The Gobi Desert’s Valley of the Lammergeier

ibex bull w cow n

On our second day in the Yolyn Am Canyon in mid-October, we encountered more ibex such as this handsome billy. The sheer number of raptors was astounding.

russian van tight squeeze n

Out trusty Russian van slipped through a seemingly impossible passage. Here and there, falcon, hawk and eagle’s nests were perched on ledges along the craggy, vertical walls.

Saker falcon n

A saker falcon stretches his wings during a morning of hunting. 

rough legged hawk wheatears

Small birds and mammals abound in the canyon, providing ample forage for raptors and other predators. On this morning, swarms of wheatears seemed oblivious to this rough-legged hawk, which was probably hoping to score one of the canyon’s many small mammals.

shy pica

This shy pica had good reason to be on high alert. 

rough legged hawk pair

Probably a mated pair, these rough-legged hawks were hunting along a spring creek.

young & female ibex yolyn am 2 n

During our two-day journey on foot and by van through the canyon, we saw over 20 ibex.

bull ibex walking downslope n

Bearded, muscular and with iron-like knobbed horns silhouetted against a blue Mongolian sky, this billy cast a baleful eye on us as he calmly passed by.

lammergeier disapper rocks

The shape of the tail and the gold under the chin make it easy to identify this as the Yolyn Am’s eponymous bird – a lammergeier, also known as a bearded vulture. They kept their distance. We have equally blurry shots of the canyon’s golden eagles. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Three-hundred fifty miles (560 km) south of Ulaanbaatar, the Gobi Desert is wild and remote yet accessible. (In Mongolian cyrillic, the   “P’s” are pronounced as “R’s” in English.)

Coming next: The famous Singing Dunes – an Ocean of Sand