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CENTRAL ASIA SPECIALITIES

Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan Birding Tours: our Central Asia Specialities bird watching holiday combines the best bird watching areas in the fascinating region of Central Asia. Our Central Asia Specialities birding tour is an exciting journey through the fantastically beautiful landscapes of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan at the height of spring. This special itinerary turns up a large number of bird species, but concentrates on those specialities that are unique to the Central Asian region, or rarely seen elsewhere. These include Himalayan Snowcock, Sociable Lapwing, Black-winged Pratincole, White-winged Woodpecker, Black and White-winged Larks, Black-throated Accentor, Hume’s Whitethroat, Eversmann's Redstart, the wonderful Pander’s Ground Jay, Red-mantled Rosefinch and Red-headed Bunting.

Other great birds include White-headed Duck, Demoiselle Crane, Ibisbill, White-tailed Lapwing, Hume’s Short-toed Lark, Altai Accentor, Blue-capped and Güldenstädt's Redstarts, Finsch’s Wheatear, White-throated Robin, Upcher’s, Asian Desert and Ménétries’s Warblers, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Azure and Rufous-naped Tits, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Steppe Grey Shrike, Red-fronted Serin, Desert Finch and Pine and Grey-necked Buntings.

During the optional extension we will be looking for Saker Falcon, Macqueen’s Bustard, Caspian Plover, Pin-tailed and Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Yellow-eyed Dove, Bimaculated Lark, Pale Martin, Saxaul Sparrow and Mongolian Finch.

There is also a special pre-tour extension into the state of Turkmenistan, home to Central Asia’s least-known endemic, the rare and localized Zarudnyi's Sparrow.

Sunday 12th May — Wednesday 22nd May 2019
(11 days)


Kazakhstan Desert Extension: Wednesday 22nd May — Saturday 25th May (4 days)

Zarudnyi's Sparrow Extension: Friday 10th May — Sunday 12th May (3 days)

Leaders: Mark Van Beirs and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Mostly easy walking and comfortable accommodations

Caspian Plover, one of the stars of the show, and a classic bird of the steppes (Dave Farrow)

Caspian Plover, one of the stars of the show, and a classic bird of the steppes (Dave Farrow)

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are an essential destination for anyone with an interest in the birds of the immense Eurasian landmass, providing the opportunity to see a suite of Central Asian specialities amidst superb scenery. During this exciting journey we shall be concentrating on those Central Asian specialities that can only be seen in the region or which are easier to see here than anywhere else.

Beyond the Caspian lies Turkestan, the heart of Central Asia and the homeland of a series of Turkic-speaking peoples including Turkmen, Uzbeks, Kirghiz and Kazakhs. This vast region, a cockpit of history, links the very different worlds of west and east. Reaching from the borders of Europe to western China, Turkestan extends from the shores of the Caspian through the endless deserts of Transcaspia and across the icy peaks of the Tien Shan range to the Takla Makan desert in the Xinjiang basin, encompassing the recently independent states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan and Kirghizstan, as well as northwestern China. Lying on the Silk Road from Europe to China, historic cities such as Bukhara and Samarkand have felt the full force of the frequently changing tides of history as Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Russians have fought for control of this strategic area.

The huge state of Kazakhstan occupies the northwestern part of Central Asia. Kazakhstan in spring is truly birdwatcher’s heaven! This vast Central Asian country, five times the size of France, stretches 2000 kilometres from the Volga delta and the Caspian Sea to China and Mongolia and 1200 kilometres from the Urals and the southern edge of western Siberia to its southern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan. With a population of just 17 million people (mainly city-dwelling, and roughly evenly divided between Kazakhs and Russians), this new state (formerly part of the Soviet Union) is one of the least densely populated countries in Eurasia and yet it is also the world’s fourth-largest nuclear power! For many years the famous testing site at Semipalatinsk was a site for nuclear experiments, both above and below the ground, and the well-known Baikonur Cosmodrome is still the hub of the Russian space program.

90% of Kazakhstan used to be covered in endless expanses of grassy steppe or stony and sandy deserts, but modern man has transformed huge areas for agriculture. The rest of the country boasts formidable mountains (the Tien Shan and Altai ranges in the south and east) of almost incredible natural beauty. This northern extension of the Himalayas is still cloaked in forest and more than 2700 glaciers grind their way down the slopes. Kazakhstan may be a new political entity on the map of the world’s countries, but it has long been known as one of the richest areas for birds in the Palearctic, straddling as it does the border between its Western and Eastern subdivisions.

During the first part of our journey we will explore another of the new, post-Soviet states; Uzbekistan. Here, the historic oasis city of Bukhara will be our base for exploring the edge of the vast Kyzyl Kum desert, home to the strange endemic Pander’s Ground Jay, as well as White-tailed Lapwing, Ménétries’s and Asian Desert Warblers, Steppe Grey Shrike and Desert Finch.

Moving on, we come to Samarkand, the greatest of all the Silk Road cities, where we will be wanting to see White-winged Woodpecker and Red-headed Bunting in particular, as well as such additional specialities as Hume’s Short-toed Lark, Finsch’s and Variable Wheatears, the lovely White-throated Robin, Upcher’s Warbler and Eastern Rock Nuthatch.

Before we leave Uzbekistan behind, we will explore the Chatkal Range near Tashkent. This outlier of the Tien Shan mountains holds Hume’s Whitethroat as well as Rufous-naped Tit, the lovely yellow-breasted form of the Azure Tit, White-crowned Penduline Tit and White-capped Bunting.

Arriving in Kazakhstan, we explore the rich grasslands near the new political capital of Astana, where we shall be looking for Black-winged Pratincole, Sociable Lapwing, White-winged Lark and the impressive Black Lark, not to mention White-headed Duck, Demoiselle Crane and Pallas’s Gull.

At the edge of the mountains and the plains, on the site of a former Silk Road town, lies Almaty, the attractively green economic capital of Kazakhstan.  Towering above the city are the snowy peaks of the Tien Shan, where we shall seek out Himalayan Snowcock, the strange Ibisbill, Black-throated, Brown and Altai Accentors, the handsome White-tailed Rubythroat, Eversmann’s, Blue-capped and Güldenstädt’s Redstarts, the tiny, lilac-tinged White-browed (or Severtzov’s) Tit-Warbler and Red-mantled Rosefinch.

During the optional ‘Kazakhstan Desert’ extension there will be yet another dramatic contrast as we travel deep into the Taukum desert to the northwest of Almaty in search of Macqueen’s Bustard, Caspian Plover, Yellow-eyed Dove and Saxaul Sparrow in particular, as well as Saker Falcon, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Bimaculated and Lesser Short-toed Larks.

There can be few regions with such an impressive and evocative avifauna as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan!

For those who like something completely ‘off-the-beaten-track’, we have a short pre-tour extension into the reclusive state of Turkmenistan in search of Central Asia’s least-known endemic, Zarudnyi’s Sparrow. This is a bird we used to see regularly here during Birdquest tours in Soviet times and shortly after, at which time it was still treated as a race of the Desert Sparrow.

Birdquest pioneered bird tours to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as far back as 1982.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good quality throughout. In the Taukum desert we will stay for two nights during the extension in a fairly simple but comfortable camp consisting of traditional-style yurts, specially constructed by our local outfitters, for twin or single occupancy. The camp has a superb atmosphere (being right out in the wilderness) and there are even proper camp beds and hot showers. Road transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van and road conditions are rather variable.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate, but there may have to be one optional harder walk in the Tien Shan to look for Güldenstädt’s (or White-winged) Redstart if they are not seeable from nearer the road.

Climate: Rather variable. It is often warm or hot, dry and sunny at low altitudes, but it sometimes cool, overcast and rainy at this season. At the highest altitudes in the Tien Shan temperatures range from cool to cold and it could even snow.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

CENTRAL ASIA SPECIALITIES BIRDING TOUR: PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all flights and all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately: £500, €570, $700.

2019 confirmed prices

£2790, €3180, $3880 Bukhara/Almaty. Deposit: 10%.

Kazakhstan Desert Extension: £790, €900, $1100 Almaty/Almaty. Deposit: 10%.

Zarudnyi's Sparrow Extension: £590, €670, $820 Bukhara/Bukhara. Deposit: 10%.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Tashkent-Astana, Astana-Almaty.

Single Room Supplement: £250, €285, $348. Kazakhstan Desert Extension: £75, €85, $104. Zarudnyi's Sparrow Extension: £50, €57, $70.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The superb Saxaul Sparrow is another must see bird from this superb region (Dave Farrow)

The superb Saxaul Sparrow is another must see bird from this superb region (Dave Farrow)

The sight of a singing male White-tailed Rubythroat is enough to stop anyone in their tracks! (Dave Farrow)

The sight of a singing male White-tailed Rubythroat is enough to stop anyone in their tracks! (Dave Farrow)

The critically endangered Sociable Plover is another speciality of the steppes (Dave Farrow)

The critically endangered Sociable Plover is another speciality of the steppes (Dave Farrow)

The unique Pander's Ground Jay is a species that is endemic to this area (Dave Farrow)

The unique Pander's Ground Jay is a species that is endemic to this area (Dave Farrow)

The localized Yellow-eyed Dove is probably easier to see in Kazakhstan than anywhere else (Dave Farrow)

The localized Yellow-eyed Dove is probably easier to see in Kazakhstan than anywhere else (Dave Farrow)

Other great birds we hope to see include Pine Bunting (Dave Farrow)

Other great birds we hope to see include Pine Bunting (Dave Farrow)

... Red-headed Bunting (Dave Farrow)

... Red-headed Bunting (Dave Farrow)

... the wonderful Black Lark (Dave Farrow)

... the wonderful Black Lark (Dave Farrow)

... the range-restricted Altai Accentor (Dave Farrow)

... the range-restricted Altai Accentor (Dave Farrow)

... the delightful Severtzov’s (or White-browed) Tit-Warbler (Dave Farrow) Scrub-Robin

... the delightful Severtzov’s (or White-browed) Tit-Warbler (Dave Farrow) Scrub-Robin

... and Rufous Scrub-Robin (this is the greyer rufous form) (Dave Farrow)

... and Rufous Scrub-Robin (this is the greyer rufous form) (Dave Farrow)

If we are fortunate, we will see something unexpected like this Tengmalm's (or Boreal) Owl (Dave Farrow)

If we are fortunate, we will see something unexpected like this Tengmalm's (or Boreal) Owl (Dave Farrow)

Many of the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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