Kazakhstan is mostly steppe, that is also the main reason for visiting the country. The steppe habitat is, grass and scrub continuing for endless hours in the car. Before going north from Atyrau, we revisited the place on the Ural river where we found a Black-headed Penduline Tit, the goal being better pictures.
Headed north towards the little village Inderbor. This is a good place to stay a couple of days, it has an old-school soviet-style hotel which was just great.
Next day we headed out onto the steppe. We drove a long round about towards north west of Inderbor. We had received good information from the unthreatened WP king, PAC. Larks were abundant, especially Short-toed Lark. We estimated the number of Short-toed Larks seen in the day to 7000. White-winged Larks were reasonably common all day too.
After a few hours driving west, we soon found the first Black Larks. They were common in an area along the dirt track stretching approximately 10 km. The steppe favoured by the Black larks was possibly more sandy than other parts of the steppe. We counted all together 104 Black larks.
The Black Lark is a bit of a dream bird, it stands out like a beacon of want in the Collins Guide. We drove on heading towards a lake on the steppe. The lake hosted quite a few Dalmatian Pelicans which were easy there.
We heard a Bittern at the lake, possibly uncommon. Soon we also found our first group of Demoiselle Crane, altogether we saw 4 different groups of Demoiselle Crane, one pair nesting with chicks.
Turned east after the lake, continued to bird from the car with numerous stops and short walks. Pallid Harrier and Montague’s Harrier were fairly common, also Steppe Eagle was fairly common.
Halfway between the lake and the main road, a group of 3 Saiga Antilope runs across the dirt track. A very rare and strange animal indeed, threatened on the brink of extinction. Later, one more ran along the road.
Next day was spent searching villages and disturbed areas along the road back to Atyrau. There is always the possibility of that rare bird from far away. Rosy Starlings were seen a couple of times.
Our last day in Atyrau, we went back to the Ural Delta. We had gotten all psyched up on the possibility of the Lesser Short-toed Larks in that area actually being Asian Short-toed Lark. We photographed several individuals. The Advanced Id Guide, says that t6 should be almost entirely white.
We concluded though, slightly disappointed that the birds in the Ural delta most probably are not Asian. This complex needs further investigation, and we have heard that Per Ahlström is conducting just that right now.