November 23, 2014

Lots of common stuff

text & photos by Abu
(© A. Buchheim)

First ice at the river,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Can you identify it? See pic 13,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

What about this? See pic 14
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

After two very long non-birding weeks I finally could go out on 20 October 2014. At 8 a.m. I started at the Marshall Bridge in UB and made my way along the river. It was minus 12°C (10.4°F) when I went down from the bridge but luckily no wind was blowing. The sun “heated” up the air to an almost warm plus 5°C (41°F) but just as it got more comfortable, clouds moved in and closed the sky. In total I spent six hours walking around trying to capture birds with my camera. The bird community had changed and there were two species dominating the scene: Meadow Bunting and Long-tailed Rosefinch. As there was not much else I concentrated on these two for most of the time so sorry guys, if this post is a bit boring for you.


Siberian Accentor,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

BIRD LIST (32 species)

Daurian Partridge -- 9
Eurasian Black Vulture -- 2
Saker -- 2
Common Kestrel -- 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker -- 1
Mongolian Horned Lark -- Several flocks flying (migrating?) overhead probably belonged to this species which shows just a little yellow in its face when the plumage is fresh; 20 birds on the ground.


Mongolian Horned Lark,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Mongolian Horned Lark,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Mongolian Horned Lark,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Mongolian Horned Lark,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Water Pipit (blakistoni) -- 6
Siberian Accentor -- 2
Naumann’s Thrush -- 2
Great Tit -- c.20
Azure Tit -- c.10
Willow Tit -- 1
Long-tailed Tit -- 4
Eurasian Nuthatch -- 1
Bohemian Waxwing -- 2
Common Magpie -- c15
Daurian Jackdaw -- 1
Oriental Crow -- c.70
Red-billed Chough -- c.45


Red-billed Chough,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Red-billed Chough,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Red-billed Chough,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Common Raven -- c.10
Common Starling -- 1
House Sparrow -- 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow -- c.50
Rock Sparrow -- 26
Chaffinch -- 5
Brambling -- 5


‘Pale Mountain’ Twite,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014


Male ‘Pale Mountain’ Twite,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014


Male Mealy Redpoll,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

'Pale Mountain' Twite (altaica) -- c.15
Mealy Redpoll -- 4
Hawfinch -- c.25


Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch, same as in pic 16
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014


Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Long-tailed Rosefinch -- c.70
Little Bunting -- 1
Meadow Bunting -- c.250


Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Meadow Bunting,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Apart from the birds I came across two mammal species: Daurian Pika Ochotona dauurica and Mongolian Gerbil Meriones unguiculatus. Cute!


Mongolian Gerbil,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

Mongolian Gerbil,
Tuul River, UB, Oct 2014

November 20, 2014



part seven (last)

Kind of Blue (and some red)

text by Abu


links to previous Mr. Hodgson and the Gull Calls 2013 on Birding Mongolia: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Brian had some commitments on 10 June and hence we went to the famous UB Ponds without him. This site is well covered by the local ornithologists and also frequently visited by birdwatchers from abroad. Over the years some locally rare birds had been found, i.e. Pallas’s Gull, Mandarin Duck and Eurasian Greenfinch.



Azure Tit, near Songino Khairkhan Uul,
UB, Jun 2013. © A. Buchheim


Azure-winged Magpie, near Songino Khairkhan Uul,
UB, Jun 2013. © A. Buchheim


Azure-winged Magpie, near Songino Khairkhan Uul,
UB, Jun 2013. © A. Buchheim


Small group of Azure-winged Magpies,
near Songino Khairkhan Uul,
UB, Jun 2013. © A. Buchheim

As usual, we started near Songijno Khairkhan Uul to check out the riparian woods. They consist of three main kinds of trees: a Malus sp. (apple), a Crataegus sp. and a Prunus sp. all of them providing food for birds, sometimes until winter. Apart from the rather new colony of Eastern Rooks (pastinator) we saw the average, but still good enough, stuff: White-backed Woodpecker, Azure Tit and Azure-winged Magpie. A male Common Crossbill was the most unexpected species. It foraged in one of the apple trees. We unfortunately could not establish what it exactly ate.


Male Common Crossbill, near Songino Khairkhan Uul,
UB, Jun 2013 © A. Buchheim


One of the reasons for less reed birds this year,
UB Ponds, Jun 2013 © A. Buchheim


This male Leucorrhinia species (whiteface) cannot be identified
by the two pictures. It’s either rubicunda or intermedia, the
latter formerly regarded as a subspecies of rubicunda, but
now both are considered good species, differing apparently
at most very subtly in the males, more so in females.
Thanks to Igor Fefelov and Elena Malikova for the info!
UB Ponds, Jun 2013 © A. Buchheim



Yet another picture illustrating well why they are
called whitefaces, UB Ponds, Jun 2013 © A. Buchheim

At the ponds proper there were not many birds. The area was grazed down this summer and we counted 34 cows. Not much reed was left so there were not many Great Reed Warblers or Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers this year. Quite nice were a male Falcated Duck, a family of Gadwall, a pair of Swan Goose, 4 White-winged Terns, the only Grey Heron and two Black-winged Stilts. The latter being the only waders present. The group of moulting ducks consisted of about 130 Tufted Ducks, around 100 Common Pochards and 60 or so Mallards.

In the bush land to the east we got 3 pairs of Yellow-breasted Buntings but not much else. For our fare well dinner we met Brian again and drank a few beers before we flew back to Europe on 11 June.

If you wonder what Patrick did during the trip: Check out the excellent website of Xeno-Canto for his wonderful recordings! Thanx Patrick!



Patrick recording bird sounds in the mountains,
Mongolia, Jun 2013. © Brian Watmough

November 3, 2014

more sibiricus Northern Shrikes

Following our latest blog post “juv Northern Grey Shrike” here are more photos of the taxon Lanius borealis (or excubitor) sibiricus in juvenile plumage, of which few images have been published on the net yet.

Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus. Muraviovka Park,
Amur region, Russian Far East, 6 Nov 2011. © Wieland Heim


Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus. Muraviovka Park,
Amur region, Russian Far East, 6 Nov 2011. © Wieland Heim



Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus. Muraviovka Park,
Amur region, Russian Far East, 6 Nov 2011. © Wieland Heim

Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus. Muraviovka Park,
Amur region, Russian Far East, 6 Nov 2011. © Wieland Heim

Thanks for contributing these photos to Wieland Heim of the fabulous bird ringing and natur conservation project Amur Birding.

And two more:


Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus.
Lesser wing-coverts still growing, almost not
visible here, thus 2nd wingbar missing.
Terelj, N Mongolia, Aug 2005. © A. Buchheim


Juv Northern Shrike Lanius borealis sibiricus. Terelj,
Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, Aug 2005. © A. Buchheim

October 26, 2014

juv Northern Grey Shrike

text & photos © A. Bräunlich

Recently Terry Townshend, a British birder who is running the fabulous Birding Beijing blog, posted a “Mystery Shrike from Inner Mongolia, China” on the Birding Frontiers website. It soon turned out to be a juvenile Northern Grey Shrike Lanius borealis (or excubitor, see taxonomic note below) sibiricus.

Since there are very few photos of this taxon on the web I post here three digiscoped photos of a juvenile, taken at Jalman Meadows in northern Mongolia's Khentii Mountains.

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

The forest steppe at Jalaman Meadows where
the L. borealis photos were taken. 7 Sept 2011


taxonomic note

Olsson et al. (2010) discussed the incongruence between the current taxonomy and the mitochondrial gene tree of the Lanius excubitor complex and related species. The concluded that, based on the mitochondrial gene tree the Lanius excubitor complex may be treated as at least six species, L. borealis, L. elegans, L. excubitor, L. lahtora, L. meridionalis, and L. uncinatus, but that other taxonomic treatments are also possible. The paper can be downloaded here.

Compare how similar the Jalman Northern Shrike looks to a young North American Lanius borealis: click here and here. Another indication, in addition to the genetics, that sibiricus should be treated as a subspecies of L. borealis, and not of L. excubitor (if the split is agreed with).

The following taxa of the Lanius excubitor complex occur in Mongolia (comments welcome!):

Northern Grey Shrike Lanius borealis

  • L. b. sibiricus breeding in N Mongolia
  • L. b. mollis breeding in NW Mongolia


Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor

  • L. e. homeyeri (includes leucopterus) very rare visitor NW Mongolia


Asian Grey Shrike Lanius lahtora

  • L. l. pallidirostis (Steppe or Saxaul Shrike) breeding in drier parts of C & S Mongolia