January 20, 2014

Best of trash

text & photos by Abu

On 18 December 2013 I had one of my rare opportunities to go out birding. Since I had been informed that the area below Songino Khairkhan Uul (which is in the west of UB) has a lot of waxwings this year I decided to go there and check them out. Thousands of Bohemian Waxwings are usually wintering in Mongolia and the species might even breed somewhere in the forests in the north of the country, though to my knowledge breeding has not been proven yet. Since I saw my first waxwings in Mongolia (in May 2004 in Choilbalsan), I kept checking all flocks I came across for Japanese Waxwing, which still has to be found in the country. Last winter (2012/13) had been a very good year to put Japanese Waxing on the Mongolian list. Many had been recorded in the Irkutsk area (info via Igor Fefelov) and some had even reached Kazakhstan (info via Arend Wassing). In average years we have between 500 and 1000 Bohemian Waxwings staying in the west of UB alone, but as the fruiting trees had failed to produce fruits during the summer of 2012 the highest count in last winter was a meagre 15 and hence Japanese Waxwing could not be added.

Optimistically I drove via the newly paved road (at a swift 80 km/h!) to the west, passed the airport and arrived at the Songino bridge after 35 minutes. In August 2013 I had seen that there were lots of fruits and my expectations were high, very high. Indeed, in one of the first fruiting trees I encountered a group of—Northern Bullfinches and started photographing. Today I unfortunately chose the wrong camera settings and of the 20 GB I shot I deleted 19.5 after my return back home. My second stupid mistake of the day was to try photographing from the car and although it was not extremely cold (minus 24°C when I left, heating up to minus 15°C by noon), many pictures showed the influence of frost haze. So what the readers of Birding Mongolia see here is just what the headline tells!


Northern Bullfinch (nominate) pair,
note how well the female blends into the bush,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


Male Northern Bullfinch (nominate),
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013

We have quite often seen Northern Bullfinches at the site. Interestingly they always belonged to the nominate subspecies (some of the females may have not, but I can’t tell them from female cineracea!). The latter we saw so far in mountain forests only.

I went on in search for waxwings and saw the first, a group of only four after one hour! I had seen two pairs of a much rarer species by then already but they proved difficult to photograph. After the first few panic shots (see the below) they birds settled and I got some near-decent shots (severe “after session processing” was necessary!) of a male and a female Chaffinch.


Panic shot of the first female Chaffinch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


The second female Chaffinch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


Male Chaffinch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013

Also the usual flock of app. 25 Azure-winged Magpies was around and was difficult to capture in MB again. There were also some other standard birds around like Great and Azure Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch, Lesser Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers (singles only), few Ruddy Shelducks, a flyby Common Goldeneye, the assemblage of corvids harassed a young Northern Goshawk (this one not so often seen here) and I also got Little Owl logged.


Azure-winged Magpie, …and hop,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


Azure-winged Magpie, ...checking bark,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013

Azure-winged Magpie, checking the bark, close-up,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013

The most numerous birds were the redpolls and Birding Mongolia will feature those a little later in a separate post. Other seedeaters were Hawfinch (3) and Long-tailed Rosefinch of which I saw three, too.

And the waxwings? The grand total was 25. Very poor, indeed!


Bohemian Waxwing,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


Pair of Long-tailed Rosefinches,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013


Male Long-tailed Rosefinch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, Dec 2013

Watch out for the redpoll post!

3 comments:

egor_13 said...

Hi Abu,
(the 2nd trial as the comment has not been posted)

In my experience, to photograph from a car in winter using tele lens, it is needed to switch the saloon warming off and to open ALL car windows before. Some years ago I made much worse photo of a gyrfalcon perching close by the road than wished as we forgot to do it and as soomn as we got a thought to make it the bird has flown away.

For Bohemian Waxwings,now there is rather little number in Irkutsk due to a moth pest on Pallas's apple trees in the last summer and very few fruits at them due to. Nothing to say about Japanese W. In the Southwestern Siberia e.g. Barnaul and Novosibirsk, there were big flocks of BW flying westward in early Jan.

Best,

Igor

Axel said...

Privet Igor, sain uu?
Which species is "Pallas's apple"?
Many greetings,
Axel

egor_13 said...

Amar sain Axel, sain baina uu?

More one (third) trial to reply HERE doing not lost the comment like two former ones!

I mean Siberian (Pallas's) crab apple, which is very abundant as a garden tree in settlements here.

Best,

Igor