Friday, August 29, 2008

One more year

I have decided to extend my stay here until December 2009. I have had a great summer and want the opportunity to explore more, work is going well, but only now do I feel I am getting to grips with it and hope to make real progress next year, and there seem likely to be some good birding opportunities next summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Into the Taiga

At the end of August we traveled north (to the bit of Mongolia that sticks up into Russia if you look at a map). The attraction was the taiga forest, part of the great siberian forests and one of largest undeveloped wildernesses on the planet, and a small, 300 or so, community of nomadic reindeer herders.

The journey was straightforward if long, and involved train, bus, a jeep and finally a 7 hour horse trek, - it was worth the effort. The landscape was stunning, forests, lakes, peat bogs, sedge bogs, open grassland and great river valleys. The reindeer people, the tsaaten, are one of most endangered indigenous communities . I had reservations about travelling as a tourist to visit such a community. However we arranged our travel trough a tsaaten community centre which has been established to help them gain some money from tourism so we used local guides, stayed with local community and 25% of our fees went to a community fund.

Horse-riding was fun, through forest, up rocky hillsides, across streams and most challenging bogs. The horses tended to sink in the bogs and i went over the top when my horses front legs sank, but I had a soft if damp landing.

In the taiga birds were scarce; whooper swan and white-winged scoter on the lakes, pintail snipe in bogs, hazel hen and goshawk in forests. Passerines included dusky warbler, red-throated flycatcher, little bunting, olive backed pipit.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jalman Meadows

Mary Anne and I spent 3 nights at a ger camp 3 hours drive from Ulaanbaatar in Khan Henti protected Area, a large reserve of forest and steppe extending north to the Russian border. The camp makes great effort to minimise environmental impact whilst providing quality service, so there are solar panels, a wind generator, a ger library with a excellent selection of books on Mongolia. We enjoyed horse riding, a trip with an ox cart taking a raft upstream and then drifting downstream in the raft, wonderful starry skies and walking in the countryside.

At work in Gobi

I spent 4 days in Gobi visiting Mercy Corps tourism clients and local government staff. The aims of the trip were to look at the training needs of both the ger camp owners and government staff. The ger camps were a mixed bunch, some needed little advice, others probably should never have started the business. One of the difficulties these new businesses have is making enough profit to reinvest. Between 30& 80% of family income comes from tourism and this money is needed to support basic livelihood