XIV International Ornithological Conference of North Eurasia
(Almaty, 18–24 August 2015)
ONE-DAY FIELD EXCURSIONS AFTER THE CONFERENCE
Almaty City is located by the northern piedmonts of one of the most beautiful Tian Shan ridges - Zailiyskiy Alatau, whose highest point - Talgar Peak - is as high as 5018 metres above sea level. Northern slopes of the mountains are covered with magnificent spruce woods, and their tops are hidden under glaciers. Northward from the city there is a semidesert area with such water bodies as Kapchagay water reservoir on the Ili River (70 kms N from Almaty), and Sorbulak, which is a sewage pond (located 80 kms NW from Almaty). Sorbulak is extremely abundant with waterbirds throughout all the year and is a popular birdwatch place. 200 kms eastward from Almaty there is a picturesque Charynsky canyon with relict ash grove, and in the same distance NW – sandy desert Taukum with Jelturanga grove and unique Toparskie Lakes in the left-bank part of the Ili delta. But it is practically unreal to visit either Charynsky canyon, or Jelturanga in one day.
That's why for one-day excursions (23 and 24 August) are planned: high-mountain Zailiyskiy Alatau and Lake Sorbulak in the semidesert zone.
(1) Excursion to high-mountain Zailiyskiy Alatau
High-mountain excursion is possible in two variants:
I. First – Great Almaty Gorge, up to 2500-2700 metres above sea level, and in case of fortunate coincidence (weather and borderland regime) even as high as 3300 metres above sea level. Here, in an extensive bench gravel by the Ozyornaya River some rare species can be seen - Ibidorhyncha struthersii, in flight – Gypaetus barbatus, and by the upper margin of coniferous forest – many typical representatives of this belt: Mycerobas carnipes, Carpodacus rhodochlamys, Leptopoecila sophiae, Phoenicurus erythronotus, Prunella fulvescens, P. atrogularis and other. It should be taken into account that this place is not only a territory of the Zailiyskiy national park, but also a borderland with a special visiting regime; so you will need identity documents, and for foreigners - also documents allowing to visit a borderland.
II. Second variant of a high-mountain excursion – Lesser Almaty Gorge, with a visit to a famous high-mountain skating-rink Medeo, ski mountain resort Chimbulak (1800-2200 metres above sea level) and an opportunity to reach a 3000 metres mountain pass by cable-railway. A return path to Medeo can be done on foot. Birds similar to those of Great Almaty Gorge (except Ibidorhyncha struthersii) live here, but due to a much higher land-development, they are less abundant. Both variants will take place in the same day, so you must choose one variant.
(2) Excursion to Lake Sorbulak in the semidesert zone
Sorbulak lies in the 85th km of the Almaty-Karaganda-Astana highway and represents one vast stretch and a number of smaller pools overgrown with semi-aquatic vegetation. This artificial water body appeared in 1975, when a drainless depression began to fill with water along a bypass. By 1980 the largest water basin - Sorbulak - was formed; its size is 30x15 km. By 2000 its biotops took a long-standing shape – reed and reedmace thickets were formed, somewhere edged with bushes. Surrounding landscape is a typical semidesert with the dominance of sagebrush.
Sorbulak water basins have rich food resources and serve as a good refuge for birds throughout all the year, especially on migrations and in winter. According to a recently published review, avifauna of Sorbulak counts 296 bird species, mostly waders and waterbirds.
In late August there is a possibility to meet here both breeding, and migratory birds, such as ducks, waders, pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. crispus), Haliaeetus albicilla, Haliaeetus leucoryphus. At this time an autumn migration of Demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides virgo) takes place, as well as many other terrestrial birds.