The Mongolia Cuckoo Project

 

 

 

Welcome to the Mongolia Cuckoo Project!

 

From 4-8 June 2019, five cuckoos – one Oriental Cuckoo and four Common Cuckoos – were fitted with transmitters around Khurkh Bird Banding Center in northern Mongolia.  The birds have been named by local schools who will follow “their” birds to learn about the migration route and wintering grounds of these iconic birds.

 

You can follow them, too, by checking this page and by following @BirdingBeijing on Twitter.

 

 

The latest positions of the Mongolian Cuckoos. Zoom into the map using “+” and “-” to see more detail

 

 

 

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project is a joint initiative by the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center (WSCC) of Mongolia and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), facilitated by Birding Beijing and generously supported by the Oriental Bird Club and Mr Dick Newell.

 

The Project Team – including Chris Hewson (BTO), Lyndon Kearsley, Dick Newell and Terry Townshend – is grateful to WSCC for making the arrangements to visit Khurkh Bird Banding Center and for their invaluable support.  We are particularly indebted to Nyambayar Batbayar, Batmunkh Davaasuren and Tuvshinjargal Erdenechimeg.

 

Introducing the five Mongolian Cuckoos:

 

Cuckoo 1

 

Mongolian name: нүүдэлчин

 

English translation: Nomad

 

Species: Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus optatus)

 

Sex: male

 

Tag number: 161312

 

 

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Cuckoo 2

 

Mongolian name: Хурх

 

English translation: (Captain) Khurkhboldly going where no cuckoo has gone before…

 

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

 

Sex: male

 

Tag number: 170438

 

 

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Cuckoo 3

 

Mongolian name: намжаа (NAMJAA)

 

English translation: Namjaa is the name of a storyteller in Mongolian folklore

 

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

 

Sex: male

 

Tag number: 170436

 

 

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Cuckoo 4

 

Mongolian name: Баян (BAYAN)

 

English translation: Prosper

 

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

 

Sex: male

 

Tag number: 170437

 

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Cuckoo 5

 

Mongolian name: Онон

 

English translation: Onon (after the local river)

 

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

 

Sex: male

 

Tag number: 161314

 

 

Latest News:

 

Please consider donating via this JustGiving page towards the cost of the satellite fees, so far not covered by existing funding. Any gift, no matter how small, is welcome and 100% of any donation will go to BTO and used only towards the satellite fees for this project. Thank you.

 

3 August 2020

ONON has flown another 300km south over the weekend and is now in the Taihang mountain range of China’s Shanxi Province.  There are Leopards in those mountains..  and, given the recent rain, very likely lots of juicy caterpillars, too!

29 July 2020

After a couple of weeks on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, ONON is now on the move.  He’s flown c900km SSE, crossing the Gobi Desert to southern Inner Mongolia and is c490km due west of Beijing.   This looks like the real beginning of his autumn migration to Africa.  Good luck, ONON!

13 July 2020

After only 6.5 weeks on the breeding grounds, ONON is on the move!  In the last 48 hours he’s flown c200km WSW and is now just 80km east of Ulaanbaatar.  In 2019 he left the breeding grounds on 31 July, so he’s more than two weeks earlier than last year….  

9 July 2020

The maps below show ONON‘s tracks over the last 14 days.  You can see he is closely tied to his territory adjacent to Khurkh Bird Ringing Station in northern Mongolia, precisely where he was fitted with his tag in June 2019.  Although the European cuckoos are already heading to Africa, we can expect ONON to stay in Mongolia for a few weeks yet..  Last year he began to head south at the end of July.  Watch this space!

ONON’s summer territory is in northern Mongolia’s Khenti Province c150km from the border with Russia.
ONON’s movements over the last 14 days. He has a territory adjacent to the Khurkh Bird Banding Station and seems to be very active.

28 June 2020

It’s been quite a 24 hours for media star, ONON.  On Saturday 27 June he featured in a full page article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, as well as this online article.  Then, he was a topic of discussion on BBC One’s Breakfast show (see screen recording below) and finally, in the afternoon, he was featured on BBC Radio 4, including an interview with Phil Atkinson from BTO (starts at 26:50).  We’ve sent the TV clip to the Mongolian schoolchildren who named ONON and we’re sure they will be very excited to see him on TV!

10 June 2020

ONON has been busy.  The map below shows his movements over the last five days.  With the exception of one location well to the north and over the border in Russia (a “class B” location, meaning that it is of low accuracy), he is remarkably loyal to his territory around the Khurkh Bird Ringing Centre.  

2 June 2020

ONON is on his territory and hopefully enjoying visits from the local female cuckoos.  Some more photos below of ONON and the area where he was fitted with his tag.

The spectacular view from ONON’s territory, near Khurkh in Mongolia. This picture shows “Team Cuckoo” ‘s transport in Mongolia and Dick Newell scanning for birds.
Lyndon Kearsley with ONON moments before he was released.

ONON being released by Tuvshi of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, our local partner.

30 May 2020

Since his arrival, ONON has been busy.  The map below shows his movements over the last two days.  We’re hoping our colleagues at Khurkh Bird Banding Station will catch sight of him and maybe also one or more of the other tagged birds with which we lost contact over the past few months.  Sadly, we don’t expect to hear about BAYAN, presumed dead in Yunnan Province, China.

ONON’s movements since his arrival at Khurkh, Mongolia, on 27 May 2020.

27 May 2020

ONON is home! As of 1530 local time on 27 May 2020 he is in the vicinity of Khurkh Bird Ringing Station, where he was fitted with his tag in June 2019, after a round trip of c26,000km, including 27 border crossings involving 16 countries.  Remarkable navigation and endurance.  And now he has no time to waste as he needs to set up his territory, defend it from competing males and mate with as many females as possible!  

 

Border crossings by ONON: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bhutan – India – Nepal – India – Pakistan – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – Kenya – Tanzania – Zambia – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia – India – Bangladesh – India – Bangladesh – Myanmar – China – Mongolia (27 involving 16 countries)

26 May 2020

ONON is on the last leg of his journey home to northern Mongolia.  As of 0630 local time, he is over the Gobi Desert, just 400km from Khurkh in northern Mongolia, where he was fitted with his tag and where we expect him to spend the summer.  The slight kink in the track could be due to winds encountered over the desert – see the visualisation of ONON’s position and the local winds below.

Red line shows ONON’s trajectory and green line shows distance (c400km) to Khurkh in northern Mongolia.

The map above shows the most recent location of ONON and the surrounding winds at 0630 local time on 26 May 2020.

23 May 2020

ONON has flown c500km north and is now in Shanxi Province, c20 km west-southwest of Xinzhou.  From the temperature data it looks as if he is in active migration, so we may receive further updates very soon. He still has c1,200km to go to reach Khurkh in northern Mongolia, where we expect him to spend the breeding season.

The red line shows ONON’s recent move from Henan Province to Shanxi Province in China. The blue line shows the remaining distance (c1,200km) to reach Khurkh in northern Mongolia, the place where he was fitted with his tag and where we expect him to spend the breeding season.
ONON is c20km west-southwest of Xinzhou in Shanxi Province.

19 May 2020

ONON is taking a break in Henan Province before the final push to Mongolia.

As of early morning on 19th May, ONON is still in Henan Province in China but we are now concerned about BAYAN.  It’s been a week since we last received signals and analysis of the most recent signals on 11th and 12th May show some temperature anomalies (significant fluctuations between day and night –  usually moderated by the body temperature of a healthy bird) which may be indicative that either the tag has fallen off the bird or BAYAN may have died.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we receive some more signals but it may be the case that we have heard the last from BAYAN

It’s a reminder that migration is tough and there are many threats along the way – bad weather, predators and difficulty finding a good stopover site due to habitat loss, to name a few – and every year a significant percentage of migratory birds don’t make it.  For cuckoos, given they are brood parasites and lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, we know that females can lay around 15-20 eggs per summer.  That means she produces more young than she could raise on her own, and maybe this strategy boosts the population, helping to offset the losses of migration.  Whatever the reason, it highlights the need for us all to better protect the habitats that migratory birds need all along their migration route.  These birds are shared by all of us in the countries along the route – from Mongolia to Mozambique – and, with that, comes a shared responsibility to do what we can to protect them.  If greater awareness about this responsibility is BAYAN‘s legacy,  his life will have been with strong purpose and meaning.  

BAYAN’s journey 7 June 2019 to 12 May 2020 at a glance: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bangladesh – India – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – South Sudan – Kenya – Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Zambia – Malawi – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia – India – Bangladesh – India – Myanmar – China

31 border crossings involving 18 countries; total distance: c24,000km

17 May 2020

ONON has swung north and is now in Henan Province, c150km southwest of Zhengzhou.  Still around 1,700km to go to reach Khurkh, in Mongolia, where he was fitted with his tag.  No new signals from BAYAN since 12th.

ONON and BAYAN as at 17 May 2020. ONON has swung north and is now c1,700km from home in Khurkh, Mongolia.
ONON is c150km southwest of Zhengzhou in Henan Province.

14 May 2020

Another big move from ONON of >1,500km and he is now on the outskirts of Jingmen, a city of just under 3 million people c200km west of Wuhan in Hubei Province in China.  BAYAN has some catching up to do!

A flight of more than 1,500km puts ONON in pole position. He’s now just 200km west of Wuhan in Hubei Province, China.
ONON is now close to Jingmen in Hubei Province, China.

12 May 2020

Update 1930 local time:

ONON has flown another 750km east and is now in Myanmar.  He’s only 500km behind BAYAN who remains in China’s Yunnan Province.

ONON and BAYAN still seem to be resting up for the final push to Mongolia.  Although set fair in eastern India and southern China, the winds in the Beijing area – the route they will likely take to Mongolia – are not good at the moment with fairly strong northerlies…  so waiting in India and SW China looks like a sensible tactic.

11 May 2020

ONON seems to be enjoying a well-earned rest in Meghalaya.  He’s c4km NNE of Selsella.  BAYAN is also taking a break a little north of Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province.  Still a long way to go, so we don’t expect them to rest for long…  

10 May 2020

It appears that both ONON and BAYAN are taking a rest after their marathon journeys from Africa.  ONON remains in Meghalaya, c20km east of Patakata, and BAYAN is in Yunnan Province, China, c80km north of Kunming.  How long will they stay and who will be the first to take off again?  We’re expecting them to arrive in Mongolia around the very end of May.  Still more than 3,000km to go for BAYAN and around 4,500 for ONON!

8 May 2020 @ 0600 China time

BAYAN has overtaken ONON and is now in Yunnan Province, China having crossed Bangladesh and Myanmar.  The latest transmission puts him between Dali and Kunming.  ONON has pushed on to Meghalaya in India.

BAYAN has now flown 7,200km in the last 7 days since leaving Somalia.

ONON’s and BAYAN’s tracks from the last 8 days.
BAYAN has surged into the lead and is now in Yunnan Province with ONON in Meghalaya, India.
ONON’s latest signals put him east of Selsella and northwest of Rongram in Meghalaya.
BAYAN is somewhere between Dali and Kunming in Yunnan Province.

6 May 2020 @ 1920 local time

BAYAN is catching up fast.  He didn’t settle in Gujarat, instead continuing east and is now just 30km northwest of Kolkata in West Bengal.

Remarkably similar tracks from ONON and BAYAN over the last 7 days.
After a winter in Africa and crossings of the Arabian Sea, just over 250km now separates ONON and BAYAN.

6 May 2020 @ 1450 local time

ONON is in Bangladesh!  His incredible journey continues..

ONON’s timeline from Kenya to Bangladesh (all times Indian time):

29 April 1037hrs – a signal picked up by satellites puts ONON in Kenya

1 May 1000hrs –  next signal puts ONON in Somalia and on his way

6 May 0358hrs – signals picked up by satellites show him in Bangladesh

Total journey: >6,300km

(Maximum) time taken: 6 days, 17 hrs and 21 minutes.

Note that the time is a maximum time taken as we do not know precisely when he left his position in Kenya. 

Map showing tracks of ONON and BAYAN since 29 April. ONON (red) is now in Bangladesh and BAYAN (green) is in Gujarat, India, both having crossed the Arabian Sea from Africa.

6 May 2020 0230 local time

BAYAN has made it!  He is now in Gujarat, c25km west of the town of Bhavnagar.  Meanwhile, ONON hasn’t taken much of a rest.  He’s moved another 800km and is now n far eastern Madhya Pradesh, c30km north of the town of Singrauli.

ONON (red) and BAYAN (green) are now in India after their Arabian Sea crossings.
BAYAN’s latest position in Gujarat, a ittle west of Bhavnagar.
ONON’s latest position in far eastern Madhya Pradesh, a little north of Singrauli.

5 May 2020 1943 local time

BAYAN is still over the ocean and with just 230km to go to reach landfall.  No further signals yet from ONON; he’s probably enjoying a well-earned rest in Madhya Pradesh.  Thanks to Twitter follower, Rajesh Ghotikar (@RGhotikar), who visited ONON‘s location near Ratlam to check out the habitat and reports that all is well..!

BAYAN is following a very similar trajectory to ONON and is just 230km from landfall as at 1943 local time on 5 May 2020.
Rajesh Ghotikar checking out ONON’s location near Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh.

5 May 2020 

This is incredible.  BAYAN is now on a very similar trajectory to ONON, following in his wingflaps.  Hoping for more signals later today.  

4 May 2020 1430 local time

ONON has completed his crossing of the Arabian Sea!  He’s now in western Madhya Pradesh having flown c5,000km since leaving Kenya on 29 or 30 April..  astonishing!  We’re still awaiting further signals from BAYAN but expect more very soon.

ONON‘s journey:

ONON has just flown 5,000km from Kenya to Madhya Pradesh in India, almost certainly without stopping. Incredible.

BAYAN‘s journey:

BAYAN is hot on the heels of ONON and his latest position shows him tacking north to pick up some good tailwinds to take him to India.
Wind direction and strength in the Arabian Sea as at 4 May 2020 0130 local time.  

4 May 2020 0130 local time

ONON has almost made it!  His latest position puts him just 20km from landfall in Gujarat.. and BAYAN is on his tail… having left Somalia and following a very similar trajectory to ONON.  However, the last few signals seem to show that BAYAN has tacked north and, looking at the wind patters, we can see why – he should find good tailwinds that will take him all the way to India…  clever!

ONON has almost completed his crossing of the Arabian Sea and is just 20km from the Indian coast.
This wind map shows why BAYAN has tacked north.. he should pick up the tailwinds that will take him to the India/Pakistan border area.

3 May 2020

ONON is flying!  He’s traversed Somalia, potentially crossed Socotra and is now over the Indian Ocean, well on his way to South Asia.  On his current trajectory, he could make landfall in Pakistan or India in the next few hours.. and the winds look good!

ONON has flown >3,500km since a signal was received from Kenya on 29 April.
This map shows ONON’s position and the current wind direction as at 3 May @ 1845 China time. Still around 500km to go to make landfall…

2 May 2020

After almost two weeks of relative calm, ONON has made a big move of more than 1,200km NE.  He’s crossed the Equator is now in Somalia.  BAYAN has made a more modest move of c150km NE and is now c200km WSW of Mogadishu.  Both are poised to make their return crossings of the Arabian Sea..  May is going to be a roller-coaster ride with both expected back in Mongolia around the end of the month…  

  

19 April 2020

BAYAN has continued northeast and flown another 300km, crossing the border into Somalia.  That’s his 26th border crossing involving 18 countries since being fitted with his tag in June 2019.  He’s now c350km SW of Mogadishu.  ONON remains in the Tana River area of central Kenya. Track shows positions over the last three days.

Border crossings by BAYAN: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bangladesh – India – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – South Sudan – Kenya – Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Zambia – Malawi – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia (26 involving 18 countries)

Border crossings by ONON: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bhutan – India – Nepal – India – Pakistan – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – Kenya – Tanzania – Zambia – Tanzania – Kenya (20 involving 15 countries)

17 April 2020

BAYAN is on the move..  in just two and a half days, he has flown >1200km from Zambia, skirted Malawi, crossed Tanzania and is now in Kenya, less than 100km from the border with Somalia.  He’s now neck and neck with ONON who is just 250km to the northwest.

12 April 2020

ONON has flown another 250km NE and is now deep into Kenya on his return journey.  The trajectory shows how he went out of his way to avoid flying directly over Kilimanjaro.

9 April 2020

ONON seems to be enjoying his time at Kilmanjaro.. he appears to have circumnavigated the western side and is now just over the border in Kenya.

Over the last few days, ONON has flown from the SW of Kilimajaro to the north, probably passing within 50km of the crater.
ONON has crossed his 16th border involving 15 countries since being fitted with his tag in June 2019.

31 March 2020

ONON is continuing to motor.. and is now just 100km SW of Kilimanjaro.  BAYAN is still in northern Zambia.

29 March 2020

Both ONON and BAYAN have made moves overnight.  BAYAN is now near Kapoko in northern Zambia after a modest flight of around 140km north and ONON has flown c400km NE to Dodoma in central Tanzania.

21 March 2020

Hot on the heels of ONON‘s first significant move of the spring, BAYAN has made a similar flight north of c475km from northern Mozambique into Zambia.

20 March 2020

The return has begun!  ONON has just flown c450km north, crossing the border into the Mbeya region of Tanzania.  BAYAN remains in northern Mozambique and we have received some weak-powered signals from NAMJAA, unfortunately too weak to calculate a location.  We remain hopeful that we may pick him up as he starts to migrate.

25 February 2020

BAYAN has moved 250km WNW into northern Mozambique and is now at the eastern end of Lake Cahora.  ONON remains in Eastern Zambia.  No recent signals from NAMJAA.

BAYAN has moved into northern Mozambique.. the start of his return migration to Mongolia?

3 February 2020

ONON has continued another 400km south-southwest and is now in Eastern Zambia.  BAYAN has edged back into Malawi, close to the border with Mozambique.  Will this be ONON‘s last big move before he begins his return journey?  

29 January 2020

After a period of relative inactivity, ONON has made a 300km move south to southern Tanzania, just 50km from the borders with Zambia and Mozambique.  

ONON as at 29 January 2020

5 January 2020

After spending Christmas in Malawi, BAYAN has edged south and into Mozambique.  ONON remains in Tanzania and NAMJAA is in Kenya.

BAYAN has crossed the Mozambique border from Malawi and is the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos.

20 December 2019

 

ONON is in Tanzania… having flown c450km SSW, passing Kilimanjaro in the process. Almost certainly he will have been able to see Africa’s highest peak as he headed south. Meanwhile, BAYAN has edged south in Malawi.

 

ONON and BAYAN as at 20 December 2019

 

Possible cuckoo’s eye view as ONON flew past Kilimanjaro.. Photo by Ali A. Dhillon.

 

16 December 2019

 

ONON and BAYAN are still on the move. ONON has flown c300km south but remains in Kenya. After his 1,000km move south into Tanzania, BAYAN has kept going, crossing northern Mozambique and is now in Malawi, the 16th country visited since being fitted with his tag.

 

ONON and BAYAN are steadily heading south in East Africa. This movement, also seen with the Beijing Cuckoos, suggests they track the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), an area of cloud with periodic rain found where the northern and southern trade winds combine. The ITCZ usually moves south in late autumn/early winter, before moving north in late winter/spring. We know that rain stimulates the emergence of the cuckoos’ favourite food – soft-bodied invertebrates such as caterpillars. Read more about the ITCZ here.

 

13 December 2019

 

A big move from BAYAN – c1000km south and he’s now in southern Morogoro, Tanzania.

 

 

 

3 December 2019

 

ONON has now joined BAYAN and NAMJAA in Kenya.. and less than 200km separates them. Remarkable.

 

ONON, BAYAN and NAMJAA are all in Kenya.

 

 

1 December 2019

 

NAMJAA is still going… he’s crossed the Equator and joined BAYAN in Kenya.. with the two separated by less than 200km.

 

Just 650km now separates all three Mongolian Cuckoos in NE Africa.

 

 

30 November 2019

 

NAMJAA is in Somalia! Signals from late on 29th show he has flown 4,000km in 4 days from Gujarat in India to c300km west of Mogadishu in Somalia. It seems that he didn’t stop on reaching the African coast.. but instead flew another 1,000km SW.. incredible.

 

NAMJAA’s route from Gujarat in India to Somalia. That’s c4,000km in 4 days.

 

 

28 November 2019

 

This is exciting! As of last night, NAMJAA was over the Arabian Sea and had almost reached the coast of Somalia! He certainly took his time to make the sea crossing but boy did he go for it! The most recent position was from late on 27th November; we are now waiting for confirmation that he has made it across! Winds look good and should assist him (see below).

 

NAMJAA has flown from Gujarat in India to Somalia.. a distance of just over 2,500km non-stop.

 


The winds should provide some assistance for NAMJAA as he nears the completion of his sea crossing.

 

 

26 November 2019

 

NAMJAA is edging west.. and is now c35km NNE of Surendranagar in Gujarat. When will he take the leap and cross the Arabian Sea? It’s now two months since ONON and BAYAN made their crossing…

 

 

Meanwhile, ONON is in southern Ethiopia and BAYAN remains the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos in Kenya.

 

 

 

17 November 2019

 

NAMJAA has moved WSW into Gujarat. Is he finally going to make his crossing of the Arabian Sea to Africa? Winds look good…

 

NAMJAA is heading coastward… next stop Africa?

 

 

 

11 November 2019

 

BAYAN has crossed the Equator, making him the first (known) of the Mongolian Cuckoos to reach the southern hemisphere! The map below shows his latest move, still in Kenya.. with ONON a little further north in Ethiopia.

 

BAYAN is in the southern hemisphere! He’s in the Kitui area of Kenya, at around 1.5 degrees of latitude south.

 

 

31 October 2019

 

ONON and BAYAN (PROSPER) have settled in to Africa, with both moving south in the last few days. ONON is in southern Ethiopia and BAYAN (PROSPER) is in the Samburu region of Kenya, probably mixing with elephants and lions! NAMJAA remains in India and we are still awaiting further signals from Captain KHURKH or NOMAD

 

ONON and BAYAN (PROSPER) as at 31 October 2019.

 

 

16 October 2019

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) has continued SSW and has crossed the border into Uganda. His 12th border crossing involving 13 countries since being fitted with a tag in Mongolia in June.

 

BAYAN is now in NE Uganda, a new country for cuckoos tagged in East Asia!

 

 

15 October 2019

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) has made a big move SSW, flying more than 1,000km, briefly crossing into South Sudan (the first time a tracked cuckoo from East Asia has visited this country) before entering N Kenya. If he continues on this heading, he’ll be the first of our East Asian cuckoos to enter Uganda. ONON is still in northern Ethiopia, NAMJAA remains in India and we are still waiting for news from NOMAD, last heard from in Hubei Province, China on 4 October.

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) is in northern Kenya.

 

 

13 October 2019

 

After their mammoth crossings of two deserts and two oceans, ONON and BAYAN have been recuperating in Ethiopia for the last two weeks. BAYAN is beginning to show signs of restlessness and has edged SW around 100km. NAMJAA remains in India, poised to cross the Arabian Sea. No signal from NOMAD‘s tag since 4 October. We’re hoping we’ll pick up his signal if/when he starts moving south.

 

 

 

10 October 2019

 

It is now just over a month since we heard from Captain KHURKH‘s tag. In the days leading up to the last transmission on 8 September, the battery charge had been consistently low but the temperature data showed no abnormalities, suggesting he was healthy. The most likely explanation is that the tag’s battery is now so low that it cannot transmit a signal for the satellites to pick up. Although there is a chance his tag may kick into life if it receives a prolonged boost of sunlight, given the length of time without any transmission, we should expect not to hear from him again. Of course, it may just be that he’s been ‘beamed up’ by Scotty!

 

Captain KHURKH’s mission, to boldly go where no cuckoo has gone before, to explore strange new worlds, may have come to an end.

 

Captain KHURKH’s last known position was in SW China’s Yunnan Province.

 

 

7 October 2019

 

A quiet few days for the Mongolian Cuckoos. NAMJAA is on the outskirts of Udaipur in Rajasthan. ONON and BAYAN (PROSPER) are both recovering on Ethiopia after their epic desert and sea crossings. Still no further sign of Captain KHURKH and NOMAD remains in Hubei Province, China.

 

The positions of the Mongolian Cuckoos as at 7 October 2019

 

NAMJAA seems to like Udaipur in Rajasthan

 

 

2 October 2019

 

NAMJAA is skirting the Thar Desert, poised to make his crossing to Africa. He’s currently 25km W of Udaipur in Rajasthan. We’ve received no signal from Captain KHURKH since early September. The most recent transmission on 8 September showed apparently healthy temperature data but a low battery charge, so we remain hopeful the tag will start to transmit again if it has a chance to recharge. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, remains in Hubei Province, China.

 

NAMJAA is poised to be the third of the Mongolian Cuckoos to cross the Arabian Sea to Africa

 

 

29 September 2019

 

In the last 4 days, ONON and BAYAN have crossed two deserts and two seas. After their long flights from India to Saudi Arabia, they’ve flown another 600km SW, crossing the Red Sea and Eritrea to Ethiopia, following a remarkably similar path. NAMJAA remains in India with NOMAD still in Hubei Province in China, some 7,500km ENE of ONON and BAYAN.

 

 

 

27 September 2019

 

This is breathless..! ONON has continued right across the Rub’ Al Khali Desert and seems to have stopped in the far SW of Saudi Arabia, close to the border with Yemen. An incredible 2,860km from his previous position in Pakistan. BAYAN (PROSPER)‘s journey is even more remarkable. Having reached India on Tuesday after a flight of 900km from Yunnan to Bangladesh and then >1,500km from Bangladesh to India, he must gave been in great condition as he has flown a further 3,300km west from Madhya Pradesh. The most recent signal (0930am local time) puts him in Saudi Arabia, over the southwestern part of the Rub Al Khali Desert. That’s 5,400km in 6 days! Interestingly, one of the signals from BAYAN‘s tag when he was over the eastern part of the desert puts him just 15km from ONON‘s location 11 hours earlier!

 

The last 48 hours has been eventful, with two of the Common Cuckoos crossing the Arabian Sea and the Rub’ Al Khali Desert of Saudi Arabia.

 

 

26 September 2019

 

Oh wow… it seems that ONON‘s 800km flight to the Indus Delta in Pakistan was just his warm-up… he’s now flown another 2,000km WSW and is in Saudi Arabia! That’s a new country for the tagged East Asian cuckoos… Not only that, BAYAN (PROSPER) has also crossed the Arabian Sea and is in Oman…. Both taking advantage of favourable winds in the northern Arabian Sea. These ocean crossings are almost a month earlier than the Beijing Cuckoos in 2016… and three weeks earlier than Flappy in 2017. Fascinating stuff! Judging from the temperature data from the tags, they both appear to be still in active migration, so there could be more drama yet today…

 

ONON and BAYAN (PROSPER) have crossed the Arabian Sea.

 

 

25 September 2019

 

ONON has consolidated his lead in the race to Africa.. he’s flown c800km WSW to the Indus Delta in Pakistan. NAMJAA and BAYAN (PROSPER) remain in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively.

 

All the action is in South Asia with ONON leading the pack.

 

 

24 September 2019

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) is motoring! He’s flown another 1,500km west and is in Madhya Pradesh, India. Three of the five Mongolian Cuckoos are now in India with ONON in Rajasthan and NAMJAA in Uttar Pradesh.

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) is challenging for the lead in the race to Africa!

 

 

22 September 2019

 

A big move from BAYAN (PROSPER). He’s flown nearly 900km WSW from his previous position in Yunnan Province, crossing Myanmar, and is now in Bangladesh a little south of Chittagong.

 

 

 

18 September 2019

 

NOMAD did indeed continue – he flew more than 430km overnight and is now in Hubei Province. From the temperature data, it looks as if he is taking a rest here.. Still anyone’s guess where he is heading!

 

 

 

17 September 2019

 

NOMAD is on the move again. He’s flown about 200km south and has crossed the border from Shanxi to Henan Province. From the temperature data, it looks as if he is still in active migration, so could move further today. His heading, almost due south, does not give much away in terms of the intended destination.. he’s keeping us guessing!

 

NOMAD is heading due south.. and is now in Henan Province.

 

Earlier this month we began a poll to see where readers think NOMAD, the first Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus optatus) to be tracked, would spend the northern winter. The poll closed on 10 September and here are the results:

 

Indonesia/Malaysia – 39%

 

Africa – 27%

 

Australia – 13%

 

India – 8 %

 

New Zealand – 5%

 

Other – 8%

 

Perhaps not surprisingly, SE Asia is the most popular suggestion. However, with one specimen from Zambia (per Handbook of the Birds of the World), and eBird records from Australia and New Zealand, there remains a large element of mystery about where NOMAD will go.

 

16 September 2019

 

ONON has edged west into Rajasthan, on a heading towards Jaipur.

 

ONON is in Rajasthan, about 130km SE of Jaipur.

 

 

15 September 2019

 

After a few days in northern Shaanxi Province, NOMAD has flown 300km south and is now in western Shanxi Province. Tantalisingly, there are still no firm clues as to where he is going..

 

Is NOMAD’s trajectory indicative of a SE Asia destination?

 

 

10 September 2019

 

After his unexpected turn NW into Sichuan, BAYAN (PROSPER) has flown c450km SW and is now in Yunnan Province, just 60km SW of Dali, on a more expected course.

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) is on a heading to the Myanmar border after his trip to the Gaoligong mountains. Just 200km separates him and Captain KHURKH

 

BAYAN (PROSPER) is a little over 50km from Dali in Yunnan Province.

 

 

9 September 2019

 

NOMAD is in Shaanxi Province. He’s flown another 300+km south from his previous position in Inner Mongolia and spent the afternoon/evening c80km SE or Ordos. Don’t forget, there is still time to have your say on where you think he is heading.. Remember, NOMAD is the first ever Oriental Cuckoo to be tracked. Will he go to Africa, following the Common Cuckoos and from where there is a specimen? Or will he go to SE Asia or even Australia as some people think? Or somewhere else? You can vote for where you think he is going here.

 

NOMAD has completed a major milestone of his autumn migration by crossing the Gobi Desert.

 

 

8 September 2019

 

After a few days close to Ulaanbaatar, it looks as if NOMAD has started to cross the Gobi. Sometime around 7pm local time on 7th September he started to move and the temperature of his tag was lower than normal, indicating that he is in active migration. Crossing deserts and oceans are some of the most perilous parts of bird migrations, so we have everything crossed he will be ok. We’re expecting to pick up further signals later today or tomorrow. Watch this space! In the meantime, there are still two days to vote for where you think NOMAD, the first Oriental Cuckoo to be tracked, is heading… SE Asia? Africa? Australia? Vote here!

 

NOMAD is heading out across the desert towards China.

 

UPDATE: NOMAD flew c800km overnight across the Gobi and is now in Inner Mongolia, China. It looks as if he still has around 75km to go to find optimal habitat but he’s broken the back of the desert crossing..

 

NOMAD’s position as at 1600 local time on 8 September.

 

 

7 September 2019

 

NAMJAA has flown c1200km west from northern Bangladesh and is now in northern Madhya Pradesh in India, about 50km south of the town of Chhatarpur. The habitat looks to be a small range of hills c400m asl.

 

NAMJAA is in India!

Hot on the heels of NAMJAA, ONON is now also in Madhya Pradesh in India! He’s flown c450 km from the India/Nepal border and is around 18km SSE of the town of Gwalior.

 

 

ONON and NAMJAA are both in Madhya Pradesh with just 230km separating them.

 

 

6 September2019

 

Captain KHURKH has flown 800km SW from his previous position in Guizhou to Yunnan Province, heading for the border with Myanmar. Looking at the data from his tag, he was flying well below warp speed.

 

Captain KHURKH is on a heading to Myanmar.

 

 

5 September 2019

 

A big move by ONON. Since the last transmission from his tag in Guizhou Province on the evening of 31 August local time, he has flown a whopping 2,400km and is now in Nepal, close to the border with India!

 

The straight line distance between the previous transmission on 31 August and the latest transmission on the morning of 5 September is c2,400km and the shortest trajectory goes through Myanmar and Bhutan before entering Nepal.

 

At the same time, NAMJAA is hot on his heels. He’s flown c1,500 km west and is now in northern Bangladesh, close to the border with Meghalaya, India.

 

NAMJAA is hot on the heels of ONON with both making big moves in the first few days of September.

 

 

4 September 2019

 

BAYAN/PROSPER has taken a turn WNW and headed into Sichuan Province, at the same time climbing to an elevation of >2,300m. It’ll be interesting to see whether he takes a short-cut over the mountains or turns south and takes a longer route around the highest mountains, as we saw with the Beijing Cuckoos.

 

BAYAN/PROSPER has crossed NE Yunnan and is now in southern Sichuan.

 

 

3 September 2019

 

NOMAD continues, flying 350km SSE, crossing the border into Mongolia. He is now just 80km north or Ulaanbaatar. Where is he heading?

 

NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, is now moving in earnest, having flown another 350km SSE, crossing the border into Mongolia.

 

 

2 September 2019

 

Captain KHURKH has joined his crew in Guizhou. BAYAN/PROSPER has made a 200km flight in the slightly surprising direction of WNW. Generally, the cuckoos we have tracked so far avoid the high mountains, so we expect him to track south soon to head for the lowlands of Yunnan rather than the high peaks.

 

Remarkably, all four Common Cuckoos are now in Guizhou Province.

 

Remarkably, all four Common Cuckoos are now in Guizhou Province, taking a very similar strategy. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, is taking a different strategy and remains 2,500km to the north near Lake Baikal.

 

 

1 September 2019

 

NOMAD is still going… he’s flown another 600km SE and is now at the southern end of Lake Baikal. Will he take a similar trajectory to the Common Cuckoos? As the first Oriental Cuckoo to be fitted with a tag, his migration route and wintering grounds are unknown.

 

NOMAD as at 1 September 2019

 

At the same time, we have a signal from NAMJAA‘s tag showing he is now in Guizhou, joining ONON and BAYAN/PROSPER.

 

Three of the four Mongolian Common Cuckoos are in Guizhou Province.

 

 

30 August 2019

 

After a relatively quiet 10 days, NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, is on the move again, and it looks as if he’s moving with a bit more purpose than on 19 August. He’s flown c300km south and is now around 500km NW of Lake Baikal. Even after this latest move, he is still around 2,500km behind the Common Cuckoos!

 

NOMAD has flown c300km south and is about 500km NW of Lake Baikal.

 

We’ve also just picked up BAYAN/PROSPER’s signal again, after a few days of radio silence, and he has moved around 800km SSW and is now in Guizhou Province overtaking ONON.

 

BAYAN/PROSPER becomes the most southerly of the five Mongolian Cuckoos after his move SSW to Guizhou Province.

 

 

19 August 2019

 

Over the weekend, NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, took a small excursion, flying at least 150km SSE into Irkutsk before circling round and heading back to where he started! Movements like this, although not straightforward to explain, are not uncommon in cuckoos, as we saw with the Beijing birds.

 

NOMAD has returned to his previous position just NW of Irkutsk after flying at least 150km SSE.

 

 

16 August 2019

 

ONON continues to set the pace. He’s flown 300km SW and has crossed the provincial border into Guizhou. Captain KHURKH and BAYAN are not far behind. Of the remaining two cuckoos, NAMJAA is still in Shandong and NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, remains in Russia, some 3,500km to the north!

 

ONON has consolidated his lead and is now in Guizhou Province, ahead of Captain KHURKH and BAYAN.

 

 

14 August 2019

 

The race is on! All four Common Cuckoos are now in China and heading south. ONON is the latest to move and is now in Hunan Province, making him the most southerly of the four. Captain KHURKH is in Hubei Province, BAYAN is in Shaanxi and NAMJAA is in Shandong. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, has now spent a month northwest of Lake Baikal in Russia. Being the first Oriental Cuckoo to be tracked means that we have no idea what to expect. The temperature of his tag looks normal, so we are not unduly worried, although it will be reassuring to see him move south soon.

 

All four Common Cuckoos are now well on their way south with ONON the most southerly after his recent move from Shanxi.

 

 

11 August 2019

 

BAYAN (Prosper) is the last of the five to begin his autumn migration. He’s flown 600km south across the Gobi and is now only 50km north of the border with China.

 

BAYAN is the last of the five cuckoos to begin to move south.

 

 

9 August 2019

 

Captain KHURKH is now the most southerly of the five Mongolian Cuckoos. He’s flown another 400km SSE and is in the Qinling Mountains of northwest Hubei Province, just 150km north of the Yangtze River.

 

Captain KHURKH is now the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos. More than 3,000km separates him and NOMAD, the most northerly bird.

 

 

8 August 2019

 

Captain KHURKH has flown c800km south, crossing the Chinese border and is now in Shaanxi Province.

 

 

 

7 August 2019

 

This map shows the positions of all five Mongolian Cuckoos. There is around 2,800km separating NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, in Russia and NAMJAA, the most southerly Common Cuckoo, now in Shandong Province, China.

 

After being tagged within a few kilometres of each other, there is now 2,800km separating the five Mongolian Cuckoos!

 

 

5 August 2019

 

Captain KHURKH is heading south! He’s flown around 500km and is now in southern Mongolia, close to the border with China.

 

Captain Khurkh. Boldly going..

 

 

2 August 2019

 

ONON has continued to move south and is now in western Shanxi Province, around 500km WSW of Beijing. The other cuckoos remain in their positions from 1 August.

 

ONON is in Shanxi Province but NAMJAA remains the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos.

 

 

1 August 2019

 

ONON has made a move and flown south to the border of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (China). He is on a similar trajectory to NAMJAA who has continued south and is now in Shandong Province. Latest positions below.

 

ONON and NAMJAA are on their way!

 

 

29 July 2019

 

NAMJAA is motoring.. he’s flown more than 700km SE and is now in China’s Hebei Province, just 200km north of Beijing.

 

NAMJAA is well on his way and is the first of the Common Cuckoos to leave Mongolia.

 

 

28 July 2019

 

Autumn is here! On 11/12 July, after only four weeks on his breeding territory in central Siberia, NOMAD (an Oriental Cuckoo) made a move of around 150km SSE, closely followed by another move of similar distance. He is now c300km SSE of his summer position. We believe NOMAD is the first ORIENTAL CUCKOO to be fitted with a tag, so his migration route and wintering grounds are of huge interest. Where will he spend the winter? SE Asia? India? Africa? Or maybe even Australia?

 

NOMAD’s position as at 28 July 2019. He’s made a move of c300km SSE from his breeding grounds in central Siberia.

 

Meanwhile, two of the COMMON CUCKOOS have also moved from their tagging locations. On 25 July, Captain KHURKH (boldly going where no cuckoo has gone before?) headed 170km west towards Ulaanbaatar. And NAMJAA is heading due south, surely the start of his autumn migration.

 

Captain KHURKH has moved west towards Ulaanbaatar – is this the start of his autumn migration or a reaction to local conditions?

 

NAMJAA is heading due south, the start of his autumn migration?

 

 

3 July 2019

 

All of the Mongolian Cuckoos seem to be stable on their breeding grounds. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, remains in central Siberia and (Captain) Khurkh, Prosper, Onon and Namjaa are all in the vicinity of Khurkh ringing station, where they were caught and tagged. It’s in stark contrast to the UK cuckoos, most of which are already on their way back to Africa.

 

22 June 2019

 

NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, seems to have settled down, presumably now on his breeding grounds in central Siberia, whilst the four Common Cuckoos, including (Captain) Khurkh, remain in the vicinity of Khurkh ringing station.

 

17 June 2019

 

The ORIENTAL CUCKOO continues to move northwest. He’s now 1,625km NNW of Khurkh and still going!

 

 

16 June 2019

 

The ORIENTAL CUCKOO is still on the move! Since being tagged in Khurkh, he has flown 1375 km NNW and is now in Krasnoyarsk on the southern edge of the Central Siberian Plateau!

 

 

10 June 2019

 

Whilst the four COMMON CUCKOOS remain in the general area of Khurkh Bird Banding Center, the ORIENTAL CUCKOO has already moved on and is now c250km to the NW on a heading towards Lake Baikal in Russia.

 

 

8 June 2019

 

Mission Accomplished!  After a remarkable three days in the field, already the fifth cuckoo has been fitted with a transmitter!  After the male ORIENTAL CUCKOO on day one, the next four to be fitted with a transmitter were all male COMMON CUCKOOS.  Here is a video of Tuvshi, manager of the Khurkh Bird Banding Center, releasing the fifth cuckoo.

 

 

7 June 2019

 

The Mongolia Project Team visits the local school in Khurkh to speak to students about the cuckoo tracking project and to ask them to nominate two names for the first two cuckoos.

 

The students chose “нүүдэлчин” (NOMAD) and “Онон(ONON) after the local river that runs through the town.

 

 

 

 

6 June 2019

 

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project Team catches and fits a transmitter to the first cuckoo, and it’s an ORIENTAL CUCKOO!  We believe this is the first time a transmitter has been fitted to this species, so it’ll be fascinating to see where it spends the summer and to discover the wintering grounds and migration route of this poorly known species.

 

The BTO’s Chris Hewson with the ORIENTAL CUCKOO after being fitted with a transmitter.

 

5 June 2019

 

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project Team arrives in Khurkh after an eight-hour drive from Ulan Bator.