The Ultimate Expedition across the Mongolian Steppes
By Hadoram Shirihai
"During bird watching and photography trip in Ikh Bogd High Mountain where we can find White-throated Bushchat, Altai Snowcock, Asian Rosy Finch, White-winged Redstart etc...". © Hadoram Shirihai
Some 5 years ago Prof. Sundev Gombobaatar (Gombo) from Mongolian Ornithological Society, Mongolia invited me for cooperation in ornithological field research in his country. We decided to plan a major exploration for 'collecting' all the breeding birds of Mongolia. However, instated of shooting them with guns, as it was used to be even until not so long ago. is to actually documenting their beauty, elengance and life-secrets with highly powerful camera equipment - the 'modern ornithological collecting'. However, we decided going for it only when we are ready for such task, and only when we can do it on the best way, and actually as compete as possible.
Altai Snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus). © Hadoram Shirihai
Finally in May-July 2013 we have taken the plans to practice, and conducted 45 days field expedition, and across the whole vast areas and habitats of the country. The field work was under wings of the Photographic Handbook of the Birds of the World (H. Jornvall & H. Shirihai), Natural History, Bloombury Publishing, and in cooperation with the Mongolian Ornithological Society & Mongolica Co. Ltd.
Our goal was to photograph as much as possible species and subspecies, including much of the range of age and sex related to plumage variation. But we also set to familiar ourselves with the still poorly known geographical variation of Mongolian birds.
Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus). © Hadoram Shirihai
Well, I cannot describe the success of this expedition in just few words, perhaps as it titled above: The ultimate expedition across the Mongolian steppes. In comparison with any published trip reports during similar season of the year, late spring-summer in Mongolia, we succeed in locating the largest number of species and subspecies. We recorded no less than 260 species, and photographed over 230 of them! I am here please to share with other our success, in showing 68 files, that coverts 100+ species that documented during the expedition... and which I phrased as Mongolia at its best sites...
What more, we also recorded and worked out several unsolved taxonomic issues that we could not fit with the pattern or solutions that the literature is offering, across the board! And these are the subjects: ← I will complete them later on... (HS).
Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides virgo).© Hadoram Shirihai
Well, as one can imagine, to achieve such record of success we had to work very hard, and actually to visit all major regions and habitats of Mongolia, with many days crossing huge unspoiled, pristine nature, and for days we only met very few nomad local people, or no human at all, and for days we just approach by navigation with no road in sight. However, we met highly traditional native Mongolians the always welcomed us, with great hospitalities.
All in all, we check the Great Lakes area in the remote west, and the steppe, lakes and river valleys of the extreme east of the country, as well as the Altai Mountains, the Gobi Desert, and also the taiga to the north. Beside of documenting virtually every breeding/summer species of Mongolia, by starting at the end of May it gave us the possibility to experience the last but very powerful waves of many Siberian breeders were still migrating north.
Mongolian Accentor (Prunella kozlowi). © Hadoram Shirihai
White-throated Bushchat (Saxicola insignis). © Hadoram Shirihai