December 19, 2013

part nine:

Hangover Birding

text by ABu

Links to previous Mountain Birds 2012 on Birding Mongolia:

part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8

As our list of mountain birds was almost complete by now we could switch to fun birding at a slower pace. On 20 June we just made it down the hills to the small village of Buutsagaan. Here we were invited for dinner (by the family of our driver Banzai) and as always in Mongolia, there was more than enough food on the table. There was even more than food. This “more than food” lead to a big hangover the next day and gave us a late and lazy start. Shortly after having left the settlement we came across a group of Henderson’s Ground Jays and the photographers went off to get decent shots of this running bird. The first birds were quite flighty, though, but on our way to the lake we saw more individuals, totalling five birds, which is quite a lot given the fact that most of us slept on the way to the lake.

Desolate barren ground is the prime habitat for

Henderson’s Ground Jay, Buutsagaan, Jun 2012, © A. Schneider

Henderson’s Ground Jay hiding its bold plumage parts,
near Buutsagaan, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Henderson’s Ground Jay, near Buutsagaan,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

As we approached the lake on its western side we had several groups of Pallas’s Sandgrouse and literally the first bird we saw at the lake was a young Pallas’s Fish Eagle. At the southern shore the low water level (a record low!) had created two new islands which had emerged from the lake. These had been occupied by c. 600 pairs of Great Cormorants and were also used by about 750 pairs of Mongolian Gulls.

In the south of the lake is a small Saxaul forest where we quickly located a nest of Saxaul (Steppe/Asian Grey) Shrike (pallidirostris). We ringed the chicks and the female of the pair but hurried to leave the site because of the unpleasant abundance of mosquitoes.

Male Saxaul (Steppe Grey) Shrike,
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Jun 2013, T. Langenberg

2cy female Saxaul Shrike, Boon Tsagaan Nuur,
Jun 2013, T. Langenberg & A. Buchheim

Saxaul Shrike chick, Boon Tsagaan Nuur,
Jun 2013, © K. Krätzel

Male Pallas’s Sandgrouse,
near Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Goyo Plant Cynomorium songaricum parasitizing Nitraria sp,
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

immature Pallas’s Fish Eagle,
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

All the former wetlands that could be found until a few years ago were dried up so we decided to stay overnight at the delta of the Baidrag Gol in the north-east corner of the lake. The river once was mighty but thanks to the mining and the long-lasting drought it is nowadays only ankle-deep. Nevertheless, there are some wet meadows left near the delta of the Baidrag Gol.

We went birding and among the almost 500 Black-headed Gulls we found an adult Relict Gull, quite “boring” now (see here). Unfortunately we failed in finding a Brown-headed Gull (a species recorded from here more or less regularly). Only three Pallas’s Gulls were logged and there was not much else.

As we went on a bit to get closer to the other Pallas’s Fish Eagles (one adult and some immatures, six eagles in total) we flushed a small whitish egret which was attending the livestock. This turned out to be an adult breeding-plumaged Eastern Cattle Egret. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (sensu lato) has recently been split into Western Cattle Egret B. ibis (sensu stricto) and Eastern Cattle Egret B. coromandus. There are about 10 records of cattle egret known from Mongolia, and they still have to be checked to find out if only Eastern Cattle Egret (with 2-3 proven records) are involved. (see R Ahmed 2011: Subspecific identification and status of Cattle Egret, 149-162. In Dutch Birding. Download PDF)

Adult breeding plumage Eastern Cattle Egret,
Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Jun 2013, © A. Buchheim

While we were celebrating this record (and keeping our level of alcohol!) three Black Storks arrived as did nine Eurasian Spoonbills. Cheers!

Birding the wet grasslands at Boon Tsagaan Nuur,
Jun 2013, © Armin Schneider

Near-adult Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Boon Tsagaan Nuur,
Jun 2013, © T. Langenberg

2cy Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Boon Tsagaan Nuur,
Jun 2013, © A. Buchheim

The power celebrating made it necessary to go shopping and we did just this in Bayankhongor on 22 June. This day was a transit day and we drove all day until darkness (380 km in total). During the day we did not see that much but a few Himalayan Griffons and (most welcomed by Sönke!) a male Oriental Plover in display flight let us interrupt the driving. In the evening we pitched the tents near Arvaikheer.

How to make a birder happy…
Bayankhongor, Jun 2012, © K. Krätzel

This guy also made us happy! Male Oriental Plover in
display flight, near Arvaikheer, Jun 2013, © T. Langenberg

Underside of the same Oriental Plover,
near Arvaikheer, Jun 2013, © T. Langenberg

Painting of the Khukh Nuur gull colony in a roadside
restaurant near Arvaikheer, Jun 2013, © K. Krätzel

The weather was a mixture of wind and rain, sometimes augmented by hail. More about the remaining few days of this trip will be reported on this site soon. Stay tuned!

Adverse weather in Jun 2013, near Arvaikheer, © Armin Schneider

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