Gullivers’s Travels 2012

text by Andreas Buchheim

part four (final): The Birding Days

Our first site was the gorge of the Khovd River, near the border between the three provinces Khovd, Uvs and Bayan-Olgii, a site that had been recommended to us by Axel Bräunlich. It was not that easy to get there as we had to navigate through an agricultural area along the river but near a reservoir we came across a group of Rosy Starlings. At the entrance to the gorge we found a party of 6 Siberian Ibex and virtually the first birds were two female Spotted Great Rosefinches aka Severtzov’s Rosefinch. After having pitched our tents at the nice “camp ground” we started ringing and did birdwatching as well. This all happened on 28 May.


Khovd River Gorge, May 2012, © L. von der Heyde


Khovd River Gorge, Sept 2006, (photo not from
the Gulliver tour). © A. Bräunlich


Male Pied Wheatear, Khovd Gorge, May 2012,
© A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde


Pair of Isabelline Shrike,
the male is linking to Turkestan Shrike by plumage,
Khovd Gorge, May 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde

The next day Lutz spotted a pale “thing” that just had landed in the cliff. We put our scopes on it and it turned out to be a male Barbary Falcon, the desert relative of the Peregrine. The bird was paired with another falcon. This female falcon was not much bigger than its male and hence quite small for a female and looked like a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Barbary Falcon: There was no orange on the head and the moustache was rather broad (for a Barbary) and triangular. The cheek patch reached the eye, nevertheless (not typical for the local breeding Peregrines). Its underside was more densely barred than that of the male (which is normally the case in both Peregrine and Barbary Falcons) but not as barred as in a pure Peregrine so the underside looked quite white (a bit peachy). Interesting! (note: Axel Bräunlich observed at this site a Peregrine on 13 May 2006).

On 30 May we went to a valley where we had found Mongolia’s first Pied Flycatcher in 2006 and but this time we found the usual birds like Chukar, White-winged Snowfinch, Brown Accentor, Godlewski’s and Grey-necked Buntings, Barred Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Great Reed Warbler (a migrant as there are no reeds) and more common stuff only. It was nice to see a mixed group of ortolan-type buntings (1 Ortolan and 2 Grey-necked Buntings, all females) along the road.

Then we headed for Khovdijn Khar Us Nuur to find some Relict Gulls for Lutz and Tuvshin. We arrived at the lake shore in the early afternoon of 31 May and camped at the watchtower (this is at the south-western corner of the lake). There was a huge flock of Common Swifts over the lake and we estimated that it consisted of about 3000 individuals with only a handful Pacific Swifts among them. On the muddy areas large numbers of White-winged Terns (about 700 pairs) were attending later breeding sites (just a guess) and there were a further 2000 hunting insects above the reeds. Our quick check for Relict Gull was unsuccessful; only 400 Black-headed plus 500 Pallas’s and around 300 Mongolian Gulls were the only Larids we saw. 

On 1 June we tried again for the Relict Gull but failed again to find one. Lutz and Tuvshin were quite desperate but white-headed birds like 20 White-headed Ducks and the Yellow Wagtails of the nice taxon leucocephala cheered them up.


Male “White-headed Wagtail”, Uvsijn Khar Us Nuur,
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde


Male “White-headed Wagtail”,
a different individual, Uvsijn Khar Us Nuur, Jun 2012,
© A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde

Then came gulls' day: 2 June 2012: The gulls had been coming to the meadows every morning to feed on insects giving us the brilliant chance to check each of them very carefully. So they did today. Wham! Something unusual was spotted through the scope – a first winter Slender-billed Gull, the second for Mongolia! Lutz and I went down to take some record shots and while doing so we found 8 Relict Gulls! Happy guys returned to the camp for a liquid breakfast.


A nice trio (left to right):
Pallas’s, Slender-billed and Relict Gulls feeding on
the meadow, Uvsijn Khar Us Nuur, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim


Nice duo (left to right): Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls,
Uvsijn Khar Us Nuur, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim


The same day we visited Khovd city for having a shower and buy provisions.


Approaching Khovd City from the east,
Jun 2012, © Lutz von der Heyde

We camped in the famous Otzon Chuluu plantation, not far from Khovd hot (c. 4 km north of the city centre).


Otzon Chuluu plantation (green circle), north of
Khovd hot (Khovd city). © Google / Digital Globe


Otzon Chuluu from the air, Nov 2007,
(photo not from the Gulliver tour). © A. Bräunlich

We stayed there until Tuvshin and Lutz went back to Ulaanbaatar on 6 June, and ringed many songbirds, i.e. two Yellow-browed Warblers among the many Hume’s Warblers plus much more.


Otzon Chuluu plantation (in the background right, at the
foot of the mountain), Jun 2012, © Lutz von der Heyde


Inside Otzon Chuluu plantation, Sept 2006,
(photo not from the Gulliver tour). © A. Bräunlich


Yellow-browed Warbler (left) and Hume’s Warbler,
Otzon Chuluu, Jun 2012, © L. von der Heyde


Siberian Chiffchaff: not all have all black bills.
Otzon Chuluu, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde


Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a local breeder in Otzon Chuluu,
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde


ssp margelanica of Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca,
Otzon Chuluu, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde
(thanks go to Peter de Knijff for DNA analysis)

ssp margelanica of Lesser Whitethroat, another individual,
Otzon Chuluu, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim & L. von der Heyde
(thanks go to Peter de Knijff for DNA analysis)

Masked Wagtail (personata), Otzon Chuluu,
Jun 2012, © L. von der Heyde

The trip was very successful and the gullivers want to say a big “thank you” to our driver Banzai and tour cook Ayush for completing the team. Bye, Bye!


Gulliver Tuvshin Unenbat with gull AJ23,
Mongolia 2012, © A. Buchheim

Gulliver Lutz von der Heyde with gull AL24,
Mongolia 2012, © A. Buchheim

Gulliver ABu (with a handful of gulls ready for release),
Mongolia 2012, © L. von der Heyde


Links to previous posts:
part one: Terchijn Tsagaan Nuur
part two: Oigon Nuur
part three: Uvsijn Khar Us Nuur

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice observation. Do you have any photos of that barbara falcon?