part eleven (last part):

A happy dip

text by ABu



Links to previous Mountain Birds 2012 on Birding Mongolia:

part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11



There was one mammal on the wish list and a bird as well: Wolf and Siberian Crane. That meant that we tried on the Wolf first, naturally. As being closest to the previous site, we visited Mongolia’s only real National Park: Khustai Nuruu NP. Here, where there are not only the re-introduced Przewalski’s Horses, but also about 50 dens of Wolf, we hoped to see the latter. So we went there and camped just outside the NP to the south. The alarm was set on 03:30h in the morning which proved to be very unpleasant! In the very, very early morning of 28 June we walked up to the hilltop and searched for the wolves.

Incredibly, after searching for only 10 minutes, a running cow of Wapiti (traditionally the big deer in Mongolia had been regarded as belonging to Red Deer, subspecies sibiricus, but the Handbook of the Mammals of the World includes all Mongolian Red Deer in Wapiti, the American counterpart of what is now “Western Red Deer”, thus the scientific name of the Mongolian Wapiti, also called Altai Maral, becomes Cervus canadensis sibiricus) was spotted, closely followed by three grey shadows which turned out to be a (small) pack of wolves.

Whatsoever, we watched the charge for some minutes but the cow could outrun the predators. Those gave up after they discovered that they would have no chance of taking down that cow. Instead they chose to charge a Mongolian Gazelle but also failed. As the wolves walked back into the NP, they came across two stallions of Przewalski’s Horse that had been taking a rest. The two big male horses stood up and walked straight towards the wolves as if they intended to show that the grey animals should not try to charge them.

Searching for wildlife in Khustai Nuruu NP,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Armin celebrating his first Grey Wolves, Khustai Nuruu NP,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Male Amur Falcon, Khustai Nuruu NP,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Meadow Bunting, Khustai Nuruu NP,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T.Langenberg

2cy male Lesser Kestrel, Khustai Nuruu NP,
Mongolia, June 2012, © T. Langenberg

Khustai Nuruu NP has much more on offer than mammals. It is an easy accessible place to see Meadow Bunting, Amur Falcon and a variety of steppe birds. But as we wanted to try our luck on Siberian Crane we did not invest much time for birding there and went straight to Gun Galuut, just 120 km to the east of UB.

Long-tailed Souslik, Gun Galuut,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Mongolian Lark, Gun Galuut,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Daurian Jackdaw, east of UB,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Earlier this year, one of these gorgeous birds had been seen and as soon as we arrived at the site we searched for it. It had left this badly down-grazed site, no wonder. It seems that this area is not protected for wildlife but only to support local herders and their livestock. This gives an overall very bad impression to foreigners. Most birds we saw were at the small ponds and another Asian Dowitcher, 3 male Falcated Ducks and a hybrid Tufted Duck x Common Pochard were most noteworthy on 29 June. We headed back to the capital and the group left the next day.

Despite the dip it was surely one of the most successful trips for us. BirdingMongolia wants to say “Thank you!” to the guy who produced a series of incredible shots during this trip: Mr. Thomas Langenberg. We sincerely hope that you will return to Mongolia!

MountainBirders at Gun Galuut,
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

The guy, who is responsible for the large number of
high quality photographs: Mr. Thomas Langenberg
Ikhes Nuur, Jun 2014, © K. Krätzel

The travel route

Bye-bye Mongolia,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Be assured: The pleasure was mine!
Mongolia, Jun 2012, © K. Krätzel
Birding trip around the Khangai Mts,
central Mongolia, summer 2013


Twilight at Ogii Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

part one:

The Lakes

by Thomas Hallfarth

From 13 July to 10 August 2013 I made a birding trip to Mongolia, together with my wife Jana, my son Max and my friend Bernd Möckel (Plauen, Germany). Our principal purpose was to visit the high altitude areas of the West Khangai Mountains around Otgon Tenger and Kukh Nuur. Furthermore, we had arranged some side trips to several lakes for watching waders, waterfowl and other birds. First I’ll report about the lakes at the northern side of our circular trip around the Khangai Mountains.

Our first stop was a nameless floodwater lake several hundred meters south of Lun Sum, a little village between Ulaanbaatar and the Khangai Mountains. A pair of White-naped Cranes foraged around the lake and some Curlew Sandpipers, Long-toed Stints as well as a flock of about 40 White-winged Terns opened our birding trip.


White-naped Crane
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jul 2013, © B. Möckel

At Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur we spend the first and last night of our journey. This saline lake is a paradise for waders, with approximately 1,500 Pied Avocets roosting. Furthermore, small groups of Dunlins, Temminck’s, Long-toed and Little Stints, Sharp-tailed and Broad-billed Sandpipers were observed plus a single Ruff on our way back. In the reeds alongside a small stream Oriental Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers were singing, one or two pairs of Eastern Marsh Harrier hunted in this area whilst one Eastern Water Rail called continuously. Also, passerines typical of meadows were present in good numbers, such as Richard's Pipits, Yellow and Citrine Wagtails and Pallas’s Buntings.


Long-toed Stints
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jul 2013, © B. Möckel


Marsh Sandpipers
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth


Pallas’s Grashopper Warbler
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

One of the most important lakes for birding is the Ogii Nuur, situated to the north-east of the Khangai Mountains. We stayed here from 16 to18 July and from 5 to 7 August. Abu wrote in a former blog entry that here was the capital of voles and gerbils in this year—exactly our own impression! These small mammals were swarming all around the lake. Very likely this was the reason for the high abundance of raptors around.


Moulting Upland Buzzard
Ogii Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Black-eared Kite
Ogii Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth

We found not less than nine species of bird of prey, including Saker Falcon, Golden Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and White-tailed Eagle as well as Upland Buzzard. Other spectacular observations included flocks of Pacific Golden Plover, two Sanderlings, two Terek Sandpipers, four Asian Dowitchers and a single Chinese Pond Heron.


Black-winged Stilt
Ogii Nuur, Jul 2013, © T. Hallfarth


Terek Sandpiper
Ogii Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Pacific Golden Plovers
Ogii Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Chinese Pond Heron
Ogii Nuur, Aug 2013, © T. Hallfarth

Our next station was the wonderful freshwater lake Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, including its small saline neighbour Khadat Nuur. This area is surrounded by great taiga forests. At the eastern edge one of the rare Mongolian volcanoes is situated. The landscape in the west, around the saline lakes, is shallower. Large numbers of Great Cormorants, Bar-headed Geese and Ruddy Shelducks were roosting; furthermore White-winged Scooters, Back-throated Divers (Arctic Loons) and Slavonian (Horned) Grebes were uncommon breeding birds on these lakes. In addition, a lone Red-necked Phalarope was an early migrant.

Telmen Nuur, the last lake in the first part of my short report, was not so rich for birding. Mongolian Gulls fed their chicks here, several hundred Bar-headed Geese, two Back-throated Divers and a single Eurasian Spoonbill were mentionable.


Mongolian Lark
Telmen Nuur, Jul 2013, © B. Möckel

About our bird-sightings in the high altitude habitats of the West-Khangai Mountains and at the largest Gobi lake, Boon Tsagaan Nuur, I’ll report in the following two parts of this trip report.


part six:

Bayan and Tsagaan Nuur

text & photos by ABu (© A. Buchheim)


links to previous Mr. Hodgson and the Gull Calls 2013 on Birding Mongolia:
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5


Brian had “ordered” to add two more species on his bird list: Asian Dowitcher and Relict Gull. To stop at the IBA Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur aka Tsagaan Nuur was therefore mandatory, although only the dowitcher, but not the gull, breeds there. Again, there was a higher water level than in the year before (see here; mountainbirds part eleven), so we could not erect out mistnet at the standard site. Instead, we concentrated on birding from the early evening of 8 June to the early morning of the next day. Soon after our arrival we went down to the water’s edge where we easily found a pair of Asian Dowitchers. So only Relict Gull remained on our “to do list”. We parted: Brian, Patrick and Zegi went further down the lake while I chose to cross the very wet meadows. It turned out that this was the better option as I found 4 Relict Gulls among 50 Black-headed Gulls. All of the latter were in their 2cy. Unfortunately, I could not connect with Brian until we met in the camp and in the evening we could not find the gulls again. Brian will have to come back to Mongolia once more for an up-cleaning visit.


Pair of Asian Dowitcher
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2013

3cy Relict Gull
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2013

2cy Eurasian Spoonbills
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2013

The lake was full of birds and we counted some species:

Mallard 400
Gadwall 110
Northern Shoveler 250
Northern Pintail 130
Garganey 80
Common Teal 70
Common Pochard 150
Pied Avocet 400
Black-winged Stilt 80
Eurasian Spoonbill 27 (only 3 adults in this flock)


Pied Avocet
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2013

Black-winged Stilt
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2013

The story will end with birds and pictures from the area below Songino Khairkhan Uul near UB, so keep on checking…!

part eleven:

Bayan/Tsagaan Nuur

text by ABu


Links to previous Mountain Birds 2012 on Birding Mongolia:

part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

The IBA Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur aka Tsagaan Nuur (IBA description: PDF 642 kb) lies only 200 km west of Mongolia’s capital and this makes it a quite well-watched site. We stopped there on our way back to UB from 24 to 27 June 2012. In contrast to most other lakes in Mongolia this one had a very high water level (the highest since 2005, at least) and birdlife was accordingly rich.

Upland Buzzard chicks near Dashinchilen,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Male Isabelline Shrike, Dashinchilen,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Female Isabelline Shrike, Dashinchilen,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Most ducks were on the northern part of the lake but the reed-fringed southern pond held Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe and the usual pair of Whooper Swan guarding its six chicks. A male Baikal Teal was a nice surprise as was the fact that we suddenly were watched by another group of birders: these turned out to be Axel and the guys he guided, namely Jodie van Dieen and Paul B. Jones (see Paul’s trip report “Mongolia with Axel Bräunlich and Nomadic Journeys - June 24 to July 14, 2012“ and his superb photos on flickr), very good reasons to have some extra beers that evening.

Talking birds, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © K. Krätzel

Male Baikal Teal, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Whooper Swan with a slightly damaged neck collar,
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Great Crested Grebe, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Black-necked Grebe, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Over the last years the higher water levels led to an expansion of the reeds. The lake hosts now up to five pairs of White-naped Crane (only one pair was successful in 2012). Several pairs of Common Crane moved in recently. We heard Spotted Crake, Eastern (Brown-eared) Water Rail and Eastern Baillon’s Crakes. The latter did NOT respond to our playback of the song of its western relatives!

The reeds were full of Paddyfield Warblers, Oriental Reed Warblers and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers while there was a fair amount of breeding Bearded Tits and Eastern Marsh Harriers. We experienced some rain showers during our stay and even in a very dry country like this, with an average of only 200 mm precipitation per year, you could be out during the wrong time.

Having been out during a shower, 
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2012, © A. Schneider

Paddyfield Warbler, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, 
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim/T. Langenberg

Male Bearded Tit, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, 
Jun 2012, © A. Buchheim/T. Langenberg

Female Eastern Baillon’s Crake, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Male Eastern Baillon’s Crake, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

But after one of our delicious meals birding could continue at full strength. The wet meadows attracted Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Richards Pipit, Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and even the rare Asian Dowitcher. All in all a very nice set of birds, indeed.

Lunch at the lake, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun
2012, © A.Schneider

Male Eastern Yellow Wagtail (ssp. macronyx),
Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur, Jun 2012, © T.Langenberg

Richard’s Pipit, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg

Marsh Sandpiper, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T. Langenberg


Asian Dowitcher, Dashinchilen Bayan Nuur,
Jun 2012, © T.Langenberg



The final part of our trip report will be posted next, so watch out!