June 30, 2007

Khovd, 29 JUN - A. Braunlich

Apart from local breeding birds very little of note (it’s hot, windy and very dusty...). After their breeding season Hill Pigeons started flocking again, I spotted in the plantations and near the stadium c.60+12+c.25 birds today.
Khar Us Nuur National Park, late JUN 2007 - A. Braunlich

As part of a monitoring scheme by WWF Mongolia under the project “Ensuring environmental friendly solution for building of Dorgon Hydropower Plant in West Mongolia” I went together with Gantulga, officer of the anti-poaching unit “Snowleopard-3” on a 6-day tour to survey Khar Us Nuur (nuur=lake) in Khar Us Nuur National Park (KUNNP). On July, 1st the Chono-Kharaikh River which is connecting Khar Us Nuur and Khar Nuur will be diverted from its bed in order to complete the construction of a dam which will provide the water for a hydroelectric power plant. WWF Mongolia is conducting documentation on damages to the National Park and to local people (loss of pasture). For more info click Dams in Mongolia.

Tribute to Chono-Kharaikhn Gol. This beautiful gorge
will become a boring reservoir in the near future.
24 Jun 2007. Photo © A. Braunlich

During the survey a total of 105 bird species were recorded.

Off the western shore of Khar Us Nuur a loose flock of c.60 adult Black-throated Divers (or for our American friends: Arctic Loon) on 23 Jun was the largest concentration of the species I have ever seen in Mongolia. The same day we counted further 80 + a pair with two chicks on Dalai Nuur (which is the northern part of Khar Us Nuur), bringing the total for Black-throated Diver that day to about 140 birds!

Black-throated Diver. Photo © A. Braunlich

One of the first birds seen on the tour was a summer plumage male Long-tailed Duck, an addition to the bird list of KUNNP and Mongolia’s third record (and species no. 354 on my personal Mongolian list). The bird was very distant and the pictures I took (digiscoped in heat haze…) are extremely poor indeed, but are still ok as proof.

Long-tailed Duck. Dalai Nuur, 23 Jun 2007.
Photo © A. Braunlich

Water levels were very low everywhere, due to an extremely dry spring. At Dalai Nuur the water-line retreat was about 400 m! A planned survey by boat had to be cancelled. However, we managed to record a great number of waterbirds from the shore, the commonest being Red-crested Pochard with more than 8,000 counted.

Swan Geese. About a dozen pairs with young of this
globally threatened species were found during the survey.
Photo © A. Braunlich

Other globally threatened species recorded include 6 (only!) White-headed Ducks, 2 adult Pallas’s Fish Eagles, and a flock of 8 Dalmatian Pelicans, feeding with a large flock of Great Cormorants.

White-headed Duck. Photo © A. Braunlich

In the reeds large numbers of Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers were singing (none there in late May, the species has very late arrival dates). Other common species still singing in the reeds included Great Reed Warbler, Bluethroat, Savi’s Warbler, and Paddyfield Warbler.

Great Reed Warbler. Photo © A. Braunlich

Juvenile Masked Wagtail. Photo © A. Braunlich

Greater Sand Plover. A fairly common breeding visitor
to the semi-desert bordering the wetlands of Khar Us
Nuur National Park. Photo © A. Braunlich

Great Egret. Photo © A. Braunlich

A quick side-trip to Jargalant Khairkhan Mountain (max. 3,797 m a.s.l.), part of KUNNP failed to find the globally threatened White-throated Bush Chat Saxicola insignis, which I had recorded breeding at this site 12 years ago. At the entrance to the valley which I ascended a very good selection of larger birds were soaring in the upwinds: 5 Eurasian Griffon Vultures, 3 Cinereous Vultures, 1 juvenile Bearded Vulture, 1 Golden Eagle, 1 Steppe Eagle, 5 Northern Raven, and 2 Red-billed Choughs.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture. Photo © A. Braunlich

The distribution of Eurasian Griffon Vulture and Himalayan Griffon Vulture (the latter more rare in Mongolia) is far from well-understood, and photographic documentation of Gyps vulture records are always welcome!

Common breeding species seen in the valley are Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Blyth’s Pipit – seen here alongside breeding Water Pipit; Brown Accentor, White-winged Snowsparrow, and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. At 2,750 m a.s.l. I found a pair of Altai (Himalayan) Accentors feeding young in a nest.

Blyth’s Pipit.Photo © A. Braunlich

On the lower slopes of the mountain we observed a family (2 adults and 5 fully grown fledglings) of Saxaul Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) pallidirostris. (Note: vernacular name: “L. Svensson prefers ‘Saxaul Grey Shrike’ for pallidirostris; ‘Steppe’ is to be avoided in the name in any language. The use of ‘Steppe Grey Shrike’ is of comparatively recent date, and there seems to be little justification for preserving a totally misleading name of young age. ... Without a more detailed study of voice, behaviour, and other characters of pallidirostris in comparison with, e.g., L. m. elegans or aucheri, separation of pallidirostris from L. meridionalis seems premature.” AERC TAC 2003). Other breeding species sharing the habitat with Saxaul Grey Shrike at this site are Isabelline Shrike and Barred Warbler.

Adult Saxaul Grey Shrike. Photos © A. Braunlich

Juvenile Saxaul Grey Shrike. Photo © A. Braunlich
new links

On Tarsiger.com, Finland’s most popular bird pages, you can find thousands of bird pictures and observations, but also sounds as mp3 and a discussion forum. I have added links to photos from Kazakhstan and China on Tarsiger.com to the sidebar.

A link to the Mongolia tour info of Sunbird Tours has been added to the sidebar under “tour operators”.

Not related to Mongolia, but very good reading in my opinion: Charlie’s Bird Blog (Charlie Moores is co-founder of Birds Korea) has moved to the blog 10,000 Birds by blogger Mike Bergin. They are joined by Corey Finger who blogged before on his lovely dark and deep. The link to 10,000 Birds has been added to “more blogs” on the sidebar.

June 22, 2007


Great Reed Warbler and Mongolian Gull at Khar us nuur
Photo © A. Braunlich

I’ll be in the field for several days, surveying Khar us lake. Next posting not before early July. Please visit Birding Mongolia again!


In the Field. Photo © Kis Ferenc
Two new species for Mongolia! – James Lidster/Sunbird

James Lidster, tour leader for Sunbird has had only one day at home in the UK between two journeys, but managed to mail me a few highlights from his recent Sunbird tour to Mongolia, including two first records for the country! Well done James, many thanks! (Observations by James and his group, text and comments in brackets are by me.)

Boon Tsagaan Nuur/ Gobi Lakes Valley

A small bittern Ixobrychus sp on 6 June. (Little Bittern occurs in western Mongolia; presumably it is a rare breeding visitor here. Von Schrenck’s Bittern is a vagrant – or an overlooked very rare passage migrant – to eastern Mongolia.)

A Bewick's Swan on 6/8 June. (A rare passage migrant in Mongolia.)

Bewick’s Swan June 2007. Photo © J. Lidster/Sunbird

One Yellow-billed Egret Egretta intermedia on 8 June. (The species is better known as Intermediate Egret, but it is called Yellow-billed Egret in Birds of the World: Recommended English Names, authored by Frank Gill and Mintern Wright on behalf of the International Ornithological Congress, IOC. First record for Mongolia. The closest area where it occurs regularly is more than 1500 km away from the Gobi Valley, well south of the Huang He [Yellow River] in China. A truly spectacular observation!)

Yellow-billed Egret, Boon Tsagaan Nuur, June 2007.
Photos © J. Lidster/Sunbird

A non-breeding Chinese Pond Heron on 6/8 June. (The bird was initially identified as a pond heron Ardeola sp, Indian or Chinese Pond Heron. However, the photo of the sitting bird shows clearly the plain loral area and the plain dark feathers on the lower breast, forming a distinct dark patch on the neck base side. These characters are diagnostic for Chinese Pond Heron and distinguish it from Indian Pond Heron. See Jiguet, F. 2006. Identification of non-breeding Squacco, Indian and Chinese Pond Herons. Alula 12: 114-119. Chinese Pond Heron is a rare passage migrant in Mongolia, occurring mainly in May and June.)

Chinese Pond Heron. Boon Tsagaan Nuur, June 2007
Photos © J. Lidster/Sunbird

Khongoryn Els, South Gobi Province

Grey-headed Lapwing 1 on 12 June (A recently discovered breeding visitor to eastern Mongolia, elsewhere vagrant/very rare passage migrant.)

Grey-headed Lapwing.
Khongoryn Els, June 2007.
Photo © J. Lidster/Sunbird
Heavily cropped picture,
but a good-enough proof!

Juulchin Camp, NE of Dalandzadgad, South Gobi Province

Red Collared Dove (called Red Turtle Dove in the IOC list) Streptopelia tranquebarica one male 12-14 June at least. (First record for Mongolia. I always thought this species to be a good candidate for a first in Mongolia since it is migratory and occurs as a breeding bird immediately to the south of Mongolia in northern China.)

Red Collared Dove, Juulchin Gobi Camp, Jun 2007.
Photo © J. Lidster/Sunbird

Unidentified drongo Dicrurus sp 1 on morning of 13 June, seen 3 times in flight but no photos and it seemed to move through very quickly. (The only record of a drongo from Mongolia comes from the same site and was seen on almost the same day of the month: One adult and one immature Black Drongo together on 14 June 2000, A. Hovorka, H.-G. Folz, W. Rathmayer, D. Batdelger. However, Ashy Drongo is also a candidate for vagrancy in Mongolia.)

Golden Oriole One on 13/14 June. (Rare, but probably regular passage migrant, breeding in western Mongolia).

Other species (regularly occurring in Mongolia) seen on this remarkable trip include for example Long-toed Stint, Oriental Honey Buzzard, White-naped Crane (incl. 2 chicks), Oriental Plover (incl. 3 chicks), Asian Dowitcher, and Grey Nightjar.

June 20, 2007

Link added to sidebar: Ikh Nart

Research Camp, Ikh Nart, Oct 2005. Photo © A. Braunlich

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 45,000 hectares of grassland and semi-desert steppe environments and harbours one of the last remaining populations of Argali Sheep.

Argalis, Ikh Nart, Oct 2005. Photo © A. Braunlich

This website provides up-to-date information about Ikh Nart, including information on visiting the reserve, wildlife and plants in the area, and on-going conservation and research activities.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Ikh Nart, Oct 2005.
Photo © A. Braunlich

Over 120 bird species have been recorded in Ikh Nart. The reserve harbours one of the highest recorded nest densities of Cinereous Vultures world-wide and represents an important stop-over point for many migratory species.

June 19, 2007

Birding highlights from a recent holiday in Mongolia - Dan Mantle

I recently took a two week break from work in the Gobi Desert to meet up with my fiancee, Beth Symonds. We only had ten days together so our holiday was very rushed but we both wanted to see a bit more this wonderful country and its varied wildlife (particularly birds). I will post a full trip report shortly but I have put together some highlights for Axel’s blog. [one thing to note: we had hoped to beat the main tourist season, which was successful, and to get the first flushes of summer. However the weather was pretty terrible every where we went, either extremely strong winds, snow storms, driving rain (the first I had seen in Mongolia), or bitterly cold. So maybe the tour companies have it right and waiting till June or July is a safer bet for a one off holiday].

May 16. Geological camp at Shinjinst to Bayankhongor
A Red-throated Pipit near camp was my first in Mongolia, other birds seen on the drive included Desert Warbler, Pallas’s Sandgrouse (we actually clipped one in the Toyota Landcruiser but it flew off strongly – thankfully), Citrine Wagtail, Upland Buzzard, and Isabelline Shrike. After a quick dinner in Bayankhongor, I decided to walk the short distance to the river at the edge of town to check for migrants in the trees on the braided river islands. (This was pretty exciting as they were the first trees I had seen in ten weeks!). I saw very few passerines however but this was more than made up for by great views of a breeding plumage Chinese Pond Heron as it flew in front of my face before landing 50m upstream. A totally unexpected bird!

Bayankhongor River (Dan Mantle)

May 17. Bayankhongor to Ulaan Baatar (UB)
I had an hour to kill before my flight to UB so I headed back to the river to check again for migrant passerines. A small fall provided Hume’s Leaf Warbler (2), Dusky Warbler, Little Bunting, Pallas’s Reed Bunting, and Lesser Whitethroat (3). Other highlights were Black Stork, Blyth’s Pipits (common), Pied Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rockthrush, Citrine Wagtail (3), Swinhoe’s Snipe (3), migrating Demoiselle Crane and Bar-headed Geese. Finally classic views of a Northern Goshawk being harassed by a mob of Red-billed Chough and a Taiga Flycatcher outside the small airport made for a very enjoyable mornings birding. I finally met up with Beth at UB airport tonight, for the first time in over three months.

May 18. UB to Gun Galuut
After a typically interesting drive (one puncture and many, many crazy drivers) along one of Mongolia’s very few tarmac roads we arrived at Gun Galuut to be greeted by numerous Mongolian Lark in the short grasslands and a Saker Falcon sitting tight on a telegraph pole. The several shallow lakes and marshy areas held a good selection of waterfowl and waders but driving, icy rain made birding difficult. We braved the elements for a couple of hours and managed to see several Demoiselle Crane, White-naped Crane (1, 2), Black Stork (1), and Swan Geese (7) on the marshes a kilometre east of the Ger Camp (easily the most impressive we stayed at in Mongolia – nice clean facilities, friendly staff, and good food). Walking back to camp we hugged the edge of the hill sides and found several sheltering migrants, best of which were an Eye-browed Thrush (1), Red-throated Thrush (1), White's Thrush (1), Taiga Flycatcher (1), Little Bunting (1), and resident Pere David’s Snowfinch.

May 19. Gun Galuut
Highlight of an early morning walk was a nice mixed flock of wagtail along the Kherlen River – Citrine Wagtail (10), Yellow Wagtail (4), Grey Wagtail (1), and White Wagtail (1). Further views of White-naped Crane (1,1), Swan Geese (3, 6) at the marshes near camp were complimented by breeding plumage Wood Sandpiper (2), Spotted Redshank (3) and Temmincks Stint (2). An afternoon horse ride took us to a small copse at the base of Mount Baits where we found more migrating thrushes - Siberian Thrush (1), Eye-browed Thrush (1) and Dusky Thrush (7 - T. n. naumanni; 1 T. n. eounomus - however you want to split them). We decided against continuing our ride to the Argali Sheep viewing platform as it was becoming bitterly cold again. Two Golden Eagles dive-bombing a Black Vulture was ample compensation. Further migrants near the river included more Little Bunting (3, 2, 1), Black-faced Bunting (1), Taiga Flycatcher (1), and Pied Wheatear (3).

May 20. Gun Galuut to Hustai National Park
Similar birds to previous two days at GG were added to by a stunning breeding plumage Ruff, a single Two-barred Greenish Warbler looking lost on a short grassy slope, White-winged Scoter (10), White-winged Tern, a pale morph Booted Eagle and yet more Little Buntings (3, 1, 3). Most of the day was taken up with driving back to UB, having lunch and then continuing on the further 90 minutes to Hustai NP. Displaying Steppe Eagle (3), more Demoiselle Crane, many Mongolian Larks, Olive-backed Pipits (5), Little Bunting (2), and Isabelline Wheatears (common) were noted before dark.

Demoiselle Crane (Beth Symonds)

May 21. Hustai to UB
The main reason for visiting Hustai was to try to see the reintroduced Takhi (Przwalski's Horse) that were formerly extinct in the wild. A remarkable effort by a collection of zoos around the world. We were lucky and saw several family groups of Takhi with the local guide. The best birds of the day were Daurian Partridge, Meadow Bunting (2, 4, 2), Arctic Warbler (1), Siberian Rubythroat, Olive-backed Pipit (1), Richard’s Pipit (2), Blyth's Pipit (4), Little Bunting (1), White’s Thrush (1), Red-throated Thrush (1), Dusky Thrush (2 – T. n. naumanni), Brown Shrike (3) and a great array of raptors was topped off by views of Lesser Kestrels taking turns to chase a young Northern Goshawk (Goshawks definitely get their fair share of torment). Other raptors included multiple Eurasian Hobby, Amur Falcon, Common Kestrel, Steppe Eagle, Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Black-eared Kite, Cinereous Vulture and Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

Takhi / Przewalski's Horse (Dan Mantle)

May 22. UB to Dalanzadgad (south Gobi Desert)
Today we spent much of the day waiting in the airport for our delayed flight. We arrived late in the evening to our Ger Camp near Yolyn Am (Gurvan Saikhan National Park).

May 23. Yolyn Am, Bayanzag, and Juulchin Tourist Camp
Beth saw the first snow of her life as bitterly cold conditions hampered birding at Yolyn Am followed by violent wind storms at Bayanzag and Juulchin Tourist Camp. We still saw Lammergeier, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Twite (20), Mongolian Finch (2), Godlewski’s Bunting (1, 2, 2, 1), Pallas's Reed Bunting (2, 2), Little Bunting (2, 2, 1, 1 – clearly this is the peak migration time for this species within Mongolia as we saw them everywhere we went), Black-faced Bunting (2), Beautiful Rosefinch (2), Common Rosefinch (2), Sulphur-bellied Warbler (3), Koslov's Accentor (1, 1, 2, 1), Brown Accentor (1), Blyth’s Pipit (common) and Olive-backed Pipit (1). Weather conditions stopped us from even trying for Altai Snowcock.

We tried to continue to Dunganee Valley to see the ruined Buddhist monastery but the pass was still covered in ice so this was curtailed. We did see nesting Saker Falcon, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and further Koslov’s and Brown Accentors.

As a geologist/palaeontologist I was really keen to see Bayanzag (a well known dinosaur site and also the home of the Saxaul Sparrow) but dangerous sand storms meant we couldn’t even leave the car.

Bayanzag – the photo does no justice to the storms
(Dan Mantle)

By the time we reached Juulchin Tourist Camp (not where we were staying) the winds had abated slightly but it was a last minute decision to try to bird here. The camp is protected by a row on poplars that were planted in the 1970s that now act as a brilliant migrant trap. There were several Daurian Redstart, Taiga Flycatcher, a single Asian Brown Flycatcher and a Yellow-browed Warbler sheltering in the small trees within the camp ground. Then Beth brought my attention to another bird sitting tight within the trees. Wow! It was a Yellow-billed Grosbeak – a bird I knew virtually nothing about and one that I didn’t expect to see in Mongolia. [Comment: Yellow-billed Grosbeak is a very rare passage migrant in Mongolia. According to my knowledge this is the first photographycally documented record for the country. A. Braunlich]. Beth managed to get some great record shots despite the strong winds and swirling sands. After watching the Grosbeak for half an hour we had to continue back to our base but not before one last highlight – a brilliant Oriental Plover in display flight and on the grassy desert floor.

Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Beth Symonds)

May 24. Yolyn Am and Juulchin Tourist Camp
Much the same species as yesterday, started off with a Lammergeier low overhead at our Ger Camp. The only birds we added to yesterdays list at Yolyn Am were Red-mantled Rosefinch (5-6) and Himalayan Griffon Vulture (1). I continued on to Juulchin to check for more migrants but I think Beth made the better decision to return to our ger and read. The winds reached storm force and no birds could be identified in the poplars. A single Laughing Dove that had joined the Eurasian Collard Doves around the camp made a torturous few hours birding (only ever glimpsing birds in the winds) just about worth while.

Little Bunting (Beth Symonds)

May 25. UB
A day visiting the Buddhist temple and shopping in UB.

May 26. UB to Terelj
We only had time for a few short walks near the Buveit Ger Camp and in the larch woods above Terelj village. The best birds were Amur Falcon, Pine Bunting (common near Buveit), Pallas's Reed Bunting (4), Arctic Warbler (1), and Two-barred Greenish Warbler (1).

May 27. Terelj to UB
A great mornings birding in the deciduous woodlands along the river beside Terelj village provided some fantastic close views of woodpeckers (including Black, Grey-headed, White-backed, and Lesser-spotted). A pair of Long-tailed Rosefinches were another major highlight whilst Hawfinch (8), Taiga Flycatcher, Daurian and Common Redstart, Red-throated Thrush, Arctic Warbler, and Olive-backed Pipit were common.

Black Woodpecker (Beth Symonds)

Grey-headed Woodpecker (Beth Symonds)

Back at the Buveit, Pine Buntings were again common but were joined by a pair of Yellow-breasted Bunting. We had to leave shortly after lunch but still managed an hour in the deciduous woods near the park entrance. Here we saw a small flock of White-cheeked Starling (6), Wryneck (1), a pair of Three-toed Woodpecker (our 6th woodpecker species for the day), Brown Shrike (2), and Azure Tit (1).

A pair of Three-toed Woodpecker (Beth Symonds)

May 28. UB
Another day in UB before Beth had to return to Australia.

May 1-4. UB
I had four days of work in UB but still managed some birding. I left work early on the 1st to go birding with Konrad Schleicher at the UB sewerage ponds. Highlights here were a large flock of White-winged Black Tern (300-400) and 2 Whiskered Terns. On the evening of the fourth I found several Hawfinch and a dead juvenile Northern Goshawk near the Tuul River on the edge of town.

May 5. UB to Shinjinst (Gobi Desert)
Back to the field camp for another shift in hopefully less windy conditions. After my flight I managed to grab another hours birding along the river outside of Bayankhongor before setting off to Shinjinst. Again the trees proved good for resting migrants with Dusky Warbler (3), Arctic Warbler (2), Two-barred Greenish Warbler (2), and Barred Warbler (1). Arriving back to camp I saw many Pallas's Sandgrouse, Horned Lark, an Upland Buzzard, a Water Pipit and then the White-winged Snowfinch that are breeding in our ger camp. These will be among the few birds I will see in my field area for the next 6 weeks.

Pallas’s Sandgrouse (Dan Mantle)
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