Picture Day – Notes From the Field 8-11-17

Greetings from Mongolia! Zoë here – Andrew is getting a break from blog-writing as he wraps up his final weeks of his summer internship with us. And I am back in Mongolia after three months in the U.S.! I am happy to find that Mongolia has warmed up considerably since I’ve been away.

Ulaanbaatar at 5am – recovering from jetlag.

However, while Ulaanbaatar has been getting generous rain, the countryside is less fortunate and herders are experiencing somewhat of a late summer. Learning to keep an eye on the weather, both in the short term and the long term, is a valuable lesson from this country. The concept of ‘dzud’ (when a large amount of livestock die off in late winter due to lack of food and difficult conditions) is as much a result of a dry summer as it is a very cold winter. Each season feeds into the next and the people of the countryside recognize the importance of knowing what to expect based on current conditions.

We passed a Steppe Eagle on our drive South out of Khustai on the dirt access road. And then two Steppe Eagles, and then three, and then several more. Usually it’s possible to see a few individuals on a long drive, but there were perhaps 18 eagles all in this one small area! Batbaatar speculated that since the field was tilled, many mouse nests had been disturbed and were providing an easy and abundant food source for the birds of prey.

Perhaps most of our readers are dog lovers, but for our cat-loving friends, check out these pictures of Altga’s (our ger cat) kittens! I was pleasantly surprised to meet them on my first visit back to Khustai. Like Bankhar and other dogs, cats serve an important role for people living in the countryside, eating or chasing away disease-causing mice and large insects.

Remember picture day in grade school? Maybe you just got your bowl cut touched up and your mom makes you wear a garish knit sweater. The photographer puts your head at an uncomfortable angle and you aren’t sure if you should look at the sock puppet or the camera. You feel a little nervous and a bit awkward while trying to hold still and make a normal smile because you know this will be displayed on an end-table in your house for many rounds of family gatherings to come.

Well, this is NOT how the Bankhar at MBDP feel. We were hoping to coax each dog into a nice side-view pose with the help of some treats, capturing how beautiful they look for their website profiles. But the dogs were far more interested in playing and running around. Picture Day means nothing to them. Here are some examples of how most of the photos turned out.

Not all hope was lost though; we managed to get a few solid pictures that represent just how well-built and proud Bankhar look.

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