21 May - 8 June 2023

by János Oláh

Mongolia is an amazing country with fantastic scenery and some really special birds! It is also a vast country with very few human inhabitants: a visit to this true wilderness is an unforgettable birding experience! Our tour is usually run at the end of May when we have a good chance to observe the enigmatic Black-billed Capercaillies. It is weather dependent, but in cold springs we have a very good chance to see them displaying. Migration is also in full swing, and this is a great tour to see Siberian breeding birds in full immaculate dress. This tour is also one of our very few tours where we camp almost throughout and hence our itinerary is somewhat flexible. A truly unique adventure! This was our first visit to the country after the covid pandemic which made us postpone this tour for several years. This year we visited the Tuul River, the Gun Galuut Lake area on the east, the larch forests north of Ulaanbaatar, the fantastic Yolii Am Gorge in the Gobi Altai, the Khongorin Els sand dunes, the desert lakes in central Mongolia like Orog and Boontsagaan, the mighty Khukh Lake area in the north and Bayan Lake as well as the famous Hustai National Park on our way back to the capital.

In 2023 we have recorded 230 bird species with only 3 heard-only as well as 31 species of mammals. This was a new mammal record for Birdquest as our previous mammal record was 30 species on our last tour in 2018. There were many highlights during the 2023 tour, but Black-billed Capercaillie was voted the ‘Bird of the trip’ and we had the best possible experience with these special birds as we could watch them displaying for as long as we wanted! It was perhaps the very cold and late spring but somehow, we managed to get one of those days when the lekking was on its peak (maybe 2 or 3 days like this in a year). The male birds were so focused on the visiting females that they did not bother about us, and we could see the shy females as well and even witnessed mating! A truly magical and top experience! Staying with ‘chickens’, another great highlight was watching a displaying male and a calling pair of Altai Snowcocks during a cold and snowy, but thankfully still morning. Admiring Mongolian Ground Jays in the early morning sunlight while they are foraging amongst the mini sand dunes with Asian Desert Warbler singing from the top of the nearby bushes was a memorable moment too! But, we could also mention the party of three Great Bustards trotting behind a foraging Little Curlew or seeing the fantastic display flight of the male Oriental Plovers over their vast breeding habitat. Even on our very first day we had a true migration experience with a huge fall of migrants in Ulaanbaatar itself seeing many Siberian Rubythroats and Taiga Flycatchers and a flock of migrant thrushes with Eye-browed, Dusky, Red-throated and Naumann’s Thrush all together. Fantastic! The rare White-throated or Hodgson’s Bush Chat was also found despite the unusually cold and snowy conditions and in fact we saw as many as 8 birds together with migrant wheatears. All in all, there were many great moments to remember! We managed to see other iconic or sought-after birds as well like Swan Goose, Stejneger’s Scoter, Demoiselle and White-naped Cranes, breeding plumaged Asiatic Dowitchers and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Amur Falcon, Eversmann’s Redstart, Pere David’s Snow Finch, Mongolian or Kozlov’s Accentor, Wallcreeper, Saxaul Sparrow, Lanceolated and Thick-billed Warblers and a selection of buntings including Pine, Godlewski’s and Pallas’s Reed Bunting.
Mammals were also great! Our experience of seeing a wild Wolverine for several minutes while it was foraging on a hillside, which was followed by a fantastic Wolf on the same slope 30 minutes later was unbelievable. Other great mammals included Alashan Ground Squirrel, Campbell’s Desert Hamster, both Long-eared and Daurian Hedgehogs, Alpine, Pallas’s and Daurian Pikas and of course the Przevalski’s Horses in Hustai National Park. As on most birding tours (unfortunately) we also had some misses, and it was the Relict Gull this time which eluded us. I believe this was the first ever Birdquest tour missing this declining species. Sadly, on the usual birding circuit it is very rare now and even though one was reported on one of the lakes just the previous day to our arrival we never connected with it. In future we will need to make a special visit to further west if we don’t see them on the usual spots, an itinerary change that the group opted out this year.

Out tour started in Ulaanbaatar Airport after a morning flight. We quickly made our way to our hotel and changed into birding gear. The previous day it was sub-zero temperature with snow and now for us, for the tour start it was sunshine and spring! We have wasted no time and visited the Tuul River floodplain and had a great birding session with many migrants! As we walked along the river there were Siberian Rubythroats under every bush and Taiga Flycatchers everywhere! Best of all however was a large mixed thrush flock foraging around us. There were many tricky to ID birds and probably hybrids too, but we managed to see proper adults of four species which included Eye-browed, Dusky, Naumann’s and Red-throated Thrush. Resident birds were also present and lovely Azure Tits and Azure-winged Magpies were a delight to watch. An afternoon visit to some ponds produced our first Stejneger’s Scoters and Horned Grebe plus a great selection of migrants. It was a truly great day of birding to start our 2023 Mongolia tour!

Early next morning we left the capital and drove to the east stopping to admire the huge statue of Genghis Khan before reaching the fantastic Gun Galuut Nuur (Lake) area where we had a great introduction of the birding on the steppe lakes! It was packed with birds, and we counted up to 44 Stejneger’s Scoters, a migrant flock of Black-tailed Godwits with two Asiatic Dowitchers, a fine Little Curlew foraging on the lakeside while three Great Bustards were marching on the fields behind him. Both Demoiselle and White-naped Cranes were seen, and Mongolian Larks were abundant. From here we drove to the north into the taiga larch forest. On our way we saw displaying Blyth’s pipits and many Daurian Jackdaws! On arrival to the forest, we could feel it was very early stage of spring yet, perhaps the first real warmer weather for the spring just arrived with us. Forest was silent but we found a few birds around camp like fantastic Red-throated Thrushes, Willow and Coal Tits, Hawfinches and Olive-backed Pipits. Distant Eastern (or Siberian) Roe Deers were seen on a slope while at dusk we could hear Wolfs hauling nearby. Magical atmosphere it was but the temperature was dropping fast, and it was a cold night. After dinner for those who were up for the challenge, we tracked down a magnificent Ural Owl.

We were up early next day well before dawn. A hot coffee and tea were very welcome, and we were soon on our way to look for Black-billed Capercaillies. We had not much fresh info’s but were very hopeful as it was a superb windless morning. As we were getting closer to the lekking area we started to hear birds calling: the lekking was on! After some careful positioning we got close enough to admire the spectacle! And the sound was unbelievable too! We could not ask a better performance, and we stayed with the several lekking males for two hours and we even managed to see female birds and actual mating too. A truly lifetime experience to see these special birds in the very hight of their spring display and we all agreed it could not have been better. We had happy faces going back to camp which got even more happier with a fine male Hazel Grouse perched nearby and Pine Buntings singing on the larch trees. The taiga forest was awakening from its long winter sleep. We packed up and spent some time to look for a Steppe Zockor but no luck for this underground mammal. We drove back to the Gun Galuut area for overnight and waited until dusk for gulls coming to roost to the lakes. They certainly did come but no Relict Gulls were found amongst them.

Following a last morning birding at Gun Galuut we drove towards the Gobi Altai Mountains. In the late afternoon we set up our camp by the dry lakebed of Har us Nuur. We were now in the transition zone between the steppes and the semi-desert, and we found our first Pere David’s Snow Finches as well as had a nice mammaling section at dusk with several Campbell’s Desert Hamsters and Daurian Hedgehog. Pre-breakfast produced a Pallas’s Sandgrouse, a migrant Dusky Thrush and Mongolian Finches. We still had a few hours’ drive to reach Dalanzadgad and we continued to Yolii Am where we even had time for a little birding. This fantastic area called the ‘valley of the Lammergeiers’ and it is a scenic valley with an impressive gorge. Our first afternoon birding produced our top target, the near endemic Mongolian or Kozlov’s Accentor. Well, it is surely not the most colourful bird but in its subtle way it is good-looking, and it is an accentor! A singing male gave us a superb show alongside some Brown Accentors in its dwarf juniper habitat on a steep hillside. Our mission was completed, and we even had time for a spotlighting night-drive through the valley which produced no cats but a few Argali and Siberian Ibexes. Next morning, we drove all the way to the gorge and had a wonderful few hours birding at this great place! Our first stop was for a migrant White’s Thrush flushed from the roadside – a welcome surprise! As we left our cars behind and started to walk the gorge, we had many White-winged Snowfinches and Twites along the streamside with occasional Water Pipits, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinches and Little Buntings. In the lovely sunny morning Cuckoos were calling and regal Bearded Vultures were patrolling over our heads. A party of 15 Himalayan Griffon Vultures were also in the air and a Golden Eagle was cruising high too. On the rock faces and scree breeding plumaged Wallcreepers males were chasing females and Godlewski’s Buntings were feeding quietly. It was enjoyable birding, but it was time for us to leave for the semi-desert! Mongolian and Black-tailed (Goitered) Gazelles were seen along the route but our search for the iconic Oriental Plover was fruitless. Eventually we arrived to Khongorin Els, the most picturesque sand dunes of Mongolia. The sand dunes are 180km long and stretch between Gurvan Saikhan and Nemegt Range’s both part of the Gobi Altai Mountain range. At their widest point, the dunes are 27 km wide and just 1km at their narrowest. These massive dunes cover an area of 965sq km and stand out clearly from any satellite image. A pallidrostris Great Grey Shrike was seen and we had a great sunset with camels roaming around us. Magical! Our spotlighting produced Long-eared Hedgehog and Northern Three-toed Jerboa.

We got up to an almost windless morning with a male Desert Wheatear singing around our tents. It took some time, but we got great looks of Saxaul Sparrows amongst the sand dunes, but we had no sign of any Desert Warblers. Supporting cast included Hill Pigeons, Demoiselle Cranes and Pallas’s Sandgrouse. By the time we finished our breakfast – with a Midday Gerbil hiding amongst our kitchen gear – and packing the wind was getting stronger and we soon set off to our longish drive towards the Orog Nuur north of the Bogd Mountains. It was a slow and long driving day with some stunning scenery and some more Saxaul Sparrows. It was late afternoon when we arrived to Orog Nuur.

Our target for the morning was to find the Mongolian or Henderson’s Ground Jay which we very quickly did, and these charismatic birds gave us a stunning show while feeding in their ‘mini sand dune’ habitat. We saw a party of 5 birds and could study and enjoy their behaviour for as long as we wanted. The only slight distraction was a lovely pair of Asian Desert Warblers for a few minutes. Orog Nuur itself had rather low water level and we noted very few waterbirds in the heat haze though distant singing Paddyfield Warblers were seen in the reedbed. We drove to the nearby Kholboolj Nuur where we set up camp and drove around the lake in the fantastic afternoon light. It was a birdy lake, and we got our first Swan Goose of the tour and a great selection of breeding plumaged waders like Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand Plover, 55 Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Spotted Redshank and Asiatic Dowitchers. The evening spotlighting produced a few Siberian Jerboas or ‘mini kangaroos’ as our drivers called them right around our tents!

It was a windy morning yet again and there were very few new birds around the lake but we managed to find a few Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers near camp and migrating flocks of Whiskered and White-winged Terns were arriving. We were soon on our way towards Bayankhongor where we got some more supplies and seen Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Arctic and Dusky Warblers in the parking lot of the supermarket – plus a lot of very dark Tree Sparrows. Later we drove to Boontsagaan Nuur with a few stops on the way to check more places for Oriental Plovers as we missed them near Dalanzadgad. This time we found two displaying males with relative ease and spent some time enjoying and photographing these beauties. A breeding plumaged male Oriental Plover is amongst the best-looking waders in the world and seeing their wired display flight several times was certainly a tour highlight! We arrived to Boontsagaan Nuur in time to check the estuary for the roosting gulls and we had high hopes as a Relict Gull was seen the previous evening! Unfortunately, we were not that lucky like other birders and could not find any amongst the Pallas’s, Vega, Black-headed and Common Gulls. There were about 20 Swan Geese and over 200 Caspian Terns. Well, we still have another day of birding in this great location! The following morning was great weather and fantastic birding although there we much less gulls in the morning then we counted in the previous evening. There were lots of birds and early morning counted 378 Great Crested Grebes on the lake as well as 114 Spoonbills and 14 Tundra Swans. A fine pair of Pallas’s Fish Eagles were continuously around, and we checked the lake shore for several kilometres for gulls and waders. A marshy area held 9 Asiatic Dowitchers and more Broad-billed Sandpipers were seen too. The afternoon was very different though as the wind was picking up and by late afternoon it was a gale forced (80km/h) wind. It has decimated our camp and all the tents were down, so we had to seek shelter in some nearby bungalows. It was a life saver, but birding was impossible, even standing on your feet was a challenge.

Dawn next day the wind was manageable, and we checked the lake one last time for gulls. We were hoping that the very strong westerly wind pushed birds to this side of the huge lake. It certainly did as we had many more Black-headed Gulls but still could not find any Relict Gulls. A few migrants were around like Daurian Redstart, Dusky Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher but nothing new was found. We packed up and left towards the north, we had a fair bit of drive to reach Khukh Nuur! It was a long drive through fantastic scenery, the Khangai Mountains were spectacular! We were expecting less wind in the coming days, but the weather forecast looked interesting with cold, and snow predicted. Roadside birds included many Pere David’s Snowfinches, Hoopoes, Upland Buzzards and lots of Horned Larks. We arrived to Khukh Lake in the late afternoon and after setting up camp we could scan the hillsides for Snowcocks. Temperature was dropping and although no Snowcocks were to be seen but a fantastic Wolverine spotted on the hillside as it was foraging and coming towards us! WOW! We could watch this amazing mammal for about 10 minutes before it disappeared. Just as we were discussing this great sighting with some hot teacup in our hands a Grey Wolf was also spotted at the very same slope just before dusk. WOW!

Our stay around Khukh Lake was not usual as throughout the entire tour weather was playing major importance. Our full day was blessed with a good morning without precipitation and strong wind. We could find some of our targets like fantastic Eversmann’s and Güldenstädt’s Redstarts as well as Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush but there were no sign of Altai Snowcocks or Altai Accentors. Siberian Stonechats were also evident, but no White-throated Bush Chats were found in any of the territories. After lunch we started an exploration and it was fruitful as we managed to find a flock of White-throated Bush Chats feeding with Northern Wheatears, clearly not occupying their territories yet. It also started to snow heavily, no wonder these freshly arrived migrants were still in flocks at the base of the mountain. It was a great experience watching both sexes of these scarce breeding birds feeding right around us. Other migrants were also noted such as the ocularis ‘Siberian’ White Wagtail, Pallas’s Leaf and Dusky Warblers and Siberian Rubythroat. Late afternoon the snowing got even more intensive and upon arrival back to our camp all our tents were covered by snow. Our last morning at Khukh Lake was white with 18cm of fresh snow but still, no wind. Altai Snowcocks were calling from the mountain by the camp and after anxious scanning we found a male displaying on a snow free ledge. Almost everybody managed good looks through the scope but then it just flew off. More birds were still calling but it took us another 30 minutes to find a calling pair. This time we could watch them for 20 minutes in perfect morning light. Amazing experience and another definite tour highlight! Several ‘Khangai’ Asian Rosy Finches were also seen high up on the mountain, but they were on a constant move, not easy to see them. Birds were confused with the fresh snow and took shelter on the steepest rock faces without snow. All the birds we saw the previous morning in the bushes were up on the rock faces including redstarts, warblers, pipits, buntings, rubythroats etc. We also found a large flock of Altai Accentors high up on the hillside, not the best looks but again they were still in winter ‘flock’ mode. Happy with our morning and the snowcocks we left the snowy landscape behind and retrace our steps back to the south.

Our camp was in riverine habitat and early morning we found a skulking Thick-billed Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Hume’s, Dusky, Arctic and Pallas’s Leaf Warblers, many Asian Brown and Spotted Flycatchers, Pied Wheatear as well as the usual obligate birds like Ruddy Shelduck and Demoiselle Crane. We quickly packed up as we had a mostly travel day and left towards Sangin Dalai Nuur where we had our picnic lunch while watching breeding Asiatic Dowitchers, Marsh Sandpipers and a selection of migrating waders like Pacific Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Temminck’s Stints. From here we made our way to Bayan Lake through a maze of dirt roads arriving in the late afternoon. The reedy edge of the lake held Bearded Tits and Paddyfield Warblers for us and also Eastern Marsh Harriers and Eastern Spot-billed Ducks gave excellent looks. There were and many Swan Geese around too. Later in the evening we heard Baillon’s Crake and Brown-cheeked Rail calling in the reedbed, but they did not seem to be interested to come out. Dating Daurian Hedgehogs and Siberian Jerboas were seen around camp. We had great birding the following morning with Little Grebe and Falcated Duck added to our list. But we enjoyed great looks of White-naped Cranes, singing Oriental Reed and Paddyfield Warblers and Asiatic Dowitchers. From here we drove to Hustai National Park where we tracked down the famous Przevalski’s Horses, seeing about 35 of them and after a long search we flushed Daurian Partridges but they did not want to play. By the end of the day, we ended up by the Tuul River on the southern boundary of the park. Late afternoon produced excellent looks of White-crowned Penduline Tits, several Lesser Kestrels and Amur Falcons, White-cheeked Starlings and migrant Dark-sided and Asian Brown Flycatchers. Our usual evening excursion yielded a Corsac Fox den with 5 cubs, a fantastic Campbell’s Desert Hamster and many Siberian Jerboas.

Next morning, we had similar set of species around camp though a few more Arctic and Dusky Warblers were seen and migrating Cuckoos were obvious too. The best find was a Daurian Pika which took up residency under a huge dead willow tree. From Hustai we drove to a ‘former’ Yellow-breasted Bunting site near Ulaanbaatar but no birds were found. This critically endangered species is slowly going from all known sites and there is very little hope to see it on a regular circuit now unless you luck into a migrant somewhere. Also, the site which still had a pair last year has changed a lot since my last visit in 2018, became much drier and albeit the breeding habitat itself is still there the encroachment of human development is threatening the place. After this disappointing visit we made our way to Terelj National Park. We had a full day to explore this taiga forest habitat and we have visited many excellent habitats for Chinese Bush Warbler which arrives about this time of the year. We have not seen or heard any though, and as we later found out they were not even recorded at the ringing stations until this date – they were obviously late on this cold spring. Birding was exciting however and both Oriental and Common Cuckoos were seen, and we also managed to find a nice Lanceolated Warbler which gave excellent looks. This was also a freshly arrived individual just setting up its territory. But there were other goodies such as Pine and Black-faced Buntings, lovely singing Siberian Rubythroats and Olive-backed Pipits. The brandti race of Eurasian Jay showed well and we got fantastic views of Wryneck, Black Woodpecker and Two-barred Warbler. We returned to Ulaanbaatar after the taiga forest birding where a most welcome hot shower was waiting, and it was somewhat strange to sleep in a bed after all the camping. Our Mongolia tour was a great adventure yet again and it was time to say good-bye to our fantastic team of local drivers (Huyagaa, Altnaa, Lkhagvaa and Byambaa), our kitchen crew (Muugi and Naraa) and of course our local helper and guide Nastaa! They worked hard to give us the best possible experience in their homeland! It was an enjoyable tour with some sightings we will never forget!



1st: Black-billed Capercaillie

2nd: Mongolian or Henderson’s Ground Jay

3rd: Oriental Plover

4th: Saxaul Sparrow

5th: Altai Snowcock







Bar-headed Goose  Anser indicus  Great looks on the breeding grounds as well!

Greylag Goose  Anser anser

Swan Goose ◊  Anser cygnoides  Many excellent sightings at some lakes like Bayan and Boontsagaan. Vulnerable.

Taiga Bean Goose ◊  Anser fabalis  A few were seen at Aygiin Nuur near Gun Galuut. These were the large middendorffii race.

Tundra Bean Goose ◊  Anser serrirostris  One was seen at Aygiin Nuur and one at Boontsagaan Nuur.

Mute Swan ◊  Cygnus olor  Two were seen at Boontsagaan Nuur. Real, wild, category A for purists!

Tundra Swan ◊  Cygnus [columbianus] bewickii  Four were seen at Kholboolj Nuur and 16 at Boontsagaan Nuur.

Whooper Swan  Cygnus cygnus 

Common Shelduck  Tadorna tadorna

Ruddy Shelduck  Tadorna ferruginea

Mandarin Duck  Aix galericulata 

Garganey  Spatula querquedula

Northern Shoveler  Spatula clypeata

Gadwall  Mareca strepera

Falcated Duck  Mareca falcata  Great looks at Bayan Nuur.

Eurasian Wigeon  Mareca penelope

Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Chinese S-b D)  Anas zonorhyncha  Great looks at Bayan Nuur.

Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos

Northern Pintail  Anas acuta

Eurasian Teal  Anas crecca

Red-crested Pochard  Netta rufina

Common Pochard  Aythya ferina  Hundreds were seen. Vulnerable.

Tufted Duck  Aythya fuligula

Stejneger’s Scoter ◊  Melanitta stejnegeri  Unusual high numbers were seen this year with 44 counted at Gun Galuut one day!

Common Goldeneye  Bucephala clangula

Common Merganser (Goosander)  Mergus merganser

Hazel Grouse ◊  Tetrastes bonasia  Fantastic looks of a male and briefly a female of the sibiricus race in forest habitat.

Black-billed Capercaillie ◊  Tetrao urogalloides  Absolutely amazing performance of lekking males, mating females. We could watch them for 3 hours and eventually walked away. Lifetime birding experience! Voted bird of the trip.

Daurian Partridge ◊  Perdix dauurica  A pair was seen briefly in Hustai NP by some.

Altai Snowcock ◊  Tetraogallus altaicus  Amazing looks of a displaying male and a calling pair on our crispy and snowy but windless morning at Khukh Lake. Magical!

Japanese Quail ◊  Coturnix japonica  Two were seen at Gun Galuut.

European Nightjar  Caprimulgus europaeus  Non-leader heard-only at Bayankhongor.

Common Swift  Apus apus

Pacific Swift  Apus pacificus

Great Bustard ◊  Otis tarda  Three were seen at Gun Galuut. This was the dybowskii race. Vulnerable.

Oriental Cuckoo  Cuculus optatus

Common Cuckoo (Eurasian C)  Cuculus canorus

Pallas’s Sandgrouse ◊  Syrrhaptes paradoxus  Many excellent sightings of this iconic species!

Rock Dove (R Pigeon)  Columba livia

Hill Pigeon ◊ (Blue H P)  Columba rupestris  A few sighting on the tour, especially in the south.

Oriental Turtle Dove (Rufous T D)  Streptopelia orientalis

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Brown-cheeked Rail ◊ (Eastern Water R)  Rallus indicus  heard-only

Common Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus

Eurasian Coot (Common C)  Fulica atra

Baillon’s Crake  Zapornia pusilla  heard-only

White-naped Crane ◊  Antigone vipio  Excellent looks at Gun Galuut and Bayan Nuur. Vulnerable.

Demoiselle Crane ◊  Grus virgo  Repeated excellent looks of this graceful species!

Common Crane  Grus grus

Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis  One was seen at Bayan Nuur by some.

Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus

Horned Grebe ◊ (Slavonian G)  Podiceps auritus  Several breeding plumaged birds. Vulnerable.

Black-necked Grebe (Eared G)  Podiceps nigricollis

Black-winged Stilt  Himantopus himantopus

Pied Avocet  Recurvirostra avosetta

Northern Lapwing  Vanellus vanellus

Pacific Golden Plover  Pluvialis fulva

Grey Plover (Black-bellied P)  Pluvialis squatarola

Little Ringed Plover  Charadrius dubius

Kentish Plover  Charadrius alexandrinus

Lesser Sand Plover (Mongolian S P)  Charadrius mongolus  The migrant mongolus race was seen at Gun Galuut and Boontsagaan Nuur.

Greater Sand Plover  Charadrius leschenaultii

Oriental Plover ◊  Charadrius veredus  Definitely one of the top birds of the tour and we had amazing looks of displaying males! Fantastic!

Little Curlew ◊  Numenius minutus  Great looks of this rare bird at Gun Galuut.

Eurasian Whimbrel  Numenius phaeopus

Eurasian Curlew  Numenius arquata

Black-tailed Godwit ◊ (Eastern B-t G)  Limosa [limosa] melanuroides  Good numbers were seen at the various wetlands.

Ruddy Turnstone  Arenaria interpres

Broad-billed Sandpiper ◊  Calidris falcinellus  Up to 55 were counted at Kholboolj Nuur.

Curlew Sandpiper  Calidris ferruginea

Temminck’s Stint  Calidris temminckii

Long-toed Stint  Calidris subminuta

Red-necked Stint  Calidris ruficollis

Sanderling  Calidris alba

Dunlin  Calidris alpina

Little Stint  Calidris minuta

Asian Dowitcher ◊ (Asiatic D)  Limnodromus semipalmatus  Amazing looks of breeding plumaged birds. A total of 28 were logged on the tour.

Swinhoe’s Snipe ◊  Gallinago megala  About seven were seen at Gun Galuut.

Common Snipe  Gallinago gallinago

Common Sandpiper  Actitis hypoleucos

Green Sandpiper  Tringa ochropus

Common Redshank  Tringa totanus

Marsh Sandpiper  Tringa stagnatilis

Wood Sandpiper  Tringa glareola

Spotted Redshank  Tringa erythropus

Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus

Pallas’s Gull (Great Black-headed G)  Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus  Up to 55 were counted at Boontsagaan Nuur.

Common Gull (Common G)  Larus canus

Vega Gull ◊ (Mongolian G)  Larus [vegae] mongolicus  Frequently seen, the usual ‘large’ gull at wetlands.

Gull-billed Tern  Gelochelidon nilotica

Caspian Tern  Hydroprogne caspia

Little Tern  Sternula albifrons

Common Tern  Sterna hirundo

Whiskered Tern  Chlidonias hybrida

White-winged Tern (W-w Black T)  Chlidonias leucopterus

Black Tern  Chlidonias niger

Black-throated Loon (B-t Diver)  Gavia arctica  Non-leader sighting at Khukh Nuur.

Black Stork  Ciconia nigra

Great Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo

Eurasian Spoonbill  Platalea leucorodia

Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea

Great Egret  Ardea alba

Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier)  Gypaetus barbatus  Fantastic bird, fantastic looks at Yolii Am.

Himalayan Vulture (H Griffon V)  Gyps himalayensis

Cinereous Vulture (Eurasian Black V, Monk V)  Aegypius monachus

Booted Eagle  Hieraaetus pennatus

Steppe Eagle  Aquila nipalensis  Many great sightings. Endangered.

Golden Eagle  Aquila chrysaetos

Western Marsh Harrier  Circus aeruginosus

Eastern Marsh Harrier  Circus spilonotus

Black Kite (Black-eared K)  Milvus [migrans] lineatus

Pallas’s Fish Eagle ◊  Haliaeetus leucoryphus  An adult pair gave excellent looks at Boontsagaan Nuur. Endangered.

Upland Buzzard ◊  Buteo hemilasius  Commonly encountered, a highly variable species.

Eastern Buzzard ◊ (Japanese B)  Buteo [japonicus] japonicus  Just a few seen in forest habitat in the north.

Long-legged Buzzard  Buteo rufinus  One was seen in the east.

Ural Owl ◊  Strix uralensis  Great looks of a superb pale individual in forest habitat at night.

Eurasian Hoopoe  Upupa epops

Eurasian Wryneck  Jynx torquilla

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker  Dryobates minor

Great Spotted Woodpecker  Dendrocopos major

Black Woodpecker  Dryocopus martius

Grey-headed Woodpecker  Picus canus

Lesser Kestrel  Falco naumanni

Common Kestrel  Falco tinnunculus

Amur Falcon ◊  Falco amurensis  Just a few seen at the end of the tour in the Ulanbaator area.

Eurasian Hobby  Falco Subbuteo  non-leader

Saker Falcon ◊ (Saker)  Falco cherrug  Several excellent looks of this massive-built falcon. Superb! Endangered.

Peregrine Falcon (Peregrine)  Falco peregrinus

Brown Shrike  Lanius cristatus

Isabelline Shrike  Lanius isabellinus

Great Grey Shrike ◊ (Steppe G S)  Lanius [excubitor] pallidirostris  A breeding pair was seen near Khongorin Els.

Eurasian Jay  Garrulus glandarius  We had great looks of the brandtii race in Terelj NP.

Azure-winged Magpie (Asian A-w M)  Cyanopica cyanus  A party of 8 were seen along the Tuul River. Nominate.

Eurasian Magpie  Pica pica

Mongolian Ground Jay (Henderson’s GJ) ◊  Podoces hendersoni  Fantastic looks of this superb bird!

Red-billed Chough  Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Daurian Jackdaw ◊  Coloeus dauuricus  We had many superb sightings throughout.

Rook ◊ (Oriental R)  Corvus [frugilegus] pastinator  Repeated good looks in steppe habitat.

Carrion Crow ◊ (Oriental C)  Corvus [corone] orientalis  Regularly seen.

Northern Raven (Common R)  Corvus corax

Coal Tit  Periparus ater

Willow Tit  Poecile montanus

Azure Tit ◊  Cyanistes cyanus  This lovely bird was seen several times.

Great Tit  Parus major

White-crowned Penduline Tit ◊  Remiz coronatus  Excellent looks along the Tuul River.

Bearded Reedling (B Tit)  Panurus biarmicus

Eurasian Skylark  Alauda arvensis

Crested Lark  Galerida cristata

Horned Lark ◊ (Shore L, Mongolian H L)  Eremophila [alpestris] brandti  Very common throughout the tour.

Mongolian Short-toed Lark  Calandrella dukhunensis  non-leader sighting

Mongolian Lark ◊  Melanocorypha mongolica  What a fantastic lark species. Many sightings throughout.

Asian Short-toed Lark ◊  Alaudala cheleensis  Common throughout the tour.

Pale Martin ◊  Riparia diluta  Regular sightings.

Sand Martin  Riparia riparia

Eurasian Crag Martin  Ptyonoprogne rupestris

Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica  Both tytleri and gutturalis were regularly seen.

Siberian House Martin ◊  Delichon lagopodum  Regular sightings of this recently split species.

Hume’s Leaf Warbler  Phylloscopus humei

Yellow-browed Warbler  Phylloscopus inornatus

Pallas’s Leaf Warbler  Phylloscopus proregulus

Dusky Warbler  Phylloscopus fuscatus

Common Chiffchaff (Siberian C)  Phylloscopus [collybita] tristis

Two-barred Warbler (T-b Greenish W)  Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus

Arctic Warbler  Phylloscopus borealis

Oriental Reed Warbler  Acrocephalus orientalis

Paddyfield Warbler ◊  Acrocephalus agricola  Singing birds were seen at two locations.

Thick-billed Warbler ◊  Arundinax aedon  One was seen near Bayankhongor and one in Terelj NP.

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler  Helopsaltes certhiola

Lanceolated Warbler  Locustella lanceolata

Lesser Whitethroat  Curruca curruca

Asian Desert Warbler ◊  Curruca nana  Fantastic looks of a pair in desert habitat.

Common Whitethroat  Curruca communis

Eurasian Nuthatch  Sitta europaea  One was seen at Terelj NP, the very pale baicalensis race.

Wallcreeper  Tichodroma muraria

Eurasian Treecreeper (Common T)  Certhia familiaris

White-cheeked Starling ◊  Spodiopsar cineraceus  Great looks along the Tuul River.

White’s Thrush ◊  Zoothera aurea  A migrant was seen well at Yolii Am.

Eye-browed Thrush ◊  Turdus obscurus  Several breeding plumaged birds were seen in a mixed thrush flock along the Tuul River.

Red-throated Thrush ◊  Turdus ruficollis  Many sightings in forest habitat and a few migrants too.

Dusky Thrush ◊  Turdus eunomus  Several breeding plumaged birds were seen in a mixed thrush flock along the Tuul River. Also seen at Gun Galuut and Har Us Nuur.

Naumann’s Thrush ◊  Turdus naumanni  Several breeding plumaged birds were seen in a mixed thrush flock along the Tuul River.

Spotted Flycatcher  Muscicapa striata

Dark-sided Flycatcher  Muscicapa sibirica

Asian Brown Flycatcher  Muscicapa dauurica

Siberian Rubythroat  Calliope calliope

Taiga Flycatcher (Red-throated F)  Ficedula albicilla

Eversmann’s Redstart ◊ (Rufous-backed R)  Phoenicurus erythronotus  Excellent looks at Khukh Nuur.

Black Redstart  Phoenicurus ochruros  A few sightings of the phoenicuroides race.

Daurian Redstart  Phoenicurus auroreus

Güldenstädt’s Redstart ◊ (White-winged R)  Phoenicurus erythrogastrus  Great sightings at Khukh Nuur. Beautiful bird!

Common Rock Thrush (Rufous-tailed R T)  Monticola saxatilis  A few were seen at Khukh Nuur.

White-throated Bush Chat ◊ (Hodgson’s Bushchat)  Saxicola insignis  Definitely a tour highlight to see a flock of 8 birds feeding in steppe habitat in the snow. Vulnerable.

Siberian Stonechat  Saxicola maurus

Northern Wheatear  Oenanthe oenanthe

Isabelline Wheatear  Oenanthe isabellina

Desert Wheatear  Oenanthe deserti

Pied Wheatear  Oenanthe pleschanka

Rock Sparrow (Rock Petronia)  Petronia petronia

White-winged Snowfinch (Eurasian S)  Montifringilla nivalis

Pere David’s Snowfinch ◊  Pyrgilauda davidiana  Regularly encountered in steppe habitat.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow  Passer montanus

Saxaul Sparrow ◊  Passer ammodendri  Two pairs were seen in saxaul forest in the south.

House Sparrow  Passer domesticus

Altai Accentor ◊  Prunella himalayana  Distant views of a flock of 15 birds in the wintry, snowy conditions at Khukh Nuur.

Brown Accentor ◊  Prunella fulvescens  Many great looks in adequate habitat!

Kozlov’s Accentor ◊ (Mongolian A)  Prunella koslowi  Fantastic looks of a singing bird in Yolii Am.

Western Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla flava

Eastern Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla tschutschensis

Citrine Wagtail  Motacilla citreola

Grey Wagtail  Motacilla cinerea

White Wagtail ◊ (Baikal W)  Motacilla [alba] baicalensis  Commonly seen throughout the tour.

White Wagtail ◊ (Siberian W)  Motacilla [alba] ocualris  A single bird was seen by some at Khukh Nuur.

Richard’s Pipit  Anthus richardi

Blyth’s Pipit ◊  Anthus godlewskii  Excellent looks of displaying birds!

Olive-backed Pipit  Anthus hodgsoni

Water Pipit ◊  Anthus spinoletta  A few were seen at Yolii Am and Khukh Nuur. The blakistoni race.

Hawfinch  Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Mongolian Finch ◊ (M Trumpeter F)  Bucanetes mongolicus  Just a few sightings.

Asian Rosy Finch ◊  Leucosticte arctoa  Many individuals but only distant looks at Khukh Nuur.

Common Rosefinch (Scarlet R)  Carpodacus erythrinus  Several encounters on the tour. It was amazing to see a ‘yellow form’ male near Orog Nuur.

Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch ◊  Carpodacus pulcherrimus  Many great looks in Yolii Am.

Siberian Long-tailed Rosefinch  Carpodacus sibiricus  Several encounters with this smart-looking bird.

Twite  Linaria flavirostris

Pine Bunting ◊  Emberiza leucocephalos  A common breeding bird in forest habitat. Many sightings.

Godlewski’s Bunting ◊  Emberiza godlewskii  A pair was seen very well at Yolii Am.

Meadow Bunting ◊  Emberiza cioides  Several pairs were seen in Hustai NP.

Ortolan Bunting  Emberiza hortulana

Little Bunting  Emberiza pusilla

Black-faced Bunting  Emberiza spodocephala

Pallas’s Reed Bunting ◊  Emberiza pallasi  Great looks. Both the nominate and the ‘lydiae’ race were seen well. The latter is sometimes called ‘Mongolian’ Reed Bunting.


Long-eared Hedgehog  Hemiechinus auritus  A total of four were seen in desert habitat.

Daurian Hedgehog  Mesechinus dauuricus  Three were seen in steppe habitat.

Wolf  Canis lupus  A fantastic observation of one individual at Khukh Lake just 30 minutes later as the Wolverine. On the very same slope.

Corsac Fox  Vulpes corsac

Red Fox  Vulpes vulpes

Wolverine ◊  Gulo gulo  An absolutely fantastic observation of one at Khukh Nuur. We could watch it for 15 minutes on a mountain slope.

Wild Horse ◊ (introduced)  Equus [ferus] przewalskii  A total of 35 were counted in Hustai NP.

Siberian Roe Deer  Capreolus pygargus

Wapiti (American Elk)  Cervus canadensis

Siberian Ibex  Capra sibirica

Goitered Gazelle (Black-tailed G)  Gazella subgutturosa

Argali  Ovis ammon

Mongolian Gazelle ◊  Procapra gutturosa  Many sightings in the south.

Mountain Hare  Lepus timidus

Tolai Hare  Lepus tolai

Alpine Pika ◊  Ochotona alpina  Four were seen at Khukh Nuur.

Daurian Pika ◊  Ochotona dauurica  Just one was found in Hustai NP.

Pallas’s Pika (Mongolian)  Ochotona pallasi  Commonly seen at Yolii Am.

Mongolian Marmot  Marmota sibirica

Eurasian Red Squirrel  Sciurus vulgaris

Alashan Ground Squirrel ◊ (A Souslik)  Spermophilus alashanicus  Best looks were at Yolii Am.

Pallid Ground Squirrel ◊ (P Souslik)  Spermophilus pallidicauda  A few were seen. Recently split from S. erythrogenys and now near-endemic to Mongolia.

Long-tailed Ground Squirrel (L-T Souslik)  Urocitellus undulatus

Siberian Jerboa  Allactaga sibirica

Hairy-footed Jerboa ◊ (Hairy-footed J)  Dipus sagitta  A few were seen near Khongorin Els.

Mongolian Mountain Vole  Alticola semicanus

Gobi Altai Mountain Vole ◊  Alticola barakshin  Excellent views at Yolii Am.

Brandt’s Vole  Lasiopodomys brandtii

Campbell’s Desert Hamster ◊  Phodopus campbelli  Three were seen at Har Us Nuur and one at Hustai NP.

Central Midday Jird ◊ (M-d Gerbil)  Meriones meridianus  It was identified three times on the tour.

Mongolian Jird ◊ (M Gerbil)  Meriones unguiculatus  Regularly encountered. Not easy to see the dark claws!


Tuvan Toed-headed Agama  Phrynocephalus versicolor 

Gobi Racerunner  Eremias przewalskii

Multi-ocellated Racerunner  Eremias multiocellata

Mongolian Racerunner  Eremias argus