Eurasian Eagle-Owl is the biggest owl in the world. A pair lives in a quarry about a km south of Elaine Du's home village. We couldn't believe our good luck when we found them! Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/5, 1/250, ISO 2000.

Inner Mongolia & Heilongjiang, 2015: Part 2

Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, 2015: Part 2
By Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du
Latest update: 2018-12-15
© 2015-2019 by Craig Brelsford

“Inner Mongolia & Heilongjiang, 2015” contains an introduction and five parts. This is Part 2.

Introduction: Birding the Amur River Basin in China’s Great Northeast
Part 1: Introduction to Hulunbeier & First Trip to Elaine’s Hometown
Part 2: Hulunbeier, July 2015
Part 3: Eastern Heilongjiang
Part 4: Second Trip to Elaine’s Hometown
Part 5: Facts & Figures

Part 2a: One Day in Hohhot

Thurs. 2 April 2015
Hohhot

Elaine and I sneaked in a bit of birding during a business trip to the capital of Inner Mongolia. We noted 14 species at Hohhot Botanical Garden. Besides the omnipresent Eurasian Magpie and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, the most conspicuous bird was 31 Hawfinch. We noted 2 Common Redpoll, 2 female Common Rosefinch, and 7 Red-throated Thrush. I sound-recorded Grey-capped Greenfinch (00:25; 1.8 MB):

Weather: 11°C, overcast. After recent rains, a frosting of snow was visible on the nearby mountains.

Part 2b: Hulunbeier, July 2015

L-R: Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, and Jan-Erik Nilsén, on the S301 between Genhe and Labudalin, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, China, 19 July 2015.
L-R: Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, and Jan-Erik Nilsén, on the S301 between Genhe and Labudalin, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, China, 19 July 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 11 July 2015
Wuerqihan

On Fri. 10 July, Elaine and I flew from Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai to Tianjin, where we spent the night. Today, we flew from Tianjin to Hailar, where we met our Swedish friend Jan-Erik Nilsén. We drove our rented Honda CR-V to Wuerqihan. At a forest near Yakeshi, Pine Bunting was singing. On the X302 between Yakeshi and Wuerqihan, we found Thick-billed Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit, and Eurasian Curlew. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler were singing, and Oriental Cuckoo were calling.

As we were driving, we saw, far in the distance atop a billboard, a Great Grey Owl. As I stepped out of the car to admire it, a car came from the opposite direction and scared it away. We sighed, drove to the billboard, and parked. Would the owl come back? No. But something interesting occurred. From somewhere in the forest came begging calls, which I recorded (00:08; 1.1 MB):

Those are clearly the begging calls of a juvenile Great Grey Owl. A breeding record! That is good news, though not wholly unexpected. Though “very rare in China” (MacKinnon), Strix nebulosa lapponica has one stronghold in this country, and that is the Greater Khingan Range of Hulunbeier–a fact known to the birders who find the species here each year (usually in winter). What’s more, next to us was ideal Great Grey Owl habitat, being “dense boreal or coniferous forest … with openings,” as Handbook of the Birds of the World describes it–again, no surprise, as the forest next to which we were standing is known to hold Great Grey Owl and other owls. Why, then, is a breeding record important? A breeding record matters because it confirms that at least some of the Great Grey Owl in the region are not simply wandering to Hulunbeier in the winter but are using the area year-round.

We took the X302 to the X336 and turned east, toward the mountains. As we drove, we heard the begging calls of another owl, a species more common in this region: Long-eared Owl (00:40; 2.4 MB):

We spent the night at the feeding station near Wuerqihan. Six months ago, when Elaine and I were here with Brian Ivon Jones, the temperature was 30 degrees below zero, and Common Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, and Eurasian Bullfinch were relying on the seeds. The land around us was completely white, the trees dark sticks jutting from the blanket of snow. Tonight, the feeding station is lushly vegetated, mosquitoes and flies are harassing us, and Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler are singing us to sleep.

Weather: Sunny. High 30°C.

Between Hailar (Hǎilā’ěr [海拉尔], 49.212970, 119.754820) & Wuerqihan (Wūěrqíhàn [乌尔旗汗], 49.565388, 121.383259), Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. 14:30-21:30.

Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 4 heard
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 4
Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos 2 (pair)
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 27
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 4
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 2
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 16
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus 8
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 30
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 9
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus 2 heard
Common Cuckoo C. canorus 14 (5 heard only)
Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa lapponica 3 (1 ad. seen, 2 owlets heard)
Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus 3 fledglings heard begging
Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka 2
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus ca. 300 (ca. 200 in Hulunbeier)
Common/Lesser Kestrel Falco tinnunculus or F. naumanni 5
Amur Falcon F. amurensis 4
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 11
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 20
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 12
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2 singing
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 1
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola 20
Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler L. fasciolata 1
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 15
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 1
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea 1
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 4
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 4 (3 heard only)
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 4
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos 1 male singing

Mammals

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1

Sun. 12 July 2015
Wuerqihan to Genhe

We noted 44 species between Wuerqihan and Genhe. We heard Arctic Warbler singing and found Baikal Bush Warbler. At camp in the morning, we again heard Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler. Common Cuckoo and Oriental Cuckoo were calling. By the stream at the station, Dusky Warbler was defending territory. We drove down the main road and parked in shade for breakfast. Radde’s Warbler were singing powerfully, and we saw White-throated Rock Thrush. Along the road we found Northern Goshawk and Crested Honey Buzzard. At Ailin we found House Sparrow associating with Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Between Ailin and Yituli He, Jan-Erik heard Arctic Warbler. At Yituli He we found breeding Northern Wheatear.

Near Genhe, we were driving 60 km/h and in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly Jan-Erik said, “I just heard Siberian Bush Warbler!” (IOC: Baikal Bush Warbler). I hit the brakes and parked. Within a few seconds, we had our bird. Jan-Erik has sharp ears!

Here are some of the recordings I created today:

Baikal Bush Warbler (00:21; 1.6 MB)

Radde’s Warbler (01:21; 4 MB)

Dusky Warbler (00:52; 2.9 MB)

Weather: Foggy in morning, then sunny.

Mon. 13 July 2015
Genhe to Hanma

We noted 25 species on the X324 between Genhe and Cow’s Ear River and on the forest road leading from Cow’s Ear River into Hanma National Nature Reserve. We also made a foray into a forest, driving on a dirt road off the X324. There we found a family of Black Grouse. The unpaved road from Cow’s Ear River to Hanma Nature Reserve was rich in birds. Siberian Thrush and Siberian Blue Robin were among the more interesting bird species. As darkness fell, I sound-recorded a Siberian Blue Robin singing from thick cover (01:25; 4.2 MB):

We viewed Grey Nightjar roosting on the road. We saw Siberian Roe. House Sparrow were noted in Jinhe Zhen, and we found a hybrid House Sparrow x Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Common House Martin were nesting in Galaya.

Weather: Sunny and hot. High 35°C.

Between Genhe (Gēnhé [根河], 50.780668, 121.520414) & mountains near Cow’s Ear River (Niú’ěr Hé [牛耳河], 51.55224, 121.73808) in Hanma National Nature Reserve (Dà Xīng’ānlíng Hànmǎ Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [大兴安岭汗马国家级自然保护区]), Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. 12:00-20:00.

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 1
Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix 4 (1 female w. 3 chicks)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus 2
Common Cuckoo C. canorus 1
Cuculus sp. 1
Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka 3
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 6
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 4
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum 15 nesting at Gālayá (嘎拉牙)
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 3
Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi 7 heard
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 3 heard
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica 2
Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane 1 heard
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 10
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 5
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 24
House Sparrow x Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. domesticus x P. montanus 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 4 leucopsis
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 1 heard
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 5 (3 heard only)
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 8

Mammals

Siberian Roe Capreolus pygargus 3 fording Cow’s Ear River

Tues. 14 July 2015
Hanma to Mangui

We noted 41 species. The long day began at 03:45 at our camp in the mountains E of Cow’s Ear River and ended in Mangui, near the Inner Mongolia-Heilongjiang border.

Jan-Erik and I were birding at 04:00 in the secondary forest around our camp, elev. 710 m. At that time, the flies that would annoy us so much during the day were still sleeping. Jan-Erik and I found a singing 1st-summer Red-flanked Bluetail (00:03; 913 KB):

Among our many highlights from this busy day were a pair of Siberian Rubythroat and 2 Lanceolated Warbler. I got this recording of Lanceolated Warbler (00:30; 2 MB):

During a long lunch break at midday, we heard Baikal Bush Warbler. Arctic Warbler was singing, as were Radde’s Warbler, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, and Two-barred Warbler, the latter providing music as we breakfasted in camp (00:05; 995 KB):

For the first time in NE China, I viewed White’s Thrush. Black Grouse was seen again, and we found a family of Hazel Grouse.

We wanted to see high-elevation, uncut forest, but we were stopped at the entrance to the core area of Hanma Reserve. We drove back to the X324 and Cow’s Ear River and headed N to Mangui. Between Alongshan and Mangui stands a thickly forested island in the Jin River. There, we noted White-throated Needletail and Northern Raven. In Mangui, we set up at the pretty good Jùxiān’gé Dàjiǔdiàn (聚仙阁大酒店, +86 133-4700-5030, +86 131-3493-5030, 180 yuan/night).

Weather: Temp. at dawn at our camp: 11.5°C. High: 33°C. Sunny.

Wed. 15 July 2015
Yikesama

Beautiful Crescent Moon Bend, Yikesama National Forest, 16 July 2015. We spotted Scaly-sided Merganser and Common Goldeneye in the river below.
Beautiful Crescent Moon Bend, Yikesama National Forest, 16 July 2015. We spotted Scaly-sided Merganser and Common Goldeneye in the river below. (Craig Brelsford)

Among our 21 species were 23 Scaly-sided Merganser and 4 Common Goldeneye at Crescent Moon Bend in Yikesama National Forest and 15 House Sparrow in Mangui. We are finding mixed flocks of Long-tailed Tit and Willow Tit. Hazel Grouse is probably a very common species in these mountains. Scenery around here amazing; Crescent Moon Bend is one of the greatest sights I have seen in NE China. Tomorrow we will re-enter Yikesama and camp two nights in the park. We plan to bird the highest peak, elev. 1409 m. We believe Yikesama is the best look at the Greater Khingan Range that we are likely to get, and we therefore have made our visit to that park the heart of this part of our trip.

Thurs. 16 July 2015
Yikesama

Today was our first of three days around Pine Ridge in Yikesama National Forest. We noted 31 species. Among the birds with young were Asian Brown Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, and Tristram’s Bunting. Arctic Warbler were singing (01:00; 3.2 MB):

Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis singing at Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 16 July 2015.
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis singing at Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 16 July 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Weather: Sunny and hot. High 33°C.

Fri. 17 July 2015
Yikesama

Dawn at camp on Pine Ridge, Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier. Elev. 1409 m. 04:07 a.m., 17 July 2015.
Dawn at camp on Pine Ridge, Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier. Elev. 1409 m. 04:07 a.m., 17 July 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Today was Day 2 of our three-day exploration of the area around Pine Ridge Peak. We noted 28 species. We had our first record of Mugimaki Flycatcher in NE China, and we heard 13 Arctic Warbler. White-throated Rock Thrush had young. Resting in the car, we saw a Sable creep across the road behind us.

Weather: Sunny and hot. High 33°C.

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 4
Grey Red-backed Vole Myodes rufocanus 2
Northern Pika Ochotona hyperborea 6
Sable Martes zibellina 1

Sat. 18 July 2015
Yikesama

We achieved a new high count (16) of Arctic Warbler. I sound-recorded Dusky Warbler (00:17; 1.4 MB):

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus, Pine Ridge Peak, Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. Elev. 1409 m. 18 July 2015. Same individual as in recording.
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus, Pine Ridge Peak, Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. Elev. 1409 m. 18 July 2015. Same individual as in recording. (Craig Brelsford)

At Crescent Moon Bend we saw a White’s Thrush foraging on the rocky bank like a sandpiper. We missed Scaly-sided Merganser but saw Common Goldeneye. We returned to Jùxiān’gé Dàjiǔdiàn in Mangui and spent the night.

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 8
Sable Martes zibellina 1

Sun. 19 July 2015
Mangui to Labudalin

I drove our trio 335 km from Mangui to Labudalin. We birded along the way, noting 42 species. We found Baikal Teal at a random stop along the S301 between Genhe and Labudalin. We heard dozens of Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler along the S301. In Jinhe, we noted a pair of House Sparrow. Driving into Labudalin at dusk, we found Little Owl. The road between Genhe and Labudalin is scenic as well as birdy.

On X324 and S301 between Mangui (52.045004, 122.070788) and Labudalin (50.242389, 120.178944), Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia.

Gadwall Anas strepera 12
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 5
Baikal Teal A. formosa 1
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 1
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 15 heard
Buteo sp. 1
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 12
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 5
Pin-tailed Snipe or Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura or G. megala 3
Common Snipe G. gallinago 1
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 9
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 2
Hill Pigeon C. rupestris 6
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 25
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 6
Little Owl Athene noctua 1
White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus 8
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 4
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 10
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6
Northern Raven C. corax 14
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 10
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 2 heard
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 5 heard
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata 2 heard
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler L. certhiola 45 heard
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 6
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 30
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 2 (pair)
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 2 in Jinhe Zhen
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus 27
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 1
Long-tailed Rosefinch C. sibiricus 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 10 (7 ad., 3 juv.)
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea 8
White Wagtail M. alba 12 (incl. 1 ocularis, 1 leucopsis, 1 baicalensis)
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3

Mon. 20 July 2015
Labudalin to Manzhouli

A major inland port of entry and a locus of Sino-Russian trade, Manzhouli is bustling and colorful. The city is on the Russian border in western Hulunbeier.
A major inland port of entry and a locus of Sino-Russian trade, Manzhouli is bustling and colorful. The city is on the Russian border in western Hulunbeier. (Craig Brelsford)

We drove 255 km from Labudalin to Manzhouli. From Labudalin we took the S301 W to the X904. The X904 skirts the Ergun River, which serves as the border with Russia. We had a memorable day, noting 66 species. We found Blyth’s Pipit for the first time in Inner Mongolia and had Steppe Eagle in a good wetland on the Sino-Russian border. We noted a large array of waders, among them Curlew Sandpiper. In Labudalin Liu Dui we found 25 House Sparrow and for the first time viewed Mongolian Ground Squirrel. We took care along the X904, knowing that on the international border we would attract attention with our scopes and cameras. We never lingered too long at any single site. The grassland scenery was spectacular; the nickname of the U.S. state of Montana, “Big Sky Country,” would fit well here. Most of the tourists we saw were Han and not from Inner Mongolia. Most of the locals were ethnic Mongolian.

Weather: overcast, 35° C at noon. Thunderstorm at 16:10.

Labudalin (50.242389, 120.178944) to Manzhouli (49.598184, 117.382268), including Labudalin Liu Dui (50.180300, 119.830561). We took S301 W from Labudalin to X904 and X904 S to G301. 09:00-20:40.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 4
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 20 ad.
Ruddy Shelduck T. ferruginea 3
Gadwall Anas strepera 6 (3 ad., 3 ducklings)
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 3
Mallard A. platyrhynchos ca. 25
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 1
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 12
Northern Pintail A. acuta 1
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 1
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 5
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 4 (1 ad. w. 3 young)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 25
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 18
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 15
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis 2 sub-ad.
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 4
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 4
Eastern Buzzard B. japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 4
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 7
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 8 (incl. 1 fledgling)
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus ca. 400
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 1
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 8
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 29
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 20
Common Redshank T. totanus 1
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 35
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 5
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus 1
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 30
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 10 ad. in breeding plumage
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 6
Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea 2 ad. in breeding plumage
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus ca. 450
Mew Gull Larus canus 25 ad.
Vega Gull L. vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 20
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 8 ad.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 220 (incl. 20 juvs.)
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida ca. 60
White-winged Tern C. leucopterus ca. 480
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 40
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus ca. 130
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 8
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Eurasian Skylark Alauda gulgula 15
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica 21
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 25
Sand Martin Riparia riparia ca. 320
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 140 (incl. 2 tytleri)
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 2 singing
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata 1 singing
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler L. certhiola 3 singing
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 12 (4 pairs, 4 juvs.)
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 26 (25 at Labudalin Liu Dui, 1 near Russian border)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus 53
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 10
Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii 14
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 2 heard

Mammals

Pallid Ground Squirrel Spermophilus pallidicauda 10

Tues. 21 July 2015
Manzhouli & Hulun Lake

Common Swift, Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia, 21 July 2015.
Common Swift, Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia, 21 July 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

We took it easier today but still had an eventful day, noting 42 species. We drove from Manzhouli to the N shore of Hulun Lake and back to Manzhouli. At the lake we had our first NE China record of Isabelline Shrike.

Weather: Overcast, cool. 25°C

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 8
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 8
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 4
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 13
Gadwall A. strepera 12
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 30
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo ca. 200
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 6
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 12
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 210
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 10
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 10
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus 2
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 143
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 10
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 16
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 2
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata 2
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 6
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus 2
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 100
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 3
White-winged Tern C. leucopterus 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 25
Common Swift Apus apus 40
Pacific Swift A. pacificus 50
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 8
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 7 (3 ad. feeding 4 juv.)
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 20 (incl. 3 tytleri)
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 10
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 2 singing
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris brandti 4 (incl. 1 w. food in bill)
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis 3
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 30
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 7
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 10 (incl. 2 ad. baicalensis)
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 4

Wed. 22 July 2015
Hulun Lake & New Barag Right Banner

Blyth's Pipit near New Barag Right Banner, Hulunbeier, 22 July 2015. Arrow indicates the clearly defined blackish centers to the median coverts. Craig Brelsford.
Blyth’s Pipit near New Barag Right Banner, Hulunbeier, 22 July 2015. Arrow indicates the clearly defined squarish centers to the median coverts. (Craig Brelsford)

We left Manzhouli and drove 122 km along the W side of Hulun Lake to New Barag Right Banner. Among our 42 species was Demoiselle Crane. Isabelline Shrike was once again noted. We recorded the flight song of Blyth’s Pipit:

Blyth’s Pipit, flight song, recorded 22 July 2015 at a point (48.767866, 116.834183) near Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia (2.1 MB; 00:32)

More views of Blyth's Pipit performing flight song. Alström writes that in flight, Blyth's Pipit 'often recalls one of the smaller pipits rather than Richard's' (237). 22 July 2015, Hulunbeier. Craig Brelsford.
More views of Blyth’s Pipit performing flight song. Alström et al. write that in flight, Blyth’s Pipit ‘often recalls one of the smaller pipits rather than Richard’s’ (Pipits and Wagtails 237). 22 July 2015, Hulunbeier. (Craig Brelsford)

Weather: Overcast. 26°C

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 36
Ruddy Shelduck T. ferruginea 36
Gadwall Anas strepera 2
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 6
Falcated Duck A. falcata 3
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 17
Northern Pintail A. acuta 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 41
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 2 males
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 16
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1 ad.
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 5 ad.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20 (8 ad., 12 juv.)
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo 2 (pair)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 17
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 4
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus 32
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 13
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 79
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus ca. 402
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus ca. 100
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 2 ad.
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 3 ad. breeding
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 16
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus 3 ad.
Common Swift Apus apus 528
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 1
Eurasian Skylark Alauda gulgula 4
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica 28
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 64
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 31
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 110
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 18
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus 14
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 9
White Wagtail M. alba 3
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii 4
Richard’s Pipit or Blyth’s Pipit A. richardi or A. godlewskii 2
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi lydiae 3

Thurs. 23 July 2015 Wulannuo’er
Fri. 24 July 2015 New Barag Left Banner & Modamuji

Little Curlew, Wulannuo'er, 23 July 2015.
Little Curlew, Wulannuo’er, 23 July 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Elaine, Craig & Jan-Erik, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia trip, condensed report part 4 of 4, 23-24 July 2015. From SW corner of Hulun Lake along E side to Hailar.

Habitats: Grasslands, ponds and small lakes and two bigger wetlands with extensive reed beds. Near New Barag Left Banner, grassland noticeably drier and may best be described as semi-desert.

Wetlands around Hulun Lake are an immensely interesting birding area that deserve more attention.

Elevations: 550-800 m.

Highlights: Swan Goose 78, Demoiselle Crane, Oriental Plover 18. Isabelline Shrike not expected in region by at least one author (Mark Brazil, Birds of East Asia) but was sole species of shrike we noted around Hulun Lake. Bearded Reedling 15, Greylag Goose 400, Garganey, Little Curlew 7, Upland Buzzard, Mongolian Lark common, Blyth’s Pipit, Sand Martin 5000 gathering for night roost in a reed bed, Common Reed Bunting. 1 Common Starling among flock of White-cheeked Starling.

Also: Japanese Quail, Ruddy Shelduck, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Mallard, Falcated Duck, Gadwall, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Great Cormorant, Eurasian Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Purple Heron.

Common Swift: hundreds seen in each town every day at dusk. Quite a sight!

Also: Pied Avocet; Black-winged Stilt; Common Snipe and “Swintail” Snipe; Black-tailed Godwit; Common Greenshank; Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank; Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, & Green Sandpiper; Eurasian Curlew; Sharp-tailed Sandpiper; Temminck’s Stint; Little Ringed Plover; Kentish Plover (breeding records); and Eastern Marsh Harrier.

Among 18 Red-necked Stint was 1 with bands.

Terns: Common Tern, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern.

Grebes: Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe.

Also: Oriental Reed Warbler, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, White Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Richard’s Pipit, Eurasian Tree Sparrow (common), House Sparrow (less common), Northern Wheatear, Pallas’s Reed Bunting.

Mammals: Pallid Ground Squirrel, Mongolian Gerbil, Przewalski’s Steppe Vole.

On 24 July Jan-Erik and I had plenty of opportunities to study Richard’s Pipit and Blyth’s Pipit. I greatly needed this experience, for before this Hulunbeier trip I had had only fleeting glimpses of Blyth’s. After our many encounters with both species, I am beginning to appreciate the many subtle but relatively consistent differences between the two Anthus species. In the Richard’s we were seeing on 24 July, we noted the sharp points to the blackish centers of the median coverts. Blyth’s generally, but not universally, has squarish blackish centers. Another important marker of Richard’s is the very long hindclaw. Usually, a combination of characters rather than a single feature has been leading us to assign the pipits we’ve been seeing to A. richardii or A. godlewskii.

List for Thurs. 23 July 2015 (51 species)

Weather: Sunny, 35°C.

Wulannuo’er Environmental Management & Protection Station (Wūlánnuò’ěr Guǎnhù Zhàn [乌兰诺尔管护站]), Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. 48.410075, 117.590787 (point where S203 passes over Wū’ěrxùn River (Wū’ěrxùn Hé [乌尔逊河]). 10:20-19:30.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 54 (incl. 1 pair w. 6 juv.)
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 10
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 40
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 4
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 9 (2 males, 2 females, 5 ducklings)
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 15
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 40
Purple Heron A. purpurea 6
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 30
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 8 (1 juv., 3 ad. males, 4 ad. females)
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca 1 heard
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30 (10 ad., 20 juv.)
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo 4 (2 pairs)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 3
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 50
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus 18 (flock)
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Little Curlew Numenius minutus 7
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 2
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 1 heard
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2 ad.
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 50
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 4 ad.
White-winged Tern C. leucopterus 150
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 15 (13 ad., 2 juv.)
Common Swift Apus apus ca. 300
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 7
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis 2 (1 male, 1 female)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 40
Eurasian Skylark Alauda gulgula 1
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica 2
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 10
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 325
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 25
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 3 (1 male singing)
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola 3 singing
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 15 ad.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus 20
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 20 (6 male macronyx, 2 male tschutschensis, 12 unassigned)
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola 6
White Wagtail M. alba 2 juv.
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 8
Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi lydiae 8 (7 males, 1 female)
Common Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus 8 (6 males, 2 females)

List 1 of 2 for Fri. 24 July 2015 (36 species)

New Barag Left Banner (Xīn Bā’ěrhú Zuǒqí [新巴尔湖左旗]). List includes observations from town of New Barag Left Banner (48.218222, 118.269528) as well as along S201 to Modamuji (48.725167, 118.792833).

Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 2
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 5 (3 ad., 2 juv.)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 80 (77 ad., 3 juv.)
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 82
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 1
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 3
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 4
Gallinago sp. 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 5
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 18 ad.
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 1
Cuculus sp. 1 juv.
Common Swift Apus apus ca. 200
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Common/Lesser Kestrel Falco tinnunculus or F. naumanni 1
Amur Falcon F. amurensis 2 males
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 4
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 1
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis 10
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica 20
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis ca. 150
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 250
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 115 (incl. 15 tytleri)
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana 1
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola 20
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 20
Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii 2
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi lydiae 4 male
Common Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus 1 female

List 2 of 2 for Fri. 24 July 2015 (49 species)

Modamuji (Mòdámùjí [莫达木吉]), New Barag Left Banner, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia (48.725167, 118.792833). 17:00-20:10.

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides 15
Greylag Goose A. anser 400
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 9
Gadwall Anas strepera 30
Falcated Duck A. falcata 4 males
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 1
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 40
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 4
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 8
Garganey A. querquedula 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 40 (20 females w. 20 ducklings)
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 20 (1 male, 9 female, 10 ducklings)
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 3 (1 ad. w. 2 young)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 15 (4 ad., 11 young)
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 40 (20 ad., 5 juv., 15 young)
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 25
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 7
Purple Heron A. purpurea 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 4 (2 ad. male, 1 ad. female, 1 juv.)
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 60 (30 ad., 30 young)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 20
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 7 (4 ad., 3 young)
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus ca. 700
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 6
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 12
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 1 heard
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 1 heard
Common Redshank T. totanus 2
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 1
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 4
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 2
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 4
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 30 (2 standing together showing different leg colors & head shape; 25 ad., 5 sub-ad.)
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus ca. 405 (400 ad., 5 juv.)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 100
Common Swift Apus apus 15
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus 15 juv.
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 25
Sand Martin Riparia riparia ca. 5,000
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 10 (2 ad., 8 juv.)
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 1
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 1 w. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus 40

Mammals

Mongolian Gerbil Meriones unguiculatus 1
Przewalski’s Steppe Vole Eolagurus przewalskii 8

Sat. 25 July 2015
Jiamusi

We said goodbye to Jan-Erik at the airport in Hailar.

Featured image: Eurasian Eagle-Owl is the biggest owl in the world. A pair lives in a quarry near Elaine Du’s home village of Dawucun, Boli, Heilongjiang. 13 Aug. 2015, Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/5, 1/250, ISO 2000.

Next: Part 3: Eastern Heilongjiang

Previous: Part 1: Introduction to Hulunbeier & First Trip to Elaine’s Hometown
Return to Explorations page

Keep shanghaibirding.com on the web. Donate today.