Tuesday, 13 June 2017

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.

Siberian Rubythroat - Dalanzadgad

Daurian Redstart - Dalanzadgad

White-cheeked Starling and Red-throated Thrush - Dalanzadgad

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.

Oriental Plover

Female Oriental Plover

Oriental Plover, male in display flight

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 (3). Pallas’s Bunting (5), Little Bunting (2) Dusky Warbler (2), Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe (1) and Wryneck (3).

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Greater Sand-plover, male on territory 

Dusky Warbler

Tolai Hare Lepus tolai

Pallas's Bunting

Pallas's Warbler

Daurian Redstart

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 (1), Siberian Stonechat (1) 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.


Tussocky habitat close to a lake in the desert


Lake side vegetation and scenery

Lake and goats

Little Owl of race plumipes 

Mongolian Ground-jay

Mongolian Ground-jay

The Mongolian Ground-jay nest was located on the top of this bush which was 
no more than 1.5m high

Mongolian Ground-jay nest and eggs

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 (6), Chukar (3) and Rufous-tailed Rockthrush.


Our lunchtime ravine


Lunch

Chukar

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Female Pied Wheatear

Male Pied Wheatear

Male Pied Wheatear

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.

Greater Sand-plover


Asian Desert Warbler habitat

Asian Desert Warbler

Asian Desert Warbler

Asian Desert Warbler

Horned Lark nest and eggs

Desert habitat

The lower areas of the Khongor Sand Dunes

Desert Scenery

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 (4) and Hill Pigeon (5) 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.

Male Desert Wheatear

Female Desert Wheatear

The magnificent Khongor Sand Dunes

The magnificent Khongor Sand Dunes

Hill Pigeon

Hill Pigeon - Quite a distinctive bird when in flight

Hoopoe - Khongor Sand Dunes

Hoopoe - Khongor Sand Dunes

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

Khongor Sand Dunes

Desert Thumb Cynomorium coccineum, said to cure erectile dysfunction and 
relished by our driver.........


Our campsite at the foot of the Khongor Sand Dunes

My tent and the sunset

Sunset over the Khongor Sand Dunes