November 18, 2015

part eleven:

Pit Stop Sumber

text by Abu

( links to previous posts: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, 10 )

Pit stop in Sumber, Jun 2014, © K. Krätzel

Actually, we had not been only once, but three times in Sumber during this trip in June 2014. As this village is the only large settlement in the Far East of Mongolia, it is mandatory to go there, for refueling provisions or for taking gas from the only gas station. And if you want to visit Nömrög Strictly Protected Area you also have to pay the SPA headquarters plus the border police station a visit. Of course we had lunch there, and, on one occasion, even had to seek for a new tyre. Because the administrative visits are well known to always take some time, we even could do some birding in and around the village. Apart from the standard village bird species we found a group of 8 Grey-headed Lapwings including a bird that was sitting on its nest at the nearby river. Another goodie was found even within the village: Grey-streaked Flycatcher. This bird had been heard singing high up in a poplar tree but then ventured down into the remains of a building where the photographers were able to take some decent pictures. Probably all of the few previous reports of this flycatcher from Mongolia are undocumented, and thus the photos presented here might be the first ironclad proof that the species does occur in Mongolia sometimes!

Grey-headed Lapwing
Sumber, Jun 2014, © T. Langenberg

Grey-headed Lapwing
Sumber, Jun 2014, © T. Langenberg

Grey-headed Lapwing
Sumber, Jun 2014, © M. Putze

Grey-streaked Flycatcher
“downtown” Sumber, Jun 2014, © M. Putze

Grey-streaked Flycatcher
“downtown” Sumber, Jun 2014, © M. Putze

For comparison: Dark-sided Flycatcher
“downtown” Sumber, Jun 2014, © T. Langenberg

During the next days we discovered more birds north of the village and even took the first ever in-field photographs (for Mongolia) of a very skilled megaskulker, so come back and see!

November 16, 2015

Steppe Eagle
now globally ENDANGERED

Steppe Eagle, Ulaanbaatar, May 2011. © M. Putze

In the 2015 Global IUCN Red List for birds the Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, formerly treated as “Least Concern”, has been listed for the first time, under the threat category “Endangered”.

Steppe Eagle, Ulaanbaatar, May 2011. © M. Putze

From the BirdLife species fact sheet:

This species has undergone extremely rapid population declines within its European range. The majority of its range lies outside Europe where it was not thought to be declining at a sufficiently rapid rate to approach the threshold for Vulnerable. However recent information suggests that the population outside Europe may be exposed to greater threats than was previously thought and has also undergone very rapid recent declines across much of the range. It is therefore classified as Endangered.

Steppe Eagle, Bale Mountain National Park,
Ethiopia, Jan 2014. © M. Putze

Steppe Eagle, Bale Mountain National Park,
Ethiopia, Jan 2014. © M. Putze

Further changes involving species occurring in Mongolia:

formerly least concern, now near threatened:

  • Northern Lapwing (migrant breeder)
  • Bar-tailed Godwit (rare passage migrant)
  • Red Knot (rare passage migrant)
  • Curlew Sandpiper (common passage migrant)
  • Red-necked Stint (abundant passage migrant)
  • Redwing (scarce passage migrant)

Uplisted from least concern to Vulnerable:

  • Common Pochard (migrant breeder and passage migrant
  • Horned (or Slavonian) Grebe (migrant breeder and passage migrant)
  • European Turtle Dove (possible very rare migrant breeder)

Uplisted from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered

  • Far Eastern Curlew (rare passage migrant)

November 9, 2015

part ten:

Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis:
second record for Mongolia

text by Armin Schneider

( links to previous posts: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9 )

Dollarbird, record shot
south of Sumber, Jun 2014, © A. Buchheim

Next morning, on 3 June, we had again a horrible experience in the bushes. All the group members were totally annoyed due to the incredible density and agression of the local mossies. Therefore not everybody had an enthusiastic start into the day. However, Abu walked fearless away and after a while he reported via radio a second for Mongolia: Dollarbird aka Broad-billed Roller!

At first he thought that he had found a single Dollarbird, but in fact we observed two individuals hawking insects above the dense riparian vegetation, very often returning to a favorite perch. We observed them for about 30 minutes, but always from a large distance. Any attempt to get closer to the birds was halted by the impenetrable vegetation.

The most likely subspecies (based on range) involved is the migratory E. o. calonyx. At least the better photographed individual of he two can be aged as adult by its red bill. That two birds together had been seen catching their prey at the same spot does not have to mean that they did or intended to breed there, but it is not impossible that they did or tried, given the fact that there are larger trees—they breed in old woodpecker holes—available.

The only other Mongolian record of the species concerns an observation of a flyby (photographed by Shane McPherson) in open steppe of Khentii province near Darkhan on 17 June 2006 (Gombobaatar et al. 2007).

Another record shot of Dollarbird
south of Sumber, Jun 2014, © T. Langenberg

Dollarbird, south of Sumber, Jun 2014, © Mathias Putze
(composite picture: same individual shown here twice!)

Wow, what a fantastic spot! Despite the amazing birds around the camp we decided later to abandon the camp to switch to a more dry area where we hoped to meet with less smaller flying objects there. So we went back to Sumber for a quick pit stop and found some further good birds, but this will be on show next… keep on checking Birding Mongolia!


Gombobaatar, S., Munkhzaya, B., Gantulga, B., Odkhuu, B., McPherson, S. 2007. A new finding for Mongolian bird species and unusual bird migration in the steppe. Scientific Proceedings of the Biological Institute of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences 26:104-107.

November 8, 2015

part nine:

Japanese Waxwing
Bombycilla japonica:
first record for Mongolia

text by Armin Schneider

( links to previous posts: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78 )

a. Japanese Waxwing
South of Sumber, Jun2014 © T. Langenberg

Out of the sudden a waxwing turned up and sat nervously on top of a tree. It was the 2nd of June, not the time to expect a waxwing, and hence our alarm bells rang immediately. Although the bird wasn’t that far away from us it took flight before we could identify it. Luckily it sat down on yet another tree, this time unfortunately even more distantly. Thomas was quick enough to take some record shots which enabled us to identify it as Japanese Waxwing, the first for Mongolia. Strike!

For a long time it had been a matter of speculation whether this species would make it onto the Mongolian Bird list. In the Mongolian Redlist (Gombobaatar, S. & Monks, E.M., compilers 2011. Mongolian Red List of Birds. Regional Red List Series Vol. 7. Zoological Society of London, National University of Mongolia & Mongolian Ornithological Society, London & Ulaanbaatar), where almost anything has been uncritically accepted, the sole previous report, actually rather a suspicion, of a Japanese Waxwing (from Mongolia’s Far East) has been doubted as it was not accompanied by any proof.

All pictures here clearly show the ruby red tail tip which is bright yellow in the other species of waxwing recorded in the country: Bohemian Waxwing. Other features which distinguish Japanese Waxwing from its bigger cousin are: no white in the wing (apart from the pale whitish V-fringes on the tips of the primaries), a lot of black in the crest reaching much higher up (picture b) and the here barely visible red line in the wing, created by the tips of the greater coverts (and not by the scapulars; see here).

On picture b the bird can be aged as an adult by applying the same criteria that work for Bohemian Waxwing (see Bohemian Rhapsody). Based on the poor quality of the pictures sexing of this bird remains impossible, however.

Japanese Waxwing breeds in Far Eastern Russia and in extreme northeast China and winters to the south the breeding areas, mainly in Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula.

b. Japanese Waxwing
South of Sumber, Jun2014 © T. Langenberg

c. Japanese Waxwing
South of Sumber, Jun2014 © T. Langenberg

Abu told us that he had been checking hundreds waxwings which winter in UB since several years, but never found a Japanese. Then, during the winter of 2012/2013, there was an invasion which brought Japanese Waxwings as far west as Kazakhstan (see here) and also to the Baikal area (Igor Fefelov, pers. comm.). Much to Abu’s disappointment there were no fruits available in the UB area then, and therefore numbers of waxwings remained extremely small that winter. But now came the happy end for Abu!

That evening we learned to ignore the mosquitoes.

After our “First 4 the country” celebrations we were lucky enough to have a “Second for the country” the very next day, so stay tuned!