Kazakhstan, western part of the country is part of WP. This is an area which not especially easy to access. The city to go to is called Atyrau, and there are AFAIK zero car rental agencies in the city. We opted for a solution organised by Yekaterina Dotsenko (firstname.lastname@example.org) which has turned out to work well, albeit expensive. The setup is a UAZ bus with one driver, one guide and one translator (I guess this explains the price)
Nevertheless, we arrived yesterday and took a day privately with a taxi driver, birding some of the parks in the city and also some nearby marshes. Long-tailed Shrike was found breeding in Victory Park, Atyrau last year. This was our first target, and we birded that park and nearby shrubbery along the Ural River. No Shrike, but quite nice birding, especially in the shrubbery.
After the park, we took the all-day-cab to a sewage pond north-west of the city. Lot’s of Caspian Gulls, lots of ducks and warblers.
In the shrubbery next to the sewage, we found a few Red-headed Buntings.
Drove on towards wetlands just north of the city, plenty of Black-winged Pratincoles there. We sort of ignored a few sightings of the Pratincole when we were in Kuwait, the idea being that we should get the Pratincole here. This was right, Black-winged Pratincole is common here.
The next day, we had a date with the Kazak team, 5.30 outside our hotel in Atyrau. The destination was the Ural delta. This area is possibly difficult to visit. We have heard of groups who lately had problems getting access to the area. There was a military checkpoint, but our guide just spoke to them and we had access. The area is covered with dirt roads, and a 4WD is required.
Anyways, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, just 100 m prior to the checkpoint, we search bushes and reeds, and found at least two Black-headed Penduline Tits. This is MEGA, and AFAWK a first for Western Palearctic. The distribution maps for the Tit shows that is should occur in the Ural Delta, but no one has to our knowledge ever reported it. Poor pics, but it sure looks good.
With this gem under our belt, we entered the Nature Reserve, the Ural Delta.
Birding in the area was excellent, the salty steppe combined with reeds, canals and marshes.
On this leg, the Kazkhstan and Russia, Raul Vicente joins up with us. Raul in the middle on the picture above. So far he has called out two WP ticks for us, more to come !!
A wide variety of species, waders, ducks, Sykes Warbler, Red-headed Buntings, Calandra Larks, Short-toed Larks and Lesser Short-toed Larks in the delta.
After a few hours, we also found a few White-winged Larks.
What a day !!