October 16, 2008

Central Mongolia trip, early May 2008

This year’s short spring trip (1-16 May) was well before the main migration time, which is clearly illustrated by the fact that the only Phylloscopus warbler we saw were two Hume’s Warblers at the Orchon Waterfall.

The first site we visited was Zorgel Khairkhan to the SW of Ulaanbaatar where an Oriental Greenfinch was a good find on 1 May. Next stop was the famous Yolyn Am gorge in the Gobi Altai near Dalandzadgad, which appeared to be very unpleasant due to the shiploads of huge ticks which molested us. We saw some of the standard birds there like Mongolian Accentor, Wallcreeper and four species of vulture: Cinereous, Bearded, Eurasian Griffon (1) and Himalayan Griffon (2 adults).

Mongolian Accentor, Yolyn Am.
© A. Pennekamp

From there we drove to Boon Tsagaan Nuur. The lake had a very low water-level and all of the former wetlands east of the lake were dry bare one small pond. Of the birds we saw not even the two adult Relict Gulls (7 May) seemed to be noteworthy as their occurrence at the lake is normal. After an unsuccessful attempt to reach Naiman Nuur - the road was still blocked by ice and snow - we continued our trip towards the Orchon waterfall. En route we saw a single Snow Bunting on 10 May east of Bayankhongor and a group of vultures feeding on a dead horse west of Khudshirt. These turned out to be mostly Cinereous Vultures but interestingly the rest were Himalayan Griffons (5 adults, 11 non-adults).

Himalayan Griffon, 15 km W of Khudshirt.
© A. Pennekamp

At the Orchon waterfall (no water so no waterfall!) a migrating White-tailed Eagle and 4 Crowned Penduline Tits on 12 May were the best birds. We returned to Ulaanbaatar via Ogij Nuur. Here the water level was at an all time low. Among the first birds we saw were two Dalmatian Pelicans on 13 May.

Dalmatian Pelican, Ogii Nuur. © A. Buchheim

Eastern Black-tailed Godwits, Ogii Nuur.
© A. Buchheim

Not many waders were around but one of us picked an unusual bird which was feeding close to a group of Eastern Black-tailed Godwits and was identified as Long-billed Dowitcher (13 May; second or third for Mongolia?). This was clearly the bird of the trip.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Ogii Nuur.
© A. Buchheim

Bar-headed Geese, Ogii Nuur. © A. Buchheim

Caspian Tern, Ogii Nuur. © A. Buchheim

Saker Falcon, Ogii Nuur. © A. Buchheim

A group of 20 Lapland Buntings demonstrated that winter was not over. We made our final stop at Tsagaan Nuur between Dashngshiling and Bayan Gol where we heard two singing Spotted Crakes (rare in Mongolia) singing all night (14-15 May).

White’s Thrush seeking for camouflage,
Dashinshiling. © A. Buchheim

Male Isabelline Shrike. © A. Buchheim

Thorsten Zegula, Alfons Pennekamp, Andreas Buchheim

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