Trip Report: Two-day Bird Photography Trip to Gun Galuut Nature Reserve | East Mongolia

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A 2-day bird photography trip into one of our favorite spots near Ulaanbaatar city, also an important birding destination in Mongolia, the Gun –Galuut Nature Reserve. The small area with about 20,000 hectares has diverse ecosystems, mountain, lakes, steppes and wetlands, a home to some of the rare species of birds, mammals and rich in flora. We the Bird Mongolia took our 5th internal birding trip to The Gun Galuut NR.

Top Birds: White-naped Crane, Swan Goose, Saker Falcon, Cinereous Vulture, Grey-headed Lapwing, Northern Lapwing,

Mammals: Marmot, Corsac Fox


Birding Spots: Lake Gun, Mt. Baits, River Kherlen, River Galuut, Ayga Pond

Trip Date: May 2, 2020

Duration: 1 night/2 days

Trip Type: Bird Photography 100%

Meals: Mongolian and western style meals

Accommodation: Tented camp

Transportation: 4x4 vehicle  

Road Condition: RW on paved-road, on earth-road during the trip

Weather condition: May - June: Showering on the beginning of the first day. Mostly sunny and windy, the temperature was 9 °C to 11°C during the day and -1°C to 0°C at night.

Group size: 4 persons

Report written:



Early morning, we were heading to the east of the capital city and had two-hour driving to the Nature Reserve mostly on paved road. We got to see a great amount of water birds, raptors and song birds are also occurred on the way to the NR. A rainy spring day, with pleasant scent of petrichor, we the small crew arrived at the first spot, the lake Gun. There were a great flock of Swan Goose, Whooper Swan and Ruddy Shelduck. Some of Mongolian Gulls and Common Terns flying over, small passerines made a nice sound around us, splendid Demoiselle Cranes were dancing over there on hills and all of these views made us happies birders and told us spring has already came to Mongolia. We follow our ancestors’ ritual one of the nature preserving customs in Mongolia, offering milk and wheat to the sacred stone heaps we call it Ovoo in our language. The Ovoo is built by local Mongolians on the top of the hills or near the lake side.

bird mongolia trip report

Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo) - Өвөгт Тогоруу

Here we started our bird photography, the first species of bird we saw was Grey-headed Lapwing (Vanellus cinereus), the rare one in Mongolia, we were lucky enough to add the new species of bird on our list. Natural view of that moment was incredibly beautiful and it was good enough to take nice pictures of birds along with surrounding area.

Grey-headed Lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) – Саарал Хавтгаалж

The next spot, we had short walk to the lake shore and there were a great flock of rare Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides), we hadn’t spot them on this lake on our previous trips, so happy feelings came again. The photo trip leader, photographer Batzaya Choijiljav, who had great shots of flying Swan Geese from his previous birding trip in the different place, so it was an another good chance to photograph them on the lake in the early spring. There were also Goosanders, Common Pochards, Northern Shovelers, Mallards and Shelducks. 

Northern Shoveler (Spatula Anas clypeata) – Халбага Нугас

Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) – Хошуу Галуу

After few hours of photographing around the lake we had nice picnic lunch and then reached at our next spot to see another rare species, the White-naped Crane (Antigone vipio). On this trip, we got to see and photograph beautiful couple at the wetland of the Nature Reserve. There are four species of cranes can be occurred in summer in this area, Siberian Crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus), White-naped Crane (Antigone vipio), Common Crane (Grus grus), and Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo). We observed two of them on this trip and hope to see again the Siberian Crane this year too.

White-naped Crane (Antigone vipio) – Цэн Тогоруу

Evening comes, we did short drive through peaceful small valley with running marmots, grazing domestic flocks and singing small birds. We searched best place to settle up our wild camping along the River Kherlen, one of the biggest rivers in Mongolia. After settled up the tents, we had good dinner with the nice talk about the birds we saw today. I, the bird and nature lover, have been taking the several birding trips with Bird Mongolia and responsible for e-Bird listings, writing trip reports and other wild camping related stuffs, did my job-making notes, bird listing etc…

On the he second day in the morning, we spotted some stunning raptors, Saker Falcon, Cinereous Vulture and Upland Buzzard and Black Kites. After having breakfast, we left the river side and headed back to the Lake Gun, on the way we stopped at small pond, the Ayga to enjoy surroundings and photograph some water birds, Whooper Swan, Common Shelduck, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Little-ringed Plover and Northern Lapwing. And sure there are also some cute passerines occurred, Citrine Wagtail, White Wagtail, Horned lark, Mongolian Lark, Tree sparrow and Northern Wheatear.

Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) – Нөмрөг Тас

Mongolian Lark (Melanocorypha mongolica) – Монгол Болжмор

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) – Шар түрүүт Цэгцгий

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) - Анхидал Ангир

Little-ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) – Нарийн Хиазат

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) – Тэнгисийн хиазат

Around 1 pm, we arrived at the Lake Gun again on the way back to Ulaanbaatar, we spotted Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), not so popular in central Mongolian region. The lake gave us another chance to see the different species of birds such as Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged stilt, Pied Avocet, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Kentish Plover and the others that we saw before.

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) - Шовтгор алаг Нугас. Left side of the swan goose

By the end of the trip, our first birding trip of 2020 list had reached 40. It was an excellent trip, with our experienced driver Munkhuu, and birding guide Enkhbat. We got enough to watch and photograph stunning birds.

mongolia bird trip report



  1. Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) – Хошуу Галуу
  2. White-naped Crane (Antigone vipio) – Цэн Тогоруу
  3. Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo) - Өвөгт Тогоруу
  4. Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) – Гангар Хун
  5. Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) – Хондон Ангир
  6. Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) - Анхидал Ангир
  7. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) - Шовтгор алаг Нугас
  8. Northern Shoveler (Spatula Anas clypeata) – Халбага Нугас
  9. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) – Зэрлэг Нугас
  10.  Eurasian wigeon (Mareca penelope) – Зээрд Нугас
  11. Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) – Эдлэг Шонхор
  12. Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) – Нөмрөг Тас
  13. Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) – Шилийн сар
  14. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) – Сохор Элээ
  15. Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus) – Дагуур Галсүүлт
  16. Grey-headed Lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) – Саарал Хавтгаалж
  17. Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) – Умардын Хавгтаалж
  18. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) – Хүрэн Толгойт Цахлай
  19. Mongolian Gull (Larus vegae mongolicus) – Монгол Цахлай
  20. White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) - Буурал Хараалай
  21. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) – Эгэл Хараалай
  22. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) – Тэнгисийн хиазат
  23. Little-ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) – Нарийн Хиазат
  24. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) – Эгэл Хилэнжигүүр
  25. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) – Алаг Ээтэн
  26. Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) – Халбаган Хошуут
  27. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – Хөх Дэглий
  28. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) – Тураг Гогой
  29. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)  – Бөвөөлжин Өвөөлж
  30. Common Magpie (Eurasian magpie)– Алаг Шаазгай
  31. Common Raven (Corvus corax) – Хон Хэрээ
  32. Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) – Улаан хошуут Жунгаа
  33. Mongolian Lark (Melanocorypha mongolica) – монгол Болжмор
  34. Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) – Эвэрт Болжмор
  35. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – Асарын хараацай
  36. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)  – Адууч Чогчиго
  37. Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) – Шар түрүүт Цэгцгий
  38. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) – Хөх Цэгцгий
  39. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) – Хээрийн боршувуу
  40. Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia) – Хадны боршувуу
Category: Trip Reports