October 31, 2007

Autumn and early winter around Tsetserleg, Arhangai province
- K. Schleicher

Daurian Redstart. Photo © K. Schleicher

Night temperatures have regularly been below 10 degree Celsius since two weeks and day temperatures seldom above zero in Tsetserleg in the Khangai Mountains of central Mongolia. During my last bird walks into the birch scrubs north of Tsetserleg at the end of October I found the typical winter bird community which I already noticed a year ago: Godlewski’s Bunting, Pine Bunting, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Willow Tit, Tree Sparrow, Great Tit, Brown Accentor, Siberian Accentor and Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch.

Siberian Accentor. Photo © K. Schleicher

Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Photo © K. Schleicher

In the city park of Tsetserleg Azure Tits are common since 29 September and White- backed Woodpeckers have started visiting the city sometimes, like they did last winter.

On a walk in the wet steppe near the airport on 29 October I noticed mainly Corvidae like Common Magpie, Red-billed Chough, Northern Raven, and Carrion Crow.

Northern Raven. Photo © K. Schleicher

Wet steppe south of Tsetserleg. Photo © K. Schleicher

15 Ruddy Shelducks rested at the last remaining open water of the small river and Horned Larks congregated in flocks of 20 to 40 birds.

Migrants noticed this year but not in autumn 2006 around Tsetserleg were a Great Grey Shrike on 14 October, 11 White-crowned Penduline Tits on 17 September, and an Eurasian Collared Dove on 11 October.

Eurasian Collared Dove. Photo © K. Schleicher

The last observation of a Black-eared Kite was on 19 September (last year 6 of October; but interestingly in Khovd, western Mongolia as late as 18 October 2007, per A. Braunlich) and of a Booted Eagle on 22 September (last in Khovd: 21 September 2007).

October 30, 2007

Bibliography Global Climate Change and Birds

A bibliography and a link list on global climate change and birds has just been published online by Partners in Flight - U.S.
Khovd, 30 Oct 2007 - A. Braunlich, A. Laurie

We visited a plantation in the afternoon for a couple of hours and saw 19 species – a typical result for this time of the year. Most numerous were Eurasian Tree Sparrow (c.80), Meadow Bunting (c.60), Long-tailed Rosefinch (c.30), and 106 Red-billed Chough (flying high in small flocks, to a roost?). The latter is a new local maximum, though Choughs are more common in the higher parts of the Altai. Noteworthy were also 1 Godlewski’s Bunting and 1 Stock Pigeon. Predators present in the plantation included 1 Great Grey Shrike, 2 Common Kestrels, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawks, and 1 Merlin.

Grey Bullfinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

A new local record was a male Grey Bullfinch or Baikal Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula cineracea which is sometimes, for example often in Russian literature in the Handbook of the Birds of the Western Palaearctic, treated as a species of its own right, P. cineracea. Previous observations (3) of male bullfinches during the last two years here in Khovd referred to ‘Northern’ Bullfinch P. p. pyrrhula.

Grey Bullfinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

Grey Bullfinch is said to be common in the Kazakh Altai (more info) and for example in in spruce-fir forests of the Sayan Mts immediately to the north of western Mongolia.
OSME Regional List

The Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME) has published the consultation draft OSME Regional List on their website, providing a definitive list of bird species that have been recorded in the OSME Region. The list, downloadable as PDF, is in tabular format, with notes on distribution, including in Central Asia (=Middle Asia, i.e. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan), thus reaching almost to Mongolia’s western border.

October 29, 2007

Winter gets its grip on western Mongolia
… Khomiin tal, end OCT 07 - A. Braunlich

On 25 October I went to Khomiin tal (the Mongolian word ‘tal’ means steppe), the buffer zone of Khar Us Nuur National Park. When leaving Khovd it snowed, though the snow didn’t last long. On 26 October I walked around Baga nuur, a salt lake with a surface area of c.600 hectares (max. extension 3.5 x 2.2 km) – a major wetland in Khomiin tal. By this time of the year waterbird numbers have diminished considerably. I counted 272 Ruddy Shelducks and 170 Common Shelducks, plus a few dozen Mallards and Northern Pintails. The few waders left consisted of 5 Pacific Golden Plovers, 2 Northern Lapwings, and 4 Kentish Plovers. Predators present were 1 Golden Eagle, 1 White-tailed Eagle, and 1 Saker. In total I logged 20 species only, including 83 Mongolian Larks, several Lapland Buntings, and a Desert Wheatear.

A count of Pallas’s Sandrouse coming to drink to Baga nuur in the morning of 28 October resulted in 536 birds only. The site maximum this autumn was almost 10,000 one morning!

Baga nuur. In the background the Altai Mts. Photo © A. Braunlich

Desert Wheatear. Photo © A. Braunlich

In the night temperature dropped to c.-15 deg C, and on 27 October it never rose above -5 deg C. Although a strong wind was blowing a walk along the bushes at the Zavkhan gol (c.70% of the river frozen) yielded in 18 species – for this site and with such weather not to bad at all. Most birds were hiding in the bushes, the most abundant species being Twite and Long-tailed Rosefinch. A Black-throated Thrush and a Little Bunting were rather retiring.

Zavkhan gol at Khomiin tal. Photo © A. Braunlich

Male Long-tailed Rosefinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

Female Long-tailed Rosefinch. Photo © A. Braunlich

Bushes along the river. Photo © A. Braunlich

A late Little Bunting in hiding. Photo © A. Braunlich

An important food resource: Sea Buckthorn. Photo © A. Braunlich

On the way back to Khovd a small flock of geese - a family of 2 adult and 3 juvenile Greater White-fronted Geese and a single Bean Goose - at a river was a nice bonus.

Greater White-fronted Geese and Bean Goose (right). Photo © A. Braunlich

The survey was funded by The Przewalski Horse Association, TAKH.
So what is Ramsar?

A very good and informative essay on the Ramsar Convention (‘The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat’) was just posted to the excellent blog 10,000 Birds. To read it click here.

October 24, 2007

Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences

A new issue of the Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences is now available.

The Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences is the official journal of the Faculty of Biology, National University of Mongolia. It is a peer reviewed journal and publishes original papers on all aspects of the biological sciences. In addition review-type articles, book reviews, short communications and reports of scientific meetings are also welcome. The journal was developed to highlight research in Mongolia and by Mongolians. There are no restrictions on author and geographic region; the journal is published in English with abstracts in Mongolian.

Contents of Volume 4, Issue 2:

Wehrden, H., Wesche, K. and Tungalog, R.. Plant communities of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia. 3-18.

Walzer, C., Kaczensky, P., Ganbaatar, O., Lengger, J., Enkhsaikhan, N. amd Lkhagvasuren, D. Capture and anaesthesia of wild Mongolian equids - the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) and khulan (E. hemionus). 19-30.

Townsend, S. E. Burrow cluster as a sampling unit: An approach to estimate marmot activity in the Eastern steppe of Mongolia. 31-36.

Townsend, S. E. and Zahler, P. Mongolian marmot crisis: Status of the Siberian marmot in the Eastern steppe. 37-46.

Oyungerel, Sh. And Purev, D. Mineral elements in a succulent plant species, Orostachys spinosa L. (Crassulaceae). 45-52.

Badamtstetseg, S., Badamkhand, D., Sukhdolgor, J. and Baigalmaa, Ts. Biologically active substances in buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum L.) cultivated in Mongolia. 53-56.

Boldgiv, B. and Goulden, C. E. An international workshop on Lake Hovsgol area ecosystem modelling. 57-62.

Urgamal, M. Taxonomy of the genus Cnidium Cusson ex Juss. (Umbelliferae Juss.) in Mongolia. 63-66.

Issues of the journal can be bought in Ulaanbaatar at Biobeers, from the Steppe Forward Programme office, or by contacting the Editor-in-chief Dr. B. Bayartogtokh (bayartogtokh at num.edu.mn). All submissions should be sent to Dr. Bayartogtokh. Details about past issues of the journal and instructions to authors can be found on the journal page at www.steppeforward.com/journal.htm

October 23, 2007

from Mongolia’s neighbour: China Bird Report

People who are interested in the avifauna and birdwatching in Chinese Mainland may notice that China Ornithological Society published its annual bird report since 2004. Now we already have three volumes, report 2003-2005. The forthcoming China Bird Report 2006 will be published in early December this year. China Bird Report has become an important issue for up-to-date bird records in China and contributing the valuable information for bird conservation.

With the increasing requests of China Bird Report from foreign birdwatchers and researchers, there is a more convenient channel to purchase China Bird Report now. NHBS Environment Bookstore will help us to distribute our report series through internet.

You could make your order through this webpage http://www.nhbs.com/title.php?tefno=153158.

It only displays the 2005 report online, the report 2003-2004 and the forthcoming 2006 issue will be available soon. At the same time, we encourage foreign birdwatchers to contribute your 2007 reports from Mainland China. People whose records are included in the final publication will be acknowledged, and they will also receive a complimentary copy for reference. You records in the format of Excel, Word or PDF etc. should be contributed to chinesewildbird at hotmail.com. Many Thanks!

Good birding!

Liu Yang

Searching in Birding Mongolia

I don’t want to build in a search engine into Birding Mongolia – the site already takes quite a bit time to load (at least with my not-to-fast Internet connection here in western Mongolia) – and it shouldn’t be slowed down even more.

But one can search through Google within Birding Mongolia. For example, if you want to know postings where Dusky Warbler appeared enter the following in the search field of Google:

"Dusky Warbler" site:http://birdsmongolia.blogspot.com/

For more info on web searching read Advance Web Searching at Surfbirds.

October 21, 2007

Black Stork Migration

Dear colleague,

Maybe you followed our web page about Black Stork migration in Asia www.rozhlas.cz/odysea/angl. Unfortunately it is not showing the current trip yet. If you are still interested in new results - here are recent movements:

Stork "Marko" from Taats River (central Mongolia, the only one we have at the moment) flies again south (red line). We hope that a battery (tag employed in 2006) is still able to cover the full trip. On 12th October he was near the mountains of the Tibet plateau and in the night of 16/17th October he was at a probably very important stopover site in a valley of Huang Ho River where all our storks have been stopping.

Best regards
Lubomir Peske

Black Stork, Khovd. Photo © A. Braunlich

October 20, 2007

Bird Checklist of Ikh Nart

The Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve (Ikh Nart) is a nature reserve located in the Dornogobi Aimag or East Gobi Province of Mongolia. Established in 1996, Ikh Nart covers an area of about 66,000 hectares of grassland and semi-desert steppe environments and harbors one of the last remaining populations of Argali Sheep.

A downloadable, printable checklist of birds recorded in Ikh Nart that may be of interest to bird enthusiasts and other visitors to the area is now available. To download the list (~100 kb pdf), go to http://ikhnart.com/birdlist.html

October 17, 2007

KHOVD anniversary – 2 years!

My local spot: Khovd stadium. Photo © A. Braunlich

Two years ago to the day my wife Katja and I moved to Khovd. I remember very well coming here. The first days were spent with organisational matters. It was cold and grey … and I had the feeling that most migrants had already passed through, and I didn’t know the good local birding spots yet. However, a first walk through my local spot for two years to come gave me a big surprise: Mongolia’s first European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris (23 Oct 2005). Two years later I have seen over 210 species in Khovd, and birds are still on the move … Almost exactly a year after the first European Greenfinch Valdemar Holmgren found Mongolia’s second here in Khovd and showed it to me (two birds on 18 Oct 2006), and – surprise – today I found another one!

European Greenfinch, Khovd 17 October 2007
Photo © A. Braunlich

European Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow, 17 October 2007
Photo © A. Braunlich

And I saw my personal first Goldcrest here in Khovd today while walking home with Katja at noon. The only other observation of the species I have from Khovd is an observation by Valdemar from April 2006.

Later today I had with my friend Andrew Laurie one of my typical walks here: Two hours in the afternoon/evening until sunset (c.18:30 local time), covering a plantation near the airport and the wooded area behind the stadium. On the occasion of today’s anniversary I give a list of all species seen:

Chaffinch 2, European Greenfinch 1, Long-tailed Rosefinch c.30, Guldenstadt’s Redstart c.50, Mongolian Gull 1, Wood Pigeon 4, Brambling 7, Water Pipit 7, Yellowhammer 2, Pine Bunting 2, Siberian Accentor 2 (the first this autumn), Black-throated Thrush c.45, Taiga Flycatcher 1,

Taiga Flycatcher. Photo © A. Braunlich

Steppe Buzzard 1, Rustic Bunting 2, Northern Raven 2, Cinereous Vulture 1, Carrion Crow – many, Tree Sparrow - many, Masked Wagtail 1, Evermann’s Redstart 6, and Yellow-browed Warbler 1. Only my second observation of a Yellow-browed Warbler in Khovd, the first I saw a few days ago. The migration routes are somehow an enigma for me – I expected to see many moving through Khovd before I came… and I had to wait for almost two years before I found one! May be I have overlooked a few among the many Hume’s Leaf Warblers, of which I have logged 150 observations involving c.2800 birds in the same period!

Female Pine Bunting in first winter (formative) plumage.
Photo © A. Braunlich

Recently I have neglected this blog a bit. Right now I am catching up, and soon a report on a trip in July/August (>50,000 shorebirds at one site!) + a summary about the migration in Khovd in September and in the first half of October will be posted to Birding Mongolia.

October 4, 2007

Wild Birds and Emerging Diseases:
Avian Influenza Transmission Risk and Movements of Wild Birds from Kazakhstan

Dear all,

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been working in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Wildlife Conservation Society Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance (WCS-GAINS) and Wetlands International (WI) to study the role of wild birds in the geographic spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1.

In September 2007, we partnered with the Institute of Zoology of the National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan for a study at Kyzykol ("Red Lake") in southern Kazakhstan. Our aim was to capture and test wild waterbirds for the presence of avian influenza virus and fit 10 ducks with satellite transmitters in order to track their movements during the southward migration period.

During our mission to Kazakhstan we deployed satellite transmitters on 7 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, 2 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, and 1 Gadwall Anas strepera. The birds were captured using mist nets, catching individuals during dawn and dusk flights. USGS scientists from the Western Ecological Research Center and Alaska Science Center will monitor the satellite movement data to better understand migration chronology, routes, and potential risk factors associated with the spread of HPAI H5N1.

Check out http://www.werc.usgs.gov/sattrack/kazakhstan/index.html and download the latest files to view on Google Earth.

With best wishes, Taej

Taej Mundkur, PhD
Assistant Wildlife Coordinator for Avian Influenza
Infectious Disease Group / EMPRES
Animal Health Service
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
email: taej.mundkur at fao.org

October 1, 2007

Armenian website

Not a neighbour of Mongolia, but nonetheless sharing many species with it: Armenia. A new website has been launched by Vasil Anianan and Chris Bradshaw. It gives a lot of information about the country as well as its birds, a checklist and latest news. Take a look: