The weather was generally very good and only one afternoon was disrupted by heavy rain and hail stones, which had everybody retreating back to the van for a short period.
After everyone clearing customs and being reacquainted with there luggage it was off to Almaty for the first two nights of the tour. Staying at the Kazakhchka Hotel, we checked in had a late breakfast.
|Kaskelen Vilty NP|
Before departing for the first leg of the tour the guide informed us that the rear garden's held breeding Azure Tit. A very nice start and a nice Garden tick.
We headed off to an area known locally as the Kaskelen Vilty NP, although the gps on my camera shows the location as Qarasay Audani.
|Himalayan Griffon Vulture|
Three targets missed in this area include two species of Penduline Tit and Meadow Bunting. Personally not fussed about the Meadow Bunting bit the two species of Penuduline TIt I would have loved to have seen.
Various stops along the way on our way out to the Taukum desert camp, the weather again very good although a tad windy at the magic tree site in the afternoon.
|Dalmatian Pelican at Sorbulak Lake|
The next stop for lunch was around the Yle Audani
Another stop at area called locally as the Magic Tree, unfortunately very windy with sand blowing into to your face and lens whilst trying to take some pictures. I would have loved to visit this site in better conditions, seem to be various species moving through the area with the so called Magic Tree being the only Tree in the area.
|Blyth's Reed Warbler|
|Lesser Whitethroat (halimodendri)|
|Accommodation for next couple of nights|
Highlight of the day was a distant Demoiselle Crane, a couple of White-headed Duck, good numbers of both Calandra and Greater Short-toed Lark.
Obviously being out in the desert all mod cons are a distant memory, bed was a bit stiff but hey what a view to wake up to with the toilet block on the left. Target bird of the morning was Macqueen's Bustard that was eventually found distantly. The frustration started to boil after hearing that another group had seen White-winged Lark in this area this morning.
|Sunset with toilet block on left|
|Greater Short-Toed Lark|
Stopping off again at various sites along the way that added to the species tally.
The afternoon spent at Moyinqum Audanui, would be worthy of a prolonged visit with several Terek Sandpiper present, and good numbers of Collard Pratincole.
|Great Reed Warbler|
|seen in good numbers|
An evening stroll not far from the camp produced good numbers of both Calandra and Bimaculated Lark and Greater Sandplover at the watering hole.
Still a good variety with new species around the camp
|Oriental Turtle Dove|
On the road again with more new species and a change of habitat, I personally missed a Scops Owl and some Yellow-eyed Pigeon, but compensation was restored when I found my own Saxaul Sparrow.
|Steppe Grey Shrike|
|Juv Turkestan Tit|
|Lesser Grey Shrike|
Not lavish but simple clean accommodation with pleasant host. Local shop in the area selling bottles of beer and for those that still smoke, packets of fags for a about £1 each.
|Nice clean accommodation|
Landscape shot's above in an area called Enbekshyqazaq Audani, the target of the morning being Pallas's Sandgrouse, flight views obtained but not as regular or close enough for the chance of any pictures. Happy to get some record shot's of Desert Warbler.
|Long-legged Buzzard with snake|
The main target of the day was Ibisbill, with a pair meant to be breeding in the area around the reservoir. In my quest on seeing this iconic bird I nearly lost my camera after getting bogged down in some wet sand. Played my part in finding or flushing the bird when all were beginning on loosing all hope of seeing the this iconic bird.
|Ibisbill breeding grounds|
|Terrible record shot|
|Female White-tailed Rubythroat|
|White-browed Tit Warbler|
This area in my opinion required more time, up near the Russian border with varying habitat but little accommodation options, could easily spend a couple of days in the area. There is an old hostel but my understanding is that it wasn't being used and needs modernisation but you are right in amongst some splendid habitat. Heavy rain shower this morning but bird activity increased after it stopped and bagged one of my sought after targets, that being the White-browed Tit Warbler but still only managed an arsed end shot as it flew into cover.
|Plain Mountain Finch|
In conclusion missing a few targets is never nice to swallow and I would have booked the extension to Uzbekistan if the dates hadn't have been changed in the last month. My personal opinion is that Birdfinfers were offered a private tour late on and moved the initial guide onto the private tour. In hindsight I would have more liked time giving yourself a bit longer at each site, with such good birding and quality birds.
No complaints about the food, but could be difficult if you don't like stew. Meat and veg most nights with a starter as a salad. The vegetarian options looked very limited with salads or eggs. Breakfast consisted of Rice pudding or Eggs. Packed lunches assortment of sandwiches and snacks
I found the country a fascinating place, never felt threatened at anytime and would have no qualms about visiting again.