June 19, 2007

mid-JUN 2007, Khovd breeding birds - A. Braunlich

Spring migration has almost ended (actually, it never stops of course, we just overlook it far too often), so it’s mostly breeding birds now. For a species list see the table at the end of this post.

fledgling Northern Wheatear. Photo © A. Braunlich

alert-eyed Northern Wheatear-daddy.
Photo © A. Braunlich

17/18 June: I visited a plantation a few kilometers near Khovd in the evening of the 17th and again very early in the morning of the 18th. The commonest breeding species is probably Lesser Whitethroat. Other species holding territory here include for example Richard’s Pipit, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Skylark, and Isabelline Shrike. A nice surprise was to hear a Blyth’s Reed Warbler and a Yellow-breasted Bunting singing in a high (c.4m) sea-buckthorn thicket. Another surprise was an out-of-season dark morph Booted Eagle.

An irrigation ditch has flooded nearby steppe.
Photo © A. Braunlich

Richard’s Pipit. The long hind claws are clearly visible.
Photo © A. Braunlich

I had always feared that the few pairs of Demoiselle Crane occurring immediately near town might have no breeding success because of the high disturbance level in the area.

Breeding habitat of Demoiselle Crane, in the
background Khovd town. Photo © A. Braunlich

On the 18th I saw for the first time crane chicks here. Mongolians respect the cranes, and the birds show normally little shyness. Hopefully the offspring will survive the herder’s dogs. I have seen Demoiselle Cranes successfully defending their chicks from foxes before, so there’s hope!

Demoiselle Crane family. Photos © A. Braunlich

Common Linnet, probably breeding in the plantation.
Photo © A. Braunlich

From the nearby mountains – the next spurs are just 500 metres away from the plantation - Mongolian Finches came to drink from the irrigation ditch, including an impressive flock of 130 birds. In the same ditch a Ruddy Shelduck chick was hiding, it submerged when I approached and wasn’t seen again in the dense vegetation. The nest site was most likely in the nearby mountains.

Ruddy Shelduck (under water).
Photo © A. Braunlich

A clear border between the irrigated area and
the adjacent semi-desert. Photo © A. Braunlich

16 June: Cinereous Vultures can often be seen circling above Khovd city (I have seen over 50 from my living room window once!) like the one shown below.

Cinereous Vulture and Black-eared Kites.
Photo © A. Braunlich

15 June: Yesterday was the first real rainy day here this year, we even got some thunder. However, in the afternoon the sky cleared up and I went for a walk.

I think every birdwatcher has experienced this often enough: A bird whooshes by, you get a very brief glimpse only … but you think “this could have been species xyz only, no doubt…” But then doubt creeps in … the observation was really REALLY brief … and identification was based on jizz only … So reluctantly you decide to annul your finding. To bad! And it keeps on your mind for quite a while, nagging... Standing in the territory of the local Northern Hobby pair I got one of these briefest glimpses of a falcon. Anchor-shaped, wings to broad for a Hobby, very buffish underparts, dark moustache, white-tipped tail… a Barbary Falcon?

Just when I thought this, while watching about 60 Black-eared Kites flying off from their roost (120 seen in total that evening), the falcon turned up again, and this time I got better views. Indeed a juvenile Barbary Falcon! (Species no 209 for Khovd since late October 2005; and no. 353 on my personal Mongolian list). A few seconds later I heard the Carrion Crows mobbing. Normally they get only excited when one of the kites passes directly over their nest or over their fledglings. This time they sounded much to excited, so I thought a Booted Eagle must be around, a species which provokes normally these kind reaction – when a dark-morph Oriental Honey Buzzard came into view, closely flowed by the crows. To finalize this “non-migratory bird day” a flock of 19 Red Crossbills flew over. Land of nomads!

List of breeding and possible bird species in Khovd
(town, adjacent plantations, and Buyant river valley near town)

MB = breeding in adjacent mountains directly near the Buyant river valley
(?) = breeding possible/likely

1. Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar - B
2. Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
3. Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
4. Black Stork Ciconia nigra
5. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
6. Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
7. Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus
8. Demoiselle Crane Grus (Anthropoides) virgo
9. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
10. Feral Pigeon Columba livia f. domestica
11. Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris
12. Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis (?)
13. Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
14. Little Owl Athene noctua
15. Long-eared Owl Asio otus (?)
16. Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
17. Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus
18. Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus (?)
19. Common Magpie Pica pica
20. Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - B
21. Rook Corvus frugilegus
22. Carrion Crow Corvus corone
23. Common Raven Corvus corax
24. Great Tit Parus major (?)
25. Crowned Penduline Tit Remiz coronatus
26. Sand Martin Riparia riparia
27. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
28. Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris - B
29. Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum
30. Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
31. Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
32. Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum (?)
33. Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata (?)
34. Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus (?)
35. Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
36. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
37. Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
38. Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
39. Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
40. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
41. Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka - B
42. Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
43. Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis - B
44. Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata (?)
45. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
46. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
47. Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
48. Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens - B
49. Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola (?)
50. Masked Wagtail Motacilla (alba) personata
51. Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi
52. Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
53. Twite Carduelis flavirostris (?)
54. Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina (?)
55. Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus - B
56. Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus (?)
57. Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
58. Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii - B
59. Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani – B (?)
60. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola (?)

Quite a few small mammals share habitat with Rock Sparrows, Hoopoes, and Northern Wheatears in the bridge over the Buyant river near Khovd:

Mongolian Gerbil Meriones unguiculatus.
Photos © A. Braunlich

Pikas Ochotona sp. Photos © A. Braunlich

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