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Weekend @ Huangshan Mtn & Wu Yuan, China (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Huangshan / Wu Yuan

5th July to 7th July : Trip Total 68 Species.

Friday 5th July

With recent birding in Shanghai at a virtual standstill a long weekend trip to somewhere with exciting birds was in order and with Roger T. is leaving us to take up residence in HK in the very near future so a trip to Huangshan with Dev, Roger and myself was duly arranged as a last 'local' outing for him.

I picked them up from the closest Metro stop at 16.45 on the Friday and we promptly departed Shanghai via the Jiaxing - Hangzhou - Huangshan route to Tangkou (about 30 mins past the town of Huangshan and at the base of the mountain), the near 500kms taking us 4 hrs and 45 mins.

Dev's wife had booked us into the Jiang Nan Mei Jing Hotel (0559-5575588). This is a brand new hotel (or just completely renovated) and at 120rmb a night was very damn decent with AC / free Wi-Fi, excellent hot showers / TV and clean, new, bed linen. Recommended.

We popped out for a quick bite to eat and, as we had been warned by everyone even the owner of the hotel, the restaurants, this one with an outdoor grill (as many have), tried to scam us on one dish (5rmb up to 50rmb) so make sure you know how much each dish costs before you order it and then later check your bill for the right numbers at least. That sorted we paid 89rmb for the 3 of us and retired to the hotel ostensibly for an early night. However with the Germany vs France World Cup match on TV starting at midnight it was eventually well after 02.00 before we got to bed. Alarm clocks set for 05.00 !

Day 2 - Saturday 6th July

The weather forecast wasn't too promising but it was fine though overcast when we tumbled out of the hotel at 05.45 (after waking the owner to come unlock the doors) !

In the early morning light a few other early risers were spotted : Spangled Drongos, Red-billed Magpie, Japanese White-eye, White Wagtail, Asian House Martins, and both Tree, and the best bird, Russet, Sparrows. We were optimistic and couldn't wait to get up the mountain !

We made our way to the bus station just a 5 mins walk from the hotel and paid our 19rmb each for the 30 mins bus ride to the Yun Gu Cable Car base terminal - for which we then found out, contrary to all the information given so far, the first bus wasn't until 06.30 ! Arriving at your destination you then have a 10 mins walk downhil lpast all the vendors trying to sell you hats, drinks and walking sticks, to the cable car though remember to buy your 130rmb per adult National Park entry ticket and 80rmb (one way) cable car tickets on the left (past the vendors) before you walk the 5 mins to the cable car terminus on the right. Both are signposted in English - though not very obviously.

By now the weather was looking ominous and although we got on the cable car almost instantly, with zero queues, it was difficult to see anything outside after we were n o more than 300-400m up the mountain. We arrived at the top terminal and started walking towards the Beihai Hotel (the grounds of which are the easiest place in which to find Slaty Bunting. Visibility 30-40m at most due to the fact we were now actually in the low clouds.

Along the way we picked up most of the birds in the list below, the Buffy Laughingthrushes so accustomed to people they would bounce to within a couple of metres of us. A lovely male Verditer Flycatcher at the top of a tall tree being the best bird seen on the way to the Beihai. Along the way we passed over a very small ravine with a stream just below us, this was easily the 'birdiest' place we passed, however the clouds and mist conspired to deprive us of being able to confirm views of a possible Black Eagle (just a large vague outline in a tree obscured by the clouds) and Blue Whistling Thrush (heard).

As we approached the Beihai our target bird was easily spotted, along with Coal & Great Tits and hundreds of Asian House Martins sheltering from the now persistent rain under the hotel eaves before sallying forth on short hunting excursions.

We followed the other tourists for the most part, not that many most of the time, until following a path supposedly off-limits to tourists left us alone, that took us up behind the hotel via views of a juvenile Plumbeous Redstart. There we sheltered next to a hut and tried the Slaty Bunting tape. Within seconds we had a response and a minute later a lovely bird was all around us, even landing on the ground within literally 3-4 inches of my boots one time ! We were entranced and thoroughly enjoyed this sweet little bird's presence before it got bored with us and disappeared.

Within minutes of this encounter the rain became a monsoon and we, along with everyone else, sought shelter along the sides of the hotel. The storm/rain was definitely in for the day - as our quick check on the internet showed - so we decided to make a dash (well, 30-40mins away so more of a crawl) for the cable car once there was a slight easing in the deluge.

Luckily we made this decision at the right time because although we reached the cable car before most of the hordes of other hikers very soon after hundreds began to appear !
Not so happily the thunderstorm had put a stop to the cable car runs and so all we could do was just stand in the queue (luckily under cover) whilst it turned into a football crowd around us. Well Roger stood, Dev and I managed the backpacks outside the queue barriers.

Having got our tickets and with the cable car now underway again, during a gap in the storm, we fought our way through the ticket-less masses blocking the way (wonderful organisation on behalf of the officials - who had abandoned their posts and were nowhere to be seen unless at the ticket kiosk or by the actual barrier to the cars) and boarded a car down. Visibility Zero.

Upon arrival at a surprisingly dry (as in .. it wasn't raining !) Tangkou, following a crowded bus ride back down, we had made the decision to check out from the hotel and drive the 75 mins or so further South to Wu Yuan, a place we all love for not only it's wonderful birds but the amazing scenery and captivating ancient traditional villages.

It was an easy drive down, motorway all the way, until we arrived at Wu Yuan and found the motorway exit closed ! So we had to drive on another 10-15kms to the next exit and circle back around to the town. We had booked the hotel that I've stayed at twice before, Tian Ma Hotel, online via CTrip (English) which took all of 5 mins to do and is much better than trying to negotiate on the ridiculously high walk-in prices, and better quality rooms cost us 165rmb each (no breakfast). It's an older hotel and the rooms smell of cigarette smoke (as most do in rural China) but it's conveniently located next to supermarkets and close to the exit from the town, whilst having free WiFi, TV, a good bed with clean linen and a good hot shower.

We had decided not to check in until later to give us 3 hours of birding before dark and so headed straight off to look for Blue-throated Bee-eaters and the extremely rare, beautiful, and close to extinction, Cortois Laughingthrush, having an estimated global population of somewhere between 200 & 500 birds (survey made about 5-7 years if I remember correctly).
The Blue-throated Bee-eaters were not where they were supposed to be but 3 Black Bazas, having taken their place upon the wires, were a very nice bonus ! We moved onto the Cortois Laughingthrushes semi-secret location and upon arrival were immediately onto them, however the rains upstream had caused the river to rise considerably and the birds remained high in the canopy instead of descending for their regular afternoon bathing session that we had been hoping for :(

They didn't though accept the intrusion of a Black Baza that was quickly mobbed and driven from the area. Something I also witnessed at this exact same spot last year.

Woodpeckers are also prevalent in this location and we added great views (over the 2 days) of Grey-headed (4 inc. juveniles), Grey-capped Pygmy and Great Spotted (4-5 inc. juveniles).

We had an hour or so to dusk and so tried out some back roads close-by that led us into a wonderful little valley consisting of paddy fields and heavily-wooded valley sides which dead-ended at a tiny village. Highlights (you are going to laugh) were a pair of Chinese Bulbuls that were feeding their two fledglings in some bushes lining the one car road and a Brown Crake which made an appearance, with more heard but not seen.

We were all too tired to go and eat in a restaurant that evening so a quick stop at the supermarket before checking in had to suffice and by 20.00 we were all fast asleep !

Lists below are those birds seen between the three of us.

Huangshan (18)

Bunting, Slaty (4-5)
Drongo, Spangled (4)
Flycatcher, Verditer (1)
Magpie, Red-billed
Laughingthrush, Buffy
Martin, Asian House (hundreds)
Redstart, Plumbeus (2)
Sparrow, Russet (1)
Sparrow, Tree
Swallow, Red-rumped
Swift, (White-throated Needletail or Fork-tailed)
Tit, Coal
Tit, Great
Wagtail, White (leucopsis)
Warbler, Claudia's
Warbler, Rufous-faced
White-eye, Japanese (1)
Yuhina, Indo-Chinese (small flock)

Biggest Miss : White Spectacled Warbler but the mist/clouds caused us numerous misses inc. possible Blue Whistling Thrush and Black Eagle.

Wu Yuan (31)

Baza, Black
Blackbird, Eurasian (~4)
Bulbul, Brown-breasted (2)
Bulbul, Light-vented (feeding fledglings)
Crake, Brown (1)
Dollarbird (3)
Dove, Oriental Turtle (2)
Dove, Spotted
Drongo, Ashy (10+)
Duck, Mandarin (2xF)
Finchbill, Collared
Grebe, Little (with 2 chicks)
Jay, Eurasian (4)
Egret, Little
Heron, Black-crowned Night
Heron, Chinese Pond (~20)
Hwamei (1)
Kingfisher, Common (3)
Kingfisher, Pied (3)
Laughingthrush, Cortois' (~15)
Magpie, Red-billed
Minivet, Ashy (2xF)
Myna, Crested
Plover, Grey
Shrike, Long-tailed (3)
Sparrow, Tree
Starling, Red-billed (flock of 100+)
Swallow, Red-rumped
Treepie, Grey (2)
Wagtail, White (leucopsis)
Woodpecker, Pygmy (2 - possibly same bird)

Day 3 - Sunday 7th July

We arose around 05.00 and departed at 05.45, with the sun just up, for a leisurely drive through the wonderful countryside up to Xiao Qi (with no motorway access - which would have made it 30 mins - it was a ca. 50-60 mins drive via the back roads) to visit the most photographed tree in China ! This area being the home of virtually the smallest raptor in the world, the captivating and splendid Pied Falconet.

Having checked out the bridge on the way out of Wu Yuan town, and this time ticked our Blue-throated Bee-eaters (a total of 5, though distant) and Black Bazas again, we drove the beautiful scenic route to Xiao Qi and arrived around 06.50.

From my previous experiences here the best times seem to be from 07.00 to around 09.00. The falconets awaiting a little more light and the butterflies & dragonflies to commence their day, before becoming active and starting to hunt. This proved to be the case again today with the most active time being from around 07.15 to 08.30. I forget exactly but think that we departed at around 09.00.

On arriving at the car park, immediately on the right next to the river as you enter the village, we grabbed our gear and headed for the first of the 2 restaurants-come-guesthouses (cheap rooms can be rented here if you are really keen to stay in the village), which is less than 50m on the right, overlooking the river, from the car park.
There were two other togs unloading their gear from an SUV, they were going to stay at the restaurant and had driven 2,000 kms from Jilin to photograph these birds (having other key stops along the way too of course). Luckily though we were the first to arrive, climb the 4 floors to the roof terrace and set up our gear in the prime location.

This was the cue to climb down again to get breakfast. Right next to the car park there are always two shops with their stoves and hot pans out on the edge of the road, cooking up delicious breakfast snacks; spicy rolled up pancakes with chilli and chives, Baozi (puffy buns filled with either vegetables or ground pork) and Shenjianbao (fried fatty pork dumpling). Opposite there is a tiny 7/11 supermarket selling cold soft drinks and water. So, now well-stocked, I climbed back up to the roof terrace again to continue the vigil.

At this stage I have to say how sad I was that Dev. had had some terrible luck. First his 6D had died, a legacy of the torrential downpour we had been caught up in at Huangshan, and then the spare 7D that Roger lent him also refused to spark into life. Another Dodo. Having experienced something similar 18 months ago when both a lens and a camera died on me in the space of 15 mins, I could strongly empathise with Dev's predicament.
However, being the solid citizen he is, there were none of the histrionics and verbal flaying of the gods I'd surely have displayed in his situation, and he simply got on with his birding and helping us spot incoming falconets (to the famous branches of the tree in front of us - about 25-30m away) and other birds for the remainder of the trip. So sorry mate :( Buy a Nikon next time ;)

The Pied Falconets put on a wonderful show for us and Roger especially was thrilled with the display, these weren't lifers for him but were easily the best shots he'd ever managed of them. A nice farewell to (living in) China then.
Both the adults and all 5 fledglings all took it in turn to alight in the bare branches ahead of us, up to 5 birds in the tree at a time, before they'd drop off to hunt the flying insects below. Trying to catch them in flight was tough, tough, tough though !

As the action cooled we put the tripods away and went back to the car, to slowly drive back to Wu Yuan to shower (it was hot, reaching 35C+, and very very humid) as we were soaked through by the time we reached the hotel to check-out. We tipped the owner of the restaurant on the way down, only fair since this time we were too early to eat lunch or dinner there (the usual form of 'payment' for use of the roof terrace).

On the way back we checked out an ancient copse which held an assortment of nesting birds, with woodpeckers and Jays foremost. Arriving at the hotel around 12.30 we apologised for our unavoidable delay in returning *cough, cough* and promised to be down to check out promptly. So after a nice cool shower, 15 mins rest and having finished packing everything away it was back down to the lobby 45 mins later.

For the afternoon we had planned to first investigate a spot Roger knew of right next to the river, that had Bazas nesting there last year, and then it would be off to try to get better shots of the Cortois Laughingthrushes.

It was a lovely walk through the tiny village to the river and the Black Baza nesting site, Dollarbirds sunbathing in a nearby tree, a White-rumped Munia flock stealing grain from the chickens and 3-4 Japanese White-eyes raiding a tree next to the path, were all enjoyed.
Disappointingly the huge tree didn't contain any Bazas nesting this year so we continued onto the river and walked ½ km or so along the edge. This was a very birdy area and gave up some good birds including Striated Heron, Pied & Common Kingfishers and other herons and egrets, but not the bird we were after, the Crested Kingfisher.

From here we decided to follow the river trying to spot kingfishers however with little luck Dev suggested another place on the river where was a weir that was particularly picturesque (Dev thinking of my desire for some nice landscapes shots too). Unfortunately a half completed concrete bridge now ran over the river right by the weir but ..... Lo and Behold ! It produced a huge Crested Kingfisher that was flushed, having been sitting, unseen, on the edge of the new bridge !! Talk about fate. A Black Bittern was also flushed from below the bridge for a notable double.

A stop after seeing a White-throated Kingfisher sitting on a wire close to the road, produced more bounty when Dev heard a Yellow-bellied Prinia calling. Out with the tape and soon the Prinia was coming in close to inspect this intruder. Plain Prinia were also in the same area and the WT Kingfisher returned closeby.

With just 2 hours remaining until dusk, and our return drive to Shanghai, we returned to the site of the Cortois LT. There we spent a very enjoyable time searching for and finding the Cortois LT, 3 species of woodpeckers, Minivets and Grey Treepies etc. A search for the Chinese Bamboo Partridges also known to inhabit this location however proved unfruitful.

With the Sun beginning to creep below the tree tops, at around 18.00 we trudged back through the village to the car and packed away our gear, hoping that we wouldn't suddenly see something to force us to scramble to re-assemble it again ! And Dev. almost forced us to do just that, with us screeching to a halt after he spotted a Black Baza just 30m from the road next to a farmhouse, unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, the Baza flew past us and away as we lifted the car boot. Our last bit of birding action for the trip.

The 500kms and 5.5 hrs trip back (inc. a 30 mins power snooze for Dev & I whilst Roger grabbed a quick meal at one of the service stations - food not recommended) was uneventful bar a couple of road-side flashes I'm hoping are not speeding tickets - I've plenty of those already this year with 5 months still to go to clean slate time !

Many thanks to Dev. & Roger for the great company and to Wu Yuan for not only saving the trip but making it one to remember. I'll be returning to this gorgeous countryside once again in the not too distant future I hope, as Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter it never fails to deliver.

Wu Yuan (55)

Baza, Black (>5)
Bee-eater, Blue-throated (5)
Bittern, Black (3)
Blackbird, Eurasian
Bulbul, Light-vented
Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-winged (3)
Dollarbird (3-4)
Dove, Oriental Turtle
Dove, Spotted
Drongo, Ashy
Drongo, Black
Duck, Spot-billed (3) with many chicks.
Falconet, Pied (parents & 5 juves)
Finchbill, Collared
Grebe, Little
Jay, Eurasian (4-5)
Egret, Cattle
Egret, Little
Heron, Black-crowned Night
Heron, Chinese Pond
Heron, Striated (5+)
Hwamei (only heard today)
Kingfisher, Common (numerous)
Kingfisher, Crested (1)
Kingfisher, Pied (~8+)
Kingfisher, White-throated (5+)
Laughingthrush, Cortois' (~10+)
Laughingthrush, Masked (small flock)
Leafbird, Orange-bellied (M&F)
Magpie, Red-billed
Magpie-Robin, Oriental
Minivet, Ashy
Minivet, Swinhoe's (1xF)
Munia, White-rumped (30+)
Myna, Crested
Parrotbill, Vinous-throated
Prinia, Plain (4-5)
Prinia, Yellow-bellied (2 + others heard)
Redstart, Plumbeous
Sandpiper, Common
Shrike, Long-tailed
Sparrow, Tree
Sparrowhawk, Chinese (3-4)
Starling, Black-collared
Starling, Red-billed
Swallow, Barn
Swallow, Red-rumped
Tit, Great
Treepie, Grey (1)
Wagtail, White (leucopsis)
Warbler, Leaf (spp.)
White-eye, Japanese (4-5)
Woodpecker, Grey-headed (4 inc. juvenile)
Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy (2)
Woodpecker, Great Spotted (4-5 inc. juvenile)

Surprising absence of flycatchers & not a single Black-billed Magpie, moorhen, coot or chicken !

1. Striated Heron
2. Pied Falconets (from my last trip - those from this not processed yet) !
3. White-rumped Munias
4. Cortois laughingthrush (from my last trip - this trip didn't produce anything noteworthy) !
5. Slaty Bunting


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Well-known member

Ok some birds I forgot to list :

Bulbul, Mountain
Tit, Black-Throated
Tit, Long-tailed

Wu Yuan :
Bulbul, Black
Starling, White-shouldered

Trip Total Species : 73


Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Sounds like a superb mid-summer smash and grab raid - with some killer pix!

Ashy Minivet is a good record for Jiangxi in mid-summer.

Sorry to hear about the cameras dying, especially with such riches on offer.


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