Sep 29, 2011

New Website

We've recently opened a new Sichuan birding website at -

info on birding sites and a collection of our Sichuan bird-call recordings

Mar 3, 2011

Our 2010 Sichuan list

Lesser White-fronted Goose - only the second Sichuan record - and the first live record (there's a 50's a record of a dead bird on sale in a Chengdu market). Amazingly we spotted the bird from a hotel bedroom that overlooked a river - it hung around for 2 days before flying off.

Now were into 2011 I've totted up our Sichuan 2010 year list - although we included three cheat ticks (Grey Nightjar only heard,Yellow Bittern from a dead example on the Litang Grasslands and still a little uncertainty over getting a definite Hodgson's from Eurasian Treecreeper) it comes to well over the 400.

For those who like lists - here it goes (more photos after the list) -

  1. Snow Partridge
  2. Tibetan Partridge
  3. Chinese Bamboo-Partridge
  4. Japanese Quail
  5. Tibetan Snowcock
  6. Buff-throated Partridge
  7. Chestnut–throated Partridge
  8. Blood Pheasant
  9. Temminck's Tragopan
  10. Koklass Pheasant
  11. Chinese Monal Pheasant
  12. Common Pheasant
  13. Golden Pheasant
  14. Chinese Grouse
  15. Lady Amherst's Pheasant
  16. Blue Eared Pheasant
  17. White Eared-Pheasant
  18. Greylag Goose
  19. Lesser White-fronted Goose – 2nd Sichuan record
  20. Bar-headed Goose
  21. Ruddy Shelduck
  22. Mandarin Duck
  23. Gadwall
  24. Mallard
  25. Shoveller
  26. Pintail
  27. Eurasian Widgeon
  28. Spot-billed Duck
  29. Common Teal
  30. Baikal Teal
  31. Garganey
  32. Falcated Duck
  33. Red-crested Pochard
  34. Common Pochard
  35. White-eyed Pochard
  36. Tufted Duck
  37. Smew
  38. Common Merganser
  39. Eurasian Wryneck
  40. Speckled Piculet
  41. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
  42. Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
  43. Darjeeling Woodpecker
  44. White-backed Woodpecker
  45. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  46. Three-toed Woodpecker
  47. Grey-headed Woodpecker
  48. Bay Woodpecker
  49. Black Woodpecker
  50. Great Barbet
  51. Eurasian Hoopoe
  52. Common Kingfisher
  53. Crested Kingfisher
  54. Black-capped Kingfisher
  55. Large Hawk-Cuckoo
  56. Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo
  57. Eurasian Cuckoo
  58. Indian Cuckoo
  59. Himalayan Cuckoo
  60. Lesser Cuckoo
  61. Asian Koel
  62. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo
  63. Lesser Coucal
  64. Himalayan Swiftlet
  65. Pacific Swift
  66. White-throated Needletail
  67. HouseSwift
  68. Eurasian Eagle Owl
  69. Collared Scops Owl
  70. Pere David’s Owl
  71. Chinese Tawny Owl
  72. Northern Boobook
  73. Little Owl
  74. Collared Owlet
  75. Asian Barred Owlet
  76. Grey Nightjar - heard
  77. Hill Pigeon
  78. Snow Pigeon
  79. Speckled Wood Pigeon
  80. Spotted Dove
  81. Oriental Turtle Dove
  82. Red Collared Dove
  83. Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon
  84. Black-necked Crane
  85. White-breasted Waterhen
  86. Common Coot
  87. Common Moorhen
  88. Greater Painted Snipe
  89. Eurasian Woodcock
  90. Common Snipe
  91. Swinhoes Snipe
  92. Solitary Snipe
  93. Northern Lapwing
  94. Grey-headed Lapwing
  95. Pacific Golden Plover
  96. Grey Plover
  97. Lesser Sand Plover
  98. Little Ringed Plover
  99. Long-billed Plover
  100. Black-winged Stilt
  101. Curlew Sandpiper
  102. Temminck's Stint
  103. Green Sandpiper
  104. Wood Sandpiper
  105. Common Sandpiper
  106. Common Redshank
  107. Black-tailed Godwit
  108. Ibisbill
  109. Pallas's Gull
  110. Brown-headed Gull
  111. Black-headed Gull
  112. Common Gull
  113. Common Tern
  114. Whiskered Tern
  115. Black Baza
  116. Black-eared Kite
  117. Oriental Honey-buzzard
  118. Crested Serpent Eagle
  119. White-tailed Sea Eagle
  120. Cinereous Vulture
  121. Himalayan Griffon
  122. Bearded Vulture
  123. Hen Harrier
  124. Pied Harrier
  125. Crested Goshawk
  126. Chinese Sparrowhawk
  127. Besra
  128. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  129. Northern Goshawk
  130. Grey-faced Buzzard
  131. Eastern Buzzard
  132. Upland Buzzard
  133. Golden Eagle
  134. Steppe Eagle
  135. Bonelli’s Eagle
  136. Mountain Hawk-Eagle
  137. Common Kestrel
  138. Eurasian Hobby
  139. Peregrine Falcon
  140. Saker Falcon
  141. Amur Falcon
  142. Great Cormorant
  143. Little Grebe
  144. Great Crested
  145. Little Egret
  146. Intermediate Egret
  147. Great Egret
  148. Eastern Cattle Egret
  149. Grey Heron
  150. Chinese Pond-Heron
  151. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  152. Cinnamon Bittern
  153. Yellow Bittern – one dead example at Litang
  154. Black Stork
  155. Tiger Shrike
  156. Brown Shrike
  157. Long-tailed Shrike
  158. Grey-backed Shrike
  159. Chinese Grey Shrike
  160. Eurasian Jay
  161. Sichuan Jay
  162. Red-billed Blue Magpie
  163. Azure-winged Magpie
  164. Black-billed Magpie
  165. Spotted Nutcracker
  166. Grey Treepie
  167. Red-billed Chough
  168. Yellow-billed Chough
  169. Daurian Jackdaw
  170. Carrion Crow
  171. Large-billed Crow
  172. Collared Crow
  173. Common Raven
  174. Hume’s Groundpecker
  175. Black-naped Oriole
  176. Black-winged Cuckooshrike
  177. Swinhoe's Minivet
  178. Long-tailed Minivet
  179. Short-billed Minivet
  180. Ashy Drongo
  181. Black Drongo
  182. Spangled Drongo
  183. Brown Dipper
  184. White-throated Dipper
  185. Blue Whistling-Thrush
  186. Chestnut-bellied RockThrush
  187. Blue Rock-Thrush
  188. Long-tailed Thrush
  189. Scaly Thrush
  190. Chinese Blackbird
  191. Grey-winged Blackbird
  192. Japanese Thrush
  193. Kessler's Thrush
  194. Chestnut Thrush
  195. Eyebrowed Thrush
  196. Naumann's Thrush
  197. Dusky Thrush
  198. Chinese Thrush
  199. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  200. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  201. Brown-breasted Flycatcher
  202. Ferruginous Flycatcher
  203. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  204. Slaty-backed Flycatcher
  205. Taiga Flycatcher
  206. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
  207. Slaty-blue Flycatcher
  208. Verditer Flycatcher
  209. Fujian Niltava
  210. Vivid Niltava
  211. Blue-throated Flycatcher
  212. Indian Blue Robin
  213. Orange-flanked Bush-Robin
  214. Golden Bush-Robin
  215. White-browed Bush-Robin
  216. Rufous-headed Robin
  217. Himalayan Rubythroat
  218. Firethroat
  219. Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
  220. Oriental Magpie-Robin
  221. Hodgson's Redstart
  222. Black Redstart
  223. Daurian Redstart
  224. White-throated Redstart
  225. Blue-fronted Redstart
  226. White-capped Water-Redstart
  227. White-winged Redstart
  228. Plumbeous Water-Redstart
  229. White-bellied Redstart (Chinese Shortwing)
  230. White-tailed Robin
  231. Grandala
  232. Little Forktail
  233. Slaty-backed Forktail
  234. White-crowned Forktail
  235. Spotted Forktail
  236. Siberian Stonechat
  237. Grey Bushchat
  238. White-cheeked Starling
  239. Silky Starling
  240. Crested Myna
  241. Eurasian Nuthatch
  242. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch
  243. Przewalski's Nuthatch
  244. Yunnan Nuthatch
  245. Chinese Nuthatch
  246. Wallcreeper
  247. Bar-tailed Tree-Creeper
  248. Sichuan Treecreeper
  249. Hodgson’s/ Eurasian Treecreeper – still a little uncertain on separating these
  250. Fire-capped Tit
  251. Songar Tit
  252. Pere David’s Tit
  253. White-browed Tit
  254. Rufous-vented Tit
  255. Coal Tit
  256. Yellow-bellied Tit
  257. Grey-crested Tit
  258. Eastern Great Tit
  259. Green-backed Tit
  260. Yellow-browed Tit
  261. Black-throated Tit
  262. Black-browed Tit
  263. Sooty Tit
  264. Sand Martin
  265. Eurasian Crag-Martin
  266. Barn Swallow
  267. Red-rumped Swallow
  268. Asian House-Martin
  269. Collared Finchbill
  270. Brown-breasted Bulbul
  271. Light-vented Bulbul
  272. Black Bulbul
  273. Mountain Bulbul
  274. Plain Prinia
  275. Striated Prinia
  276. Chestnut-flanked White-eye
  277. Japanese White-eye
  278. Brownish-flanked Bush-War
  279. Aberrant Bush-Warbler
  280. Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler
  281. Spotted Bush-Warbler
  282. Brown Bush-Warbler
  283. Russet Bush-Warbler
  284. Chestnut-headed Tesia
  285. Dusky Warbler
  286. Alpine Leaf Warbler
  287. Buff-throated Warbler
  288. Yellow-streaked Warbler
  289. Buff-barred Warbler
  290. Ashy-throated Warbler
  291. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
  292. Lemon-rumped Warbler
  293. Chinese Leaf-Warbler
  294. Sichuan Leaf Warbler
  295. Yellow-browed Warbler
  296. Hume's Warbler
  297. Claudia’s Leaf Warbler
  298. Greenish Warbler
  299. Large-billed Leaf Warbler
  300. Eastern Crowned Warbler
  301. Emei Leaf Warbler
  302. Kloss’s Leaf-Warbler
  303. Sulphur-breasted Warbler
  304. Bianchi’s Warbler
  305. Plain-tailed Warbler
  306. Chestnut-crowned Warbler
  307. Rufous-faced Warbler
  308. Goldcrest
  309. Crested Tit Warbler
  310. White-browed Tit-Warbler
  311. Moustached Laughingthrush
  312. Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush
  313. Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush
  314. Barred Laughingthrush
  315. Giant Laughingthrush
  316. Spotted Laughingthrush
  317. Plain Laughingthrush
  318. Buffy Laughingthrush
  319. Hwamei
  320. White-browed Laughingthrush
  321. Elliot's Laughingthrush
  322. Black-faced Laughingthrush
  323. Red-winged Laughingthrush
  324. Emei Shan Liocichla
  325. Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler
  326. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
  327. Winter Wren
  328. Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler
  329. Pygmy Wren-Babbler
  330. Rufous-capped Babbler
  331. Rufous-tailed Babbler
  332. Chinese Babax
  333. Red-billed Leiothrix
  334. White-browed Shrike-Babbler
  335. Green Shrike-Babbler
  336. Streaked Barwing
  337. Blue-winged Minla
  338. Red-tailed Minla
  339. Golden-breasted Fulvetta
  340. Gold-fronted Fulvetta - pair of birds on Old Erlang Road
  341. Spectacled Fulvetta
  342. Chinese Fulvetta
  343. White-browed Fulvetta
  344. Grey-hooded Fulvetta
  345. Dusky Fulvetta
  346. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
  347. Black-capped Sibia
  348. Stripe-throated Yuhina
  349. White-collared Yuhina
  350. Black-chinned Yuhina
  351. Great Parrotbill
  352. Three-toed Parrotbill
  353. Brown Parrotbill
  354. Grey-headed Parrotbill
  355. Spectacled Parrotbill
  356. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
  357. Ashy-throated Parrotbill
  358. Grey-hooded Parrotbill
  359. Fulvous Parrotbill
  360. Golden Parrotbill
  361. Tibetan Lark
  362. Greater Short-toed Lark
  363. Oriental Skylark
  364. Horned Lark
  365. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
  366. Fork-tailed Sunbird
  367. Mrs Gould's Sunbird
  368. House Sparrow
  369. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  370. Russet Sparrow
  371. Rock Sparrow
  372. Tibetan Snowfinch
  373. White-rumped Snowfinch
  374. Rufous-necked Snowfinch
  375. Forest Wagtail
  376. White Wagtail
  377. Yellow Wagtail
  378. Citrine Wagtail
  379. Grey Wagtail
  380. Oriental Tree Pipit
  381. Water Pipit
  382. Rosy Pipit
  383. Red-throated Pipit
  384. Richard’s Pipit
  385. Alpine Accentor
  386. Rufous-breasted Accentor
  387. Maroon-backed Accentor
  388. Robin Accentor
  389. Brown Accentor
  390. White-rumped Munia
  391. Brambling
  392. Grey-capped Greenfinch
  393. Black-headed Greenfinch
  394. Tibetan Siskin
  395. Twite
  396. Plain Mountain-Finch
  397. Brandt's Mountain Finch
  398. Dark-breasted Rosefinch
  399. Common Rosefinch
  400. Beautiful Rosefinch
  401. Pink-rumped Rosefinch
  402. Spot-winged Rosefinch
  403. Three-banded Rosefinch
  404. Vinaceous Rosefinch
  405. White-browed Rosefinch
  406. Streaked Rosefinch
  407. Red-faced Rosefinch
  408. Pink-tailed Bunting – one seen Ruoergai
  409. Crimson-browed Finch
  410. Grey-headed Bullfinch
  411. Chinese Grosbeak
  412. Collared Grosbeak
  413. White-winged Grosbeak
  414. Slaty Bunting
  415. Godlewski's Bunting
  416. Little Bunting
  417. Black-faced Bunting
  418. Yellow-throated Bunting
  419. Pine Bunting
Here are pictures of birds that are sometimes absent from the usual Sichuan lists -

Baikal teal - always difficult to find in Sichuan - we got this lone female in the NE. Interesting to see the plumage differences with the female Common Teal

Japanese Quail - at least were assuming it's this species and not Common. A surprising find in the Alpine forest that's at the base of Balang Pass.

White-backed Woodpecker - got this bird during early 2010. This bird was at the Beisehe Reserve - we saw others at Wolong

Cinereous Vulture - not so difficult to find in the Balang area

Bonelli's Eagle - several birds were recorded in NE Sichuan

Steppe Eagle - a young bird soaring over the Ruoergai Grasslands

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo - also a young bird. We saw Buffy Laughingthrush - a host species - hanging about in the same area.

Yunnan Nuthatch - in SW Sichuan - very close to the Yunnan border.

Japanese Thrush - a spring passage bird

Spectacled Fulvetta - a lot of birders miss this species. You can find it in the Jiuzhaigou area.

Brown Bullfinch - we got a flock of these this winter

Pine bunting - another winter bird. On the Ruoergai Grasslands.

Rufous-necked Snowfinch - on the Ruoergai Grasslands. Sometimes you have to look at an awful lot of White-rumped Snowfinch before you find this bird.

And a 2011 bird - which set the year off with a bang!!!!! Sichuan's first Red-breasted Goose

Dec 8, 2010

Pere David's Owl and Chinese Grouse - Sichuan Birding

A large Owl gulp that was found just before a sighting of Pere David's Owl in the Baxi area of NW Sichuan. This was our first clue to the presence of a big Owl. looks like there are a set of false teeth mixed up in that mess.

We've just come back from a 10 day trip that took us to Tangjiahe, Wanglang and the Baxi/Ruoergai area. By far the best bird sighted during this trip was the rare Pere David's Owl.
We got our Owl during a late afternoon search for Chinese Grouse. We were birding in the Baxi area, at a site that had given us Grouse last February. However, during this visit, the meadow/forest location turned out to be deadly silent - no Grouse, none of the usual Hares - and then we noticed the mother of all Owl gulps - a ball of hair and bones that obvious came from something big - Eagle or Pere David's Owl. On Cue a couple of Kessler's Thrush started to kick up a racket and Meggie went to take a look. As she investigated a large shape came hurtling between the trees and landed half way up one of the big pines - simply stunning - it was Pere David's!!!!!!!
We managed to follow the bird to three different locations - and although the setting sun didn't make for easy photographic conditions - Meggie was able to get a decent shot of this monster owl.
That wasn't the first contact with this species during the trip - we also got to hear it at Wanglang - but couldn't find the bird. This day we lucked in.

Our best shot of Pere David's Owl - there is debate over whether it's a separate species or an isolated subspecies of Ural Owl. The status of full species would make it China's only endemic Owl.

Another great Owl we managed to find on this last trip - Chinese Tawny Owl. We got this bird at Wanglang Panda Reserve - which is also in N Sichuan. We had been after this bird since our last trip to Wawu - where we twice ran into it, but were unable to get photos. This time we had a new high powered Torch and were able to get the Owl during our first night at Wanglang.

The morning after getting the Pere David's owl we got to the task of looking for Chinese Grouse. These birds inhabit Alpine Forest around the 3000m level - and as can be expected, in Grouse country, winter mornings are often pretty chilly. We found the birds most active when the sun - at around 10am - started to reach into their feeding areas. These birds eat the buds of willow scrub that grows in the forest valleys - its easy to see where they've been at work - and you can actually hear them nipping away at the twigs.
Chinese Grouse is an endangered species - much of its habitat has been destroyed by forestry and farming - but in Sichaun they can still be found in areas such as Baxi and Mengbishan

These nipped-off buds are tell tale signs of Grouse at work. Can't be much fun being a willow tree in this place!!!!

A Grouse photographer dying of hypothermia. Luckily she was able to see a bird or two through those misted specs.

We saw many more interesting species during our trip - but were especially pleased to get a decent shot of one of those that has been rather camera shy in the past - Sooty Tit - seen at one of best sites to find this elusive bird - Wanglang.

Nov 22, 2010

Streaked Barwing and White-browed Bush Robin on the Old Erlang Road - Sichuan birds

One of our Barwings - a truly handsome bird

Just back from a quick trip to the Old Erlang Road, where we got 'his and hers' Streaked Barwing. The Barwing day started with a little discussion on where to bird - which resulted in a split up where me and Meggie did different sections. On my part of the trail I ran into a group of three, very showy, Streaked Barwing - and cursed our luck that Meggie wasn't present with her camera. But when I later met up with her she was beaming over having found another pair of Barwing lower down. The birds were feeding off what I presume were insects or grubs in the moss that covers tree trunks and branches. Meggie followed her birds for about 5 minutes.

One my Streaked Barwings - showing how ridiculously easy they were. The picture was taken using 17-85mm zoom - hardly a mainstream birder's lens!!!!!!!!!!

During this trip we also ran into another good bird - a male White-browed Bush Robin but in some very misty conditions. The bird made a show when we called in a Tit/Goldcrest flock. This was close to the very top of the pass - from where we could hear Koklass Pheasant calling in the distance.

On the way home we got an unexpected bird - a Juv. White-tailed Eagle sitting in a riverside tree that could be seen on the busy Chengdu to Kangding G318 road.

And that cloud and mist, that you often find in these mountains, it make birding a bit difficult - but boy can you find some great photo opportunities when this stuff is rolling in while the sun is breaking through the clouds. This is magical Sichuan at its best.

Whose eaten my porridge - is this Mummy or Daddy bear???? Certainly wouldn't like to be Goldilocks when this guy gets back home for dinner - those claws look a little sharp.

Erlang mountain used belong to the bottom of the sea. There are lots of Fossils to be found on this track - here's a huge chunk of coral. At this point point, that's close to the top of the track, you can also find sea shells.

Nov 16, 2010

Red Pandas at Wawu - Sichuan birds

A nice study of the first Red Panda we saw on day two - up on a tree sunning itself in the early morning sun.

We're just back from the second part of our trip with Duncan and Pieter from Wildsounds - this time together with Nigel Goodgame (this guy goes into a gyrating dance every time he gets a lifer),
Anyways they had just come back from a Giant Panda trip - where after crawling and clamoring up the steep sided bamboo mountains of Foping, Shaanxi, they'd all seen their Bear - so now we were after the main target in Sichuan - Red Panda.

Wawu Mountain is about the easiest site for Red Pandas around here - its already shown for us with three earlier groups. – but the weather, namely the infamous Wawu mists, can make this a difficult location.
Our project got under way with a clear morning and on day one a Red Panda was spotted – but frustratingly only by Meggie!!!!!!!
We now had an area where we knew where a Panda was present – but there was a touch of nervous tension in the air – since staking out the area after the initial sighting gave nothing and by mid-afternoon a mist had fallen making further watching impossible.
Next morning – we woke, after a night that had seen some very heavy rain, highly relieved by the sight of clear skies. We watched the area of Meggie’s sighting, and around 9 am the Panda politely came into view to give, for around 10 minutes, an uninterrupted look at this stunning animal. It was seen in a small tree, into which it had probably climbed with the intention of warming up. When first viewed the Panda had ice on one of its ears - but that soon melted away as it thawed out in the rising morning sun.

Soon after Nigel found two more Pandas – which seemed to include a juv. Needless to say this brought on yet another dance!!!!!!

The Red Panda pair - this is the first time we've seen two Pandas together.

Other good stuff for our visitors were the Lady A’s and the Temminck’s Tragopan seen during “chicken-run” on the park access road. But here we also had a few nervous tinges – since Lady A, surprisingly almost all male, were numerous, while after about 6 runs there wasn’t a Tragopan in sight. Luckily this changed on the very last run. Done in a light mist and drizzly rain - weather conditions that often induce chickens to abandon the wet forest floor for the firmer feel of a road and roadside blocks – we suddenly bumped into 6 Tragopan, including one fine male which gave us some prolonged views. 10 minutes later the mist closed in – we were very lucky!!!!!

Lady A scuttles into the safety of scrub - the usual view of this stunning bird

The male Temminck's Tragopan who decided to pose - falling mist, rain and shooting through the windscreen didn't help this shot taken by Pieter.

Parrotbills also showed nicely on this trip - and Grey-hooded, sometimes a hard to find bird, was very easy at the correct locations.

Grey-hooded Parrotbill - people watching from the top of a bamboo stem.

Golden Parrotbill were also not that difficult in the bamboo at the middle sections of the access road. These hyperactive creatures are a great looking bird.

And one of the Parrotbills the wildsounds guys needed for their list - Brown. They already had the very similar Three-toed from Foping - and after a toe count of were happy that 3 front toes + 1 back toe meant a 101% positive ID for this lifer.

Oct 30, 2010

Autumn trips to Wolong and Balang - Sichuan birds

With all the road problems caused by the combination of residual earthquake damage and the heavy rains of the summer - it's good to report that our drier autumn weather has once again made Wolong and Balang Pass fairly easy destinations to reach via the quick route from Chengdu - the road that passes through Dujiangyan. In fact, if you're lucky, then its possible to get to Wolong Town with a 3 hour drive. Give 5 hours and you could be looking down on the clouds, while basking in the alpine sun on top of the 4,600m Balang pass.

Of course under that cloud cover things can be a little less bright. This was the situation just a couple of day's ago when we were guiding Duncan Macdonald and Pieter Wessels of Wildsounds. But after an initial morning of being frustrated by mist, on the second, we were lucky enough to get a couple of male roadside Chinese Monal. The chill of the snow was certainly effectively countered by the thrill of getting so close to these stunning birds. That pic was taken by Pieter.
Other gamebirds encountered included The usual Koklass Pheasant, Rufous-throated Partridge, Snow Partridge and Tibetan Snowcock (I'm afraid mostly heard rather than seen). However this autumn there were no signs of White-eared Pheasant up at Balang or Golden Pheasant or Temminck's Tragopan at Wolong - these birds were much easier to find during the summer.

Lots of other birds about - here's a great shot of White-browed Tit Warbler. Meggie managed to capture that red eye - which gives this bird a bit of a sinister look!!!!

As ever lots of Alpine Accentor up on high rocky areas of the pass.

Down in the valleys closer to Wolong we got close to this Black-faced Laughingthrush.

Late October also saw a few passage migrants still hanging about in the warmer valley bottoms - here's a female Golden Bush Robin.

And it wasn't only birds - here's a Chinese Goral that was found close to the entrance of Denghsheng Valley. Other mammals included Blue Sheep, Short-tailed Macaques and Mountain Weasel.

And here's Meggie - while the clouds roll past at over 4,500m - displaying an alarming new fashion trend. High altitude Wellington boots!!!!!!!

Sep 3, 2010

Litang Grasslands - Sichuan birds

Juvenile Lammergeier - this awesome species was seen on several occasions during our last trip to Litang. The other common species of Vulture in the area, Himalayan Griffon, can be seen in great numbers during occasions when the Locals practice Tibetan style funerals - Known as sky-burial - where the birds are allowed to feed on the corpses of the dead.

If you take the highway west from Chengdu, which eventually leads to Lhasa, a drive of around 10 hours should bring you close to an area of plateau grassland that's situated close to the Tibetan town of Litang. This flat plain that nestles between the mountains, is high - the town being over 4000m in altitude. A combination of pasture, river, mountain and marsh provides the type of habitat where it's possible to see many of the interesting species that are associated with the eastern side of the Tibetan Plateau. With good road Connections - the town is a major junction on the overland route to both Yunnan and Tibet - making it a logical stop-off for anybody exploring this part of Sichuan.

Streaked Rosefinch - the common Rosefinch species on this grassland. You often see this bird around habitation.

Tibetan Snowfinch - another species that 'digs' around those dumps, ditches and manure heaps that are part of the smaller Tibetan villages and homesteads. This bird is far easier to find at Litang than the Ruo Er Gai grassland of NW Sichuan. Plain and Brandt's Mountain Finch were also seen.

Bar-headed Goose - the road that leads towards the Tibetan border at Batang follows the course of a river. Although duck and other wetland species are not found in the same type of numbers as Ruo Er Gai (no Black Necked Crane left at Litang) - we found Common Tern, Redshank, Bar-headed Geese, Common Merganser and Ruddy Shelduck.

Ibisbill - is also present on the river. The best place to find this species are on stony river banks - sometimes where gravel extraction has taken place.

Himalayan Marmot - an ever present sight, and sound, on the drier parts of the grassland.

During June, July and August the grassland pasture becomes a good habitat for flower hunters.

This small Gentian, in the Swertia family (Felworts), is part of the Litang flora.

And of course there are all the usual 'grasland suspects' - here's Hume's Groundpecker (or Ground Tit - depending on what you're calling it today). This little extrovert of a bird - with its cocky mannerisms - always gives excellent entertainment value.

Chinese Grey Shrike - another good location for this sought after tick. Tibetan lark were also seen.

Little Owl - as a kid, in South Wales, we had a birding site, a bracken covered valley, where we would often find this Owl. Strange to think I'd be finding the same bird - so many tears latter - up on the Tibetan Plateau.