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Tibet with OBC - on the footprints of Tim Allwood (1 Viewer)


Well-known member

Just back from 3 weeks in China, where I took Oriental Bird Club trip to Qinghai, which Tim advertised so keenly last year :)

Great place, great birds, with many Black-necked Cranes, some Ibisbills, Kozlov's Buntings and Robotic Rosefinch ( ;) or something like that, I'm still tired). Also Wolves, Kiang, Blue Sheep and cute Giant Flying Squirrels :)

Will post pics when will have time to download and shrink them ;-)

Just can say - go next year, worth it !
seeing as Jurek is away at present i'll post the OBC webgroup posting of the trip list from Jesper...

The trip is a fundraiser and several hundred pounds are contributed by the participants and Jesper runs the trip at a special price

The OBC fundraising trip to NE Tibet ended on 27 August. It brought
together enthusiastic birders representing three countries living on as many

Including a few picked up before breakfast on the last morning in Beijing
we recorded a total of 203 species, a very respectable total given that we
only spent two days and a half birding below 3,000m. It was in fact a trip
of so many highlights that group members would have been hard pressed to
name favourite birds at the end of the trip. The scenery, the mammals (incl.
a couple of wolves, 250+ Blue Sheep, herds of Kiang (= Tibetan Wild Ass),
four Goitred Gazelle, and several cute Stoliczka’s Mountain Voles), abundant
wildflowers of bewildering beauty and diversity, and an intriguing mix of
local cultures combined with the avian wonders to produce a trip the
memories of which will burn brightly for a long, long time.

Encounters which for me were particularly memorable were:

Szechenyi’s Monal Partridge Tetraophasis szechenyi
7+ bird-days. On 19th we spent time trying to see three vocal groups of
this at times uncooperative species before flushing three birds – “nice
tail-band!”, and that, we thought, was that: not ideal, but better, a lot
better, than no views at all… THEN one bird was relocated up in the tree we’
d concluded it had flown through, and with a bit of care the scope was
placed so that we could all enjoy extended, unobscured views,

Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
10+ bird-days. Noted on two dates. On 14th repeated calls helped us
localize one bird fairly easily but somehow it evaporated from the ‘scope
field-of-view and it then took us an agonizingly long time, and several
moves, before everyone had finally seen one properly.

White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
36+ bird-days. Noted on four dates. 16+ (= two groups of four adults w/ 3+
& 5+ chicks, respectively, in close proximity) on 17th was exactly what we’d
hoped for, and their timely appearance allowed us to change the day’s
‘battle plan’ slightly, which in turn produced a group of Blood Pheasants.
Later, rounding off our visit to the Mekong watershed nicely, up to 18
adults were seen repeatedly in the course of the morning of 22nd.

Pallas’s Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus
A superb adult perched on a fence post S of Maduo on 24th. Tingaling!

Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
26 bird-days. Noted on 11 dates. A top Dreambird for several group
members, this emblematic species was not devalued by several superb
encounters… one landed on the ground <100m from our vehicle on 21st.

Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis
31 bird-days. Noted on four dates. Superb views on several occasions, but
to our dismay just one juvenile was seen (near of Maduo on 24th).

Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus
A superb encounter with a pair W of Koko Nor – ‘scoped at c80m. Such
camouflage! Such charisma!

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo
One frame-filler under a rock overhang near the Yangtze on 15th. Another
long-wished-for life bird for several group members – tingaling!

Tibetan Grey Shrike Lanius (sphenocercus) giganteus
One put on a good show near Nangqian on 22nd. A low-density species,
wide-ranging and often inconspicuous even when present (and thus easily
missed), we were fortunate to see this individual so well and enjoyed it all
the more for having drawn blanks at two other sites.

Crested Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile elegans
20 bird-days. Noted on four dates. Two males at Nangqian forest reserve
sat out at <10m trying to figure us out, allowing team photographers to
‘shoot’ away. T’is not often one gets a chance to check the iris colour of
this species! – I leafed through the dictionary and two Birdquest brochures
in search of a superlative which fully does this jewel justice, in vain…

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Eight bird-days. Noted on four dates. Prolonged views of one at <10m next
to the vehicles at the Ibisbill spot on 23rd was a trip highlight… flying
below us in perfect sunlight, then feeding on lichen-blotched boulders in
the stream, popping in and out of view.

Przevalski’s Redstart Phoenicurus alaschanicus
12 birds (= three family parties) in mountains W of Koko Nor – we’d barely
caught our breath before the 1st superb male appeared, and throughout a
memorable morning we were treated to close-up encounters with this
sought-after, very pretty species.

Sooty Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica rothschildi & M. s. sibirica
19 bird-days. 1-10 noted daily at Nangqian forest reserve, where obliging
members of family parties time and again lured the team photographers away
from the group… At Beijing, a juvenile ssp sibirica sat out nicely on a dead
***Work on vocalizations may well lead to suggestions that the distinctive
rothschildi be elevated to full species status…

Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
c391 bird-days. Except for two on 24th seen only at Er La, where 355 on
25th was a surprise – of these, 298 flew S (14 flocks / groups of 2-41
birds, all but three birds passed before 08h00) on what appeared to be
straightforward migration. As we were not ideally positioned the whole time
it is likely that we missed a number of flocks: as many as twice the number
we recorded may have passed.

Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata
20 bird-days. Noted daily at Nangqian forest reserve with a daily max of
16. Often a tough bird to see well, but this year we were astonished to find
a post-breeding gathering of more than a dozen associating with good numbers
of other passerines (including a furtive Crimson-browed Finch) near a rare
trickle of water.

Three-banded Rosefinch Carpodacus trifasciatus
12 bird-days. 2-5 daily at Nangqian forest reserve. A retiring species,
but we found it well worth the trouble to track down calling birds…

Other good birds seen include Saker Falco cherrug, Severtzov's Grouse
Bonasia sewerzowi, Przevalski's Partridge Alectoris magna,Tibetan Partridge
Perdix hodgsoniae, Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha
struthersii (looking so much more at home in Tibet than on the last couple
of acceptable stretches of river near Beijing!), Mongolian Plover Charadrius
mongolus, Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura, Great Black-headed Gull Larus
ichthyaetus,Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Long-billed Calandra
& Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha maxima & M. mongolica, Pale Sand Martin
Riparia diluta, Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii, Chestnut & Kessler’s
Thrushes Turdus rubrocanus & T. kessleri, Himalayan Red-flanked Blutail
Tarsiger rufilatus, Guldenstadt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus,
Gansu Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus kansuensis (as well as eight other
Phylloscopus warblers) ‘Margelanic’ Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia (minula)
margelanica, Stoliczka's Tit-warbler Leptopoecile sophiae, Spot-breasted
Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis, Kozlov's Babax Babax koslowi,
Giant Laughingthrush Garrulax maximus, Chinese Fulvetta Alcippe
striaticollis, White-browed Tit Parus superciliosus, Chinese & Przevalski’s
Nuthatches Sitta villosa & S. przwalskii, Isabelline Shrike Lanius
isabellinus, Tibetan Magpie Pica bottanensis, Henderson's Ground Jay
Podoces hendersoni, Hume’s Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis, five
additional species of Snowfinch, Plain & Brandt’s Mountain Finches
Leucosticte nemoricola & L. brandti, Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsolete,
Sinai Carpodacus synoicus & Roborovski’s Rosefinches Kozlowia roborowskii,
Crimson-browed Finch Pinicola subhimachalus, Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula
erythaca, White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carniceps, and Pine Bunting
Emberiza leucocephalos.
Qinghai trip sponsoring Oriental Bird Club, Jesper Hornskov as a leader, 9-26 .08.2006

Finally I had some time to write about this trip. Here is the first bit.

Our first day was a surprise. Who heard about Qinghai and Xining? So it turned that this is Chinese province the size of European country, and it’s capital in million-strong city with skyscrapers to rival Chicago.

Tibet has places of great natural beauty, but this was the place of great natural ugliness. Eroded hills with young trees planted on reforestation program. Still, we seen Sinai Rosefinch, Rusty-necklaced Partridge and wild Common Pheasants.

Next day we visited Doghnut Forest. It looks like Alps – with spruce trees and meadows. But you get Olive-backed Pipits, cute Przewalski Nuthatch and some striking leaf-warblers, redstarts and rosefinches. And Rubythroat family! If I say we visited Dongxia Forest instead, will anybody remember the name or will it sound better? And the forest doesn’t care anyway.

Then we left to Tibetan steppes. Scenery became strikingly beautiful, with lots and lots of open landscape. Lots of grass, lots of yaks and lots of new birds. We soon seen the most sympathetic bird of Tibet – Hume’s Groundpecker. This starling-sized, curved billed bird hops like kangaroo, digs in earth, nests in holes. And it is actually a species of Tit closely related to Great which adapted to treeless steppe.

Life in treeless steppe is harder for Upland Buzzard. This is close cousin of Common Buzzard and Red-tailed Hawk, but has feathered legs like Rough-legged to cope with the cold. It has also ambitions to nest on trees, like every magnificent raptor should. The problem is there is no tree at all. So it chooses roadside traffic signs. However, no trees means also no branches. So the Buzzard gathers rubbish, scraps of plastic and rubber tyres, bones and scraps of hide of dead sheep. The resulting eyrie is very pathetic thing.

below - Alashan Redstart, Hume's groundpecker and Upland Buzzard


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I'm looking forward to more installments Jurek, it's mouthwatering stuff. Is the OBC Tibet trip an annual event, as I might be tempted somewhen...

That Humes Groundpecker is something else!!! (don't mean different bird Jurek - just an expression in case my English is too coloquial) and fantastic pic too - fascinating to watch I should think.
Er, what something else? It was traditionally placed among crows and jays, but recently DNA found that it is a Tit from Great Tit tribe!


Soon we reached the giant salt lake Koko-nor. Asian Golden Plovers, Greater Black-headed Gulls, Chinese Spotbills and lots of Palearctic waterfowl. On the nearby marsh we seen our first pair of Black-necked Cranes. These magnificent birds are rather widespread.

Then we went to desert and hills with spruce and junipers to see Alashan Redstart. And many other, equally beautiful Blue-fronted and White-throated Redstarts, as well as White-browed and Crested Tit-warblers.

Then we went south, across some of highest roads of the world. Bayankala Pass and Er La pass reach almost 5000m. Qinghai has surprising diversity of habitats – spruce forests, grassy steppe, high mountains, bare desert, salt lakes, freshwater wetlands. On the scrub desert-like part we seen Henderson’s Ground Jays and Pallas’s Sandgrouse, on mountain shrub – Przewalski Rosefinch aka Pink-tailed Bunting.

Most, however, is high-altitude steppe, with lack of water, oxygen and warmth. Surprisingly many mammals adapted to this. Colonel Przewalski, who traveled in 19. century seen Serengeti-like herds of wild yaks, antelope, gazelles and wild asses. Nowadays some species are very rare. Post-Tiananmen ban of firearms helped wildlife, but domestic dogs (large, vicious beasts roaming free) hunt everything. Main problem is overgrazing. One might think that cold wasteland with human density much below 1 person/km2 will be pristine. Not at all. Large herds of domestic yak and sheep are everywhere. Scrub habitat deteriorates, and we seen many hills with landslides.

Still, we seen many Kiang or Tibetan Wild Asses, Tibetan Gazelles and Blue Sheep. Also Tibetan Foxes, which have short ears and wolf-like muzzle. As mammal enthusiast, I was pleased to see them, as all above animals are practically unknown outside Tibet. We seen two real Wolves which showed beautifully walking, looking for food and marking territory, several Eastern Red Deer, Red Fox and surprisingly, a Badger in the middle of steppe.

Pics: Kiangs, Wallcreeper and young White-throated Redstart


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jurek said:
Er, what something else? It was traditionally placed among crows and jays, but recently DNA found that it is a Tit from Great Tit tribe!

Thought I was being too coloquial ;) I just meant 'something else' as in 'amazing', 'incredible' etc ...I've never seen or heard of this bird before and was trying to convey the effect it had on me of hearing you describe it in your report - I don't go 'wow' at particular species very often, but for some reason this one really caught my attention (along with the photograph) and I thought that's one bird I would love to see (just a gut reaction!)..... sorry for any confusion.

Excellent report, Jurek
Most common mammals are pikas. There are several species, and some form large colonies resembling praire dogs of America or sousliks of Central Asia. Around these colonies congregate lots of Upland Buzzards, foxes and Sakers. Saker Falcon is said to be declining, so we were happy to see up to six per day. Dependent on pikas are also endemic White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches, which nest almost exclusively in pika holes.

We visited place where Pallas Cat (Manul) and Snow Leopards were seen, but no luck. Overall, we dipped few – Tibetan Sandgrouse, which were chased out of Er La pass by yaks, Spotted Rosefinch, White-bellied Redstart, all wild cats and few little brown jobs.

We also seen tracks of mysterious hominid which ate boiled eggs and stalked Buff-throated Partridges. We at first thought it was a Yeti, but behavior fitted Wandering Anglo-Saxon Birdwatcher, a rare vagrant to Qinghai plateaus. ;)

Pictures - Saker, Glover's Pika, White-rumped Snowfinch, Rufous-necked Rosefinch.


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We seen rather not common Pallas Fish Eagle and Steppe Eagle. We had beautiful views of two high-mountain passerines, which were unseen by Westerners from the time of Przewalski on early 20. century to the few years ago, when our guide Jesper Hornskov refound them – Tibetan or Roborowski Rosefinch and Tibetan or Kozlow’s Bunting.

Special place was Nangqian Forest Reserve with spruce forest. Here we seen Spot-billed Scimitar Babbler, Kozlov’s Babax, Giant Laughingthrush and Elliot Laughingthrush. All are Chinese endemics and all have varied, usually piercing calls like bells of mobile phones. On the way we seen beautiful families of White Eared-Pheasant and Blood Pheasant. Latter were seen few meters from the road and the whole flock ran one by one in front of our car and climbed the slope. More common variety of local chicken with lots of young running around was Tibetan Partridge.

In the forest reserve we seen many rare and beautiful finches (Crimson-browed Finch, Pink-rumped, Three-banded Rosefinches etc.) and two other rare endemic chicken – Buff-throated Partridge and Chinese Grouse. And mountain goat-like Goral and Tibetan Macaque.

Pictures: Giant Laughingthrush, Tibetan or Roborowskii Rosefinch, Tibetan Partridge, Buff-throated Partridge and Blood Pheasant with chick in front of our car.


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Late date of the trip – August – had advantage, as many of the birds were with chicks or fearless young.

I made a night trip with spotlight to try for Sichuan Owl. I dipped, heard perhaps Chinese race of Tawny Owl (disyllabic hoo-hoo – hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo – hoo-hoo, once tri-syllabic hoo-hoo-hoo – hoo-hoo) Anybody guessed? But I seen rarely reported Chinese Giant Flying Squirrel. I saw eyes in headlamp, went closer as quiet as it is possible, hoping to see animal before it flushes. Well, at the end I stood under the spruce tree, pulled branches and yelled, while dog-sized, woolly-furred squirrel munched needles and did not want to fly at all.

What else? Ibisbill was seen three times, Walcreeper also thrice. Lammergeiers and Himalayan Griffons were common and flew low and inspected our health with attention any doctor would be proud of.

Pictures: Himalayan Griffon, chicks of: Horned lark, White-rumped Snowfinch (cute, isn't it?) and Red-faced Rosefinch, and Chinese Giant Flying Squirrel


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At first glance this looks fantastic, Thanks for sharing....will get India trip in January sorted first then who knows!. Are the trips mainly in the summer or are winter ones done as well, also what sort of duration. Thanks ColD
Tibetan culture is interesting and the country develops amazingly fast. Almost all the time we driven on paved roads and seen roadworks and construction sprouting up. Hopefully, animals will survive it. Six species of Snowfinches were seen, most are common. Only bad accident for me was torn trousers, one day of dizziness and diarrhoea and a strange situation on eroded slope near Xining. We suddenly heard metallic clattering coming from the electricity poles. Somebody said “earthquake” and we ran, but nothing happened. Maybe it was wind.

Ah, and a pee stop on one of mountain passes. We stopped at random and one trip member said “what is this”. Eagle Owl was roosting on a cliff above road. We almost overlooked it.

Pics: Eagle owl, Ibisbill, Lammergeier, White-browed Rosefinch, Black-necked Cranes


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And Black-necked Cranes were seen about seven times. Also interesting were local race of Common Terns hunting over mountain streams. And Golden Eagle eating hare. And colonies of Griffons all over on cliffs. And tacky golden Buddhas in monasteries. And white-rumped snowfinches habit of chasing each other on foot in hunched posture.

Finally a trip list:

3.Yak-cow hybrid (many)
9.Dog (these try hard)
10.Tibetan Hare
11.Black-lipped Pika
12.Tibetan Partridge
13.White-rumped Snowfinch (2 hit)
14.Shore Lark

(Because I had seen almost 200 species and several dozens of endemics, I did not write them all. Ask Jesper and OBC for these). ;)

pics: Guldenstadt's Redstart, juv Sooty Flycatcher, Groundpecker showing it's kangaroo jumps, rufous phase Upland Buzzard.


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Brown Eagle Owl? i have just seen it in Sichuan University, in very close distance. Amazing creature.
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