April 1, 2007

Early spring at Khar Us Nuur National Park

After the fierce Mongolian winter (temperatures drop regularly well below minus 30˚C) the dry, cold and windy spring is always a crucial time for the nomads living in and near Khar Us Nuur National Park in the Great Lakes Basin in western Mongolia. WWF Mongolia has been supporting the national park and the local people since more than 10 years. For more information about Khar Us Nuur National Park: click here.

Whirlwinds are common in spring. Photo © A. Braunlich

Spring in the steppe can be a tough time for kids.
Photo © A. Braunlich

On Saturday (31 March) I went with my colleagues from the WWF Altai-Sayan Field Office in Khovd to the southern part of the national park to talk with rangers about a new checkpoint. After our visit some time was left for birding. Although the 1500-square kilometer lake is still >99% frozen (there’s an ice cover well into April, see photo from April last year) a few waterbirds arrived already: 3 Great Egrets, 1 Grey Heron, 5 Ruddy Shelducks, c.50 Greylag Geese, 78 Mongolian Gulls, 2 Tufted Ducks, and c. 60 dabbling ducks (to far away to be identified). Other species seen included 100s of Horned Larks (all of the white-faced local subspecies E. a. brandti), c. 30 Rock Sparrows feeding among Horned Larks, 2 Lapland Buntings, 8 Hen Harriers, 1 Little Owl, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 1 migrant Reed Bunting (thin-billed, as opposed to the thick-billed resident subspecies), many Bearded Tits, and several singing Lesser Short-toed Larks (every year the earliest singers in the park).

Horsemen crossing the completely frozen
Khar Us Nuur, 9 April 2006. Photo © A. Braunlich