August 22, 2007

Influx of Black-eared Kites in Khovd, 22 August 2007

Today it rained in Khovd for the first time since weeks. Actually the first real rain I experienced here this year. It rained three days in July, but I was in Russia then. The rain today lasted from early morning well past noon, but ceased later, and in the late afternoon the sun came out.



Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © J. Steudtner

While checking a pasture area with little pools at the edge of town (only very few birds there: 2 Green Sandpipers and 1 Temminck’s Stint) at 18h20, I saw about 200 Black-eared Kites Milvus (migrans) lineatus arriving very high (only tiny specks in the sky) from north-east, flying towards the Buyant river. A little bit later I walked along the poplars which are forming a quite dense stand between the town and the floodplain. The area is heavily used by people, and kites, apparently disturbed at their roost in the poplars were spread over the pasture nearby, resting on the ground. I counted over 700. Looking to the usual roost further down the poplars I noted another c.280 birds flying around, followed by c.230 more. There was a constant stream of kites arriving from the north-east. Together with more birds resting well visible on poles, trees and buildings, the final tally was 2,210 Black-eared Kites this evening! This number is rather too small than too big since it wasn’t possible for me to check all the poplars along the several kilometer long stretch where the kites used to roost. Where I saw the 280 birds flying around today I counted c.600 resting in the trees yesterday. And the kites resting in the dense poplar stands are very easily overlooked and numbers therefore underestimated when not disturbed.


Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © A. Braunlich

It is very likely that the rain grounded the kites during migration in the vicinity of Khovd; and in the late afternoon they joined the other kites which are always well visible circling over town, resulting in this unprecedented spectacle.


Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © J. Steudtner

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