I had long wanted to visit Tibet but the idea only became reality when I met Janos Olahjnr and senior in NE India in March 1998. They were planning to go and so I agreed to contact Jesper Hornskov whom I knew lived in China and organised tours to Tibet. He proposed a 4 week tour of Qinghai in June for 6 people and I booked him for 2000. The Olahs had to drop out due to high demand for their tours in Hungary but I was able to recruit excellent replacements via Oriental Birding. Three of us were fortunate in having the time to do western Sichuan first.
Timing and personnel were as follows:-
21/5 – 10/6 Sichuan: Omei Shan, Jiuzhaigou and Wolong, by public bus, with Ashley Banwell and Phil Heath.
11/6-7/7 Qinghai (Chinese Tibet) tour: organized and led by Jesper Hornskov, with AB, PH, Edward Dickinson, Richard Fairbank and Barry Wright.
8-9/7 Chengdu, Sichuan; 10-14/7 Lhasa, Tibet; 15/7 Beijing – with AB only.
Sichuan was cheap and logistics fairly easy, birding and scenery great at Jiuzhaigou and Wolong but rather disappointing at Omei Shan (also known as Emei Shan).
The Qinghai tour was originally to be 2 weeks earlier, which should have been the optimum – early breeding and late migrant season, but had to be delayed by 2 weeks. This year appears to have been unusually wet early on but the timing seemed quite good, except for passage migrants, with many birds singing, nesting and feeding young in the latter period. The tour was well paced and run, with excellent birds and mammals, as well as being “ethnically” interesting, but rather expensive ($3850 from Beijing), mainly due to the need to hire two 4-wheel drive vehicles with drivers and Jesper’s services.
Lhasa, in occupied Tibet, was basically a package tour booked in Chengdu ($460 for 3 days) with a two day self-organised extension to visit the mountains: a memorable cultural experience with a couple of good birds.
No other birders were encountered at all other than an Ornifolks group (4 Americans and 2 Brits) and a lone Japanese at Wolong. The route worked well but in retrospect I would spend an extra couple of days at both Omei Shan and Jiuzhaigou, then go to Lhasa, and finish in Qinghai without the week devoted to the Sichuan border site (worthwhile but few extra birds and expensive).
I have written in some detail about the Sichuan (A) and Lhasa (C) legs, as they can be easily done by independent birders. For Qinghai (B) I have just annotated Jesper’s glowing report as I would not advise anyone to try this by themselves, except for the Xining – Koko Nor area which should be straightforward. I do thoroughly recommend birding this whole region as the rewards are exceptional.
We flew from UK via Schipol with KLM, who offered the best deal to Beijing according to WildWings: £431.70 for more than 1 month (£390 for 1 month max.). AB flew from Hong Kong to Chengdu and it is also possible to get there direct from Bangkok. Internal flights were fine, except to Lhasa – see later: Beijing – Chengdu 1150Y (c.£95), Chengdu – Xining 770Y (plus 50Y “Airport Management and Construction Fee” on all internal flights). We used public transport and taxis (cheap for short runs) thoughout Sichuan and the Lhasa area, and agency 4-wheel drive vehicles (trouble-free) with good drivers in Qinghai.
We stayed in a variety of hotels, temples, hostels and huts, mostly clean with reasonable facilities in Sichuan and Lhasa area but in Qinghai more often fairly dirty with no facilities or even running water. Costs were generally $3 to $8 a night per person. A sleeping bag was useful on occasions but not essential as blankets could be bought very cheaply. Food was cheap and usually good at restaurants, where available. Beer was often the cheapest liquid!
Recommended: Sam’s Guesthouse 130, Shanxi St., Chengdu tel 0137 080 56285 (give this to taxi driver to ring for instructions where to find it) email: email@example.com Jing Hua Hotel/ Backpackers, Beijing - tel 67 22221
The weather varied from hot and humid in the lowlands to fairly cold in the mountains, with some rain on a most days at Omei Shan and Wolong, but on a minority of days in Tibet (with occasional snow in Qinghai).
No health problems, other than sunburn, one day of gut-rot, a bad cold and prolonged but not severe cough (experienced by most of us) and a skin rash towards the end. Much of the time was spent at high altitudes, often well above 3000m, which made clambering up and down hillsides even more strenuous, but no-one suffered from High Altitude Sickness.
China appears to be a safe country, with petty robbery, not experienced at all, the only concern. Communication can be a problem as very few people speak any English. Tibetans were friendly, as were many Chinese but officials tended to be unhelpful.
The exchange rate was approx. 8Y to the US$ and 12Y to the £. You can change major currencies, cash and Traveller’s cheques, at Beijing airport. Elsewhere it is better to have US$ cash, which can usually be exchanged somewhere (sometimes for better than bank rates) or use a card, acceptable at some cash machines.
Trails at Wuyipeng, Wolong, were very muddy, with wellies useful, but otherwise walking boots were ideal.
A visa for 60 days (after arrival in China) was easily obtained in London for £30 but an exorbitant £20 extra is charged for postal applications, which take about a week to process. You can’t get it in one day by going to the embassy yourself. AB got one much more cheaply in Hong Kong but for only 30 days and was then stung when renewing it, which is easily done in large cities including Xining.
Kazmierczak, K & van Perlo, B. (2000) A field guide to the birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Pica Press.
MacKinnon, J. & Phillipps, K. (2000) A field guide to the birds of China. Oxford University Press.
Cheng, T.H. (1987 in English, 1976 in Chinese) A Synopsis of the Avifauna of China. Science Press, Beijing
de Schauensee, R.M. (1984) The birds of China. Oxford University Press.
Schaller, G. B. (1998) Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe. University of Chicago Press.
Vaurie, C. (1972) Tibet and its Birds. Beekman, New York.
Wheatley, N. (1996) Where to watch birds in Asia. Christopher Helm.
Plus trip reports by Jan Vermeulen (1995), Peter Kennerley (1992), Andy Goodwin (1987) and Mick Turton and Graham Speight (1986).
Many thanks for their help to Neil Bostock, Jesper Horskov, Nick Gardner (Omei Shan tape), Rod Martins and especially Ashley Banwell and all the other members of the group for making it such an enjoyable trip.
21/5 Arrive Beijing 08.35, fly to Chengdu, bus to Omei town, minibus to Bao Guo
22/5 Bao Guo – Golden Summit, Omei Shan (500-3000m) by bus, cable car and foot
23/5 Golden Summit area
24/5 Golden Summit – XiXi’ang (2050m)
25/5 XiXi’ang - Xi’anfeng
26/5 Xi’anfeng – Wannian (1000m)
27/5 Wannian – Bao Guo - Chengdu
28/5 bus to Jiuzhaigou
29-31/5 Jiuzhaigou Reserve
1/6 a.m. Swan Lake, p.m. bus to Jiuzhaigou town
2/6 bus to Dujiangyan
3/6 car to Wolong Panda Reserve, trek to Wuyipeng
6/6 p.m. walk down, hitch to Sawan
7/6 day in mountains above Sawan
8/6 day trip by taxi to the pass
9/6 day trip to below the pass
10/6 hitch to main road, bus to Chengdu
11/6 Fly Chengdu – Xining, Qinghai
This sacred mountain range, still covered in forest, is very popular with Chinese pilgrims, especially as it is so easily reached by bus from Chengdu. You can get to the top with very little walking or walk up steps all the way from 500 to 3100m. Basic accommodation and food is widely available. The weather and temperature are very changeable.
There is a need to bird at four different altitudes, preferably with 2-3 days at each, to try to find the key species as follows (omitting those probably more easily found at the other 2 Sichuan sites):-
500-600m, eg Bao Guo and Fushu temples:
Brown-rumped Minivet, Vivid and Fujian Niltavas, Emei Leaf-Warbler (scarce), Dusky Fulvetta, Ashy-throated Parrotbill.
1000m Wannian temple, concentrating on the pipeline trail which starts immediately above the refuse tip, best reached by going nearly three-quarters of the way anti-clockwise round the temple, from below:
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Moustached and Rusty Laughingthrushes.
1500-2000m XiXi’ang temple (good trail down to river on left just before junction where turn right to Xi’anfeng temple) and Xi’anfeng temple (good trail round back, to the left, across cliff face):
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Purple Cochoa, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Chestnut-crowned and Yellow-bellied Bush-Warblers, Golden Parrotbill, Grey-faced Liocichla, Golden-breasted Fulvetta.
2500-3100m Golden Summit – good trail down to small reservoir beyond monorail station, and walk beside monorail track (or ride) to ultimate summit:
Grey-hooded, Brown and Great Parrotbills, Red-winged Laughingthrush, Grey-faced Liocichla, Dark-rumped, Pink-rumped, Vinaceous and Spot-winged Rosefinches.
This very scenic reserve is extremely popular with Chinese tourists who stay in the town and come in on day trips. It has only one road from the entrance which forks at Nuorilang after 15km, the left side going to Long Lake and the right to Swan Lake and the Primeval Forest, via Pearl Sholes. Although teeming with visitors, few venture much beyond the roads. It is essential to stay in the reserve as you can’t take your own car in now, which means you either stay near the road junction at Nuorilang where there are a couple of difficult-to-spot hotels (which don’t serve food), or camp rough. There are a couple of small shops but if you have any special dietry requirements, bring food in from Jiuzhaigou town where there are plenty of facilities. You have to either walk or depend on the buses which run fairly frequently between 07.30 and 17.00, if lucky, but not necessarily to both destinations (15-20km from the fork). The bus pass you buy at the entrance can be used any number of times. You may be able to arrange early or late lifts, as we did on one occasion, with one of the few car-owners in the village, although communication is a problem, the only English-speakers being the young guides on the buses.
The old trip reports refer to bamboo where some of the goodies were seen, but this has all died off now. We did not find any bamboo worth talking about until just before we left when PH found a large patch by taking the track towards the Primeval Forest, then turning right on a trail just below the cliff before reaching the forest (which is to the left of the cliff). This, the PF itself and the valley behind the toilet block below Pearl Sholes, seem the best sites to concentrate on. There is good forest around Long Lake but on steep, rocky mountainsides.
Blue Eared-Pheasant, Pere David’s Owl, Sichuan Jay, Rufous-headed Robin, Sooty Tit, Crested Tit-Warbler, Sukatschev's Laughingthrush, Rusty-throated Parrotbill and Three-banded Rosefinch are all unlikely to be seen elsewhere. Other specialities shared with Wolong are Verraux’s Partridge, Severtzov’s Grouse, White-backed and Chinese Thrushes, Chinese Leaf-warbler, Snowy-browed Nuthatch, Chinese Fulvetta and Spectacled Parrotbill.
If not going to Tibet, it is worth visiting the plateau before you reach Jiuzhaigou, eg from Songpan, for birds such as larks, Groundpecker and Chinese Grey Shrike- more easily done with your own transport than by bus.
Wolong Panda Reserve
To reach Wuyipeng, continue along the road for another few km to a settlement of a few houses and recruit guides/ porters to take you 500m up the hill on the opposite side of the river. There may be a new building with decent facilities by then, but it would be sensible to take food unless you hear to the contrary. There is excellent forest here, holding Temminck’s Tragopan, Verraux’s Partridge, Severtzov’s Grouse, Blood Pheasant, White-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Firethroat, Barred and Giant Laughingthrushes, Three-toed, Great and Fulvous Parrotbills, and a host of flycatchers and warblers, warranting at least 3 full days. Giant Panda occurs in the bamboo but you would need to stay at least a week to stand a chance of seeing one.
Continue up the road for 15-20km until the trees have given way to bushes and look for Spectacled Parrotbill and Chinese Fulvetta. After a further few km there is a large monument on the left and the hillsides become predominantly scrub and grassland. This is where White-eared and Koklass Pheasants occur, then on the bare grassy steep slopes Wood Snipe display at dawn. After this comes the roadmenders huts, the only place where you may be able to stay, but rather basic to say the least. Below here, there is Rhodedendron scrub on the far mountainsides, the home of the Tibetan Monal – observable by scope if the cloud layer is high. White-backed/ Kessler’s Thrush is common here. The Balang Shan pass is now in sight and around it Snow Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, Grandala, Brandt’s Mountainfinch and Red-fronted Rosefinch can be found, but as it is c4300m, conditions can be severe. Some way down the other side, the scrub holds Himalayan Rubythroat, White-browed Tit-Warbler and Songar Tit.
21/5 PH and JH arrived Beijing 09.00, bought ticket to Chengdu and caught 10.45 flight. Waited for AB till 14.30 then bus to town. Booked flight to Lanzhou on 11/6, waited for AB at agreed hotel, then took 16.30 bus to Omei town (30Y), arriving 19.15, then minibus to Bao Guo; checked into Post and Communications Hotel opposite Teddy Bear Café. Rang Jesper to leave message for AB of where we were.
22/5 05.45 to bus station for first bus up Omei Shan, but full so had to take the 06.20 (30Y). Saw AB (who had missed connecting flight due to delayed first flight) by roadside, and stopped bus for him to join us! Bus proceeded up to National Park entrance gate where had to pay 60Y for ticket; final stop Jinyin Hall at 08.30. Walked to cable car, took it to Golden Summit (40Y), then birded patchy forest and scrub – Grey-faced Liocichla, Long-tailed Thrush and Vinaceous Rosefinch (PH had the endemic Grey-hooded Parrotfinch) till 18.00 when walked down to the red monastery (90Y for 3 bed room). Cold night but plenty of bed-covers.
23/5 05.45 Walked up to Golden Summit then along monorail track for some way but saw little new except Dark-rumped Rosefinch – low cloud. Walked down to Jinying Hall (White-browed and Golden Bush-Robins). Booked into hotel then down along main road (Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler) before rain stopped play late afternoon.
24/5 06.30 took cable car back to Golden Summit with AB. Low cloud and drizzle so had breakfast during which glass of tea broke and hot water went all over me – free breakfast to compensate! Walked down to reservoir (under fence and immediately right) getting soaked through again on legs: Brown Parrotbill, Pink-rumped, Dark-rumped and White-spotted Rosefinches, Streak-throated Fulvetta and lots of Phylloscs but no other parrotbills. Left at 11, down to red temple to reclaim bird book left behind previous day, on to Jenzing for lunch, then down to XiXi’ang – Yellow-bellied and Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warblers. Gripped by PH who’d had Giant Laughing-Thrush and Purple Cochoa. Guesthouse (20Y each for twin room) and primitive hot shower! Followed by stir-fried mushrooms – not nice - and bean curd. Rain late afternoon for some time.
25/5 Beautiful day for at last. Red-winged Laughingthrush and White-bellied Redstart on short Pavilion Trail, Purple Cochoa calling. Walked down to 1530m, then up to 1775m at Xi’anfeng, a large monastery where booked three beds. PH saw Lady Amherst’s Pheasant down a trail before junction. Nothing on cliff trail. Rest of day near temple only produced singing Vivid Niltava, 2 Grey-headed Bullfinch for AB, Liocichla and flock of Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers; Collared Scops Owls calling in evening. Lots of rain in night.
26/5 Damp morning, clearing, but some heavy rain around midday. Bhuddist service at 4am so a lot of noisy people before and after. PH, up at 4.30, heard 3 trogopans call but only once. I did first part of cliff walk at 06.00 but saw nothing; good views of Grey-headed Woodpecker and Lesser Cuckoo near monastery, then to view-point where Lady Amherst’s Pheasant called from hill beyond and a Brown Bullfinch sang for some time. Left with AB, stopped on way up for Purple Cochoa in flight, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Chestnut-crowned Warbler and Yellow-bellied Tit. Reached top (1780m, from 1530m) then back towards XiXi’ang to trail 5-10 minutes away on right. Long, wet drop to 1630m before heard Lady Amherst’s calling nearby but couldn’t see it. Flock tape brought in a superb Golden-breasted Fulvetta. Stopped on way back up for another close LA Pheasant but again failed. Raining hard so lunched at café, then dried out by cooking fire. Long trail down – one flock held Green Shrike-babbler but was scattered by large accipiter flying quickly through. At 1380m, at slight crown in trail steps, a Blue-naped? Pitta called but just failed to see it. Finally reached Wannian monastery at 17.00 - 2 Blue-throated (Chinese) Flycatchers fighting nearby. Tried to book beds – negotiated 100Y for three but PH’s absence caused a problem, so had to leave the impressive monastery. Looked for recommended pipeline trail but couldn’t find it, then saw PH (who’d come down by the longer route – impressive scenery but many people on lower stretch). Booked basic lodgings lower down, then found the trail – best reached by going round the monastery anti-clockwise. Spent an hour on it - some song but no birds of note seen. Oriental Scops Owl called just outside our room but only saw Barred Owlet.
27/5 Cloudy with brief shower. 05.35 walk to pipeline trail – dead, only two fulvetta sp, narrowly missing Lady Amherst’s twice. 10.30 back for breakfast, then with PH cable car down (20Y) and bus to Bao Guo, where walked to Fushu Monastery – two Brown-rumped Minivet in flight, big flock of tits, Dusky and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, with two Ashy-throated Parrotbill and Fork-tailed Sunbird nearby. At 15.15 took minibus to Omei town and then bus to Chengdu, which unfortunately took a slow route – not the motorway - so didn’t reach Chengdu until 19.30. Taxi (10Y) to Sam’s Guesthouse. Meanwhile AB caught 16.00 bus from Bao Guo and reached Chengdu at 18.30 but couldn’t find Sam’s – finally arriving at 21.00! Bought tickets at Sam’s for first Jiuzhaigou bus at 07.20 tomorrow (135Y)
28/5 06.30 lift to bus station with Sam – 07.20 bus full so had to wait for 08.40. Start delayed by prolonged, heated argument between conductor and young woman and child who refused to leave the bus till police arrived and evicted her. Reached Jiuzhaigou at 18.30 after one lunch break and several pee stops. Much smoking, puking and crying babies but otherwise nice trip, eating peaches and cherries – along river valley for long way, seeing no birds but then climbed to 3200m plateau – Snow Pigeons, Saker - then dropped down to 2000m. 4 bed room at the Holiday Village (90Y) with dirty communal toilets etc. Visited Reserve entrance and bought tickets (125Y entrance and 80Y for bus pass). Ate barbecued food on street – very hot and spicy.
29/5 Bad gut rot and diarrhoea in night, felt weak all day and didn’t eat until 6pm. No more spicy street-fare!
05.30 motorbike taxi to entrance gate for 06.00 bus into Reserve (the earliest according to our hotel) but gate closed until 07.00 by which time 16 buses had arrived! Short walk ® Daurian Redstart and Spotted Laughingthrush. Buses finally left to Nourilang village at 07.20 (15km). Had difficulty finding hotel but eventually settled at lower end of “Tibetan” village – 100Y for quite nice 3 bed room with sit down loo! Sooty Tit, Chinese (Snowy-browed) Nuthatch in flight and Chinese Leaf-warbler nearby. Restaurant lower down would not serve food, bus to Pearl Sholes - fairly spectacular waterfalls but many, many Chinese tourists - turned up valley behind toilets and after second dam trawled for Rufous-headed Robin, seen there last year – Bluetail, Indian Blue Robin, Pere David’s Tit, Grey-headed Bullfinch but no R-h Robin. Minibus to Panda Lake, then big bus to Swan Lake. 14.30 to 16.00 in scrub, etc. – 3-Banded and White-browed Rosefinches, White-throated Redstart, Slaty-backed Flycatcher. No buses so walked back to Swan Lake before getting lift in a van, fortunately (without AB who had to walk whole 18km back). Restaurants shut but managed to eat with Tibetan family, owners of nearby shop, inside their house – painted throughout like a Bhuddist temple. Then walked up hill c 1km – Godlewski’s Bunting, Long-tailed Thrush. Visited by American couple – volunteers teaching park guides English and trying to improve situation for western visitors, plus some pleasant young local guides – gave them the benefit of my opinion!
30/5 Lovely sunny day. 05.30 walked to Pearl Sholes then up valley – heard Rufous-headed Robin singing in thickish tall scrub on the flat (with coppiced trees) after climbing up the valley a good 15 minutes from second dam. It was quite mobile but good views were eventually had. Walked back then bus to Swan Lake, arriving 11.30. Next two hours spent mainly in primeval forest and some in scrub – Sichuan Grey Jay, White-winged Grosbeak but no Sukatschev's Laughingthrush. Bus back took for ever to reach junction as it stopped at every lake for tourists to photograph each other, then another bus to Long Lake – heaving with tourists so walked down road, caught last bus further down, then walked back to hotel, but no birds of note. Ate at family house again – lots of pork with rice, then went owling, without success.
31/5 Another fine day. 06.00 prearranged lift in car up to Long Lake (100Y) then clambered up mountain side in treacherous conditions – AB carried on up 700m seeing two Verreaux’s Monal-Partridges but I baled out, as did PH after seeing more Sichuan Jays. Checked car park area – nothing – then down to rubbish tip and did long trail through nice forest – Black- browed Tit but no Monal-Partridge and little else. Then with PH, bus down to valley trail: couldn’t find route across fast stream so walked back to main road and down for a way before catching bus back. Very disappointing day but saved after supper by owling – Pere David’s Owl in flight at Mirror Lake, calling frequently but wouldn’t show when perched.
1/6 Low cloud mostly, rain late afternoon. Walk along road to Mirror Lake, then after lift on truck some of the way, bus to Primeval Forest. Scrub gave a pair of Blood Pheasant, then forest 09.30 – 12.30: Rufous-headed Robin seen well, Three-banded Rosefinch, White-throated Redstart, but Tibetan Siskin and Monal-Partridge heard only. Bus back, lunch at large café, bus to town and Holiday Village. Walked across river to scrubby hillside: Spectacled Fulvetta and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler with difficulty but no Golden Pheasant. Ate at hotel restaurant this time!
2/6 Short walk in scrub by river gave nothing of note. Chengdu bus left hotel at 07.20, stopping at bus station where bought tickets to Dujiangyan (100Y), then left at 08.05 before stopping 30 minutes later at crystal shop for 40 minutes! Further long delays at yak meat shop, Chinese medicine shop, lunch stop (we bought provisions here for Wolong) before finally reached outskirts of Dujianyan (a large city) at 6ish where a traffic accident ground us to a halt. Took c1 hour to get past this so we decided to stop the night in town rather than attempt to reach Wolong. Tried three hotels, all too expensive, before persuading the Gold Leaf Hotel (3*) on far side of town to allow us one 2 bed room for 100Y, courtesy of only English-speaker on the staff, who also arranged car to Wolong in the morning (50Y + 20Y each).
3/6 Mainly cloudy, some afternoon rain, heavy in evening. Up at 06.00, around hotel grounds: Tiger Shrike and Japanese White-eye. Excellent buffet breakfast, then at 07.15 car to Wolong. After 1 hour back along Jiuzhaigou road, turned left - 45 minutes to the park HQ at Sawan, where the driver’s wife departed, and a few km more to a small settlement, the base for Wuyipeng – Chinese Babbax in scrub opposite. Recruited three women porters (30Y each) but had to wait some time for the car driver to return from his flat at Sawan with AB’s bag of food which his wife had taken! After a further delay while the women had a heated argument amongst themselves, we began the climb up a very muddy mule track (500m of elevation), the porters taking a steeper route, talking all the time.
Reached Wuyipeng at midday to find only 1½ primitive buildings standing with c12 soldiers/ builders laying the foundations of a new building complex. Offered lunch, quite good, then beds. Took level trail B but birdless so returned to base (Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler) and up ridge trail C, also birdless. AB had gone further down B, and returned elated having seen a male Trogopan very well and Great Parrotbill. Late on I saw the Parrotbill, and Fire-capped Tit at base. Reasonable supper at 19.30 - obliged to drink local firewater (as at lunchtime) with the officers and cook.
4/6 Sunny until mid-morning then cloudy, no rain till 21.30. Did trail B in the morning, soon had Fulvetta flock, mainly Golden-breasted, plus Streak-throated, and Fulvous Parrotbill. Then the calls of Temminck’s Trogopan alerted me to its presence and I was able to video a nice male, at a distance, followed by Great Parrotbill and Giant Laughingthrush. Back to base: Rufous-bellied Niltava and Barred Laughing-thrush by trail. PH had seen two Firethroats along main trail, one of which I found. Excellent lunch then along A to the end – a flat area of thick scrub and bamboo - where flock tape produced single Great Parrotbill, Firethroat and what I took to be Pere David’s Laughingthrush Nothing on return but found Rod Martins and Chris Bradshaw drinking tea! (avantgarde of Ornifolks trip). They left after a chat, promising to return with a plentiful supply of liquor, then went back down B to the view-point but only Speckled Pigeon and Nutcracker were of note.
5/6 Very damp morning then light rain in the afternoon – heavy later, so I was soaked from wet vegetation in the morning and from rain in the afternoon. Trails muddier and fragile – I slipped over several times and down the bank once. Up ridge trail first – nothing – then main trail and A: highlight was White-browed Bush-Robin singing from high perches along main trail. Back to A after lunch – White-backed Woodpecker, then B nearly to end, where PH had seen Three-toed Parrotbill, followed by AB who also saw Green Shrike-babbler. I flushed a game-bird then had parrotbill activity near the end as thunder rolled, before the heavens opened. Returned to base at 18.30. No sign of Rod et al.
6/6 Rain until 07.00, then cloudy until late afternoon when rain started, turning heavy after dark.
Stopped in until breakfast – steamed dumplings, spicy cucumbers, rice soup and freshly roasted peanuts. Slowly along A trail – Giant Laughingthrush with nesting material, then Severtzov’s Grouse running away and Three-toed Parrotbill in bamboo. After lunch walked down very muddy main trail, stopping at end of flat section for Fulvous Parrotbill, down to main road. Hired motorbike taxi to take us to Sawan, where found Rod and Chris who showed us their hotel then where they’d seen Slaty Bunting. We eventually had 3 males and a Ferruginous Flycatcher. Continued up into low cloud, coming down as it started raining. Dined with the Ornifolks group.
7/6 05.30 up hill for Golden Pheasant – soon heard one calling but flew off invisibly, then 2 called higher up, one of which AB saw - 6 heard altogether. Down as rain started, continuing for rest of day until about 17.00. Walked up very slippery trail to Moupinia (Rufous-tailed Babbler) habitat of scattered scrub with sea buckthorne-type bushes (as described by Rod). At 10.30 saw probable Spectacled Parrotbill and 4 Babax, then at 11.30 a single Moupinia fed twice in flowering bushes, calling repeatedly “drink”. I carried up to the top, stopping for a mouse-like bird calling like an insect – a Brown Bush-Warbler in low shrubbery and long grass. On way down, had Barred Laughingthrush, Slaty Bunting and Ferruginous Flycatcher. Reached Wolong Hotel at 15.30, soaked – and tried to dry clothes and boots. Hot shower! Ate with Ornifolks who kindly offered to give us a lift tomorrow but driver objected, so we had to rent our own vehicle for 400Y (£11 each) to go with them.
8/6 Ready for 04.00 departure but Ornifolks’ driver didn’t show until 04.20. Proceeded to Wood Snipe grassland, arriving c06.00: despite low cloud, soon saw at least 2 birds displaying – looked like woodcocks, with snipe-like wing sounds. PH saw a Chinese Hog-badger on the hillside. Returned c 2km to find Ornifolks who were watching White-eared Pheasants; single Verraux’s Partridge and Koklass Pheasant were also spotted there. Then up to the pass where Grandala, Brandt’s Mountainfinch and Tibetan Snowcock were seen, and later a female Red-fronted Rosefinch (AB had a pair). Ornifolks had gone lower down as conditions were severe, with biting wind, snow and sleet; we followed later, meeting them on way back having bagged Songar Tit and Himalayan Rubythroat. We tried for the Tit, without success (saw Maroon-backed Accentor), then walked a track across a scree slope to look for Snow Partridge, to no effect.
Our taxi conked out, after playing up, just before pass so we had to push it over, then freewheel back down to Km102, the road-menders’ huts, where we spent an hour trying to find Chinese Fulvetta; Kessler’s Thrushes flew between the rhodedendron scrub (where nesting) and hillside to feed. Taxi went a little further then died, so we eventually left, paying only 300Y. 6 Griffon Vultures descended on a dead goat on the hillside and we tried scanning across the valley for Chinese Monal (as cloud had now lifted), later learning that Ornifolks had seen 2 there at 13.30!
Lift back in a lorry and, as weather now good, I went for Golden Pheasant foray up the hillside - saw nothing but did have 8 ticks today! Final supper with Ornifolks.
9/6 05.00 start in a different van - 120Y to Monal site. We had to walk a bit of the way as the van was so under-powered it wouldn’t go up the hill! Unfortunately the cloud was too low to see the Monal area, and stayed this way all day! We had some food and drink at nearby house with locals and waited around until 12.30 – Griffons, Lammergeier, Plain Mountain-finch, Beautiful Rosefinch and Kessler’s Thrush. AB and I went lower down to look for Spectacled Parrotbill without success, returning at 15.00 to find PH in the house and cloud even lower. After quick bite, hitched back to road-menders’ tents and eventually saw both Parrotbill and Chinese Fulvetta. After a long wait for a lift, got on back of lorry to base at 18.00ish. Supper with a Japanese, only other birder we saw all trip - good meal and beer for only 16Y each.
10/6 Up 05.20 for solo attempt on Golden Pheasant, eventually scoring at 07.25, after good views of Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Plain-backed Thrush, Chestnut-flanked White-eye and Black-throated Tit. Came down through scrub – Grey Bushchat but no Collared Finchbill. Waited in the square for a bus from 08.45 but none came so we hitched lift on back of a dirty lorry. It stopped en route for c 20 minutes for no apparent reason, then again at midday just before the main road. Money was demanded – I gave 10Y and was greatly abused, my bag snatched by an old hag but I got it back by force. PH was pushed over and threatened by older man holding rocks, but we made our getaway and after short wait caught bus to Chengdu (15Y) – had intended to stop at broken bridge for Spot-breasted Parrotbill but couldn’t be bothered as had all our baggage with us. Reached Sam’s at 15.00ish, then went to Du Fu’s thatched cottage at 16.00 until 18.00 – rather busy but found White-browed Laughingthrush and Vinous-throated Parrotbill. Returned to Sam’s and walked to large store to buy video tape, followed by pizza and e-mailing.
11/6 Sun and cloud all day. 06.00 mini-bus to airport, arriving 06.25. Checked in for 08.00 flight to Lanzhou then spotted there was an unscheduled flight direct to Xining at 07.45. Southwesr Air agreed to transfer us, wanted to charge 20% cancellation fee (+ 40Y extra fare) but eventually waived the fee. Arrived at large city of Xining in Qinghai at 09.15, bus to town (10Y), taxi to hotel where met someone from Jesper’s agency. Taxi to base of Bei Shan temple, up hill on cable car, then walked down other side and took old bus to higher temple (10Y). Spent most of day walking slowly down to valley below and partly up hill beyond. Failed to find Przevalski’s Partridge (though may have heard it), but Saker, Hobby, Hume’s Groundpecker with food, Pied Wheatear, Sinai Rosefinch, Godlewski’s and Meadow Buntings were consolations, and a possibly extra-limital Spotted Owlet a good record.
The main features of the tour were a visit to the huge lake and wetlands of Koko Nor, and the desert region beyond, followed by a long tour of the Tibetan plateau, crossing several high passes and visiting two forest reserves with somewhat different avifaunas.
The tour cost $3850 (£2280) each for 28 days all-inclusive to and from Beijing. Jesper ran another one in August for Avifauna, a Swedish “low budget” tour group, for £1850 for 15 days from Beijing. The only other company I knew running Tibet trips at that time were BirdQuest, who were more expensive. The shorter tour did not visit the forest reserves and was tighter on time with no contingencies for bad weather etc, but in the event did see all the specialities possible on the route. As special permits are required to enter this area, it is necessary to commit yourself some time in advance.
I would recommend either of Jesper’s tours but be aware of the following points:-
1.Most of the time is spent at 3200m or above, so you need to be in good health. Age should not be a problem provided you are reasonably walking-fit, but there are little or no medical facilities.
2. Cleanliness and sanitation do not seem to feature in Tibetan life. If you are squeamish about such things, this trip is not for you……
3. Jesper did not use tapes, which was mostly not a problem but probably cost us Przevalski’s Partridge and Chinese Nuthatch. He knows the birds, mammals, sites and cultural background well – probably better than anyone else – but he is self-employed, without tour company backing or responsibility. Make very clear any special interests you might have.
11/6 AB, PH and JH fly Chengdu – Xining, visit Bei Shan.
12/6 Xining - Laoye Shan, near Datong; p.m. return to Xining and meet Jesper and other 3, all visit Bei Shan
13/6 Laoye Shan and Dongxia, night at Xining
14/6 Koko Nor, night at Heimahe
15/6 Chaka Desert, night at Heimahe
16/6 hills above Heimahe, drive to Gonghe
17/6 gorge beyond Gonghe, drive to Wenquan via Er La Pass
18/6 day at Er La Pass, late afternoon Wenquan
19/6 long drive to forest reserve near Sichuan border
20-22/6 forest reserve
23-24/6 forest reserve – Maduo with overnight stop at Changache
25/6 drive to Yushu via Dayematan and Bayan Kala pass
26/6 drive to Nangquian forest reserve
27-29/6 Nangqian forest reserve
30/6 drive to Nangqian
1-2/7 Kanda Shan, nights at Nangqian
3/7 drive to Yushu via Kanda Shan
4/7 drive to Maduo
5/7 drive to Wenquan
6/7 drive to Xining via Er La pass and gorges
7/7 06.00-10.00 AB and JH Bei Shan, drive to Lanzhou airport, fly to Chengdu; others visit Laoye Shan and Dongxia with night at Xining
Lanzhou airport is 265km from Xining and 135 km from Lanzhou city.
BIRDING IN NE TIBET: 11 June - 9 July 2000. by Jesper Hornskov (with modifications & annotations by Jon Hornbuckle)
This report details a birding trip in Qinghai Province, China, by A.D.H. Banwell, E.C. Dickinson, R.J. Fairbank, P.J. Heath, J. Hornbuckle, B.E. Wright & myself during early summer 2000.Four of us (ECD, RF, BW & JeH) assembled in Beijing, China's capital, on 11th June, and managed a bit of birdwatching during a visit to the Summer Palace, where reedbed habitat proved surprisingly productive given the time of day. The next morning we flew to Xining, Qinghai's provincial capital, where our drivers met us at the airport. Soon we had located AB, PH & JoH who had arrived from Sichuan the day before and birded the eroded hills of Bei Shan near town, then the dry forest of Laoye Shan the following morning. We all went to Bei Shan in the afternoon, finding Daurian Partridge but not the hoped-for Przevalski.
The 13th was spent at Laoe'sShan and other forest habitat N of Xining, mostly in drizzly-to-rainy conditions. This did not stop us finding most of our target birds, including Crested Tit-warbler and Przevalski's Nuthatch, although Chinese Nuthatch and Chinese Bush-Warbler were not in evidence. Koko Nor was the next stop: Black-necked Cranes, large numbers of GBH Gulls, and smart Mongolian Larks were among the highlights of our first day on the plateau. The next morning the arrival of Henderson's Ground-Jay at what is "usually a reliable site" coincided with ours, a remarkable bit of timing, and we spent several hours with these masters of the vanishing act. It was a fine, clear morning, and song-flighting Blanford's Snowfinches against a bluer-than-blue sky vied with Pallas's Sandgrouse for our attention. Later in the day we had a first try at Przevalski's Redstart, but found instead the enigmatic and often elusive Przevalski's Rosefinch. We returned the following dawn and our perseverance was rewarded with close-up views of the Redstart. Tibetan Snowcocks, a male Himalayan Rubythroat & Wallcreeper for some added to the excitement, before we moved on to Gonghe, spending the night in the friendly Iron Curtain hotel, well-positioned by its proximity to an Internet cafe & the presence in its garden of Sylvia minula.
Not too far from Gonghe was a gorge which we combed for Przevalski's Partridge - again without success. After a delicious lunch (no comment!) we stopped near a pass for the first Guldenstadt's Redstarts of the trip & visited a gorge - The Gorge - in search of Eastern Great Rosefinch, but found a pair of Great Rosefinches instead, as well as River Chat and a superb Wallcreeper. As evening approached, a stop at Er La pass, aimed at altitudinal acclimatization more than birdwatching, yielded our first Roborovski's Rosefinches. The next morning we took it easy up the slope, and all made it to the summit without suffering unduly. During seven hours in the area we managed just over a dozen species, but this mattered little as amongst them was the hoped-for Tibetan Sandgrouse - a pair with three chicks! After watching these for a while some searched for Tibetan Snowcocks while others devoted time to scanning the slopes for mammals. Back at the motel most of us needed a rest before finishing a fine day with a stroll along the river, where memorable views were obtained of a Wallcreeper and Himalayan Griffons in flight.
The Sichuan border, an area previously visited only once by birders, was next on the itinerary and we were pleased to find the extensive forest there alive with healthy populations of mostly unwary gamebirds (which particularly impressed those who had just come from the Sichuan reserves where gamebirds have become increasingly scarce over the past decade). The sought-after Sichuan Grey Jay seemed to have a stronghold here though proving rather elusive for some, and it was fortunate that plenty of time had been allocated to thoroughly cover the somewhat demanding slopes of this truly remote area.
The very long drive to Maduo was spread over two days, with a freezing night on the floor of a building at 4,500m, two hours short of Huashixia where we would have stayed in a basic motel (not part of the original plan which was to drive all the way to Maduo in one day, but forced on us by all the road works). The road was very bad in places, with several trucks, a public bus and a couple of ineptly driven 4WDs hopelessly embedded in mud; the army out in force, leaning on shovels, and only off-road progress possible for the foreseeable future. After such tribulations Maduo's grim Gulag hotel seemed a welcoming refuge.
A clear night gave way to a drizzly dawn. Next to the road an Eagle Owl with 2 chicks was a surprising find. Four approachable, 2nd-year Black-necked Cranes provided the next thrill, though continuing dank weather made us push on from our wetland-edge breakfast site sooner than we might otherwise have done. Later, we added the day's second major river, the Yangtze, to our list and several close-up Ibisbills were a welcome sight just before the overnight destination, the lively town of Yushu.
The next day we arrived at the first pass early only to discover a truck buried there. After 90 mins exploring the nearby, promising-looking scrub, where Himalayan Rubythroats were in song, our drivers plucked up courage to drive our vehicles on the hillside past - rather than through - the bottleneck. Continuing S, past numerous Upland Buzzards and Sakers, we finally arrived at the Nangqian forest reserve at dusk. Three whole days were spent exploring the forest near our riverside "camp", and we were pleased to discover that our drivers were also excellent cooks – no-one (according to Jesper) minded the somewhat primitive conditions, or the ups and downs inherent in forest birding in this part of the world. Szechenyi’s Monal Partridge and Three-banded Rosefinch were the prize here.
Rain on the morning of our departure - predictably - did little to improve the condition of the road, and less experienced drivers might have been unable to get through to the Mekong. However, we made reasonable time into the county town of Nangqian, and after a mid-afternoon bowl of noodles most went down to the river in search of Ibisbills. Two-and-a-half days were spent covering Kanda Shan before heading back to Yushu. Superb White Eared Pheasants, Red-breasted Rosefinches, Kozlov's Buntings and up to 100 Blue Sheep deserve special mention.
Then we made our way slowly back to Xining, stopping at such promising spots as the Xiewu valley, Dayematan, the Wenquan passes, The Gorge and Gonghe. A good forty stately Kiang S of Maduo was perhaps the most memorable sighting of the return drive. Back in Xining the hotel's restaurant was found to be "out of order", and so we settled for a hamburger and ice-cream meal down the road - no matter: the hotel did have hot showers, a real treat after so long on the road with the most basic of accommodation.
The following morning AB & JoH left for Chengdu and Lhasa, after a fruitless 4 hour search for Przevalski's Partridge. The rest of the party spent a final day of forest birding N of Xining: although the weather initially was not on our side Chinese Leaf Warbler was added to the list and Przevalski's Nuthatch located at the nest. On the morning of our departure Przevalski's Partridge was heard on Bei Shan, but only PH - who had an extra couple of days - eventually got to see them. That's the way it goes!
The flight to Beijing was pleasantly uneventful, and ED, RF, BW & JeH celebrated the end of a fine trip by having another grand dinner at our hotel.
Anyone interested in future trips to the area, or to other parts of China, can contact the author at Bei Ling 3 Qu, Building no. 1, Apartment 3-402, Beidaihe 066100, HebeibProvince, China. Phone/fax: +86 335 403 4587 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally I would like to acknowledge the considerable stamina and high spirits of my companions - thank you for making the tour such good fun!
Jesper Hornskov, Beidaihe, July 2000.
C. LHASA, TIBET
I decided to stay on an extra week, with AB, to visit Lhasa and to try to see the highly endangered Crested Ibis on the way back to Beijing. Our intended schedule was
8/7 fly Chengdu – Lhasa
9-11/7 Lhasa area
12/7 fly to Chengdu, overnight train to Hanzhong
13/7 bus to Yang Xian – site for Ibis (1hr 30m)
14/7 bus to Xi’an (8 hr), overnight train to Beijing, or extra day in Yang Xian and fly Xi’an – Beijing on 15/7
The only known wild population of Crested Ibis inhabit a strictly controlled reserve near Yang Xian, Shaanxi Province where it is difficult to get permits to enter, but some feed near the captive breeding centre 4 km north of town and fly over it to roost in the nearby hills to the east. Hence it is apparently easy to see them at dusk and dawn, according to a Ding Chang-Qing who is researching into their ecology, though only from August – January (as I later discovered). There are plans to release captive birds a long way off to try to establish another population.
Although there are some direct flights from Xining to Lhasa we had to return to Chengdu as Jesper’s travel agent in Xining was unable to obtain Lhasa permits for us. It is easy to get on flights from Chengdu to Lhasa as there are 2 or 3 Airbuses a day. The only straightforward route is to buy a three day package to Lhasa in Chengdu through an agent. We used Sam, the proprietor of the excellent Sam’s Guesthouse, who was very helpful and knowledgable. He can arrange the trip for the next day if informed before 2 p.m. and given a copy of passport details.
The cost is 2500 Y for the flight there, transfer to and from airports, 3 nights in a backpacker’s dorm, and a 2 day tour around Lhasa (optional). The flight back to Chengdu (at least twice daily) is 1200 Y, giving a total cost of approx £300 if bought through Sam. You can go to Xi’an (1320 Y), Beijing or Xining much less frequently, but tickets must be bought in Lhasa and flights are liable to be fully booked.
Once in Lhasa you can stay on and travel outside after paying an agent to arrange the requisite permit, but you must take a local guide. The agent will undoubtedly try to insist you hire an expensive vehicle through them but if there is public transport, you should be able to use it. We went to Samye monastery and paid 86 Y each for buses and ferry for the return trip (cf. approx 1200 Y for a hire-car), 250 Y each for the permit and agent’s fee, and 150 Y a day total for the guide (who paid all his own expenses including fares). Note that permits can only be obtained Monday – Friday and usually take at least a day to get.
Unfortunately, our plans were disrupted, firstly because we could not return to Chengdu in time to sort things out for the early morning Lhasa flight on 8/7, but more seriously, because the flight on 9/7 was cancelled hours after we had borded it, so we did not leave until 9/7. Not only did this result in 2 days wasted in Chengdu, but it meant there was insufficient time to try for the Ibis, so with Sam’s help (impossible by yourself), we managed to change our return flight back to go direct to Beijing, via Xi’an, on 14/7 as we did not want to risk missing our flight home on 16/7. The reason for the flight cancellation and ensuing chaos at the airport as 3 Airbus flights were involved, was said to be bad weather at Lhasa but this was denied when we reached Lhasa. The Chinese can be really inscrutable, to put it mildly, at times……
8/7 Panda Breeding Centre, Chengdu
9/7 04.50-12.30 Chengdu airport, p.m. in Chengdu and birding in farmland near airport
10/7 flight to Lhasa, p.m. visit to Drepung Monastery
11/7 sightseeing in Lhasa
12/7 bus, ferry and lorry to Samye Monastery, tractor to valley near Yamalung Monastery
13/7 all day trip in valley near Yamalung Monastery
14/7 bus, ferry and bus to Gonggar (Lhasa airport), 14.35-18.30 flight to Xi’an via Xining, 19.40-21.00 flight to Beijing
15/7 06.00-12.30 trip to Great Wall at Mutianyu in taxi, p.m. at Summer Palace
16/7 Beijing – London 10.45-16.20 via Amsterdam
There are 3 birds to see in the Lhasa area: Prince Henry’s Laughingthrush – fairly common and widespread - Giant Babax and Tibetan or Ewles’ Eared-Pheasant (a split, not currently recognized by Clements, off White-eared Pheasant). The only information we had for finding the latter 2 species was Kennerley’s report of the 1992 BirdQuest trip which said they were seen in a valley beyond Samye Monastery - the pheasants flying around early and late in the day. Hence we paid for a permit and guide to go to Samye, and travelled by public bus – at first said to be impossible by the travel agent, but later conceeded to be feasible but at our own risk. There were no problems but we would have been prevented by Chinese police from crossing the Brahmaputra to Samye if we had not had the permits and guide. Otherwise the young “guide” was useless, spending most of his time in bed, but that suited us.
Kennerley’s valley was at Nyango, the village before Yamalung Monastery, some 7-10km from Samye. Late afternoon we took a primitive tractor, the only means of transport, towards the monastery but noone had heard of Nyango. As the journey was slow and painful, we baled out a little before the monastery at either Lopsan or Endo village and took a track up a promising-looking valley there. Soon had Giant Babax and the laughingthrush, but no sign of the pheasant. However, eventually told by locals that the pheasant was found there, so we returned the following morning. One or two Eared-Pheasants called sporadically (like White-eared) from the steep rocky hillside opposite but it rained most of the morning and no birds flew. We went across but I decided against risking a bad fall; AB eventually saw a female with young. After a considerable wait and hardly any more calling, we left without further sightings. There was no time to return thefollowing day. I later read the relevant BirdQuest newsletter which stated they drove to the very end of the main valley to the monastery, so we must have stopped too soon. No other birds of note were seen.
APPENDIX A: LIST OF BIRDS IN SICHUAN
Taxonomy, names and sequence based on Birds of the World: A Checklist by JF Clements (2000).
The following notable species were seen by AB or PH but not me:-
Mountain Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis Omei Shan
Blue Eared-Pheasant Crossoptilon auritum Jiuzhaigou
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant Chrysolophus amherstiae Omei Shan
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus plateau en route to Jiuzhaigou
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques Omei Shan
Chestnut-headed Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata Jiuzhaigou
Bar-winged Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis troglodytoides Omei Shan
Grey-hooded Parrotbill Paradoxornis zappeyi Omei Shan
Yellow-billed Grosbeak Eophona migratoria Du Fu’s Garden, Chengdu
The following species which would be new to me and have been seen in this region by others:-
Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa Wolong
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus Plateau between Jiuzhaigou and Wolong
Gould's Shortwing Brachypteryx stellata Jiuzhaigou
Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi Omei Shan
Russet Bush-Warbler Bradypterus seebohmi Omei Shan
Emei Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus emeiensis Omei Shan
Sukatschev's Laughingthrush Garrulax sukatschewi Jiuzhaigou
Moustached Laughingthrush Garrulax cineraceus Omei Shan
Rusty Laughingthrush Garrulax poecilorhynchus Omei Shan
Spot-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis guttaticollis In scrub by the big river south of the Wolong turn off from the main road (near the broken bridge across the river)
Rusty-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis przewalskii Jiuzhaigou
Golden Parrotbill Paradoxornis verreauxi Omei Shan
LIST OF MAMMALS
This list follows the sequence and nomenclature of A World List of Mammalian Species by GB Corbet and JE Hill (1991).
Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis 1 by the roadside near the high grassland at Wolong
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1 Jiuzhaigou
Eurasian Badger Meles meles 1
Hog-Badger Arctonyx collaris 1 (PH only) in high grassland at Wolong
Squirrel sp. Several unidentified sp.
APPENDIX B: LIST OF BIRDS IN QINGHAI by Jesper Hornskov
The following list is based on our daily log in Qinghai. The concept bird-days is used for convenience: it is the avian equivalent of man-hours - the daily totals added up to give a handy measure of relative abundance: a pair of Golden Eagles seen four days running equals eight bird-days. Note that a day total is the sum of individual birds recorded by the group (including heard only) - as some members preferred birding on their own, individuals generally saw fewer of each species than the total entered in the log (bracketed numbers in italics are JoH’s own sightings). A capital X indicates the species was not seen on the Avifauna tour in August 2000, brackets indicating that only 1 or 2 participants saw it.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Two at the Koko Nor marsh on 14th.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
80+ at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th, c6 at Dayematan on 25th, and two S of Maduo on 4th.
Eared/ Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis
Four on the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
c200 at Heimahe on 14th.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
One at Heimahe on 14th.
Greylag Goose Anser anser
c15 in the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon area on 14th.
Bar-headed Goose A. indicus
On 14th c50 at the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon & an impressive c2,450 at Heimahe. c30 in total were flying about over the Heimahe uplands on 16th, and Dayematan yielded c60 on 25th & c30 on 4th. 5-11 birds were noted en route in high country on 19+23+24th.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
c385 bird-days. Noted on ten dates, with up to 100+ at Koko Nor on 14th and en route (mainly at Dayematan) on 25th.
Common Shelduck T. tadorna X
Two at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th constituted a minor surprise...
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
A drake on the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th was the only record.
Gadwall A. strepera
30 at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Common Teal A. crecca X
Six at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Mallard A. platyrhynchos
Recorded only at Koko Nor and Dayematan, with max ten in the latter area on 25th.
Spot-billed Duck A. poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha
Three at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Northern Pintail A. acuta
22+ at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th; 15 at Dayematan on 25th.
Garganey A. querquedula
Four at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata X
15+ on the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
c200 in the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon area on 14th.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
20 at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14h.
Ferruginous Duck A. nyroca
12 were in the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon on 14th.
Tufted Duck A. fuligula
In the Koko Nor area 120 at the lagoon & ten at Heimahe on 14th; at Dayematan eight on 25th & two on 4th.
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clanga X
Ten at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Goosander Mergus merganser
15 bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, and en route to & at the Nangqian forest reserve (incl. a female with five ducklings on 26th)
Black Kite Milvus migrans
66+ bird-days. 1-10 birds noted on 15 dates included one harassed by a Common Tern above our hotel at Nangqian on 30th.
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
32 bird-days. Noted on 15 dates, daily max five. A pair found breeding, chick-still-in-nest, on the Sichuan border.
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis
215 bird-days. Up to 45 birds were seen on 19 dates, many close-up.
Cinereous/ Black Vulture Aegypius monachus X
One at Wenquan on 18th; one at Huashixia on 27th (RF). A scarce species in summer.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis X
Singles on the Sichuan border on 20th & at the Nangqian forest reserve on 27th (BW).
Eurasian Sparrowhawk A. nisus
15+ bird-days. Recorded on the Sichuan border (2-3 daily), at the Nangqian forest reserve, and in the Kanda Shan area.
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
c16 bird-days. Recorded only on the Sichuan border and at the Nangqian forest reserve.
Upland Buzzard B. hemilasius
793 bird-days, of which 465 at high altitude en route over 23-25th (264 on the last date)... highest densities noted where pikas were most abundant. A variable species, necessitating many photo stops. A number of nests were seen on telegraph poles near the road (incl. seven occupied by incubating birds on 19th).
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
17+ bird-days. Recorded on the Sichuan border and S of Yushu, with a daily max of four birds on 3rd.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Single birds were noted on 11 dates at Heimahe, Gonghe, Xiewu, Kanda Shan & en route S of Yushu.
Eurasian Hobby F. subbuteo
12 bird-days. Noted at Koko Nor (at lagoon on 14th & Heimahe the next day), the Sichuan border, the Nangqian forest reserve (one pair present) & near Xining (on 11/6 and 7/7).
Saker F. cherrug
75 bird-days. 1-18 birds were noted on 13 dates, mostly in pika country on the high plateau. We all came away with a much improved "feel" for the species' jizz, plumage & size variation, as well as superb memories of close-up views of this dashing flier.
Severtzov's Grouse Bonasia sewerzowi X
Ten bird-days: 1-7 noted on three dates on the Sichuan border (1 only).
Verreaux's (Monal) Partridge Tetraophasis obscurus X
Up to 10+ daily on the Sichuan border over 21-23rd (1 only).
Szechenyi's (Monal) Partridge T. szechenyii [X]
Up to 24 daily in the Nangqian forest reserve over 27-29th (3 only, on 28th), and three in the Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd.
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
Near Heimahe two on 16th; at Er La pass five on 18th & three on 6th; en route heard S of Yushu & at Kanda Shan pass.
Przevalski's Partridge Alectoris magna
Heard at Xining Bei Shan on 12/6 and 8/7, & near Gonghe (PH) on 17th; 9 at Bei Shan on 9/7 (PH).
Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
2-3 at Xining Bei Shan on 12/6 and 8/7; five at Laoye Shan on 13th.
Tibetan Partridge P. hodgsoniae
43+ bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, at/near the Nangqian forest reserve (incl. 11 on the drive in on 26th), in the Kanda Shan area (2-10 daily), and above Xiewu.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix X
One heard (RF) not far from the Nangqian forest reserve on 30th.
The species was not listed for Qinghai by Cheng (1987).
Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus X
7-20+ daily (incl. a pair with three 3-4 days old chicks on 20th , and 22nd(only ones I saw) on the Sichuan border, and max c40 daily at the Nangqian forest reserve (2 only).
White Eared-Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
2-6 daily (though heard-only on two dates) at the Nangqian forest reserve (none), and c15 adults with at least two 3-4 days old chicks in the Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd. On the last date the birds proved particularly obliging, allowing extended viewing at quite close range (5 only).
Blue Eared-Pheasant C. auritum X
24+ bird-days (3-15+ daily over 20-22nd) on the Sichuan border (2-3 on 2 dates).
Ring-necked/ Common Pheasant Phasanius colchicus
27 bird-days. Noted N of Xining & at Gonghe.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus X
One was seen briefly in riverside vegetation near the Sichuan border on 20th.
A vagrant to Qinghai.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus X
Singles at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
The species was not listed for Qinghai by Cheng (1987).
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Ten at the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon area on 14th.
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis
At least 18 individuals were seen: three at the Koko Nor marsh on 14th, 12 (eight adults - of which two were sitting on nests - and four 2nd year birds) at Dayematan on 25th (& seven there on 4th), and three S of Yushu on 3rd.
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii
Four adults with two nearly full-grown chicks in the Yushu valley on 25th was one of the highlights of the trip. On 26th four were seen on the drive to the Nangqian forest reserve, on 26th single birds were at Kanda Shan & along the Mekong near Nangqian, and on 3rd two were seen by some on the drive back to Yushu.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
A single bird was seen near Gonghe on both 17+6th.
Snowy/ Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus
50+ were at Koko Nor on 14th, one was noted en route on 16th, and another was at Dayematan on 25th.
Mongolian Plover C. mongolus
The Koko Nor lagoon & Heimahe yielded singles on 14th, Dayematan c60 on 25th & 103 on 4th. A total of nine others were noted en route on the plateau...
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Two were at the Koko Nor marsh/lagoon on 14th.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis X
A lingering migrant was spotted at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
X23 (5) were at Heimahe on
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
75+ at Koko Nor on 14th, heard at Gonghe on 17th, at Dayematan c20 on 25th & 40 on 4th, and at wetland S of Yushu 25 on 3rd.
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola
Singles at Heimahe on 14th, at Dayematan on 25th & on wetland S of Yushu on 3rd - 16 at Dayematan on 4th reminded us that autumn would, all too soon, be upon us...
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus X
One at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th was an unexpected find.
Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus
c700 at Heimahe on 14th was an impressive spectacle - in addition, singles were seen along the Koko Nor shore on 16th & at Kuhai on 5th.
Brown-headed Gull L. brunnicephalus
c205 bird-days. Noted on six dates, with main events c150 at Heimahe on 14th & 30+ at Dayematan on 25th.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo thibetana
c115 bird-days. Noted at Koko Nor (60+ on 14th), Gonghe, Dayematan (max 25 on 4th), en route to the Nangqian forest reserve, along the Mekong, at the wetland S of Yushu & occasionally along streams on the high plateau.
Pallas's Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus
In desert W of Koko Nor c20 adults performed superbly on 15th (& three almost full-grown chicks flew off strongly, JH) - also heard at Gonghe & three seen en route on 17th and 2 on 6th.
Tibetan Sandgrouse S. tibetanus
A pair (with 3 downy chicks) at Er La pass on 18th were seen at close range by all members of the group.
Blue Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris
c685 bird-days. Seen almost daily with a max c250 at Koko Nor on 16th.
Snow Pigeon C. leuconota
56 bird-days. 7-15 were noted on five dates S of Yushu (mainly Nangqian forest reserve & Kanda Shan area).
Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica X
Two on a wire near Dari on 23rd were presumed to be wanderers.
Oriental Turtle Dove S. orientalis
One N of Xining on 13th, 1-6 daily on the Sichuan border, and 1-3 daily at the Nangqian forest reserve.
Common Cuckoo C. canorus
85 bird-days. Recorded at Xining Bei Shan, N of Xining, at ex-commune W of Koko Nor, at Gonghe, on the Sichuan border (max 25 (7) on 23rd), in the Yushu valley, at the Nangqian forest reserve & on Kanda Shan.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo X
One at Gonghe on 17th, an adult with two chicks S of Maduo on 25th, and one at Xining Bei Shan on 8th. In addition, breast feathers found in a Kanda Shan gorge cave proved its presence in that general area.
Little Owl Athene noctua
24 bird-days. Most were seen en route, perching on telegraph poles or on roadside mounds.
Spotted Owlet Athene brama X
One at Bei Shan on 11th, at the edge of its wide range.
Pere David's Owl Strix (uralensis) davidi X
Feathers, thought to be of this sp., found in two different places on the Sichuan border; 1-2 birds heard (28+30th) at the Nangqian forest reserve.
The latter record appears to constitute a slight extension of its known range (Cheng 1987).
Common Swift Apus apus
200+ in total, mainly at Xining, Koko Nor & Gonghe - none were recorded S of Maduo.
Fork-tailed Swift A. pacificus
325+ bird-days. 1-3 daily at Heimahe over 14-16th, eight at Er La pass on 17th, 23-35 daily on the Sichuan border, c50 in the Yushu valley on 25th, c50 en route to the Nangqian forest reserve the next day (and up to 30 there daily over 27-29th), up to ten most days in the Kanda Shan/Mekong area, and a few en route N of Wenquan & en route towards the end of the trip.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upopa epops
126+ bird-days. Most common S of Yushu, eg 30+ (10) on the drive to Nangqian forest reserve on 26th.
Grey-faced/ headed Woodpecker Picus canus X
1+-3 birds daily on the Sichuan border, max 3 daily at the Nangqian forest reserve, and two in the Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd (only ever saw 1!).
Black Woodpecker Dryocupus martius X
1-3 daily on the Sichuan border over 20-23rd; in the Nangqian forest reserve up to five (1-2) daily
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major X
Singles daily on the Sichuan border over 20-23rd.
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker D. hyperythrus X
A female in the Sichuan border forest reserve on 23rd (BW) was a good find: the species was not recorded for Qinghai by Cheng (1987).
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus X
Singles of the distinctive subsp. funebris on the Sichuan border on 22nd (PH) & 23rd (RF); at the Nangqian forest reserve a total of 6-8 birds were noted, I netted & two nests found.
Long-billed Calandra Lark Melanocorypha maxima
95+ bird-days. Noted on the plateau on 11 dates - daily max c30 at Koko Nor on 14th.
Mongolian Lark M. mongolica
20 bird-days. Noted at Koko Nor (daily max seven on 14th), at ex-commune (two on 15th), and between Gonghe and Heka (max six on 6th).
Hume's (Short-toed) Lark Calandrella acutirostris
44+ bird-days. Common at Koko Nor (30 on 14th) - elsewhere 5+ at Dayematan on 25th & 6+ at Nangqian on 30th...
Asian Short-toed Lark C. cheleensis
11+ in desert W of Koko Nor on 15th; four at Gonghe on 17th.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Four in the vicinity of Gonghe on 6th.
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
200+ bird-days. Common at Laoye Shan, Koko Nor & (especially) S of Yushu.
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Not systematically recorded: away from the forest reserves seen daily, often in large numbers.
Bank Swallow/ Pale Sand Martin Riparia (riparia) diluta
158+ bird-days. Noted at Koko Nor (incl. the desert), at Wenquan, near the Sichuan border, at Nangqian & occasionally en route.
ECD, recently returned from St. Petersburg, considers Russian grounds for treating diluta as a valid species to be sound.
Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris
82+ bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, Gonghe, near the Sichuan border, S of Yushu (incl. c30 in the Kanda Shan gorge, w/ three nests found (ECD), on 2nd) & at Xining Bei Shan (4+ on 8th).
Barn Swallow H. rustica
Two at the Koko Nor lagoon on 14th, one at Wenquan on 18th, four near the Sichuan border on 19th, and two en route on 23+26th.
Red-rumped Swallow H. daurica
One at Wenquan on 18th, 12+ at a bridge roughly halfway between Yushu and Nangqian on 26+3rd (and an additional four elsewhere en route on 3rd), and two in the Xiewu valley on 4th.
Asian (House) Martin Delichon dasypus
c40 near Laoye Shan on 13th, 10-45 daily at the Sichuan border reserve, two near Xiewu on 25th, max three daily at the Nangqian forest reserve, 2-4 at Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd, ten en route on 3rd & one on 4th, and finally six coming down to drink/collecting nest material in The Gorge on 6th.
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi
Three at Koko Nor on 14th, four in desert/at ex-commune the next day, and a singleton en route on 16th.
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni
Two at Laoye Shan on 13th, 1-10 almost daily on the Sichuan border, max ten (2) daily at the Nangqian forest reserve, ten (1) in the Kanda Shan area over 2-3rd, and three N of Xining on 7th.
Rosy Pipit A. roseatus
Seen only at Heimahe (daily max four on 15th) & at Kanda Shan pass (three on 1st, two on 3rd).
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus X
One at our Nangqian hotel on 30th (BW) was perhaps only the third record for Qinghai/Tibet.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava plexa/macronyx
On 14th two at the Koko Nor marsh & one at Heimahe.
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola
32 bird-days. Noted at Koko Nor, in the Xiewu & Yushu valleys, en route to & from the Nangqian forest reserve on 26+30th, and on the drive back to Yushu on 3rd.
Memories of superb males within range of the cameras will be long-lasting...
White Wagtail M. alba
141+ bird-days. In the far S birds showed the characters of M. a. alboides, while M. a. leucopsis was seen at Koko Nor & in the Xining area.
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus X
18 bird-days (2-7 (1) daily over 20-23rd) on the Sichuan border.
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
30+ bird-days. Noted at The Gorge, Wenquan, on the Sichuan border, in the Yushu valley, at the Nangqian forest reserve, in Kanda Shan gorge & in Xiewu valley.
Several birds belonged to the dark-throated morph, with at least two of them paired-up with white-throated birds.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes X
1-8 daily on the Sichuan border & up to 12 daily in the Nangqian forest reserve, mostly heard only.
Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata X
5-10+ daily at the Sichuan border reserve, and max 25+ daily at the Nangqian forest reserve (only 1-2 on 3 dates).
Rufous-browed Accentor P. strophiata
78+ bird-days. Noted N of Xining, at Heimahe, on the Sichuan border, at the Nangqian forest reserve (max 15 daily), on Kanda Shan pass (c20 on 3rd) & in the Xiewu valley (6 max).
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens
39+ bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, Gonghe (incl. a pair with young in the garden of our hotel), The Gorge, Wenquan, Kanda Shan pass & Xiewu.
Robin Accentor P. rubeculoides
71+ bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, Heka pass, Er La pass, Wenquan, at (and en route to) the Sichuan border, S of Yushu on 26th ("stuck truck pass") & on Kanda Shan.
Alpine Accentor P. collaris
Five (1) at Er La pass on 18th, c8 on Kanda Shan pass on 1st & one there on 3rd.
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope
Seen only N of Xining, ten (2) in total on 13th & 19 (of which several proved very pish-able) on 7th.
White-tailed/ Himalayan Rubythroat L. pectoralis
27 bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, Kanda Shan (daily max c12 on 3rd) & in the Xiewu valley.
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Up to 30+ daily on the Sichuan border, daily max c60 in the Nangqian reserve over 27-29th, and c10 N of Xining on 7th (6-8 max anywhere).
Ala Shan/ Przevalski's Redstart Phoenicurus alashanicus
Hard work near Heimahe eventually paid off on 16th - a wide-ranging pair was found by AB and seen by all.
Black Redstart P. ochruros
461+ bird-days: common in loess country and on the high plateau.
Hodgson's Redstart P. hodgsoni
88+ bird-days: fairly common in gorge country near the Sichuan border & S of Yushu.
Blue-fronted Redstart P. frontalis
2-5 daily at Heimahe over 15-16th, 1-3 daily on the Sichuan border, max ten daily at the Nangqian forest reserve, 35+ (8) in the Kanda Shan area over 1-3rd, and 5+ in the Xiewu valley on 4th.
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps
20-30 daily (15 max) on the Sichuan border, max 35+ daily (10)at the Nangqian forest reserve, c8 in Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd, and six N of Xining on 7th.
White-winged/ Guldenstadt's Redstart P. erythrogaster
30+ bird-days. Noted on eight days, invariably (at this season) only at the highest altitudes.
White-capped Redstart/ River Chat Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
93+ bird-days. Fairly common on the Sichuan border (daily max 15+ over 20-23rd) & S of Yushu (at least two pairs on a stream in the Nangqian forest reserve; several pairs in the Kanda Shan gorge) - also seen along river S of Xining, and at The Gorge.
Plumbeous Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus Five bird-days on the Sichuan border.
White-bellied Redstart Hodgsonius phoenicuroides X
N of Xining 6+ (of which one male sang from an exposed perch – only one seen on trip by JoH) on 13th & one on 7th, on the Sichuan border 2-8 daily over 20-23rd, and at Kanda Shan gorge one pair on 2nd.
Grandala Grandala coelicolar X
A male was seen twice above Kanda Shan pass on 1st.
graceful, erratic bird-of-the-highest-peaks is rare in Qinghai.
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata
27+ bird-days. Noted at Laoye Shan, Heimahe, on the Sichuan border, at Kanda Shan pass, and in the Xiewu valley.
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Up to 15 daily at Koko Nor, ten in desert W of Koko Nor on 15th, three at Gonghe on 17th, and up to 15 on the drives between Gonghe and Heka (17+6th).
Pied Wheatear O. pleschanka
Eight on 11th and a couple on subsequent visits to Xining Bei Shan & one near Gonghe on 16th was all.
Desert Wheatear O. deserti
c8 in desert W of Koko Nor on 15th, at least eight singing males at Gonghe on 17th (with several there also on 6th), and one en route on 19th.
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush Monticola saxatilis
A pair at Xining Bei Shan on 12th & 6-8 birds there on 8th; at Gonghe 2-3 obliging birds on both 17th & 6th.
Blue Rock-Thrush M. solitarius X
One just E of Xining as we drove to the airport on 8th (JeH). The species is rarely recorded in Qinghai (and was not included for the province by Cheng)
Long-tailed Thrush Zoothera dixoni X
11 bird-days on the Sichuan border over 21-23rd, and 1-3 daily at the Nangqian forest reserve over 27-29th.
The species was not included for Qinghai by Cheng (1987), and surprisingly none were recorded on pioneering visits to the two localities.
Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus X
2-5 daily on the Sichuan border.
White-backed/ Kessler's Thrush T. kessleri
c215 bird-days. Particularly common in gorge country in S Qinghai (daily maxima 25 near the Sichuan border, 32+ en route to the Nangqian reserve on 26th, 20+ in Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd, and 16 in the Yushu/Xiewu valleys on 4th), but also seen at Laoye Shan (a male carrying food on 13th), near Heimahe, and in The Gorge.
Chinese (Song) Thrush T. mupinensis X
Four in total on the Sichuan border (JeH, BW), and two in the Nangqian forest reserve on 27th (AB, JoH).
Spotted Bush Warbler Bradypterus thoracicus X
A singing bird was seen very well at Laoye Shan on 13th.
Small/ Desert Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia minula
A pair was in the garden of our Gonghe hotel as we headed for the dinner table on 16th and at least 1 still present the following morning.
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides
N of Xining eight on 13th & 40+ on 7th, on the Sichuan border 20-50+ daily, in the Nangqian forest reserve max 40+ per day over 27-29th (an additional five were noted on the drive there), and in the Kanda Shan gorge c10 on 2nd.
Large-billed Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris X
11+ bird-days on the Sichuan border.
Buff-barred Leaf Warbler P. pulcher X
10-20 daily on the Sichuan border, and a daily max of 25+ over 27-29th in the Nangqian reserve.
Lemon-rumped Warbler P. chloronotus
25-50+ daily on the Sichuan border, and up to c50 daily in the Nangqian forest reserve.
Gansu Leaf-Warbler P. kansuensis
Noted only N of Xining, with 25 (2) on 13th & 16+ on 7th.
Chinese Leaf-Warbler P. sichuanensis X
One N of Xining on 7th eventually performed well for some.
Hume's Leaf-Warbler P. humei mandelli
Common N of Xining (25 on 13th; 30+ on 7th) & on the Sichuan border (5-30 daily over 20-23rd); less so in the Nangqian reserve, where the daily max over 27-29th did not exceed nine birds.
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii
Common N of Xining (20+ on 13th; 11 on 7th); on the Sichuan border 5-c12 daily, and at the Nangqian reserve max seven per day over 27-30th.
Dusky Warbler P. fuscatus
Ten at Heimahe on 15+16th, and two en route to the Nangqian reserve on 26th.
Tickell's Leaf-Warbler P. offinis
c140 bird-days. Recorded at Heimahe (20 on 15+16th), The Gorge, on the Sichuan border (4-15+ daily over 20-22nd), at the Nangqian reserve (two on 28th), Kanda Shan (40+ over 1-3rd) & near Xiewu (c15 on 4th).
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Noted N of Xining (max 12 on 7th), on the Sichuan border (5-35+ daily (4) over 20-23rd) & in the Nangqian reserve a max c15 per day (none!).
White-browed/ Stoliczka's Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae
Noted at Heimahe (4-5 on 15+16th), on the Sichuan border (ten bird-days over 20-23rd), at the Nangqian reserve (daily max six over 27-29th), Kanda Shan (c20 in total over 1-3rd) & N of Xining (two on 7th).
During the breeding season a retiring bird of high altitude scrub. A nest (almost Long-tailed Tit-like) with 4 eggs was found at Heimahe (JoH).
Crested Tit-Warbler L. elegans
8-10 (2-5) on both days N of Xining, 8-15+ (4) daily on the Sichuan border, and up to c20 (6) daily in the Nangqian forest reserve. We all eventually got prolonged, close-up views of this jewel - a real Dreambird!
Sooty/ Siberian Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica rothschildi X
One on the Sichuan border on 22nd (AB, JoH), and c4 individuals in the Nangqian reserve over 27-29th.
Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula hodgsonii X
Common in S Qinghai: 97+ bird-days on the Sichuan border over 20-23rd & max c30 (6) daily in the Nangqian forest reserve over 27-29th. Two N of Xining on 7th were on the N fringe of the species breeding range.
Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis X
Up to four birds in the Nangqian forest reserve on 28+29th apparently constituted a first for Qinghai: a good find, for the few who saw it.The race involved was undoubtedly dedekeni, known from adjacent parts of Sichuan & Xizang provinces (Cheng 1987).
Kozov's Babax Babax koslowi
Two en route to the Nangqian reserve on 26th, 2-3 reliable birds there over 28-30th, and c15 (6) in the Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd.
Pere David's Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi
c5 N of Xining on 13+7th, 1-5 most days on the Sichuan border, and one on 26th en route to the Nangqian reserve.
Giant Laughingthrush G. maximus
Daily maxima 25+ on the Sichuan border, and 20+ in the Nangqian forest reserve (4 max daily).
Elliot's Laughingthrush G. elliotii
4+-15 noted on both days N of Xining, on the Sichuan border 30-40+ daily over 20-23rd, and 20+ daily at the Nangqian reserve (& seven on the drive there on 26th).
Chinese Fulvetta Alcippe striaticollis
22+ bird-days on the Sichuan border, and up to c8 daily in the Nangqian forest reserve (4 max daily). An unobtrusive endemic...
White-browed Tit Parus superciliosus
This attractive endemic was noted at Heimahe (a pair w/ young on 15th; four birds on 16th), near the Sichuan border (two on 20+21st), en route to the Nangqian forest reserve on 26th (three birds), on Kanda Shan pass (three on 3rd), and in Xiewu valley (a pair at nest on 4th).
Songar Tit P. songarus
Recorded N of Xining (max c15 on 7th), on the Sichuan border (80+ bird-days over 20-23rd), in the Nangqian reserve (daily max 5-6 birds) & in Kanda Shan gorge (one on 1st, five on 2nd).
Grey-crested Tit P. dichrous X
38+ bird-days on the Sichuan border (daily max 25+ (2) on 22nd), up to 10-15 (5) daily in the Nangqian forest reserve, and two in Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd.
Rufous-vented Tit P. rubidiventris
Noted N of Xining (max c15 on 7th), on the Sichuan border (c60 bird-days: 10-25+ daily over 20-23rd), and at the Nangqian reserve (daily max 40+ over 27-29th) (10 max daily).
Great Tit P. major
c4-10 noted on three days near the Sichuan border, one at the Nangqian reserve on 28th (BW), and up to three around our hotel at Nangqian over 1-2nd.
White-cheeked/ Przevalski's Nuthatch Sitta leucopsis przewalskii
Found in forest N of Xining on both 13th & 7th, with a pair at their nest on the 2nd visit being a particularly gratifying find - also recorded on the Sichuan border (one heard on 20th, 6+ (6) on 22nd) & in the Nangqian reserve (daily max three over 27-29th).
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
14 bird-days: single birds at Heimahe on 15+16th, at The Gorge (undoubtedly a breeding pair! - one bird was video'd on 6th) & at Wenquan (a male on 18th) - en route singles on 19+20th & two on 26th, at Kanda Shan one on the pass on 1st & two on 3rd, and two in the gorge on 2nd.
Common Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
2-c5 on both visits to forest N of Xining, 3-c20 (2) daily on the Sichuan border, and up to 5+ daily in the Nangqian reserve.
Oriole sp. Oriolus chinensis/ O. oriolus X
One heard at ex-commune on 15th (PH, RF). No oriole species was recorded for Qinghai by Cheng (1987).
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus
One on wires en route on 5th most closely resembled ssp. phoenicuroides.
Grey-backed Shrike L. tephronotus
128+ bird-days. Noted on 19 dates N of Xining, at Heimahe, on the Sichuan border (3-10 daily over 20-23rd), in the Xiewu/Yushu valleys, en route to/from & at the Nangqian forest reserve (max 15 daily over 26-30th), in the Kanda Shan gorge/Mekong valley area (9-10 daily over 1st -3rd), and near Gonghe on 6th (5-6 daily max).
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus X
Four bird-days: one in the Mekong valley on 2nd, the following day one (conceivably the same bird) at Kanda Shan pass & one near Yushu, and on 6th one S of Xining (at km 285). Not included for Qinghai/ Tibet by Vaurie (1972), deSchauensee (1984) or Cheng (1987) but 27 bird-days on 1999 trip.
Sichuan (Grey) Jay Perisoreus internigrans X
44 bird-days on the Sichuan border: 6-16 birds daily over 20-23rd, for some.
Black-billed/ Common Magpie Pica pica
Singles in Qinghai on 13+14+17+7th.
The Tibetan race P. p. bottanensis was more common, with 1-10 daily near the Sichuan border, seven in the Yushu valley on 25th, ten en route to the Nangqian forest reserve on 26th, and 2-7 daily over 1-3rd in the Kanda Shan/Mekong valley area.
Vaurie (1972, p.249) thought it "possible that more than one species is involved" in the Pica pica complex - bottanensis could merit species status, a "conclusion" apparently also reached in a recent paper based on DNA research (B.F. King verbally).
Mongolian/ Henderson's Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni
13-15 (3+) birds in desert W of Koko Nor on 15th.
Tibetan Ground-Jay/ Hume's Ground-pecker Pseudopodoces humilis
360+ bird-days. Recorded on 18 dates - fairly common on the plateau & in gorge country S of Yushu.
Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus X
2-4 noted at/near the Nangqian reserve on 26+29th (PH) & on Kanda Shan on 30+1+3rd.
Red-billed Chough P. pyrrhocorax
495+ bird-days. Noted on 22 dates, max c300 en route on 3rd.
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus
132 bird-days. Most common on the Sichuan border (5-20 daily over 20-23rd) & S of Yushu (best day c40 en route to the Nangqian reserve on 26th), but also seen N of Xining (one on 13th) & N of Gonghe (eight on 6th).
Rook C. frugilegus X
2-c15 noted in the Xining/Datong area on three dates.
Carrion Crow C. corone
Ten N of Xining on 13th, and 3-15 daily on the Sichuan border.
Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos
Recorded on 11 dates on the Sichuan border, at the Nangqian reserve, in the Kanda Shan gorge, and N of Xining.
Raven C. corax
66 bird-days. Noted on ten dates (max 21 on 24th, of which 13 went to roost on a hill above Maduo).
House Sparrow Passer domesticus X
Six (two males w/ four females) en route to the Sichuan border on 19th.
In Qinghai regular only on passage in the Qaidam basin (JeH pers. obs.).
Tree Sparrow P. montanus
Only at the Nangqian reserve were we outside the range of this species...
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
c110 bird-days. Seen on at least ten dates... fairly common at Gonghe & in gorge country S of Yushu.
Blanford's Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi
19 bird-days. Best views obtained in desert W of Koko Nor on 15th
Rufous-necked Snowfinch P. ruficollis
334+ bird-days. Noted on 13 dates, daily max 87 en route on 19th - common on the plateau, particularly in pika country.
Pere David's Snowfinch P. davidiana
9+ at Koko Nor on 14th.
White-rumped Snowfinch P. taczanowskii
c225 bird-days. Noted on ten dates, daily max c150 en route on 19th
Black-winged/ Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsii
33+ bird-days. Noted on 11 dates at Heimahe, The Gorge, Wenquan, Huashixia & en route...
White-winged/ Eurasian Snowfinch M. nivalis henrici
51+ bird-days. Noted in high country on eight dates, max 20 at Er La pass on 18th.
Oriental Greenfinch Carduelis sinica
Noted N of Xining, at the ex-commune, at Gonghe & on the Sichuan border.
Tibetan Siskin C. thibetana X
2-80+ noted daily on the Sichuan border over 21-23rd (many heard but only 4 seen in flight and 1 perched).
The species was not listed for Qinghai by Cheng (1987), and none were recorded on the previous visit.
Twite C. flavirostris
c240 bird-days. Recorded on 15 dates, daily max 50 at Er La pass on 17th.
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
10-60+ daily on the Sichuan border, and up to c50 daily at the Nangqian reserve over 27-29th.
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola
64+ bird-days. Noted on nine dates at Heimahe, The Gorge, Er La pass, the Nangqian reserve (one on 28th: BW) & Kanda Shan pass
Black-headed/ Brandt's Mountain Finch L. brandti
c130 bird-days. Noted at high altitude on ten dates: at Er La pass (max c25 per visit), en route to the Sichuan border, at Huashixia, en route S of Maduo & S of Yushu, on Kanda Shan pass, on Bayankala pass, and S of Wenquan...
Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta
One at Gonghe on 17th (AB, JeH).
Mongolian Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes mongolicus [X]
Eight in total W of Koko Nor on 15th; at Gonghe 15 on 17th & four on 6th.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
85+ bird-days. Noted on the Sichuan border, en route to & at the Nangqian reserve, in the Mekong valley, in Kanda Shan gorge & near Xiewu.
Beautiful Rosefinch C. pulcherrimus
Five at Heimahe on 15+16th, one in The Gorge on 17th, up to ten daily in the Nangqian reserve, 4-25+ in the Kanda Shan area over 1-3rd, and five at Xiewu on 4th
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. eos
400+ bird-days. Noted on the Sichuan border (30-60+ daily over 20-23rd), en route to & at the Nangqian reserve (max 30/day), regularly up to c50 birds feeding in fields in the Mekong valley, 30 in Kanda Shan gorge on 2nd, and one on Kanda Shan pass on 3rd.
Sinai Rosefinch C. synoicus
Up to 20 at Xining Bei Shan.
Three-banded Rosefinch C. trifasciatus X
3-4 birds on the Sichuan border on 22nd, and daily (singles) up to 12 birds in the Nangqian reserve over 27-29th.
First recorded for Qinghai as recently as 1997.
White-browed Rosefinch C. thura
Noted N of Xining, on the Sichuan border (20-40+ daily), in the Nangqian reserve (max 75/day), in the Kanda Shan gorge (ten on 2nd) & on Kanda Shan pass (two on 3rd).
Streaked/ Eastern Great Rosefinch C. rubicilloides
16 bird-days. Noted at Heimahe, on the Sichuan border (BW, JeH), on pass S of Yushu (26th), in the Nangqian reserve (JoH), on Kanda Shan pass, near Xiewu (six on 4th, most memorably including a cooperative pair near the pass) & in The Gorge (on 6th).
Great Rosefinch C. rubicilla
A pair at The Gorge on 17th, a pair at Wenquan the next day (JeH), and two en route N of Er La pass on 6th (JeH).
Red-fronted/ breasted Rosefinch C. puniceu
Seven birds at Kanda Shan pass on 1st & one there on 3rd.
A bird of rocky summits - undoubtedly the hardest-to-get rosefinch on the trip: we were lucky to see a pair feeding at close range.
Tibetan/ Roborovski's Rosefinch C. roborowskii
c30 bird-days. 3-c10 daily in the mountains near Wenquan.
We were all able to watch this little-known, restricted-range species as the birds fed for extended periods on wildflowers and gathered nest material.
Crimson-browed Finch Pinicola subhimachalus X
A pair on the Sichuan border on 27th (AB).
The species was not listed for Qinghai by Cheng (1987).
Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus X
Ten bird-days on the Sichuan border (1-4 noted daily) & one at the Nangqian reserve on 28th (PH).
Przevalski's Rosefinch Urocynchramus pylzowi At Heimahe 3-4 daily over 15-16th, at Kanda Shan singles on 2+3rd.
Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca X
Six at Laoye Shan on 12th and two on 13th, 5-c15 (3) daily on the Sichuan border, and max ten daily in the Nangqian reserve (heard only).
White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carniceps
Noted on the Sichuan border (1-6 daily over 20-23rd), in the Nangqian reserve (up to c100 (20) per day), and at Kanda Shan (seven bird-days).
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala X
Two in the Xining area on 6+7th.
Tibetan/ Kozlov's Bunting E. koslowi
16 (8) in total on Kanda Shan.
Few birders have seen this pretty endemic...
Pine Bunting E. leucocephalos X
One at Laoye Shan on 13th (ED, JeH), two at Heimahe on 15th & one there the next day, and one near Gonghe at an improvised site on 16th.
Godlewski's (Rock) Bunting E. godlewskii
105+ bird-days. Noted on 16 dates.
Meadow Bunting E. cioides
Sixteen bird-days at Xining Bei Shan.
Birds of note seen additionally by Avifauna were Przevalski's Partridge, Oriental Pratincole, Long-toed Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Swinhoe’s Snipe, Blyth’s Pipit and Chinese Nuthatch.
Wolf Canis lupus 2 or 3 (depending on vehicle)
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1 only
Tibetan Fox V. ferrilata Several singles
Eurasian Badger Meles meles 1 on 14th
Hog-Badger Arctonyx collaris 1 (PH only)
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 3
Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula 1 on 20th
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus Common on the plateau
Cape Hare L. capensis Several off the plateau, eg at Bei Shan
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana Locally common
Alashan Souslik Spermophilus alashanicus (= Citellus dauricus alashanicus)
Black-lipped Pika Ochotona curzoniae Locally abundant
Pika spp. Ochotona spp. At least 2 other spp. were seen, the likely candidates being Chinese Red O. erythrotis, Moupin O. thibetana and Thomas’ O. thomasi
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata Fairly common
Blue Sheep/ Bharal Pseudois nayaur A few parties of c.10-100
Asiatic Wild Ass/ Kiang Equus hemionus A few parties incl. one of 22 on 5th.