The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 4: The Birds Of Boon Tsagaan Nuur And Art In The Field

Our campsite near the shore of Boon Tsagaan Nuur
Our campsite near the shore of Boon Tsagaan Nuur; the dark square to the left is our toilet enclosure

My last post about the Expedition, which you can read here was about the leg of our journey that took us to the Gobi lake, Boon Tsagaan Nuur. Today’s post is an album of the birds we saw and that I photographed. We also had time to get our paints out and do some location work.

There isn’t a good standard bird guide yet for Mongolia, although one is being prepared, so I sent a batch of photos to Axel Braunlich, who is probably the leading expert on birds in Mongolia. He was kind enough to take the time to identify them for me. If you are interested in birds, and Mongolia is one of the world’s hotspots for birding with 427 species (you can find a list here), I highly recommend Axel’s blog “Birding Mongolia”.

All of these species, except the bar-headed geese, which I had seen on the Tuul Gol (river) near Hustai National Park in early May of 2005 on my very first trip, and ruddy shelducks, were new to me.

As we arrived within sight of the lakeshore, we spotted bar-headed geese
As we arrived within sight of the lakeshore, we spotted bar-headed geese
These geese are famous for their migration route...over the Himalayas at altitudes approaching 30,000 ft, the same as an airliner.
These geese are famous for their migration route…over the Himalayas at altitudes approaching 30,000 ft, the same as an airliner. One can imagine them landing on Mt. Everest (28,000+ feet) and waving as a plane flies over.
Once down on the lakeshore we saw, at a tantalizing distance this large group of birds on a sand bar
Once down on the lakeshore we saw, at a tantalizing distance, this large group of birds on a sand bar. Unfortunately the ground between them and us was ultimately too soft and there were also flood-fed streams. Sharon and Odna did their best, but finally had to turn back. I was able to make out great cormorants, eurasian spoonbills, gulls and terns, plus some ruddy shelducks in the water. Yesterday, as I looked over my photos to make my choices for this post, I saw that there were at least sixteen grey herons out there also.
Wild greylag geese flew by at one point.
Wild greylag geese flew by at one point.
There was also a long-legged buzzard.
There was also a long-legged buzzard.

It was interesting and a little odd, since I live on the north coast of California, to see shorebirds in the middle of the Gobi.

Long-toed stint
Long-toed stint
Common sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Little-ringed plover
Little-ringed plover
Kentish plover
Kentish plover
Curlew sandpipers, juveniles
Curlew sandpipers, juveniles
Mongolian gull
Mongolian gull
Black-headed gull, juvenile
Black-headed gull, juvenile
Common tern
Common tern; adult and juvenile (who was begging for food to no avail)
White or eurasian spoonbills
White or eurasian spoonbills
Pied avocets
Pied avocets
Ruddy shelducks
Ruddy shelducks
Common shelducks
Common shelducks

We didn’t just birdwatch, but got out our painting and camera gear.

Magvadorj and Tugsoyun taking advantage of the afternoon light
Magvadorj and Tugsoyun taking advantage of the afternoon light
Little did I know until he was done that Magvandorj was doing a painting of me painting.
Little did I know until he was done that Magvandorj was doing a painting of me painting.
Tugsouyn's expressive interpretation of the scene
Tugsouyn’s expressive interpretation of the scene
Sharon and Odna enjoy the sunset
Sharon and Odna took a stroll down to the lake to enjoy the sunset
The next morning, which was, shall we say, a bit brisk, found Magvandorj up catching the morning light
The next morning, which was, shall we say, a bit brisk, found Magvandorj up catching the morning light.
Sunrise at Boon Tsagaan Nuur
Sunrise at Boon Tsagaan Nuur
A local dog showed up as we broke camp, hoping to find some food that had dropped to the ground.
A local dog showed up as we broke camp, hoping to find some food that had dropped to the ground. He’s the traditional herder’s dog, called a “bankhar” and is in his short summer coat.
Last photos of the lake before departure.
Last photos of the lake before departure.

It wasn’t easy to leave this wonderful place. But, by golly, through flooded rivers and streams and a long detour, we got there and were able to have the best parts of the day, afternoon, evening and morning, when the light was the best for painting and photography and the birds were active. Now it was time to head west and farther west with the Gobi Altai Mountains paralleling us to the south. At some point we would turn south and cross over them through….snow leopard territory!

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