Monday, October 18, 2010

Gobi Desert Diaries: All creatures great and small, part 1.

In addition to extinct animals, I did get to encounter a variety of extant fauna during my trip to Mongolia. In this post I'll show some of the reptiles and birds we encountered.

This is the highly venomous Siberian Pit Viper, Gloydius halys. We kept a respectful distance.

I think this guy is called the Tuva Toad-Head Agama, Phrynocephalus versicolor. In the Gobi, I call them armpit lizards because of their brightly colored armpits. The rest of them blend into the desert amazingly well, and you often can't see them until they start running away from you. Also, the little buggers bite!

Sadly I have been unable to figure out who this handsome fellow is. He is not a shrike or a wagtail. Any ideas?
Update! John Acorn has suggested the Desert Wheatear, Oenanthe deserti. Looks like a good match!

Our camp also had a resident raven who kindly woke us up each morning, several small wagtails, and on one day just outside camp we saw a whole bunch of large raptors (perhaps 7 or 8 black kites) hanging out on a bunch of scrub bushes.

I was totally blown away by the size of the Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus at the Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar – look at that wingspan! I have since found out via Wikipedia that it is one of the largest birds of prey, and possibly the heaviest bird of prey. This is the dominant scavenger at a carcass and is strong enough to rip through hides. I’m pretty sure I saw some of these on the road out of Ulaanbaatar.

And I had to include a photo from my previous expedition in 2007, a Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos. They are quite heavy. This guy’s wingtip clipped my head as I was holding him, and it was incredibly strong – I cannot imagine being hit with a full flap.

1 comment:

  1. It's a good idea to keep away from the vipers, for the sake of the local ecosystem, and communities, as well as your own safety. I recall reading how each member of the American expedition to Bayn Dzak "accounted for several (vipers) a day." That was stupid. If snake populations are reduced, rodents will get out of control. That does a disservice to the local people.