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Sichuan Birding

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Old Sunday 6th September 2009, 07:13   #26
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Another great find and capture. Added to Opus
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Old Sunday 6th September 2009, 13:33   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by china guy View Post
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.)
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Old Sunday 6th September 2009, 14:21   #28
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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
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Old Monday 7th September 2009, 00:25   #29
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... 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.
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Originally Posted by china guy View Post
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...
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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!
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Old Monday 7th September 2009, 11:43   #30
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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.
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Old Monday 7th September 2009, 12:04   #31
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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 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!
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Old Tuesday 8th September 2009, 01:19   #32
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Wow - a month of birding in September/October - sounds fantastic!

Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

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Old Friday 11th September 2009, 15:26   #33
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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.
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Old Friday 11th September 2009, 17:30   #34
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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
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Old Monday 21st September 2009, 14:11   #35
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Streaked Barwing

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.
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Old Monday 21st September 2009, 14:37   #36
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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:
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Old Monday 21st September 2009, 15:17   #37
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Originally Posted by china guy View Post
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.

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Old Wednesday 23rd September 2009, 15:35   #38
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Black-faced Warbler

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.
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Old Thursday 24th September 2009, 14:23   #39
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Some great birds - Are there still Streaked Barwings on Emei?

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Old Friday 25th September 2009, 10:49   #40
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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
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Old Friday 25th September 2009, 17:38   #41
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Magic moments CG.

Look forward to more soon!
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Old Saturday 26th September 2009, 05:50   #42
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More on Emei

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.
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Old Thursday 8th October 2009, 02:22   #43
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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.
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Old Thursday 8th October 2009, 05:33   #44
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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...
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Old Thursday 8th October 2009, 23:07   #45
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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!!!!!!
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Old Friday 9th October 2009, 12:28   #46
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Wow Sid,

Needletail's are one of my favourite birds! Well captured Very difficult indeed and totally agree, absolute 'jet-fighters' , did you hear them as well? a very audible 'wooshhh', magic!!
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Old Tuesday 13th October 2009, 03:20   #47
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Hi china guy
saw the pics of barwing from Ben.And I love the tesia without head:)
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Old Tuesday 13th October 2009, 10:16   #48
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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
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Last edited by china guy : Tuesday 13th October 2009 at 15:35.
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Old Sunday 18th October 2009, 11:56   #49
Marmot
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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.
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Old Monday 19th October 2009, 12:57   #50
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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...
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