Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Mongolia - Khurkh Bird Ringing Station

The trip to Mongolia was a long drawn out affair. A trip to Worcester to share a car to London with an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel near Heathrow. The next morning was an early 3.5hr flight to Moscow and then a couple of hrs later the connecting 7.5hr flight to Ulaanbaatar the capital of Mongolia. We arrived early morning (+7hrs difference to GMT) dropped off our luggage in the hotel and spent most of the day killing time. The next morning we thought we would start our final 400km taxi ride to the ringing station, but it didn't work out like that. We were asked to go to a meeting with the Director Nyambayar Batbayer of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Centre www.wscc.org.mn who was very interested in out visit and also gave us an overview of all the projects that were being carried out in Mongolia. As it turned out a valuable insight of the work being carried our by the  WSCC. We eventually got on our way and at midnight we arrived at the Khurkh Bird Ringing Station after a 9hr taxi journey.


The next morning after a lie in we got ourselves organised, familiarised our selves with the Yurt, ringing station and all the net rides. Later that day I took a couple of pictures of the area from the top of one of the surrounding hills. The picture above shows the Yurt and is looking north.


This picture is looking south and we were literally living with birds. It was so quiet, literally no noise other than bird sound. You can see from the pictures we were really remote and in the valley the river and scrub trees is where we had the net rides. I've never seen such blue skies.


The Yurt was our home for the length of our visit.

Mongolia, Khurkh Bird Ringing Station - Sept 2018

Species
New
Recaptures
Total
Little Bunting
154
2
 156
Yellow-browed Warbler
424
3
 427
Taiga Flycatcher
55
3
 58
Black-faced Bunting
52
5
 57
Dusky Warbler
97
15
 112
Siberian Rubythroat
577
1
 578
Red-flanked Bluetail
9

 9
Daurian Redstart
27
1
 28
Arctic Warbler
21
1
 22
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
15

 15
Pine Bunting
9

 9
Brown Shrike
3
2
 5
Thick-billed Warbler
1
1
 2
Common Rosefinch
7
3
 10
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler
12

 12
Tree Sparrow
3

 3
Brambling
2

 2
Common Magpie
14

 14
Grey Wagtail
3

 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting
7

 7
Olive-backed Pipit
47

 47
Common Snipe
3

 3
Lesser Whitethroat
1
1
 2
Lanceolated Warbler
4

 4
Two-barred Warbler
1

 1
Siberian Stonechat
1

 1
Radde’s Warbler
10

 10
Bluethroat
5
2
 7
Dark-sided Flycatcher
2

 2
Siberian Blue Robin
1

 1
Yellow-breasted Bunting
1

 1
Daurian Jackdaw
11

 11
Buff-bellied Pipit
1

 1
Chestnut Bunting
2

 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting
1

 1
Tristram’s Bunting
1

 1
Red-billed Chough
1

 1
Rook
1

 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1

 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
1
1
 2
Chinese Bush Warbler
1

 1
White Wagtail
2

 2
Skylark
3

 3
White’s Thrush
1

 1
Amur Falcon
3

 3
Common Kestrel
2

 2
Lesser Kestrel
1

 1
Japanese Sparrowhawk
2

 2
Hen Harrier
1

 1
Eurasian Nightjar
1

 1
Swinhoe’s Snipe
1
1
 2
Long-eared Owl

1
 1
52 Species
1605
43
 1648

Because of the 3 days it took to get there and a similar number to get home we only had 10 days ringing. The highest number of birds caught in one day was 437 but an average of 165 birds a day was an unexpected good result. From the list there are 15 bird species I've seen or ringed before and 37 new birds. I have to say the Magpies and Rook looked bigger and weighed more than UK birds.


There is a High Flyer set up at KBRS which caught us some nice birds including this Eurasian Nightjar just as it was getting light. You will see from this and other photographs that holding the birds for the camera often involves wing opening.


Thick Billed Warblers are large unstreaked Reed Warblers. They are a migratory warbler which breed in East Asia and winter in South Asia. In the hand they feel very large indeed.


Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler look very similar to our UK Grasshopper Warbler. The supercilium of the Pallas's GW are more prominent and the ground colour is slightly more reddish than the Olive colour of the UK bird. One other i/d are the tips of the tail feathers which are pale creamy grey coloured.


The Lanceolated Warbler is very similar to the UK Grasshopper Warbler, the streaks of the neck and underparts are more heavily marked than both UK Grasshopper and Pallas's warblers and the underparts are sometimes slightly more grey coloured as well. Finally the size of the Lanceolated Warbler is much smaller than the other two.



Red-flanked Bluetail is a wide ranging bird. It is a migrant breeding in mixed coniferous forest in north Asia and northern Europe and winters in south eastern Asia. Occasionally there are sighting in the UK, Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk had a couple of sightings last year. The bird above is a female.


Dusky Warbler


Radde's Warbler

Apparently separating Radde's and Dusky Warblers in the field during Autumn and approaching Winter can be difficult and are the most misidentified species on the British list. There is so much information about this, I have this link to the Internet for those who would like to read more about it. http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/randdw.html We were lucky having Batmunkh around and tapping into his knowledge if we were not sure about something. But, when you read about it, should we have taken these bird i/d's for granted. I think so because birds in the hand for identification are very different than those in the bush because key features can be seen clearly and compared with each other. Also Batmunkh has handled lots of these birds before and is experienced in identifying birds that could be difficult.



Two-barred Warbler a medium sized leaf warbler having a very long yellowish white supercilium, only 29 caught in 2017. You can just make out the two bars on the wing, not the best picture showing you this.



The Brown Shrike was caught in large numbers before we arrived, most birds had migrated passing through the Ringing Station so we only managed 3 new and 2 recaptures. As with all Shrikes they are stunning birds with attitude.


Olive Backed Pipit up until 2013 was on the BBRC species list. In 2012 there was an influx of 50 birds which meant it met with the criteria for removal from the rarities list.


Siberian Rubythroat were the most common bird we ringed, 578 birds in total. They really are stunning, breeding in mixed forests of Siberia, wintering in Thailand, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.


Siberian Stonechat female. They are brown above and on the head, they have an indistinct pale supercilium and have chestnut buff underparts. There are 6 recognised subspecies. 


Pine Bunting


Chestnut Bunting


Little Bunting


Black-faced Bunting, male at the top and female at the bottom. Picture to show comparison.


Chestnut-eared Bunting


Pallas's Reed Bunting


Yellow-breasted Bunting


Tristram's Bunting


We had some great birds and in all I had 37 new species. However the most challenging birds for me were the Buntings, only ever ringing Little Buntings abroad before. When you get your eye in they become easier to identify but are they male, female or a juvenile bird. The first few days there was a great deal of referencing from books and help from the vast knowledge of Batmunkh the co-coordinator of the ringing station.


Chinese Bush Warbler is a wide ranging bird. It is found in China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. Although relatively common just the one bird was caught and ringed.


Arctic warblers are rather strong-billed, slim but are a highly active Phylloscopus as in many small birds. It has a very large range breeding in north Eurasia, north Asia and Alaska and wintering in south east Asia The western birds flying anything up to 13,000km


This White's Thrush was a surprise. Batmunkh the coordinator of the Ringing Station thought the migrating thrushes would not pass through until the week after we left. It is a large powerful bird breeding to the west of the Ural mountains in Russia and wintering in south east Asia. It was sadly the only one we had. 3 were caught is 2017 and this was the first for this year.


Like many Redstarts, Daurian Redstarts are strongly sexually dimorphic.We caught both males and females. The male in the picture is probably a non breeding bird which tend to have mostly a brownish-grey crown and upper mantle. 


Dark-sided Flycatchers have a large range from the northern India subcontinent, Siberia, western and north-eastern China, Korea to Japan with northern populations wintering in Southern China and southeast Asia. Males and females look alike but juveniles have white spots above, mottled breast and buff-tipped wing coverts.


Pallas's Leaf Warbler are very small warblers with a largish head and short tail. It has greenish upperparts and whitish underparts. It has a yellow rump which is not visible in this picture and yellow double wing bars, central crown stripe and distict supercilium.


Red-billed Chough or Chough a social member of the crow family were fairly common but difficult to catch. There are eight subspecies currently recognised. The UK subspecies is pyrrhocorax and the Mongolian is brachypus.

There a few birds that I have not blogged but the most exciting are here.


Just a couple of pictures from inside the Yurt


The two Mongolian students that came with us. Training was difficult their English was better than our Mongolian. Charlie Sargent front left Stu Brown standing, Colin McShane and finally on the right Paul Ashworth.

There is going to be a follow up blog to this and all birds will be Birds of Prey.

11 comments:

  1. Brilliant blog Charles , that Siberian Ruby Throat wow stunning pal !!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Col, I hope you enjoy part 2 as well.
      It was probably the best ringing holiday I have ever had. The Mongolians were great company and had a British sense of humour.

      Delete
  2. Brilliant blog Charles , that Siberian Ruby Throat wow stunning pal !!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. It must have been a wonderful experience. Beautiful birds and I hope you had also some fun together.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent piece Charlie some real surprises. Love the Whites thrush.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic pictures Charlie and very informative as ever.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sounds wonderful experience!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi,very interesting Blog and some fantastic birds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alan thanks for your comment. It was a great holiday and as you say fantastic birds. I have posted a second Mongolia blog this evening which you may also like.
      Charlie

      Delete
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