The WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2014

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2014, Part 1: Ulaanbaatar to Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve

A river of pink...

A river of pink…

I’ve been back home in California for a week now after eight great weeks in Mongolia . I’ve downloaded and started to categorize over 9000 images. All my journal and sketchbook drawings, along with the watercolors I did, have been scanned or photographed. Now it’s time to share both the WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2014 and then some of the other special places and experiences I had. You can find general information on the Expedition here.

The Expeditiion’s first stop this year was the Steppe Nomads Eco Camp, located in the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve, which is about two hours east of Ulaanbaatar. This is my third time there and, as expected, it was a great starting point.

Close-up of the flowers.

Close-up of the flowers, which are a species of wild primrose (Primula farinosa)

Baits Uul

Baits Uul. There are around 60 argali in the reserve, mostly up on this mountain.

Mongolian toad

Mongolian toad. There are not many species of amphibians in Mongolia, but this toad is found in a variety of places in the country.

Kherlen Gol.

Kherlen Gol. The river that runs through the reserve.

This was a special sighting along the river....an endangered whooper swan and a family of bar-headed geese.

This was a special sighting along the river….an endangered whooper swan and a family of bar-headed geese.

We also saw a pair of demoiselle cranes, one of the species on our list.

We also saw a pair of demoiselle cranes, one of the species on our list.

My first reacion

My first reaction when I saw dandelions for the first time in the country here at Gun-Galuut in 2009 was sadness that this “weed” had also invaded Mongolia. Then I remembered….here they’re a native!

Beautiful bi-color iris (Iris lactea)

Beautiful bi-color iris (Iris lactea)

Wild iris growing by the river.

Wild iris growing by the river.

Nyambayar Batbayar

Nyambayar Batbayar, a leading crane researcher who has been a Facebook friend of mine for years, was one of the leaders of a group from the International Crane Foundation who were also staying at the ger camp. Nyambaa, who you will meet again a couple of posts from now, was trying to photograph barn swallows in flight. I just happened to be able to catch him with the rainbow in the background.

We passed a couple of small lakes

We passed a couple of small lakes on our way north after leaving the reserve. There were horses on both sides of the road, so a great photo op!

Mongol horse foal.

Mongol horse foal. There were a lot of foals to see and photograph.

Then this local herder rode by...

Then this local herder rode by…

This small lake, which one passes

This small lake, which was on the opposite side of the road from the one with the horses, is known for the number and variety of birds that can sometimes be seen on and around it. This year there were whooper swans nesting out in the middle. In the background is the Baganuur coal mine. When I first came to this area in 2009, the waste piles were off in the far distance. I was shocked at how close they have come to the lake and the road. This photo sums up one of the major conservation challenges Mongolia faces: balancing the needs of people for fuel and the economic development that resource extraction like mining provides and the needs of wildlife and those same people for a safe and clean environment. Learning about these issues and how art can be of service is really the main goal of my WildArt Mongolia Expeditions.

Next time, we’ll be heading up into the Han Hentii Mountains, on our way to Binder Aimag and the International Crane Festival.

 

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