Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Kazakhstan

Oscar, Simon & myself arrived in Al Maty on a sunny, hot afternoon on 24th June, where we were met by Chris, who had organised this tour for us. 

Simon, Oscar & myself on arrival.

After introductions, it was time to literally head for the hills! Al Maty turned out to be a pleasant surprise. There were of course, lots of reminders from the former Soviet era, but lots of more modern & distinctly Kazach influence as well. It is also flanked by the mighty & very scenic Tien Shien Mountains & we headed up a nearby valley into the mountains. 

Our base for exploring the mountains.

First impressions were great!

Our destination for the next two nights was the Alpine Rose Hotel. It was situated among coniferous woodland on the side of the valley. We just had time for a quick walk around before dinner & darkness. Highlights included: Booted Eagle, Corncrake calling; at least 4 European Woodcock rhoding overhead & best of all a Three toed Woodpecker which gave great views in the fading light, but I didn't have my camera with me! Will I ever learn?


Young Blue capped Redstart


Black throated Accentor


This species proved to be quite common 
in the mid-range vegetation belts
 on the mountain.




Singing.


Grey Wagtail was on the fast flowing streams
 but I couldn't find any Dippers!


Greenish Warbler



I think we were all quite excited the next morning as we explored the area within walking distance of the hotel. It was a nice morning, but low clouds could be seen coming over the tops of the mountains & after breakfast we made our way up the valley but into increasingly poor visibility. After birding a little in the alpine zone, we made the decisions to retreat to lower down & this proved to be a wise move. In particular a side valley filled with Juniper scrub proved to be an excellent spot.


Red mantled Rosefinch


This species was quite common, but secretive 
inhabitant of the juniper scrub.


The males were especially fine.





As the day wore on, the rain came down, so we explored further down the valley but eventually had to call it a day as the heavens opened.



It really was fantastic scenery 
& it was a great morning in the hills.


Taking a break.


The Cosmo Station

Oscar, Simon & Chris.


Yellow billed Chough


Red billed Chough


Altai Accentor


Feeding young

Guldenstadt's Redstart

Male


Female


Young bird.


Plain Mountain Finch



The 26th June dawned bright & sunny, so we headed straight for the highest peaks & was rewarded with great views of Himalayan Snowcocks. At least eleven birds were around us, some calling & others giving good although distant views on a nearby hillside. Other high altitude specialties included Guldenstadt's Redstart & both Altai & Brown Accentors. 



This valley proved to be a top spot,
 with some great species found.


Long tailed Marmot


Quite common here.



Water Pipit


White-browed Tit-warbler


Sulphur bellied Warbler


This is a very low density & localised species.


Active & difficult to photograph.




The delta at the lake head is Ibisbill habitat.


Northern House Martin.
This colony was nesting on the underside
 of an old water tower.


Tree Pipit


Female Eversmann's Redstart


Songar Tit


Surprisingly, this proved to be the only one
 of the trip!


Red-fronted Serin


The afternoon saw us once again in the juniper valley, but birding was a little slow & nothing new was seen. We then explored the valley where the lake is situated. our prime target being Ibisbill, at the western end of its range. We saw at least two birds but they were always distant. The walk along the valley side produced Eversmann's Redstart & our only Songar Tit of the trip.

We slowly made our way back to the city after a couple of great birding days on the mountain.

Highlights:

11 Himalayan Snowcock; 7 Ruddy Shelduck; Merlin; Red-footed Falcon; 3 Eurasian Hobby; 2 European Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard; Golden Eagle; 2 Ibisbill; Red billed & Yellow billed Chough; 6 Common Raven; Songar Tit; 3 Sulphur bellied Warbler; Hume's leaf & Greenish Warblers; 6 White-browed Tit-Warbler; Blue Whistling Thrush; 4 White-tailed Rubythroat; 5 Blue capped Redstart; 3 Eversmann's Redstart; 2 Brown Accentor; 3 Altai Accentor; 9 Black throated Accentor; 10+ Water Pipit; 8 Red-fronted Serin; 12 Plain Mountain Finch; 8 Red mantled Rosefinch; & 5 Common Rosefinch.


Greenish Warbler



The view from our hotel at dusk, 
looking towards the mountains.

This was a really enjoyable few days, birding amid spectacular scenery. A great start to the trip.

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