PDA

View Full Version : Sichuan Birding


Pages : [1] 2 3 4 5

china guy
Sunday 23rd August 2009, 08:35
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:-O

Ohhh and before I forget - he took that Wanlang pic - so before he beats me up I better credit him - Picture by Tong Tong

temmie
Sunday 23rd August 2009, 10:11
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,
Lieven

china guy
Sunday 23rd August 2009, 11:58
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 :t:

china guy
Tuesday 25th August 2009, 13:02
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!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave B Smith
Tuesday 25th August 2009, 16:29
china guy,
Good report and fantastic photos!
Thanks,

Gretchen
Wednesday 26th August 2009, 00:30
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!

rockfowl
Wednesday 26th August 2009, 10:23
The 'Blood-Chickens' fantastic! Must visit, there's a certain Rufous-headed Robin I'd love to get to grips with..

china guy
Wednesday 26th August 2009, 22:29
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.

china guy
Thursday 27th August 2009, 22:03
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).

Gretchen
Friday 28th August 2009, 00:04
Wow, beautiful pictures! Never heard of the hog-badger - well named!

Birdingcraft
Friday 28th August 2009, 03:03
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!

china guy
Saturday 29th August 2009, 01:42
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.

Gretchen
Saturday 29th August 2009, 07:35
Beautiful birds and red pandas (my favorite to boot) too! I like the tit and woodpecker very much - amazing the varieties in these families.

china guy
Sunday 30th August 2009, 01:27
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

china guy
Monday 31st August 2009, 04:25
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.

Marmot
Monday 31st August 2009, 06:33
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.

china guy
Monday 31st August 2009, 07:12
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.

sichuan jiujiu
Tuesday 1st September 2009, 14:14
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…

china guy
Tuesday 1st September 2009, 15:43
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

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 2nd September 2009, 05:28
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.

china guy
Friday 4th September 2009, 05:57
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.

Marmot
Friday 4th September 2009, 16:45
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.

china guy
Saturday 5th September 2009, 03:42
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.

MKinHK
Sunday 6th September 2009, 01:00
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

china guy
Sunday 6th September 2009, 03:19
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.

IanF
Sunday 6th September 2009, 07:13
Another great find and capture. Added to Opus :t:

Gretchen
Sunday 6th September 2009, 13:33
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...


Very nice pics. Nice to hear too that the snipes are coexisting with the local farming reasonably well it seems.

(I still need to find a snipe on my own ;) so far just saw the ones others pointed out... I think I did see a black-capped kingfisher last week - but a bit distant and not 100% sure about it, so will try again before too long.)

china guy
Sunday 6th September 2009, 14:21
Birds still seem to be surviving - but cultivation 'advances' within Chinese agriculture means that any birds breeding in the rice will have shorter periods to nest and nurture their young to the stage of flight and independence - a fact that was made evident with the first bird I saw that morning - a White-breasted Waterhen Chick.
There is also greater mechanisation - which means that fields become bigger and there are less ditches for birds like Rails and Bitterns to hide and feed once the cover of rice plants has gone (Cinnamon Bittern now seldom seen in these paddies must have once been common in this area – like wise Ruddy-breasted Crake and Watercock are hard to find).
Birds like the Common and Swintail Snipe are on passage while the Painted Snipe seem to breed locally but use the paddies as post-breeding feeding areas - where they form small flocks.
It would be wonderful if some Chinese Ornithologists could study the effect that the changes caused by modern Chinese agricultural development is having on the ecology of the typical Sichuan countryside – maybe giving a foundation for local nature reserves around Chengdu.
After all this is the landscape and nature that has inspired so much Chinese culture - but all resources go to the Panda - when in times of old that animal was only noted for the medicinal properties of its urine and hair (but please don’t think me ungrateful - conservation of the Sichuan Panda Zone gives us so much great birding habitat)!!!!!!
Yeah it'd be great if something also went into protecting the commoner flora and fauna of normal rural China – before some of that also becomes threatened with extinction.

Here's a pic from when rice had just been planted - another passage species to these paddies - Grey-headed Lapwing - it'll be going up your way Gretchen

Gretchen
Monday 7th September 2009, 00:25
... which means that fields become bigger and there are less ditches for birds like Rails and Bitterns to hide and feed once the cover of rice plants has gone

Yes, of course the situation is complicated, and I guess this is happening with cultivation everywhere - but in richer countries, people can "afford" to leave margins, if they think of it... so much harder where people feel unsure about the future.

It would be wonderful if some Chinese Ornithologists could study the effect that the changes caused by modern Chinese agricultural development is having on the ecology of the typical Sichuan countryside – maybe giving a foundation for local nature reserves around Chengdu.

Great idea - as you say there are wonderful riches which would be so sad to lose there. Even in the US, people are just beginning to really attend to the effects of agricultural practices on birds - life is so complex...

Here's a pic from when rice had just been planted - another passage species to these paddies - Grey-headed Lapwing - it'll be going up your way Gretchen
Thanks, it looks like maybe this is just the right time for them to be through - I have never seen one. There are not so many fields around us as there used to be (next step up in "development"), but I should try to find some, as they appear to be better for bird viewing than I thought!

china guy
Monday 7th September 2009, 11:43
Here's a pic from today's hand harvesting - that must be back-breaking work - you can't blame these guys for wanting to get a mechanical harvester in there (the rice harvesters run on caterpillar tracks) - just wish somehow we could compensate for the loss of habitat quality that must come with mechanisation - like the protection of smaller wetland sites that house such a rich ecology.
However I'm afraid we may have to look many years into the future before the concept of local nature reserves gets off the ground!!!!!

And good news today - a bit of cunning and playing around with HTLM script has allowed me to add new articles with pictures onto my Sichuan birds blogspot site (actually the first new article is just a copy of one of my birdforum blog articles) - you can see it here - sichuanbirds.blogspot.com/

But I'm afraid anyone trying to view it from China will still get a page error - you have to read it through a proxy.

However today is the end of our little work pause, so I haven't got too much time to play around with blogspot - we're due off tomorrow on a trip, the first of a series of jobs that keep us busy until mid-October!!!!!
If we get anything real interesting we'll try to get it down here - just as long as our wireless connection can get through.

Gretchen
Monday 7th September 2009, 12:04
Re: your picture - Yes, really hard work!

Good news for me is that I have a path around the Wall too - so I'm happy to see yours and several other blogs again :king: Glad to hear you're figuring out ways to make it work for you. Perhaps in a month or two things will change... ideally Chinese readers can read about all you guys are finding in Sichuan (or maybe you post somewhere else in Chinese?)

Good travels to you both!

MKinHK
Tuesday 8th September 2009, 01:19
Wow - a month of birding in September/October - sounds fantastic!

Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Friday 11th September 2009, 15:26
We're out at the moment - and have just come down from a quick trip onto the plateau at Tagong. The weather has been horribly hot for this time of year - and the road construction out this way - as ever - is a major pain. But we've still sen interesting birds - 20+ White-eared Pheasant in 2 large flocks on Zhedoushan - and a couple of Ibisbill at Tagong.

I've put down pics of one of the Ibisbill (just caught a fish) and a Himalayan Griffon.

Marmot
Friday 11th September 2009, 17:30
Super catch by the pair of you on the Ibisbill.

Can you send a bit of the heat over here its a bit nippy at the moment.

Hope you enjoy yourself on your travels

china guy
Monday 21st September 2009, 14:11
We're still off on Autumn trips and today we got a quality bird - Streaked Barwing.
We get this bird on the Tianquan side of the Old Erlang Road (which is now a track) - we've seen it a couple of times at this location - but this morning was the first time we could show it to one of our guests.
We managed to get a couple of half-decent pics - both of which show how this family got their name.

temmie
Monday 21st September 2009, 14:37
I haven't replied to your PM yet, but I'll definitely keep it in mind! Good word on the Barwing, it's high on my 'most wanted' China birds! :thumbs::t:

Gretchen
Monday 21st September 2009, 15:17
We're still off on Autumn trips and today we got a quality bird - Streaked Barwing... We managed to get a couple of half-decent pics - both of which show how this family got their name.

Very handsome bird! and very pleasing to get it with others! Hope many other good birds are turning up.

Gretchen

china guy
Wednesday 23rd September 2009, 15:35
Temmie - I'm sure staking out the start of the old Erlang road would produce a Barwing or two - another site I've seen this bird is just a km or so up the road at the carpark before the entrance to the Erlang Tunnel - iat the edge of the forest, right behind the public toilets!!!!!!

Gretchen the birding has been tough but we've seen a few good birds - today's highlight was a Black-faced warbler - around the hotel area, lower cable-car station at Wawu - a single bird was bouncing about at tree-top height - two of us got pretty good looks - but we couldn't get pics.

Birds we have pics of - Spotted Forktail from Bifengxia (yesterday - we got all 4 Sichuan Forktails within a half hour of getting to the bottom of the gorge) - and Three-toed Parrotbill and Rusty Laugher from today's Wawu birding.

MKinHK
Thursday 24th September 2009, 14:23
Some great birds - Are there still Streaked Barwings on Emei?

Cheers

Mike

china guy
Friday 25th September 2009, 10:49
Hi Mike - Meggie follows the Chinese threads - and although one of the Sichuan birders put up a great single pic of Streaked Barwing (without giving a location - we presume its from Sichuan and not Yunnan) - no recent Emei sightings have come to our notice.

This of course can be due to the crazy prices that you have to pay for an Emei entrance ticket - 150RMB for 2 days access - and the fact that the main paths are so spoiled by crowds of noisy local tourists (those of you living in other parts of the world - you don't know what the noisy tourist is until you come to China). But on the road, up to Golden Summit, you go through a lot of great habitat that seems it could hold Barwing - but we only go through here with paying guests, that rather limits our time and ability to explore some of the more interesting looking tracks. Also the 150RMB ticket rather puts off doing more exploration in these areas on our own - we've already got our 'away from the tourist crowd' Emei tracks - where we pick up our Minlas, Warblers, Red-winged Laughers etc etc. I'm sure some of these locations also are possible Barwing habitat - but we haven't got to see any.

There's are also alternative Emei birding locations outside the ticketed area - you just have to follow farmer/forestry trails. Hopefully we'll have time to explore more of these routes - but Sichuan is darn big - and our list of places to check out is pretty long!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've just been checking the cards from the last trips - there was another good Barwing pic. We got the bird after stopping to look at a flock of Great Barbets - a lucky stop - as usual Meggie got the bird before us others had laid eyes on it.

Another bird she got was Chesnut-headed Tesia - she told us she'd found an adult - which we doubted a little after not being able to locate it again. So off she went and pished in an imm. bird - and that funny pic of unmistakable Tesia legs put the matter to rest

PS - the habitat pic is the old Erlang Road - where we got the Barwing

rockfowl
Friday 25th September 2009, 17:38
Magic moments CG.

Look forward to more soon!

china guy
Saturday 26th September 2009, 05:50
There was a small element of magic that day - when Meggie went to buy our breakfast she accidentally walked into a belt of firecrackers that were just about to go off. To unknowingly step into exploding fireworks doesn't seem a wise thing to do - but everybody watching said that it was sign of good luck!!!! Amazingly, from that moment on our birding went up a gear - even when we filled up with petrol - we found a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler perched up in the support girders of roof over the pumps. Hardly a rare bird - but not one you expect to find in a petrol station!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After that - what more could we expect than the Barwing?

I was also looking through our pics of Emei - we have been very lazy in taking good habitat pics - but there are a couple of shots showing what typical Emei offers - never ending stone staircases - which are often packed, especially during weekends and peak holiday periods, with teeming crowds - often going around in big package groups.
But its not too difficult - if you know your way around - to by-pass the masses. The trick being to find those small mud-tracks used by the locals. Thinking about a couple of these tracks we've not fully explored ( outside the ticketed zone) - and the winter period when the Emei bird flocks can be very interesting - gives inspiration for some winter birding out this way - if time permits!!!!!!

Also put in some of Emei bird shots - Blue-winged Minla, Maroon-backed Accentor and what we've called Alstroms Warbler (very distinctive grey crown and no white on outer tail feathers - plain-tailed).

Tomorrow were off for 2 weeks on more birding tasks (this time we're carrying out a bird survey and won't be visiting any recognised birding hotspots) - but we'll keep you posted if anything interesting turns up.

china guy
Thursday 8th October 2009, 02:22
Well we're still out on our survey - nothing earth shattering - but we had a couple of good days with raptor counts (pics on the Q/A forum - where I try to mutate a Oriental Honey Buzzard into a Juv Bonelli's Eagle). The rest of the birding has been quiet.

Yesterday we got a couple of harder to see birds - both of which can be easily confused with a common species - Grey-cheeked Fulvetta.

First is Dusky Fulvetta - we got three birds in a large flock of GC Fulvetta - you have to look hard, since the way these birds skulk around, a quick glance often isn't enough to register the differences between the species. The pic shows well that that Dusky lacks the white eye-ring of our Sichuan Grey-cheeked - and has a distinct but not very easy to see crown pattern. Those orangey-flesh colored legs are also a bit of a give-away.

the second is Green Shrike a Babbler - a bad pic, but its of yesterday's birds and illustrates well how you see these birds in the field. Our Sichuan birds have that grey breast and a large white eye ring. Usually very-active these birds can be difficult to focus on and its that white eye-ring that draws most attention. Since this bird can also join mixed flocks, is about the same size, and has similar plumage color to Grey-cheeked Fulvetta - then again a cursory glance is often not enough. What strikes you most with our Sichuan version of Green shrike Babbler is how distinct that eye-ring is - far bolder than the GC Fulvetta. Field guide pics - especially in the the MacK China field-guide - are next to useless for identifying this bird.

That third pic is of Grey-cheeked Fulvetta - a seen everywhere bird as soon as you start to hit any forest/small plantation/ dense tall scrub - over the 500m mark. That's a typical Sichuan bird with a faint but noticeable white eye-ring.

Gretchen
Thursday 8th October 2009, 05:33
Hmm this could be a bird quiz (at least for beginners). Helpful comparisons. I take it that the two fulvettas have similar beaks, just look different here because of the angle. Do I see that the Dusky has a lateral coronal black stripe (whereas your Sichuan version of GC doesn't)? That looks like it could be a good field mark too? Or maybe doesn't show that well as the eye ring?

I see that the Green shrike babbler doesn't look like the illustrations in either MacK or Brazil! Yours seems to have such a dark throat (or that's the shadow?). By the way, it almost looks as though you had been pishing at it or was there something else making it look so alert?

Sounds like things are going well! Enjoying your reports...

china guy
Thursday 8th October 2009, 23:07
Hi Gretchen - the Dusky and GC Fulvettas have a similar shape and the same kind of bills. Those black stripes on the crown of the Dusky aren't that easy to pick up in the field - especially if the bird is skulking in a shady bush - white eye-rings and the lack of them are far more obvious feature in our Sichuan birds. But features with both these Fulvetta species change in different races found in other parts of China - I can see that some ssp. of Dusky have far more color contrast with regard to colouring on cheeks and crown than we have with our rather drab Sichuan version of this bird.
I must admit that this bird is so drab and inconspicuous that we only picked it up this year - realising it was a Sichuan bird we had missed - and that was after reading a Sichuan birding report here on Birdforum.

As far as the Green Shrike Babbler goes - take a look at them in OBC - you can see other races don't have that white eye-ring - but they still don't look like the Mack pic. Brazil has a better shape with his pic - but yes some our birds have grey breasts that make them look even more like GC Fulvetta. GSB also has dark wings with some specks of white - another pointer for making a snap ID under field conditions. And yes you are correct - that bird is coming onto us - through pishing and calls.

Both the Fulvettas will come to pishing.

Yesterday was a travel day to a new location - but we got a group of White-throated Needletail streaking overhead. These really are the supersonic jet-fighters of the bird world - their mastery of the air is quite awesome.
The distant pic is one we took today - but the close-up we took during our recent Moxi Trip. When flying close it's deadly difficult to get a decent pic - and me and Meggie had a competition to see who could get the best - great fun - but the winning pic is hers. In fact Swift snapping is such good sport it should be considered for the next Olympics!!!!!!

rockfowl
Friday 9th October 2009, 12:28
Wow Sid,

Needletail's are one of my favourite birds! Well captured :clap: Very difficult indeed and totally agree, absolute 'jet-fighters' , did you hear them as well? a very audible 'wooshhh', magic!!

mcaribou
Tuesday 13th October 2009, 03:20
Hi china guy
saw the pics of barwing from Ben.And I love the tesia without head:)

china guy
Tuesday 13th October 2009, 10:16
Hi mcaribou - Ben brought us a lot of luck that day - and the Tesia were very unexpected. I've got more pics to send to Ben, but they're at home - and we're still out in NE Sichuan.

Mark - I can really understand why Needletails rank as favorites. That Needletail "whoosh" experience is special - especially if the bird bounces you from behind and the sound hits you before you see it streak past.
For newbies out here - Needletails are big swifts - but you need to see them in company of other swifts before you fully appreciate their size - and remember even in big mixed swift flocks flying at different heights the high flying Needletails can look the same size as lower flying smaller species such as Pacific Swift.

We've had bad internet reception during the last couple of days - but a cold front has moved in - and visible BOP passage has just about dried up. However we're still getting birds - and we're pleased to be seeing Grey-faced Buzzard. This bird is a resident in this area - we also see it during the summer - when we get adult and Juv. birds. The question being is this resident population breeding or non-breeding - and if it breeds - where? Locals talk about a small brown Eagle that likes to look at baby chicks - that builds a nest in trees high up in the mountains - but this could also be Crested Goshawk. Folk in Taiwan who are studying GFB suspect that the bird could be expanding its range - so maybe with the forestation projects in NE Sichuan providing lots of conifer sites - we also have breeding population here.

Other stuff found on this trip that are not usually part of a Sichuan list are - Bull-headed Shrike and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush.

Pics of an adult GFB from a couple of days back and the Necklaced Laugher

Marmot
Sunday 18th October 2009, 11:56
Just to wish you a very Happy Birthday today....will be getting to mine in abot 6 months time.

Not been around BF much over past few weeks as went on holiday and ended up in Hospital.

Great to see the photos of what you have ben seeing around.

Gretchen
Monday 19th October 2009, 12:57
Meant to comment and forgot. I like the Necklaced Laugher (have seen a relative - Lesser Necklaced - in Thailand). Wish we had laughing thrushes up here (they remind me a little of American Blue Jays for some odd reason) - though I see there's one possibly in range occasionally (Pere's David/Plain)...

Great to hear that GFB could be expanding. Hope your detective work on that and other birds continues to produce useful info.

Hope all goes well if you're still out in the wilds. It's gotten cool here...

MKinHK
Tuesday 20th October 2009, 06:12
Hi Gretchen

Plain Laughingthrush is a hillside/scrubland bird. I seem to remember seeing it at Shanhaiguan back in 1990, when I climbed up to watch for raptor passage.

Cheers
Mike

rockfowl
Wednesday 21st October 2009, 09:57
Hi Gretchen

Plain Laughingthrush is a hillside/scrubland bird. I seem to remember seeing it at Shanhaiguan back in 1990, when I climbed up to watch for raptor passage.

Cheers
Mike

Yep still there Mike/Gretchen, best area seems to be the small valley and the ornamental gardens at the bottom behind the stalls selling tourist tat. They've been nesting in this area for the last few years. The area to the right above the top of the chairlift is also very good, where you can visit the original wall. They do occasionally pop up in Beidaihe and I would think, in a hard winter they'll move to lower levels and could turn up anywhere, bit like the Chinese Hill Warbler in the central reservation at sandflats bridge this year, madness!

Gretchen, there is a fairly large group of Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush that hang around in the valley next to the aviary on Lotus Hills. Nobody knows where they came from, they haven't escaped from the aviary but evidently attracted by all the noise and food have settled well. I think they must be now breeding as the numbers have increased steadily in the last few years. We don't count them but they are always entertaining to see.

Additionally, there is a group of Masked laughingthrush around Beidaihe, often seen in the more vegetated areas of the Dongshan and Friendship Hotels.

Sichuan however would take some beating!

Gretchen
Thursday 22nd October 2009, 00:41
Thanks Mark and Mike! I do stand a much better chance if looking in the right place! My husband and I have been remarking how long its been since we've been to Jiao Shan (Corner Mountain) - at the Great Wall close to Shanhaiguan (I assume that's where you meant Mark), but a friend just went and so we have a bit more idea about what things are like there now.

Also very interesting to hear about the Greater Necklaced and Masked LTs as well. I've heard some interesting sounds from the area of the aviary, I'll have to check out if that was the laughing thrushes' call. I don't know Mark if you saw the aviary in its heyday, but it seems quite possible to me that they might have had laughing thrushes there - though I only have vague recollections of what was there, with me knowing little about birds and them having few labels. Anyway, lots of good info - thanks.


bit like the Chinese Hill Warbler in the central reservation at sandflats bridge this year, madness!

Was this on the spring trip? What is the central reservation?


Sichuan however would take some beating!

I'm sure that's true! "Jia you" (keep it up) Sid and Meggie!

rockfowl
Thursday 22nd October 2009, 09:14
Thanks Mark and Mike! I do stand a much better chance if looking in the right place! My husband and I have been remarking how long its been since we've been to Jiao Shan (Corner Mountain) - at the Great Wall close to Shanhaiguan (I assume that's where you meant Mark), but a friend just went and so we have a bit more idea about what things are like there now.

Also very interesting to hear about the Greater Necklaced and Masked LTs as well. I've heard some interesting sounds from the area of the aviary, I'll have to check out if that was the laughing thrushes' call. I don't know Mark if you saw the aviary in its heyday, but it seems quite possible to me that they might have had laughing thrushes there - though I only have vague recollections of what was there, with me knowing little about birds and them having few labels. Anyway, lots of good info - thanks.



Was this on the spring trip? What is the central reservation?



I'm sure that's true! "Jia you" (keep it up) Sid and Meggie!

The central reservation is the bit between the crash barriers on the main road, you know, its about three meters wide with plastic flowers :eek!:

Apparently, the owner of the aviary had never had the Laughingthrush and in the decade or so I've been going, I'd never seen them there... who knows.

At Old Peak, the Monks have released lots of Silver and Arctic Fox hybrids because they thought it'd be good for tourists. They reckon that they won't hunt as they are still hand fed. Don't seem to be many pheasants up there anymore, hardly surprising! Strange things happen in China :smoke:

xiaoming
Thursday 22nd October 2009, 13:41
At Old Peak, the Monks have released lots of Silver and Arctic Fox hybrids because they thought it'd be good for tourists. They reckon that they won't hunt as they are still hand fed. Don't seem to be many pheasants up there anymore, hardly surprising! Strange things happen in China :smoke:

Release has become a problem in China. The Buddhist release everything they can buy. I ever saw released parrot in our garden. The strangest thing is after a Buddhist released some fish, you may see many fishers soon.

china guy
Friday 23rd October 2009, 16:35
Just been having a few hectic days getting all sorts of stuff done - which included a day at Bi Feng Xia Panda Center (near Ya'an - about 160 km west of Chengdu) - where, as we've already shown, the birding can be interesting.

Marmot - we hope you're feeling better - we also nearly had a hospital visit - Meggie slipped over in a hotel shower and came out looking like she'd gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. However all the damage was superficial - and luckily it all worked out fine

Release has become a problem in China. The Buddhist release everything they can buy. I ever saw released parrot in our garden. The strangest thing is after a Buddhist released some fish, you may see many fishers soon.
I've seen that with the fish - in the river just by our apartment - one lot of folk putting them in another lot catching them up again for the dinner table!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At Bi Feng Xia - there's been a Grey Laughingthrush reported on the Chinese forums. Normally this is a bird for the very south of Sichuan - so I'm wondering if this is single bird whether this can also be a release - or an escape from the zoo that also lies in the gorge. In the posts there's no mention to how many birds there are - during our last two trips we haven't been able to find it or them!!!!!!!!!!

As for Plain Laughinthrush - that's another bird that's not very well captured in the MacK plates - but then again it's a difficult bird to illustrate, since on first sight it don't look the typical Laugher.
I've included a pic of one from our Plain Laugher hotspot - Northern Sichuan around Rou Er Gai and the JZ areas.

During this last trip again lots of Forktails - and a nice flock of Grey-headed Parrotbills. We always see this bird when we haven't got a camera handy - the most amazing sighting being in a built up area within Chengdu - a flock of about 30 were giving great views while they fed in a small park garden. But don't go expecting this as a regular Chengdu bird!!!!
Yesterday we actually got a pic of these Parrotbills - its pretty rubbish - but we finally nailed it onto a camera-card!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That Parrotbill flock was flying about with Black-headed Sibia - but our guests were more interested in other stuff hanging from the trees. No that's not a Panda RIP pic - its just one of the center's captive animals taking a nap. It was actually pretty high up - at least 30ft - there are some good trees in the area.

Gretchen
Sunday 25th October 2009, 13:01
As for Plain Laughingthrush - that's another bird that's not very well captured in the MacK plates - but then again it's a difficult bird to illustrate, since on first sight it don't look the typical Laugher.
I've included a pic of one from our Plain Laugher hotspot - Northern Sichuan around Rou Er Gai and the JZ areas.

... but our guests were more interested in other stuff hanging from the trees. No that's not a Panda RIP pic ...

Thanks, for the Plain LT picture. I have "upgraded" to Brazil, which looks to have a nicer illustration than MacK, but it does look a lot lighter in color than your pic -maybe local differences or just "optimal" lighting in the guide picture.

The panda picture is wonderful! Looks so relaxing, doesn't it?

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 26th October 2009, 05:45
My experience with the Plain Laughingthrush is that you get to see it quite easily from the distance: a row of bushes or just an overgrown old fence on the wide grassland (e.g. Zoige/Ruoergai) and you can be sure that it will be there. But it is not so easy to get a closer view or even a good picture of it, as it is quite shy and hides promptly, if there is something coming closer.


This weekend I have been to Mt. Tiantai. This mountain still belongs to the Chengdu municipal area but closely borders Bifengxia of Ya'an. It was developed into a tourist attraction about 10 years ago and has gained major importance since the earthquake last year, when the other mountain sites near Chengdu were closed down or not accessible.

Although it was weekend - what means that there were a lot of screaming Chengdu tourists with their honking cars - it was possible to get to some nice places where I found some great birds:
Black-chinned Yuhina tamely showed up three times in big flocks with up to 50 birds. They took a bath in the waterfall! In the lower part I saw a small flock of Hwamei, jumping in-between abandoned tea plants. And, two Scaly-breasted Wren-babblers were this weekend’s highlight, as I didn't expect to find them so close to the Sichuan Basin.
However, this time I only could make out one little Forktail, one of the four Forktails you usually can find on Mt Tiantai (little, slaty-backed, spotted and white-crowned).

Unfortunately it was cloudy throughout and sometimes raining, so I haven't had the chance to make any good picture which I could post now.

There still is one bird I couldn’t identify yet. It seems to be everywhere at the moment - I also saw it last week on the rolling hills of the beginning Qionglai Mountain Range west of Chongzhou (belongs to Chengdu):
It is moving in bigger flocks high underneath the canopy, is quite noisy and flicks around nervously. I couldn't get a good glimpse of it right now: against the sky and with their quick moving. From what I could see so far, it just looked pretty much like Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. But from call and behaviour that's hardly possible. Again, they were a little bit too big for Grey-cheeked Fulvettas. So I hope the next time I can get a half-decent picture of them in order to have something to post.

china guy
Monday 26th October 2009, 13:22
Those Scaly-breasted Wren Babblers are nice birds - I've had them in Yanzi-valley at Moxi - in the good old days when there was no ticket and you could hike into the area with a tent!!!!!!!
If they're about, they seem to be easier to see than the "Three blind mice bird" - Pygmy Wren Babbler - but our only pic of a Wren Babbler is PWB.
Usually these birds will be able to call 10cm from your nose - neee nuhh nahh (a slow version of three blind mice - but sometimes only two notes sometimes adding a fourth) from a dark crevice - and you just can't find them. However on one lucky day we got one to really respond to playback - coming right out and challenging our machine. The only drawback was that this all took place on Wawu Mountain during a real bad peasouper fog - so taking pics was pretty difficult.
By the way - If Chesnut-headed Tesia has the sexiest bird legs so Wren Babblers have the the most luscious feet - take a look at those monster claws in the pic.

Tiantai is just round the corner from Bi Feng Xia - its a very nice place - and those Black-chinned Yuhina are great birds. My pic is a Sept. bird from the area.
Another bird we've seen a lot flying about in flocks at Tiantai is Mountain Bulbul - they're already starting to flock at Bi Feng Xia - the pic is again from Sept. at Bi Feng Xia.

Gretchen
Wednesday 28th October 2009, 13:40
Interesting description of the pygmy wren babbler call (song?) - quite memorable!

Nice to see the Mountain Bulbul. Bulbuls are an entirely new family (since we have none in North America - oops correction: I see that red-whiskered are introduced into Florida), but I really am taken with the two species met - Red Whiskered and Light Vented. They seem so cheerful, and I love the chatty but melodic songs of the LVB who spend the whole winter here. Hoping to meet up with more of the family... perhaps these mountain ones at some point.

china guy
Friday 30th October 2009, 06:20
Bulbuls are pretty cool birds - for a North European, like myself, a taste of the exotic. The Bulbuls we meet in our part of Sichuan are the Light-vented (now commonly called Chinese Bulbul), Brown-breasted, Black, Collared Finchbill, Sooty-headed (that is if you go right down to the south of the province), Red-whiskered (they're at Emei, but I have to admit I've never seen them in Sichuan) and of course Mountain. I've put up a better pic of Mountain - one we took in the spring. Again the MacK plate isn't that hot for the Sichuan birds - since our birds have a light chin which can can look like a salt and pepper beard when its puffed up. They also have jazzy red eyes - but that isn't too obvious in the field.

We've finally finished a batch of work that's kept us at home - and now were free to get out birding.
This morning I took a look in the fields around our apartment.
The winter is moving in - some of our winter vistors - Sand Martins, Daurian Redstarts and Plumbeous Water Redstarts have already turned up.
One of the more interesting winter birds, which has also arrived, is - House Sparrow. We first got to see these last winter - we have have quite a winter population that keeps to the long grasses and scrub on the river bank. I reckon the the ssp. must be bactrianus - there's a population of these birds up around the high grasslands of Ruo Er Gai.
Other birds photographed today were an Aberrant Bush Warbler - that was easily located through its characteristic soft Churrr type call - and Chestnut-eared Bunting about to scoff a rice grain.

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 30th October 2009, 06:35
Really nice Picture of that Bulbul. I like this one with its beard. I also did some shots the past days, but the quality is worse. Light and camera only allow identification:

During the past three days I went to the ‘famous’ bird yard of the Sichuan University every morning. And I was quite lucky. The first day I already got a couple of birds which usually need a few days to spend in for example Aba Zhou (Ngawa) until you can find them: White-browed Bush-Robin, Orange-flanked Robin, White-tailed Robin and Chestnut-headed Tesia. Besides there were Blue whistling Thrush, Alstroem Warbler, Pallas’s Leaf warbler, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Fujian Niltava, Common Buzzard, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta and some more common birds.

Gretchen
Friday 30th October 2009, 11:50
Yes, a great view of your Mountain Bulbul - it's quite nice to see such dramatic angle and plumage next to a more ordinary picture of one as well. The little aberrant seems a bit tousled - a youngster? or just a little scruffy - still a handsome bird, just this one looks like a character. I'm happy to see your Chestnut Eared Bunting too, as I supposedly saw one earlier this year, but didn't actually get much of a view - this one looks pretty clearly marked. Now House Sparrows ... okay, they're a rare for you, but still ... Of course they do look a little more natural there on the grasses than they look on our sidewalks in the States.

Jiujiu - very interesting to hear that at the right time there's good birding at the University there. I do see some birds of interest (to me at least) on our campus - but not a collection like yours.

MKinHK
Sunday 1st November 2009, 13:04
Never thought I'd get excited about House Sparrow, but with bactrianus as a subspecies name and a terrific atmospheric photo . . . it seems anything is possible!

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Sunday 1st November 2009, 14:33
Of course there's a secret to identifying bactrianus from plain old domesticus domesticus - you count the humps!!!!!
But for the life of me I can't remember which should have one and which should have two!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually those sparrows look a lot different to Anything we call House Sparrow back home.

Gretchen
Sunday 1st November 2009, 23:22
Actually those sparrows look a lot different to Anything we call House Sparrow back home.

Ok, apart from the two humps, what are the relevant features? I can't see too much yet from the male on the grass - except perhaps a larger white cheek patch? (I'm not sure if our NA ones are the same as you have in Europe or not, either, should be?) I see there are no pics in OBC of the bactrianus....

It's interesting to hear these guys are pushing west - and I guess you are pretty far west of their traditional location (Afghanistan/Turkestan, via Wikipedia). Wonder how they get over the mountains....

china guy
Monday 2nd November 2009, 03:39
Hi Gretchen, here's about the best photo we've got of them - the first obvious point is they're much cleaner than the house sparrows we have back home in the UK - all the markings are far clearer - from the grey crown down to the finer patterning on the backs. And yes those cheeks appear whiter - and the black of the breast is different - more of it and bolder.
Habits and habitat choice are also special - these birds stick to grassy patches of scrub - we nearly always see them in long grasses on river banks. Unlike back-home,they don't associate themselves with buildings and human activity - Tree-sparrows hold that niche down here.

As for spread - well this bird could just be an over-looked locally occurring winter species down here - we never see birders at any of the places we find this bird.

The closest Sichuan breeding population is, very roughly, about 500km to the NW of us on the high grassland around Hongya - but then again there could well be other breeding places we know nothing about. Whether this really is the wonderfully named bactrianus is also speculation that's built on the theory that this is the sub-species found in Qinghai and we assume the same ssp will breed on the northern grasslands of Sichuan.
There are also birds to the west of us in Tibet - but apparently they winter in Northern India.

All in all this bird could have a good future in Sichuan - it's not likely to sing if put in a cage, doesn't carry too much meat, not known for any medicinal values, Can't be trained to say the Chinese equivalent of "pretty polly" - and although we recognise its beauty - well it ain't going to be top seller in the bird market!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ohh and i forgot - the bills on these birds have a different lighter coloring

wintibird
Monday 2nd November 2009, 07:44
It's interesting to hear these guys are pushing west - and I guess you are pretty far west of their traditional location (Afghanistan/Turkestan, via Wikipedia). Wonder how they get over the mountains....

They are migrating from Central Asia over the Pamir mountains to Pakistan and north India, so they won't have any problems getting over any mountains;)

André

PS: And thanks for the picture, china guy. I used it for the Opus article. I'm pretty sure that bacterianus (together with indicus) will be split in the future as Indian Sparrow. They both occur in Central Asia where they have different habitats and bacterianus is a migrant. So it seems that they are genetically isolated.

Gretchen
Monday 2nd November 2009, 11:52
They are migrating from Central Asia over the Pamir mountains to Pakistan and north India, so they won't have any problems getting over any mountains;)


Well, the Himalayas are pretty significant. Still though they have been a pretty strong barrier for people movement, I guess birds are more mobile. Are a lot of central Asian and east Asian birds the same? In the MacK maps, a lot of birds ranges are pictured as ending at the Himalayas, but I don't know if that is accurate. Or perhaps these birds come in from the north (and thus would be found in Xinjiang too?) ? (I know my geography about that area is not great...)

Sid - thanks for the description and pic. I can see the grey crown and large black bib, and I should have seen the lighter beak, even on your first picture |:$| I need to be more observant of even the "common" birds...

MKinHK
Tuesday 3rd November 2009, 14:03
I've just checked Cheng and discovered that bactrianus is the race I saw in Xinjiang a few years ago. I don't remember them looking as good as this, more typical "Garbage Weaver" settings - rooting about in the dirt near a roadside restaurant and a filling station.

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Wednesday 4th November 2009, 02:18
Here's an excellent site with some fantastic pics of bactrianus - from Kazakhstan. They actually label this bird as Indian Sparrow.
http://www.birds.kz/Passer%20indicus/indexe.html

All the adult males are pictured with dark bills - and there's no mention of bills lightening to a straw colour during non-breeding - otherwise the bird matches up well to my birds - and the descriptions of not living directly within human habitation also fits.

In Mack they mention another ssp. - partini - but since there doesn't seem to any web leads to this race partini could well be a typo - and mean - parkini a race that's far more documented, and also occurs quite close to our region.

Mack says there is a population of Partini (Parkini) in SW Tibet - so there's also a possibility that may bird could be this ssp, although it seems strange that the birds from this area would migrate in winter in NE direction to Sichuan ( but of course partini may occur in areas closer). In the description of this race Mack talks about the straw coloured bills of non-breeding males.
To make things more confusing if you check through OBC images you see lots of pics Indian birds - with two images of near identical birds with light bills - one marked parkini one marked indicus both taken in exactly the same place - during the winter at Kutch in N India - but maybe the lighter non-breeding bill is one of the field marks of partini.
http://orientalbirdimages.org/search.php?action=searchresult&Bird_ID=2108&Bird_Image_ID=37809&Bird_Family_ID=&p=2
I'm afraid there doesn't seem to be such authoritative images of the parkini race - as the KZ pics of bactrianus.

Parkini or bactrainus - our birds certainly ain't your normal - London Sparrow domesticus. Which makes me think that the bird Mike saw Xinjiang could well have been our good old garbage weavers - domesticus. This race should occur in neighboring Mongolia and Kazakhstan - and so maybe also in Xinjiang - after all it ain't a big tick with most birders so nobody really looks into the races or bothers to note them down.

The other thing is that in my pic - of a few posts back - I think all the birds are of the same race - and that the bird with greyer cheeks is a juv.

Great to see this thread breaking new grounds in science of House/Indian Sparrow distribution in China - far more interesting than all those boring Pheasants, Laughingthrushes, Parrotbills etc etc - we usually gabble on about :-O

china guy
Wednesday 4th November 2009, 02:46
Here's a follow-up to that last post - after rooting around on that KZ page - I found they also had a domesticus domesticus page - with pictures of nicely marked light billed males - that don't look a 1000 miles different to our birds!!!!!!!!!!!!
http://www.birds.kz/Passer%20domesticus/indexe.html
However characteristic points for this race (maybe species if Indian becomes a split) - is that they stick to human habitation and apparently only make local migrations.

Gretchen
Wednesday 4th November 2009, 23:08
Great to see this thread breaking new grounds in science of House/Indian Sparrow distribution in China - far more interesting than all those boring Pheasants, Laughingthrushes, Parrotbills etc etc - we usually gabble on about :-O


So we should try to gather together to form the Far -Eastern House Sparrow research group :-O

It does seem like lack of interest from the assumption that all house sparrows are the same, certainly by me, and therefore lack of clear guidelines may have resulted in some not so careful identifications. I looked through the OBC a fair amount the other day, seeing the parkini and indicus (sp???) as well as unlabeled and domesticus. I wasn't looking at bill color as an obvious difference at the time.

By the way, Brazil only mentions domesticus - but he's not really looking at the west, just mentions them in Siberia and Japan.

Can races be decided on habitat? (Though I look at the taxonomy forum occasionally - I still don't understand much.)

PS Mike - what's Cheng?

china guy
Thursday 5th November 2009, 00:57
I'm afraid I'm a traitor to the cause of Sparrow research - today we're heading off in the direction of Lao jun Shan - Sichuan Hill Partridge country - but you never know some unknown ssp. of Passer domesticus could be lurking in the bamboo (I don't think ;) ).

As for splitting - without DNA evidence - it goes on size and plumage difference, call differences, habit and habitat differences - and a really good paper that gets accepted by the powers who write books and make up check-lists.
OBC seem pretty hard on splits - on their checklist they don't accept some of the splits that are found on others. The most liberal checklists of course come from the birding tour operators - more ticks for your money. They may jump at the chance of being able to make two species out of House Sparrow and Indian Sparrow.

MKinHK
Thursday 5th November 2009, 22:45
Cheng is a mis-speling of Zheng - Zheng Zuo xin was the grandfather of Chinese ornithology who wrote a book called the Economic Significance of Birds, which persuaded Mao's governemnt to stop killing birds in the four pests campaign.

He is also important for writing "A Synopsis of the Avifauna of China" which is the gigantic foundational work on distribution and taxonomy of all China's birds. He gives distribution of races as well as species.

Well worthwhile obtaining but its a pretty big book

Cheers
Mike

Gretchen
Thursday 5th November 2009, 23:23
Mike, thanks - I thought it sounded vaguely familiar. I see I had read about it in MacKinnon. Do you have the English version then, and did you get it in China (HK)? (I guess its a Chinese publisher?)

Cheers,
Gretchen

MKinHK
Saturday 7th November 2009, 04:44
I bought mine in 1990 when I was a student in Beijing.

The only other time I saw it was in a cloth cover by a German scientific publisher Paul Parey for more than £100 in the UK.

Sorry not to be of more help.

Cheers
Mike

jollydragon
Tuesday 10th November 2009, 08:14
Hi Meggie, so glad to see your blogs now and so regretful seeing your blogs so late.

china guy
Saturday 14th November 2009, 08:32
Hi Jollydragon - nice to see you enjoying the threads.

We've just come back from a trip that has included South Sichuan and Northern Yunnan.
The main purpose of this trip was to check the accessibility of the best known Sichuan Hill Partridge site - Laojunshan Nature Reserve.
This Partridge has been listed as one of the world's most threatened gamebirds, its only known present distribution being restricted to a small bamboo dense area of primary forest that's found in a mountainous area around the Sichuan, Yunnan border.
Although Laojunshan is a nature reserve area - its pretty open - there are several paths that lead into the primary forest that can be explored by a track that leads along the ridge of the low 2000m mountain. It's on these paths that most Chinese tourist get up to this area - so we followed suite.
Getting up by this method means a very steep and slippery climb - especially for an old-codger like me who's carrying a big backpack. As always with these ill-repaired mossy stone stairway tracks - going up is one thing - while going down can be......well I best not swear on birdforum.
On the top is a simple stone Farmhouse and temple - here you can get a bed and food - hardly 5 star - but far more fun than Chengdu Hilton.
We ended up paying 200RMB for my entrance ticket while Meggie as a Chinese national paid 100RMB - while our accommodation and food was very cheap - 20RMB/person/bed and 10RMb/meal/person.
However - if you want to do this one properly you have to get a permit that's obtained through the Forestry Bureau in Chengdu - and them I'm afraid costs are far higher. 200 admission + a compulsory guide at 100RMB/day + 100RMB/day for accommodation + 100RMB/day for food. To put these prices in perspective - the old couple who live on the top - and are the on-site protection employees are paid a right royal 150RMB/month salary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But the one big advantage of taking this guided route is that you go to the top via a far gentler path - having a far shorter length of steep and difficult track.
Lets hope all that extra revenue is put into habitat protection - saving the Partridge from encroaching tea-plantations that are creeping up the mountain and the tree felling and bamboo harvesting that have boomed after the provincial logging moratorium - something that had lasted 10 years - was lifted last year.
And birds and seeing that partridge - it was dead hard going - one of those times Sichuan hits you as bird-dead. Out of the three of of us I was the only one who didn't see the Partridge - although we heard its characteristic call all over the mountain top. The other bird we wanted - Gold-fronted Fulvetta - plain refused to show up. Of course the habitat of dense primary forest which rests in a bottom layer of impenetrable bamboo has something to do with this. You can hear the birds in there - you can call them in to almost nose scratching distance - but inside that protective barrier of a bamboo curtain - well its a story of shadowy shapes that may just reveal themselves for a split second. These areas are far easier during the breeding season when calls get then to show - or mid-winter when species often travel about in mixed flocks.
Between the three of us the final list actually wasn't that bad, and included - Red-winged and Rusty Laughers - Bay and Darjeeling Woodpeckers - Long-tailed Thrush - but nothing that spectacular apart from very brief glimpses of Partridge that the other two got.
The only decent pic we made was of female Temminck's Tragopan - but that pic is rather special - a female who decided to sit tight in a tree.
And the pics - well that Tragopan - and the the endless steps that led us to summit - and the ridge path, about 4km of bamboo/forest birding habitat where you have a chance to see the Hill Partridge.

Gretchen
Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:18
Sounds like it was not easy birding, but the sense of exploration does seem fun.

I'm wondering about the mandatory guide. Do you think this is someone who knows a fair amount about the local flora and fauna (I assume not just birds), or is the requirement more to make sure that one is accompanied and doesn't do any illegal (harmful to the environment) activities? Is this fairly common practice?

china guy
Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:52
I suspect the guide isn't necessarily a bird or nature expert (and may not be able to speak English). We ran into a guided group of Chinese - the guide was the forestry bureaus accountant - and there was a porter leading the way with a dog. We got our Tragopan pic because the dog was acting as a beater - it flushed the Tragopan near on five minutes before any of the group arrived. Luckily - for them - none were birders.

Somebody suggested to me that foreigners are accompanied into certain nature reserve areas with a view to preventing specimen collecting - for which extra permission and permits are required.

Gretchen
Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:58
Somebody suggested to me that foreigners are accompanied into certain nature reserve areas with a view to preventing specimen collecting - for which extra permission and permits are required.

I can understand it as a protective device, though it's interesting if it's only required for foreigners....

china guy
Sunday 15th November 2009, 13:14
As always, in our adopted country, a rule is rule - regardless of its purpose and meaning.
Speculation over reasons why - well that only leads to more grey hairs ;)

FXM
Sunday 15th November 2009, 20:17
Hi Gretchen

Plain Laughingthrush is a hillside/scrubland bird. I seem to remember seeing it at Shanhaiguan back in 1990, when I climbed up to watch for raptor passage.

Cheers
Mike

Hi MIke/Mark/Gretchen,

Out of interest I also noted this bird on the plains of northern Sichuan where there were isolated clumps of scrubby areas. We were on our way to the mountains so the plains might well have been quite high up in reality.

Frank

FXM
Sunday 15th November 2009, 20:32
Release has become a problem in China. The Buddhist release everything they can buy. I ever saw released parrot in our garden. The strangest thing is after a Buddhist released some fish, you may see many fishers soon.

Not sure if they were Buddhist or not but they had a more northern appearance. I noticed a group of 20-30 people in a circle at the reservoir in Beidaihe and they appeared to be praying and bowing. In the centre of them were numerous wooden or bamboo cages and others with cloths draped over them. I felt a little guilty but I 'binned' the cages as best I could and noted they were full of birds - I could see lots of Rustic Buntings and Skylarks, Eastern Great Tit, Yellow-bellied Tit and others. This was at about 1140. I carried on to the Sandflats.

Shortly afterwards people spoke of a dramatic 'fall' at the res. where Skylarks were dropping out of the sky into the res., exhausted birds they could pick up etc. This all happened within yards of where I'd noted the ceremony. It took a while for the penny to drop... or was it coincidence?

Frank;)

Gretchen
Sunday 15th November 2009, 22:49
... I noticed a group of 20-30 people in a circle at the reservoir in Beidaihe and they appeared to be praying and bowing. In the centre of them were numerous wooden or bamboo cages and others with cloths draped over them. ...
Shortly afterwards people spoke of a dramatic 'fall' at the res. where Skylarks were dropping out of the sky into the res., exhausted birds they could pick up etc.

Very interesting observation! I haven't seen that around here myself....

MKinHK
Monday 16th November 2009, 00:51
I've also seen Plain Laughingthrush on the grassland around Ruo'ergai - a big surprise since I'd only seen them around Beijing previously and had no idea they had such a big range.

Cheers
Mike

MKinHK
Monday 16th November 2009, 00:55
Religious release is a problem in HK too, which I did some work on in my previous job. A huge proportion of the birds die either in the cage or on release - why would a trader care for a bird that is going to be sold for a few yuan and released on purchase?

Coincidentally most of the cases of Avian flu in HK in recent years have come from birds sold for religious release, or the predators/scavengers that take advantage of the easy pickings, so do take care in handling dead or sick birds at an obvious release site.

The sad thing is that these birds are often caught to order and released to gain spiritual merit - ironic when so many sicken and die in the process.

Cheers
Mike K

johnjemi
Monday 16th November 2009, 03:42
Hi Sid and All,

As for Cheng/Zheng's "Synopsis of the Avifauna of China" - I've also got the 1976 Chinese Edition, which is not only much smaller than the Paul Parey volume, but still useful for a non-reader of Chinese because of the distribution maps labelled with the scientific names of the birds.

The easiest views of Plain Laugher we've had were in the grounds of the Xining Bingguan, in (where else ?) Xining. Widely distributed, indeed.

Regards
John

china guy
Monday 16th November 2009, 03:43
Here are a couple of pics of Plain Laugher in one of their favored habitats within Northern Sichuan - close to the Ruo Er Gai area - the birds are dead center, and they live up to their Plain name by being hard to pick out when there's any kind of distance between you and the bird. I've also seen this bird at the main gate to Jiuzhaigou park.

One of the other interesting birds - among the many stunning species found around Ruo Er Gai - is the suehschanensis ssp. of Common Pheasant - a real stunner, and far more attractive than the cannon-fodder pheasants I used to know from back home.
Which brings me onto the subject of releases - although I have seen Common Pheasant close to Chengdu, most noticeably in the parkland at the Panda Research Center - I was surprised when a birdwatching student told me that they'd seen one close to the campus grounds of a near to where we live university. Sure enough the next day I caught site of female in farmland that borders our living compound. I have a real feeling that these birds may have been either escapes from a Pheasant Farm - the birds are now commonly reared for the restaurant trade - or part of religious plan that runs on the logic - the bigger the beast you release the greater the possible fortune you'll be conjuring up.
If its indeed the latter - I'm looking forward to those mega-rich locals we see about here driving about in their Hummers and Maseratis - making some major releases. With the money some of these guys seem to have - purchasing an Ostrich or two from the local zoo will be no problem - but if these creatures come our way, will they count as a real tick?????

jollydragon
Tuesday 17th November 2009, 08:47
Release has become a problem in China. The Buddhist release everything they can buy. I ever saw released parrot in our garden. The strangest thing is after a Buddhist released some fish, you may see many fishers soon.
My goddess, I know there's negative influence of releasing creatures by Monks in China just today. Anyway, I haven't seen this kind of activities around me so far.

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 18th November 2009, 08:52
PASSER BACTRIANUS: here's about the best photo we've got of them - the first obvious point is they're much cleaner than the house sparrows we have back home in the UK - all the markings are far clearer - from the grey crown down to the finer patterning on the backs. And yes those cheeks appear whiter - and the black of the breast is different - more of it and bolder.
Habits and habitat choice are also special - these birds stick to grassy patches of scrub - we nearly always see them in long grasses on river banks. Unlike back-home,they don't associate themselves with buildings and human activity - Tree-sparrows hold that niche down here....


Last weekend I discovered a medium sized flock (ca. 50 individuals) of the House Sparrow in the central part of Sichuan: Suining.
From the images you can clearly see what they feed on in winter. They kept in close touch with a very big flock of White-rumped Munia which also seem to take delight in reeds.

Another picture I had the luck to take shows two Common Kingfisher. Though very common indeed, it was nice performance what they did - and sooo tame.

Suining lies at the riverbanks of the Fujiang - the river that flows down all the way from Wanglang Nature Reserve. Here you can find another example of city devolpment in economically rushing China: Thousands of new scyscrapers were build on both sides of the river - here three years ago was still marshland and paddy fields.

Gretchen
Wednesday 18th November 2009, 12:19
Jiujiu, interesting pics and observations. I see you are adding to our house sparrow knowledge. Sid - did you think #2 above looks like what you were describing to us? The facial features looks clean, but the black chest is pretty minimal on this one (juvenile?).

Love the kingfisher pictures. The one on the right is the female, right? Is she really bigger or is that something to do with angles or her stretching a wing a bit?

Tough watching the development. From an environmental position it doesn't look good at all. From the viewpoint of people feeling they are getting a higher standard of living, it's hard to say anything. Of course, its reasonable to hope that the number and kinds of buildings can at least be suitably planned and then thoughtfully located.

china guy
Wednesday 18th November 2009, 13:40
Yeps, that's the same bird we have here - if Indian Sparrow becomes a split - maybe a new tick for Sichuan?

Problem with all those new housing projects is that even after a couple of years after completion they still seem pretty empty - so why keep on building them? Not to worry they still can hold a little nature - we've twice seen a Peregrine on the same high-rise in the south of Chengdu.

sichuan jiujiu
Thursday 19th November 2009, 15:00
The Kingfishers actually are the same size. It is the angle what makes the female looking bigger, and also the streching of her neck. she obviously had to fight with a big piece of food or so. I recognized that on the other pictures I have taken she also makes the same movement. The difference of male and female is the colour of the bill. Male is completely black or dark and female is with an orange base.
Here is another picture from a different angle:

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 4th December 2009, 12:14
At first, there is good news in terms of accessibility. The road from Chengdu to Yingxiu (earthquake Epicentre) is rebuild – as an expressway now. You can reach the valley entrance now in one hour from Chengdu. The following 20 km section through the epicentre area is still under heavy construction, however it is possible to get through in another hour driving. From the next village (Gengda) all the road up to Wolong and Balang Shan is completed. Accommodation in Wolong still is hardly available, hotels are not open yet. But, there is a cheap and clean hostel directly at the bottom of Wuyipeng which is open throughout.

The most common bird during these two days was Sooty Tit. Medium sized flocks (ca. 50 birds) were showing up along the road and at Wuyipeng, and also together with other tits.

Great Parrotbills were also easy to spot in the bamboo and shrubs. They seemed to be the liveliest birds up there, while all the other birds apparently preferred not to move extensively (or to sleep?). Oops, I forgot the Elliot’s and Barred Laughers which didn’t fail to attract my attention.

I discovered another interesting thing: The Three-toed Woodpecker seems to be much tamer than all the other Woodies. I came quite close – about 5m – without disturbing it. And it wasn’t only once. Crimson-breasted, Darjeeling, Bay and others usually leave much earlier or get higher in the tree.

china guy
Sunday 6th December 2009, 14:34
Hi Jiu Jiu - we never run into that Three-toed woody!!!!!!
The Sooty Tit is also a killer - I had them flying round my nose at Wanglang - but no Camera!!!!!
This weekend we were also quite close to Wolong - in the mountains to the south - at Jiguanshan (chicken Comb Mountain) - about 1and half hours outside Chengdu
There's a park here -and a nature reserve - but at the moment it's all officially closed, because of park development (they're building a road) and logging (plantation trees are being cut - some of these from the original forest replanting projects of the 70's). In the best Chinese manner everybody ignores the keep-out signs - and none of park staff tell you to leave - so its a free park visit at the moment.
It takes about 5km walk to get into the natural forest - and, in cold winter conditions with snow just above us, birds weren't that easy to spot.
We had Black-faced Laughers in with mixed flocks of Elliot's Laugher, White-collared Yuhina, Chesnut Thrush, Grey-hooded Fulvetta and Yellow-browed Tits. The birding highlight was a Black Stork - which we caught glimpses of circling over the forest canopy.
Animals seem pretty common here - lots of Sambar Deer tracks - and we found dung of both this species and Musk Deer. Also found a fresh Bear print.
Got a nice pic of Yellow-browed Tit - not much of a yellow brow on these birds - and a Darjeeling Woody that's into a serious piece of demolition work - look at the sawdust that bird is kicking up!!!!!

Gretchen
Sunday 6th December 2009, 23:09
There's a park here -and a nature reserve - but at the moment it's all officially closed, because of park development ... In the best Chinese manner everybody ignores the keep-out signs - and none of park staff tell you to leave - so its a free park visit at the moment.

Hmm... I haven't wandered quite widely enough to have seen that pattern, but it does help me make sense of a few things...

Also found a fresh Bear print.
!!! Sorry, what kind of bear would that be? (I take it not panda.)

Got a nice pic of Yellow-browed Tit - not much of a yellow brow on these birds
Yes, the name isn't obviously appropriate ;) Actually this bird looks like it has rather of a crest too? (not apparent in Brazil's illustration) I wouldn't have figured it as a tit necessarily, but NA Tufted Titmouse would be a distant relative I suppose.

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 7th December 2009, 03:41
...
This weekend we were also quite close to Wolong - in the mountains to the south - at Jiguanshan (chicken Comb Mountain) - about 1and half hours outside Chengdu
There's a park here -and a nature reserve -

Is this the Jiguanshan where they built a lot of tourist accommodation imitating a Cinderalla castle? And when you go further in, you reach the entrance of the Anzi He Nature Reserve?

The last time I was there I also have collected a lot of wild animals in the forest: About five leeches on my legs and one in the shoe of my daughter...
Unfortunately is was raining and after 2 hours hiking I couldn' t find the right path further up.
Thus, on that trip my birding was not very fruitful.

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 7th December 2009, 04:21
However, last week in Wolong I found some new good paths:
I went into the valley which is visible on the other side of the valley while standing at the Wuyipeng Ridge. The entrance section of this side valley offers a lot of converted crop land and shrub. I easily could spot Black-faced Laughingthrush, a Winter Wren, and a mega flock of Collared Finchbill (about 200 Birds).

Another interesting site that never has been mentioned in any reports is the Dengsheng Valley: This exactly is where the road starts to climb up the Balang Mountain: At the first bend you just have to go through the cattle compound and follow the main valley up. After a few meters you stand in the middle of really old and huge trees. However, parts of the undergrowth obviously served as horse and cattle fodder. You can follow the path all the way up to the ridge.

On the bare slopes of Balang Mountain I was happy to see lots of Himalayan Griffons, a Lammergeier, a male Harrier (either Marsh or Hen) and a pair of Cinereous Vulture.

firstreesjohn
Monday 7th December 2009, 12:40
I, too, have struggled (in Thailand and China) to see the 'yellow brow': there is sometimes just a (very) slightly paler supercilium.

See the series on OBI, for what I mean:
http://orientalbirdimages.org/search.php?p=17&action=searchresult&Bird_ID=1290&Bird_Family_ID=&pagesize=1

They are nice little birds to see, however- often causing a moment or two of puzzlement, before the ID 'kicks in'.

Has anyone actually seen one WITH a yellow brow ?

china guy
Monday 7th December 2009, 14:54
Well the poor soul who named this bird must have seen a yellow-brow - but a late night of taxonomy in the museum specimen department - whiffing up all those preservatives I dare say you could also see pink spots!!!!!!
Here's another pic of this bird - if you get them agitated they'll raise that neat crown - and if you could glue a couple of horns up there - I'm sure they'd look just like a miniature Triceratops Dinosaur.

I've also got pics of Deer droppings - we found what seems to be a deer WC - and Musk Deer will use communal dunging areas. It was interesting that larger dung was also present - which we presume comes from the Sambar Deer.
And so there's a picture of a biggish print - which I presume is from Asian Black Bear (not a very big example - we've found larger prints in the past).
All of these animal signs were found in plantations trees, very close to the noise and activity of logging areas. But I suppose if the animals aren't hunted they soon habituate to this activity - the logging is being done in a fairly organised manner with plantation thinning rather than the usual clear-cut. We were told that they will let scrub naturally grow back in the cleared areas - which bodes well for wildlife in this area.

Hej Jui Jui they've knocked down a lot of the buildings in the park - and as much as I tried, I'm afraid I couldn't find Cinderella. Everybody was still wearing leech gaiters, and told us there were still leeches about - but much to Meggie's relief we couldn't find any!!!!! We got into the core Zone of Anze He - but the path becomes quite bad due to earthquake landslides, and it started to get quite icy. By the way Cinereous Vulture was pretty neat on Ballang!!!!!

china guy
Tuesday 8th December 2009, 14:02
Got a nice bird today - first time we've photographed this one - Bar-tailed Treecreeper.
We found it on Linyan Shan which is just on the ouskirts of Dujangyan. Although the book says this bird is just 1cm lomger than Eurasian Treecreeper - it looked bigger right from the start. The barring on the tail makes the ID pretty easy.
We had all the usual suspects - best birds including Stripe-throated Yuhina, and both Crested and Northern Goshawks.
One interesting observation was that Red-billed Blue magpies were stripping off and carrying away small branches/twigs that were full of berries rather than eating them individually off the tree. Those Magpies have got brains!!!!!

And we came home with a souvenir - one more net destroyed, far too remote to get any of the forest police out to this one.

Gretchen
Tuesday 8th December 2009, 23:04
Very nice shots of the creeper! Looks like this species is quite well named ;) It reminded me of a cuckoo (though that would be the breast I guess).

Interesting magpie behavior. Always regard those Red-billed ones as handicapped by the long tails - wonder if they have to be a bit extra smart? By the way what are the common magpies out there? You don't have Azure Winged, do you? Are Common the most common for you, or perhaps those Red-billed are more common in out of the way places?

PS looking around at treecreepers more, I should ask, how many kinds have you seen in Sichuan? Not sure how many of 4 in MacK might actually be around.

china guy
Wednesday 9th December 2009, 03:28
First them Treecreepers - well our most famous creepy is not even in MacK - Sichuan Treecreeper.
This guy was split from Eurasian in 1995 - its pretty much identical, but has a shorter bill and the buffish brown tinge to belly that contrasts with white chin - but to see these ID marks in the field is very difficult - far easier in my pic.
The real give-away with Sichuan is its call - which can be described as longish descending trill - you can download a couple of examples at Xeno Canto.
This bird is quite common in areas of high natural forest (Wawu is the place to hear and see them) - it must also occur in Yunnan, since we've seen it at a spot just on the border (forests around Muli) - but to make things complicated we've also had Eurasian Treecreeper come when playing Sichuan Treecreeper calls - responding with the Eurasian call.

So them we have our mysterious Hodgson's Treecreeper - this split doesn't seem to be acknowledged by OBC - but there's a section on it in Wikipedia -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodgson%27s_Treecreeper
In that article they mention a so-called - Certhia hodgsoni khamensis - or Kham Treecreeper. The Kham is the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau - that's mainly within Sichuan.

The the other Treecreeper we have left is Eurasian - we have pics of this bird scattered through our discs - Ill have to pay more attention to them to see if I can pick up any of the Hogsoni characteristics.

As for Magpies - the only place, in Sichuan, where we've commonly seen Azure-winged - is around the Ruo Er Gai area - in north Sichuan. These birds are a lot cleaner than some of super scruffy examples I've seen in Beijing!!!!!
We get a few Black-billed Magpie in the Sichuan Basin - we sometimes see them in Chengdu - but up on the plateau they're very common - and can be see scavenging around almost any site of human rubbish.
Red-billed Blue Magpies stick in areas with more forest/tree cover - I've see them on the outskirts of Chengdu - at the Botanical Gardens - but you have to go out of town and climb a little before you get into this bird. They can be thankful for that long tail - it makes them an impractical bird for housing in traditional Chinese bird cages - Eurasian Jay isn't so lucky and is commonly seen in cages around here. In a general throughout Sichuan basis- red-billed Blue is the most Commonly see magpie in Sichuan

But the real gem of Sichuan Magpies should be the Indochinese Green Magpie - MacK talks about this bird being present within the Mabian area of Sichuan - that's right in the middle of Yi minority country. Yi areas can be very poverty stricken - often there's been a lot deforestation - you always have to be a little cautious in these places, and try not to travel at night.

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 9th December 2009, 08:42
Sid,
Really a great shot of the Bar-tailed Treecreeper. I have regularly seen them in Aixi / Songpan, even more common than the Eurasian Treecreeper.
But the Hodgons one I have never heard about. Maybe a good idea to keep the eyes more open for those small differences that make the split.

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 9th December 2009, 08:49
Everybody:

A few days ago my wife took a picture in the Sichuan University. I was a little bit puzzled at first, because I didn't see the bird but only the picture, and on the picture you can't see its front. But, after a while it looked pretty like the Chinese Thrush to me...
Does everybody agree???

china guy
Wednesday 9th December 2009, 09:52
Thats 1000% Chinese Thrush - tell Pin Li well done from us - the shape of the head is characteristic of Chinese Thrush - it's a smaller more compact thrush than Long-tailed. Those two white wing bar type markings are also a great ID in a picture - but in the field Long-tailed also can show similar markings and in the brief views, these shy birds often give' can lead to some confusion.

We had a good pic today - after very briefly seeing this bird it finally decided show up in the rice paddies just outside our apartments - female Common Pheasant. And just around the corner was a male bird - but too brief a view to get a pic of this.
Back home these birds are of course very common - but in land of origin - well I'm afraid they're not too numerous - especially in kind of flat farming area where we are living. I suggested in an earlier post that these pheasant could be a release - but now I've seen them as a pair I'm more inclined to think they could be truly wild.

Gretchen
Wednesday 9th December 2009, 10:49
Nice to see birds surviving/thriving alongside people. Last spring I was amazed at the number of pheasants, just a handful I suppose but more than 1-2, booming in our local park. Since the park borders on a large wooded expanse it wasn't astounding, but I was surprised that they were in the park itself. Of course at the time I hadn't considered releases at all...

By the way, I guess I was wondering about Rusty-Flanked Treecreeper - but I guess that's west of you? Tibet/Yunnan? And I take it that your Sichuan creeper is distinct from the Brown-Throated ... (I was noting that in preparation for birding in Thailand).

china guy
Thursday 10th December 2009, 14:40
It's good to see you have park pheasants up your way - parks and urban areas offer protection from hunters, but with all the weeding and landscape gardening, I'm afraid they don't always provide very good habitat. Our Pheasants are on farmland, so I have real feeling that eventually they'll get some hunting attention - but at least here we don't suffer from illegal guns, which can be a big problem for game birds in other parts of China.

That Sichuan Treecreeper is a distinct species - it's a very sought after tick - but the bird its self could hardly be called spectacular.
Rusty-flanked Treecreeper - is one of the good Yunnan ticks.
Another creeper were seeing a few of at the moment is Wallcreeper - we've seen a couple quite close into Chengdu - during cold winter spells they'll come down to lower altitudes. Maybe this species also benefited from the earthquake - certainly a lot more exposed cliff habitat in our part of Sichuan.
The picture of Wallcreeper comes from just over a week ago - around 30 km from Chengdu.

MKinHK
Thursday 10th December 2009, 23:19
A few years ago I had a Wallcreeper crawling around on the chest of the Big Buddha at Leshan - wonderful birds!

Cheers
Mike

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 11th December 2009, 13:33
A few years ago I had a Wallcreeper crawling around on the chest of the Big Buddha at Leshan - wonderful birds!

Cheers
Mike

This Wallcreeper is still there...
And probably got married...
I saw there two of them this spring
:kiss::kiss:

MKinHK
Saturday 12th December 2009, 13:41
Must be very old birds - I saw mine in 1998!

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Sunday 13th December 2009, 14:19
The first time I got to Big Buddha was in 1987 - as a long haired backpacker - in those wonderful days the Buddha really did look special, none of today's horrible restoration job, there was good bit of vegetation growing out of his head - but the best was Blue Whistling Thrush - flying in and out, presumably nesting - in one of it's ears!!!!!!

As for Wallcreeper - the first one of those was in Austria - but not up in the Alps - down in the city center of Salzburg - climbing up the front of Mozart's birthplace. We've also seen one climbing up a building in a town in NE Sichuan - and I really wouldn't be surprised if the odd winter Wallcreeper was also found in city center Chengdu - climbing up the wall of a high rise block - but to spot one would take a bit of doing!!!!!!!

china guy
Tuesday 15th December 2009, 03:27
Here's a bit of a non-birding topic - but has a connection in as much you often come to stumble on interesting and mysterious finds during birding trips around Sichuan.
What on earth are these - Well I'm pretty sure they're fossils of some kind - and as such I've just put them up in a fossil forum - but if any body here has any ideas.
So far my mind has been telling me they're seeds - but it'd be great if they were dino pooh or eggs (I greatly doubt it) - or are they just balls of clay trapped in a sand sediment???????

china guy
Wednesday 16th December 2009, 01:08
Those stones - no dino in them, in fact no fossil, but still very exotic - they are concretations and seem to match up to something know as Moqui Marbles or Shaman stones - seem to be a must for healers!!!!
We're off to Yunnan today for some winter watching - got a couple of those marbles in the car to give us positive vibes!!!!!!

Shi Jin
Thursday 24th December 2009, 01:59
Hi!

I'll be in Chengdu on Sunday (and Sichuan for a week). Please could you tell me if there's anything of note within strijing distance of the city.

Thanks in advance.

china guy
Tuesday 5th January 2010, 01:31
Sorry Shi Jin - we just rolled back into Sichuan yesterday after 20 days of birding around Yunnan - so this message will be far too late!!!!
In Chengdu itself - two of the best areas areas are the Botanic Garden and the Panda Research Center - close to each other, and fairly easy to reach by public transport - both of which have wintering Slaty Bunting.
For day trips head in the direction of Dujiangyan - up onto the Qingcheng Mountain. The front mountain is now fully open - while the back mountain is still difficult because of quake damage. Both places are tourist sites - but early on week days they're quiter - and in the area there are tracks up the mountain that are outside the ticketed areas. Around here you can find wintering laughers - Red-winged, Barred and Spotted.

As for us, after the Yunnan sun, we now have to get used to the Sichuan winter chill - and sort out our photos - here's a Red-headed Trogon from Yunnan - this should also be a Sichuan bird Xeno-canto has a recording of a bird calling at Wolong.

MKinHK
Tuesday 5th January 2010, 23:10
Sid & Meggie

It will be great to hear how you did in Yunnan

Cheers
Mike

Shi Jin
Wednesday 6th January 2010, 03:51
Thanks China Guy!

No problem, I headed to Emei Shan (after a couple of hours at Dufu's Cottage, where Ashy-throated PBs performed well).

I spent one afternoon at the bottom and three days walking up the mountain, taking the much longer south-easterly route (stayed at Hongchun Monastery and a small guest house near to the Greeting Gate).

It was cold, snowy, and foggy... until New Year's Day which was glorious.

Despite the mostly miserable weather I saw some very good birds.

The most amazing of which was the male Temminck's Tragopan that walked out and across the steps 10 yards in front of me (just as well, visibility was down to about 50 yards because of snow and low cloud). Thank goodness I decided to risk my camera's well-being by having it constantly ready.

Also, I saw a flock of several Red-winged Laughingthrushes - one of two new birds for me there (the other was Black-chinned Yuhina).

I've published a few shots from the trip on my website:

http://www.chinesecurrents.com/wild_water.html

I'll publish a report in due course.

There were a couple of puzzles... including a golden-spectacled type that I suspect was an Emei Shan Warbler (at 600 masl); and a bush warbler that could be many things!

china guy
Wednesday 6th January 2010, 04:51
That Tragopan is pretty epic - we only seem to find females!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Those stone paths can be pretty slippy in the snow - but at least a winter Emei is far quieter than during the tourist packed summer.

I'll try to find time to get some Yunnan info up - but at the moment we're busy servicing cars - we're out again in 4 days time. This is a post from the garage internet!!!!

Shi Jin
Friday 8th January 2010, 06:12
I posted the records of Day 1 and 2 of my Emei trip on to another thread, which is here:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=160518

china guy
Friday 8th January 2010, 06:38
Here's some pics to sum up our Yunnan trip - we got to Goaligong, Tengchong, Nabang, Husa and Ruili

pic 1 - Golden-throated Barbet - we got so many of those classic tropical forest birds that are a speciality of SW Yunnan - they included both Yellownapes, Greater Flameback, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Common Green magpie, both Racket-tailed Drongos, Long-tailed Broadbill and a host of other stuff.

pic 2 - Scarlet Finch - also bumped into a few of the birds that make this part of Chine especially interesting - such as, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Grey-bellied Wren Babbler, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Yellow-throated fulvetta, Scaly Laugher, Rufous-necked Laugher, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, White-tailed Nuthatch, Black-backed Forktail, Black-breasted Thrush - but still need so much more that we'll be back next winter.

pic 3 - Grey-cheeked Warbler - our list as of today is 207 birds - I fished out a pic of the Grey-cheeked Warbler a couple of hours back and confirmed it against the OBC images. OBC is a must for confirming dubious sightings.

pic 4 - all praise Photoshop - Rufous-throated Partridge - photography can be difficult, one moment Meggie was trying to get shots against a harsh sun in the canopy, while in the next second something would be scampering along in the gloom of the forest under-scrub - hardly time to change settings. Some of our pics ain't in the masterclass - but we snaped a lot species.

pic 5 - you can't help birding, even when you're trying to concentrate on driving home - Rufous-necked Laugher - these guys were hopping around on the crash barriers to the main road north about 20kms outside Ruili. Meggie had to dodge trucks to get the pic. If that was not enough I turned around and saw movement across the road - frigging Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills - Meggie side-steps some more horn blarring trucks and she gets a pic - a Purple Sunbird then turns up as a Newbie to our list, but we resist birding temptations, we're late we have to head back to Sichuan - but 5 minutes further on, an emergency stop, as a Steppe-Eagle decides to make a fly-over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

china guy
Friday 8th January 2010, 07:08
Hi Shi Jin - that record of Greter Necklaced Laugher at Emei is pretty interesting - we first picked that species up in Sichuan last Autumn - but in the NE of the province. This Laugher doesn't seem to be on the Cnbirder list either.

Marmot
Friday 8th January 2010, 15:25
Happy New year to you both from a snowy NE England. We have had minus temps and snow here since a few days before christmas.

Good to see that Meggie has been finding some brand new species..will make sure Ian gets them onto opus for you.

Shi Jin
Saturday 9th January 2010, 01:06
Seems that you had a great time in Yunnan.

Any hornbills near Nabang?

...I'm thinking of going back there in a few weeks to look for Great (having seen Wreathed and Oriental Pied there last year).

Also, where did you see the Scaly Laugher and B-b B-eater? (Two birds that have elduded me in several visits to the area.)

Cheers.

china guy
Saturday 9th January 2010, 04:08
Afraid we didn't get to set eyes on any Hornbills - but heard stuff we thought to be possible Hornbills in both Nabang and the new Botanic Garden area at Ruili.

Blue-bearded Bee-eater turned up at Nabang - and we only got eyes on that because a flock of Grey-headed Parakeet were feeding in the same trees. Greater Flameback was also hanging about - so it was case of which way to watch now!!!!
Still got a stiff neck from all that canopy watching!!!!
Smaller (more conventional) Bee-eaters are far easier - that Green Bee-eater was just 2 minutes down the track from its huge Blue-bearded cousin.

The Scaly Laugher turned up in Gaoligong - Meggie got one in a flock of Red-tailed Laughers and I got a solitary single bird - but I'm afraid no pics of this species!!!!!

And a Happy New year to you Marmot - Yunnan wasn't all sunshine - early mornings still bought a bit a frost in the higher areas - that picture of Grey-headed Lapwings and tropical Yunnan Ice is at Tenchong - but the days soon warmed up to shirt-sleeve temperatures.

Shi Jin
Saturday 9th January 2010, 13:38
Thanks China Guy. What a great trip.

china guy
Sunday 10th January 2010, 06:32
Checking out more pics today - our list jumped by one.
I knew we had Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler - we got it briefly at Nabang - when it was part of a mixed flock that crossed a driving track. Meggie managed a pic through the windscreen. We also thought we got the same species at Ruili Botanical gardens - but closer inspection today makes it Red-billed Scimitar Babbler - big differences being the lack of black over the white eye-stripe - and longer, more slender bill.

We're also thinking of going back soon - blue skies of Yunnan against our present Sichuan grey - being one of the big draws. And we missed out on a lot of birds - another Scimitar Babbler eluded us - Slender-billed - that's a Gaoligong bird.

Gretchen
Sunday 10th January 2010, 07:10
I can see why you'd want to go back to Yunnan - looks like you're having a great time there!

Good work on the two scimitar babblers, they are close, ("red" "coral" - hmmm) - but it looks like you've found important differentiating features. Looks like the slender billed will be more distinctive. Anyway, fun to find a bird in retrospect like that!

Thanks for sharing all the pics and stories.

Gretchen

firstreesjohn
Sunday 10th January 2010, 08:25
This has recently and famously enabled several 'firsts' for Britain.

I've done this a few times (with raptors, cuckoos and parrotbill, to name some families)- usually because the LCD monitor on my camera is too small. When edited and on the PC monitor, things become much easier.

As long as you saw the bird in the first place (!) and attempted some kind of ID, I think this kind of retrospective 'tick' is OK.

I'm now prepared to be shot down.

china guy
Sunday 10th January 2010, 09:06
Without Digibirding we'd have never got this famous photo at Gaoligong - I know this species intimately, but never picked up that faintest of hint yellow brow until I was playing with the PC - it gave me quite a retrospective shock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gretchen
Sunday 10th January 2010, 11:06
Without Digibirding we'd have never got this ... picked up that faintest of hint yellow brow until I was playing with the PC
:-O

I looked around at the OBC set and yours is one of the "clearest" brows :eek!:

MKinHK
Sunday 10th January 2010, 14:40
great to see pix giving a direct comparison of the two Scimitar Babblers and your reports just increase my own desire to get back there asap. - keep em coming!

Cheers
Mike

Shi Jin
Tuesday 12th January 2010, 00:41
fyi the species list for all four days of my recent Emei Shan trip (and links to photos) are at:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=160518

china guy
Tuesday 12th January 2010, 12:31
Hi Mike - when I get time I'll write something about the practicalities of our Yunnan birding. We had particular good fortune at Gaoligong - we lucked into a wonderful farmhouse hotel which was in an eco-village just a few Km bellow the reserve entrance. It was very Cheap - just 30RMB/night and 15RMB a meal/person - and they had good guanxi with the 'entrance-fee' people in the reserve.

Ill post up the telephone number to this place - but at the moment were out in NE Sichuan - doing our bird survey work - so it'll have to wait a week or so.

The place we're at isn't in the same class as Emei - it looks like Shi Jin had a great trip out there - but it still has some nice birds.

Here's some of Meggies photos from today

Asian Barred Owlet - those eyes are rather piercing to say the least

Slaty Bunting - first time, in this location, we've seen this great bird.

Red Billed Leothrix - a species which could be a contender for the title of 'world's cleanest bird.' This one was part of a flock that was taking a communal wash in a small stream. This isn't the first time we've seen Leothrix having a mass bath - but today was very impressive, since the weather was pretty nippy!!!!

Marmot
Tuesday 12th January 2010, 12:59
Wow that Leiothrix is a beauty no wonder they want to keep themselves spruced up.

china guy
Thursday 14th January 2010, 12:26
Hi marmot - yes our Leiothrix (glad you put me right on my spelling) - are pretty smart. They're also very sociable - and will preen each other.

The last couple of days have also been pretty good out at this site - we caught Bonelli's Eagle here again - this time a pair of birds.
Today we got a very brief female Golden pheasant.
And a new Sichuan tick for us - Scaly Thrush

Also some nice bird pics -
Chinese Thrush - this bird is set off very nicely in that berry bush

Chinese Bamboo Partridge - we caught a flock of 7 feeding on the driving track. at first we tried to take pics through the windscreen - however they stayed put when we opened a window but it was touch and go - those electric windows are darn noisy - our chickens didn't like the noise.

Moustached Laugher - hard to get this pic - we got the bird to come in closer by playing some Laughingthrush Chatter on the MP4. Within 2 minutes we had been joined by 20 Greater-necklaced Laughers - whoes recording we were playing.

Black-chinned Yuhina - this guy just asked for his pic to be taken!!!!!!

Gretchen
Friday 15th January 2010, 02:02
Wow that Leiothrix is a beauty no wonder they want to keep themselves spruced up.

I had meant to make a comment on this one too, but forgot - this is really a great picture of a great bird (guess that's why he's your avatar?).

Love your Chinese thrush picture too - excellent spots and berries - these are really "spotty" birds (and one I've actually seen in person ;)). Nice work on the other birds as well.... wish we had yuhinas up here - very attractive birds too.

firstreesjohn
Friday 15th January 2010, 05:55
Yes, Gretchen, the Leiothrix is a truly lovely looker- although surprisingly (?) common in places for such a beauty. Here's one I took on my trip with Sid and Meggie last April.

I'm impressively gobsmacked by the CBPartridge pix. I've heard them dozens of times, in various places, but only seen them once- in flight. To get such fantastic shots is amazing.

china guy
Monday 18th January 2010, 09:24
We were lucky with those Bamboo Partridge pics - the usual contact is through its very distinctive 'beeper-ray' call - but occasionally they will show!!!!

Today was a bad day that turned good. Still out in NE Sichuan - our destination was totally clouded out - to such an extent that the small, winding mountain road was getting a tad dangerous. So it was a turn-around and back down the valley for a bit of river watching.

It turned out to be a brilliant move - with a female Baikal Teal as our reward. We found her in a pretty grotty stretch of water - together with 5 Common Teal- where earth movers and front-end loaders were dredging the river for stone and sand. A lot of the rivers in China are having their natural banks totally trashed in this manner - but in the long run it sometimes seems to create some good habitat for Waders and Duck - even if it does destroy landscapes and the natural river ecology.
Our pix show well the facial spot that ID's the Baikal - the flight shot shows how they differ from female Teal.

We also watched the Ducks face a natural danger - as a Peregrine did a long lazy fly-by. But the ducks sat tight on the water - and the Falcon flew on.

johnjemi
Monday 18th January 2010, 12:06
Sid and Meggie,
Great to see all your Yunnan photos.
Your description of avoiding fast-moving lorries while distracted by great birds brought back Gaoligongshan (Pianma Road) memories for us.
VERY jealous of the Rufous-necked Laugher - we still need this one.

Gretchen
Monday 18th January 2010, 12:57
Our pix show well the facial spot that ID's the Baikal - the flight shot shows how they differ from female Teal.


More nice reporting, and useful pics -thanks for the field mark - useful to me at least ;)

Shi Jin
Monday 18th January 2010, 13:34
Excellent flight shot. Thanks.

MKinHK
Monday 18th January 2010, 14:47
Female Baikals don't get to look more clear cut than than - nice one - and great to run into it in such a random place. I agree with Shi Jin about the flight shot - never seen such a good comparison.

Ps John is being coy about his own Baikal Teal - also found on a river nowhere near a proper wetland - one of the coolest patch birds ever in HK in my opinion!

Cheers
Mike

sichuan jiujiu
Thursday 21st January 2010, 13:03
I am often amazed on how many different faces the activity of bird watching can have - apart getting the ID of certain species or subspecies there is so much fun in just watching the birds: Yesterday and today I went to Qinglong Lake in the eastern outskirts of Chengdu, as this could be the only place left where our ducks usually spent their winter. They disappeared from all the other lakes and riversides around Chengdu this year.:h?:
And I first was rewarded with a Common Coot that was hunting (!) two Little Grebes. Everytime it was close by they dived off and the Coot apparently was puzzled. When they came up again, the hunt started from the beginning. The Coot also dived a few times... without success, as both the Coot and the Grebes emerged from two different spots again. They really featured a twenty minutes circus show.

sichuan jiujiu
Thursday 21st January 2010, 13:59
However, this wasn't the only reward during these two days.
For me the biggest rewards was - no - not the high number of ducks (I'd guess between 1000 and 1500) and that we finally found them, but a bird I have been looking for up in Aba Prefecture/Amdo and where else it is supposed to show up according to reports but without success yet:
Chinese Grey Shrike
It was just hanging there in the air, heading down to get some food, coming up again, standing still in the air again ... great!
Unfortunately we just arrived at the lake five minutes ago and didn't prepare the camera in time. So, no image of this rare bird.
So were the other ducks: they were too far for giving a clear picture. Only the Coots, Grebes and Mallards stayed closer to the waterside.
Nevertheless, there were so many ducks in the middle of the lake and their existance gave me a good feeling (nobody knows what will happen to them in the next year).:
Common Golden Eye, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Spot-billed Duck, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Garganey, Common Pochard, Feruginous Pochard, Common Merganser, Great Crested Grebe etc, and probably much more.
Most of them were far in the middle of the lake and asleep. I am sure that there must be Bear's Pochard and Baikal Teal amongst them as well.


Here's another picture of a bird I took a few days before Christmas:
Robin Accentor
That was on a trekking tour at the west side of Minya Konka (=Gongga Shan). These birds (a loose flock of about 20 birds) gathered around a five-houses-village at about 4100m(asl). And they were everything else than shy. The missing eyebrow and a clear line between the orange and the grey at the breast makes the difference to all the other accentors.

Shi Jin
Friday 22nd January 2010, 00:37
Hi Sichuan Jiujiu

Really liked your account of the coots and little grebe. It's so much fun watching things like that.

Very well done on finding the shrike. Was it one of the Tibetan (sub)species - ie the one you find up in Aba - which apparently come off the plateau in winter and get all the way over to east China?

Warm regards from a very cold Beijing!

Gretchen
Friday 22nd January 2010, 00:48
Yes, Jiujiu, an interesting story about the coot - I have never seen anything like it, so it's quite interesting. I'm not familiar with the Robin Accentor either - very nice pic! Thanks for sharing your finds.

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 22nd January 2010, 03:58
Hi Shi Jin! I guess the shrike was coming from the high plateau. However, I always failed to see it there. So I just can guess.


Regarding accentors: This area is really great for accentors: YulongXi, Konka Monastery, Tsemet Pass...
The trip this winter gave me Alpine, Brown (see image below) and Robin Accentor. Roufous-breasted you find there all over the year and also almost everywhere else.
The Maroon-backed Accentor was very common in October: got about 100 views of it within four days.
So, winter is the season for these birds. In Summer they are dispersed and mostly much higher up (>4500m).

firstreesjohn
Friday 22nd January 2010, 04:48
Here in Norfolk, I've seen a pair of Coots systematically kill newly hatched Little Grebe (traditional name above) chicks, over the course of a few days. They didn't seem to eat them, either, but just leave them floating in the water. It almost seemed as if they did it because they could and didn't like the intrusion on their territory. They harassed the parents, too.

It was distressing, but there was nothing to be done. 'Nature . . . in tooth and claw' and all that.

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 22nd January 2010, 08:32
Yes, I agree. It really looked like a territory fight. On the other hand, this lake is not very big and there is hardly enough space for so many winter guests at all. Coots and little Grebes are residents on this lake, so why the conflict between them and not between other birds? Maybe because little Grebe is just the smallest. ;)

Here another picture from that lake. Grey Heron in big numbers. Another example how crowded it is.

Gretchen
Friday 22nd January 2010, 12:57
My husband says the herons all look like spectators watching some water event :-O

Gretchen

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 22nd January 2010, 14:51
That's why I like this picture. Just like in a stadium... hihi

sichuan jiujiu
Saturday 23rd January 2010, 14:38
Talking about crowded.

Here is another set of photos I want to share with everybody. These were taken on the same trip at Minya Konka last December. Again, this was in the vicinity of a small village (YulongXi).
Mountainfinches (Plain and Brantd's) and Horned Larks are squeezing themselves in order to get a small patch of grass in the thick layer of snow.

Each time they rose, there was a big noise of about 1000 birds making a loop and getting down again. Impressing.

china guy
Thursday 4th February 2010, 13:51
Nice pics - Jiujiu,
we're out in roughly the same area right now - but today we did the Old Erlang road - from both ends.
As usual the Chengdu/Sichuan Basin side was a mass of mist and there was a fair deal of snow - but in that mist there were some epic birds. Top of the morning list came Dark-rumped Rosefinch - a single male and a number of females - but there were also Golden-fronted Fulvetta, White-browed Fulvetta, Black-faced Laughers, Wall Creeper and a single Alpine Accentor.
As ever on the other side of the Erlang Mountain - the Tibetan Plateau side - there were blue skies - a complete climate change. Here we got Rufous-tailed Babbler, White-cheeked Nuthatch and 3 Lady A Pheasants.
Here are some of today's pics - male and female Dark-rumped Rosefinch, the Nuthatch and a female Lady A - which as usual is a pic taken through the windscreen - but at least this one chose to stay fairly still before it decided to bolt !!!!!!!

Marmot
Thursday 4th February 2010, 16:13
Wel done on the photos..the first ever of a Lady A on BF and the Rosefinch is also a first.

china guy
Friday 5th February 2010, 13:03
Thanx Marmot - hopefully we'll get much better Lady A pics - but it just seems every time we get a mega-view of this bird we haven't got the camera!!!! Tomorrow we'll be heading up a Lady A track - the old Moxi to Kangding road - which is now out of use. However when on foot you have to be very lucky to get good views - yesterday's male was while we were hiking a path - half a second of tail - then when I finally found him with binos just a quarter second view of his head feathers as he dissolved into the brush.
Today we went high - driving the present Moxi to Kangding road - which lies in the shadow of the mighty Minya Konka range (also known as Gonga Shan).
In a place like this you really do feel like you're close to the top of the world - if you're in doubt your lungs will give you the message.
Birds today were scarce - we were looking for signs of Monal - but after a stiff climb all the gamebird we got was a lot of Pheasant poo - which could also have been Blood Pheasant.
Beyond the treeline in the rhody scrub we got the usual White-browed Tit Warblers, a couple of Chinese Fulvetta and three White-throated Redstart. Down at the treeline there were some Three-banded Rosefinch and lots of Nauman's Thrush.
And of course can't forget Lammergeier - a bird that matches the majesty of these mountains.
Pics are of yesterday's Rufous-tailed Babbler, a female Three-banded Rosefinch, a Lammergeier eyeing up my cheese sandwich, those mountains - and pictorial evidence of the effects of altitude - that's a sleeping birder who was supposed be on a Monal stakeout - but if the truth be known I also took a nice 4000m doze while at least 1000 pheasants walked straight passed my snoring nose!!!!!!!

Gretchen
Saturday 6th February 2010, 12:02
Jiujiu - interesting picture of the birds in the snow - guess you don't usually have such deep snow out there? (or maybe it is normal?)

Chinaguy - nice pics also - the pair of dark-rumped rosefinches is particularly good as a set showing both well.

Sure are lots of nice birds down there!

cheers, Gretchen

china guy
Saturday 6th February 2010, 13:24
Hi Gretchen - both Jiujiu's and my pics are taken in an area - Moxi/Minya Konka - just on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, 5 hours drive from Chengdu. The biggest mountains here go over 7000m and are the highest east of the Himalayas. On the top peaks there are glaciers, and during the winter snow often falls at the lower altitudes. At the moment most of the lower snow is melting - and the sun is beating down from clear blue skies - so our biggest weather problem isn't counting toes after boughts of frostbite - but having to tend to sunburnt faces!!!!!!
Today we took a couple of tracks that are the remains of the old mountain roads that served during the evil days of mass logging - but are now almost totally deserted. These areas make a great escape from tourist packed Moxi - and after parking the car we only saw two Yak herders who were out looking for a lost dog.
Birding again was tough - its warm - so not so many noisy large flocks in the valley bottoms. But the scenery and hikes makes up for that - and what birds we do see are usually very interesting.
We arrived too late for a serious morning Pheasant watch - but during the evening we got a fleeting glimpse of a chicken diving into cover - no doubt a Lady A. Soon after the trees were echoing in screeches, grunts and barks - as a large troop of Short-tailed Macaques storm-trooped over the forest floor. When these guys are about forget Pheasants - they're most probably in mortal danger if they cross paths with one of these apes!!!!
Today was a good Owl day - apart from a collared Owl - we also heard a Northern Boobook. If Owl spotting was an Olympic sport Meggie would be a gold medal winner - she spots all our Owls and found the Boobook at great distance in a tangle of trees and saw it fly. I have a theory she must have been some kind of small owl-prey rodent in her last life and holds a constant look-out for these birds - needless to say I couldn't find it!!!!!!!
There's a lot of good Bamboo in this area - and today we found Three-toed Parrotbill - always a great bird this flock made a good show.
And again we got the bird to match the setting - a pair of soaring Golden Eagles. Just as yesterday's Lammergeier the Eagles made a show while we were eating a picnic lunch. This phenomena has allowed us to make a very important ornithological observation - the Lammergeier appeared while I was eating a sandwich made of nasty processed cheese - while today our Eagles appeared over the horizon while we were feasting on rather superior Emmentaler - this obviously proves that Golden eagles have more taste!!!!

Today's pics - are a Collared Owl, a cheese hungry Golden Eagle, a Three-toed Parrotbill who's just about showing his toes and Meggie walking an upper section of our track.

china guy
Sunday 7th February 2010, 12:52
Today we ran into our Macaques again - and were struck by an interesting pattern to their behavior. No big movements in trees - the usual sign these animal are about - they were foraging the forest floor - in an almost silent manner apart from making a call that sounded almost identical to Blood Partridge. Are these apes on a Pheasant hunt - trying to get a flock of Blood Pheasant to respond? We waited in the scrub until the lead monkey showed itself - and then a warning bark, to the rest of the troop, and that was the last we saw of them. The Macaques here are very wild - not like some of the near feral populations we have at other tourist sites.
The only contact we had with Game-birds were tracks in the snow. But the warm temperatures are melting the last of the snow - and that was causing landslides on the opposite side of the river valley we were walking. The birding was done against a background noise of crashing rock and stone.
Good birds today were more Three-banded Rosefinch and Three-toed Parrotbill, we heard plenty of Barred Laughingthrush but didn't lay eyes on one, even though they were responding to calls from the MP3, a couple of Crested Goshawk, lots of Pere David's Tit in flocks and Grey-hooded and White-browed Fulvetta.
Pics are of a teeth baring Macaque seen through thick scrub, Pere David's Tit, Pheasant tracks in the snow and a bad pic of a good bird from a couple of days back - White-browed Tit Warbler.

Shi Jin
Sunday 7th February 2010, 14:17
Wonderful reports. Thanks!

Gretchen
Sunday 7th February 2010, 23:34
Hi Gretchen - both Jiujiu's and my pics are taken in an area - Moxi/Minya Konka - just on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, 5 hours drive from Chengdu. The biggest mountains here go over 7000m and are the highest east of the Himalayas. On the top peaks there are glaciers, and during the winter snow often falls at the lower altitudes.


Thanks for helping on this - I've pulled up a Sichuan map once or twice in reading your entries, but my personal experiences are just Chengdu and Chongqing, and most of my Sichuan geography is poor.

Today we ran into our Macaques again - and were struck by an interesting pattern to their behavior. No big movements in trees - the usual sign these animal are about - they were foraging the forest floor - in an almost silent manner apart from making a call that sounded almost identical to Blood Partridge. Are these apes on a Pheasant hunt - trying to get a flock of Blood Pheasant to respond? We waited in the scrub until the lead monkey showed itself - and then a warning bark, to the rest of the troop, and that was the last we saw of them.


Quite interesting! Wonder if people who know apes would be surprised.

Very informative reports, and great pics (I wouldn't want to mess with that macaque).

cheers, Gretchen

china guy
Monday 8th February 2010, 14:16
Hey Gretchen - those Chongqing folk are now independent of Sichuan - must be something to do with their hotpot, much spicier than even the Chengdu variety!!!!!
And those Pheasant call imitating Macaques - well, vocalizations of these apes that would make great PHD research fodder for some energetic young zoologist.

Today - our last at this location - was definitely Meggie's day.
We felt good this morning - we were ready for altitude - as in hiking up beyond the 4000m mark in search of Monal and Snowcock. To help us with our quest we went to find the 'Pheasant man' who lives in the forest protection station at the top of the Moxi/kangding road. This guy is wealth of info and can tell you all about local chickens. After our Pheasant lesson he guided us up through labyrinth of dense forest - to lead us to a Yak path that would take us to good Monal and Snowcock locations.
Apart from his Pheasant knowledge this guy is truly amazing - he's 71 - and as we climbed he talked and talked while marking our trail with marks on the trees and branches - we puffed and panted, using every once of energy to keep up!!!!!!
At the Yak path - a distinct track that ascends up onto the high grassland beyond the treeline - we were left to make our own way.
We were told it would take 3 hours of walking to reach our destination - but always take the local walking time estimates with a pinch of salt. If they can make it in 3 hours - then 5 would be comfortable time-scale for us. However we had started late - and to give some time at the top we had to push ourselves - and actually got to our goal with 4 hours of heart pounding effort.
On the way up we bumped into our Monal - heard but not seen. I played a call - which brought an alarm call - and that was the end of the Monal!!!!
To get these birds you need very early morning or late evening - which is difficult at this location.
When we finally got to the top of our hike I collapsed like a lump of lard - but Meggie was made of far sterner stuff she was going to find her Chicken - and went marching off!!!!!
Half an hour latter - a call and a Tibetan Snowcock came flying around the corner - with a very determined Chinese lady in pursuit!!!!!!
Today's pics - well of course we have Snowcocks, we're glad we've got that flying shot - don't see many of them, and a Brandt's Mountain Finch - we found a mutant Brandt's today with a crest - and mustn't forget a picture of our victorious high-altitude photographer!!!!!

Gretchen
Tuesday 9th February 2010, 00:24
Hey Gretchen - those Chongqing folk are now independent of Sichuan - must be something to do with their hotpot, much spicier than even the Chengdu variety!!!!!


Oops! Well, it was Sichuan when I visited it ... guess I've never quite gotten over thinking of it that way - but I won't win any Chongqing friends that way ;) (And I have literally cried over the hotpot in both cities, so I can't say which is hotter :-O )

Sounds like you guys really were working hard! Congratulations on getting the snowcock and surviving the trip (actually Meggie's beaming face doesn't betray any hard work ;) )

MKinHK
Tuesday 9th February 2010, 13:25
I had to camp overnight at the top of a hill to get Sclater's Monal in the Gaoligongshan - also with a knarled old guy who was more than twice my age, carried twice as much, twice as fast, but at least we did get views of the Monal - a kilometre away and a blurred flyover, but tickable nonetheless.

Actualy the old guy Lao Li was something special. after we came down we camped at about 1000m. During the night the pack horses wandered away up hill so Lao Li marched off to find them. About an hour later the ground rumbled and the horses hammered down the slope and through the camp closely followed by Lao Li whooping and yelling!

I also marched up over 1,000m from the hotel at Wolong to hear but not see Chinese Monal and then take so long coming down we had to be rescued by the hotel staff with torches about an hour after dark.

Terrific pix of the Tibetan Snowcock! - and great to get the Moupinia - first pic I've seen of this bird. And gripped by David's Tit - another reason for coming back one day.

Cheers
Mike

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 10th February 2010, 14:45
Hey China Guy!
Did you also see the Grandalas on that Mountain (West Side of Minya Konka)?
Last December I counted about 1500 of them in one huge flock.

Apart Himalayan Griffon and Lammergeier, there sometimes also show up Cinereous Vultures - mostly in pairs.

Gretchen
Thursday 11th February 2010, 13:08
Wow, I'd never even seen pics of the grandalas before - very lovely! (so many Chinese birds for me to learn about still...) How wonderful to find a grandala bush ;)

china guy
Thursday 11th February 2010, 13:40
Nawww - we chickened out of the Grandalas this year - the road was still pretty icy and there's that one stretch - on the west side - where they knock ice-slabs off the road with hammers!!!!!!
Cinereous Vultures - we had many sightings of distant specks a few we could ID as Griffon, but apart from the Lammergeier, the vultures were sticking to other parts of the mountain.

And those old men in the mountains - around Wolong, we used to run into Bee-farmers who were over 80 - they were also incredibly fit, trekking up and down the mountains tending their hives. I've wondered why younger versions of these guys aren't the core of Chinese long distance athletics - or competing in the Tour de France????

On the way home we did the west side of the Old Erlang Road again and saw a couple of Lady A Pheasant. We then stayed two nights at Bai Sha He - a Panda Reserve that's can be accessed from a road very close to the town of Tianquan (Certhia tianquanensis = Sichuan Treecreeper). Again cold, still a little snow on the reserve roads - almost no birds - but stunning scenery.
One interesting tick was White-backed Woodpecker - we've put up a pic that illustrate the main ID points.
But our birds weren't totally finished - the last leg home we got lots of ducks on the river at Qionglai (around 60k from Chengdu) - Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, White-eyed Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Teal, a single Falcated Duck - and a couple of Crested Kingfisher.
The pictures are of the White-backed Woodpecker, a Chesnut-vented Nuthatch, a Winter Wren that must be szetschuanus - these birds live very high, can be seen above 4000m in the breeding season and are only seen low during the winter - and dabbling duck where there's a Flacated rear-end to be spotted with the Pintails.

And Mike you're dead right about the explosion of interest in birds with the Chinese - Meggies going through the local birding blogs right now - Long-tailed Duck and Scaup not far down the road in Deyang - pictures of a Solitary Snipe up on Xiling Mountain just a couple of hours from Chengdu - and a Firethroat location somewhere on the Eastern Edge of the Plateau quite close to Kangding. Lots to watch - but just at the moment we'll stay low while the worst of the Chinese New Year traffic whizzes around.

china guy
Saturday 13th February 2010, 05:19
Happy Chinese new year - everybody.
I should have posted a pic of Tiger Shrike - but I think this Black-faced Laugher trying to call in the spring is a bit more appropriate!!!!!!

Gretchen
Saturday 13th February 2010, 05:53
Haha - a TIGER shrike - wish I had one to post - I'm a tiger!

Happy new year to you guys, and to other readers from me too.

(looking for emoticon that looks like fireworks and not finding it...) :D:D:D

And yes, calling in spring is a good idea for Spring Festival.

china guy
Saturday 13th February 2010, 06:28
Here's a Tiger Shrike from a few months past - not so festive as the Laugher.

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 15th February 2010, 10:41
The Black-faced Laughingthrush... that - I first thought - was the bird I saw in Lhasa two weeks ago. But a brief view in the bird guide and a bit more patience with the binoculars and I got its real identity:
Brown-cheeked Laughingthrush. This bird seems to be quite rstricted locally: only around Lhasa and the northern part of the Himalayas. But it is one of the commonest birds to see there - at least in Winter.

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 15th February 2010, 11:02
However, the commonest two birds I was happy to see during my stay in Lhasa were the 1. Brown Accentor - a few weeks ago I got some nice pics of it at Minya Konka and was absolutely excited. Now I feel a little bit embarrassed about my excitement. Too many Brown accentors in Lhasa...
2. The Ruddy Shelduck. Only a little bit of water (see image of the "Lhasa Nature Reserve") seems to be enough to give this big duck a reason to spend the winter. There were thousends of them on the Lhasa River and the JarlungTsangpo (Bramaputra).

Pics:
1. Ruddy Shelduck
2. Wetland Nature Reserve in Lhasa
3. Another picture shows Bar-headed Geese in flight. Together with the Ruddy Shelduck they populate the winter waters around Lhasa.

MKinHK
Monday 15th February 2010, 11:35
Nice to see a photo of Brown-cheeked Laugher - not too many of those about.

Cheers
Mike

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 15th February 2010, 12:19
Yeah, I also was surprised to see this bird every day. Just some bushes... and it was sure to show up. However, bushes are not so common in this dry and almost desert-like environment.
Here another pic. But, taken in the shadow, not so good quality.

sichuan jiujiu
Monday 15th February 2010, 13:14
Here is another image of a bird that has a very small habitat range and is regarded as near-threatened species: Tibetan Eared-Pheasent.
These pheasants were very tame: They tried to steal our bread out of our hands while we had picnic! (Maybe "tame" is the wrong word. "aggressive robbers" would fit much more).

I don't think this is only because of the custom of the locals to feed these birds around monasteries. A much more important reason is the remaining of their habitat: You find them all concentrated around monasteries. These are places were trees (in this case juniper forest) traditionally have not been logged (at least partly) and where a tiny spot of natural environment still remains (see image of the hill side). Of course these birds do rely on people's respect and food...
Unfortunately, at this monastery you find about a few hundered goats 'being released' (a Buddhist custom) and living in freedom - freedom to eat the few remaining bushes and seedlings!!! The whole slope is about to change into a clay/sand desert. A pity for the pheasants!!!

china guy
Tuesday 16th February 2010, 13:35
Tame birds like those Tibetan Eared-pheasants are fantastic - but can create special problems. In my youth I spent 2 and a half years on the Falkland Islands - as a shepherd - and sometimes I got to ride on the inter-island aircraft that put down on some of the remoter islands. On some of these Islands they still had a small brown thrush like bird called Tussock Bird - that was so fantastically tame, that on most of the Falklands it was wiped out by cats and pretty much anything else it decided to eyeball at zero range. But at their last, cat free outposts of survival they still displayed incredible acts of tameness - in fact so tame and inquisitive that it wasn't unknown for them to board the aircraft with the other passengers!!!! Before take off we had to do a Tussock Bird Check to make sure we weren't carry any of these rare birds off towards the larger islands and feline danger!!!!! Lets hope the Tibetans keep up their friendly traditions towards the pheasants - and won't be tempted into catching a few of these chickens for the weekend roast!!!!!

On the Topic of abnormal birds - here's a pic of the Brandt's Mountain Finch with a crest we found at Moxi - that bird must have flown too close to some nuclear reactor!!!!!!! Better put up a beauty against that beast - Grey-headed Bullfinch on the snowy east side of the old Erlang Road.

Gretchen
Tuesday 16th February 2010, 23:24
Jiujiu - I'm really sad that I wasn't watching birds and didn't know about the Tibetan Eared Pheasant when we visited there - certainly an interesting bird! It's funny how we tend to take bushes for granted, but they struggle in some places. There's not a lot of flora for the birds up on the world's rooftop.

China Guy - was this the crested BMF you mentioned before, or have you seen several? The bullfinch does deserve the "beauty" title!

Very funny having to do a "Tussock Bird Check" before take-off. Too bad that we can't enjoy those kinds of friendly birds much anymore (still some like that in New Zealand?)

china guy
Wednesday 17th February 2010, 01:12
That is the "crested" Brandt's I talked about before - inspired by this bizarre bird, some joker send me the flying-dino pic (no names mentioned Mr. Firtree) - but I'm resiting the temptation of adding pterodactyl to my Sichuan tick list!!!!!!

As for any possible evolutionary success with regard to Crested Brandt's becoming a new species - well, assuming these birds are male, I've made made a couple of portraits of our crested friend against a normal 'hunk' Brandt's - now it's up to ladies to choose the most handsome and desirable of the two - and we'll see if there are any Crested genes passed down to future generations!!!!!

On the subject of Dinos and the prehistoric world up at 4000m - well the last pic is of a fossil rock just a couple of kilometers further up the road from where we took the Brandt's pictures - a sight that proves that the now top of the world was once at the bottom of some ocean. Apparently the Himalayas rise by 5mm every year - so the mountains around Minya Konka must also be on the move!!!

sichuan jiujiu
Wednesday 17th February 2010, 02:25
That's what I thought too. This mountain finch must have stolen some genes from Pterodactyl or at least from Hoopoe!
Was this only one single bird or more birds? Could it be possible that it is a kind of tumor?

Regarding Tibetan Eared-Pheasant: Yesterday I read some research on that bird and its environment. It really seems to live around monasteries preferably, due to some adequate vegetation surviving hundreds of years of human interference. These places are frequently visited by locals and thus the birds became used to visitors.

Here two images of two other birds which are quite tame and do not fear the presence of humans at least in the vicinity of monasteries:
Raven and White-winged Redstart

MKinHK
Wednesday 17th February 2010, 23:46
A fine photo of a Guldenstat's Redstart (I prefer the old commemorative names) its a trly magnificent redstart! No-one could ever confuse that moster of a Raven with a Large-billed Crow!

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Thursday 18th February 2010, 02:55
Here's a blurry flight pic showing why Guldenstat's also has it's White-winged title - the amount of white isn't always apparent when the Redstart is on the ground.
These birds really are a high altitude species - and we've only seem them in the winter when they come down to lower altitudes. Our picture is taken in Sichuan - on the plateau just beyond Kangding.

MKinHK
Thursday 18th February 2010, 13:47
Great to see this facet of this species in all its glory. White-winged it certainly is!

Cheers
Mike

sichuan jiujiu
Friday 19th February 2010, 07:16
I have only seen the male Guldenstat's Redstart in high altitude above 4000m and that was winter/autumn. I wonder how high they stay in summer. Once a saw a female near Hongyuan/Ngawa(Aba) prefecture at about 3800m.
Anyway, the best place for this bird seems to be up there in Qinghai (according to other birding reports).

MKinHK
Friday 19th February 2010, 15:50
All my sightings have been high - always a terrific bird!:

Behind Heimahe, Qinghai Lake - August 1990 and 1999
Erla Pass, SE Qinghai May 2001
Tiger's Mouth Pass Tian Shan Xinjiang (between Bayanbuluke NNR and Luntai on N edge of Taklamakan Desert) June 2001

Cheers

Mike

china guy
Thursday 25th February 2010, 22:29
We're out gain - this time we've been birding up through Wolong/Balang and are now near the top of the Mengbi Mountain pass - staying in a Tibetan village - - trying to get Sichuan Jay and some of the other goodies up here.
However the most important discoveries for us are that the roads are good - and that it looks like travel won't bee too complicated this spring/summer (touch wood).
But best sign off here - the internet connection connection is very dodgy - and Meggie is chaffing at the bit to get outside!!!!
The pic Is of Blood Pheasant - yesterday morning at the lowest point of Balang - we saw a couple of Monal two days ago - but pheasant watching is made difficult because thay wont let any cars out of Wolong before 8am due to winter road conditions on the pass

MKinHK
Friday 26th February 2010, 22:18
No pic of the Blood Pheasant - but v envious of the Monals!

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Saturday 27th February 2010, 22:09
here's that pic of Blood Pheasant - internet hasn't been too easy - but now we're in a chilly Hongyuan on the Rou Er gai Grassland and I can pick up a stronger connection.
Those Monal were all too brief - we're hoping for far better sightings latter on in the year.
The other pics include a pretty photo of the Balang pass at the very top, looking over the Rilong side - Snow Partridges were calling up here and responding to play back - but none would show (they sometimes call from the very top of the high ridge - when you can scope them). Snow Pigeons - that were putting on neat displays of formation flying and a bird from yesterday at Rou er Gai - Chinese Grey Shrike

Gretchen
Sunday 28th February 2010, 05:30
Ooh, nice pic of the pheasant! Some very barren looking territory there - very dramatic. Will it get some green later, or is this the year round appearance? I've not seen either of the other two birds (though should have seen the shrike I suppose) - thanks for the pics.

cheers,

Gretchen

china guy
Sunday 28th February 2010, 12:57
Hi Gretchen - that photo is taken at around 4400m - its pretty bleak and windswept up there - and during the winter, natural elements and a bit unnatural over grazing by Yak combined with the dry nature of the Sichuan Winter - makes for a brown withered landscape, where vegetation is on survival mode as it waits for warmth and rain to once again start growing - and in the wetter summer the scene gets much greener. Above this level the environment turns into a high altitude desert of rock and scree - only the super tough can survive up there - like the Snow Partridge.
where we were today - Rou Er Gai - is also bleak birding terrain. Vast expanses of windswept grassland where over grazing also leaves the land with the brown bald look. It's also high here - averaging around 3500m - but the wetlands are starting to thaw out - and patches of open water are emerging from the ice of the recent cold spell.
But again we have our super tough birds and animals who seem to thrive in such habitats - and we got a lot of interesting birds today - White-tailed Sea Eagles, Cinereous Vulture, Upland Buzzards, Guldenstat's Redstart, Pallas's Gull, Rock Sparrow, Little Owl and White-rumped Snowfinch were among the highlights.
Today's pics are of some of the other good birds - Black Stork, we saw 4 of them, Eagle Owl, hiding in a round crevice on a rocky slope, Hume's Groundpecker which lived up to its name as it excavated around on a sandy slope in search of a meal,Tibetan Lark, a great bird of this area and finally a pictorial example of Rou Er Gai bleak in the form of a rather weather beaten birder who, at this stage of the day, is thinking more about the warm flask of tea that's waiting in the van rather than any of his feathered friends!!!!!

Gretchen
Sunday 28th February 2010, 23:20
Very nice "picture" of the territory. (I feel like we're in survival mode with winter hanging on tenaciously too.) It's amazing that there are so many hardy birds living up there now. I guess what is really hard to imagine too is how you get to see them - doesn't look to be much cover for you, and I would think they'd be gone before you'd get good looks, to say nothing of pics. Very nice sightings!

The pic of the owl is great, and the groundpecker is completely new to me, just read a bit about it - interesting little bird (which we won't be seeing on this end of the country I see). Interesting all those storks there, are they just stopping now that the water is melting or have they been wintering there? (I can't seem to grasp that birds are actually noting changing weather and moving, though people are reporting it ;) )

china guy
Monday 1st March 2010, 12:49
Birds are indeed moving - one sad sight we got yesterday was a lonely Barn Swallow trying to take a drink - Swallow style on the wing - from the icy surface of the lake. In the milder Chengdu climate the Barn Swallows started passing over a couple of weeks back - so spring is making its way north.
As for those Black Stork - I'm not quiet sure if they're permanent winter visitors at Roe Er Gai - their big wintering grounds include the wetlands of NW Yunnan which can still be a frosty nighttime location - so they're certainly tough enough to stand a fair amount of cold.
As for the Tibetan Lark and Groundpecker - you can get pretty close to these birds - no need for hides or super long lenses to get their pics. And the Eagle Owl - well they're one of the many birds of prey that have a feast bonanza at the expense of the myriad of Pika Rabbits that inhabit the grassland. If it wasn't for the preditors I'm sure those Pika would burrow the grasslands to a total dust-bowl!!!!!!
Today we've moved a few kilometers off the grassland into forest habitat around Baxi - again lots of good birds and few nice pics.
We got the two special Laughingthrushes of this area Pere David's (Plain) and Sukatschev's (Snowy-cheeked) - best use those commemorative names or that Mike guy from HK will be after me!!!! We saw both of them around Tibetan Villages - these are garden birds up there.
But today we spent most of time crawling - sometimes really on hands and knees - after gamebirds.
We literally had a fight over how we were going to get onto that Sewerzow's Grouse - I think Meggie's pic shows who had the best plan. We actually saw many of these birds - you also have to look up into the trees - they perch. And the Blue-eared Pheasants - well that was about half an hour's work of out-flanking manouvers untill we came into close enough contact for a decent pic. There were six birds in the flock - and one sometimes two birds were posted on watch as the others fed. They certainly seemed well organised in the look out game - so chasing a good pic was a little tricky.

Shi Jin
Tuesday 2nd March 2010, 07:24
Congratulations on the photos. Fantastic work.

The Baxi area is really superb.

china guy
Wednesday 3rd March 2010, 12:30
Yes Baxi is a great area - we went about 20km down the road from the village and then took a a turn into valley to a place called Baozuo. Here there is still a lot of good forest left in the valleys - a place where you can still pitch a tent and trek off into the great beyond. These mountains and forests form a green corridor all the way to Jiuzhaigou - and exciting wildlife like Wolves can still be found in this remote habitat.

Here are a few more pics of this site - the first is picture of a Temple village about 5km down the track from the main Baozuo village -Tibetan prayer flags all over the place. The two Laughingthrushes were hanging about in the bushes that made up the village perimeter - we saw Pere David's actually going into buildings - through holes in the walls that were built in wattle and daub.
Crows and Jackdaws were other village birds - the Daurian Jackdaw is posed on the mud walls of a former temple that was destroyed way back in the 40's in a clash between the Red Army and nationalist forces. A quintessential bird of this region is the White-throated Redstart - very common - but annoyingly difficult, because of it hyper-active nature, to photograph. We also saw Black Woodpecker - I haven't had good views of this bird since way back to a bird watching day in Poland!!!!!
And finally a pic of weirdest bird of the trip. We realise that this is a wild bird forum - but how many species of Pheasant have been mixed into that mutated horror? Tibetans don't keep Chicken's - at least we rarely if ever see them in the villages - so we were surprised to see that rooster strutting about. It obviously has some cultural rather than culinary significance - and around Wanglang (another N Sichuan birding site) the traditional female costume features a little hat (a true twin to a Buster Keaton hat) with a white rooster feather stuck into it. Those white feathers look very similar to the hat feathers - but the women around Baxi certainly don't wear them!!!!

Gretchen
Wednesday 3rd March 2010, 14:17
Wow - some "chicken"! Lovely redstart pic and I enjoy seeing the settings as well.

Thanks for sharing all this.

Shi Jin
Wednesday 3rd March 2010, 22:57
Wonderful write-up yet again. Really captures the mood of this incredible area. Thanks.

china guy
Friday 5th March 2010, 09:06
It seems to me that many of the reports at this site contain a spirit and mood that reflects the excitement of being able to share in a type of wild and plentiful nature that still, despite all the ravages of change, can hang on, here and there, in odd corners of the world. We're all birders, but sometimes the sheer enjoyment of this type of rampant nature transcends our love of the ticklist. With Sichuan I feel particularity privileged in being still able to find a wild west of China - even though I realize that inevitable and, through the accepted norms of modern living,understandable development will eventually also tame this part of the world. My travel hero is a guy called George Burrow - who wrote a wonderful travel account of walking in the soon to be industrialized and changed for ever Wales of the 1860's - called Wild Wales. Traveling in the wilder parts of Sichuan - is my way of walking a little in George's footsteps.

One of places we got to on that last trip was Mengbi Mountain - and here we were lucky to find accommodation in a Tibetan village very close to the summit. The name of the village is Mucheng - and although basic in the western sense of Hotels living here is within 15 minutes drive of a Monal location - and it also enables you to walk straight out into some wonderful habitat that includes White-eared Pheasant (the villagers had seen a flock from their houses the day before we arrived), Verreaux's Monal-Partridge (Chestnut-throated Partridge), Blood Pheasant, Sichuan Jay and of course a host of other stuff.
Our birding was pretty snowy - but not more than a few hundred meters from the village we ran into a double tick - a Northern Goshawk making a kill on a Verreaux's Monal-Partridge. This area is often birded for Sichaun Jay - and when we played Jay calls we had a huge response - but I'm afraid from Giant Laughingthrushes. Even when we heard calls coming back that were Jay like there was always a Giant Laugher in the picture - these guys are pretty good at mimicking and really cause a lot of confusion!!!!!
Pics from the area are - a snowy landscape, the top part of Mengibi is in the distance - Northern Goshawk towing away the Partridge, poor old Partridge is still partly alive here - so it still officially counts as double tick - the Partridge about 3 hours latter, it was hollowed out, RIP - the other Tit Warbler, a few posts back I gave a bad pic of White-browed from Moxi, so here's a bad pic of Crested Tit Warbler from Mengbi - and a female White-winged Grosbeak from high forest found just on the Maerkang side of the Mengbi pass.

Shi Jin
Friday 5th March 2010, 10:05
Very well put. Couldn't agree more.

I hope to go back to that magical place in June.

(As much as I like Goshawks, I hope there are still a few Verreaux's around then ;-)

china guy
Monday 8th March 2010, 10:43
We still have plenty of interesting photos from The Ruo Er Gai area - and can start with a pic of the vast flat grasslands that make up this environment. The landscape reminds me of my days on the Falkland Islands - barren grazing.
However on the wildlife side things are very different - certainly no native Falkland species compares with Ruo Er Gai's Pika (I suppose burrowing Jackass Penguins and Prions come closest). Our picture clearly identifies this little burrowing rodent as - Black-lipped or Plateau Pika (Ochotona curzoniae). We can find 9 species of Pika listed for Sichuan - but doubtless that list periodically splits and changes.
As I've already mentioned the Pika have a faithful band of followers - that Upland Buzzard heavily depends on Pika for its Ruo Er Gai survival. You often see these predators just standing over a Pika hole - hoping to pounce on the next 'man' out.
But its not just the hunters who benefit from these rodents, but also a hole nesting species - White-rumped Snowfinch - is very closely associated with Pika colonies. During the breeding season these birds will nest in Pika burrows - but here on the last day of February we can still see the birds present around this Pika site.
And finally we have a picture of a bird we talked about before in the thread - Guldenstat's (White-winged) Redstart - however here's a pic of the female. These are certainly less conspicuous than the male birds - no quite so many pictures of the female at OBC.

Gretchen
Tuesday 9th March 2010, 11:04
Hey China Guy,

Are you and Meggie thinking of a book? You could do a great job, pictures, bilingual text, celebrating wild Sichuan? I think something like that could have positive impact, though I guess it could endanger "unspoilt" places too. Still, I think it could really show the importance of all the parts of the ecosystem and encourage people to protect it.

As usual, I like all the pics and the story. I absolutely love pika - thanks for that picture. The white-rumped snowfinch looks a bit different than I expected - the dark eyes and white beak reduce its finch-like look.

china guy
Wednesday 10th March 2010, 06:55
Gretchen - you seem to be well into Pikas - so here's another Sichuan species - we think it's Royle's Pika Ochotona roylei - this one was taken 3 years back on a trip to the Tibetan Border town of Dege.

As for the book - we'd love to share the stories and sights of natural Sichuan with the largest possible audience - but in these days of digital rather than paper pages - it seems that the best way of getting our message over is through the net - and particularly by jumping onto such a popular birding site as birdforum. I'm afraid specialised books - which any work on Sichuan birds, no matter how coffee table its appearance, would be - tend to gather dust on bookshop shelves - that is if you can even find publishers interested in producing them. Saying that we'd love to do shorter articles for magazines and other journals, and at the moment are in the very embryonic stages of contemplating giving some lectures while making, early next year, a proposed visiting to the UK.
By the way on the subject of getting our stuff on the net - we've recently started to contribute again to our Sichuan birds blogspot site (we've gained entry through a VPN connection) - I'll try to focus more on that during the next few days.

As for stories well here's a good one that ties up that Dege visit to our recent trip that took in Wolong. Mengbi Shan, Ruo Er Gai and Baxi.
Those Pikas aren't the only rodents in our lives - we used to be the proud owners of a couple of Hamsters - which sometimes used to accompany us on our trips.
That combined pics where Meggie is holding the Hamsters, in their cage, is taken at what is commonly regarded the most dangerous spot of the G318 route to Lhasa - the 5000m Bird Mountain pass that comes just before you get to Dege. The sign in the inset says 5050m - at that exact moment we were thinking that we had the honor of being with the highest Hamsters in the world.
The day we were to leave on newest trip the last Hamster died - after a very long 3 year Hamster life. We decided to bury the deceased at Wolong - and the next picture is of the Wuyipeng buildings at the top of the ridge, close to which our Hamster was buried - see inset for the grave. The ceremony was conducted with full honors and some corn and sunflower seeds for the next life. So if any of next seasons Wuyipeng birders see a ghostly Rodent like apparition floating over the paths - I'm afraid that's something to do with us!!!!!
As for Wuyipeng - those buildings seems in a pretty bad state of neglect - talking to reserve folk they don't reckon anyone, apart from Panda researchers or reserve staff will be using them this year. The hotels down in Wolong are also very limited. With the panda center out of action not many Chinese tourists are bothering stopping - so the the motivation to open early has rather stalled. The second day we were there - this is around the 25th Feb.- they started work on renovating the poshest of the bunch - Wolong Hotel - but weren't talking about it opening this season.
As for the birds our Hamster can gaze down upon from its celestial paradise, well they're all still in place - as you can see from the pics of - Golden-breasted Fulvetta and a winter flock of Grandala, a little further up the road towards the Balang Pass.

Marmot
Wednesday 10th March 2010, 07:39
Supeb photos and continuing tales of China Guy & Meggie.

Think I will make the Pika an honorary Marmot.

Gretchen
Thursday 11th March 2010, 00:08
Mmm, yes, I understand about the new economy and all (virtual not paper, sharing not selling etc.) but I was thinking particularly about sharing with the Chinese who should be able to see the wonders of this not often displayed area. Maybe you're doing parallel work in Chinese already? I hope that as there is a growing interest in nature developing here these days, that there would be things like what you're giving us tastes of to stoke that interest - I can't say I know enough to know what formats would work best...

You have a veritable riches of pika! We only have 2 for the US and you have 9 kinds! (Guess you are talking about quite a few mountains too....) I wonder how much they are like NA types - if you have seen them collecting hay or if they leave little piles of it out to dry (though not this time of year so much I guess) and if they make loud alarm calls when you come by.

I have never heard of traveling hamsters either - you guys really do have lots of unusual experiences!

I'm beginning to get the idea that the grandalas are quite a flocking type bird. The females remind me of starling markings, but I don't see that they are any relations - males are just so bright, they must be wonderful to see. The golden-breasted fulvetta is a beauty too.

P.S. Slightly relevant to the topic of publishing, I just read this article (http://sundaypeople.nst.com.my/Current_News/SundayPeople/article/Personality/20091107164457/Article/index_html) about one of my favorite posters on the Bird Ecology Study Group blog (http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/). Article is a bit long, but the part about his concern about how people in his area viewed birds and the book he wrote is rather interesting.

china guy
Thursday 11th March 2010, 12:50
Marmot our Himalayan Marmots seem to be still snoozing their winter away - as soon as they start to be more active we'll try to send some pics - but they can be awful canny when it comes to keeping their distance from camera touting bird lovers.

Hey Gretchen - that article is interesting, and certainly mirrors the common situation we find in China - a poor connection with nature which results in a lack of knowledge among the general population about their own natural environment. Even in the countryside we've met folk who seem much more at home keeping close to a hopefully business rich roadside - so sometimes it can be difficult to even ask for directions that take you onto paths and tracks, since many folk have just never explored outside their own patch!!!!!!
However we from the west have nothing to crow about - I can see modern China following after our own destructive development - and there's surely also a sorry truth that most folk anywhere are part of the "shrug their shoulders" Brigade when it comes to conservation and understanding any type of wildlife.
Thankfully in all these situations there starts to come folk who attempt to create paths for greater understanding - like the Malaysian couple in your article. And here in China birding is also picking up - and work is being done at grass-route levels to promote a concept of conservation. There are bird books to be had - and there are many Chinese birding sites that put up news and pictures (some of those pics are of staggeringly good quality). Very active groups exist in both Sichuan and Yunnan - and some of these guys aren't scared to talk out when they think the developer is going too far.

As for getting more info over to a real grass-route audience - I think one way would be by going through the army of foreign English teachers who work in many Chinese schools - birdwatching and nature could be a brilliant topic for a few English lessons - it would be an interesting project to devise materials for different student groups so conservation and Chinese nature could be subject in the classroom.
If our pictures and words could be used for such a project that would be brilliant - where the goal of our work could also include trying to get out to folk who live a little closer to our wildlife than the majority of birdforum readers.

And in the spirit of illustrating Sichuan wildlife - here are a few more pics from our last trip. We saw a couple of animals we've never photographed before, both come from the Wolong area - the first is a Tufted dear, and the second is Mainland Serow. These are also canny animals - it's difficult to get decent pictures. I also scoped a wild pig - but that was just too far to photograph. And then we have birds - a great shot of Alpine Accentor taken almost at the very top of the Balang Pass - and a Black-browed Tit - lots of these Tits in wintering flocks. And finally our best pic so far of Sichuan Tree-creeper - this active bird froze for about a minute when we played the species call. It shows the Sichuan Treecreeper characteristics - a slightly buffy belly that (again slightly) contrasts with a white chin.

And those Pika - I think we're going to pay a whole lot more attention to those guys - we've seen some that live in Forests, like to find out what species those are. As for their hay-piles - I read a report from Nepal - which started out in an unfortunate description of the Pika - "these unpopular animals" - but soon picked up and described how important they and those hay-piles were for a lot of bird-life.

Gretchen
Friday 12th March 2010, 00:18
As for getting more info over to a real grass-route audience - I think one way would be by going through the army of foreign English teachers who work in many Chinese schools - birdwatching and nature could be a brilliant topic for a few English lessons - it would be an interesting project to devise materials for different student groups so conservation and Chinese nature could be subject in the classroom.
If our pictures and words could be used for such a project that would be brilliant - where the goal of our work could also include trying to get out to folk who live a little closer to our wildlife than the majority of birdforum readers.


Actually, I gave a lecture last spring on bird watching, and was hoping to do something like that again this year. If I can add in some of your pictures, I'm sure it will help make a link to some beautiful Chinese birds. I also try and show local birds that they might even see on campus if they look a little ;) and remind them that they live in one of the premier bird watching areas in China. I've thought a bit about a campus club or something, but that has to wait for the Big Project to get done :king:

china guy
Sunday 14th March 2010, 05:06
Gretchen - that sounds wonderful stuff you're doing - and by all means use any of our pictures - we'd love to see our work being utalised for any good causes that have something to do with spreading the message of conservation and the environment.
As for talking about birds to so-called 'normal' folk - here meaning wild birds and not some poor Hwamei imprisoned in one of those pathetically small traditional cages - you so often get the slightly puzzled, surprised stare. We've met Birders who have tried to get local tourist agencies to help with a birding tour - only to be pointed to places in the big town parks where the grandpas meet with their caged birds!!!!!! When out birding, dressed in the usual binos and cameras - being met by other tourists, we've been questioned whether we're professors - as if it nature out in the field was a place for scientists rather then ordinary folk with a passion for the environment.
However all that must be changing - and folk are waking up to nature as more than an exotic menu at a restaurant -but being an impatient breed of folk, most birders would of course hope that awakening would happen a lot more quickly.
Part of the way of setting that alarm clock for an earlier time must be about getting a clear message over to the folk. Simple stuff like pretty bumper stickers (folk here just love a pretty bumper sticker) - as simple as a picture of a wild bird and a slogan. Something like - keep birds wild, keep them alive, protect the environment for everyone - and hey presto you are again introducing concepts where folk start to actually think about birds, nature and protection. Love it one day if some NGO would knock on our door and let us help with a project like this - but our experience of similar projects has taught us that simple ideas sometimes get immersed in a sea of complications - but ya never know!!!!!

As for our birding - well we've had a couple of guests over the weekend who needed a tour to Chengdu Panda Research Center. Although for birders they've tidied this location far too much in the last couple of years- as in making it a park, far too many laws and weeded flower beds. But it still makes for about the best Chengdu birding spots - birds were singing and the Chinese Bamboo Partridges calling their "beeper-rays." Our mission didn't give us much time for any birding - but Meggie got off a picture of White-browed Laughinthrush collected nesting material. Spring is here!!!!!!!!
That White-brow shows off its little crown - it was in one of those typically noisy flocks, and these birds will often show aggression towards others with touch of crown raising. So I might as well add on a couple more Laugher crowns to this post -
The first is Giant Laughingthrush - in a Tibetan Village close to Maerkang. Here religous tradition sees the people feed and protect the birds so Giant Laugher is literally a garden bird. This guy is also totally peeved off at some other bird - hence that angry crown look - usually this species doesn't look this way
And the second - well that's the king of laugher crowns - White-crested Laughingthrush. That was taken back during Christmas time on our Yunnan visit at Ruili Botanical Gardens. These birds are pretty easy to hear - but not so easy to get a good sighting. A very handsome bird!!!!!! By the way this laugher can also flatten that crested crown - its also got a flat headed look - in this case a raised crest indicates an interest in a couple birders using playback.

James Eaton
Monday 15th March 2010, 04:22
Wow, great seeing a pic Serow (Chinese Serow on today's taxonomy!). I'm off to search for that beast in June at Tang Jia He (along with the parrotbill of course!).

Could I pick brains of those who have been to Yunnan and Tibet -
I am doing a couple of short trips in May and June - 1 is to the eastern half of Tibet, flying into Qamdo and driving across to Lhasa - has anyone done this route can can offer any advise for the birding or must-see sights?

Also, equally exciting, I will be visiting Baima Snow Mountain NNR in northernmost Yunnan to see Black Snub-nosed Monkeys - has anyone any idea if anyone has birded this particular area? It looks very exciting judging by the location and within the historical range of Derbyan Parakeet, maybe a monal sp and also perhaps Biet's Laughingthrush...

Sid - the tit appears to be a Sooty Tit, great pic nonetheless - lacks the rufous of Black-browed.

Cheers,

James

firstreesjohn
Monday 15th March 2010, 04:51
James:

Have a look at Pls 34 & 35 of "Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers" (Harrap and Quinn).

Can't see from those how it could possibly be Sooty- or Sweep, come to that !

Regards, J.

James Eaton
Monday 15th March 2010, 07:33
Ah, thanks for that John, I jumped the gun a bit - it's been many years since I saw Black-browed in China, too used to the rufous birds further west - that's my only excuse! Apologies to Sid...

china guy
Monday 15th March 2010, 11:37
Hi James - Biet's Laugher was sighted for sale as a cage bird in Lijiang market - it still occurs within Yunnan. Chinese birders however don't want to disclose exact locations of their sightings in the wild, since bird collectors are scanning their sites. There have been pictures taken of huge Parakeet flocks taken in this area - around Meili Snow Mountain - close to Baima. Bjorn Anderson talked about a village that protected the Derbyan Prakeet - I presume this place could be in this area

As for Changdu (almost the same spelling as Chengdu but its large town in the east of Tibet - I think that is the same place as Qamdo) we've driven that route to Lhasa 3 years ago - in an old canvas top military jeep. I'm afraid we didn't do much birding that trip - we had no permits for anything what so ever (we didn't even intend to enter Tibet - but were persuaded by some very friendly government officials that we were more then welcome and not to worry about the paper work) - so it was more a drive to Lhasa and back than any hanging about at birding locations with a pair of binos!!!!! That was a brilliant trip - but, at the present time, hardly recommended with the restrictions now placed on Tibet travel.
An area that looked prime birding was a forest area around Linzhi and Bomi - big flocks of Derbyan Parakeet around here - but also so many in cages - it looks like they were being collected for the cage trade!!!!!
We saw a single example of this Parakeet flying over Tagong last April - and have seen them in the forests around Yajiang.

That Tit is a difficult one - I had a telephone discussion with Juijui over that last night. It's not a very good example of the bird it lacks those white mustache streaks that are typical of this species. At the moment I'm at Emei - staying in nunnery, the go to bed drum is beating at this very moment - when back I'll post up more typical Black-browed Tits that were taken on the very same day. For great Sooty Tit shots look at the John and Jemi Holmes pics at OBC.

PS - James we'd just love to mirror you're Gold-fronted Fulvetta sightings at Wawu - those make us extremely jealous.

James Eaton
Monday 15th March 2010, 11:43
Thanks for that - My intention is to visit Linzi and Bomi for the parakeet as it is obviously in steep decline - we have our permits so no problem there. It was only 20 years ago that is was still present in numbers around Muli and other areas of southern Sichuan.

Before Baima I will actually be going for the Biet's Laughingthrushes in Yunnan thanks to a local friend of mine so looking forward to that having birded an area not far from the present site years ago in the hope of rediscovery it!

Hope you are enjoying Emei, lovely place....

James

rockfowl
Monday 15th March 2010, 11:53
Also, equally exciting, I will be visiting Baima Snow Mountain NNR in northernmost Yunnan to see Black Snub-nosed Monkeys

I'd be interested to hear how you get on with this magical beast James, good luck, sounds like you've some special trips coming up!

rockfowl
Monday 15th March 2010, 11:56
Sounds like you and Meg are having a corking time Sid, some great pics as usual, love the Royle's Pika, only just seen my first, excellent image!

James Eaton
Monday 15th March 2010, 14:10
I'd be interested to hear how you get on with this magical beast James, good luck, sounds like you've some special trips coming up!

Certainly have Mark, this particular trip has really wetted my appetite - ever since BBC Wild China series I have been determined to see these monkey, taken sometime to organise but having spoken to the guys on the ground it seems very doable with a bit of camping in the extreme wilderness...

Cheers,

James

rockfowl
Monday 15th March 2010, 15:34
Certainly have Mark, this particular trip has really wetted my appetite - ever since BBC Wild China series I have been determined to see these monkey, taken sometime to organise but having spoken to the guys on the ground it seems very doable with a bit of camping in the extreme wilderness...

Cheers,

James

Oooohh that magical series! Well they don't have a green envy icon here otherwise I'd post one. Six years at Twycross taught me that Snub-nosed are the gnats ********. Genuinely keen on this, let us know, you might have an instant punter. Going to be a bloody great trip anyway, some serious beasties, fur and feather out that way and camping's definately the right way to absorb it.

china guy
Tuesday 16th March 2010, 15:49
Here's another picture of a Black-browed Tit found at Wolong - this one shows those white mustaches and is posed to fully show off that broad white band that parts its black brows. A handsome bird - there were plenty of them to see on that last Wolong visit.

Got back tonight from our last trip which included a brief stay at Emei. This time our guests weren't birders - but we were still able to get some birding in.
We were staying at a nunnery - and lie-ins aren't that easy there, since there's a lot of early morning gong banging and chanting. However this mornings Nun noise had a little competition from a Collared Scops Owl that was calling from the woodland that bordered our sleeping quarters.
The nunnery grounds had Hwamei, Red-billed Magpie and Chinese Bamboo Partridge - and in the trees outside there were a lot of White-browed Shrike Babbler calls.
White-billed Shrike Babbler were also present at the base of the mountain - close to the Hotel town. The stream that runs through this place is good for Slaty Forktail - but this morning we only saw a single brief bird flying upstream.

Apart from the Black-browed Tit pic the others are of one of this mornings White-browed Shrike Babbler - we didn't get a pic of the Collared Scops Owl - but I've included an atmosphere pic of how an early morning nunnery looks - that Owl isn't scared to call up against the racket those ladies are raising.
I've also included a pic from a couple of weekends back - of a bird we've seen once at both Emei, and Wawu, but this time at Bi Feng Xia - Grey-winged Blackbird - we had a flock of six of these birds.

With regard to those trips James was writing about I'd also like to add a green envy icon - fantastic places!!!!!! And Mark, those Pika are dangerous for us - Meggie's so fascinated by them - she forgets the birds!!!!!!!

rockfowl
Tuesday 16th March 2010, 16:54
And Mark, those Pika are dangerous for us - Meggie's so fascinated by them - she forgets the birds!!!!!!!

LOL, I know, cost me a good look at some mountain finches!

Some amazing stuff on this thread Sid, just been catching up.. Keep up the good work, I'm envious and inspired :t:

MKinHK
Wednesday 17th March 2010, 21:27
not many pix of Grey-winged Blackbird out there - 6 together must have been some sight! A really evocative pic of the WB Shrike-Babbler too.

Cheers

Mike

china guy
Thursday 18th March 2010, 03:50
Yes Mike - 6 Grey-winged Blackbird was a mega sighting. It took a bit of time to register what they were, they were high up and the only view was directly into sunlight - in that 'nearly not to see' situation we at first took the females as Chestnut Thrush - and it was only when a male came down and was fairly visible that we realised what they were. They breed in this area - my two previous sightings were both scoped dawn chorus birds - singing away on a typical high thrush singing perch - a tree at the bottom of Wawu and a telephone pole at mid-elevation Emei.
That day Bi feng Xia also gave White-browed and Green Shrike Babbler - but the trips weirdest sightings came the next day in Chengdu - a pair of Black-collared Starling at a good river location near the new exhibition center (a species normally out of range for Sichuan - but in the spring a possible vagrant). These birds looked in very good nick - were very weary of human approach - so the question is, were they really wild or another sighting via this present resurgence in the craze of releasing birds on so-called religious grounds!!!!!!
Liberating wild birds from incarceration is sometimes a great thing (not catching or buying any is even better) - but we heard that some temples were involved in the illegal wild bird trade so they had a finger in the money pie where they're sold to those who think releasing them will bring good fortune. I know this is a practised in Thailand - it's a shame it's starting to be so popular here.

In this post I've included some pics from our Chengdu to Lahsa drive we made 3 years back - the same area James Eaton will be covering in his trip.
The first pic is of those Derbyan Parakeets in the Linzi area - here they're in replanted forest. which gives us hope that one day, there would be some possibility of them returning to former haunts that were so aggressively logged before the early 90's. However the big problem now is the price these birds fetch at the cage bird markets - which means they're extensively hunted!!!! Now if those release folk really wanted to put their money into a good project and buy some good karma points from me - why not buy a load of these Parakeets up from Chengdu bird market, take 'em a day's drive west and then give them their freedom!!!!!
The next two pics show that much of the land is bare of vegetation - some areas have been eroded away to upland desert - where the only real green are small patches of oasis like farming land. Other parts are the typical high rolling grasslands that are also typical of much of Sichuan Tibet.
The final pic is of our brave Jeep - illegally parked in front of the Potala Palace - end point of the trip. That old rust-box had a petrol engine with carburetor - so it suffered a lot from fuel starvation through vapor lock (one of the possible problems of high altitude driving). To get over that problem we relocated the fuel line to give it a little more protection from engine heat - and those silver stickers also helped in our quest to keep motor temperatures at a reasonable level.

Shi Jin
Thursday 18th March 2010, 05:07
Thought you might like to know that I've seen Lord Derby's Parakeet actually in Lhasa. I found a flock of 15 in the gardens of the Norbulingka, on January 4th 2008. Whether this is a one off, or they regularly winter there, I have no idea.

china guy
Sunday 21st March 2010, 05:02
I hope those parakeets are a bit safer from cage bird collecters in Lahsa.
I also wonder if tree planting in the city parks could ever attract an urban population? Parakeets are feral birds in other city locations - the famous example being those troublesome Parakeets of London - but Derbyan Parakeets inside urban Lhasa would be a species that was certainly within its range.
Both Meggie and I were surprised by the Derby connection - me because I never realized that someone from that dour, industrial black-country city was labeled a Derbyan - and Meggie because she was sure the name had some mispronounced/misspelled reference to Danba - an important Kham Tibetan town - within an area where I'm sure the Parakeet was quite common in the recent past. Danbian Parakeet would be a far more fitting name.
But Derbyshire in the N Midlands of the UK also has its own exotics - in the Peak District there used to be a colony of wild Red Necked Wallabies whose ancestors hopped out of their Zoo incarceration during the 30's. Unfortunately it seems that road-kills in combination with the other dangers and changes of modern 'civilization' has very recently snuffed-out to extinction their brave freedom - lets hope Derbyshire's Tibetan Parakeets don't go the same way.
Last year we only saw the Parakeet once - a high flying bird passing over Tagong Monastery (I felt quite sorry for our guests - all they got to see of this attractive bird was a dark shape streaking away in the blue yonder). Today's pics show that bird, we had to have a picture to convince our guests that actually did see this species - but we made it up to them with two of the gamebird that can be found in the area - Tibetan Partridge and Szechenyi's Monal-Partridge - these are the exact birds that they also saw.

Shi Jin
Monday 22nd March 2010, 06:02
I've heard about those Derbyshire wallabies. Thought it was a wind-up at first.

No idea if Lord Derby (Edward Smith-Stanley, 1775-1851, 13th Earl of Derby) had anything to do with their introduction, but it does appear he had his finger in more pies than you can shake a stick at.

He was even MP for Preston for a time, but after his father died (and the title was passed to him) he decided to give up politics and concentrate on amassing a collection of over a thousand birds (and hundreds of mammals). Sadly appropriate that one of today's most collected parakeets carries the name of one of the nineteenth century's most avid collectors - but in those days it was done in the name of science of course.

Talking of collectors, the Hungarian Doctor Bela Szechenyi (gripping photo of his Monal-Partridge btw ;-) led one of the great collecting expeditions (to China and beyond) from 1877 to 1880.

As far as doing one's bit to stop modern day collectors is concerned: Destroy nets; take photos of the bird-catchers (and sellers); demand that the local police take action; "invite" the media to the key areas - and point out the problem. But you have to get the local police and media on your side first, or the above tactics could go horribly wrong.

The best way, of course, is to educate the young (and inspire them to become the "defenders").

sichuan jiujiu
Tuesday 23rd March 2010, 13:53
I also got some news on that Parakeet:

Just came back from Tagong and Danba and asked a local guy from Danba about that bird. he was quite excited and told me that this Parakeet is one of their "special products" what lead me into a fierce discussion with him about bird catching. He thinks it helps local people to increase their income and develops their village.

Well, the discussion was postponed in the end as I was a bit in a hurry to get the last bus back to Danba, but hopefully it was not fruitless.
He also claimed that there are hundreds of Tibetan eared Pheasants out there. What lead to another discussion because I tried to argue that it must have been White Eared Pheasant. But he pointed to the pic in the book and stayed obstinate. Well, he invited me to go to that certain site next winter...

In Tagong/BAmei I run into two flocks of Szechenyii's. Hell, they were excited by my sudden approach; and their screaming attracted a black woodpecker to fly by and sit on the top of a pine tree to be the audience.

below is a pic of the Tibetan Lark which was one of the (only) 5 species of birds that I found high up on the grassland (above 4200masl). The others were Horned Lark, red billed Chough, Raven, large billed Crow and black billed Magpie. Probably a bit too early in the year for a better yield.
Another pic is from a weasel or so. Maybe someone is able to give a better ID of this little mammal?

Cheers
Roland

firstreesjohn
Tuesday 23rd March 2010, 16:26
With the aid of the excellent 'new' A Guide to the Mammals of China (Smith & Yan Xie, 2008), I can almost conclusively give this ID, sj.

Scientific name: Mustela altaica.

However, I am in no way a mammal expert- so I could be wrong !

Images at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mountain_Weasel_(Mustela_altaica).jpg

and: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/resources/david_blank/Maltaica3.jpg/medium.jpg&imgrefurl=http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/resources/david_blank/Maltaica3.jpg/view.html&usg=__XGvUSAEeadehdcHCx0nyLwSS09I=&h=480&w=359&sz=59&hl=en&start=1&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=rspgYiLZQVqsKM:&tbnh=129&tbnw=96&prev=/images%3Fq%3DMustela%2Baltaica%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den% 26lr%3D%26sa%3DN%26rlz%3D1G1GGLQ_ENUK368%26tbs%3Di sch:1

The above link might not work. Go the home page, then and do a search.

As for ID of the dung: is it from a Yak ?

rockfowl
Tuesday 23rd March 2010, 17:02
Agree with John, a Mountain Weasel, very nice!

Gretchen
Wednesday 24th March 2010, 04:33
China Guy and Jiujiu, nice to see the high altitude birds and creatures! Not easy places for birds, animals or humans to flourish....

The mountain weasel pic is extremely cute! My less excellent than John's source here (http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/collections/mammalogy/sichuan.html#rodentia)shows this drawing (http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/collections/mammalogy/sichuanimages/136.html) which looks pretty good for that id.

johnjemi
Wednesday 24th March 2010, 09:13
Hi Sid and Meggie,
We've been away, so I've really missed this thread over the past few weeks.
Great to read these accounts of your adventures, and the pics bring back lots of memories.
Looking forward to the next installment..
J&J

china guy
Wednesday 24th March 2010, 10:50
Hi John and Jemi - your name came up this morning, Meggie was looking at some of your latest OBC pics from Hainan. We're very motivated at the moment in wanting to look at pics from tropical holiday islands - a new chilly spell has just hit us.

Gretchen - I also use that picture source - it can be quite a guessing game with those illustrations.

As for pictures that bring back memories - that brilliant Jiujiu picture of the Mountain Weasel takes me back to about 4 years ago when we were first starting with bird photography (this was when we first started using a DSLR) - and a trip up Zhedou Mountain which is the gateway from Kangding up onto the Kham Tibetan Plateau. Near the top we got 3 of those Weasels - they looked like they were on a bit of rampage - and around them, on the fence posts, were about 6 Himalayan Rubythroat going mega-ape with warning calls. I reckon a stuffed Weasel on a string - maybe cast it out with a fishing rod so you could reel it back in - would be the perfect way to lure in a Rubythroat or two?????
Another weasily creature that's found in the forest close to this area is Yellow-throated Marten. I'm afraid we only have the gory picture of a dead example - found in forest on the Moxi to Kangding road (not quite certain how it died - no signs of trapping). Once again me and Gretchen will have difficulties in making an ID from the Mammalls of Sichuan website picture :(
To balance that gore with a bit of beauty - I'll put up a couple of pics of typical grassland birds. Two old pictures - Kessler's thrush, this year we want to get better pics of this bird, and Robin Accentor.

china guy
Monday 5th April 2010, 05:53
Well we're just making the last arrangements before we start a long run of trips that begin tomorrow - but before we go here's a huge resource to share -
http://www.wwfchina.org/birdgallery/prlist.shtm?province=%CB%C4%B4%A8
This is the work of Chinese birders - a gallery of bird photos - this list being Sichuan birds. For other provinces you navigate backwards towards the main-page - the Chinese can be a bit tricky, but if you click on the list (the word list is on one of the links) - you'll get a list of photos ordered in English common and scientific names.
Some of the those English common names differ from the ones normally in use - and a few photos may have been wrongly ID'ed - but this resource is pretty massive and makes a great ID tool.
There are also some pics that make very interesting records in their own right - for example a pic of Reeve's Pheasant taken in the the Pingwu area of North Sichuan (this is the area close to Wanglang and Tangjiahe).

As for our pics - well we've just used our time to buy a new camera body - a Canon 7D - which makes me happy because I get to use the 50D!!!!!
Here are some of the old 50D pics from our most recent trips - Little Owl and Rock Sparrow from the Ruo Er Gai area and Vinous-throated Parrotbill from just outside Moxi.

sichuan jiujiu
Tuesday 6th April 2010, 15:23
Yesterday, I have had the luck to almost step on a flock of tib. partridges on the Pass between Xinduqiao and Yajiang. They weren't shy at all...

china guy
Saturday 10th April 2010, 17:51
A quicky post with some nice pics from our last trip around Moxi and Erlang Mountain -
A solitary Snipe - that was nice and solitary up at its 4000m wetland. As with all Snipe - pretty hard to see - we would have all walked passed it without Meggie's Eagle-eye!!!!
An interesting Thrush - Long-tailed - as always it's useful with a pic of these birds - and from it you can see its build and bars instead of spots separates it from Chinese.
White-browed Fulvetta - these cracking little birds showed up a few times.
And finally a slightly bedraggled Lady A, about to cross the Chengdu to Lhasa highway - that day we saw about 20 of these Pheasants including some stunning males. Even during a toilet break I had a Cheeky female come out of the scrub and give me a quick eyeballing before skedaddling back into cover.
All these birds were lifers for our guests - but this trip included a special category of lifer - the traffic-jam lifer. We got stuck in a couple of unfortunate jams - but from within the car still were able to pick up Chinese Blackbird and a Grey-faced Buzzard.

MKinHK
Sunday 11th April 2010, 01:00
Terrific pix - especially of the Solitary Snipe.

How often do you see this? Solitary and Wood Snipe are big target birds for me. I've dipped on Wood Snipe in the Dwarf Juniper in Wolong and had either Solitary or Wood Snipe in the Gaoligong Shan in Yunnan a few years ago.

Cheers
Mike

Cheers
Mike

xiaoming
Sunday 11th April 2010, 12:20
I will visit WaWu Mountain 22-25th April. Hope to find Lady Amherst's Pheasant and many Parrotbills.

Gretchen
Sunday 11th April 2010, 13:02
Xiaoming, great news! I hope you have a great trip. Will you have two days or more on the mountain? (Hope more !!!)

Jiujiu and China guy, keep forgetting to say how much I am enjoying the pictures. The quails were great, and easy to see too!! My my. All the latest pics are great too - I love the fulvetta, am semi-enlightened by the thrush, and delighted with the cautious looking pheasant (so glad she watches before crossing the road!). Snipe looks easy to see with snow in the background - haha!

cheers!

china guy
Sunday 11th April 2010, 15:24
Mike - the Solitary Snipe is a solitary sighting - previous trips we have flushed 'altitude' snipe on a couple of occasions, but have never been able to get in contact with them. This year Wood Snipe are a target - the Balang area is now easily accessible again and is quieter after the last round of road building has finished!!!!!
There's now a new project for that @#%%!! road to 4 sisters - they intend to drive a tunnel through Balang Shan (which makes you wonder why they improved the road in the first place - it was never that bad) - I just hope they've worked out where they're going to dump the all that rock they're going to dig!!!!!

Here are a couple more pics of the Solitary Snipe - it's pretty big for Snipe and the way it flies makes it look a little Woodcock.

And yes Gretchen those pheasant seem to be more traffic smart than a lot of the pedestrians - as kids back in the UK we had Tufty the Squirrel to teach us how to cross the road - the kids here could do with a Lady A equivalent.
The Lady A pics show a male in the mist - and a 'let's get out of here quickly' female shot.

Xiaoming - the Lady A at Wawu are on the road about 5 km from the main gate up to the the lower hotel area - its best to drive this road early - like from first light -and watch from a car - you can see them almost all the way to the car-park area. You can also get them late evening.
At Wawu they've just made a new walking path at the lowest elevation - when going into the park through the main gate you have to make left in the direction of the temple and follow that track for around 5km until you come to the new path that leads into some nice looking forest. Good luck on the Parrotbills - try and get yourself Grey-hooded!!!!!

rockfowl
Sunday 11th April 2010, 16:52
Great stuff Sid, some magic birds once again.

Good luck Xiaoming, look forward to hearing the results from your trip.

china guy
Monday 12th April 2010, 10:25
Here are a few more pics from our short trip to Erlang/Moxi -

Our local version of Spot-winged Rosefinch - verreauxii which has been argued up as a split known as Sharpe's. These birds show white on the wings when they fly - the pictured bird is male.
We got the bird on the Kangding side of The old Erlang Road - where there were also both White-winged and Collared Grosbeak (although we only found female of the latter species).

A female Temminck's Tragopan - we still patiently wait for a good photo opportunity for the male!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Plain Mountain Finch - lots of these around the top of the Old Erlang Road - we usually see this bird on the high grassland, but this trip we even saw them perching in trees, which is a first for us!!!!

And now for something completely different - at the moment we're out in rural N Sichuan - a pic from today - a nice male Russet Sparrow set off well by its background.

Shi Jin
Friday 16th April 2010, 09:40
Congratulations on the wonderful photos... particularly the shots of the snipe.

Best regards

Gretchen
Tuesday 20th April 2010, 00:51
As usual, very nice pics - the tragopan showing lovely camouflage and the russet sparrow very sharp with his contrasting background. As usual your descriptions cause me to pull out the books - didn't know (recall?) you had so many kinds of grosbeaks there. Have you seen the spot-winged as well?

china guy
Wednesday 21st April 2010, 03:22
We're out in NE Sichuan at the moment - far off the normal beaten birding track. Our usual hotel is full - so after a little scouting around we found a new one that borders a rather grotty looking river that is used as the local rubbish dump. But not too worry - as long as that waste isn't toxic birds don't seem to mind shuffling around empty instant noodle-pots and what-not - and we've been watching the likes of Citrine Wagtail from our hotel window. But this morning we got something that really took us by surprise.

Its been raining heavily - and the river is in flood - and the the most interesting bird of a pre-breakfast scan was a Crested Kingfisher. Down bellow there were some farm ducks, of which I obviously hadn't taken too much notice, but when a passing farmer on the river bank walked by - something pretty fantastic popped out of that group of ducks - Lesser White-fronted Goose!!!!

At first I couldn't believe my eyes - and then there was a mad scramble to get the camera, which was cardless - find a card - and then get off some pics before our goose disappeared. Meggie and me get a bit volatile in situations like this, but we managed not to hit each other in our desperate camera panic - and obscene language both in English and Chinese was kept to a minimum.

That was far too much excitement for a start of a day which is supposed to a free-one for us - and we had to relax with another sensation of our trip - our new toasted sandwich machine - and a nice breakfast of toasted cheese, tomato and onion.

There are two pics of that Lesser White-front - the pic of it in the water shows a little of the eye-ring - the other pic is of an Asian Barred Owlet in yesterday's rain storm - the likely reason why the goose decided to stop-off at this unlikely location.
But we mustn't get too cocky - after reading Shi Jin's posts - were guessing he's probably already seen a whole flock (or should that be a gaggle) of these birds at his local gas station or walking around the cash-desk of some Beijing supermarket ;)

Gretchen - We've yet to see Spot-wing Grosbeak - I reckon we'd have to go out on the Kham (Sichuan Tibet) to get them - we'll be keeping our eyes open for those beauts.

Gretchen
Wednesday 21st April 2010, 03:30
the the most interesting bird of a pre-breakfast scan was a Crested Kingfisher.
Yeah for kingfishers!
Shi Jin's probably already seen a whole flock (or should that be a gaggle) of these birds at his local gas station or walking around the cash-desk of some Beijing supermarket ;)
What a picture that brings to mind!
Gretchen - We've yet to see Spot-wing Grosbeak - I reckon we'd have to go out on the Kham (Sichuan Tibet) to get them - we'll be keeping our eyes open for those beauts.
You know I'm clueless as to what is easy to see and what's not. If you guys haven't seen it, it must be hard to see! Good to know there are still some new things for you all to look forward to.

Nice view of owlet in the rain - wow no cover or anything! I guess they are daylight hunters?

china guy
Wednesday 21st April 2010, 08:50
The more to see still out-balances the have seens - I'm looking forward to the day we can post up a pic of Spoon-billed Sandpipers passing through Sichuan - wonder if we'll ever find that????

Our Lesser White-front is still around - we managed to get some better shots - by virtue of hanging out of hotel windows and other extreme acts of dangerous dare-devil birding.

rockfowl
Wednesday 21st April 2010, 09:01
The more to see still out-balances the have seens - I'm looking forward to the day we can post up a pic of Spoon-billed Sandpipers passing through Sichuan - wonder if we'll ever find that???.

I'm hoping so too! ;)

MKinHK
Wednesday 21st April 2010, 13:25
Love the random birds which turn up in odd places out of the blue. The one that springs to mind is Chinese Pond Heron close to the petrol station just outside Ma'erkang.

Cheers
Mike

china guy
Thursday 22nd April 2010, 07:01
Well that Lesser White-front sighting was more than just random - it turns out that it was only the second for Sichuan - the first being from a specimen collected in Chengdu in 1955!!!!!

It's not often I get to be younger than the age of a last sighting B (:

Thanks a lot to to Metroplex - another Chengdu birdforum member for giving me the info :t:

china guy
Sunday 25th April 2010, 08:25
After a couple of weeks in NE Sichuan our present visit is almost finished - and we'll be starting to head back towards Chengdu tomorrow. This morning yet more rain - in these two weeks we've seen a fair bit of the wet-stuff and these damp conditions mean we sometimes have to take the longer surfaced road routes instead of using the shorter mud track alternatives. Even though we've got 4WD - steep gradients on highly rutted, wet clay surfaces ain't much fun and those small roads are very prone to landslides when it gets wet!!!

Birding out here, although not in the same class as the premium Sichuan sites is interesting - we've seen a couple and heard lots of Golden Pheasant - and spring migrants are passing through. There's a lot of Sichuan - and much of the NE is one of the many hardly been birded areas of this province. For those who like to explore - there's still a well off the beaten birder's track Sichuan - that's often well worth a bit of exploration.

Here are pics from the last few days -
Bonelli's Eagle - third time we've seen this species in this area.
Crested Kingfisher - had to put this one on for Gretchen since she seems a Kingfisher freak. That crown looks like a paper hat you get to wear a 6yo's birthday party - also note the rain.
Another rain pic - Grey Faced Buzzard - here the chronic lighting and soft focus have given us GFB as Monet or some 19th century impressionist would have painted this bird.
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - these hang around the farm houses. If this aggressive little bird could wear boxing gloves it would happily give you a black eye!!!!
And one of those spring migrants in a rare sunny situation - Greater Short-toed Lark - this one is just showning that black upper breast stripe.

Gretchen
Sunday 25th April 2010, 10:20
Thanks for the crested's pic ;) - he looks a bit like he's been pulling out crest feathers lately (maybe facing deadlines like me?). (Actually, this species seem rather unique among crested birds in having a very uneven line.) I really like the pic of the grey-faced buzzard - a lot to see despite any "impressionistic" qualities. That yellow-rumped flycatcher is quite a looker! He wouldn't want to hurt anyone, would he? (Funny how people were talking about another small yellow bird, goldcrests? I forget, as being quite aggressive too.) Nice to see the lark - I had just been studying the short-toed one, and this is a bit of a contrast.

Hope you continue safe on your back roads and the rain lets up a bit. In the past we toyed with living in Sichuan (could happily live on Sichuan food), but we've never been attracted by the weather.

china guy
Tuesday 27th April 2010, 12:05
We've just got back - now a few days in so-called civilization - and then on the road again.

Gretchen - to live in Sichuan and beat the weather you have to travel away from Chengdu, since Chengdu lies within the Sichuan basin, which is a humid, misty, damp hole in the ground from where you rarely see the sun and into which rolls some very nasty pollution. Although, during the winter, it's far warmer than the N of China - it feels far colder, since average winter temps are chilly 4C, but none of the houses have any insulation and no efficient heating systems. A wise 'gent' once told his minions that nobody needed winter heating south of Yangtze - and whatever that guy said was done!!!!
To escape the basin weather - get up onto the plateau - there you go into an alpine climate - much more sun that gives of a lot of warming radiance - but also leads to some pretty bitter frosts during the winter.

As for Sichuan food - our trick to enjoy it is not to eat it all the time!!!!!! But for those who are traveling through, the food is one of those great pleasures. To find some of the better eateries - don't go too much on restaurant appearance but on how many folk are eating at the place. If you see crowds you know something good is going into hungry tummies. To discover what it is - well just wonder around the tables and peer over diners shoulders to see what they're eating - this is perfectly acceptable and common behavior out here. To order - just point at one of those dishes!!!!!!

here are some more pics from that last trip -
Yesterday more Bonelli's Eagle - and the solving of a winter mystery. Back in January we got a very distant pic of a Bonelli's which seemed to be carrying prey. This time we saw the same bird - but this time discovered the supposed prey to be a gammy, sticking out leg. It seems that the bird can survive with this impediment - and in this second observation it was part of pair. Lets hope that leg doesn't stop it from doing its mating 'business".

Spring is here - we saw Eastern Crowned Warbler hard at work in nest production. In that pic I've included all those useful ID pointers for this species - bulky bill, a very insignificant wing bar and that median crown stripe.

More spring - one a this year's young from a pair of Little Forktail.

And a spring migrant - Taiga Flycatcher showing why its Taiga and not Red-breasted. These two species used to lumped under Red-throated - but now we have split our birds to Taiga where the red is limited to chin and throat rather than spreading down to the breast area.

Gretchen
Tuesday 27th April 2010, 13:59
Yeah, hard to say if we'd love Sichuan food all the time or if I would really manage the "real" thing frequently - I remember literally crying through a "hot" pot. Have very vivid memories of that time, I didn't speak much Chinese and so was taken back to the kitchen to point out what we wanted to put in our hotpot - and not recognizing a lot of the available items :-O It is a different cuisine. I'm glad its easier to get in more places now, but not so genuine I'm sure...

The young forktail is sooo cute (excuse me, please). Wow, it's got a ways to go until it achieves "fork"! I guess it was a fledgling hopping around?

Thanks for the compilation on pointers for the Eastern Crowned, though honestly I'm sort of missing the coronal stripe (I often find birds reluctant to show it off). Fascinating about your eagle's foot - very interesting to have such a distinctive feature to recognize an individual!! Very lovely red-throat on the Taiga, and a good review for me ... I believe I saw some in Thailand, but don't think I saw such a clear marking.