Bird sound recordings from Mongolia








During a recent trip to eastern Mongolia Christoph Bock made sound recordings of 32 species of birds. The 58 recordings can be found a xeno-canto Asia, the community database of shared bird sounds from Asia and New Guinea.
Click here for Christoph’s recordings. Enjoy!
Wild Bird Photo Contest

Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia and Mongolian Bird Watching Club invite you to participate in the wild bird photo contest to capture the beauty of our feathered friends in their natural habitats.



This activity is one of our activities for the United Nations’ declaration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The goal of the contest is to promote bird watching and bird conservation in Mongolia.

One photo will be chosen as the winner and will receive a grand prize and certificate, Mark Brazil’s book Birds of East Asia, which is one of the best field guides for use in Mongolia, and the book Important Bird Areas in Mongolia. Two other contestants will receive certificates, special prizes, and the book “Important Bird Areas in Mongolia”.

In order to encourage Mongolian people to participate in nature and bird conservation, we will select winners from local people and foreign residents who are living in Mongolia. However, foreign tourists and birdwatchers are welcome to participate and submit their photos.

Please, submit your wild bird photos to info (at) wscc.org.mn by September 15th, 2010.


Bar-headed Goose. © Nyambayar Batbayar.


Photo's can be taken anywhere in the wild including your backyard or khashaa, but must have wild bird(s) in the photo.

1-3 photo(s) may be submitted by per person. Photos may not exceed 10MB in file size. Accepted file types are .jpg, .gif, and .png.

Along with your photo(s) you must provide us, the date and location of photo(s) taken, and title of your bird photo(s). Also you must provide your name, email address, and phone number so we can contact you when needed.

Images of eggs and chicks in the nest are prohibited. People may be depicted in the photo.

Winners will be notified via email and posted at WSCC and MBWC websites. The winning photos and special selections will be posted on these websites as well.

You will retain all rights to any photograph you submit. But, by entering the contest, you grant to WSCC and MBWC royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display and publicly perform the photographs you submit in any type of media for bird and their habitat conservation, and the right to use your name in promotions and other publications related to your photos.


Go to the Photo Contest Page.


A trip to the west and back via the northern route

Andreas Buchheim, Pierre Yésou & Thorsten Zegula

all photos © Andreas Buchheim, unless otherwise stated


Harmless but very abundant + much annoying flies, Oigon Nuur, June 2010.

Part 4

(for part 1 click here, 2 here, 3 here)


White-winged Tern, Oigon Nuur, June 2010.


Gull-billed Tern & Common Tern, Oigon Nuur, June 2010.

It rained all night from June, 2nd to June, 3rd and we left Oigon Nuur after having been unnerved by its flies and after having checked the small lake again. Then we drove via Tosontsengel to our campsite at Ider Gol but this time we erected our tents on the southern shore of the river. Soon after our arrival we saw an adult Bearded Vulture flying around but the only nest we could find on the mountain was occupied by Black Vulture and contained an almost fledged young. The continued presence of an adult Bearded Vulture makes breeding in this area likely. Several Ortolan Bunting, Blyth’s Pipit, Common Redstart and Pine Bunting were singing as was a grey morph Eurasian Scops Owl.


Solongt Pass, 4 June 2010.


Rock Ptarmigan pair, Solongt Pass, June 2010.


Water Pipit (blakistoni), Solongt Pass, June 2010.

On 4th our main target was Hodgson’s Bushchat and we spread out over the mountain tops at Solongt Pass for strenuous 4 hours in search for it, but in vain. Instead we logged 15 territories of Water Pipit (blakistoni), 2 territories of Eastern Stonechat, 1 territory of Altai Accentor, only two pairs of Shore Lark (brandti), 2 pairs of Willow Grouse and also 2 pairs of Rock Ptarmigan. A single Golden Eagle, a dark morph (what else?) Booted Eagle, 2 Black-eared Kite and a Common Kestrel were the only other birds seen.


Logging burnt forest below Solongt Pass. The arrow indicates the wood-cutter on his motorbike pulling down one log, Tarvagatai nuuru National Park, 4 June 2010.

200 m below and south of the pass we camped. The forest here burnt down 5 years ago and now people were allowed to log the dead trunks with the aid of chainsaw and motorbike despite all is protected in this national park. By doing so they shortmindedly change the micro-climate to a dryer one, take out the main nutrition source for the next generation of trees and draw erosion-tracks onto the slopes.

The next stop (on 5th) was in the forest south of Terchin Tsagaan Nuur which looked quite promising from a distance but actually was a bit disappointing because it was heavily grazed and a lot of timber had been cut. Of course this area is part of yet another Mongolian national park! Most noteworthy were several Pallas’s Rosefinch and a female Ural Owl which flew close over our heads after sunset. The male was not as brave though it called repeatedly but remained unseen.


Two main reasons for degraded forests and shrinking forest-coverage in Mongolia: grazing (here by horses) and freshly cut firewood/timber in Khorgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur NP, 5 June 2010.

We drove to the valley above Tsetserleg again and stayed there from 6th to 8th. Not long after our arrival it started to rain. During the first night the rain turned into snow and it snowed all day on 7th leaving us laying in our tents and sleeping like Polar Bears. Certainly this kind of heavy snowfall had a great impact on the breeding passerines: Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and Pied Wheatear left the upper valley and gave up their clutches. After the snow had stopped falling we measured 21 cm of snow-cover and we were happy to leave this cold and wet place on 8th.


Snow in the rocky valley above Tsetserleg, 7 June 2010.


Barn Swallow, male tytleri, Ogij Sum, June 2010.

En route to Bayan Nuur we checked several nests of Upland Buzzard on 8th. None contained more than 3 nestlings and they were about 3 weeks behind their schedule (thus still very small). At Bayan Nuur 4 Red-necked Phalaropes were spinning while about 10 pairs of Black-winged Stilt were breeding. A single Ruff plus a male eastern Black-tailed Godwit (melanuroides) were found in the wet meadow. This is probably one of the very few sites in Mongolia where the water level had risen during the last years and the formerly white lake (see part one) had become a blue lake as it was filled by water.


Upland Buzzard, the lonely chick. Bulgan Aimag, June 2010. © T. Zegula

Despite the above written the gull colony which had more than 1000 pairs at the beginning of the century had almost completely been abandoned and we counted a mere 15 breeding pairs of Mongolian Gull on June, 9th. Bird of the day was a Grey-headed Lapwing (quite far to the west) and second best bird was a first summer Brown-headed Gull (quite far north) both of which we saw well. Other goodies were a drake Falcated Duck, an Eastern Spot-billed Duck and a neck-banded Bar-headed Goose. There were about 48 of the latter species plus two family-parties which 6 and 4 goslings respectively. In the evening 3 first summer Black Stork arrived.


Record-shot of the Grey-headed Lapwing,
Daschinschiling Bayan Nuur, 9 June 2010.


Female Red-necked Phalarope,
Daschinschiling Bayan Nuur, June 2010.


Eastern Marsh Harrier, a rather pale male with typically barred primaries.
There are 4 pairs of these harriers at the lake and one very contrasting male can be confused (and was!) with Pied Harrier, so be careful. Daschinschiling Bayan Nuur, June, 8th 2010.



These strange waders in our camp remained unidentified
(tentatively we called them either back-lite or blinking waders, though).

On 10th we realized that there were 2 pairs of White-naped Crane this year but only one was breeding. The Asian Short-toed Lark were also about three weeks later this year. Instead of freshly fledged young we recorded that egg-laying had just started (or they had complete lost their first clutch and were producing a second one). Under the bridge 5 occupied nests of red-bellied Barn Swallow (tytleri) were found and we also had some Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler but nothing else.

We arrived back at our flat in Ulaanbaatar on 11th without having noted any other interesting bird that day.


Freshly fledged Red-billed Chough, Lun Khot, June 2010.

On 12th we flew back to Europe with a tally of 238 birds seen. This is quite OK but we dipped on several of the commoner species, such as Daurian Partridge, both quails, Oriental Turtle Dove (both subspecies had been possible on range), Crested Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Amur Falcon, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Little Gull, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Black, Three-toed and Grey-headed Woodpecker, Alpine Accentor and even Azure Tit, just to mention a few. Nevertheless the trip was great despite the sometimes horrible weather!


The group at Daschinschiling Bayan Nuur, June 2010. © T. Zegula
A trip to the west and back via the northern route

Andreas Buchheim, Pierre Yésou & Thorsten Zegula

all photos © Andreas Buchheim

Whooper Swan, Tolbo Nuur, May 2010.


Part 3

(for part 1 click here, part 2 here)


Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Tolbo Nuur, May 2010.

On May, 27th we counted the birds at Tolbo Nuur. Here as well the water-level was lower than during our previous visit 4 years ago and the gull-colony on the island at the southern shore was abandoned completely as it was no longer an island. Luckily a new island was exposed now and occupied by 26 Bar-headed Geese, some 230 pairs of Great Cormorant and 170 pairs of Mongolian Gull. By reading 4 wing-tags of gulls marked at the old colony in 2006 we could prove that the (presumably whole) colony had moved to the new site. Our first Pallas’ Fish Eagle for the trip was lingering in the vicinity of the colony, attacked from time to time by the bravest gulls, among them also 7 Pallas’s Gulls. 4 pairs of Arctic Loons (Black-throated Diver) had taken residence at Tolbo Nuur. Of the songbirds 2 (and possibly up to 4) Booted Warblers and a newly arrived (the first for the trip) Dusky Warbler were logged.


Isabelline Wheatear, songflight, Tolbo Nuur, May 2010.


Booted Warbler, Tolbo Nuur, May 2010.


Masked Wagtail, Tolbo Nuur, May 2010.

On the way to Khovd City we stopped near a small stream where Barred Warbler and Grey-necked Bunting were added to our trip-list but there were also another Booted Warbler and 3 Sulphur-bellied Warblers in the bushes while a Spotted Flycatcher allowed close approach.


Barred Warbler, male, Altai, May, 2010.


Spotted Flycatcher, Altai, May 2010.

In the early afternoon we arrived at Khovd City where put our tents in the Otzon Chuluu plantation, close to town. The care-takers were irrigating a part of the plantation much to the attraction of birds: 120 Hume’s Warblers, 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Greater Whitethroats of the pale taxon icterops, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 1 Olive-backed Pipit, 1 Taiga Flycatcher, 3 Common Rosefinches and 20 Tree Sparrows were searching for food. In the more open areas two pairs of Pied Wheatear and a pair of Isabelline Shrike were noted.

We invested another day to get more information about the birds of this plantation and on 28th we saw our only pale morph Booted Eagle and 2 adult-plumaged Bearded Vultures roosting together on a rock on the nearby mountain. They were probably looking for a place to build their nest in the next year(s). Our main focus was on the songbirds though: 2 pale-bellied Barn Swallow, 1 Richard’s Pipit, 10 Tree Pipit, 7 Olive-backed Pipit, 1 Common Redstart, 1 Western Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Paddyfield Warbler, 1 Thick-billed Warbler, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 icterops Greater Whitethroat, 10 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Greenish Warbler, 120 Hume’s Warbler, 5 Dusky Warbler, 3 Siberian Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 5 Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Taiga Flycatcher, 1 Crowned Penduline Tit, 1 Golden Oriole (female type), 20 Tree Sparrow, 1 (pale mountain) Twite and 10 Common Rosefinch.


Very possible Common Cuckoo, female, Otzon Chuluu Plantation, Khovd, May 28th 2010. ID of non-calling cuckoos is almost always impossible, but this female allowed a calling male Common Cuckoo a very close approach thus it belonged presumably to the same species.

On 29th we left the plantation and checked the stadium-area, but did not see many birds. Best was a Great Reed Warbler singing from the bushes.

Down at nearby Khar Us Nuur we were welcomed by 4 Relict Gulls feeding on the mud together with about 280 Ruddy Turnstone. A pair of Asian Dowitcher was among the other waders, which included 30 Greater Sand Plover, 3 Terek Sandpiper, 3 Red-necked Phalarope and 50 Grey Plover. About 240 pairs on Mongolian Gull were breeding on the island in the southwest of the lake, accompanied by 60 pairs of Pallas’s Gull. We managed to read the wing-tags of 16 Mongolian Gulls, all of them had been ringed at this site in 2006. All breeders of this island were severely disturbed by 38 cows and 21 horses which grazed there, sometimes trampling among the breeding birds and probably destroying a lot of nests. Nobody seems to care about these breeders despite the island lies within a National Park. 200 eastern Common Swifts (Apus apus pekinensis) plus one Fork-tailed Swift were marauding the flies (no swifts seen in Khovd City the same day).


Relict Gull, adult, Khar Us Nuur, May 2010.


Flock of Ruddy Turnstone, Khar Us Nuur, May 2010.


Stampede within the gull-colony at Khar Us Nuur, May 2010.

The southern part of the lake was under very hard grazing pressure and most of the reeds had been either grazed or trampled. It seems that nowadays the ever increasing number of livestock in this part of the National Park poses a much greater threat to the reedbeds than the Muskrat which was so stupidly introduced a few decades ago. Along the shore there was not much higher vegetation left as well and we did not see any Yellow Wagtail. All very worrying.

The next day (May, 30th) we drove north to Airag Nuur and from this lake we can report at least some good news: Zavkhan Gol was flowing again and this may lead to a slight increase of the water level of this ornithologically so important lake. During the last years Zavkhan Gol had almost completely stopped flowing thanks to the construction of a dam at the upper reaches of the river. One consequence of this was the water level plummeting quickly with an impressive reduction of the size of the lake. Our tents were set up about 2 km from the former lakeshore but still 2 km from the recent one as well at the western edge of the Zavkhan Gol delta. As were arrived late that day we just could quick-check the delta and were much delighted to see a few Pallas’s Fish Eagle.


Pallas’s Fish Eagle, first summer, Airag Nuur, May 2010.


Pallas’s Gull, adult, Airag Nuur, May 2010.


Eastern Common Swift (Apus apus pekinensis), Airag Nuur, May 2010.

Our waterbird-count started early on the last day of May with the crossing of the waist-deep Zavkhan Gol (rather chilly still and with a strong current, so much care was needed not to drop the equipment or ourselves): 350 Whooper Swan, 40 Greylag Goose, 45 Swan Goose, 42 Bar-headed Goose, 40 Common Shelduck, 25 Ruddy Shelduck, 110 Mallard (almost exclusively moulting males), 180 Northern Pintail, 80 Northern Shoveler, 80 Eurasian Wigeon, 20 Common Teal, 3 Garganey, 320 Common Pochard, 350 Red-crested Pochard, 1 Common Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, 30 Grey Heron, 2 Great White Egret, 90 Eurasian Spoonbill, 1500 Great Cormorant (no breeding there), 45 Greater Sand Plover, 4 Black-winged Stilt, 80 Avocet (including 20 breeding pairs), 30 Sanderling, 1 Red Knot, 360 Little Stint, 6 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 10 Pacific Golden Plover, 2 Red-necked Phalarope, 20 Little Tern, 4 Gull-billed Tern, 100 Common Tern, 4 Caspian Tern, 50 White-winged Tern, 1250 Pallas’s Gull (no breeding there), 200 Black-headed Gull, 800 Mongolian Gull (including 20–30 breeding pairs) and an incredible total of 19 Dalmatian Pelican were underlining the lake’s reputation as were the no less than 11 Pallas’s Fish Eagle. Again, no Yellow Wagtail was seen but a lonesome White-naped Crane was quite far west.


14 Dalmatian Pelican (each indicated by a red pointer) roosting on a sandbar. A further 5 were sitting among the other waterbirds. Airag Nuur, May 2010.


Black/Black-eared Kite, Airag Nuur, May 2010.

Intermediate kites like this (with a small pale primary-patch, rather dark undertail-coverts,
less lineated body and with pale eyes) occurs as far east as Airag Nuur at least.

Our next lake was Oigon Nuur but before we drove there we briefly stopped at the canal connecting Khyargas and Airag Nuur. Here the drop of the water-level was clearly visible and 700 Great Cormorant were roosting about 4 m deeper than they could before. We arrived at Oigon Nuur late this day (June, 1st).

Oigon Nuur itself had very few birds (checked on June, 2nd) but the small lake southwest of it had some small islands and many birds: 95 Asian White-winged Scoter, 200 Common Pochard, 88 Tufted Duck, 247 Common Goldeneye, 78 Northern Shoveler, 10 Northern Pintail, 25 Garganey (males only) and few others. A minimum of 697 nests of Mongolian Gull was counted, complemented by 4 nests on Bar-headed Goose and a nest of Whooper Swan. There were also about 10 breeding pairs of Common Tern and about 60 occupied nests of Avocet. We also noted few migrating birds: 1 Black Stork, 5 Eurasian Spoonbill and 7 Great Cormorant.

To be continued…