29th May to 10th June 2003
This trip covers a 13-day trip to Eastern and Northern Kazakhstan taken by Valère Dupont, Wim Heylen, Jos Rutten and David Van den Schoor. Our main aim was to see as many birds as possible which are extremely rare vagrants in the Western Palearctic like Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Pale-backed Pigeon, Black- and White-winged Lark. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world (2.7 million sq km) with a population of just 17 million. Kazakhstan lying at the heart of Central Asia on the Old Silk Road and is bordered by the Russian Federation, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. For centuries, Kazakhstan’s vast plains were home only to nomads and they are still virtually empty. Most settlements are concentrated in the south-east and the east of the Republic. With a huge range of natural and semi-natural habitats c. 500 species of bird are to be found in Kazakhstan. This community is made up of wetland, desert and steppe species and mountain and sub-mountain species in the Tien Shan mountain range which rise to over 7000m. The wetlands are of global importance supporting large colonies of breeding birds and huge populations of migratory birds en route to and from the vast breeding grounds in Siberia (Northern Asia).Central Asia including Kazakhstan currently lacks a list of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) which form the planning unit for the conservation of populations of wild birds. BirdLife International through the German partner NABU is beginning the inventory of IBA’s for this region. Kazakhstan in spring is truly birdwatcher’s heaven! We managed to see 251 species in this rather short time.
Because we were limited in time, we decided to book everything with a local tour operator in advance.
Another reason for this was that we could spend all of our time birding and didn’t have to bother to drive, find the right directions etc…
We booked our trip with Asia Terra Incognita Ltd. Co. Kazakhstan
FLIGHT AND VISA
We flew from Brussels to Almaty via Frankfurt with Lufthansa for 768,00 EUR return, taxes included. The flights were punctual and trouble free. Be sure to reconfirm your flight at least 72 hours before departure. Otherwise, your travel agent will arranged it for you. No departure tax was required for us. We took also a domestic flight Almaty-Astana return with Air-Astana but this ticket was already included in the tour service (c.180,00 EUR).
Passports: Valid passport required by all.
Visas: Required by all except the following:
(a) nationals of CIS holding passports, and holders of valid passports issued by the former Soviet Union and registered in the CIS (except nationals of Turkmenistan who do need visas);
(b) nationals of Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Hungary, Korea (Dem. Rep), Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Vietnam for touristic purposes provided they are permanent residents of their country;
(c) nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia (FYR), Slovenia and Yugoslavia provided holding invitation letter and entering for business purposes;
(d) nationals of Mongolia for stays of up to three months;
(e) nationals of Iran and Turkey for a stay of up to one month.
Types of visa and cost: Tourist and Private Trip. Single-entry: £23 (for 30 days). Double-entry: £33 (for 60 days). Transit: £13 (for three days). Business. Single-entry: £33 (for three months). Double-entry: £43 (for three months). Triple-entry: £73 (for three months). Multiple-entry: £133 (for 12 months); £263 (for two years). Transit: £13 (three days).
Validity: Valid on the dates specified. Transit visas are valid for 72 hours.
Application to: The Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy) will issue visas for Kazakhstan, but only if they receive authorization from the Kazakh Foreign Office (for an additional cost). It is also possible for the passenger’s host or hotel to apply for their guest’s visa in Kazakhstan and this can then be collected on arrival.
Application requirements: (a) Completed application form. (b) Valid passport with one blank page to affix visa. (c) One recent passport-size photo. (d) Confirmation letter, with details of hotel booking and travel arrangements, from licensed tourist company in Kazakhstan. (e) Fee; payable by personal cheque or credit giro (applicants need to obtain a payment slip when lodging application). (f) Self-addressed, stamped registered envelope, if applying by post. (g) For multiple-entry visas for stays over three months, attestation/certificate showing testing for HIV/AIDS.Business: (a)-(g)and, (h) Letter of invitation from host organization in Kazakhstan approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kazakhstan, and (i) Letter from own business company with details of the purpose of the visit and name and address of partner organization.Transit: (a)-(g) and, (h) Valid visa for country of final destination, (i) Letter of invitation and/or air or railway ticket to third country.Private trip: (a)-(g) and, (h) Letter of invitation from a Kazakhstan national, approved by the Ministry of the Interior in Kazakhstan.
Cars: If intending to take a car to Kazakhstan, travelers need to enclose the following documents when applying for a visa: (a) Car registration documents. (b) Insurance certificates. (c) Details of type of car.
Note: (a) Visas are only valid for the cities indicated in the visa. (b) Non-CIS nationals staying longer than 72 hours must register with an OVIR office and pay a registration charge. Failure to do so will result in penalties on departure. CIS nationals staying longer than 72 hours should register at a ‘House Administration’ office. (c) Foreign visitors entering Kazakhstan from territories of the former USSR illegally (ie without proper Entry visas) will be fined and deported.
Currency: Tenge (T) = 100 tiyin. Notes are in denominations of T5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 20, 10, 5, 3 and 1 tiyin. No coins have been minted.
Currency exchange: The national currency, the Tenge, may only be obtained within Kazakhstan. Conversion of the Tenge back into hard currency may prove difficult, if not impossible. Foreign currency should only be exchanged at official offices and all transactions must be recorded on the currency declaration form which is issued on arrival. It is wise to retain all exchange receipts, although
they are seldom inspected. Unless traveling with a licensed tourist company, in which case accommodation, transport and meals are paid before departure, money should be brought in US Dollars cash and exchanged when necessary.
Credit & debit cards: Major European and international credit cards, including Visa and Diners Club, are accepted in the larger hotels in Almaty and in major shops and restaurants. There are no facilities for credit-card cash withdrawals in Kazakhstan.
Travellers cheques: To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars.
Currency restrictions: The import and export of local currency and import of foreign currency is unlimited provided declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount imported. Special bank permission is required for all amounts exceeding this.
Exchange rate indicators:
The following figures are included as a guide to the movements of the Tenge against Sterling and the US Dollar.
|Date||May ’02||Aug ’02||Nov ’02||Feb ’03|
At the time of our visit, the exchange rate was 150,20 Tenge to the US Dollar.
Banking hours: Mon-Fri 09U30-17U30. Banks close for lunch 13U00-14U00. All banks are closed Sat-Sun.
Kazakhstan is divided into three time zones:
Eastern/Main Zone: CET + 4 (CET + 5 from 29 March to 26 October 2003).
Central Zone: CET + 3 (CET + 4 from 28 March to 26 October 2003).
Western Zone: CET + 2 (CET + 3 from 28 March to 26 October 2003).
TELEPHONE / COMMUNICATIONS
Country code: 7. Area code for Almaty: 3272. International calls can be made at a reduced rate from 20U00-08U00 local time. International calls should be made from a telephone office; these are usually attached to post offices.
Mobile telephone: Dual band 1800 and 900 networks in use. Coverage is good around the main cities. Network providers include K-MOBILE and Kazakhtelecom. There are roaming agreements with Vodafone, Orange, O2, Proximus, Mobistar, T-Mobile etc.
Telegram: Facilities available from any post office.
Internet: ISPs include Parasang (website: http://www.ricc.kz/) and Astel (website: http://www.astel.kz/).There are Internet cafes in most towns and cities with very reasonable rates.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
A little caution and common sense should see you through Kazakhstan without problems. No immunizations are required (for Western tourists) in order to enter the country. But a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers coming from infected areas and foreign visitors (except nationals of CIS countries) staying in Kazakhstan for longer than three months may be required to take an AIDS test. However, as a health precaution getting them for typhoid, cholera and gamma globulin (the latter for hepatitis) would be helpful. Following WHO guidelines issued in 1973, a cholera vaccination certificate is no longer a condition of entry to Kazakhstan. Cholera is a serious risk in this country and precautions are essential. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding whether these precautions should include vaccination as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. Consult your own doctor for up to date advice. Hepatitis A, a 10-year injection (three jabs at interval) is now available, doing away with the need to visit the doctor immediately before travel. It is advisable to take a good medical kit with you as you are sometimes along way away from the nearest largest town. Mosquitoes and flies are sometimes a problem. Insect repellent is necessary at some locations. Regarding safety, the same rules apply in Kazakhstan as elsewhere in the world. Do not leave your car unlocked or your valuables on the seat in full view.Health care:There is a large network of hospitals, emergency centres and pharmacies. The largest include the Central Hospital, the Maternity and Childhood Institute Clinic and the Medical Teaching Institute Clinic in Almaty, and the Spinal Centre and Hospital of Rehabilitation Treatment in Karaganda. However, standards within the public healthcare system have declined significantly since the Soviet era. It is hard to ascertain the level of expertise of the doctors, and visitors cannot rely on the availability of western medicines. Medical insurance is strongly recommended and should include medevac insurance.
Continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Although Kazakhstan has some of the highest peaks in the CIS. The climate is fairly dry. The hottest month is July (August in mountain regions).
Most of the time during our stay the weather was good, with temperatures in the lowlands of c.30°C near Almaty and c.25°C in the steppes around Astana. In the mountains, temperatures climb up to c.25°C in the afternoon and cooled of to c.10°C at night. We hit storm and heavy rains on 7 June for a whole day while traveling between Aqzhar (Ili-delta) and Almaty via Zhelturanga and Konshengel. Daylight hours were generally 06U10 – 22U20.
Most towns in Kazakhstan have a limited supply of reasonable accommodation. It is advisable to make reservations in advance, either directly or through a travel agency like we did. Most hotels deliver a basic level of comfort, although Western standards should not be expected.
The official language is Kazakh, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Turkish. The Government has undertaken to replace the Russian Cyrillic alphabet with the Turkish version of the Roman alphabet. Meanwhile, the Cyrillic alphabet is in general use and most people in the cities can speak Russian, whereas country people tend to only speak Kazakh. English is usually spoken by those involved in tourism. Uygur and other regional languages and dialects are also spoken.
Hotel Complex Otrar and Travel & Air Agency
73, ul Gogolya, Hotel Otrar, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3272) 506 840 or506 806 or506 830 or 506 848.
Fax: (3272) 506 809 or506 811.
Website: http://www.group.kz/ or http://www.travelers.kz/
Embassy of Belgium
30, Avenue Van Bever, 1180 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: (02) 374 95 62
Fax: (02) 374 50 91
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
33,Thurloe Square, London SW7 2SD, UK
Tel: (020) 7581 4646 or(09065) 508 978 (recorded visa information; calls cost £1 per minute). Fax: (020) 7584 8481 or 7584 9905 (visa section).
Website: http://www.kazakhstan-embassy.org.uk/ or http://www.kazakhstan-visa.org/ (consular section).
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 09U00-12U00. Visa section closed on Wednesday.
173,ul Furmanova, Almaty 480091, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3272) 506 191.
Fax: (3272) 506 260.
Consular section: 158,ul Panfilova, Almaty 480091, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3272) 508 280.
Fax: (3272) 507 432.
Embassy of the United States of America
97-99,ul Furmanova, Almaty 480012, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3272) 633 921.
Alexander Pivovarov ( Bird guide Astana Steppes)
Zheltoksan St. 2-1, Astana 473000, Kazakhstan
Tel: (3172) 322 589.
Flight Brussels-Frankfurt (8.40 – 9.45) and Frankfurt-Almaty (11.30 – 23.00) with Lufthansa (c.7 hrs.). After collecting our luggage, we met the Terra Incognita team in the airport and drove straight to a small village Sozolon (KOHHbIE) were we spent the night in a falconry.
Roadside birding along the road to Big Almaty lake from 6.40 till 9.00. After breakfast, we picked up our guide Eugeny Besedin and set off east of Almaty on the highway A351 towards Yellow Canyon via Chilik and Kökpek . First stop was at the small village Tausugur and at the Qonaev atyndaghy canal (west of Kökpek) from 12U30 till 14U00 and the second stop at Bartoghay from 15.15 till 17.20 where we explored the lake and the vegetation around the weir. After several short stops, we arrived at Yellow Canyon where we had a 2-night stay in the campsite. Birding here from 17.50 till dark.
From 6.10 till 12.10 birding in the Yellow Canyon and at the Charyn river in the canyon. After lunch, further east where we drove up the Kegen pass. Most of the time was spent on roadside birding (13.15 till 19.00), with several stops (Temirlik dam, Shol’adyr, Saryzhaz, marshes at Kefeh etc.). Retour via shortcut Uzynbulaq. Final stop in the grassy steppes east of the Charyn river along the highway A351
Early start, again west on the highway A351 and then across the grassy steppes north towards the highway A352 Kökpek – Shonzhy – Köktal ( where we explored km-posts 189 – 193 by foot(9.30 till 11.00). Visited a gorge at km-post 208 for Mongolian Trumpeter Finch without success. Then cross the checkpoint at Tashqarasū to visit the Charyn and Ili river delta. Take notes that this road leads to China (Panfilov) and that you normally have to arrange a permit in advance. Our company forgot and we had to pay 150 US Dollars in total to cross the checkpoint till the Ili River for half a day, corruption is still normal by the authorities in this country! Drove straight to Aydarly (14.35 till 14.50) and the Turanga forest on the north-east side of the Ili river (15.10 till 16.00) because we lost already enough time but were very lucky to see all 4 specialities in less than 45 minutes! A last successful stop was at km-post 235 were a marshy area is near a small petrol station. Drove back to our second campsite Ash-Tree-Grove on the south banks of the Charyn river (left hand-side if coming from Shonzhy) were we arrived around 18.00. Here, Valère, our guide and I lost our way for several hours on a late evening walk but saw some nice Scops-Owls and a lot of Nightjars!
After some final birding in the Charyn valley at Ash-Tree-Grove till 8.50, drove back on an unpaved road towards Chilik via Borandasū – Nurlay – Masaq (Sugaty plains) were we had several stops (till 12.20). In the afternoon, we paid a brief visit to the Quaraqola fish-ponds near Lake Quapshaghay bögeni (14.00 till 15.05) and drove than back to the airport for a domestic flight Almaty – Astana with Air-Astana (19.00 – 20.25). Met the boss Volman Mikhail of the company and our local guide Alexander Pivovarov at the airport and drove to our hotel at the western-end of the city where we stayed for 3 nights.
Start at 7.00 south-west on the highway A344 towards Kurgaldzinski with several roadside stops till the bridge over the Nura river at km-post 119. From this place on, we drove north before the river and continued into the steppes on unpaved roads towards Birtaban lake, Shalkar lake, Sholak lake, Zumai lake, Kynkol lake (near Maishukur) and on the main road around km-post 104. Back to the hotel via the highway A344 were we arrived at 20.00
Start again on the highway A344 at 7.00 where we first explored the marshes at km-post 6 (till 8.30), the the marshes at km-post 9 (8.40 till 10.55) and finally the scrub around the Karasu river at km-post 14.7 (till 12.50). Returned to Astana and drove on the highway M36 south towards Karagandy till km-post 29 for Pine Bunting (13.55 till 15.50). Stop when you’re just past the first hill on your right hand-side ( before the bridge over the Ishim river), this place is a stake out for this species!
Again back to Astana where we visited Bahan lake on the edge of the city (17.15 till 18.15) and a few smaller pools some 8 km. further away. Arrived in the hotel around 20.00.
Retour-flight to Almaty (9.35 – 11.00). En-route via the highway A350 north to Qapshaghay, and the north-west via Baqanas to Aqzhar (11.15 till 17.45) where we stayed another 2 nights in a campsite along the Ili river. Along the road, we had a stop at the nice Tamgaly-Tas from 13.10 till 14.40.
We spent the rest of the evening around the tents.
An early start to the Tau-kum desert in search for Pander’s Ground-Jay! We drove c.120 km. north-west to Qaraoy. From here after crossing some ponds we went straight into the desert! At c.9.10 mission achieved with a nice observation of a male, really superb! We were lucky that it was a little cloudy today and the temperatures were not to extreme. Back at the village around 14.00 and spent the rest of the afternoon roadside birding between Qaraoy and Aqzhar. Tired but satisfied we arrived at the campsite at 18.00!
Heavy rains and storm started around midnight and lasted for the whole day! Today the Turanga forest south-east of Zhelturanga (8.20 till 10.40), Topar lakes and the steppes near Konshengel (12.20 till 15.45) were on the program and we birded where possible. All by all, we had a quite productive day but had to cancel the last campsite because on account of the bad weather and drove to a hotel in Almaty where we arrived around 20.00.
The last 2 days were spent in the Tien Shan mountains where we stayed in the old but still good observatory. We visited between 9.00 and 21.00 most places; the spruce forest, the areas around the reservoir, the juniper scrub around the observatory and some roadside birding higher up till c.3200m. by bus. We had great weather before noon but the afternoon was foggy.
After some quick birding around the observatory at 7. 00, drove to the near-derelict village Kohsmostantsia at c.3400m. where we saw our wanted species well! Again birding from 10.30 till noon around the observatory and walked down after lunch for the rest of the afternoon. We were picked up at 18.00 by our driver.
The rest of the evening was spent again around the observatory with still a new bonus bird; a male Bohemian Waxwing! The weather was superb today, sunny all day long. Back to Almaty after dinner.
After some drinks in the bar till 2.00 local time, flight back to Brussels via Frankfurt. Arrival in Brussels-airport at 8.05.
BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World.
Cheng Tso-hsin (1987) A Synopsis of the Avifauna of China.
Clements J.F. (2000) Birds of the World: a Check List, Fifth Edition.
Flint, VE et al. (1984) A Field Guide to Birds of USSR.
Grimmett R., Inskipp C., Inskipp T.(1998) Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.
Knystautas, Algirdas (1987) The Natural History of the USSR.
Mullarney, K.et al. (1999) Collins Bird Guide.
Porter, RF.et al. 51988) Birds of the Middle East and North Africa.
Alula 2/2000, Mauri Leivo and Pauli Dernjatin. Kazakhstan – The land of the Pallas’s Sandgrouse, 28/5 – 9/6/1999.
Birdfinders with Algirdas Knystautas and Vaughan Ashby. Kazakhstan 11-24 May 2000.
Birdfinders with Svetlana Annenkova and Vaughan Ashby. Kazakhstan Forthcoming Tour 9-22 May 2003 Altai extension to 26 May 2003.
Birdquest with Mark Van Beirs. Kazakhstan Trip Report 16-28 May 1999.
Birdquest with Mark Beaman. Kazakhstan Trip Report May-June 2000.
Birdquest with Dave Farrow. Kazakhstan Trip Report May 2001.
Birdquest with Dave Farrow. Kazakhstan Trip Report May 2002.
Birdquest with Dave Farrow. Kazakhstan Forthcoming Tour 12-26 May 2003.
Collard Phillippe et al. Kazakhstan 1999.
Het Vogeljaar 48 (2000) 5, Gerard Ouweneel. Van Tien Shan naar Altai, een vogelreis door Centraal_Azie, mei-junie 2000.
Naturetrek. Trip dossier, The Tien Shan Mountains and Deserts of Kazakhstan, May 21–June 5, 1998.
Naturetrek. Trip dossier, Kazakhstan – A Birdwatching Tour, May 14-22 and 21-29, 1998.
Naturetrek. Trip dossier, The Tien Shan Mountains and Deserts of Kazakhstan, May 17–June 1, 2003.
Naturetrek. Trip dossier, Kazakhstan – A Birdwatching Tour, May 8-16 and 15-23, 2003.
Ornithological Society of The Middle East with Don Taylor. Kasakhstan, May 27–June 5, 1999.
Sunbird with Steve Rooke and Victoria Kovshar. Central Asia – birding the Silk Road, 11–27 May 2002
Many thanks to Mark Van Beirs for providing some good information. Thanks are also due all the participants for their excellent company during this trip!
ANNOTATED LIST OF THE BIRDS RECORDED
This list follows the taxonomy, names and sequence of James F.Clements (Birds of the World, A Checklist, Fifth Edition 2000) with a few exceptions of recent taxonomic descisions and names changes (see www.ibispub.com/updates.html ), updated till 1 December 2002.
Some frequently used alternative names are also mentioned.
Species put between brackets were only heard.
For some species no details are given about their abundance, this automatically indicates that the species was seen regularly, it does however not necessarily mean that it is common.
*denotes a species not seen by myself.
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena grisegena
6 birds were counted on Bahan lake at the border of Astana-city on 4/6.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus cristatus
Regularly seen in the Astana steppes, maximum day-count c.30 birds. A few were seen in the south.
Horned (Slavonian) Grebe Podiceps auritus auritus
4 birds seen on the same lake as the Red-necked Grebes.
Eared (Black-necked) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis nigricollis
We saw respectively 17 and 35 birds in the Astana steppes. c.13 more were counted at the Topar lakes.
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
A group of 13 birds soaring over the Tau-kum desert on 6/6.
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus
A single on 2/6 at the fish-ponds of Quaraqola. In the Astana steppes were a total of 23 birds noted (10 at Shalkar lake, 3 at Sholak lake and a total of 10 in the marshes just outside Astana). Another single was seen in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife International. Kazakhstan holds the majority of the world population.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis
Seen on 4 days with good numbers in the Astana steppes, up to c.150 birds on 3/6.
Gray Heron Ardea cinerea cinerea
Small numbers throughout the country.
Great (White) Egret Ardea alba alba
Like previous species, a few records on most days.
Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris stellaris
Seen twice in the Astana steppes, much more were heard here and at the Ili river delta near Aqzhar.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
2 singles on 1/6 with one record at Km-post 235 between the Charyn and the Ili river and one at our campsite Ash-Tree-Grove in the Charyn valley.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia leucorodia
A single on 2/6 at the fish-ponds of Quaraqola.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Only seen in the north at Astana with a total of c.14 birds in the steppes.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
No less than 69 birds were counted in the Astana steppes on 3/6 (65 birds on Zumai lake).
Greylag Goose Anser anser rubrirostris
A total of c.50 birds in the Astana steppes.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Almost daily seen in the south, small numbers up to c.10 birds a day.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
c.30 birds were noted in the Astana steppes.
Gadwall Anas strepera strepera
Regularly seen in the north, a few records near Almaty as well.
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca crecca
Only seen in the Astana steppes with c.15 birds there on 3/6.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos
A few observations in the south, much more common around Astana.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
c.15 birds seen in the Astana steppes.
Garganey Anas querquedula
Good numbers in the Astana steppes.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Fairly common in the north.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Like previous species, good numbers were seen around Astana with c.130 birds on 3/6.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
The commonest Duck in the Astana steppes, c.700 birds were counted on 3/6.
Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca
A pair in the Tau-kum desert on a small pond near Qaraoy on 6/6.
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
A female at the Kegen pass. Respectively c.50 and c.30 birds on both visits of the Astana steppes.
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala
Always a nice bird to see! Respectively 16 birds were noted on 3 and 4/6 in the Astana steppes, almost all birds were males (11 on Zumai lake, 1 in the marshes at km-post 9 and 4 on Bahan lake).
Note: Endangered qualified by Birdlife International. The world population declined to less than 10.000 birds and Kazakhstan is the major breeding country.
“Black-eared” Kite Milvus migrans lineatus
Except in the north, daily seen in small numbers. Maximum day-count c.15 birds on 7/6.
*White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
An adult flew over the Ili river at Aqzhar on 5/6.
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus barbatus
Superb observation of an adult overhead and a juveniel on the nest in the Yellow Canyon on 31/5. Another adult was seen the same day at the Kegen pass and one was noted in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus percnopterus
A single near Km-post 190 at the Charyn area on 1/6 and 2 birds at the Tasmani-Tas on 5/6.
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis
2 birds in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6. Good scope views of an immature roosting in the spruce forest around the reservoir.
Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus fulvescens
2 single observations at the Kegen pass on 31/5.
Cinereous (Monk) Vulture Aegypius monachus
A sub-adult bird flew over the Charyn river on 1/6.
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
2 birds at the Charyn river on 1/6 and a single at Konshengel on 7/6.
Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus aeruginosus
A single in the south at the Quaraqola fish-ponds and c.10 birds daily in the Astana steppes.
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
On 3/6 we noted no less than 26 males and 6 females in the Astana steppes. A nice male on migration on 5/6 at Tamgaly-Tas.
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
Only 3 males were identified in the Astana steppes. A female was seen at Konshengel on 7/6.
Shikra Accipiter badius cenchroides
Good telescope views of a male on 5/6 at our campsite along the Ili river near Aqzhar.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus nisosimilis
Singles were noted on 5 days.
“Steppe” Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus
2 singles in the Astana steppes on 3/6.
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Almost daily seen in the south, except in the Tien Shan mountains. c.50 birds in total.
Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Excellent telescope views of some immature and adult birds perched on pylons. We observed at least 6 different birds on 6/6 in the Tau-kum desert and 2 birds on 7/6 at Konshengel.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife International.
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos chrysaetos
On 30/5 were 2 birds noted at Tausugur and an adult at Bartoghay. Other singles were seen on 5/6 at the Tamgaly-Tas and in the Tien Shan mountains on 8 and 9/6.
Booted Eagle Aquila pennatus
A pale form was seen at Yellow Canyon on 31/5.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
6+ seen at Tausugur on 31/5. A single male the next day at the Kegen pass.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife International.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus
Daily seen in good numbers throughout the country.
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus
c.16 encounters in the Astana steppes. Some great looks of birds in a small colony along the roadside at km-post 69.
Merlin Falco columbarius lymani/pallidus
A single near Almaty on 30/5. A pair of the pale siberian form pallidus on nest in the Astana steppes, offered excellent and prolonged telescope views (km-post 29 along the M36 towards Karagandy).
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo subbuteo
A few observations on 6 days, mostly singles.
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug milvipes
Good views of a male at close range at the Kegen Pass on 31/5.
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis sewerzowi
Telescope views in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6 near the lake and 2 on 9/6 near the observatory. On both days 3 more were heard.
Chukar Alectoris chukar pallida
Regular encounters in the first half of the trip, east of Almaty. c.20 birds seen, many more heard.
Gray Partridge Perdix perdix robusta
A single observation en-route between Konshengel and Almaty on 7/6.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix coturnix
Regularly heard in suitable habitat. A single was briefly seen near Almaty.
Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus shawii
Shy, much more heard than seen! A total of c.10 birds was seen in the Charyn and the Ili river delta. The origin of this birds is still unclear.
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo
Superb observations of this elegant birds! Most birds were paired up, we saw couples in the Charyn area on 1 and 2/6 and we counted c.10 birds in the Astana steppes on 3/6.
(Water Rail) (Rallus aquaticus korejewi)
4 birds were heard in the Astana steppes.
(Corn Crake) (Crex crex)
Quite unexpected were 3 calling birds early afternoon all at different locations in the Kengen pass at an altitude of c.2000 m.
(Baillon’s Crake) (Porzana pusilla pusilla)
2 calling birds in the marshes at km-post 9 on 4/6 in Astana steppes were also surprisingly, not the observation but the location! The birds breed here in typical habitat of Little Crake P.parva (reedbeds with rather deep water) while European birds breed in more swampy areas with profuse vegetation, and with low water level.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus chloropus
A few heard near Astana, singles seen near the Tau-kum desert and on the Topar lakes.
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra atra
Common in the Astana steppes, a few seen on the Topar lakes.
Maqcueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis maqcueeenii
Nice observation of a male at Konshengel on 7/6.
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus longipes
Small numbers on roadside ponds near the Tau-kum desert and on the Topar lakes.
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii
Excellent scope views of a pair along the river feeding the reservoir in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6. This place is already a stake-out for several years.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Small numbers throughout, more common near Astana with c.25 birds a day.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
c.70 birds were counted in the Astana steppes on 3/6.
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola pratincola
A distant bird at the reservoir of Bartoghay on 30/5 was probably this species.
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni
Superb views at several small colonies in the Astana steppes. At least 84 birds were counted on 3/6 (21 on Birtaban lake, 3 on Shalkar lake, 44 on Sholak lake, 1 at Zumai lake and c.15 along the highway A344 at km-post 97 .
Note: Near Threatened qualified by Birdlife International.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Small numbers noted at different locations.
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius
A pair near the Nura river at Km-post 119 along the main road A344 south-west of Astana. Unfortunately, we saw through the telescope how a Magpie P.pica ripped an egg and flew off with it.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife International.
Black-bellied (Gray) Plover Pluvialis squatarola
A single observation on 3/6 in the Astana steppes.
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula tundrae
Another single in the Astana steppes.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius curonicus
Small numbers throughout.
Snowy (Kentish) Plover Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus
c.8 birds were noted in the Astana steppes.
Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaultii crassirostris
A regularly encountered breeding species in the Charyn area and Konshengel with respectively c.16 and c.8 birds seen.
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola
Great views, at least 3 ‘roding’ at dusk in the Charyn valley (Ash-Tree-Grove) at dusk on 1/6.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago gallinago
2 birds in the swampy area at Km-post 235 between the Charyn and the Ili river.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa melanuroides
c.15 birds in the Astana steppes.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus alboaxillaris
c.10 birds counted around Astana.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata orientalis
A single flew over Kynkol lake near Maishukur at the Astana steppes.
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
A single observation at a small pond along the the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas on 5/6.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus ussuriensis
Small numbers throughout.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
A few observations in the Astana steppes, 2 on Birtaban lake 7 on Sholak lake 2 at the Karasu river and a singel at Bahan lake..
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia nebularia
2 singles were noted in the Astana steppes.
*Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
2 birds at the marshes just outside Astana.
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus
A single bird on 3/6 at Zumai lake in the Astana steppes.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
A few records at different places.
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres interpres
9 birds were noted in the Astana steppes.
Little Stint Calidris minuta
A common passage migrant in the Astana steppes, c.200 birds on 3/6.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Another common migrant around Astana, c.100 birds were seen.
Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina
A total of c.50 birds were observed at the same locations like previous species.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Respectively 13 and 7 birds seen at the Astana steppes.
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
The top of the migration was already past but still good numbers in breeding plumage. 500+ birds were seen on 3/6 (c.40 at Sholak lake, c.440 at Zumai lake and c.50 at Kynkol lake) and 28 at Bahan lake on 4/6 at the Astana steppes, and c.10 birds at a small pond along the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas on 5/6.
Mew (Common) Gull Larus canus heinei
c.50 birds were noted at the Astana steppes.
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans
Small numbers on ponds in the Tau-kum desert and near the Topar lakes.
Steppe Gull Larus barabensis
A common species at the Astana steppes, up to 200 birds a day.
Great Black-headed (Pallas’s) Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Good numbers of this beautiful Gull at the Astana steppes. 550+ birds were counted on 3/6, including a colony of c.270 adult birds with c.179 young at Kynkol lake near the village of Maishukur. A single was noted on 4/6 at Bahan lake near the centre of Astana.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Small numbers in the south-east, more commonly seen in the north of the country.
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
A total of 42 birds (16 at Kynkol lake and 26 at Zumai lake) in the Astana steppes on 3/6.
Little Gull Larus minutus
7 birds on a fish-pond just outside Astana.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
A total of 28 birds were counted at the Astana steppes.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo minussensis
Almost daily seen in suitable habitat.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons albifrons
Respectively 7 and a single observation in the Astana steppes on 3/6 and at the Ili river on 6/6.
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
In Astana c.75 birds on both days and c.5 birds near Qaraoy at the beginning of the Tau-kum desert on 6/6. A single was noted at the Topar lakes on 7/6.
Black Tern Chlidonias niger niger
c.10 birds on 2/6 at the fish-ponds of Quaraqola. Less common than previous species at the Astana steppes wit c.25 birds in total. On 7/6 were c.10 birds counted at the Topar lakes.
Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus
A total of 13 around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area on 1/6 and superb views of 5 birds the next day on the Sugaty plains.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata cauducutus
Only 3 birds in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6 and a single the next day at Konshengel were noted.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis arenarius
Regularly encountered on 6 places, highest numbers in the Taukum (20+) and at Konshengel (15+).
“Feral” Pigeon Columbia livia
A common species near towns and villages.
Rock Dove Columba livia neglecta
‘Real ones’ were noted at Bartoghay, Yellow Canyon, in gorges of the Charyn valley and at Tamgaly-Tas.
Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus casiotis
A single observation en-route between Konshengel and Almaty on 7/6.
Pale-backed (Yellow-eyed Stock) Pigeon Columba eversmanni
Superb scope views at close range of a single at the Turanga forest near Aydarly on 1/6. No less than 21 birds were counted at the Turanga forest Zhelturanga on 7/6 but less good views because heavy rains on that time!
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife International.
Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur turtur
Small numbers on most days.
Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis meena
c.10 birds on 30/5 along the road to Big Almaty lake and a single the next day at Yellow Canyon. Good views of 2 birds at the mountain observatory on 9/6.
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto decaocto
A few records, mostly near villages.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis cambayensis
Only 2 singles were noted on 6 and 7/6 at the Ili river delta and at Zhelturanga respectively.
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus subtelephonus
A common species throughout the country, observations from the steppes and deserts till the mountains at 2800m.
European Scops-Owl Otus scops pulchellus
Heard at Yellow Canyon on 31/5. 3 were seen an at least 10 more heard on 1/6 at Ash-Tree-Grove campsite. Incredible common here!
Little Owl Athene noctua bactriana
4 birds were noted early morning between our campsite near Aqzhar (Ili river) and Qaraoy (Tau-kum desert) on 6/6.
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus flammeus
A total of 7 birds could be admired hunting over the marshy areas near Astana on 3 and 4/6 and a single was seen on 7/6 at Konshengel.
Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus sarudnyi
Heard at Yellow Canyon on 31/5 and seen at Kegen pass the same afternoon. 4 seen and many more heard (6+) on 1/6 at the Ash-Tree-Grove campsite. 2 more were observed very well the next morning on the Sugaty plains.
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba tuneti
At Tausugur were 6 birds noted on 30/5.
Common Swift Apus apus apus
Small numbers were noted at different locations in the south-east.
(Common Kingfisher) (Alcedo atthis atthis)
Singles were heard at the Quraqola fish-ponds on 2/6 and in the Astana steppes on 4/6.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus persicus
Fairly common in the Tau-kum desert with c.35 birds on 6/6, a small colony was found near Qaraoy village.
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Except the Tien Shan mountains, daily seen throughout.
European Roller Coracias garrulus semenovi
Like previous species, common at all visited places, with c.30 birds on 5/6 as highest count.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops saturata
Another fairly common species, almost daily seen up to 10 birds a day.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major poelzaml
A single bird on 6/6 at our campsite along the Ili river near Aqzhar.
White-winged Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucopterus
A pair superbly observed by the nest hole in the Turanga forest near Aydarly on 1/6 and a male the next morning at our campsite Ash-Tree-Grove in the Charyn valley. 4 more; 3 seen and 1 heard in the Turanga forest near Zhelturanga on 7/6.
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra calandra
Regularly seen in good numbers in suitable habitats, c30 birds on 31/5 in the grasslands on the foot of the Kegen Pass (A351), c20 birds on 5/6 along the road A350 Almaty – Qapshaghay plus along the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas and c.40 birds on 7/6 at Konshengel.
Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata bimaculata
Only 4 birds positively identified at Konshengel on 7/6.
White-winged Lark Melanocorypha leucoptera
A total of c.50 birds were counted at the Astana steppes on 3/6. They prefer more open vegetation with shorter grass than the letter species.
Black Lark Melanocorypha yeltoniensis
Splendidly common in the steppes of Astana, no less than c.315 birds (mostly males) were seen on 3/6 and a single male the next day at the Karasu river. We had some great views of their spectacular slow-motion display flights. A guarantee bird in the steppes but surely one of the highlights this trip!
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla longipennis
c.30 seen in the Charyn area on 1/6, c.5 at the Sugaty plains the next day, another 5 birds in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6 and c.10 at Konshengel on 7/6.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens heinei
Seen at the same places than previous species with respectively c.5, c.10, c.30 and c.15 birds.
Asian Short-toed Lark Calandrella cheleensis seebohmi
A total of c.10 birds were noted between our campsite near Aqzhar (Ili river) and Qaraoy (Tau-kum desert) on 6/6.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata magna
Quite common, birds were noted in the Charyn area, Sugaty plains, Tamgaly-Tas, Tau-kum desert and Konshengel.
Sky Lark Alauda arvensis dulcivox
Seen every where in suitable habitats, especially in the steppes of Astana with 400+ birds on 3/6.
Horned (Shore) Lark Eremophila alpestris brandti
Only noted around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area with c.50 birds there on 1/6.
Bank Swallow (Sand Martin) Riparia riparia riparia
Only seen in the north where common.
Pale Martin Riparia diluta tibetana
A colony was found east of Tausugur, c.20 birds were identified. 2 birds were seen on a roadside pond in the Kegen pass the next day.
Eurasian Crag-Martin Hirundo rupestris rupestris
Small numbers in the Yellow Canyon, Kegen pass, a gorge near the Charyn river and Tamgaly-Tas.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica rustica
Daily seen, except in the Tien Shan mountains.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica daurica
Uncommon, only 2 on 30/5 along the road to Big Almaty lake and c.6 on 5/6 at Tamgaly-Tas.
House-Martin Delichon urbica urbica
Only seen the first 2 days of the trip, c.35 birds in total.
“Masked” Wagtail Motacilla alba personata
Almost daily seen in the south, small numbers.
Note: This characteristic form is sometimes split off as a separate species.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola calcarata/werae/citreola
In the south breeds the beautiful black-backed form calcarata. We observed this subspecies on 31/5 at the Kegen pass with 7 birds and on 1/6 at Km-post 235 between the Charyn and the Ili river with 4 birds there. On the former place near the village of Kefeh, we saw 4 birds of the form citreola and a male of the form werae on migration as well! Another male of the subspecies citreola was seen at the latter location. In the steppes in the north were all birds of the citreola race, we count c.10 birds on 3/6 and a single male on 4/6.
“Eastern Black-headed” Wagtail Motacilla flava/feldegg melanogrisea
c.10 birds on 1/6 in the Charyn and Ili river delta, c.5 on 5/6 along the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas and c.50 birds on 6/6 between our campsite near Aqzhar (Ili river) and Qyaraoy (Tau-kum desert). Plumage in birds was very different, we observed birds with whitish, greenish and yellowish wing-bars, birds with white malar stripe and with totally yellow throat, one male with olive on the side of the breast (like Thunbergi), all others had a completely yellow breast.
Note: The taxonomy of Yellow Wagtails is still unclear. Some taxonomists treated the ‘black-headed’ forms as a separate species; Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla feldegg. Also the classification of the eastern birds melanogrisea is unclear, P. Alstrom et al. (Pipits and Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America) treat this birds not as a race, but as a morph of feldegg!
“Gray-headed” Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi
A single male was noted at Km-post 235 between the Charyn and the Ili river on 1/6.
“Sykes’s” Wagtail Motacilla flava beema
A migration bird on 1/6 at the same place than previous subspecies. A common breeding bird in the Astana steppes with respectively c.100 and c.50 birds on 3 and 4/6.
Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea melanope
A few records at XXX and in the Tien Shan mountains.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris campestris
Almost daily seen at most visited places, even in the lower parts of the Tien Shan mountains. Highest count on 1/6 with c.20 birds around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis schueteri/trivialis
A single at the Kegen pass and c.5 daily in the Tien Shan mountains.
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta blakistoni
Seen on both days in the Tien Shan mountains.
(Goldcrest) (Regulus regulus tristis)
Only heard in the Tien Shan mountains.
Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus centralasiae
Totally unexpected was the observation of an adult male near the observatory in the Tien Shan mountains at an altitude of 2800m on 9/6.
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii tenuirostris
Nice views of an adult with juvenile along the road to Big Almaty lake on 30/5.
(Winter Wren) (Troglodytes troglodytes tianschanicus)
Heard at Bartoghay and in the Tien Shan mountains a few times.
Himalayan (Altai) Accentor Prunella himalayana
On 9/6 c.10 birds in were seen around the near-derelict village Kohsmostantsia above the observatory at an altitude of 3400m.
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens fulvescens
Another Tien Shan mountains speciality, seen twice on 8/6 and 3 records on 9/6.
Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis huttoni
The most common Accentor in the Tien Shan mountains, c.15 on 8/6 and c.8 the next day. Easy to find in shrubby growth.
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush Monticola saxatilis
A pair en-route between Bartoghay and Yellow Canyon on 30/5 and two single males the next day at respectively Yellow Canyon and the Kegen pass.
*Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius pandoo
A male at Yellow Canyon on 31/5.
Blue Whistling-Thrush Myophonus caeruleus temminckii
c.3 birds along the stream on the way-up in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6.
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula intermedius
Only a few records along the road to Big Almaty lake, in Almaty-city and in the Tien Shan mountains.
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
A single observation on 4/6 in the Astana steppes.
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus bonapartei
Seen at the Kegen pass and in the Tien Shan mountains.
Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti albiventris
Always more heard than seen, observations were at Bartoghay, Ash-Tree-Grove campsite, in the Astana steppes, Tamgaly-Tas and en-route towards the Tau-kum desert and Zhelturanga.
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia mongolica
Only noted on 31/5 with 2 birds at Yellow Canyon and 3 birds at the Kegen pass.
Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioides fusca
c.8 birds seen in the marshes just outside Astana on 4/6.
Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon albiventris
2 birds seen well at the same location as the previous species.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
A single heard on 3/6 and c.5 seen the next day in the Astana steppes.
Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola capistrata
Some great views in the marshes just outside Astana on 4/6, at least 10 birds were counted.
“Caspian” Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus fuscus
c.10 birds noted at the same location than previous species. 2 birds were seen along the river at the Tamgaly-Tas on 5/6.
Blyth’s Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
Observations at our campsite Ash-Tree-grove on 1 and 2/6, in the Astana steppes on 4/6 and at our campsite along the Ili river near Aqzhar on 6/6. c.10 birds in total.
Great Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus zarudnyi
Fairly common in the Astana steppes.
Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata caligata
Regular encounters in shrubby habitat of the Astana steppes, c.10 birds in total.
Sykes’s Warbler Hippolais rama
Not uncommon in the south, we noted a total of c.2O birds at following places; along the road to Big Almaty lake, Yellow Canyon, Charyn and Ili river delta, campsite near Aqzhar and in the Tau-kum desert.
White-browed (Severtzov’s) Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae major
A family of 4 birds in the juniper scrub near the observatory in the Tien Shan mountains. It took 2 days but finally everybody of the group had seen this skulking species!
“Siberian” Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis
Only a single observation in the Astana steppes on 4/6.
Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus
Great views after taping one in in the scrub around the Tien Shan mountain observatory. We saw respectively 3 and 2 birds on 8 and 9/6, a few more were heard.
Hume’s Warbler Phylloscopus humei humei
Seen along the road to Big Almaty lake and in the Tien Shan mountains where fairly common.
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides viridanus
Common throughout the country in suitable habitats, maximum day-count 20+ birds on 9/6 in the Tien Shan mountains.
Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis rubicola
A few records throughout.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca halimodendri
2 seen and heard in the Astana steppes on 4/6.
Margelanic (Desert) Whitethroat Sylvia margelanica margelanica
Seen at Yellow Canyon on 30 and 31/5 with 2 and 6 birds respectively there. 3 were noted around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area on 1/6 and c.10 in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6.
Note: Race margelanica of Small Whitethroat is elevated to species status. Margelanic Whitethroat Sylvia margelanica. Race chuancheica considered synonymous with monotypic S. margelanica. Sylvia minula becomes monotypic. Shirihai, Hadoram, Gabriel Gargallo and Andreas Helbig. 2001. Sylvia Warblers. Princeton University Press.
Asian Desert Warbler Sylvia nana
Seen twice on 1/6 around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area. Superb views of a nesting pair with 4 young in the Tau-kum desert and a single on 6/6.
Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria merzbacheri
A total of 4 birds was seen in the Astana steppes on 4/6, a few more heard too.
“Eastern” Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos hafizi
A common species in the south-east of Kazakhstan, 100+ birds were noted!
White-tailed (Himalayan) Rubythroat Luscinia pectoralis ballioni
Splendid observations around the Tien Shan mountain observatory, 7 and c.5 birds on respectively 8 and 9/6.
“Red-spotted” Bluethroat Luscinia svecica tianschanica
3 birds on 1/6 at Km-post 235 between the Charyn and the Ili river, c.15 birds in total in the Astana steppes on 3 and 4/6 and another c.15 birds on 6/6 between our campsite near Aqzhar (Ili river) and Qaraoy (Tau-kum desert).
Rufous-backed (Evermann’s) Redstart Phoenicurus erythronota
A pair around the Tien Shan mountain observatory on 8/6 seen well, a second male there the next day
Blue-capped Redstart Phoenicurus caeruleocephalus
3 males on 8/6 and a single male on 9/6 in the spruce forests of the Tien Shan mountains.
White-winged (Guldenstadt’s) Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogaster grandis
Great telescope views at close range of a pair in the near-derelict village Kohsmostantsia above the Tien Shan mountain observatory on 9/6.
“Siberian” Stonechat Saxicola rubicola maura
A few in the south, most common in the Astana steppes with c.20 and c.6 birds there on 3 and 4/6.
Note: The maura group (incl.variegata, armenica, maura, stejnegeri, indica and przewalskii) again considered races of Common Stonechat. The scientific name is changed to Saxicola rubicola and the African Stonechat with all races to Saxicola torquata.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe libanotica
A common bird in the Astana steppes.
Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka
Good numbers in rocky mountains, a total of c.60 birds was counted at Bartoghay, Yellow Canyon, Kegen pass, gorges in the Charyn valley, Sugaty plains and Tamgaly-Tas.
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti atrogularis
Less common than previous species, seen on 1/6 around Km-post 189-193 at the Charyn area, on 2/6 at the Sugaty plains, on 6/6 in the Tau-kum desert and on 7/6 at Konshengel with c.30 birds in total.
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Very common in grassy steppes of the south-east, often living together with Russet Sousliks Spermophilus major.
Bearded Reedling (Tit) Panurus biarmicus russicus
Recorded in the Astana steppes with 2 birds on 3/6 and c.25 birds on 4/6.
“White-headed” Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus tephronotus
Twice observed at the campsite Ash-Tree-Grove on 2/6.
Songar Tit Poecile songarus songarus
c.12 birds noted on 9/6 in the Tien Shan mountains, responded well to tape-recorder.
Note : formerly treated as a member of the Willow Tit P.montanus.
Coal Tit Periparus ater rufipectus
Only observed in the Tien Shan mountains, c.8 and 3 birds on 8 and 9/6 respectively.
Great Tit Parus major kapustini
Regular encounters in the south, not seen in the north. 2 hybrid birds, Great X Turkestan Tits, were seen at Yellow Canyon 31/5. The birds looked closer to the former than the latter.
Turkestan Tit Parus bokharensis turkestanicus
On 1/6 were 2 birds seen at the Turanga forest near Aydarly and a single at the Ash-Tree-Grove campsite. Another single was seen at our campsite along the Ili river near Aqzhar on 6/6 and no less than 12 birds were noted in the Turanga forest of Zhelturanga the next day.
Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus tianschanicus
Quite commonly seen along the road to Big Almaty lake with 12 birds there on 30/5, a few more were heard too. A single was noted at the Ash-Tree-Grove campsite on 1/6 and 2 were heard there the next day.
Persian (Eastern Rock) Nuthatch Sitta tephronota obscura
A pair at the nest-site at Tamgaly-Tas on 5/6. A stake-out for this species!
(Eurasian Treecreeper) (Certhia familiaris tianschanica)
Heard in the Tien Shan mountains on 9/6.
White-crowned Penduline-Tit Remiz coronatus
Heard along the canal in Tausugur and seen twice plus heard near the weir at Bartoghay on 30/5. 2 more were observed at Ash-Tree-Grove campsite on 2/6 and 3 at Tamgaly-Tas on 5/6.
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus kundoo
A few records, more heard than seen.
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio collurio
A female on 4/6 at the fish-ponds near Astana.
“Turkestan” Shrike Lanius isabellinus phoenicuroides
Except the mountains, daily seen in the south-east. We counted c.90 birds in total with best numbers on 5/6 along the road A350 Almaty – Qapshaghay plus along the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas (20+) and on 6/6 in the Tau-kum (25+).
Note: All races (phoenicuroides, isabellinus, tsaidamensis and speculigerus) are lumped again in Lanius isabellinus, with the name Rufous-tailed Shrike then being for the enlarged species.
“Steppe” Gray Shrike Lanius meridionalis palludirostris
Great views of a pair on nest with 7 young at the Sugaty plains on 2/6. 3 birds were seen on 5/6 en-route between Quapshaghay and Baqanas.
Note: This race is sometimes split off as a separate species, but by most authors considered as a subspecies of Southern Gray Shrike Lanius meridionalis.
Northern Shrike Lanius excubitor (funereus)
Birds of this species were noted in a fairly restricted area, 3 were noted on 6/6 in the Tau-kum desert. Birds seen well appeared to show all dark bills, clear and broad black lores, white supercilium, double wing-bar and slightly darker upperparts in compare with following species. According to N. Lefranc and T. Worfolk in ‘Shrikes: A Guide to the Shrikes of the World’ these birds were probably of the race funereus on distribution and they must be on migration because this race is living in mountainous areas. However, this birds look to me like breeding residents and the description of the form is also not convincing. The precise limits of distribution in the south-eastern part of the range are not well known, probably the same with the subspecies!
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach erythronotus
Surprising was the observation of an adult, probably on migration near the observatory in the Tien Shan mountains on 9/6.
Lesser Gray Shrike Lanius minor turanicus
Fairly common in cultivated landscapes, highest count around Almaty (30+ on 30/5) but also seen in the Astana steppes with c.5 birds there on 3/6.
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica bactriana
Daily seen at most locations.
Turkestan (Pander’s) Ground-Jay Podoces panderi
A male in the sandy dunes of the Tau-kum desert on 6/6 was surely one of the highlights of the trip! Valère found the bird almost immediately on our first stop in the right habitat some 15 km. north-east of the village Qaraoy. The bird was singing in the top of a bush for a few minutes (c.9:10) and disappeared when flew off. A second or the same male was briefly seen c.700 m. further away c.30 minutes later.
Eurasian (Spotted) Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes rothschildi
A single was seen in the Tien Shan mountains and 2 were heard on 8/6, one heard the next day too.
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax centralis
3 birds in the Kegen pass on 31/5 and c.10 birds in the Tien Shan mountains on 9/6.
Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus digitatus
A group of c.20 birds soaring in the Tien Shan mountains on 8/6.
Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula soemmerringii
This siberian form is a common species throughout.
Rook Corvus frugilegus frugilegus
Like previous species, a common bird.
“Eastern” Carrion Crow Corvus corone orientalis
Daily encounters in the south-east, up to c.40 birds a day.
Note: Carrion Crow is recently split into two species. Carrion Crow Corvus corone with race orientalis and Hooded Crow Corvus cornix with races sharpii, pallescens and capellanus. The race orientalis from central and eastern Asia overlaps locally with C. cornix in Siberia with only limited hybridization, suggesting that it also is a separate species. Knox et al. 2002, op cit.
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix sharpii
Seen in the Astana steppes with c.15 and c.20 birds on respectively 3 and 4/6.
Common Raven Corvus corax tibetanus
Seen twice in the Tien Shan mountains on 8 and 9/6.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis tristis
A common bird, daily seen in the south-east.
Rosy Starling Pastor roseus
Always a nice bird to see! Good numbers were noted; 150+ at Tausugur and c.30 en-route to Bartoghay on 30/5, c.15 in the Charyn area on 1/6, c.25 at the Sugaty plains on 2/6, c.70 at Tamgaly-Tas and c.300 en-route along the A350 Almaty – Qapshaghay plus along the road Quapshaghay – Baqanas on 5/6 and c.250 between Honshengel and Almaty on 7/6. Some flocks were still on migration.
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris poltaratskyi
Except the mountains, daily seen.
Saxaul Sparrow Passer ammodendri ammodendri
A small colony is know c.4 km. west of Aydarly. The birds breeds in the first telephone-pole on the left hand-side where the power-line crosses the road. We noted 8 males and 3 females on 1/6. 8 more were seen on 6/6 between our campsite near Aqzhar (Ili river) and Qaraoy (Tau-kum desert) and a single near Zhelturanga the next day.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus domesticus
Small numbers were noted at most localities with human habitation.
“Indian” House Sparrow Passer domesticus bactrianus
Flocks, well away from human habitation were seen in good numbers east of Almaty.
Note: This migratory sub-species is sometimes treated as specific status. They nesting often in Bank and Pale Martin burrows, or building tree nests.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus dilutus/montanus
Small numbers seen on most days.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs coelebs
A late migrant female on 2/6 at the Sugaty plains was quite unexpected!
Rock Petronia (Sparrow) Petronia petronia intermedia
Observations at Yellow Canyon with c.5 birds on 30/5 and c.10 birds the next day, heard in a gorge in the Charyn valley on 1/6 and finally 4 birds at Tamgaly-tas on 5/6.
Plain (Hodgson’s) Mountain-Finch Leucosticte nemoricola altaica
Fairly common at higher altitudes in the Tien Shan mountains, c.80 and c.20 birds on 8 and 9/6.
Common (Scarlet) Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus erythrinus
Regular encounters, 3 along the route to Big Almaty lake on 30/5, c.15 in the Yellow Canyon and c.8 at the Kegen pass on 31/5, c.15 in the Astana steppes on 4/6, c.6 at our campsite near Aqhzar on 5/6, 3 here on 6/6 and a few more were heard near Zhelturanga and at the foot of the Tien Shan mountains.
Red-mantled Rosefinch Carpodacus rhodochlamys rhodochlamys
Only observed around the Tien Shan mountain observatory with a males and 3 females on 8/6 and a single male plus some birds heard there the next day.
(European Greenfinch) (Carduelis chloris turkestanica)
Heard on 5/6 at Almaty-airport.
“Gray-headed” Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis caniceps
A few were seen near Almaty and Tausugur on 30/5, c.15 birds at the Kegen pass on 31/5, c.10 in the Charyn valley on 1/6 and c.15 birds in total in the Tien Shan mountains.
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina bella
Small numbers were seen.
Fire-fronted Serin Serinus pusillus
Respectively c.30 and c.10 birds were noted on 8 and 9/6 in the Tien Shan mountains.
White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes carnipes
Another Tien Shan speciality, c.10 birds on 8/6 and 4 birds the next day.
Desert Finch Rhodopechys obsoleta
4 birds seen and a few more heard in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6.
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos leucocephalos
No less than 6 males and 3 females were seen very well in a restricted area some 40 km. south-east of Astana along the highway to Almaty.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia par
Twice seen along the road to Big Almaty lake on 30/5.
Meadow (Siberian) Bunting Emberiza cioides tarbagataica
A beautiful male at the Kegen pass on 31/5 was a nice bonus bird! This is the most western part of distribution of this species rarely seen in Kazakhstan.
Gray-hooded (Gray-necked) Bunting Emberiza buchanani neobscura
Seen east of Almaty with 3 birds at Bartoghay and 6 at Yellow Canyon on 30/5, 4 seen and a few heard here the next day, c.15 birds at the Kegen pass on 31/5 and again 2 birds on 1/6 in the Yellow Canyon.
Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps
11 birds at Tausughur, 2 at Bartoghay and a single at Yellow Canyon on 30/5, 2 in the Astana steppes (Nura river) on 3/6, c.40 at Tamgaly-Tas and en-route along the A350 on 5/6,c.25 in the Tau-kum desert on 6/6 and c.15 between Honshengel and Almaty on 7/6.
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus pyrrhuloides
c.10 birds daily in the Astana steppes, a single was heard on a roadside like near Zhelturanga.
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
4 birds at the Kegen pass on 31/5
David Van den Schoor
For additional information, please contact:
David Van den Schoor
2270 Herenthout (Belgium)
Tel.+Fax : ++32-14-51.13.95