January 7, 2016

Forest birding December

text & photos by ABu

Xmas tree inside the forest
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Although I had many things to do on the last day of 2015, I decided to go out birding for a few hours. So my wife dropped me at Bogd Khan Uul (Uul = Mountain), which is not far from where we live. This mountain is protected, but the Mongolians do not care this much. Since 10 years more and more construction is happening on its northern slopes and the government has now even declared some areas as being residential. The top sections of the mountain remain rather untouched though, with almost no grazing and wood-cutting and many new tree growing everywhere. I found two (!) Christmas trees, much fitting to this time of the year.

young pine
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Walking through the higher parts of the forest is not easy and this is especially true during winter. There are many boulder fields and under the current layer of 10 cm snow you never know where you break your ankle next. Then there are hundreds of logs laying on the ground in the best possible disorder. For a birdwatcher this all is an even bigger problem than it is for the average hiker. Forest birds tend to be found on trees and if you permanently have to focus on where to put your foot safely, hence always looking down and not up to where the bird might be, you will probably miss most of the birds. So my strategy was to cover a short distance and then stop to search for birds with my eyes. Of course, my ears where on high alert all the time and in a rather bird-less forest this is essential.

When it comes to bird photography, forests are not my favorite place. Birds are usually too high up the trees (see the Two-barred Crossbill picture in this post) or one has to deal with lights and shades not to mention that branches and twigs are “always” blocking the view.

Female Two-barred Crossbill
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Male “Pale Mountain” Twite
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

I didn’t spot many birds but it was interesting to see that both Eurasian Tree Sparrow and “Pale Mountain” Twite (subspecies altaica) behaved as if they were Two-barred Crossbills and make use of the seeds of Siberian Larch Larix sibirica, the most common tree around. The crossbills were also present, but the flock of seven I found kept its distance. After a few minutes they were all spooked by something I couldn’t see. Given the fact that Siberian Larch is so common it is astonishing how few observations of Two-barred Crossbill we have from Mongolia. Today again, their slightly bigger and wing bar free cousin, Common Crossbill aka Red Crossbill, greatly outnumbered them alas I couldn’t get close to any to take pictures. A nice addition to my UB winter list was Alpine Accentor of which I came across a group of three. Here we have the very colourful eastern subspecies erythropygia. For a complete list of the birds I saw, see below.

“Eastern” Alpine Accentor, bird 1
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

“Eastern” Alpine Accentor, bird 2
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Bird List (19 species)

Grey-headed Woodpecker 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 7
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 4
Three-toed Woodpecker 2
“Eastern” Alpine Accentor 3
Coal Tit 1, already singing
Eastern Marsh Tit 9
Willow Tit c25
Long-tailed Tit 10
Eurasian Nuthatch 12
Eurasian Treecreeper 2
Brandt’s Eurasian Jay 3
Spotted Nutcracker 2
Common Raven 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow c150
“Pale Mountain" Twite 16
Eurasian Siskin three flocks, totaling c130
Common Crossbill c80
Two-barred Crossbill 7 (two ad males, one 1cy male + 4 females)

Female Three-toed Woodpecker
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

The same Three-toed Woodpecker
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

Female Grey-headed Woodpecker
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

The same Grey-headed Woodpecker
Bogd Khan Uul, UB, Dec 2015

It was a sunny day and the temperature had been much higher than usual so I was sweating almost immediately. Even at the comparatively mild minus 10°C (+14°F) this can be quite dangerous. If you stop you cool down quickly and this could become a health issue. Nevertheless I walked and birded for five hours before I went back home for treating the large bird in the oven…

Happy New Year 2016!

1 comment:

Hernán Tolosa said...

Very nice pictures of mongolian birds, I like very much woodpeckers, they are my favorites