Long-legged Buzzards, Calandra lark, White & Masked Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Western Jackdaw, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Starling, Hoopoe, Collared Dove, Common Myna, Goldfinch, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow and few other common species.
Just before we got to Chokpak I saw my third lifer this trip a group of 70+ Demoiselle Cranes!
The arrival at Chokpak was an arrival full of joy. Mainly Arend Wassink was very happy to see us, and after a meeting round we had a cup of tea. Afterwards we collect our stuff from the taxicab and placed it in our cabin. The genes where screaming for birds and we posted ourselves before the ringing station and soon I saw a lifer in the form of a nice passing Shikra! Another Shikra also passed by and brought us in a good mood. Also the other passing bird like a nice juvenile Pallid Harrier, and adult male Crested Honey-buzzard, 50 European Bee-eaters, many Steppe Buzzards (100+) proved a new taxa for me. The scrub also gave us species like Ortolan Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat. So our first impression of Chokpak was just wonderful and it became even better when a flock of 70+ Lesser kestrels choose the Heligoland traps as a roost.
We had an excellent meal and a few beers and then went into the cabin to have a good night of sleep.
Today ends with two new lifers for me: Demoiselle Crane and Shikra!
14-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
After waking up I went to the main tent, but couldn't get that far as two Nightjars where caught and they both belonged to the nice pale sarudyni race. These birds where extremely tame (or stressed?) and stayed even on your hand after trying to release them. After a nice breakfast we watched the steady raptor migration and decided to get uphill and watch the streams of raptors passing by.
First a Greenish Warbler was handed to me and I soon could study this bird from close distance, this first year bird was just wonderful as where the "fulvescens" type Chiffchaff (nice "piep" call like tristis birds), Lesser Whitethroats and one bird belonged to the smaller types like minula, Common Rosefinches and a Grey Wagtail was passing by.
Soon after I sat down on the hill I saw a Yellow-eyed Stock Dove passing by in a flock of Stock Dove and had seen my first lifer of the day very quickly.
Other birds that passed by the next hour where an adult male Osprey, 13 Crested Honey-Buzzards including none juvenile birds only adults, 2 Booted Eagles, 3 Marsh Harriers, 1 adult female Pallid Harrier, 3 European Sparrowhawks, 3 Gray Herons, 3 Oriental Turtle-doves, 1000+ Steppe Buzzards, few Black kites and Common Honey-buzzards. Also 140+ Common Bee-eaters, 27 Demoiselle Cranes, 2 adult Steppe Eagles and 7 Greater Short-toed Larks.
Back at the camp we saw a nice neumanni race of the Spotted Flycatcher sitting at close range in the sun! After studying a bit on this bird we had our supper, what contained a very nice a good soup.
After some relaxing we decided to take a stroll in the fields behind Chokpak station. We had a very nice selection on bird here in the fields like Northern Wheatear, Pied Wheatear (a young male), Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails (not possible to identify in the field or in the hand), several Siberian Stonechats, Lesser Grey-shrike (1 first winter), Daurian Shrike (juvenile bird) and a group of 24 Grey Partridges of the robustra ssp that looks a bit more greyish than the birds we normally see in Holland and 2 Common Quails where fledged from the vegetation.
The Turkestan Shrike or hybrid was however a big surprise when I got back home, study of the video proved here that an adult male of the "karelini" type could be a good candidate, this bird was filmed instead of what I thought was a Lesser Grey Shrike. Identification is based on rufous crown contrasting with greyish upperparts (strongly even), a not well developed supercillium, a really black facial mask, very white under parts (could not found a trace of orange in it, maybe a little but not visible), reddish-brown tail, bird shows a white primary patch in some shots, tips of the tertails are clearly white, and dark wings contrasting with the rest of the body, bill has a pale base and black tip. It could be good for "karelini" but the well-marked head pattern (black mask) and the very rufous crown could be caused by hybrid influences.
Also a look up was real worth to do as no less than 9 Steppe Eagles, 8 Demoiselle Cranes, 1 juvenile Pallid Harrier, 2 Short-toed Eagles, 1 Griffon Vulture, 2 Monk Vultures, Rock Dove, Sand Martin of both riparia and diluta race's (diluta has a very blurred breast-band compared with riparia and is paler than the nominate), several Lesser Kestrels and a Roller passing by.
The walk back to the camp produced a calling Blue-cheeked Bee-eater but the bird was too high in the sky to pick up! Also we noted a very nice Hoopoe feeding on crickets and an Ortolan Bunting.
The whole day good numbers of Steppe Buzzards where passing over. A small count by WN and AC while AW and I where trying to photograph the Daurian Shrike produced 670 Steppe Buzzards, 5 Crested Honey-buzzards, 6 Booted Eagles, 1 Pallid Harrier, 1 Osprey, 1 Sparrowhawk and 22 Steppe Eagles. They all just flew over my head without noticing them!
Back at the camp I filmed a nice Cardinal Pandora pandorine! Watching the Lesser Kestrels trying to land on the Heligoland traps was a very nice sight and bird numbers topped a bit less than the previous evening but no less then 65 birds where present!
We had a pleasant evening with again good food and a nice beer.
Today one new species: Yellow-eyed Stock-dove!
What better way to spend your birthday than in Kazakhstan with birds all over? We woke up early, had our breakfast and had a short glimpse on the passage en then left the camp for a 400 km journey to Kyzylkol. We missed a Golden Jackal, which was heard by Andrey!
During the drive to our first stop we did not see many species worth mentioning. Only the more common ones like Rollers and Bea-eaters.
We stopped at first at a spot 3 kilometre west of Kamennoe at Darbaza, over here is a lake situated in the middle of the steppe and some birds can be found in the direct vicinity of the lake. In the half an hour we spent over here we recorded few very nice species. It included my first Chukars; a group of 31 birds was nicely seen. Also here 21 Great Black-headed Gulls, 1 second-year Common Gull, 10+ Baraba Gulls, few Black-headed Gulls, 15 Ruddy Shelduck, 1 third year male Pallid Harrier, Gray Heron, Kentish Plover (1), Little Stint (3), Common Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Pintail (1), Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Short-toed Lark, White wagtail (alba), Yellow Wagtail (ssp), Common Coot, Mallard, Hobby, Marsh Harrier and a Black-winged Stilt (1). This lake was situated nicely in the middle of some steppe landscape. Some mud was present as an ideal spot for shorebirds. Probably a very good drinking spot for sandgrouse too.
In the area while driving back to the main road and some kilometres up the road we recorded Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (perched on the wires), Isabelline Wheatear (2), Steppe Eagle, Siberian Stonechat, Montagu's Harrier (adult male), Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Gadwall (1), Crested Lark, Black-eared Kite, Long-legged Buzzard and few Brown-necked Ravens in between the Carrion Crows. A nice Greyling Charzara inarvata flew by here also.
From here on till the lake at Kyzylkol we recorded many Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters, Rollers and Isabelline Shrikes (ssp). And few other species where seen during this long drive. A city was almost completely abandoned while we where driving through as were the same case for more cities. People leave the small town and head for the large cities and in the rural areas less agricultural activities are now taking place as many farmers left the various areas.
After buying some melons we drove from Kumkent to Kyzylkol Lake. After few kilometres on the main road we left via a dust road to the lake. We arrived at the Kyzylkol Lake and saw directly many larks flying around and saw directly this was a true birding Mecca.
A short stop at the well produced a Tawny Pipit and a Grey Wagtail. A bit further we also had a stop, which produced a Temminck's Stint, Dunlin, Little Stint, Ruddy Shelduck, Izabelline Shrike ssp, White-headed Duck and many other interesting birds.
We then headed further to pick our spot to stay for a few days. A nice young Daurian Shrike gave away a nice show for us. We went close to the edge of the lake, near a small river with bushes and set up our camp. We unpacked everything, and set up the main tent and put out our own small tents. We installed everything and had a cup of tea.
While still drinking tea two Marbled Ducks flew over the camp and gave me a new tick.
Some general birding in the area produced some nice birds and we set up 4 mist nets. We recorded while busy and an adult Turkestan Shrike (rufous crown, contrasting with mantle, mantle brown, and very white under parts), Daurian Shrike few, Demoiselle Crane (28), Common Rosefinch, Lesser White-throat, Lesser Kestrel, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Bimaculated Lark, Garganey, Common Coot, 21 Gray Herons, Wood sandpiper, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff (fulvescens), Bluethroat, Yellow Wagtail, Red-necked Phalarope, Teal, Ruff, Pallid Harrier 2 third year males and 2 juvenile's and an adult female, Little Gull, Slender-billed Gull and Eurasian Spoonbill (47). And all this in just few hours of not very hard bird watching. The Bimaculated Larks where a new species for me and many birds passed by and where easily to identify from Calandra Lark (also many of them here) by their lack of white trailing edge and a bit lighter underwing then Calandra Lark. What a spot!
We had some good food and during our diner we heard several groups of Demoiselle Cranes flying into the lake in the dark. There voices were not as deep as Common Crane's!
We went to bed and had a good sleep, although it became very cold during the night!
As a good birthday present I had 3 new species: Chuckar, Bimaculated Lark and Marbled Teal.
After waking up (due to Demoiselle Cranes who departed from the lake) and a breakfast I decided to head to the well we passed yesterday to have a shower and do some birding during walking. Watching birds from the camp before I headed produced White-headed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes, an adult female Pallid Harrier (no moult) and several more common species.
Around the camp an adult male Turkestan Shrike was present!
I then started walking and soon I located the first of in total 21 first winter plumaged Daurian Shrikes I came across and just 3 adult birds. I noticed some variation between the several young birds on the under parts as it varies from dark to light.
I saw most of the Daurian Shrikes in scattered bushes around the whole place, twice I observed two birds as close as 1 metre from each other.
After I started walking and had studied the first shrikes I scared off the Pallid Harrier female who had dropped down the edge of the lake. Soon I heard a strange call and there it was my first group of 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying straight over the camp. Many species where seen and soon I was walking to the large hill between the well and the camp. On the base of this hill I recorded 2 Isabelline Wheatears, 4 Desert Wheatears (2 males), many Tawny Pipits, a adult female Pallid Harrier (with two missing secondary on the right wing) and a third year male and 3 juvenile birds, 5 migrating Steppe Buzzards, Imperial Eagle (near adult), Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters (100's), Northern wheatear, Chiffchaff, Common Rosefinch, 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Marsh Harrier, Pied Wheatear and few other species.
The best species however of today was a rather poor seen Streaked Scrub Warbler in the vicinity of the Desert Wheatears. The bird was perched for a short time and was then seen in flight. The bird appeared very long-tailed in flight, small, was streaked on the back a head. Very small bird with long a tail. Could therefore not come to any other conclusion than that it was a Streaked Scrub warbler, because hardly any other bird looked like that!
At the well many birds came in for drinking, including a group of 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a beema Yellow Wagtail, Crested Larks, Northern Wheatears, Ortolan Bunting, Oriental Turtle Dove (2) and other birds. The shower was just great in the open of nature, water was cold but outside it was warm so very healthy.
Also while climbing through the hills I recorded few mammal species: Tolay Hare Lepus tolai (1), and Greater Gerbil Rhombomys opimus (5).
Also nice was a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling in a flock of migrating Eurasian Starlings.
The walk brought me except for the above mentioned species also Calandra larks (1000's), Bimaculated Lark (1000's), Short-toed Lark (100's), Lesser Short-toed Lark (6), Skylark (10), Crested Lark (3), Tree pipit (15), Yellow Wagtail (± 3.000), White Wagtail (both races, personata just 2),
A scan at the lake on several spots during the day brought me (just indicative numbers) 450 Ruddy Shelducks, 25.000+ Common Coot, 2200 White-headed Ducks, 8000 Red-necked Phalaropes, 8 Common Shelduck, 40+ Little Grebe, 1500 Teal, 32.000 Common Pochard, 300 Tufted Ducks, 2 Red-crested Pochard, 24 Gray herons, 2000+ Black-necked Grebe's. 4 Great-crested Grebe's, 50 Pintail, 1500 Wigeons and few Mallards and Shovelers. A check along the edges of the lake produced about 700 Little Stints, 20 Avocet, 200 Common Ringed Plover, 40 Wood Sandpipers, 50 Dunlin, 100 Lapwing, 60 Ruff, 40 Black-tailed Godwit and few Common Greenshanks.
Had also a good look at the various gulls around and that brought me a Great Black-headed Gull (juvenile), Caspian Gull (3), Slender-billed Gull 14 passing by to the south and few Little Gulls where present on the lake. Also many swallows where around the lake including Barn Swallow and Sand Martin.
Back at the camp I saw another adult Daurian Shrike, also a nice adult White-tailed Eagle around flew at some distance.
Some checks of the nets produced in and out the nets Blyth's Reed-warbler, Booted Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Bluethroat and Common Kestrel.
Like yesterday some Caspian Reed Warblers where present in the river alongside the camp. Today I could see them well and a nice taxa to see.
The end of the show produced a group of 11 Common Cranes passing by and late at night at huge group of Demoiselle Cranes came down to sleep.
We had a nice dinner and some beers and went to bed early!
Today one new species: Black-bellied Sand-grouse
I woke up when the sun started to shine, still cold but a warm cup of tea kept me going. And soon a Red-throated Pipit past over our heads calling loudly.
Arend and Andrea went to the well I visited yesterday.
Wim and I patrolled the nets the whole day and except for the more commoner species we caught a fine Moustached Warbler, 2 Booted Warblers (were seen), a fine Paddyfield Warbler and 1 male and 2 female type Bluethroats. Also 2 more Moustached warblers where seen in the field as few fuscus Reed Warblers.
Birding around the camp today produced an Osprey (juvenile), Slender-billed Gull (juvenile), Penduline Tit (5), Caspian Gull (adult), Imperial Eagle, Gull-billed Tern (adult summer plumage), Quail 1, Red-necked Grebe 3, Red-crested Pochard 4, Red-necked Phalarope 8.000, White-headed Duck and a third-year male and 2 female Pallid Harriers.
Also I came across a Dione Snake Elaphe dione 3 times today while checking the nets.
A flock 75 Steppe Buzzards came past us late in the day. The groups was soaring above the camp and were soon joined by two Demoiselle Cranes.
Today 3 new species: Moustached Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler and Dalmatian Pelican
A crazy start of the day. I woke up because a large group of Demoiselle Cranes left the lake very early. Of course it was extremely cold (around 5ºC) like every morning and it took some time to finally get out! Got my clothes on and took the walk to the main tent (just 40 metres). Firstly an Imperial Eagle flew past, followed by an adult White-tailed Eagle and just behind it a juvenile Osprey. You see the Daurian Shrike' already in top of the bushes, you see a Blyth's Reed Warbler crawling through the bushes and finally a juvenile Pallid Harrier is passing overhead. And then you haven't even reached the headquarters! The cup of tea I drank while scanning the lake with my scope and seeing White-headed Ducks everywhere as Red-necked Phalaropes makes you think: now I have to started the real bird watching.........
A juvenile Barred Warbler was calling in the bushes around the camp! The whole day WN and I explored the nets in hope to catch something unusual but the normal things like Chiffchaff, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Rosefinch where caught! During the morning we had twice (3+2) Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying over! While checking the nets we came across two Great Bitterns and a flock of 2 adult and a juvenile White pelicans where the real highlight of the day! And a Quail was flushed twice!
A larger gull present on the lake today was not a Caspian Gull but turned out to be a taimyrensis Heuglin's Gull. Mainly because of the flesh coloured legs, long wings behind tail (contra mongolicus), typical p10 pattern, streaked head, mantle colour equally with Caspian Gull, strong gonys angle. Also a first winter Caspian Gull was present too on the lake!
Once I came across a Dice Snake Natrix tessellata when I was taking a bath! While doing so I had 4 Red-crested Pochards behind me on the water, few Daurian Shrikes in sight, a juvenile Pallid Harrier overhead and few Blyth's Reed Warblers, I've taken worst showers in my life!
Around the camp two Oriental Skylarks where flying around most of the day! While photographing a nice Calandra Lark I saw a group of larger birds approaching and these where no less then 24 Dalmatian Pelicans. There was also a passage of Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters and Yellow Wagtails during the day and several times a high flock was found!
Around the camp we located in the bushes a Moustached Warbler, few Booted Warblers and several Bluethroats (caught few). Also a steady migration of many House Sparrows (indicus).
While looking at one of the few Daurian Shrikes around the camp a nice Merlin flew over, later followed by another one. Of course during the day many larks where seen such as Bimaculated, Calandra, Crested, Short-toed and Sky Larks.
At the lake I found between the large gathering of White-headed Ducks, Red-necked Phalarope's and other more comer species Pintails, Shovelers and Wigeons. Along the edges Common Redshank, Green Sandpiper where present as well as a few Black-headed Gulls and a single Slender-billed Gull flew past! Also near the stream past the camp still some fuscus Reed Warblers where present!
At dusk we had a few Black-crowned Night-herons flying around the camp calling loudly!
We had some good drinks and a chat and went to bed tired!
Except for the Dione and Dice Snake we recorded at Kyzylkol in the last days Tatar Sand Boa eggs Erix tataricus (22), we found a skin of a Reuss' Whip Snake Columber nummifer, Sunwatcher Phynocephalus helioscopus (caught by Vladimir), several Stepperunner Eremias arquta and Rapid Racerunner Eremias velox. Also daily we recorded several Marsh Frogs Rana ridibunda!
In total we recorded no less than 149 species at Kyzylkol in this short time!
Today one new species: White Pelican
We woke up at first light and had breakfast. Soon afterwards I emptied the nets and we did some birding around. Two Cetti's Warblers of the albiventris race where present at the reeds at the end of the lake. A female type Citrine Wagtail kept us busy for a long time and still I believe the bird was a Citrine but we could not all agree with the same ID! AC proves later on a picture that it was indeed a first year Citrine Wagtail.
We also recorded a small flock of 6 Lesser Short-toed Larks flying past and shortly later a flying Oriental Skylark. Together with the recorded Skylark, Bimaculated Lark, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark and Short-toed Lark and nice variation on larks in less then 2 hours at one spot!
A nice adult female Pallid Harrier gave away a nice show! While watching the large concentrations of ducks and other wildfowl on the lake some Black-bellied Sandgrouses (1,3,1) passed by overhead. Between the large flocks 70.000+ birds we still found large numbers of White-headed Ducks (2.200+), Red-necked Phalaropes (8.000+), some Black-headed Gulls and some flocks of Gray Herons. A group of 6 Dalmatian Pelicans with one White Pelican where souring overhead while packing our stuff! They were circling around joined by some Demoiselle Cranes and some Steppe Buzzards and a group of Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters was passing by! The last circle around the nets before tearing them down brought us a nice young Grasshopper Warbler and overhead a cruising Sparrowhawk! I even forgot to mention that there where still many 'fulvescens' type Chiffchaffs around, Common Rosefinch, Blyth's Reed Warblers and Daurian Shrikes! And we have to leave the place....
Just away from the lake we recorded some Northern Wheatears, Pied Wheatear, a Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Daurian Shrike's, Steppe Eagle and 2 Monk Vultures and we were just on the bitumen road to Kumkent..
The way to Chokpak was rather boring although we saw several Blue-cheeked Bea-eaters, Isabelline Shrikes (ssp), Steppe Eagles and other more common stuff like Rollers etc. Also a Desert Wheatear during driving.
At the first lake we visited a bit passed the lake we had visited on our way to Kyzylkol were some hunters so we drove away after short while. Only some Little Grebes and Ruddy Shelducks were seen!
We then had a stop at Ters-Aschibulak for lunch and some bird watching. After we went down the hill to reach the shore of the lake we fledged a juvenile Saker and this bird we saw nicely although better was a wish! Some large white-headed Gulls on the lake had an adult plumage and had flesh collared legs and had short wingtips turned out to be "Mongolian" Gulls, also a first year Great Black-headed Gull flew by as did a first year Caspian Gull. Some Black-headed Gulls and Common Coots were feeding on the lake.
We then headed to Chokpak and arrived just before dusk, had some dinner, a beer and went to bed!
One new species: the nice juvenile Saker
20-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today because of the strong winds the whole day birding around the camp.
Today was a slow day and mainly used in studying more commoner bird and recap from the Kyzylkol visit! Although we didn't bird much in one of our first rounds to the nets we heard a scream from Arend he just heard and spotted a flock of tits included the both wanted species Turkestan Tit and Yellow-breasted Tit, Soon we were running like hell to see them, we were close to them as we saw a group of 5 Yellow-breasted Tits disappearing into some bushes. So only lousy views, dammmm. But then Arend walked towards me with a big smile, and his hand behind his back. And there it was a nice Yellow-breasted Tit, hooray! And soon we found several Turkestan Tits too in the bushes around the camp. Later that day some birds where caught, including a hybrid Turkestan x Great Tit!
During the day we noticed a steady passage of several raptors such as Steppebuzzards, Sparrowhawks, a single Booted Eagle a pale morph, a juvenile Golden Eagle, 2 juvenile Crested Honey-buzzards, 1 Long-legged Buzzard, 4 Monk Vulture's, loads of Lesser Kestrels (excluding the local group who came again to roost at the Heligoland Traps), several Hobby's (excluding the locals), 2 juvenile Pallid Harriers and a Northern Goshawk (caught a female). Also large groups of Bee-eaters, House Sparrows (indicus) and many swallows passing by. The highlight however was a distant Himalayan Griffon Vulture, which produced some discussion, as we recognised it not as such at first! A Raven was a welcome addition also!
Around the camp except for the normal Chiffchaff and Common Rosefinch we saw a Daurian Shrike and many Lesser Whitethroats. Of the last one we saw the smaller and bigger taxa! And ringed!
We had a very nice shower today at the camp!
No less then 3 new species: Yellow-breasted Tit, Turkestan Tit and Himalayan Vulture.
21-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today a whole day again around the camp at Chokpak and quietly we read a book and did some migration courting through the valley.
A very slow relaxing day which brought some nice species like: Crested Honey-buzzard 2 juveniles, Yellow-eyed Stock Dove 2 first winter birds, Hoopoe 1, Eurasian Linnet, Ortolan Bunting, Tree Pipit, Bee-eater, Stock Dove, Black-throated Thrush 2, Great Tit x Turkestan Tit hybrid 2, Yellow-breasted Tit, Greenish warbler 1, Booted Eagle 1 rufous morph, Turkestan Tit 3, House Sparrow 300+ (indicus), Lesser Kestrel 40, Osprey 1 and few Common Kestrels. Few of the birds where ringed today! These birds seen during the scarce moments of bird watching during the day!
Had a nice dinner and went to bed early!
22-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today a very relaxed day. In early morning I heard a Black-throated Thrush migrating over Chokpak station.
During the day many birds flew by and the list was impressive on the end of the day as we recorded in the direct vicinity of the camp Crested Honey-buzzards 6 juveniles, 1 third year, 7 adult, Pallid Harrier 4 juveniles, 1 third year male, 1 adult male, Booted Eagle 16, Yellow-breasted Tit 1, Turkestan Tit 10, Short-toed Lark, Common Rosefinch adult male, House Martin, Yellow-eyed Stock dove 1 adult, Hoopoe 1, Lesser Kestrel, Stock Dove, Ortolan Bunting, Tree Pipit, House Sparrow 1000's (indicus), Black Kite, Steppe Buzzard, Steppe Eagles and several more commoner species. Due to the strong winds many birds where blown in the Heligoland traps and many birds like Lesser kestrels and so on could be studied from close up. Also nice where the caught dragonflies between the caught birds, many Aesha crenata and Anax imperator were caught. Did not expect from the imperator that they were migrating in that kind of number (counted in the several cages no less than 150! Daily we saw several sympetum ssp but they were too hard to identify. We caught two Crested Honey-buzzards an adult female and a first year bird and we could study them well, also other raptors where caught!
At night we had a small party because it was our last day out on Chokpak station. We had several Vodka's till late at night. And late at night even a Grey Long-eared Bat Plecotus austriacus wardi was brought in (we released it the next morning).
23-September-03 Travelling day Chokpak to Almaty
When we woke up we know we have to pack our stuff to leave soon for Almaty. After a good breakfast we could see two adult Yellow-eyed Stock-dove's just caught and a White-winged Woodpecker was flying around. Also the Long-eared Bat we caught the previous day was still around as was a very tame Nightjar! The last one was just roosting on a branch and allowed us to take loads of photographs and video-footage from very close (20 cm) distant.
Just at the start of the trip we stopped in a small village where we recorded many Common Myna's and our first true Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis).
A stop for lunch half way produced several nice species including a nice third-year "fulvescens" Greater Spotted Eagle; this bird showed well in the telescope. Also at this spot a Steppe Eagle, Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Monk Vulture, Calandra Larks, Long-legged Buzzard and a loud calling Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler.
While driving we recorded 20+ Steppe Eagles, few Rollers (much less than on our way to Chokpak), few Isabelline Shrike spec, Crested Larks, Calandra Lark, 2 Pallid Harrier's, 1 Imperial Eagle and many Long-legged Buzzards. A group of cranes was too distant to identify flying some part of the trip along. We arrived when it was completely dark in Almaty!
We stayed at Andrey's places and slept very well after (and we were already used to it) some good food.
24-September-03 Trip into the Mountains
After a good night we got up, and had a small but good breakfast. As we had to arrange the payments and we had to wait for Vladimir to arrange some things we were, after collecting some money from a bank, off at 12 o'clock.
We were entering the mountains one pass to the west of the high-mountainous skating ring "Medeo", on mountain Kok - Tube.
We entered the start of the Zailisky Alatau after a half hour and we climbed our way up slowly. This road is nearly complete gravel, and in really bad condition on several places. When we left Almaty it was greyish weather with lots of fog, and it was the same in the mountains partly even worse. A Monk Vulture was flying directly at the start at a control post.
Remember the road to Lake Almaty can be closed due to abundant rain and is closed mostly between early October and the end of May due to snowfall.
When we made a stop on about 1000 metres we quickly recorded a male Pied Wheatear and then I saw a dipper flying past with no white at all, and soon we were watching our first Brown Dipper! The bird was very shy and showed itself badly, few time briefly perched.
On a moment we came out of the fog in a sunshiny paradise with beautiful mountains and snow. The landscape was just stunning and we had a stop for a photograph. Over here we saw a nice Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa. We soon headed up higher and at a small stream we saw a nice Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush, another new bird. While climbing up we saw a Eurasian Linnet and few Hume's yellow-browed Warblers and a true tristis Chiffchaff.
We arrived at our place for the night at Big Almaty Lake where the zoological institute had few houses for research. We could sleep in one of these houses. Some packing was done and we had a cup of tea. Then after finishing we directly headed out for the river mouth into Big Almaty Lake for the Ibisbill.
We started walking and recorded some Magpies around (clearly different because of their white in the wings compared to the European race). At the edge of the lake we found a nice Pied Wheatear followed by a small mammal, a Turkestan Red Pika Ochotona rutila. This is a very nice small reddish rabbit, very nice mammal.
We heard a small flock of tits that contained Songar Tits, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. The first species was new for me and after some difficulty we had good views.
A bit further between the rocks on the edge of the lake a Wren and a Black-throated Accentor where doing a game of hide and seek, and few people saw them well. I just saw few glimpses of this bird.
We then heard a Whimbrel like call and soon our first Ibisbill was flying around.
We went to the streambed and saw no less then 4 Ibisbills here, an adult with 3 youngsters. The bird gave away a very nice show and we could study them in detail.
A look into the tops of the mountains produced a sub adult and a juvenile type Lammergeyer in one view the sub adult was flying around with a juvenile Golden Eagle. Also a Nutcracker was calling, but didn't show itself to us, and huge groups of Alpine Choughs were flying around, on one moment above the 50+.
After really satisfying views of the Ibisbills we slowly walked back and located a young type Red-mantled Rosefinch uphill.
On our way back I saw a long wanted flower I wanted to see an Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum was growing along the road. A Water Pipit flew over and turned out to be of the blakistoni race, but better views where needed for me at least.
Back at the house we saw a nice male Eversmann's Redstart, this bird was singing and on one moment I had the bird as close as 4 metres from me.
After dinner I went out for a quick survey in the area, some trees with rocks on the edge of the lake where nice to check out. Soon I was climbing up and I scared of some Black-throated Thrushes. Then a nice Black-throated Accentor hopped in front of me and showed shortly very nice in front of me. A quick check produced about 20 Black-throated Thrushes including adult males and first winter males but no other species.
I went back to the house to warn the others as I know for AC they where a new species. Soon we were back and I was the only one climbing up and scared about 45 Black-throated Thrushes. Uphill I twice saw an accentor, with an equally unstreaked back and identified it as a Brown Accentor. Not my best observation however! When we were enjoying the Black-throated Thrushes another thrush came into sight but after some debate it was identified as a Mistle Thrush! Also few Blackbirds were around.
We went into the house and crawled into the double sleeping bag to get warm (also the oven was put into fire) and after a very good laugh we felt a sleep in one of the most fascinating landscapes I ever visited.
Today was the absolute record day with 9 new species: Brown Dipper, Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush, Songar Tit, Black-throated Accentor, Ibisbill, Lammergeyer, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Eversmann's Redstart and Brown Accentor.
25-September-03 Kosmos Station and back to Almaty
After an excellent night at this altitude we had a nice breakfast! And the Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush was already singing for us at dawn. The first thing after breakfast was out to get to the Ibisbill spot to make better video footage than yesterday.
It was extremely nice and frosty outside, and the sun was busy to climb over the mountains so the landscape changed every minute! Still I was like yesterday very much impressed by the extreme landscape around us!
The first birds I saw were 3 Crested Larks magna race (altitude record 2900 meters? (up to 2000 stated at BWP)), male Blackbird and during the walk to the lake I noticed a calling Crossbill most likely of the resident tianschanica race, Wren, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Songar Tit, Carrion Crow and Magpie.
When I came at the river mouth I had a very close juvenile Ibisbill and I could study and film the bird at around 40 meters! When the bird flew up with his Whimbrel like call I noticed several other Ibisbills stream upwards. A walk in that direction produced some distant 2 adult and 2 juvenile birds!
Further exploring the area produced some Mallards, Common Shelduck 2 and a very nice Brown Dipper.
The walk back produced nothing unusual but species like Nutcracker (10+), Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, a lone Black-throated Thrush and 3 Turkestan Red Pika Ochotona rutila. Also a Chiffchaff showed well and this bird was paler then "fulvescens" and had no green at all in his plumage, also black legs and bill, and a small wing bar. This birds looks ok for a tristis only my second in Kazakhstan this trip, as I expected more birds while going through my literature before the trip!
The other guys where already waiting for me to get uphill to the Russian enclave Kosmos Station (Kohsmonstantsia). Packed my gear and we went uphill. During driving we recorded loads of Water pipits of the blakistoni race, they looked very pale compared with spinolleta we have in Holland. Also few Pied Wheatears were seen.
Arriving at the Russian Enclave (3300 meters) we searched very hard to find Güldenstädt's Redstarts, but we failed completely. Only Evermann's Redstarts (4) were found! A very nice highlight was a group of Himalayan Snowcock that produced very nice views. This group of 7 birds were calling and showed themselves at one moment to as close as 40 meters. Of course the Snowcocks were a new species for me, the first of the day followed almost directly by 2 Red-billed Choughs. They where displaying and calling at close distance, as were some groups of Yellow-billed Choughs. Also few Turkestan Red Pika's were around. Another new species for me could be a flock of about 25 birds, which looked very much like Hodgson's Mountain-Finches when flying overhead, and called somewhat but could not identify them as such!
We gave up our attempts to find the Güldenstädt's Redstart over here we walked a bit down, where I saw two very high raptors in the sky. They turned out to be two juvenile Crested Honey Buzzards and they flew around 4000 meters, and migrated all the way over the Tien Shan. I was surprised to see how high they were and that they could migrate over the Tien Shan.
We then drove to the observatory to search for Altai Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak and Severtzov's Tit-warbler. We drove by the helicopter strip to the juniper bushes against the hill. A short search produced 2 nice Severtzov's Tit-warblers. This proved my 1387 lifer ever, and the 30th of the trip! We were just stunned by their nice colours and it was one of the most beautiful birds we saw at our Kazakhstan trip. Also around were a two nice Himalayan Vultures circling around. A Red-mantled Rosefinch was found skulking through the bushes and a Wallcreeper was flying by. Also few Evermann's Redstarts were around here.
When we went down to the camp we noticed a juvenile Golden Eagle flying around and a Siberian Stonechat was feeding with some Water Pipit near the Helicopter strip.
After picking up our stuff from the house we went down for Almaty.
The drove down produced nothing real special only the Linnet of yesterday was present at the same stream, and a Himalayan Blue Whistling Thrush was seen.
A stop in the valley produced a small group of Azure Tits who where rather skulky, between a huge flock of Great Tits, Chiffchaffs, few Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers and a Black-throated Accentor. Also a Pied Wheatear and a Common Bullfinch where seen here.
Then we set of to the city of Almaty and stayed in a restaurant most of evening eating and drinking, and finally at night we went to the airport to wait for a few hours before we departed to Frankfurt, things worked smoothly and we arrived on time back home.
Today 4 new species: Himalayan Snowcock, Red-billed Cough, Severtzov's Tit-warbler and Azure Tit.
Clement P, Harris A & Davis J, 1993. Finches and Sparrows, an identification guide. Helm. A & C Black, London.
Clements J.F. 2000. Birds of the World A Checklist. Pica Press Sussex.
Cramp et al, 1977 - 1994. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. Oxford, New York.
Glutz von Blotzheim, U.N., K.M. Bauer & E. Bezzel. 1966-1991. Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas. Frankfurt am Main.
Gravilov E.I., 1999. Fauna and Distribution of The Birds of Kazakhstan (in Russian), Almaty (private publication)
Gravilov E.I., 2000. Guide to the birds of the Kazakhstan Republic. Almaty (private publication)
Harrap S & Quinn D, 1996. Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers. Helm. A & C Black, London.
Winkler H, Christie D.A. & Nurney D, 1995. Woodpeckers, A Guide to the Woodpeckers, Piculets and Wrynecks of the World. Pica Press Sussex
And the excellent report by David van den Schoor was used, Kazakhstan 29th May till 10th June 2003.
Full Species List