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Mongolia - probably my most extreme and surprising "bird expedition". Why extreme? The reason is that in order to see the wild Mongolia we had to go a few hundred kilometers outside Ulan Bator, to  the endless steppes, mountainous terrain, or the Gobi Desert. As we moved away farther and farther from the capital of Mongolia there were fewer and fewer signs of civilization. Even if there was an asphalt road, we had to be very cautious of the quality of its surface. Sometimes there were straight sections of the road several dozen kilometers long with good surface, and then suddenly, before the land elevation, the asphalt ended just before coming up and going down the hill. It seems to be made so on purpose. In winter nobody cares about maintaining roads in such remote areas. Rocky, porous surface on the stretch of several kilometers is practically a better solution than a smooth asphalt, because otherwise driving such a road covered with snow would be impossible. In total we drove about 3 thousand km through Mongolia. Sometimes over a distance of 100 kilometers, apart from the fact there was no mobile net coverage, we met nobody on the road. Gas stations are situated mostly in district towns (several hundred people) and they offer fuel only. We often left asphalt roads and drove along unmade roads or we blazed a new path ourselves. On such a territory we could only expect contact with wild nature, although from time to time we could see some single yurts afar. And here another surprise. After experience with photographing in Australia and Iceland, where population density equals 3 people per square kilometer, I thought that in Mongolia it would be even easier to have a close contact with nature as this rate equals 1.75. If we subtract the entire population of Ulan Bator (almost half of the Mongolia’s entire population) from the total population of Mongolia this rate drops to approximately 1 person per square kilometer. Population density in Poland is over 120 people per square kilometer! Unfortunately vast open spaces made it difficult to find a place where we could take some interesting photos. We had to wait patiently by a watering hole or bait for the right moment. All animals in Mongolia are very skittish. Very few photos from approach or from the car were taken. It was possible to take such pictures of demoiselle crane, or, with a little bit of luck, Himalayan buzzard. Driving through Mongolia one could notice signs informing about hunting ban. I don’t know if this was due to hunting or as a result of vast spaces, but animals preferred to keep a significant distance from us. Thus, the only chance is camouflage and patience. But let’s get back to the extreme moments of our expedition. When you are leaving Ulan Bator you have to make supplies of literally everything, starting from water, through food, tents to electric power generator. You have to be self-sufficient there. Car breakdown 100 or 200 km on the territory without phone network coverage is a serious problem. Another problematic issue is board and lodging. From time to time we could sleep in yurts, which are treated as campsites. Hiring such a yurt costs about 20 zloty. A great boon of civilization in such a yurt is a  dry animal manure burning stove and light powered by a battery that is charged during the day by solar energy. It’s no use dreaming of toilets and showers… The situation is similar in roadside bars, where there are no toilets and tap water. Food in these bars is always prepared on the client’s particular order as obviously there are days when nobody shows up there. Driving across Mongolia is very burdensome itself. There are sections of good asphalt roads, but in the end one has to leave them and travel through the wilderness, move across small rivers, not to mention difficult mountainous paths, which could be more easily overcome on foot. Our guide, Murun, greetings, chose a soviet automobile UAZ for the purpose of this travel. It was really doing well in the field, but on a good asphalt road it did not exceed 60 km/h. Going several hundred kilometers was a whole day task. Moldom valiantly controlled the car – greetings to the Mongol beautifully singing lyrical Mongolian songs, which along with the sights of the steppe outside the window reflected the ambience of the whole expedition. Finally, greetings to Cezary and Piotr, my companions of the expedition. It was rough and probably only thanks to a good atmosphere and cooperation it was possible to stand all this and take so many interesting pictures of rare bird species, and after some time, have good memories of the escapade.  Many recordings of birds’ sounds were made. If there was no strong wind that might spoil a recording, no noises of civilization stood in the way of recording birds’ sounds. Thus, as usual during a bird expedition, multipicture galleries with good photos were created, but also documentary ones, which due to rarity of occurrence of a particular bird species had to be uploaded on my website as there might be no second chance of photographing these birds. The pictures of acceptable quality are marked in bold in the index, documentary ones – in ordinary font. The letter T in brackets next to the name of the bird means that there’s a text added to the gallery, the letter G means that the gallery is equipped with the bird’s sound recording. So much for the introduction and presentation of this peculiar expedition to Mongolia will do, now there’s time for the information related to particular species of birds and mammals.

And I start with the Pallas's sandgrouse….
The toils of the way to Gobi Desert were worth standing as we could see whole flocks of Pallas’s sandgrouse. When you are driving across a stony desert with little grass or small bushes you can have an impression that nothing goes on there and it’s difficult to encounter any birds in such a place, well, maybe with the exception of a horned lark or a cinereous vulture. But what is the help of Moldom’s friends living on Gobi Desert for? Having arrived to Gobi Desert late in the afternoon we entered a yurt (a tent on a circular plan with a diameter of 6 meters). It is hard to believe that it is inhabited by a couple with two children. And around the yurt there’s an endless space with a stony and gravel ground with tufts of grass. The information that we came from Poland to photograph Pallas’s sandgrouse amused a very nice and hospitable host. The refreshment consisted of boiled testicles of goats castrated on the same day and… vodka. In Mongolia vodka is drunk in quite a specific manner. The host pours a little amount of alcohol to a bowl and hands it in to the guests. Each person has to take the bowl with alcohol, dip the tip of his or her ring finger in the bowl, snap the finger three times up and take a decision – to drink or to return the bowl. The latter might offend the host, who is sharing what he has at this “end of the world”. We agree that at dawn on the next day we will drive several dozen kilometers to a watering hole of Pallas’s sandgrouse. This watering hole is a several dozen square meters puddle with a small islet in the middle. It is filled with water only because all around it the soil is loam-based. The last several dozen hundred meters we had to go through such a terrain. On the side of the islet we could see a carcass of a camel that was too heavy to escape from the mud. Our weight goes down from day to day, so we don’t have problems with crossing it J. We lie down, camouflage ourselves at the dawn and wait. It is quite cold and a very strong wind is blowing, which makes our awaiting time even less pleasant. Luckily after a couple of hours Pallas’s sandgrouse occur in small flocks of several or a dozen or so specimen. It takes a while for them to get accustomed to our camouflage, but we are able to take first pictures, sometimes from a several meter distance. Some of the sandgrouse probably had young as we could see females coming into the puddle and collecting water under their feathers, shaking their torsos. This way they transport it to their nests for their young. After several hours the wind became weaker and I was able to record the sounds of Pallas’s sandgrouse flying above our heads. Amazing two encounters with this rare bird species, which as the only representative of the Pteroclididae family belongs to the fauna of Poland. In our country it is a very rare guest, not to mention the fact that it is uneasy to take such photos or record the sound of this bird. For these reasons I decided that it would be the gallery of the Pallas’s sandgrouse  which would contain the text that is an introduction to the whole expedition to Mongolia.

Mongolia - wykaz j.ANGIELSKI

Mongolia - introductory text - Pallas's sandgrouse
Birds-new galleries:
1. Pallas's Sandgrouse (T,V),2.Himalayan Vulture (T)3.Pallas's Sea-Eagle.(T)4.Demoiselle Crane(T).5.Upland Buzzard (T). 6.Siberian Scoter (T).7.Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush (T).8.Saker falcon.9.Golden Eagle.10.Azure Tit (T,V).11.Horned Lark  (T,V).12.Red-billed Chough (T,V).13.Mongolian Lark (T).14.Mongolian Herring Gull (T,G).15.Bar-headed Goose (T, V).16.Amur Falcon (T,V).17.Rock Sparrow (T,V).18.Pine Bunting (T,V).19.Desert Wheatear (T,V).20. Merlin (T).21.Isabelline Shrike (T).22.White-crowned Penduline-Tit (T,V). 23.Oriental plover (T). 24.Citrine wagtail (T). 25.Greater Sand Plover (T).26.Red-crested pochard (T).27.Daurian redstart (T).28.Eastern marsh harrier (T).29.Swan Goose (T).30.Dusky Warbler.31.Taiga Flycatcher.32.Pacific Swift.33.Thick-billed warbler. 34.Asian brown flycatcher.35.Daurian jackdaw.36. Richard's Pipit.
Mamals-new galleries:
1. Przewalski's Horse (T). 2.Long-tailed ground squirrel (T,V). 3.Mongolian gazelle (T).4. Corsac fox (T).5.Bactrian camel (T).6.Yak (T).7.Bobak Marmot (T).8.Mongolian Pika.
Reptile-new galleries:
1. Variegated toadhead agama. 2. Steppes Ratsnakes (T).
Changes in birds galleries:
1.Cinereous Vulture (T) 2.Black Kite (T,V).3.Buff-browed Warbler(T,G).4.Olive-backed Pipit (T,V).5.Litle Stint (T).6.Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler (T).7.Eurasian Hobby(T).8.Siberian Rubythroat (T,V).9.Carrion Crow (T,V).10.Pallas's Leaf Warbler (T).11.Black-winged Stilt. 12.Ruddy Shelduck (T).13.Kentish Plover (T).14.Grey Heron (T).15.Eurasian Hoopoe(T).16.Griffon vulture (T).17.Arctic Warbler.18.Common swift.19.Common Shelduck.20.Whooper swan.21.Bearded vulture(T).22.Lesser Short-toed Lark.23.Steppe eagle.24. Horned grebe.25.White-winged Tern.26.Pied avocet.27.Isabelline wheatear. 28.Ruddy turnstone.29.Cormorant.30.Northern Wheatear.31.Common goldeneye.32.Common redshank.33.Garganey
Go to the gallery: MONGOLIA - F A U N A

Syrrhaptes paradoxus
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