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Birds, birdwatching, biodiversity & conservation — by Axel Bräunlich & Andreas Buchheim

Updated: 2018-03-13T04:54:06.757-07:00




Them again!22 February 2017text & photos by ABuWhat was once a very common sight inside all riparian forestsis now extremely rare: tree hole-nesting birds.Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Tuul Gol, UB, Febuary 2017The day before I was about to fly back to work I went down to the river to see what is around there. I caught this Eurasian Tree Sparrow singing from his nest site. Thanks to the unsustainable use of the riparian forests along Mongolia’s rivers this is not seen as often as it used to be. Most big trees had been cut down to be used as fuel wood or for the construction of fences and in many areas no larger trees are left. The high grazing/browsing pressure by too much life stock prevents any sapling to grow and it is not difficult to predict that in the nearer future Mongolia will have no riparian forest any more. Does anybody care? No!Pallas’s RosefinchTuul Gol, UB, Febuary 2017Pallas’s RosefinchTuul Gol, UB, Febuary 2017Finding birds today way not easy. My stretch of the river was almost devoid of birds and I did not discover any “better” crow among the c50 corvids that were hanging around. A female White-backed Woodpecker stayed well hidden until it suddenly took flight to disappear somewhere in the distance and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker remained always on the far side of the trees.After a while I flushed a group of six birds, finches according to their jizz, and I recognized the calls of European Greenfinch. The group flew upstream and it took me quite a while to relocate them. The flock consisted of four Pallas’s Rosefinches and a pair of European Greenfinches. The birds were incredibly shy and I only managed to get the female documented.This is already my third sighting here in UB (see here “Surprise below Songino Khairkhan Uul”; and I saw them again in October 2014 at the International School of Ulaanbaatar). With so few sightings it is hard to know whether something is going on or not. Although UB is the base for most local birdwatchers there are no other records. Only the future will tell if they are wintering in the area regularly.European GreenfinchTuul Gol, UB, Febuary 2017European GreenfinchTuul Gol, UB, Febuary 2017[...]



Winter Cutie17 February 2017text & photos by ABuPeople have nicknamed UB “Utaanbaatar” (Utaan = smoke)UB seen from Bogd Khan Mountain, February 2017For me, Bogd Khan Mountain is conveniently located and I can reach the parking lot of the Zaisan Valley within 10 minutes. On 17 February I spent six hours on the mountain by walking up (and later also down) the valley to what is called “West Table Rock” in hope of taking pictures of the birds. The trail in the valley is always very busy with hikers and it was just the same that day. Birds proved to be extremely uncooperative and I ended up in having just a single bird photographed. The jays were cautious and the Bramblings preferred to spend their time on the ground on a big, snow-covered scree on the other side of the valley and hence out of my reach. Even the tits were very successful in avoiding me. Then, near the “Western Table Rock” I spotted a group of Alpine Accentors just in the very moment when a hiker came around the corner and spooked them all (allowing me to count them: 10). I waited for about one hour and as soon as I had decided to climb down I heard them call and they all returned. So I did, but yet again, a hiker spooked them before I could start taking pictures. While walking down I heard the calls of a Goldcrest, a tiny bird that is mostly associated with pine forest. I looked around and quickly found a pair of these hardy birds. By leaving the trail I found myself walking through ankle-deep snow and I could fired a few shots (no sun by then!) before the birds were spooked by something. I couldn’t find them again. These birds are wintering in our forests while others breed here: I found a nest-building female Common Crossbill, a very early breeder, and Grey-headed Woodpeckers as well as Eurasian Treecreepers were already singing.GoldcrestBogd Khan Mountain, UB, February 2017GoldcrestBogd Khan Mountain, UB, February 2017Birdlist (22 species)Grey-headed WoodpeckerGreat Spotted WoodpeckerBohemian Waxwing 1Alpine Accentor 10Siberian Accentor 2 (flushed from a dense part of the forest and not seen again)Goldcrest 2Great Tit 3Coal Tit 20, some singing high up in the treesEastern Marsh TitWillow TitEurasian Nuthatch 4Eurasian Treecreeper c10Common Magpie 2 down in the valleyEurasian Jay c9Spotted Nutcracker c7Oriental Crow c25Common Raven 4Eurasian Tree Sparrow c250 at the picnic areaBrambling c70Pale Mountain Twite 2Eurasian Siskin c100Common Crossbill c25GoldcrestBogd Khan Mountain, UB, February 2017[...]



First day out!31 January 2017text & photos by ABu1. Steam is a problem during the early hours of the dayBelow Songino Khairkhan Uul, UB, January 20172. Foggy morning below Songino Khairkhan UulUB, January 2017Although I had arrived as early as December 2016 the last day of January 2017 was indeed my first day out for bird watching after I had come here for overwintering. I had been occupied by too many other things. But today I had to visit the Immigration Office near the airport and as this is more than half way between my home and the area below Songino Khairkhan Uul, I quickly drove down there and spent a couple of hours birding the berry eaters. This winter the trees carry a full load of berries and this did not only attract the more or less usual number of Bohemian Waxwings (c500) but also a higher than usual number of thrushes. Photographing the waxwings has become a kind of routine and I tried not to take too many photos of them. They had been featured frequently and hopefully also thoroughly enough (see here). Despite this I looked for an adult male with those red waxy plates on the rectrices but failed again in finding one. My search for the Holy Grail of the waxwings, Japanese Waxwing, was also fruitless so I need to come again. As always, the waxwings were very flighty and I surely did not check them all.On one hand, wintertime is arguably not the best time for studying thrushes: not much study material is around and the birds are not that social and flocks are rare. Instead they install small territories which are even defended against waxwings. On the other hand, if only a few birds are present, one can fully concentrate on details, much better so than during the peak migration times when hundreds of thrushes can be seen within a single flock.The “gulls” of the thrushes—by the means of causing ID headaches—is a quartet of taxa which interbreed: Red-throated Turdus ruficollis (hereafter RTT) and Black-throated Thrushes T. atrogularis (BTT) are commonly subsumed under the name Dark-throated Thrush. The other pair consists of Naumann’s T. naumanni and Dusky Thrush T. eunomus, which also are sometimes regarded to belong to a single species, Dusky Thrush. The two species of the first mentioned pair are certainly the most common wintering thrushes, whereas of the latter pair only a very few Naumann’s and even fewer Dusky Thrushes have been recorded during winter time. Because hybridization is not only recorded within each species pair but also between members of different pairs, a full array of hybrids must be expected and very often the increasingly desperate observer ends up with the likewise often unanswerable question “Does the bird look like this because of intraspecific variation or because of some degree of gene flow between two (or more) taxa?”. This post will not answer this question, unfortunately, but it will hopefully show that the closer you look, the more disturbing details might come to light.I couldn’t take pictures of all individuals that I saw today and of most I photographed I would have liked to take more pictures, but this I never achieved.3. Male Black-throated Thrush4. The same male5. Tail base details of the same male6. The other side of the tail of the same maleLet’s start with this easy adult male BTT (pictures 3 to 6). No problem with this, or? Both, Lewington et al. (1991) as well as Clement & Hathway (2000) quote that BTT does not show any red or orangey tone to the feathers (apart from the underwing coverts, see picture 5, where such a displaced orange underwing feather shows on the upper side), but Glutz von Blotzheim & Bauer (1988) allow a faint rusty coloration on the outer vanes of all but the central pair of tail feathers. This can be seen in our first bird (pictures 5 and 6). Additionally there is weak orange coloration on the otherwise entirely white undertail coverts which is only visibly from a very short distance. In field this probably would go unnoticed.7. Male Black-throated x Red-throa[...]



UB Ponds: full day!19 September 2016text & photos by ABuNot without reason this site is called “green ponds”by my fellow Mongolian birdwatchersUB, September 2016Ulaanbaatar has a traffic issue. Several traffic experts had been invited by the city government and they all have come to the very same conclusion: it is neither the number of cars nor the total length of all streets and also it is not the parking situation that causes traffic jams almost everywhere. Instead the experts identified the mindset of the drivers as the main reason. Apparently, smart people in the city government understood that it would take too long to change the mindset of a whole country—this would be possible by a combination of measures like education, law enforcement and high fines, according to the experts-and put driving restrictions by the license plate numbers into effect. That means that our car is not allowed to run on Mondays, roughly in the time between 08:00 and 20:00 hrs.To avoid fining I left our home at 06:30 hrs in the morning and drove across the city to UB ponds where then I had to stay the whole day-good for me! I returned after my full day at the site well after 20:00 hrs.This time I used a different strategy to get pictures of the birds: Instead of restlessly wandering around and chase up all birds I stayed all day laying underneath a bush on the water’s edge and waited for the birds to come. The first things which came were no birds but several rain showers (actually also containing hail stones making the first part of my stay quite unpleasant) so I mainly had to keep my gear dry. Photographing anyway wasn’t possible during the first hours of my visit because of the thick cloud cover. Only after a few hours it slowly started clearing up and I could achieve some pictures. The wind increased during the day and in the afternoon it was blowing from the south at c. 5 Bft (29-38 km/h). All day I witnessed a permanent stream of raptors flying or even migrating southwest. By doing so the lower flying birds caused quite a stir among the ducks and waders allowing me to get some flight pictures as well. The most numerous raptors were Black-eared Kites and I stopped counting when the number had risen to 450 in the early afternoon. I had missed too many chances for taking pictures by focusing too much on counting the raptors.Some of the flying ducks can be found in the pictures. Compare their respective underwing patterns.For example, the underwings of Northern Pintail and Baikal Teal are completely different whereas their respective upperwings are quite alike. The underwings of Baikal and Common Teals do not differ so much but note the former’s broader white trailing edge and the darker leading edge. Baikal Teal is a little larger as well.Northern Pintails underwingUB, September 2016Baikal Teal, underwingUB, September 2016Baikal (slightly bigger and in the lead) and Common Teals in flightUB, September 2016Baikal Teals landingUB, September 2016Baikal Teals, upperwingUB, September 2016Birdlist (66 species)Greylag Goose a family of 2 adults plus their single juvenileRuddy Shelduck c170Mallard c70Gadwall c105Northern Pintail 18Northern Shoveler 35Eurasian Wigeon 9Common Teal c260Garganey 1Baikal Teal 22, sometimes all togetherFalcated Duck 1Eurasian Wigeons, underwingUB, September 2016A flock of Northern Shoveler and a GadwallUB, September 2016Common TealUB, September 2016Common Teal and Baikal TealsUB, September 2016Baikal TealsUB, September 2016Baikal TealUB, September 2016Baikal Teals, Part of the flock when they were all togetherUB, September 2016 Baikal TealUB, September 2016Common Pochard c50Tufted Duck c30, still some chicks partially in downsCommon Goldeneye 10 Common Goldeneye UB, September 2016 Common GoldeneyeUB, September 2016 Common GoldeneyeUB, September 2016 Common GoldeneyeUB, September 2016Goosander/Common Merganser 1Great Crested Grebe 1Eastern Little Grebe (ssp poggei) 1, supposedly the same I saw beforeAdult female Tufte[...]



"Gulling" the Eastpart five: plantation of lordstext & photos by ABu(links to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) Forest Wagtail in poor light, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimForest Wagtail in better light, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheimsinging (!) Forest Wagtail, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDuring the few days (26 to 29 May) in the Khalkhgol plantation I searched for rare species every day. I turned each and every warbler and did the same with flycatchers, but the big hit—that would be a national first like Blue-and-white Flycatcher or a second for the country like Eastern-crowned Warbler—was unfortunately not among them, or I just didn't find it. On my first walk I found several rare or kind of rare birds though ("teasers": see here): about the 5th record for Mongolia of Forest Wagtail (teaser 3), a female White-throated Rock Thrush (teaser 4) and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (teaser 5). The light was very poor but luckily all three of them stayed for more than one day, enabling me to get better shots. Since this was already my second Forest Wagtail (see here for the other one, 2011), out of three visits to the Far East of Mongolia during spring, it seems that the species is not a real rarity and the singing bird suggests that they might even breed somewhere nearby. If not in Mongolia, which does not have the right habitat (?), then across the border.Female White-throated Rock Thrush, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheimthe same White-throated Rock Thrush, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimThe well-skulking White-throated Rock Thrush is likewise not often seen in the country but if, then it is mostly in the east. This female was not so approachable but as it couldn't hide away inside the degraded plantation that easily, I managed to get half-decent pictures.And the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher? Since territorial males are recorded every now and then, it cannot be regarded as a rarity, at least in the east. There is a single record from UB even, but further west not a single individual has ever been seen. A few should be on show to those observers taking the effort traveling to eastern Mongolia during spring and summer. I photographed three individuals, all of which behaved a bit skittish, naturally!2cy female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim2cy female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim2cy male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim2cy male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheimad male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimWhile I was on my walk through the plantation on 28 May I saw a bird in the air crossing a wide open space. It looked strange but fortunately it chose to land in the lonely dead tree (can a dead tree be lonely?) in front of me: it was a 2cy male Mugimaki Flycatcher. It decided to press on almost immediately so I got only a single shot (in much too harsh light). This species is recorded only very infrequently within Mongolia's boundaries although it might even breed in the taiga. It took me almost 30 visits over a period of 12 years to get it on my list. Surprising, indeed!Two more species I got photographed that I would consider rare or more precisely: rarely seen follow. Eye-browed Thrush is one of them. Actually it is a regular migrant in small numbers but it also breeds in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park not far from UB. It is a rather shy thrush and thus quite often overlooked and, even more often, not photographed. During the storm a group of 8 foraged between the rows of bushes. They must have been quite exhausted to let me get that close.2cy M[...]



Ashy MinivetPericrocotus divaricatus:first record for Mongoliatext and photos by Ariunbaatar BarkhashbaatarOn 30 June 2016 Otgonsuren Avirmed and I were measuring Elm Ulmus pumilo trees at the Undai River in Khanbogd soum, Umnugobi province (42.6734ºN 106.9606ºE). This was part of an ongoing survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Mongolia. When I looked up I saw a strange bird which was mainly white, grey and black. It was feeding slowly within the canopy of the trees and I quickly took two photographs. I could not identify it at the spot so pictures were sent to Gankhuyag Purev-Ochir, Purevsuren Tsolmonjav, Amarkhuu Gungaa and Batmunkh Davaasuren for checking. It turned out that we had found Mongolia's first Ashy Minivet! We could not check the site the next day so it remains a one-day wonder.Male Ashy MinivetKhanbogd, southern Mongolia, 30 June 2016Male Ashy MinivetKhanbogd, southern Mongolia, 30 June 2016Comment by BirdingMongoliaAshy Minivet has been on our "next for the country list" for long. It breeds from Amurland in Russia's Far East and NE China south to Korea and also in Japan. Its non-breeding range lies mainly in SE Asia, on the Greater Sundas and in the Philippines, and it occurs also regularly India. Given this range the species has been expected to visit Mongolia on migration for some time! Congrats guys! [...]



Autumn colourstext by ABuAutumn in Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Andreas BuchheimEarly morning of 17 Sep 2016 I picked up Augusto and Jonathan and the three of us went to Gorkhi Terelj National Park to try our luck on Black-billed Capercaillie, aka BBC. We parked the car near the village of Terelj and next was a 3-hour ascent up to a plateau 500 m higher than the parking lot. Apparently, not many have ever tried to seek these birds out during this time of the year and our expectations to find a BBC were not high. The main reason for this was the fact that we were not alone in the forest. Nutters, who collect pine nuts by banging huge wooden hammers against the trees, causing not only the nut-containing cones to fall down, but also damage the trees and cause a lot of disturbance, were on the move as well. Luckily the collecting season was almost over and the forest was not shaken by the hammering sound. Most numerous were Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris of which we easily saw more than 100, including 2 or 3 of the locally rare red-colour morph. The only other mammal we saw, also in larger numbers, was Northern Red-backed Vole Myodes rutilus (thanx for the pic Augusto!). They also were collecting pine nuts.Eurasian Red Squirrel, Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Andreas BuchheimNorthern Red-backed Vole, Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Augusto FaustinoOnce on the plateau we spread out and combed the forest. It did not take long until we flushed the first BBC, a stately male. Our views, however, were not satisfactorily. So we went on and by the time we returned to the car we had seen about 5 or 7 males and 1 female. Although some of them took flight from branches directly above us, photographing them proved impossible, once again! Nevertheless, it seems that autumn is a rather good time for finding the species as they get somehow accustomed to the presence of humans allowing a closer approach. The main problem still is to see them before the take off. Some males were already singing, which also helped in locating them. We also checked the air above the Valley of the Turtle and a complete list of the birds seen can be found below. We returned to UB in the evening: Mission accomplishedBird list (23 species):Black-billed Capercaillie: 6 to 8, one even seen walking on the ground but even this one sneaked away with easeBooted Eagle: 1 dark morphEastern Buzzard: 2, actually the only birds photographed that dayBearded Vulture: 1 ad.Eurasian Black Vulture: 4Northern Goshawk: 1 immat.Eurasian Sparrowhawk: 1Juvenile Eastern Buzzard, Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Andreas Buchheim2cy Eastern Buzzard, Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Andreas BuchheimGreat Spotted WoodpeckerLesser Spotted WoodpeckerEurasian Treecreeper: c.6, most of them just heardOrange-flanked Bluetail: 1Daurian Redstart: c.10Common Crossbill: c.50Olive-backed Pipit: c.30Coal Tit: c.20Willow TitSiberian TitEye-browed Thrush: 2Red-throated ThrushEurasian NuthatchHawfinch: c.30Brambling: severalNorthern RavenAutumn colours, Gorkhi Terelj NPSeptember 2016, © Andreas Buchheim[...]



“Gulling” the Eastpart four: plantation of commonstext and photos by ABu(links to part 1, part 2, part 3)The degraded Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimThe degraded Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimThis post will feature some of the commoner birds I encountered and photographed while staying in the Khalkhgol plantation (26 to 29 May). Eastern Mongolia is probably the most under-watched part in this generally under-watched country! So especially for "half rare" species it is difficult to draw the line between what is considered to be common and what is considered to be rare. My selection of common species can be found below. Common does not necessarily mean that I saw larger numbers of the mentioned species but it characterizes species that are commonly seen in Mongolia.The plantation, a former site for agricultural research, had almost become totally destroyed: The fence, already mainly fallen down when we first visited this site in 2011 (see here) was now fully gone and every day lots of livestock entered for grazing (and to a much lesser extent for browsing). The quality of the bushes had changed accordingly: Not many sites to hide away are left. It is only a matter of time until the whole plantation will be gone. Repeatedly, cars were crossing the plantation causing disturbance to the birds and their observer!Male Amur Falcon, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimFemale Taiga Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim2cy male Taiga Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAmur Falcons breed in the plantation and I counted 15 pairs that had started to prepare for this year's breeding season. Most eye-catching was the abundance of flycatchers on 26 May (with about 60 Taiga, 25 Asian Brown and 5 Dark-sided) and again on 28 May (about 20 Taiga, 160 Asian Brown and 180 Dark-sided) but almost zero of each on 27 May.Asian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimAsian Brown Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimDark-sided Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimI also witnessed a fall of leaf warblers on 28 May with c.200 each of Arctic and Two-barred Warblers. Naturally I turned them all, both, the warbler and the aforementioned flycatchers, twice to find the odd one but no success, though.All Brown Shrikes (up to 22 counted on a single day) belonged to the nominate subspecies and I wondered how regular lucionensis might be (compare here) and whether it could be a later arriving taxon. On 27 May a group of 350 Bean Geese migrated north but they had been too distant to allow a more detailed ID (i.e. which taxa was/were involved).Nominate Brown Shrike, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas BuchheimFemale Garganey, Khalkhgol plantationEastern Mongolia, Ma[...]





"Gulling" the Eastpart threetext and photos by ABu(links to part 1, part 2)Right then, now to the gulls. We drove up to the small lake called Bulangijn Tsagaan Nuur (nuur = lake), a little northeast of Buir Nuur and when we arrived on 22 May, it became clear that I probably would not be able to catch as many gulls as intended. Thanks to the previous disappointment at the first (former) colony, I had not expected much. Despite this it came quite as shock to see that this colony which we had also found in 2014, when about 250 pairs were breeding on three small islands, was almost completely gone. This lake was nearly dry and two of the islands did not exist anymore because the water level had dropped so much. Although the remaining island was still occupied by Mongolian Gulls, the number of nests was small. It turned out that there were only 30 nests containing eggs. Many of the gulls on the island were non-adults, strongly indicating that the more experienced gulls had left already. But not completely so: one adult Mongolian Gull that bred on the island was already wing-tagged. It had been individually marked as an adult by my team and me in 2004 some 250 km to the north west, hence it was at least 16 years old and hence not a at the beginning of its life as a breeding gull.Upon arrival, an upcoming thunderstorm gave us the priority to pitching tents and I decided to catch and check the gulls during the next days. I had a lot of time to do the latter as the thunderstorm developed into straight rain that lasted for the next two days, preventing me from any ringing. I spent most of the days inside my tent and watched the gulls from the distance. Every evening between 400 and 500 gulls, mostly immatures, gathered near the island. So I checked them with the aid of my scope and paid particular attention to those not going conform to my idea of a mongolicus. After the rain had weakened and I tried to take record shots of some of the suspicious gulls I had found. It was still rather dark and windy so the long range (!) shots I achieved are of an awful quality and of course, I could not document all of them.Luckily a gull that had immediately caught my eyes on our first day at the lake was still around: it was an adult large white-headed gull but it was obviously darker than any of the accompanying Mongolian Gulls. Further, it was not in primary moult and also showed very bright lemon yellow legs. This combination ticked my virtual boxes for Heuglin’s Gull. With the aid of my scope I found that it showed some smaller black markings on its 4 outer primary coverts (in the flight picture this black area looks bigger than it actually was because of blurring) but this does not necessarily mean that it wasn’t adult.In the bag!Adult Heuglin’s Gull (composite image)Eastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimAdult Heuglin’s Gull between mostly adult Mongolian GullsEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimAdult Heuglin’s Gull between mostly immature Mongolian GullsEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimThere were other gulls which did not moult. They not only differed in this from the Mongolian Gulls of the same age. The odd birds fell into two groups: most of them (4 birds) showed rather white heads with a neck stola and many new feathers on the mantle and wing, giving them a rather fresh look. One bird of these four I considered to belong to heuglini not only because it was as dark (only adult like feathers compared, of course) as the adult (seen side by side once). It also showed a bright orangey pinkish bill with a black tip (like the bill of a young Glaucous Gull). Unfortunately I could not take any pictures of it. The others must have come from the breeding grounds along the arctic as well. For the summer time we are still beginning to get ideas about the ID of imm[...]



“Gulling” the Easttext and photos by ABupart two(link to part 1)Right from the beginning of my visits to Mongolia, ringing (banding) gulls, especially Mongolian Gulls, has been my prime motive and this year’s first expedition was meant to be entirely devoted to wing-tag adult Mongolian Gulls. I had chosen to visit two colonies in the east of the country. Both colonies had been found during the famous “Swamprunner Tour 2014”.We started on 20 May and hoped to reach to first colony by evening the same day. For several reasons, among them heavy traffic between UB and Nalaikh (the next bigger city to the east), we did not make it that far and camped on the banks of the Kherlen River a little east of the town formerly called Öndörkhaan, which has been renamed “Chinggis City” recently. It was very windy and we had only 15°C (59°F). During the fading light I walked around the camp and photographed some of the few birds around. A late Hen Harrier was noteworthy but bird of the day was doubtlessly a 2cy male Siberian Thrush. Unfortunately it was quite elusive and I could not even take a record shot. Teaser 1 of the first part was photographed on this evening and another photograph of this 2cy male Taiga Flycatcher can be seen below. Before we left after a cold (-2°C/28.4°F) and windy night I digitally got some more Taiga Flycatchers.2cy male Taiga Flycatcher (teaser 1)Eastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimAdult male Taiga FlycatcherEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimFemale Taiga FlycatcherEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimPortrait of the same female Taiga FlycatcherEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimFemale Taiga FlycatcherEastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimThen we went on to the colony, but when we arrived we had to learn that planning ahead is rather difficult in this country: The lake was dry and no gulls around (180 breeding pairs two years ago). This led us to press on and we reached our regular camp ground near Choibalsan by the afternoon of 21 May. As it was impossible to set up mist nets, thanks to the strong winds (this spring was extremely windy and cold, even for Mongolian standards!), I went for birding. Under these windy conditions it is not easy to find birds within the bushes that grow along the river. Every twig, every leaf is moving and catching an unusual movement (which ideally should be a bird, but sometimes is just a falling leaf or a butterfly) was a real challenge. Just before it got dark I found a male Mugimaki Flycatcher which posed for the teaser picture number 2. All the pictures I took that day were more or less blurred and I hoped that the bird would give me another chance the next day. Birds don’t move during unfavorable conditions like strong headwinds and if they have problems to feed (not many insects available when it is cold). So luckily the bird still was around the next day (22 May). The thick cloud cover didn’t help in photographing it well but at least I got some half decent shots. It was mostly feeding out in the steppe and not within the bushes which helped to keep track on it.Male Mugimaki Flycatcher (teaser 2)Eastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimMale Mugimaki Flycatcher (teaser 2)Eastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimMale Mugimaki Flycatcher (teaser 2)Eastern Mongolia, May 2016, © Andreas BuchheimA pair of “Stoliczka’s” White-crowned Penduline Tits was busily building their nest. I only could take some picture of the male which still did not show the dark band across its nape. Only if seen from behind this area looked dark (see lowermost penduline tit picture). The pale tips to these feathers have to wear off so early in spring almost no male shows this dark band. Other birds along the river were 3 Eastern Spotbill[...]



part 18 (final part):Gorkhi Terelj National Parktext by Thomas Langenberg( links to previous posts:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 ,12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17) Entrance gate in the rain, Gorkhi Terelj NPJun 2014 © Matze PutzeRuled by heavy rains, Gorkhi Terelj NPJun 2014 © Armin SchneiderSkies are clearing up, Gorkhi Terelj NPJun 2014 © Armin SchneiderInside the forest, Gorkhi Terelj NPJun 2014 © Matze PutzeRhododendron dahuricum, Gorkhi Terelj NPJun 2014 © Andreas BuchheimOn 15 June we travelled the short way up from Gun Galuut to the famed Gorkhi Terelj National Park. The NP is well developed but as we wanted to camp undisturbed we went into the forest for the rest of the trip. Our aim was to see some forest species. As the NP lies at the southern fringe of the Siberian taiga we hoped for Siberian birds like Siberian Tit (known as Gray-headed Chickadee in North America) and Siberian Jay plus the difficult Black-billed Capercaillie (BBC). Upon our arrival the forest was quiet, no wonder as the rain continued for several hours. But soon after the rain had ceased Orange-flanked Bluetails, Pallas’s and Two-barred Warblers and Olive-backed Pipits started to sing, mostly from the tree tops. On an escarpment we found an occupied nest of Eurasian Black Vulture and just above our kitchen tent a pair of Taiga Flycatchers was busily feeding their chicks, nice!Orange-flanked BluetailGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergOriental CuckooGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeUral OwlGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergUral OwlGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Andreas BuchheimUral OwlGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergFor the next two days we explored the forest, mostly by hiking up the valley which was quite exhausting. The reward was to see up to 15 BBC per day. These birds proofed to be impossible to get photographed. As soon as we saw one, the bird took flight and dashed through the forest so our cameras had no chance to track them for a shot. A bit more cooperative birds we came across on one of our walks: A family of Spotted Nutcracker, though venturing off straight away, and finally we saw also Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay. Another good one to discover was an Ural Owl in tree not far from our camp. Sönke checked out the distress calls of Red-throated Thrushes and by doing so he found the owl. Well done!Eurasian Black VultureGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin SchneiderEastern Buzzard, one bird of the breeding pairGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergAquilegia sibiricaGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin SchneiderMale Taiga FlycatcherGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergMale Taiga FlycatcherGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergGrey Wagtail...and no running water around at the top of the mountain…Gorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Andreas BuchheimNorthern PikaGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin SchneiderSiberian ChipmunkGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeSiberian ChipmunkGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Armin SchneiderSiberian Jay, juvenileGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergSpotted Nutcracker, juvenileGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergSiberian TitGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergSiberian TitGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergOn our last day it started to rain again and we packed our wet tents to dry them in our hotel in UB later. With more than 210 species seen during this trip, and lots of goodies among them, we returned back to Germany very satisfied! We will come back!Group of SwamprunnersGorkhi Terelj NP, Jun 2014 © Thomas Langenberg[...]



A juvenile hybrid dabbling ducktext & photos by ABuWhen I was birding the UB Ponds on 15 Sep 2016 a strange looking duck caught my eyes. It was within a small flock of Baikal Teal and somehow resembled them. But the duck also differed from the Baikal Teals in a few points. It was clearly bigger and also longer. The general coloration was paler and it had a kind of diluted Baikal Teal’s face pattern. Its bill was longer and showed much more grey than can be seen on young Baikal Teals, which usually show only a small grey triangular patch on the base of the bill sides. After I had taken the record shots below, the flock slowly swam away to disappear behind the bushes and I could not relocate the ducks, so the two pictures here are all we got.Back home I checked the photographs on the computer screen. This more or less convinced me that my initial field ID was right (as right as it can be with these hybrids when the parents are not known for sure): Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal. To get the opinion of experts I contacted Osao and Michiaki Ujihara, authors of this book, and they swiftly replied: a juvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal. Generally this hybrid combination is quite well known and is recorded every now and then, but—according to the Ujiharas—juveniles of this combination have not yet been documented anywhere so far.The only illustration of a female of this hybrid is a painted female in their book. Males are also known because they are much more obvious and hence more often found.My thanks go to Osao and Michiaki Ujihara for their expertise and to Nial Moores of Birds Korea who draw my attention to this hybrid combination many years ago.Juvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal with Baikal TealsUB Ponds, September 2016. © Andreas BuchheimJuvenile hybrid Northern Pintail x Baikal Teal with Baikal TealsUB Ponds, September 2016. © Andreas Buchheim[...]



UB Ponds, soon lost to industry!15 September 2016text & photos by ABuUB Ponds are falling dry because of the new damthat has cut off the main pond from the stream (foreground).UB, September 2016Several of the UB Ponds are going to be filled up soon.UB, September 2016Industry has come very near. UB Ponds, September 2016A well visited stake-out for waterbirds and more are the UB Ponds, aka Green Ponds (in Mongolian). These ponds are under severe threat: The city government concluded that they pose a risk for the planes which start from or land at the airport and in addition to this different companies have decided to make a “better” use of this “useless” land. Industrial encroachment has started a few years ago and more and more ponds had been filled up meanwhile. Other ponds had only been fenced off so far but it will not take long until we have lost this site. The sewage stream had recently been cut off from the main pond which is now almost dry. We will see how many water birds will still winter here in the future.I visited the ponds for a few hours on 15 September. Unfortunately it was very cloudy and it even rained during my visit. This meant that photographing was more a less just documenting the birds by achieving nothing more than record shots. Try to enjoy my shot which had been taking by hand-held equipment and excuse the poor quality of the pictures.Goosander. UB Ponds, September 2016Goosander. UB Ponds, September 2016Juv. Falcated Duck framed by 2 Baikal Teals,Mallard and Northern Pintail in the backUB Ponds, September 2016Falcated Duck. UB Ponds, September 2016leading Falcated Duck plus 3 GadwallsUB Ponds, September 2016Falcated Duck following 3 GadwallsUB Ponds, September 2016Bird List (54 species)Whooper Swan 7 (a family)Swan Goose 2Greylag Goose 3Ruddy Shelduck c220Mallard c140Gadwall c80Northern Pintail 9Falcated Duck 4Northern Shoveler c25Eurasian Wigeon c20Baikal Teal 15Common Teal c90Garganey 2Common Pochard 17Tufted Duck c45Common Goldeneye 12Common Merganser 3Crested Grebe 8Little Grebe 1 (ssp poggei)Great Cormorant 18Grey Heron c70Black-eared Kite c450Booted Eagle 1 dark morph juv.Saker Falcon 1Common Moorhen heard onlyCommon Coot c30Northern Lapwing c20Temminck’s Stint 1Green Sandpiper 6Spotted Redshank 14Eastern Black-tailed Godwit 1 juv.Common Greenshank 2Common Snipe c10Black-headed Gull 6Mongolian Gull 7landing Baikal Teal. UB Ponds, September 2016Eastern Little Grebe (background: Spotted Redshank)UB Ponds, September 2016Common Snipe trying to hide behind a very thing twigUB Ponds, September 2016Barn Swallow 17Red-throated Pipit 4White Wagtail c35, mostly juv.Grey Wagtail 2 juv.Citrine Wagtail 2 juv.Eastern Yellow Wagtail 1Daurian Redstart 6Two-barred Greenish Warbler 1Dusky Warbler 5Eurasian Tree Sparrow c250Azure Tit 6presumed “Stoliczka’s” White-crowned Tit c10White Wagtail. UB Ponds, September 2016Grey Wagtail. UB Ponds, September 2016Grey Wagtail with a Gammarus spUB Ponds, September 2016Northern Raven 8Eurasian Magpie c15Daurian Jackdaw 7Eastern Rook c35Oriental Crow 8Little Bunting 9Common Reed Bunting 1I must try this site again in better weather![...]



Tuul Gol, 13 September 2016text & photos by ABuAutumn has arrived. Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016Juvenile Mandarin DuckTuul Gol, UB, September 2016A bright sunny day followed yet another cold night and when I was at the river it was still only 3°C (37.4°F). Despite the fantastic light, today was a very frustrating day. On arrival I came across a flock of dabbling ducks, mainly consisting of Mallards and Common Teals. One bird stood out immediately: a (the?) juvenile Mandarin Duck. Despite my most careful approach the Mandarin slowly swam into dense cover and through the bushes I could only take very poor record shots of it while the other ducks took flight right away. As I didn’t take my scope with me and because of the bad quality of the pictures the sex of this bird remains unclear, still.Next was a group of about 120 Little Buntings. Although I literally was surrounded by them I could not achieve good shots. Apparently they knew exactly when they had to fly off: in the very moment my camera got the focus on them. The Little Bunting picture in this blog is that of a single bird. And so it went on all the 6 hours I walked around. Apart from the buntings there wasn’t much and sometimes I walked for a while without seeing a single bird.Then there was that late Lanceolated Warbler which ran through the grass just a meter in front of me. Sounds good, eh? No, it isn’t. That is too close for photographing with my long lens! Anyway it would have been probably nothing more than a record shot of a small thing behind a lot of vegetation.Finally the few penduline tits around preferred to stay inside the young bushy Siberian Elms. Only once, shortly after the Northern Sparrowhawk had flown along they came out for a brief check and I could manage to get a single bird documented.Definitively I have to go again! Not only to get better shots of the Mandarin Duck.Little BuntingTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Azure TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Azure TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Azure TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Bird List (46 species)Ruddy Shelduck 2Mallard 12Gadwall 2Common Teal 10Garganey 5Mandarin Duck 1 juv.Common Merganser 1 juvGreat Cormorant 9 juv.Grey Heron 1Black-eared Kite 4 ad.Booted Eagle 1 ad.Northern Sparrowhawk 1Common Kestrel 1Eurasian Hobby 1 juv.Green Sandpiper 1Spotted Redshank 1 (heard only)Common Snipe 1Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 3Black Woodpecker 1Great CormorantTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Grey HeronTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Booted EagleTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Booted EagleTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Mongolian Horned Lark 2Red-throated Pipit 4Olive-backed Pipit c15Grey Wagtail 2Citrine Wagtail 2 juv.Bluethroat 1 ad. maleDaurian Redstart 10Siberian Chiffchaff 1Yellow-browed Warbler c20Dusky Warbler c15Lanceolated Warbler 1Taiga Flycatcher 7Eurasian Tree Sparrow c120Azure Tit c. 30Great Tit 4presumed "Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tit 7White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Taiga Flycatcher juv.Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016Olive-backed PipitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Northern Raven 4Eurasian Magpie c10Red-billed Chough 5Daurian Jackdaw 4Oriental Crow 2Common Rosefinch six 1cyLong-tailed Rosefinch c10Pine Bunting c40Little Bunting c300Black-faced Bunting c10Meadow Bunting 1Long-tailed RosefinchTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Long-tailed RosefinchTuul Gol, UB, September 2016“Golden” leavesTuul Gol, UB, September 2016[...]



Tuul Gol, 9 September 2016text & photos by ABuAzure TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016After a cloudy night I went once more down to the river to see whether any new birds were around. There were, but not many. One of the first birds I saw that morning—I spent 5 hours along the Tuul—was a juvenile Goosander/Common Merganser. Unfortunately the light was still too poor and so are the two shots below. At around noon I heard a familiar call and tried looking for the bird. It took my quite a while to spot it circling fairly high above my head. Because this species, Japanese Sparrowhawk, has not been mentioned on our blog often, I include a composite picture of the juvenile female. Please excuse the awful quality of these shots.GoosanderTuul Gol, UB, September 2016GoosanderTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Composite picture of the Japanese SparrowhawkTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Again, photographing birds proved too difficult in the vast majority of the cases so in the end I was taken even more pictures of the "Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tits. Please note that the adults did not yet complete their moult. On some pictures the growing and still short secondaries are poking out. In case you find any Chinese Penduline Tit among those pictures, please let BirdingMongolia know! The Long-eared Owl that I flushed disappeared not to be found again. This applies to many other birds likewise. Else the bushes had not been overly crowded with birds and I had to criss-cross the area to get the birds on the day list.Bird List (42 species)Ruddy Shelduck 3Mallard 6Eurasian Wigeon 1Northern Shoveler 2Common Merganser 3 juvGreat Cormorant 2 juv.Black-eared Kite 1 ad.Booted Eagle 1 ad.Japanese Sparrowhawk 1 juv. femaleCommon Kestrel 2Northern Lapwing 1Green Sandpiper 1Spotted Redshank 2 juv.Long-eared Owl 1Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 4Black-eared KiteTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Common MagpieTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Red-throated Pipit 5Olive-backed Pipit c20Grey Wagtail 2Siberian Rubythroat 7Bluethroat one 1cyDaurian Redstart 2 femalespresumed Siberian Lesser Whitethroat 2Siberian Chiffchaff 1Yellow-browed Warbler c25Arctic Warbler 1Dusky Warbler c15Taiga Flycatcher 9Eurasian Tree Sparrow c20Azure Tit c50Great Tit 10presumed "Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tit c50White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Eurasian Nuthatch 1Northern Raven 4Eurasian Magpie c10Red-billed Chough c40Daurian Jackdaw c30Oriental Crow 6Common Rosefinch two 1cyLong-tailed Rosefinch c25Pine Bunting c20Little Bunting c90Black-faced Bunting c20Little BuntingTuul Gol, UB, September 2016[...]



Tuul Gol, 5 September 2016text & photos by ABuThe largest oxbow lake along my birding stretch.Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016Yet another attempt to take pictures of the birds, but this time I found fewer birds. The night before my visit had been clear and that might have urged the birds to move on. And so I tried my luck on the dragonflies instead (not much luck, though).All pictures shown here had been taken with a handheld digital camera.Booted EagleTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Long-tailed RosefinchTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Bird List (31 species)Great Cormorant 5 juv.Black-eared Kite 1 ad.Booted Eagle 1 ad.Common Kestrel 1Eurasian Hobby 1 ad. and 1 juv.Green Sandpiper 1Common Snipe 1Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 4Asian Brown FlycatcherTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Asian Brown FlycatcherTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Asian Brown FlycatcherTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Richard’s Pipit 1Olive-backed Pipit c.25Grey Wagtail 4White Wagtail 2, taxon/taxa unclearpresumed Siberian Whitethroat 1Siberian Chiffchaff 3Yellow-browed Warbler c.15Hume’s Warbler 1Dusky Warbler c.25Taiga Flycatcher 1Asian Brown Flycatcher 1Eurasian Tree Sparrow c.30Azure Tit c.40Great Tit 2presumed Stoliczka’s White-crowned Tit c.15Northern Raven 6Eurasian Magpie 5Red-billed Chough c.10Oriental Crow c.20Long-tailed Rosefinch c.15Pine Bunting c.30Little Bunting c.15Black-faced Bunting 6Tandem of ovipositing Black Darters Sympetrum danaeTuul Gol, UB, September 2016male Banded Darter Sympetrum pedemontanumTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Well camouflaged pair of Banded Darter S. pedemontanumTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Moustached Darter Sympetrum vulgatumTuul Gol, UB, September 2016bulrush Typha laxmanniiTuul Gol, UB, September 2016[...]



Tuul Gol, 2 September 2016text & photos by ABuInside the vegetation—as dark as it gets!Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016Lots of view-blocking twigs and leaves, too…Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016presumed Long-leafed False Tamarisk Myricaria longifoliaHeteropappus hispidus (?)Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016Algae. Tuul Gol, UB, September 2016I went out this day to get more photos of the penduline tits and immediately on my arrival at the river it was obvious that more birds, mostly buntings, were around. Once again, it turned out that most of the birds outsmarted me with ease. For 5.5 hours I crawled (sometimes) through the near impenetrable vegetation in pursuit of birds. At my early start it was only plus 5°C (41°F) which is obvious in the pictures of the fluffy (presumed) Stejneger’s Stonechat. Many leaves had turned into the brighter autumn colours but not many of them had been dropped. The plant (is it indeed a False Tamarisk, Myricaria?) on which the penduline tits preferred to search for food had turn dark orange. Some flowers, such as the presumed Heteropappus hispidus (?), were on full show still! At some stretches of the river algae were still growing. Usually these slimy algae indicate lots of organic input but this species, I believe, does not. It grows very patchily and normally the waste-water indicating algae grow everywhere.With the now higher vegetation available, the Eurasian Red Squirrel, which is not red at all in this country, had returned. I found two but could “capture” only the young individual with my camera. Birds were, as already mentioned, much more difficult, but a few I got get a grip on, see yourself.All pictures shown here had been taken with a handheld digital camera.Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris altaicusTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Bird List (41 species)Mallard 9Goosander 1 femaleGreat Cormorant 2 juv.Black-eared Kite 5, only 1 juv.Booted Eagle 1Common Kestrel 1Green Sandpiper 2Common Snipe 1Hoopoe 1Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 2presumed Stejneger’s StonechatTuul Gol, UB, September 2016presumed Stejneger’s StonechatTuul Gol, UB, September 2016presumed Stejneger’s StonechatTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Richard’s Pipit 3Olive-backed Pipit c.25Grey Wagtail 4White Wagtail 2, taxon/taxa unclearpresumed Stejneger’s Stonechat 6presumed Siberian Whitethroat 2Pallas’s Warbler 2Yellow-browed Warbler c.20Hume’s Warbler 1Arctic Warbler c.40Two-barred Greenish Warbler 4Dusky Warbler c.70Taiga Flycatcher c.30Eurasian Tree Sparrow c.150Azure Tit c.40Great Tit 5Long-tailed Tit 3presumed Stoliczka’s White-crowned Tit c.40White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016White-crowned Penduline TitTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Brandt’s Jay 1Northern Raven 2Eurasian Magpie c.10Red-billed Chough c.25Oriental Crow c.15Brown Shrike 1Isabelline Shrike 2Common Rosefinch 6Long-tailed Rosefinch c.20Pine Bunting c.30Little Bunting c.50Black-faced Bunting c.10Pallas’s (Reed) Bunting 8, taxon/taxa unclearLittle BuntingTuul Gol, UB, September 2016Old oxbow lakeTuul Gol, UB, September 2016[...]



Tuul Gol, August, 30th 2016text & photos by ABuNorthern slope of Bogd Khan Uul, UB, August 2016Decades of relentless trampling by livestock has caused the parallel lines across the slope; but obviously, higher vegetation is now slowly coming back; this is because of encroachment and the subsequent fencing off of almost the complete bottom of the slope; of course, all of the encroachment here, in Mongolia’s first National Park, established as protected area as early as 1778 (!), is illegal!As regular readers of BirdingMongolia probably know, I do bird walks along the Tuul Gol (gol = river) that flows through the south of Ulaanbaatar (see label “Ulaanbaatar observations” at the sidebar). My chosen stretch lies east of the Marshall Bridge and covers the northern bank upstream for about 5 to 7 km. In summer it is not easy or even impossible to cross the river as it is untamed and quite deep, but during the winter time I also try to count the birds on the southern bank, simply because there are much fewer birds to count in total.Over the past years, I witnessed a slight change in the vegetation along “my” stretch. Grazing (and browsing) has come almost to a complete halt. Consequently, the bushes returned and meanwhile, many formerly open areas are overgrown and all the bushes have now grown very dense. Though it is actually very good to see the recovering of the riparian woodland, at least at this small part of the river, while the rest of the country is still severely suffering from overgrazing, the bird watching got increasingly difficult. No more I just have to follow the paths trampled by the live stock, I now have to navigate through the shrubs and bushes by finding a way through the thick undergrowth. Stalking a bird has become now almost impossible, but sometimes I catch the unwary one.After a few very cold nights—yes, autumn is approaching—with the lowest temperature of -4°C (24.8°F) two nights before, I was keen to see what birds were on stopover. So I set out for a patrol at 09:00h at a still quite cold 5°C (41°F). By noon the temperature had risen to 22°C (71.6°F) which is much more comfortable, but the wind had picked up and had driven more clouds in.As usual I tried to avoid double counts but this is very hard to achieve, so please treat the numbers given in the list below just as very rough “best guesses” rather than most accurate count data! In total, I spent 5 hours in the thickets.Most birds gave me a wide berth hence I could only get two species of bird photographed: Siberian Rubythroat and "Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tit Remiz coronatus stoliczkae. Concerning the latter my ID is not fully sure."Stoliczka’s" White-crowned Penduline Tit (hereafter SWCPT) is the eastern subspecies of White-crowned PT and breeds along many Mongolian rivers where it is not rare. Even birds breeding along the Kherlen Gol in Choibalsan, that is in the east of Mongolia, belong to this taxon (Harrap & Quinn 1996, and pers. obs.). Whether or whether not birds breeding along the Khalkh Gol (in the Far East of the country) also represent this taxon remains unclear. Despite several visits to that region we never came across any Chinese Penduline Tit (hereafter CPT) Remiz consobrinus but most if not all birds were heard only and not seen, let alone being photographed or even mist-netted. So there is still something to be discovered in the east and not only there, indeed.Although there are officially no other penduline tits than SWCPT on the Mongolian Bird List, CPT once has been claimed for the country (in Ju[...]



Birding trip around the Khangai Mtscentral Mongolia, summer 2013 A birding hotspot of the Gobi Desert: Boon Tsagaan Nuurwith the Gobi Altai Mts in the background, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth part three:Aquatic birds in the Gobi Desert – birding around Boon Tsagaan Nuur by Thomas Hallfarth ( links to previous posts: part one, part two ) On 31 July we left the nomadic family of our driver’s brother to go birding at Boon Tsagaan Nuur, the largest of the Gobi lakes. The change from mountain to desert birdlife already began at the southernmost hills of Khangai Mts. Here we saw the first birds of desert habitats. We found a group of Mongolian Finches in a dry river valley, probably the breeding ground of these birds and also a pair of Isabelline Shrikes. Not far from this place, a female Chukar with one chick crossed our way. Surprisingly we also discovered three Henderson's Ground Jays and a single juvenile Desert Wheatear, both species we expected not until we reached the proper Gobi Desert. Mongolian FinchSouth part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © B. Möckel Isabelline ShrikeSouth part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. HallfarthHenderson’s Ground JaySouth part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth Desert Wheater, juvSouth part of Khangai Mts, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth During the short crossing of the Gobi Desert we saw good numbers of Pallas’s Sandgrouse, including a family with one chick and some flocks of several hundreds of birds. Pallas’s Sandgrouse, pairGobi Desert, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth Then, in the afternoon we arrived at one of the birding hotspots of our trip, the famous Boon Tsagaan Nuur. Here we stayed until 2 August. In this time we made some interesting observations. The greatest concentration of birds was at the estuary of Baydrag Gol in the north-eastern part of the lake. Boon Tsagaan Nuur: Beautiful landscape surroundingthe lake, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth A minimum of 15,000 Black-headed Gulls were here, furthermore 1,100 Spoonbills, 800 Cormorants, 800 Caspian Terns, and 500 Pallas’s Gulls. Mongolians fourth Slender-billed Gull was one of the top species we saw here. Also, 25 Relict Gulls, eleven Greater Sand Plovers, two Pallas’s Fish Eagles and singles of Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper and Little Tern provided further nice observations. Caspian TernBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthPallas’s Gull (flying in front of Black-headed Gulls)Boon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthSlender-billed GullBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © B. Möckel Relict GullsBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthRelict GullsBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthRelict GullBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthRelict GullsBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthGrey-tailed TattlerBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthGrey-tailed TattlerBoon Tsagaan Nuur, Aug 2013, © B. Möckel A short trip into the nearby very dry Gobi Altai Mts. provided a further Chukar and some beautiful views at Boon Tsagaan Nuur. Gobi Altai Mts.: Dry valley in the south partof the mountains , Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthChukarGobi Altai Mts., Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthGobi Altai Mts.View at the lake Boon Tsagaan Nuur , Aug 2013, © T. HallfarthWith these observations we finish our journey to Mongolia and also this little trip report. A German proverb says literally: “After the game is before the game”. And so we were already planning our next trip to Mongolia… Gobi Altai Mts.Good bye, Boon Tsagaan Nuur… Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth[...]



part 17:Transfer Daystext by Abu( links to previous posts:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 ,12, 13, 14, 15, 16) Menengijn Tal. Jun 2014 © A. SchneiderNot an easy task to take pics from the driving car.Fire rules the height of the grass.Menengijn Tal, Jun 2014 © M. PutzeWe travelled back westwards through the steppe of Menengijn Tal, stayed a night near Choibalsan, then headed to Gurmijn Nuur, a beautiful lake with a horrible water quality, where we spent another night, continued to try our luck at Gun Galuut (one night) and drove on to our final destination: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.In Menengijn Tal we found more Short-eared Owls, which are very likely to breed there and had a very relaxed Mongolian Gazelle, much to the liking of Thomas.Short-eared OwlMenengijn Tal. Jun 2014© T. LangenbergMongolian GazelleNear CB, Jun 2014 © T. LangenbergCommon CrossbillNear CB, Jun 2014 © T. LangenbergDemoiselle CraneNear CB, Jun 2014 © T. LangenbergAfter having set up the camp on the banks of the Kherlen River just a little out of CB, we realized how much we had been under tension during the mosquito days in the Far East. Although there were lots of mossies, it was nothing compared to the other sites and all of us felt very much relieved. The Common Crossbill in the willows at our campsite was unexpected but was not very cooperative. So the photographers were quite happy for the hundreds of Common and Pacific Swifts that were on offer downtown CB. Thomas and Matze used the shopping time for firing bursts of shots as the swifts were flying low over the city.Common Swift of the subspecies pekinensisCB, Jun 2014 © Thomas LangenbergPacific SwiftCB, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzePacific SwiftCB, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeGolden EagleNear CB, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeOn our way to Gurmijn Nuur (see here for our visit of 2011 when there were no nomads and no livestock but lots of ducks), our next campsite, we stopped every now and then for birds but apart from the Golden Eagle, which we observed eating a Tolei Hare, nothing noteworthy turned up.At Gurmijn Nuur, where we had hoped to have a swim and an evening at the beach, we just did some birding, mainly because the water turned out to be too much of the livestock’s restroom, awfully smelling and full of floating dung. The more than 150 Swan Geese did not care this however. Armin and Matze proved to be the only tough guys of us and walked up the hill to the SW of the lake.Camp at Gurmijn Nuur. Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeMeadow BuntingGurmijn Nuur, Jun 2014 © Matze PutzeSaker FalconGurmijn Nuur, Jun 2014 © Armin SchneiderMoonrise over Gurmijn NuurJun 2014 © Matze PutzeMoon at Gurmijn NuurJun 2014 © AbuGun Galuut was once again quite disappointing: no Siberian Crane and inside the reserve we found that hundreds of horses had grazed down the meadows making it almost impossible for the bigger of the local breeders to find shelter. It seems that this reserve is a reserve for domestic horses only. Despite all this a pair of White-naped Crane was guarding its chicks through the herds. 27 Asian White-winged Scoters as well as two Ruddy Turnstones plus a set each of waterfowl and waders were found on the biggest lake. At one of the smaller ponds we encountered a White’s Thrush, quite late, but the bird was slightly injured.Enjoy the selection of photographs!The next post will be the last one of the swamprunner series and you will read about our visit to the famous Gorkhi Terelj National Park, so visit us again soon!White’s ThrushGun Galuut, Jun[...]



First Jankowski’s Buntings in Beijing for 75 years
by Terry Townshend

Courtesy of the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), an article about the first JANKOWSKI'S BUNTINGS in Beijing for 75 years, just published in BirdingASIA, is now available as a downloadable PDF.

For more great articles like this about Asia's birds, please consider joining the OBC - they are doing fantastic work to celebrate and protect the birds in this wonderful continent!
The above has been copied from the fabolous Birding Beijing blog



Birding at the bordertext & photos © Wieland Heim/Amur Bird ProjectAfter three months of fieldwork within the Amur Bird Project in Far East Russia my visa expired and I had to cross the Russian border. This time Ramona and I decided to go to Mongolia, getting rid of the swamps and enjoying dry steppes, free of mosquitoes. We crossed the border on the 29th of June 2016 in Altanbulag from where we went by foot to the Delgerkhaan uul hills. Then we headed back to the steppes around the city of Sukhbataar and took the train back “home”.Where the Wolf howls.This area just south of Lake Baikal is not only the political border region between Mongolia and Russia, it furthermore separates many western from eastern bird taxa. Starting with the pine forests, we found several eastern species to be very common—like Amur Falcon, Olive-backed Pipit and Pine Bunting. But during the night, the “western” Nightjar (i.e. European/Eurasian Nighjar) was calling, and we observed Spotted Flycatchers as well as Common Swifts. The latter species seemed to breed in tree holes made by Great Spotted Woodpecker, like the many Willow Tits we saw.Pine forest near Delgerkhaan uul.From the inner forest the songs of Eye-browed Thrush and Siberian Blue Robin were heard. On slopes with sparse tree cover we found Northern Wheatears feeding their fledged chicks, Hoopoes and a pair of the Siberian Meadow Bunting.Breeding site of Hoopoe and Northern Wheatear.Northern Wheatear.The hills are full of flowers.A lily Lilium pumilum and edelweiss.Unfortunately we did not see Black Grouse, only their remnants. More excitement was caused by a pack of Grey Wolves that was howling very close to our tent.Arrival at the spring.Eastern Marsh Harrier.But since we were running out of water we had to return to the valley the next day, where we found a spring that supplied us not only with drinks but also with some nice birds: Gadwall, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Northern Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Japanese Quail, Citrine Wagtail as well as Richard´s Pipit and Pallas´s Grasshopper Warblers were most likely local breeders of the wet meadows, whereas Common Greenshanks and Green Sandpipers were probably early southbound migrants. The water of the spring flew into a smaller river, which fed a beautiful lake east of the city of Sukhbataar.Whooper Swan family on a lake near Sukhbataar city.Pied Avocet and Black-headed Gull.A fly-by of Ruddy Shelducks.Dozens of Ruddy Shelducks already had big chicks, and Eurasian Coots as well as numerous ducks were present—including Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, three Ferruginous Ducks (!), a Smew and some Common Goldeneyes. In the reeds, where Oriental Reed Warblers were singing loudly, a family of Whooper Swans with five chicks was hiding. Pied Avocet and Spotted Redshank, most likely females on their way back to wintering grounds, were added to our list of waders. There was also a Black-headed Gull and several Black-necked Grebes which might have bred there as well. Some former lakes close by were dried out, covered by layer of salt. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers was warning, and Greater Short-toed Larks continued singing in the heat. Not far from this, we spotted a first family of Demoiselle Cranes—the night before, we already had heard them calling while they were flying over our tent. The two chicks immediately were hiding themselves on the ground when they spotted us.Demoiselle Cranes close[...]



“Gulling” the Easttext and photos by ABuRecently I returned from a gull ringing trip to the eastern part of Mongolia. Since I was leaving for the north of the country very soon after I just put together some "teasers" of a few of the non-gulls I saw. More on these will be reported on the blog later, so check again!teaser 1. Eastern Mongolia, May 2016.teaser 2. Eastern Mongolia, May 2016.teaser 3. Eastern Mongolia, May 2016.teaser 4. Eastern Mongolia, May 2016.teaser 5. Eastern Mongolia, May 2016.[...]



Gyr Falcon:first photos from Mongoliatext & photos © BirdingMongoliaWhite morph Gyr FalconKhentii Aimag, October 2014© anonymous photographerGyr Falcon had been mentioned as wintering in Mongolia by Davaa et al. (1994). Gombobaatar & Monks (2011) stated that “Recent winter records were in lower Ulz River valley, Hentii Mountain Range (Tseveenmyadag et al., 2005) and Borig del and Altan els of Uvs province (Sh. Boldbaatar pers. comm.).” Yet, none of the above claims had been substantiated by any form of evidence. Furthermore, Potapov & Sale (2005) wrote the following in their Gyr Falcon monograph: “In Mongolia two records exists for November visits by Gyrfalcons (Bold and Boldbataar 1999). However, having discussed these observations with the authors, we are convinced that both were of Saker Falcons.”The accompanying pictures had been taken “somewhere” (location withheld) in Khentii Aimag in north-(eastern) Mongolia on 25 October 2014. These comprise the first documented occurrence of a Gyr Falcon for the country.White morph Gyr FalconKhentii Aimag, October 2014© anonymous photographerIt is very likely that Gyr Falcons are indeed regularly taking winter residence in the vast steppes of Mongolia, but so far no proof had been made available. This poor bird however, was documented properly although its fate wasn’t so nice. As our readers can see, it was taken by a falconer and subsequently sold to a falcon keeper in Arabia.We sincerely hope that not all Gyr Falcons which come to Mongolia will share this bird’s doom. Our thanks go to Amarkhuu Gungaa of the Mongolian Birdwatching Club for providing the info about this remarkable record.White morph Gyr FalconKhentii Aimag, October 2014© anonymous photographerReferencesGombobaatar, S. & Monks, E.M. eds. 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.Dawaa, N., Busching, W.-D., Sumijaa, D., Bold, A. & Samijaa, R. 1994. Kommentierte Checkliste der Vögel und Säuger der Mongolei. Teil 1: Vögel. Köthen, Germany: Naumann-Museum. [in German]Potapov, E. & Sale, R. 2005. The Gyrfalcon. T. & A. D. Poyser, London, UK.[...]