Sunday, January 13, 2008

In praise of Mongolia

Chinggis Khaan - the most powerful man to walk the earth.

The vastness of this country is awesome.

Evening on the steppe, full of howling wolves and calling cranes.

What a place to live!

Proud parent.

In July 2004 I had the great fortune to take part in a four week trip to Mongolia in Central Asia to survey the bird life of the eastern steppes. Mongolia is such a fantastic, vast and and unspoilt country. I spent the time following a pre-planned survey route, essentially living the lifestyle of a Mongolia nomad. I visited huge steppe lakes such as Buyr Nuur on the Chinese border which was teeming with bird life including tens of thousands of immaculate summer plumaged waders, 20% of the planets Swan Geese, Relict Gulls and exciting eastern breeding species like Pallas's Reed Bunting, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler and Blyth's Pipit. The journey was incredibly tough, covering great distances in a country which away from its capital Ulaan battar does not have proper roads. At times I was about as far away from any form of civilisation as is possible on dry land. My companions for the survey were John Badley from Lincolnshire and a Mongolian ornithologist Uuganbayer Chuluunbaatar (Uugan), a student (Amra), a driver (Battar) and a cook. The people from Mongolia are extremely tough and ingenious but most of all they are incredibly friendly and proud, it is humbling to be in their presence.

The leg of the journey which took us to the north and into Siberia was very different from the steppes but was equally as magical with pristine forests dripping in mouth-watering Siberian gems like Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Flycatcher, Daurian Redstart and Thick-billed Warbler and wet riparian meadows full of Demoseille, White-naped, Hooded, Common and Japanese Cranes.

Overall, Mongolia really is a birders paradise!

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