Mongolia, the land without fences, is much more than just a standard birding tour; a true wilderness, steeped in history and tradition, and long forgotten since Genghis Khan swept across much of Eurasia. Nearly the whole tour is spent camping, wherever we please such is the lay of the land Ðnatural grassland as far as the eye can see, incomparable vistas, endless steppes, the vast Gobi Desert, rich taiga forests and the Hebridean-like landscapes of the Altai mountains make for an incomparable tour.
The country might not have a huge bird list, but for those wanting to see a wealth of bird and mammal life in unspoilt landscapes with fabulous backdrops, there is no other tour like it in Asia. Starting in the taiga forests, Black-billed Capercaille and Chinese Bush Warbler are our first port of call before heading west into the Altai Mountains to visit the breeding ground of HodgsonÕs Bushchat with a supporting cast of Altai Snowcock and Asian Rosy Finch. A large saline lake in the barren, dusty steppe of the Gobi Desert is the breeding grounds of the nomadic Relict Gull, and finally, we head along the northern rim of the Gobi to the deep gorges of Yolyn Am for Kozlov's Accentor, breeding Oriental Plover and bone-crunching Lammergeier.
International arrivals in Ulan Baatar International Airport. In the afternoon birding the nearby ponds and Tuul River on the outskirts of the city will probably provide us with a number of species unlikely to be seen elsewhere on the tour, including breeding Swan Goose, Azure Tit, White-crowned Penduline-tit and Long-tailed Rosefinch, along with a broad range of more widespread water-birds. Night in Ulan Baatar.
Morning visit to Gun Galuut en-route to Mongon. Gun Galuut is an area of open habitat and ponds where White-naped Crane breeds, and Pallas's Bunting, White-crowned Penduline-tit, Amur Falcon and Mongolian Larks are all possible. Occasionally Siberian Crane is also present. A variety of other water-birds are present, including StejnegerÕs Scoter and Falcated Duck. Birding around Mongon after lunch could produce Pine and Yellow-breasted Buntings, Siberian Rubythroat and Daurian Jackdaw. In the late afternoon we walk into the forest in search of Black-billed Capercaillie. In addition, we also have chances of Hazel Grouse, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Bushtit, Ural Owl and Black Woodpecker. On the forest edge we listen for Chinese Grasshopper Warbler, hoping they have arrived back already. Night camping.
Full day in search for Black-billed Capercaille and the other forest species. If we enjoy early success with the capercaille, then the rest of the day can be spent in the more open landscape. Night camping.
After breakfast we pass back through Ulan Baatar heading for an overnight stop at Bayan Lake. Night camping.
We pay morning visits to Bayan and Sangiin Dalai Lakes. Both hold an exciting array of water-birds including Brown-cheeked Rail, Black-throated Diver, Whooper Swan, Bar-headed and Swan Geese, while the vegetated edges can contain Pallas's Bunting, Lanceolated and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers. We then continue to Bayankhongor via Arvaikheer. Night in Bayankhongor.
Drive to Khukh Lake arriving in time for afternoon birding and our first chance to look for Altai Snowcock. Night camping.
A full day around Khukh Lake with many specialities on offer, most notably Altai Snowcock, Hodgson's Bushchat and sushkini Asian Rosy Finch. We also have chances of Altai Accentor, GŸldenstadt's Redstart and EversmannÕs Redstart. Night camping.
A long drive west today will find us at Ikhes Lake, it will be well worth the effort though as this is one of the few areas to host a regular breeding colony of Relict Gulls, a delightful gull which is one of the areas true breeding specialities. Night camping.
Heading back eastwards today we will make our overnight camp near Boon Tsagaan Lake, ready for more exciting biridng the next day. Night camping.
Morning at Boon Tsagaan Lake which is packed with water and marsh species: Grebes, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Stork, Mute Swan, Swan Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Falcated Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Mongolian Gull, Pallas's Gull, Black-eared Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Upland Buzzard, Demoiselle Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher, Whiskered Tern. Night camping.
Morning at Kholboolj Lake enjoying a nice range of water-birds (even 'real' Mute Swan is possible!), including Asian Dowitcher which is occasionally present and Oriental Plover breeds nearby. After this we drive to Khongor Sand Dunes for an overnight stay at Khongor Tourist Camp.
Morning at Khongor sand dunes where possibilities include Saxaul Sparrow, HendersonÕs Ground-jay, Asian Short-toed Lark, Pallas's Sandgrouse, Steppe Grey Shrike and Asian Desert Warbler. We then continue to Yolyn Am for an overnight stay.
Full day Yolyn Am, a huge and scenic valley, in search of Kozlov's, Brown and Alpine Accentors, Wallcreeper, White-winged Snowfinch, Mongolian Finch, Twite, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, Common and Lesser Kestrel, Lammergeier, Monk Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Golden Eagle, Saker Falcon, Ibex, Daurian and Mongolian Pika, Alashan Ground-squirrel, Mongolian Gerbil, Midday Gerbil, Red cheeked Ground-squirrel. Snow Leopard is present so we can always dream!
In the afternoon, if required we visit a large, flat area that holds breeding Oriental Plover and yet more Pallas's Sandgrouse. We also have an optional night-drive through the valley, primarily for mammals, with the possibilities including Steppe and Marbled Polecats, Siberian Ibex, and even Pallas's Cat and Snow Leopard. Night in hotel in Dalanzaghad or Yolyn Am Tourist Camp.
In the morning fly from Dalanzaghad to Ulaanbaatar and drive to Khustai National Park. Khustai is famous for the reintroduction of Przewalski's Horse, which we should see several of. Bird-wise, it is the best site for Lesser Kestrel and Amur Falcon, which regularly hunt from the roadside wires, along with Daurian Partridge, Meadow Bunting and a variety of raptors are possible. Other mammals possible include Daurian and Long-tailed Ground-squirrels with a chance of Mongolian Gazelle. In the evening return to Ulan Baatar for our final dinner.
International departures from Ulan Bataar International Airport.
Deposit: £ 500 or $ 700
Single room supplement:
£TBC / $150
Maximum group size: 9
Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, entrance fees, drinking water, tips to local drivers and guides, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: International flights, visa, travel insurance, drinks, tips to tour guides, and other items of a personal nature.
Note: we can provide an invitation letter if required for your tourist visa.
Accommodation: comfortable tented camps (one person per tent), with shared facilities.
Only in Ulan Baatar are we likely to stay in a hotel with twin-bed, and single rooms, with private facilities.
At least two nights also spent in fixed yurt tents.
Walking difficulty: generally easy to moderate throughout. The highest we potentially reach is 2,500m.
Expected number of species: 210-240 species.
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: For those well-travelled through China, it's 10-15 new species, most of which are difficult outside of Mongolia, such as Black-billed Capercaille, Hodgson's Bushchat and Altai Snowcock.