July 27, 2013

part five:

Days in another plantation (Bulgan)

text by ABu in collaboration with Kirsten Krätzel

Links to previous Mountain Birds 2012 on Birding Mongolia:
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

We arrived at Bulgan town in the west of Mongolia (it is only about 45 km to the Chinese-Mongolian border) in the afternoon of 11 June 2012. After a hurried and late lunch we tried to find a campsite. Unfortunately all the higher vegetation is on the western side of the river and there is only one bridge. In the end we were allowed to pitch our tents in the plantation by the bridge and its owner was proud to show us the heronry which he protects.

Our camp in the plantation, Bulgan,
Jun 2012, © A. Schneider

This western “oasis” (in the Dzungarian Gobi, isolated from the rest of Mongolia by the Altai mountains) holds a number of species that are difficult to get elsewhere in the country: Eurasian Bee-eater (2), Red-headed Bunting (5 territories), Common Nightingale (the eastern taxon golzii [formerly called hafizi] breeds here) and Lesser Grey Shrike (quite common; discovered in 2006 only, see here) are among them, and we logged all during the first few minutes of birding in the plantation. During the night, an Eurasian Scops Owl sang from the highest poplar trees but we couldn’t catch it.

Record shot of Eurasian Bee-eater,
Bulgan, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Lesser Grey Shrike, Bulgan,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Male Red-headed Bunting, Bulgan,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

During the next day we properly explored the plantation which covers about 80 hectares. The most comon cultivated crop in the plantation is plum but the owner has problems to sell them as the only bigger market—Ulaanbaatar—is too far away. We combed the tree rows for birds and got Azure Tits, White-crowned Penduline Tits and also found several Great x Turkestan Tits. This hybrid population is well known and we could not find a single pure (looking) Turkestan Tit (which has recently been treated as subspecies of Great Tit anyway). In contrast to this we saw about five tits which looked like the average Great Tit.

Great Tit x Turkestan Tit, the palest individual,
Bulgan, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Claws one: Red-headed Bunting, Bulgan,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg & A. Buchheim

There were about 10 pairs of Lesser Grey Shrike, the 5 singing male Red-headed Buntings again, at least 6 territories of Common Nightingale, now even 4 Bee-eaters, a Common Kingfisher along the river, a singing Barred Warbler, several groups of Rosy Starling, a few Eurasian Golden Orioles and, most noteworthy, 2 pairs of Eurasian Greenfinch.

This Black (-eared) Kite wanted to take a bird
out of the mistnet but got caught itself,
Bulgan, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg & A. Buchheim

Eastern Common Nightingale (ssp. golzii), Bulgan,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg & A. Buchheim

After a short trapping session (Common Nightingale, White-crowned Penduline Tit) in the morning of 13 Jun we left the plantation and headed eastwards. The paved and very even road let us quickly reaching the Altai Mountains.

Now we crossed this mountain range again but more to the south hence it was a rather dry affair. We stopped in a very rocky valley and started birding. Along the small stream we found two territories of Eurasian Dipper (subspecies leucogaster) and saw a Wallcreeper while a Golden Eagle appeared (and disappeared). Sulphur-bellied Warblers were on show again and we even found an occupied nest.

The group at easy birding, here the nest of
Sulphur-bellied Warbler was scrutinized,
Altai, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

And here is one of the guys, Sulphur-bellied Warbler,
Altai, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Eurasian Dipper (ssp. leucogaster, pale morph),
Altai, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Further up we tried to some other birds but apart from flyby rosefinches (not identified) the junipers hosted only Brown Accentors. We went on and saw our first Mongolian Saigas, a very shy and extremely fast running species of antelope, near Tonchil and in the evening we arrived at Ikhes Nuur.

What we discovered there will be reported on Birding Mongolia soon!

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