After spending four days in Bulgan Bolormunkh, Sakna and I headed east to Uyench. We drove up a gorge, where we saw four White-throated Dippers, Grey-necked Buntings and Greenish Warblers. As the road was really bad we decided to return and do some birding in the plantations around Uyench.
We soon found the most promising-looking plantation and went birding. Much to our surprise we saw European Bee-eaters carrying food three times during a short period of time. Surely they had to be breeding in the area.
Another surprise were three singing Common Nightingales, which are only known to occur in Bulgan. These interesting facts made us set um camp in Uyench, so we could do some more research in the area.
The following morning we checked the plantation. Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Thick-billed and Greenish Warbler, Wryneck and the three Common Nightingales were present, but nothing more than that expect for some really showy Mongolian Finches.
We then went to look for the European Bee-eaters. Soon we saw up to five birds at the same time carrying food. So they must be breeding in the area.
At noon we drove towards the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. Since we were so close we’d better visit the place. As there has been some snow this winter the desert is quite green.
After quite a bit of driving into the desert we came across and oasis along some some sand dunes with Saxaul Trees and other bushes growing on them. Bolormunkh said that it could be a good place for Saxaul Sparrow. Since this would be a lifer for me I was eager to check the place.
As I started birding I found first some interesting Shrikes, then much to my surprise two Barred Warblers, a Greenish Warbler and a Siberian Chiffchaff.
The Barred Warbler and the Shrike did the well-known warbler-shrike symbiosis.
The reason why I write “Shrike” is that some birds look like hybrids with Red-tailed Shrike influence. Still much to learn.
Then I heard a dry sparrow-like call and yes!!! A pair of Saxaul Sparrows were foraging right in front of me.
They proved hard to photograph, but eventually I got some usable pictures. And as we checked the wider area a total of eight Saxaul Sparrows were seen. Quite a good number of this scarce species.
We decided to camp at the Saxaul Sparrow spot as we had seen quite a few rodent holes and tracks, which made us eager to do some spotlighting for Jerboas and other mammals. And the place was just wonderful.
At dusk we headed out with our torches and found five Northern Three-toed Jerboas. Quite nice.
After a good nights sleep we woke up at five and started birding. Saxaul Sparrows were rather common and several nests were found. Often in abandoned raptors nests in tall trees.
Suddenly I was very surprised to hear a singing Golden Oriole in a tree. It didn’t show right away, but after a while it came out and I obtained some good views. Not a bird that I expected to see in the Gobi B.
A little later I noticed a flycatcher on a branch. As I got a little closer I could identify it as my first Brown Flycatcher of the year. Not at all common in western Mongolia.
I met with Bolormunkh and we decided to use more time in the desert forest. I went to check some new areas, where I found four Daurian Partridges and a Laughing Dove flew by. Sadly I didn’t get any images.
Quite a few warblers were also present including Barred, Greenish, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroats.
Eventually we decided to leave the place and head further into the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. Our goal was to get a feeling of the site and maybe see a Khulan or Thaki – Asian Wild Ass and Preswalski’s Horse.
The roads in the area were bad, so it took more time than expected to drive around. Bolormunkh had received some information from the park manager on where to go. That paid off as we soon found a Khulan, which showed well albeit distant. We also saw at least 50 Goitered Gazelles.
It proved hard to find any road to an oasis, which the manager had suggested to us. And since we really didn’t have much reason to press on we decided to drive north out of the park to some great lake-areas. More on that later…