January 7, 2011

A dull day at the Tuul Gol, Ulaanbaatar

text and photos © Andreas Buchheim

The weather forecast for January, 7th was promising: a clear and sunny day with a little breeze from the west, so I decided to give the Tuul Gol (gol = river) a try. One of the most threatened habitats in Middle and Central Asia is riparian forest. Man has always preferred to settle down along water courses and thus had the biggest impact on this habitat. This holds true for the riparian floodplain forest of Mongolia, for sure! What has not been cut down for the use of fuel-wood had been grazed upon heavily and looks much degraded, or is already gone totally.

Along the Tuul Gol, which runs through Ulaanbaatar (in the southern part of the city) there is still some riparian forest left (actually rather a bush land with interspersed trees) and this is within walking distance from my flat. With some regularity I check which birds can be found along a 6.5 km-long stretch, roughly from the Marshall Bridge (connecting the residence of the president with the city) to the skiing area. Despite the bright forecast it remained thickly overcast and—since there was no wind at all—the night-smog of the city was not blown away.

Whereas in summer an unlucky bird-photographer can get stuck on the wrong side of the river, now—with the river being frozen solid—I could follow the birds freely by simply walking to the other side. So the luck was on my side this time. But birds were few and far apart. I criss-crossed the area in search for White-backed Woodpecker (usually always there but none found this time) and Azure Tit of which I saw two flocks totalling 23 birds. They very often came down to feed and they especially liked the darker areas beneath the bushes.

Azure Tit, Tuul Gol, Ulaanbaatar, they don’t look clean white!

In a cluster of poplar trees (Populus) I heard a soft “pchip”-call and together with the pecking sound coming from the same direction I went there to see which woodpecker was on duty. Ahh, another Three-toed and again a female.

Female Three-toed Woodpecker on poplar

A bit later I flushed a group of 12 Eurasian Tree Sparrows and saw a hunting Upland Buzzard (it was not successful). A male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, 15 Great Tits, 20 Common Ravens, 4 Oriental Crows, 25 of the beautiful Eurasian Magpie and 4 Long-tailed Rosefinches completed the set of birds for this day. More to come soon.

Female Long-tailed Rosefinch alighting (note the male in the background)

And here he is: male Long-tailed Rosefinch

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