The International Expedition in Eastern Kazakhstan Region (Balkhash Аrea). Part 3.

This post finishes a story about the scientific expedition to Kazakhstan in 2011. Part 1 is available here, Part 2 is here. The period of observations covers the middle of the third decade of May to the middle of the third decade of June

In the third decade of May the Nightjars were already actively displaying. In the evenings a pair of these birds constantly hunted in the camp area, attracted by a huge number of various insects circling in the light of electric lamps. Often, when returned late to the camp, we saw Nightjars well visible in the headlights of the car.

Photo by S.Domashevsky, May-June 2011.

Once, crossing the bridge across the Ayaguz river, we disturbed a group of White Pelicans. One of these birds had eaten so much fish that couldn’t fly off. To lift in the air it had to regurgitate its catch and only after that was able to fly away. The catch mainly consisted of minnows and some Caspian roaches. There were 395 fishes, with a total weight of 3.2 kg. Fresh and brackish lakes always were full of active bird life. In this period we could observe there up to 8 species of ducks and 13 species of waders.
Some nests of the Long-legged Buzzards were occupied by several pairs of Indian Sparrows. Their nests, similar to those in Ukraine, located among large twigs of the raptor’s construction or were stuck as balls at the margin of interlacement of lower branches of the big nest. Some rocky outputs were occupying with colonies of Rosy Starlings, some of them include over 2,000 birds.

First days of June we very rarely had a chance to see displaying males of the Houbara Bustard. Their gracious rushes could be observed only in the morning hours. More often we saw groups of birds, gathering up to 4 individuals. On takyrs at the same time there were appearing small chicks of the Caspian Plovers. Parents almost always tried to lead away a man from their babies, imitating an injured bird.
Immature individuals of vagrant Short-toed Eagle became occuring more frequently. These birds apparently preferred certain sites where they constantly hunted or rested. More likely, it was determined by enough quantity of snakes and lizards.
On the 3d and 4th June we observed first hatchings of Steppe Eagle’s chicks. In that period females allowed the car very close, and we took rather good photos. The last meeting of the Crested Honey Buzzard was 6 June. And 11 June we encountered the first fledged Houbara’s chick which managed to fly the distance of about 40 m. By this time, vegetation of the semi-desert had apparently faded in the burning sunbeams. Songs of skylarks in the early morning became rare. In the evenings Asian Desert Warblers performed their solo, ready for the second clutch. New the village Kirovskoe (Tansyk) on a concrete pole of the power line for several days we had been observing a resting adult Imperial Eagle. Once, a male also joined to a female hovering over the riparian woodland. However, our thorough search in the riparian woodland on the both banks of the Ayaguz didn’t give any result. That is why a probability of breeding the Imperial Eagle in this area is still disputable. But when searching a nest of the Imperial Eagle we many times saw a male of the Asian Sparrowhawk carrying captured lizards to the nest. Near the camp, in willow bushes at the Tansyk River, 13 June we heard thin voices of chicks of the Long-eared Owl. All time, living near us, these owls behaved very covertly, only once the male discovered his presence by a displaying call. There wasn’t any nest, so we concluded that the female possibly laid her clutch on tightly packed branches of bushes. At Lake Chemkazh we observed a joined brood of Shelducks where the pair led 78 chicks of different age. But, about one week later, only 57 chicks remained. 20 June we recorded fledglings of the Common Kestrel. A female of the Black Grouse, having at least 4 chicks of a quail’s size, was seen in the bushes at Lake Chemkazh. The same site we encountered 2 large chicks of the Bustard calmly going away from the car without traits of disturbance. The female stood aside, at the reeds, and attentively watched our actions and her chicks. 23 June we checked breeding success of the Lesser Kestrels which lived in chimneys of the abandoned village. Only in one nest, earlier contained 3 eggs, we found 2 chicks. In other two nests the clutches were destroyed – one because of falling the wall with the nest, another nest was empty. That day we also checked the nest of the Short-toed Eagle. The female in the nest allowed our car to the distance of 6-7 m and only then flew off. The tray still had an egg. An interesting was a find of the Long-legged Buzzard’s nest on a roof of the open shed at the solitary tree. Four large chicks were ready to leave the nest in about a week. As usual, there weaved their round nests Indian Sparrows. Contrary to the last year, this year failed in registration of the Pallas`s Sandgrouse – only 5 records. However, there were lots of Black-bellied Sandgrouses, enough number of them concentrated at watering places.

25 June we left hospitable Balkhash steppes and went to Alma-Ata. Ahead it was a fascinating excursion to Charynsky Canyon and two-days visit to Tiеn Shan. There we had a good time in Natural Nature Park “Kulsai Koldery”.

During this continuous expedition we recorded a total of 183 bird species.
Among birds of prey in Balkhash area there were registrations of the following species::

Osprey – migratory, rare
Honey Buzzard – migratory, rare
Crested Honey Buzzard – migratory, rare
Black-eared Kite– breeding, common
Hen Harrier – migratory, rare
Pallid Harrier – breeding, common
Montagu`s Harrier – breeding, scanty
Marsh Harrier – breeding, rare
Goshawk – migratory, rare
Sparrowhawk – migratory, common
Asian Sparrowhawk – breeding, scanty
Rough-legged Buzzard – migratory, rare
Long-legged Buzzard – breeding, common
Common Buzzard (B. b. vulpinus) – migratory, rare
Short-toed Eagle – breeding, rare
Booted Eagle – breeding, rare
Steppe Eagle – breeding, scanty
Imperial Eagle – vagrant individuals, rare
Golden Eagle – vagrant individuals, rare
Pallas`s Fish Eagle – vagrant individuals, rare
White-tailed Eagle – vagrant individuals, rare
Himalayan Vulture – (Tien Shan) – breeding
Saker Falcon – breeding, rare
Peregrine Falcon – migratory, rare
Hobby Falcon – breeding, scanty
Merlin – migratory, rare
Lesser Kestrel – breeding, rare
Common Kestrel – breeding, common

Among Owls:
Eagle Owl – breeding, rare
Long-eared Owl – breeding, rare
Short-eared Owl – breeding, common

Sergey Domashevsky

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