Monday 15 May 2017

Mongolia - 15th May (Day 8) - Khongor Sand Dunes to Orognwr Lake

After a fairly sleepless night of camping at the Khongor Sand Dunes I was woken by chatter about Saxaul Sparrow being seen so after quickly getting dressed we were down in the vegetated dunes watching a small group of Saxaul Sparrow. I had fairly poor views as the need for a caffeine fix was over riding, the birds were hanging around so it was back to camp for breakfast. After omelette and three coffees we wandered back down to the Saxaul Sparrow area and obtained good views – it was 07:30. After loading the cars we spent a short while driving at the foot of the spectacular Khongor Sand Dunes. We saw a few birds, Richard’s Pipit, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear and Northern Lapwing. Then it was time to drive. We spent the entire day driving north-west across the Gobi Desert. The scenery was spectacular and stark, we crossed gravel plains and sandy desert and passed into multi-coloured mountains. The scenery outdid the birds and the only species of note was a male Chinese Grey Shrike other than the now familiar Horned Lark, Asian Short-toed Lark, Black Vulture and Lammergeier.

Male Saxaul Sparrow - Khongor Sand Dunes

Male Saxaul Sparrow - Khongor Sand Dunes

Female Saxaul Sparrow - Khongor Sand Dunes

Male Saxaul Sparrow - Khongor Sand Dunes

Habitat beside the Khongor Sand Dunes where we saw Saxaulk Sparrow

Pallas's Sandgrouse - Khongor Sand Dunes

Richard's Pipit - Khongor Sand Dunes

Khongor Sand Dunes

Khongor Sand Dunes

Leaving the Khongor Sand Dunes

Leaving the Khongor Sand Dunes area and looking west

Looking south back towards the Khongor Sand Dunes

Me and the Khongor Sand Dunes

The beginning of the long desert drive

Desert Broomrape Cistanche deserticola

Desert Broomrape Cistanche deserticola

Me and Desert Broomrape

Sand Dunes

Beetle on the Sand Dunes

Rumex species (basically a Dock), remarkably flat leaves presumably 
adapted to the windy desert habitat

The desert was remarkably stark in places......

.......but just a short distance away was the beautiful Black Mountain and 
snow capped peaks in the distance

It was surprising to see this shrub flowering in the starkness of the desert

Lunch stop was at a small ravine with a cave, the latter known as Bayanlig Soum (White Cave), it was mysteriously crowded with Mongolians but we have no idea where they had come from as there does not appear to be a settlement for miles. In the ravine Richard miraculously located an Eagle Owl at its daytime rock crevice roost and we watched around eight Lesser Kestrel as they called and displayed around the ravine. The cave was spectacular with a large hole in the roof. The cave was allegedly occupied by humans 750,000 years ago.  After more desert driving we arrived at the small town of Bogd where we raided the shop for ice-cream and sugary drinks and refuelled the Land Cruisers.

Lesser Kestrel - Bayanlig Soum 

Lesser Kestrel - Bayanlig Soum 

Lesser Kestrel - Bayanlig Soum 

Lesser Kestrel - Bayanlig Soum 

Eagle Owl - Bayanlig Soum 

Prayer Flags

A short way to the south of Bogd is the spectacular Orognwr Lake and we began scanning for waterbirds, we recorded Red-crested Pochard (30), Whiskered Tern (20), Caspian Tern (2), Mute Swan (2), Brown-headed Gull (2), Kentish PloverTemminck’s Stint and a selection of familiar duck including ShovelerTufted DuckPochard and Wigeon. However, the highlight was a fine adult summer Relict Gull feeding on the grass on the near shore. It was awalking around on the damp grass catching mosquito of which there had evidently been a recent large emergence of males.

Driving round to the south side of the lake we scanned an island created by weed growth, on this island were around 350 Spoonbill which had constructed their nests on the floating vegetation mat. It was quite a surprise seeing these birds nesting on the ‘ground’. Also here were many nesting Grey Heron and Coot along with Eurasian Bittern (2), Moorhen, Red-crested PochardGarganey, nesting Black-headed Gull. An Eastern Marsh Harrier quartered the adjacent rush grassland.

Camp was set-up adjacent to the lake but not so close that we were eaten alive by mosquito. After a welcome beer we went to sleep to the sound of booming Bittern.

Bar-headed Goose - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull - Orognwr Lake

Relict Gull showing the distinctive wing-tip pattern - Orognwr Lake

Caspian Tern - Orognwr Lake

Upland Buzzard - Orognwr Lake

Orognwr Lake

Get on north shore of Orognwr Lake

 Orognwr Lake

Ger - Orognwr Lake

 Our campsite on south shore of Orognwr Lake

 Orognwr Lake - Note the Spoonbill nesting on the vegetation on the lake in the background

Oyunna and our brilliant support team

Dinner at our campsite at  Orognwr Lake

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)
Day 1 and 2 – International flight then Ulaanbaatar to Mungum Sum
Day 3 -  Mungunmorit and Gachuurt area
Day 4 - Drive to Dalanzadgad
Day 5  – Gurvan Saikhan National Park
Day 6 - Gurvan Saikhan National Park
Day 7 - Gobi Desert and Khongor Sand Dunes
Day 9 - Baga Bogd Mountain and Kholboolj Lake
Day 10 - Kholboolj Lake and Barig Mountain
Day 11 - Barig Mountain and Sangiin Lake
Day 12 (Part 1) - Sangiin Lake and Bayan Lake
Day 12 (Part 2) - Sangiin Lake and Bayan Lake
Day 13 - Hustai National Park and Terelj National Park
Day 14 - Terelj National Park and Gachuurt Area
Day 15 and 16 - Gachuurt Area, Tuul River and International flight