Spring! April in the World’s Coldest Capital

Bohemian waxwing april 2015 n

Warmer temperatures are bringing flocks of new birds to Ulaanbaatar. These Bohemian Waxwings won’t stick around long; they’re on their way to nesting grounds in Siberia.

One day temperatures are in the 50’s or 60’s (in the teens, Celsius). The next day it’s below freezing with snowfall. And so it has been for the past few weeks from late March through mid-April. Welcome to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – officially recognized as the world’s coldest capital city. As transplants from Alaska, it feels like home – albeit a little warmer than our former north-of-the-Arctic-Circle village of Point Hope.

pussy willows catkins n

Pussy Willows – flowers of willow trees – have begun pushing out of their buds along the banks of Ulaanbaatar’s Tuul River.

great tit profile tree n

Great tits, above and below, are common residents along the Tuul River as well as in the nearby mountain forests.

great tit back tree n

Such interesting little birds, all camouflage and color from the head to the mid-back, an abrupt line, and then symmetry from the mid-back through the tail, which, in nature, is its own form of camouflage.

frost jellyfish weed april 2015 n

Early morning frost turned the withered remnant of last fall’s flowers into frozen jellyfish.

jellyfish weed april 2015 n

By late morning, the sun had melted most of the frost…

long-tailed rosefinch n

…while in shaded pockets where snow still lingered, newly arrived long-tailed rosefinches filled up on last year’s store of seeds. The willows and grasses along the Tuul provide the perfect habitat for many species of birds. And, judging by tracks in the snow, rabbits as well.

long-tailed rose finch upside down n

Finches become acrobats in pursuit of a good meal.

female long-tailed rose finch n

As is typically the case among passerines, the colors of the female long-tails are subdued compared to their male counterparts.

Magpie March 2015 n

Magpies were out in force, searching for nesting material to add to the massive jumbles of sticks they build in trees. It must work. They return to the same nests year after year, building them ever higher. Note the hooked beak; passerines beware. Magpies are predators, and no mistake.

big tree w sun april Tuul n

The Tuul River green belt is our favorite place in Ulaanbaatar. In addition to providing habitat for year-round resident birds and summer nesters, the abundant seeds provide critical fuel for passerines migrating further north.  The belt is also important hunting grounds for kestrels and other birds of prey as they make their way to their own nesting grounds. The banks of the Tuul are what’s left of an increasingly fragmented ecosystem. We’ve even caught fleeting glimpses of some type of quail or partridge in the thick willow undergrowth!

5 thoughts on “Spring! April in the World’s Coldest Capital

  1. I love reading the stuff you guys publish. The photography is really top drawer and I like the narration accompanying the photos and the recipes (even though I don’t bake anymore). Lately I have been spreading the word about your blog in Los Angeles and online. Three guys I know are “still” photographers in Hollywood. One of them is a blogger and food nut and another is a working screen writer. Keep it up! Cass

      • Typos question: Great!

        LA is a difficult place (as you know) but because of the VA I have had a very good experience. They not only take care of my health problems, they also arranged a section eight so I could get an apartment in a really good section of the city and they also paid for me to go to UCLA’s school of screenwriting. Cass!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.