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Sichuan Birding

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Old Thursday 5th November 2009, 23:23   #76
Gretchen
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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?)

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Old Saturday 7th November 2009, 04:44   #77
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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.

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Old Tuesday 10th November 2009, 08:14   #78
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Hi Meggie, so glad to see your blogs now and so regretful seeing your blogs so late.
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Old Saturday 14th November 2009, 08:32   #79
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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.
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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:18   #80
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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?
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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:52   #81
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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.
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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 12:58   #82
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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....
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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 13:14   #83
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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
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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 20:17   #84
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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.

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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 20:32   #85
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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?

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Old Sunday 15th November 2009, 22:49   #86
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... 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....
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Old Monday 16th November 2009, 00:51   #87
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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
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Old Monday 16th November 2009, 00:55   #88
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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.

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Mike K
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Old Monday 16th November 2009, 03:42   #89
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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.

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Old Monday 16th November 2009, 03:43   #90
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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?????
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Old Tuesday 17th November 2009, 08:47   #91
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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.
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Old Wednesday 18th November 2009, 08:52   #92
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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.
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Old Wednesday 18th November 2009, 12:19   #93
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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.

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Old Wednesday 18th November 2009, 13:40   #94
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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.
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Old Thursday 19th November 2009, 15:00   #95
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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:
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Old Friday 4th December 2009, 12:14   #96
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Two days birding in Wolong

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.
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Old Sunday 6th December 2009, 14:34   #97
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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!!!!!
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Old Sunday 6th December 2009, 23:09   #98
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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...

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

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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.
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Old Monday 7th December 2009, 03:41   #99
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...
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.
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Old Monday 7th December 2009, 04:21   #100
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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.
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