September 23, 2016

Birding trip around the Khangai Mts
central Mongolia, summer 2013

A birding hotspot of the Gobi Desert: Boon Tsagaan Nuur
with the Gobi Altai Mts in the background, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

part three:

Aquatic birds in the Gobi Desert –
birding around Boon Tsagaan Nuur

by Thomas Hallfarth

( links to previous posts: part one, part two )

On 31 July we left the nomadic family of our driver’s brother to go birding at Boon Tsagaan Nuur, the largest of the Gobi lakes. The change from mountain to desert birdlife already began at the southernmost hills of Khangai Mts. Here we saw the first birds of desert habitats. We found a group of Mongolian Finches in a dry river valley, probably the breeding ground of these birds and also a pair of Isabelline Shrikes. Not far from this place, a female Chukar with one chick crossed our way. Surprisingly we also discovered three Henderson's Ground Jays and a single juvenile Desert Wheatear, both species we expected not until we reached the proper Gobi Desert.

Mongolian Finch
South part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © B. Möckel

Isabelline Shrike
South part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Henderson’s Ground Jay
South part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Desert Wheater, juv
South part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

During the short crossing of the Gobi Desert we saw good numbers of Pallas’s Sandgrouse, including a family with one chick and some flocks of several hundreds of birds.

Pallas’s Sandgrouse, pair
Gobi Desert, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Then, in the afternoon we arrived at one of the birding hotspots of our trip, the famous Boon Tsagaan Nuur. Here we stayed until 2 August. In this time we made some interesting observations. The greatest concentration of birds was at the estuary of Baydrag Gol in the north-eastern part of the lake.

Boon Tsagaan Nuur: Beautiful landscape surrounding
the lake, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

A minimum of 15,000 Black-headed Gulls were here, furthermore 1,100 Spoonbills, 800 Cormorants, 800 Caspian Terns, and 500 Pallas’s Gulls. Mongolians fourth Slender-billed Gull was one of the top species we saw here. Also, 25 Relict Gulls, eleven Greater Sand Plovers, two Pallas’s Fish Eagles and singles of Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper and Little Tern provided further nice observations.

Caspian Tern
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Pallas’s Gull (flying in front of Black-headed Gulls)
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Slender-billed Gull
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © B. Möckel

Relict Gulls
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Relict Gulls
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Relict Gull
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Relict Gulls
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Grey-tailed Tattler
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Grey-tailed Tattler
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © B. Möckel

A short trip into the nearby very dry Gobi Altai Mts. provided a further Chukar and some beautiful views at Boon Tsagaan Nuur.

Gobi Altai Mts.: Dry valley in the south part
of the mountains , Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Gobi Altai Mts., Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Gobi Altai Mts.
View at the lake Boon Tsagaan Nuur , Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

With these observations we finish our journey to Mongolia and also this little trip report. A German proverb says literally: “After the game is before the game”. And so we were already planning our next trip to Mongolia…

Gobi Altai Mts.
Good bye, Boon Tsagaan Nuur… Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

September 8, 2016

part 17:

Transfer Days

text by Abu

( links to previous posts:
1, 2, 3, 4, 56, 78, 9, 10, 11 ,12, 13, 1415, 16)

Menengijn Tal. Jun 2014 © A. Schneider

Not an easy task to take pics from the driving car.
Fire rules the height of the grass.
Menengijn Tal, Jun 2014 © M. Putze

We travelled back westwards through the steppe of Menengijn Tal, stayed a night near Choibalsan, then headed to Gurmijn Nuur, a beautiful lake with a horrible water quality, where we spent another night, continued to try our luck at Gun Galuut (one night) and drove on to our final destination: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.

In Menengijn Tal we found more Short-eared Owls, which are very likely to breed there and had a very relaxed Mongolian Gazelle, much to the liking of Thomas.

Short-eared Owl
Menengijn Tal. Jun 2014© T. Langenberg

Mongolian Gazelle
Near CB, Jun 2014 © T. Langenberg

Common Crossbill
Near CB, Jun 2014 © T. Langenberg

Demoiselle Crane
Near CB, Jun 2014 © T. Langenberg

After having set up the camp on the banks of the Kherlen River just a little out of CB, we realized how much we had been under tension during the mosquito days in the Far East. Although there were lots of mossies, it was nothing compared to the other sites and all of us felt very much relieved. The Common Crossbill in the willows at our campsite was unexpected but was not very cooperative. So the photographers were quite happy for the hundreds of Common and Pacific Swifts that were on offer downtown CB. Thomas and Matze used the shopping time for firing bursts of shots as the swifts were flying low over the city.

Common Swift of the subspecies pekinensis
CB, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Pacific Swift
CB, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Pacific Swift
CB, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Golden Eagle
Near CB, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

On our way to Gurmijn Nuur (see here for our visit of 2011 when there were no nomads and no livestock but lots of ducks), our next campsite, we stopped every now and then for birds but apart from the Golden Eagle, which we observed eating a Tolei Hare, nothing noteworthy turned up.

At Gurmijn Nuur, where we had hoped to have a swim and an evening at the beach, we just did some birding, mainly because the water turned out to be too much of the livestock’s restroom, awfully smelling and full of floating dung. The more than 150 Swan Geese did not care this however. Armin and Matze proved to be the only tough guys of us and walked up the hill to the SW of the lake.

Camp at Gurmijn Nuur. Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Meadow Bunting
Gurmijn Nuur, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Saker Falcon
Gurmijn Nuur, Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Moonrise over Gurmijn Nuur
Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Moon at Gurmijn Nuur
Jun 2014 © Abu

Gun Galuut was once again quite disappointing: no Siberian Crane and inside the reserve we found that hundreds of horses had grazed down the meadows making it almost impossible for the bigger of the local breeders to find shelter. It seems that this reserve is a reserve for domestic horses only. Despite all this a pair of White-naped Crane was guarding its chicks through the herds. 27 Asian White-winged Scoters as well as two Ruddy Turnstones plus a set each of waterfowl and waders were found on the biggest lake. At one of the smaller ponds we encountered a White’s Thrush, quite late, but the bird was slightly injured.

Enjoy the selection of photographs!

The next post will be the last one of the swamprunner series and you will read about our visit to the famous Gorkhi Terelj National Park, so visit us again soon!

White’s Thrush
Gun Galuut, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

August 1, 2016

First Jankowski’s Buntings in Beijing for 75 years
by Terry Townshend

Courtesy of the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), an article about the first JANKOWSKI'S BUNTINGS in Beijing for 75 years, just published in BirdingASIA, is now available as a downloadable PDF.

For more great articles like this about Asia's birds, please consider joining the OBC - they are doing fantastic work to celebrate and protect the birds in this wonderful continent!
The above has been copied from the fabolous Birding Beijing blog

July 15, 2016

Birding at the border

text & photos © Wieland Heim/Amur Bird Project

After three months of fieldwork within the Amur Bird Project in Far East Russia my visa expired and I had to cross the Russian border. This time Ramona and I decided to go to Mongolia, getting rid of the swamps and enjoying dry steppes, free of mosquitoes. We crossed the border on the 29th of June 2016 in Altanbulag from where we went by foot to the Delgerkhaan uul hills. Then we headed back to the steppes around the city of Sukhbataar and took the train back “home”.

Where the Wolf howls.

This area just south of Lake Baikal is not only the political border region between Mongolia and Russia, it furthermore separates many western from eastern bird taxa. Starting with the pine forests, we found several eastern species to be very common—like Amur Falcon, Olive-backed Pipit and Pine Bunting. But during the night, the “western” Nightjar (i.e. European/Eurasian Nighjar) was calling, and we observed Spotted Flycatchers as well as Common Swifts. The latter species seemed to breed in tree holes made by Great Spotted Woodpecker, like the many Willow Tits we saw.

Pine forest near Delgerkhaan uul.

From the inner forest the songs of Eye-browed Thrush and Siberian Blue Robin were heard. On slopes with sparse tree cover we found Northern Wheatears feeding their fledged chicks, Hoopoes and a pair of the Siberian Meadow Bunting.

Breeding site of Hoopoe and Northern Wheatear.

Northern Wheatear.

The hills are full of flowers.

A lily Lilium pumilum and edelweiss.

Unfortunately we did not see Black Grouse, only their remnants. More excitement was caused by a pack of Grey Wolves that was howling very close to our tent.

Arrival at the spring.

Eastern Marsh Harrier.

But since we were running out of water we had to return to the valley the next day, where we found a spring that supplied us not only with drinks but also with some nice birds: Gadwall, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Northern Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Japanese Quail, Citrine Wagtail as well as Richard´s Pipit and Pallas´s Grasshopper Warblers were most likely local breeders of the wet meadows, whereas Common Greenshanks and Green Sandpipers were probably early southbound migrants. The water of the spring flew into a smaller river, which fed a beautiful lake east of the city of Sukhbataar.

Whooper Swan family on a lake near Sukhbataar city.

Pied Avocet and Black-headed Gull.

A fly-by of Ruddy Shelducks.

Dozens of Ruddy Shelducks already had big chicks, and Eurasian Coots as well as numerous ducks were present—including Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, three Ferruginous Ducks (!), a Smew and some Common Goldeneyes. In the reeds, where Oriental Reed Warblers were singing loudly, a family of Whooper Swans with five chicks was hiding. Pied Avocet and Spotted Redshank, most likely females on their way back to wintering grounds, were added to our list of waders. There was also a Black-headed Gull and several Black-necked Grebes which might have bred there as well. Some former lakes close by were dried out, covered by layer of salt. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers was warning, and Greater Short-toed Larks continued singing in the heat. Not far from this, we spotted a first family of Demoiselle Cranes—the night before, we already had heard them calling while they were flying over our tent. The two chicks immediately were hiding themselves on the ground when they spotted us.

Demoiselle Cranes close to Sukhbataar.

Cinereous Vulture.

Some Black-eared Kites and four Cinereous Vultures watched them from the sky. In the dry steppe vegetation around, Eurasian Skylark and Isabelline Wheatear were found to be the most common breeding birds. Along the road back to town Daurian Jackdaw fledglings were sitting on pylons and an Upland Buzzard was looking after Long-tailed Ground Squirrels. What a nice set of species in a beautiful landscape with friendly people in such a relaxed country! And indeed, (almost) no mosquito bites during five days—this really felt like holidays. The ultra-slow train ride along the Selenga River brought us not only back but even some more species— a second-year Golden Eagle in the mountains north of Sukhbataar and a Swan Goose on the river itself, already on the Russian side. Hope to visit Mongolia soon again!

Since I took only a compact camera with me, you will have to search for the birds on the pics!