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KAZAKHSTAN & UZBEKISTAN

Silk Road Specialities

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Birding Tours: our Kazakhstan bird watching holiday, which includes Uzbekistan, combines the best bird watching areas in the fascinating region of Central Asia. Our Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan birding tour is an exciting journey through fantastically beautiful landscapes 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 region, or rarely seen elsewhere. These include Himalayan Snowcock, Caspian Plover, Sociable Lapwing, Black-winged Pratincole, Yellow-eyed Dove, White-winged Woodpecker, Black and White-winged Larks, Black-throated and Altai Accentors, Eversmann's Redstart, Pander’s Ground Jay, Yellow-breasted Tit, Saxaul Sparrow, Red-mantled Rosefinch and Red-headed Bunting. Other great birds include White-headed Duck, Saker Falcon, Macqueen’s Bustard, Demoiselle Crane, Ibisbill, Caspian Plover, White-tailed Lapwing, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Pale Martin, Bimaculated and Hume’s Short-toed Larks, Blue-capped and Güldenstädt's Redstarts, Finsch’s Wheatear, White-throated Robin, Upcher’s and Ménétries’s Warblers, Hume’s Whitethroat, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Azure and Rufous-naped Tits, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Steppe Grey Shrike, Red-fronted Serin, Desert and Mongolian Finches, and Pine and Grey-necked Buntings.

Thursday 16th May — Monday 27th May 2019
(12 days)


Uzbekistan Extension: Sunday 12th May — Thursday 16th May (5 days)

Leaders: Chris Kehoe and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Mostly easy walking and mostly good quality 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.

During most of the tour we will explore the huge state of Kazakhstan, which 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.

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, from where we will start our explorations.

In the groves along the wide Ili river, close to the Chinese border, we will look for Yellow-eyed Dove, Azure Tit and Saxaul Sparrow, while in the wide expanses of the desert or in the rocky hills we should find the enigmatic Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Saker Falcon, Mongolian Finch and Meadow Bunting.

Next, amidst the snowy peaks of the Tien Shan, 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 Severtzov’s (or White-browed) Tit-Warbler and Red-mantled Rosefinch.

Afterwards 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 and Caspian Plover in particular, as well as Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Bimaculated and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Desert Whitethroat and Steppe Grey Shrike.

Finally we travel northwards to the rich grasslands near the new political capital of Astana, where we shall be looking for White-headed Duck, Demoiselle Crane, Black-winged Pratincole, Sociable Lapwing, Pallas’s Gull, White-winged Lark and the impressive Black Lark.

During the optional extension we will explore Uzbekistan around the historic oasis city of Bukhara, 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 Warbler and Desert Finch, and also the vicinity of Samarkand, the greatest of all the Silk Road cities, where we will be wanting to see Hume’s Short-toed Lark, Finsch’s and Variable Wheatears, 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 the lovely Yellow-breasted Tit, as well as Hume’s Whitethroat and Rufous-naped Tit.

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

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

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is much lower than for most Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan tours, making for a superior birding experience.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good quality throughout. The accommodations near the Charyn River are fairly simple (with shared bathroom facilities). In the Taukum desert we will stay for two nights 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 hot showers. Road transport is by small coach or minibus 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.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £2790, €3170, $3650 Almaty/Astana. Single Room Supplement: £250, €285, $328. Deposit: £350, €420, $460.

Uzbekistan Extension: £1090, €1240, $1430 Bukhara/Almaty. Single Room Supplement: £88, €100, $115. Deposit: £150, €180, $200.

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

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

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

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 flights and 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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