A few words about the country

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Jetlag: Mongolia is seven hours ahead of the time in France and the Beijing area only six.

Mongolia in the world

Mongolia (in red, our trip by car. We took the plane to go south).

Geography and climate: Mongolia is three times as large as France, with a population of 2.5 million people, among whom 900, 000 live in the capital city, Ulaan Baatar. We visited several areas a few hundred miles around this city, mostly hills where you could find a few trees in elevated places, and also a very small part of the Gobi desert. Mongolia is the most continental country in the world and its climate can be described as follows: a lot of wind in the cold spring, a milder but also wetter summer (except for the Gobi desert where temperatures can reach 35 to 40 °C), a pleasant but very short autumn and a bitter cold winter (temperatures can fall to -40°C). You will therefore need to take warm clothes, lighter and waterproof garments even in summer.

In the Gobi desert

In the Gobi desert (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Driving: There are very few road signs and information about places is often written in the cyrillic alphabet. What is more, many places bear approximately the same names which can be spelt differently. Highway roads are usually bad and dust roads poor. A highway road is what is covered with macadam between craters and potholes. A dust road is what is covered with ground or pebbles between ruts and holes. In towns, signs are used to decorate roads because hardly anyone seems to pay attention to them. The biggest vehicle or sometimes the one that honks loudest has the right of way. The largest vehicle with the loudest horn has the right of way over any other vehicle. In the countryside, you've got to pay heed to cows, horses, sheep, goats and dogs which cross the roads without warning. Yaks and camels which roam farther from the roads are less dangerous. I've been told that the lower octane number fuel oils don't suit just any engine. You'll come across numerous lorries transporting sheepskin and just like many cars, they are often very old and overloaded. Never in any other country have I seen so many punctured tyres, broken wheels or couplings. This bleak image is however lightened by the Mongolians' kindness but it won't be of much help if you are in trouble. Don't think you can make good use of your English to ask directions from the nomads you will meet here and there. To move around, it's safer to have a local driver because he will always manage to find the right road or have the car repaired if need be. This is what our travel agency, Arts et Vie, had done. We had modern 4-wheel drive cars, most of which were of Japanese make. In the Gobi desert, we moved around in antediluvian Soviet UAZ minibuses which were however well suited to the local road conditions because their ground clearance was sufficient to make them jump from rut to the next. Comfort was reduced to a heat pipe which had been partly torn off by repeated bumps and was hanging over the front passenger's feet who never felt this was useful. A jerrycan full of petrol was constantly emitting its fumes in the cab interior, which never made us feel any safer, just like the lack of safety belts.

Yaks (Photo Huguette Rambaud)

Food and drinks: I saw a note reading: "Meat for people, grass for animals". This is a good summary of the Mongolians' food diet, which consists above all of meat. The typical dish is boiled mutton and rice. As tourists, we were offered raw vegetables as a starter, mostly cabbage. As we were afraid of catching traveller's diarrhea, some of us never ate them in the beginning. After a few days, fed up with mutton and rice, we ate everything and only one of us fell ill. We were also offered dessert, which Mongolians usually don't have. Most of the time it was some kind of chocolate cookie or sometimes fruit salad. When we had our meals in the most expensive restaurants, the food was more varied. As for drinks, we had a choice of sodas and Mongolian beers or mineral water. We disinfected tap water with special pills we had brought to that effect.

Dates of the trip: from 10 to 26 July 2006. There were twenty-one of us. Besides the drivers and Clément, the French courier, our local guides Enkhee and then Oyunaa, there was Huguette and François, Marie-Chantal and Marie-Paule, Suzanne and Rosy, Françoise, Patricia, Jean and Nicole, Marie-Claire, Simone, Daniel and Elizabeth, Simone, Marie-Yvonne, Michelle, Claudine, and my wife Danielle. They all had their own personalities but everybody felt as part of a group and no one ever came late, even when we had to get up very early in the morning. Thanks to this attitude, there was a very good atmosphere throughout the trip.  If you want to learn more about Mongolia or visit this country on your own, just have a look at Enkhee's website.  She was one of our local guides. 

Watercolour by Claudine Paccaud

10 July.

Departure for Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.

11 July.

We were to leave Paris for Ulaan Baatar via Berlin but because of some mistake made by an agent of MIAT, the Mongolian air company, we had to pass through Beijing. To cap it all, we left one hour after schedule because a Chinese passenger couldn't find his boarding-ticket.

12 July.

After a 10-hour flight we missed the plane to the Mongolian capital city. Clément, our French courier, got us out of trouble very cleverly and found us a hotel for the night and a bus to visit the city. Quite frankly, I didn't mind because it gave me the opportunity to see China, where I had never been before. What struck me most in Beijing was the moist heat together with the polluted atmosphere.

Mao collars are out now and there were far fewer bikes than cars in the streets. There were worksites everywhere because Beijing is to host the Olympic Game in 2008. We visited the huge and infamous Tian An Men square and Jing Shan Park. This is where I saw my first Azure-Winged Magpies. They are very different from our Black-Billed magpies but just as noisy. A little farther, I recognized an Oriental Turtle-Dove because of its large size.

Various details had shown me there was no kidding authority in China. Law and order is enforced for sure, but I still felt uncomfortable when I saw those air company clerks march to their offices like soldiers. In the evening, a violent thunderstorm broke out and there was a terrible downpour on people who apparently were used to this. The Tian Yi Hotel Clément had managed to find for us was OK and we spent a peaceful night there.

Beijing, along Tian An Men Square (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Beijing, Tian An Men Square (Photo Danielle Joannès)

13 July.

We had to get up at 3.45 a.m. to go to the airport but nobody grumbled in the group. Altankhuyag Dugarai, a Mongolian ballet dancer working with Roland Petit, who had found himself in the same situation as ours had joined our group and signed many autographs in the plane. We landed in Ulaan Baatar two and a quarter hours later and I twitched my first Fork-tailed Swifts in the bleak suburbs of the city. We made the acquaintance of Enkhee, our local guide, with whom we were to travel for part of the trip. I spotted my first Black-eared Kite from Bayangol Hotel whose architecture is a clear reminder of the times of the Soviets but whose comfort is up to the standards of the western traveller. We also tried to get used to the tugrit, the local currency and this is how I noticed the banknotes smelt strongly.

Traditional costumes (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We then went to the Naadam festival. This celebration takes place in memory of 11 July 1921 when Soukhe Bator gave power to his people. It perpetuates games which date back to the times of Ginghis Khan: horse races, archery and wrestling. We had to sit on concrete steps, in the blistering heat, huddled one against the other, far from the VIPs but right in the middle of the common people and we thus felt in our flesh what this ceremony means for Mongolians. My neighbours were shouting their heads off whenever one of the wrestlers seemed to have the slightest possibility of disrupting his opponent's balance, and when this did happen, they whistled and applauded like mad. The winner performed some kind of eagle dance and the head of ceremonies chanted his praises in a language that was totally incomprehensible to us. He then went up the stairs to the stands in an unbelievable noise and waved to the crowd, triggering even more applause.

Mongolian wrestlers (Photo Huguette Rambaud)

In the meantime, other winners were doing a lap of honour wearing their traditional costumes and carrying presents. I will remember for ever when people sang Haluun elgen nutag, (My lovely country). It was really something and I had goose pimples all over my body.

Lap of honour at the Naadam (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We then left the stadium and went to Ulaan Baatar. In the main square of this city, one of us was unfortunately robbed of her credit card and all the money she had. We felt we had to be even more on our guard.

14 July.

Our 4-wheel drive vehicles were standing in line in front of the hotel when we met Sukhee, our driver, who was to take us to the Darhan area with Enkhee, our local guide. While travelling there, I spotted my first Isabelline Wheatears, domestic Camels and Yaks. The road stretched in the middle of hills covered with short grass, sometimes passing along dreary villages where long concrete buildings had been built next to wooden shacks surrounded by boardings. We were a bit surprised the first time our drivers stopped near an Ovoo. This is a praying place where people throw stones on the ground. In the long run, this makes a pretty tall heap that you must go round clockwise. Sometime it is adorned with a blue praying scarf.

A little farther away, a Saker Falcon and a Cinereous Vulture were flying above the steppe while a Demoiselle Crane was feeding quietly along the road. In the steppe, a few Long-tailed Sousliks were standing upright near their burrows. During a pause near a river, I twitched my first Chestnut-eared Bunting. After several hours spent on ploughed dust roads we stopped in the Baruunbüren area, 250 km west of Ulaan Baatar.

Demoiselle Cranes (Photo by Marie-Yvonne Ciaravola)

The white yurts were showing distinctly on the green meadows in the middle of the rocky hills and they were much more comfortable than I had imagined. There were real beds, with bed bases that could have been better though and smelly blankets. There was even a light bulb, a few armchairs, a small table and a stove with a long pipe. If you want to prevent the rain from coming in, you have to remove it and then slip the felt cover over the roof with the help of a rope. The public toilets and showers were only a short distance away. A few tame Siberian Pikas were feeding around the yurts and took shelter under them at the slightest emergency. Danielle and I took a walk to the nearby rocky terrain where I saw Desert and Pied Wheatears, Horned Larks and even a frog which I had no time to identify because the rain started to fall. As midges were pestering us in spite of the bandanas covering our faces, this was enough to make us return to the camp.

15 July.

At the camp, we met a group of French people preparing a Paris-Beijing rally in those famous French 2 CV cars. It is not the same type of trip we are making but we still exchanged a few ideas about the country. We then left the camp to visit a monastery in Amarbayasgalant. It was built in the 18th century by the Mandchu Emperor to host the relics of Zanabazar, an important religious dignitary and great artist. You could walk about freely in the buildings and the monks, who apparently are used to seeing tourists, didn't seem to bother and readily accepted being photographed. The temples are beautifully decorated and very picturesque, just like the prayer wheels, ovoos and other liturgical objects.

One of the temples at Amarbayasgalant (Photo Danielle Joannès)

I was happy to have an opportunity to watch birds without having to hurry up. Daurian Jackdaws, Red-billed Choughs and Fork-tailed Swifts were flying and making a lot of noise between and even on the temples. Long-tailed Sousliks were running as fast as their little paws could carry them between the pagodas but not fast enough for one of them which was caught and eaten straight away by a stray dog. When I left the temple, I spotted a beautiful Steppe Eagle flying slowly over the site.

Long-tailed Souslik (Photo Nicole or Jean Mendoza)

Stupa and ovoo

Stupa and ovoo (Photo Danielle Joannès)

A little distance from there, horses were drinking in the river and all of them were constantly nodding their heads. I noticed this behaviour several times during our stay there and I still don't know why they behaved liked this.

A sense of freedom (Photo Rosy Grillo)

We left this idyllic place to have a look at a line of stupas that our guides watched with as much interest and much more devotion than we. From what I remember, a stupa contains one of Buddha's relics, which is not the case for an ovoo, of course.

Stupas (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Back at the yurt camp, I took a little stroll in the middle of numerous edelweiss where I also found a magnificient Turk's-cap Lily.

Turk's-cap Lily (Photo Danielle Joannès)

The steppe had a nice smell of wild flowers and everywhere some kinds of Blue and Red-winged Grasshoppers took off in large numbers in all directions, together with crickets. In spite of all this potential food, I didn't find many birds. In the evening, after an icy shower, we went to see goat breeders. They had us taste their cheeses (I hate all kinds of dairy products), told us about their way of life and in exchange, we gave them a few presents we had brought along with us just to that effect. It was daylight till 22.30 which enabled us to make the most of such busy days.

A big grasshopper (Photo Nicole or Jean Mendoza)

The same grasshopper (Photo Nicole or Jean Mendoza)

16 July.

After we had spent a peaceful night under the yurt it started drizzling while we drove back to Ulaan Baatar. On the way, I observed several Mongolian Larks which were easy to make out because of their huge white patch on their wings. We were now better acquainted with Enkhee and Soukhee and regretted all the more they could not speak French because the rest of the group had no real contact with them.


Our convoy (Photo Danielle Joannès)

17 July.

On that day, we had planned to visit the monastery of Gandantegchinlin, in the suburbs of Ulaan Baatar. The temples are really worth seeing even though we were fed up being fleeced officially if we wanted to take photos. In one of them there was a huge statue of Buddah, some 20 m high surrounded with a lot of tourists and pilgrims. After the visit, our driver got lost in the countryside, trying to find a yurt camp where we were supposed to have lunch. The dust road was indeed not made for a bus but he still managed to get us there even if we had to walk the last few hundred yards or so because there was an impassable gully in the way. We saw a few YAKS, as usual in the mountains. Some of them were black, others white, grey or brown, all very pleasant to look at. I was surprised to see how thin they were when seen face on. After lunch, we went to Mandchir (or Manzuchir) to see another monastery beautifully located at the foot of a mountain. Unfortunately, we had to pay for the photos once more, even to take pictures of the countryside. It's not worth visiting the small natural history museum you can find there and the stuffed animals are a poor sight indeed. Fortunately, there were also live birds around. I spotted two nice Eurasian Hoopoes feeding in the ruins of a temple and a Booted Eagle in the light morph, pestered by a Black-eared Kite. I had more trouble identifying a Scarlet Rosefinch perched into the light at the top of a tree but the Daurian Redstart I saw a few minutes later was easier to determine.

Black-eared Kite (Photo Huguette Rambaud)

Mandchir (Photo Danielle Joannès)

On the way back, I saw several Cinereous Vultures and also a nice Amur Falcon. Once we had reached Ulaan Baatar it started to rain, which was not a real problem but the hitch was it had also rained a lot on the Gobi desert where we were supposed to go the following day. The runway was not practicable and no plane could either take off or land. This meant we would probably have to be patient, which is not really one of my strong points.

18 July.

We spent the whole day at the airport because the dust runway was still impracticable. Not to waste time, Clément gave us a lecture on Buddhism that we would put to good use during the cultural visits that were to take place later on. We finally took off late in the afternoon in a Fokker 50 which landed safely on the only runway of Bulagtai airport, near Dalanzadgad, about 600 km south of Ulaan Baatar. The yurt camp of Juulchin Gobi 1 where we were accommodated is just outside the airport but as there are no planes at night we didn't bother and thought we would not have to walk far to leave this area. The yurts smelt strongly of sheep because the felt was wet but you get used to everything. We didn't stay there too long and boarded old UAZ minivans of the Soviet era to go and find a camel breeder who would accept us in his yurt. The trip was really something and we soon asked ourselves whether we would first break down or tip over, or vice-versa. Yet, these old timers took us everywhere, fuming, spitting, spluttering and jolting but without a hitch, if you don't take into account a few violent bumps which were the results of our drivers' handling them as if they were sports cars. Visiting the yurt was worth it and we learnt a lot about the nomads' way of life. I saw a few other Isabelline Wheatears, and several Toad-headed Lizards which were difficult to spot because their skin was the colour of the sand. There was just a small orange patch to brighten the chest sides of those nice little big-headed dragons.


Camels in the Gobi desert (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Where the camel breeders live (Photo Rosy Grillo)

19 July.

I was really looking forward to going to the Yol Valley (Yoliin Am), in the Gurvansaikhan national park. This place is famous for its vultures and I was pretty sure to see a lot of them.

Towards Yoliin Am (Photo Gérard Joannès)

Because we had arrived too late, our schedule had been modified and we visited the valley in the morning instead of the afternoon. But every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, and we arrived just when thermals were starting to rise and I saw, at the same time, two adult Lammergeiers and an immature bird, an Imperial Eagle, a Red-footed Falcon, Griffon Vultures, a Cinereous Vulture and later on, a Golden Eagle. Everybody had their eyes turned to the sky, even those who were not interested in birdwatching.

Lammergeier (Photo Huguette Rambaud)

What a fantastic place! The vale became narrower and narrower till it turned into a canyon which was blocked by a névé under which the supplest of us crawled, their heads hitting the ceiling and their bottoms in the water. There were Siberian Pikas and marmots everywhere, a lot of food for any raptor. Apart from these birds, I also saw Horned Larks, a Brown Accentor, Twites and Snow Finches not to mention birds which I now found commoner like Fork-tailed Swifts.

I was sorry to leave this place but there was more to see in this desert. After rocky mountains came a vast and just as arid plain. It seemed empty but this is just where we saw a few White-tailed Gazelles dart off as fast as they could. Several times we thought we had seen lakes but they were only mirages due to the heat. We had lunch in the middle of nowhere and the flatness of the land was disrupted only by the Altaï mountains in the distance.

We then drove to the Moltsog Els sand dunes. Those of us who had expected to see a bit of the Sahara were somewhat disappointed but the most beautiful dunes of the Gobi desert were too far north for us to go there.

The dunes of Moltsog Els (Photo Danielle Joannès)

There were nevertheless a few camels for the tourists and also those lizards we had seen before but we moved on. We had to go and see a saxaul forest. This tree has roots 20 m long with which it can pump up the water deep in the sand. I tried to find the famous Saxaul Sparrow but in vain. I did find a Brown Shrike though, which came to me as a surprise because this species was not mentioned in my guide book as living in Mongolia. Our drivers felt like going home and drove like mad. I had to intervene and told ours to slow down, which he didn't seem to appreciate. He grudgingly slowed down a wee little bit for less than five minutes. When we arrived at the camp, we had our noses full of the smell of gasoline, our ears were buzzing with the noise of engines and our joints were stiff but we still managed to get out of those weird UAZs and prayed we would not have rice and mutton again for dinner. In the evening, before taking a shower, I spotted a flight of 7 or 8 Red-footed Falcons catching insects. I knew we were to get up early on the following day so I had a last look at the beautiful Milky Way and crawled into my yurt which smelt a little less of sheep because the felt had dried.

20 July.

We got up at 5 a.m. to check-in and not miss our plane. It was the first time I had gone to the airport on foot! Just before leaving, I saw another family of Brown shrikes which seems to prove my observation in the desert was not so surprising. When the plane came, we had to hurry up because the air company wanted to catch up for lost time and we boarded just anyhow. Still, everything was all right and we were back in the Mongolian capital a few hours later. We visited the natural history museum where you can find a few stuffed animals which were only interesting in so far as we could see from a short distance what we had already seen from afar. We then went to have lunch at the Mongolian Barbequeue (sic) where you can have a good time grilling whatever you like on huge metal cooking plates. We appreciated the change of food and the atmosphere. After lunch, we went to the splendid Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts where you can see magnificient "appliqué" tapestries. There were also other marvels like costumes, masks and works of art made of silk, coral and precious metals. On top of that, a group of musicians treated us to a small private concert which we enjoyed all the more as it was totally unexpected.

21 July.

We drove away on a trip of more than 350 km west of Ulaan Baatar, which meant being jolted about for over 8 hours. Near a waste dump, I saw about fifty Black-eared Kites, two Imperial Eagles and numerous Common Ravens. A little farther, we spotted several Demoiselle Cranes and Cinereous Vulture in a meadow. It was a long road to drive and we had to keep an eye on our drivers who were prone to falling asleep. It was difficult to keep them awake because of the language barrier. In the evening, we reached the yurt camp of Khoyor Zaga in the region of Bayan Gobi / Arvaïeh. There are beautiful rocky areas around where horses roam freely. I saw more vultures in the sky without being able to identify them and, on the ground, a male Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush. We then went to the monastery of Ovgont which had been destroyed by the Soviets and was reconstructed by the Mongolians in 1992. The wind rose in the evening but it never prevented us from having a good night.

Mongolian horsemen (Photo Danielle Joannès)

22 July.

It had rained all night and in the morning, we learnt tha some of us had been pricked by a few unwelcome insects which had made themselves at home in the yurts, even in the beds. As far as we were concerned, we had nothing to complain about. Maybe this was due to the presence of a large toad we had found under the floor covering and which probably ate them all. We left the camp heading for Karakorum, the ancient Mongolian capital city. In the meantime, I had seen an Upland Buzzard, the only one I had been able to determine with certainty. We then reached the monastery of Erdene Zu, which is a huge square, 400 m on each side, surrounded with a wall connecting not less than 108 stupas. Of course, we visited several temples inside and then moved on to the picturesque local market of Karakorum. Back at the camp, I observed yet another Saker Falcon and an Imperial Eagle. I thought this country really deserved another visit, focused on birdwatching. In the evening, we called on camel and goat breeders and I had my first cup of airag. This beverage is made of fermented mare's milk and I found it was very acid. It was a lifetime experience for me and Danielle had hers when she learnt how to milk goats. She will no doubt remember it for ever.

The monastery of Erdene Zu (Photo Danielle Joannès)

23 July.

It had rained all the night before and the small insects of the yurts had concentrated their attacks on the victims they had chosen the previous days probably because they were more appetizing than we. Before leaving, I noticed that one of the cars had a flat tyre. The drivers stoically changed the wheel very quickly under the pouring rain and we went away in no time. The paved road was so bad that even lorry drivers took the dust road. As it had been flooded, the overloaded trailers could no longer be controlled and some of them broke their attachments. We had a better idea of what the Paris - Dakar rally must be like, all the more so as some drivers, ours in particular, seemed to have a lot of fun, without taking too many risks however. We made a short pause to take photos of a herd of about a hundred camels. Late in the evening, we were back in Ulaan Baatar to go and visit the market. Hardly had we gone in when one of us had some difficulties pushing back a man who wanted to steal his handycam. Another member of the group felt that someone was searching her pockets while another caught somebody attempting to open her bag. We tried to stick together to visit this huge bazaar where you can find just anything from clothes, food, material to set up yurts and even solar panels. After this short visit, we attended a beautiful show with dances and songs in a theatre in town. I was struck by the beauty of the costumes and deeply impressed by the contortionists who took positions I had never thought would be possible because they were so trying for the bones and joints. Still, I thought of the dreadful consequences this intensive training must have on these young girls. What I liked most was those "khomi" songs which we had already heard at the Zanabazar Museum in Ulaan Baatar a few days before and which are sung with the lower part of the larynx. The sounds we heard seemed to have been made by musical instruments more than by the human voice. What I liked least was the outrageous price we were charged if we wanted to take photos or shoot films. I made it a point not to pay the $25 they asked and chose not to have any material evidence of this beautiful show. In the evening, we went to a superstore to buy a few souvenirs but we were disappointed. The most beautiful things can be found in museums or yurts near touristic sites.

Black-eared Kite (Photo Nicole or Jean Mendoza)

24 July.

We left the capital city to go to Terelj natural park and saw a few species we had seen before: Daurian Jackdaw, Hill Pigeon and Brown Shrike. This park must be worth a visit if you go beyond the entrance where you will find a holiday camp. I was lucky enough to twitch a Pine Bunting near a small conifer wood. A little farther, in the middle of a carpet of edelweiss, I disturbed a snake without being able to determine it accurately.

Edelweiss (Photo Huguette Rambaud)

After we had had lunch under a yurt, we went to the Mongolia hotel where we attended a mini Naadam. It was ideal to take photos because we were very close to the participants and we didn't have anything to pay for it, but the atmosphere was nothing like that of a real Naadam. Before going back to the hotel, I took a stroll in a park of the city, hoping to see new bird species but except for a few Tree Sparrows and Rooks, I didn't see anything worthwhile.

Opening of the Naadam (Photo Danielle Joannès)

A masked dancer at the Naadam (Photo Danielle Joannès)

25 July.

We went to visit the "Green Palace" (Nogoon Örgöö), which is also known as the "Winter Palace". It is located in the suburbs of Ulaan Baatar and I remember it with much pleasure except for the way we were being watched and asked if we had paid for the right to take photos. We quickly bought a few souvenirs in the shop there because we were to take the plane in the evening, heading for Beijing where we arrived as night was falling. When we tasted the Chinese cuisine at the hotel, we felt that Mongolia was already a thing of the past.

26 July.

We had decided to get up at 5.30 a.m. so as not to miss our plane to Paris where we arrived 10 hours later in the scorching heat. After 25 hours without sleeping, we were back home.


The list follows the order of "A Field Guide to the Birds of China" by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillips published by Oxford University Press.

01 Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops A couple at Mandchir and another bird in the middle of the steppe.
02 Common Swift Apus apus A few birds. Less common than the FORK-TAILED SWIFT.
03 Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus Common everywhere.
04 Rock Dove Columba livia Feral.
05 Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris In the mountains.
06 Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis One in a Park in Beijing.
07 Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo

Very easy to see west of Ulaan Baatar.

08 Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos 2 birds, one of which in a pool created by a heavy rainfall in the Gobi desert.
09 Common Tern Sterna hirundo A few birds.
10 Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus Seen everyday.
11 Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus 2 adults and one immature in Yoliin Am.
12 Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus Several.
13 Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus Common.
14 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo A few. Many other buzzards I couldn't determine.
15 Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus A few.
16 Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius One bird I was able to determine during a pause along the roadside.
17 Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis Some. Observation conditions were not always excellent and I must have missed several of them.
18 Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca Pretty rare.
19 Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos One bird in Yoliin Am.
20 Booted Eagle Hieraetus pennatus One bird in the pale morph at Mandchir.
21 Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common.
22 Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus A few, among which a group of 7 or 8 birds looking for insects at dusk in the Gobi desert.
23 Amur Falcon Falco amurensis One bird seen flying during a pause along the roadside.
24 Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Several.
25 Saker Falcon Falco cherrug Rare.
26 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2 or 3 birds. We didn't go to the right places to see it.
27 Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus In the Gobi desert and Terelj park. This bird was not mentioned as present in Mongolia in my guide book.
28 Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus In Beijing. Several in a park and along the roads.
29 Common Magpie Pica pica Frequent.
30 Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Usually observed in small groups in various places.
31 Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauricus In temples, especially at higher elevations.
32 Rook Corvus frugilegus A few in a park in Ulaan Baatar.
33 Carrion Crow Corvus corone Pretty common.
34 Common Raven Corvus corax Very common.
35 Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush Monticola saxatilis One bird in a rocky area near Evgont.
36 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros A few birds.
37 Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus One bird at Mandchir.
38 Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Common.
39 Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka A few in rocky areas at average altitudes.
40 Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti Some.
41 Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina Common.
42 Great Tit Parus major One bird only, seen for a few seconds at Evgont.
43 Willow Tit Parus montanus One bird heard at Mandchir.
44 Sand Martin Riparia riparia Some.
45 Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris Pretty common in the mountains.
46 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common. Red-bellied race.
47 House Martin Delichon urbicum Some.
48 Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica Several west of Ulaan Baatar. The white patch on the wing is striking.
49 Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Pretty rare.
50 Skylark Alauda arvensis Some.
51 Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris A few, at higher elevations.

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus Some.
53 Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Much more common than the previous species.
54 Snow Finch Montifringilla nivalis Some in Yoliin Am.
55 Small Snowfinch Montifringilla davidiana A small group near the 3rd yurt camp.
56 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea A couple at Mandchir.
57 White Wagtail Motacilla alba Some.
58 Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis A few birds.
59 Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens One bird feeding along a rivulet in Yoliin Am.
60 Twite Carduelis flavirostris Some in Yoliin Am.
61 Scarlet Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus In mountainous areas. Not always easy to determine because if you are not familiar with the similar species in Mongolia.
62 Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos 2 or 3 birds seen at Terelj.
63 Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata A male singing near a river.
64 Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus One bird only.

A herd of yaks (Photo Danielle Joannès)


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