Mongolia – 14th May (Day 7) – Dalanzadgad to Khongor Sand Dunes

Mongolia – 14th May (Day 7) – Dalanzadgad to Khongor Sand Dunes



We were up 05:45 and birded the habitat around the guest house. There had evidently been a small fall of migrants and we recorded six Eye-browed Thrush, three Pallas’s Bunting, 12 Red-throated Thrush, Dusky Warbler, Reed Warbler and, best of all, two Siberian Rubythroat which showed well in a newly planted line of scrub opposite the guest house and attracted to the irrigation system in place.

After breakfast we packed our bags and headed to an area of sparsely vegetated gravel plain just outside of Dalanzagad, here after driving across the plain for around 30 minutes we came across a pair of Oriental Plover. We watched the male for around 30 minutes in his fantastic display flight over the desert banking and flapping on long stiff wings while emitting a strange clicking call.

A female was also present here and, a little like Lapwing, the male seemed to display as a result of our presence as well as to impress the female. The display was reminiscent of the flight of a Leach’s Petrel or perhaps a Manx Shearwater.

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Siberian Rubythroat – Dalanzadgad

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Daurian Redstart – Dalanzadgad

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White-cheeked Starling and Red-throated Thrush – Dalanzadgad

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Oriental Plover

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Female Oriental Plover

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Oriental Plover, male in display flight

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Oriental Plover, male over is desert habitat

We continued our drive eventually leaving the asphalt, a road surface we would not see for the next three days. We headed out through the Gobi Desert the landscape gradually becoming drier, flatter and stonier.

Stops along the way produced Steppe Eagle and Greater Sand-plover while Pallas’s Sandgrouse were regularly seen flying at speed along the roadside. We stopped at a small plantation consisting of a planted shelter belt and irrigated agricultural fields.

Here we recorded Pallas’s Warbler . Pallas’s Bunting , Little Bunting Dusky Warbler , Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe and Wryneck .

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Steppe Eagle

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Steppe Eagle

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Greater Sand-plover, male on territory

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Dusky Warbler

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Tolai Hare Lepus tolai

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Pallas’s Bunting

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Pallas’s Warbler

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Daurian Redstart

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Ger with all mod-cons

Driving onwards across gravel plains we came to a large wetland area, the water level was low and birds were very distant and in the heat haze not identifiable, we recorded Little Owl in a small barn, Taiga Flycatcher , Siberian Stonechat and Barry slipping on his arse and getting covered in mud and goat shit! Heading further west, we had great views of a pair of Mongolian Ground-jay adjacent to the road and found the birds nest.

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Tussocky habitat close to a lake in the desert

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Lake side vegetation and scenery

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Lake and goats

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Little Owl of raceplumipes

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Mongolian Ground-jay

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Mongolian Ground-jay

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The Mongolian Ground-jay nest was located on the top of this bush which was

no more than 1.5m high

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Mongolian Ground-jay nest and eggs

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Mongolian Ground-jay nest

It was time for lunch and we headed up a ravine in the mountainside and found our lunch laid out for us in a spectacular ravine. While we ate we had great views of an adult Lammergeir plus Pied Wheatear , Chukar and Rufous-tailed Rockthrush.

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Our lunchtime ravine

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Lunch

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Chukar

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Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

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Female Pied Wheatear

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Male Pied Wheatear

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Male Pied Wheatear

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Lammergeier

Following a dirt road west we drove parallel to the magnificent Khongor Sand Dunes the dunes progressively becoming larger and larger while backed by contrasting black and red rock mountains.

A short stop in an area of gravel desert with scattered scrub soon produced Asian Desert Warbler and we eventually obtained good views of these birds as they ran between scrub patches and occasionally sat-up to survey the surrounding land.

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Greater Sand-plover

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Asian Desert Warbler habitat

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Asian Desert Warbler

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Asian Desert Warbler

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Asian Desert Warbler

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Horned Lark nest and eggs

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Desert habitat

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The lower areas of the Khongor Sand Dunes

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Desert Scenery

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Our Russian support vehicle racing through the desert

Arriving at our camping area we birded an area of dunes and Saxaul Scrub where we had good views of Desert Wheatear and Hill Pigeon but Saxual Sparrow eluded us.

Our campsite over looked the Khongor Sand Dunes and we enjoyed a couple of beers overlooking the dunes watching a beautiful sunset and studying the moons of Jupiter.

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Male Desert Wheatear

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Female Desert Wheatear

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The magnificent Khongor Sand Dunes

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The magnificent Khongor Sand Dunes

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Hill Pigeon

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Hill Pigeon – Quite a distinctive bird when in flight

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Hoopoe – Khongor Sand Dunes

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Hoopoe – Khongor Sand Dunes

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Red-cheeked Ground-squirrel Spermophilus erythrogenys- Khongor Sand Dunes

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Khongor Sand Dunes

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Desert ThumbCynomorium coccineum, said to cure erectile dysfunction and relished by our driver………

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Our campsite at the foot of the Khongor Sand Dunes

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My tent and the sunset

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Sunset over the Khongor Sand Dunes

 

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Simon Colenutt

Simon Colenutt

I began birdwatching at the age of nine when living on the Isle of Wight. After obtaining a copy of the Isle of Wight Bird Report from 1976 I realised that Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Black Tern were regularly seen at St.Catherine's Point, only five miles from my home village of Chale Green. To a nine year old these birds were near mythical and so I just had to go and try to see them. Little did I know that these birds were seasonal and after a long winter of seeing nothing I eventually started to bump into other birdwatchers as March drew to a close. It was then that Dave Hunnybun, Dave Wooldridge, Paul Castle, Peter Gandy and Audrey Wilkinson introduced me to the art of seawatching and the joys of bird migration, I have not looked back since.

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Simon Colenutt

Simon Colenutt

I began birdwatching at the age of nine when living on the Isle of Wight. After obtaining a copy of the Isle of Wight Bird Report from 1976 I realised that Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua and Black Tern were regularly seen at St.Catherine's Point, only five miles from my home village of Chale Green. To a nine year old these birds were near mythical and so I just had to go and try to see them. Little did I know that these birds were seasonal and after a long winter of seeing nothing I eventually started to bump into other birdwatchers as March drew to a close. It was then that Dave Hunnybun, Dave Wooldridge, Paul Castle, Peter Gandy and Audrey Wilkinson introduced me to the art of seawatching and the joys of bird migration, I have not looked back since.

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