Melanie Simmons

MONGOLIAN BIRDING EXPERIENCE - with Sicklebill Safaris and Mongolica Travel (4-19th August 2015)

by Melanie Simmons, Queensland, Australia Download Birdlist pdf

Asian Dowitcher, Limnodromus semipalmatus

After a very successful trip with Sicklebill Safaris to Papua New Guinea in 2009 we booked our birding trip to Mongolia with great anticipation. Our prior knowledge was very limited but our experience with Mongolia – the people, our itinerary, our wonderful guides and our overall adventure far exceeded all expectations.
From the time we were met at the Ulaanbaatar airport by our guide Sundev Gombobaatar (Gomboo) we felt relaxed and welcome. Our comfortable locally owned and managed city hotel was well located, run by helpful staff and included a good restaurant. We enjoyed a spectacular performance by the Mongolian National Song and Dance Ensemble on our first evening. Next day we thrilled to a full day with Gomboo birding around the city ponds (gravel pits), along the beautiful Tuul River and the old railway, we saw Demoiselle Crane, Hoopoe, Tufted Pochard, Great-crested Grebe, Azure Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail. Our lunch in the first of many tourist ger camps will long be remembered for the amazing content of Mongolian artifacts. With this introduction to Mongolia we knew we were destined for a privileged birding safari.
Beyond the country’s capital for the next two weeks in taiga forests, mountain steppes interspersed with lakes, marshes and rivers, semi-desert regions and adjoining high rocky mountains we were guided by Gomboo firstly and then by one of his well-trained guides. With their expert spotting eyes and well-tuned ears our guides offered us unforgettable birding memories.

Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus

Around the lakes and marshes in the steppe country migrating waders and shorebirds still in full breeding plumage were replenishing fat stores en-route from their breeding grounds in Siberia to the southern hemisphere along the Pacific flyways. We lost ourselves in wondrous hours of close up birding learning finite details differentiating the many sandpipers, stints, curlews, plovers and waterfowl. Our tits in the taiga moment where for one glorious mid-afternoon we were surrounded by twittering long-tailed, coal, willow and grey tits simultaneously made for a magic memory. With our guides’ enthusiasm and passion they managed to raise raptors to a higher level in our birding desires, the oft maligned vultures now being recognised for the magnificent birds they are.

Przewalski's wild horse, Equus ferus przewalskii

Beyond the birding experience life in rural Mongolia was opened to us through visits to nomad gers, fermented fares’ milk and hard cheese hospitality, the large herds of goats and sheep, yaks, domesticated horses, the Argali sheep, deer sightings, the successful reintroduction of the Takai, the stunning wildflowers, a seabuck-thorn plantation, an old monastery and numerous Shaman shrines. Our accommodation beyond Ulaanbaatar was mostly in tourist ger camps. This unique experience was warm and comfortable with adequate mainly Mongolian meals provided.

Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo

Our last few days in Ulaanbaatar the many museums, the Winter Palace, the Gandan Kilid Monastery (“the great place of complete joy”), the high quality Cashmere House and the central Chinggis Khaan Square provided us with a rich introduction to the glorious past and hopeful future of this little known country to us and many of our Australian compatriots.
Our three week trip was well organised, guides were exceptionally knowledgeable and caring, the Mongolians a very friendly people and we were treated with the greatest of respect. Above all –it was FUN. Thank you Mongolia!
Melanie Simmons, Queensland, Australia

Eurasian Spoonbill, Platalea leucorodia