June 25, 2010

A trip to the west and back via the northern route

Andreas Buchheim, Pierre Yésou & Thorsten Zegula

Part 1

During our first week we travelled as far west as Khyargas Nuur (nuur = lake) with a first overnight-stop at Daschschinschiling Bayan Nuur, a saltwater lake which is also known as Tsagaan Nuur (white lake) because of the salt-layer on the exposed mud.

1st-summer male Common Goldeneye
Daschinschilingijn Bayan Nuur, 13 May 2010. A. Buchheim

Two late Middendorf’s Bean Geese were found among the other Anser species (45 Swan, 7 Bar-headed and 10 Greylag) on May, 13th.

Male Common Shelduck taking a bath.
Daschinschiling Bayan Nuur, 13 May 2010. A. Buchheim

In the flock were also two neck-banded geese, marked by Martin Gilbert and collaborators. 5 Common Reed Buntings were singing in the reeds while the presence of 15 Lapland Buntings showed that the harsh winter was not completely over. Other migrants seen were two Mongolian Plovers (rather rare in Mongolia itself), a flock of 50 Pale Martins and about 550 Common Shelducks. Some of the latter were displaying and might have been local birds though. Before driving to Ogij Nuur on 14 May we saw a Whiskered Tern hunting above the first singing reed warblers (1 Oriental and a minimum of 10 Paddyfield) which had already arrived. A Bluethroat and a White Wagtail of the taxon ocularis ("East Siberian Wagtail") could be added to our list.

Flies on skull: 235 seats and 1 fly. Between Ogij Nuur
and Tsetserleg, 14 May 2010. A. Buchheim

Ogij Nuur was still almost half covered by ice thus we drove on to Tsetserleg after having counted the waterfowl on the lake. With 1480 individuals Common Goldeneye was the most numerous species, followed by Great Cormorant (950) and Common Pochard (840). An adult White-tailed Eagle was probably waiting for easy prey and the two Eurasian Spoonbills did their best to find something to eat in the ice-cold water. Between Ogij Nuur and Tsetserleg we drove through an area dotted with dead animals, certainly not nice for them and their owners but some sort of relief for the overgrazed steppe and clearly much needed for the long-term survival of the herders and their herds.

Rock Sparrow at Ogij Nuur, 14 May 2010. A. Buchheim

We stayed from May 14th to 16th in a valley above Tsetserleg but did not record many noteworthy birds. At night (May 14th) we heard a Tengmalm’s Owl and on 15th we found two territories of Godlewski’s Bunting. The two Booted Eagles seen on 15th were not belonging to the pale morph which is quite rare in the east of the species’ range.

Male Godlewski’s Bunting
Tsetserleg, 14 May 2010. A. Buchheim

On May, 16th we continued to Terchijn Tsagaan Nuur which showed a 95% ice-cover. Only a few interesting birds were seen: 1 early Red-necked Stint, 12 Eurasian Spoonbills and 2 Black Storks whereas on the big island in the west part of the lake Mongolian Gulls and Great Cormorants had started their colony-life. Snowfall precluded proper birdwatching as visibility was low.

After a time-consuming crossing of Solongt Pass in snow with a big truck blocking the road for hours we camped at the Ider Gol (Gol = River) between Ich Uul village and Tosontsengel cityfrom 17th to 18th.

Common Magpie visiting our camp at Ider Gol
17 May 2010. A. Buchheim

Shortly after we had pitched our tents in that what remains of the former riparian forest we watched a Bearded Vulture dropping a bone and then carrying it to somewhere (the nest?) out of our views. Not many birds were around but an occupied nest of White-tailed Eagle was a welcomed sight. A Eurasian Scops Owl sang during the evening of 17th.

Adult Bearded Vulture carrying a crushed bone. Ider Gol between
Ich Uul Village and Tosontsengel City, 17 May 2010. A. Buchheim

The next day (18th) we checked Telmen Nuur (also still frozen) but with the exceptions of the breeding Great Cormorants (320 Nests) and Mongolian Gulls (more than 1000 nests) we did not see any waterfowl. During our trip we saw only one “concentration” of Upland Buzzards with 27 sitting in the steppe the plain west of the lake. Many rodents must have died from the melt-water which wetted them in their burrows this spring thus raptors were generally few this spring. We spent the night east of Songino village.

At Khyargas Nuur, where we arrived on 19th, there was no ice left. The water-level on this huge lake had dropped by more than 3 m in the last 4 years and we could walk into the gull-colony (which we did only at the very edge, not to disturb the birds). Gulls and other breeders had moved away from the land-bridge as far as possible to reduce the risk of being predated. If the water-level continues to fall at this rate it will be only a matter of time until this important colony will be abandoned by the birds. We counted 1400 breeding pairs of Pallas's Gull, 1100 pairs of Great Cormorant, 650 pairs of Mongolian Gull, 20 to 25 pairs of Grey Heron, 20 pairs of Bar-headed Goose, 5 pairs of Swan Goose and 2 pairs of Whooper Swan. Two Relict Gulls at this site were probably migrants.

More coming soon, watch this site...

No comments: