Sunday, 11 June 2017

Mongolia - 13th May (Day 6) - Gurvan Saikhan National Park and Dalanzadgad

We awoke in the Yolo Valley in the Gurvan Saikhan National Park to a spectacular mountain view and the sound of singing Isabelline Wheatear - a surprisingly varied and musical song. After breakfast and packing the cars we headed a short distance to the car park and a walk down the valley to an area that Tumen called ‘Vultures Bedroom’. Birding en-route produced Twice, WallcreeperTaiga Flycatcher, two White’s Thrush, Siskin and Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch amongst the many Isabelline Wheatear and Common Wheatear. The Vulture’s Bedroom, a bowl in the cliff where vultures and other raptors roost was somewhat of a disappointment and we only saw a couple of Himalayan Griffin and a Hobby. The slow stroll back produced a very surprising sighting of a male Mandarin on one of the mountain streams, presumably a tired migrant. Tumen had not seen one here before and I think was as surprised as us to see it here. It made us ponder the diversity of migrants that pass over these mountain ranges. Back at the car park a thermal with around 40 Himalayan Griffon indicated the vultures were late up this morning - I can't too excited about vultures!

The view from my tent at dawn - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Siberian Ibex - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Siberian Ibex - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Siberian Ibex - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Siberian Ibex - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

White's Thrush - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Female Taiga Flycatcher - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Pallas's Pica - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Black-faced Bunting - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Black-faced Bunting - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Black Redstart - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Twite - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Northern Wheatear - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Mongolian Accentor - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Mandarin Duck - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Mandarin Duck - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Mandarin Duck - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Little Bunting - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Himalayan Griffon - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

We headed out of the park late morning seeing a fine male Brown Shrike and headed across the desert to a lake approximately 10 kilometres south-east of Dalanzadgad at Argalinta Suma (43°26'46" N 104°40'8" E). The lake was alive with birds, the highlights being our only Spot-billed Duck and Chinese Pond-heron of the trip with a supporting cast of Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Long-toed Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Little Stint, Garganey, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler

Brown Shrike - Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Leaving the Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Lammergeier - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Lammergeier - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Little Stint - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Black-winged Stilt - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Black-winged Stilt - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Female Kentish Plover - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Male Kentish Plover - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Male Kentish Plover - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Wood Sandpiper - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Gobi Racerunner Eremias przewalskii - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus versicolor - Argalinta Suma, south-east of Dalanzadgad

We then went to a nearby apple orchard (43°26'18" N 104°39'41" E) approximately 10 kilometres south-east of Dalanzadgad. This lush orchard was a great surprise amongst the barren deserts with flowing water, green grass and the sweet scent of apple blossom filling the air. Here we recorded Siberian ChiffchaffDusky ThrushRed-throated ThrushOlive-backed Pipit, Isabelline Shrike and a Long-eared Owl nest with a single chick.

Orchard in desert south-east of Delanzadgad

Orchard in desert south-east of Delanzadgad

At the orchard Isabelline Shrike were hanging around and picking of migrants and 
here a Bedstraw Hawk-moth

Red-throated Thrush - Orchard south-east of Delanzadgad

We headed back to Dalanzagad for a lunch at the Guest House before heading to the rocky slopes approximately six kilometres south-west of Dalanzagad (43°28'59" N 104°20'43" E). The area was at the north-west extremity of the Gurvan Saikhan National Park and consisted of rocky scree and scrubby ravines at the foot of the mountains. Here we spent some time driving around the rocky slopes sparsely covered with scrub seeing little but for Koslov’s Accentor and Little Bunting before our main target was found, two charismatic Mongolian Ground-jay which gave us the run around as they perched atop the scrub before sprinting to the next patch of scrub. While seemingly simply in plumage their black wings had a vivid blue sheen and in flight they displayed stunning white wing patches. Also here were now familiar Mongolian Accentor, Taiga Flycatcher and a male Siberian Stonechat

Our descent back to Delanzadgad was bumpy and dusty and we were looking forward to getting back for showers and a cold beer. I was starting to switch off when Richard, in the back of our vehicle, called Oriental Plover (43°32'10" N 104°22'46" E - approximately two kilometres south-west of Dalanzadgad)- we were doing at least 40mph and we screeched to a halt. This was an amazing bit of 'spotting' from a fast moving vehicle! We then spent the next 30 minutes or so enjoying  a stunning male Oriental Plover which showed very well as it circled the vehicles, its brilliant white head conspicuous in the sombre tones of the gravelly desert, while its long legs gave it an almost stilt like elegance. An absolutely stunning bird and while not a tick this bird was a far different from the rather drab winter plumage birds I had seen on Sumba and Tanimbar - bird of the trip!

Desert scenery above Dalanzadgad

Mongolian Ground-jay - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Mongolian Ground-jay - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Mongolian Ground-jay - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Siberian Stonechat - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Taiga Flycatcher - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Oriental Plover - South-west of Dalanzadgad

Oriental Plover - must be one of the best wader's out there - South-west of Dalanzadgad

The final couple of hours of the day were spent in a scrappy area of litter strewn plantation and agricultural fields on the edge of Dalanzadgad (43°34'5" N 104°23'57" E) and to the north-east of the Dalamzadgad-Bayandalai Road. The plantation held good numbers of birds including Chinese Grosbeak (1), Wryneck (2), Pallas’s Bunting (2), Tree Pipit (1), Pallas’s Warbler (1), Booted Eagle (1), Bluethroat (1), Daurian Redstart (1) and Little Bunting (8). We returned to our guest house after an excellent days birding.

Taiga Flycatcher - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Chinese Grosbeak - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Pallas's Warbler - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Pallas's Warbler - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Wryneck - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Wryneck - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Wryneck - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Hoopoe - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Isabelline Shrike - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Tree Pipit - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Taiga Flycatcher - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Female Bluethroat - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Female Pallas's Reed Bunting - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Female Pallas's Reed Bunting - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Female Pallas's Reed Bunting - Dalanzadgad Plantation

Dusky Thrush - Dalanzadgad Plantation