Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Mongolia part 1

At c10.00 A.M 4th July the 6 of us (Chris Townend tour leader, Dave Walker, Gill Hollamby, Alan & Brenda Fossey and myself) made the 3.75 hr flight from Heathrow to Moscow, a 2hr lay over there followed by a 6hr flight to Ulan bator arriving at c06.00 local time. We were met by Tumen Khumba and his wife who was to be our excellent cook for the next 2 weeks, also our 3 drivers in their very comfortable Toyota Land Cruisers. After a drink and introductions we set off on the 570 Kilometre drive to Dalanzadgad in the South Gobi Desert.
Around the airport car park Pacific Swifts, House Martins, House and Tree Sparrows. As we left Ulan Bator flocks of Choughs wheeled around, Steppe Eagles, Upland Buzzards, Black-eared Kites, Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon and Black Vultures were all seen well, along with 100s of Horned Larks, a few Mongolian Larks,  Demoiselle Cranes, Ruddy Shelducks and all just a few miles from the airport.
Steppe Eagle
Horned Lark
Demoiselle Crane family by the road.
 Mongolia had been experiencing a long drought making the landscape quite barren,  so after a few hours driving and several stops for more birds and mammals we stopped by pool which was a magnet for birds and mammals alike, it  held more Horned Larks, Rock and Tree Sparrows, several Green Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plovers and several Pallas's Sandgrouse which had come into drink, while watching these our first Saker of the trip flew through flushing everything.
  Pallas's Sandgrouse
 Pallas's Sandgrouse
Our hotel for the first night in Dalanzadgad
After the very long and slow drive we reached our first overnight stop, 50 KPH seems to be the maximum speed limit on the paved roads where as off road anything goes. By the next morning the drought was broken as heavy rain was falling most the night. I was up early and walked to a nearby park to see what I could find. Tree Sparrows were abundant in the park and a few feral Pigeons were seen, after a short while I heard an unfamiliar song, which sounded to me like a cross between an Acrocephalus and a Locustella, eventually I got a couple of glimpses of a passerine moving around in dense vegetation, which didn't help much apart from appearing to have a rufous rump. On my return to the hotel Alan played me the song of Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler which I recognised as being the same as I'd heard in the park. Unfortunately on my return to the park with the others all was quiet.
 Daurian Shrike
On our way to our base camp just a few minutes drive from the hotel, we stopped at some allotment like fields where a pair of Daurian Shrikes were feeding young, Hoopoe's were flying around, a couple of skulking Barred Warblers were seen as were several Hawfinches and a Long-eared Owl before the rain set in again.
Barred Warbler
 Our Base Camp, my Ger was the one in the centre.
Inside my Ger basic but very comfortable
Our base camp was at c2,300mts and many miles from any settlements. Facilities were basic, a shower was available powered by one of the Land Cruisers batteries, as I was invariably the first up in the mornings, I chose to go native, by walking along the valley bottom to a small stream, where I scraped a hole out big enough for me to sit in, in the gravel bed of the stream stripped off and had a cold refreshing bath in the early morning being joined by many Snowfinches which were abundant around the base camp.
Snowfinch by the stream
 Snowfinches around the base camp
Pacific Swifts, Crag Martins, Brown and Kozlov's Accentors, Twite, Isabelline Wheatears, Beautiful Rosefinch, Lammergeier, Griffon and Black Vultures and more could all been seen from our base camp.
In the past I'd only seen Lammergeier's as distant very high specks so I've always wanted to get good views of Lammergeier's, on this trip we had many good close sightings of them, none more so when 2 flew down a gorge a few feet above us there wings making a memorable deep whoosh whoosh as they sailed over us. 
Black Vulture
 The Twite were very tame around the camp

A juvenile Isabelline Wheatear
 Being woken and bathing to the sound of Brown Accentors singing

 Pacific Swifts
Upland Buzzard
This beautiful landscape went on for many miles 
Alan and Brenda looking out for a Snow Leopard in the vast landscape
We spent several days in the base camp area as herders had found a Foal that had been recently killed by a Snow Leopard. The site was impossible to view but it was we may see the Snow Leopard making it's way down to feed on the kill. Camera traps were put in place and we spent hours staring out into the ravines without seeing any Snow Leopard but did see plenty of Ibex and Vultures. The camera trap revealed that the Snow Leopard had not returned and the corpse was being eaten by Ravens and Vultures.
When we weren't staring into the ravines we went out lamping at night and walking along nearby valleys for new birds and mammals.
Eagle Owl
As we walked these valleys we came across Beautiful Rosefinches, Pere Davids Snowfinches, Rock Thrushes, many Isabelline Wheatears and Snowfinches, more Brown and Kozlov Accentors, Daurian Shrikes, Chukars, Vultures, Lammergeirer's, Sakers, Gerbils and Jerboa's that I am still trying to sort out.
Adult Pere Davids Snowfinch 
Juvenile Pere Davids Snowfinch
News came to us of another Snow Leopard sighting at a very remote spring the best part of a days drive away, it was quickly decided to abandon base camp and move to the new area. I will hopefully cover that in my next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment