Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Kazakhstan 3

After a very nice stay back in Al Maty we continued our journey on 30th June by heading out west & then north. Our fist stop was at a UNESCO World Heritage Site & it didn't disappoint! We enjoyed an excellent couple of hours exploring the valley & the near by rocky outcrops. The best bird was Eastern Rock Nuthatch, but really we were not there for the birds!


There are over 5,000 petroglyphs in this area!

There is a well marked route around the site.

Rangers patrol the area on horseback.

Red headed Buntings were quite common 
in the valley.


Eastern Rock Nuthatch

Pied Wheatears were breeding on the hillsides.

Young bird.

It gives an idea of what animals 
used to be found here.

The whole site is well set out & protected 
to a high standard.

Much of the plateau was mid-altitude grassland.

Male Montagu's Harrier

Long legged Buzzard

Common on the plateau.

Plumage is quite variable.

White winged Lark

The proof of the pudding!

White winged & Bimaculated Lark

After lunch we headed north along the so-called Lark Highway & as we headed north, lark species slowly became more abundant. Then I spotted it! Our first White-winged Lark! This was a big bonus bird for all of us. It took us a while, but eventually we got decent views of at least seven different birds.

Best birds recorded: 8 Common Kestrel; 2 Eurasian Hobby; Montagu's Harrier; 20+ Long legged Buzzard; Steppe Eagle; 3 Demoiselle Crane; 6 Black bellied Sandgrouse; 150+ Calandra Lark; 70 Bimaculated Lark; 7 White winged Lark; 500+ Greater Short-toed Lark & 30 Asian Short toed Lark.

Making supper!

Oscar writing his notes.

The waterhole at dusk.

As we headed further north along the plateau the landscape became drier & drier & then we dropped off the plateau into the Taukum Desert, a totally different habitat & we camped a short distance away from a waterhole. It was a quite evening but a pleasant one & we were all up early birding around the waterhole on 1st July & the birds didn't disappoint!

Our camp.

Horses arriving to drink early morning.

Pin tailed Sandgrouse

Black bellied Sandgrouse

Brown necked Ravens.

Goitered Gazelle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Red crested Pochard
A poor photograph of an increasingly rare bird:
White headed Duck

Saxaul Sparrow

Behaves more like a bunting than a sparrow.

Sykes's Warbler

We then drove around exploring more of the desert before looking at a series of wetlands close to Topar & then some Saxaul forest for the sparrow. It was incredibly hot but quite productive scoring with a few Sykes's Warblers as well. 

Turanga Forest.


He said he was trying out his air mattress!

Late afternoon we arrived at the beautiful Turanga Forest. This was the best camp site of the trip, great unusual habitat & a few stunning birds.


This bird had a nest close by.

It dive bombed me!

White winged Woodpecker

This individual was drumming 
on the telegraph post.

Just couldn't stop taking photos!

One of the highlights of this trip.

It even drummed on the metal!

We birded the area in late afternoon, but saw most of the special early on 2nd July. Not many species, but total quality.

Best birds were: Shikra; Eurasian Hobby; 2 Yellow eyed Pigeon; 4 European Roller; 2 White winged Woodpecker; Turkestan Tit; 4 Azure Tit; Lesser Whitethroat & 2 Saxaul Sparrow.

Black Terns

Red crested Pochard

Green Sandpiper

Little Ringed Plover

We then drove back the way we had come the day before, passed the ponds around Topar, through the Taukum Desert & on to Sorbulak Lake. 

Dalmation Pelican

Caspian Gull with Black headed Gulls.

Adult White tailed Eagle

Black necked Grebe

Demoiselle Crane

Cetti's Warbler

Not a bird that is photographed very often.

Clamorous Reed Warbler

Azure Tit

Small numbers were found in patches of woodland
 around the lakes.

White crowned Penduline Tit

The rest of the day was spent around this vast lake seeing a great variety of waterbirds. We camped close to one of the smaller lakes & explored the area on 3rd July before driving back to Al Maty.

Best birds: 350 Ruddy Shelduck; 25 Common Shelduck; 4 Garganey; 45 Red crested Pochard; 60 Great crested grebe; 200+ Black necked Grebe; Little Bittern; 12 Great White Pelican; 25 Dalmation Pelican; 2 White tailed Eagle; 100+ Black eared Kite; 3 Shikra; 6 Western Marsh Harrier; 4 Long legged Buzzard; 2 Demioselle Crane; 3 Collared Pratincole; 30 Black Tern; 1,000+ Rook; 2 Azure Tit; 2 Red rumped Swallow; 10 Cetti's Warbler; 150 Rose coloured Starling & 4 Red headed Bunting.