The mighty 7,ooom peak of Gongga Mountain seen from the Kangding Airport road - if you don't see any birds in this area then at least you have this sight to console you. However we saw birds - scroll down to see them.
We made this trip mainly to check out the travel situation passed Kangding - this area has been closed over the summer because of an Olympic security clamp-down. The good news is that the area is again open - although there are still checkpoints. As a foreigner I was expecting to be stopped - but the only time a policeman came to talk to us was with a big smile and kind advice - telling us about a road that was under repair and giving us an alternative route (the new Kangding Airport to Tagong "track" is now open - although not finished it's quite okay for all vehicles).
During this trip we got to the Tibetan grassland of Tagong (still in Sichuan about 8-10 hours drive from Chengdu) - we then headed to Moxi - and finished up doing some walking around the Erlang Mountain.
We took pictures of 32 species - but saw many more. Notable species that we saw but didn't get pics of are - a female Temminck's Tragopan (Erlang), a single Hobby and many Oriental Honey-buzzard migrating over the Erlang pass, 3 Streaked Barwing (Erlang), Rusty-breasted Tit (Erlang and Moxi), Rusty-capped Fulvetta (Moxi), Grey-breasted Prinia (Yanzi Mountain), Moustached Laughingthrush (near Luding) and Brown Parrotbill (near Kangding).
Scroll down to get a few pics of some of the other birds.
To see pics in a larger format - just click on them.
Better start with a picture of the photographer - the better half. She has recently highjacked the camera - and is starting to become a bird photo nut. As for me - I'm learning how to shut-up constantly scream-whispering - "take that, take that, take that........."
Yellow-legged Buttonquail - I'm starting to fall over this bird - only a week or so ago it was a lifer! We got a more or less repeat of our encounter at Laba Ha - a bird crossing the road. This time at about 2,000m on a place we call Yanzi Mountain - the road between Kangding and Moxi.
White-winged Redstart - this was a lifer. This bird winters around Tagong - a real stunner. (Don't confuse this bird with white-capped Water Redstart - which has a very similar illustration in the guide book. In the field they have a whole other look)
White-browed Rosefinch - a couple of noisy males. my wife thought they sounded like goats!!! Again up Yanzi mountain about 2 minutes before we ran into the Buttonquail
Another White-browed species - this time - White-browed Tit Warbler. This is a quality bird - we saw this at about 3,500m on the Tagong side of Zheduo Mountain. This is a male - but it isn't that well marked - but still a hansdsome blighter.
Wallcreeper - well you're going to have to click on the pic to get a bigger version if you want a clearer look. We often see this bird, but this is our first pic.
Twite - of course you don't have to go to Tibet to see a Twite - but its fun to see 'em here.
Tickell's Leaf Warbler - identifying Sichuanese Warblers can be a real pain in the backside - but with that strong eyestripe, yellow underside, clean green back and bill colour there ain't much doubt that we've found Mr. Tickell's bird. Tagong grassland - about 3,000m
Stripe-throated Yuhina - what a cutey. with a hair-cut like that it must be a punk-bird. This is in Forest near Erlang tunnel - a great birding location. About 10 minutes before we got this guy we'd had a brief run-in with three Streaked Barwing. There also Red Panda around here - we talked to some road menders who had seen one on the track just the day before.
Tree Sparrow - well this one is different from those back home - for starters it's perched on a Tibetan prayer-flag!!! Subspecies tibetanus - on the Tagong Grassland.
Horned Skylark (Shore Lark) - cold up here, about 4,300m on the top of Zheduo Mountain. We both had trouble holding the camera still because of a combined wind and shiver factor. Only Twite and Shore Lark up here today - lot more action at this height in the summer.
Russet Sparrow - this lovely bird looks very nice when it gives you the eye to eye stare. From a parking place near Luding.
Robin Accentor - loads of these birds around Tagong - but we could never quite get a picture in the right light. This one is in the backyard of the temple - feeding around the weeds that grow in between the stupas.
Raven - here the brilliant sunlight that you can find at high altitude helped Meggie get a magnificent photo. The bird is scavenging around some rubbish left by road workers - on the Zheduo Mountain. That same sunlight burnt my poor nose to a near cinder!!!
Olive-backed Pipit - loads of these birds about on passage. This tired bird was on Erlang Mountain.
Orange-flanked Bush Robin - these birds were flocking with Blue-fronted Redstart. In Chengdu - in some of the parks - we can also find these two species together. Moxi
Magpie - yeps, British gardeners - we get 'em here as well. But you'll be glad to find out that if you wish to set up a bird-table on the Tibetan Plateau - there are no troublesome Grey Squirells.
Lammergeier - the family is out here. That dark bird that looks a wee bit like Cinerous Vulture is a Lamme - photos can sometimes decieve. This is up Zheduo Mountain but there were also Lammergeier around Tagong.
Himmalayan Griffon - meets the moon (meeting in a natural manner - didn't bring them face to face via Photoshop - just a little sharpening on the vulture image). Lots of this bird around as usual. Zheduo, and Tagong being the main locations with a single bird on the Moxi side of Yanzi Mountain.
Hill Pigeon - on a cold morning trying to find a hot tin roof. Poor blighters have found a cold tiled version. Tagong Grasslands.
Grey-crested Tit - I lost meggie in a bush for 20 minutes, and she came back with this. Another great punk-bird!!!! Moxi.
Grandala - most birders see these birds, during the summer, on high mountain passes around 4,000m. But now in October they've already flown down - these are around 2,000m (Yanzi Mountain). The blue on the males is quite fantastic - no photo will ever capture the true quality of this bird.
Godlewski's Bunting - the common Bunting around Tagong.
Golden Eagle - not much of a pic, but everybody likes to see an Eagle. This bird was near Moxi - while we got a pair on the new Kangding airport road about an hour out of Tagong.
Elliot's Laughingthrush - Meggie really has captured the spirit of this nosy bird in this pic. Erlang Mountain.
Daurian Jackdaw - some brit birders may reckon this bird should be called Hooded Jackdaw. Tagong
Red-billed Chough - another hot tin roof seeker. A pair of glossy looking critters - posing in an intense sunrise.
Chinese Sparrowhawk - I got this one. A bit like clay-pidgeon shooting - flash - and a second to let loose with a shot. I hit him!!!
Chinese Babax - Another time I lost my wife to a bush - she was gone a long time in getting this one. We saw Baxax in Moxi and near Kangding - on both occasions in the company of Elliot's Laughers.
Brown Accentor - on pile of Yak doings. This is another bird you see in summer at the 4,000m range - but again its moved down a few hundred metres to "warmer" climes. Zheduo Mountain.
Brown-breasted Bulbul - a common bird of farmland in the mid-elevation zones. This one is near Luding.
Blue-fronted Redstart - in the exact same tree as the Orange-flanked Bush Robin. This is female - but there were males around as well. Moxi.
Beautiful Rosefinch - rosefiches can be a pain to identify from the guide-book. Best get a photo and then check them out at the OBC and birdforum sites. This male is on the Tagong side of Zheduo Mountain.