Birding trip Kazakhstan May 2015   -  Photos part 2: Taukum desert (sites 7-13) 
John van der Woude   www.jvanderw.nl   -   see also main report
All photos where credit not mentioned are by Nollie or me. 


Below the dam of Sorbulak lake. White-headed Duck (Witkopeend) and Red-crested Pochard (Krooneend). Here also Ferruginous Duck (Witoogeend) and Rose-coloured Starling (Roze Spreeuw).

Lone 'wish tree' on our way to Taukum desert. Full of migrant passerines. The longer you sit here, the more species appear (from nowhere!). A wish tree is a tree where passing locals hang pieces of cloth and do a wish. Best birds here were Rufous Scrub Robin (Rosse Waaierstaart), Wryneck, Barred Warbler (Sperwergrasmus), Sykes Warbler, Daurian Shrike, between the many Lesser Whitethroats (Braamsluipers).

Rufous Scrub Robin (Rosse Waaierstaart) in the wish tree.

Barred Warbler (Sperwergrasmus).

Camels along the road.


Outskirts of small village Konshengel in the Taukum desert. Desert rather green now, but will turn yellow in a month or so. In this lone village we regularly checked the trees for migrant birds like Sykes Warbler. New here was Desert Finch (Vale Woestijnvink).

Our temporary yurt camp in the Taukum desert.

After settling in the yurt camp, we saw this rare form of Yellow Wagtail landing right behind the yurts. It is aptly named leucocephala and it is by some split as a separate species, White-headed Wagtail. It breeds in adjacent parts of China and Mongolia.

Early next morning we strolled around the camp. Hard to discover on the ground were larks like this Lesser Short-toed Lark (Kleine Kortteenleeuwerik), subspecies heinei. Also Greater Sand Plover (Woestijnplevier).
 
Young Lesser Short-toed Lark (parent nearby).


Not often seen, Turkmen Gazelle.

Not far from camp is the drinking pool for horses and sandgrouse! As said above, the desert is still green now, but not for long.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Zwartbuikzandhoen) at the pool. Mostly males on this photo. Pallas's Sandgrouse (Steppehoen) also drinking at this pool.

Pallas's Sandgrouse (Steppehoen) flying around the pool.

A sudden fly-by of Rose-coloured Starling (Roze Spreeuw) at the pool.

Ferocious, enormous dog running beside the bus. We were warned to stay away from these monsters.

Scenery and cemetary in the Topar region. Near Topar we got Saxaul Sparrow, at a bus stand.

Zheltorangly riverine woodland northeast of Topar.

White-winged Woodpecker in the Zheltorangly woodland.

Yellow-eyed Dove is also especially found in this woodland.

A short round in a village produced this Shikra.

The wetlands near Topar were mostly very dry and much of the reedbeds were disturbed. It was here that our tour leader Sander Bot had done research on Black-headed Penduline-Tit. In the present state of the area, we had not much chance of finding this very specialised bird, and we did not find it indeed.

Female Citrine Wagtail (Citroenkwikstaart) at the wetlands near Topar. Here also Black-headed Wagtail (Balkankwikstaart) and Paddyfield Warbler (Veldrietzanger).

Strange plant (Rumex?) on the way back to camp.

Early next morning we found these two Caspian Plovers near the yurt camp. Quite a relief for everybody! Sorry for the photo but this bird was one of the highlights of the trip.

More unknown plants near the yurt camp.


Our yurt camp in the Taukum desert, seen from the first of a series of very low, elongated dunes. Around this spot we had seen MacQueen's Bustard (Oostelijke Kraagtrap) on the first morning, also much to our relief.

On this last day in the desert (heading back to Almaty) we saw our last Turkestan Shrikes (Red-tailed Shrike).

A stop in the first rocky foothills for our only Bimaculated Lark (Bergkalanderleeuwerik).


Prehistoric rock drawings from several millennia (oldest c. 5000 years old) at Tamgaly. A nice stop for Eastern Rock Nuthatch (Grote Rotsklever).


Red-headed Bunting (Bruinkopgors) near a well at the rock drawings. Regularly seen on this trip.

Back in Almaty. I often take photos like this from my bus window.