KAZAKHSTAN

THE BEST OF CENTRAL ASIA

 

Dates

May 4th to 15th 2015

Tour Cost

GBP 2510.-

Single room supplement

GBP 180.-

Group size

12 persons with two leaders

Tour leader

Josele J Saiz plus local guide

Airport

Airport

What´s included

All ground transport, internal flight, all meals, services of guides and reserve entrance fees. Accommodation. Most companies use Yurt Camps when in the desert as we will do. In the Tien Shan mountains bird companies use the Astronomical Observatory, we only book there if they have en-suite rooms available, otherwise we will stay in Almaty. Visiting the Sogety Plains we will stay a little away from the birding areas because the Hunting Lodge is not really suitable for overnight stays, despite most companies using it and there being good birding in its gardens. Transport in comfortable 17 seat minibus with A/C and 4x4 vehicles when in the Astana plains.

What´s not included

Transport to/ from UK and any overnight stay that may be involved, visa cost, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature.

Visa: We will provide the necessary documentation for you to obtain a visa from the Kazakhstan Embassy in London - current cost £35.

 


Tour code

Relaxed, but intense with a few early morning starts, good chances to see all the local specialities. The terrain is variable and occasionally at altitude, so a reasonable level of physical fitness is required.

Selected species list

Dalmatian Pelican, McQueen's Bustard, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Saker, Great Black-headed Gull; Ibisbill; Black-winged Pratincole, Caspian and Greater Sand Plovers, Pallas's Sandgrouse, Himalayan Snowcock, Demoiselle Crane, Oriental Turtle-dove, White-winged Woodpecker, Brown Dipper, Pale Sand Martin, Rufous-tailed (Isabelline) Shrike, Sulphur-bellied, Asian Desert, Sykes's, Booted, Hume's, Greenish, and Blyth's Reed Warblers, Black-throated Accentor, Blue Whistling-Thrush, White-tailed Rubythroat, White-winged (Guldenstadt's), Blue-headed Redstart, Bimaculated, White-winged and Black Larks, Rosy Starling, Black-headed and White-crowned Penduline-tits, Azure and Songar Tits, White-browed Tit-warbler, Grey-hooded, Meadow, Red-headed and Chestnut-breasted Buntings, Saxaul Sparrow, Plain Mountain-finch, Desert, and Mongolian Finches, Red-mantled Rosefinch, White-winged Grosbeak.

More information

Introduction

Kazakhstan is a huge country - bigger than all of western Europe. There is a fine diversity of habitats and a mouth-watering array of birds special to Central Asia that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. The country is set in the very heart of Asia – a mix of and a bridge between Siberia, Mongolia, the Middle East and China. Everything is on a vast scale. Great expanses of flat steppe grasslands merge into sandy and stoney deserts. Dotted here and there are saline and freshwater lakes, which act like magnets to nesting and migrant birds. In sharp contrast, the massive towering peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains - an extension of the Himalayas - edging into China rise to over 20,000 feet. Here we find ecosystems varying from massive tracts of deciduous and coniferous forest cut by untamed rivers in deep gorges at lower elevations, to snowcapped peaks and flower-rich alpine meadows higher up.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival at Almaty Airport. After a hot drink to break you long trip  we will drive  to  Ili Alatau mountains National Park.  This natural area is a well known spot for Siberian Meadow Bunting, several raptors including Himalayan and Black Vultures, Golden Eagle and the local race of Black Kite.  We will also have chances to spot common species such as Grey­headed Goldfinch, Common Myna and Russian Magpie. Around the river beds  we can do some good birding; Blue Whistling Thrush, both Dippers (Brown and White­throated), Hume´s Leaf Warbler is numerous and perhaps we will witness the jewel - - White-headed Penduline Tit building its nest. In previous years even Rock Bunting  and Black-throated Thrush  where seen. We don't stay in the city as this consumes a lot of time on the way to other good birding areas. Also birding activity is low in this large metropolis. We´ll therefore stay in a hotel in the mountains, located 30 minutes from the airport with fresh air avoiding the smog from the city. Overnight in our hotel in Almaty.

Day 2 - Transport to Charyn region 250km east of Almaty. We will visit Red and Yellow canyons of Charyn in superb scenic ambience. A stop in Keskenghu Marshes   close to the main road can produce migrants such as Yellow Wagtail, Richard's Pipit , Common Snipe, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and residents including Long-tailed, Turkestan and Lesser Grey  Shrikes. Crossing the Kokpek pass we will make two stops for White­capped Bunting, here is also possible Hume's Whitethroat, Siberian Chiffchaff and 'vitata' Pied Wheatear. On the Sogety valley two artesian wells will be visited for incoming drinking Desert and Mongolian Finches, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Tawny Pipit, Short–toed Lark and the beautiful Shore Lark in breeding plumage. Overnight in a hotel close to the  Chinese  border.

Day 3 – Early morning we will drive to  the Sogety Plains; Pallas's Sandgrouse  and Asian Desert Warbler are the main targets here but as on the previous day we can find steppe birds; finches, larks, Long-legged Buzzard and the common Isabelline´s Wheatear. Crossing a beautiful dry desert steppe we will have good chances for Steppe Eagle, Great Sand Plover before arriving at the scenic Charyn Canyon where Pied Wheatear is abundant. Lunch by a river bed with raptors passing through  and Indian Sparrow  around the poplars. On  the way towards the border with Kyrgyzstan we will cross different local communities showing the life style  in Central Asia, Lesser Kestrel,  Saker Falcon, Upland Buzzard  and Demoiselle Crane are the targets here, but Citrine Wagtail, Ruddy  Shelduck, Northern Wheatear can also be seen close to the border. In the evening it is possible to visit the artesian wells once more where  Mongolian and  Desert  Finches, Grey-necked Bunting, sandgrouse and Bluethroat  visit for drinking. Overnight in hotel near the Chinese Border.

Day 4 – After breakfast we will check the area close to the River Ile, Azure Tit, European Scops Owl, White and Black Stork are possible. After Lunch transport back to Almaty, visiting the Sogety Plains and Kopke pass to look for the beautiful White­capped Bunting and the secretive Hume´s Whitethroat. We will also stop in the Keskenghu Marshes. Birding en route where European Penduline Tit, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Kite, Hume´s Warbler, Eurasian Hobby can break the boring driving to Almaty . Overnight  in  Almaty.

Day 5 - Transport to Taukum on the way to Sorbulak Lake. The lake holds and important concentration of wildfowl  among them , Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe waders such as Terek Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper.   Good concentrations of White Pelicans are also possible, with lesser numbers of Dalmatian Pelican. Passerines include Reed Warbler and  the mysterious Clamorous Warbler, you need to be patient searching for this bird when singing as they do  not show much.  With luck over 50,000 Rose­coloured Starlings breed on the dam. The breeding depends on the availability of crickets in the desert, the main diet for many birds. Lunch at the wish­tree near Konshengel where lots of warblers gather in flocks, it is possible to see over 20 species of birds in one tree. Time permitting we will stop by one of the numerous artesian  wells enjoying the spectacular migration of Yellow Wagtails while waiting for sandgrouse come to drink . Overnight in a Yurt camp.

Day 6 - All day birding around the Taskum desert. Early morning we will look for McQueens Bustard and Caspian Plovers, both are sometimes seen from the camp.   Wolfs also occur in the area – when scanning the desert early morning   there are good chances to spot several of them. After,  we will move to the artesian wells for incoming drinking sandgrouse, mostly large numbers  of Black­bellied,   Pin­tailed and Pallas's occur. After breakfast we will head to Topar Lakes, on the way crossing the monotonous semi arid steppe we will look for Asian Grey Shrike. Once we will arrive at the Topar Lakes  the main target will be Black­headed Penduline Tit  nesting in the reeds but other birds occur there; Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Stilt  and  Oriental Turtle Dove. Drive to Zheltorangly where remains a dying  extensive   forest of Populus diversifolia, the best habitat   for White­winged Woodpecker, Yellow­eyed Dove, Striated Scops Owl, Turkestan Tit and Saxaul Sparrow. Back to our base birding en route. Overnight in a  Yurt camp.

Day 7 - Transfer back to Almaty on the way to Sorbulak Lake. Last year we where lucky to find three important bids returning from the desert to Almaty; In the wish­tree near Konshengel, we had the third record from the Tien Shan mountains of White-tailed Rubythroat. In 2014 our stop in  the Sorbulak Lake produced very good vies of Clamorous Warbler for all of the group, one single Black-winged Pratincole roosting by the shore and a distant record of Red-necked Stint the rarest bird of the tour. Overnight in Almaty.  

Day 8 - Today we will drive through the Tien Shan Mountains to the Great Almaty Lake, birding en route.   On the way up we will search for Brown Dipper, Blue Whistling Thrush, Red­fronted Serin and Songar Tit. Once at the Lake   we will walk along the shore to try and find the rare and localised Ibisbill. Other birds at the Lake include, Golden Eagle, Himalayan Snowcock, Ruddy Shelduck, Blue-capped Redstart the pale local race of Hobby. After lunch  we will take a birding walk crossing  the juniper scrub where Red­mantled Rosefinch, Black­throated Accentor, White­winged Grosbeak, Eversmann's Redstart, White-tailed Rubythroat and White­browed Tit Warbler are not difficult to find. Overnight in Almaty.

Day 9 – Early morning and with good weather we will move further up in altitude to the Cosmic Ray Station (CRS) for delightful species such as Güldenstädt's Redstart,  Altai and  Brown Accentors also chances for the magnificent Lammergeier and the difficult Himalayan Snowcock. Back from the high altitudes, we will head to Almaty Lake where we can find Ibisbill again; the walk back along the ridge is excellent for Blue­capped Redstart and 'lymani' Merlin. Overnight in Almaty.

Day 10 -  Early Flight  to Astana. Heading out in the morning for the remainder of the day in order to begin our exploration of this fantastic area. The surrounding area is one of seemingly endless steppe and marshland interspersed with immense reedbeds and marshes resplendent with large numbers of waterbirds and our first Paddyfield, Cetti's, Moustached, Grasshopper and Savi's Warblers, Bluethroat, Citrine Wagtail and a perplexing array of many colorful races of Yellow Wagtail. Overnight in Astana.

Day 11 -   A full day visiting the best birding sites in the Kurgalgin wetlands reserve. Our main targets here are nesting groups of the globally endangered Sociable Lapwing, which our local guide should have “staked-out” for us. There are many other fine attractions in this vast landscape. Roadside colonies of Black-winged Pratincoles and White-winged Terns in glorious breeding plumage should be dotted with migrant shorebirds such as Red-necked Phalaropes, Spotted Redshank, Terek and Curlew Sandpipers, Ruffs displaying in all their finery, Little and Temminck’s Stints. These innumerable wetlands and lakes should also produce breeding Dalmatian Pelican, Great Bittern, White-headed Duck, Red-necked and Eared Grebes, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Red-crested Pochard and Caspian Terns. More special still are often close colonies of splendid Great Black-headed Gulls, with a supporting cast of Steppe and Slender-billed Gulls! The damp grassy steppe contain many elegant Demoiselle Cranes while scattered scrub bush should hold Booted Warbler, Pallid Harrier and gorgeous little Red-footed Falcons. Three other very special birds we should find easily today are Bimaculated, Black & White-winged Larks, often numerous along the roadside, but species confined to the Central Asian steppes. Drive back to Astana birdingeon route. Overnight in Astana.

Day 12  –  Drive to Astana airport early morning for your flight back home.

Gallery

Testimonials

Hi Josele
Belated thanks for the excellent Kazakhstan trip which I enjoyed very much. I saw virtually every bird on my wish list. I hope your injury clears up soon.

All the Best Tony 2014

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Dear Josele,
Thank you so much for a wonderful birding experience in Kazakhstan. As you know I am not really a birdwatcher but I really did enjoy this trip and found the birds quite wonderful. It was a great group of people and your leadership made everything possible.
I was sad to hear about the extent of your injury and I hope that you will soon recover.
Enjoy Turkey and take care of yourself, especially your knee/leg. We look forward to seeing you again at the Bird Fair.

Very best wishes - Carolyn 2014

 

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