Mongolia birding tour

Asia/Mongolia

Wilderness in the heart of Asia

Terelj & Hustai NP, Ugii Lake, Gobi Desert, Gobi Altai Mountains, 13 days/12 nights ground trip

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts are more and more keen to explore the land of endless blue skies, the country of the spectacular Gobi Desert, the Altai Mountains and the unique Asian steppes in search of the many species that characterize the area, some of them very difficult to see elsewhere.
Our itinerary combines some of the best areas for birds and for other wildlife, especially mammals, yet it is a compact and well balanced holiday.

The basic tour includes 12 nights in Mongolia with the possibility of adding 3-4 nights for additional species and some time in the developing capital city Ulanbaatar.

During the tour we visit steppe lakes, mountain taiga forests, subalpine, and alpine regions, rocky slopes, river valleys, stone and sand desert. Very varied habitats thus a great variety of birds.

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"Mongolia’s abundant wildlife is diverse and accessible…"
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Facts

Highlights

Accommodation

2 nights Gun Galuut Nature Reserve (hotel or ger camp)
2 nights Terelj NP (ger camp)
2 nights Dalanzadgad
2 nights at Khongoryn Els, Gobi Desert (ger camp)
1 nights Dalanzadgad (ger camp)
2 nights in Hustai NP (ger camp; limited ensuite room available for surcharge)

Departure Dates

Ground tour: June

Price

for 13 birding days Ask for the actual price

Optional extensions

3-4 days in Terelj National Park

Itinerary

1

Arrival to Ulanbataar - local birding. Depending on the time we arrive, we might plan an easy walk in the outskirts of the city, where we’ll encounter some of the typical birds of this region such as Daurian Jackdaw, Pacific Swift, Red-billed Chough and Black-eared Kite.

2-3

After breakfast we leave the capital and drive southeast to the wonderful Gun Galuut Nature Reserve, 80 miles from Ulanbaatar. This area offers both mountainous and steppe habitats plus some excellent lakes home to a good mixture of exciting birds including Mongolian Gull, Whooper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Black-throated Diver, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Pacific Golden Plover and White-winged (Stejneger’s) Scoter. Previous visits to the lakes produced rare migrants such as Asian Dowitcher, Red-necked Stint, Grey-headed Lapwing and Baikal Teal. The wet meadows are home to at least one pair of the beautiful White-naped Crane. The surrounding rocky slopes harbour good numbers of Argali Sheep, the world’s largest sheep. We spend two days discovering the magnificent wildlife of Gun Galuut.

4-5

We move northwest (but still east of Ulanbataar) to Terelj National Park where we will stay 2 nights. We will have an eventful journey with Mongolian Lark as a common roadside bird, hunting Steppe Eagles, Amur and Saker Falcons. Terelj is an area of taiga forest, typified by larch woodlands, small streams and wet meadows. The forest edge is home to sought-after Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky and Two-barred Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Taiga and Dark-sided Flycatcher. The fast flowing river produced Mandarin Duck, but Daurian Jackdaw, Japanese Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Rock Thrush, Lammergeier, Black-faced, Pine and with luck Yellow-breasted Bunting are more commonly encountered. Pied and Isabelline Wheatear, Daurian Redstart, Oriental Cuckoo, Common Rosefinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Olive backed Pipit are all found in the riverine forest. Handsome Long-tailed Sousliks are numerous on the grassy slopes.

6-7

We drive back to Ulanbaatar to take a flight south, to the city of Dalanzadgad in the southern Gobi Desert region of the country. From here we start exploring the famous Gobi Desert and the eastern stretch of the wonderful Altai Mountains. We immedtiately set off to visit the famous Yolin Am of the Altai Mountains. The dramatic gorge is well worth a visit for strikingly different habitats and birds plus breathtakingly nice landscapes. A small stream at the bottom of the gorge attracts many birds including Mongolian Finch, White-winged Snowfinch, Black Redstart, Common and Beautiful Rosefinch, Wallcreeper, Twite, Kozlov’s and Brown Accentor. Lammergeier and Himalayan Griffon often soars above us while we look for Ibex and scarce Argali on the cliff tops. At the bottom of the valley Tarbagan Marmots and Daurian Picas are almost everywhere and easy to observe. On our way back to the ger camp we start to explore the edge of the seemingly infinite rocky desert searching for Oriental Plover. In the coming days we have good chance to spot this handsome bird or spot its stiff winged display flight from the distance. Shore Lark, Asian short-toed Lark, Desert Wheatear inhabit the desert, but the most exciting is searching the various small plantations and gardens for migrating and vagrant birds. These green sites are magnets for migrating birds and we have found many unusual species here during previous visits. Literally every bush might hold something exciting. Hawfinch, Golden Oriole, Black Drongo, Daurian Starling, Chinese Grosbeak, Pallas’s Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky Thrush, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler are all possible on migration, while Steppe Grey and Isabelline Shrike both prey on the migrants.

8-9

A scenic drive takes us to the biggest sand dunes of Mongolia called Khongoryn Els, where in the middle of nowhere we will spend two nights in a very comfortable ger camp. The landscape surrounding us is breathtaking with endless semi desert, sand dunes, the mighty ridges of the Altai and near to our ger camp an oazis with a stream and saxaul forest along the stream. We look out for Lammergeier, Black Vulture, Oriental and Greater Sand Plover, Saker Falcon, Upland Buzzard, Hill Pigeon and Black-tailed Gazelle. Nights are also very exciting in the desert. With a little trick we can have very close encounters with some of the most uniquely looking mammals of the area, the Jerboas. Several species inhabit the rocky terrain and we have good chances to see at least two species just outside of our ger camp. Next morning we take a short drive to the nearby oasis to witness how Pallas’s Sandgrouse arrive to drink flock after flock, their distinctive calls heard from every direction. Mongolian Finches also arrive to drink in small flocks as do migrating birds attracted to the water. Long-tailed Sousliks and White-tailed Gazelles are some of the mammalian highlights here. The nearby saxaul forest is the breeding site of the rare Saxaul Sparrow. Desert Warbler and Steppe Grey Shrike also breed here and bushes might hold migrating birds. Henderson’s Ground Jay inhabits rocky slopes dotted with small cargana bushes and it will not take long before we find one running quickly on the ground or perched atop a small bush hunting for lizards and insects.

10

We travel back to Dalanzadgad birding along the way. We will pause at any suitably green spots to look for migrants. While crossing the lower reaches of the Altai Mountains we will search for breeding birds such as Chukar, Rock Thrush, Godlewski’s and Grey-necked Bunting.

11-12

After flying back to Ulanbataar we move westwards to the famous Hustai National Park, 2 hours to the west. We'll doubtless make several roadside stops along the way for Upland Buzzard, Steppe Eagle or Amur Falcon overhead, or to enjoy Mongolian and Asian Short-toed Larks. Upon arrival to our comfortable ger camp we can have some refreshing cold or hot drinks before a short birding walk. The landscape is beautiful with a good variety of wild flowers and butterflies. Amur Falcons are nesting here, Black Vultures are permanently seen circling above us, while Alpine Marmots are on the watch for Golden and Steppe Eagles that regularly hunt in the area. Shore Larks are common, but such tipically steppe birds as Saker or Great Bustard are also possible. We will try to silently approach the area in hope of being able to spot one or more members of the local Wolf pack. The nicely looking Przewalski Horse or Thaki has been extinct since the late 1960s, but being succesfully reintroduced they now have a solid population in the park. Meadow Bunting, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears are common here, just as Daurian Partridge but seeing the latter can be a case of luck. The Tuul River walley might provide chances to see Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers, Daurian Redstart, Red-throated and Dusky Thrushes. At the large freshwater Bayan Nuur Lake we have chances to see Swan Goose, Bar-headed Goose, White-naped, Demoiselle and Common Cranes, the distinctive longipennis race of Common Tern, Mongolian Gull and many other more common water birds. We have a chance of finding the rare Relict Gull, which breeds sporadically in Mongolia. Eastern Marsh Harriers nest here and Steppe Eagle, Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon and other birds of prey come to the lake to drink. We will take a scenic walk around Bayan Nuur Lake to find breeding Pallas’s Grasshopper, Paddyfield and Oriental Reed Warblers, Citrine, White and Yellow Wagtails as well as Marsh Sandpiper, Redshank, Whooper Swan and Bearded Tit.

13

We have a 2-3 hour drive back to Ulanbaatar where the tour ends.

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