Sunday 2 August 2015

Round the block in Ulan Bator

As well as a birding hobby, I enjoy travel for its own sake. I want to visit every country in my life time and Mongolia is exactly my 100th.

At time posting, I have done two very full days of serious birding at hot spots local to Ulan Bator. However as ever I like to start with just a walk or two straight out of my hotel and see what there is around the block.

On Wednesday morning, I walked out of the hotel south towards to national amusement park. The tour maps show it is heavily wooded and it looked a good prospect. However it was all locked up and looked too manicure anyway

Instead I crossed the road and found some wasteland alongside part of the city's Selbe river which is an off shot of the much larger Tuul river. It was here most of my urban birding took place.

The river is barely more than a stream in this section. Yet the birding was satisfactory. Three lifers were quickly obtained.

long-tailed rose finch 1

In the scrub close to the river, I came across a number of plain looking birds with very small bills and long tails.

long-tailed rose finch 2

There also had two quite strong white wing bars.

long-tailed rose finch 3

After checking with birdforum, it appears they are long-tailed rose finch. The was one of my lifers. It is a shame I din't see any males which are brightly coloured and the difference between the sexes (and juveniles) explains why over 90% of images on-line are of males. Three pictures here helps the balance!

tree sparrow

Tree sparrow is almost everywhere, not just by the river side but in all places with any greenery.

house sparrow

Only in the heavily built up areas is house sparrow as common.

white wagtail

Two old favourites were seen near the river. One was white wagtail.

grey wagtail

The second was grey wagtail. True to form it was found near a fast running section of the river.

grey wagtail

Next to the river is urban waste ground and as is often typical on this sort of terrain in many palearctic cities common magpie is found.

common magpie

It isn't the only corvid either. The city has many carrion crow.

Carrion crow next to Selbe River

Some were seen not only by the Selbe river but along Peace Avenue which is the main street in the centre of the city.

Carrion crow on Peace Avenue

Near the river though there is more variety of birds. I was quite surprised to see northern wheatear. I hadn't realised there were present in Mongolia.

first northern wheatear

Indeed this was the first of many sightings on this holiday as further blogs will tell.

second northern wheatear

I must mention that throughout my walk there were screaming pacific swift over head and especially over the river where presumably the insect density is highest. Smaller numbers of common swift were also seen in more built up areas.

Pacific swift was my second lifer in the city.

There are no pictures of this fast moving bird nor arguably the best bird of the day: Daurian partridge, two of which I flushed as I walked in slightly longer grass and bushes in the long ditch next to the railway line. 

This was my third lifer.

Mongolia is rich in mammals and even in the city I spotted several Daurian pika which is closer to a hare than a rat.

Daurian pika

After this sedate introduction, The "real" birding started on Thursday when I met up with birdingpal Gansukh Namgar. My Mongolian list shot up from 12 to 51 species including several lifers. The next series of blogs chronicles the 15 hours birding that day. It was excellent. 

Selbe River
Daurian Partridge 
Feral Pigeon  
Pacific Swift  
Common Magpie 
Carrion Crow 
Northern Wheatear   
Grey Wagtail 
White Wagtail 
Long-tailed Rosefinch 
House Sparrow  
Tree Sparrow 

Peace Avenue Feral Pigeon 
Common Swift 
Pacific Swift 
Carrion Crow 
House Sparrow 


  1. Enjoying your posts as usual! Congrats on the 100th country. That is a huge milestone! Bulgaria just became my 25th. Ive been away from the bird blogs for the last week or two so Im looking forward to reading your next posts. Enjoy your day!

  2. Caitlin, thanks once again for your encouragement. Kyrgyzstan became country 101 and so there are more blogs to come.R