March 5, 2014

part two:

Birding minus two

text & photos by ABu

Ice art at Urd Tamir River, Feb 2014

Unfortunately Huyagaa and Puujee had to leave in the morning of 9 February, so Amarkhuu and I were on our own then. We decided to try our luck on Solitary Snipe and drove c. 25 km to Tsenkher Hot Springs. Here we hoped to find it along the stream created by the spring. As we crossed the Urd Tamir River we saw that there was open water, but during our very brief stop the only bird we could add to our list was a singing Eastern Marsh Tit. The hot spring itself was disappointing. The open stream was only 100 m long before everything was frozen over—and there was no Solitary Snipe. To compensate our frustration we did some birding in the adjacent forest for an hour or so. The forest looked quite good, but despite the promising habitat we saw only a single bird: Eurasian Nuthatch. Even more frustrated we drove back to the Urd Tamir River. Not long after we had left the car we found a nice but shy White-throated Dipper. Ahhh, that was a relief! We continued and in the end we had seen even two dippers and a male Güldenstädt’s Redstart as well. Luckily, and finally, we found our Solitary Snipe which was feeding almost invisibly between some rocks!

Tsenkher Hot Springs, Feb 2014

White-throated Dipper
Urd Tamir River, Feb 2014

Male Güldenstädt’s Redstart
Urd Tamir River, Feb 2014

Solitary Snipe
Urd Tamir River, Feb 2014

The rising steam from the open water, although not much, made it almost impossible to get good photographs of the snipe and the redstart. It was a shady stretch of the river as well, and it took me more than one hour to get what I wanted. Better pictures of the snipe will be posted separately next. Two happy guys returned to Tsetserleg that evening.

After a good and much needed rest we were out searching for our target species again the next morning, on 10 February. During the morning we passed Tsenkher village and an almost bird-free steppe until we reached Ogij village in the Orchon valley near Ogij Nuur.

On our drive along the eastern banks of the river we found lots of Upland Buzzards, just as we did before. We saw more than 40 Corsac Foxes that day and this, together with the presence of so many buzzards, was a good indicator for rodent abundance. Just before we entered Kharkhorin on our way to Erdenesant village we came across a Rough-legged Buzzard, the only one during the entire trip.

Golden Eagle, near Ogij village, Feb 2014

Poor record shot of Rough-legged Buzzard,
near Kharkhorin, Feb 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard
near Kharkhorin, Feb 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard
near Kharkhorin, Feb 2014

On 11 February we went to Erdenesant Mountain, but got stuck in the snow just before we reached the site. With the help of a shovel we finally made it and saw Brown Accentors, Daurian Partridges, Eurasian Black Vultures and about 200 Bohemian Waxwings. There were also a few Red-throated Thrushes around but it was impossible to get even near-acceptable shots.

Stuck in the snow, Erdenesant Mountain, Feb 2014

Bohemian Waxwings
Erdenesant Mountain, Feb 2014

Juniperus spec. full of waxwing food,
Erdenesant Mountain, Feb 2014

The waxwings left more than footprints,
Erdenesant Mountain, Feb 2014

After lunch we went on to Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur aka Tsagaan Nuur. Not far from Erdenesant village we encountered a Bearded Vulture. One reason to check out the reeds of Bayan Nuur was a recent sighting of Bearded Tit from UB Ponds in December 2013. Although we scrutinized the reeds for almost two hours we could not find any Bearded Tit, only a single Azure Tit was around. Under the bridge we found a strangulated Barn Swallow. It is risky to use horse tail hair, apparently. At 16:00h we called it a day and went back to UB.

Bearded Vulture
near Erdenesant village, Feb 2014

Species List (48 species, without the Barn Swallow):

Common Goldeneye: one at Urd Tamir River
Goosander: two at Urd Tamir River
Bearded Vulture: few seen
Eurasian Black Vulture: up to nine, seen daily
Upland Buzzard: very common in the Orchon Valley, rare at all other sites, some pairs already attending nests, one pair was mating on a nest
Rough-legged Buzzard: a single near Kharkhorin was the only one
Golden Eagle: four seen
Common Kestrel: three seen
Merlin: seen daily, but never more than one per day
Saker: surprisingly few encountered, only one in the Orchon valley despite the mass abundance of rodents

Amarkhuu and the mature reeds
at Bayan Nuur, Feb 2014

Daurian Partridge: we came across only one group of 10 at Urd Tamir River
Rock Dove: common in the villages and towns
Hill Pigeon: only one at Erdenesant village
Eurasian Collared Dove: four in Kharkhorin
Grey-headed Woodpecker: one at Urd Tamir River
Black Woodpecker: one at Urd Tamir River
Great Spotted Woodpecker: one in Kharkhorin
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: one in Kharkhorin
Mongolian Lark: a most impressive flock of about 12,000 near Kharkhorin, other flocks, which we saw had been much smaller
Asian Short-toed Lark: seen only between Tsenkher and Ogij sum, two flocks of about 50 each
Mongolian Horned Lark: seen daily in flocks not exceeding 100 individuals

Strangulated Barn Swallow,
Bayan Nuur, Feb 2014

Strangulated Barn Swallow,
Bayan Nuur, Feb 2014

Bohemian Waxwing: seen only at Erdensant Mountain where a flock of 200 feeding on Juniperus fruits
White-throated Dipper: two at Urd Tamir River
Siberian Accentor: one in Kharkhorin and one in Tsetserleg
Brown Accentor: seen only at Erdensant Mountain
Güldenstädt’s Redstart: a stunning male at Urd Tamir River
Red-thoated Thrush: few were seen at Erdensant Mountain
Eastern Marsh Tit: seen only at Erdensant Mountain
Willow Tit: few seen
Great Tit: few seen
Azure Tit: few seen
Eurasian Nuthatch: few seen
Northern Grey Shrike: one on the way to Tsenkher Hot Springs
Red-billed Chough: common
Daurian Jackdaw: only one in Ölzijt village
Oriental Carrion Crow: common
Common Raven: common
Common Magpie: common
House Sparrow: common
Eurasian Tree Sparrow: common
Rock Sparrow: only seen in Erdenesant village
Père David’s Snowfinch: only small flock seen
Arctic Redpoll: one in Erdensant village and two in Tsetserleg
Common Redpoll: few sightings only
Long-tailed Rosefinch: seen only at Urd Tamir River
Lapland Bunting: one small group seen only
Meadow Bunting: a flock of 30 near Ölzijt
Godlewski’s Bunting: six in Tsetserleg

Sheep highway near Tsetserleg, Feb 2014

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