Imagine a birding trip where you get to see iconic species such as Ibisbill, MacQueen’s Bustard, Himalayan Snowcock, Caspain Plover, Sociable Plover, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Black Lark, Fire-fronted Serin and Himalayan Rubythroat and you have imagined birding in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is located on the border between the western and eastern biogeographical subdivisions providing an intriguing blend of the exotic alongside the familiar in terms of its avifauna. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has come into its own as a birding destination and one of the most accessible places to see a wide range of exciting Central Asian species. For those who enjoy immersing themselves in vast open spaces, the ninth largest country in the world is a great place to do this while enjoying a large number of the region’s speciality species. Great expanses of flat steppe grasslands merge into sandy and stony deserts with saline and freshwater lakes dotted around the country which are magnets to nesting and migrant birds. In sharp contrast, the massive towering peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains - an extension of the Himalayas - edging onto China rise to over 20,000 feet. Here we find ecosystems varying from massive tracts of deciduous and coniferous forest cut by untamed rivers in deep gorges at lower elevations, to snow-capped peaks and flower-rich alpine meadows higher up.
The birdlife in these habitats is as varied as it is exciting. In arid areas we expect to find Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse as well as Pallas’s Sandgrouse. In these habitats Asian Desert Warbler and Desert Finch also await us while in the high mountains Himalayan Snowcock, Mongolian Finch and Himalayan Accentor are some of the treats. Shorebirds are well-represented too with Caspian Plover, Sociable Lapwing the highlights and Ibisbill a possible bird of the trip. Add to this a wide variety of Central Asian passerines, raptors, waterbirds and woodland species and this can be seen to be a tour high in quality and variety. And if that was not enough, MacQueen’s Bustard performing its courtship dance after breakfast is yet another reason to visit this exciting country.