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Wednesday 11th May - Sunday 29th May 2011

Mark Van Beirs

The glorious Saxaul Sparrow (Phil Tizzard)

The glorious Saxaul Sparrow (Phil Tizzard)

Glorious Pander’s Ground Jays darting about in the Kyzyl Kum desert, tiny lilac-coloured Severtzov’s Tit-Warblers playing hide and seek in dwarf junipers, ebullient Himalayan Snowcocks singing on a rocky crag and stylish Demoiselle Cranes waltzing away in the steppe were the undisputable highlights of our recent Turkestan tour. We recorded 288 bird species and 18 mammals on our travels through the deserts, marshes, wormwood steppes, lakes, stony hills, alpine forests, pastures, gorges and rocky crags of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. We experienced extreme temperatures, withstood strong winds and saw a lip smacking list of exciting birds. Springtime is by far the best time to visit these Central Asian republics as lots of birdsong and impressive display added greatly to the experience. We also appreciated our visit to some of the ancient wonders of the Silk Route at Samarkand and Bukhara. Other great birds seen on this classic itinerary included Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, White-headed Duck, Pallid Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Saker, Macqueen’s Bustard, Ibisbill, Black-winged Pratincole, Caspian Plover, Sociable Lapwing, Pallas’s Gull, Yellow-eyed Dove, White-winged Woodpecker, White-winged and Black Larks, Altai and Black-throated Accentors, White-tailed Rubythroat, White-throated Robin, Eversmann’s, Blue-capped and Güldenstädt’s Redstarts, Sykes’s, Ménétries’s, Barred, Asian Desert, and Sulphur-bellied Warblers, Rufous-naped and Azure Tits, Saxaul Sparrow, Mongolian and Crimson-winged Finches, White-winged Grosbeak and Meadow and Pine Buntings. The most unusual bird seen on this great tour was a vagrant Red-wattled Lapwing that we encountered at an oasis in the Kyzyl Kum desert.