August 24, 2007

Birdsounds of Northern Siberia

The CD-MP3 Birdsounds of Northern Siberia has just been published. Several species featured on that CD occur as migrants in Mongolia or even breed. For a full species list and ordering information click here.

More information: Over a period of seven years, between 1995 and 2002, Cristoph Zöckler has visited some of the most remote places in the Palaearctic: Northern Siberia and took sound recordings of Arctic birds. Hardly any birdsound-recordings from Siberia have been made available to the public, this CD aims to illustrate the sounds of most species in Arctic Siberia. Many of the introduced species‘ vocalisations are only known from the non-breeding areas, while their song and breeding display are hardly known.

In total this CD covers 97 species, almost all typical species of the region in 196 different recordings, supplemented by four soundscapes of typical North Siberian landscapes. The prime habitats include typical and mountain tundra, coastal areas as well as the forest tundra and the northern taiga. A few recordings have been included from the more southern central taiga. Sound recordings contain predominantly the breeding display and alarm calls and sometimes the calls of chicks during the brood rearing period. For many, but not all species there are several different sound recordings capturing different regional types or other variations in the display songs and calls, as well as other calls from the breeding area. Display and alarm calls sometimes match or have elements of the calls we can hear on migration outside Siberia.

Siberia is still surrounded by a veil of mystery. The vast area is still little explored in terms of birds, yet home of rare waders and thrushes, vagrant warblers and the dazzling Siberian Rubythroat. The recordings were made from Taimyr (1995) in the West, Yakutia (1996-1999) to Chukotka (2000, 2002) in the East of Siberia. For many years the region was inaccessible and still today it creates huge logistic challenges to visit most of the areas. In the harsh Arctic environment the birds are only present from late May to early August and even then severe weather conditions often obstruct the recording.

“This was the true Siberian tundra, brilliant with flowers, swarming with mosquitoes, and full of birds.” • Henry Seebohm, The Birds of Siberia, 1884

August 23, 2007

Gravel ponds Ulaanbaatar, 22 AUG 07 - Konchog Norbu & Mark Brazil

An one-hour visit to the ponds near Chinggis Khaan International Airport was quite fruitful, with a good sprinkling of waders (shorebirds), 17 species logged:

1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Pacific Golden Plover, 6-8 Northern Lapwings, 3-4 Long-toed Stints, 4-6 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, 50+ Curlew Sandpipers, 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Red-necked Phalaropes, 4-6 Ruff, 1 Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, 8-10 Wood Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 25 Black-tailed Godwits, Common Snipe, and Pin-tailed Snipe.

August 22, 2007

Influx of Black-eared Kites in Khovd, 22 August 2007

Today it rained in Khovd for the first time since weeks. Actually the first real rain I experienced here this year. It rained three days in July, but I was in Russia then. The rain today lasted from early morning well past noon, but ceased later, and in the late afternoon the sun came out.

Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © J. Steudtner

While checking a pasture area with little pools at the edge of town (only very few birds there: 2 Green Sandpipers and 1 Temminck’s Stint) at 18h20, I saw about 200 Black-eared Kites Milvus (migrans) lineatus arriving very high (only tiny specks in the sky) from north-east, flying towards the Buyant river. A little bit later I walked along the poplars which are forming a quite dense stand between the town and the floodplain. The area is heavily used by people, and kites, apparently disturbed at their roost in the poplars were spread over the pasture nearby, resting on the ground. I counted over 700. Looking to the usual roost further down the poplars I noted another c.280 birds flying around, followed by c.230 more. There was a constant stream of kites arriving from the north-east. Together with more birds resting well visible on poles, trees and buildings, the final tally was 2,210 Black-eared Kites this evening! This number is rather too small than too big since it wasn’t possible for me to check all the poplars along the several kilometer long stretch where the kites used to roost. Where I saw the 280 birds flying around today I counted c.600 resting in the trees yesterday. And the kites resting in the dense poplar stands are very easily overlooked and numbers therefore underestimated when not disturbed.

Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © A. Braunlich

It is very likely that the rain grounded the kites during migration in the vicinity of Khovd; and in the late afternoon they joined the other kites which are always well visible circling over town, resulting in this unprecedented spectacle.

Black-eared Kite, Khovd. Photo © J. Steudtner

August 21, 2007

Khovd, mid-August 2007 - A. Braunlich

19 Aug Songbird migration is in full swing. I went for 2 hours to a plantation at the edge of town: c.160 Spotted Flycatchers, c.155 (incl. a flock of 140) Ortolan Buntings, c.70 Lesser Whitethroats, 7 Tree Pipits, 1 Olive-backed Pipit, 1 Bluethroat, 9 Isabelline Shrikes, 8 juv. Rose-coloured Starlings, 3 Siberian Stonechats, a flock of c. 30 Common Rosefinches, 1 Greenish Warbler, and 1 Booted Eagle. At the river plain nearby I saw 1 Black Stork, 2 Richard’s Pipits, 9 Hoopoes, and a family of Eurasian Hobby.

A small pond has formed near an

irrigation ditch, rich habitat for
migrant birds. Photo © A. Braunlich

20 Aug 1 Two-barred Warbler in town. 21 Aug 5 Isabelline Shrikes in town.

Steppe Buzzard. Photo © A. Braunlich

21 Aug The Black-eared Kite roosts at the edge of town held 760 birds! Nearby I counted c.100 Spotted Flycatchers and c.40 Lesser Whitethroats. During the day an European Nightjar was flying around in town, 3 more were found resting behind the stadium in the evening. Other birds seen include 6 Siberian Stonechats, 1 Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus, and 1 Booted Warbler.

Booted Warbler Photo © A. Braunlich
Website on colour marking/satellite tracking
of waterbirds in the Asia-Pacific region

Dear all,

We have collated information to develop a website with information on ongoing colour marking and satellite tracking work in the Asia-Pacific and links to other flyways with kind support from several individuals from across the region over the last few months and support from the GAINS (Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance) programme. The website has been uploaded on and covers several web pages.

Also included is introductory information on the Asia-Pacific Working Group on Migratory Waterbirds and AI, and an update of the web page on the key contacts for the waterbirds ringing/banding schemes.

As the work on colour marking and satellite tracking of birds is dynamic, it would be good to capture all the latest information on these pages, so that they can serve as a one stop centre for all information on this subject. Achieving this requires your assistance; comments, suggestions and updates are most welcomed.

With best wishes, Taej

Taej Mundkur, PhD
Coordinator, Wetlands International - South Asia
wisaind at

August 17, 2007

First records and first proven breeding of Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor in Mongolia

Last year friends of mine discovered Mongolia’s first Lesser Grey Shrikes in Khovd province. Unfortunately I had no time to join my friends on the trip, but took the chance to confirm the occurrence this summer, together with J. Steudtner. In July we found two pairs with fully fledged young (which were still fed by their parents) in the same area where the species was discovered last year.


Lesser Grey Shrike. Bulgan, July 2007
Photo © J. Steudtner

Recently published:

Deutsch, M. & Bräunlich, A. 2007. First records and first proven breeding of Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor in Mongolia. Erforsch. biol. Ress. Mongolei (Halle/Saale) 10: 541-546.

“During a trip to the Dzungarian Gobi in south-western Mongolia a group of German birdwatchers found several territorial Lesser Grey Shrikes Lanius minor, and documented an active nest. The species had not previously been recorded from Mongolia. Observations were made near Bulgan gol (Bulgan river; nest coordinates: 46°6’N 91°32’E, 1190 m a.s.l.) in Khovd aimag (Khovd province) on 24 June 2006. Besides two territorial pairs, of which a female could be photographically documented on the nest, at least four more territorial adults were found within an area of c1.5 sqkm. Based on these records, an abundance of 4 pairs/sqkm can be assumed for this riparian site, which consists mainly of open meadows with scattered bushes and tress.”

Lesser Grey Shrike, Bulgan, June 2006
Photo © Steve Klasan

Map of Mongolia showing the site (red dot in the
south-west) of the Lesser Grey Shrike records.

Lesser Grey Shrike, Bulgan, June 2006
Photo © S. Klasan

Lesser Grey Shrike at nest, Bulgan, June 2006
Photo © S. Klasan
‘Research on biological resources of Mongolia’

Volume 10 of “Erforschung Biologischer Ressourcen der Mongolei” (research on biological resources of Mongolia) has recently been published by the Institute for Biology of the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. The main content of the 584-page bumper issue (mostly in English) are the Proceedings of the Asiatic Wild Ass Conference which was held in Hustai National Park in Mongolia in August 2005. The summary status for Khulan (Asiatic Wild Ass, Equus hemionus hemionus) in Mongolia is as follows:

- population 20,000 individuals (2003 census)

- off-take 3000-4000/year (net loss per year at least 10%)

- distribution range in Mongolia reduced by 50% in the last 70 years

Khulan, Mongolia. Photo © H. Mix

The section “Further reports on biodiversity research in Mongolia” contains three papers on birds:

- Stubbe et al. Biodiversity in space and time – towards a grid mapping for Mongolia (contains examples: Bearded Vulture and Short-toed Eagle distribution).

- A paper about the feathers of Mongolian Accipiter species (in German).

- A paper on the first records of Lesser Grey Shrike in Mongolia (see next post).

For order details contact Prof. M Stubbe: stubbe at

August 16, 2007

Export of Saker Falcons

From the Mongolian newspaper 'Daily News', Wednesday, 8 August 2007, page 21,
by L. Molomjamts: “Export of Falcon”

Abstract The Environmental Minister has recently issued an order to export 240 falcons to Arabian countries. The Government set a limit on the number of falcons to be exported as 300 annually. Each of the falcons cost US$ 9800 and of which US$ 800 goes to the soum (district) where the falcon was caught. The standard fee of one falcon is US$ 10,000 in Mongolia. Currently Kuwait and Arabian Emirates are launched trade agreements to purchase falcons from Mongolia.

The abstract was supplied by the GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) Program "Conservation and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources".

The Saker Falcon is globally threatened and listed as “Endangered” by IUCN (2007 IUCN Red List, as evaluated by BirdLife International - the official Red List Authority for birds for IUCN). Justification: "This species qualifies as Endangered because it has undergone a very rapid population decline, particularly on the central Asian breeding grounds, owing to inadequately controlled capture for the falconry trade."

300 Saker Falcons represent about 3-4% of the global population of the species. Between 1990 and 2003 Saker Falcon has been estimated to have declined by 59 % in Mongolia. Source: BirdLife Species Factsheet (accessed 16 Aug 2007).

Saker Falcon, Khovd.
Photo © A. Braunlich

It should be noted that the falcons are mainly used for hunting Houbara Bustard, a species which is also globally threatened. "It is classified as Vulnerable because it has undergone rapid population declines estimated to be 35% over three generations, owing largely to unsustainable hunting levels." source: BirdLife Species Factsheet (accessed 16 Aug 2007).

August 15, 2007

Photos from Uuganbayar Chuluunbaatar

Uugan, ornithologist from Ulaanbaatar has kindly sent several photos taken during his recent field work (June-August 2007).

Demoiselle Cranes.
Sukhbaatar aimag, northern Mongolia.

Ural Owl.
Gachuurt, near Ulaanbaatar.

Henderson’s (Mongolian) Ground Jay,
with Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus versicolor.
Near Zavkhan river, western Mongolia.

Mongolian (Koslov’s) Accentor.
Near Zavkhan river, western Mongolia.

Swan Geese.
Ogii nuur, c. 300 km W of Ulaanbaatar

All photos © Uuganbayar Chuluunbaatar

August 14, 2007

Exciting bird observations by French birdwatchers

Matthieu & Annaïg, two French birdwatchers are doing an eight months birding travel in central Asia. They came with their own car from France and spent 2 months in Kazakhstan and are now in Mongolia since the beginning of July. They will spend one more month for birding in Mongolia and will back by Russia, at Baikal Lake, in September.

Asian Desert Warbler. Photo © M. Vaslin

They recorded (incl. photographs) Chinese Pond Heron at Boon Tsagaan Nuur/ Gobi Lakes and a Cattle Egret (less than 5 records from Mongolia) at Ogii Nuur, c.300 km W of Ulaanbaatar.

And they had good number of several species, for example 10,000 Swan Geese, 500 Pacific Golden Plover, 24 Asian Dowitchers, and around 100 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, all at Ogii-Nuur.

Swan Geese. Photo © M. Vaslin

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Photo © M. Vaslin

Matthieu Vaslin & Annaïg keep an interesting blog De Temujin a Gensis Khan (in French) with very good photos, including many superb pictures of birds from Mongolia, have a look!

Broad-billed Sandpiper. Photo © M. Vaslin

We are looking forward to hear more from them!

August 11, 2007

Alert: Colour marking of swans and geese in northern Mongolia

Greetings All,

I am pleased to announce the successful capture and marking of several waterfowl species while sampling for avian influenza in wild waterbirds in Mongolia during July 2007. During the course of fieldwork this summer, a subsample of 30 Whooper Swans, 50 Bar-headed Geese and 21 Bean Geese have been fitted with coloured neck collars in Hovsgol (Khuvsgul) aimag (province) in northern Mongolia. Details of collars fitted are given below, and are illustrated in the photographs.

* 30 Whooper Swans fitted with red collars with white lettering (A01 to A30)

* 50 Bar-headed Geese fitted with yellow collars with black lettering (A0 to A9, B0 to B9, C0 to C9, D0 to D9 and E0 to E9)

* 21 Bean Geese fitted with yellow collars with black lettering (P51 to P71), also fitted with numbered metal leg rings, with bands on right leg indicating females and left leg indicating males (based on cloacal sexing). All Bean Goose collars were supplied by our collaborator Thomas Heinicke.

Whooper Swan. Photo © M. Gilbert, WCS

I would be very grateful if observers in Asia could be alert to the presence of neck collars when observing these species through range states (including those in Central Asia, Korean peninsula, China, South Asia).

Bean Goose. Photo © M. Gilbert, WCS

Please report any resightings to myself, Martin Gilbert at mgilbert at News of resightings and the details of the rest of our work will be posted on the GAINS website, Please also forward this message to others working in the region who may be able to contribute resightings.

Bar-headed Goose. Photo © M. Gilbert, WCS

This work has been carried out as part of the USAID-supported Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance (GAINS). The primary objectives of GAINS are to expand operational field capabilities, improve the understanding of viral strains and transmission of all strains of influenza viruses in wild birds, and to disseminate information to all levels of governments, international organizations, the private sector and the general public. Through this work the Wildlife Conservation Society seeks to contribute to our understanding of migratory movements, distribution and population status of wild birds.

Further alert to wader marking in northern and central Mongolia

Fieldwork is on-going, and in addition to the above announcement, the GAINS team in Mongolia will be fitting coloured leg flags during the southward migration period over the next few weeks. Capture and marking of several species is anticipated including Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, with other species marked depending on availability of supplies. These birds will be fitted with leg flags coloured Blue over Green on the right leg. As with the swans and geese, please report any resightings to myself at the e-mail address above.

The material for these leg flags has been obtained through the kind assistance of Clive Minton and others with the Austalasian Wader Studies Group.

Best wishes to all,

Martin Gilbert
Field Veterinarian - Asia
Wildlife Conservation Society

August 10, 2007

Great Bustard Project

A team led by Mimi Kessler from Arizona State University is researching Great Bustards in Khuvsgul and Bulgan aimags (provinces) in northern Mongolia. The team has captured an adult female bustard and is now receiving transmissions from a satellite PTT (Platform Transmitter Terminal) attached to the bird. The team will observe habitat use, home range, and migration route. Genetic material in the form of dropped feathers is also being collected for population genetic analyses.

Great Bustard has been evaluated as “Vulnerable” for the 2007 IUCN Red List. It is listed in the Mongolian Red Book and the Mongolian population is estimated at 1500-2000 individuals. This research will contribute to conservation efforts in Central Asia.

Aimee "Mimi" Kessler, School of Life Sciences Graduate Programs, Arizona State University, USA

Great Bustard. Photo © M. Kessler

Great Bustard. Photo © M. Kessler