Somber to Ikh Tashgain

Somber to Ikh Tashgain

Day three at Somber

During the night it had rained again and that meant that new migrants were present. During the pre-breakfast birding I came across an Otter crossing the Khalk River at great distance – a new mammal tick for me. Otters only occur in extreme eastern Mongolia.

Very distant Otter

An Olive-backed Pipit also gave great views. In my opinion one of the most beautiful pipits out there.

Olive-backed Pipit

After breakfast Bolormunkh, Sönke and I got a driver to take us to the military monument. There we saw Siberian Blue Robin and Siberian Rubythroat. Bolormunkh and Sönke headed on while I gave it another try. For a few seconds a Bush Warbler posed in the dense scrubs.

Possible Baikal Bush Warbler

Possible Baikal Bush Warbler – note the barred under-tail coverts and striped breast

Sönke had seen a possible Baikal Bush Warbler the day earlier, so it was on the radar. But I couldn’t relocate the bird and it was hard to see details on the camera screen due to the sun. And after all it would be next to impossible to relocate. After getting home I had a better look at the pictures. The striped breast and dense markings on the under-tail coverts does in deed seem to suggest Baikal Bush Warbler.

Possible Baikal Bush Warbler

We then spread out to cover as much ground as possible. As I checked the forest I found a White-throated Rock Thrush. It was a juvenile bird, which was very elusive. I only saw it for about 10 seconds. White-throated Rock Thrush is a rare migrant to eastern Mongolia. Average sightings on Abu’s tours in the east is one per trip. Several others tried to relocate the bird, but nobody else saw it.

White-throated Rock Thrush

Apart from the White-throated Rock Thrush quite a few good birds were around. Finally a female Siberian Blue Robin offered great few for quite a while. But the males kept being very elusive.

Siberian Blue Robin

Once again we moved the camp in order to be able to catch some birds. That meant that we didn’t do so much birding in the afternoon. But the last few hours were used in the field while Matze and Abu prepared the nets for next mornings catch.

During my evening birding I checked some wet and dense parts of the riparian forest. Several Siberian Roe Deers were seen along with a single Long-eared Owl and a Black-faced Bunting.

Black-faced Bunting

I also had a good time observing a fishing Common Kingfisher, though it was quite distant.

Common Kingfisher

But the highlight of the evening was when I flushed a terrible looking, molting Ring-necked Pheasant. This time I was ready and obtained a horrible record shot of the bird.

Record shot of molting Ring-necked Pheasant

Day four Somber

In the morning Abu opened the nets. The first round gave birds like Dusky, Two-barred, Arctic, Pallas’s Grashopper, Chinese Bush and Lanceolated Warbler.

Chinese Bush Warbler – note the unstreaked breast

While waiting for the second round Bolormunk checked some reed beds and found a few Black-browed Reed Warblers, which showed quite nicely.

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Warm colored Taiga Flycatcher

We also caught a juvenile Taiga Flycatcher. Like many in the field it had quite warm colours. We found these juvenile Taiga Flycatchers rather interesting. For several years I have had the understanding, that juvenile Taiga Flycatcher should be a grayish bird lacking the warmer colors of juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher. That does seem to be true for the vast majority of the birds I have observed around Ulaanbaatar. But here in the far east many birds show much warmer colors than expected of juvenile Taiga Flycatchers.

Taiga Flycatcher

Taiga Flycatcher

I focused more on birding in the field rather than staying close to the nets, but it was a rather slow day for all of us. I found a single Wood Warbler among the commoner stuff like a few Chinese Bush, Two-barred, Thick-billed and plenty of Pallas’s Grashopper Warblers. Admittedly this would have been seen as a great day, if it had been in the beginning of the trip – but demands increase as time goes by.

Stejnegri’s Stonechat

Stejnegri’s Stonechat

In the afternoon wind speed made ringing impossible, but a nice Pied Harrier flew by our camp to everyone’s delight. Not on photo distance though. A few Stejnegri’s Stonechats gave nice views during the late afternoon – both males and females.

Stejnegri’s Stonechat

Stejnegri’s Stonechat

In the evening we celebrated Thomas’ birdday (birthday) by eating delicious shaslik made by Abu.

Abu making shashlik

Somber to Ikh Tashgain

The nets were again opened by Abu in the morning and both Pallas’s Grashopper Warbler and Bluethroat were caught.

Bolormunkh and I didn’t wait for the ringing round, but headed out in the field. It turned out that Sönke had photographed a male Ring-necked Pheasant close to the camp. We would both like to see it, so we went to the location. Bolormunkh managed to see both the male and the female, but I needed to put up with a Siberian Roe Deer, Chinese Bush Warbler and Yellow-browed Bunting.

Skulking Chinese Bush Warbler

But the forest was full of birds. Buntings and warblers were all over, so the question was were to point the bins. Adult male Chestnut Bunting, several Siberian Blue Robins, Siberian Rubythroats and phyllos were present. But time was running out. We had to get back to camp and 8:00.

When arriving at the camp we decided to move on towards Somber city and then to Ikh Tashgain – also know as the Tashgain Tavan Lakes – area. Enough time was spent in Somber north camp. But as a migration hot spot it was not easy to leave. I could spend days, weeks and months there in the Khalkh River valley – though I’d miss my wife and kids.

Our first stop was the “Space Needle”. It’s a name coined by Abu to describe the monumental monument in Somber city remembering the 1939 Mongol-russian war against the Japanese.

Albeit being very interesting this blog is not about history. We visited the monument to check the bushes and trees around it. And we were not disappointed.

Grey Nightjar

First I flushed a single Grey Nightjar and then Abu flushed three more. They were very flighty, but eventually I got photos of a single bird. Now you can tease me for walking 10 kilometers to see a single Grey Nightjar for a millisecond two days earlier. But well, I obtained great views of both a roosting and a flying bird.

Roosting Grey Nightjar

Other birds in the plantation included two male Siberian Blue Robins, Siberian Rubythroat, White’s Thrush, Pallas’s and Lanceolated Warblers and other common stuff.

Male Siberian Blue Robin

Male Siberian Blue Robin

We then checked the gardens around the museum, but only saw Pallas’s and Lanceolated Warblers and a Brown Shrike.

Then we checked the river and found seven Grey-headed Lapwings including several juveniles at this know breeding spot.

Grey-headed Lapwing

Grey-headed Lapwing – reminding me of a juvenile Sabine’s Gull

Other birds included Chestnut Buntings, Common Kingfishers, Daurian Red-rumped Swallow and a Striated Heron, that had been observed earlier.

After a good meal at a restaurant in Somber we headed towards Ikh Tashgain. We drove through huge agricultural areas. There we saw 13 Great Bustards. Always a great bird to see.

Great Bustard

The biggest surprise though was a subadult male Pied Harrier putting on a show. Seeing a male Pied Harrier has been a dream ever since my aunt gave me a book of the birds of Asia. And the famous REM quote held true: “Reality is always greater than pictures”… What a stunner.

Male Pied Harrier

Male Pied Harrier

Male Pied Harrier

We pressed on and in spite of several detours due to mud and water we arrived at our camp site and pitched our tents.

Beyond any doubt the bird of the day – Male Pied Harrier

The complete e-bird list for the Somber area can be seen here:


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