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Tengchong & Gaoligongshan, Yunnan, China (New & Improved) :) (1 Viewer)


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Final Day 7 - 27th March 2014.

Tengchong (07.30 thru 11.30).

Hours: from 07.30 to 11.00
Weather : started with full cloud-cover but it broke up quickly between 09.00 & 10.00 for blue skies.
Temperature : coolish at around 10-12C to start and reaching 22-23C by 11.00.
Altitude : 1,950m (top of Laifengshan) - 1,720m (bottom of the main path down to the road)

At 07.10 I took a taxi from the hotel to the top of Laifengshan and, although the meter read 16rmb, the price, as I was warned beforehand and in line with the fee quoted by my GGS driver, was 30rmb. It took 20 mins drive to get to the top as the road wound back and forth many times to get there.

The sun was just peaking out above the top of distant mountains and so the light was still very poor for birding, the camera was shooting at ISO 25,600, just to give you some idea ! However this hadn't stopped the locals turning out in force to exercise, their lungs as well as their bodies.

A brisk walk to the Pagoda and then, having picked up a Female Grey Bush-chat and an Olive-backed Pipit near the only buildings on top, started off down the main path to the bottom.
Tengchong, the town, is actually pretty high, at about 1,700m, so the 2,000m at the top here meant that a wider, or different, range of birds could possibly be expected than at the lower levels of my Gaoligongshan stay.

It was around 08.00 now and some photography was possible, however there were runners/step climbers all the way up/down the main descending concrete path (which starts very close to the taxi drop-off point, not by the Pagoda) so birds were keeping their distance. There are though numerous small paths that on a full day's birding would be worth exploring and it's not like you can get lost here :)

This was Woodpecker Day. The usual WP screeches were echoing around the tree tops as they flew from their over-night roosting holes and went in search of breakfast. This continued for an hour or so before it quietened down. But Greater Spotted WP, Grey-capped Pygmy WP, Eurasian Nuthatch, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and Eurasian Treecreeper were all ticked. I was indeed very pleased to see so many woodpeckers on my last birding session of the trip since there hadn't exactly been what you might call a plethora of sightings throughout the week on GGS.

It took me about 2 hours to reach the road at the bottom, stopping frequently to spot birds through the bins and to take photos, with the odd off-road excursion thrown in. I certainly left more than a few birds up there though and I'm sure that a day off-piste, with time spent on some of the minor paths, should be very productive.

The two nemesis of my 4 short sessions on LFS continued to torment me, 1) the long and frequent very loud calls of birds deep & high up in the woods and 2) a harsh-calling bush-warbler that just refused to show from bushes not far from the road despite an hour's stalking. *sigh*

To placate my rising frustration I returned to the site of the best place on Laifengshan for Yuhinas, Sunbirds, Thrushes, Drongos, White-eyes and Leafbirds amongst others ...... the flowering tea tree gardens, having opened their gates around 09.00 I guess (and I also guess they close them around 17.00).

The birds listed above, in particular a male Orange-bellied Leafbird who stoutly defended his tree against all comers (bar the female, who he generously permitted to share the branches in 'his' tree) and sang from the top of the flowering tea tree as loudly as he could, entertained me for an hour until I started the final walk along the road to the entrance gate to Laifengshan, and thence to find a taxi back to the hotel.

However Laifengshan hadn't finished with me yet. There were still more birds to see ! First off the loud depth-of-the-woods birds finally came to the forest-edge and though distant I got record shots of a pair of Beautiful Sibias. One big mystery solved. Those birders with a better knowledge of the local bird calls would not have had to endure the mental torture I suffered before being able to spot and put a name to this bird ;)
Then, having seen a taxi go up the road to the temple, just as it was returning I saw a final bird or two in the top of a tall tree close-by, so in between whistling and waving for the taxi I managed to get off a few shots and was pleased with fine views of a Red-vented Bulbul. Not a new bird but still a fine looking one with its black head, long brown but white-tipped tail and bright red vent at the base of it's two toned breast/belly.

What a way to finish ! Yunnan, the birding paradise that gives and gives, and then, just when you think you are done, it gives again !

Upon returning the 5-10 mins drive to my hotel I hurried up since it was now 11.45. After a quick shower, change of clothes and having packed away my photographic gear it was downstairs (with the kind assistance of the house-keeping manageress who insisted on carrying two of my bags) a quick check-out and the husband of my lady GGS driver was waiting to ferry me the 20 mins back to the airport (40rmb) for my 13.50 flight to Kunming.

Tengchong Airport is tiny so the check-in and security was a breeze (probably helped that I was there 70 mins before the flight was due, check-in closing 30 mins before the flight) and I was pleased that although I had an economy seat the Kunming Airways girl didn't even blink at my 15 kgs over-weight baggage !!
I was tired and so, being prepared to pay the excess (based on the small amount per kg charged at Kunming Airport on the way out) I checked in two bags instead of the single suitcase/bag economy allowance !

The 50 mins flight left on-time and was incident-free and smooth. On arrival at Kunming I went straight to the Hainan Airlines (also called Junyao) desk (again holding a Business Class ticket bought at near the price of a standard economy ticket, meaning extra baggage allowance, a much larger European-person sized seat, priority boarding and a nice quiet 1st/business class lounge, to take a free bite to eat and free-pour coffee and soft drinks, to relax in).

TIP : I'd thoroughly recommend booking these Business Class flights early or around the special offers that can be found on-line. There are some great deals (at or around Economy Class prices) and it makes the whole getting there and back (especially when carrying hiking/camping/photographic gear) process simpler, less stressful and far more enjoyable.

My 17.05 flight from Kunming to Shanghai Hong Qiao airport (I wanted flights to HQ if at all possible as it is only 10 mins from my home) was again excellent. It is only as you approach Shanghai that you realise how vast it is, a lovely clear evening with no sign of the recent smog, meant great views of Shanghai by night.
The motorways (freeways) looking like strings of pearls, in places lights made it look like a grid of perfect squares and as we dropped in altitude the details became visible, huge neon lights of every colour; orange, green, red, purple etc. the metropolitan area of Shanghai is vast and we covered more than a few minutes of this visual kaleidoscope of lights and colours.

My lovely wife was waiting to greet me at the airport and 10 minutes later I was home with that longed for cup of English tea safely in my hands :)

Now to book a spot in my diary for a return trip in 2015.

New Birds for Tengchong :-

Babbler, Grey-throated
Bulbul, Flavescent
Minla, Red-tailed
Nuthatch, Chestnut-vented
Nuthatch, Eurasian
Woodpecker, Great-spotted
Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy

Trip Total to date : 143 species + Leaf Warblers (all yet to be ID'd).

Finally is it too early to start compiling my Target List for the next trip ? A reminder to myself :D

Cutia (the Jesper Hornvik Trip Report states he saw 5)
Fulvetta, Golden-breasted
Scimitar-Babbler, Slender-billed (JH saw 9, quoted range 2,100-3,400m)(also in Hide #10 @ ca. 1,850m).
Shrike-Babbler, Black-eared (JH saw 14, quoted range <1,600m - 3,400m)
Shrike-Babbler, Chestnut-fronted (JH saw 2)
More Laughing Thrushes, Fulvettas, Chickens & Woodpeckers please

I hope you've enjoyed this Trip Report at least even a tiny bit as much as I enjoyed Yunnan ! Feedback very welcome. A pdf of the report, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and adding Latin species names and more photos, will be compiled and I'll post the link here in due course.

Thanks for reading !


You should see the other bloke...
You swine Kevster!

Here I am doing 15 hour days in KOL and you're swanning off again...and...AND...you saw Grey Bushchat...GIT...you know I wanted to see the "bird in black & white in the colour guide"...



David and Sarah
Thanks for suggestion - Had not thought of that

Thank you David (&/or Sarah) !

Maybe you could combine this with your next Borneo/Philippines trip ;)

Probably will do Malaysia with Borneo as we missed loads of good sites and birds last time.
But if there are flights from Mindanao to Kunming that could be a possibility, must look at that, although it's likely to be 2106 before we do that trip as we have tentative plans for all our travels this year and next.


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Well-known member
Probably will do Malaysia with Borneo as we missed loads of good sites and birds last time.
But if there are flights from Mindanao to Kunming that could be a possibility, must look at that, although it's likely to be 2106 before we do that trip as we have tentative plans for all our travels this year and next.

:eek!: 2106 ... that's optimistic ;)

I have done Sabah twice and have a trip to Fraser Hill / Taman Nagara lined up this month. There isn' t much species crossover from the Trip Reports I've read, maybe 20%. There are lots of Chinese endemics and quite a few birds in common with Sichuan too. It would be a nice detour for you (Kunming, Dali, Gaoligongshan, Tengchong, Nabang).
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