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Old Sunday 23rd August 2009, 08:35   #1
china guy
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Sichuan Birding

Thought I'd start a new thread to give short updates on current Sichuan birding situations - with particular attention to those changes that may affect folk who are a planning a trip out this way.
This first post focuses on N Sichuan and the Wanglang, Tangjiahe Panda Reserves. Both these sites were affected by the quake - with road access being greatly damaged through direct quake damage and subsequent road works and landslide. However this summer both parks were again accepting visitors - and everything is running fine - with no major habitat damage. The Tangjiahe clean-up and repair means that work is underway on hotels and roads - but there's no great mess or inconvenience - but because of the development, at the time of writing, there’s no charge to enter the park. In Wanglang it’s very much business as usual – it’s difficult here to find mush evidence of last year’s disaster.

If you are traveling from Chengdu - with the present state of repair - continous driving, makes it about 8 hours to get to get to Wanglang - and 5 to Tangjiahe - there's about 4 hours, in parts very bumpy, drive between the reserves, which should be near halved when the road building is more complete. As with all road reports for this region - the situation is very "fluid" and jams or closed roads due to all sorts of circumstances can take place - but our experiences on this route are general indications that travel is getting much easier.

As for the birds well they seem to all in place - we missed the Rusty-throated Parrotbills at Tangjiahe - but that of course gives a lot of reason to go back!!!!! To get that Rusty Parrot – read my blog piece on Tangjiahe – the Wanglang article gives detail on where to find Snowy-cheeked Laughers.

To see those blog articles go -http://www.birdforum.net/blog.php?b=2087
http://www.birdforum.net/blog.php?b=2101

Here are a couple of pics of Wanglang, Tangjiahe habitat - the little guy in the last pic is our nephew - he wasn't too scared of Takin or a Tiger Keelback Snake that slithered past - but two Leeches on my leg near freaked him out

Ohhh and before I forget - he took that Wanlang pic - so before he beats me up I better credit him - Picture by Tong Tong
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Old Sunday 23rd August 2009, 10:11   #2
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Another enjoyable reading. I am following your blog and am tempted to come looking for that Parrotbill and (keep it quiet) Blackthroat :-)

Kind regards from an ex-birdingpal,
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Old Sunday 23rd August 2009, 11:58   #3
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Hi Temmie - think those Blackthroat would be tough going - we passed Baihe, a famous Blackthroat location this June - that's a place you could look.
If you are up in N Sichuan then think of trying to make a famous triple - Rufous-headed Robin - that's at Jiuzhaigou and apparently they've just opened up some new areas - but where and what they will yield in birds????????????????

You best start collecting your calls
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Old Tuesday 25th August 2009, 13:02   #4
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Our day at Moxi

Well thanks to the technological wonders of wireless communication and our laptop - we can add to this thread while out in the wilds of Sichuan.
Well Moxi ain't exactly in the wilds - but it is a pretty impressive location nestling under the massive 7,000m Mt. Gongga.
We've been out climbing some of the rises on the high pass before you come into the Kangding area - which is hard going since we're walking some pretty steep areas close to 4,000m.
A lovely day - we're both well sunburnt - the habitat of Rhodedenron and stunted mountain scrub was full of Warblers - nearly all Buff-barred and Tickell's.
Best birds we saw were White-browed Tit Warbler and Chinese Fulvetta. Only Chickens in sight were Blood Pheasant - two very large flocks - in the first there must have been about 50 birds - lots of year birds.
Other stuff - White-browed Rosefinch, Songar Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Upland Buzzard, Elliot's Laugher, Blue-fronted Redstarts, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Rosy Pipit - driving back into town White-throated Needletails were buzzing down the river valley and a Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon flew over.

I've put up some of today's pics - Buff-barred Warbler,resplendent with buff-bar, which in the field are even easier to ID with their white-outer tail feathers - female White-browed Rosefinch which is a sinch, for a female Rosefinch, with that rufous patch around the upper rump (not to mention being able to heare this species a mile off with their - "goat" call) - and one of the daddy Blood Chickens!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old Tuesday 25th August 2009, 16:29   #5
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china guy,
Good report and fantastic photos!
Thanks,
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Old Wednesday 26th August 2009, 00:30   #6
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Haven't had a chance to say yet how glad I am that you've decided to start another China thread! This looks great.

The rosefinch looks quite a lot like an American house finch female! I haven't really looked at rosefinches much except a glance in books, but I can see the red rump which is different - helpful pic.

Lots of your birds are another world from what we have up here - the blood pheasant is striking. The buff-barred picture is great - kudos to Meggie!
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Old Wednesday 26th August 2009, 10:23   #7
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The 'Blood-Chickens' fantastic! Must visit, there's a certain Rufous-headed Robin I'd love to get to grips with..
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Old Wednesday 26th August 2009, 22:29   #8
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Thanks for nice words. As for Moxi and the Kangding area - the birding is great here - but every year a little more of this habitat is eroded away - so one of the ways of attempting to give more impetus to conservation measures is to advertise these kind of areas to the travellng birder - and hope that more international attention will stir local pride into initiating new protection schemes.
Yesterdays birding was also pretty good - we meant to go high but overnight thunder storms and grey skies made us decide that today was to be "low" birding - 2 to 3000m

Good results and easy roadside, "no entrance ticket" birding gave - both Brown and Great Parrotbill, the first spectacular flocks of Minivet - Short-billed, hard to see Golden-bush Robins in the upper bamboo, lots of Dark-sided and a couple of juv. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, migrating Stonechats, Coal, Grey-crested and Songar Tit, Large-billed, Greenish and Buff-barred in the identifiable Leaf Warbler section,Elliot's and a briefly seen Black-faced Laugher, Chinese Babax (these are low at the end of the farmed section where it turns into scrub), White-browed, and Grey-hooded (or whatever they are now calling F. cinereiceps) Fulvetta, White-collared and Stripe-throated Yuhina, flocking Oriental Tree Pipits, Nutcrackers, a couple of Darjeeling Woody a light colored Oriental Honey Buzzard - but our most interesting bird, one I've only glimpsed before - but was able to call in a small flock today (about 4 birds) - Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker.

And yesterday's Chickens - well I'm afraid only Chicken poo (looks a little like high-fibre bran type morning cereal - sure with a bit of imaginative marketing.....) - but I'm sure its from big Blood Pheasant flocks which leave their mark, and where we found it was little too high for the Lady A's that are quite common around here.

And Rockfowl - that Rufous-headed Robin - if in Jiuzhaigou - first step is to jump off the main path and head into the bush. Nowadays they have loads of security officers dressed in black-suites (look more like the mafia than park wardens) - so the whole operation would need good planning. Another alternative would be to try some birding exploration - there's a walking path all the way from Wanglang Reserve to Jiuzhaigou - bet that area leads into some pretty mouth-watering habitat - which makes me think of rediscovering Rusty-throated Parrot outside Tangjiahe - but I have no real idea whats on that trail!!!!!!!

Pics from yesterday - that Flowerpecker and an Inquisitive Great Parrotbill that looks like its changing tail feathers.
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Old Thursday 27th August 2009, 22:03   #9
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Yesterday was our last birding day here at Moxi - the weekend and its extra visitors is drawing near - so time to beat a retreat towards Chengdu.
We did high yesterday - and although we had a lot of mist and slight touch of rain - we made a long hike into an area of mountain that took us around the 4300m mark.
being weather challanged - best birds we got today were brief glimpses of White-browed Tit Warbler and Chinese Fulvetta, one Juv. Himalayan Rubythroat and a pair of Wallcreeper.
There are also animals - and Meggie went in pursuit of a Hog Badger we saw skukling around between big rocks and patches of Rhody-scrub - and amazingly she managed a face-on photo.
The other pics are a male White-browed Rosefinch to match up with the female from the other post - that white patch - on the neck, where the brow line ends - is a dead give-away, and one of the Wallcreepers - that so often can be found in the vicinity of sandy outcrops (or in this case a sand quarry).
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Old Friday 28th August 2009, 00:04   #10
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Wow, beautiful pictures! Never heard of the hog-badger - well named!
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Old Friday 28th August 2009, 03:03   #11
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Very cool thread and the pics are making me yearn for a trip to Sichuan- that forest looks incredible. Sounds like the Flowerpecker is more common much further south(?)- saw at least a few of those in northern Thailand. The Hog Badger looks like a pig X Virginia Opossum!
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Old Saturday 29th August 2009, 01:42   #12
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We're home again - but on the trip back we took the chance to walk part of the Old Erlang Road. Nowadays the 4 km long Erlang Tunnel takes you through Erlang Mountain - which also involves passing through a climate frontier - the Chengdu side being Sichuan Basin, while the Kangding side takes you into Plateau weather. More often than not the weather is totally different on the two sides - and yesterday we had wet entering from the west and sunny blue skies when emerging on Chengdu side (a surprise since the weather is usually better on the Kangding side).
The Old Erlang road was the old route - and nowadays its just a track being kept in barely drivable order for emergency sakes. There's some great habitat in this area - the sub-tropical broad leafed forest merging into sub-alpine pines - with grassland on the mountain tops. We birded around the broad-leafed sections and came up with some nice birds - and pictures.
Best birds of the day have all been captured - it's a good place for Pere David's Tit (Rusty-breasted), Spotted Laughers are everywhere - but getting them out can be a challenge - in the end after playing a full repertoire of calls (including their own) - they seemed most curious listening to a highly amplified flock of Fulvettas - but would only show when I started to phish!!!!
We were pleased with that Darjeeling woody pic - that breast striping and the "tobacco stain" hue of this bird makes it easy. And the Tragopan - there's a lot of them about on this track - but I'm sure we get to walk past most of them perched up in the branches of their lovely mess of tangled moss covered woodland. Maybe one of the best ways of getting a look is to peer up into all the "viewing holes" - that's how Meggie got that nice - no flash - chicken pic. Just waiting for the day when that incredible male bird decides to pose - just like Lady A Pheasant, the males always seem to show up when the camera isn't primed for action.

By the way - this place is good for Red Panda - is on the edge of Giant Panda country - and needs no ticket.
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Old Saturday 29th August 2009, 07:35   #13
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Beautiful birds and red pandas (my favorite to boot) too! I like the tit and woodpecker very much - amazing the varieties in these families.
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Old Sunday 30th August 2009, 01:27   #14
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Red pandas are great - we saw our first wild Red Panda very close to that Erlang track - in the Laba He Forest Park that's just 40 minutes down the road.

Its always nice to see animals in China - so I'll put up some more pics of that Hog Badger, which seems to have created so much interest - with one that depicts a typical sighting, a tail shot as it scampres off. Also a pic of the misty mountain top where we found them.
Wikipedia says this is an animal of sub-tropical forest - not much sub-tropical on that mountain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old Monday 31st August 2009, 04:25   #15
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Digital photography has certainly revolutionised birding - especially in an area like ours where printed ID reference material is scarce and patchy.
Here are three birds that the camera has helped us get 100% ID - of course with the help of our digital birding bible - the OBC images site.

The first bird up is the juv. Himalayan Rubythroat - that insert gives the defining ID'ing characteristic - white corner patches to the tail. That bird was seen on the 27th at 4000m on the high pass between Moxi/Kangding.

Second is a rather non-descript female Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - with a lot of bird action going on its nice being able to put LBJ's like this onto the card - to check against the OBC pics. This bird is from the old Erlang Road - we walked on the 28th.

The last - Streaked Rosefinch - well, with all our Hog Badgers and other birds, I clean forgot about this until yesterday - but there it is - out of 6 shots that Meggie was able to take during a very brief encounter - we got one that gives a reasonable view of this bird - which is a first for Birdforum. The clinching factor on the ID. - over the very similar Great Rosefinch are those streaks on the back - something that's rather obvious from the pic. From the 27th - about an hour before we got the Rubythroat.
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Old Monday 31st August 2009, 06:33   #16
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Cracking pictures yet again Meggie.

Love the Hog Badgers, for some reason I never thought of China as having Badgers. That Rosefinch is pretty and I think it knows it from the way it is posing.

Can I just check that you are using this instead of the blog on here [just so I can mark it up to subscribe to] I think it is a good idea in here as not everyone bothers with the blogs and are more likely to use this for reference when checking out China.

Talking about reference there is a Book site based in the UK that actually does free delivery to China! We have used them quite a few times and cannot fault them.
http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ you may be able to find a book on there that may be of help. Hopefully it is not a censored site.
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Old Monday 31st August 2009, 07:12   #17
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I'm not finished with the blogs - I've got one half finshed - should be up today - but its also fun to get out smaller snippets of Sichuan birding info through this thread. There's so much birding to be done here - and so little info from those who actually live in Sichuan - so we thought we'd up our tempo and start writing more.
We need more birders out here - spending their pennies in the local community - which evetually may grow into a business that could convince some that there's a potential economic value to conservation.
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Old Tuesday 1st September 2009, 14:14   #18
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Exclamation Moxi - Some Excellent Birding Valleys

Hi Everybody,

Moxi does not only offer the two well known but commercialized valleys of Hailuo Gou and Yanzi Gou. Another valley just between those two long impressing valleys is the Mozi Valley, easily accessible on foot, directly from Moxi Town. I did some birding here this spring and was amazed about the number of birds only around the valley entrance. About 30 species including Ashy throated Parrotbill, Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Ashy Drongo, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Tiger Shrike and many more. It is an ideal option for birders who arrived in the afternoon – too late for any longer birding trip – but still want to do a couple of hours of bird watching. Significantly the valley also gives the option for a whole day of birding and maybe even longer: You can reach the glacier region within a few hours without steep hiking. However, you have to first climb across a quarry after about 3 km walking…
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Old Tuesday 1st September 2009, 15:43   #19
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Cheers R - great to see you in the thread - can you put your pic of Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon onto your next post - that was a nice photo of a bird we usualy just catch flying across the road!!!!!!!!!!!
We did our spring Moxi trip just a week before you, but weren't lucky enough to get any Lady A - but we did get these - Spot-breasted Parrotbill and Black-capped Kingfisher.
PS - I've just put a new entry on the blog that gives more general info on visiting this area
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Old Wednesday 2nd September 2009, 05:28   #20
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two images

Here are two images of birds I have taken just at the Mozi Valley entrance this May. The Green Pigeon was skulking on a branch quite far above us. I had to use digital zoom, that's why the images lacks of clearness.
The Yellow-thoated Bunting was too busy with building its nest to take notice of us. And, due to its distinctive call is not possible to miss it.
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Old Friday 4th September 2009, 05:57   #21
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Well we're just between trips at the moment - I have a new birder coming on the 8th - so have a few mornings to check out the rice-paddies that lie just across from where I live.
The harvest is on - at the moment it's about 50% complete (at least on our local patch). Last night we had a lot of rain - so this morning was misty, which together with the harvest colors, made for nice landscape photography - but didn't do much for birding pics.

Although the big migration push hasn't stated - there were Common and Swintail Snipes - and we had the usual gang of Painted Snipe (there were 6 of then this morning). I saw a single White-breasted Waterhen chick slip into cover, which means, for some species, that the breeding season isn't quite over, and the noises of Zitting Cisticola perculated out of the ranks of rice-stalks. Latter on we'll be getting many Wagtails, Pipits and Buntings passing through this little area - but most interesting today were smart looking Amur (White) Wagtails - M a leucopsis.
Last autumn we also had Von Schernck's Bittern - but this morning we just got our usual mix of Chinese Pond and Little Egret together with a single imm. Black-crowned Night Heron.

The pics show a female Amur Wagtail from a couple of weeks back - a male Chestnut-eared Bunting, we caught this spring, which is a regular passage visitor to the paddies - and how those paddies looked very early this morning.
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Old Friday 4th September 2009, 16:45   #22
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Wonderful photos again Meggie. Good to see the rice paddies...I am one of those that hate the taste of savoury rice but love a rice pudding [minus nutmeg]

Hope your birding goes well.
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Old Saturday 5th September 2009, 03:42   #23
china guy
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Thanks marmot - just for you I decided to forgo an extra piece of toast - and touch advantage of Meggie's snoring and sneaked out with her camera and lens.
I'm afraid the harvesters were out early this morning - but because it was very wet they were cutting by hand, rather than letting the machines in. 30 mins was enough to get some half-decent pics of the bird, which proves that nature has also embraced woman's liberation and the effeminate male - Greater Painted Snipe
This is one of those 'role reversal" species - big brightly coloured female matching up to a small drabber hubby - who's given the tasks of incubation etc etc.
With this fate in mind - I was extra quiet when I crept back home - and made sure that the pics still had Meggie's credit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By the way the female are usually well outnumbered by males (those girls live up to their rep - and have their toy-boyz hanging about) - but I got a shot of one flying - two of the pics are male. The flying pic of the male - and most of the time you just see this bird flying - shows well one of the major field characteristics - the trailing feet.
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Last edited by china guy : Saturday 5th September 2009 at 03:44.
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Old Sunday 6th September 2009, 01:00   #24
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I like the shot of the female in flight - In HK I see them much more on the ground and with my dodgyscoping set-up would never even dream of trying to photograph one in the air!

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 6th September 2009, 03:19   #25
china guy
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Now we've got the new EF f4 300 - the flight pics get a bit easier - problem is that this lens gives such an improvement to our picture quality - we want to retake so many old shots (well actually that's quite a lot to look forward to).

As for dodgy telescope set-ups - I'm still using a Chinese job - something going under the deviously misleading brand-name of Nikula (pretty sure they want naive brains to associate this piece of cheap glass with a far more expensive Japanese brand). Anyways it works ok - but that's a piece of equipment that will be slated for an upgrade - especially if I want to do some decent dodgy-digiscoping after this winter's Baer's Pochard.

Today I put down a pic on Opus of Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler - one of the Scimitars that have been split of from the Spot-breasted complex.
Normally these are pure terrors to see - but I've uploaded a couple of my calls (I've labeled them Spot-breasted, but they're Black-streaked - I made them in Sichuan) - they work wonders. For all its invisible habits this is a pretty common bird - the semi-natural parkland at the base of Emei is an easy place for it - and an area that many birders pass through during their Sichuan circuit.
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