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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy World Birding Day!

When the same organization that took us on the Ereymentau trip sent an email about a birdwatching trip for World Birding Day, we jumped at the opportunity.  It would be another chance to leave Astana and go someplace that would be difficult to visit on our own.  Plus, I had read that Kazakhstan's flamingos live in the same general area where we were going for part of the year.  I had read that they usually migrate to warmer places starting in September, but thought since it was only early October, we might be lucky.

Alas, the flamingos (very wisely) had already decamped.  This was the best evidence of flamingos we saw all day.

Gate at Korghalzhyn Nature Preserve Office
Yesterday's trip  had a couple of unusual difficulties even before we set out.  The first one is that Scott has been battling a cold, so we wondered if we should really be getting up at 5:30 AM and going out into chilly temperatures.  The other difficulty was that I stubbed my toe pretty badly on Friday.  It became pretty bruised and swollen, so we wondered how successfully I would be able to walk on Saturday.

We ultimately decided to go.  The first sign of trouble was light snow in Astana as we headed downtown to join the trip.  The second sign of trouble was that our bus left Astana about 30-45 minutes late due to waiting for a local TV crew to join us.  We had been duly warned that there would be a TV crew, but I hadn't realized that they would actually travel with us, forcing us to wait for them.

Finally, we headed out of town.  Kazakhstan (or at least this part of it) has an incredibly flat landscape, which does make it relatively easy to spot birds.  We learned a little bit about its birds on the way there.  We learned, for instance, that the crows in this part of the country are gray and black, and that the large, completely black birds we sometimes see are rooks.  (This may not come as useful information to people who know much about birds, but I know very little, so found it interesting).

We finally got to the lake we were going to observe.  It was bitterly cold and windy there.  Scott and I had dressed in layers, but we were both wishing we had worn our down coats.  I told Scott that the cold weather made up for the fact that I wasn't at home icing my injured foot.  We had assumed that we would be walking around more and would warm up, but it turned out that they intended for us all to stay in one place and watch the birds from there.  I have no idea if this is typical of a bird-watching expedition or not, but I definitely prefer to walk around more.  Meanwhile, I was trying to avoid the local TV crew because the idea of being on TV stopped being appealing to me sometime in elementary school.  I hid in the minibus once I heard that they were looking for English speakers to interview.

We did see some swans and ducks, albeit from a great distance.  I didn't get to take pictures of any of them, unfortunately.  I do have a couple of other pictures from the trip, though.

Lake we were watching for birds

Cows on the steppe

We were under the impression that the trip might have been more successful without a TV crew and in somewhat warmer weather.  We'd be willing to try bird-watching again under those circumstances.  In the meantime, our next trip will probably be to Almaty, where the weather should still be significantly warmer.

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