January 9, 2011

Scarce & rarely photographed Mongolian birds #1

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

by Axel Bräunlich

Of the 12 species of heron and bittern (family Ardeidae) recorded in Mongolia three have already been featured on Birding Mongolia: Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus, Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax and Yellow-billed Egret Egretta intermedia.

During a trip to eastern Mongolia we observed at least adult 7 Purple Herons Ardea purpurea in the Khalkh gol (Khalkh river) Delta at Buir nuur (Lake Buir) on 6 August 2010. The herons were commuting between their presumed breeding sites in the delta and some feeding grounds a few kilometres away. Neither of the sites could be visited since the observation area is directly at the Mongolian-Chinese border and access is very much restricted.

Purple Heron, Khalkh gol, August 2010. Photo C. Bock

On 7 August 2010 we observed again 3 Purple Herons while “seawatching” – see photo below.

The Russian ornithologist Oleg Goroshko recorded the first breeding of Purple Heron at Khalkh gol/Buir nuur (and presumably the first breeding for all of Mongolia) in July 2003, when he observed 3 adults and one nest with 3 large chicks: Goroshko, O. A. 2004. Data for Waterbirds at Buyr Nuur (Eastern Mongolia). Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences 2(1): 67–68.

From the photo above, zoomed in. Photo C. Bock.

Khalkh gol/Buir nuur is probably the only area in Mongolia where Purple Heron can easily be observed. Further west it is very rare.

Axel “seawatching”: counting over 12,000 Great Cormorants, flying from
the Khalkh gol Delta to their feeding grounds at Buir nuur. Photo S. Klasan

Sunset at Buir Nuur, August 2010. Photo A. Bräunlich

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