March 28, 2011

White-cheeked Starling

The White-cheeked or Grey Starling (new name Poliopsar cineraceus, old name Sturnus cineraceus) is a rather common breeding visitor to northern Mongolia. For example, it can easily be observed in the region around Ulaanbaatar. Often rather large flocks gather at the famous “UB Ponds” (Omchij nuur).

Purevsuren Tsolmonjav took these photos of a migrant in an area with some Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila trees in the South Gobi Province on 27 March 2011.

March 23, 2011

Mongolia revokes decision
to allow leopard hunting for science

ULAN BATOR, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The Mongolian government had revoked a decision it made earlier this month to allow foreigners to hunt leopards for scientific purpose, local media reported Wednesday.

Mongolian Environment and Tourism Minister L. Gansukh cancelled the permission to kill four leopards for scientific purpose this year, after meeting researchers and representatives of non-government organizations to discuss the issue.

The researchers opposed the decision made by the cabinet on March 2. They said genetic research and other modern technologies made it possible to do scientific research without killing the highly endangered species.

The decision to allow four leopards to be hunted incurred opposition worldwide. Snow Leopard Network, a major organization aimed at protecting the species, sent a written appeal to the government, urging it to reverse its decision.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement which entered into force in 1975 to protect wild animals and plants, has listed the snow leopard as one of species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade.

Snow leopards normally live between 3,000 and 5,500 meters above sea level in the rocky mountain ranges of Central Asia. According to a survey conducted in 2009 and 2010, there are more than 1,200 leopards in Mongolia.

above from: 2011-03-23 20:45:12; Editor: Fang Yang

A big thank you to all who signed the petition against the hunting of Snow Leopards!

March 22, 2011

Snow Leopards
to be hunted in Mongolia!?

The Mongolian Government has recently proposed the legal hunting of up to four – and possibly many more – Snow Leopards in 2011, for “research”.

Sign this petition and join with Panthera in pledging your support for Snow Leopards, and telling the Mongolian government that all information required to conserve these cats is obtainable through non-lethal means.

© Steve Winter/National Geographic

Today 3,500–7,000 Snow Leopards remain across 12 range states in Asia. They are listed as Endangered and are in decline in many parts of their range.

Panthera and our partner, the Snow Leopard Trust, are conducting the longest and largest ever Snow Leopard study, located in the Tost mountains in Mongolia. Our combined efforts are resulting in the most data ever collected on this rare and elusive species; and these data are being used to help better protect Snow Leopards long into the future. Hunting endangered Snow Leopards will in no way aid research efforts.

Those who have worked with the Mongolian Government to establish and implement sound biodiversity conservation policies have been deeply shocked and disappointed to hear of these plans.

Click here to read the letter by Panthera’s Snow Leopard experts Dr. George Schaller and Dr. Tom McCarthy to the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism requesting that the decision to permit the hunting of Snow Leopards be reconsidered.

Read more about Mongolia’s proposal to hunt the Endangered Snow Leopard here. And about Panthera’s Snow Leopard Conservation Program

Observations from the Gobi
February & March 2011

Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

The research and monitoring team of the environmental department of Oyu Tolgoi LLC has started to conduct wildlife observation around Oyu Tolgoi license area in the Gobi on a monthly basis.

Asian Short-toed Lark. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

During the first survey on 19 February 2011 a total of 12 species of birds were recorded:

Pallas’s Sandgrouse (many), Common Raven (many), Common Magpie (many), Mongolian Ground-jay (8), Wallcreeper (1), Siberian Accentor (many), Common Redpoll (many), Chaffinch (2), Little Owl (1), Bearded Vulture (1), and Cinereous Vulture (1).

Common Redpoll. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

Mongolian Finches. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

Mongolian Finch.© Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

During the second survey on 19 March 2011 a total of 16 species of birds were recorded:

Pallas’s Sandgrouse (many), Common Raven (many), Common Magpie (many), Chukar (many), Mongolian Ground-jay (2), Daurian Jackdaw (many), Siberian Accentor (many), Common Redpoll (many), Chaffinch (1), Asian Short-toed Lark (many), Mongolian Finch (many), Güldenstadt’s Redstart (1), Godlewski’s Bunting (many), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (many), Horned Lark (1), Cinereous Vulture (1).

Güldenstadt’s Redstart. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

Güldenstadt’s Redstart. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

Mongolian Ground-jay. © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

March 18, 2011

First Chinese re-sighting of a
Whooper Swan marked in W Mongolia

Whooper Swan, Moguhu Lake, Xinjiang, China,
March 2011. © Jiansheng Liu &  Jie Xu

A Whooper Swan marked with the blue neck collar “OT51” by a Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia Mongolian Academy of Sciences team at Airag Lake (48°54’ N, 93°23’ E) in western Mongolia on 29 July 2010 has been photographed in Xinjiang, western China on 13 March 2011. The information came from Mr. Jiansheng Liu and Mr. Jie Xu , who saw the swan together with about 100 other swans at Moguhu Lake (44°26’54.69 N, 85°54’26.98, altitude 391 m). Moguhu Lake is a waste lake near the big city of Shihezi.

Location of capture and re-sighting of the Whooper Swan.
Map © Google Earth, 2011

This information was communicated by Prof. Ma Ming from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Many thanks to Prof. Ma Ming and the observers, Mr. Jiansheng Liu and Mr. Jie Xu.

You can learn more about our waterbird marking efforts from the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia website.

March 9, 2011

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
An America field guide: useful for birding in Mongolia?

Why a review of an America field guide on a blog about birds in Mongolia? There are two main reasons:

1. The Crossley ID Guide from Princeton University Press covers 115 species occurring in Mongolia (c. 25% of the country total), including 25 species of waders (shorebirds) alone.

2. The Crossley ID Guide uses a radical new approach for a field guide (more about this below), resulting in the presentation of 10,000 photos!

So, what is so special about it? Each plate of the guide is a lifelike “scene”, a piece of photographed habitat that has been composed (“photoshopped” photomontages) of a large numbers of photographic colour images of a single species seen from multiple angles and distances, with birds shown in various plumages and behaviours, resting on land, swimming, and flying. The total number of plates (= species) is 640! While a few plates look a bit kitschy to me, most are rather pleasing lifelike.

Sample page from The Crossley ID Guide: Osprey

One example for a species breeding in Mongolia: On the Gull-billed Tern plate, resting birds shown include an adult in non-breeding plumage, an adult in breeding plumage, a fully grown juvenile, and two more adults resting in breeding habitat. In flight a distant juvenile and a distant bird in its first summer plumage + 6 more birds are shown. The scenes capture the birds as one would see them in reality, contrary to most other field guides, which present birds in an idealised style. Thus The Crossley ID Guide won’t replace traditional identification guides. But studying the scenes will certainly help to prepare for the field, or to appreciate what one has just encountered outdoors.

Sample page from The Crossley ID Guide: Black Scoter

The Crossley ID Guide is probably a book no one will take into the field in Mongolia. It’s a huge tome, measuring 25 x 19 x 3.5 cm and weighting impressing 1.6 kilos. However, at just US$ 35 cover price (already available for US$ 21 at it is definitely very good value for your money. I wish I had a copy when I was living in Mongolia—it would have been really diverting during the fiercely cold winter days and the dust storm periods in spring!

The associated website: click here

If you are interested: a throughout review (and links pointing to more reviews) can be found at: 10,000 Birds.