On by birthday on the 6th on November I returned to Mongolia after more than a year back home on the Faroe Islands due to covid-19. I flew from Frankfurt and I was really pleased to travel along with Abu, who was returning to Mongolia after 20 months away. We talked about birds for thousands of kilometers and the journey went well.
It was awesome to be back in Mongolia and after a short rest I went to check my old patch in central Ulaanbaatar – Seoul Club Park. I was sad to learn that all the shrubbery had been cleared and the parks birding potential had greatly diminished. I didn’t find anything noteworthy. In the evening Bolormunkh invited my out to eat on a Turkish restaurant and we had a great time celebrating my birthday.
As I had four days in UB before my plane left for Khovd in the west Bolormunkh and I decided to go birding the following day. We decided to head to Bag Bayan, which is an area north of UB with great taiga forest. Two years ago I found a Great Grey Owl at the location.
As we started walking temperatures were down to minus 21 Celsius. Quite a contrast to autumn birding on the Faroes. The forest was litterally alive. Tits, Nuthatches, Daurian Treecreepers and Goldcrests kept calling and showed quite well.
After a while I noticed a hunting owl, which landed on the ground. We soon got good views and were happy to stand face to face with a great looking Ural Owl. It showed amazingly well and we were able to get some nice shots.
We then continued hiking and came across Hazel Grouse, Three-toed, Lesser, Greater and Grey-headed Woodpeckers.
The Bag Bayan area is easily accessible and thus used frequently by hikers. It is also at an lower altitude compared to the Capercaillie-plateau. This means that Black-billed Capercaillie, Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit are not as easily seen as on the plateau. We didn’t find any of these, but some Nutcrackers showed really well. They were digging holes in the ground, then throwing up nuts and seed, placing them in the holes and then covering the holes again. An awesome behavior to observe and a genius way of surviving the long, cold winter.
The following day Abu joined Bolormunkh and I for a trip to Hustai National Park. It is famous for its Tahki or Przewalski’s Horses and also has other mammals and birds.
We spent the entire day at the park and managed to see the Takhi, Wapiti, Mongolian Gazelle and Argali Sheep. The birds were few and far between, but Lammergeier, Cinereous Vultures, Mongolian Larks and Meadow Buntings were all nice.
Hustai means the place with the birch trees. But it was sad to see the dying Birch forests. As the area is really dry the trees can only survive the lack of water due to the moist provided by the permafrost. But the permafrost is rapidly disappearing as it gets warmer – and the result is that the trees die at a very fast rate.
The following day Bolormunk, Abu and I visited Manzushir Monastery-area south of UB. It is the southern edge of the taiga forest that stretches more than 2000 kilometers north. Here we saw Three-toed and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, the usual Tits and Siberian Nuthatches. Abu found a Siberian Ibex and I saw two Siberian Roe Deer and a snowy white Arctic Hare.
All in all three good days of birding with wonderful friends.