October 29, 2007

Winter gets its grip on western Mongolia
… Khomiin tal, end OCT 07 - A. Braunlich

On 25 October I went to Khomiin tal (the Mongolian word ‘tal’ means steppe), the buffer zone of Khar Us Nuur National Park. When leaving Khovd it snowed, though the snow didn’t last long. On 26 October I walked around Baga nuur, a salt lake with a surface area of c.600 hectares (max. extension 3.5 x 2.2 km) – a major wetland in Khomiin tal. By this time of the year waterbird numbers have diminished considerably. I counted 272 Ruddy Shelducks and 170 Common Shelducks, plus a few dozen Mallards and Northern Pintails. The few waders left consisted of 5 Pacific Golden Plovers, 2 Northern Lapwings, and 4 Kentish Plovers. Predators present were 1 Golden Eagle, 1 White-tailed Eagle, and 1 Saker. In total I logged 20 species only, including 83 Mongolian Larks, several Lapland Buntings, and a Desert Wheatear.

A count of Pallas’s Sandrouse coming to drink to Baga nuur in the morning of 28 October resulted in 536 birds only. The site maximum this autumn was almost 10,000 one morning!

Baga nuur. In the background the Altai Mts. Photo © A. Braunlich

Desert Wheatear. Photo © A. Braunlich

In the night temperature dropped to c.-15 deg C, and on 27 October it never rose above -5 deg C. Although a strong wind was blowing a walk along the bushes at the Zavkhan gol (c.70% of the river frozen) yielded in 18 species – for this site and with such weather not to bad at all. Most birds were hiding in the bushes, the most abundant species being Twite and Long-tailed Rosefinch. A Black-throated Thrush and a Little Bunting were rather retiring.

Zavkhan gol at Khomiin tal. Photo © A. Braunlich

Male Long-tailed Rosefinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

Female Long-tailed Rosefinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

Bushes along the river. Photo © A. Braunlich

A late Little Bunting in hiding. Photo © A. Braunlich

An important food resource: Sea Buckthorn. Photo © A. Braunlich

On the way back to Khovd a small flock of geese - a family of 2 adult and 3 juvenile Greater White-fronted Geese and a single Bean Goose - at a river was a nice bonus.

Greater White-fronted Geese and Bean Goose (right). Photo © A. Braunlich

The survey was funded by The Przewalski Horse Association, TAKH.


Gyorgy Szimuly (SzimiStyle) said...

Very nice birds for a European eye. Is the arrival of winter normal this time of the year? Sounds quite shivery.
Cheers, Szimi

Axel said...

Hi Gyorgy, My observation area here in western Mongolia (c1400m asl) lies approximately as far south as Volgograd, Budapest, Paris, or Seattle. However, the climate here is strong continental, with the cold polar air mass, originating to the north in Siberia bringing an early winter regularly. So these deep temperatures in late October are quite normal.