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WINGS Birding Tours – Photo Gallery

Central Asia: Birding the Silk Road

We’ll begin in the Chimgan Hills above Tashkent. Our excellent hotel can just be seen in the top left of the picture as the group pauses to take photos of the local yellow wild roses… …and perhaps find some local specialities such as White-capped Bunting. The localised Yellow-breasted and Rufous-naped Tits are often just around the hotel grounds. Following the ancient Silk Road, we’ll reach the fabled city of Samarkand, where we are made welcome at our delightful new guesthouse. …and study the detail on the Timur’s mausoleum. We’ll spend a pleasant morning birding in hills south of the town.  You can just make out the mighty snow-capped Pamir mountains in the distance. Here almost every bush holds a singing Red-headed Bunting. Moving further along the Silk Road we’ll reach another gem – the ancient city of Bukhara where we’ll wander the remarkably quiet old town, taking in sights such as the Kalen Minaret… …and perhaps  watching the local woman weaving one of the famous silk and wool Bukharan rugs. Bukhara is the gateway to the Kyzl-kum Desert where we’ll seek out more special birds… …none more so than Pander’s Ground Jay, a bird restricted to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Other birds in this landscape include lots of colorful Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters… …and equally stunning Citrine Wagtails… …while the monotone Eastern Olivaceous and Sykes’s Warblers present something of an identification challenge. Not all of the attractions are avian – this Toad-headed Agama is one of several distinct lizards found in the desert. Flying to Kazakhstan, we’ll spend two nights at the first of two camps.  As Kazaks were traditionally nomadic, camping is something they do really well. From this base in the eastern part of the country we’ll explore the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains where Pine Buntings breed… …while on the plains beyond we can usually find Pallas’s Sandgrouse Heading north we’ll reach our second camp in the Taukum Desert, which we’ll use as a base to travel further north still to the edge of the huge Ili River delta, where small patches of ancient <em>Turanga</em> woodland can still be found. Here are found such wonderful birds as Yellow-eyed Stock Dove… …Saxual Sparrow… …and Azure Tit. The delta is also home to the world’s largest gathering of Dalmation Pelicans. Back at our camp we’ll scan the desert for some of its many inhabitants… Including Greater Sand Plover (right) and the scarce Caspian Plover. Another special pair of birds await us in the vast northern steppes are White-winged and Black Larks. Back in Almaty, the view from the hotel window reveals our final destination – the Tien Shan Mountains… and we stay in a small hotel surrounded by spruce forest close to the Big Almaty Lake… …home to probably the most accessible Ibisbills in the world. Birding among the flower-strewn slopes is delightful… …especially with birds like Güldenstadt’s Redstart and Himalayan Rubythroat to look at.