Swans, Ducks and Eagles

Its hard to beat autumn in Almaty Kazakhstan.  From mid-September until mid-November, sometimes later, apart from the odd wet snowy squall, the weather is fine, mild and usually sunny.  And this was exactly what we enjoyed at Sorbulak on Monday: sunny day, +16C, no breeze (except on high exposed places on the steppes).  The leaves may be all but gone and daylight shortening, but it is still very comfortable and pleasant to be out in the wilderness.  Spring is good too but often wet; summer is hot, sometimes very hot; winter is snow covered, windy but very often sunny.  I have to close my south-facing office blinds on sunny mornings all year round to be able to see my computer (and to stop it from melting) and there are not many days in the year when I don’t have to close my blinds.

Sorbulak Lake on the Kazakhstan Steppe

Sorbulak Lake in early November on a mild day. Leaves are disappearing and the steppes are preparing themselves for the coming winter.

On Monday, we headed out into the Kazakh Steppes to check out the latest migration situation.  The highlights (with some photos at the end of post) were:

– huge numbers of Tree Sparrows at several locations – where did they all suddenly come from?

– over 100 Steppe Eagles at a chicken farm waste dump

– Upland Buzzards on the steppes, or were they dark Long-legged Buzzards?  So difficult to identify Buteos in Central Asia.  Still debating my photos with friends and experts.

– About 20 White-tailed Eagles at Sorbulak Lake

– A first sighting for me in Kazakhstan of Black-throated Loon/Diver Gavia arctica in winter plumage (unless it was immature) at Sorbulak.  A little bit south in the range so a good sighting

– First pair of Goosander (Common Merganser) of the winter at Sorbulak

– Huge raft of over 200 wildfowl offshore at Sorbulak Lake, including Red-crested Pochard (mostly), Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Gadwall and Coots

– Approx 70 Whooper Swans including several cygnets

Bird list for the day (44 species):

Ruddy Shelduck

Common Shelduck

Mute Swan

Whooper Swan



Common Pochard

Ferruginous Duck

Red-crested Pochard

Tufted Duck


Black-throated Diver

Little Grebe

Great-crested Grebe

Grey Heron

Great Egret

Great Cormorant

White-tailed Eagle

Hen Harrier

Upland or Long-legged Buzzard – the jury is still out

Steppe Eagle

Common Coot

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-headed Gull

Caspian Gull

Feral Pigeons

Collared Dove



Carrion Crow

Hooded Crow


Great Tit

Azure Tit

Calandra Lark




Black-throated Thrush

House Sparrow

Spanish Sparrow

Tree Sparrow


Pine Bunting

Corvus Corone

Carrion Crow in Kazakhstan

Emberiza leucocephalos

A Pine Bunting calling from a tree in Kazakhstan

Passer hispaniolensis

A single Spanish Sparrow in winter plumage amongst hundreds of Tree Sparrows

Passer montanus

Some of the many Tree Sparrows found in the Kazakh Steppes on 3 Nov 2014

Buteo hemilasius

Friends are trying to decide what this. I think it is an Upland Buzzard but…

Aythya nyroca

Ferruginous Duck at the small pond at SW Sorbulak Lake on 3 Nov 2014, one of a pair.

Haliaeetus albicilla

Three White-tailed Eagles on the south lake shore at Sorbulak Lake on 3 Nov 2014

About starrywazzoh

I'm a birder in Western Europe (UK, France & Spain) and Central Asia, with occasional visits elsewhere. Birding is my principal hobby and I dedicate as much time around work and other commitments.
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2 Responses to Swans, Ducks and Eagles

  1. Aditya says:

    About your buzzard, let me add a little more confusion by adding Himalayan buzzard[burmanicus] to the possible list because of its smaller size than the upland buzzard.


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