Dates: 30 April-12 May 2019
Located north of the Caspian Sea in the heart of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is a fantastic destination for birders, especially in May. Black and White-winged Larks, Pallid Harrier and Red-headed Bunting all breed there, as does the Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing.
The south-east of the country, where our journey begins, consists of desert-like plains. The diversity in the landscapes here ensures a variety of bird species. Demoiselle Crane, Macqueen’s Bustard, Steppe Eagle, Greater Sand Plover and Bimaculated Lark are some of the most striking species here, but we might also find Desert Wheatear, Lesser Kestrel, Lammergeier and Red-headed Bunting. In the mountains of Tian Shan we will search for Himalayan Snowcock and Blue-capped Redstart, as well as the beautiful Himalayan Rubythroat and the strange Ibisbill.
After our arrival in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, we will spend two days near Shilik. In this dry stone desert we will look for Demoiselle Crane, Saker Falcon, Mongolian Finch and Asian Desert Warbler. The real target here is Pallas’s Sandgrouse, which has become very rare in recent decades. We will finish the first part of our trip at the Kokpek Pass for the sublime White-capped Bunting. We will drive back to Almaty via the Charyn Canyon.
The next day we drive to the Taukum Desert, where we again stay for two nights. On the way we will visit Sorbula, a lake district that holds species such as Collared Pratincole, White-tailed Eagle and Dalmatian Pelican. The dam of the Sorbulak Lake is home to a breeding colony of Rosy Starlings, the size of which is dependent on the number of grasshoppers present. In some years, more than 25,000 pairs breed here. In the Taukum Desert we will search for Macqueen’s Bustard, Greater Sand Plover and Caspian Plover. We will also keep an eye on the sparse vegetation that grows here; there can be up to 10 different species of passerine in one tree! Species that occur here include both Sykes’s and Barred Warblers. On the way back to Almaty we visit the Topar lake district and the Turanga Forest, where we will have a good chance of White-winged Woodpecker, Evermann’s Dove, Turkestan Tit and Saxaul Sparrow.
The next two nights we stay at the Great Almaty Lake. While exploring the mountains we will keep an eye on the sky, where Lammergeiers, Golden Eagles and Himalayan Griffons could be soaring around the peaks. Wallcreeper, Azure Tit, Blue Whistling Thrush, Brown Dipper and Evermann’s Redstart are all on the target list. The surroundings of the observation centre consist of slopes covered with rocks and juniper bushes. This habitat is home to many different species, including Himalayan Rubythroat, Black-throated Accentor, Red-mantled Rosefinch, White-winged Grosbeak and Severtov's Tit-warbler. From the higher mountains we should be able to hear the call of Himalayan Snowcock. A visit to the Cosmic Ray Station will offer the chance of Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Plain Mountain Finch and Brown and Altai Accentors. The gravel beaches that surround the Great Almaty Lake are home to Ibisbill, a rare Asian wader that only lives in the mountains above 2,000 metres.
We return to Almaty for our flight to Astana, which is located in the heart of the outstretched steppes of Kazakhstan and is now the capital of the country. The main attractions here are Black and White-winged Larks, which do not occur in the south but are common at this location. We will drive to the untouched steppe about 50 miles from the city. This area contains a lot of water, and is home to Pallas’s Gull, Demoiselle Crane, Black-winged Pratincole, White-headed Duck, Pallid Harrier and the declining Sociable Lapwing. We will spend approximately three days here after which we will go back to Astana for our flight to Amsterdam.
This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by Birding Breaks (registered with the Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam under licence number 54226104). The price includes all accommodation, meals, local transport and expert guiding; international flights, drinks, gratuities and personal expenses are not included. For further information, reservations and full details, please call the company on 0031 20 77 92 030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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