Sunday 9 August 2015

Gun Guluut National Park

On July 31st, I was guided by Otgonbayar Baatargal usally called Oogii. Ooogii took me to Gun Guluut National Park. his park is 2 hours drive east of Ulan Bator compared with the day before's Hustai National Park which is one hour west.

Gun Guluut has several fresh water pools which are attractive to water birds. It is also well known for summering cranes.

When Oogii and I arrived early in the morning it was a grey day with showers.seeing birds was difficult in poor light. However persistence paid and there were a few bright spells.

We visited the main cluster of pools twice. The first time was grey but the second time was much better. Either way it is clearly a good place to see waders.

sharp-tailed sandpiper 1

On the first visit, we thought we had seen sharp-tailed sandpiper but the views were poor because of the light. On our return it was obvious there were two.

The species breeds on the East Siberian coast and migrated to Australasia for winter. Mongolia is towards the western edge of the migration route in autumn and too far west in spring when birds return north by a more easterly route. It is apparently not common in Mongolia even in autumn.

Our luck was in.

sharp-tailed sandpiper 2

Two birds came very close to the parked car at one stage and gave us excellent views.

two sharp-tailed sandpiper

In the same area as the two sharp-tailed sandpiper identified above (at least on the return visit) were eight other waders. I initially thought they were dunlin as the leaset worse option. However thanks to Bart de Schutter alerting me, it looks like they are also sharp-tailed sandpiper. These were all adults in breeding plumage. While in Mongolia I had no access to my guidebook which shows all palearctic waders in all plumages. Referring to that, I can see that Bart is right.

sharp-tailed sandpiper in summer plumage

On the earlier visit though the light was poorer there were actually more waders to see than later.

red-necked phalarope

Two of them were red-necked phalarope.

spotted redshank

There was a mobile flock of common redshank and a single spotted redshank which is so much easier to separate when both birds were still in breeding plumage. 

black-tailed godwit

Two black-tailed godwit were identified at distance and in the gloom.

red-necked stint

Three types of stint were around: red-necked stint, little stint and a solitary Temminck's stint.

Temminck's stint

Other sandpipers included wood sandpiper.

wood sandpiper

Although I had seen ruddy shelduck at UB Ponds the day before, both it and common shelduck were present at Gun Guluut.

ruddy shelduck and common shelduck

There was solid evidence of common shelduck breeding. Two gaggles of young ducks were seen.

young shelduck

Blcck-necked grebe also breed there. One bird was seen with a chick taking a ride on the back though not in the picture below.

black-necked grebe

Black-headed gull breeds this far inland too.

black-headed gull

Several white-winged black tern in breeding plumage were flying over the ponds.

white-winged black tern

Of course not all the birding took place at the ponds. In the fields were at least three types of lark.

horned lark

In the shorter grass the more common one was horned lark.

Mongolian lark

Around or in the longer grass, Mongolian lark was more common.

Pere David's snowfinch

As in Hustai National Park, Pere David's Snowfinch was sighted here too. The one above is another juvenile.

red-billed chough

Red-billed chough is an attractive bird. Four were seen.

demoiselle crane

There are three types of crane often seen in summer in the park: Siberian crane, white-naped crane and demoiselle crane. Unfortunately for me, only demoiselle crane was observed the day I was there and we searched hard and long. It was poor compensation that as many as 30 demoiselle crane were seen. Both of the other cranes would have been lifers.

We had seen a saker faclon briefly during our search for cranes in one of the inner valleys. I was very lucky to see another close up near the pools. This one rested on a pylon.

saker falcon

Upland buzzard was easily seen and when we were making our way out of the park at the end we drove straight into a group of 12 cinereous vulture. Two northern raven were also near-by. I couldn't see any carcass so I don't know why so many were grouped together.

cinereous vulture

Virtually the last bird seen in the park was a rock sparrow on a rock.

rock sparrow

We stopped off to eat about half way back to Ulan Bator. It was here that Oogii pointed out a flock of jackdaw on the other side of the road from the restaurant.


By the end of the day, my Mongolian list had reached 76. I thank Ooggii for his guidance and driving. It was an excellent day.

Along with the day before, I had had two consecutive 12-15 hour days of birding. The day after (August 1st) I took a complete rest. However the birding wasn't entirely finished. I went to the Tuul river on August 2nd. This was my one foray into woodland birding. I will blog about this next.

Species seen at Gun Guluut National Park
Whooper Swan 
Ruddy Shelduck 
Common Shelduck 
Tufted Duck 
Black-necked Grebe 
Cinereous Vulture 
Upland Buzzard 
Demoiselle Crane 
Black-winged Stilt 
Northern Lapwing 
Common Sandpiper 
Spotted Redshank
Wood Sandpiper 
Common Redshank 
Black-tailed Godwit 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 
Curlew Sandpiper 
Temminck's Stint 
Red-necked Stint 
Little Stint 
Red-necked Phalarope 
Black-headed Gull  
White-winged Tern 
Common Tern 
Pacific Swift 
Eurasian Hoopoe 
Saker Falcon 
Common Magpie 
Red-billed Chough 
Common Raven  
Mongolian Lark 
Greater Short-toed Lark 
Horned Lark  
Sand Martin 
Barn Swallow 
Isabelline Wheatear  
White Wagtail 
Pallas's Reed Bunting  
Tree Sparrow 
Rock Sparrow 
Pere David's Snowfinch 

Species seen on road back to Ulan Bator
Eurasian Jackdaw 


  1. Hi Rob. I only ever saw Eurasian Jackdaws right out in the west of the country, which made me look at your photo. Its hard to be sure from such a distance, but they look a bit long-billed and I wonder if they might be another species, possibly Rooks.


  2. Tom,

    Interesting. These were pointed out and identified by my guide. Indeed both guides said they were easy to see in the UB area but I hadn't seen them and they were surprised at that I will write to them! Rob