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New Photos: Mongolia 2022

Last year an idea for a new scouting excursion began forming rather quickly, after my schedule freed up a bit and I received some input from a client who was planning a trip to see one of the world’s most elusive cat species, the Pallas’s cat. Her destination? Mongolia, a place that had not really been on my radar for much beyond cultural photography opportunities.

Once I started looking into it more, my perspective changed rapidly, as I saw not only opportunities to see Pallas’s cat, but also a chance to try again for the snow leopard. As I recently documented in my Best of 2022 feature, I had longed for another opportunity to photograph snow leopards in more hospitable environs than those I faced in the Himalayas. Mongolia appeared to present that chance.

This two week November trip delivered on the cat opportunities I’d hoped for (in many ways exceeding them), and also introduced me to several new species. I’m excited to finally share this full collection with you, and also to announce my new Cats of Mongolia photo tour (more at bottom).

You may view the full gallery of 130 new photos in the archive. A short preview follows.

Northern Pika

I got two new pika species on this trip. Interestingly, this northern pika lived in the forest, rather than open rock piles.

Pallas’s Cat

One of the primary goals of this trip was to find Pallas’s cat. Just five years ago, they may have seemed impossible to me, as there was little footage of them outside of camera trap pictures and videos.

Pallas’s Cat

Seeing them in person gave me a great sense of why they’re so elusive.

Pallas’s Cat

Their camouflage is excellent, and they prefer to hunker down low to the ground, “hiding” in plain sight. When they are retreating, they will move deliberately and ever so slowly. What an oddball!

Upland Buzzards

Upland Buzzards were the most commonly seen raptor during our visit to the eastern steppe.

Mongolian Gerbil

It was very cool seeing wild gerbils for the first time. We had Mongolian gerbils right in camp.

Golden Eagle

Mongolia is famous for its Golden Eagles, at least those used by hunters. It was nice to see this species flying wild and free.

Corsac Fox

The Corsac fox was a new canid species for me. It’s quite small, with different body proportions than the foxes I’m used to seeing (we did also see red fox, but they were quite shy).

Corsac Fox

One fox in particular put on a spectacular hunting show, catching at least nine voles during the 20-30 minutes we spent with it.

Steppe Polecat

I’m always thrilled to see new mustelids. The steppe polecat was shy, but we got a couple of brief glimpses during night drives.

Little Owl

It was excited to see three new owl species in Mongolia. I always thought the Little Owl was like a Burrowing Owl, but it’s actually much cuter!

Cinereous Vultures

We were fortunate to catch sight of these large Cinereous Vultures while driving between Ulaanbaatar and the eastern steppe.

Bactrian Camel

Despite the fact that most of the world’s Bactrian camels are domesticated (used by herders in Mongolia as steeds and pack animals), it was still very cool seeing this large and odd-looking species for the first time.

Snow Leopard

We saw five snow leopards in all (our guides saw four others), though most from a distance. This sighting, from a couple hundred yards, should be considered “excellent” by snow leopard standards, but it was beaten by one other encounter we had…


The stoat (a.k.a., Eurasian ermine) was another new mustelid species.


We had two nice encounters, including a long one one morning that featured a wild hunt of a Pallas’s Pika.


It was very cool getting my first close views of this bone-eating vulture, the Lammergeier.

Snow Leopard

This was a bit of a redemption story for me. After utterly failing to photograph snow leopards in the Indian Himalayas in 2015, I was eager to try again for these elusive cats and finally come away with decent photos (i.e., anything within about 400 yards).

Snow Leopard

It went better than I could have imagined.

Snow Leopard

Our first day encounter—which required a very steep and treacherous climb up skree-covered slopes—landed us an extended encounter at close range with a well-fed male.

Snow Leopard

This truly may have been a “once in a lifetime” encounter… but we’ll be trying again in 2024!


View the Mongolia 2022 gallery (130 photos).

Want to join me on my next Mongolia adventure? I’m putting together a brand new tour, slated for 2024!

Cats of Mongolia photo tour

This tour will split time between the eastern steppe (home of the Pallas’s cat) and the Altai Mountains (snow leopard). We’ll try to track down these two elusive felines—remember, sightings are never guaranteed!—as well as a host of other Mongolian species. It’s a different kind of adventure: one that may be a bit less daunting than a Himalayan snow leopard trek, but which still requires participants to be in decent shape and to be prepared for challenging physical activity and challenging photo conditions.

Read more about this tour, and request a special info packet I’ve put together to help you determine if this trip is right for you.

1 Comment

  1. Alan Dahl February 7, 2023 Reply

    Wow, an amazing assortment of awesome photos from this trip Max. The Snow Leopard and Pallas Cat shots are some of the best I have seen. I love the stoat picture of it popping it’s head up. You have immensely more patience than I would to wait on your belly for an hour, but it sure paid off.

    Hopefully, future trips to Mongolia will be just as rewarding for you.

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