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Purevsuren Tsolmonjav, Senior Environment Advisor at Sustainability’s Mongolian office, has been watching and photographing birds and other wildlife for 10 years in Mongolia.

On 11 February 2017, he went to Tsetserleg town, the center of Arkhangai province in Mongolia with his friend Jargal Lamjav to see and photograph a Solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) which is the only wintering shore bird in Mongolia. They had not seen this species before and was recorded and photographed by a German bird watcher at a river located just south of Tsetserleg town in February 2014. After searching for Solitary snipe for several hours, they found four of them and were able to take satisfactory photos.

Wintering Solitary snipe in Central Mongolia in February 2017 © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav
Wintering Solitary snipe in Central Mongolia in February 2017 © Purevsuren Tsolmonjav

When they were searching for the solitary snipe along the stream, they spotted an unknown small wader (stint) on the gravel shore of the stream. The bird was quite tame and stood motionless and allowed some close-up photos and a couple of short videos to be taken.

Purevsuren was confused with this species due to its winter plumage. Because all waders, except the Solitary Snipe, are either fully migratory or passage migrants in Mongolia. Even though it was in its winter plumage, it looked different from similar sized stints that are found in Mongolia, notably Temminck’s, Long-toed, Little and Red-necked Stints. Compared to similar stints, it had a longer straight and dark bill, dark legs and wing tips extend past tail tip.

After arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the images of the mystery stint were sent to the professional ornithologists for identification and they kindly responded that this wader is a Baird’s sandpiper (Calidris bairdii). This species has not been recorded in Mongolia before and our observation of an individual in Central Mongolia constitutes the first confirmed record for Mongolia.

Baird’s sandpiper is a small wader with body length of 15 cm and it breeds in the northern tundra from eastern Siberia to western Greenland. They nest on the ground, usually in dry locations with low vegetation. They are a long distance migrant, wintering in South America. This species is a rare vagrant to western Europe.