Birding Tours in Kazakhstan

Birds of Mountains and Deserts (April 29 - May 11, May 14 - May 24, 2018)

Day 1. Arriving to Almaty city. Right after arriving we will go to the area of Sorbulak lakes, where we will stay next 3 days. After a short rest and lunch we will visit Kurty river where we will watch Black Storks nesting in rocks, also we will see the birds of semi-desert landscape such as Red-headed Buntings, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Tawny Pipits, Calandra Larks, Greater Short-toed Larks, Eurasian Bee-eaters, Rollers, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears.

Day 2. After the breakfast we go to lakes of Sorbulak system included many large and small reservoirs connected by the web of channels. There are a lot of birds in all seasons in the shore of lakes of Sorbulak but especially in migration time when the large flocks of Waterfouls and Waders feed and rest here. Also here we will observe colonies of Dalmatian Pelicans, Great Cormorants; in some lakes several couples of White-headed Ducks breed. We will watch the nesting Black-necked and Crested Grebes, Red-crested Pochards, Black-headed Gulls, Caspian Gulls too; breeding of these birds is depended from the level of water. In addition to bird related to water we also will watch White-tailed Sea-Eagle, Long-legged Buzzards and some other birds of prey. Recent years the Pallas's Sea-Eagles were recorded some times. The main birds of the day are Dalmatian Pelicans and White-headed Ducks.

Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in Sorbilak

Day 3. In early morning time we will start our trip to Kanshengel located at distance about 120 kms from the our base. The largest part of Norther Trans-Balkhash area is Taukum desert. In this desert we will watch the migrating Waders and little Passerines which stay to rest at the artesian wells, the rare watering places in desert. Over these wells also the local breeding birds live. We will be sure to watch Black-bellied Sandgrouses, Greater Sand Plover and many Calandra, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks; from time to time here possible to view Caspian Plover, Pallas's Sandgrouse and sometimes the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Kanshengel is the spot which birdwatchers specially visit to take photos of Sandgrouses. In adjasted sand hills the following desert inhabitants can be observed: Lesser Whitethroat (halimodendri subspecies), Syke's Warbler, Asian Desert Warbler, Red-headed Bunting, Crested Lark, Rufous Bush Robin. At evening we will come back to our base. The target bird: Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Greater Sand Plover, Desert Warbler, Syke's Warbler, Brown-necked Raven.

Day 4. Topar, Zhelturanga, Ili river wetlands. During this day we will watch the birds of desert lakes, groves of Asian Poplar, and saxaul forests. Topar lakes are the system of little to medium sized desert ponds formed by the ground water of Ili river delta. The number of lakes is large, some of them are reed-covered, or bordered by the little groves of Asian Poplar. Here we sure to watch Ferruginous Duck, Greater Cormorant, Great Egret, grey heron, Black-eared Kite, Shikra; also in this day we will observe Steppe Grey Shrike, Syke's Warbler, Long-legged Buzzard, Saxaul Sparrow. Also we have opportunity to watch Black-headed Penduline Tit. In the relict wetland forest we will observe White-winged Woodpecker, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Indian Golden Oriole, Roller, Turkestan Tit. This night we sleep in tents, in Asian Poplar grove near Ili river. At night we will attempt to find Pallid Scops Owl. The target birds of the day: Steppe Grey Shrike, Saxaul Sparrow, White-winged Woodpecker, Eyllow-eyed Pigeon, Turkestan Tit, Long-legged Buzzard.

Eyllow-eyed Pigeon (Columba eversmanni)/ Ili river.

Day 5. The day of the long distance (about 400 kms) moving in eastern direction, to the Big Boguty mountains. We will by in the road almost all day, but we will have the 3-hours stopping to watch birds in very beauty place Ili river canyon. Here we will observe rocks where Golden Eagle couple nests regularly, also we will see colony of Red-rumped Swallows and Eurasian Crag Martins, nests of Eastern Rock Nuthatch, and colony of Lesser Kestrel. In previous years very large colony of Rosy Starling was here. The Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Sparrow nest here too. We will sleep in camping near Chunja village. The target birds of the day: Eurasian Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows, Golden Eagle, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Lesser Kestrel.

Day 6. Big Boguty mountains, Kokpek. Big Boguty is dry low mountains bordered with the stony desert. In Big Buguty there are some wells which are the main watering places to the all birds breeding here including Mongolian Finch, Crimson-winged Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, Linnets, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, and Calandra, Horned (brandti) and Greater Short-toed Larks. Photographers will have chance to take very good photos because birds in this location are not timid. Also the Black-bellied and Pallas's Sangrouses and Chukar Partridges could ve observed in watering spots. In the gorges of Kokpek pass there are White-headed Bunting, Hume's Whitethroat, Rock Buntings, and we will have apportunity to watch them. Also we know the location of nest of Golden Eagle where birds regularly breed recent years. One more attraction of the day is colony of Pale Sand Martins. The target birds of the day: Mongolian Finch, Crimson-winged Finch, Grey-necked Bunting, White-headed Bunting, Golden Eagle, Pale Sand Martin.

Palls's Sandrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus) / Big Boguty mountains.

Day 7. Canyon of Charyn river. In morning we will drive to upper of Charyn river where we plan to watch Himalayan Vultures. In the rocks of canyon there are also Common and Alpine Swifts, House Martin and Craig Martin. In the bushes of foothils we will sure to watch Meadow, Rock, Red-headed, Pine and Grey-necked Buntings, Turkestan Shrikes, Tawny Pipits. Also we will have opportunity to watch Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Lammergeier, Black Stork, Barbary Falcon, Common and Long-legged Buzzard. The target birds of the day: Himalayan Vulture, Meadow Bunting, Rock Bunting, Turkestan Shrike.

Day 8. Day of moving to Big Almaty Lake. Distance is about 300 kms. The destination is Observatory in the highlands where we will stay two days and watch birds. During the road we will make stopping to rest and birding. Our road is passed in foothills of Tien Shan, we will saw Isabelline and Pied Wheatear, Turkestan Shrikes, Tawny Pipits. The roadside thickets is the habitat of Wood Pigeon (casiotis), Oriental Turtle Dove (meena), Indian Golden Oriole, Black-headed Penduline Tit. After arriving to Observatory we will rest and watch birds in vicinity.

Day 9-10. Big Almaty Lake. Two days we will be in the highlands of Tien Shan. In the first half of each day we will visit rocks near Cosmos-station (3400 m) where we watch Hodgson's Rosefinch, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Himalayan Accentor, Brown Accentor, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough. Also in this habitat Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper, Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle live. Since some of the lowlanders may experience the altitude sickness' symptoms, therefore we limit the staying of our guests in highlands by 4-5 hours per day. After lunch we will watch the birds in low juniper thickets at altitude 2500 m. Here we will see Black-throated Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Eversman's and Blue-capped Redstarts, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Hume's Warbler, Spotted Nutcracker, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Himalayan Rubythroat. Some of birds of juniper thickets we may watch right in the territory of Observatory where we will stay. All the birds of highlands are interesting, but we belive that Himalayan Rubythroat, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Guldenstadt's Redstart are most

White-browed Tit-Warbler (Leptopoecile sophiae)/ Ile Alatau National Park

Day 11. Departure. After spending a night in the mountains, we will be coming down to Almaty, where we will have lunch and then go to airport. In an event, when there is still time left until the departure, we might be able to have a tour around the city as well as watch city birds.

General Information. Weather during May and beginning of June is usually sunny with a very low chance of precipitation, with an average temperature of +20+25 degrees Celsius. However, mountain areas are slightly colder, with an average temperature decrease of 5-10 degrees Celsius, which is why travellers need to bring warm clothing (sweaters, hats, light jackets should be sufficient). There are no special requirements for the tour in terms of health risks and physical shape. There are no long walks, though there is a risk of malaise at high altitudes. However, as mentioned previously, we limit guests’ time at altitudes above 3000 meters. Main accommodation will be resorts and various camping spots. 2 night will be spent in tents, which will be provided along with sleeping bags. In terms of food, local cuisine slightly resembles Middle Eastern. Most of the food is not spicy. Size of the group is minimum 4, and maximum 10 people. Citizens of 56 states can visit Kazakhstan without visas. Foreign citizens can freely move in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Price € 980. Deposit € 250.

Contact person. Anar Issabekova (

Big Year 2018

supported by

1. Isabekov Askar (256)
2. Belyaev Alexandr (251)
3. Gubin Boris (226)
4. Dyakin Gennadiy (212)
5. Yasko Anna (168)
6. Katuncev Alexandr (137)
7. Vorobyov Vladimir (137)
8. Malkov Yuriy (130)
9. Nukusbekov Malik (129)
10. Andrussenko Konstantin (122)

rare birds records

Altai Snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus)

© Vladimir Vorobyov
VKO Katon-Karagay

The first nest of Altai Snowcock found in Kazakhstan. Previously only several broods were recorded.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

© Alexandr Katuncev

New species for Sorbulak system.

Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala)

© Gennadiy Dyakin
Aktau, Mangistau region

Rare record for Mangyshlak peninsula. Previously the following records are known: June 1-2 1888 in area of Sherkala mountain and Akmysh well, May 06, 1947 in vicinity of Fort-Shevchenko, May 07, 1964 in Danga, May 17, 2009 near Kaundy depression, and May 09, 2017 in the square of Aktau city.

Finsch's Wheatear (Oenanthe finschii)

© Malik Nukusbekov
Ertai. Zhambyl oblast.

The new species for Moinkum desert. The known breeding range of Finsch's Wheatear in Kazakhstan covers Mangyshlak, Ustyurt and Kyzylkum desert. The records in area eastward of Syrdaria river were not known. In May of 2017, Sergey Domashevski recorded adults and huveniles in Togyzkentau, NW of Moinkum desert. This record indicate to expantion of breeding range in eastern direction.