• Machiel Valkenburg

    We will come across many pitch-black Black Larks. Our amazing Tragopan hides will come in handy and make sure we can approach these beautiful birds up close in the vast openness of the Kazakh steppes.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • Machiel Valkenburg

    Striking Pallid Harriers breed in large numbers on the natural grass plains of northern Kazakhstan, where they feed on voles, mice, and gerbils. We focus on capturing these wonderful swift birds in their natural habitat during an enjoyable sundowner.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • Machiel Valkenburg

    The critically endangered Sociable Lapwing has its main breeding grounds around the village of Korgalzhyn. Without disturbing this magnificent species, we aim to photograph them in all their glory.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 

KAZAKHSTAN:

Black Larks and Sociable Lapwings in Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve

To complete the experience in Central Asia, we have created an extension visiting the unique steppes of northern Kazakhstan; we head for the Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. The reserve territory ranges from marshes into semi-deserted steppes covering the area located west of the capital Nur-Sultan. Korgalzhyn flaunts with wild and primeval, inexhaustibly untamed looks which seem almost everlasting. The spacious ground of the reserve lays even under the golden rays of the heated sun. The fair-colored grass sways in the wind as if it’s lost in a quaint dance. From a distance, cheerful voices of jubilant birds are heard with their wingbeats disturbing the air. 

The reserve carries the name of “The pearl of the region” as it is lavish with astounding nature. Korgalzhyn State Natural Reserve berries significant importance worldwide due to the abundance of rare steppe species found only here. For hundreds of years, the reserve territory has been habituated by myriads of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. However, the most outstanding feature of the park is characterized by the fact that the area is highly popular among migratory birds due to the availability of hundreds of small lakes, allowing them to feed and rest. During the season, the endless fields of the reserve burst with colors and turn into a real bird fest. 

We focus mainly on the migratory waders that number in the millions during their adventure north during this particular outing. Equally interesting are those rare steppe species such as Black Lark, White-winged Lark, and Sociable Lapwing. The specially designed Tragopan Hides will do get us close to the water edge to photograph these wonders. 

The extension program focuses on achieving the best photographs of a handful of mythical species. Our experienced photographic guide Samuel Bloch leads this explicit trip to ensure you have an exciting photo journey!

Throughout this photography journey, we have a specific shortlist of exclusive species in mind. We will primarily aim at these species to get the best possible images. Besides these targets, we will receive many opportunities to photograph other sublime species as by-catch. Here below, we describe the potential species in Group A & Group B.

Group A: exclusive targets

1. Whooper Swan
2. Ruddy Shelduck
3. Red-crested Pochard
4. White-headed Duck
5. Merlin (pallidus)
6. Red-footed Falcon
7. Pallid Harrier
8. Demoiselle Crane
9. Sociable Lapwing
10. Little Ringed Plover
11. Spotted Redshank
12. Marsh Sandpiper
13. Common Greenshank
14. Wood Sandpiper
15. Terek Sandpiper
16. Little Stint
17. Temminck’s Stint
18. Dunlin
19. Curlew Sandpiper
20. Ruff
21. Red-necked Phalarope
22. Black-winged Pratincole
23. Pallas’s Gull
24. White-winged Tern
25. Black Lark
26. White-winged Lark
27. Booted Warbler
28. Bluethroat
29. Masked Wagtail
30. Pine Bunting

Group B: possible by-catch

1. Mute Swan
2. Northern Pintail
3. Northern Shoveler
4. Gadwall
5. Garganey
6. Tufted Duck
7. Red-necked Grebe
8. Great Crested Grebe
9. Slavonian Grebe
10. Black-necked Grebe
11. Greater Flamingo
12. Great Bittern
13. Western Marsh Harrier
14. Long-legged Buzzard
15. Steppe Eagle
16. Water Rail
17. Spotted Crake
18. Common Coot
19. Black-winged Stilt
20. Northern Lapwing
21. Black-tailed Godwit
22. Eurasian Curlew
23. Caspian Tern
24. Common Tern
25. Oriental Turtle Dove
26. Short-eared Owl
27. Rook
28. Azure Tit
29. Bearded Reedling
30. Long-tailed Tit
31. Eurasian Skylark
32. Paddyfield Warbler
33. Blyth’s Reed Warbler
34. Siberian Chiffchaff
35. Greenish Warbler
36. Hume’s Leaf Warbler
37. Lesser Whitethroat
38. Common Starling
39. Black-throated Thrush
40. Siberian Stonechat
41. Northern Wheatear
42. Isabelline Wheatear
43. Pied Wheatear
44. Spotted Flycatcher
45. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
46. Citrine Wagtail
47. Western Yellow Wagtail (beema)
48. Tawny Pipit
49. Common Rosefinch
50. Reed Bunting

Highlights

  • Several days of an excellent extension to finalize the best bird photography Central Asia has to offer! 
  • Visit the Tengiz Lake that accommodates millions of migratory birds each season.  
  • Get close to breeding colonies of Black-winged Pratincoles. 
  • Have fun experiencing the massive wader migration of Central Asia.
  • Witness the endless green steppes of the Korgalzhyn State Natural Reserve, rich with flocks of White-headed Duck, Red-necked Phalaropes, and other over 300 species.
  • Tour is led by our knowledgeable and skillful Rubythroat photography leader Samuel Bloch.

Itinerary

  • Flight from Almaty to Nur-Sultan followed by a few hours' drive to the Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. We will for sure pick up our first highly-wanted Black Larks. We finalize the day in the guesthouse near the reserve.

  • Two full days of photography in the Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve focused on Black and White-winged Larks, Sociable Lapwing, and many others. In the evening of the second day, we return to Nur-Sultan for a grand final dinner.

  • Departure home from the Nur-Sultan International Airport (NQS)

What’s Included?

  • English-speaking photographic guide throughout.
  • Three nights of accommodations ranging from attractive comfortable tourist hotels to an excellent basic guesthouse in Korgalzhyn.
  • Full board scheduled meals in restaurants or picnic lunches in the field, depending on the itinerary.
  • All land transfers by comfortable Mercedes Sprinter.
  • Led by experienced and professional Rubythroat leader Samuel Bloch.
  • Visa support (if needed)

What’s excluded?

  • International flight to/from Almaty.
  • 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.

Recommended Photography Equipment:

  • One or more camera bodies.
  • Telephoto lens with a minimum of 400mm.
  • Wide-angle lens (we will travel through some amazing landscapes).
  • Converters in the range of 1.4 & 2.0 (optional).
  • Flash (we have an opportunity for Eurasian Scops Owl).
  • Tripod or monopod, according to taste, and head.
  • For low-angle situations we recommend a tripod that can spread flat, ground pod or bean bag.
Image

Costs: $1100 or €950, excluding international flights to/from Kazakhstan

Single supplement:   $150 or €126 

Deposit: : $200 or €168

Group size: minimum 4 and maximum 6   

Availability: Spaces available   Leader: Samuel Bloch

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MAIN FOCUS:

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PHOTOGRAPHY

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BIRDS

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LANDSCAPES

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MAMMALS

SPECIES SEEN:

80-150

DIFFICULTY:
 

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MEDIUM

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Extended Tour Program

Day 12: Almaty – Nur-Sultan.

In the morning, we will board the domestic flight that will take us from Almaty 1000km north towards Nur-Sultan. After arrival, we head out of the city and drive to our guesthouse in the village of Korgalzhyn. The exciting drive will render the first Black Larks and also nesting sites of Red-footed Falcon. Finally, we arrive in the early evening and end the day walk through the village with a small reconnaissance.

NIGHT: Basic guesthouse Korgalzhyn.

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Day 13-14: Korgalzhyn Nature State Park.

We have dedicated two full days to this magnificent park, home to many Central Asian treasures. We will drive around using excellent Toyota Landcruiser jeeps to get the best and the most photography opportunities. In these open steppe habitats, the car will be our best chance to get our desired images.

The vast wetland area, a combination of virgin steppe and lakes, is home to Wolves, Marmots, and Saiga. However, it is the birds that are the real attraction. The wetlands act as a giant motorway junction service station for birds at a crossroads of two migration routes. Lake Tengiz alone can feed 15 million birds simultaneously – once we witnessed 700k Red-necked Phalaropes! The area, most of which is protected as a 'Zapovednik' (national nature reserve), is home to the world's most northerly population of Greater Flamingo. One of over 300 species of birds, which includes one of the largest wildfowl populations in Asia. Other notable residents include pelicans, cranes, and a variety of birds of prey.

Our main targets here are nesting groups of the globally endangered Sociable Lapwing, which we have "staked out" for you. There are many other excellent attractions in this vast landscape, roadside colonies of Black-winged Pratincoles and White-winged Black Terns in glorious breeding plumage. A blend of migrant shorebirds such as Red-necked Phalaropes, Spotted Redshank, Terek Sandpiper, Little- and Temminck's Stints come into the asset. Ruffs display in all their finery. These enumerable wetlands and lakes are ideal for breeding Dalmatian Pelican, Great Bittern, White-headed Duck, Red-necked and Eared grebes, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Red-crested Pochard, and Caspian Terns. More exclusive are often close colonies of splendid Great Black-headed Gulls, with a supporting cast of Steppe and Slender-billed gulls!

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The damp grassy steppe contains elegant Demoiselle Cranes. At the same time, scattered scrub bush should hold Booted Warbler, Pallid Harrier, and gorgeous little Red-footed Falcons. In addition, we should find two other very unique birds today: Black and White-winged Larks, often numerous along the roadside, both species confined to the Central Asian steppes. 

On the second day, we return to Nur-Sultan in the evening, where we will enjoy a lovely final dinner.

NIGHT, DAY 13: Basic guesthouse, Korgalzhyn.

NIGHT, DAY 14: Comfortable tourist hotel Nur-Sultan (Astana).

May 24, Day 15: Nur-Sultan to home. After a splendid holiday in Central Asia, it is time to depart home. We say goodbye from Nur-Sultan Airport, where clients fly back home.