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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Another Attempt to See the Elusive Flamingo

Ever since I learned that Kazakhstan had the northernmost colony of flamingos, seeing them has been on my Kazakhstan bucket list.  Last time we headed out toward the Korgalzhyn nature reserve to try to see them, the trip didn't go so well.  The weather had already gotten quite cold, the flamingos were wintering somewhere with a more pleasant climate, and we spent the day trying to avoid attracting the attention of a local film crew.  The weather is warming up rapidly at this point, though, so when we had an opportunity to take another trip to the area, we jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, the flamingo was to remain unseen.

We learned that usually by this time in the year, the flamingos have returned to Lake Tengiz, a saltwater lake that has a type of shrimp that they like to eat.  This spring has been unusually cold and wet, though, so while flamingos have been spotted in Kazakhstan, they haven't settled in Lake Tengiz yet.  Additionally, the roads out to the lake were still too muddy, so we couldn't even make it out there.  We saw flooding on the way to the nature reserve, so I could see how dirt roads in come locations may not have been passable.

Despite the notable absence of flamingos, it was a great day.  We went to the Korgalzhyn nature reserve's visitor center and learned about various animals that can be seen on the steppe.  After that, we had lunch at a guest house that I think may have doubled as the proprietor's home.  We were served cabbage salad; a type of salad with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and mayonnaise dressing; manti (Kazakh meat dumplings); and traditional fried breads.  Then, we took off to see what we could see.

We actually saw quite a lot, although not all of it photographed well.  I'm starting to realize that if I want to take pictures of critters on nature trips, maybe I should invest in a camera with a better zoom. Oh well.  We did see several species of birds, including cranes, egrets, two species of swans, and bitterns.  We also saw several steppe marmots, wildflowers, and the largest anthill I had ever seen.  The scenery was very striking, with very flat land and very few trees.

A swan!  The one critter I can recognize from my photos.

Freakishly large anthill

Wild tulips!

More wild tulips!
At the end of the day, before traveling back to Astana, we had a light picnic supper.  I also met a gray cat I wanted to take back with me.  He wasn't very cooperative about looking up at the camera, however.

I should note that the weird white oversocks are because of ticks, not a bizarre fashion statement!
I'll leave this post with the best evidence of flamingos I saw.  The Korgalzhyn visitor center seems very insistent that flamingos reside there for part of the year, so maybe I will see them one day.

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