Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Birding in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Well, the Gobi desert is not on the Birders Hotspot but if you are headed that way then here is what you could keep a birding eye for! Henderson's Ground Jay or Mongolian Ground Jay (Podoces hendersonii). Podoces is the genus for specialized high-altitudes ground jays with four species found across Central Asia. This bird is endemic to the deserts of Northern China and Southern Mongolia.

Henderson's Ground Jay or Mongolian Ground Jay
I saw this individual carrying camel dung. I dont know where it was carrying it but this was autumn and I could not stop thinking that this was part of its winter survival strategy. Some interesting hypotheses to examine here!

The other interesting bird to look for in the Gobi is the Mongolian Accentor (Prunella koslowi). This is a near endemic with perhaps only one population in China. This was the bird that I was after during my recent trip to the Gobi in April 2015. I could not read enough about this bird so I didn't know what habitats to search so I cast my net wide and kept a keen eye on every dull brown bird. I was luck and by the 4th day in the trip, we were walking through a narrow canyon which was rocky with mountain steppe vegetation. A Mongolian accentor sat on a rock in a typical accentor behaviour.

Typical habitat in the South Gobi region of Mongolia
Another interesting bird to see here is the Pallas's Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus) Not that this is a rare bird or anything but what is really stunning is the sheer numbers that one gets to see in one evening. I have seen over thousands in just a few hours in the evening. April 2015, I as also luck to see a Little Owl (Athene noctua), again, not a rare bird but surely a difficult to see bird.

The other birds that I saw in a two week trip in April 2015 were: Rock sparrow (Petronia petronia), Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka), Desert wheatear (O. desertii), Isabelline wheatear (O. isabellina), Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis), Chukar partidge (Alectoris chukar)

All my lists from South Gobi can be found on eBird.org here.

Chukar partridge