It’s been a while since Abu invited me to join him and other birdwatchers on a trip to eastern Mongolia. As I was able to make space in the calendar and also got permission from home all was set. Bolormunkh was also invited and we all met at the airport in UB on the 18th of August at 6:00.
The Germans had a direct flight, so lost baggage was not an issue and at about 7:00 we headed from UB to Gun Galuut. We drove in two Russian furgons and had both drivers and a cook with us on the trip.
Our first stop was Gun Galuut as this place is just too good to drive by. We didn’t use so much time there since our target was Khurkh Ringing Station seven hours drive from Gun Galuut.
There were plenty of birds at Gun Galuut. But as it had been raining a lot lately there are water ponds everywhere and thus the shorebirds are not so concentrated.
But about 30 Red-necked Stints, 12 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, 2 Grey-tailed Tattlers and two Terek Sandpipers along with 5 Red-necked Phalaropes were nice among the more common stuff.
About 150 Pacific Golden Plovers were roosting and a single Curlew was also present.
My personal highlight were four Slavonian Grebes as I’ve never seem them in Mongolia before. A single Bar-headed Goose was also present.
We had to leave the area in order to reach Khurkh Ringing Station. It was a seven hour drive, where we saw Mongolian Lark, about 100 Demosaille Cranes, 50 or so Amur Falcons and a single Lesser Kestrel.
Shortly before sunset we arrived at Khurkh. We were greeted by the leader and staff. It didn’t take long before they presented us with a nice juvenile Hobby, that they just had caught. The bird was ringed, photographed and then released.
During the night mist nets were put up in order to catch Grey and Eurasian Nightjars, but this night none were caught.
After a good nights sleep in my tent I woke up at 6:00. The nets at Khurkh Ringing Station were already up and Tuvshee, Yosef and the other staff were busy processing birds.
Several Pallas’s Grashopper Warblers were caught, and I got the privilege to release one of them.
Birds kept coming in. Yellow-breasted Bunting, two Siberian Rubythroats, Two-barred Warbler, Dusky Warbler… really great birds…
Then Yosef was making another round and as he returned he smiled and proclaimed: “Chinese Bush Warbler”. I got quite excited and it seemed like forever before the bird was processed. Eventually it was given to Abu, who took additional measurements before a brief photo session and then Tuvshee released it. What an experience to see this mega skulker in the hand!
All this was actually just a bonus. Our real target in Khurkh were Siberian Cranes. Only Abu and Bolormunkh had seen the species before, so they stayed at the ringing station while Tuvshee joined us to look for the Siberian Cranes. But our hopes were not so bright since none had been seen for about two weeks – and mid August is the time for migration. Now was the 19th.
Tuvshee took us out into the crane-area to look for the cranes. First we found several Demosaille Cranes. And shortly after a white object was spotted in the distance by Sömke. A thorough look revealed that it was in deed a Siberian Crane! Tuvshee had done the job!
We obtained really good views of the bird, which even took flight a few times. What a stunner.
After enjoying the Siberian Crane we headed off. Soon we found five Hooded Cranes and plenty of White-naped Cranes. Really a crane party! The Hooded Cranes were quite shy, but distant photos were possible. Common Crane was also seen, so 5 Cranes in a day. Cranezy!!!
At the same time a Great Bustard was spotted in the distance. Great Bustard is always a nice bird to encounter, and we saw the bird well albeit distant. This was even a new Mongolian tick for me.
The bird proved to be rather shy, but a few distant photos were obtained.
Shortly after it started to rain. And rain. So we decided to head back to the ringing station and called it a day birding wise. A good day that is.
Late in the afternoon I went out on my own in spite of the rain, which was less intense now. 4 Pallas’s Grashoppers, 4 Yellow-browed, 3 Dusky, 2 Two-barred, 3 Thick-billed, 2-3 Chinese Bush and a few Arctic Warblers were present along with a Yellow-breasted Bunting, Taiga Flycatcher and a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. That was worth getting soaked for.
In the evening we celebrated the Siberian Crane – which was a tick for all of us except Abu and Bolormunkh. We had some Mongolians over to prepare “Boodog”, which is a tradition Mongolian kind of barbecue. A goat was slaughtered, cut to pieces and then meat, bones, potatoes, hot rocks and carrots were sown into the goats skin. Then it was burned on a fire until it was done. Safe to say it was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Mongolia.