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Chelkar Lake is situated within the farthest outer range of the Northern Caspian lowlands 70 km to the south-south-east of the regional centre of Uralsk, on the left bank (Trans-Ural) part of the Western Kazakhstan region, in Terekty administrative district. The waters of the lake are in a medium-sized karst cavity, a product of salt-dome tectonic activity, and are fed by the east and north-east branches of the Solyanka river. In years of abundant flooding the lake becomes a running waterbody draining surplus water back into the eastern course of the Solyanka. However, the water is always salty. The nearby upland massif encloses the lake in the south and north-east by two chalky ranges - Santas and Sassai - each only a few metres high. Chelkar Lake is almost circular and 14 km in diameter. It lies between the vast expanses of the northern desert and dry steppe, with the surrounding landscape consisting of semi-humid grassland ranging from wormwood-tussock grass associations nearest the lake to meadow-related vegetation mostly of Agropyron sp. The shores of the lake are mostly muddy shallows or water-logged saline areas. The only woody vegetation around the lake are small stands of Tamarix in narrow strips stretching, with breaks, along the whole perimeter of the shore. Reedbeds cover the shallow areas of the northern and western shore and are up to 500 m wide in places.
Decades of recording confirm the lake as one of the most important resting areas for migrating waterbirds in western Kazakhstan. Typical species include Podiceps cristatus, Ardea cinerea, Cyngus cygnus, Cygnus olor, Tadorna ferruginea, Anser anser, Anser albifrons, diving and surface feeding ducks, gulls and waders. The varied biotopes of the shoreline zone provide breeding areas for terns, waders and a few species of reed-thicket passerines. In addition to the waterfowl the site is frequented by passage White-tailed Eagles, harriers and Merlins.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Shalkar Lake. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/09/2020.