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Sichuan Birding

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Old Friday 22nd January 2010, 05:48   #151
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Coots massacre Dabchicks

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.
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Old Friday 22nd January 2010, 09:32   #152
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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.
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Old Friday 22nd January 2010, 13:57   #153
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My husband says the herons all look like spectators watching some water event

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Old Friday 22nd January 2010, 15:51   #154
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That's why I like this picture. Just like in a stadium... hihi
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Old Saturday 23rd January 2010, 15:38   #155
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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.
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Old Thursday 4th February 2010, 14:51   #156
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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 !!!!!!!
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Old Thursday 4th February 2010, 17:13   #157
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Wel done on the photos..the first ever of a Lady A on BF and the Rosefinch is also a first.
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Old Friday 5th February 2010, 14:03   #158
china guy
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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!!!!!!!
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Old Saturday 6th February 2010, 13:02   #159
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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
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Old Saturday 6th February 2010, 14:24   #160
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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.
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Old Sunday 7th February 2010, 13:52   #161
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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.
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Old Sunday 7th February 2010, 15:17   #162
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Wonderful reports. Thanks!
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Old Monday 8th February 2010, 00:34   #163
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Quote:
Originally Posted by china guy View Post
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by china guy View Post
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
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Old Monday 8th February 2010, 15:16   #164
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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!!!!!
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Old Tuesday 9th February 2010, 01:24   #165
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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 )

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 )
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Old Tuesday 9th February 2010, 14:25   #166
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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
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Old Wednesday 10th February 2010, 15:45   #167
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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.
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Old Thursday 11th February 2010, 14:08   #168
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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
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Old Thursday 11th February 2010, 14:40   #169
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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.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 06:19   #170
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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!!!!!!
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 06:53   #171
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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...)

And yes, calling in spring is a good idea for Spring Festival.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 07:28   #172
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Here's a Tiger Shrike from a few months past - not so festive as the Laugher.
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Old Monday 15th February 2010, 11:41   #173
sichuan jiujiu
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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.
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Old Monday 15th February 2010, 12:02   #174
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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.
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Old Monday 15th February 2010, 12:35   #175
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Nice to see a photo of Brown-cheeked Laugher - not too many of those about.

Cheers
Mike
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