West Yunnan lies in the far SW of China, bordering Burma/ Myanmar, at the eastern extreme of the Himalayas. Most of the population is comprised of tribal minorities and Tibetans, making it a very interesting region culturally. There are 3 major rivers flowing north-south through the mountains - the Yangtze (which turns east), the Mekong and the Salween – resulting in dramatic scenery and ornithological diversity.
I joined a “cultural” tour of west Yunnan for various reasons, mainly because it was a region I wanted to explore and the northern part of the route, essentially southeast Tibet, would be in poorly known country. The tour was arranged and led by Carol Turner, a non-birder, through Edward Tours in Dali, and the only other participant was Pearl Jordan, an American birder. There were inevitable compromises, eg in starting times, but we succeeded in seeing a good selection of “difficult” birds including Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Yunnan Nuthatch, Bar-winged and Long-tailed Wren-Babblers, Red-faced Liocichla, Spot-breasted Laughingthrush and Parrotbill, and Collared Myna, as well some spectacular scenery and the traditional village life of a number of minority tribes.
I returned to Yunnan by myself for the last week in May after a week in northern Thailand and birded around Ruili, Lijiang and Kunming.
I flew to Kunming from Colombo via Bangkok, after my Sri Lanka and south India trip. The extra to get to Bangkok with SriLanka Air was quite cheap but the Thai Air flight to Kunming was expensive. It would certainly have been cheaper to get a through deal from UK to Kunming, eg with Thai Air, had I not been stopping in Sri Lanka. You can also fly to Kunming from Hong Kong (and many places in China) but this is appreciably more expensive than from Bangkok.
We had a 20-seater bus throughout from Lijiang to our final flight from Mangshi – very roomy, comfortable and safe, but rather slow – supposedly not much more expensive than a smaller vehicle. A good English-speaking guide, Teddy, and the bus-driver Ben were with us thoughout that time. Roads varied from excellent to poor but there is a major road-building programme in progress which will result in ongoing improvements. There is a good long distance bus service operating throughout Yunnan and so it is possible to use public transport to reach most of the sites.
All travel restrictions appear to have been lifted within China, except to the Autonomous Region of Tibet and for Chinese to Hong Kong.
We stayed mainly in fairly good hotels or in basic but adequate monastery rooms, although the ladies had to contend with rats in their room at Yunfengshan monastery. Main meals were good and very cheap, usually stir-fried vegetables, rice and protein, selected from the restaurant’s kitchen. Otherwise we snacked, with coffee available on the bus. Beer was about 30p a pint!
We used ATMs in the large towns, with mixed success – some delivered in the daytime only and others only at night – but persistence usually paid off. It may be easier soon as foreign banks were about to be allowed to trade.
We had no security or significant health problems and I took no pills at all. Although I felt safe in the cities, I was later told that petty crime was not uncommon and care should be taken, especially in crowded places.
Visas are required, costing £30 in London (plus £20 for a courier service, eg Travcour, which is advisable).
The weather was quite good, with temperatures generally pleasant except at Ruili which was hot, but it was cold at night in the mountains and it snowed on a couple of days around Deqen. Rain was only seriously encountered on two days. The best time to visit the southern area is probably March-May, but the higher north is probably best in May-June. The rainy season is July-August.
English is spoken by very few people. One complication is that many of the Tibetan localities have 2 names – Chinese and Tibetan, eg Zhongdian and Gyalthang, respectively.
Internet facilities are available in major towns.
Robson, C. (2000) A Field Guide to the birds of Southeast Asia. New Holland – good, covers most birds and mentions breeding regions in China.
Kazmierczak, K & van Perlo, B. (2000) A field guide to the birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Pica Press – good for most of the birds and the lightest field-guide.
MacKinnon, J. & Phillipps, K. (2000) A field guide to the birds of China. Oxford University Press – covers all the species but disappointing illustrations and text.
Cheng, T.H. (1987 in English, 1976 in Chinese) A Synopsis of the Avifauna of China. Science Press, Beijing – useful for distributions.
The only trip report of use I could find was South West Yunnan, March 1995 by Jon Bryant, available from the OBC, which covers Ruili, Tengchong and Yungfengshan. A subsequent report including Kunming and Ruili is Winter birding in south-western China, 22 Dec 2001 – 7 Jan 2002 by Steve Bale (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are recordings of some of the birds on the excellent CDROM Birds of Tropical Asia 2 by Jelle Scharringa.
RECOMMENDED TRAVEL AGENCIES
Edward Adventures, 94 Yincang Road, Dali 671003, Yunnan: email@example.com
I am very grateful for the assistance given by Trevor Ford, Ron and Sue Johns, Pearl Jordan, Peter Kennerley, Rob Tymstra, Andrew Xu, Tashi, Teddy, Ben and especially Jesper Hornskov and Carol Turner.
March 8 Arrival in Kunming, fly to Lijiang
9-10 In and around Lijiang: Black Dragon Pool Park, Puji village and monastery, Jade Dragon Mt, Longquan village
11 Drive to Zhongdian
12-13 In and around Zhongdian: Ringa monastery, Napa Lake, Shuodu Lake
14 Drive to Punzera
15 Dhondupling Monastery; drive to Deqen crossing Baima Pass
16 Day trip to Numkhatashi, walk up to Melungtse/ Meili glacier
17 Drive up Mekong to Fushan on Tibet border, return to Deqen and on to Yanmen
18 Around Yanmen/ Cizhong a.m. then drive to Weixi
19 Drive to Shibaoshan monastery
20 Shibaoshan monastery, drive to Dali
21 In and around Dali
22 Mt Cangshan, Dali
23 Drive to Baoshan via Mekong
24 Drive to Tengchong via Salween, then to Yunfengshan monastery
26 Yunfengshan a.m., drive to Tengchong, Laifengshan Park
27 Laifengshan Park, bus to Ruili, upper paddies
28-30 In and around Ruili
April 1 Kunming, afternoon flight to Bangkok.
May 23 Fly Chang Mai, Thailand to Kunming, then to Mangshi.
24 Bus to Ruili, birding near town.
25 In and around Ruili.
26 Buses to Dali via Baoshan
27 Dali area
28 Minibus to Lijiang
29-30 Lijiang area
31 Lijiang a.m., coach to Kunming p.m.
June 1 Western Hills a.m., fly home pm.
Flew to Lijiang, Yunnan, from Bangkok via Kunming. Spent the first morning at Black Dragon Pool Park in hillside scrub and pines: Chinese Thrush, tits, fulvettas, including Rusty capped, and yuhinas but no nuthatches. Visited Puji village and walked up through pines to a monastery: Black-headed Sibia, Chestnut- vented Nuthatch and Buff-throated Warbler. Returned to the park and had nice views of female Slaty Buntings. Next morning bussed to Jade Dragon mountain and walked up towards Yak Meadow: Yunnan Nuthatch, Collared Grosbeak, and flocks of Dusky Thrush, Beautiful Rosefinch and Plain Mountain-Finch. Returned to Lijiang and continued to the old village of Longquan. The scrub-covered hillside nearby was very birdy, with Moupinia, a Barwing, many fulvettas and yuhinas, and Yunnan Nuthatch in the pines. A final quick look for Giant Nuthatch the following morning on Elephant Mountain at the BDP Park produced only another Yunnan Nuthatch.
Drove up the Yangtze valley then along the Chongpu River to Zhongdian, with a stop at Ye where the only Chinese Grey Shrike of the trip was spotted. A walk in the hills above Zhongdian was birdless although Moupinia was heard. Ferruginous Duck and Red-crested Pochard were on a pond near the hotel. Morning in the hills above Ringa Monastery gave Darjeeling Woodpecker, Chinese Babax, and White-browed Rosefinch. In the afternoon 13 Black-necked Cranes and a family of Common Cranes were on the floodplain beyond Zhongdian, with at least another 13 at the Napa Lake reserve along with many Bar-headed Geese, while a Wall-creeper was watched feeding on a wall on the outskirts of town. The following morning at Shuodu Lake was disappointing considering the good habitat but White-tailed Eagle, Spotted Laughingthrush and Crested Tit-Warbler were seen, with Tristram’s Bunting on the way. Returning to the floodplain late afternoon, I found the Cranes to be shy but Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Peregrine flew off the nearby hillside. Having discovered I had lost my tape of recordings from India and China, I returned to Shuodu Lake the following morning to search for it but the only reward was an Upland Buzzard with nesting material.
We drove up the Yangtze gorge to Punzera to visit a Tibetan school for a fund-raising venture. We returned to the school the following morning and then visited nearby Dhondupling Monastery where we were fortunate to witness a colourful ceremony associated with the arrival of a “living Buddha” from Lhasa. A long climb up the Baima Pass through good mixed forest soon ran into snow which made driving rather tricky: White-winged Grosbeak and Grey-headed Bullfinch in the forest, Shore Lark and Robin Accentor at the top. Finally reached the disappointing town of Deqen, near the Tibetan border and found all eleven internet screens to be occupied! The next day, the only one when it rained nearly all day, we drove to Numkhatashi for a trek up to Meili Glacier through good woodland habitat. A flock of a 100+ Grandala and a close, feeding Wallcreeper near Deqen was a good start, superb Long-tailed Rosefinches were in the scrub, but forest birds were few apart from White-throated Redstart and the common laughingthrushes, tits and fulvettas. The next day we continued north up the Mekong and attempted to enter Tibet but were stopped at the border. Sightings included Hill Pigeon, a single Black-headed Gull and White-browed Tit-Warbler. The rest of the day was spent winding up and down mountains and along the dry gorge in dramatic scenery heading south to Yanmen.
The following day we continued southwards, with a long stop at Cizhong near the Mekong where I visited a remnant patch of primary forest which held birds but nothing exceptional. Later in the day a flock of rapidly moving parrotbills consisted mainly of Brown-winged but included Fulvous, before we headed east to Weixi. The next day was spent mostly on bad mountain roads, thanks to a navigational error by our driver and guide. One stop did yield Chinese Thrush and Chestnut-eared Bunting, and we eventually decided to stay at Shibaoshan monastery which was reached at dusk. The next morning was the most rewarding birding of the trip, starting with Moustached Laughingthrush, then Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Beautiful Sibia, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Long-tailed Thrush and best of all Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, plus a good supporting cast. We reluctantly left at 1.30pm to return to civilisation at Dali.
The following morning at breakfast in a local restaurant I was pleasantly surprised to see Jesper Hornskov (with Ron and Sue Johns who simultaneously recognised PJ) – although I did know they were in Yunnan I had though our paths would not cross. They were to visit the nearby mountain while we did the local sites including the lake where Rosy Pipit and Citrine Wagtail were the highlights. We visited the mountain the next morning and saw a good selection of birds including White-browed Bush-Robin and, eventually, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler. Then to Baoshan, spending the last two hours in a wooded hillside park – quite birdy but nothing exceptional. The next objective was Tengchong, with a stop in the Salween Valley where sunbirds and prinias were active in flowering bushes. Then we climbed to a 2150 m pass and birded trails in primary forest, seeing our only Brown Bullfinch and first Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. Continuing to Yunfengshan, we took the chairlift and 500 steps to the monastery. In the last hour of daylight here I saw Red-tailed and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes. A full day in the forest, marred by low cloud in the morning, gave Long-tailed Wren-Babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, shrike-babblers (but not Black-headed), and Yellow-bellied Bush-Warbler, while the following morning Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Black-throated Laughingthrush and Slaty-backed Flycatcher were seen.
Took the chairlift down in the afternoon and a stop at the river gave Long-billed Plover, before driving back to Tengchong. Here, a visit to Laifeng Park was rewarding, with Mountain Bamboo-Partridge, Brown Wood-Owl, Russet Bush-Warbler, Hill Blue Flycatcher and many Phylloscopus warblers and fulvettas, the largest concentration of birds on the trip. A return visit in the morning only added Black-breasted Thrush and Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler. I then caught the bus to Ruili for an extra day there, while PJ returned to the Park and gripped me off with Streak-breasted Woodpecker. After checking into the hotel at 5pm I walked north through the paddies, trying to find Bryant’s route to the forest without success but was rewarded by a party of Collared Myna. The next morning I did manage to find the route to the Pumphouse forest, more by luck than judgement, seeing Burmese Shrike and Crested Bunting on the way, and spent the day there.
The next day we took the bus to a village to access the forest at higher elevation: Red-headed Trogon, Red-faced Liocichla, Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Long-tailed Sibia, Slaty-backed Forktail, Rosy Minivet, and Silver-breasted Broadbill (PJ only). The start of the final full day was spent above the pumphouse: Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Daurian Redstart and Tristram’s Bunting. In the afternoon I walked to the lake where there were a few padders such as Garganey, then back to the pumphouse, with singing Siberian Rubythroat on the way, to see Chinese Francolin and Pale-footed Bush-Warbler but no Black-tailed Crake. On the last morning we walked down the new road from the pass and saw Lesser Yellownape, Spotted Forktail, Rufous-bellied Niltava and a fine female Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, before driving to Mangshi for the afternoon flight to Kunming, connecting with a flight to Bangkok.
After a week’s good birding in Thailand, centred on Chiang Mai, I flew to Kunming, arriving at 16.55. Tried to get cash from ATM but my card disappeared and nothing happened. Went to bank outside the terminal, then told to go to airport office where after a worrisome wait, a girl escorted me back to the ATM, unlocked it and handed me my card back but no money. Returned to the bank, still open fortunately, and obtained cash from my Visa card as wouldn’t take my Debit card. Then to internal departures where I was able to buy a ticket for the next day’s flight to Mangshi for £48. Took shared taxi to Camellia Hotel and stayed in 8 bed dorm for £2-50. Spent the evening with young travellers. Found it to be possible to take a bus to the Vietnam border and either walk across and take another bus to Hanoi or get the twice a week through bus from Kunming – Hanoi, but must get visa beforehand. Can book buses from Kunming to Dali (5 hours), Lijiang (10h) and Ruili (19h).
One hour flight to Mangshi arrived at 1.45 and bus to Ruili left at 2 pm, arriving at 3.30. Met my Chinese hotel-receptionist girlfriend Xia and did a bit of birding outside town, seeing 1 territorial Collared Myna. An early walk to the forest the following morning gave a pair of Collared Myna nesting c.10m up in a natural tree hole at c.900m asl., but the forest was not very active. I returned to town for lunch then back to forest in the afternoon. The few birds included Laced and Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers, Rufous-necked and White-browed Laughers, Pale-footed? Bush-warbler, Slaty-backed Forktail, Ultramarine and Hainan Blue-Flycatcher, Grey Treepie and Tibetan Siskin. There were also 2 fungus collectors, a Chinese speciality. Xia was gated by her uncle (she lived at his house) so I made do with the internet. Early the next morning the wires were alive with Swallows, possibly 1500, as I waited for Xia to elope with me to Lijiang. She eventually arrived towing a large case and a small dog! We took the 7.30 bus to Baoshan, stopping twice for police checks, one of which took 30 mins with 4 or 5 men taken off for body searches, for drugs apparently. We had no problems. Arriving at 3.10, we transferred to the 3.40 bus to New Dali, reaching there at 9pm and soon finding a hotel. We spent the next day in Old Dali, visited an interesting museum, with few tourists this time.
The final leg was a minibus to the lovely old town of Lijiang, 9.30-12.15. Couldn’t find an affordable hotel in the old town so settled for one in the new town but was able to book one there for the next day. Spent a pleasant afternoon in the old town but rather rainy. I had a bad attack of gut-rot in the night so was rather short of sleep. Recovered by the morning and walked to the Wang Gheng Lou Inn up a long flight of steps, with Xia’s heavy case. Fine view over the old town, then siesta etc during which Xia’s dog chewed the arm of my glasses, I later discovered. Walked to the Black Dragon Pool Park and up the hill to the pines: Black-throated Thrush, Blackbird with food, Large Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, two families of Plumbeous Redstart, and Black-throated Tit at the hotel.
The next day we took a taxi to Longchen village to photo village life and walk into the hills. The few birds included Grey Bushchat, Tickell’s Warbler with food and Grey-capped Greenfinch. Returned to the old town in a public minivan – Black-shouldered Kite on the way – then had a good walk around and watched Naxi dancing round a bonfire in the evening. Next morning I spent 06.25 till 9am walking up Elephant Mountain and back through BDR Park: 2 Cuckoos, 2 pairs of Yunnan Nuthatch feeding young in nest holes in pines, a Moupinia (taped at 2600m) and a Goldcrest, but no sign of Giant Nuthatch. At noon I took an air-conditioned Mercedes coach to Kunming, declining Xia’s offer to take me back to her village home some distance away. 80-90km from Dali saw 2 Blue Rock-Thrush at 2500m and 4 nuthatch in flight. Arrived at 8.15pm and took taxi to Camellia hotel. Watched France vs Senegal on TV with a beer, 0-1!
Spent my last morning in the Western Hills, catching a no.5 bus to the main terminal then a no.6 at 07.25 to the hills. Many of the buses were driven by young women. Took a track to the right of the road to the lower summit, past a graveyard, then soon headed back down as the summit was inundated with noisy Chinese. Birds included a Kingfisher perched high in a conifer, flying around high up with a few calls, Maroon-backed Accentor, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Russet? Bush-Warbler, Grey-breasted and Hill Prinias, minivets, many Spot-breasted Scimitar-babblers, Brown-capped and White-browed Fulvettas, Blue-winged Minla and Russet Sparrow. Brunch of potato fritter, corn on the cob and half a pineapple. Visited the flower and bird market – dominated by Budgies and Lovebirds with a few Java Sparrow and Derbyan Parakeet. Checked out of Camellia then took no.67 bus to the airport (left turn before the canal); afternoon flights home via Chiang Mai, on time. So ended an interesting trip.
The old town, though touristy, is very attractive, and has cheap accommodation (which takes a bit of searching out) on the right hand side. Wang Cheng Lou Inn is a pleasant place to stay, although not the cheapest, with a nice view over the traditional rooftops.
Black Dragon Pool Park is a good site, especially early in the day when it is not over-run with people: Chinese and Black-breasted Thrushes are here. The hillside, ie Elephant Mt, holds a few good birds, especially Slaty Bunting in the thick scrub up the first paved track going anti-clockwise, and nuthatches in the old pines by the second pavilion/viewpoint near the top of the stepped track which everyone goes up. I saw Yunnan Nuthatch and Jesper et al also had Giant. Rufous-tailed Babbler/ Moupinia was in the scrub beyond and it is possible to continue over the ridge to explore the other side of the mountain, away from the madding crowds.
Longquan village is only a few km away and a good place to observe traditional Naxi way of life. If you cross the bridge over the stream, continue to the T and turn left, you should eventually find a track into the hills. These hold similar birds to Elephant Mt, in greater numbers, and there is evergreen forest higher up which I did not have time to reach, unfortunately.
Jade Dragon Mountain, the high snow-capped peaks, is accessible by No. 7 bus. There are two cable car/ ropeways up, the nearer and cheaper being Wi Long Shi Shan, the other going to Yak Meadow. We trekked up towards the latter, guided by a local lad from the small village before the cable car terminal – a pleasant walk with thrushes and rosefinches, but the only exceptional bird was Collared Grosbeak. White-eared and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants, Derbyan Parakeet and Three-banded Rosefinch have been seen on this mountain.
This Tibetan town is being promoted as “Shangri-la”, with new hotels and associated tourist facilities. There is a good hotel on the outskirts, Gyalthang Dzong Hotel, run by the lovely Utara and Tashi - experienced travel agents with an interest in natural history – see Recommended Travel Agencies above.
The area is most notable for its small population of wintering Black-necked Cranes at Napa Lake, although they are easier to see from the main road passing the floodplain on the way there, only a few km from town. We also saw Wallcreeper when leaving town on this road. The hillside on the far side of the floodplain was good for raptors – if going to the big Songzanling monastery it can be reached by continuing along the dirt road – it is only a few km further.
Shuodu Lake is the best site as it is surrounded by woodland of various types. In early March it was difficult to walk on the snow-covered right-hand side and there were few birds in evidence: White-tailed Eagle, Spotted Laughingthrush, Songar Tit and Crested Tit-Warbler were the most notable, with Upland Buzzard, Chinese Babax and Tristram’s Bunting nearby. I imagine that it would be a different story in May, when it would be possible to walk right around the lake.
To reach this unattractive town in the extreme northeast of Yunnan, the Baima Pass is crossed at an elevation of over 4000m which would doubtless be an interesting area when most of the snow has gone. There is mature woodland below it on both sides, most extensively on the Zhongdian side. Continuing to the Mekong Gorge, a large flock of Grandala was active just outside town and the roadside scrub appeared worthy of attention. One potentially excellent site is the forest below Meili (also known as Melungtse) Glacier in the Kawa Karpo range, on the west side of the Mekong Gorge, not far from Deqen. Cross the gorge, then drive up 400m elevation to Namkhatashi and walk to the glacier – a long but quite easy climb from 2400 to 3100m. The path goes along the river through scrub where Long-tailed Rosefinch and laughingthrushes (possibly including Red-winged) occur, before entering the forest. Grandala and White-throated Redstart were the best birds on the way up but there must be other interesting possibilities. There is a small monastery and café just below the glacier; laughingthrushes and fulvettas were numerous around here and a grosbeak glimpsed. A new boardwalk takes you close to the glacier but better for birds is the old path up through the forest – the guide flushed a pair of gamebirds along here. Travel agents may run day trips here during the tourist season.
The Gorge itself was disappointing for birds, the only notable sightings being White-browed Tit-Warbler on the hillside towards the Tibetan border and Brown-winged and Fulvous Parrotbills south of Yanmen.
Although we had not planned to visit this site, some 120 km, 3+ hours drive, north of Dali and 30km west of Jentuan, we stayed the night here (at 2450m) at the suggestion of our guide. No reservations were necessary and food and even beer were available. The next morning started with Moustached Laughingthrush and Spot-breasted Parrotbill, followed by Beautiful Sibia, Pale Blue Flycatcher and Yunnan Nuthatch around the summit car-park, and Long-tailed Thrush, Crested Finchbill, Brown-winged Parrotbill and more widespread species in the mixed woodland by the road and stream lower down. A longer visit would surely have been worthwhile.
This popular tourist town is good for facilities and r and r but limited for birds. The fringes of Erhai Lake hold a few birds such as Rosy Pipit and Citrine Wagtail but the best site is nearby Mt Cangshan which has Bar-winged Wren-Babbler and other bamboo-specialists such as White-browed Bush-Robin. It is easily ascended by ropeway, though this only opens at 08.00. The Wren-Babbler occurs in the first gorge and was very tape-responsive. After this, a path leads up the hillside into a large area of bamboo.
Laifeng Park, up the hill on the edge of town, is well worth visiting. It appeared to hold a much higher density of birds than anywhere else visited, including Mountain Bamboo-Partridge, Brown Wood-Owl, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Black-breasted Thrush, Brownish-flanked and Russet Bush-Warblers, many Phylloscopus warblers and fulvettas, and Brown-winged Parrotbill. Tibetan Siskin has also been seen here. As well as going up the hill to the right, the level road to the left can be rewarding.
The 2150m pass to the east of Tengchong which leads to the Salween, goes through good mixed forest above 1800m. An hour along well-used trails at the top produced Brown Bullfinch and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. This is the new road; Jesper saw Sclater’s Monal from the pass on the old road on one occasion, if I understand him correctly.
This Taoist monastery, perched atop a rocky pinnacle, is accessed by chairlift and 500 steps. It lies some 50km N of Tengchong and the surrounding forest holds an excellent selection of mid-altitude birds including Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Red-tailed, Black-throated and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Long-tailed Wren-Babbler, Beautiful Sibia, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Black-headed Shrike-babbler and Russet and Yellow-bellied Bush-Warblers. It has plenty of basic accommodation, veggie food and rats. See Bryant for more details but the main birding route is to go past the monastery, down to the saddle ridge and take the trail to the right. This drops down and after a km or so passes above a small stream and boggy area on the left – this was the site for Long-tailed Wren-Babbler.
Long-billed Plover was near the river bridge on the approach to the mountain. The large reservoir on the left on the way from Tengchong held good numbers of birds but there was no time to scan it.
This city near the Burma border lies below partly forested hills. The birding is covered in some depth by Bryant. The main problem is trying to find his route to the forest as there are lots of road junctions. This is the way: cross the small river on the main W road on the N side of town and almost immediately take the right fork, opposite a big school. Keep left after c.300m, under the grey brick archway, fork right after c.400m. Next you join a road on the left at a small temple with a metal roof and fork left after this, at a pond on the left. The road starts to climb - ignore a right turn and go through a metal arch - then starts to level out and a triple junction is reached. Take the middle track – look out for Collared Myna (breeding here in late May) and Burmese Shrike in trees on the right around here. The forest should now be visible in the distance, ignore a right turn after c.500m and take the left fork after another c.100m, which takes you down to the stream and pumphouse; the right fork goes up to a village some distance (3+ km) away. Cross the bridge over the stream, keep right and take the steep trail up the hillside by the forest edge, leaving the pumphouse below you to the right. When it starts to level out, take one of the short trails to the right which lead to a small dam and trail alongside the water-channel. This trail passes through good forest for 2+ km, ending at a stream/ small river. There are a number of minor trails into the forest, none of which I found to be rewarding. Alternatively, you can stay on the original trail, along the edge of the forest, which eventually goes into the forest higher up. Birds seen here included Chinese Francolin, Streak-breasted and Laced Woodpeckers, Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Daurian Redstart, Pale-footed Bush-Warbler and Tristram’s Bunting. Black-tailed Crake has been seen along the stream at the bottom, but not by me.
To access the forest at higher elevation, which is probably better for birds, continue along the right fork without dropping down to the pumphouse stream, until a village is reached after a few km. Pass through the village and take a trail to the left after 200+ m. This goes down to a stream, then up into the forest where there are a number of trails. Here we saw Red-headed Trogon, Red-faced Liocichla, Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Long-tailed Sibia, and Rosy Minivet, while Silver-breasted Broadbill was in forest on the village side of the stream.
Black-browed and Rufous-headed Parrotbills have also been seen by Jesper, but are rather scarce, and Rusty-naped Pitta heard.
The rare Collared Myna is possibly the best bird at Ruili. I also saw it when vainly looking for the forest, forking right instead of left which took me to a copse and then an old building on the left, with a view over the paddies on the right. There was a party of 9 here early evening and in May I had a territorial bird at the same spot.
The “lake” west of town mentioned by Bryant was largely overgrown with vegetation and held little birdlife, although might well be of interest at migration time. I cut back to the main road from here and across fields to another copse where I saw a singing Siberian Rubythroat.
The new main road to Baoshan goes up through the forest to a pass but it is difficult to get close to the trees and there is no track in. At the pass a walk back down the old road might be rewarding, although it will only be through trees and scrub, not true forest. Near the pass we saw Lesser Yellownape, Spotted Forktail, Rufous-bellied Niltava and Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush.
I later read that Steve Bale birded at Gulan Huodian Shan, “a few km NW of town”, seeing a good selection of birds including Lesser Rufous-headed and Grey-headed Parrotbills, plus a large flock of Long-tailed Broadbills.
Although there is a border crossing to Burma near Ruili, used by Chinese and Burmese, apparently it is very difficult for Westerners to get permission to cross it, other than on a short, group tour. This might change of course.
This is possibly the premier site in SW Yunnan and is a mountain to the northwest of Tengchong. It holds Sclater’s Monal at/above c.2,800m and other good birds such as Gould’s Shortwing (in marshy glades in forest at c.2,300-2,600 m) and Black-headed Shrike-Babbler. However, it is now essential to get prior permission to visit, which is a major hassle – Jesper’s party was refused entry this year although they did see some good birds, including the shrike-babbler, from the approach road. There are a lot of trucks with huge logs coming from this area, so it may not be a worthwhile site much longer. Jesper once had a chance sighting of White-winged Magpie here.
The classic site here is the Western Hills, which may be reached by taking a number 5 bus to its western terminus (starts running at 06.00), then a no. 6 to its terminus at the base of the Hills. I took the first trail on the right up the hillside, after walking a few 100m up the paved road, and explored the open forest. It goes up to a ridge, through an area of graves, and joins a major trail, heavily populated with Chinese at the weekend. Birds of interest on June 1 were Russet Bush-Warbler, Chinese Leaf-Warbler and Brown-capped Fulvetta.
Steve Bale states that Xishan is the best birding area near Kunming, especially just after the first temple on the right-hand side going up the mountain – he saw Giant Nuthatch here.
The Camellia Hotel has dorm beds, eg 4-8 to a room, for 30Yuan, and a friendly café. There is helpful travel office c.200m along the main road, to the right, where you can book long distance buses and possibly trains. Continue along the road to the canal, turn left immediately before the big square and you can catch a number 67 bus to the airport (1Yuan). If you want to take the bus from the airport to town, go outside and walk to the far right where the bus stops (but doesn’t terminate).
Taxonomy, names and sequence follow Clements, JF (2001) Birds of the World: A Checklist, with names in more common use in brackets, where they differ substantially.
Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis
Fairly common on ponds and lakes.
Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo
Only seen at the reservoir N of Tengchong where there were 5.
Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea
Surprisingly, the only sighting was 1 in flight, probably disturbed from a roosting tree, on the peak by Shibaoshan Monastery.
Great Egret, Ardea alba
2 at Ruili Lake were the only ones identified.
Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia
4 at Ruili Lake.
Little Egret, Egretta garzetta
Fairly common S of the Yangtze.
Chinese Pond-Heron, Ardeola bacchus
Surprisingly few – just odd birds from Shibaoshan southwards.
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
Fairly common on the drive to Ruili but only a few elsewhere from Tengchong southwards.
Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
c.100 roosting and nesting in a large tree in a village N of Dali, by Lake Erhai.
Bar-headed Goose, Anser indicus
50-100 at Napa Lake.
Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea
Common at Napa Lake and a few at Shuodu Lake.
Eurasian Wigeon, Anas penelope
10+ at Yunhua Res.
Gadwall, Anas strepera
2+ at Yunhua Res.
Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca
Common at Napa Lake and at least 1 at Yunhua Res.
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Common at Napa Lake.
Spot-billed/ Yellow-nibbed Duck, Anas poecilorhyncha/ zonorhyncha
Common at Napa Lake and Yunhua Res.
Garganey, Anas querquedula
5 at Ruili Lake.
Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
2 at Napa Lake.
Red-crested Pochard, Netta rufina
1 female on a pond at Zhongdian.
Ferruginous Pochard, Aythya nyroca
4 on a pond at Zhongdian.
Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
6 on the Yantze N of Lijiang and 15 Shuodu Lake.
Oriental Honey-buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus
2 sightings at Ruili.
Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus caeruleus
2 near Dali and 1 south of Tengchong.
White-tailed Eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla
2 at Shuodu Lake and I imm. at the floodplain near Napa Lake.
Himalayan Griffon, Gyps himalayensis
Up to 20 daily around Zhongdian and 1 in the Mekong Valley near Tibet.
Crested Serpent-Eagle, Spilornis cheela
1 at the pass before Tengchong.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus
An imm. female perched on roadside telephone poles above the Mekong Gorge near Deqen on 16th.
Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis
2 at Shuodu Lake.
Eurasian Buzzard, Buteo buteo
1 or 2 most days, with 8 on the drive Weixi – Shibaoshan.
Upland Buzzard, Buteo hemilasius
A dark phase bird with nesting material on 14th just before Lake Shuodu.
Black Eagle, Ictinaetus malayensis
1 at Yunfengshan.
Steppe Eagle, Aquila nipalensis
1 at Napa Lake.
Imperial Eagle, Aquila heliaca
An imm. at the floodplain near Napa Lake.
Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Spizaetus nipalensis
1 on 28th at Ruili and 2 on 30th.
Eurasian Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus
1 or 2 most days, with 4 on the drive Weixi – Shibaoshan.
Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
1 at the floodplain near Napa Lake.
Chinese Francolin, Francolinus pintadeanus
1 at Ruili on 30th.
Hill Partridge, Arborophila torqueola
1 heard at Yunfengshan.
Rufous-throated Partridge, Arborophila rufogularis
1 heard at Yunfengshan and a bird seen poorly at Ruili was probably this sp.
Mountain Bamboo-Partridge, Bambusicola fytchii
2 flushed at Laifengshan Park, Tengchong.
Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus
Heard at Ruili.
Ring-necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
A male in a field at Ringa Monastery. 5 female pheasants were in another field but flew off before I could photo them – they were quite different from the P.colchicus race in Europe, such that I thought they might be Lady Amherst’s, but later discovered that the race of here is not dissimilar from Lady A’s, so they were probably this sp.
Lady Amherst's Pheasant, Chrysolophus amherstiae
I saw a male at Yunfengshan and PJ later saw the same or possibly a different male. 2 heard at Shibaoshan and 1 at Yanmen. A largish game bird running away on the hillside near Punzera Tibetan school may have been this sp.
Common Crane, Grus grus
A pair with 2 imm.s were with nigricollis on the floodplain near Zhongdian.
Black-necked Crane, Grus nigricollis
13+ at Napa Lake and 13 on the floodplain.
White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus
A few in the Ruili area.
Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
1 on the pond at Zhongdian, 10 at Lake Erhai, Dali and a few at Ruili lake.
Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra
2 on the pond at Zhongdian.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus
1 at Ruili Lake.
Northern Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus
Common at Napa Lake and nearby floodplain.
Red-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus
2 Ruili paddies.
Long-billed Plover, Charadrius placidus
1 on the river at Shibaoshan.
Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius
2 seen and 2 heard at Ruili Lake.
Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago
4 by Erhai Lake, Dali.
Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia
3 at Yunhua Res.
Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola
4 at Ruili Lake.
Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos
1 on the Mekong at Yanmen.
Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus
1 imm. on the Mekong c.30 km S of the Tibetan border at Fushan, the only gull of the trip!
Hill Pigeon, Columba rupestris
12 while driving down to the Mekong Gorge from Deqen.
Snow Pigeon, Columba leuconota
30 in the mountains before Punzera and 20 near Punzera Tibetan school.
Oriental Turtle-Dove, Streptopelia orientalis
6 at Ringa, including 1 on the nest on 12 March, and a few at Shibaoshan.
Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Cuculus sparverioides
Frequently heard from Baoshan southwards, and 3 sightings at Ruili.
Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii
Commonly heard at Ruili.
Plaintive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus
2 or 3 at Ruili.
Green-billed Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus tristis
1 or 2 at Ruili.
Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis
Heard occasionally at Ruili but only 1 seen.
Brown Wood-Owl, Strix leptogrammica
1 flushed by Large Cuckoo-Shrike at Laifeng Park, flying into thick conifer where it could not be seen.
Jungle Nightjar, Caprimulgus indicus
Heard at Yunfengshan monastery.
Himalayan Swiftlet, Aerodramus brevirostris
20 at Yunfengshan.
Fork-tailed Swift, Apus pacificus
A few at Lijiang and 2 at Dali.
House Swift, Apus nipalensis
Common at Dali and Ruili.
Red-headed Trogon, Harpactes erythrocephalus
2 at Ruili and heard at Yunfengshan.
Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis
2 at Dali, 1 on the river below Yunfengshan and up to 5 daily at Ruili.
White-throated Kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis
Singles near Dali and Ruili.
Eurasian Hoopoe, Upupa epops
Two singles at Ruili.
Great Barbet, Megalaima virens
Heard at Yunfengshan and Tengchong.
Golden-throated Barbet, Megalaima franklinii
1 at Yunfengshan.
Blue-throated Barbet, Megalaima asiatica
1 seen at Yunfengshan and Ruili, commonly heard at both localities.
Speckled Piculet, Picumnus innominatus
1, possibly 2 at Shibaoshan and 2 singles at Ruili.
White-browed Piculet, Sasia ochracea
1 at Ruili.
Grey-capped Woodpecker, Dendrocopos canicapillus
Singles at Ringa and Tengchong (PJ).
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos atratus
1 at Tengchong (PJ).
Darjeeling Woodpecker, Dendrocopos darjellensis
Singles at Ringa and Shuodu Lake.
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major
Singles at Shibaoshan and Tengchong.
Lesser Yellownape, Picus chlorolophus
1 at Ruili.
Greater Yellownape, Picus flavinucha
I at Ruili.
Grey-faced/ headed Woodpecker, Picus canus
Singles at Ringa monastery, Shuodu Lake and Baima Pass.
Silver-breasted Broadbill, Serilophus lunatus
8 at Ruili (PJ).
Oriental Skylark, Alauda gulgula
1 near Lijiang, up to 10 daily around Zhongdian and 10 in fields at Toogdian, N of Shibaoshan.
Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris
2 at Baima Pass.
Plain Martin, Riparia paludicola
2 at the river below Yunfengshan.
Eurasian Crag-Martin, Hirundo rupestris
Common at Punzera and in the Mekong Gorge.
Dusky Crag-Martin, Hirundo concolor
10 apparently nesting in a sandpit at Ruili.
Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
Common throughout except in the high mountains and Mekong Gorge.
Asian Martin, Delichon dasypus
2 at Ruili.
White Wagtail, Motacilla alba
Fairly common throughout, alboides and leucopsis, except at Ruili where only 1 was noted.
Citrine Wagtail, Motacilla citreola
Singles at Lake Erhai and Ruili paddies.
Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea
Singles on the way to Ruili and at Kunming.
Olive-backed Pipit, Anthus hodgsoni
Fairly common in woodland from Baoshan Park southwards to Ruili.
Rosy Pipit, Anthus roseatus
At least 6 in the paddies near Dali and a few at the edge of Lake Erhai.
Large Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina macei
1 at Tengchong and 2 at Ruili on 30th.
Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina melaschistos
Up to 5 daily at Ruili.
Rosy Minivet, Pericrocotus roseus
2 at Ruili on 29th.
Long-tailed/ Short-billed/ Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus ethologus/ brevirostris/ flammeus
Minivets were frequently encountered in evergreen or mixed forest but the actual species was rarely determined; Ron Johns told me that he found Scarlet to be the commonest at Ruili and Short-billed by far the scarcest throughout his trip.
Grey-chinned Minivet, Pericrocotus solaris
At least 1 at Ruili on 30th.
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Hemipus picatus
1 or 2 daily at Ruili.
Crested Finchbill, Spizixos canifrons
At least 2 in the lower Mekong Valley on 18th and at Shibaoshan.
Striated Bulbul, Pycnonotus striatus
1 at Ruili on 28th.
Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris (melanicterus)
1 Tengchong – Ruili.
Red-whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jocosus
A few daily at Ruili.
Brown-breasted Bulbul, Pycnonotus xanthorrhous
Fairly common from Lijiang to Fushan to Baoshan, except around Zhongdian where it was not seen, with up to 20 a day, including at the Tibetan border.
Red-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer
Numerous at Ruili.
Flavescent Bulbul, Pycnonotus flavescens
3 near the pass above Ruili on 31st.
White-throated Bulbul, Alophoixus flaveolus
1 or 2 daily at Ruili.
Ashy Bulbul, Hemixos flavala
A few daily at Ruili.
Mountain Bulbul, Hypsipetes mcclellandii
2-4 daily at Yunfengshan and Ruili.
Black Bulbul, Hypsipetes leucocephalus
12 at Shibaoshan, 4 at Yunfengshan and common at Ruili.
Goldcrest, Regulus regulus
A few daily Lijiang – Zhongdian, below the Meili glacier and at Shibaoshan and Yunfengshan.
Orange-bellied Leafbird, Chloropsis hardwickii
Up to 5 daily at Ruili.
Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia
Only 1 noted at Ruili but doubtless overlooked.
Brown Dipper, Cinclus pallasii
A dipper at Punzera was thought to be this species but could possibly have been C.cinclus.
Winter Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes
Singles at Longquan (near Lijiang), Ringa and Yanmen.
Robin Accentor, Prunella rubeculoides
1 in the snow at Baima Pass, 4500m.
Rufous-breasted Accentor, Prunella strophiata
Up to 6 almost daily Lijiang – Shibaoshan but none thereafter.
Maroon-backed Accentor, Prunella immaculata
2 at Lijiang and 4-8 daily at Yunfengshan.
Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, Monticola rufiventris
A male at Yunfengshan on 26th and a female at the pass above Ruili on 31st.
Blue Rock-Thrush, Monticola solitarius
A female near the pass above Ruili on 31st.
Blue Whistling-Thrush, Myophonus caeruleus
1 or 2 en route Dali – Tengchong and singles daily at Ruili.
Long-tailed Thrush, Zoothera dixoni
2 at Shibaoshan.
Black-breasted Thrush, Turdus dissimilis
4+ at Tengchong and 2 singles at Ruili.
[Grey-sided Thrush, Turdus feae]
3+ thrushes in tree-tops below the Baima Pass at c.4000m on 15th, during snowy conditions appeared to be this sp.
- an outstanding record of a scarce sp. in China - possibly on return migration?
Dusky Thrush, Turdus naumanni
Several parties of up to c.10 eunomus were seen around Lijiang, including Jade Dragon Mountain.
Chinese Thrush, Turdus mupinensis
Singles at Black Dragon Pool Park and on hillside between Weixi and Shibaoshan (N26.46.205, E099.26.802).
Striated Prinia, Prinia criniger
2 in the Yangtze Valley on 11th, and singles at Yanmen and on hillside between Weixi and Shibaoshan.
Hill Prinia, Prinia atrogularis
2 at Baoshan Park and a few at Ruili.
Rufescent Prinia, Prinia rufescens
1 in the Salween valley on 24th and a few at Ruili.
Grey-breasted Prinia, Prinia hodgsonii
1 or 2 at Ruili and the Salween Valley.
Yellow-bellied/ Plain Prinia, Prinia flaviventris/ inornata
6+ in paddies at Dali and Ruili.
Pale-footed Bush-Warbler, Cettia pallidipes
2 at Ruili on 28th and 1 on 30th.
Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, Cettia fortipes
1 at Yunfengshan and 2+ at Tengchong.
Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler, Cettia acanthizoides
1 at Yunfengshan.
Russet Bush-Warbler, Bradypterus seebohmi
Singles heard at the bottom of the cable car at Yunfengshan and seen at Tengchong.
Common Tailorbird, Orthotomus sutorius
Often heard at Ruili but not searched for.
White-browed Tit-Warbler, Leptopoecile sophiae
1 in the Mekong Gorge c.20 km S of the Tibet border.
Crested Tit-Warbler, Leptopoecile elegans
2 at Shuodu Lake.
Phylloscopus Warblers – Large numbers of Phylloscopus warblers were seen, away from the north, but many were either were not seen well or simply left unidentified. The following were certainly present:-
Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus
Several at Ruili.
Tickell's Leaf-Warbler, Phylloscopus affinis
Common at Ruili.
Buff-throated Warbler, Phylloscopus subaffinis
1-2 at Lijiang and Shibaoshan.
Buff-barred Warbler, Phylloscopus pulcher
Few at Tengchong and Yunfengshan.
Ashy-throated Warbler, Phylloscopus maculipennis
1-2 daily at Yunfengshan and Dali.
Lemon/Pale-rumped Warbler, Phylloscopus chloronotus
A few throughout including at the Tibetan border.
Pallas’s (Lemon-rumped) Warbler, Phylloscopus proregulus
A few at Lijiang and Tengchong.
Inornate/ Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus
A few at Tengchong and Ruili.
Blyth's Leaf-Warbler, Phylloscopus reguloides
1-2 daily at Ruili.
White-tailed Leaf-Warbler, Phylloscopus davisoni
A few at Yunfengshan, Tengchong and Ruili.
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii, Greenish Warbler, P. trochiloides, Chinese Leaf-Warbler P. sichuanensis and Hume’s Leaf-Warbler P. humei are also likely to have been present, at Ruili at least.
Golden-spectacled Warbler Seicercus burkii
Several of this complex at Tengchong, Yunfengshan and Ruili. Both Bianchi's Warbler S. valentini and Grey-crowned Warbler S. tephrocephalus may have been involved but I cannot separate them until I have had time to study my recordings of the songs.
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus supercilliaris
2 at Ruili on 31st.
Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Seicercus castaniceps
2 singles Yunfengshan.
Black-faced Warbler, Abroscopus schisticeps
Common at Shibaoshan and Yunfengshan.
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula hodgsonii
1 female Yunfengshan on 26th.
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Ficedula strophiata
Singles at pass before Tengchong and at Ruili.
Red-throated Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla
6 on 30th at Ruili.
Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Ficedula hyperythra
1 at Baoshan.
Little Pied Flycatcher, Ficedula westermanni
I at Tengchong and 2 at Ruili.
Rufous-bellied Niltava, Niltava sundara
A male niltava in bamboo scrub at Ruili on 31st was thought to be this sp. although could possibly have been Fujian Niltava, Niltava davidi.
White-tailed Flycatcher, Cyornis concretus
1 at Yunfengshan.
Pale Blue-Flycatcher, Cyornis unicolor
Singles at Shibaoshan and Ruili.
Blue-throated Flycatcher, Cyornis rubeculoides
A female on in hillside scrub between Weixi and Shibaoshan (N26.46.205, E099.26.802).
Hill Blue-Flycatcher, Cyornis banyumas
Up to 4 daily at Yunfengshan and Ruili.
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Culicicapa ceylonensis
1 at Shibaoshan, 2 at the pass before Tengchong and fairly common at Tengchong and Ruili.
Siberian Rubythroat, Luscinia calliope
1 singing in a copse at Ruili.
Red-flanked Bluetail, Tarsiger cyanurus rufilatus
Singles at Lijiang and the glacier, 2 at Shibaoshan, Dali and Yunfengshan.
Golden Bush-Robin, Tarsiger chrysaeus
Singles at Dali and Tengchong.
White-browed Bush-Robin, Tarsiger indicus
At least 2 in bamboo at Dali.
Oriental Magpie-Robin, Copsychus saularis
2 at Dali and fairly common at Tengchong and Ruili.
Black Redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros
4 at Yanmen/Cizhong, 2 en route to and 1 at Shibaoshan.
White-throated Redstart, Phoenicurus schisticeps
1+ at Cizhong and 2 at Shibaoshan.
Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus
1 at Ruili on 30th.
Blue-fronted Redstart, Phoenicurus frontalis
Several around Lijiang and Zhongdian, 2 in the Mekong Gorge and at Baoshan, Yunfengshan and Tengchong.
White-capped Redstart, Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
1-2 on rivers throughout except at Ruili.
Plumbeous Redstart, Rhyacornis fuliginosus
A few on rivers throughout as far as the Salween, none later.
Grandala, Grandala coelicolor
A flock of 100+ was perched on a power-line over a deep valley just outside Deqen on 16th at 3300 m, sallying forth several times, the majority of birds being in female-type plumage. A flock of 12 female-types was in the forest below Meili glacier at 2600 m later in the morning and one perched in a tree overlooking the glacier at 3150 m.
Slaty-backed Forktail, Enicurus schistaceus
2 at Ruili on 29th.
White-crowned Forktail, Enicurus leschenaulti
1 at Ruili on 30th.
Spotted Forktail, Enicurus maculatus
2 near the pass above Ruili on 31st.
Common Stonechat, Saxicola torquata
Fairly common in open country throughout except in the mountains of the NW and Mekong Gorge where it was absent.
Pied Bushchat, Saxicola caprata
3 singles en route to and at Ruili.
Grey Bushchat, Saxicola ferrea
1 near Lijiang, 2 at Shibaoshan, 1 at Baoshan, 4 at Tengchong and up to 3 daily at Yunfengshan.
Yellow-bellied Fantail, Rhipidura hypoxantha
2 at Cizhong and singles at Yunfengshan and Tengchong.
White-throated Fantail, Rhipidura albicollis
3 at Cizhong and Shibaoshan, 1 at Dali and 2 at Yunfengshan, Tengchong and the pass above Ruili.
Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea
1 at Ruili on 30th.
White-crested Laughingthrush, Garrulax leucolophus
A flock at Ruili on 29th.
Lesser/ Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Garrulax monileger/ pectoralis
A flock at Ruili daily.
Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Garrulax ruficollis
8 at Ruili on 30th.
Black-throated Laughingthrush, Garrulax chinensis
A small flock at Yunfengshan and 2 at Ruili.
Moustached Laughingthrush, Garrulax cineraceus
2-4 at Shibaoshan.
Spotted Laughingthrush, Garrulax ocellatus
2-4 at Shuodu Lake and below the glacier.
Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Garrulax caerulatus
1 at Yunfengshan.
[Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, Garrulax merulinus
A bird feeding on the ground in a small flock at Shibaoshan at 2300 m elevation appeared to be this species but Jesper says its well out of range – I did wonder about Hwamei but that occurs at lower elevations.]
White-browed Laughingthrush, Garrulax sannio
2-4 daily at Tengchong and Ruili.
Scaly Laughingthrush, Garrulax subunicolor
1 at Yunfengshan.
Elliot's Laughingthrush, Garrulax elliotii
Fairly common in the N as far south as Dali.
Black-faced Laughingthrush, Garrulax affinis
4 at 3300 m below the Baima Pass and at the glacier.
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Garrulax erythrocephalus
1-2 at Lake Shuodu and 2-4 daily at Yunfengshan.
[Red-winged Laughingthrush, Garrulax formosus]
2 Garrulax at Numkhatashi were thought to be this species (PJ).
Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Garrulax milnei
An elusive flock just below Yunfengshan monastery on 24th.
Red-faced Liocichla, Liocichla phoenicea
1 at Ruili on 29th with a pair of Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler gave stunning views.
Puff-throated Babbler, Pellorneum ruficeps
2 pairs at Ruili on 28th.
Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis
A few around Lijiang, below the Baima Pass, up to 4 daily at Yunfengshan and Shibaoshan, with 1 at Ruili.
Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Pomatorhinus ruficollis
3 below the glacier, 1 near Deqen and 1-2 at Ruili.
Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps
2 at Ruili on 29th and heard on 30th.
Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Spelaeornis troglodytoides
2 at Dali.
Grey-bellied (Long-tailed) Wren-Babbler, Spelaeornis reptatus (chocolatinus)
2 at Yunfengshan.
Rufous-capped Babbler, Stachyris ruficeps
Singles at Shibaoshan and Yunfengshan.
Golden Babbler, Stachyris chrysaea
5 at Ruili on 31st.
Grey-throated Babbler, Stachyris nigriceps
2 at Yunfengshan.
Yellow-eyed Babbler, Chrysomma sinense
3+ in the hills at Ruili on 29th and 1 on 30th.
Rufous-tailed Babbler/ Moupinia, Chrysomma poecilotis
2-4 at Longquan, near Lijiang and 1 at Dali, with 1 heard above Zhongdian.
Chinese Babax, Babax lanceolatus
10 at Ringa Monastery, 2 near Shuodu Lake, and 10 near Deqen.
Silver-eared Mesia, Leiothrix argentauris
A few daily at Ruili and several near Luxi; heard elsewhere.
White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Pteruthius flaviscapis
3+ at Yunfengshan.
Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Pteruthius melanotis
1 at Yunfengshan.
Rusty-fronted Barwing, Actinodura egertoni
Up to 10 daily at Yunfengshan.
[Streaked Barwing, Actinodura souliei
A barwing skulking in hillside undergrowth near Longquan village, Lijiang could have been this scarce species as Streak-throated is W of the Salween (Lijiang is E) but I think its only known from further S in W Yunnan.]
Blue-winged Minla, Minla cyanouroptera
2-3 around Lijiang and a few at Tengchong and Ruili.
Chestnut-tailed Minla, Minla strigula
10 at Lijiang, 4+ at Baoshan and a few at Yunfengshan.
Red-tailed Minla, Minla ignotincta
10+ at Baoshan and a few at Yunfengshan, Tengchong and Ruili.
Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Alcippe chrysotis
1-2 at Shibaoshan and Yunfengshan.
Other Alcippe species were numerous but proved troublesome to identify due to the inadequacies of MacKinnon and Phillips. The following were recorded:-
Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Alcippe castaneceps
A few at Yunfengshan.
White-browed Fulvetta, Alcippe vinipectus
2 at Lijiang, 10 at the glacier and Dali, and 5 in the Mekong Gorge.
Spectacled Fulvetta, Alcippe ruficapilla
1+ at Lijiang and the glacier, 5 at Yanmen, 10+ at Shibaoshan and a few at Dali.
Streak-throated Fulvetta, Alcippe cinereiceps
2 at Shuodu Lake and a few at Yunfengshan.
Rusty-capped Fulvetta A. dubia
A few around Lijiang and at Yunfengshan, Tengchong and Ruili.
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Alcippe morrisonia
Common at Lijiang, Yunfengshan and Tengchong.
Black-headed Sibia, Heterophasia desgodinsi
4 at Puji monastery and 6 at Shibaoshan.
Beautiful Sibia, Heterophasia pulchella
Singles at Shibaoshan and Yunfengshan.
Long-tailed Sibia, Heterophasia picaoides
2 at Ruili on 29th.
Striated Yuhina, Yuhina castaniceps
4+ at Yunfengshan.
White-collared Yuhina, Yuhina diademata
6 daily around Lijiang, 20+ below the Baima Pass and glacier and 10 at Yunfengshan.
Rufous-vented Yuhina, Yuhina occipitalis
Common around Lijiang, 2 at Baoshan and 10+ at Yunfengshan.
White-bellied Yuhina, Yuhina zantholeuca
6+ at Ruili on 29th.
Grey-headed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis gularis
At least 1 with the next sp. at Ruili on 30th.
Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Paradoxornis guttaticollis
6 atop Shibaoshan and 1 lower down, 1-2 at Ruili on 30th.
Brown-winged Parrotbill, Paradoxornis brunneus
20+ in the Mekong Valley, 1735 m S of Yanmen, and 15+ at Shibaoshan and Tengchong.
Fulvous Parrotbill, Paradoxornis fulvifrons
At least 1 in the Mekong Valley flock of the previous sp.
[Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis ruficeps]
A small, elusive flock in bamboo at Ruili on 28th was thought to be this sp.
Long-tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus
3 at Longquan.
Black-throated Tit, Aegithalos concinnus
Common throughout except at the higher elevations and at Ruili.
Black-browed Tit, Aegithalos iouschistos
Fairly common throughout except in the Mekong Valley and at Ruili.
Black-bibbed Tit, Poecile hypermelaena
A split off Marsh Tit and sounds very like it. Pairs at Ringa Monastery, Shuodu Lake, Baima Pass and 4 at Shibaoshan.
Songar Tit, Poecile songarus
Pairs at Longquan and Shuodu Lake.
Coal Tit, Periparus ater
A few in pines throughout the NW as far S as Shibaoshan.
Rufous-vented Tit, Periparus rubidiventris
A few around Lijiang and Zhongdian.
Grey-crested Tit, Lophophanes dichrous
3 at Shuodu Lake and 2 below Baima Pass.
Great Tit, Parus major
Fairly common throughout.
Green-backed Tit, Parus monticolus
Fairly common throughout – even present at the Tibetan border.
Yellow-cheeked Tit, Parus spilonotus
4 at Yunfengshan and 2 at Ruili.
Yellow-browed Tit, Sylviparus modestus
Singles at Lijiang, the glacier, Dali and Yunfengshan.
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Sitta nagaensis
1-2 at Lijiang, Baima Pass, the glacier, Yunfengshan and Tengchong.
Yunnan Nuthatch, Sitta yunnanensis
3 below Yak Meadow and 1 above Black Dragon Pool Park, Lijiang, 1 Longquan, 2 Ringa Monastery, 1 Baima Pass and 2 at Shibaoshan.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sitta frontalis
1-2 daily at Ruili.
Wallcreeper, Tichodroma muraria
2 on a small sand-face at Zhongdian, 1 of which then fed on a garden wall, and singles near Lake Shuodu, Punzera and Deqen.
Eurasian/ Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Certhia familiaris/ himalayana
1-2 on several occasions in the NW as far S as Cizhong.
Purple Sunbird, Cinnyris asiaticus
4 in the Salween Valley.
Gould's Sunbird, Aethopyga gouldiae
2 at Shibaoshan and Dali, 6+ at Yunfengshan.
Green-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga nipalensis
1 at Yunfengshan.
Black-throated Sunbird, Aethopyga saturata
Two singles at Ruili.
Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja
2 in the Salween Valley.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Dicaeum ignipectus
1 at Lijiang and 2 Yunfengshan, with other flowerpeckers unidentified.
Oriental White-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus
Fairly common around Lijiang and Dali, with a few at Shibaoshan and Baoshan. Japanese White-eye, Z. japonicus might also have been present as most birds were not studied closely.
Slender-billed Oriole, Oriolus tenuirostris
2+ at Baoshan and 5 at Tengchong.
Maroon Oriole, Oriolus traillii
Up to 10 daily at Ruili.
Burmese Shrike, Lanius collurioides
Up to 3 daily at Ruili.
Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach
Fairly common from Dali southwards.
Grey-backed Shrike, Lanius tephronotus
Up to 5 daily Yanmen – Shibaoshan and 1 at Ruili.
Chinese Grey Shrike, Lanius sphenocercus
1 perched by a Ye village in the Chongjai Valley before the Zhongdian plateau.
Large Woodshrike, Tephrodornis gularis
1 at Ruili on 28th and 6 on 30th.
Black Drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus
At least 1 at Ruili, on 31st.
Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus
1 at Baoshan and a few daily at Tengchong and Ruili.
Bronzed Drongo, Dicrurus aeneus
A few daily at Ruili.
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus remifer
A few daily at Ruili.
Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans
1+ at Ruili on 29th.
Eurasian Jay, Garrulus glandarius
2 at Tengchong.
Blue Magpie, Urocissa erythrorhyncha
3 at Yanmen and Baoshan, and 1 at Ruili. 3 magpies below Yak Meadow were noted as Gold-billed U. flavirostris but RJ told me they double-checked the identity of birds seen there shortly before us and were sure they were erythrorhyncha despite the high elevation of 3250m (Robson gives 1525m as the max elevation for this sp. in SE Asia), so I expect our birds were this sp. too.
Grey Treepie, Dendrocitta formosae
1 at Ruili.
Black-billed Magpie, Pica pica
Singles at Numkhatashi and Dali, with up to 11 daily in the Mekong Valley including 5 at the Tibetan border.
Red-billed Chough, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Common around Zhongdian and a few at Punzera and in the Mekong Gorge.
Daurian Jackdaw, Corvus dauuricus
Fairly common in the Zhongdian – Punzera region.
Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos
Common throughout the NW.
White-vented Myna, Acridotheres grandis
40 Tengchong – Ruili (PJ).
Collared Myna, Acridotheres albocinctus
12 perched on an old building beyond the N edge of Ruili in late afternoon of 27th. Early the following morning there were a few more, with Chestnut-tailed Starlings, not far from the first site. They all perched atop a dead tree but flew before I could check how many were definitely this species.
Black-collared Starling, Gracupica nigricollis
2 Yunfengshan - Tengchong.
Chestnut-tailed Starling, Sturnia malabarica
20+ daily at Ruili.
Russet Sparrow, Passer rutilans
2 Lijiang – Zhongdian, 30 around Zhongdian, a few at Shibaoshan, and 10+ around Tengchong.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus
Fairly common around habitation throughout.
White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata
10-20 daily at Ruili.
Nutmeg/ Scaly-breasted Munia, Lonchura punctulata
Several in the lower Mekong and the Salween Valleys.
Brambling, Fringilla montifringilla
10 Zhongdian - Shuodu Lake.
Plain Mountain-Finch, Leucosticte nemoricola
15+ below Yak Meadow and Baima Pass, common around Zhongdian.
Beautiful Rosefinch, Carpodacus pulcherrimus
6+ below Yak Meadow, common around Zhongdian and 10 in the Mekong Gorge.
White-browed Rosefinch, Carpodacus thura
20 at Ringa monastery and 2 at Baima Pass 4000 m.
Black-headed Greenfinch, Carduelis ambigua
Common around Lijiang and in the Tengchong/ Yunfengshan area.
Tibetan Siskin, Serinus thibetanus
c.40 at 3400 m on mountain-side above Zhondian on 11th
Brown Bullfinch, Pyrrhula nipalensis
1 at the pass before Tengchong.
Grey-headed Bullfinch, Pyrrhula erythaca
2 below Baima Pass at 3900 m and 1 at Shibaoshan.
Collared Grosbeak, Mycerobas affinis
1 male below Yak Meadow, Lijiang.
White-winged Grosbeak, Mycerobas carnipes
6 at 4200 m at Baima Pass.
Long-tailed Rosefinch, Uragus sibiricus
4+ below the glacier and 2 females at Yanmen.
Crested Bunting, Melophus lathami
2-3 at Ruili.
Slaty Bunting, Latoucheornis siemsseni
10 female-types on Elephant Mt, Lijiang.
Godlewski's Bunting, Emberiza godlewskii
Common in the NW as far S as Shibaoshan.
Tristram's Bunting, Emberiza tristrami
Singles Zhongdian-Shuodu Lake and at Ruili on 30th.
Chestnut-eared Bunting, Emberiza fucata
2 at village N of Shibaoshan.
Little Bunting, Emberiza pusilla
1-2 near Lijiang and en route, with 5 below Yunfengshan.
Yellow-throated Bunting, Emberiza elegans
1 at Lijiang and 10+ at Shibaoshan.
The following notable or additional species were recorded on the return trip in the breeding season:-
Ruili on May 24-25
Eurasian Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Drongo Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Mountain Scops-Owl, Pied Kingfisher, Mountain Bulbul, Stripe-breasted, Grey-crowned and Laced Woodpeckers, Red-rumped Swallow, Striated Grassbird, Ultramarine and Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Rufous-necked and White-browed Laughingthrushes, Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Black-backed Sibia, Whiskered Yuhina, Pale-footed? Bush-warbler, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Slaty-backed Forktail, Hainan Blue-Flycatcher, Gould’s Sunbird, Common Wood-Shrike, Grey Treepie, Collared & White-vented Myna, Scaly-breasted Munia and Tibetan Siskin.
Lijiang on May 29-31
Black-shouldered Kite, Eurasian Cuckoo, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Grey Bushchat, two families of Plumbeous Redstart, Black-throated Thrush, Blackbird with food, Large Cuckooshrike, Minivets, Blue-throated Flycatchers, Tickell’s Warbler with food, Spot-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Moupinia (taped at 2600m) Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, 2 pairs of Yunnan Nuthatch feeding young in nest holes in pines, Black-throated Tit, Goldcrest, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Goslewski’s Bunting.
Western Hills, Kunming on June 1
Black Kite, a Kingfisher perched high in a conifer, flying aound high up with a few calls, Maroon-backed Accentor, Blue-throated Flycatcher, minivets, Grey Bushchat, Black-breasted/ Chestnut Thrush?, Russet Bush-Warbler, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Grey-breasted and Hill Prinias, many Spot-breasted Scimitar-babbler, White-browed & Rusty-capped Fulvettas, Blue-winged Minla, Black Drongo, Russet Sparrow, Goslewski’s Bunting.
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