February 12, 2017

UB Ponds: full day!
19 September 2016

text & photos by ABu

Not without reason this site is called “green ponds”
by my fellow Mongolian birdwatchers
UB, September 2016

Ulaanbaatar 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 underwing
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teal, underwing
UB, September 2016

Baikal (slightly bigger and in the lead) and Common Teals in flight
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teals landing
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teals, upperwing
UB, September 2016

Birdlist (66 species)

Greylag Goose a family of 2 adults plus their single juvenile
Ruddy Shelduck c170
Mallard c70
Gadwall c105
Northern Pintail 18
Northern Shoveler 35
Eurasian Wigeon 9
Common Teal c260
Garganey 1
Baikal Teal 22, sometimes all together
Falcated Duck 1

Eurasian Wigeons, underwing
UB, September 2016

A flock of Northern Shoveler and a Gadwall
UB, September 2016

Common Teal
UB, September 2016

Common Teal and Baikal Teals
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teals
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teal
UB, September 2016

Baikal Teals, Part of the flock when they were all together
UB, September 2016

 
Baikal Teal
UB, September 2016

Common Pochard c50
Tufted Duck c30, still some chicks partially in downs
Common Goldeneye 10

Common Goldeneye
UB, September 2016

Common Goldeneye
UB, September 2016

Common Goldeneye
UB, September 2016

Common Goldeneye
UB, September 2016

Goosander/Common Merganser 1
Great Crested Grebe 1
Eastern Little Grebe (ssp poggei) 1, supposedly the same I saw before

Adult female Tufted Duck
UB, September 2016

Tufted Duck, a partly downy chick
UB, September 2016

2 fully grown juv. Tufted Ducks
UB, September 2016

Great Cormorant 15, only 3 adults
Grey Heron c. 60
Black Stork 2 + 4 migrating south
Osprey 1 migrating south and too far away to be aged
Booted Eagle 1, pale morph
Black-eared Kite I counted 450 but easily there were several hundred more on the move after I had stopped counting them
Eastern Marsh Harrier 2
Upland Buzzard 2
Common Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon, ssp. calidus one 2cy
Saker Falcon 1
Eurasian Hobby 1
Eurasian Coot 30
Common Moorhen 4 adults, 3 juveniles and 3 pulli

Eastern Little Grebe
UB, September 2016

Eastern Little Grebe
UB, September 2016

Eastern Little Grebe
UB, September 2016

Eastern Little Grebe
UB, September 2016

Pacific Golden Plover 1 juv
Northern Lapwing c25
Spotted Redshank c45
Common Greenshank 6
Green Sandpiper 1
Common Snipe 4
Red-necked Phalarope 2 juv
Mongolian Gull c25, only 3 juv
Black-headed Gull 5
Oriental Turtle Dove 1

Eurasian Coot
UB, September 2016

Eurasian Coot
UB, September 2016

Eurasian Coot
UB, September 2016

Mongolian Horned Lark 3
Barn Swallow c200, all I could check belonged to ssp. tytleri
Richard’s Pipit 1
Red-throated Pipit 5
Olive-backed Pipit 1
White Wagtail c20, including a flock of 5, consisting only of the ssp. ocularis, 1 juv leucopsis and the rest baicalensis
Grey Wagtail 7
Daurian Redstart 7
Red-throated Thrush 2
Dusky Warbler 5
Pallas’s Warbler 2
Yellow-browed Warbler 7

Pale morph Booted Eagle

2cy calidus Peregrine Falcon
UB, September 2016

The same Peregrine
UB, September 2016

Great Tit 5
Azure Tit 22
White-crowned Penduline Tit 1
Common Magpie 6
Daurian Jackdaw 19
Oriental Crow 10
Eastern Rook c20
Common Raven 8
Red-billed Chough c25
Long-tailed Rosefinch 2
Little Bunting 6
Rustic Bunting 1

Juvenile Spotted Redshank
UB, September 2016

Juvenile Spotted Redshank
UB, September 2016

Northern Pintails, would you have recognized them?
UB, September 2016

 
Juv. Pacific Golden Plover
UB, September 2016


Out of the blue I heard a Pacific Golden Plover call and I imitated its calls. After a few seconds the birda naive juveniledropped down in front of me and was intensely looking for what it thought to be a companion. It soon realized that it had fallen into my audio trap and left right away.

What a fantastic day! The perfect final before going back to work and sorry for no songbirds this time!

CU next time so please keep visiting us at Birding Mongolia!

January 31, 2017

"Gulling" the East

part five: plantation of lords

text & photos by ABu

(links to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

Forest Wagtail in poor light, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Forest Wagtail in better light, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

singing (!) Forest Wagtail, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

During 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 plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

the same White-throated Rock Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

The 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 plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

2cy female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

2cy male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

2cy male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

ad male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

While 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 Mugimaki Flycatcher, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim


Eye-browed Thrush, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

The other species was a common migrant and breeder in Asia but is now on the brink of extinction: Yellow-breasted Bunting. I saw 2 birds in the plantation and could take photos of a 2cy female. The other was an adult female. It is a pity that such a beautiful bird is still being caught in huge numbers in China, where it is called "rice bird" for a very obvious reason: they are eaten! Now it is really a rare sight in Mongolia, even on migration and you need a great deal of luck to find one during a spring trip. Only tiny "left-over" breeding population pockets are currently known. Wake up, neighbours, and stop eating them all up!

2cy Yellow-breasted Bunting, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

2cy Yellow-breasted Bunting, Khalkhgol plantation
Eastern Mongolia, May 2016 © Andreas Buchheim

I saw only two other rarer birds, actually it was only one that I saw alive: on 26 May found a bunch of oriole feathers under a bush, but they were only those small bright yellow body feathers that gave no clue to which oriole species had been killed. Black-naped Oriole is the more likely species, though.

On 28 May an adult Striated Heron flew down river but disappeared too quickly. They breed in very low numbers in the Far East of Mongolia. This time I could not find more rarities and did not even see a single Chinese Grey Shrike, a species that has bred in the plantation, but not this year.

We headed back to the west on 29 May but this part of the journey will be covered in the next post.