Tuesday 20 June 2017

Kazakhstan 19th to 31st May Final Part : Korgalzhyn State NP

                               Kazakhstan   Day  Eleven  :  29th  May

                                    Korgalzhyn State National Park

Male Pine Bunting.

So after an incredible trip so far to Kazakhstan the last leg of the holiday was now upon us, we had travelled up north to the famous Korgalzhyn State national park with a whole range of different species on offer including some very special birds.

We started of at a site for Pine Bunting and as soon as we got out of the mini bus we could hear at least one bird calling , we soon located it as it sung high up giving great views.

Superb colours on this bird.

Pine Bunting.

We also had brief views of a male Common Rosefinch & a Siberian Chiffchaff was also great to see , a male Pallid Harrier flew across the road Caspian Gull , Hobby & Lesser Whitethroat were all added to the trip list.

The weather was really awful today , heavy rain and wind made birding very difficult plus the dirt tracks were quite hard to navigate along with the mini bus sliding here & there , however we carried on and eventually there was a break in the weather and we did some more birding.

We stopped near a ditch and heard than saw 2 Booted Warblers , i have only ever seen one before in the UK so was very pleased to see these birds.

Sulking in a bush

Booted Warbler.

There was also a very showy Siberian Stonechat in full song on the overhead wires .

Siberian Stonechat.

We carried on along the tracks making very slow progress and we added several Black Winged Stilts  & Shovelers to the days totals, we eventually decided to call it a day as the weather wasn't improving however we did have some great views of  Yellow Wagtail (race 'Beema').

Yellow 'Syke's' Wagtail.

Kazakhstan  Day Twelve  : 30th May

Korgalzhyn State National Park

Dalmatian Pelicans

My last full days birding in Kazakhstan proved to be very good as once again we headed to the Korgalzhyn State national park , the first pool we came to had 100's of Red Necked Phalaropes , Little Stints , Dunlin plus Knot, Avocet & Curlew Sandpiper were all seen.

There were approx 15 Dalmatian Pelicans that flew right towards us which was quite a sight , i picked out a single Pallas's Gull that flew straight over the pool and out of sight.

We drove abit further into the park and had fantastic views of BLACK LARK !!!

Black Lark in flight.

2 Black Lark's by the track.

These were a new species for me and over the course of the day we saw at least 300 Black Larks , we also saw 3 White Winged Larks , (i forgot to mention in an earlier blog post in the  Taukum Desert that i saw 2 White Winged Larks plus the guide found a 3rd bird later on), however i never got a photo but had great views through the scope.

Black Lark.

Further along the track we had great views of both male & female Red Footed Falcons , the female was tucking into a small vole / mouse species.

Male Red Footed Falcon.

Female feeding on a small mammal.

Female Red Footed Falcon.

We also had distant views of at least 5 Black Winged Pratincoles , 4 White Winged Black Terns & 5 Demoiselle Cranes here.

There was also an Oriental Turtle Dove (form Meena) showing well from this vantage point.

Oriental Turtle Dove.

The birds were coming thick and fast today however one of the main target birds was still evading us , our guide phoned a contact of his to get some up to date gen only to be told they are not at their usual breeding site this year !!!!

So basically if we wanted to see them we had to find them ourselves , well i like a challenge so of we set , we stopped at various locations checking the fields with no luck until after the 3rd stop we all got out of the mini bus and the shout went up .......


Sociable Lapwing.

Not everyone got onto the bird before it flew out of sight however i luckily picked out a 2nd bird which actually landed on the track then flew across the field and landed , we all saw that one thankfully.

Coming into land.

Sociable Lapwing.

I have been luckily enough to have seen 4 Sociable Lapwings in the UK including 2 in Kent but was still very pleased to see these now critically endangered birds .

We spent quite sometime watching this superb wader and felt very lucky indeed to have seen them , we dragged ourselves away to try our luck with a huge Pallas's Gull breeding colony and we  were not disappointed.

Flying straight towards us.

Pallas's Gull.

There were at least 200 Pallas's Gull's here plus approx 50 Steppe Gulls.

Steppe Gulls.

The weather had turned nasty again and the wind was much stronger today , there were plenty of Red Necked Phalaropes  on the pool and quite a few flew past the mini bus.

Red Necked Phalarope.

We retraced our steps heading back to our accommodation pretty much seeing most of what we had already seen and not venturing far from the bus and thus ended my last full days birding in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan   Day Thirteen  :  31st May

Korgalzhyn  &  Astana  Pools

Male Pallid Harrier.

We had time this morning to check a couple of pools before we begun our long journey home , we started of just in Korgalzhyn and saw Black Tern , Black Winged Stilt, Redshank & Northern Wheatear.

We then headed to a large pool near Astana and saw 4 Black Winged Pratincole , male & female Pallid Harrier , Mute Swan, Black Necked Grebe & 2 Bearded Reedlings.

White Headed Duck.

There was a pair of White Headed Ducks and we had glimpses of at least 3 Paddyfield Warblers in the reeds in front of us.

 I also saw a male Citrine Wagtail , Cuckoo & 1 Dalmatian Pelican.


Citrine Wagtail   (photo taken earlier in trip)

There were plenty of Swallows & Common Swifts and more or less the last bird we saw was a superb Red Necked Grebe.

Well that concludes my trip to the wonderful country Kazakhstan , i ended the trip with a personal total of 197 bird species and 47 Lifers  plus several new Sub Species , i have 7 videos from the trip which can be viewed on my Youtube Channel  (the link is on the top right of my blog).

Many thanks for taking the time for reading my posts and if your thinking of going to Kazakhstan ...... do it !!!

Friday 16 June 2017

Kazakhstan 19th May to 31st May : Part 3 : The Mountains

                                    Kazakhstan    Day Eight  :   26th May

                                             The Tien Shan Mountain

Male Eversmann's Redstart.

Today was the day we headed to the Tien Shan Mountains and i couldn't wait , there were so many mouth watering target birds on offer not to mention the superb scenery.

Our first target bird to head for was the quite stunning  Ibisbill , firstly we  had to get our permits from boarder control , whilst we waited for our guides to sort these out we had superb views of a male Eversmann's Redstart on the wires and an Azure Tit showed well on the boarder control building.

Azure Tit.

With permits granted we made our way around to the Big Almaty Lake , we eventually reached the furthest point we could possibly go and were treated to 3 adult Ibisbill's !!!

Really great looking birds and although they were quite distant we had fantastic scope views.

1 of 3 Ibisbill 

We watched these birds feeding & preening for quite sometime and could also hear a Himalayan Snowcock but sadly could not locate it, there were plenty of Tree Pipits doing their display flight calls with a wonderful back drop of snow covered mountains, there was also 5 Ruddy Shelducks on the lake.

The weather turned rather wet & windy which is often the case in the mountains , we tried another area but the rain never let up , we decided to head down the mountain for some lunch and hopefully try again later in the afternoon.

Red Fronted Serin.

I did add Red Fronted Serin to my life list during lunch , the weather cleared up abit so we had a walk around the Alpine Hotel grounds and were treated to a rather wet looking Blue Capped Redstart.

Blue Capped Redstart.

This was once again a new bird for me , whilst watching this a small flock of Tits appeared which included 3 Coal Tits & 3 Songar Tits , wow what cracking looking birds these Songar Tits are , sadly the photos once again don't do them justice.

Songar Tit.

There were plenty of birds calling in the wooded areas including Mistle Thrush , Great Tit & Hume's Leaf Warbler plus we could hear Black Throated Accentor , rather frustratingly these were playing hard to get with only glimpses being seen , however on the way back down i luckily found  one alot closer and we all managed to get great views of another lifer : Black Throated Accentor.

Black Throated Accentor

Kazakhstan  Day Nine  :  27th May

Tien Shan Mountains

Altai Accentor.

Another great day in the Tien Shan Mountains started of with my 1st of 9 lifers today and that was a superb Altai Accentor , in fact i saw 5 of these cracking birds around the Cosmo weather station .

Another Altai Accentor.

The very next bird i saw was a stunning male Guldenstadt's Redstart ,wow what a cracking looking bird , although i saw it very well several times i struggled to get a decent photo .

Digi scoped Guldenstadt's Redstart.

I also saw a female Guldenstadts Redstart  which seemed more happy to pose for a photo.

Female Gudenstadt's Redstart.

There were several  Red Billed Chough nesting around the old buildings.

Red Billed Chough.

Whilst watching the Chough's someone picked out a Lammergeier  which was my 3rd lifer of the day so far, however this was quickly followed by several Plain Mountain Finches.


Plain Mountain Finch.

We added a single Golden Eagle & 3 Common Ravens plus a Northern Wheatear from the Cosmo weather center but had no luck with our hoped for Brown Accentor .

We decided to head back to a lower altitude to check an area of juniper habitat for some other special target birds , as we walked back to the mini bus one of the guides said he could hear a Brown Accentor calling , we soon all started scanning the rocks and finally i picked out a distant Brown Accentor which had 3 Altai Accentors for company , luckily everyone got onto the Brown Accentor .

Digi scoped Brown Accentor.

I was really pleased to see this bird as it completed my 3 hoped for Accentor species on this trip, all of which were lifers for me, whilst watching the Accentors another  Lammergeier flew right over our heads.


We eventually reached the Juniper trees and we started our search for some very special birds , first up was a stunning male White Tailed Rubythroat.

Male White Tailed Rubythroat.

We then saw both male & female Red Mantled Rosefinch , the males being like flying strawberries , unfortunately i never managed a photo of these cracking birds.

However 2 superb White Winged Grosbeaks were great to see and i did manage a couple of photos this time.

White Winged Grosbeak.

We heard and saw a very very distant Himalayan Snowcock and then had great views of a Sulpher Bellied Warbler carrying  nest material.

Carrying nest material.

Sulpher Bellied Warbler.

We didn't stay to long with the Sulpher Bellied Warbler as it was actively nest building and didn't want to disturb to much , that was my 9th new species of the day and pretty much all our target birds seen except one very ,very ,very special bird  on everyone's want list for the trip.

Kazakhstan  Day Ten  :  28th May

The Tien Shan Mountains

Red Fronted Serin.

Our final days birding on the Mountains had come with one very special bird still evading us , we set of and once again had to wait for boarder control to issue permits (which was a theme throughout our time on the mountains).

We did have some great views of  Red Fronted Serins whilst we waited.

Red Fronted Serin.

We headed higher again today to try a get better views of Himalayian Snowcock but our luck run out with this bird , we did see another Lammergeier though.


After awhile we headed back down the mountain to the juniper  bushes again in the very much hoped for sighting of a White Browed Tit Warbler.

We had already put alot of time in for this most wanted bird over the last couple of days , we saw 2 more White Winged Grosbeaks & 1 female Red Mantled Rosefinch, both male & female White Tailed Rubythroats & Eversmann's Redstarts were seen but still no Tit Warbler.

Female White Tailed Rubythroat.

Male White Tailed Rubythroat.

We have seen some fantastic birds today and we had only approx 10 mins left before we had to say goodbye to the Tien Shan Mountains , we were just heading back to the mini bus conceding defeat  in  seeing the Tit Warbler  when our guide stopped in his tracks and said i can hear a White Browed Tit Warbler  he then set off at a fast speed to find it.......

WOW, WOW ,WOW is all i can say as i set my eyes on a stonking male ........................................


White Browed Tit Warbler.

The whole group was in complete melt down with joy ,  the vibrant colours on this bird were amazing , fantastic scope views and what a bird to end our mountain adventure with !!!!

The final part of my holiday to Kazakhstan is in the Korgalzhyn State National Park area with some special Larks & Gulls and an extremely rare Wader .