Kyrgyzstan - July 2007 - with Central Asia Birding

Published by Machiel Valkenburg (machiel AT

Participants: Tour leader Machiel Valkenburg, Madina Dyussebayeva, Madina Rasulbaeva, Wim de Groot


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Son Kul Landscape
Son Kul Landscape
Yellow-breasted Azure Tit - Cyanistes cyanus
Yellow-breasted Azure Tit - Cyanistes cyanus

Preface :

Kyrgyzstan is located in the heart of Central Asia; the country is for the greater part mountainous area with a rich and unique flora and fauna. The country borders in the west to Uzbekistan, in the south to Tajikistan, in the north to Kazakhstan and in the east to China. It has a size of 200.000 km² and 90% of this is dominated by the Tien Shan en Pamir Alai Mountains with peaks above 7000 meter. The mountainous landscape is alternated with semi-deserts, beautiful mountain lakes, rich flowering alpine meadows and unique grass plateaus. The country counts around five million inhabitants of which the majority lives in the capitol Bishkek. The economy of Kyrgyzstan has been affected severely by the collapse of the former Soviet Union, lately the country is scratching from a deep low point. Kyrgyzstan has a stable government who recognises that tourism is a chance for the country and the people. These facets make it very pleasant to travel in this safe and rough country.

In approximately two weeks time we will make a roundtrip through all the nature reserves around the Issyk Kul Lake, the second highest mountain lake in the world located on 1600 meters altitude. Furthermore we will visit the Son Kul Lake. The avifauna of Kyrgyzstan is very diverse and has influences of Europe and Asia. Possible to be watching Common Rosefinches and a single moment later you are spotting the illustrious Ibisbill. You can say for sure that the avifauna of Kyrgyzstan is truly undiscovered and new discoveries are still being made. Together with Central Asia Birding we made a not every-day bird adventure to this interesting country. The four of us had a splendid time discovering the avifauna of Kyrgyzstan. Here follows a report…..


1) July 2, Arrival on the Airport in Bishkek. Departure to the Ala Archa National Nature Park. Having a rest from the flight followed by birding around the accommodations and in the Ala Archa NP. Overnight in Kaska Suu Hotel.
2) July 3, All day will be spend in the surroundings of the fishing ponds north of Bishkek. In the afternoon we will visit the agricultural areas near the ponds. Overnight in Kaska Suu Hotel.
3) July 4, Transportation to Chon Kemin State Park. We follow the Chuy River to the Tokmok Forest and arrive in the Chon Kemin State Park in the early evening. Overnight in the Ashu guesthouse.
4) July 5, Complete day birding in the Chon Kemin State Park. Overnight in the Ashu guesthouse.
5) July 6, Transport to Cholpan Ata located at the Issyk Kul lake. In the morning birding at the local gorge followed by visits to the nearby semi-deserts. Overnight in a guesthouse located at the Issyk Kul Lake.
6) July 7, Transport to Karakol. In the morning birding along the Issyk Kul Lake followed by transport to Karakol. Overnight in Greenyard guesthouse
7) July 8, From Karakol we visit the May Saz region where we will spend all day birding. In the evening we transport back to Yeti Oguz. Overnight in Yurt camp
8) July 9, Transport to Tamga. In the morning an excursion around the yurt camp followed by moving towards Tamga where we go birding in the small marshes nearby the Issyk Kul Lake. Overnight in Tamga guesthouse.
9) July 10, Transport to Son Kul. In the morning we will visit the Salt Lake moon landscape. In the afternoon transport to the high grass plateau of Son Kul. Overnight in Son Kul Yurt camp.
10) July 11, Complete day birding along the shores of the Son Kul Lake. Overnight in Son Kul Yurt camp.
11) July 12, Transport back to Bishkek. The morning will be filled by birding along the shores of the Son Kul Lake and in the afternoon we will depart for Bishkek again. Overnight in Bishkek
12) July 13, Flight back to Amsterdam.

Daily report

Monday 2 July

Wim left Holland on the first of July from Schiphol, Amsterdam. The rest of the group already stayed in Kyrgyzstan and welcomed Wim on 01h10 on the Bishkek Airport. Immediately we departed to the guesthouse located in the mountains 40 km south of the capitol. The transportation during the trip was a Mitsubishi Pajero, a four-wheel drive car. Four o’clock in the night we arrived at the guesthouse and went straight to bed. We decided to sleep till ten and then start with some birding around the guesthouse. We woke up with sunshine and a beautiful view over the valley. During brushing the teeth in the open sky the birding started with a group of nine vultures, Lammergeier, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture and Himalayan Griffon Vulture, circling around the nearby mountain tops. They where harassed by some Oriental Black Crows and a Peregrine Falcon. The breakfast was good with English porridge and little pancakes. After breakfast we started with the planned walk around the location. Soon Machiel made his first pictures of Rock Bunting. Followed where common species like Common Whitethroat, Greenish Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Common Quail and an over flying Long-legged Buzzard.

In the afternoon we planned to visit the Ala Archa National Park, the first nature park founded in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. Situated nearby the capitol of Kyrgyzstan and therefore also visited a lot by the local inhabitants. We of course planned to visit for the rich bird life of the park. We left at one o’clock en started birding en-route. By leaving we started with some good views of Common Rosefinch and a gorgeous couple Siberian Stonechat. Driving down into the green valley we got views of the first groups with Rose-coloured Starlings. We stopped at some interesting looking vegetation and not very long later we saw our first of many Azure Tits during this trip, also Oriental Turtle Doves where present.

The wild steaming river down in the valley did not deliver the two hoped for Dippers. During the trip we will have chance to see both species, White-throated Dipper and Brown Dipper. At the nearby lake we do see Common Coot and Common Sandpiper foraging. The first Common Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey Shrikes and Red-headed Buntings are seen and heard, very normal species for Kyrgyzstan turned out later. We have lunch in the territory of a Turkestan Shrike. We noticed also the presents of Masked Wagtail and Cetti’s Warbler. Lunch was potatoes with tomato sauce, an egg, some salty pickles and tomatoes. Dessert is noodles and some sweet cookies. With a full belly we hear the sound of the Common Nightingale from the bushes.

After the lunch we move on towards Ala Archa, very worrying are the dark clouds who are appearing in the sky. After paying at the check post we enter the National Park. We make some small stops with Common Cuckoo and Red-fronted Serin as a result. Madina R. saw a White-throated Dipper fly away. All of us admire a Grey-headed Goldfinch modelling on a dead branch. Near the river we see a Blue-whistling Thrush fly away with food. Not only birds attract our attention, there are also a lot of amazing butterflies flying. When the first drops are falling we decide to drive back to the guesthouse, we arrive at seven. The first day has ended and after the dinner we go to sleep quickly because for tomorrow we plan to go birding before breakfast.

Tuesday 3 July

Wake up at six o’clock, we start with a walk around the accommodation. Many conifers and junipers scrubs are located on the mountain slopes where we plan our visit. The first sighting was a Rose Finch, the second a Humes Warbler and the third a Yellow-breasted Azure Tit!! Before breakfast the main target of the day was already in the pocket. The breakfast at seven was very big again, English porridge and eggs with bacon. At eight we depart for a morning visit to the Bishkek fishing ponds. Followed by a visit to the agricultural area around the fishing ponds in the afternoon.

We start with some ponds near the border with Kazakhstan, the main attraction are the great numbers of Little Bitterns and Great Reed Warblers! The small ponds also are the home to good numbers of Common Kingfisher, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot and White-crowned Penduline Tits who made their nests in the overhanging branches of the big old Willows. The Popular trees where the homes of many Myna’s and two species of Shrikes, Lesser Grey- and Long-tailed Shrike. We had very good views of all the species. After these small ponds we decided to move on to the bigger ponds, close to twelve we arrive. The sun is doing his best today and you can say that it is pretty hot, fortunately there is more than enough cooled water available. We find shelter in the shade of the trees; immediately we hear the sound of an alarming Shikra. Not much later we see this beautiful raptor sitting in a tree above us. In the small forest we see also Great- and Azure Tits. We enjoy the lunch also in the shade of the trees. Above the trees float some Black-eared Kites in search for a meal. On the ponds itself we see only a few Common Terns and Sandwich Terns. Also a Pontic Gull is present and bobbing op and down on the water. There is not much activity on the water, later it seemed that a jet ski scared all the birds of. After the noise we go on to the agricultural area around the ponds. At one of the first stops we see a small bird fall in some low vegetation. The two of us walk in the direction of the spot; surprisingly a big bird flies away, LITTLE BUSTARD!! After this sensation we continue in the fields with many sorts of crops. 300 Meters later we see a next top attraction, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sitting on a wire. Another two Eurasian Turtle Doves and a group of foraging Sand Martins complete this part. We head back to the city to buy some refreshing watermelons. In the city we spot the sky for possible Common- and Alpine Swifts, unfortunately no views today. After the shopping the city we go home to our guesthouse. We have a good feeling about the seen species. Just outside of Bishkek we make a short stop in an oasis look-a-like environment. Near the river we see Cetti’s Warblers and a group of White-crowned Penduline Tits with many youngsters. During the drive to the Kaska Suu Guesthouse we see the usual species as European Roller, Hoopoe, Lesser Grey Shrike, European Bee-eater and Rose-coloured Starlings. We reach the guesthouse around seven and like always we are welcomed by our Common Rosefinch. The day has ended and after dinner we go to dreamland and hopefully another beautiful day lies in front of us.

Wednesday 4 July

The alarm awakes us just after six and like every day we start with a small walk around the guesthouse which resulted in no new species. Greenish Warbler, Azure Tit, Red-fronted Serin and Red-headed Bunting. We move today 250 kilometre into eastern direction by way of Tokmok towards Chon Kemin.

When going down we are of course welcomed by European Roller and European Bee-eater sitting on the electric wires along the road. Rose-coloured Starlings are foraging in the verge of the road. We drive through the city in northern direction and near the Kazakh border we head into eastern direction taking the route along the Chuy River, the natural border with Kazakhstan. The chosen route is best for birds and the landscape is even more beautiful. At the first stop we start with a new specie for the trip, Grey Wagtail. Also Common Sandpipers and Barn Swallows are seen. We continue to some fishing ponds where we see some Black-winged Stilts. At these ponds we are passed by a group of foraging White-crowned Penduline Tits, very funny birds! Next we see a large group of sixty Alpine Swifts above the ponds foraging, made me just breathless. We hear the ‘horse sound’ of Little Grebe, unfortunately no views. We do see three Pygmy Cormorants, one of the most endangered species of Kyrgyzstan. The day has started promising. We drive on to the Tokmok Nature Reserve. The reserve is not very bird active and little is seen, only some Cetti’s Warblers. We do have lunch in a picturesque place. When the ladies are preparing the lunch the gentleman see some more Azure Tits and a female Hen Harrier flying over. The lunch is chicken-wings with potatoes , some pickles and a watermelon as dessert. During the lunch we saw also some small water-snakes, very interesting.

After Tokmok we proceed to the Burana Tower. The tower was built by the citizens of the eastern Kagenet’s in the 11th century. The Burana tower is accompanied by ruins of the palace, petroglyphs and gravestones, called by local people Balbals. The last two were collected from the Chuy Valley. We arrive at the tower but decide to go birding in an interesting looking spot not far from the tower, typical birdwatcher behaviour! In the small river we find Little Ringed Plover with young’s. The parents try to lure us way by using the ‘broken-wing tactic’. The trees are the homes of Spanish Sparrows. We follow the road along the river and see more Little Ringed Plovers, also Common Sandpiper and Golden Orioles of the kundoo subspecies are present. We continue to Chon Kemin

We have to break hard for an overcoming Egyptian Vulture. We turn into the road to Kemin village and a sign next to the road tells us that in 38 km we will arrive at Ashu guesthouse. We drive slowly and all are very focussed but unfortunately we see only a few Crested Larks. We continue and then Machiel sees a female Pied Wheatear next to the road, we go for search. During the search Machiel finds a Stewart’s Bunting, after a little chase all of us have good views of this magnificent bird. In succession we see also Blue Rock Thrush, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, an adult Golden Eagle and the sound of Chukar Partridges. The Golden Eagle shows a great flight show, the king of the mountains is also on our list. After arrival back at the car the ladies prepared some hot and spicy noodles for us. We drive on and come across more Golden Eagles. We drive into the valley of Chon Kemin, completely green, a very impressive landscape. Few hundred meters before the guesthouse we have our last stop of the day for a couple of Common Starlings, the subspecies porphyrnotus that occurs in Kyrgyzstan looks like the European specie of Spotless Starling. Very interesting indeed. We arrive just after 18h00 in Ashu where we are served a delicious Plof, rice with meat. The list of the today has extended the total list with twenty-two new species. We take a nice shower and head for bed again in one of the best and most beautiful decorated guesthouses of Kyrgyzstan.

Thursday 5 July

At 6h15 the alarm wakes us and because we decided to have breakfast at 7h30 we have enough time for a walk around the guesthouse. Together with Madina D. I make a walk. When we leave the entrance of the guesthouse we hear immediately the sound of Common Quail and Corncrake coming from the fields with wheat. We spot Eurasian Turtle Dove and Siberian Stonechat sitting on the fence of a yard. A couple of Turkestan Shrikes are very beautiful and also it seems that they love to be model for Machiel’s pictures. After breakfast, a good porridge and two eggs, we start with a walk along the Kemin River where Ibisbill will be a target species.

The river is a perfect habitat for the illustrious bird called Ibisbill. The specie is breeding on pebble banks of fast streaming broad mountain rivers above 2500 meters. After a search of ten minutes we already saw our first Ibisbill of the trip. Many hearts where pumping harder on the sight of this amazing specie. We continued with the scrubs and bushes along the river for small warblers. The only warbler we found was a Barred Warbler.

We continued further to the south side of the valley where we greeted a few Red-headed Buntings, Rollers and a Northern Wheatear. It was rather silent and the hoped for Rock Sparrow was not to be found in this spot today.

We changed our route and went from the south to the north of the valley with the hope on Yellow-breasted Azure Tits. We drove in to the green gorge and decided to have lunch on a beautiful spot, during the preparation of the lunch already the first normal Azure Tits where seen. After lunch we walked into the gorge because our four-wheel drive car could not go any further. First we saw a common White-throated Dipper of the leucogaster subspecies. Not much later we saw a Black-eared Kite flying over, he was moulting heavily. We continued our walk up and after fifteen minutes we had our first group of seven “Azure Tits”, four of them where of the common specie the other three where Yellow-breasted Azure Tits. Besides Azure Tits also many gorgeous butterflies are photographed. Madina D. saw a Common Crossbill flying over and also a Goldcrest was seen. Greenish Warbler, Great Tit, Indian Myna and a mystery falcon rapidly flies over, we where just too late! When we start to walk back it starts to rain and we head back to Ashu guesthouse which is fifteen minutes away. We drink some hot tea with biscuits and wait for the rain to stop. When it stops raining we drive around in the agricultural area, you’ll never know what to find. We see some Shrikes, unfortunately it stays with some Shrikes. We end the day with another visit to the river, again we see the Ibisbill. The day has ended and with fifteen new species we go to bed.

Friday 6 July

I woke up after a night with a light fever at 6h45, directly I moved to the restaurant for my breakfast. After having worked in some small pancakes and an omelette we left for Cholpan Ata at the Issyk Kul Lake. We start the day again with a visit to the spot for our beloved Ibisbill, unfortunately we have less luck today. Maybe no Ibisbill but we do see and hear some pipits, a Tawny Pipit and not much later we hear the Tree Pipit. During the drive through the Kemin Gorge no noticeable sightings where made. We drive in one time to Balykchy, the first city at the Issyk Kul lake. We have our lunch at the lake and of course we do some birding in this new habitat. In the low scrubs and old riverbeds we see some beautiful new species. We start with Sykes’s Warbler and in the surrounded agricultural fields we find more Common Rosefinches, Corn Buntings and Masked Wagtails. At a small puddle we see a subspecies of the Citrine Wagtail, the calcarata subspecies has a complete black back. Machiel is very enthusiastic cause he wanted to photograph this specie already for a long time.

After a birding session of three hours we move on to some semi-desert habitat near Cholpan Ata. We find in this rough open terrain multiple Pied Wheatears and Masked Wagtails. We make a small walk and Machiel discovers a Saker Falcon coming over. Small drops start to fall from the sky and after not so long time they start to become bigger and bigger till we are driving in hard rain. Without any stops we move on to our hotel located 100 meters from the Issyk Kul lake. When we arrive the rain has stopped, the ladies decide to take a dive after dinner. We end the day with seven new species but this is nothing compared to the staggering landscape of today. I go to bed early and hope to have some rest after the bad night I had before.

Saturday 7 July

The day starts with a walk to the nearby beach. On the water we spot not so much activity and therefore we go do some ‘hunting’ in the nearby bushes. Plenty of Barred Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers and Turkestan Shrikes and again also many Common Rosefinches. The Central Asian subspecies is much more red than in Europe, the red almost reaches between the legs.

Today we travel further to Karakol, the most easterly orientated sleeping place of our trip. We are not that far anymore from China. After a fifteen minute drive we stop in the first gorge of the day and start looking for Wallcreeper. The gorge has steep walls and not much vegetation. It is clearly the territory of many Rock Buntings and Pied Wheatears. We find them in great numbers but the hoped for Wallcreeper is not to be found, also we start to worry about the dark clouds that are forming above our heads. We drive on to the next gorge. The entrance of this gorge takes us through open grass fields where we see some Hoopoes and a new species for the trip, Isabelline Wheatear. In the gorge we stop at the sighting of several Red-fronted Serins. We approach them to a distance of two meters, the pictures are amazing. We also encounter in this gorge a tourist attraction, illegal captured raptors. We see Steppe Buzzards, Long-legged Buzzards and Kestrels. Rich foreign tourist can have there picture taken with a bird. In the region it becomes a huge problem, many raptors are illegally captured from there nests. It is probably the reason why we see so little raptors during our visit. When we head back for the exit of the gorge it slowly starts to rain again. We even have to eat in the car, which gives a special and comfy atmosphere. It seems that it will not stop raining soon therefore we decide to change the program and drive to Karakol without stops. The rest of the day we had hard rain without any dry periods. In the guesthouse we played traditional Kyrgyz board-games. Notable is that all guesthouses have been more than ok during our trip so far! We go for our dry and warm beds and dream about the flying strawberry of May Saz, better known as Great Rosefinch.

Sunday 8 July

We get up around 6h00 with the thought to leave early for May Saz and so many good species. During the loading of the car it already started to rain and also it would not stop raining during the complete day.

In the contrary we did see the best things during the trip to May Saz. We started with an unidentified eagle. It all went rather fast, great white spots where seen on the back and very dark underparts of the wing. We balance on the thoughts of Golden Eagle or Imperial Eagle. When we started the climb towards the pass of May Saz we were immediately treated on a gorgeous Ibisbill. Very content we moved on. Not much later we stopped again, now for a group of three Ibisbills. Totally we stopped 5 times for new discovered Ibisbill.

After the Ibisbills the story of Hodgon’s Mountain Finches begins. Due to the heavy snowfall of last night (yes heavy snowfall in July!!) all the Mountain Finches come down in large groups. We stop for groups of over hundred individuals. Totally we count more than five-hundred birds. Next to Mountain Finches we also see Evermann’s Redstart, White-winged Crosbeak, Red-fronted Serin, Red-mantled Rosefinch and a common Black Redstart.

When we move on and go higher and higher the rain slowly changes into snow. We decide to turn back and hope to do some more birding down in the valley. During the descent we have a flat tire. When we are changing the tire some friendly locals offer their help. An unwritten law in these mountains is to help each other always when needed. We are very wet and have to return to Karakol to repair the tire, we need an extra tire for the journey to Son Kul.

After the repair we go to Yeti Oguz where we will overnight in an especially for us prepared yurt camp. The rain and snow made sure we missed our high mountain species, lets hope we will see them in the mountains near Son Kul. Hopefully we will wake up tomorrow with a clear sky and no more rain.

Monday 9 July

We wake up at 6h15 without the sound of rain ticking on the roof, a small victory dance was made. The ladies return with the car to Karakol for some shopping. Myself and Wim go birding. We start with a walk along the loud river towards some high pine forests. Grey Wagtail and many Greenish Warblers are present. Also a few Humes Warblers have been heard. When we return back Machiel hears a Blue-headed Redstart, beautiful specie to start the day with! Red-fronted Serins and Coal Tits are also present.

Around 12h30 we leave Yeti Oguz and move on to Tamga located at the south side of the Issyk Kul lake. We eat the lunch with sight on the famous red rocks of Yeti Oguz (= seven bulls). Next stop is just past the red rocks where we make a small walk into the bushes. In very short time we see several Evermann’s Redstart and again one Yellow-breasted Azure Tit. We continue in a rapid pace to Tamga for some birding near the lake. In the scrubs we see some Siberian Lesser Whitethroats. In the nearby park we see Hobby, Common Cuckoo and Great Tit feeding her young’s.

At 18h30 we arrive in the guesthouse. After dinner we go to bed early cause tomorrow we will leave very early. We want to be with sunrise at Salt Lake.

Tuesday 10 July

Today the day starts before sunrise, at four o’clock we awake. The goal is to be before sunrise at Salt Lake. This day is for me the most beautiful of our trip, we will visit two of my favourite spots in Kyrgyzstan.

We arrive around 6h20 in the moon landscape of Salt Lake. We are welcomed by some Isabelline Wheatears and Horned Larks. The bushes contain gorgeous blue flowers which give this indescribable landscape something extra. We drive into the riverbed with our four-wheel drive and see within seconds our first Mongolian Desert Finches, they are foraging on the seeds of some small bushes. We continue and make several small stops with the result of spotting Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Pied Wheatear, more Mongolian Desert Finches and few Tawny Pipits. Some minutes later we see a Pontic Gull flying past which is followed by a Steppe Gull, a rarity for Kyrgyzstan. We drive on through an amazingly rough and gorgeous landscape. Around noon we have to move on to Son Kul where we will spend the night.

We start the long and heavy climb towards our sleeping place near the mountain lake of Son Kul. We start with a few sightings of Citrine Wagtails and in the first village we see some Rock Sparrows nesting in houses. The people in this village are dressed in traditional clothing which are very beautiful. The old men sit on a bench in the centre of the village and discussing heavily, probably about the latest gossip. We head on and only stopping for something new or interesting. Half hour later we stop for our first White-winged Snowfinches and many Hodgon’s Mountain Finches. On the high alpine meadows we find more Citrine Wagtails, Water Pipits, Isabelline Wheatears and Horned Larks. After a long journey of 340 km we finally arrive in our Son Kul camp. We are tired but content with the superb view over the lake. The lack of oxygen even gets to head of the girls, who are laughing and enjoying themselves a lot. We go to bed in our yurt’s and hopefully a splendid day lays in front of us tomorrow.

Wednesday 11 July

Day starts at 7h00 with breakfast and leave the camp around 7h30. We start with a visit to the Son Kul Lake, which lays approximately one km away from our camp. When arriving at the lake we immediately start with Greater Black-headed Gulls, we count twelve birds and no more less than nine adults. In this group we also find two Steppe Gulls.

We move on to the southeast side of the lake where you can find more marshes. On the water we see Great Crested Grebes but nothing special, yet! We make several stops where we encounter more Citrine Wagtails and Horned Larks, most common species by far. These two species really have found there way on this green highland plateau, which looks a lot like Mongolia. We continue birding and see more Great Crested Grebes, Black-necked Grebes together with males of Tufted Ducks who are still showing off for their females. Many shorebirds are also present, Common Redshank and Spotted Redshank are more common while Common Greenshank and Green Sandpiper are not so abundant. Also a large group with Common Terns are feeding and some even still breeding! When we drive on we come across a small stream where we see a Mongolian Plover of the pamirensis subspecies, very stunning bird.

After this feast we continue to the mountains for hopefully some missed mountains species. At the first stop we are overwhelmed by the mass of White-winged Snowfinches, we count more than fifty individuals. Madina R discovers a Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Machiel makes gorgeous pictures of both species. Also Machiel saw a Wheatear with a complete white back after a small search party the bird has not been seen anymore. Finsch’s Wheatear yes or no? We will never find out. Near this beautiful rock we decide to have lunch. During the lunch Machiel keeps making pictures, gorgeous Red-billed Chough on picture is the result. Next stop is a small river where we hope to find Brown Dipper, no luck with Brown Dipper we do see his European cousin. Beside this we also encounter Tawny Pipit and Grey Wagtail. After a beautiful day of birding we return to our base camp. We have dinner in the traditional decorated yurts and enjoy our last night under the Son Kul sky.

Thursday 12 July

We have a long day driving a head of us. We leave around 8h30, packing first and doing some birding around the camp. Before leaving all the helpers in the camp are thanked one by one for their efforts to give us a splendid time. Then it becomes time to say goodbye to the mountain lake Son Kul. We spot again for Greater Black-headed Gull but unfortunately we are not so lucky now. Again many divers and shorebirds are present.

We head for lower grounds and stop at the first interesting looking bushes. We see White-bellied Dipper and not much later we are given the gift of Himalayan Rubythroat, gorgeous creature and all of us have splendid views. The hope for White-browed Tit Warbler is rising but unfortunately we do not see this stunning bird. In a rapid pace we go down and drive towards Balykchy, on the way we pass again the semi-deserts that we visited before. Of course this goes hand in hand with the to be expected species like Isabelline Wheatear and Crested Larks.

Because of the long transport day we make little stops, only during lunch we do some birding. The species that are not occurring in the mountains are abundant in the lowlands. The Rose-coloured Starlings already have flying youngsters. At the near canal fly many Sand Martins. We check for Pale Sand Martins bur unfortunately we cannot find any. We continue driving towards Bishkek and on the electric poles we see the familiar Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes again. The real star of the day become the many thousands of Pink Starlings we see foraging next to the road all day long.

We arrive around 16h30 in Bishkek where we sleep in a comfortable cosy hotel with a pool. In Bishkek it is very hot again which is very different to the lower temperatures in the mountain plateau of Son Kul. Madina D and Machiel take a dive in the pool while Wim prepares for the flight back to Amsterdam. Even from the pool the birding continues, Alpine Swift in great numbers foraging above the city and a Grey-headed Goldfinch foraging on the in plants in the garden. We dine for the last time together in a restaurant in the city where we are treated a delicious shaslick together with many salads, fresh baked bread and fries. We end this adventurous trip with a superb meal.

Friday 13 July

Just after midnight Wim says goodbye to Madina D. and Machiel at Bishkek Airport. He ends the trip with a small joke saying ‘maybe flying back on Friday the thirteenth was not such a good idea’. Happily all went well and he arrived safely in Amsterdam after a much enjoyed trip in Kyrgyzstan


Our journey in general was more than okay unless the bad weather in the most important part of our trip. In the contrary was the hot weather in the lowlands. The days with rain and sometimes snow made our final bird list rather limited. Not seeing the presumed mountain species in May Saz ‘costs’ us around ten till fifteen species. These minor things are in great contrast to all the splendid viewings made by us. No more less than seven Ibisbills where seen (where in the world you see more?), many Azure- and Yellow-breasted Azure Tits, Little Bustard of which the idea was that he was extinct in Kyrgyzstan, Güldenstädt’s Redstart near the nest and last but not least the amounts of White-winged Snowfinches where more than delightful. The avifauna was amazing but the landscapes of Kyrgyzstan was a matchless experience. It was possible to drive through semi-desert and not much later than thirty minutes to be standing in alpine meadows.

During the trip the ladies took care of the lunch which was every time a delightful happening. The table was always laid with delicious and enough food for everyone. Cooled water was always available in the jeep, compliment for the ladies. The transportation with special four-wheel drive cars is a must in the rough terrain of Kyrgyzstan, without these cars it would be impossible to visit the places we wished.

In the future we will for sure continue to travel to gorgeous Kyrgyzstan with his overpowered avifauna. Maybe we will see you one time on a trip of Central Asia Birding to Kyrgyzstan.

Yours sincerely,
Machiel Valkenburg
Central Asia Birding Central Asia Birding

Species Lists

Ruddy Shelduck
Tufted Duck
Common Quail
Ring-necked Pheasant
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Great Cormorant
Pygmy Cormorant
Grey Heron
Little Bittern
Black-eared Kite
Egyptian Vulture
Black Vulture
Himalayan Griffon Vulture
Eurasian Griffon
Hen Harrier
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Long-legged Buzzard
Upland Buzzard
Golden Eagle
Eurasian Kestrel
Saker Falcon
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Little Bustard
Black-winged Stilt
Little Ringed Plover
Mongolian Plover
Northern Lapwing
Oriental Curlew
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Greater Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Pontic Gull
Steppe Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Common Wood-Pigeon
Eurasian Turtle Dove
Western Oriental Turtle Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Common Cuckoo
Alpine Swift
Common Swift
Common Kingfisher
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Roller
Crested Lark
Eurasian Skylark
Horned Lark
Sand Martin
Eurasian Crag Martin
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin
Masked Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Black-backed Citrine Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Tawny Pipit
Tree Pipit
Water Pipit
Turkestan Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Common Myna
Rose-coloured Starling
Eurasian Starling
Eurasian Magpie
Red-billed Chough
Oriental Carrion Crow
Common Raven
White-throated Dipper
Cetti’s Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Sykes’s Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Hume's Warbler
Barred Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Siberian Lesser Whitethroat
Siberian Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Evermann’s Redstart
Blue-headed Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
Güldenstädt’s Redstart
Eastern Nightingale
Thrush Nightingale
Himalayan Rubythroat
Blue-whistling Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
Mistle Thrush
Coal Tit
Azure Tit
Yellow-breasted Azure Tit
Great Tit
White-crowned Penduline Tit
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
White-winged Snowfinch
Hodgon’s Mountain Finch
Common Rosefinch
Red-mantled Rosefinch
Common Crossbill
European Greenfinch
Grey-headed Goldfinch
Eurasian Linnet
Red-fronted Serin
White-winged Grosbeak
Mongolian Finch
Rock Bunting
Grey-necked Bunting
Stewart’s Bunting
Red-headed Bunting
Common Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting