Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Mongolia - 10th May (Day 3) - Mungunmorit and Gachuurt Areas

While the temperatures outside our tents at Mungunmorit on the eastern edge of the Gorkhi Terelj National Park sank well below zero we were remarkably warm and snug and as the light rose at 04:45 we were all up cleaning teeth on the edge of the Taiga Forest and wondering what the unusual calls were coming from the Larch forest – they were actually mainly Willow Tit which were remarkably abundant. After a coffee and chocolate wafers we headed into the forest above the camp site. On the climb through the forest we encountered Little Bunting, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Daurian Redstart before the pops and clicks of our main target were audible. After sneaking around a shallow slope and emerging onto a small plateau the black bulk of a stunning male Black-billed Capercaillie appeared through the larch. The black plumage was adorned with large white spots and the red facial skin framing the large black bill. A second male appeared, this one pumped up and strutting with tail fanned. In total there were five male birds here and we obtained good views of the birds. We were watching one male as he displayed from close to the top of a Larch when suddenly from nowhere it was bombed by a female Goshawk, after a brief tussle the Goshawk chased the Capercaillie through the forest for a short distance before giving up the chase.

Male Black-billed Capercaillie - Mungunmorit

Male Black-billed Capercaillie, this bird has lost some of its facial feathers presumably during aggressive encounters during lekking - Mungunmorit

We spent the rest of the morning birding in the forest seeing Two-barred Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Pine Bunting, Red-flanked Bluetail, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Three-toed WoodpeckerLesser Spotted Woodpecker and Eastern Buzzard. There was clearly some visible migration in progress with around 30 Olive-backed Pipit, 60 Red-throated Thrush and two Dusky Thrush north over. Our descent back through the forest produced two obliging Three-toed Woodpecker on the same tree as two Great-spotted Woodpecker. The highlight though was a stunning Ural Owl which showed very well amongst a stand of more mature Pine, Larch and Willow.

Grey-headed Woodpecker of the subspecies jessoensis which is overall paler and greyer on the back then the nominate European race- Mungunmorit

Black-billed Capercaillie - Mungunmorit

Male Great Spotted and Female Three-toed Woodpecker - Mungunmorit

Male Three-toed Woodpecker - Mungunmorit

Male Great Spotted and Female Three-toed Woodpecker - Mungunmorit

Ural Owl - Mungunmorit

Ural Owl - Mungunmorit

Ural Owl - Mungunmorit

Daurian Redstart - Mungunmorit

Female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Mungunmorit

Willow Tit of subspecies baicalensis - Mungunmorit

Larch forests at Mungunmorit

Pine and Larch forests at Mungunmorit

Pine and Larch forests at Mungunmorit

There were few plants in bloom at Mungunmorit but this iris species was fairly common

As was this Pasque Flower which is said to be a food of the Capercaillie

A surprising find in the vegetation, a Russian AK-47 which Tumen assesses, he thinks it 
may have been lost by hunters

Packing up the campsite at Mungunmorit

After breakfast we packed up camp and headed back towards the main road as the wind gathered strength and picked up loose materials and scattered them across the desert, the dust was lifted into swirling clouds and battered the car entering any open windows and vents. We took shelter for lunch in a traditional Ger and ate freshly prepared lamp dumplings and soup. We drove the c.160km back towards Ulaanbaatar before turning north and heading off road through the village of Gachuurt and to the south-western edge of the Gorkhi Terelj National Park. We began a steep climb through mixed Larch and Pine forest and it became evident that the storm had brought a fair snow fall. After parking we climbed through the mature pine forests to a small plateau where we began looking for our two main target species. Siberian Tit was found fairly quickly and a pair gave excellent views while we failed to see the second target, Siberian Jay. The time was pushing on so we walked back down the hill seeing a pair of Hazel Grouse which showed well if somewhat obscured in the canopy of a pine. Lunch was had in a tent before we did battle with the traffic of Ulaanbaatar to check into a hostel where showers and a beer were very welcome.

On the road towards Möngönmorit 

Sheltering in a Get with from left to right, Lorand, Jon, Duncan, Barry and Richard

Traditional lamb dumplings being made for lunch

Outside the Ger

As we approached Ulaanbaatar it started to snow

Climbing through the Birch and Pine Forests to the birding area north of Gachuurt

Climbing through the Pine Forests to the birding area north of Gachuurt

Birding the Pine Forests to the birding area north of Gachuurt, it was bitterly cold

Pine and Larch Forest near north of Gachuurt

Dipping Siberian Jay but still happy to be birding

Siberian Tit of subspecies sayanus - North of Gachuurt

Siberian Tit of subspecies sayanus - North of Gachuurt

Siberian Tit of subspecies sayanus - North of Gachuurt

Poor views of male Hazel Grouse of subspecies sibirica as the light faded - North of Gachuurt