Birding tour to Khövsgöl nuur and
Ogii nuur in summer 2011
text and photos © Thomas Hallfarth
western shore of Khövsgöl nuur, July 2011
From 10 to 29 July 2011 we made a magnificent birding trip to Khövsgöl nuur in the northern part of Mongolia. Together with my wife Jana and my son Max as well as my friends Jens Voigt and Kersten Hänel we went from UB via Orkhon gol, the Selenge valley and Erkhel nuur to Khövsgöl nuur.
During the journey we made some very nice observations. In the Orkhon gol valley some Chestnut-eared Buntings and Long-tailed Rosefinches were singing and feeding. It was our only locality where we found three singing Dusky Warblers.
Long-tailed Rosefinch, Orkhon gol, July 2011
In the poplar forests and willow brush and in the groves of Selenge gol valley we saw two White-backed Woodpeckers and some breeding Lesser Kestrels.
The colourful Selenge gol valley, July 2011
White-backed Woodpecker, Selenge gol, July 2011
Lesser Kestrel, Selenge gol, July 2011
A flock of more than 30 Azure Tits included one hybrid with a “black-caped tit” (species?).
black-capped hybrid Azure x ??? Tit
Selenge gol, July 2011
black-capped hybrid Azure x ??? Tit
detail, July 2011
Around 15 White-throated Needletails hunted above the riparian forest. On a small woody island at Selenge gol two Fieldfares attacked some Common Magpies and Azure-winged Magpies; perhaps it was a breeding pair? Other interesting species were Booted Eagle, Eurasian Scops Owl, Oriental Turtle Dove and Long-tailed Tit.
Siberian Chiffchaff and Azure Tit, Selenge Gol, July 2011
Our main aim, Khövsgöl nuur, is Mongolia’s largest freshwater lake and coincidentally its second largest lake by area. It is 1,645 m above sea level, 136 km long and over 260 m deep. It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia, and holds almost 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water and an impressive 0.4% of all the fresh water in the world! The water is cold and absolutely clear with only few waterfowl on it. It is surrounded by taiga forest (mainly larch), low willow brush and colourful meadows. High mountain ranges located on the western side of Khövsgöl nuur. Directly alongside the west shore some lagoons with a lot of waterfowl are located here. In the area around the Khövsgöl nuur we’ve seen or heard some nice species like Black-throated Diver, Bearded Vulture, White-tailed and Imperial Eagle, Osprey, Ural Owl, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, White-backed Woodpecker, Wryneck, Brown Shrike, Red-flanked Bluetail, Asian and Taiga Flycatcher, Two-barred Warbler, Hume’s Leaf Warbler and on higher altitudes Plain Mountain Finch and White-winged Snowfinch.
eastern shore Khövsgöl nuur, July 2011
juvenile Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Khövsgöl Nuur, July 2011
Two-barred Warbler, Khövsgöl Nuur, July 2011
During the return journey to UB a lot of waders rested at the shore of the saline lake Erkhel nuur (c. 70 km SSW of the southern end of Khövsgöl nuur), among them about 20 Long-toed Stints, some Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and one Grey-tailed Tattler.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Erkhel Nuur, July 2011
At 30 July 2011, when Jens and Kersten were flying home, I started with my family the second part of our holiday trip to the lake Ogii nuur, some 300 km west of UB. On the way we visited other good birding places, for instance Tuul Gol near the village Lun Sum with nice observations of Swinhoe’s Snipe, a single Grey-tailed Tattler as well as a feeding Isabelline Shrike.
Swinhoe’s Snipe, Tuul gol near
Lun sum, July 2011
Asian Lesser Short-toed Lark, Tuul gol
near Lun sum, July 2011
Also the saline lakes between the villages Dashchilen sum and Bayanuur sum accommodated a lot of birds, for example Pacific Golden Plover and two singing Baillon’s Crakes.
Little Owl, bridge over Orkhon gol
near Ogii Nuur, July 2011.
At Ogii nuur single Terek Sandpiper, Spoonbill and Great Egret were roosting. In addition we saw c. 1,500 Swan Gees and a triplet of “Pallas’s birds”, notably a single immature Pallas’s Fish Eagle as well as several Pallas’s Gulls and Pallas’s Buntings.
Thunderstorm near Ogii nuur, July 2011
Isabelline Wheatear, Ogii nuur, July 2011
Pallas’s Bunting, Ogii nuur, July 2011
Our trip ended on 5 August 2011. We flew home with more than 190 bird species “in our package”!