• James Eaton

    The Zarudny Sparrow is primarily confined to Turkmenistan and is supposed to occur in the Karakum Desert in Uzbekistan. Although the species has not been recorded for many years in this region, it is probably a Turkmenistan endemic these days. This little sparrow has a beautiful look with a blackish facial mask and contrasting concolorous uniform grey body. This top bird is confined to bare or sand-plain areas sparsely vegetated, especially Sand Acacias or White Saxaul.

    James Eaton © 
  • Shuterstock

    We explore the sand-plain areas of Repetek Biosphere State Reserve for two full days, often referred to as Repetek Desert Reserve. In this IBA (Important Bird Area), we are searching for Zarudny Sparrow and other desert specialties like Pander’s Ground Jay and the local race of Trumpeter Finch. Here also, Caspian Monitor Lizard occurs, and we hope to locate a few individuals during our visit to this unique Central Asian habitat.

    Shuterstock © 
  • Shuterstock2

    People have inhabited the Bukhara region for over 5000 years, and the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. Walking through the streets of this one-and-only city is an experience every person visiting the Silk Road region needs to enjoy. We will enjoy a guided walk before transferring to Tashkent.

    Shuterstock2 © 

TURKMENISTAN & UZBEKISTAN: An adventure for Zarudny Sparrow

Turkmenistan is one of the least travelled countries in Central Asia, it is bordered in the far west of the region alongside Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Caspian Sea in the far west. We visit the

Repetek Biosphere Reserve

in the east of the country. We plan a short visit aimed at finding the endemic and one of the most sought-after sparrows of the planet: Zarudny’s Sparrow! It recently received species status when it was split from the in Africa occurring similar-looking Desert Sparrow. The bird was first discovered and described by the Russian-Ukrainian explorer and zoologist Nikolai Zarudny in the end of the nineteenth century. More interesting birds will include Variable Wheatear,

Finsch’s Wheatear

, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Red-headed Bunting and the epic

Pander’s Ground-Jay

. One of four species of ground-jay in the world.
The final days of the tour we cross into Uzbekistan, a country steeped in history. In ancient times it was a vibrant region of splendid cities and cultures based along the Great Silk Route to China – a true crossroads between east and west. The country has a wealth of fabled historical sites in Tashkent and Bukhara where ancient civilisations have travelled and fought for dominance in Central Asia over thousands of years. Superbly intact and incredibly beautiful, extravagant ancient architecture will be all around us. We end the tour in Tashkent where walks in the park might render excellent views of Azure Tit and Yellow-breasted Tit while enjoying more of the amazing architecture of the city.
In 2019 we scouted Turkmenistan and found a healthy population of the sparrow in the sandy dunes of the

Karakum Desert

.

Highlights

  • Admire and be one of very few birders in the world to have seen the endemic Zarudny Sparrow!
  • Follow the footstep of ancient traders on the legendary Silk Road!
  • Breath the air and stroll the streets of the ancient center of Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Enjoy the delicious foods of Central Asia in a rarely traveled part of Central Asia and the former Silk Road.
  • Good chance on more desert highlights such as Pander’s (Turkestan) Ground-Jay, Menetries’s Warbler, and Streaked Scrub Warbler.
  • Astonishing photographic opportunities throughout, both wildlife, landscapes, and cultural.

Itinerary

  • Flight from your home to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

  • Arrival in Ashgabat. Enjoy a city tour followed by a domestic flight to the ancient city of Turkmenabad.

  • Two full days to explore the Repetek Biosphere Reserve for the endemic Zarudny Sparrow and many other desert wonders!

  • We leave Repetek and cross the nearby border into Uzbekistan to explore Bukhara. Here we board our high-speed train to Tashkent.

  • Departure from Tashkent International Airport towards home.

What’s Included?

  • English-speaking wildlife & ornithological guide throughout.
  • Full board meals in restaurants or picnic lunches in the field, depending on the itinerary.
  • All transfers by comfortable 4wd cars & modern high-speed train in Uzbekistan.
  • Led by experienced Rubythroat senior leader Alexander Povarintsev.
  • Visa support & Turkmenistan invitation letter (if needed)

What’s excluded?

  • Flights to/from Central Asia
  • Personal expenses; laundry, telephone costs etc.
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Extra rooming not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Meals on day one
  • Single room accommodations
  • Travel and health insurance
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Costs: $1,975 or €1,640, excluding flights to/from Central Asia

Availability: Spaces Available

Group size: minimum 4 and maximum 10   Single supplement:   $220 or €180

Deposit: : $400 or €330   Leader:   Alexander Povarintsev

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MAIN FOCUS:

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MAMMALS

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BIRDS

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PHOTOGRAPHY

SPECIES SEEN:

60-110

DIFFICULTY:
 

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EASY

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Extended Tour Program

Days 1: Travel to Ashgabat.

Participants should consider Turkish Airlines (a Star Alliance member airline). They are the only airline with flights into Ashgabat (airport code ASB) and Tashkent, with connections at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport.

NIGHT: Ildyz Hotel, Ashgabat

Day 2: Arrival in Ashgabat.

We enjoy an Ashgabat excursion and afternoon flight to Mary Upon arrival in Ashgabat in the morning, you will be met and transferred to our hotel, where your room is reserved for immediate check-in. We will spend the morning birding around Ashgabat, where we will visit some agricultural areas, here we hope to find White-tailed Lapwing, Variable Wheatear, and Pied Bushchat. In the nearby hillsides, we have the possibility of Finsch’s Wheatear. After lunch in the city, we head for the domestic airport, where we will board our flight to Turkmenabad town, around an hour east of the capital. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel for a good night's sleep.

NIGHT: Yupek Yoly, Turkmenabad

AlemberdarMausoleuminTurkmenabadRedheaded Bunting

Day 3-4: Birding Repetek NP.

The coming two days are designated to search for the illustrious Zarudniy Sparrow that is extinct in Uzbekistan and has become a Turkmen endemic. On the first day, we will leave Mary and drive in a 4WD convoy to Turkmenabad. Here we will come across the first Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Greater Sand Plover, and Red-headed Buntings. Trumpeter Finch of the race ‘crassirostris’ is pretty common, just like many species of lark. Other birds include Asian Desert Warbler, Menetries’s’ Warbler and Streaked Scrub Warbler. The highly-desirable Pander’s Ground-Jay is the final major target we hope to find. At dusk we might try to find the rare Egyptian Nightjar. Both days we will be dedicated to searching for this enigmatic sparrow!

NIGHT: Yupek Yoly, Turkmenabad

Day 5: Repetek to Tashkent.

Today will be mostly a travel day. We leave Turkmenabad and head for the Uzbek border. After entering Uzbekistan, we set sails for Bukhara, wherein the late evening, we will board our domestic high-speed train to Tashkent. We will have a few hours to kill! We will spend them with a guided tour, along the many historical sights of this unique UNESCO World Heritage city. We end this tour with a special Uzbek meal, regarded as the best cuisine in the region by many.

NIGHT: Navruz Hotel, Tashkent

Day 06: Departure for Home.

A transfer will be provided very early this morning to Tashkent International Airport (airport code TAS), in time for the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.

**The tour schedule depends closely on internal flights, which may change from the itinerary listed.

If so, the itinerary will be altered, but with all of the particular regions still being visited.**