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3rd June 1991 - 13th June 1991.

3rd June.

A flight from Magadan to Alma-Ata, now called Almaty, for programme 2: The Celestial Mountains. As I was on my own, I was met by the local fixer and taken to the hotel near the centre of the city. Then introduced to my interpreter Sasha, who would be with me throughout my stay and later to my driver/guide Vassily who was interested in birds and a good amateur wildlife photographer. Later, I met up with some of the team from the university, whose research station in the Tian Shan Mountains I would be staying in. From the outside table of the cafe I saw Common Myna, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Greenfinch and Red-rumped Swallow.

4th June.

An early start to drive to the research station in the Tien Shan Mountains, which is situated very close to Big Almaty Lake, not really a lake but a reservoir. The accommodation was basic, not that comfortable, but adequate.

After unpacking it was time to explore, we drove alongside the lake stopping frequently, the water level was low revealing large gravel, pebble and rocky areas. 

We saw Redstart, Common Myna, Vassily spotted 2 Ibisbills on one of the gravel islands near the centre of the lake, one of the species I had come to record, but it wasn't going to be easy!

We also saw White and Grey Wagtails, Goldfinches, Scarlet or Common Rosefinch, 2 Plain Mountain-Finches, 8 White-winged Grosbeaks, a Golden Eagle, 3 Kestrels, Magpies, 2 Hobbys, Coal Tits, Willow now Songar Tit, Crows, Raven, Wren, Cuckoo, 3 Himalayan Rubythroats 2 males and a female, 2 male Black-throated Accentors, a female Eversmann's Redstart, a male Blue-headed Redstart, Red-fronted Serins, 6 Grey Marmots, a Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Oriental Turtle Doves, Whitethroats, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes, a Treecreeper and Goldcrests.

Tien Shan Mountains.

Ibisbill, Tien Shan Mountains.

Himalayan Rubythroat, Tien Shan Mountains.

5th June.

Today I started near the lake recording a pair of Himalayan Rubythroats which had a nest in a juniper bush, then worked my way alongside the lake seeing 2 Whitethroats, Red-fronted Serins, House Martins, Common Myna, Redstarts and Greenish Warblers. The whole time I could hear snowcocks calling from the mountains above, but trying to get close enough to record them was almost impossible, as carrying the equipment up the few narrow, steep and overgrown tracks was a none-starter.

Later, a couple of the researchers drove us to a spot higher up, to a sort of canyon where the large boulders were flat and you could easily jump from one to the next, here I saw 4 Chough, an Alpine Chough, Plain Mountain-Finches, Water Pipits, Grey Marmots, a Lammergeier, an Alpine Accentor, a Himalayan Accentor, 2 Brown Accentors and then a snowcock started calling, reasonably close above me, after a while it flew across the canyon and I got my only good view of a Himalayan Snowcock.

Tien Shan Mountains. 

Male Himalayan Rubythroat, Tien Shan Mountains.

Female Himalayan Rubythroat, Tien Shan Mountains.

6th June.

The day started OK, Vassily and I walked alongside the lake only seeing 1 Ibisbill, a long way off, the other bird was presumably on the nest and Vassily was determined to find it.

Then the weather started to close in and the wind increasing, we returned to the research station and learned that the weather forecast for the next 24 hours was not good, so we decided to return to Almaty.

On the way down the mountain road we made several stops seeing Redstarts, a Brown Dipper, Red-fronted Serins, 4 Blue Whistling Thrushes and an Eastern Blue Rock Thrush, recently split.







Tien Shan Mountains. 

Ibisbill, Tien Shan Mountains.

7th June.

Most of the day spent in Almaty, then the weather started to clear and we returned to the research station in the Tien Shan Mountains.

Only time for a quick look around before it got dark seeing Common Myna, Red-fronted Serin, Goldfinch and the pair of Himalayan Rubythroats.












Tien Shan Mountains. 

8th June.

A much better day, which I spent exploring the forest and alpine meadows above the research station. Recording birds around the scree slopes and circular juniper bushes.

Seeing Common Myna, Redstart, a Black-throated Accentor, 4 Chough, Crow, Red-fronted Serin, Goldfinch, hearing Cuckoo and Himalayan Snowcocks, White Wagtail, Magpie, House Martin, Plain Mountain-Finch, Hume's Warblers, Coal Tit, Greenish Warbler, White-winged Grosbeak, Red Squirrel, Eversmann's Redstart 2 males, 2 females and a chick. Also Tree Pipit, a Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Brown Dipper, Common Rosefinch, a male Himalayan Rubythroat, a Hobby, a Kestrel and Mistle Thrush.







Scree slope and juniper bushes in Tien Shan Mts. 

Himalayan Rubythroat, Tien Shan Mountains.

9th June.

The morning was wet, but it brightened up in the afternoon, I returned to some of the areas visited the previous day, seeing a pair of Blue-headed Redstarts, Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, Goldfinch, Common Myna, Magpie, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Hume's Warbler and Coal Tit.

When I returned to the research station, Vassily told me he had located the Ibisbill nest and had erected a hide nearby, ready for tomorrow.











Tien Shan Mountains. 

10th June.

An early start from the research station with Vassily and two of the researchers to get to the Ibisbill hide. We had to cross standing water, riverlets and pebble islands to get there, both Ibisbills flew a short distance away at our approach and we could see that the nest contained 3 1-2 day old chicks and an unhatched egg, one of the chicks still showing the egg tooth, see photo below.

Vassily and I stayed in the hide and the two researchers left, it didn't take long before the female returned and began calling to the male which had also moved closer. Over the next few hours I got some nice recordings of both adults and the chicks.

Also seen today were 3 Grey Marmots, Red-fronted Serins, White Wagtails and a Hobby.







Right & below Ibisbills. 

11th June.

Another morning of bad weather, again brightening up in the afternoon, I went recording in the meadows seeing Common Myna, Red-fronted Serin, Goldfinch, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Hume's Warbler, 2 Black-throated Accentors and a Red-mantled Rosefinch.













Tien Shan Mountains. 

12th June.

A day recording in similar areas as before, seeing Red-fronted Serin, Twite, Hume's Warbler, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, 10 Chough, Himalayan Rubythroat, White-winged Grosbeak, Wren, Grey Marmot, Common Rosfinch and Raven.

13th June.

A morning spent in much the same areas as yesterday, then driving back to Almaty, seeing 2 Blue-headed Redstarts, Redstart, Hume's Warbler, Cuckoo, Red-fronted Serin, a pair of Eversmann's Redstarts, a pair of Himalayan Rubythroats, White-winged Grosbeak, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, House Martin, Tree Pipit, Black-throated Accentor and Blue Whistling Thrush. Later, in Almaty, after rain there were lots of Asian Green Toads around.

The following day I flew to Moscow and the day after back to London.

Male Himalayan Rubythroat, Tien Shan Mountains.

Tien Shan Mountains.

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