Ushkol Lake is situated in the south-eastern part of Kazakhstan, between the rivers Karatal and Aksu, 70 km to the south of the south-eastern shore of Lake Balkhash. The site is in Karatal district 45 km to the north-west of Mulaly and 60 km to the north of Ushtobe. It is 300 km north-east of Almaty.
It is a moderately-sized, brackish lake located in a rather narrow stretch of clayey plain close to the north-eastern side of the low Ushkar mountain range foothills. The eastern and southern edges of the lake adjoin the undulating expanses of the Kashkarbasy sand dune massif. The lake is the only remaining waterbody of a former group of three lakes: Ushkol, Ushkol-2 and Sharaiyakkol. Lacking a regular substantial inflow of water capable of compensating for intensified evaporation, the two have been reduced to saltpans. Ushkol’s banks are smooth and gently sloping clay and sand with scattered patches of Tamarix L., Haloxylon persicum, Salix sp. and reeds. The reedbeds in many places form peninsula-like extensions into the open water. The general water inflow is from melt-water runoff in spring. On the southern part of its shore a network of intermittently flowing steppe rivulets (Kurozek, Agishki and others) enters the lake. Maximum water levels are attained in April-May and levels gradually fall over the summer.
Breeding season observations in 2007 confirmed breeding by at least 3 pairs of Oxyura leucocephala. Autumn observations recorded 29 birds. In autumn Ushkol supports many thousands of waterfowl, with 8,000 birds recorded in October 2007. The most numerous were Anas crecca (1,400), Anas querquedulla (1,800) and Aythya ferina (4,500 birds). The following species were recorded regularly in spring and autumn: Podiceps nigricollis, Podiceps cristatus, Casmeroides albus, Tadorna tadorna, Tadorna ferruginea, Anas platyrhynchos, Anas strepera, Anas clypeata, Anas acuta, Netta rufina, Aythya fuligula, Vanellus vanellus, Philomachus pugnax and Chlidonias leucopterus.
The total number of birds using the lake during the entire period of autumn migration may easily exceed 20,000 individuals.
Non-bird biodiversity: Not investigated.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The wetlands are easily accessible for hunters. Fishing and modest-scale grazing do not appear to have any substantial impact on the environment.
For the benefit of Oxyura leucocephala is it desirable to make the hunting society responsible for the establishment of a refuge zone around Ushkol Lake.
Habitat and land use
Beside the lake there is a small-scale complex of cattle-rearing facilities supervised by no less than one person at a time. At present, the environs of the lake are regularly disturbed by visiting hunters and the level of disturbance is expected to increase as the Taldy-Kurgan society of hunters and fishermen are intending to return to Ushkol. Work is also expected to commence to repair a non-functioning water pipe next to the lake.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ushkol Lake. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 18/01/2022.