Aug 25, 2010

Birding Sichuan 2010 - Sichuan birds

Lots of these Chickens seen this year - Blue-eared Pheasant. Pictured during late winter in the Baxi area of NW Sichuan.

It’s still difficult in the PRC to get onto blogspot – but this time we think we’ve finally weaved our way around the problem , and can once again resume giving regular updates on Sichuan birding.
2010 has seen us making a lot of trips through Sichuan and a couple of sorties into neighboring Yunnan. Birding has been very good - even though during the last couple of months things have been made difficult with heavy rains, resultant landslides and other road blocking developments. However where there’s a will there’s a way – and our birding has gone on non-stop despite the annoying combined interventions of weather gods and road-building clowns. Luckily Sichuan holds a lot of wild country – so when things, with construction and heavy traffic, look bad from the roads–it often helps to be mobile, energetic and imaginative. Getting off the usual beaten birding- track can often pay good dividends!!!!!
A good example of this was this year’s quest after two of our more wanted Sichuan species - Sichuan Jay and Tibetan Snowcock. When on trips we were not able to find these birds at their usual haunts of Mengbi (Jay) and Balang (Snowcock) – due to weather and road factors - we were able to make them up, just past Rou Er Gai, on the Baxi to Jiuzhaigou road.

Sichuan Jay - pictured in Baxi. Just a 100 meters or so up the road and you hit the cloud line with near zero visibility. luckily our birds seemingly were avoiding that fog!!!!

One of our highest birds of the year was Red-faced Rosefinch - this guy is around 4,600m - on the very top of the Balang Pass.

This year we got Rufous-headed Robin on our two trips to the tourist ghetto of Jiuzhaigou – at two different park locations. Song-wise – if in the right area – and the bird is calling, then you can pick it up very close to the main walking track. However converting heard calls into good visual observations can be a wee bit tricky – with this prime skulker being the master of not being seen while merrily singing in front of your nose.
An annoying change at JZ has been the rise in admission ticket price. Formerly deemed very expensive, that 2 day ticket has now- during the period from April onto December – been changed to a one day ticket with only a very small price reduction!!!!! This of course near doubles admission price – so save your pennies to afford the JZ experience and make sure you don’t have to spend too many days chasing that darned Robin.

Not as pretty or melodic as the Rufous-headed Robin - but just as difficult to find - Solitary Snipe. seen at about 3,200m, during early spring, on the high pass between Moxi and Kangding.

During August – often considered a bad birding, wet and difficult to travel month (although we never expected how wet it would be this year) – we took off on an alternative Sichuan birding route that enabled us to combine Sichuan with Yunnan. A route that took us onto the high Tibetan grasslands at Litang – carrying on over the plateau to Yunnan and the Zhongdian area – through the tourist fleshpots of Lijiang and Dali – and to the useful birding location of Zixi Mountain before heading back on the motorway to Sichuan via Kunming.
The route home took us very close to the Sichuan Hill partridge area on the Sichuan/Yunnan Border – and with the motorway Yunnan is now just a day’s drive away from Chengdu.
Lots of good birds were had on this tour – it was nice to blend exciting high grassland species such as Ibisbill and Chinese Grey shrike with the likes of Yunnan goodies such as Giant Nuthatch and Black Eagle.

Giant Nuthatch - certainly a whopper - especially when seen in company of other Nuthatch species.

Seen in Both Sichuan and Yunnan - Lady A. This fine male was pictured on the stone road that leads up Tangsang Mountain, Dali, Yunnan.