November 26, 2016



part 18 (final part):

Gorkhi Terelj National Park

text by Thomas Langenberg


( links to previous posts:
1, 2, 3, 4, 56, 78, 9, 10, 11 ,12, 13, 1415, 16, 17)


Entrance gate in the rain, Gorkhi Terelj NP
Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Ruled by heavy rains, Gorkhi Terelj NP
Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Skies are clearing up, Gorkhi Terelj NP
Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Inside the forest, Gorkhi Terelj NP
Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Rhododendron dahuricum, Gorkhi Terelj NP
Jun 2014 © Andreas Buchheim

On 15 June we travelled the short way up from Gun Galuut to the famed Gorkhi Terelj National Park. The NP is well developed but as we wanted to camp undisturbed we went into the forest for the rest of the trip. Our aim was to see some forest species. As the NP lies at the southern fringe of the Siberian taiga we hoped for Siberian birds like Siberian Tit (known as Gray-headed Chickadee in North America) and Siberian Jay plus the difficult Black-billed Capercaillie (BBC). Upon our arrival the forest was quiet, no wonder as the rain continued for several hours. But soon after the rain had ceased Orange-flanked Bluetails, Pallas’s and Two-barred Warblers and Olive-backed Pipits started to sing, mostly from the tree tops. On an escarpment we found an occupied nest of Eurasian Black Vulture and just above our kitchen tent a pair of Taiga Flycatchers was busily feeding their chicks, nice!

Orange-flanked Bluetail
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Oriental Cuckoo
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Ural Owl
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Ural Owl
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Andreas Buchheim

Ural Owl
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

For the next two days we explored the forest, mostly by hiking up the valley which was quite exhausting. The reward was to see up to 15 BBC per day. These birds proofed to be impossible to get photographed. As soon as we saw one, the bird took flight and dashed through the forest so our cameras had no chance to track them for a shot. A bit more cooperative birds we came across on one of our walks: A family of Spotted Nutcracker, though venturing off straight away, and finally we saw also Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay. Another good one to discover was an Ural Owl in tree not far from our camp. Sönke checked out the distress calls of Red-throated Thrushes and by doing so he found the owl. Well done!

Eurasian Black Vulture
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Eastern Buzzard, one bird of the breeding pair
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Aquilegia sibirica
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Male Taiga Flycatcher
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Male Taiga Flycatcher
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Grey Wagtail...
and no running water around at the top of the mountain…
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Andreas Buchheim

Northern Pika
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Siberian Chipmunk
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Matze Putze

Siberian Chipmunk
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin Schneider

Siberian Jay, juvenile
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Spotted Nutcracker, juvenile
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Siberian Tit
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

Siberian Tit
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

On our last day it started to rain again and we packed our wet tents to dry them in our hotel in UB later. With more than 210 species seen during this trip, and lots of goodies among them, we returned back to Germany very satisfied! We will come back!

Group of Swamprunners
Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg

November 21, 2016

A juvenile hybrid dabbling duck

text & photos by ABu

When I was birding the UB Ponds on 15 Sep 2016 a strange looking duck caught my eyes. It was within a small flock of Baikal Teal and somehow resembled them. But the duck also differed from the Baikal Teals in a few points. It was clearly bigger and also longer. The general coloration was paler and it had a kind of diluted Baikal Teal’s face pattern. Its bill was longer and showed much more grey than can be seen on young Baikal Teals, which usually show only a small grey triangular patch on the base of the bill sides. After I had taken the record shots below, the flock slowly swam away to disappear behind the bushes and I could not relocate the ducks, so the two pictures here are all we got.

Back home I checked the photographs on the computer screen. This more or less convinced me that my initial field ID was right (as right as it can be with these hybrids when the parents are not known for sure): Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal. To get the opinion of experts I contacted Osao and Michiaki Ujihara, authors of this book, and they swiftly replied: a juvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal. Generally this hybrid combination is quite well known and is recorded every now and then, but—according to the Ujiharas—juveniles of this combination have not yet been documented anywhere so far.The only illustration of a female of this hybrid is a painted female in their book. Males are also known because they are much more obvious and hence more often found.

My thanks go to Osao and Michiaki Ujihara for their expertise and to Nial Moores of Birds Korea who draw my attention to this hybrid combination many years ago.


Juvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal with Baikal Teals
UB Ponds, September 2016. © Andreas Buchheim

Juvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal with Baikal Teals
UB Ponds, September 2016. © Andreas Buchheim

November 3, 2016

UB Ponds, soon lost to industry!
15 September 2016

text & photos by ABu

UB Ponds are falling dry because of the new dam
that has cut off the main pond from the stream (foreground).
UB, September 2016

Several of the UB Ponds are going to be filled up soon.
UB, September 2016

Industry has come very near. UB Ponds, September 2016

A well visited stake-out for waterbirds and more are the UB Ponds, aka Green Ponds (in Mongolian). These ponds are under severe threat: The city government concluded that they pose a risk for the planes which start from or land at the airport and in addition to this different companies have decided to make a “better” use of this “useless” land. Industrial encroachment has started a few years ago and more and more ponds had been filled up meanwhile. Other ponds had only been fenced off so far but it will not take long until we have lost this site. The sewage stream had recently been cut off from the main pond which is now almost dry. We will see how many water birds will still winter here in the future.

I visited the ponds for a few hours on 15 September. Unfortunately it was very cloudy and it even rained during my visit. This meant that photographing was more a less just documenting the birds by achieving nothing more than record shots. Try to enjoy my shot which had been taking by hand-held equipment and excuse the poor quality of the pictures.


Goosander. UB Ponds, September 2016

Goosander. UB Ponds, September 2016

Juv. Falcated Duck framed by 2 Baikal Teals,
Mallard and Northern Pintail in the back
UB Ponds, September 2016

Falcated Duck. UB Ponds, September 2016

leading Falcated Duck plus 3 Gadwalls
UB Ponds, September 2016

Falcated Duck following 3 Gadwalls
UB Ponds, September 2016

Bird List (54 species)

Whooper Swan 7 (a family)
Swan Goose 2
Greylag Goose 3
Ruddy Shelduck c220
Mallard c140
Gadwall c80
Northern Pintail 9
Falcated Duck 4
Northern Shoveler c25
Eurasian Wigeon c20
Baikal Teal 15
Common Teal c90
Garganey 2
Common Pochard 17
Tufted Duck c45
Common Goldeneye 12
Common Merganser 3
Crested Grebe 8
Little Grebe 1 (ssp poggei)
Great Cormorant 18
Grey Heron c70
Black-eared Kite c450
Booted Eagle 1 dark morph juv.
Saker Falcon 1
Common Moorhen heard only
Common Coot c30
Northern Lapwing c20
Temminck’s Stint 1
Green Sandpiper 6
Spotted Redshank 14
Eastern Black-tailed Godwit 1 juv.
Common Greenshank 2
Common Snipe c10
Black-headed Gull 6
Mongolian Gull 7


landing Baikal Teal. UB Ponds, September 2016

Eastern Little Grebe (background: Spotted Redshank)
UB Ponds, September 2016

Common Snipe trying to hide behind a very thing twig
UB Ponds, September 2016

Barn Swallow 17
Red-throated Pipit 4
White Wagtail c35, mostly juv.
Grey Wagtail 2 juv.
Citrine Wagtail 2 juv.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail 1
Daurian Redstart 6
Two-barred Greenish Warbler 1
Dusky Warbler 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow c250
Azure Tit 6
presumed “Stoliczka’s” White-crowned Tit c10


White Wagtail. UB Ponds, September 2016

Grey Wagtail. UB Ponds, September 2016

Grey Wagtail with a Gammarus sp
UB Ponds, September 2016

Northern Raven 8
Eurasian Magpie c15
Daurian Jackdaw 7
Eastern Rook c35
Oriental Crow 8
Little Bunting 9
Common Reed Bunting 1

I must try this site again in better weather!

October 25, 2016

Tuul Gol, 13 September 2016

text & photos by ABu

Autumn has arrived. Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Juvenile Mandarin Duck
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

A bright sunny day followed yet another cold night and when I was at the river it was still only 3°C (37.4°F). Despite the fantastic light, today was a very frustrating day. On arrival I came across a flock of dabbling ducks, mainly consisting of Mallards and Common Teals. One bird stood out immediately: a (the?) juvenile Mandarin Duck. Despite my most careful approach the Mandarin slowly swam into dense cover and through the bushes I could only take very poor record shots of it while the other ducks took flight right away. As I didn’t take my scope with me and because of the bad quality of the pictures the sex of this bird remains unclear, still.

Next was a group of about 120 Little Buntings. Although I literally was surrounded by them I could not achieve good shots. Apparently they knew exactly when they had to fly off: in the very moment my camera got the focus on them. The Little Bunting picture in this blog is that of a single bird. And so it went on all the 6 hours I walked around. Apart from the buntings there wasn’t much and sometimes I walked for a while without seeing a single bird.

Then there was that late Lanceolated Warbler which ran through the grass just a meter in front of me. Sounds good, eh? No, it isn’t. That is too close for photographing with my long lens! Anyway it would have been probably nothing more than a record shot of a small thing behind a lot of vegetation.

Finally the few penduline tits around preferred to stay inside the young bushy Siberian Elms. Only once, shortly after the Northern Sparrowhawk had flown along they came out for a brief check and I could manage to get a single bird documented.

Definitively I have to go again! Not only to get better shots of the Mandarin Duck.


Little Bunting
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Azure Tit
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Azure Tit
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Azure Tit
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Bird List (46 species)

Ruddy Shelduck 2
Mallard 12
Gadwall 2
Common Teal 10
Garganey 5
Mandarin Duck 1 juv.
Common Merganser 1 juv
Great Cormorant 9 juv.
Grey Heron 1
Black-eared Kite 4 ad.
Booted Eagle 1 ad.
Northern Sparrowhawk 1
Common Kestrel 1
Eurasian Hobby 1 juv.
Green Sandpiper 1
Spotted Redshank 1 (heard only)
Common Snipe 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 3
Black Woodpecker 1


Great Cormorant
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Grey Heron
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Booted Eagle
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Booted Eagle
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Mongolian Horned Lark 2
Red-throated Pipit 4
Olive-backed Pipit c15
Grey Wagtail 2
Citrine Wagtail 2 juv.
Bluethroat 1 ad. male
Daurian Redstart 10
Siberian Chiffchaff 1
Yellow-browed Warbler c20
Dusky Warbler c15
Lanceolated Warbler 1
Taiga Flycatcher 7
Eurasian Tree Sparrow c120
Azure Tit c. 30
Great Tit 4
presumed "Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tit 7


White-crowned Penduline Tit
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Taiga Flycatcher juv.
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Olive-backed Pipit
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Northern Raven 4
Eurasian Magpie c10
Red-billed Chough 5
Daurian Jackdaw 4
Oriental Crow 2
Common Rosefinch six 1cy
Long-tailed Rosefinch c10
Pine Bunting c40
Little Bunting c300
Black-faced Bunting c10
Meadow Bunting 1


Long-tailed Rosefinch
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

Long-tailed Rosefinch
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016

“Golden” leaves
Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016