Trip Report: Kazakhstan, May 27 - June 5, 1999
Don Taylor, 1 Rose Cottages, Old Loose Hill, Loose, Maidstone, Kent ME15
0BN, United Kingdom; firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry & Norma Bye, Geoff & Sandy Wenden, Ian & Sylvia Whitehouse,
Graham Scholey & Terry Cornfield, Alan Boyes, John Day, Dick Marchese,
Martin Pitt, Alex Parker, Ron Scatliffe, David Whitelaw and Ray Witt.
- Thursday, 27th: Depart Heathrow 1030 hrs.
- Friday, 28th: Arrive Otrar Hotel, Almaty 0300 hrs. A walk in the
City Park before breakfast, then east to the Charyn Valley hunting lodges,
via the Almaty Canal, Sand Martin colony and Kokpek valley.
- Saturday, 29th: Charyn Valley, Sugaty Plain and the Red Canyon.
- Sunday, 30th: Charyn Valley, Sugaty Plain, Kokpek valley, Nuray,
River Chilik and the Tien Shan Mountains Observatory.
- Monday, 31st: Tien Shan Mountains
- Tuesday, 1st: Tien Shan Mountains, then northwest to Konshangel
Camp, via Kopa and Tamgaly Tas.
- Wednesday, 2nd: Konshangel, Topar lakes, Zhelturanga
- Thursday, 3rd: Konshangel and Sorbulak Reservoir.
- Friday, 4th: Depart Otrar Hotel 0100 hrs for flight to Vienna and
Heathrow at 0400 hrs.
We were generally blessed with dry conditions, hot during the middle of the
day in the lowland desert regions, but cooler in the mountains, where some
snow fell. The wind was variable, often increasing during the afternoons, when
at times it became quite strong.
My thanks to Martin Pitt for his comments and suggestions on the first draft of
this report and to Graham Scholey for information regarding the mammals,
etc. Finally, thanks to all participants.
Dick Marchese collected me at 0520, and his son Kevin drove us to Heathrow,
where some of the group had already checked in, but I met most of them at the
check in and the others in the departure lounge. The flight to Vienna on
Austrian Airlines was delayed nearly an hour, but made up some time. From
Vienna we departed at 1315 (1415 local time) for the five-and-a-half hour
flight to Almaty. The Airbus A310 was comfortable and the service very good.
We touched down at forty-five minutes after midnight, local time, and it
seemed an age getting through customs and checking currency declaration
documents. Yuliya Ekemseyeva and Dauren Valiev of Kan Tengri were there
to meet us, and we booked in at the Hotel Otrar around 0300, when there was
an opportunity to change some currency.
I awoke around 0600 and the view over the trees of the Russian
Orthodox Cathedral in the City Park was extremely impressive, with the
backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan mountains.
Several of the group visited the park for an hour or so before
breakfast at 0730, and Steve Rooke of Sunbird informed us that the weather
had just broken for the better. Red-rumped Swallows circled over the Hotel,
and in the park Blyth's Reed and Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers were
heard or seen, along with Blackbirds, Common Mynas, House Sparrows,
Great Tits, Greenfinches, an Azure Tit and a pair of Scarlet Rosefinches.
The buffet breakfast spread was much appreciated, and we set off east
towards the Chinese border just after 0830 with Yuliya and our naturalist
guide Victoria Kovshar, both of whom proved to be excellent at their
respective jobs and extremely good, friendly company.
On all routes out of the city the roads are tree-lined, having been
planted in the main with an Ulmus species, one of the Elms. Our first stop was
along the Almaty Canal, where we quickly heard and saw such species as
Nightingale, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Golden Oriole, European and Oriental
Turtle Doves, Masked Wagtail, European Bee-eater and Lesser Grey
Shrike. Much of the land as we drove east was agricultural, and we passed
grape vines, grown for the production of local wines. Typical species of this
region included Rooks and Jackdaws, flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings,
Isabelline Wheatears, Red-headed Buntings, a few Long-legged Buzzards
and the occasional Black Kite, Lapwing, Hoopoe and Ruddy Shelduck, and
during brief stops we added an Alpine Swift, the only Linnets of the trip, a
Little Owl and a nesting Tawny Pipit.
We made a special stop at a Sand Martin colony on two accounts.
Firstly, the Sand Martins are of the race R. r. diluta, which has a breast pattern
between the nominate race and the Plain Sand Martin R. paludicola - some
birds showed virtually no breast band, while on others it was blurred. Victoria
also directed us to the House Sparrows, calling them Indian Sparrows and
saying that they were migratory and inhabited rural areas, often nesting in
Sand Martin burrows, or building tree nests (see further comments in the
systematic list). Shortly after 1230 we stopped to look at the first of four
Steppe Eagles and also enjoyed the attractive wing pattern displayed by a
juvenile Isabelline Wheatear, while a colony of Great Gerbils attracted the
attention of the photographers.
The wind increased in strength, but it was warm and sunny - shorts
and sandals weather, for a few. At 1315 we pulled into Kokpek valley for our
lunch and the possibility of seeing and hearing four bunting species. The
picnic lunches proved to be extremely good, certainly the vegetarian spreads
were much appreciated. During lunch and the short period either side we saw
such species as Pied Wheatear, Red-headed Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush,
Lesser Whitethroat and Rock Bunting, heard a Nightjar churring, and
though Victoria pointed out the song of the White-capped Bunting, which a
few were able to hear, the bird wasn't located. Overhead a sub-adult Imperial
Eagle and a Eurasian Griffon Vulture were identified. Our journey
continued just after 1500.
We passed through Kokpek village, and before we dropped down onto
a wide plain I glimpsed a Crag Martin from the bus. About an hour later we
reached a check point, which is some 70 kms from the Chinese border. There
was a profitable delay, for some, as our passports were checked against the list
of names supplied by Kan Tengri, a splendid Lammergeier was spotted by
Martin, as it drifted along a ridge of hills.
We arrived at the Charyn Valley hunter's lodges, settled in, then sat
down for not just a cup of tea, but a spread almost sufficient for an evening
meal. We indulged ourselves, before exploring the Turanga forest, which has a
moderately dense understorey - an ancient forest, which apparently survived
the Ice Age. The larger trees are mainly Ash and Poplar. Good numbers of
Nightingales sang, and the local breeding pair of Hobbies performed well, but
trying to find other passerines and the endemic woodpecker proved extremely
difficult, in part due to the strongish wind, we thought, though there was little
change the next morning in still conditions. Azure Tits were the main find,
though John managed to locate a female White-winged Woodpecker and
other species included Ring-necked Pheasant, hybrid Great Tits, another call
from a Scops Owl and back at the lodges a Collared Dove.
Around 2000 we sat outside to complete the day's log and while
doing so stopped twice - Sylvia spotted a Kingfisher and later two
Woodcock, an unexpected addition to a respectable list for the day of just over
70 species. We enjoyed our evening meal at 2100, looking forward to a good
A few Azure Tits were seen in the Turanga forest and both Hume's
Yellow-browed and Greenish Warblers were seen and heard singing. A Grey Heron
and a pair of Ruddy Shelducks flew over; the latter's calls sounded like the
braying of donkeys. A Common Whitethroat was also seen.
We set out around 0830 for the Sugaty Plain and the Red Canyon.
During a brief stop to photograph the scenery, a Long-legged Buzzard and a
Pied Wheatear were seen, but a longer stop on the Sugaty Plain between
0900-1000 was most productive. Groups of three then eight Pallas's
Sandgrouse flew over calling, small flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouse also
flew by, Goitered Gazelles and Tolai Hares were also noted, what turned out
to be a female Greater Sandplover was thought to be a Caspian Plover at first
glance, but a pair was then located and the identification corrected, at least two
Shore Larks, several Short-toed Larks and two Desert Warblers were seen,
and then John found a Marbled Polecat at the entrance to its burrow. As we
drove on a Corsac Fox was also seen.
Around 1030, shortly after we'd turned to head southeast towards the
Red Canyon, Victoria stopped the bus at another opportune moment, to look
initially at a number of Lesser Kestrels that were perched along a power line.
At least ten were seen, the closer ones extremely well, a Tawny Pipit and a
Tree Sparrow were identified, and Ian picked out two Demoiselle Cranes
flying in the distance. As these were observed, circling over the plain and
following a range of hills, a Golden Eagle came into view as it thermalled
over the hills.
We passed through a check point for the Red Canyon at 1100 and
noted a flock of about 200 Rose-coloured Starlings. We parked overlooking
the impressive canyon, but struggled to see well any birds of note. A Raven
flew over, and a number of finches were seen distantly or in flight, and Graham
found a lone Crag Martin. Little time was spent in this area, as coach loads of
visitors, mainly school children were arriving - one lass in a bikini seemed
unsuitably clad for this environment, though it was sunny and hot. She and a
red data book beetle - Darcadion sp. - attracted some attention for a while,
before we decided to drive back towards the Sugaty Hills at around 1215.
The group divided into two in selecting suitable picnic spots, one
enjoying a magnificent view over the plain and good views of a Grey-necked
Bunting in song, while the other sat among the hills and identified a Saker as
it flew overhead. A few 'guaranteed' Mongolian Finches eventually allowed
close views as they fed on a stoney hillside, an Isabelline Shrike was seen and
other species included a pair of nesting Pied Wheatears - the cock with a
white throat - another cock Pied Wheatear, with the more usual black throat,
a Hoopoe and one-two Golden Eagles. A singing Isabelline Wheatear
appeared to have quite a repertoire, including the call of a Quail.
We left this attractive area around 1530 and drove back across the
Sugaty Plain to the check-point shacks, where we stopped to purchase a few
beers. A few Tree Sparrows were attracted by the human habitation, and on
the river a Common Sandpiper was seen, but no sign of the Lammergeier on
this occasion. Back at the lodges, cups of tea and a snack were greatly
appreciated, as were cold showers, though applying mosquito repellant after a
shower seemed the wrong sequence of events, though necessary before
exploring the forest again. A few managed to see a White-winged
Woodpecker, but apart from much song from Nightingales little else was
singing in the peaceful conditions under a cloudless sky.
We commenced our evening meal at 2000 and during the checklist -
on the riverbank - the Woodcocks were again seen, as were the pair of
Hobbies and a Black Stork. The daily log session certainly proved to be
productive for the check list at this locality. After dark at least four Scops
Owls called, and two of several Nightjars churring were seen by torchlight or
by the light of the full moon, while the mosquitoes made their presence felt.
Sunday, 30th May
During the pre-breakfast session Barry and Norma managed to locate a
White-winged Woodpecker, a Golden Oriole called, noisy tit calls attracted Ian and
Sylvia to a Scops Owl, the Hobby pair performed well, while the open areas
produced views of an early flying Black Kite and a Short-toed Eagle for
Martin, and a cock Masked Wagtail for others. Just before our departure at
0800, a male Shikra provided good telescope views, while it perched in a
As we drove over the Sugaty Plain again, three Pallas's Sandgrouse
flew over the bus and our first Southern Grey Shrike was identified, as it
perched - for a photograph - on low roadside vegetation. At the previous day's
opportune stop, we didn't have the same good fortune, though two more
Pallas's called as they flew overhead and two Black-bellied Sandgrouse were
seen on the ground before they flew. We reached the Kokpek valley by 1000
and bumped into Steve Rooke and the Sunbird group as they were departing -
Victoria's sister was their interpreter and they were extremely pleased to see
each other, as they hadn't expected to prior to her departure for Japan. The
Lesser Whitethroat sang again, as did the 'guaranteed' White-capped
Bunting, and on this occasion it was located and seen well - an extremely
attractive bunting. By this time we were enjoying a joke with Victoria about
the particular 'guaranteed' species she planned to show us. She took it in good
heart. A Lesser Grey Shrike was also present, and overhead we identified a
Cinereous Vulture and two Golden Eagles before heading west at 1030.
Turned north and east towards Nuray, driving through a small
township which appeared derelict and almost abandoned - once a thriving
space research station, apparently. Towards the saltmarsh habitat we stopped
to enjoy the hunting activities of a male Montagu's Harrier and became
aware that a strong southeasterly wind was now blowing. A pair of
Black-bellied Sandgrouse beside the road provided a photographic opportunity and
a Little Ringed Plover was glimpsed from the bus. We stopped by the
saltmarsh habitat, which we explored for about an hour from 1130. Here we
found a few Rufous Bushchats, a large flock of 'Indian' Sparrows, another
Hobby and a few Crested Larks, but no sign of any Asian Short-toed Larks.
The wind and sand suggested that lunch would best be eaten on the
bus as we headed west to another site, a small reed and willow-lined creek,
near Chilik. En route we saw our only Egyptian Vulture of the trip - an adult
- an Isabelline Shrike and the now anticipated Lesser Grey Shrikes and
Rollers. We reached the creek around 1315 and found two pendulous nests -
one with young and the other still being lined by a pair of White-crowned
Penduline Tits. Also seen or heard there were a Cetti's Warbler and a
Raven. We continued westwards towards Almaty just after 1400 and reached
the Otrar Hotel shortly before 1600. A slight change of plans meant that we
didn't transfer into the mountain bus straight away, but drove to the outskirts of
Almaty, having fun purchasing beer on the way - the supermarkets didn't stock
the local beer, so we bought out two street stalls in order to get the twenty
bottles that had been ordered. When we changed buses, we also lost Yuliya, to
everyone's surprise. Apparently Dauren Valiev needed her for something else,
and we all hoped she'd rejoin us when we returned to Almaty.
We set off in the old bone-shaker - an ex-army four-wheel drive bus -
up the mountain road at 1700. Close to the Observatory we added Long-tailed
Marmot to the mammal list and reached our destination by 1830, suffering a
little from the petrol fumes. We settled into our new accommodation and then
ate our evening meal, during which there was a sleet shower, but by 1945 it
was clear and sunny, and a pleasant temperature. Added Red Pika to the
mammal list and a small flock of Red-fronted Serins and a Water Pipit or
two to the bird list. The temperature dropped rapidly as dusk fell, and with
Martin we added Black-throated Accentor and a super Himalayan
Rubythroat to the trip list.
A hot shower, followed by a sauna tempted a few of the group. The
facilities generally at the Observatory were far better than we'd been led to
believe. Certainly more comfortable than the Charyn Valley lodges.
Monday, 31st May
A cool wind blew at dawn, but the sky was almost clear, as the enchanting
wailing calls, followed by grouse-like chuckles emanated from several
Himalayan Snowcock, but during almost an hour of searching I failed to see
one, only adding Northern Wheatear to the trip list. A bowl of porridge was
a most welcome breakfast dish.
As we gathered round the bus another Black-throated Accentor was
seen, along with the local Common Mynas, Carrion Crows and two
Eurasian Goldfinches. We set off for the pass at 0745, as misty cloud filled
the valley and light snow started to fall. Hodgson's Mountain Finches could
be seen from the bus and we reached the pass before 0830 as the snow
continued to fall. A few Yellow-billed and Red-billed Choughs were present,
one of the latter sitting on a nest under a roof and a cock Guldenstadt's
Redstart provided good views for a while, as we sheltered from the snow.
Fortunately, the snow stopped falling and the cloud blew over, leaving good
visibility as we scanned the mountainside for new species. A Brown Accentor
and a pair of Himalayan Accentors were soon located, but there was no sign
of Alpine Accentor, Common Redstart or Brandt's Mountain Finch, but we
were able to obtain good, though distant views of three Himalayan
We started driving down from the pass around 1040, stopping
frequently on the way, but didn't find any of the missing species, just having
better views of Hodgson's Mountain Finches, another Brown Accentor, a
pair of Northern Wheatears and Water Pipits. Around the Observatory we
were able to see a pair of Eversmann's Redstarts, Red-fronted Serins and
several Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers, before having an early lunch at
The planned walk for the afternoon commenced at 1330, with an
attempt to see the elusive Severtzov's Tit Warbler, which favours clumps of
juniper. Victoria heard one calling, but was unable to drive it in the direction
of the group. In the same area there were good numbers of White-winged
Grosbeaks, and a Raven flew over. As the walk involved steep downward
inclines, Norma and Sandy decided not to stay with us, but to join us again at
the dam, having been driven down. To their great delight they found a
Severtzov's Tit Warbler in junipers by the reservoir! During the walk,
initially in an open valley, with juniper clad slopes and then through areas of
pine forest, a Tree Pipit sang, a Black-throated Accentor showed well, an
adult Lammergeier flew close for a few to see, and a Himalayan Griffon
Vulture flew high overhead. In the pines a pair of Coal Tits and a Goldcrest
were extremely active and a pair of Wrens was nest building.
Geoff and I somehow lost the group and then separated, as I chased
after two Nutcrackers. It must have been thirty minutes or more before I
relocated the group, sheltering from a hailstorm, and another fifteen or so
before Geoff rejoined us. By 1615 the clouds had dispersed, and it was sunny
again, as we continued downward through the forest. Interesting species in this
habitat included Red-mantled Rosefinch, a pair of Blue-capped Redstarts
and two Songar Tits, which were actively visiting a nest box. At the reservoir
another shower passed as we searched for the Ibisbills - we eventually had
good views of a nesting pair. Ruddy Shelduck were seen on the reservoir, and
a Golden Eagle flew behind a forested hill.
We searched the juniper slope for the Tit Warbler, but only Ian
managed to get a brief glimpse of it. However, others enjoyed another
Himalayan Rubythroat, and two Oriental Turtle Doves flew by. We
boarded the bus just before 1900 and were back at the Observatory for our
evening meal by 1915. After another good vegetarian meal, a number of us
took a short walk around the Observatory on a delightfully still last evening. A
number of the now anticipated species showed well, including the male
Eversmann's Redstart, an attractive male Red-mantled Rosefinch,
White-winged Grosbeaks, Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers and Red-fronted
Tuesday, 1st June
Breakfast was delayed until 0730, with two missions planned for 0600.
Another attempt to see the 'guaranteed' Tit Warbler and prior to that views of
Eversmann's Redstart for a few. All five species noted at dusk were soon seen,
including the Eversmann's Redstart, plus Himalayan Rubythroat and
Black-throated Accentor, and while watching these a juvenile Goshawk flew
through the trees, followed by an adult male Shikra - way above its normal
This group then rejoined the Tit Warbler mission, which obtained
brief glimpses of Severtzov's Tit Warbler, but better views of two
Sulphur-bellied Warblers, while Himalayan Snowcocks called from the surrounding
It was sad to be leaving this attractive mountain region so soon, but as
we departed around 0830 cloud was thickening in the valley, restricting
visibility and threatening rain. We made another unsuccessful attempt to see
the Tit Warbler by the reservoir, then checked the waterfalls below the dam.
Our first Grey Wagtails of the trip were present, as was a White-bellied
Dipper, while a Greenish Warbler sang nearby.
The next stop produced another Eversmann's Redstart, another Tree Pipit,
pairs of Ruddy Shelduck and squeals from a Long-tailed Marmot. The thick
cloud certainly hampered our efforts and an attempt to attract a Three-toed
Woodpecker by knocking on a dead trunk was not successful, however, a
Song Thrush sang and was eventually seen when the cloud lifted a little. As
we walked slowly along the road, another Goldcrest was seen and a couple of
Nutrackers called, while the song of a Blue Whistling Thrush was heard by
a few and another pair of Songar Tits also provided pleasure for some, as it
started to rain.
We bumped into Simon Boyes with the Ornitholidays group on their
way up the mountain - Victoria's father was their naturalist guide. It was now
difficult to find the species we wanted, but a Brown Dipper was eventually
spotted and observed from the bus at 1145. Two Goldfinches were seen lower
down, as was a female Blue-capped Redstart, followed by an attractive male
and flight views of a Sparrowhawk. Another waterfall, near the old
hydro-electricity works, provided more good views of a Brown Dipper, but only
snatches of song from a Blue Whistling Thrush.
We arrived at the bus change-over spot shortly before 1300 and had
to wait only five minutes before we were rejoined by our same bus driver, and
to everybody's delight Yuliya was also on the bus. It was still misty, but the
rain had ceased. Into Almaty and a stop to exchange currency and to purchase
a few beers, along with some 'medicinal' brandy miniatures. We drove through
the outskirts of Almaty, heading west, and stopped for a roadside picnic at
1415. We continued west in half-an-hour or so, and in the distance blue sky
could be seen beyond the bank of cloud, and the rising temperature was greatly
The trees lining the road held huge numbers of rook's nests, some
barely at head-height, as the elms were still relatively young. Around 1530 we
reached the edge of the cloud bank and felt the warmth from the sun. By now
we were seeing such species as Rose-coloured Starlings, Lesser Grey
Shrike and Rollers again. Shortly before 1600 we turned north towards Kopa,
and a male Golden Oriole flew across the road. The last of the trees suggested
it was time for a convenience stop, which was most opportune, producing a
photogenic juvenile Long-eared Owl, song from both Skylark and Calandra
Lark, another Red-headed Bunting and a few Red-rumped Swallows.
Further along the road a male Marsh Harrier was seen.
At 1630 we stopped on the open, grassy plain, with artesian wells,
Oriental Skylark being the target species. Lesser Grey Shrikes were nesting
on top of the power line poles, two distant Demoiselle Cranes could just be
made out in the heat haze, Corn and Red-headed Buntings were present,
Calandra Larks were numerous, and there was an opportunity to study both
Skylark and Oriental Lark side by side, as they sang in the air together, but
they disappeared into long grass on landing. A few Black-headed Wagtails
were also present in the damp areas by a well. Close to Kopa we made a brief
stop to identify a few duck and waders on a narrow river - Garganey, Black-winged
Stilts and a Common Redshank, along with a Black-headed Gull.
At the nearby bridge a few pairs of House Martins were apparently nesting.
As we headed for Tamgaly Tas, the first Bimaculated Larks could
be identified from the bus, along with such species as European Bee-eater,
European and Rose-coloured Starlings, Isabelline Wheatears again, six
Black-bellied Sandgrouse at a pool on the road, Ruddy Shelduck, Long-legged
Buzzards, a ring-tail Harrier, Crested Larks and a perched Steppe
Eagle. Around 1830 we reached Tamgaly Tas and planned to spend no more
than an hour there, as we still had some distance to cover. The Bronze Age
rock paintings provided a fascinating focus of attention for a short while, but
the Eastern Rock Nuthatches were the prime target, and a family party of
four was soon located and seen well, and Victoria pointed out their nest hole in
the rocks. Other species included a Little Owl, the usual Red-headed
Buntings, flight views only of a Desert Finch, a pair of nesting Pied
Wheatears, closer views of Bimaculated Larks, but there was no time to
identify the source of an Acrocephalus-like song.
It was an intriguing drive, not knowing quite where we were going, or
what to expect when we got there. The road stretched ahead in a continuous
straight line, as we drove through slightly hillier, almost steppe-like
countryside, alternating with flat plains of sparsely vegetated, sandy deserts,
with just an occasional rocky outcrop. Various lark species flew from the
roadside, as did the occasional Black-bellied Sandgrouse and a Hoopoe. We
reached a cross-roads at 2030, presumably Konshangel, but it is difficult to
compare the Russian names on the map with the anglicised alternatives. A few
European Bee-eaters sat on the telegraph wires, and Victoria explained that
there was a colony of some 30 pairs there. We turned left, right, then left again
along a sandy track, but apart from a farmstead to the left there was nothing
but desert between us and the horizon. A herd of Bactrian camels wandered
across our path, and we stopped to photograph them. They are apparently
domesticated and 'farmed' for their milk and hair. Suddenly, at 2050, there was
a tented camp by the track. We'd reached our destination, our home for two
Kan Tengri set the camp up purely for birdwatching tours, like our
own, for a period of just three weeks in May-June. This one had been pitched
for a second time, following a powerful storm, which had wrecked the original
camp. The site had been carefully chosen, by a low hill, which provided a
good view point over the surrounding area and a nearby artesian well, where
sandgrouse in particular come to drink daily.
We enjoyed a good evening meal in a tented canteen, where we also
went through the daily log, rapidly consuming John's bottle of vodka. Frogs
called, Nightjar-like, from the damp areas around the artesian well, and the
clear night sky was impressive, though the almost full moon was too bright for
the milky way to be clear. Impressive, too, was the electric storm over the
mountains well to the south.
Wednesday 2nd June
With such brightness, Short-toed and Bimaculated Larks seemed to sing all
night long, they were certainly in full song at 0600. Other species seen and
heard during the pre-breakfast session included Lesser Short-toed Lark,
Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Isabelline Wheatear, Hoopoe, Red-headed
Bunting, Barn Swallow, Common Myna, European Starling, Cuckoo and
House Sparrow - many of them visiting the pools around the artesian well.
The highlight of this early session was witnessing the display flight and calls
of a male Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
Enjoyed a bowl of porridge with sultanas for breakfast, enough for
me, but others tucked into a spread of meat and eggs, along with bread and
jam, and cups of tea. Stood on the rise again from around 0800, as groups of
sandgrouse began to arrive, often landing well before the pools and shuffling
towards them. The first two, more elegant Pin-tailed Grouse arrived, to be
followed by many more - they outnumber Black-bellied by maybe 30%. A
Desert Finch flew by, and as we scanned for bustards a Goitered Gazelle was
seen. A magnificent male MacQueen's Bustard put on a fine display, though
very distant. A pair of Ruddy Shelduck flew in and a few Common Swifts
circled overhead. A Ground Squirrel visited the water hole, as a light to
moderate westerly wind started to blow, under a sky of widely scattered stratus
cloud. During the day this was replaced by cumulus cloud, but it remained
We set off on a long drive towards the Ili delta to the north at 0940. In
this area the dark-billed Southern Great Grey Shrike nests on the tops of the
power-line poles. We stopped to photograph an Horsefield's Tortoise and
enjoyed the display of a male Bimaculated Lark. The next brief photography
session recorded young Long-legged Buzzards on their nest on another
power-line pole. As we drove through rolling sand dunes, sparsely vegetated
with saxaul bushes, a few Black Kites and Lesser Kestrels were identified.
Just after 1100 we reached the Topar lakes region, an area of reed-fringed
lakes, with scattered trees, again amongst sand dunes.
We added a few wetland species to our trip list, including Great
Crested and Little Grebes, Great White Heron, Gadwall, Red-crested
Pochard and Ferruginous Duck, Common Tern, Moorhen and Coot. The
only waders were Black-winged Stilt, Northern Lapwing and Common
Redshank, though I may have glimpsed a lone pratincole. At another stop
Victoria pointed out a nest of a Shikra, which we saw, before getting brief
views of our first Turkestan Tit and listening to further song from a
Nightingale and a Cetti's Warbler.
Heading for the Turanga forest shortly after noon, a loud shout from
Victoria brought the bus to a halt, and it reversed back a short way before we
leapt out to enjoy excellent views of a White-winged Woodpecker working
its way up a power-line pole. Also saw a male Marsh Harrier at this spot. We
passed through another check point at around 1245, where several Black-winged
Stilts were feeding, and a Masked Wagtail provided a photographic
opportunity. We arrived at an area of open Turanga forest, without any ground
cover and sat among the trees for lunch. Ian 'cleaned up' within a few minutes
of arriving, seeing Turkestan Tit, White-winged Woodpecker, Saxaul
Sparrow and Yellow-eyed Stock Dove. However, it took some time for
others to do as well and the 'guaranteed' Saxaul Sparrow, in particular, proved
extremely elusive, seeming to favour a dense thicket, on the edge of the open
forest, out of the wind, where it could be heard but not seen! As a result we
spent longer here than planned, but it proved beneficial, as small flocks of both
Dalmatian and White Pelicans circled over, as did a Great White Egret,
while a pair of Hobbies was seen well and a pair of Shikras flew low through
the trees, providing excellent views.
We started the return journey just before 1500 and planned to bird a
section of the Topar lakes for about an hour. Sadly, my camera fell off the seat
in the bus, sprung open and became unserviceable - I was not a happy man,
but the subsequent birding dragged me from my sorrow.
We struggled to see a Reed Warbler that was singing from a thick
tangle, but had excellent views of both White-winged Black and Black Terns
feeding, at least four Isabelline Shrikes and then some confusion, as we
initially misidentified two warblers that were singing from the tops of bushes
amongst the reeds - good telescope views eventually convinced us that we
were looking at Barred Warblers. A Black-headed Wagtail provided closer
viewing opportunities. Had there not been such a strong wind, it was felt that
several more species might well have been added, Clamorous Reed Warbler
for one, but it was not to be, and anyway we were in good heart as we left this
excellent area at 1630.
On the way back to the crossroads, where we arrived around 1800,
we saw much the same species as on the way out. Several members of the
group purchased bottles of beer at the crossroad stalls and John his now
requisite bottle of Vodka. As we passed by the village a few Spanish
Sparrows could be seen. Arrived at our camp by 1830 to enjoy a hot cup of
tea and a warm shower. The strong wind during the day had blown sand into
some of the tents, bringing back memories of sandstorms in Senegal, but on
this occasion I was fortunate. After our evening meal we held the daily log
session in the open. It was a lovely balmy evening, with the sun still providing
warmth at 2100. However, as the sun went down, the mosquitoes became
active, so the session became shorter than anticipated, though it was 2230
before I retired to my tent to smear the itchy areas with anthisan!
Thursday, 3rd June
The camp staff came round with cups of tea for all, around 0600, while the
final packing was done. From the viewpoint before breakfast, much the same
species were noted, with a male Black-bellied Sandgrouse performing its
display flight and calls again. Under a virtually cloudless sky, with very little
wind the mosquitoes were biting. A pair of Long-legged Buzzards could be
seen in the distance, and two very distant MacQueen's Bustards flew, joining
another on a hillock, so it was possible to see three together.
After another breakfast bowl of porridge and sultanas, which was
much enjoyed, a few of us wandered to a further hillock, which enabled closer
views of a displaying MacQueen's Bustard. A Desert Finch was seen in
flight again and there were also brief glimpses of a Desert Warbler, before
two Demoiselle Cranes were spotted flying east.
Our departure around 0945, was delayed, as a 'hairy' spider was
photographed devouring a locust. A patch of wetland close to the farmstead
provided an opportune stop for excellent close views of a couple of
Demoiselle Cranes being mobbed by a pair of Northern Lapwings. Three
more cranes flew east in the distance, both sandgrouse species were present, as
were two Black-winged Stilts and our only Long-tailed Shrike of the trip.
We stopped again at the nearby village for a 'guaranteed' Desert Finch, which
failed to appear, but there were numerous Spanish Sparrows, and a good
selection of warblers in the trees, under which the cover was moderately
dense. Booted, Syke's, Blyth's Reed and Greenish Warblers were all
identified, and a Little Ringed Plover was seen by a small pool. Other species
there included European Bee-eater, Black Kite, Hoopoe and Collared Dove.
We left this interesting area by 1100, as there was a two-hour drive to the
Species en route included the usual Rollers, Isabelline Shrike,
Long-legged Buzzards and Steppe Eagles. More rookeries were noted, and as
we neared the reservoir flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings could be seen
flying from the dam, where literally thousands were nesting. There was a
period of about three hours that we could spend here, which wasn't long
enough. It is a huge reservoir and many of the birds were on distant islands or
the far shores, nevertheless the time was well spent - the photographers
endulged themselves in taking pictures of the colourful Rose-coloured
During lunch a few gulls could be seen on the water, along with
Great Crested Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Gadwall, and four distant
Dalmation Pelicans - at least 100 were present elsewhere. With their differing
interests on the last afternoon, the group divided and wandered in different
directions. The highlight of the afternoon for most was the presence of up to
seven Great Black-headed Gulls. Other species of note that were seen - all
additions to the trip list - included Caspian Gull, Gull-billed Tern,
Goosander, Pintail and Oystercatcher.
We left just after 1500 for the ninety minute drive to Almaty,
reaching the Otrar Hotel around 1715, having made a few purchases in a local
supermarket - the engraved Vodka bottles and glasses were a popular souvenir.
In the hotel Victoria and Yuliya seemed happy to receive duly inscribed copies
of my Birding in Kent as a token of our appreciation, while Terry volunteered
to send Victoria a copy of the North Africa & Middle East Field Guide and
Yuliya a book about Shakespeare.
Enjoyed a good buffet meal in the hotel and then took a final brief
stroll in the City Park, over which at least 12 Red-rumped Swallows flew,
Blackbirds sang again, and a Red Squirrel was noted. Chatted for a while over
a beer in the bar, saw the Ornitholidays group again and retired to my room
before 2230 to grab a couple of hours sleep.
Friday, 4th June
A smartly dressed Yuliya was in the foyer by 0030 to supervise the departure
arrangements. Dauren Valiev also came to offer a few words of advice
regarding customs. For some reason the hotel staff failed to knock on Geoff
and Sandy's door, so Yuliya's phone call awoke them. They were down in a
remarkably short time, and we were on our way to the airport shortly after
0100, as planned.
Although getting through customs and checking the currency
documents took time, there were no problems, and we sat in a most unattractive
and not particularly comfortable departure lounge for about ninety minutes.
However, we did depart more or less on time and reached Vienna in six hours
at 0510, local time. It was interesting to chat to Simon Boyes again and to hear
that their group, even though they had been out longer, had not quite reached
170 species, compared with our 175. Our flight was scheduled for 0715, but it
was 0745 before we took off, and the delay meant stacking over Heathrow for
nearly thirty minutes, eventually landing at 0850 BST.
I had an interesting flight between Vienna and London, sitting next to
Jonty Rhodes' father-in-law, who lives in Natal and has an interest in birds,
developed through frequent visits to the Kruger Nartional Park. He and his
wife were visiting the UK to see the World Cup Cricket matches. I may well
take him up on his offer of accommodation in Pietermaritzburg, as Trish and I
are visiting South Africa this summer - another opportune meeting to conclude
an excellent trip.
The list essentially follows J.F.Clements Birds of the World: a Check List. The
figure in brackets indicates the number of days a species was recorded -
maximum 7. An asterisked species is one new for DWT.
- Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis (1)
Only heard and seen on the Topar lakes on the 2nd, when at least three were
- Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus (2)
About five were seen on the Topar lakes on the 2nd and probably 20+ at the
Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo (2)
One-two were present along a small river west of Makak on the 30th, with 25+
at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- White Pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus (1)
A flock of eight flew over the Turanga forest, near Zhelturanga on the 2nd.
- *Dalmatian Pelican - Pelecanus crispus (2)
A flock of six circled over the Turanga forest, near Zhelturanga on the 2nd,
and probably 100+ were present at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Ruddy Shelduck - Tadorna ferruginea (7)
One of four non-passerine species to be noted daily. Scattered pairs were seen
in a variety of different habitats and probably 50+ were present at the Sorbulak
Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Gadwall - Anas strepera (2)
Only seen on the Topar lakes on the 2nd and at the Sorbulak Reservoir the
next day, with a minimum of three pairs at both localities.
- Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos (3)
A surprisingly scarce species, with a pair noted in the Charyn Valley on the
29th, two pairs on the Topar lakes on the 2nd and just three birds at the
Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Northern Pintail - Anas acuta (1)
Four drakes and a duck were present at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd (DT,
- Garganey - Anas querquedula (2)
Eight were seen on a river near Kopa on the 1st, with another two at the
Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Red-crested Pochard - Netta rufina (2)
Good numbers, estimated at 50+, were seen on the widely scattered Topar
lakes on the 2nd, with about 20 at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca (1)
About five drakes were seen on the 2nd in the Topar lakes area.
- Common Merganser - Mergus merganser (1)
One drake was seen in flight at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd (GS).
- Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea (2)
One was seen in the Charyn Valley on the 29th (DM). Estimates of 10+ were
made for the 2nd and 3rd, at the Topar lakes and Sorbulak Reservoir
- Great White Egret - Egretta alba (1)
About four were seen in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd.
- Black Stork - Ciconia nigra (1)
Towards dusk on the 29th one flew overhead, at the Charyn Valley lodges, as
we completed our daily log. According to Victoria a pair was breeding
relatively close by, but at an inaccessible site.
- Black Kite - Milvus migrans (6)
None was seen high in the Tien Shan mountains, but at least five were seen on
three days, between Almaty and Charyn Valley, between Konshangel and
Zheaturanga, and between Konshangel and Almaty, with just one-two noted
on the other three days.
- Lammergeier - Gypaetus barbatus (2)
One was seen near the check point close to the Charyn Valley Lodges on the
28th and an adult gave fleeting glimpses, at close range, high in the Tien Shan
mountains on the 31st.
- Egyptian Vulture - Neophron percnopterus (1)
A lone adult was seen on the 30th near Nuray.
- Himalayan Griffon Vulture - Gyps himalayensis (1)
One was seen flying overhead in the Tien Shan mountains, not far from the
Observatory, on the 31st.
- Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Gyps fulvus (2)
On the 28th one was seen high over Kokpek valley and the next day another
was seen over the Sugaty hills not far from the Red Canyon.
- Cinereous Vulture - Aegypius monachus (1)
A sub-adult bird was seen flying over Kokpek valley on the 30th.
- Short-toed Eagle - Circaetus gallicus (1)
One was seen early on the 30th in the Charyn Valley (MP).
- Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus (2)
The first adult male was seen south of Kopa on the 1st, when an adult female
was also seen near Tamgaly Tas. On the 2nd singles of each sex were again
seen, on this occasion in the Topar lakes region.
- Montagu's Harrier - Circus pygargus (1)
An adult male provided excellent viewing on the 30th near Nuray, where it
was observed chasing a small passerine unsuccessfully, among a line of small
trees, and then harrying a Crested Lark, which it eventually caught, resting in
the open to devour it.
- Shikra - Accipiter badius (5)
Singles were seen daily between the 28th-30th, in the Charyn Valley.
Somewhat surprisingly an adult male was seen well in the Tien Shan
mountains, near the Observatory, on the 1st (DT et al), the very pale blue-grey
upperparts, from the crown to tail tip, which had a dark subterminal bar,
eliminated possible confusion with Sparrowhawk. A total of three was noted
on the 2nd, including one close to its nest in the Topar lakes region and a pair
in Turanga forest near Zheaturanga.
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus (2)
One was seen in the City Park, Almaty, early on the 28th (MP) and another in
the Tien Shan mountain valley on the 1st.
- Northern Goshawk - Accipiter gentilis (2)
Singles were seen in the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st (MP) and 1st (DT et
al), the latter providing close flight views and showing the streaked underparts
of a juvenile.
- Long-legged Buzzard - Buteo rufinus (6)
This species proved to be the commonest raptor, with minimum day totals of
five on three dates and as many as 15+ on the 3rd, during the long drive from
Konshangel to Almaty. None was seen in the Tien Shan mountains.
- Steppe Eagle - Aquila nipalensis (3)
Four were identified en route from Almaty to Kokpek valley on the 28th,
another was seen perched by the roadside near Tamgaly Tas on the 1st and on
the 3rd at least three were noted between Konshangel and the Sorbulak
- Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca (1)
A sub-adult bird, between three-five years old, was identified over the Kokpek
valley on the 28th.
- Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos (3)
Two, possibly three individuals were noted on the 29th, over the Sugaty hills
west of the Red Canyon. A pair was observed near the Kokpek valley on the
30th and one was glimpsed by the reservoir in the Tien Shan mountains on the
- Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni (3)
On the 29th, a flock of at least 12 was discovered on the Sugaty Plain, perched
on power lines, and some excellent close views were obtained. On the 2nd,
while driving through the Topar lake region, about 20 were noted. Two were
also identified on the 3rd, not far from Konshangel.
- Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus (7)
One of four non-passerines to be seen daily, with day-total estimates of two-
five plus in various different habitats.
- Eurasian Hobby - Falco subbuteo (5)
A breeding pair was present in the Charyn Valley and noted daily between the
28th-30th. There were four additional singles during this period, including one
flying low between group members at Nuray on the last date. Two were also
seen on the 1st en route to Konshangel and on the 2nd about five were seen, in
the Turanga forest or in the Topar lakes region.
- Saker Falcon - Falco cherrug (1)
One was seen in the Sugaty hills west of the Red Canyon on the 29th (SW, IW
- *Himalayan Snowcock - Tetraogallus himalayensis (3)
In the Observatory area of the Tien Shan mountains several were heard calling
each day between the 30th - 1st and on the 31st three were seen well from the
pass at 3,300 metres.
The wonderful wailing sounds followed by grouse-like chuckles
echoed round the mountains adding much to the ambience - even though most
of the vocalists remained invisible.
- Chukar - Alectoris chukar (1)
One was heard calling in the Sugaty hills west of the Red Canyon on the 29th
(MP et al)
- Ring-necked Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus (4)
Heard calling daily in the Charyn Valley, where one cock bird was seen on the
29th (JD). A hen bird was also seen in the Zhelturanga area on the 2nd.
- Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus (2)
Singles were seen in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd and at the Sorbulak
Reservoir the next day.
- Eurasian Coot - Fulica atra (2)
At least five were noted in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd, including a pair
with young, and about 10 were noted the next day at the Sorbulak Reservoir.
- *Demoiselle Crane - Anthropoides virgo (3)
The first two were seen distantly in flight over the Sugaty Plain on the 29th. At
least two were seen south of Kopa on the 1st, but the best views were obtained
on the 3rd, when two flew high to the east just south of the camp, two more
were seen feeding at close range, adjacent to the nearby village, and while they
were being mobbed by a pair of Lapwings three more flew E - a probable total
of seven for the day.
- *Macqueen's Bustard - Chlamydotis macqueenii (2)
In the Konshangel camp area one was seen distantly on the 2nd, with at least
three the next day, one of which was seen at closer range and watched as it
performed its amazing 'turned inside out' display.
This species has recently been split from Houbara Bustard.
- Eurasian Woodcock - Scolopax rusticola (2)
In the Charyn Valley two were first discovered 'roding' at dusk on the 28th
(SW et al) and were seen the next evening, on both occasions while the daily
log was being completed.
- Common Redshank - Tringa totanus (3)
Singles were seen by a small river at Kopa on the 1st and in the Topar lakes
area on the 2nd, with two at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos (3)
One-two were noted daily along the river in the Charyn Valley on the 28th-
30th, with other singles at the nearby check-point.
- Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus (1)
Two were seen at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd (MP, IW et al).
- Ibisbill - Ibidorhyncha struthersii (1)
A pair was eventually located on the 31st, along the river feeding the reservoir
in the Tien Shan mountains. Good views were obtained of the birds feeding
and in flight, and calls were also heard.
- Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus (3)
On the 1st a total of five was noted, including a pair along a small river near
Kopa. The 2nd produced a total of about 10 in the Topar lakes region and on
the 3rd a pair was seen near the Konshangel camp and at least two pairs at the
- Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius (2)
On the 30th one was seen in the Nuray area and on the 3rd there were one-two
by the village near the Konshangel camp and at least two at the Sorbulak
- Greater Sandplover - Charadrius leschenaultii (1)
A pair was seen well on the Sugaty Plain on the 29th.
- Northern Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus (4)
On the 28th three were seen as we drove from Almaty to the Charyn Valley,
with another in much the same countryside on the 30th. On the 2nd at least one
was present in the Topar lakes area and about 10 were noted on the 3rd,
including a pair near the village not far from the Konshangel camp and several
pairs at the Sorbulak Reservoir.
- Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans (1)
Only seen at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd, where at least 10 were present.
The full adult birds appeared large, showed blacker wing tips - very
little white - and had the pink legs of the nominate race L.c.cahinnans.
- Great Black-headed Gull - Larus ichthyaetus (1)
At least five in full adult summer plumage were present at the Sorbulak
Reservoir on the 3rd, when two others were aged as 1st and 3rd years.
- Black-headed Gull - Larus ridibundus (3)
Two were seen near Nuray on the 30th, with one near Kopa on the 1st and
three at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- White-winged Black Tern - Chlidonias leucopterus (1)
About 10 in full summer plumage were seen at the Topar lakes on the 2nd.
- Black Tern - Chlidonias niger (1)
About 10 were seen at the Topar lakes on the 2nd, on occasions feeding with
the previous species.
- Gull-billed Tern - Gelochelidon nilotica (1)
Three were noted at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd (GS et al).
- Common Tern - Sterna hirundo (2)
Up to 10 were seen in the Topar lakes area on the 2nd, with just two at the
Sorbulak Reservoir the next day.
- *Pallas's Sandgrouse - Syrrhaptes paradoxus (2)
Two flocks of three and nine flew over Sugaty Plain on the 29th, with a group
of three in the same area the next day.
Though only seen in flight, reasonable views were possible and calls
- Pin-tailed Sandgrouse - Pterocles alchata (2)
Only seen in the Konshangel camp area on the 2nd and 3rd, when totals
probably well in excess of 100 came in to drink at the artesian wells.
A display flight, similar to that of the next species, was witnessed on
the 3rd (MP).
- Black-bellied Sandgrouse - Pterocles orientalis (5)
The most common of the three sandgrouse, though numbers at the Konshangel
artesian wells on the 2nd and 3rd were maybe 33% fewer than those of the
previous species. On the 29th and 30th about 30 and 10 respectively were seen
on the Sugaty Plain, with excellent close views of a pair near Nuray on the
latter date. On the 1st six were seen well by a pool on the road between Kopa
and Tamgaly Tas, with another two further north.
It was fascinating to witness display flights at Konshangel on the 2nd
and 3rd, when the males used a slow, shallower wingbeat and added a mewing
sound prior to their usual flight calls.
- Rock Dove - Columba livia (7)
One of four non-passerine species to be noted daily. Some almost pure
individuals were noted at various localities, while feral birds were commonly
- Yellow-eyed Stock Dove - Columba eversmanni (1)
A group of three, in the Turanga forest, near Zhelturanga on the 2nd, provided
a good opportunity to see the yellow eye-ring clearly. About 10 were probably
present in that area.
- Woodpigeon - Columba palumbus (1)
A total of just three was noted on the 28th, east from Almaty.
- European Turtle Dove - Streptopelia turtur (2)
At least five were heard or seen on the 28th, between Almaty and Charyn
Valley, where one was heard calling the next morning.
- Oriental Turtle Dove - Streptopelia orientalis (6)
Ones and twos were seen almost daily in widespread localities, including the
Tien Shan mountains, with day- total estimates of up to 10.
- Laughing Dove - Streptopelia senegalensis (3)
Singles were noted daily in the Charyn Valley between the 28th-30th (MP et
- Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto (4)
Ones and twos were noted at a few localities, most usually around Almaty.
- Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus (7)
One of four non-passerine species to be noted daily, with a peak of at least 10
on the 29th, between Almaty and the Charyn Valley.
- Eurasian Scops Owl - Otus scops (3)
The first was heard calling during the day, along the Almaty Canal on the
28th. A breeding pair at the Charyn Valley lodges failed to show themselves,
but up to four were heard calling during the hours of darkness there, between
- Little Owl - Athene noctua (2)
One was seen on the 28th, west of the Sand Martin colony, and another at
Tamgaly Tas on the 1st.
- Long-eared Owl - Asio otus (1)
In roadside elms, south of Kopa, on the 1st an adult was seen flying across the
road and a recently fledged youngster provided excellent close views and an
opportunity for photographers.
- European Nightjar - Caprimulgus europaeus (3)
One was heard 'churring' in the Kokpek valley on the 28th, during the day,
with another in the Charyn Valley heard 'churring' well before dark. After dark
the following evening at least two 'churred' and two were seen, both perched
and in flight. On the 30th one was flushed from the saltmarsh area at Nuray
(JD et al).
- Alpine Swift - Apus melba (1)
One was seen on the 28th between the Almaty Canal and the Sand Martin
- Common Swift - Apus apus (5)
A few were noted almost daily, other than in the mountains.
- Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis (3)
One was first seen in the Charyn Valley on the evening of the 28th (SW et al),
while the log was being completed, with one there again the next morning and
another along a narrow river west of Makak on the 30th.
- European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster (5)
On the 28th a total of 50+ was noted during the drive between Almaty and the
Charyn Valley. On the 30th just one was seen by the saltmarsh at Nuray.
Between the 1st-3rd at least 10 were noted daily, usually as we drove by a
colony of some 30 pairs in the village near the Konshangel camp.
- European Roller - Coracias garrulus (6)
There were daily sightings, apart from the one spent high in the Tien Shan
mountains. Driving over some of the plains and desert areas there were
frequent sightings of ones and twos perched on telegraph wires or power lines
and estimates of 100+ and 50+ were noted for the 28th and 1st respectively.
- Hoopoe - Upupa epops (6)
A commonly seen and widespread species. Day totals varied from 5-20, apart
from none in the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st.
- *White-winged Woodpecker - Dendrocopos leucopterus (4)
Singles were noted daily in the Charyn Valley, between the 28th-30th, but the
most satisfactory sighting was in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd, when one
was seen well on a telegraph pole, while up to five were also seen and heard in
the Turanga woodland later that day.
- Black-billed Magpie - Pica pica (7)
One of just three passerine species noted daily. Seen commonly in widespread
localities, with day total estimates of up to 20+.
- Eurasian Nutcracker - Nucifraga caryocatactes (2)
Heard calling and occasionally glimpsed in the Tien Shan mountains on the
31st and 1st.
None was seen sufficiently well to establish racial characteristics, but
on known distribution they should be N.c.rothschildi.
- Red-billed Chough - Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax (1)
Only seen in the pass above the Observatory in the Tien Shan mountains on
the 31st, when about 10 were noted.
- Yellow-billed Chough - Pyrrhorocorax graculus (1)
Only seen in the pass above the Observatory in the Tien Shan mountains on
the 31st, when just four were noted.
- Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula (6)
Commonly seen in widespread localities, with day total 'guesstimates' of up to
20+, but absent on the 31st in the Tien Shan mountains.
- Rook - Corvus frugilegus (5)
Commonly seen along the tree-lined roads across the plains. Some huge linear
rookeries were noted in young elms, some nests barely head-high off the
ground. Daily during the 1st-3rd in the northwest of the region, 'guesstimated'
totals exceeded 1,000 birds, possibly several 1,000s.
- Carrion Crow - Corvus corone (7)
One of just three passerine species seen daily, with day-totals of up to just 10
- Common Raven - Corvus corax (4)
No Brown-necked Ravens were identified and few Common Ravens were
noted. Singles were seen in the Red Canyon on the 29th, near the narrow river
west of Makak on the 30th and in the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st, with
two in the last named area on the 1st.
- Eurasian Golden Oriole - Oriolus oriolus (4)
Heard calling more often than seen, with at least five on the 28th, near the
Almaty Canal and in the Charyn Valley, where singles were noted on the 29th
and 30th, with the last seen as we turned north for Kopa on the 1st (NB et al).
- Isabelline Shrike - Lanius isabellinus phoenicuroides (5)
Two singles were noted on the 28th near Kokpek village, with another the next
day in the Sugaty hills west of the Red Canyon and a fourth west of Makak on
the 30th. On the 2nd between Konshangel and Zheaturanga at least 10 were
identified, mainly around the Topar lakes, while two-three were noted en route
between Konshangel and the Surbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Long-tailed Shrike - Lanius schach erythronotus (1)
One was seen on the 3rd, near the village close to the camp at Konshangel.
- Lesser Grey Shrike - Lanius minor (4)
Commonly seen across some of the lowland plains and deserts, with peak day-
total estimates of 20+ on the 28th, between Almaty and Kokpek, and 50+ on
the 1st, between Almaty and Konshangel.
It was interesting to note the use of telegraph poles for nests, in the
absence of any trees in the deserts - presumably this species was absent from
these areas before man's intervention?
- Great Grey Shrike - Lanius excubitor (3)
Birds of this species were noted in a fairly restricted area. One was
photographed on the Sugaty Plain on the 30th, but at least 10 were noted on
the 2nd between Konshangel and the Topar lakes region, with one the next
morning near the Konshangel camp (IW).
The photograph of the bird on the 30th shows surprisingly little black
on the wing, while perched, seemingly restricted to the primary tips. However,
this doesn't aid racial identification. According to Lefranc & Worfolk in
Shrikes: a guide to shrikes of the world these were probably
distribution. Most birds seen well appeared to show all dark bills, though a
suggestion of a paler colour at the base of the lower mandible was noted on
- White-bellied Dipper - Cinclus cinclus leucogaster (1)
One was seen on the 1st at a waterfall below the dam in the Tien Shan
- Brown Dipper - Cinclus pallasii (1)
One-two were seen on several occasions on the 1st, along the fast flowing
river that runs from high in the Tien Shan mountains through Almaty.
- Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius (1)
One was seen in the Kokpek valley on the 28th (JD et al).
- Blue Whistling Thrush - Myophonus caeruleus (1)
Singles were heard singing on the 1st, along the fast flowing river that runs
from high in the Tien Shan mountains through Almaty.
- Blackbird - Turdus merula (5)
Most records refer to songsters in the City Park, Almaty, but a few were
occasionally noted elsewhere, including the Tien Shan mountains.
- Song Thrush - Turdus philomelus (1)
One was heard singing and then seen well in the foothills of the Tien Shan
mountains on the 1st.
According to Flint A Field Guide to the Birds of the USSR this was
one of the more unusual records as far as known distribution is shown, though
many of the maps need updating.
- Mistle Thrush - Turdus viscivorus (4)
At least three were noted in the Charyn Valley on the 28th, with one-two on
the 30th, but the only other records were confined to the Tien Shan mountains,
where one was noted late on the 30th, with at least five the next day and two or
more on the 1st.
- Rose-coloured Starling - Sturnus roseus (6)
Absent from the Tien Shan mountains, but otherwise widespread, with day-
totals of several hundreds, as flocks were noted from the bus. On the 3rd, at
the Sorbulak Reservoir dam, huge numbers were gathered at a breeding colony
that probably comprised more than 1,000 pairs. This provided an excellent
opportunity for photography and a chance to appreciate the beauty of the adult
birds in their full breeding splendour.
- European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris (5)
Generally small numbers were noted, in widespread localities, but not seen
high in the Tien Shan mountains.
- Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis (7)
One of just three passerine species seen daily, with small numbers in
widespread localities, including the Observatory in the Tien Shan mountains,
but not restricted to human habitation. Day-total estimates ranged between five
- Nightingale - Luscinia megarhynchos (4)
First heard singing and seen along the Almaty Canal, with good numbers
present in the Charyn Valley woods during the 28th-30th. A 'guesstimate' for
the combined localities suggested maybe 100 were present. The only other
records concerned a few singing in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd.
The subtle differences in song phrases and the generally greyer
plumage, and less red tail suggested that birds of the eastern race L. m. hafizi
- *Himalayan/White-tailed Rubythroat - Luscinia pectoralis (3)
Four or five were noted daily in the Tien Shan mountains between the 30th-
1st, not only around the Observatory.
A most, if not the most attractive Luscinia species.
- Rufous Bushchat - Certotrichas galactotes (3)
One was glimpsed from the bus on the 28th (JD), southeast of Kokpek. On the
30th an area of saltmarsh and scrub at Nuray produced at least five. One was
also glimpsed in the Topar lakes area on the 2nd.
- *Blue-capped Redstart - Phoenicurus caeruleocephalus (2)
Only seen in the Tien Shan mountains on the 4th and 5th, with a pair on the
former date and up to six on the latter, when they were seen in the valley at
- *Eversmann's Redstart - Phoenicurus erythronotus (2)
One pair was seen near the Observatory on the 31st and 1st, when another pair
was discovered in the valley at a lower altitude.
- Guldenstadt's Redstart - Phoenicurus erythrogaster (1)
Just one cock bird was seen high in the pass on the Tien Shan mountains on
- Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe (1)
Only noted high in the Tien Shan mountains, where at least five were present
on the 31st.
- Pied Wheatear - Oenanthe pleschanka (4)
On the 28th and 29th, en route to the Charyn Valley and across the Sugaty
Plain to the Red Canyon, day-totals of about 20 were noted, with one-two
pairs the next day in the Sugaty hills. On the 1st at least one pair was present at
An interesting variation in the plumage of the cock birds was noted,
most showing black throats, but one, with entirely white underparts, was seen
in the Sugaty hills on the 29th. According to Svensson et al in the Collins
Bird Guide, "A white-throated morph 'vittata' occurs very rarely".
- Isabelline Wheatear - Oenanthe isabellina (6)
Clearly the commonest and most widespread wheatear in this region, with
daily sightings apart from the 31st, in the Tien Shan mountains, where it was
replaced by the Northern Wheatear. Day-total 'guesstimates' varied between
- *Eastern Rock Nuthatch - Sitta tephronata (1)
A family party of at least four was seen well at Tamgaly Tas on the 1st, when
the nest hole was pointed out and photographed by some.
- Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes (2)
Only seen and heard in the Tien Shan mountains, where up to five were noted
on the 31st and 1st.
- Sand Martin - Riparia riparia (4)
A colony of maybe 30 pairs, some 50 kms west of Kokpek, was visited on the
28th. Up to five were noted on the 29th and 30th, in the Charyn Valley and
another colony of about 15 pairs was seen on the 3rd, between Konshangel and
The birds in the first colony were looked at carefully and noted as
having the incomplete or barely discernible breast bands of the race R.r.diluta.
- Eurasian Crag Martin - Ptyonoprogne rupestris (2)
Singles were seen from the bus, southeast of Kopkek, on the 28th and in the
Red Canyon on the 29th (GS).
- Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica (6)
Day-totals of 10-20+ were noted in widespread localities, but not on the 31st
in the Tien Shan mountains.
- Red-rumped Swallow - Hirundo daurica (3)
At least 20 were noted on the 28th, commencing with a few over the Otrar
Hotel and City Park, Almaty and others en route to the Charyn Valley. At least
two were seen at the Charyn Valley check point on the 29th, with at least five
as we turned north towards Kopa on the 1st, and a flock of at least 12 over the
City Park again on the 3rd.
- House Martin - Delichon urbica (3)
Relatively few were seen, with two-three at the check point in the Charyn
Valley on the 29th and 30th, and about 10 on the 1st at Kopa, where they
apparently nest under the bridge.
- Goldcrest - Regulus regulus (2)
Only seen and heard in the Tien Shan mountains, where one was noted on the
31st, with at least three the next morning.
- Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti (4)
Singles were heard singing along the Almaty Canal on the 28th and along the
'Penduline Tit' river west of Makak on the 30th, with at least five in the Topar
lakes region on the 2nd and one-two at the Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
- Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus scirpaceus (2)
Singles were heard singing in the Topar lakes region on the 2nd and at
Sorbulak Reservoir on the 3rd.
These birds were most likely of the race A.s.fuscus.
- Blyth's Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus dumetorum (4)
One of the first species to be recorded, with a migrant in song in the City Park,
Almaty early on the 28th. Others were heard and seen along the Almaty Canal
and in the Charyn Valley, and a day-total of about 10 was noted. Two-three
were noted in the Charyn Valley again on the 29th and 30th. In trees and
moderately dense understorey at the village near the Konshangel camp, two of
a number of warblers were identified as of this species on the 3rd.
- Booted Warbler - Hippolais caligata (1)
One was identified at the village near the Konshangel camp on the 3rd.
- Syke's Warbler - Hippolais rama (3)
Singles of this species, a former race of Booted Warbler, were identified on
the 28th in the City Park, Almaty, with a probable at Zhelturanga on the 2nd
and two in trees with moderately dense understorey, at the village near the
Konshangel camp on the 3rd.
- Severtzov's Tit Warbler - Leptopoecile sophiae (2)
One was seen in Junipers near the dam in the Tien Shan mountains on the 4th
(NB & SW, and later by IW), while earlier in the day another, a female, in a
bank of Junipers near the Observatory, remained extremely elusive and was
only glimpsed briefly.
A disappointment for many, as the cock bird is so attractive.
- Sulphur-bellied Warbler - Phylloscopus griseolus (1)
Two were seen in the juniper scrub, at the Severtzov's Tit Warbler site near the
Observatory, in the Tien Shan mountains on the 1st.
- Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus humei (4)
At least one was heard and seen in the City Park, Almaty on the 28th, with two
in the Charyn Valley early on the 30th, about 10 in the Tien Shan mountains
on the 31st and at least five in the same area the next morning.
- Greenish Warbler - Phylloscopus trochiloides (4)
Three-four were seen or heard in the Charyn Valley on the 29th and 30th, with
one high in the Tien Shan on the latter date. In the Tien Shan mountains none
was consciously identified on the 31st, but the next morning at least 10 were
noted. On the 3rd, one was also identified at the village near the Konshangel
- Common Whitethroat - Sylvia communis (1)
Two singles were identified on the 29th, the first in the Charyn Valley and the
other in the Sugaty hills.
- Lesser Whitethroat - Sylvia curruca (3)
One, seen in the Kokpek valley on the 28th and heard singing in the same area
on the 30th, appeared to be darkish around the head, more brownish above and
the song, though similar in rhythm to S.c.curraca, sounded softer, suggesting
the possibility of the race S.c.halimodendri. One was also seen in the Topar
lakes area on the 2nd.
- Desert Warbler - Sylvia nana (3)
About four were seen on the Sugaty Plain on the 29th, with one in the same
area the next morning and a second in the saltmarsh habitat at Nuray later in
the day. One was also seen near the Konshangel camp on the 3rd (GS, MP).
- Barred Warbler - Sylvia nisoria (1)
Two were seen, perched and in song flight, in the Topar lakes region on the
- *Songar Tit - Parus songarus (2)
A pair, using a nest box, was seen in the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st and
a second pair, lower down the valley, was seen the next morning.
- Coal Tit - Parus ater (2)
In the Tien Shan mountains, two were noted on the 31st, with about five the
next morning, further down the valley.
- Great Tit - Parus major (4)
On the 28th up to 10 were seen and heard in the City Park, Almaty, with a
similar number in the Charyn Valley, where 10+ were also noted for the 29th
and 30th. A few were also heard calling in the Tien Shan mountains on the
Hybrid birds, Great X Turkestan Tits, were reputedly present in the
Charyn valley, but the birds seen looked and sounded closer to the former than
- *Turkestan Tit - Parus bokharensis (1)
The first was seen and heard near the Topar lakes, followed by at least 10 in
the Turanga woodland near Zheaturanga on the 2nd, where at least one family
party was observed.
A smart, black, pale grey and white version of Parus major.
- *Azure Tit - Parus cyanus (3)
Only seen in the riverine woods of the Charyn Valley, with day-totals of 5-10
during the 28th-30th.
One characteristic, which is not always shown clearly in field guides,
is the proportionately long, slightly graduated tail - an obvious feature in the
- *White-crowned Penduline Tit - Remiz (pendulinus) coronatus (1)
At a narrow river, lined with small willows, west of Makak on the 31st, two
active nests, hanging from thin willow branches, were seen. At one food was
being taken to nestlings, at the other the pendulous nest was still being lined.
- Calandra Lark - Melanocorypha calandra (2)
Across the grassy, steppe habitat near Kopa, on the 1st, in excess of 100 were
probably seen and heard singing. A total of five was noted on the 3rd,
including singles at and close to the Konshangel camp.
- *Bimaculated Lark - Melanocorypha bimaculata (3)
This species was also seen on the steppes, but seemed to favour the sparsely
vegetated sandy desert, typical of the Konshangel region, where day-totals of
50+ were noted for the 1st-3rd.
Easily distinguished from the previous species, once the two had been
compared, particularly in flight, when the pale underwings and absence of a
white trailling edge to the wings were apparent. The display of a male on the
1st was fascinating to watch, as he hopped around his mate, with raised crest.
- Greater Short-toed Lark - Calandrella brachydactyla (4)
A relatively common species, with estimates of 20+ and 10+ on the Sugaty
Plain on the 29th and 30th respectively, followed by up to 50 or more on the
2nd and 3rd in the Konshangel area.
The race C.b.longipennis provided some confusion, when attempting
to separate the following species, as some individuals show considerable
breast streaking. More useful characteristics shown by C.rufescens, included
the more rounded head shape, the lack of a dark smudge at the side of the
breast, smaller bill and longer wings - several primary tips showing beyond the
- Lesser Short-toed Lark - Calandrella rufescens (2)
The only birds identified as of this species were found at the Konshangel camp
on the 2nd and 3rd, when totals of just five plus and two plus were noted.
Once seen and identified satisfactorily, no time was spent trying to
assess numbers compared with the previous species, which was, however,
- Crested Lark - Galerida cristata (4)
At least 10 were seen on the 30th in the vicinity of Nuray and the saltmarsh
habitat. On the 1st about 10 were noted between Kopa and Tamgaly Tas, with
five or more on the next two days, between Konshangel and the Topar lakes
and between Konshangel and the Sorbulak Reservoir.
- Skylark - Alauda arvensis (1)
Seen only on the 1st, near Kopa, in an area of sparsely vegetated sandy desert,
where at least five were identified.
- Oriental Skylark - Alauda gulgula (1)
In the same area as the above species, two pairs were observed on the 1st.
Seeing them with Skylarks made the identification a little easier, they
were marginally smaller and while they flew about our heads it was possible to
see that the trailling edges to the wings were not white.
- Shorelark - Eremophila alpestris (2)
About 10 were seen on the Sugaty Plain on the 29th, with another two in much
the same area the next morning.
The horns of the summer plumaged adults were an attractive feature
and the black and white face pattern suggests the race E.a.longirostris, though
I failed to note whether the black mask joined the black of the breast. If it did
then they would be of the race E.a.albigula.
- Saxaul Sparrow - Passer ammodendri (1)
In the windy conditions experienced in the Turanga forest, at Zheaturanga on
the 2nd, this species proved difficult to see well, disappearing into a dense
thicket nearby. However, there were occasional opportunities for better
viewing and at least 10 were seen.
- House Sparrow - Passer domesticus domesticus (6)
Small numbers were noted at most localities with human habitation, but more
interest was shown by Victoria in the following sub-species, which she felt
might become a species in its own right.
Indian Sparrow - P.d.bactrianus (4)
Flocks of this sub-species were noted at several localities: on the 28th they
were seen nesting in holes at the Sand Martin colony, while flocks in other
areas well away from human habitation were also ascribed to this race, like the
one of some 50-100 in the scrubby saltmarsh at Nuray on the 30th.
This sub-species, according to J.D.Summers-Smith in The Sparrows,
is almost entirely migratory, wintering to the south in India. He states,
"Gavrilov and Korelov (1968) found that not only do domesticus and
bactrianus differ morphologically, but that they overlap extensively in
Kazakhstan without interbreeding; Yakobi (1979) also considered that the
Indian Sparrow P.d.bactrianus should be separated from the House Sparrow
P.d.domesticus, basing his conclusion on behavioural grounds".
- Spanish Sparrow - Passer hispaniolensis (2)
This species was only noted at the village near the Konshangel camp, where
good numbers were mixed with Passer domesticus, and no count was made.
- Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus (3)
From five to ten were noted daily between the 28th-30th, with just two-three at
any one site.
These birds were probably of the race P.m.dilutus, which is more
often seen close to human habitation.
- Masked Wagtail - Motacilla alba personata (6)
Ones and twos were seen in a wide variety of habitats, including the Tien Shan
mountains, with day-totals of just one-five.
A more appropriate name than White, though a race of the nominate
Black-headed Wagtail - Motacilla flava feldegg (2)
Five were noted on the 1st near Kopa and about 10 were noted on the 2nd in
the Topar lakes region.
I failed to note whether the yellow underparts of the adult males
extended onto the chin, or whether the chin was white. If the latter, then the
race would be M.f.melanogrisea.
- Grey Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea (2)
In the Tien Shan mountains one was noted on the 31st, with at least four, along
the fast flowing stream in the valley, the next morning.
- Tawny Pipit - Anthus campestris (4)
One on the 28th, seen carrying food, was west of the Sand Martin colony en
route from Almaty to the Kokpek valley. On both the 29th and 30th two were
noted on the Sugaty Plain. The only other sighting was on the 2nd, between
Konshangel and the Topar lakes.
- Tree Pipit - Anthus trivialis (2)
Three singles were seen in the Tien Shan mountains, with one on the 31st and
two the next morning.
- Water Pipit - Anthus spinoletta (2)
One was observed on the first evening, the 30th, near the Observatory, in the
Tien Shan mountains, while 10 or more were noted the next day.
- *Himalayan Accentor - Prunella himalayana (1)
At least four were seen high in the pass above the Observatory, in the Tien
Shan mountains, on the 31st.
- Brown Accentor - Prunella fulvescens (2)
Three singles were seen high in the Tien Shan mountains, with two on the 31st
in the area of the pass and one the next day not far from the Observatory.
- *Black-throated Accentor - Prunella atrogularis (3)
One was seen near the Observatory on the 30th (MP), with at least three the
next day, during the walk between the Observatory and the Dam, and probably
five on the 1st between the Observatory and the Dam again.
- Red-fronted Serin - Serinus pusillus (3)
Only seen high in the Tien Shan mountains, where a flock of 14 was present
on the 30th, a flock of about 100 the next day and 10 or more early on the 1st.
- European Greenfinch - Cardualis chloris (3)
Apart from small numbers in the City Park, Almaty on the 28th and 3rd, just
one was heard on the 30th.
- Eurasian Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis (2)
Up to three or more were noted high in the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st
On distribution probably of the race C.c.paropanisi, which has a
subtly different plumage, with a grey head and mantle.
- Eurasian Linnet - Carduelis cannabina (1)
The only record consisted of two seen on the 28th, west of the Sand Martin
- *Hodgson's Mountain Finch - Leucosticte nemoricola (1)
A total of about 20 was noted between the Observatory and the pass high in
the Tien Shan mountains on the 31st.
- *Mongolian Finch - Rhodopechys mongolica (1)
At least six were noted and three were eventually seen well in the Sugaty hills
on the 29th.
- Desert Finch - Rhodopechys obsoleta (3)
This species proved most elusive and only flight views were obtained. One
flew by at Tamgaly Tas on the 1st and in the Konshangel region a total of
about five was noted on the 2nd, with one the next morning (MP).
- Scarlet Rosefinch - Carpodacus erythrinus (2)
A pair was seen in the City Park, Almaty on the 28th, and a total of five was
noted the next day in the Charyn Valley?
I prefer this old name for the species, Common Rosefinch does not do
- *Red-mantled Rosefinch - Carpodacus rhodochlamys (2)
Only seen in the Tien Shan mountains, with day-totals of 10 or more on the
31st and 1st.
- *White-winged Grosbeak - Mycerobas carnipes (2)
Only seen in the Tien Shan mountains, where they fed in flocks and day-totals
were estimated at 50+ for both the 31st and 1st.
- Rock Bunting - Emberiza cia (1)
About 10 were seen and heard in the Kokpek gulley on the 28th.
- *Grey-necked Bunting - Emberiza buchanani (1)
Commonly seen and heard singing in the Sugaty hills on the 29th, when at
least 20 were noted.
- *White-capped Bunting - Emberiza stewarti (2)
In the Kokpek valley, song was pointed out by VK on the 28th, which a few
heard, and this splendid bunting eventually showed itself well, once its song
had been had been relocated, in the same area, on the 30th.
- *Red-headed Bunting - Emberiza bruniceps (5)
Seen in a variety of steppe and desert habitats, with a day-total exceeding 50
on the 28th, between the Almaty Canal and Kokpek. On the 30th rather fewer
were noted during the journey from Kokpek to Almaty, via Nuray. Commonly
seen again en route to Konshangel on the 1st and during the 2nd and 3rd, all
three days having day-total estimates of 20+.
- Reed Bunting - Emberiza schoeniclus (1)
The only record concerned one at the Topar lakes on the 2nd.
- Corn Bunting - Miliaria calandra (3)
At least two were noted en route between Almaty and Kokpek on the 28th,
one was seen near Nuray on the 30th and about five were noted on the 1st on
the plain near Kopa.
A total of 175 species, plus possibly Syke's Warbler and White-crowned
- Tolai Hare - Lepus tolai (4)
The hares seen quite commonly, particularly on the Sugaty Plain, may well
have been of this species, rather than European.
- Goitered Gazelle - Gazella subgutterosa (4)
Up to six were seen on the Sugaty Plain, with one near the Konshangel camp.
- Great Gerbil - Rhombomys opimus (5)
Commonly seen on the Sugaty Plain and near the Konshangel camp, as well as
at other localites.
- Red Pika - Ochotona rutila (2)
A few were seen in the Tien Shan mountains.
- Corsac Fox - Vulpos corsac (2)
Singles were seen on the Sugaty Plain.
- Marbled Polecat - Vormela peregusna (1)
One was seen well on the Sugaty Plain, but sadly not by Graham, our mammal
- Long-tailed Marmot - Marmota caudata (2)
A typical species of the Tien Shan mountains, where several individuals were
seen, and heard.
- Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris (2)
Seen in the Tien Shan mountains and in the City Park, Almaty.
- Ground Squirrel - Spermophilus citellus (2)
Seen in the desert near Konshangel camp and at other localities
- Arrow Snake - Psammophis lineolatu (1)
One was seen near the Konshangel camp.
- 'Pit' Viper - Agkistrodom halys (1)
One seen near the Konshangel camp may have been this species, though it is
not listed in The Natural History of the USSR for the sandy deserts of
- Horsefield's Tortoise - Testudo horsfieldi (2)
Seen and photographed en route to the Topar lakes.
- Steppe Agama Lizard - Agama sanguinolenta (1+)
One was seen and photographed in the saltmarsh area at Nuray, while others
were undoubtedly seen in different localities.
- Toad-headed Agamid Lizard - Phrynocephalus sp (1+)
One of the toad-headed species attracted the attention of the photographers on
- Flint, VE et al (1984) A Field Guide to Birds of the USSR
- Knystautas, Algirdas (1987) The Natural History of the USSR
- Mullarney, K et al (1999) Collins Bird Guide
- Porter, RF et al (1988) Birds of the Middle East and North Africa
- Shirihai, H et al (1996) The Macmillan Birder's Guide to European and
Middle Eastern Birds
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August 17, 1999