April 3, 2013

part two: The Khovd days

text by Andreas Buchheim

The group arrived at Khovd Airport in western Mongolia on 6 June and decided to stay for one night at the Otzon Chuluu Plantation to check for late migrants and to relax a bit after the tiring travel from Germany to Khovd. Although most migrants had left the plantation we found a male Eurasian Chaffinch, an Olive-backed Pipit, an un-ringed Siberian Chiffchaff and a group of 11 Rosy Starlings. Local birds included pairs of Black Stork, Booted Eagle and Eurasian Hobby. Several phylloscs were singing: Hume’ s Leaf Warblers plus Arctic and Greenish Warblers, what a nice concert! In the evening the sounds changed and we heard a new arrival adding its voice to the night concert: Common Nightjar, two singing males of which one was caught, subsequently ringed and then released.

Portrait of a male Common Nightjar
Otzon Chuluu Plantation, Khovd, Jun 2012
© T. Langenberg & A. Buchheim

This Black(-eared) Kite was really eye-catching
Otzon Chuluu Plantation, Khovd, Jun 2012
© T. Langenberg

Eurasian Hobby with its hapless prey,
a just fledged Horned Lark
Otzon Chuluu Plantation, Khovd,
Jun 2012, © Thomas Langenberg

On the next morning we had a female Rubythroat inside the shrubs, but we left for Khar Us Nuur after our tents had dried. There was a singing Yellow-browed Warbler, a quite rare bird here in the west, but the gullivers had ringed two in the plantation the days before: see here. (A. Bräunlich saw only 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, compared to c. 2800 Hume’s Leaf Warblers in Khovd from May 2006 to October 2007; a similar ratio has been recorded by Hungarian ringers in western Mongolia). In the large colony of Eastern Rooks (pastinator) the chicks were out of the nests already but another species was still trying its best to attract a mate (may be it had one, but we didn't see it): A male Eurasian Greenfinch was singing in the western part of the city. Could it be that the species is about to colonize Mongolia?

Common Starling, Khovd, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Eastern Rook, Khovd, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Eurasian Greenfinch, Khovd, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

The entrance to Khongil IBA (between Khovd and Khar Us Nuur) was as difficult to find as always, but finally we went down through that beautiful canyon and saw birds like Common Rock Thrush, Grey-necked Bunting and the complete set of wheatears, namely Northern, Isabelline, Desert and Pied. Unfortunately, not a single Lesser Kestrel was seen there.

Northern Wheatear, Khongil IBA,
western Mongolia, © T. Langenberg

The western shore of Khar Us Nuur,
as seen from the plane. © T. Langenberg

The watchtower camp, Khar Us Nuur,
© T. Langenberg

Down at the lake we pitched our tents near the watchtower and went birding. It did not take long and we found a Slender-billed Gull, this time a pinkish adult one, Mongolia’s third ever! No time for celebrations as we actually were looking for another gull species: Relict Gull. The two we found were much admired as we could not know by then what we would find some time later (watch this site!). Another “gull thing” we did, was reading wing tags from our photographs and by doing so we identified three of the gulls which had been wing-tagged at the same spot in 2006.

Adult Slender-billed Gull, Khar Us Nuur
© T. Langenberg

Wing-tagged Mongolian Gull (wingtag AD62),
this tag could easily been read from the photo.
Khar Us Nuur, © A. Buchheim

Wing-tagged Mongolian Gull (wingtag AD87),
the tag can be read without any difficulties
on this head-on gull, Khar Us Nuur, © A. Buchheim

Wing-tagged Mongolian Gull (wingtag AD63),
even if the gull is photographed from behind the tag
can sometimes been read, Khar Us Nuur, © A. Buchheim

There were a lot of ducks and other waterbirds spread out in the shallows: 500 White-winged Terns, 300 Northern Shovelers, 150 Gadwalls, 70 Garganeys, 40 Eurasian Spoonbills, 30 Northern Pintails including a leucistic one, 10 Eurasian Wigeons and about 10 White-headed Ducks. Further there were 6 Lesser Kestrels, 25 Rosy Starlings and a calling Eastern Baillon’s Crake, the latter heard when it was already dark.

Male Lesser Kestrel
Khar Us Nuur, near the watchtower
© T. Langenberg

Asian Short-toed Lark
Khar Us Nuur, near the watchtower
© T. Langenberg

White-headed Yellow Wagtail (ssp leucocephala)
Khar Us Nuur, near the watchtower, © T. Langenberg

On 8 June we did some birding before we started for the Altai Mountains and could relocate the first summer Slender-billed Gull that was seen earlier: see here. Among the territorial Yellow Wagtails of the white-headed subspecies leucocephala we found a paired male macronyx, a subspecies which is widely distributed in Mongolia but not known to breed that far to the west. The female of the macronyx was not identified down to the taxon!

Then we went for our mountain birds, but this will be reported about later…
Mountainbirds, part one: Almost the UB Ponds as a starter

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