November 3, 2007

Dipper catching fish. Khovd, 3 NOV 2007 - A.Braunlich, A. Laurie

At the edge of town we have a small stream which doesn’t freeze over in winter. From November onwards White-throated Dippers Cinclus cinclus take up winter territories here. I have recorded up to eight birds along a few hundred metres last winter.

White-throated Dipper. Photo © A. Braunlich

White-throated Dipper catching fish. Photo © A. Braunlich

Today Andrew and I checked the stream, and found three dippers, the first I have seen here this season. It is well known that dippers can catch small fish up to 5–6 (8) cm in length, especially in autumn and winter. However, this behaviour has probably not often been photographically documented, and certainly not from Mongolia. While two of the birds today were quite shy and difficult to observe one landed in front of us and caught a fish! Compared to the tarsus length I estimate the fish to be c.6 cm long. The dipper shook its prey in a kingfisher-like manner (out of focus photo below), lost it (already dead?), caught it again and swallowed it head first finally. What a sight!

White-throated Dipper killing fish. Photo © A. Braunlich

White-throated Dipper with fish. Photo © A. Braunlich

White-throated Dipper with fish. Photo © A. Braunlich

The bird belongs to the leucogaster-group of the Central Asian mountains which is characterized by several morphs. White-throated Dippers in the Altai Mts. and other areas of northern Mongolia (Khangai, Khentii) have the highest diversity in morphs.

Other birds near the stream include one Desert Wheatear, one Northern Wheatear, 2 Masked Wagtails, and a lonely single Northern Lapwing. A flock of c.190 Hill Pigeons flying over the valley was the largest number I have seen here in two years.

Masked Wagtail. Photo © A. Braunlich

Other observations

Great Spotted Woodpecker in its winter territory.
Photo © A. Braunlich

I the afternoon I checked briefly the plantation near the airport and the trees behind the stadium. A late migrant (compared to last autumn) was a Common Reed Bunting (last bird last autumn 19 Oct). Further notable birds were 2 Fieldfares, a flock of 9 Daurian Partridges, c.35 Spotted Great Rosefinches (large number!) and 2 Redwings. The latter observation is only my second record of Redwing in Khovd after one on 19 Oct 2006.

Spotted Great Rosefinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

On 31 October I found fresh plucking remains (flight feathers) of a Carrion Crow and a very large pellet (125x45mm) nearby. The only species being capable of this could be an Eurasian Eagle Owl. Comments are welcome!

Eurasian Eagle Owl pellet. Photo © A. Braunlich


egor_13 said...

Well done!

Is the fish Nemachelius (Barbatula) toni or something like?

egor_13 said...

As for the pellet, of course it's in the Eagle Owl' manner, too, if only it did not got such look due to rain or snow.