Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Mongolia - 16th May (Day 9) - Ikht Bogd Uul and to Kholboolj Lakes near to Jinst

After a good nights sleep in our tents beside Orog Lake we had an earlier breakfast at 06:30 overlooking the lake with its breeding colony of Spoonbill and Grey Heron and to the sound of booming Bittern and singing Asian Short-toed Lark. After loading the car we headed up the valley behind the campsite and towards Baga Bogd Mountain. The climb up the mountain was a long a rocky river bed flanked by shear mountainside where Pied Wheatear, Northern Wheatear and Chukar were common. After weaving through the gorge and bumping along the river bed for around 1.5 hours we rose onto the plateau, a wide expanse of yak and goat grazed grasslands with spectacular view over the surrounding desert and steep snow covered peaks and rocky crags. Steppe Eagle, Lammergeir and Himalayan Griffon soared overhead while Horned Lark, Brown Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch and Black Redstart foraged on the grassland. After a short play of the recording our main target appeared on a nearby crag, a superb Altai Snowcock which showed well (although a little distant for photographs) as it called from its chosen crag. We spent another two hours on the plateau but saw none of our other targets (Altai Accentor, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Asian Rosy-finch). We never made it to Baga Bogd mountain instead birding Ikht Bogd, this looked to be too far to drive to in the time we had and so it was probable that we didn't get high enough to see these species - I was quite gutted as these three species were high on my want list for the trip. Still the views were spectacular as we looked back down to Orog Lake and last nights camping site. Another plan was hatched and Tumen had a site where all three species were possible but it was a days drive, so in a rush we descended and headed for our new site.

Chukar - Ikht Bogd

The road to Ikht Bogd

The road to Ikht Bogd

Altai Snowcock - Ikht Bogd

Altai Snowcock - Ikht Bogd

Himalayan Griffon - Ikht Bogd

Isabelline Wheatear - Ikht Bogd

Brown Accentor - Ikht Bogd

Lammergeier - Ikht Bogd

Chukar - Ikht Bogd

View back to Orog Lake from Ikht Bogd

Ikht Bogd with Baga Bogd in the distance

Ikht Bogd

View from Ikht Bogd

Meeting the locals

Scanning for Snowcock

We skirted around the flanks of Orog Lake and back to the small town of Bogd where a short stop produced the treat of ice creams! It was then that we hear that the plans had once again changed and we were back to the original itinerary and I wished we had given Ikht/Baga Bogd a little more time.

Driving a short way north through the desert we came to Kholboolj Lake, a large and well vegetated lake where we spent the next three hours birding. Highlights were Long-toed Stint, Common Tern of the subspecies longipennis, Gull-billed Tern, Bar-headed Goose, Swan Goose, Red-crested Pochard and Demoiselle Crane. Barry picked up two distant Asian Dowitcher in summer plumage – our main target here. But they were a little too distant, so off came the trousers, boots and socks and some of us waded across the lagoon to get better views, the going was good but occasionally one would sink to waist height. At around 50m from the birds they looked alert and flew, our views were still not as good as I had hoped as summer plumaged Asian Dowitcher was one of the main targets for me.

Swan Goose - Kholboolj Lake

Wading out to the Asian Dowitcher

Wading out to the Asian Dowitcher

Censored! From left, Rod, Barry and Richard

Bit deeper here!

Gull-billed Tern - Kholboolj Lake

Gull-billed Tern - Kholboolj Lake

Common Tern of subspecies longipennis - Kholboolj Lake

Asian Dowitcher, they look remarkably like Bar-tailed Godwit - Kholboolj Lake

Black-winged Stilt - Kholboolj Lake

Bar-headed Goose - Kholboolj Lake

Bar-headed Goose - Kholboolj Lake

We headed to our campsite alongside the lake at 18:30 and had dinner overlooking the lake and the surrounding desert. A short walk before sunset produced Pallas’s Bunting, Little Bunting, more Common Tern of the race longipennis, 50+ Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Slavonian Grebe, Demoiselle Crane and many breeding Avocet.