Sunday, May 26, 2019

First days in Kazakhstan

Our Rockjumper group's first days in Kazakhstan have been excellent. I will expand more when I get back home; in the meanwhile, here's a quick on-the-road summary:
We stayed in Taukum Desert, in a camp near Kenshengel for two nights. En route we stopped at Lake Sorbulaq that was teeming with birds - waterfowl, shorebirds, pelicans (Great White and Dalmatian), and most impressive was a colony of about 10K pairs of Rosy Starlings by the lake shore. Incredible. In Hebrew their name translates to 'Locust Starling' - now I understand why. We keep seeing many huge colonies and flocks of thousands.

Dalmatian Pelican

In the Taukum Desert we connected well with our main target species, Caspian Plover and MacQueen's Bustard. The plovers were with chicks so we kept a fair distance away from them. Scope views were great. So cool to see them on their breeding grounds, after having them both on their wintering grounds in East Africa, and on migration in Israel.

Also Greater Sand-Plovers breed on the semi-desert plains:

Many Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen, but no other sandgrouse species:

I especially enjoyed the dawn chorus (starting at 02:30!), with a multitude of lark song (Calandra, Bimacs, Greater, Lesser and Asian Short-toed), Isabelline Wheatears and Red-headed Buntings. Fantastic.

Classy bird

Quite many raptors in the desert - eagles, harriers, and a bunch of vultures feeding on a dead cow.

Cinereous Vulture

A visit to Turanga Forest delivered the goods - the sought-after and beautiful Saxaul Sparrow, Yellow-eyed Pigeon and Azure Tit.

Saxy Sparrow 

Azure Tit

Now we're close to China-Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan birder triangle - tomorrow should be good!

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