Monday, 3 August 2015

UB ponds

Thursday was first full day of birding in Mongolia and in the end I was away for 15 hours from dawn until dusk.

My host was birdingpal Gansukh Namgar who I am indebted to for his guidance, driving and birding skills.

We went first to UB Ponds just after dawn. This is a grey water area which is also the nearest hotspot to the city. It is apparently well visited by local birders for at least three seasons ain the year nd the sightings can vary week to week.

It is obviously a good place to see waterfowl. Indeed one of our early sightings was a group of swan goose. It is native to Mongolia but it was lifer for me.

swan goose

The area is large with different sized pools stretching a long way in all directions. 

UB Ponds

The variety of pools encourages a wide variety of birds. One waterfowl which was found on nearly all size of pool was ruddy shelduck. It was arguably the noisiest bird as well as the most scattered.

ruddy shelduck

Several young birds of both swan goose and ruddy shelduck were seen.


Three other types of duck were also observed. Two were numerous. These were gadwell and tufted duck.

tufted duck with chicks

As with swan goose and ruddy shelduck, both gadwell and tufted duck had been breeding at the site this summer.

tufted duck

The third duck was mallard. Prehaps surprisingly we only saw a single bird.

whooper swan

Whooper swan were seen but only on the deepest and largest water body which should most properly be called a lake.


I was surprised not to see or hear any moorhen but two coot were observed.

great cormorant

Other notable water birds included great cormorant and about 40 grey heron which kept their distance being wary as usual.

black winged stilt

Only three waders were at the site. These were black-winged stilt,  little ringed plover and Swinhoe's snipe. This was in stark contrast to another water body visited the day afterwards. This will be blogged about in the coming days. Both black-winged stilt and little ringed plover must breed at the ponds as plenty of young birds were seen.

little ringed plover

Little ringed plover likes pebbly ground near water and black-winged stilt is attracted to almost any permanent water body.

demoiselle crane

Two large birds which were observed only very briefly and then only as we arrived at dawn were demoiselle crane and black kite (black-eared).

black kite

Only one other bird of prey was seen throughout the rest of the session. That was a passing Amur falcon.

flying common tern

All the time we were there several tern were flying over. It took me some time and consultation with birdforum to understand they were common tern although Gansukh Namgar was rightly confident from the start.

tussling common tern

I had wrongly assumed that longipennis was the default sub species in Mongolia. It has an all black bill and dark red legs.

These birds had dark red bills and mid-red legs with the young birds being lighter still.

young and adult common tern

In this part of Mongolia the sub species is instead minussensis and the marking are fine for this.

The ponds held several passerines on the banks and in the varied types of bush scattered around the site.

citrine wagtail

Citrine wagtail and white wagtail are very easily seen.
Pallas's grasshopper warbler

Two warblers viewed were yellow-browed warbler and Pallas's grasshopper warbler. Ironically we got much better views of locustella warbler than the leaf warbler. Pallas's grasshopper warbler is said to be skulking but this one was not. Two were seen in a small clump of reeds and then one flew into a near-by bush and could be seen again from there.

distant shot of Richard's pipit

One of the last birds to be seen before we left was a Richard's pipit. The area is within the breeding range of water pipit and yet none of this more likely bird were seen.

closer view of Richard's pipit

We left UB ponds by 10.45 am. There was a lot more travelling and birding to be done that day. The next two blogs will recount what we saw.

Species seen at UB ponds
Swan Goose 
Whooper Swan 
Ruddy Shelduck 
Tufted Duck 
Black Stork 
Great Cormorant 
Grey Heron 
Eurasian Coot 
Demoiselle Crane 
Black-winged Stilt 
Little Ringed Plover 
Green Sandpiper 
Wood Sandpiper 
Swinhoe's Snipe 
Common Tern 
Common Swift 
Pacific Swift 
Eurasian Hoopoe 
Amur Falcon 
Barn Swallow 
Yellow-browed Warbler 
Pallas's Grasshopper-Warbler
Citrine Wagtail 
White Wagtail 
Richard's Pipit 
House Sparrow 
Tree Sparrow 


  1. Its great to hear about the birds you are seeing in Mongolia, as it brings back lots of happy memories. Before I moved to Sudan I was living in Ulaanbaatar and UB Ponds was my local patch. I hope you have an enjoyable time on the rest of your travels in the country. I have just moved to Hangzhou in China. Let me know if you are ever in this neck of the woods.

  2. Tom,

    Never realised you were in UB for a while. Very good birding at least at this time of year. I promise I'll let you know if I am ever in the Hangzhou area. You are always welcome in Salalah too.