One of the better mornings we had during our Rockjumper 'Best of Central Asia' tour was spent in Sogety Valley, in south east Kazakhstan, close to the border triangle with China and Kyrgyzstan. This arid upland valley, and the surrounding hills and mountains, host some brilliant birds. We spent quite a bit of time on the plains, searching for our big target - Pallas's Sandgrouse.
Personally, Pallas's Sandgrous was one of my most-wanted birds. It seems that recently they have become more difficult, and sadly we failed to find any. I guess more time is needed for them. But even without those sandgrouse, birding was superb. The plains held good numbers of Brandt's Horned Larks:
And few of the famous duo - Desert Wheatear and Asian Desert Warbler, so often seen together:
Asian Desert Warbler
We then headed up towards the hills, where a small spring attracts many birds. It took us a while to reach the spring because our attention was drawn towards several singing Grey-necked Buntings on the hills. The local subspecies neobscura is much duller than cerrutti I saw in E Turkey several years ago, and their song is different. Great birds to see - especially when they are so confiding.
Eventually we made it to the spring and sat down at a safe distance, not to disturb the birds. It was very busy - during the hour or so we were there we had big numbers of Mongolian Finch, several shy Asian Crimson-winged Finches, Rock Sparrows, more Grey-necked Buntings, Black-bellied Sandgrouse - huge fun.
A pair of Turkestan Shrikes feeding young nearby made lots of noise.
eBird checklist of Sogety Valley and hills is here.
We then headed south towards Temirliq. At Temirliq River a pair of Lesser Grey Shrikes, and a pair of White-crowned Penduline Tits, were nest-building:
Up towards the mountain pass, in a lush rocky gully, we had Meadow Bunting, Siberian Stonechat and a few other birds.
We then headed back towards Almaty, via the impressive Charyn Canyon: