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China ( Sichuan Province ) 26th May - 11th June 1995,CONTENTS
The following report is based on a birding trip to China in from 26th May - 11th June 1995 to the province of Sichuan, through the travel agency of CITS. All of the places visited, are possible to reach on your own, it may however be quite difficult at times and will take a lot of time.
I was accompanied by Gerald Broddelez, Vital van Gorp, Chris Steeman and Eric Wille.
The main objective of the trip was to see as many birds as possible. We had a very limited time for birding.
Our trip necessarily covered much ground with 7 different hotels in sixteen days. Inevitably, it was a rush and more time could have been spent everywhere, especially at Jiuzhaigou.
China is huge - in fact almost vast beyond comprehension. Consequently a great deal of thought has had to go into planning your itinerary.
Now, with access possible, only a few western birdwatchers have visited the central part of this enormous country. Birdlife in China is prolific with more than 1200 species recorded. The diversity of birdlife is somewhat limited in parts of the heavily populated east but Sichuan province in the centre of China is sparsely populated and this province offers some of the finest birding in China, holding around two‑thirds of the country's endemic birds. We had only 16 days and so we decided to concentrate ourselves on the province of Sichuan.
Bordered to the west by the high plateau of Tibet and to the east by the Red Basin and the densely populated lowlands of China, the avifauna of Sichuan is a mixture of Palearctic and Oriental birds.
The region is well known as the home of many spectacular species, most notably the superb pheasants. Unfortunately they are notoriously difficult to find, requiring silent, resolute persistence.
The list of birds mentioned in the daily log which follows is purely taken at random from each days events highlighting some of the more interesting species. For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We booked our flight from Brussels to China for ¦ 1500,-- with Air France. This flight took approximately 11 hours and went via Paris. The flights were punctual and troublefree.
You do need a visa for China (¦ 50,--). When you're leaving China, you are required to pay a departure tax.
Be sure to confirm your reservations for your return flight at least 48 hours before the flight.
The domestic flight (China Southwest Airlines) from Beijing to Chengdu took about 2½ hour and cost US$450. The tax for the domestic flight was 15 yuan.
MONEY, COST AND ACCOMMODATION
The unit of currency in China is the Yuan. The exchange rate in June 1995 was about 900 yuan per US$100.
Creditcards. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in the large shops of Beijing and Chengdu and the more expensive hotels. In Beijing and Chengdu the largest cities, there is a wide range of places to stay.
Away from these large cities accommodation sometimes is rather primitive. (Wolong, Hongyuan and Sunpang).
We payed at the Yin He Hotel in Beijing for a double room 350 yuan.
The travel agency had booked us in all the hotels following Gerald's itinerary.
The park entrance fee at Jiuzhaigou Reserve was 150 yuan per person per day.
FOOD AND DRINK
In generally we found the food outside the large cities awful. In the large cities in the *** or **** hotels are both Chinese and Western meals available. Once in the birding localities you had better get used to eat terrible food.
We frequently did our own breakfasts and lunches. Get used to eat with chopsticks!
Stay away from uncooked fruits and vegetables that you haven't peeled yourself, and don't use ice. It is best to avoid drinking the water unless you know it is boiled.
Beer is reasonably cheap and not too bad. Cautious visitors rarely get sick, even in the smallest towns.
HEALTH AND CONDITION
Vaccinations, consult your own doctor for up to date advice.
It is advisable to take a good medical kit with you as you are sometimes along way away from the nearest largest town.
Mosquitoes and flies are sometimes a problem. Insect repellent is necessary at these locations.
Many of the special birds in Sichuan can only be seen after many hours walking up mountain trails (often climbing) and you have to be physically fit.
The people in China speak no English, particular away from the big cities (Beijing and Chengdu).
Asking for directions is a nightmare if you don't have a guide to translate the Chinese language.
The Chinese people themselves aren't a bad bunch, some are very friendly but a few don't want to know foreigners.
However when I think about our guide and driver, the first words that come to mind are thick‑headed, morons, lazy and rude. Obviously there is a language problem, but this also applies elsewhere.
Everyday we had a real battle with our guide and the driver. They hated getting out of their bed so early and always wanted to do things we did not want. It cost us quite a few species at Wolong.
Learn to ignore spitting, coughing, staring and nose picking in public.
Rather variable. At lower altitudes it is generally warm and often rather humid, whilst at higher altitudes temperatures range from cool to cold.
A hat is recommended in the mountains. During our trip, sunny periods alternated with rainy, overcast weather.
An umbrella and rubber boots are very useful!
TRANSPORT AND ROADS
The main roads near the large cities are usually well maintained and for these a normal car is fine. However the roads in the mountainous areas of Sichuan are diabolic. I have never seen such bad roads.
These roads are unmetalled, poorly maintained and there are often rough tracks which are often steep and treacherous.
It is best to negotiate an average rate fare with the driver beforehand. Fares vary greatly, but are quite inexpensive. Metres are seldom used. E.g. the price of a taxi from Beijing airport to the Yin He Hotel was 100 yuan.
With the help of the tape recorder we recorded the song or call and played it back again.
A telescope is useful at lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides.
Photography is VERY difficult, as birds are difficult to approach and light conditions are bad in the forest and the bamboos.
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (July 1991, Birds of the World, A Check List).
MAPS AND SKETCH MAPS
Nearly all sketch maps in this trip report are orientated so that north is at the top. Although I have tried to make all the maps as accurate as possible, please allow for the vagaries of memory. The sketch maps are NOT to scale!
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Large Hawk Cuckoo, White‑throated Needletail, Large‑billed Crow, Grey‑backed Shrike, White‑capped Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, Barn Swallow, Asian Martin, Large‑billed Leaf‑Warbler, Rufous‑vented Tit, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and White Wagtail.
I want to thank Gerald Broddelez for organizing this trip. I also want to thank Chris Steeman and Gerald again for identifying most of the birds we saw. Thanks are also due to Vital and Eric who were as always good birding companions throughout the trip.
Do not expect to see a hell of a lot of birds in Sichuan. We recorded 226 species in China in 14 days.
- Sálim Ali & S.Dillon Ripley. A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
- Ben King, Martin Woodcock & E.C.Dickinson. A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia.
- James F.Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List
- Robert L.Fleming, Sr. & Jr., Lain Singh Bangdel. Birds of Nepal.
- Boonsong Lekagul, Philip D.Round. A Guide to the Birds of Thailand.
- RODOLPHE MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE. BIRDS OF CHINA.
De Schauensee's "Birds of China" is a must since there is nothing else. Many of the ranges in the "Birds of China" are not correct, but this is because Chinese bird distribution is little known.
In my opinion, "Birds of China" alone is insufficient to identify all the species correctly, because quite a few birds (many of the endemics) are not illustrated in the guide and there are no songs or calls described in the book.
"A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" , "Birds of Nepal" and "A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia" are necessary to achieve this aim.
REPORTS ON THE BIRDING LOCALITIES (SICHUAN)
- J.M. Turton, G.J. Speight, R. Rowland. China 1986.
- A.G. Goodwin. China Trip. 1st March - 19th June 1987.
- Stephan Johanson, China 5.4 - 15.5 1987.
- Anders Jihmanner & Björn Johansson. China May 1991.
May 26/27 Brussels * Paris * Beijing
May 28 Beijing * Chengdu * Emei Shan
May 29 Emei Shan
May 30 Emei Shan
May 31 Emei Shan * Chengdu * Du Fu's Thatched Cottage Park
June 1 Chengdu * Wolong Giant Panda Reserve
June 2 Wolong Giant Panda Reserve
June 3 Wolong Giant Panda Reserve
June 4 Wolong * Hongyuan
June 5 Hongyuan * Wa Qie * Tibetan Plateau * Jiuzhaigou
June 6 Jiuzhaigou
June 7 Jiuzhaigou
June 8 Jiuzhaigou * Sunpang
June 9 Sunpang * Chengdu
June 9 Chengdu * Beijing * Mutianyu Great Wall * Beijing
June 10 Beijing * Paris * Brussels
SUMMER PALACE IN BEIJING
The Summer Palace in Beijing is an excellent spot to visit and may be your first introduction to the bird species of China.
Accommodation: a hotel in Beijing.
This is a park situated not too far from the centre of Beijing and is a good place to stay, when you have a free afternoon after arriving etc. The easiest way to reach the Summer Palace is to get a taxi. Don't forget to haggle and get the price down by a third at least.
Many passerines arrive in spring at the Summer Palace grounds. The large lake in front of the Summer Palace, Kunming Lake, hold most of the ducks in winter and spring.
Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, Mandarin Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Falcated Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Spot‑billed Duck, Red‑crested & Baer's Pochard, Tufted Duck, Smew, Chinese Pond‑Heron, Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Yellow & Cinnamon (Chestnut) Bittern, AMUR FALCON, Eurasian Coot, Common & Terek Sandpiper, Herring Gull, White-winged & Common Tern, Spotted Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Drongo, Blue, Azure‑winged & Black‑billed Magpie, Daurian Jackdaw, Black‑naped Oriole, Brown Shrike, Dusky Thrush, Grey‑streaked & Red‑throated Flycatcher, Red‑rumped & Barn Swallow, White‑browed Chinese Warbler (Chinese Hill Warbler), Black‑browed & Oriental Reed‑Warbler, Blunt‑winged Warbler, Thick‑billed Warbler, Dusky, Lemon‑rumped, Inornate & Greenish Warbler, Forest & Yellow Wagtail, Richard's, Red‑throated, Water & Buff‑bellied Pipit, Siberian Accentor, Yellowhammer, Pine, Meadow, Little, Rustic & Pallas' Bunting (wintering buntings).
A mountain (over 3000m) sacred to Buddhists and sprinkled with ancient monasteries. This means that thousands of pilgrims are walking on the paths up and down the mountain, who think climbing to the summit will add to their longevity.
There is road leading up to 2450m and from there you can take a new cable car to the (golden) summit. Maps can be bought at Bao Guo on arrival.
Accommodation: hotel Hongzhushan near Bao Guo or at a monastery.
Emei Shan (or Omei Shan) is one of the top birding sites in China and is worth spending as long as possible.
The avifauna of this famous mountain, still largely clothed in pristine forests, is the richest known from any mountain in China and is home to Grey‑hooded (Crested) Parrotbill and Grey‑faced (Omei Shan) Liocichla, unique to this one peak and its immediate neighbours.
No less than 9 species of Parrotbills and 12 species of Phylloscopus warblers can be seen on the mountain.
Black Baza, Black Eagle, Crested Serpent‑Eagle,
Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Crested & Chinese Goshawk, Besra, Grey‑faced
Buzzard, Mountain Hawk‑Eagle, Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, Temminck's Tragopan,
Common Pheasant, LADY AMHERST'S PHEASANT, Eurasian Woodcock, Speckled
Wood‑Pigeon, Wedge‑tailed Green‑Pigeon, CHESTNUT‑WINGED
(RED‑WINGED) CUCKOO, Large Hawk‑Cuckoo, Lesser Cuckoo, Indian
Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Collared
Scops‑Owl, Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Hawk‑Owl, Jungle
Nightjar, Himalayan Swiftlet, White‑throated Needletail, Fork‑tailed
Swift, Common & Black‑capped Kingfisher, Speckled Piculet, Grey‑headed,
Great Spotted, Crimson‑breasted, Darjeeling & Bay Woodpecker, Spangled
Drongo, Eurasian Jay, Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Large‑billed Crow, Black‑winged
Cuckoo‑Shrike, Brown‑rumped (Swinhoe's) Minivet, Long‑tailed
Minivet, Bar‑winged Flycatcher‑Shrike, Tiger & Long‑tailed
Shrike, Brown Dipper, Siberian (spring) & Eye‑browed Thrush, Blue
Whistling‑Thrush, Lesser (Brown) & White‑browed Shortwing, Asian
Paradise‑Flycatcher, Grey‑streaked, Dark‑sided, Brown‑breasted,
Ferruginous, Rufous‑gorgeted, Snowy‑browed, Slaty‑blue, Verditer
& Blue‑throated Flycatcher, Large, Fuijan & Rufous‑bellied
Niltava, Grey‑headed Canary‑Flycatcher, BLACK‑THROATED
BLUE ROBIN, Siberian Blue Robin, Golden Bush‑Robin (summit), Oriental
Magpie‑Robin, White‑capped & Plumbeous Redstart, White‑bellied
Redstart, White‑tailed Robin, Little, Slaty‑backed, White‑crowned
& Spotted Forktail, PURPLE COCHOA, Grey Bushchat, Winter Wren, Black‑throated
Tit, Barn & Red‑rumped Swallow, Asian Martin, Goldcrest, Collared
Finchbill, Brown‑breasted & Black Bulbul, Striated Prinia, Chestnut‑flanked
& Japanese White‑eye, Chestnut‑headed Tesia, Brownish‑flanked,
Brown, Chestnut‑crowned, Aberrant, Grey‑sided & Russet Bush‑Warbler,
Buff‑throated, Buff‑barred, Ashy‑throated, Lemon‑rumped,
Inornate, Arctic, & Greenish Warbler, Eastern Crowned‑Warbler, CHINESE
LEAF‑WARBLER, Large‑billed, Blyth's & White‑tailed
Leaf‑Warbler, EMEI LEAF WARBLER, Golden‑spectacled, Rufous‑faced,
Chestnut‑crowned & Sulphur‑breasted Warbler, White‑throated,
Moustached, Spotted, Elliot's, Black‑faced & Red‑winged Laughingthrush,
Hwamei, GREY‑FACED (EMEI SHAN) LIOCICHLA,
Scaly‑breasted & Pygmy Wren‑Babbler, Rufous‑capped Babbler, Spot‑breasted, Rusty‑cheeked & Streak‑breasted Scimitar‑Babbler, Green Shrike‑Babbler, Red‑billed Leiothrix, STREAKED BARWING, Red‑tailed Minla, Golden‑breasted, Streak‑throated, Dusky (Brown‑capped) & Grey‑cheeked Fulvetta, Black‑headed Sibia, Stripe‑throated, White‑collared & Black‑chinned Yuhina, Great Parrotbill (summit), Brown Parrotbill (summit), Spot‑breasted Parrotbill, Ashy‑throated Parrotbill, GREY‑HOODED (CRESTED) PARROTBILL, Fulvous Parrotbill (summit), Golden Parrotbill, Père David's, Rufous‑vented, Coal, Grey‑crested, Rufous‑bellied, Great, Yellow‑bellied, Green‑backed & Yellow‑browed Tit, Russet Sparrow, Forest, White & Grey Wagtail, Richard's Pipit, Blyth's Pipit (summit), Rosy Pipit, Alpine Accentor, Robin Accentor, Rufous‑breasted Accentor (summit), Maroon‑backed Accentor, Fire‑breasted (Scarlet‑breasted) Flowerpecker, Fork‑tailed & Gould's Sunbird, Eurasian Siskin, Grey‑capped Greenfinch, Blanford's Rosefinch, Dark‑breasted Rosefinch, Vinaceous Rosefinch (summit), Dark‑rumped Rosefinch (summit), Spot‑winged Rosefinch, White‑browed Rosefinch (summit), Crimson‑browed Finch, Grey‑headed Bullfinch, COLLARED GROSBEAK, White‑winged Grosbeak, Slaty, Yellow‑throated, Rock, Meadow, Tristram's & Little Bunting.
DU FU'S THATCHED COTTAGE PARK IN CHENGDU
This is a park in the outskirts of Chengdu and is probably the best place to go birding in the city.
Accommodation: a hotel in Chengdu.
This is a park situated not too far from the centre of Chengdu and is a good place to stay, when you have a free afternoon after arriving etc. The easiest way to reach the park is to get a taxi.
Oriental Turtle‑Dove, Red‑collared Dove,
Rufous‑bellied Woodpecker, Large Hawk‑Cuckoo, Ashy Drongo, Brown‑rumped
(Swinhoe's) Minivet, Black‑winged Cuckoo‑Shrike, Long‑tailed
Shrike, Eurasian Blackbird, Eye‑browed Thrush, Chinese (Song) Thrush,
Orange‑flanked Bush‑Robin, Red‑billed & White‑cheeked
Starling, Crested Myna, Red‑throated & Slaty‑blue Flycatcher,
Orange‑flanked Bush‑Robin, Daurian Redstart, Oriental Magpie‑Robin,
Siberian Rubythroat, Black‑throated Tit, Red‑rumped Swallow, Collared
Finchbill, Light‑vented Bulbul, Chestnut‑flanked & Japanese
White‑eye, Yellowish‑bellied Bush‑Warbler, Dusky, Buff‑throated
& Lemon‑rumped Warbler, Large‑billed & Blyth's Leaf‑Warbler,
Golden‑spectacled & Rufous‑faced Warbler, Hwamei, White‑browed
Laughingthrush, Rusty‑cheeked Scimitar‑Babbler, Rufous‑capped
Babbler, Red‑billed Leiothrix, White‑collared Yuhina, VINOUS‑THROATED
PARROTBILL, Green‑backed Tit, Scaly‑breasted Munia, Forest Wagtail,
Grey‑capped Greenfinch, Yellow‑billed Grosbeak, Fukien Slaty Bunting,
Chinese Bunting (winter & early spring), Black‑faced Bunting.
The Wolong Giant Panda Reserve (1700 square kilometres) is situated approximately 100 kms west of Chengdu and is famous as the headquarters of the WWF's research and conservation efforts to save the Panda from extinction.
It is difficult, even impossible to get a permit to visit this reserve on your own. We got a permit via CITS, our travel agency.
Accommodation: Wolong Hotel in Wolong.
The area is all steep-sided, forested mountains, bamboo thickets, alpine meadows and jagged, snow‑covered peaks, which it was very difficult to bird in apart from the road and a few trails.
Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Japanese & Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Golden Eagle, Common & Upland Buzzard, Mountain Hawk‑Eagle, Snow Partridge, TIBETAN SNOWCOCK, Verreaux's Partridge, Tibetan Partridge, Blood & Common Pheasant, Temminck's Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, CHINESE MONAL, White Eared‑Pheasant, Golden Pheasant, Solitary Snipe, WOOD SNIPE, Snow Pigeon, Speckled Wood‑Pigeon, Oriental Turtle‑Dove, Large Hawk‑Cuckoo, Lesser Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Banded Bay Cuckoo, White‑throated Needletail, Fork‑tailed Swift, Black‑capped Kingfisher, Bay, Crimson‑breasted & Three‑toed Woodpecker, Black & Spangled Drongo, Eurasian Nutcracker, Blue Magpie, Chough, Red‑billed Chough, Large‑billed Crow, Common Raven, Long‑tailed Minivet, Tiger, Long‑tailed & Grey‑backed Shrike, Brown & White‑throated Dipper, Plain‑backed & Chestnut Thrush, White‑backed (Kessler's) Thrush, Blue Whistling‑Thrush, Dark‑sided, Slaty‑backed, Ferruginous, Rufous‑gorgeted & Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous‑bellied Niltava, Grey‑headed Canary‑Flycatcher, BLACK‑THROATED BLUE ROBIN, FIRETHROAT, Indian Blue Robin, Golden Bush‑Robin, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Blue‑fronted Redstart, White‑capped & Plumbeous Redstart, White‑bellied Redstart, Grandala, Little Forktail, Winter Wren, Black‑browed & Sooty Tit, Barn Swallow, Eurasian Crag‑Martin, Asian Martin, Goldcrest, Collared Finchbill, Chestnut‑headed Tesia, Aberrant, Grey‑sided, Spotted & Yellowish‑bellied Bush‑Warbler, Dusky, Buff‑throated, Yellow‑streaked, Ashy‑throated, Lemon‑rumped, Inornate, Arctic & Greenish Warbler, Eastern Crowned‑Warbler, CHINESE LEAF‑WARBLER, Large‑billed, Tickell's & Blyth's Leaf‑Warbler, Golden‑spectacled & Rufous‑faced Warbler, Père David's, Giant, Elliot's, Barred & Red‑winged Laughingthrush, Scaly‑breasted & Pygmy Wren‑Babbler, Chinese Babax, Chinese, Golden‑breasted & Grey‑cheeked Fulvetta, White‑collared Yuhina, Great Parrotbill, Spectacled Parrotbill, Willow, Père David's, Rufous‑vented, Coal, Grey‑crested, Rufous‑bellied, Yellow‑bellied, Green‑backed & Yellow‑browed Tit, Fire‑capped Tit, Russet Sparrow, White & Grey Wagtail, Olive‑backed Pipit, Rosy Pipit, Alpine & Maroon‑backed Accentor, Gould's Sunbird, Tibetan Serin, Grey‑capped Greenfinch, Plain & Black‑headed (Brandt's) Mountain‑Finch, Blanford's (Crimson) Rosefinch, Dark‑breasted Rosefinch, Pink‑rumped Rosefinch, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Red Crossbill, Grey‑headed Bullfinch, Slaty & Rock Bunting.
TIBETAN PLATEAU - WA QIE AREA
A remote high‑altitude region (42 kms northeast of Hongyuan) on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau with grasslands, meandering rivers that cross them and some extensive marshlands.
Accommodation: Hongyuan Hotel in Hongyuan.
Wa Qie, although still in the province of Sichuan, is on the Tibetan Plateau. Here the avifauna is totally different from the veritable ramparts of Tibet, and likewise the scenery, people and culture.
You have a good chance to find the rare BLACK‑NECKED CRANE here.
Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Ferruginous Pochard, Common
Merganser, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Black Kite, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous
Vulture, Pallas' Fish‑Eagle, Common & Upland Buzzard, Greater Spotted
Eagle, Tibetan Partridge, Common Pheasant, Koklass Pheasant, BLACK‑NECKED
CRANE, Solitary Snipe, Common Redshank, Great Black‑headed & Brown‑headed
Gull, Common Tern, Common Cuckoo, Fork‑tailed Swift, Black‑capped
Kingfisher, Eurasian Wryneck, Azure‑winged & Black‑billed Magpie,
TIBETAN (HUME'S) GROUND‑JAY, Daurian Jackdaw, Common Raven, Brown
& Grey‑backed Shrike, Great Chinese Shrike, White‑backed (Kessler's)
Thrush, Dusky (Naumann's) Thrush, Yellow‑rumped Flycatcher, Black Redstart,
Common Stonechat, Asian Martin, White‑tailed Rubythroat, Wallcreeper,
White‑browed (Severtzov's) Tit‑Warbler, Père David's Laughingthrush,
White‑browed Tit, Tibetan (Long‑billed Calandra) Lark, Eurasian
& Oriental Skylark, Horned Lark, Russet & Rock Sparrow, Black‑winged
(Tibet) Snowfinch, Yellow‑hooded (Citrine) Wagtail, Blyth's & Rosy
Pipit, Twite, Common & Beautiful Rosefinch, (Przevalski's Rosefinch, which
is sometimes considered to be a bunting).
A Giant Panda reserve in northernmost Sichuan, approximately 430 kms north of Chengdu would be worth the long journey just to enjoy some of the best scenery in the world, but the birds make it really special.
Accommodation: a hotel in or at the entrance of the reserve.
Jiuzhaigou is one of the top birding sites in China and is worth spending as long as possible.
This reserve is a scenically magnificent area of high, snow‑covered peaks, dense coniferous and mixed forests, bamboo and hillsides covered in flowering rhododendrons and azaleas.
The curious geology of the area has resulted in the formation of a series of crystal clear lakes linked by waterfalls in the valleys. In this reserve a large number of Central Chinese birds can be found.
Mallard, Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk,
Chinese Goshawk, Black Kite, Lammergeier, Common & Upland Buzzard, Golden
Eagle, Tibetan Snowcock, Verreaux's Partridge, Blood & Golden Pheasant,
BLUE‑EARED PHEASANT, Severtzov's Grouse, White‑breasted Waterhen,
Oriental Turtle‑Dove, Snow Pigeon, Large Hawk‑Cuckoo, Common &
Lesser Cuckoo, Ural Owl ('David's Owl'), Jungle Nightjar, White‑throated
Needletail, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Crimson‑breasted, Three‑toed,
Great Spotted, Rufous‑bellied & Black Woodpecker, Spangled Drongo,
Eurasian Jay, SICHUAN (SZECHWAN GRAY) JAY, Eurasian Nutcracker, Large‑billed
Crow, Carrion Crow, Long‑tailed Minivet, Grey‑backed Shrike, Brown
& White‑throated Dipper, White‑throated & Blue Rock‑Thrush,
Long‑tailed, Chestnut, White‑backed (Kessler's) & Chinese (Song)
Thrush, GOULD'S SHORTWING, Dark‑sided, Rufous‑gorgeted, Slaty‑backed
& Red‑throated Flycatcher, RUFOUS‑HEADED ROBIN, Indian
Blue Robin, Orange‑flanked Bush‑Robin (Red‑flanked Bluetail),
Hodgson's, White‑bellied, White‑throated, Daurian & Blue‑fronted
Redstart, White‑capped & Plumbeous Redstart, Grandala, Eurasian &
Snowy‑browed (Chinese) Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Eurasian & Bar‑tailed
Treecreeper, Sooty Tit, Barn Swallow, Asian Martin, Collared Finchbill, Striated
Prinia, Chestnut‑flanked White‑eye, Spotted & Yellowish‑bellied
Bush‑Warbler, Crested Tit‑Warbler, Tickell's, Chinese, Large‑billed
& Blyth's Leaf‑Warbler, Dusky, Yellow‑streaked, Buff‑barred,
Inornate & Greenish Warbler, Golden‑spectacled Warbler, Père David's,
Giant, Barred, Sukatschev's & Elliot's Laughingthrush, Chinese Babax, Chinese
& Spectacled Fulvetta, THREE‑TOED PARROTBILL, Rusty‑throated
(Przevalski's) Parrotbill, Willow, Siberian, Père David's, Rufous‑vented,
Coal, Grey‑crested, Great & Green‑backed Tit, Russet Sparrow,
White Wagtail, Olive‑backed Pipit, Alpine & Maroon‑backed Accentor,
Tibetan Serin, Long‑tailed, Beautiful, Vinaceous, Three‑banded &
White‑browed Rosefinch, Grey‑headed Bullfinch, COLLARED GROSBEAK,
White‑winged Grosbeak, Black‑faced & Rock Bunting.
Friday & Saturday 26th & 27th May
At 15.00 o'clock we departed from Brussels airport with Sabena to Paris. A few hours later we left Paris with an Air France flight to Beijing. 10 hours later we arrived in China's bustling capital and having cleared Chinese customs we immediately took a taxi to the Qianmen Hotel. We dropped our luggage in the hotel and we then drove to the Summer Palace, our first birding destination. Our first afternoon was spent comparatively leisurely strolling on the Summer Palace grounds and especially near Lake Kunming. As usual the first new species were the ones which became the common everyday birds.
Strolling in this beautiful park revealed many species such as Chinese Pond‑Heron, Yellow and Cinnamon Bittern, Azure‑winged Magpie, Brown Shrike, Grey‑streaked Flycatcher, Black‑browed Reed‑Warbler, Blunt‑winged Warbler, Oriental Reed‑Warbler and Thick‑billed Warbler. While admiring the Blunt‑winged Warblers along Kunming Lake Chris fell in the lake, ... he needed a shower anyway. Hereafter we returned to our hotel and duly celebrated our arrival with a very fine Chinese meal.
Sunday 28th May
After a refreshing night's sleep we took the domestic flight to Chengdu. After a flight of more than 2 hours we arrived at Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The humidity hit us like a sauna as we got off the plane.
Our french speaking guide and the driver were already waiting at the airport. Fifteen minutes later we left Chengdu with a minibus.
At first we travelled through flat, agricultural country with paddyfields of rice tended by men and women clad in blue and wearing coolie hats. As we whisked along the busy roads towards our destination, the holy mountain of Emei Shan, birds were rather scarce only Long‑tailed Shrikes sat temptingly on roadside wires. It was but a few hours by bus to the foot of Emei Shan. Then we arrived at the very plush Hotel Hongzhushan (used to be the official residence of Chiang Kai-shek), our base for the next three nights.
Hereafter we drove to Bao Guo and spent the rest of the late afternoon in the lower levels on the trails near the temple. In the few remaining areas of natural forest around Bao Guo we found Common Cuckoo, White‑crowned Forktail, Black Bulbul, Hwamei, Grey‑cheeked Fulvetta, Ashy‑throated Parrotbill and Fire‑breasted Flowerpecker.
However, the star bird was undoubtedly the Chestnut‑winged (Red‑winged) Cuckoo (3 birds), a species never seen before at Emei Shan.
Then we drove to a local restaurant in Bao Guo and had the most horrible meal of our life. Fish and duck were really awful and expensive!
Monday 29th May
A very early start (3.30) was called for in order to reach the scenic summit in good time to search for some Chinese specialities. We had to wait at the gate till 5.00 o'clock (entrance fee 20 yuan), before we could drive to the Golden summit. It was a race with hundreds of pilgrims and when we arrived at the summit we had to wait an hour before we could use the new cable car to reach the top of the mountain (up 24 yuan, down 18 yuan).
Up at the summit we had to struggle a bit to see Great and Fulvous Parrotbill.
The visit also produced Blue‑throated Flycatcher, Golden Bush‑Robin, Buff‑throated Warbler, Chestnut‑crowned, Aberrant & Grey‑sided Bush‑Warbler, Elliot's & Red‑winged Laughingthrush, Streak‑throated Fulvetta and Vinaceous & Pink‑rumped Rosefinch, while Rufous‑breasted and Alpine Accentors fed on the rocky slopes.
Hereafter we walked many kilometres downhill using the main road. The superb forest was a real treat and we found some fine birds including Long‑tailed Minivet, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Rufous‑gorgeted Flycatcher, White‑bellied Redstart, the endemic Grey‑hooded Parrotbill and Green‑backed & Yellow‑browed Tit.
Best of all however was the brief but very satisfying view Vital and I had of a male Lady Amherst's Pheasant while the bird was crossing the road.
In the evening we got together for a log/beer call and the chance to exchange information on the birds which we had seen during the day and talk over identification problems. Vital and I only wanted to talk about the most beautiful pheasant in the world.
Tuesday 30th May
The next morning (4.30) we drove to the parking lot of the Myriad Years Monastery Station and from there we were going up the myriads of steps to climb to the Xianfeng Monastery. We were exhausted when we arrived at the monastery and after a short stop we managed to find the 'hidden' trail following a waterpipe behind the monastery.
The sometimes very narrow path in the mid‑montane
forest supplied us with a few 'new' birds amongst them Japanese White‑eye,
Brownish‑flanked Bush‑Warbler, White‑throated Laughingthrush,
Rufous‑capped Babbler, Red‑billed Leiothrix and Yellow‑bellied
At noon we walked back (downhill!) to the Elegant Sound Pavilion and from there we had to climb another million steps to the Fairy Peak Monastery. The climb was steep and hot and every ten metres there was a stall with people trying to sell you something. After a while we got sick of these people, but we managed to maintain our birding focus and saw some very good birds amongst them Grey Treepie, Brown Dipper, Brown‑breasted Flycatcher, Little Forktail and Spotted Forktail.
It was already dark when we arrived at the parking lot at Wu Xian Gang Station.
Wednesday 31st May
There was the day when we set out in pouring rain. We had breakfast at the Crouching Tiger Monastery and two hours later we were able to bird alongside the road back to Bao Guo.
In spite of the weather Chinese Goshawk, Brown‑rumped (Swinhoe's) Minivet, Tiger Shrike, Collared Finchbill, Russet Sparrow and Forest Wagtail were added in short order.
Hereafter we returned to our hotel and left Mount Emei. Another day at this superb birding location would certainly have produced more birds for the trip list.
En route to Chengdu we saw our only Yellow‑billed Grosbeak of our trip.
At 14.30 we again arrived in Chengdu and booked two rooms in the Tibet Hotel. The hotel porters had scarcely delivered the last cases to our rooms when we already headed off towards Du Fu's Thatched Cottage Park, only twenty minutes by taxi from our hotel.
On entering the park a good path system allowed us to see some of its more retiring inhabitants. Ashy Drongo, Crested Myna, Black‑throated Tit, Light‑vented Bulbul, White‑browed Laughingthrush, Rusty‑cheeked Scimitar‑Babbler, Vinous‑throated Parrotbill, Forest Wagtail and Grey‑capped Greenfinch all gave good views, with perseverance.
Thursday 1st June
Leaving Chengdu long before dawn we journeyed with a new French speaking guide to the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve. We left the crowded lowlands behind and entered the mountains, winding our way through the deep valleys and gorges carved by the turbulent Min River. The road was diabolic!
Wolong, being virtually devoid of human beings, was certainly the antidote to Mount Emei with its thousands of Chinese pilgrims. After checking into our hotel (Wolong Hotel) in Wolong we were soon on the road to survey the mid‑level forests of the reserve. Not far from Wolong (c 10kms) after crossing a small suspension bridge we had to climb two hours before we reached the observation station area. Vital and I were dead when we reached the bamboo area.
We spent all day in this area and at promising overlooks Chris stared and stared through his Questar on the off‑chance seeing the Giant Panda, but we really didn't expect to see one, although we did find some droppings.
Scanning the area we soon discovered flocks of Phylloscopus warblers including Buff‑throated, Ashy‑throated & Lemon‑rumped Warbler and Large‑billed Leaf‑Warbler.
Birding highlights this day included Speckled Wood‑Pigeon, Black‑throated Blue Robin, Indian Blue Robin, Black‑browed Tit, Chestnut‑headed Tesia, Yellowish‑bellied Bush‑Warbler, the recently described Chinese Leaf‑Warbler, Père David's & Giant Laughingthrush, Père David's Tit and Gould's Sunbird.
Friday 2nd June
It was an hour before dawn and we were taking a brief stretch before driving on to the summit of the Balang Shan, or that was what we thought at that moment. Leaving the "security" of the valley, switching through hairpins, we strained to define something of what surely must be a stupendous view. We ploughed on, our minibus at times moving imperceptibly. Stop!? Our driver refused to drive on, because he had not enough fuel to make the returntrip...
We were very angry, but he refused to drive any further, so at last we decided to walk to the summit and never made it of course (km 88). Birds began to appear, 2 Himalayan Griffons glided just metres below as we were trying to find the Pheasants and a few moments later we saw a White‑backed (Kessler's) Thrush.
We spent all day in this area and other interesting birds here included Upland Buzzard, White‑throated Needletail, Grey‑backed Shrike, Yellow‑streaked Warbler, Giant Laughingthrush, White‑collared Yuhina, Spectacled Parrotbill, Tibetan Serin, Pink‑rumped Rosefinch, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Red Crossbill and several shy Musk Deer.
We were very disappointed when we returned to the small
village of Wolong, having dipped most of the high‑altitude species.
Saturday 3rd June
The following day we were rather more successful and were able to climb to the Valley of the Heroes at the park headquarters. After passing four tunnels and thousand steps we made a stop at a small farm. While taking a break, because everybody was exhausted, Eric discovered a Black Bear in a tree.
Then we entered the mid‑level forest and this beautiful forest turned up a superb male Temminck's Tragopan that rather unconcernedly strolled right past us, a party of Blood Pheasants with chicks, Mountain Hawk‑Eagle, Banded Bay Cuckoo, a pair of Three‑toed Woodpeckers, Slaty‑backed Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin and Spectacled Parrotbill.
After the strenuous morning climb we took it more easy in the afternoon. Lower down we tried a shortcut and regretted every minute of it. Falling, swearing, stumbling and an hour later we arrived at the river.
Easily the most beautiful bird of this region is the Firethroat and so far we had not seen the bird.
We again stopped at the small farm (the only one), drank tea with the friendly owner and then decided to scan the track in the bamboo area right behind the farm.
In the bamboo we heard the song of a bird, we had not heard before. Some persuasion with the tape recorder drew them to the track and an appreciative audience and it was close to the end of our daytrip before good views of two Firethroats were had.
Sunday 4th June
Leaving Wolong behind we drove north to the Tibetan Plateau. The city of Hongyuan, our next destination in the province of Sichuan, was over a road which steadily deteriorated and was sometimes blocked by rock falls.
We had a long drive through mountain gorges and over the spectacular Zhegu Shan pass over 4000m before finally emerging into the arid Tibetan Plateau uplands. En route we saw a dead Chinese Monal hanging on the ceiling in front of the door of a house!
Here the scenery and people were totally different. Tibetan nomad camps dotted the landscape and Tibetan herders trotted past on little ponies. Of course the avifauna was also totally different and a few brief stops revealed amongst others Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Pochard, Cattle Egret, Tibetan Lark, Oriental Skylark, Horned Lark and Yellow‑hooded Wagtail.
Then we arrived at the little town of Hongyuan and after settling into the rooms of the Hongyuan Hotel we set off into the bushy area along the river behind the hotel. During the stroll along the river we noted Black Redstart, Yellow‑rumped Flycatcher, Goldcrest and Common Rosefinch.
The evening meal was bad, but we were delighted to see that there was an amply supply of very cold beers available.
Monday 5th June
The next morning saw us driving to Wa Qie, a small marshy area northeast of Hongyuan.
In stark contrast to the mountains, but equally beautiful, was the huge Tibetan plateau. Everywhere were herds of great shaggy Yak. We made a stroll on the wide grasslands and here we found one of the most prized species of our trip, 5 Black‑necked Cranes. Scrubby areas turned up Eurasian Wryneck and Père David's Laughingthrush.
En route to Jiuzhaigou, our ultimate goal, we made a few roadside stops. On one of these stops we were treated to the sight of Tibetan Ground‑Jays chasing each other across the steppes, a pair of the endangered Black‑necked Cranes and a few Daurian Jackdaws.
After a very long drive we finally left the plateau and crossed open lands before descending through densely forested mountains to Jiuzhaigou. It was almost dusk when we arrived at the very luxurious Hotel Sichuan Jiuzhai Villa.
After sitting in the bus for much of the day it was a pleasure to get out.
The final three birding days were spent at this reserve.
Tuesday 6th June
At 5.30 we were at the entrance of the reserve, ticked a pair of Daurian Redstarts, paid the fee (150 yuan p.p.!) and then entered the reserve. We marvelled at the reflections of the mountains in the still waters and at the lakes linked by waterfalls in the valleys. After a few kilometres the road was blocked by a fallen tree, but a quarter of an hour later Chinese woodcutters had removed the tree and then wanted money from us of course.
Then we arrived at the valley (3 kms north of Zechawa village) we wanted to explore. The track winded through moist deciduous forest and bamboo alongside the swirling, rushing torrent of a river. Twice we crossed this river and then the climbing started...and it was the hardest climb of our trip! At last we arrived at the alpine meadows and up on this steep grassy slopes we found Golden Eagle, Upland Buzzard, White‑throated Rock‑Thrush, White‑throated Redstart, Blue‑fronted Redstart, Crested Tit‑Warbler, Olive‑backed Pipit, Beautiful Rosefinch, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Three‑banded Rosefinch, White‑winged Grosbeak and .... a Norwegian birder.
Unfortunately the late afternoon was marred with rain, as is sometimes the case at this time of the year.
As we slowly went down the mountain in the land of the Giant Panda, we heard our first Verreaux's Partridges which unfortunately only gave a tantalizingly brief glimpse.
Wednesday 7th June
Next morning found us at the end of the road near Swan Lake. The valleys were full of the sound of Phylloscopus warblers, a confusing combination of Tickell's Leaf, Yellow‑streaked, Buff‑barred, Chinese Leaf, Inornate, Greenish, Large‑billed Leaf and Blyth's Leaf‑Warbler that really had one tearing one's hair out at times.
At the car park we scanned the brushy area thoroughly and were rewarded with good views of Sukatschev's Laughingthrush and Three‑banded Rosefinch.
Hereafter we walked along a dry riverbed to the nearby cliffs. A search in the primeaval forest along the river was very productive. Thanks to Gerald's sharp spotting we were treated to spoiling close views of a pair of Collared Grosbeaks. Other birds of note in the forest were Three‑toed Woodpecker, Orange‑flanked Bush‑Robin, Eurasian Treecreeper, Rusty‑throated Parrotbill and Maroon‑backed Accentor!
We left the forest and climbed via the dry riverbed to the cliffs (3250m). The weather here was fantastic and the scenery stunning. Here some steady climbing was rewarded with great views of Severtzov's Grouse.
A long search for Sichuan Gray Jay proved fruitless.
On our way back we stopped at Cristal Falls and made a walk on a trail at the bottom of the waterfalls.
The waterfalls here offered an incomparable spectacle, especially from the lower series of walkways.
Thursday 8th June
We were up long before dawn and on the road before the sun rose. When we arrived at Long Lake a male Blue Eared‑Pheasant standing along the road was a pleasant surprise.
And then started the long climb on the slope on the west side of the lake. We made our own way up through the conifer forest and into the dwarf rhododendrons.
It was a hard climb (3500m) and we saw except some White‑winged Grosbeaks and a few raptors nothing.
I have seldom, if ever, felt so disappointed, but Buddha was clearly not on our side today.
In the early afternoon we returned to the minibus. Eventually we had to leave this wonderful place and return to Chengdu. At 19.00 hours we arrived in Sunpang and checked into a very dirty hotel.
Friday 9th June
Early next morning found us on our way to Chengdu, hindered again on the return journey by rock falls and the very bad road. Most noteworthy of the birds we saw en route along the Min River were Black‑capped Kingfisher, Daurian Jackdaw, Striated Prinia and Blue Rock‑Thrush.
At 16.30 we were in Chengdu and again checked into the Tibet Hotel.
Saturday & Sunday 10th & 11th June
At 11 o'clock we drove to the airport and a few hours later we arrived in Beijing. Eric and Vital took a taxi to the Mutianyu Great Wall (and ticked Chinese Nuthatch), while the rest of us drove to the Yin He Hotel.
Next morning we returned to the airport, bought many souvenirs and left Beijing. All too soon our Chinese interlude came to an end and we were heading back across the top of the world to Europe.
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