MONGOLIA ALBUM

              

   Autumn 2016

In September we made our fifth trip to Outer Mongolia the land of blue sky, open horizons and a few good birds

The "Green Gobi"

 

 

This male Pied Wheatear was taking a both alongside some Mongolian Trumpeter Finches in the Gobi

 

 

At Yolyn Am you can ride a horse to visit the ice canyon

 

 

A juvenile Common Cuckoo was being fed by its diminutive foster parent the endemic Mongolian Accentor

 

 

Back of the camera shot of the rarely observed Chinese Bush Warbler

                    

 

  Outer Mongolia August-September 2015

This was John's fourth trip to one of our all time favourite destinations - the land of history and adventure, Mongolia.

The tour combined extended visits to two quite different parts of the country. Firstly the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Gobi desert around the Gurvan Saikan National Park in southern Mongolia.

Following a return to the capital Ulan Bataar the second part of the tour took the group to the edge of the mighty Taiga forest in the north east of the country.

On the way we visited desert camps and waterholes, steppe lakes and forested mountain valleys.

On the Gobi loop we visited the famous Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag where many dinosaur remains have been discovered

The many highlights included visits to family gers in the Gobi and nomadic herders on the steppes.

We watched the herders milk the mares, taking half the milk and leaving the rest for the foals

.In the north we stayed  in two camps, one by the Herlen river and the other in the upper reaches of the beautiful Tuul river

The camp staff where very cheerful always lighting fires for hot showers and Ger stoves

 At Hongor Els we watched Pallas's Sandgrouse fly in to drink at a small river which flows at the base of the sand dunes.

 After a long drive through spectacular scenery we stopped off at a remote Ger and shared green tea and goat's yoghurt vodka with the nomads.

 On a nearby plain a Bearded Vulture dropped the bones from a carcass, the bones raising dust as they bounced onto the rocks.

 At Yolyn Am a Wallcreeper fed fearlessly amongst the crevices close to the group whilst overhead soared Himalayan Griffon and Bearded Vultures.

 

Bob Martin managed to obtain some fantastic images of the birds and wildlife on our incredible journey

 

A Bearded Vulture gave awesome views in the aptly named Valley of the Vultures

 

 

Wallcreepers showed very well in the valley as well providing everyone with their best ever views!

 

The Mongolian (or Kozlov's) Accentor is endemic to the mountains of southern Mongolia and Northern China.

 

After leaving the capital for a second time we visited the high open steppes of Mongolia before reaching the Siberian Taiga

A small flock of spinning phalaropes were found on a steppe lake

 

Upland Buzzards hunted the abundant small rodents out on the grassy steppes

 

In the Taiga forest we found many Dusky Warblers, Yellow-browed Warblers and these delightful Pallas's leaf Warblers

 

Lurking in the larch trees were a group of Black-billed Capercaillie, here are two of the females

 

 

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                                      Our second tour in 2015 was greeted with rain in the Gobi - extraordinary, but it brought us a fall of migrants and then soon brightened up.

                                        Arctic, Two-barred Greenish and Dusky Warblers in the few trees around the Gobi airport with a Wryneck running around in the desert.

                                                     Then flock after flock of Pallas's Sandgrouse drinking at the temporary puddles in the dirt tracks - fantastic.

                                                                      The tour went on to notch up an excellent list of species, with several unexpected bonuses.

 

Altai Snowcock  and   Mongolian Gerbil by our local guide, Mann

 

'Singing Sands', Dusky Warbler and Gobi horseman by tour member Chris Brookings

 

 

"Please let us inside the Chinggis Khan monument, we mean no harm", eventually she did

 

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 In September 2011 we returned to Mongolia for our second tour to the land of blue skies

Bogd Uul mountain a day trip from Ulan Bator

with a little help from our friends Namuul and Tomorsuh

one of the highlights was the discovery of two Siberian Cranes

depicted here with a flock of Bar-headed Geese

a Ger camp in the Gobi Desert

birdwatching in the Gobi Desert at the "singing dunes"

over 200 Pallas's Sandgrouse came to drink at Hongor Els

passage waders included several hundred Pacific Golden Plovers

juvenile Red-necked Stint at a waterhole in the Gobi Desert

 

on our journey we were fortunate to stumble upon this Nadam festival

into the mountains on the edge of Siberia!

migrants included a Siberian Great Grey Shrike

 

and a Dark-sided Flycatcher

 

Siberian Ibex high up in the mountains

A curious Siberian Chipmunk in the forest

"sundowner" Mongolian style

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In  September 2010 we ran our first ever tour to Outer Mongolia here we present John’s diary of the tour.

Photographs kindly supplied by John Tidmarsh.

 

We arrived in Ulan Bator (UB) late morning on the first day and a short while later we were tucking into plates of “buuz” (mutton dumplings) in the Tuul Restaurant. The day was brightened when we arrived by the banks of the Tuul river in the afternoon. In the riverside trees we found a wonderful flock of Azure Tits both adults and juveniles together. Overhead displaying Booted Eagles, of both colour morphs, appeared above the pine forests in the foothills of the mountains.

The first morning was a session of very productive birding around what we called the “airport steppe”. A pair of Demoiselle Cranes provided our first sighting of these magnificent creatures. Over head a raptor spectacle developed as crowds of Black eared Kites are joined by Black Vultures, Steppe Eagles and a Crested Honey Buzzard. In the afternoon we visited the grounds of the former Buddhist monastery at Manzhir on the southern slopes of Bogd Uul Mountain. The forest here holds Siberian Chipmunks and “black” Red Squirrels and hordes of butterflies including Camberwell Beauty. A taste of Siberia is also provided by the birds… Taiga Flycatcher, Yellow browed Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Olive backed Pipits. However a family party of four  Golden Eagles really stole the show.

 

On day three we took a short internal flight to Dalanzangad (DZ) “gateway to the Gobi”. Our first sightings of the much sought after Pallas’s Sandgrouse raised the pulses. A small fenced off pool provided the surprising sight of shorebirds in the desert including Broad billed Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint and  Pintail Snipe as well as a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. Our day’s journey ended in the remnant Saxual Forest below the famous “Flaming Cliffs” at Bayanzag. Here countless fossilised dinosaur remains have been discovered

An eventful drive took us out across the open Gobi landscape and through a scenic mountain pass. In the afternoon we arrived at the “singing sands” the stupendous shifting sand dunes at Khongoryn Els. An evening walk on the edge of the dunes leads to the discovery of a roost of Saxual Sparrows. A torch lit night walk provided stunning views of a Mongolian Jerboa. The next day, after an enjoyable breakfast, we made a return trip to the dunes where we were greeted to a fly past by a calling Little Curlew. We were also entertained by tiny Radde’s Toads an inhabitant of the desert here. Below the dunes flowed a small stream which attracts scores of migrant birds, passerines and wader and in their turn raptors. These included a striking chocolate coloured juvenile male Pied Harrier. Amongst the migrants we found more rarities in particular a female Yellow rumped or Korean Flycatcher way west of its normal home in East Asia.

 

On day six we drove back east along the south side of the Gobi Altai. The scenery is more than impressive and several stops revealed the presence of hordes of vultures including the majestic Lammergeier. At one point three graceful Black tailed Gazelles ran close to the minivans allowing prolonged views as they skipped past seemingly unaware of their audience until the last moment! The day was completed by a breathtaking ascent and descent of the Dungenee Valley. A party of Argali, the huge wild sheep of Central Asia, more Lammergeiers and wild Saker Falcons complimented the rugged landscape. Finally the welcome sight of a flock of Mongolian Finches coming to the drink at the trackside provided a relaxing end to the day.

 

The following morning we returned to the mountain to Yolyn Am, Valley of the Vultures. On the way in we were greeted by the sight of a mixed flock of both Black and Himalayan Griffon Vultures. Never before have we seen Asian vultures so close that streaky bodies and white “socks” of the Griffon Vultures where very obvious. In the valley itself everyone agreed that the Wallcreepers then stole the show. A singing male completing the butterfly display flight literally at our feet deep in the gorge was a memory which will always linger.

 

The second half of the tour took us on a journey east from the capital towards the homeland of Ghenghis Khan. On the way we passed the towering silver statue dedicated to the great leaders memory. Once again the landscape changed dramatically, the land was an open,  baize green steppe, set in a back drop of rocky tree covered mountains. Our destination were the marshes in the valley of the Kheren River at Gun Galut. Three pairs of the endangered but striking White naped Cranes still graced the marshes there and even better was the fact that two of the pairs each had a full grown juvenile.

 

The next day we arose early to look for more wild Argali which proved productive as we spotted half a dozen of these giant sheep. After breakfast we returned to the lakes where the strong overnight winds had grounded large numbers of geese and cranes. We saw nearly 200 Demoiselle Cranes but perhaps best of all were the goose flocks which held Swan Goose, Bar headed Goose, Bean Goose and most surprisingly a pair of Lesser White fronted Geese! We also found Baikal Teals, Pallas’s and Relict Gulls, Stegnejeri's Scoter and a host of other wildfowl.

 

Some were up early again looking for the Argali and others found some Siberian Rubythroats, the first of the tour, at a little migrant trap at the back of the camp. The same spot also produced Arctic Warbler, Bluethroat and Thick billed Warbler during our stay. Later in the day we found our last Ger Camp sat high above the river Tuul on a flat Alpine Meadow. ereHere we wandered into the edge of the larch forest which cover the mountains here at the southern edge of the vast Siberian Taiga forest. The group revelled in an encounter with a large mixed flock comprising of gorgeous white headed Long tailed Tits, Willow Tits, Pallas’s, Yellow browed and Dusky Warblers and the odd Radde’s Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat. Pine Buntings lurked in the scrub and Steppe Eagles soared overhead. We were also accompanied by inquisitive butterflies, Camberwell Beauties even alighted on some of the party! The autumn sun reflecting off the autumn foliage was a memorable sight and the sounds from the forest included Nutcracker and Black Woodpecker whilst Pallas’s Warblers and Daurian Redstarts sang in the late autumn sunshine. Truly a magical place.

 

 

 

Please note: The above photographs were taken on previous trips. Itineraries change from time to time and therefore you cannot rely on these photographs as being an exact representation of what can be expected on a future tour. For details of the each tour, you should refer to the brochure write-up.

 

 

 

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