Our birding trip to Sorbulak Lake did not turn out as planned as my birding partner had to attend an unexpected meeting late morning. We normally leave at 6 a.m and at this time of year we are well on our way out of the city by dawn and pre-rushhour. As it was, it was early afternoon when we left and after negotiating the inevitable roadworks seemingly on every route out of the city, we arrived at the SW entrance to the lake area mid-afternoon.
The water level was the same at the big lake as last visit although the smaller lakes upstream are starting to fill with strong inflow after recent rains. When they are full the big lake will start to fill. The morning had been rainy – another good reason to start late, but the rain had blown over and the light breeze that dried roads quickly meant that the lake was a little choppy today.
Highlights of the day were 5 Steppe Eagles in the company of 1 Long-legged Buzzard and 1 Common Kestrel that were circling in thermals at the rim of a depression, a Steppe Eagle enjoying a fish supper at the lake edge, 88 Great-white Pelicans together on the lake shore and a late European Roller on the Steppes.
Most numerous birds were Mallard, Coots and Ruddy Shelducks. In addition to the large flock of Pelicans (is the collective noun for Pelicans a “flock” or something more exotic?), a flock(?) of 20 Grey Herons passed through and we noticed two huge flocks of Rooks on route to the lake. Rooks disappear from Greater Almaty in March and return in September, to spend the winter in great numbers in and around cities such as Almaty, Bishkek and Tashkent. Like Starlings they spend their nights in the relative warmth of the cities and after a noisy ‘discussion’ they head out to surrounding countryside in search of food for the day. In summer they can be seen at rookeries in reasonable numbers outside the city in the surrounding countryside but many migrate further north in huge flocks. They flock in some places in southern Russia in their thousands during the summer.
Not so many wader species today. Overall at 33, this is the lowest species tally of all birds since early spring. The visit was a bit rushed as we were so late in the day and we may have overlooked other species. However, it is apparent that migration is slowing down and many of summer’s lake residents have moved on – Cormorants in their thousands and Pelicans and Shelducks in their hundreds mainly – with a remaining individuals of these species, albeit still quite numerous, either late leavers or passing through from more northerly climes. However, while they will be missed, they are being replaced by Mallards already and other northern ducks will be arriving soon.
Birds seen today: