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Birding Tours in Kazakhstan

Birds of Mountains and Deserts

Day 1. Arriving to Almaty city. Right after arriving we go to lakes of Sorbulak system included many large and small reservoirs connected by the web of channels. There are a lot of birds in all seasons in the shore of lakes of Sorbulak but especially in migration time when the large flocks of Waterfouls and Waders feed and rest here. Also here we will observe colonies of Dalmatian Pelicans, Great Cormorants; in some lakes several couples of White-headed Ducks breed. We will watch the nesting Black-necked and Crested Grebes, Red-crested Pochards, Black-headed Gulls, Caspian Gulls too; breeding of these birds is depended from the level of water. In addition to bird related to water we also will watch White-tailed Sea-Eagle, Long-legged Buzzards and some other birds of prey. Recent years the Pallas's Sea-Eagles were recorded some times. The main birds of the day are Dalmatian Pelicans and White-headed Ducks.

Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in Sorbilak

Day 2. In early morning time we will start our trip to Kanshengel located at distance about 100 kms from the our base. First stop for birding is the Wish Tree, the single tree in which the migrating birds rest. The large number and species divercity make this birding spot quite interesting in the spring migration. The largest part of Norther Trans-Balkhash area is Taukum desert. In this desert we will watch the migrating Waders and little Passerines which stay to rest at the artesian wells, the rare watering places in desert. Over these wells also the local breeding birds live. We will be sure to watch Black-bellied Sandgrouses, Greater Sand Plover and many Calandra, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks; from time to time here possible to view Caspian Plover, Pallas's Sandgrouse and sometimes the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Kanshengel is the spot which birdwatchers specially visit to take photos of Sandgrouses. At evening we will come back to our base. The target bird: Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Greater Sand Plover, Syke's Warbler, Brown-necked Raven.

Day 3. We will cross the Taukum desert. In the sand hills growing by the rare saxaul groves the following desert inhabitants can be observed: Lesser Whitethroat (halimodendri subspecies), Syke's Warbler, Steppe Grey Shrike, Red-headed Bunting, Crested Lark, Rufous Bush Robin, Asian Desert Warbler. Then we will reach the Topar lakes. Topar lakes are the system of little to medium sized desert ponds formed by the ground water of Ili river delta. The number of lakes is large, some of them are reed-covered, or bordered by the little groves of Asian Poplar. Here we sure to watch Azure Tit, Ferruginous Duck, Greater Cormorant, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Black-eared Kite, Shikra. Also we have opportunity to watch Black-headed Penduline Tit. The homestead in Araltobe will be our place for spending night. The target bird: Steppe Grey Shrike, Shikra, Azure Tit, Syke's Warbler.

Day 4. Zhelturanga, Ili river wetlands. In the relict wetland forest od Asian Poplar we will observe White-winged Woodpecker, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Indian Golden Oriole, Roller, Turkestan Tit. This night we sleep in homestead in Araltobe, where at night we will try to find Pallid Scops Owl and Eurasian Scops Owl. The target birds of the day: Saxaul Sparrow, White-winged Woodpecker, Eyllow-eyed Pigeon, Turkestan Tit.

Eyllow-eyed Pigeon (Columba eversmanni)/ Ili river.

Day 5. The day of the long distance (about 360 kms) moving in eastern direction, to the Big Boguty mountains. We will by in the road almost all day, but we will have the 3-hours stopping to watch birds in very beauty place Ili river canyon. Here we will observe rocks where Golden Eagle couple nests regularly, also we will see colony of Red-rumped Swallows and Eurasian Crag Martins, nests of Eastern Rock Nuthatch, and colony of Lesser Kestrel. In previous years very large colony of Rosy Starling was here. The Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Sparrow nest here too. We will sleep in camping near Chunja village. The target birds of the day: Eurasian Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows, Golden Eagle, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Lesser Kestrel.

Day 6. Big Boguty mountains, Kokpek. Big Boguty is dry low mountains bordered with the stony desert. In Big Buguty there are some wells which are the main watering places to the all birds breeding here including Mongolian Finch, Crimson-winged Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, Linnets, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, and Calandra, Horned (brandti) and Greater Short-toed Larks. Photographers will have chance to take very good photos because birds in this location are not timid. Also the Black-bellied and Pallas's Sangrouses and Chukar Partridges could ve observed in watering spots. In the gorges of Kokpek pass there are White-capped Bunting, Hume's Whitethroat, Rock Buntings, and we will have apportunity to watch them. Also we know the location of nest of Golden Eagle where birds regularly breed recent years. One more attraction of the day is colony of Pale Sand Martins. The target birds of the day: Mongolian Finch, Crimson-winged Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, White-capped Bunting, Golden Eagle, Pale Sand Martin.

Palls's Sandrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus) / Big Boguty mountains.

Day 7. Canyon of Charyn river. In morning we will drive to upper of Charyn river where we plan to watch Himalayan Vultures. In the rocks of canyon there are also Common and Alpine Swifts, House Martin and Craig Martin. In the bushes of foothils we will sure to watch Grey-necked, Rock, Red-headed, Pine and Grey-necked Buntings, Turkestan Shrikes, Tawny Pipits, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. Also we have opportunity to watch Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Lammergeier, Black Stork, Barbary Falcon, Common and Long-legged Buzzard. The target birds of the day: Himalayan Vulture, Grey-necked Bunting, Rock Bunting, Turkestan Shrike.

Day 8. Day of moving to Big Almaty Lake. Distance is about 300 kms. The destination is Observatory in the highlands where we will stay two days and watch birds. During the road we will make stopping to rest and birding. Our road is passed in foothills of Tien Shan, we will saw Isabelline and Pied Wheatear, Turkestan Shrikes, Tawny Pipits. The roadside thickets is the habitat of Wood Pigeon (casiotis), Oriental Turtle Dove (meena), Indian Golden Oriole, Black-headed Penduline Tit. After arriving to Observatory we will rest and watch birds in vicinity.

Day 9-10. Big Almaty Lake. Two days we will be in the highlands of Tien Shan. In the first half of each day we will visit rocks near Cosmos-station (3400 m) where we watch Hodgson's Rosefinch, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Himalayan Accentor, Brown Accentor, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough. Also in this habitat Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper, Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle live. Since some of the lowlanders may experience the altitude sickness' symptoms, therefore we limit the staying of our guests in highlands by 4-5 hours per day. After lunch we will watch the birds in low juniper thickets at altitude 2500 m. Here we will see Black-throated Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Eversman's and Blue-capped Redstarts, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Hume's Warbler, Spotted Nutcracker, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Himalayan Rubythroat. Some of birds of juniper thickets we may watch right in the territory of Observatory where we will stay. All the birds of highlands are interesting, but in our opinion Himalayan Rubythroat, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Blue-capped Redstart, Ibisbill are most interesting of all. In the end of 10th day we will go down to city and carry you the hotel.

White-browed Tit-Warbler (Leptopoecile sophiae)/ Ile Alatau National Park

Day 11. Departure. In early morning we carry you to airport.

General Information. Weather during May and beginning of June is usually sunny with a very low chance of precipitation, with an average temperature of +20+25 degrees Celsius. However, mountain areas are slightly colder, with an average temperature decrease of 5-10 degrees Celsius, which is why travellers need to bring warm clothing (sweaters, hats, light jackets should be sufficient). There are no special requirements for the tour in terms of health risks and physical shape. There are no long walks, though there is a risk of malaise at high altitudes. However, as mentioned previously, we limit guests’ time at altitudes above 3000 meters. Main accommodation will be resorts and various camping spots. 2 night will be spent in tents, which will be provided along with sleeping bags. In terms of food, local cuisine slightly resembles Middle Eastern. Most of the food is not spicy. Size of the group is minimum 4, and maximum 10 people. Citizens of 56 states can visit Kazakhstan without visas. Foreign citizens can freely move in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Trip report 2022, Jean Paul ROUX (in French)

Trip report 2019, Martina Nacházelová (in Czech)

species table for tour (Excell)

Trip report 2018, by Matti Lempiäinen

Photobook of trip 2018, by Herman Hazelhorst

Contact person: Anar Issabekova (Anarissa228@gmail.com)

rare birds records

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

© Kudaibergen Amirekul
Shoshkakol, South Kazakstan

The first record of the Cattle Egret for South Kazakhstan. There are known sightings on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, flights to the Sholakkol lakes in the lower reaches of the Turgay and in the Kurgaldzhino region.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)

© Ainur Iskakova

The first confirmation of nesting of the Tawny Owl in in the West Kazakhstan region since 1897.

Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus)

© Ainur Iskakova
Area of the cardiocenter, West Kazakhstan region, Uralsk

The first record of the Syrian Woodpecker in Kazakhstan. On May 10, two birds were already found there - a male and a female.

European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

© Qanatbek Kenzhegulov
Aktau, Mangystau region

The first record of the European Stonechat in Kazakhstan and, possibly, in Central Asia in general. Another male was photographed in the Karagie depression on March 26, 2023 (Yasko A., birds.kz) and a female on the Aktau on March 27, 2023 (Kenzhegulov, birds.kz).

unidentified birds


Анна Ясько: У нее клюв не длинный и темный к вершине, особенно на подклювье. В определителях указывают на это отличие северной от южной.


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