May 29, 2007

late-MAY 2007, Khovd - A. Braunlich

Last week was characterized by strong winds, so typical for the Mongolian/ continental Asian spring season. Observations were difficult as always under such conditions, with many skulking birds giving frustrating views only. (skulking? Read some stuff about skulking/ wary/ inconspicuous/ secretive birds at Charlie’s Bird Blog.)

skulking Dusky Warbler. Photo © A. Braunlich

28 May: The little green area in front of Khovd University (where Mongolia’s first Eurasian Blackbird was found on May, 9th) proved to be good for a few minutes of early morning birding again: Besides a singing Common Rosefinch and a female Taiga Flycatcher I found the first Two-barred (Greenish) Warbler Phylloscopus (trochiloides) plumbeitarsus for Khovd since my arrival in October 2005. This taxon, breeding in Mongolia’s Khangai Mountains (less than 400 km east of Khovd) is apparently very rare west of the Khangai. For example, although recorded several times in Europe it hasn’t been found in Kazakhstan yet!

27 May: New for this spring was 1 Olive-backed Pipit, a very scarce passage migrant here, greatly outnumbered by Tree Pipits. Twites are still around in numbers, with 48 spotted today in the poplar plantations (last year I didn’t see them after March, 26th); 2 pairs of Oriental Turtle Dove, 220 Black-eared Kites at the roost.

Black-eared Kite. Photo © A. Braunlich

Black-eared Kite. Photo © A. Braunlich

26 May: 14 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 dark morph Booted Eagle (as always chased fiercely by Carrion Crows - which largely seem to ignore Black-eared Kites), and the first Barred Warbler this spring, together in the same bush with a Blyth’s Reed Warbler and a Booted Warbler.

23/24 May: Richard’s Pipits arrived in greater numbers, with 12 spotted at the river. A pair of Northern Raven breeding in town has almost fledged young by now.

May 28, 2007

browsers and Bulgarian birder Niki

I must admit that I am a greenhorn when it comes to programming – thus Birding Mongolia looked somehow dislocated when viewed with Mozilla Firefox. Now it is fixed (something was wrong with the CSS file…) with the help of my friend Nikolai Kraneis, a birder, artist, and computer specialist from Bulgaria, living in Berlin. Thanks a lot Niki!

Shovelers, oil, 50x80cm; 31.5"x19.7"
by Nikolai Kraneis

If you need an experienced guide for a birding tour to Bulgaria or need help in creating and illustrating posters, books, brochures, flyers, websites etc. (languages: Polish, Russian, English, Bulgarian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, and more) contact Niki via his website (and have a look at his superb art!).

May 27, 2007

First spring observation dates in Khovd 2006 / 2007,
and some thoughts about climate change and spring arrivals

by Axel Braunlich

Igor Fefelov from Irkutsk, Russia has left a question at the comment section of my blog:

Amar sain Axel,
What are the data on bird arrival this spring? We have had some extremely early records, i.e. Porzana pusilla on 20 April (!! - common arrival falls on middle May, not earlier) and
Phylloscopus inornatus on 9 May (common date is later than 15 May in the last decades of years).

Dear Igor,
I have limited experience since I spent only two spring seasons (2006 & 2007) here in Khovd. However, here is a selection of my first observations for some species.

First observations in Khovd 2006/07 (sorted by date for 2006). Note:
underlined: first observation dates 2006 and 2007 rather similar (+/–5 days difference)
bold: first observation date in 2007 much earlier (>10 days) than in 2006

Fieldfare - 11 Feb / 28 Mar
Pine Bunting - 14 Mar / 23 Mar
male Evermann's Redstart - 18 Mar / 18 Mar
Black-throated Accentor - 18 Mar / 23 Mar
Steppe Buzzard - 21 Mar / 01 Apr
Common Starling - 23 Mar / 23 Mar
Black-throated Thrush - 23 Mar / 28 Mar
Common Reed Bunting - 24 Mar / 17 Mar
Mongolian Gull - 25 Mar / 23 Mar
Black-eared Kite - 25 Mar / 23 Mar
Lapland Bunting - 25 Mar / 17 Mar
Eurasian Skylark - 26 Mar / 24 Mar
female Evermann's Redstart - 28 Mar / 02 Apr
Desert Wheatear - 28 Mar / 13 Apr
Common Jackdaw - 28 Mar / 13 Apr
Ruddy Shelduck - 29 Mar / 11 Mar
Hoopoe - 29 Mar / 13 Apr
Masked Wagtail 29 Mar / 01 Apr
Whooper Swan - 30 Mar / 13 Apr
Yellowhammer - 30 Mar / 14 April
Chaffinch - 30 Mar / 03 Mar
Brambling - 30 Mar / 02 Apr
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - 31 Mar / 06 Apr
Long-eared Owl - 03 Apr / 02 Apr
Stock Pigeon - 04 Apr / 13 Apr
Black Redstart - 04 Apr / 07 Apr
Pallas's Gull - 04 Apr / 06 Apr
Great Egret - 06 Apr / 01 Apr
Lapwing - 06 Apr / 01 Apr
Citrine Wagtail - 06 Apr / 06 Apr
Red-throated Thrush - 06 Apr / 10 Mar
Siberian Chiffchaff - 07 Apr / 07 Apr
Water Pipit - 07 Apr / 06 Apr
Bluethroat - 07 Apr / 13 Apr
Booted Eagle - 11 Apr / 13 Apr
Demoiselle Crane - 12 Apr / 01 May
Black-headed Gull - 14 Apr / 07 Apr
Black Stork - 16 Apr / 07 Apr
Pied Wheatear - 16 Apr / 07 Apr
Northern Wheatear - 17 Apr / 08 Apr
House Martin - 19 Apr / 01 May
Barn Swallow - 22 Apr / 25 Apr
Isabelline Wheatear - 24 Apr / 07 Apr
Scaly Thrush - 24 Apr / 06 May
Crag Martin - 24 Apr / 14 Apr
Common Redstart - 27 Apr / 25 Apr
Little Ringed Plover - 29 Apr / 29 Apr
Common Sand Martin - 29 Apr / 26 Apr
Green Sandpiper - 29 Apr / 02 May
Song Thrush - 03 May / 03 May
Lesser Whitethroat - 07 May / 11 May
Hume's Leaf Warbler - 10 May / 02 May
Eastern Stonechat - 10 May / 01 May
Tree Pipit - 10 May / 02 May
Eurasian Hobby - 10 May / 01 May
Isabelline Shrike - 10 May (isabellinus) / 11 Apr (phoenicuroides)
Paddyfield Warber - 10 May / 02 May
Ortolan Bunting - 10 May / 01 May
Oriental Turtle Dove - 15 May / 07 May
Spotted Flycatcher - 15 May / 16 May
Booted Warbler - 16 May / 16 May
Common Rosefinch - 16 May / 11 May
Common Cuckoo - 16 May / 26 Apr
Richard's Pipit - 19 May / 07 May
Rose-coloured Starling - 19 May / 18 May
Great Reed Warbler - 19 May / 12 May
Taiga Flycatcher - 19 May / 20 May
Blyth's Reed Warbler - 23 May / 11 May
Dusky Warbler - 24 May / 11 May
Common Swift - 26 May / 20 May
Barred Warbler - 30 May / 26 May

So there is no obvious pattern of very early arrivals in Khovd this spring. But note, my observations here are not part of a scientific study. I rather try to go birding as often as possible in my spare time. My first observations are no necessarily “arrival dates”, quite a few factors must be considered when looking at my data:

  • I don’t necessarily visit exactly the same sites (=same habitats!) on the same day in both springs.

  • Conditions at the sites I visit may differ from day to day (the area is irrigated and irregularly flooded).

  • I am not birding every day.

  • I have been away this spring from 19-22 March and 16-23 April.

  • Some days in spring are so windy / stormy that observations are hindered very much – thus new arrivals can easily be missed.

  • With the trees and herbaceous plants getting green it is much more difficult to spot new arrivals now than a month ago.

So, some of my first observation dates may not be particularly meaningful – but they may be of value to anyone who wants to compare with elsewhere in north-easten Asia.

Publishing lists of first observations/first arrivals in defined areas can be very helpful understanding the effects of climate change on bird migration. Such lists are for example published for Iceland for 1998-2007 on The Icelandic Bird Pages, and for Christchurch Harbour by the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (south coast of England)

The past winter was rather “mild” (for local standards) here, and spring arrived earlier. Khovd experienced a rather dramatic temperature increase recently: In general the mean annual air temperature has risen by around 3.5° C between 1983 and 2005 according to Meteorological Survey Station Khovd.

April 2007 was the third warmest April for the globe on record, and the first four months of 2007 were the warmest ever, according to statistics released by the National Climatic Data Center. The global average temperature for April was 1.19°F/0.66°C above the 20th century mean. Over land, April global temperatures were the warmest ever measured. Ocean temperatures were a bit cooler (seventh warmest on record), thanks to the cooling associated with the disappearance of the winter El Niño event. Source: Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog.

Temperature departure from average for April 2007.
Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

The map above shows that especially Mongolia, Central Siberia to the Russian Far East, and the area to the south-west of Mongolia (where many spring migrants to Mongolia and Central Siberia presumably originate) had above the average temperatures in April 2007. This might explain the very early arrivals of some bird species in the Irkutsk region.

There have been a lot of debates about climate change and birds (and about climate change and global warming in general of course! See links at the end of this post). There are overwhelming proofs that humans, through increased emissions of atmospheric greenhouse gases and aerosols, are causing climate change, which in turn is linked to changes seen in the springtime activity of numerous animals and plants.

I have selected two abstracts of scientific publications dealing with spring arrival dates of birds, one from Manitoba, Canada, and one from south-western Germany to give examples of how much global warming already changed the behaviour of migratory birds.

Murphy-Klassen, H. M, Underwood, T. J., Sealy, S. G. & Czyrnyj, A. A.2 005. Long-term trends in spring arrival dates of migrant birds at Delta Marsh, Manitoba, in relation to climate change. The Auk 122: 1130-1148.
We examined a 63-year data set of dates of first spring sightings for 96 species of migrant birds at Delta Marsh, Manitoba, and considered the influence of local climate change on those arrival dates. Mean monthly spring temperatures increased (0.6-3.8°C) for all four months considered; however, trends for February and March were stronger than those for April and May. Over the 63-year period, 27 species significantly altered their arrival dates. Most of those species arrived significantly earlier; whereas only two species, Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) and Lesser Yellowlegs (T. flavipes), arrived significantly later over time. About half of the migrants showed significant relationships between arrival dates and mean temperature for their month of arrival. Fifteen species showed significantly earlier arrivals over time and a significant relationship between arrival date and temperature. We also characterized migrants by taxon, breeding status, and wintering location to determine whether there were any trends for altered arrivals within certain groups. Waterfowl, species that breed at Delta Marsh, and short-distance migrants showed slightly higher incidences of advancing arrival dates compared with other groups. Our results provide evidence that climate warming has influenced spring migration arrival dates of several species in Manitoba. source.

Peintinger, M. & S. Schuster 2005: Changes in first arrival dates of common migratory bird species in southwestern Germany. Vogelwarte 43: 161-169.
Global change affects the timing of bird migration. It presumed (and has been shown) that, (1) species arrived earlier in spring and that (2) this response to climate change is stronger in short-distance than in long-distance migratory species. To confirm this pattern we analysed long-term observational data from field ornithologists under the condition that (1) at least eight arrival dates for the periods 1970-1986 and 1987-2003 were available, (2) observers had not changed their study area during these years, and (3) at least three time series were available for a species. In total, we examined the first arrival dates of 17 migratory species at 13 sites in south-western Germany. To analyse changes in arrival times we used two statistical procedures: linear regression for the period 1970-2003 and Mann-Whitney U-test to compare median arrival dates of the periods 1970-1986 and 1987-2003. Out of 103 time series 96 showed a trend towards earlier spring arrival, whereas series only for seven time series the reverse was true. Using linear regression for 58 species time series we found a significantly earlier arrival date. On average, arrival date changed 0.3 (max. 2.9) days per year. Only one species showed a significant later arrival date. The U-test revealed similar results. An analyses of variance (ANOVA) showed that this effect was stronger in short-distance than in long-distance migrants. We suggest that earlier spring arrival could be due to a shift of wintering areas towards the North – even in some long-distance migratory species.

The whole volume 43 (2005) of the journal Vogelwarte (6.8 MB) can be downloaded

© Tom Toles at the Washington Post

More information on climate change, global warming and birds

American Bird Conservancy: Some general information on climate change and birds.

A blog on Birds and Climate Change.

BirdLife International: Birds to become latest indicators of climate change.

What is Global Warming? - Learn about Global Warming at National Geographic.

Smog obscuring the view of Ulaanbaatar,
17 Dec 2006. Photo © A. Braunlich

May 24, 2007

Partial-albino Red-billed Chough

Ulaanbaatar-based ornithologist Uugan sent me a photograph of a partial-albino Red-billed Chough which he observed in Tariat sum (a sum is an administrative subdivision below the aimags=provinces in Mongolia, roughly comparable to a County in the USA) in the northern Khangai Mountains on 17 May 2007.

Partial-albino Red-billed Chough.
Photo © Uuganbayar Chuluunbaatar

normal coloured Red-billed Chough
Photo © Uuganbayar Chuluunbaatar

Some comments on partial-albinism (referring to an observation of a partial-albino Cactus Wren) can be found on Charlie’s Bird Blog (which I can warmly recommend!): click here. And there’s also an interesting discussion on the MilkRiverBlog: click here.

May 22, 2007

21 MAY 2007, Khovd - A. Braunlich
One of the most beautiful sights in spring are the black-and-pink Rose-coloured Starlings resting among the fresh green of the poplars - a stunning contrast to the surrounding semi-desert. Last year I counted a maximum of 120 adults in June, while today c.360 rested behind in the wooded area around the stadium in Khovd. Other species seen included 1 Oriental Turtle Dove and 3 male Taiga Flycatcher.

Rose-coloured Starlings resting in fruiting poplars.
Photo © A. Braunlich

May 20, 2007

1,221 and counting: More birds than ever face extinction

BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK, 21 May 2007: The latest evaluation of the world’s birds has revealed that more species than ever are threatened with extinction, and that additional conservation action is critical to reversing current declines.

BirdLife International’s annual Red List update –which takes into account population size, population trends and range size for all 10,000 bird species worldwide- states that 1,221 species are considered threatened with extinction and are to be listed as such on the 2007 IUCN Red List.

The latest update also shows an additional 812 bird species are now considered Near Threatened, adding up to a total of 2,033 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action. More…


Dalmatian Pelican nesting at Ayrag nuur, western Mongolia 1995
Photo © H. Mix

Globally threatened and near threatened species occurring in Mongolia
(an asterisk * indicates that the species occurs only exceptionally in Mongolia; @ denotes species breeding in Mongolia). Source: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Note: Species which are often listed in Mongolian publications as globally threatened, e.g. White-tailed Eagle and Black Stork, are NOT listed by IUCN/BirdLife International as globally threatened. The list given below is authoritative.

@ Swan Goose Anser cygnoidesEndangered
* Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropusVulnerable
@ Falcated Duck Anas falcatanear threatened
Baikal Teal Anas formosaVulnerable
Baer's Pochard Aythya baeriVulnerable
@ Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyrocanear threatened
@ White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephalaEndangered
Oriental Stork Ciconia boycianaEndangered
* Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalusnear threatened
@ Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispusVulnerable
@ Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanniVulnerable
* Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinusnear threatened
@ Saker Falcon Falco cherrugEndangered
@ Pallas's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphusVulnerable
@ Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachusnear threatened
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourusnear threatened
@ Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clangaVulnerable
@ Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliacaVulnerable
@ Great Bustard Otis tardaVulnerable
@ Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulataVulnerable
* Swinhoe’s Rail Coturnicops exquisitusVulnerable
@? Corncrake Crex crexnear threatened
Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranusCritically Endangered
@ White-naped Crane Grus vipioVulnerable
Hooded Crane Grus monachaVulnerable
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensisEndangered
* Sociable Plover Vanellus gregariousCritically Endangered
@ Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatusnear threatened
@ Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosanear threatened
@ Relict Gull Larus relictusVulnerable
* Yellow-eyed Pigeon Columba eversmanniVulnerable
@? Marsh Grassbird Megalurus pryeriVulnerable
@ Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudeinear threatened
@ White-throated Bushchat Saxicola insignisVulnerable
@ Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureolanear threatened
@ Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensisnear threatened

18 MAY 2007, Khorgo-Terkhijn-Tsagaan-Nuur National Park
- Andrea Strauss

At the northern side of Terkhijn Tsagaan nuur (nuur=lake) in the northern Khangai Mts. two Black-throated Divers, 2 pairs Demoiselle Cranes, several Ruddy Shelducks and an impressive concentration of 120 White-winged Scoters Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri were counted.

Terkhijn Tsagaan nuur (2060 m a.s.l.),

still partly covered with ice. Photo © A. Strauss
Khovd, mid-MAY 2007 - A. Braunlich
A selection of observations from the last ten days (first observations in Khovd for this spring marked with an asterisk*):

20 May: A warm day, but strong wind made observations difficult. c.40 Rose-coloured Starlings, 230 Black-earded Kites, 1 Dusky Warbler, 2 male Lesser Kestrels, 1 male Taiga Flycatcher*.

Black-eared Kites at their roost in Khovd.
Photos © A. Braunlich

19 May: 29 Ortolan Buntings, 2 immature Daurian Jackdaws, 7 cuckoos (Common or Oriental), 3 Temminck’s Stints (rare here, almost no suitable habitat), and 4 Mongolian Finches*.

During birding in a plantation at the edge of town we met Adja, a plantation owner who allows me since my arrival in Khovd to enter his premises for birdwatching. He invited Katja and me to join a planting session which was blessed by a Buddhist monk (Mongolia’s main religion is Tibetan Buddhism; see also the blog of my friend Konchog Norbu). Most of my observations in Khovd come from irrigated areas in and near town. So, the small-scale farming, often in combination with mobile livestock keeping can not only successfully secure a living for hundreds of families in Khovd, but also provide additional habitat for birds and other wildlife in this semi-desert region.

Planting poplar saplings. Photo © A. Braunlich

Adja’s family among black currant bushes. Photo © A. Braunlich

18 May: After warm (23˚C) and oppressive weather yesterday temperatures dropped to 10˚C today, it was windy, overcast and raining in the evening. A short walk in the rain produced 2 Rose-coloured Starlings*. Since several days now everywhere in town Hume’s Leaf Warblers.

Isabelline Shrike. Photo © A. Braunlich

17 May: 20 Ortolan Buntings, a flock of 80 Twites, a male Lesser Kestrel, 14 Paddyfield Warblers, and 1 Blyth’s Reed Warbler,

16 May: Two new arrivals were 3 Booted Warblers* and 1 Spotted Flycatcher*, other observations include 1 female Brambling among Tree Sparrows and Ortolan Buntings, and 2 Great Reed Warblers (one singing in dense foliage of some bushes).

15 May: At the edge of town migrants included 3 Isabelline Shrikes, c.70 Hume’s Leaf Warblers, and 9 Eastern Stonechats. In the afternoon I checked some small flooded areas in the river valley, just outside town. I saw a single Green Sandpiper which was joined by a Wood Sandpiper* (species no. 203 for Khovd since late October 2005), and an adult Bearded Vulture (just my second observation of this species over Khovd town) was a nice bonus.

Bearded Vulture. Photo © A. Braunlich

May 13, 2007

World Migratory Bird Day 2007
- Migratory birds in a changing climate -

(from, which see for more information)

Every year in spring and autumn, we can see and hear them: huge flocks of cranes, geese, storks and other migrating birds. Announced by their calls and the whirring of their wings, they appear in the sky, floating majestically and forming V-shapes. They are on a journey of several thousands of kilometres, facing numerous barriers: the hostile weather, the wideness of the seas, the red-hot desert or huge mountains. During the last decades, human-induced habitat destruction and degradation, artificial barriers such as wind farms and power lines pose further threats that contribute to the decline of many bird species.

To raise awareness, to highlight the need to protect migratory birds and their habitats, and to inspire people to take action, the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (UNEP/AEWA) and the Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS ) started World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) in 2006.

The first World Migratory Bird Day was launched on the weekend of 8-9 April 2006 with a festive outdoor event called ‘WINGS’, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. The artistic show was inspired by the phenomenon of bird migration and was hosted by Ms Kuki Gallmann , a famous writer and conservationist living in Kenya.

At the same time, dedicated individuals, national authorities and NGOs around the world organised public events like bird festivals, bird education programmes and bird watching excursions to help celebrate and support World Migratory Bird Day 2006. A total of 68 activities in over 46 countries were part of the celebration of WMBD 2006, stretching from Norway to Antarctica and India to Peru.

This year (2007), World Migratory Bird Day will try to focus world attention on the impact of climate change on migratory birds. Increasing temperatures, altered rainfall and vacillating weather conditions caused by climate change have various impacts on the nomads of the skies. The ecological character of the habitats of migratory birds is rapidly changing, which may lead to their decline. Moreover, climate change causes a displacement of migration pattern, egg laying and breeding. Some birds even stop migrating altogether.

There will be no central WMBD event this year. Instead we strongly encourage bird enthusiasts all around the world to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day through local bird educational activities. By joining us on 12-13 May 2007 you will help give migratory birds a voice! Show the world that you care about migratory birds in a changing climate! The AEWA and CMS Secretariats – the joint organisers of the global WMBD initiative - are looking forward to a successful WMBD 2007 with you!


Field Trip to Ayrag Lake-Ramsar Site, western Mongolia 12/13 May 2007
A. Braunlich

To celebrate the World Migratory Bird Day I organised a 2-day field trip to Ayrag Lake, a shallow wetland in the Great Lakes Basin in Uvs province, western Mongolia. Participants of the trip were one German language teacher and one biology teacher, and 10 biology students, all from Khovd State University. The activity was sponsored by the project "Support of HUN Club’s conservation and public awareness activities in western Mongolia" which is supported by WWF Hong Kong’s Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund (see below).

We met in front of the WWF Altai-Sayan Field Office (where I work as an International Adviser) in the morning of May, 12th. After a brief stop just outside of town, where we collected water for the trip from a holy spring, we continued north, towards Ayrag Lake. Just the first 35 (out of c.200) km of the way was surfaced road, the remaining part we had to drive off the beaten track. Road-signs are virtually absent in Mongolia, and we lost our way twice (and got stuck in sand once…). Asking for directions is difficult too; during the 200-km ride we met two other cars only... (Khovd province has a population density of 1.1 people/square kilometre!).

Typical Mongolian tracks, breeding habitat of Greater Sand Plover.

However, we managed to reach the lake in early evening (after 8 hours of driving!) and pitched tens at the shore. After some birdwatching we prepared food at a campfire and went to our tents early. Most of our observations listed below were done between early morning and noon of May, 13th. Observations had to stop in the afternoon due to one of the all-to-common sand-and-dust storms. But we managed to see a good selection of species, although we covered only a small part of the wetland. Despite the continuing strong wind we were able to observe a Golden Eagle, a Long-eared Owl and an Osprey on the way back to Khovd.

Huge flock of cormorants, gulls, and 3 pelicans -
(sorry, behind the dust storm which is visible behind the camels…)

Total 12/13 May: 90 bird species

Observations (68 species) Ayrag nuur, 12/13 May 2007
(10s=tens, 100s=hundreds, 1000s=thousands)

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides – c.50
Greylag Goose Anser anser – 100s
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus – c.65
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus – 2 occupied nests
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna – 10s
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea – 17
Gadwall Anas strepera – 100s
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope – 100s
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos – 100s
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata – 10s
Northern Pintail Anas acuta – 10s
Garganey Anas querquedula – 10s
Common Teal Anas crecca – 10s
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina – 100s
Common Pochard Aythya ferina – 100s
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula – 100s
Goosander Mergus merganser – 10s
Smew Mergellus albellus – 3
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus – 10s
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia -10s
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea – >100
Great Egret Ardea alba – 1
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus – 3 adults, 1 immature
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo – >4000
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug – 1
Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus – 1 (and several on the way)
Pallas's Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus – 4 adults
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla – 2 adults, 1 immature
specifically unidentified Haliaeetus – 7
Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo – 4 pairs
Common Crane Grus grus – 1 pair and a flock of c.30
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus – 2
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta – 91
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus – 100s, common breeder
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatorola – 2
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius – 10s, common breeder
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus – 100s (flocks up to 50), common breeder
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaulti – 1 (and several pairs on the way)
Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria – 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa – 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus – 100s, common breeder
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia – 10s
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus – 1
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis – 1
Little Stint Calidris minuta – 51
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii – 3
Dunlin Calidris alpina – 58
specifically unidentified Calidris – >200
Mongolian Gull Larus (vegae) mongolicus – 100s, common breeder
Pallas’s Gull Larus ichthyaetus – 100s, common breeder
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus – 10s
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica – 2 + 2 + 17, breeder
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia – 4 + 28, breeder
Common Tern Sterna hirundo – 10s, common breeder
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus – 1
Pallas's Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus – 2 + 2 + 4 + 9
Common Swift Apus apus – 100s
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops – 2 (and several on the way)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus – 1
Sand Martin Riparia riparia – 1000s
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica – 100s
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens – 100s, common breeder
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis – 100s, common breeder
Horned Lark Eremorphila alpestris – 10s, breeder
Eastern Stonechat Saxicola (rubicola) maurus – 1 male, 1 female (and 2 on the way)
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava – 10s (M. f. leucocephala)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola – one male near Khovd town
Masked Wagtail Motacilla (alba) personata – 10s
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi – 2
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta – 1

Observations (22 species) on the way between Khovd town and Ayrag nuur, 12/13 May 2007

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – 1 on the way
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus – 1 over Khovd town
Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus – 1 on the way
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos – 1 immature on the way
Osprey Pandion haliaetus – 1 on the way
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus – 1 on the way
Carrion Crow Corvus corone – on the way
Rock Pigeon Columba livia – f. domestica (‘Feral Pigeon') on the way
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris – 1 near Khovd town
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus – 1 in Khovd town
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris – several in Khovd town
Hume’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei – 4 in Khovd town
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros – in Khovd town
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe – near Khovd town, and on the way
Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka – near Khovd town
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti – several on the way
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis – a pair near Khovd town
House Sparrow Passer domesticus – in Khovd town
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus – in Khovd town and on the way
Twite Carduelis flavirostris – 1 near Khovd town
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus – one in Khovd town
Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani – a pair near Khovd town

This World Migratory Bird Day 2007-activity was sponsored by the

Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund

The Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund was established in July 2005 to provide financial support for projects at sites of importance for migratory waterbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Cathay Pacific made an initial donation of HK$500,000 (approx. US$65,000) into the Fund. The Fund is administered by WWF Hong Kong. Further donations are being sought actively from other sources to increase the amount in the Fund, so that a greater number of worthwhile projects can be supported in future. Each year, up to 25% of the amount in the Fund will be earmarked for disbursement to support approved projects. At present, the maximum amount that can be applied for each project will not exceed US$4,000.

and by WWF Mongolia

Khovd, early-MAY 2007 - A. Braunlich
A selection of observations from the last ten days (first observations in Khovd for this spring are marked with an asterisk*):

12 May: The Blackbird wasn’t at the university's green patch this morning. But the tiny site produced 1 Great Reed Warbler*, 4 Hume's Leaf Warblers and 1 Common Rosefinch! Near a small mountain at the edge of town 2 Grey-necked Buntings were spotted (species no. 202 for Khovd since late October 2005, but probably overlooked before - most likely breeding in these mountains).

11 May: After a few overcast, windy and cold days a very bright morning, with blue sky. The temperature at sunrise was minus 3˚C. I took a taxi and went to a plantation a little bit outside of town. A few hours birding there before work were absolutely fantastic: 7 Lesser Whitethroats*, 1 Arctic Warbler* singing, 1 Dusky Warbler*, c.40 Hume’s Leaf Warblers, 2 Blyth’s Reed Warblers* singing, 1 European Grasshopper Warbler* singing (species no. 201 for Khovd since late October 2005, and a personal first for my Mongolia list), 85 Ortolan Buntings, among them 2 male Eurasian Siskins (rare here this spring), >30 Tree Pipits, 1 Common Rosefinch* singing, 2 dark morph Booted Eagles, 1 Steppe Buzzard, and 4+2+2+1 Scaly Thrushes (last spring I saw here 8 in total only). Breeding birds present included 4 pairs of Black-eared Kite and 3 pairs of Eurasian Hobby. Along the river I saw 5 Goosanders (rare here), a few Grey Herons and 2 pairs of Demoiselle Crane. The Eurasian Blackbird was still in front of the university today (and could be shown to ten biology students). Two Paddyfield Warblers were in the same little green area.

Eurasian Hobby. Photo © A. Braunlich

Eurasian Starling. Photo © A. Braunlich

Goosander. Photo © A. Braunlich

Pin-tailed Snipe. Photo © A. Braunlich

10 May: The Eurasian Blackbird still present. The second Pin-tailed Snipe this spring, 61 Water Pipits, 8 Citrine Wagtails, 1 male Naumann's Thrush, 1 female Black-throated Thrush.

Masked Wagtail M. (alba) personat. Photo © A. Braunlich

Near the stadium in Khovd I found Mongolia's third European Pied Flycatcher. All Mongolian records have been photographically documented:

I. To the north-west of Khovd, 1 June 2006 (A. Buchheim et al.)
II. In Khovd town, 22 September 2006 (M. Gilbert, A. Braunlich et al.)
III. In Khovd town, 10 May 2007 (A. Braunlich)

European Pied Flycatcher, Khovd town, 10 May 2006.
Photos © A. Braunlich

European Pied Flycatcher, Khovd town, 22 September 2006.

Photo © A. Braunlich

European Pied Flycatcher, NW of Khovd, 1 June 2006.

Photo © T. Langenberg

9 May: A cold and very windy day. Highlight was the observation of Mongolia’s first documented Eurasian Blackbird (species no. 200 for Khovd since late October 2005).

8 May: 2 Stock Pigeons, a flock 26 Ortolan Buntings, Black-eared Kite roost with at least 220 birds (and several birds incubating), and 3 Paddyfield Warblers.

7 May: Still a flock (45) of Twite, 10 Ortolan Buntings, a very pale Eurasian Sparrowhawk (ssp?), 2 Oriental Turtle Doves* (S. o. meena), and a mixed flock of 2 male and one female Red-throated Thrushes, 1 Fieldfare and 1 male Naumann’s Thrush*, 1 Richard’s Pipit*. A total of 4 Mongolian Gulls with wing-tags was recorded from the edge of town (more info to follow). 1 Western Yellow Wagtail, ssp. Motacilla flava beema (migrant, the breeding ssp here is M. f. leucocephala).

Mongolian Gull. Photo © A. Braunlich

Western Yellow Wagtail, ssp. M. f. beema.

Photo © A. Braunlich

6 May (+ Kis Ferenc, K. Braunlich): 1 Scaly Thrush*, 1 Paddyfield Warbler, and 6 Hume’s Leaf Warblers.

5 May (+ Kis Ferenc from WWF Hungary): A late migrant Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Daurian Jackdaws in first-winter plumage, and 1 Pintail Snipe* 1 (species no. 199 for Khovd since late October 2005).

3 May (observations together with Ulaanbaatar-based ornithologist Tseveenmyadag): 1 Song Thrush* (rare passage migrant here), a flock of 12 Tree Pipits, and 5 Ortolan Buntings.

Eastern Stonechat Saxicola (rubicola) maurus

Photo © A. Braunlich
early-MAY 2007, Tsetserleg, Khangai Mountains - K. Schleicher
Birdwatching was exciting during the past days at the wet steppe next to the airport. On every visit I saw new spring arrivals: 2 May: Wood Sandpiper, 8 May: Water Pipit, White Wagtail M. (alba) personata ('Masked Wagtail'), Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Common Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe (courtship flight), Little Bunting; 9 May: Marsh Sandpiper; 10 May: Sand Martin and Long-toed Stint. The Northern Lapwings are already sitting on their nests on the tops of permafrost hillocks, but no eggs are layed yet. They are permanently busy attacking Northern Ravens. The highest number of Bar-headed Geese at this site was 21, the highest number of Demoiselle Cranes 25.

Taiga Flycatcher. Photo © K. Schleicher

On 7 May at the rocky top of a mountain north of Tsetserleg (2400 m a.s.l.) I observed 10 Alpine Accentors. On the way down the valley in the larch forest a single Mistle Thrush was sitting on a branch.
On 11 May in the city park of Tsetserleg c.10 Taiga Flycatchers and 6 Little Buntings rested. One Little Bunting flew against an electric cable and fell to the ground, dead, just in front of me. For the third time I observed a White-backed Woodpecker, feeding on marrow.

May 11, 2007

Cinereous Vulture released in Thailand, not in Mongolia

A while ago a post (
click here) appeared at Birding Mongolia, reporting on the planned release of a Cinereous Vulture in Mongolia. Here are the latest news on the project.

Dear all,

A Cinereous Vulture and four Himalayan Griffons have been released on a mountain in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand along Myanmar-Thailand border on 10 May 2007. The vultures had been found exhausted due to starvation in Thailand in January and have been rehabilitated since to gain strength.

The main reason for not being able to fly the Cinereous Vulture to Mongolia was that both China and South Korea refused the short transit to Ulaanbaatar, reasoning the Bird Flu situation in Thailand, even though this particular vulture has been tested twice in a period of two months and it was confirmed that it is free of the deadly virus by a WHO-certified National Institute of Animal Health Laboratory in Thailand.

All vultures have a yellow wing tag. The Cinereous Vulture is tagged with V1 on its right wing as well as fitted with a satellite telemetry unit. The Himalayan Griffons are tagged with V4, V5, V6 and V7 marks on the left wing. Click here to see photos at the Thai Raptor Group website (scroll down to the end of the page).

I would be grateful to receive sightings of the released vultures. Please submit sightings of them with the number on the wing tag (if visible) to fvetchk(at) or trogon(at)

The release operation is part of Fly the Vulture Home Project, which is the cooperation of Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST), Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Mongolia's Wildlife Science and Conservation Center and Thai Raptor Group.


Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, DVM, PhD
Department of Veterinary Pathology
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Kasetsart University
Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand

May 9, 2007

First documented record of Eurasian Blackbird for Mongolia

by A. Braunlich

Today I was walking together with local birder S. Gantugs (biology teacher at Khovd University) when he discovered a female Eurasian Blackbird in a little fenced green area (about 20 trees and a small hedge) in front of the main university building. He immediately identified the bird (without binoculars). After a brief look I jumped into a passing taxi and drove home, getting my camera. It took a little while since the car ran out of petrol on the way back to the bird. However, the thrush was still there when I arrived, and I (marveled at by many students during their lunch break) was able to take a series of photos. After a while we had to abort observation due to a sand/dust storm hitting town, with strong winds continuing well into the afternoon and evening.

Eurasian Blackbird, Khovd town, 9 May 2007.
all photos © A. Braunlich

The thrush appeared rather large and heavy (compared to the Blackbirds I know from Germany), with a thick neck, long bill, long wings and long tail. It belonged most likely to the subspecies T. m. intermedius, which breeds in Kazakhstan in the Karatau, the Tien Shan, east to the Dzhungarskiy (Dzungarian) Alatau and the Altai (Wassink & Oreel 2007). Its breeding range most likely reaches the Russian part of the Altai (Koblik et al. 2006). Outside Kazakhstan it occurs as a breeding bird in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and in western China in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Qinghai (Clement & Hathway 2000). Intermedius is said to be mostly sedentary (Clement & Hathway 2000, Wassink & Oreel 2007), but it has been recorded outside its breeding areas in NW Pakistan and E Afghanistan (Clement & Hathway 2000).

Eurasian Blackbird, Khovd town, 9 May 2007.

Other species present in the little green patch were several House Sparrows, a pair of Northern Wheatears, a female Common Redstart, a Hume’s Leaf Warbler and a Carrion Crow.

Eurasian Blackbird, Khovd town, 9 May 2007.

According to my knowledge there has been only one published record of Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula for Mongolia: Feather remains were found 10 km west of Ulaanbaatar on “00.00.1990” (sic!), cited from Dawaa et al. (1994). The collected feathers have been lost, and with them the correct date (W.-D. Busching in lit. 2004). Without any supporting evidence this record can only be regarded as unproven and cannot be accepted. Thus the observation of the Khovd bird from today becomes the first document record of Eurasian Blackbird for Mongolia.

Eurasian Blackbird, Khovd town, 9 May 2007.

Taxonomic note
The subspecies T. m. maximus, mandarinus, intermedius, and sowerbyi are probably best regarded as an incipient species, Eastern Blackbird Turdus mandarinus (Clement & Hathway 2000). However, intermedius is often still treated as subspecies of T. merula, for example in the Handbook of the Birds of the World and in Rasmussen & Anderton (2005).


Clement, P. & Hathway, R. 2000. Thrushes. London: Christopher Helm (A&C Black).
Dawaa, N., Busching, W.-D., Sumijaa, D., Bold, A. & Samijaa, R. 1994. [Comented Checklist of Birds and Mammals of Mongolia. Part 1: Birds.] Kothen, Germany: Naumann-Museum. (In German.)
Koblik, E. A., Red’kin, Ya., A. & Arkhipov, V. Yu. 2006. [Checklist of the Birds of the Russian Federation]. Moscow: KMK Scientific Press. (In Russian, with an English introduction.)
Rasmussen, P. C. & Anderton, J. C. 2005. Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vols. 1 and 2. Washington, D.C.: Smithonian Institution and Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
Wassink, A. & Oreel, G. J. 2007. The Birds of Kazakhstan. De Cocksdrop Texel, The Netherlands: Published by Arend Wassink.

May 8, 2007

Gobi / Shinejinst update, 20 APR - 6 MAY - D. Mantle
The 20th of April was an exciting day for me. I saw my first Pallas’s Sandgrouse. I was actually a little surprised that it had taken me almost two months to see one but I guess they find slightly more hospitable areas during the winter. Our basin is very open to the cold westerly winds and has been snow covered as often as not till now. Today there was a really violent dust storm and it was as the winds were dying down that two Pallas’s Sandgrouse raced over the camp. The typical sandgrouse bubbling call was what alerted me to look up. Five minutes later the first Dark-throated Thrush of the spring (a first winter ruficollis) sought shelter behind some cabins. Small numbers of both ruficollis and atrogularis where seen until the end of the month (none so far in May). I have subsequently seen sandgrouse every few days in our valley and they were common in less grazed habitat an hour to the north.

Pallas’s Sandgrouse. Photo © D. Mantle

Birds of prey have become more apparent in the area with Steppe Eagles being seen every couple of days, Cinereous Vultures daily, one record of Himalayan Griffon Vulture (2 with Cinereous Vulture on the 26th April), Lesser Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Upland Buzzard, Black-eared Kite (first record - 21st April) and Eurasian Sparrowhawk (3rd May).

Further migrants included an unexpected Chaffinch which hung around for three days (21-24th April), Water Pipit (daily from the 21st), continued arrivals and breeding of the four local wheatears, Black Redstart (phoenicuroides - resident from the 28th April), Demoiselle Crane (9 circled north on the 1st May), the second Citrine Wagtail of the spring at the exact same water sump as the first (5th May) and finally my first Mongolian hirundines – Barn Swallow (3rd May) and Sand Martin (6th May). The 6th also provided a major highlight in the form of a fine Hodgsons (White-throated) Bushchat and two Ruddy Shelducks on a metre square patch of ice melt.

Red-throated Thrush. Photo © D. Mantle

Other recent area ticks included two Daurian Jackdaws that saw out yet another sand storm around camp on the 27th April and several Mongolian Finches.

May 2, 2007

1/2 MAY 2007, Khovd - A. Braunlich
1 May: A group of four Demoiselle Cranes resting at the river were new local arrivals. The first two Northern House Martins inspected their breeding sites at our apartment block. Other species seen today for the first time this spring are: 1 male Siberian Stonechat, 1 Ortolan Bunting, and 1 Northern Hobby. A male Linnet at the river was a nice bonus, the species breeds in Mongolia only in the west. The local Black-eared Kite roost held a least 190 birds.
2 May: The warm weather and the (rare) rain last night brought several new arrivals: 5 Tree Pipits, 6 Green Sandpipers, 1 Hume’s Leaf Warbler, and c.20 Paddyfield Warblers in town. An immature Steppe Eagle soared over the river, and a mixed flock of 5 Twite and 7 Ortolan Buntings was a rather unusual sight.

May 1, 2007

late-APR 2007, Khovd - A. Braunlich
It is always a “pain” to leave one’s local spot, even for a short time. I have been in Ulaanbaatar for a week – and of course, I was nervous, wondering what I might miss back home in Khovd. On 22 Apr, the day before I came back, some snow fell in and around town (see photo from 23 Apr).

Khovd town, 23 April 2007. Photo © A. Braunlich

Here are some noteworthy observations from the last week of April: 23 Apr: A relatively small area (c.5 ha) held 23 Pied Wheatears, 20 Black Redstarts, 24 Northern Wheatears, and a flock 9 Lesser Short-toed Larks (common breeder in the region, but rare at my local spot). 25 Apr: A loose flock of 90 Masked Wagtails, 15 Water Pipits, and 1 Citrine Wagtail rested at some muddy puddles near the river, the first Barn Swallow and the first Common Redstart were seen, and in a little grove of poplars I spotted 2 male and 3 female Red-throated Thrushes (the largest group of this species I have seen here so far – it is greatly outnumbered by Black-throated Thrush). 26 Apr: The first Common Cuckoo was calling in town (obs. by Gantulga, member of a WWF-sponsored anti-poaching unit). 3 Common Redshanks (species no. 198 for Khovd since late October 2005) were resting in a wet meadow at the edge of town. The same site held c.60 Water Pipits, c.30 Masked Wagtails, and 8 Citrine Wagtails. Sand Martins had arrived at one of the local breeding colonies, c.10 were spotted. An adult male Peregrine wasn’t left in peace by locally breeding Carrion Crows which were mobbing him constantly.

late-APR 2007, Tsetserleg - K. Schleicher
New spring arrivals in and around Tsetserleg. In the city 18 Apr: 1 House Martin. The water level at the wet steppe next to airport increased and the small ponds attracted some new bird species. 25 Apr: 1 Demoiselle Crane, 28 April: 1 Grey Heron, 3 Northern Pintails, 8 Eurasian Wigeons, 2 Common Gulls. The number of resting Bar-headed Geese rose to 8. At the Tamir river (the ice has completely disappeared by now) 29 Apr: one pair Little Ringed Plovers, 1 pair Goosanders. In willow/birch scrub 30 Apr: 1 male Daurian Redstart.