Mongolia

Tales From The Field: An Ibex Day At Ikh Nart

4-ibex

I spent over an hour watching this group of ibex nannies and kids, six or seven in all; I’m working on a painting of them is this great setting of rocks and green grass

I was staying at the research camp at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in September of 2012. It’s one of the best places in Mongolia to see argali mountain sheep (Ovis ammon) and Siberian ibex (Capra siberica).

I went out walking one morning for a day of hiking around and it quickly turned into One of Those Days that wildlife watchers and artists dream of…nine separate sightings and three times spending an hour or more with an entire group.

About halfway through the morning I’d come along the top of the valley and was now walking down a draw towards the valley, intent on heading towards the western end rock formations and following a very narrow path left by various animals, both wild and domestic. I was maybe ten yards from where the draw joined up with a larger one which would drop down to the valley when, with no sound or warning, two ibex nannies came running at full speed around the corner of a rock straight at me! They pulled up fast, gave me a look and turned. One bolted back up the way she’d come and the other, which I now saw had a kid, ran off down the direction I intended to go. Everyone involved was equally surprised. Needless to say I didn’t get any photos of the actual encounter, but I can see it in my mind’s eye. all of us standing there for an instant looking at each other. No idea, of course, why they were running so hard and fast.

where-ibex-came-from

At the fork of the “y” where we all came together. I’d come in from the left, the ibex had come barreling around those rocks that are also on the left. I’m standing with my back to the draw I was heading for.

And, as you can imagine, my heart was pounding. They could have easily run right over me. But everyone was fine, they were gone, so I continued on down the draw. And, believe it not, there was the nanny and kid…

ibex-nanny-and-kid-2

The nanny  was straight ahead of me

Amazingly, the ibex had stopped running, had gone up on a rock formation and was just standing there.

nanny-and-kid-1

Siberian ibex nanny and kid

I walked forward a slow step at a time and got close enough for a few shots and her youngster. The photo above is not cropped. It was taken with my Nikon D750 and Nikon Nikkor 80-400 lens. She looked around a bit then she and her baby vanished on down the valley. I waited a bit to let them get ahead of me and be able to go where they wanted to go. I think she’d seen enough of me for one day.

Here is a far more common way of seeing ibex. One learns to spot them from quite a long distance because the pattern of head and horns doesn’t match the rocks.

ibex-behind-rock

This was the first sighting of the day, very typical, just a head above the rocks.

And here are some more photos of other sightings that day. I finally got down to the rocks on the south side of the western end of the valley and found a large group of nannies and kids, who I hung around with for over an hour.

7-ibex

There are seven ibex in this photo

Farther down the valley there was yet another group. A couple were wearing radio collars. Once they settled down I sat in plain view, photographing and sketching them.

4-ibex-on-rock

There were a number of kids who were playing and jumping around on the rocks, which was great fun to watch

They finally moved off out of sight, but I’ve learned to hang around and wait. This time I was rewarded by having the whole group reappear and cross in a long line along the ridgetop, finally disappearing out of sight for good.

6-ibex

Ibex nanny group against the sky

There were a couple more long distance sightings of one or two ibex on my way back to camp, but they were either too far away or in the shade for photos anything other than “I saw them” shots, which I always take as a memory jog, if nothing else.

And that’s the tale of my “Ibex Day” which I will long remember.

2 replies »

  1. DearSusan,
    What a day, ( your “Ibex Day”)!!
    I felt I was almost there with you and am so happy for you that you got to experience this..a rare gift to a recipient well deserved❤️❤️
    Love you and thanks so much for again sharing. You must know how much I would kill for that experience–don’t ever stop collecting those experiences,
    Zee Zee

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

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