Kazakhstan is the eighth largest country in the world, situated on the edge of the Western Palearctic. It stretches almost 3,000 km from the Volga Delta in the west to the western border of Mongolia in the east, and 1,800 km from Russia in the north to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the south. It occupies a territory of no less 2,717,300km². Of the landscape, plains cover 60%, hummocks 30% and mountains and foothills up to 10%. Central and northern Kazakhstan holds the majority of the 34,500 lakes. The largest and well-known lakes are the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea, and lakes Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tengiz and Kushmurun. The majority of rivers such as Ural, Irgiz, Turgai, Sarysu, Nura, Ili etc. belong to the closed catchment areas of large lakes. Only the rivers Irtysh, Ishim and Tobol flow to the Arctic Ocean.
Kazakhstan is rich in oil, gas, coal, copper, iron, zinc, lead, aluminium and uranium. It has a network of oil and gas pipelines, railways and motorways, and modern telecommunication and aviation. Kazakhstan mainly produces grain and meat.
Kazakhstan has a great diversity of landscapes: different types of steppes and northern desert, foliaceous and coniferous forests, large lakes, and river valleys, huge mountains with magnificent gorges and white-capped peaks. The northernmost region is represented by the forest-steppe ecosystems of the Western-Siberian lowland. Further south, these ecosystems change to steppe followed by extensive desert covering over 44% of the total area of the country. The mountain belts include different types of forests, alpine meadows, tundra, permanent snow belts and glaciers.
This geographical location and diversity provide a rich composition of flora and fauna with over 6,000 species of vascular plants and 835 vertebrate species. There are 495 (and 449 extra more subspecies) bird species, including 396 breeding species, the rest are migrating and wintering species. Also 400 species of butterflies, 50,000+ species of insects, 178 (and an extra 244 subspecies) species of mammals, 49 (35 subspecies) species of reptiles, 12 (and a 9 subspecies extra) species of amphibian, 104 (and a extra 71 subspecies) species of fishes and 3 species of cyclostomata.
Animal life in Kazakhstan varies by region. The republic is home to the extremely rare Saiga Antelope, which is protected by government decree. The Saiga inhabits the steppes, as do Siberian Roe Deer, wolves, foxes and badgers. The Bukhara Deer is exotic as there are only about 300 animals of this species left in the world. At present, the population of wolves in Kazakhstan has reached 125,000 animals and continues to grow. The Ermine and Sable are found in the hills. Various animals thrive in the deserts, including Goitred (Persian) Gazelle; rodents, such as Gopher, Sand Rat, and Jerboa; and reptiles, such as lizards and snakes. Wild Boars, Jackal, and Deer are found near the rivers and lakes. The mountains are home to Asian Ibex (Siberian [Himalayan] Ibex), Lynx, Wolf, Wild Boar and Brown Bear. The endangered Snow Leopard, which has long been illegally hunted for its fur, also lives in the mountains, preying on Ibex. Endemics can be found like Desert Dormouse and Selvin's Mouse, the endemic of the Western Tien-Shan is very interesting and also Menzbier's Marmot. Extensive hunting on the Kazakhstan territory, since mid-20th century caused the extinction of a Kazakhstan Asiatic Wild Ass species and Turan Tiger, Tugai Deer and, probably, Cheetah.
The target species for most birdwatchers in Kazakhstan are Sociable Lapwing, Relict Gull, Yellow-eyed Stock Dove, White-throated Bushchat, Dalmatian Pelican, Pallid Harrier, Black-winged Pratincole, Panders Ground Jay, Saxaul Sparrow, Black Lark, White-winged Lark, Ibisbill and Demoiselle Crane. But there is so much more to find and see in this enormous country!
I wish to thank the people who accompanied us for some time in Kazakhstan. Many thanks to Andrey Gavrilov for inviting us, the excellent cooking and the generous hospitality. Many thanks also to Vladimir Kolbintsev, Arend Wassink, Arman Dichanbaev, Andrea Corso, Wim Nap, Edward Gavrilov, Klara Sarsekova en the rest of the very kind people at Chokpak station. Also thanks to WN, AW, AG, VK for correcting an earlier draft!
11th September 2003 Arrivals in Almaty and transfer to the house from Arman.
12th September 2003 Morning spent arranging visa, afternoon spent in Botanical Garden and Zoological Institute.
13th September 2003 Day spent travelling from Almaty to Chokpak, some afternoon bird watching.
14th September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
15th September 2003 Travelling to Kyzylkol, some bird watching at some stopovers and at Kyzylkol.
16th-18th September 2003 Whole day Kyzylkol.
19th September 2003 Travelling to Chokpak, some bird watching at some spots.
20th-22nd September 2003 Whole day Chokpak.
23rd September 2003 Travelling to Almaty, brief bird watching during travelling.
24th September 2003 Travelling from Almaty to Big Almaty Lake, afternoon bird watching here.
25th September 2003 Morning bird watching at Kosmos Station, travelling back to Almaty.
26th September 2003 Flight home.
I outline how and where the locations are situated globally and what birds you could encounter. As we were in company of people from the Zoological Institute from Almaty we didn't have to search for the locations they just drove us to the spots.
Situated on the foothills of the Western Tian-shan, Chokpak ornithological station is a unique place in Kazakhstan. This is about 600 kms west of Almaty, Nearest big cities are Chimkent, 80 km to west and Taraz (before Zambyl), 90 km to east; nearest villages - Chokpak railway station (3 km from spring camp and 1 km from the autumn camp) and Vysokoe (4km), (42o31'N 70o38'E). The ringing station is named after the Chokpak Pass (1200 M above sea level) between Dzabaglytau (part of Talassky Alatau) and Boroldai Ridges being of part of Karatau. It's not far from both borders of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
It's in existence since 1966 and operates in spring and autumn, and the main aim is the study of bird migration. Mainly ringing and catching is carried out, yearly visual accounts are done of migrants. Before the opening of the ornithological station, there was already a history of 40 years of bird ringing in the Aksu-Jabagly nature reserve (nearby) (The first birds in reserve Aksu-Dzhabagly were ringed in 1968). The first ringing started as early as in 1926 by the zoologist V.A. Selevin.
To catch the birds at Chokpak there is the use of several mist nets (put up around the camp) and 3 large Heligoland type traps of 12 meters in height, 40 meters width and 65 to 70 meters long. Up till now over 2 million birds have been trapped of more than 180 different species. The daily record on 3rd May 1977 is up to 14,470 birds! Yearly between 14.000 and 50.000 birds are caught; sparrows form main substance!
287 bird species that breed on the territory of Kazakhstan, Kyrgizstan, Siberia, Mongolia and China and winter in India, Pakistan, on Middle East, in Africa and in southern Europe are met here. Only those birds that need to fly in eastern direction go through Chokpak Pass, some of them in great numbers. Because of this reason the number of some bird groups is very different at spring and autumn.
Species include: Bee-eater, Nightjar, Red-headed Bunting, Rufous Turtle Dove, Roller, Spanish and Indian Sparrows, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and Sand Martin, Hobby, Rose-coloured Starling, Golden Oriole, and several different wagtails all regularly caught in the spring. You can observe the migration of numerous birds of prey in the autumn. Some of them are caught with traps, for example: Shikra, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu`s Harrier, Common Buzzard (subspecies japonicus), Long-legged Buzzard, & Honey Buzzard. In autumn days with up to 2,000 raptors passing per hour is no exception! Good species to find here are Eastern-honey Buzzard, Yellow-eyed Stock dove and Yellow-breasted Tit.
Accommodation is available in the van or tent. The dates for visitors are: 20th April - 30th May, and 1st September - 30th October. Participants arrive at Almaty airport, then take 1-2 days in the city for registration (accommodation in hotel) and transfer to Chokpak station by car (12 hours duration); the distance between Almaty and Chokpak station being 600 km.
This lake is between the city's Chulakkurgan and Kumkent and can be found at 43°, 60' and 69°, 40'. It's 165 km northwest of Dzhambul in central-south Kazakhstan and lies on the southern edge of the steppes and deserts
This lake is salty with few freshwater rivers floating into the lake. The lake is surrounded by steppe landscape, and is sparsely vegetated around. In the reddish hills around the lake there can be shark teeth found up to 342 meter above sea level!
In the vegetation near a small river we caught birds in mist nets and we erected some nets on the edge of the lake to catch waders. In the area many birds breed and migrate through.
As recently as September 2001 in autumn for the first time the large gathering of White-headed Ducks were found here. The lake appears to be an important post-breeding area for White-headed Duck from the northern steppes of Kazakhstan. In spring of May 2000 only 12 birds were found, and maybe the species even breeds here. Between the 75,000 birds here on the lake no less then 2,838 White-headed Ducks were counted here in September 2001! And as recent as July 2001 a group of no less then 400+ Caspian Plovers were found here!
Lake Kyzylkol freezes from about end November - mid-December and it is likely that the wildfowl disperse before then, White-headed Ducks probably moving west to winter in the Caspian area or even Turkey.
Ili-Alatau National Park
The Ili-Alatau National Park is one of the young national parks of Kazakhstan, it has been formed in 1996 for protection of a unique natural complex of the mountains Zailiisky Alatau and rare species of animals and plants. The territory of the Park covers 180.000 ha. It includes a central part of Zailiisky Alatau from the Chemolgan River in the west to the territory of the Turgen River in the east. The reserve of Almaty and other forestry's are also included within the territory of the Park. The protection of the park is provided by a constant control of its inspector's staff located on 25 cordons, on periphery and key cordons.
The landscape of the region differs by its variety. In the mountain of Zailisky Alatau you can see an alternation of the natural areas from steppe to tundra and polar ice. There are over 10 lakes, which are the real pearls of Zailisky Alatau. The Big Almaty Lake is one of the beautiful places of the Park.
The flora of the Park consists of more than 1500 species, 40 of them found in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan and 30 species are endemic only for Kazakhstan. The fauna of the National Park is rather various. The list of the vertebrates consists of about 200 species. The fauna of fishes includes 8 species and only 1 (Ili Marinka) meets in the rivers of the Ili-Balkhashsky river basin. List of amphibians and reptiles of the Park includes 10 species.
The avifauna of the park consists of more than 130 species of birds. You can find species like Red-mantled Rosefinches, Red-fronted Serins, White-tailed Rubythroat, Sulphur-bellied Warblers, Black-throated, Altai and Brown Accentors, White-winged Grosbeaks, White-browed Tit-Warbler (Svertkovz Tit-warbler), Hodgson's Mountain-Finch, Brandt's Mountain-Finch, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Alpine Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, Ibisbill, Himalayan Snowcock, Golden Eagle, Blue-capped Redstart, Songar Tit, Sulphur-bellied, Hume's and Greenish warblers, Lammergeier, White-bellied & Brown Dipper, White-winged Grosbeaks, Oriental Turtle-Dove and Eversmann's Redstart.
The fauna of mammals includes more than 40 species, only 7 species are found in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan (Stone Marten, Snow Leopard, Lynx and Brown Bear, Argali of Tian-Chan, Porcupine, Manul). Snow Leopard and Argali of Tian-Chan are found in the International Red Data Book. 5 species of the hoofed mammals such as Maral, Siberian Mountain Ibex, Roe Deer and Wild Boar excite a big interest of tourists, amateurs of the nature and experts. You can meet also Argalis of Tian Shan in the Park.
To get up to Big Almaty Lake there is a bad road, but you may walk by foot. You need buses number 27 or 93. They stop at the bus stop near intersection of Navoi Street and Al-Farabi Ave. Usually this route is very crowded, so it's better to come early. You need to get off at stop "Vtoraya Ges" and then walk along the road near 15 kilometres. It is rather long way, but it is worth it. In winter the lake freezes over. From the lake the road rises to Jusaly-Kezen pass, where the satellite station is located. The distance from the lake to station is 8 kilometres. Walking by the road you will meet the road forking (3 kilometres from the lake). There is an astronomic institute. Rooms for rent are available. Having agreed to heads of observatory one can look through the telescopes at the stars.
The Tien-Shan (GAISH) observatory beyond Big Almaty Lake is a challenge to reach both for hikers and drivers. Visits are usually scheduled for weekends. Star watching plus a lecture costs $10 for a group of 10 persons or less. For bigger groups, the charge is $20. Astronomers speak some English but translation is preferable. You can (actually, you will have to as only kamikazes can drive back in the middle of the night) stay overnight on the observatory's site in houses ($10 per person) or hotel ($15). 3 meals a day are an additional $10 charge. Director Kenes Kuratov can be reached at 25-20-92 (some English), Sholpan at 24-66-70 (evenings, only Russian). They arrange transportation by car (10 persons) or bus (25 persons) for $5 per person, i.e. $50 for a car and $100 for a bus. Please note that the road condition to the observatory (especially its part to the Big Almaty Lake) is disastrous. So I advise that you do not drive yourself unless you are good at driving on mountain serpentine roads.
VISA & COSTS
The ticket cost about 860 Euro, visa 86 euro and an other 54 euro and the cost in Kazakhstan were about 425 euro.
We bought a Lufthansa ticket from Amsterdam to Frankfurt an Main and the straight to Almaty. We arranged the visa via the embassy at Bruxelles, and at Almaty we have to arrange an other permit via the Tour firm that cost us 54 US dollars.
Further the Institute arranged everything for us: food, accommodation and transport.
People in Almaty like to get paid by US dollars but prefer now euro as this is a more stable coin then the Tenge (rate proximity 100 tenge is 9 eurocent).
Contact for Chokpak:
Institute of Zoology
Travelling through Kazakhstan felt safe, as normal a bigger city like Almaty are more risky then life in the country. Roads were bitumen, some parts were real bad, but most were ok (not compared with roads in Holland, where you can find hardly any bump in the roads).
Food is very good, and many European things can be even found in the smaller local shops. Things like Shaslik are extremely good and grains are wonderful to eat too. Although our Russian (most spoken still rather then Kazak) is not good (if fact even we don't speak it at all), people were very friendly and cooperative.
The electricity net is the same as Holland, and most things you can buy in the larger towns. It's good to take medicines etc with you when you travel to areas outside the main cities.
At night it cools down well and warm clothing is advisable. Up in the mountains it can even freeze so be prepared. During the day temperatures can get up very high and then sun cream is a must.
In mountains you can drink the water easily from the rivers (a muddy taste but drinkable) at Kyzylkol we only drunk from the well that came from deep down the surface (very nice water albeit a bit salty).
Arrival in Almaty and transfer to the house of Arman.
After a good night's sleep we had some breakfast and went with our taxi-driver and Arman to the airport to check if AC's luggage had already arrived. But sadly not, the first birding however produced the first species like Common Myna, House Sparrow, Eurasian Magpie, Great Tit, Collared Dove and Western Jackdaw of the soemmeringii race. Of the last one was remarkable to see how the variation is in the brightness of the sides of the neck. Also the Great Tits looks a bit paler than our tits here in Holland although it is the same race.
Very nice was a feeding Humming-bird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum feeding at a Centaurea spec. near the airport. As there was just a good influx in Holland during the same period and the already seen bird species around me felt like I've not been from home yet, but things changes rapidly….
A short drive we took to the visa office where we could pick up our passports again in the afternoon ($ 54, -- less in the wallet). And then we drove to an exchange office, and after exchanging some money we took a walk to the Zoological Institute. We hoped to do some birding in the Botanical Gardens, but changes in management did no allow us to enter the park, but as bird watchers tend to do, we found a hole in the gate and entered it from the back. We soon found a group of birds what contains few Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers, Yellow-browed Warblers (minority), Blyth's Reed-warbler, Common Pheasant and a Sulphur-bellied Warbler (a new species!). Also commoner birds like Magpie and Great tits were around. Very nice was to note the difference in call between both Hume's and Yellow-browed Warbler. Surprisingly the Hume's Y-B Warblers had several calls, and that reminded me of a bird that I saw on 2 January 1996 at The Hague in Holland, this bird had also various calls and caused some ID problems.
We took a stroll through the city (very green, loads of trees) and after getting a stiff neck because of the beautiful woman walking at the streets; we finally arrived at the Zoological Institute. During our stroll we recorded several Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Red-rumped Swallow of the common rufula race, Common Kestrel, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail and Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow and Bath White.
In the museum after a short lunch we went into the collection to study the various skins present in the museum. It took several hours to finally complete our quest. A look outside the museum produced a nice second year dark morph Booted Eagle and some Wood Pigeons. Afterwards we had a beer at a restaurant and we went to Arman's home again.
Two new species today: Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Common Pheasant!
13-September-03 A day of travelling between Almaty and Chokpak (600+ kms)
Today was the day of the long journey to Chokpak. We left Arman's house at 7 o'clock and after an hour we were outside the city. It took about 10 hours to get to the destination (costs 150 dollar) and was about 600 kilometres.
During driving we saw some species with some stops on the way. We recorded 2 adult and 2 juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings, Merlin (1), Golden Eagle (2), Red-throated Pipit (1), Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Waterhen (1), Common Redshank (2), Garganey (4) and many Long-legged Buzzards, Calandra Lark, White & Masked Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Western Jackdaw, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Starling, Hoopoe, Collared Dove, Common Myna, Goldfinch, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow and few other common species.
Just before we got to Chokpak I saw my third lifer of this trip a group of 70+ Demoiselle Cranes!
The arrival at Chokpak was an arrival full of joy. Arend Wassink was very happy to see us, and after a meeting we had a cup of tea. Afterwards we collect our stuff from the taxicab and placed it in our cabin. The genes were screaming for birds and we posted ourselves before the ringing station and soon I saw a lifer in the form of a nice passing Shikra! Another Shikra also passed by and brought us in a good mood. Also a nice juvenile Pallid Harrier, and adult male Crested Honey-buzzard, 50 European Bee-eaters, many Steppe Buzzards (100+) proved a new taxa for me. The scrub also gave us species like Ortolan Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat. So our first impression of Chokpak was just wonderful and it became even better when a flock of 70+ Lesser Kestrels choose the Heligoland traps as a roost.
Today ends with two new lifers for me: Demoiselle Crane and Shikra!
14-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
After waking up I went to the main tent, but couldn't get that far as two Nightjars were caught and they both belonged to the nice pale sarudyni race. These birds were extremely tame (or stressed?) and stayed even on your hand after trying to release them. After a nice breakfast we watched the steady raptor migration and decided to get uphill and watch the streams of raptors passing by.
First a Greenish Warbler was handed to me and I soon could study this bird up-close, this first year bird was just wonderful as were the "fulvescens" type Chiffchaff (nice "piep" call like tristis birds), Lesser Whitethroats and one bird belonged to the smaller types like minula, Common Rosefinches and a Grey Wagtail was passing by.
Soon after I sat down on the hill I saw a Yellow-eyed Stock Dove passing by in a flock of Stock Dove and I had seen my first lifer of the day very quickly.
Other birds that passed by in the next hour were an adult male Osprey, 13 Crested Honey-Buzzards - all adults, 2 Booted Eagles, 3 Marsh Harriers, 1 adult female Pallid Harrier, 3 European Sparrowhawks, 3 Grey Herons, 3 Oriental Turtle-doves, 1000+ Steppe Buzzards, a few Black kites and Common Honey-buzzards. Also 140+ Common Bee-eaters, 27 Demoiselle Cranes, 2 adult Steppe Eagles and 7 Greater Short-toed Larks.
Back at the camp we saw a nice neumanni race of Spotted Flycatcher sitting at close range in the sun! After studying this bird we had our supper which included a very good soup.
After relaxing we decided to take a stroll in the fields behind Chokpak station. We had a very nice selection of birds here in the fields like Northern Wheatear, Pied Wheatear (a young male), Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails (not possible to identify in the field or in the hand), several Siberian Stonechats, Lesser Grey Shrike (1 first winter), Daurian Shrike (juvenile bird) and a group of 24 Grey Partridges of the robustra ssp that looks a bit more greyish than the birds we normally see in Holland and 2 Common Quails were flushed from the vegetation.
The Turkestan Shrike or hybrid was however a big surprise when I got back home, study of the video proved here that an adult male of the "karelini" type could be a good candidate, this bird was filmed instead of what I thought was a Lesser Grey Shrike. Identification is based on rufous crown contrasting with greyish upperparts (strongly even), a not well developed supercillium, a really black facial mask, very white under parts (could not found a trace of orange in it, maybe a little but not visible), reddish-brown tail, bird shows a white primary patch in some shots, tips of the tertails are clearly white, and dark wings contrasting with the rest of the body, bill has a pale base and black tip. It could be good for "karelini" but the well-marked head pattern (black mask) and the very rufous crown could be caused by hybrid influences.
Also a look up was well worth it as no less than 9 Steppe Eagles, 8 Demoiselle Cranes, 1 juvenile Pallid Harrier, 2 Short-toed Eagles, 1 Griffon Vulture, 2 Monk Vultures, Rock Dove, Sand Martin of both riparia and diluta race's (diluta has a very blurred breast-band compared with riparia and is paler than the nominate), several Lesser Kestrels and a Roller passing by.
The walk back to the camp produced a calling Blue-cheeked Bee-eater but the bird was too high in the sky to pick up! Also we noted a very nice Hoopoe feeding on crickets and an Ortolan Bunting.
Throughout the day good numbers of Steppe Buzzards were passing over. A small count by WN and AC while AW and I were trying to photograph the Daurian Shrike produced 670 Steppe Buzzards, 5 Crested Honey-buzzards, 6 Booted Eagles, 1 Pallid Harrier, 1 Osprey, 1 Sparrowhawk and 22 Steppe Eagles. They all just flew over my head without noticing them!
Back at the camp I filmed a nice Cardinal Pandora pandorine! Watching the Lesser Kestrels trying to land on the Heligoland traps was a very nice sight and bird numbers topped a bit less than the previous evening but no less then 65 birds were present!
Today one new species: Yellow-eyed Stock-dove!
What better way to spend your birthday than in Kazakhstan with birds everywhere? We woke up early, had our breakfast and then left the camp for a 400 km journey to Kyzylkol. We missed a Golden Jackal, which was heard by Andrey!
During the drive to our first stop we did not see many species worth mentioning. Only the more common ones like Rollers and Bee-eaters.
We stopped first at a spot 3 kilometre west of Kamennoe at Darbaza, where there is a lake situated in the middle of the steppe and some birds can be found in the direct vicinity of the lake. In the half an hour we spent here we recorded some good species. It included my first Chukars; a group of 31 birds was seen well. Also here 21 Great Black-headed Gulls, 1 second-year Common Gull, 10+ Baraba Gulls, a few Black-headed Gulls, 15 Ruddy Shelduck, 1 third year male Pallid Harrier, Grey Heron, Kentish Plover (1), Little Stint (3), Common Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Pintail (1), Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Short-toed Lark, White Wagtail (alba), Yellow Wagtail (ssp), Common Coot, Mallard, Hobby, Marsh Harrier and a Black-winged Stilt (1). This lake was situated nicely in the middle of some steppe landscape. Some mud was present as an ideal spot for shorebirds. Probably a very good drinking spot for sandgrouse too.
In the area while driving back to the main road and some kilometres up the road we recorded Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (perched on the wires), Isabelline Wheatear (2), Steppe Eagle, Siberian Stonechat, Montagu's Harrier (adult male), Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Gadwall (1), Crested Lark, Black-eared Kite, Long-legged Buzzard and a few Brown-necked Ravens in between the Carrion Crows. A nice Greyling Charzara inarvata flew by here also.
From here on till the lake at Kyzylkol we recorded many Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Rollers and Isabelline Shrikes (ssp). A city was almost completely abandoned while we were driving through as were the same case for more cities. People leave the small town and head for the large cities and in the rural areas less agricultural activities are now taking place as many farmers left the various areas.
After buying some melons we drove from Kumkent to Kyzylkol Lake. After a few kilometres on the main road we left via a dust road to the lake. We arrived at the Kyzylkol Lake and saw directly many larks flying around - this was a true birding Mecca.
A short stop at the well produced a Tawny Pipit and a Grey Wagtail. A bit further we also had a stop, which produced a Temminck's Stint, Dunlin, Little Stint, Ruddy Shelduck, Izabelline Shrike ssp, White-headed Duck and many other interesting birds.
We then headed on further to pick our spot to stay for a few days. A nice young Daurian Shrike showed well for us. We went close to the edge of the lake, near a small river with bushes and set up our camp. We unpacked everything, and set up the main tent and put out our own small tents. We installed everything and had a cup of tea.
While still drinking tea two Marbled Ducks flew over the camp and gave me a new tick.
Some general birding in the area produced some nice birds and we set up 4 mist nets. We recorded while busy and an adult Turkestan Shrike (rufous crown, contrasting with mantle, mantle brown, and very white under parts), Daurian Shrike few, Demoiselle Crane (28), Common Rosefinch, Lesser White-throat, Lesser Kestrel, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Bimaculated Lark, Garganey, Common Coot, 21 Grey Herons, Wood Sandpiper, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff (fulvescens), Bluethroat, Yellow Wagtail, Red-necked Phalarope, Teal, Ruff, Pallid Harrier 2 third year males and 2 juvenile's and an adult female, Little Gull, Slender-billed Gull and Eurasian Spoonbill (47). And all this in just few hours of not very hard bird watching. The Bimaculated Larks were a new species for me and many birds passed by and were easy to identify from Calandra Lark (also many of them here) by their lack of white trailing edge and a bit lighter underwing then Calandra Lark. What a spot!
We had some good food and during our dinner we heard several groups of Demoiselle Cranes flying into the lake in the dark. There voices were not as deep as Common Cranes!
As a good birthday present I had 3 new species: Chuckar, Bimaculated Lark and Marbled Teal.
After waking up (due to Demoiselle Cranes who departed from the lake) and a breakfast I decided to head to the well we passed yesterday to have a shower and do some birding during walking. Watching birds from the camp before I headed off produced White-headed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes, an adult female Pallid Harrier (no moult) and several more common species.
Around the camp an adult male Turkestan Shrike was present!
I then started walking and soon I located the first of 21 first winter plumaged Daurian Shrikes and just 3 adult birds. I noticed some variation between the young birds on the under parts as it varies from dark to light. I saw most of the Daurian Shrikes in scattered bushes around the whole place, twice I observed two birds as close as 1 metre from each other.
After I started walking and had studied the first shrikes I scared off the Pallid Harrier female who had dropped down onto the edge of the lake. Soon I heard a strange call and there it was my first group of 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying straight over the camp. Many species were seen and soon I was walking to the large hill between the well and the camp. On the base of this hill I recorded 2 Isabelline Wheatears, 4 Desert Wheatears (2 males), many Tawny Pipits, a adult female Pallid Harrier (with two missing secondary on the right wing) and a third year male and 3 juvenile birds, 5 migrating Steppe Buzzards, Imperial Eagle (near adult), Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (100's), Northern wheatear, Chiffchaff, Common Rosefinch, 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Marsh Harrier, Pied Wheatear etc.
The best species however of today was a rather poor seen Streaked Scrub Warbler in the vicinity of the Desert Wheatears. The bird was perched for a short time and was then seen in flight. The bird appeared very long-tailed in flight, small, was streaked on the back a head. Very small bird with long a tail. Could therefore not come to any other conclusion than that it was a Streaked Scrub warbler, because hardly any other bird looked like that!
At the well many birds came in for drinking, including a group of 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a beema Yellow Wagtail, Crested Larks, Northern Wheatears, Ortolan Bunting, Oriental Turtle Dove (2) and other birds. The shower was just great in the open of nature, water was cold but outside it was warm so very healthy.
Also while climbing through the hills I recorded few mammal species: Tolay Hare Lepus tolai (1), and Greater Gerbil Rhombomys opimus (5).
Also nice was a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling in a flock of migrating Eurasian Starlings.
The walk brought me except for the above mentioned species also Calandra larks (1000's), Bimaculated Lark (1000's), Short-toed Lark (100's), Lesser Short-toed Lark (6), Skylark (10), Crested Lark (3), Tree pipit (15), Yellow Wagtail (± 3.000), White Wagtail (both races, personata just 2),
A scan of the lake at several spots during the day brought me (just indicative numbers) 450 Ruddy Shelducks, 25.000+ Common Coot, 2200 White-headed Ducks, 8000 Red-necked Phalaropes, 8 Common Shelduck, 40+ Little Grebe, 1500 Teal, 32.000 Common Pochard, 300 Tufted Ducks, 2 Red-crested Pochard, 24 Grey Herons, 2000+ Black-necked Grebes. 4 Great-crested Grebes, 50 Pintail, 1500 Wigeons and a few Mallards and Shovelers. A check along the edges of the lake produced about 700 Little Stints, 20 Avocet, 200 Common Ringed Plover, 40 Wood Sandpipers, 50 Dunlin, 100 Lapwing, 60 Ruff, 40 Black-tailed Godwit and a few Common Greenshanks.
Also had a good look at the various gulls around and that brought me a Great Black-headed Gull (juvenile), Caspian Gull (3), Slender-billed Gull 14 passing by to the south and a few Little Gulls were present on the lake. Also many swallows were around the lake including Barn Swallow and Sand Martin.
Back at the camp I saw another adult Daurian Shrike, also a nice adult White-tailed Eagle flew around at some distance.
Checking of the nets produced in and out the nets Blyth's Reed-warbler, Booted Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Bluethroat and Common Kestrel.
Like yesterday some Caspian Reed Warblers were present in the river alongside the camp. Today I could see them well and a nice taxa to see. The end of the show produced a group of 11 Common Cranes passing by and late at night at huge group of Demoiselle Cranes came down to sleep.
Today one new species: Black-bellied Sand-grouse
I woke up with the sun shining, still cold, but a warm cup of tea kept me going. And soon a Red-throated Pipit passed overhead calling loudly. Arend and Andrea went to the well I visited yesterday.
Wim and I patrolled the nets the whole day and except for the more commoner species we caught a fine Moustached Warbler, 2 Booted Warblers (were seen), a fine Paddyfield Warbler and 1 male and 2 female type Bluethroats. Also 2 more Moustached Warblers were seen in the field as were a few fuscus Reed Warblers.
Birding around the camp today produced an Osprey (juvenile), Slender-billed Gull (juvenile), Penduline Tit (5), Caspian Gull (adult), Imperial Eagle, Gull-billed Tern (adult summer plumage), Quail 1, Red-necked Grebe 3, Red-crested Pochard 4, Red-necked Phalarope 8,000, White-headed Duck and a third-year male and 2 female Pallid Harriers.
Also I came across a Dione Snake Elaphe dione 3 times today while checking the nets.
A flock 75 Steppe Buzzards came past us late in the day. The groups was soaring above the camp and were soon joined by two Demoiselle Cranes.
Today 3 new species: Moustached Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler and Dalmatian Pelican
An incredible start to the day. I woke up because a large group of Demoiselle Cranes left the lake very early. Of course it was extremely cold (around 5ºC) like every morning and it took some time to finally get out! Got my clothes on and took the walk to the main tent (just 40 metres). Firstly an Imperial Eagle flew past, followed by an adult White-tailed Eagle and just behind it a juvenile Osprey. You see the Daurian Shrike already in top of the bushes, you see a Blyth's Reed Warbler crawling through the bushes and finally a juvenile Pallid Harrier is passing overhead. And then you haven't even reached the headquarters! The cup of tea I drank while scanning the lake with my scope and seeing White-headed Ducks everywhere as Red-necked Phalaropes makes you think: now I have to started the real bird watching.
A juvenile Barred Warbler was calling in the bushes around the camp! The whole day WN and I explored the nets in the hope of catching something unusual but the normal things like Chiffchaff, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Rosefinch were caught! During the morning we had twice (3+2) Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying over! While checking the nets we came across two Great Bitterns and a flock of 2 adult and a juvenile White Pelican were the real highlight of the day! And a Quail was flushed twice!
A larger gull present on the lake today was not a Caspian Gull but turned out to be a taimyrensis Heuglin's Gull. Mainly because of the flesh coloured legs, long wings behind tail (contra mongolicus), typical p10 pattern, streaked head, mantle colour equally with Caspian Gull, strong gonys angle. Also a first winter Caspian Gull was present too on the lake!
Once I came across a Dice Snake Natrix tessellata when I was taking a bath! While doing so I had 4 Red-crested Pochards behind me on the water, few Daurian Shrikes in sight, a juvenile Pallid Harrier overhead and few Blyth's Reed Warblers. I've taken worst showers in my life!
Around the camp two Oriental Skylarks were flying around most of the day! While photographing a nice Calandra Lark I saw a group of larger birds approaching and these were no less then 24 Dalmatian Pelicans. There was also a passage of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Yellow Wagtails during the day and several times a high flock was found!
Around the camp we located in the bushes a Moustached Warbler, a few Booted Warblers and several Bluethroats (caught a few). Also a steady migration of many House Sparrows (indicus).
While looking at one of the few Daurian Shrikes around the camp a nice Merlin flew over, later followed by another one. Of course during the day many larks were seen such as Bimaculated, Calandra, Crested, Short-toed and Sky Larks.
At the lake I found between the large gathering of White-headed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes and other more commoner species Pintails, Shovelers and Wigeons. Along the edges Common Redshank and Green Sandpiper were present as well as a few Black-headed Gulls and a single Slender-billed Gull flew past! Also near the stream past the camp some fuscus Reed Warblers were still present!
At dusk we had a few Black-crowned Night-herons flying around the camp calling loudly!
Except for the Dione and Dice Snake we recorded at Kyzylkol in the last days Tatar Sand Boa eggs Erix tataricus (22), we found a skin of a Reuss' Whip Snake Columber nummifer, Sunwatcher Phynocephalus helioscopus (caught by Vladimir), several Stepperunner Eremias arquta and Rapid Racerunner Eremias velox. Also daily we recorded several Marsh Frogs Rana ridibunda!
In total we recorded no less than 149 species at Kyzylkol in this short time!
Today one new species: White Pelican
We woke up at first light and had breakfast. Soon afterwards I emptied the nets and we did some birding around the camp. Two Cetti's Warblers of the albiventris race were present in the reeds at the end of the lake. A female type Citrine Wagtail kept us busy for a long time and still I believe the bird was a Citrine but we could not all agree with the same ID! AC proves later on a picture that it was indeed a first year Citrine Wagtail.
We also recorded a small flock of 6 Lesser Short-toed Larks flying past and shortly later a flyby Oriental Skylark. Together with the recorded Skylark, Bimaculated Lark, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark and Short-toed Lark - a nice variation in larks in less then 2 hours at one spot!
A nice adult female Pallid Harrier gave a nice show! While watching the large concentrations of ducks and other wildfowl on the lake some Black-bellied Sandgrouse (1,3,1) passed by overhead. Between the large flocks 70,000+ birds we still found large numbers of White-headed Ducks (2,200+), Red-necked Phalaropes (8.000+), some Black-headed Gulls and some flocks of Grey Herons. A group of 6 Dalmatian Pelicans with one White Pelican were soaring overhead. They were circling around joined by some Demoiselle Cranes and some Steppe Buzzards and a group of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. The last circle around the nets before tearing them down brought us a nice young Grasshopper Warbler and overhead a cruising Sparrowhawk! I even forgot to mention that there were still many 'fulvescens' type Chiffchaffs around, Common Rosefinch, Blyth's Reed Warblers and Daurian Shrikes! And we have to leave the place.....
Just away from the lake we recorded Northern Wheatears, Pied Wheatear, a Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Daurian Shrikes, Steppe Eagle and 2 Monk Vultures and we were just on the bitumen road to Kumkent.
The way to Chokpak was rather boring although we saw several Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Isabelline Shrikes (ssp), Steppe Eagles and other more common stuff like Rollers etc. Also a Desert Wheatear during driving.
At the first lake we visited only some Little Grebes and Ruddy Shelducks were seen.
We then had a stop at Ters-Aschibulak for lunch and some bird watching. After we went down the hill to reach the shore of the lake we flushed a juvenile Saker. Some large white-headed Gulls on the lake in adult plumage had flesh coloured legs and had short wingtips - they turned out to be 'Mongolian' Gulls, also a first year Great Black-headed Gull flew by as did a first year Caspian Gull. Some Black-headed Gulls and Common Coots were feeding on the lake.
We then headed to Chokpak and arrived just before dusk, had some dinner, a beer and went to bed!
One new species: the nice juvenile Saker
20-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today because of the strong winds we spent the whole day birding around the camp.
Today was a slow day and mainly used in studying more commoner birds and recapping the Kyzylkol visit! Although we didn't bird much in one of our first rounds of the nets we heard a scream from Arend and spotted a flock of tits including both wanted species Turkestan Tit and Yellow-breasted Tit. Soon we were running like hell to see them, we were close to them as we saw a group of 5 Yellow-breasted Tits disappearing into some bushes. So only lousy views. But then Arend walked towards me with a big smile, and his hand behind his back. And there it was a nice Yellow-breasted Tit, hooray! And soon we found several Turkestan Tits too in the bushes around the camp. Later that day some birds were caught, including a hybrid Turkestan x Great Tit!
During the day we noticed a steady passage of several raptors such as Steppe Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, a single Booted Eagle a pale morph, a juvenile Golden Eagle, 2 juvenile Crested Honey-Buzzards, 1 Long-legged Buzzard, 4 Monk Vultures, loads of Lesser Kestrels (excluding the local group who came again to roost at the Heligoland Traps), several Hobbys (excluding the locals), 2 juvenile Pallid Harriers and a Northern Goshawk (caught a female). Also large groups of Bee-eaters, House Sparrows (indicus) and many swallows passing by. The highlight however was a distant Himalayan Griffon Vulture, which produced some discussion, as we recognised it not as such at first! A Raven was a welcome addition also!
Around the camp except for the normal Chiffchaff and Common Rosefinch we saw a Daurian Shrike and many Lesser Whitethroats. Of the last one we saw the smaller and bigger taxa! And ringed!
We had a very nice shower today at the camp!
No less then 3 new species: Yellow-breasted Tit, Turkestan Tit and Himalayan Vulture.
21-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today a whole day again around the camp at Chokpak. A very slow relaxing day which brought some nice species like: Crested Honey-buzzard 2 juveniles, Yellow-eyed Stock Dove 2 first winter birds, Hoopoe 1, Eurasian Linnet, Ortolan Bunting, Tree Pipit, Bee-eater, Stock Dove, Black-throated Thrush 2, Great Tit x Turkestan Tit hybrid 2, Yellow-breasted Tit, Greenish Warbler 1, Booted Eagle 1 rufous morph, Turkestan Tit 3, House Sparrow 300+ (indicus), Lesser Kestrel 40, Osprey 1 and few Common Kestrels. Few of the birds were ringed today! These birds seen during the scarce moments of bird watching during the day!
Had a nice dinner and went to bed early!
22-September-03 Whole day Chokpak
Today a very relaxed day. In early morning I heard a Black-throated Thrush migrating over Chokpak station.
During the day many birds flew by and the list was impressive. By the end of the day we had recorded in the direct vicinity of the camp Crested Honey-buzzards 6 juveniles, 1 third year, 7 adult, Pallid Harrier 4 juveniles, 1 third year male, 1 adult male, Booted Eagle 16, Yellow-breasted Tit 1, Turkestan Tit 10, Short-toed Lark, Common Rosefinch adult male, House Martin, Yellow-eyed Stock Dove 1 adult, Hoopoe 1, Lesser Kestrel, Stock Dove, Ortolan Bunting, Tree Pipit, House Sparrow 1000's (indicus), Black Kite, Steppe Buzzard, Steppe Eagles and several more commoner species. Due to the strong winds many birds were blown into the Heligoland traps and many birds like Lesser Kestrels and so on could be studied from close up. Also nice were the caught dragonflies between the caught birds, many Aesha crenata and Anax imperator were caught. Did not expect from the imperator that they were migrating in that kind of number (counted in the several cages no less than 150!). Daily we saw several sympetum ssp but they were too hard to identify. We caught two Crested Honey-buzzards, an adult female and a first year bird, and we could study them well.
At night we had a small party because it was our last day out on Chokpak station. We had several Vodkas till late at night. And late at night even a Grey Long-eared Bat Plecotus austriacus wardi was brought in (we released it the next morning).
23-September-03 Travelling day Chokpak to Almaty
When we woke up we packed our stuff to leave for Almaty. After a good breakfast we could see two adult Yellow-eyed Stock Doves just caught and a White-winged Woodpecker was flying around. Also the Long-eared Bat we caught the previous day was still around as was a very tame Nightjar! The last one was just roosting on a branch and allowed us to take loads of photographs and video-footage from very close (20 cm) distant.
Just at the start of the trip we stopped in a small village where we recorded many Common Mynas and our first true Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis).
A stop for lunch produced several nice species including a nice third-year "fulvescens" Greater Spotted Eagle; this bird showed well in the telescope. Also at this spot a Steppe Eagle, Pallid Harrier (juvenile), Monk Vulture, Calandra Larks, Long-legged Buzzard and a loud calling Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler.
While driving we recorded 20+ Steppe Eagles, a few Rollers (much less than on our way to Chokpak), a few Isabelline Shrike spec, Crested Larks, Calandra Lark, 2 Pallid Harriers, 1 Imperial Eagle and many Long-legged Buzzards. A group of cranes was too distant to identify. We arrived when it was completely dark in Almaty!
We stayed at Andrey's places and slept very well after (and we were already used to it) some good food.
24-September-03 Trip into the Mountains
After a good night we got up, and had a small but good breakfast. As we had to arrange the payments and we had to wait for Vladimir to arrange some things we were, after collecting some money from a bank, off at 12 o'clock.
We were entering the mountains one pass to the west of the high-mountainous skating ring "Medeo", on mountain Kok - Tube.
We entered the start of the Zailisky Alatau after a half hour and we climbed our way up slowly. This road is nearly complete gravel and in really bad condition on several places. When we left Almaty it was greyish weather with lots of fog, and it was the same in the mountains partly even worse. A Monk Vulture was flew past at the start at a control post.
Remember the road to Lake Almaty can be closed due to abundant rain and is closed mostly between early October and the end of May due to snowfall.
When we made a stop at about 1000 metres we quickly recorded a male Pied Wheatear and then I saw a dipper flying past with no white at all, and soon we were watching our first Brown Dipper! The bird was very shy and showed itself badly, only briefly perched.
After a moment we came out of the fog in a sunshiny paradise with beautiful mountains and snow. The landscape was just stunning and we had a stop for a photograph. We saw a nice Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa. We soon headed up higher and at a small stream we saw a nice Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush, another new bird. While climbing up we saw a Eurasian Linnet and few Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers and a true tristis Chiffchaff.
We arrived at our place for the night at Big Almaty Lake where the zoological institute had a few houses for research. We could sleep in one of these houses. Some packing was done and we had a cup of tea. Then after finishing we directly headed out for the river mouth into Big Almaty Lake for the Ibisbill.
We started walking and recorded some Magpies around (clearly different because of their white in the wings compared to the European race). At the edge of the lake we found a nice Pied Wheatear followed by a small mammal, a Turkestan Red Pika Ochotona rutila. This is a very nice small reddish rabbit, very nice mammal.
We heard a small flock of tits that contained Songar Tits, Coal Tits and Goldcrests. The first species was new for me and after some difficulty we had good views.
A bit further between the rocks on the edge of the lake a Wren and a Black-throated Accentor were doing a game of hide and seek, and a few of us saw them well. I just saw few glimpses of this bird.
We then heard a Whimbrel like call and soon our first Ibisbill was flying around.
We went to the stream bed and saw no less then 4 Ibisbills here, an adult with 3 youngsters. The birds gave a very nice show and we could study them in detail.
A look into the tops of the mountains produced a sub adult and a juvenile type Lammergeier in one view the sub adult was flying around with a juvenile Golden Eagle. Also a Nutcracker was calling, but didn't show itself to us, and huge groups of Alpine Choughs were flying around overhead.
After really satisfying views of the Ibisbills we slowly walked back and located a young type Red-mantled Rosefinch.
On our way back I saw a long wanted flower I wanted to see - an Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum was growing along the road. A Water Pipit flew over and turned out to be of the blakistoni race, but better views were needed for me at least.
Back at the house we saw a nice male Eversmann's Redstart, this bird was singing and as close as 4 metres from me.
After dinner I went out for a quick survey in the area, some trees with rocks on the edge of the lake were nice to check out. Soon I was climbing up and I flushed some Black-throated Thrushes. Then a nice Black-throated Accentor hopped in front of me and showed very nice in front of me. A quick check produced about 20 Black-throated Thrushes including adult males and first winter males but no other species.
I went back to the house to tell the others as I know for AC they were a new species. Soon we were back and I was the only one climbing up and flushed about 45 Black-throated Thrushes. Uphill I twice saw an accentor, with an equally unstreaked back and identified it as a Brown Accentor. Not my best observation however! When we were enjoying the Black-throated Thrushes another thrush came into sight but after some debate it was identified as a Mistle Thrush! Also a few Blackbirds were around.
We went into the house and crawled into the double sleeping bag to get warm (also the oven was put into fire) and after a very good laugh we felt asleep in one of the most fascinating landscapes I have ever visited.
Today was the absolute record day with 9 new species: Brown Dipper, Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush, Songar Tit, Black-throated Accentor, Ibisbill, Lammergeyer, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Eversmann's Redstart and Brown Accentor.
25-September-03 Kosmos Station and back to Almaty
After an excellent night at this altitude we had a nice breakfast! And the Himalayan Whistling Blue Thrush was already singing for us at dawn. The first thing after breakfast was out to get to the Ibisbill spot to make better video footage than yesterday.
It was extremely nice and frosty outside, and the sun was climbing over the mountains so the landscape changed every minute! Still I was like yesterday very much impressed by the extreme landscape around us!
The first birds I saw were 3 Crested Larks magna race (altitude record 2900 meters? (up to 2000 stated at BWP)), male Blackbird and during the walk to the lake I noticed a calling Crossbill most likely of the resident tianschanica race, Wren, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Songar Tit, Carrion Crow and Magpie.
When I came to the river mouth I had a very close juvenile Ibisbill and I could study and film the bird at around 40 meters! When the bird flew up with his Whimbrel like call I noticed several other Ibisbills. A walk in that direction produced some distant 2 adult and 2 juvenile birds!
Further exploring the area produced some Mallards, Common Shelduck (2) and a very nice Brown Dipper.
The walk back produced nothing unusual but species like Nutcracker (10+), Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, a lone Black-throated Thrush and 3 Turkestan Red Pika Ochotona rutila. Also a Chiffchaff showed well and this bird was paler then "fulvescens" and had no green at all in his plumage, also black legs and bill, and a small wing bar. This birds looks ok for a tristis only my second in Kazakhstan this trip, as I expected more birds while going through my literature before the trip!
The other guys were already waiting for me to get uphill to the Russian enclave Kosmos Station (Kohsmonstantsia). Packed my gear and we went uphill. During the drive we recorded loads of Water pipits of the blakistoni race, they looked very pale compared with spinolleta we have in Holland. Also few Pied Wheatears were seen.
Arriving at the Russian Enclave (3300 meters) we searched very hard to find Güldenstädt's Redstarts, but we failed completely. Only Evermann's Redstarts (4) were found! A very nice highlight was a group of Himalayan Snowcock that produced very nice views. This group of 7 birds were calling and showed themselves at one moment to as close as 40 meters. Of course the Snowcocks were a new species for me, the first of the day followed almost directly by 2 Red-billed Choughs. They were displaying and calling at close distance, as were some groups of Yellow-billed Choughs. Also few Turkestan Red Pika's were around. Another new species for me could be a flock of about 25 birds, which looked very much like Hodgson's Mountain-Finches when flying overhead, and called somewhat but could not identify them as such!
We gave up our attempts to find the Güldenstädt's Redstart. We walked a bit down, where I saw two very high raptors in the sky. They turned out to be two juvenile Crested Honey Buzzards and they flew around 4000 meters, and migrated all the way over the Tien Shan. I was surprised to see how high they were and that they could migrate over the Tien Shan.
We then drove to the observatory to search for Altai Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak and Severtzov's Tit-warbler. We drove by the helicopter strip to the juniper bushes against the hill. A short search produced 2 nice Severtzov's Tit-warblers. This proved my 1387 lifer ever, and the 30th of the trip! We were just stunned by their nice colours and it was one of the most beautiful birds we saw at our Kazakhstan trip. Also around were two nice Himalayan Vultures circling around. A Red-mantled Rosefinch was found skulking through the bushes and a Wallcreeper was flying by. Also few Evermann's Redstarts were around here.
When we went down to the camp we noticed a juvenile Golden Eagle flying around and a Siberian Stonechat was feeding with some Water Pipit near the Helicopter strip.
After picking up our stuff from the house we went down for Almaty.
The drove down produced nothing really special - only the Linnet of yesterday was present at the same stream, and a Himalayan Blue Whistling Thrush was seen.
A stop in the valley produced a small group of Azure Tits who were rather skulky, between a huge flock of Great Tits, Chiffchaffs, a few Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers and a Black-throated Accentor. Also a Pied Wheatear and a Common Bullfinch were seen here.
Then we set off to the city of Almaty and stayed in a restaurant most of the evening eating and drinking, and finally at night we went to the airport to wait for a few hours before we departed to Frankfurt.
Today 4 new species: Himalayan Snowcock, Red-billed Cough, Severtzov's Tit-warbler and Azure Tit.
Clement P, Harris A & Davis J, 1993. Finches and Sparrows, an identification guide. Helm. A & C Black, London.
Clements J.F. 2000. Birds of the World A Checklist. Pica Press Sussex.
Cramp et al, 1977 - 1994. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. Oxford, New York.
Glutz von Blotzheim, U.N., K.M. Bauer & E. Bezzel. 1966-1991. Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas. Frankfurt am Main.
Gravilov E.I., 1999. Fauna and Distribution of The Birds of Kazakhstan (in Russian), Almaty (private publication)
Gravilov E.I., 2000. Guide to the birds of the Kazakhstan Republic. Almaty (private publication)
Harrap S & Quinn D, 1996. Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers. Helm. A & C Black, London.
Winkler H, Christie D.A. & Nurney D, 1995. Woodpeckers, A Guide to the Woodpeckers, Piculets and Wrynecks of the World. Pica Press Sussex
And the excellent report by David van den Schoor was used, Kazakhstan 29th May till 10th June 2003.
Underneath is the total trip list; also taxonomic questions about several species are answered. I have followed the list from James F. Clements 2000. Birds marked with * are new races, and birds marked with ** were a new species.
I saw 199 species of birds, and I saw 30 new species!
1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis capensis * we saw this species at Kyzylkol and few places on the way and on the way back from Chokpak to Kyzylkol and visa versa. Up to 100+ at Kyzylkol Lake.
2. Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena holboellii * At Kyzylkol were a maximum of 3 birds present on at least two dates!
3. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus cristatus Few birds at Kyzylkol up tot 5.
4. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 100's of birds at Kyzylkol Lake.
5. Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocroralus ** saw my first birds on 18 September at Kyzylkol 2 adults and 1 young bird (adult had three separate broken primary's in the left wing and right wing was ok, I looked at this stage of damage because a Great White Pelican was present in Holland in October 1999 and showed the same damage, but was rejected by the Dutch Rarity committee because it was considered to be an escape due to this pattern of wing damage) and an adult bird on 19 September in a flock of Dalmatian Pelicans.
6. Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus ** at Kyzylkol on 17 September a young bird, a group of 24 birds (with 3 Greater White Pelicans) on 18 September and 6 birds on 19 September. These were the first migrating birds of the season. They are heading for India to winter here.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international, the largest numbers of the world are found in Kazakhstan.
7. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis I considered the juveniles I saw rather pale (white) compared to our European birds, maybe bleaching or so. We saw few smaller groups at Kyzylkol. Juvenile birds looked mostly white on the belly!
8. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Daily small numbers seen at Kyzylkol. Also few migrating birds at Chokpak.
9. Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax only birds heard flying around our camp at Kyzylkol at 18 September while drinking Vodka.
10. Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris stellaris only two birds seen at Kyzylkol on 18 September!
11. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucordia leucordia only a group of 47 birds seen at Kyzylkol on 15 September!
12. Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea seen on various spots like the Great Almaty Lake 2 birds on 25 September (2900 meters up), Kyzylkol (1000+ birds on various dates) and at the lake Darbaza on 15 September (15 birds).
13. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna a few birds present on Kyzylkol, up to 10 birds.
14. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at Kyzylkol several 100's spread across the lake.
15. Gadwall Anas strepera a few birds present at Kyzylkol up to two or three a day!
16. Common Teal Anas crecca crecca few birds seen on various stops, most birds 20's at Kyzylkol.
17. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos platyrynchos at Kyzylkol few birds around, also at Big Almaty lake and at the Darbaza.
18. Northern Pintail Anas acuta acuta few birds present at Kyzylkol.
19. Garganey Anas querquedula some small groups were at Kyzylkol Lake.
20. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Some small groups at Kyzylkol.
21. Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris ** two birds seen at Kyzylkol flying over our tents on 15 September. Others saw these two birds a few other times flying over on the same day and days afterwards.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international.
22. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina just few birds seen at Kyzylkol 3 birds were swimming up the river along side the camp on 18 September and 4 birds were at the lake on 17 September.
23. Common Pochard Aythya ferina large concentrations at Kyzylkol, 1500+ birds.
24. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula few parties swimming at Kyzylkol.
25. White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala no less then 2200+ birds were present at Kyzylkol lake and this is probably the largest gathering you can see in the whole world. The world population is estimated at 8 to 12.000 birds so almost ¼ of the world population was at the lake!
Note: Endangered qualified by Birdlife International, Kazakhstan is the main breeding area in the world.
26. Osprey Pandion haliaetus haliaetus we recorded 3 birds on migration, 2 adults at Chokpak (14 & 21 September) and a juvenile at Kyzylkol (at 17 & 18 September).
27. Western Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus at Chokpak daily few birds migrating past, one bird caught together with two eastern HB. Up to 20 a day!
28. Eastern Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis * I saw myself 33 birds of them 22 were adult birds and 11 were juvenile. All except two birds (at Kosmos Station) were at Chokpak. If I count the totals of the others in the same period no less then 60 birds were seen, despite not much raptor watching! So it's possible to see more Eastern Honey-buzzards to see now with ease then Dick Forsman saw at his 1993 visit to Chokpak. So probably this species is breeding more westerly or there is slight change in the migration pattern of the species. Last years many birds have been found on migration at Eilat, Israel in spring and autumn even (2003 about 10 birds were seen). The interesting thing about the birds at Kosmos Station they were flying at about 4 km height and migrated across the Tien Shan! And not looking for a pass to get through!
29. Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus birds seen all belong to Black-eared Kite. These birds are split of by some authors as a separate species. Birds are distinctive due to their characteristic primary pattern, colour of the under body and the dark eye-mask. We saw both juveniles as adults in hand and in the field. In general they looked larger than our Black Kites.
30. White-tailed Fish-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla we twice saw an adult bird (not very bleached so not a very old adult) on 18 & 19 September at Kyzylkol. Bird caused great panic with all the other birds while flying over the lake.
Note: listed as near threatened by Birdlife international.
31. Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus barbatus (altaicus) ** we saw two birds on 24 September high up in the Tien Shan near the Great Almaty lake. This was a sub adult and a juvenile bird directly comparison with a Golden Eagle was nice. Birds belong for some authors to a different race altaicus but it's now replaced into barbatus.
32. Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus percnopterus just a single bird seen, as we expected to see more birds on passage. An adult type bird flew over our heads on 13 September at Chokpak.
33. Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis ** on 20 September we looked at a Griffon Vulture which appeared as pale to me as an Egyptian Vulture would. Somehow I failed to make the mental connection, until the bird disappeared and AC inquired whether Himalayan Vulture could be found here and yep, the pale breast and the strong contrast on the under wing was indeed a very good feature for Himalayan Vulture. The two birds we saw at the Tien Shan Mountains on 25 September were very easy to identify, as we were now aware of the ID of these vultures.
34. Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus fulvus few birds noticed circling in the tops of the Tien Shan mountains bordering Chokpak station. Only seen on 14 September (1) and 22 September (2).
35. Monk Vulture Aegypius monachus few times seen 3 (14/9), 2 (19/9), 4 (20/9), 2 (22/9), 1 (23/9) and 1 at 24/9. Birds were seen at Chokpak, Kyzylkol, between Chokpak and Almaty and at the Tien Shan south of Almaty.
Note: listed as near threatened by Birdlife international
36. Short-toed Snake-Eagle Circaetus gallicus two birds seen on 14 September migrating at Chokpak and two birds on 20 September at the same spot.
37. Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus seen on various dates: 2 (13/9), 2 (14/9), 6 (15/9), 5 (16/9), 3 (17/9), 2 (18/9), 1 (19/9), 2 (20/9), 1 (21/9), 6 (22/9) and 5 (23/9). From these 31 birds, the sex rate was 23 juvenile, 4 third year male (one male 3 days in a row), 3 adult female (one bird 3 days in a row) and 1 adult male. Few unidentified harriers seen on some dates probably belonged also to this species.
Note: listed as near threatened by Birdlife international
38. Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus only two birds have seen one juvenile at Chokpak at 15 September and a near adult male near Darbaza on the same date.
39. Northern Marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus aeruginosus Seen daily in variable numbers, some birds were on passage at Chokpak. Most birds seen at the various lakes were resident birds.
40. Shikra Accipiter badius cenchroides ** only two birds seen on the first day of arrival at Chokpak, they looked much more paler above compared Sparrowhawks. This was at 13 September.
41. Northern Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus nisus/nisosimilis * daily seen at most stops. Several birds caught at Chokpak.
42. Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentiles buteoides * a large female Goshawk caught at Chokpak on 20 September belonged probably to this race.
43. Eurasian Buzzard Buteo Buteo vulpinus * there was strong migration of Steppe Buzzards at Chokpak station the days we stayed here. Some days more then 3000+ birds passed here. Also some large groups at Kyzylkol. In total more then 10.000 birds were seen the whole trip!
44. Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus rufinus daily seen with day maximum up to 50+ during travelling from Almaty to Chokpak and visa versa. Only not seen in the Tien Shan trip on 24 and 25 September.
45. Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga 'fulvescens' the only bird seen was a third year bird midway between Chokpak and Almaty on 23 September. Bird was clearly of the fulvescens form as it was very pale under parts and upper parts as the coverts on upper- and underwing.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international.
46. Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis nipalensis seen on various dates: 13 (14/9), 1 (15/9), 4 (19/9), 1 (20/9), 9 (22/9) and 20+ (23/9). Few juveniles most were adult birds.
47. Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca heliaca two birds were seen during our trip, the best was a third year bird at Kyzylkol on 17 and 18 September and a adult type bird 23 September during driving from Chokpak to Almaty.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international.
48. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos daphanea * few birds seen on 13 September during the trip from Almaty to Chokpak (2), a juvenile at Chokpak on 20 September and a juvenile on 24 and 25 September near Big Almaty lake.
49. Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus recorded on few dates: 1 (12/9), 2 (14/9), 1 (20/9), 1 (21/9) and 16 (22/9). Two birds were of the pale morph, 1 of the rufous morph and the rest were of the darkish or intermediate dark morph. Most birds were adult type. Also one bird caught at Chokpak of the intermediate morph.
50. Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni many birds seen and caught at Chokpak. Maximum up to 200 a day on 22 September on migration. Late at night up to 70 birds came to roost at the Heligoland traps on some dates. All age's seen here. Also few birds lingering around Kyzylkol. Total more then 1.000 birds seen.
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international.
51. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus few Common Kestrels seen at various locations, although after a while not much trouble was put in the identification of kestrels. I guess 10 times more Lesser Kestrels than Common Kestrels in total.
52. Merlin Falco columbarius pallidus * only three birds recorded. A single bird during driving on 13 September from Almaty to Chokpak and 2 birds at Kyzylkol on 18 September migrating.
53. Northern Hobby Falco subbuteo subbuteo caught daily at Chokpak and some migration, many birds passed through on 22 September in an hour no less then 150+ birds passed by. Interesting were some adult birds caught who had their complete set primaries in once. It wonders me as many authors mentioned that this shouldn't be possible in raptors. But also few birds caught who just moulted the four inner primaries!
54. Saker Falcon Falco cherrug cherrug ** a nice juvenile bird was present at and seen well in flight at Ters-Aschibulak on 19 September.
55. Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis ** a group of 7 birds was seen very well at Kosmos Station on 25 September in the surrounding several other calling birds were heard.
56. Chukar Alectoris chukar ** a group of 31 was seen at Darbaza on 15 September.
57. Grey Partridge Perdix perdix robustra * A group of 24 birds was fledged twice at the field behind Chokpak station on 14 September. The robustra race looks a bit more greyish than the birds we normally see in Holland
58. Common Quail Coturnix coturnix few birds fledged and one bird caught. Two birds on 14 September in the fields behind Chokpak, a single bird on 17 and 18 September at Kyzylkol and a bird caught on 22 September at Chokpak.
59. Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus turcestanicus ** in the Botanical gardens at Almaty some rather shy birds, bird looked not similar to our common introduced Dutch Birds, the upper parts were more greenish. The neck collar was also present. Status of these birds is uncertain although they occur around this place into the mountains.
60. Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo ** recorded on several dates: 70+ (13/9), 36 (14/9), 28 (15/9), 100's only heard (16-9), 2 (17/9), 10's only heard (18/9) and several small groups on 19/9.
61. Common Crane Grus grus lilfordi * on 16 September we saw a flock of 11 Common Crane's flying around Kyzylkol. Less black in the wing compared to nominate is the main Id feature with grus.
62. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus chloropus single birds seen during driving on 13 September and at Darbaza on 15 September.
63. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra atra at Kyzylkol 1000's of birds. Few birds on other lakes.
64. Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii ** Probably the top bird of our holiday. On 24 September we saw 1 adult with 3 juvenile birds at Big Almaty Lake and on 25 September I saw at the same spot 2 adults and 3 juveniles, sometimes feeding up to 40 meters. The call is very much like a Whimbrel!
65. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus himantopus only a single bird seen at Darbaza on 15 September.
66. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta a small flock from up to 30 birds was around Kyzylkol daily.
67. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus small flocks were seen migrating past Chokpak and at Kyzylkol. Numbers were up to 100+ birds at Chokpak.
68. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius curonicus a few birds (10) were at Darbaza and at Kyzylkol.
69. Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula tundrae a few birds were at Darbaza and good numbers at Kyzylkol. Also a bird caught here.
70. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus a single bird seen on 17 September at Kyzylkol and a single bird at Darbaza.
71. Turnstone Arenaria interpres few birds seen on 17 September at Kyzylkol.
72. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa melanuroides few flocks seen at Kyzylkol. And a single bird at Darbaza on 15 September.
73. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata orientalis a single bird was at Kyzylkol on 15 September.
74. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus few birds at Kyzylkol and at Darbaza.
75. Common Redshank Tringa tetanus ussuriensis * several birds present at Kyzylkol and at Darbaza.
76. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia nebularia several birds at Kyzylkol and Darbaza.
77. Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus several birds were seen migrating over Kyzylkol, day maximum up to 3 birds.
78. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola several birds were present at Kyzylkol, maximum about 30+ birds on 16 September.
79. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos few birds were seen and heard migrating over Kyzylkol on most dates.
80. Sanderling Calidris alba a single bird was seen at 15 September at Kyzylkol.
81. Little Stint Calidris minuta at Kyzylkol 100's of birds were around the lake. Also 3 birds Darbaza.
82. Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii a single bird seen on 15 September at Kyzylkol.
83. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea a few single birds seen and we caught one at Kyzylkol on 17 September.
84. Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina daily some birds (70+) at Kyzylkol.
85. Ruff Philomachus pugnax several birds (50+) at Kyzylkol, and a migrating flock at Chokpak on 22 September of 25 birds.
86. Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus up to 8000+ birds at Kyzylkol. Birds were mostly at the centre of the lake.
87. Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans (*) this is a rather interesting group and we found several members of the cachinnans group at the various lakes during our travel. Birds looked like the nominate cachinnans were found at Kyzylkol between 15 to 19 September 2003 few very nice young birds and adult were identified. These birds were very similar to our cachinnans, birds looked bit stranger than ours, but maybe because the range is that wide that birds looked a bit strange to me as there could be a slight difference in the build of the birds. Birds looked bigger and bill looked a bit shorter. Also a first winter bird was seen between the mongolicus birds at Ters-Aschibulak on 19 September.
About 15 birds which looked like barbarensis were seen at Darbaza on 15 September, birds looked darker than cachinnans. Birds were rather dark, had very yellowish legs, dark wingtips with only white in p10. The wing projection was similar on cachinnans but birds were too dark and leg colour was wrong for cachinnans.
At the lake at Ters-Aschibulak on 19 September I noticed about 5 birds that matched well with mongolicus. These last one's were equally coloured as Herring Gull in darkness, and had flesh coloured legs, (were complete adult birds), bill was thick and p10 was very white (like almost nominate cachinnans).
88. Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini tamyrensis a single adult bird on Kyzylkol Lake on 18 September. The identification was done at the flesh coloured legs, long wings behind tail (contra mongolicus), typical p10 pattern, streaked head, mantle colour equally with Caspian Gull and a strong gonys angle.
89. Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus few birds seen: a group of 21 on 15 September at Darbaza, a juvenile on 17 September at Kyzylkol and a juvenile at 19 September at Ters-Aschibulak. These were clearly all-migrating birds or post-breeding dispersal.
90. Common Gull Larus canus heinei * at Darbaza we had a second year Common Gull on 15 September. This is well west of what is indicated as migrating route to the west!
91. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus several seen a small flock at Darbaza, Ters-Aschibulak and some migrating flocks (up to 40) at Kyzylkol.
92. Little Gull Larus minutus at Kyzylkol we saw 10 birds on 15 September and 3 birds on 16 September.
93. Slender-billed Gull Larus genei recorded few birds 3(15/9), 14 (16/9), 1 (17/9) and 1 (18/9) at Kyzylkol, all birds which were on the move.
94. Common Tern Sterna Hirundo minussensis a single bird on 16 September at Kyzylkol.
95. Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica nilotica an adult summer-plumage at Kyzylkol on 17 September.
96. Black Tern Chlidonias niger niger few birds (5+) at Kyzylkol on 15 September.
97. Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis arenarius ** saw 17 (16/9), 5 (18/9) and 5 (19/0) birds at Kyzylkol.
98. Rock Dove Columba livia neglecta * daily groups migrating at Chokpak, up to 100 a day! Birds have a grey rump (sometimes white was can cause confusion with Yellow-eyed Stock Dove) further very much like the nominate in colouration.
99. Stock Dove Columba oenas yarkandensis birds are a bit paler than our European birds in general. Few birds identified on 14 September, the birds were migrating to the south (see BWP for a remark that this population is hardly moving).
100. Common Woodpigeon Columba palumbus casiotis * seen almost daily, birds are less marked on the neck, and browner on the upper parts and white in the wing is less then the nominate birds. Several 10's passing by at Chokpak like at 22 September when around 250 birds in just one hour passed by.
101. Yellow-eyed Stock Dove Columba eversmanni ** the first bird I saw migrating to the south with a group of Rock Dove was on 14 September at Chokpak, the further observation and catching of birds happened and brought me 2 juveniles (21/9), 1 adult (22/9) and an adult (23/9) at Chokpak, and a further more birds was seen flying just outside Taraz on 23 September. Birds have a pale rump, less black in the wingtips and are generally smaller than Stock Dove and Rock dove and therefore easy to pick out the flocks of pigeons. (Contra BWP the birds are already on their move in September) The population, which migrates through Chokpak in Kazakhstan, has been shown to decline by 75% in the last 20 years - thought to be attributable to the destruction of Turanga woodland (Aspinall 1996).
Note: Vulnerable qualified by Birdlife international.
102. Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis meena the birds we saw were clearly meena because of the whitish tail tips, lacking of the bulky size (very thin dove), the pattern of the outermost tail feathers and the quite broad fringes to the new adult wing coverts in young birds. Daily we recorded and caught some birds at Chokpak and 2 were seen on 16 September at Kyzylkol.
103. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto seen an various days at both Almaty and Chokpak also during travelling in urban areas.
104. Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis cambayensis a single bird seen at 22 September at Chokpak.
105. Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus flammeus a bird was seen by others every evening at Kyzylkol but I succeeded on 18 September to see it finally.
106. Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus (*) we caught and saw two races at Chokpak. On 14 September we caught two sarudnyi race birds and europaeus we caught on 22 September 3 birds and a bird was present near the ringing station on 23 September belonged also to this race.
107. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis atthis a single bird at Kyzylkol I saw on two dates, and on one we caught it (16/9) and on 19 September it flew against the net and it escaped, probably the same bird.
108. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus persicus ** a loud calling bird at Chokpak was the first we encountered on 14 September. The day after we found our first birds perched on a wire at Darbaza. Later that day we saw several hundreds of birds on wires and flying. Daily we had some groups migrating over at Kyzylkol up to several hundreds a day between 15 and 19 September. Afterwards we left Kyzylkol we hade none anymore!
109. European Bee-eater Merops apiaster daily seen at Chokpak in sometimes extreme large numbers like 1000+ on 22 September. Few birds seen on our way to Chokpak from Almaty! Several birds caught! Not around Kyzylkol.
110. European Roller Coracias garrulus semenovi during driving from Almaty to Chokpak we saw several 100's of birds on several wires. At Chokpak few migrating birds were recorded and on our way back to Almaty from Chokpak we recorded just few Rollers. In total more than 1000+ seen!
111. Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops saturata few birds seen on various dates 13 (3), 14 (2), 21 (1) and 22 (1) September, makes a total of 7 birds and few migrating!
112. White-winged Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucopterus ** on two dates recorded 2 birds on 14 September and one on 23 September around Chokpak ringing station.
113. Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra calandra at Kyzylkol up to 500 a day could be seen, and few groups while driving from Almaty to Chokpak and visa versa!
114. Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata torquata ** at Kyzylkol only seen up to 1000 a day. Most birds were fly-by's but few birds also seen perched.
115. Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufiscens heinei * only few seen at Kyzylkol on 19 September a flock of 6 birds!
116. Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactylus artemisiana//longpennis * daily few birds seen migrating past Chokpak, at Kyzylkol several 100's were seen. Few birds allowed close study there most were fly-bys.
117. Crested Lark Galerida cristata magna seen on many dates, most intriguing observation were 3 birds at 2900 meters at Big Almaty Lake on 25 September. Main groups were found in urban areas.
118. Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis dulcivox daily in small numbers at Kyzylkol. Up to 10+ a day.
119. Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula inconspicua few observations made at Kyzylkol on 18 September (2) and 19 September (1).
120. Sand Martin Riparia riparia by some authors is the diluta race split as a separate species as Pale Martin, we saw several birds and also the common race riparia birds flying around and caught at Chokpak. Migration was very good on 22 September with 100's passing by. Common race was more than 100 times more common then diluta!
121. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica rustica daily good numbers, on 22 September at Chokpak 1000's of birds migrating through.
122. Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica rufula few birds at Almaty on 12 September and few passing by at Chokpak daily in small numbers!
123. House Martin Delichon urbica urbica only a single bird seen on 22 September at Chokpak.
124. White Wagtail Motacilla alba interesting group as it is still on species the Masked Wagtail or Motacilla alba personata is been split of already for years by some authors and by others it's still a race of the White Wagtail, also at Clements list. Most bird encountered were alba, and was 100 times more common then personata. personata was only seen on few days with in total less then 30+ birds, but alba few hundreds were encountered.
125. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava daily seen in sometimes very large numbers. Despite the recent upsurge in the ID of the various subspecies of yellow wagtails we could hardly identify a bird. Few more ore less birds were caught ore seen that matches with beema, thunbergi and possibly tschutschensis. But no positive id could be made despite thousands of birds!
126. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea melanope at Kyzylkol at the well up to 3 birds were seen on 15 & 16 September, few other migrating birds were seen (daily one or two). Also a single bird flew over Chokpak on 22 September.
127. Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris at Kyzylkol tens of birds seen during our stay, like at 16 September I logged about 20 birds. Also few birds migrating over Chokpak. Some authors placed the race that can be found here griseus as a race but other mentioned Tawny pipit is monotypic.
128. Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus two birds seen, one during a stop on 13 September between Almaty and Chokpak and a bird flew over Kyzylkol on 17 September.
129. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis maybe two races seen haringtoni and trivialis. They are not identifiable in the field, in the hand they have darker and bolder markings on the crown, mantle and underside and have a proportionately larger bill. Daily few birds flew over at Chokpak and some were ringed as we were at the station. Personally do I think they were all migrating trivialis.
130. Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta blakestoni *the first birds we saw were at Big Almaty Lake on 24 September, a single bird was seen in flight and briefly on the ground. The day after we went up to Kosmos Station and tens of birds were seen up to 3200 metres. The birds were paler and less streaked then our European birds.
131. Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii tenuirostris ** the first bird on 24 September was just seen above the 1000 metre and the last one on 25 September was at 2900 metres at the stream that floats into Big Almaty Lake, so total was 2 birds!
132. Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes tianschanicus * up to 2900 meters we saw this tiny little bird. On 24 September we saw about 3 birds near Big Almaty lake, the day after these birds were at the same locations and downhill we recorded another one.
133. Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis huttoni ** the first bird I just saw briefly near the great Almaty Lake on 24 September and later I saw a bird nicely perched on the other side of the lake near the dam. Next day we saw a bird in a flock of tits downhill very nice. We saw it in the range from 1000 to 2900 meters.
134. Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens fulvescens ** a bird seen briefly at Great Almaty Lake on 24 September. The uniform (unstreaked) upper parts and the yellowish belly brought me to this species.
135. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica both birds of pallidigularis and svecica caught. Birdsdiffer from race by the breast band what is much broader in svecica then in pallidigularis and the markings in the throat differ. At Kyzylkol we observed them daily and caught few birds. Although svecica was the more common one.
136. Eversmann's Redstart Phoenicurus erythronota up to 3300 meters seen on 24 September we recorded a single singing male around our house at Big Almaty Lake, the day after we recorded the same bird again and 6 birds at Kosmos Station and 2 birds near the observatory.
137. Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura seen in good numbers around Chokpak and Kyzylkol and also on various parts on route. Adult and juvenile birds were both found.
138. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe oenanthe few birds seen. Recorded at 1 (14/9) at Chokpak, 8 (16/9) and 1 (19/9) at Kyzylkol.
139. Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka pleschanka few birds seen up tot 3200 meters seen. Numbers were 1 (14/9) at Chokpak, 2 (16/9) at Kyzylkol, 2 (24/9) and 2 (25/9) at Big Almaty Lake.
140. Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti atrogularis some birds seen at Kyzylkol. On 16 September I saw 6 birds and on 19 September one bird. Mostly adult birds.
141. Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina a few birds seen 3 (15/9) Darbaza and 2 birds (16/9) at Kyzylkol.
142. Black-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis I recorded on few dates birds at Chokpak on 21 (2) and 22 (1) September and at Great Almaty Lake 45+ birds on 24 September and the day after a single bird. The large group was extremely well visible and all ages could be encountered.
143. Blue Whistling-thrush Myiophonus caeruleus temminckii ** in total 3 birds were seen uphill ore downhill to Great Almaty Lake on 24 and 25 September. Birds were singing loudly at the first light of morning.
144. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula intermedius * few birds seen at the Tien Shan trip on 24 and 25 September.
145. Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus bonapartei * a single bird at Big Almaty lake on 24 September. This bird had a good second look because we were not sure at first what species it was.
146. Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia mongolica * a lone bird was caught on 21 September at Kyzylkol.
147. Streaked Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta platyura * a single bird was seen in the plains near some Desert Wheatears at Kyzylkol on 16 September. The bird was sitting for short time and was then seen in flight. It's well north of the known distribution. Lars Svensson also recorded a bird at this spot a time ago. The bird was in flight very long tailed, small, was streaked on the back a head. Very small bird with long tail.
148. Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti albivestris * two birds were present at the mouth of the river floating behind our campsite at Kyzylkol on 19 September.
149. Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon albivestris ** the first bird I saw was a bird I had to collect out of the net on 17 September, alter that day 2 more birds were seen in the field at Kyzylkol. On 18 September another bird could be seen. This race is bigger and darker above, and has whiter under parts then the nominate.
150. Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola capistrata ** a single bird was seen and caught at Kyzylkol on 17 September, striking was the similarity with Booted Warbler in plumage.
151. Blyth's Reed-warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum at Kyzylkol daily seen and caught. Up to 5 seen on a day.
152. Eurasian Reed-warbler Acrocephalus (scirpaceus) fuscus or Caspian Reed-warbler treated by Leiser et al 1997 J. fur Orn. 138: 469-496) and Sangster et al 1998 (Dutch Birding 20: 22-32) as a separate species. We recorded few birds daily at Kyzylkol in the reed beds here. Birds are rather dark and looked like a hybrid between a Dusky Warbler and an acrocephalus bird. Between 15 and 19 September seen up to 3 birds.
153. Booted Warbler Acrocephalus caligata caligata few birds seen and two birds caught at Kyzylkol. Birds seen in the field looked mostly good for caligata but some birds were seen badly and could therefore not rule out Acrocephalus rama. On 17 September three birds were seen and on 18 September 1 bird was seen that could be identified as caligata. On both days few other Booted/Syke's Warbler type birds were seen. Mostly I looked to the tertail patron and to the black spot on the underside of the bill, length of the bill and the tertail projection. But birds were rather shy so I was not always allowed good sights.
154. Severtzov's Tit Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae sophiae ** two very nice birds seen near the observatory on 26 September. This skulking species was after some trouble very nice to see. One of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen.
155. Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis rubicola the largest race of the Common Whitethroat and sadly only one bird seen during the whole stay on 13 September at Chokpak.
156. Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca we saw some rather typical minula /halimodendri race birds but also bigger althea race birds. Some authors think birds of the althea and curruca group are regarded then into the Lesser Whitethroat group and the smaller races as minula and halimondendri are placed into the Desert Lesser Whitethroat group. But the larger types were much more common than the smaller birds.
157. Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria merzbacheri a single bird at Kyzylkol on 18 September.
158. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita we saw and daily Chiffchaffs caught. Most of them belong to the fulvescens type birds. The overall colour was rather dark compared with tristis and some green was in the plumage. I saw three birds which were tristis one was on 23 September near Chokpak in a small village and one was on 24 September on the way up to Great Almaty lake at 1200 meters and the other was at 2900 meters on the edge of Great Almaty Lake on 25 September. The tristis birds were paler and had a clear wing bar (cream coloured). The call of both races was equally a short "piep" call.
159. Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus a bird we recorded at the Botanical gardens at Almaty we first identified as Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus was re-identified as Sulphur-bellied Warbler as it was a species we didn't thought of in the beginning but call and plumage were ok for this taxa, call is very similar to Dusky (and despite that Dusky is never recorded before at Almaty and Sulpur-bellied is a breeding bird and a migrant) and plumage is very similar to Dusky.
160. Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides viridanus two birds seen on 14 and 22 September at Chokpak.
161. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus a few birds seen in the botanical gardens at Almaty were surely inornatus by call and plumage, as expected no records elsewhere.
162. Hume's Warbler Phylloscopus humei we recorded they in good numbers in Almaty and on route in various parts, also few at Chokpak. Maximum was 10+ on a day at Almaty Botanical gardens.
163. Goldcrest Regulus regulus tristis * few birds present at Big Almaty lake on both 24 and 25 September. These birds miss the complete black lateral crown-stripes compared with our Dutch Birds, also the upper parts were duller and greyer. An interesting race.
164. Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata neumanni * a single bird was sitting near the ringing station at Chokpak on 14 September. This bird had whiter under parts and greyer upperparts compared to our birds.
165. Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus a tricky group as we only saw migrating birds at Kyzylkol and not a single bird perched. Most birds probably belonged to this species although Black-headed Penduline Tit Remix coronatus and Thick-billed Penduline Tit Remix macronyx could not be ruled out. But pendulinus is the most common migrant and therefore reliable. Some larger groups were passing through and flying east.
166. Great Tit Parus major major one of the first birds seen in Kazakhstan. Many birds roaming the streets at Almaty. We saw them up to 2900 meters at Big Almaty Lake. Not seen however at Chokpak, although some bokharensis carried hybrid signs. Almost daily hybrids between bokharensis x major caught. Birds had more yellow on the breast and more contrast in the wing (wing bar versus rest of the wing).
167. Coal Tit Parus ater rufipectus * some birds were seen and heard on 24 and 25 September on both Great Almaty Lake and the way down to Almaty still in the Tien Shan. This is the nominate subspecies for the Tien Shan and the form part of the Aemodius group of Coal Tits but looked much like nominate only very detailed feather marks form a difference, and one of the small differences is the small crest the bird has.
168. Songar Tit Parus songarus songarus ** a small group twice seen near Big Almaty Lake on both 24 and 25 September. Group contained about 10 birds.
169. Turkestan Tit Parus bokharensis bokharensis ** seen on daily at Chokpak between 20 and 23 September up to 20 birds.
170. Azure Tit Parus cyanus tianschanicus ** just heard and sadly not seen on 25 September on the way down to Almaty.
171. Yellow-breasted Tit Cyanistes flavipectus flavipectus by Clements regarded as a separate species although it's doubted by some authors that it is a true species but a subspecies of the Azure Tit. We saw about 15 birds and caught several between 20 and 22 September at Chokpak.
172. Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria nepalensis a bird was seen perched by AW, I saw the bird too it was flying by at the observatory in the Tien Shan Mountains on 25 September.
173. Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus this is a interesting group as taxonomy in Holland treat them all as separate species. Most birds seen and caught were isabellinus race or Daurian Shrikes as they are named now, and most of them were juveniles, we encountered few adults. Also 5 speculigerus seen now named Turkestan Shrike. The last one is breeding here and the first one is a migrant. We saw a single juvenile Daurian Shrike behind Chokpak station on 14 September and the next were next day at Kyzylkol where many birds were seen (10+), on the 16th I saw about 30+ birds at Kyzylkol and all except for 2 were Daurian Shrikes, the two birds were speculigerus type birds. Next following day several Daurian Shrikes seen in the vicinity of our camp at Kyzylkol including some adult birds. The main Id criteria were the contrast between head and back, orange colour on the sides of the breast.
174. Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor on 14 September 2 or 3 birds were seen at Chokpak station during a trip in the fields on the back of the station.
175. Rose-colored Starling Sturnus roseus on the trip to Chokpak station from Almaty on 13 September I saw 2 adult birds and 2 juveniles perched on the wires along the road almost midway. A juvenile was close to Kyzylkol on 15 September in a melon field. And a juvenile was in a flock of European Starlings at Kyzylkol on 16 September.
176. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris porphyronotus * some birds were seen daily, daily some migrating south past Chokpak and Kyzylkol with up to 100's a day!
177. Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus oriolus a bird flew by at Chokpak station on 14 September.
178. Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes rothschildi * recorded on 24 (3) and 25 (7) near Big Almaty Lake.
179. Black-billed Magpie Pica pica bactraina * more white in wings, more whitish rump. Recorded on 24 and 25 September, daily up to 10 birds!
180. Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax brachypus has a shorter tarsus and bill Compared to all other races, gloss rather faint, body satin-black, wing and tail slightly purplish makes them recognizable from the other races. We recorded two birds near Kosmos Station on 25 September.
181. Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus forsythi tail and legs longer than European birds and seen on 24 (50+) and 25 (40+) September in the Tien Shan.
182. Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula soemmerringii huge groups present, white in the neck colour varies very much. Seen daily in sometimes very good numbers.
183. Rook Corvus frugilegus frugilegus good numbers during driving, also some birds passed by at Chokpak in southerly direction.
184. Carrion Crow Corvus corone orientalis * bigger than nominate, some birds we observed look almost as big as Raven. Recorded on most dates.
185. Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis ruficollis few birds seen on 13 September from Almaty to Chokpak, and at Darbaza on 15 September but we did not pay much attention to identify all the crows we saw!
186. Common Raven Corvus corax tibetanus * few birds seen while raptor watching at Chokpak on 22 September.
187. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis tristis * some flocks were flying daily south at Chokpak (more than the 74 birds a year stated in the BWP) about 150+ at least seen flying south on the few dates we were there, with on 22 September up to 60 birds fly south! Common in cities and urban area's less at the steppe areas. Daily seen!
188. House Sparrow Passer domesticus domesticus (bactrianus) is smaller and male has more white on the side of the head and neck, under parts are deeply chestnut coloured. Nominate birds seen at bigger places like Almaty in good numbers. The only indicus (bactrianus) we saw were the one's migrating past, up to several 100's a day. Numbers of bactrianus were 17 (10's), 18 (100's), 19 (10's), 20 (10's), 21 (300+) and 22 (2000+) September. Numbers were build up strongly in a short period. Hardly any bird seen on the ground.
189. Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis transcaspicus a single bird was observed at Chokpak on 22 September.
190. Tree Sparrow Passer montanus dilutus * is larger then the nominate, colours are marked paler. And few birds seen at the drive to Chokpak on 13 September near small villages.
191. Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus we saw daily birds at Kyzylkol and some at Chokpak and most birds caught and re-caught gained some weight during their stay so probably most if not all birds belong to the erythrinus race. However an adult male I noticed on Chokpak on 22 September was still in summer plumage without much traces of moult, and this could be well a bird of the none (only some altitude movements) migratory race ferghanensis as this is the breeding race here.
192. Red-mantled Rosefinch Carpodacus rhodochlamys ** just two bird seen both dull plumaged birds. One at the edge of Big Almaty Lake on 24 September and an other one at the observatory on 25 September.
193. European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris turkestanicus a few birds heard and seen on 15 September in a small village where we did some groceries for our trip to Kyzylkol.
194. Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis major few birds were seen migrating past Chokpak in very small numbers like on 22 September
195. Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula a single bird seen on the way down from Big Almaty Lake on 25 September.
196. Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina bella * the only bird high up in the Tien Shan Mountains we saw it on 24 and 25 September. This is in the breeding range of the race bella, so probably the bird belonged to this race. These birds are generally paler then the nominate cannabina. The bird seen migrating south past Chokpak on 21 September probably belonged to the cannabina race.
197. Desert Finch Rhodopechys obsolete few birds seen in flight on several dates at Chokpak like at 14 and 21 September. Not perfectly seen!
198. Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra tianschanica * a single bird was heard and shortly seen near Big Almaty Lake on 25 September.
199. Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana seen at Chokpak and Kyzylkol. Recorded on 14 (1), 16 (1), 21 (1) and 22 (1) September.
Species we missed:
Red-headed Bunting, Rock Bunting, Pine Bunting, White-winged Grosbeak, Brandt's Mountain Finch. Hodgson's Mountain Finch, Grey-crowned Goldfinch, Red-fronted Serin, Treecreeper, White-crowned Penduline-tit, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Blue-capped Redstart, Nightingale, White-tailed Rubythroat, Altai Accentor, Little Owl, MacQueens Bustard, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Little Bittern and Ferruginous Duck.