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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Your Most Recent "Life" Bird (3 Viewers)

4th June

Przevalski's Partridge (or to be PC Rusty-necklaced Partridge) - a real brute of a Red-leg.

Pale Rosefinch - a lovely subtle Rosefinch. Mind you we had to search far and wide to find any, then just like buses once there was one, there were suddenly 7.

5th June
Tibetan Rosefinch (or to be non PC Roborovski’s Rosefinch) - another rather subtle but amazing bird. Nice to see a female as well, as training for a later quest for Sillem’s. Also nice that we survived 4550m, without even a headache. When we visited the same site in 2017 (and dipped) we were both as sick as a dog, we are now at a hotel resting at a mere 4250m!
 
7th June, Kanda Pass, Qinghai.

A very nice day, with plenty of good birds, plus the following lifers

White Eared-Pheasant - pretty common and great views.

Tibetan Bunting - a really showy pair. A great bunting

Chinese Rubythroat - the first pair were really skulking, but then we stumbled on another male near the road that showed incredibly well - what a dazzler!

Snow Pigeon - alas a flyby, but still a nice bird.

Sichuan Tit - brief views, but we hope for better tomorrow. What’s the difference with Willow (Songar) Tit, apart from one is in north Qinghai and the other south. Both look and sound nothing like any Willow Tit I have seen before!

Pink-rumped Rosefinch - singing from a telegraph pole, but alas, a bit silhouetted.
 
Baizha Forest Qinghai - 8th June

Giant Laughingthrush - A great bird, but I think giant is a bit of an exaggeration.

Three-banded Rosefinch - another cracking bird - well the presumed 1st summer male missed the mark a bit, but the full male a few minutes later was amazing.

Buff-throated Monal-Partridge - I thought that this would be a brown bulk with a buff throat but how wrong could I be. The plumage have lovely scaling and the bird loads of character.

Crested Tit-warbler - not intending to be misogynistic but alas ‘just a female’. A nice bird, but I hope we find a colourful male when we visit the site again.

Some of yesterday’s lifers showed very well, including the Pheasant, the Tit and the Rosefinch.
 
Baizha Forest, Qinghai, 10th June

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker - after a frustrating few minutes of seeing the bird in flight and perched distantly, it finally settled into a nearby tree and even started drumming. I have wanted to see this one for a long time, and it was nice to see the ‘dark-bodied’ race - a chimney sweep version of the woodpecker (and recognised by Birdlife as a distinct species from Three Toed).

… and we did find a single male Crested Tit-warbler, to make up for the female on the 8th June.

Disappointingly we obtained UTV’s of a very flighty Chinese Fulvetta, which would be a lifer and which our friends also saw briefly, but sufficient for a positive ID (including seeing the white-eye).
 
A travelling day today (11 June) in Qinghai, but still three lifers

White-bellied Redstart - after breakfast we checked out a monastery where we had heard the Redstart a couple of days before. Eventually the bird was found singing from a conifer. A strange rather dark blue bird, but the most amazing thing was the bright yellow colour of its open mouth. Of course the red tail patches in the long tail are also very nice.

With the journey underway, on the road past Yushu airport, Noëlle called out ‘shrike on the wire, it looks big’. The car screeched to a holt. I half expected another Grey-backed false alarm, but there it was Giant Shrike! As the bird is apparently 25% larger than Great Grey Shrike, I can agree with ‘Giant’ this time - ok the telegraph wires didn’t sag under its weight, but still it was a whopper.

Then with the journey over, we had a knock on the hotel room door, and our guide was there to say there was a male Great Rosefinch singing just outside the hotel. We rushed outside, but it had gone from the solar panel he had seen the bird on. We found it on a street light on a roundabout. The bird then promptly flew to the roof of a building. My wife took a few distant shots, before the guide said it was on the roof of the government building and perhaps it was not best to point telephoto lens at the building! Somehow I alway thought I would see Great Rosefinch in a mountain grassland, strewn with bolders, not in a town with Hill Pigeons and Tree Sparrows for company.
 
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Can add green sandpiper to it now!

How rare are these? How often could you expect to see one? From my British Birds book it says they’re often solitary or in pairs so it makes me think I’ve been quite fortunate.
 
Can add green sandpiper to it now!

How rare are these? How often could you expect to see one? From my British Birds book it says they’re often solitary or in pairs so it makes me think I’ve been quite fortunate.
Not rare at all. A common passage migrant on mainly inland waters & smaller numbers in winter. Females & unsuccessful breeders starting to return now. Usually seen in ones & twos but occasionally more at some sites.
 
Not rare at all. A common passage migrant on mainly inland waters & smaller numbers in winter. Females & unsuccessful breeders starting to return now. Usually seen in ones & twos but occasionally more at some sites.
The book is right though: even where there are multiple individuals you are much more likely to see them wandering about singly than in a small flock.

John
 
Number 16 of 17 was the best, though: Baer's Pochard. We actually saw three of them!
Is that a Ferruginous Duck with them?

I know Ferruginous has spread east and north and that Baer’s is apparently now breeding further south and west than before.

My wife has seen both species and hybrids in Henan in winter.

It seems a big worry to me that a further pressure on the critically endangered duck, is increasing overlap of the two species breeding ranges and the risk of increasing hybridisation.
 
Is that a Ferruginous Duck with them?

I know Ferruginous has spread east and north and that Baer’s is apparently now breeding further south and west than before.

My wife has seen both species and hybrids in Henan in winter.

It seems a big worry to me that a further pressure on the critically endangered duck, is increasing overlap of the two species breeding ranges and the risk of increasing hybridisation.

Yep, two Ferruginous and two Baer's. There were several ferrugies at Ögii Nuur where we saw our Baer's. We also saw several ferrugies at Bööntsagaan Nuur at a place where a Baer's was seen with 5 ferrugies a few days before we arrived. And I also saw two Ferruginous on the Han River one Christmas Day in Seoul just a day after a Baer's was seen at the same spot. So they are clearly coming into contact.

I assume your wife saw them at Wild Duck Lake near Beijing (that's in Henan, right :))? I never had a chance to go there in winter, but I understand that's one of the best places to see them.
 
I assume your wife saw them at Wild Duck Lake near Beijing (that's in Henan, right :))? I never had a chance to go there in winter, but I understand that's one of the best places to see them.
Not Beijing - they are fairly regular in winter near Zhengzhou at lakes and wetlands along the Yellow River, so about 700km sw of Beijing. In fact the first I saw was a female with three young (pure or hybrids?) at Chenqiao in August - the female was originally seen and photographed by a Chinese birder in April with three fluffy chicks, so they seem to occasionally try to breed (or hybridise) in the area. Next year I saw three well developed juveniles again in August at another wetland. The birds were without an adult, but seemed good for Baer’s to me.
 
After 14 days, yesterday evening we had a fair well meal with our driver.

This morning at 3am two shiny 4x4s were parked outside our hotel and our group of four, plus guide, split into the vehicles. Our friends and the guide got the steadfast Toyota Landcruiser Prado (the lead vehicle), whereas my wife and I got the way cooler Chinese own brand - the ‘Tank’. Our driver proved he was the cooler guy, with his choice of music - while our friends listened to Chinese classical, we were burning up the tarmac listening to a Chinese club mix (a sample of Boney M, Rasputin included).

After miles of tarmac, we were wondering why the 4x4s?, but then with a sudden lurch to the left we were on the grass. Our driver slipped on a white left glove and the fun began. The next section of the journey was mainly along a gravel river bed, with occasional diversions on to the grassy banks. Both drivers hurtled across the obstacles, like a skier doing the moguls. Then after a while we veered right of the river and started to climb. A few minutes later and we stopped at the bottom of a scree slope, and started the search for our quarry.

Five minutes in and a bird flew up - ‘I think it’s a female, but why doesn’t the voice sound right?’ - the is, it isn’t it debate started. We walked a bit closer, to get better views, then suddenly our guide cried out ‘here’s a male’. The bird dropped in 15m away - a Sillem’s Rosefinch! For the next 30 minutes, the bird circled us, at one point flying so close, I felt like I could have reached out and plucked it from the air. The weather was beautiful and still and the bird started to call, so while my wife continued snapping photographs, I managed to get some recordings. Absolutely amazing and unforgettable stuff!

By 9:00am we left the Rosefinch (and the accompanying Black-headed Mountain Finches and Tibetan Rosefinch) and started our return journey. However, the day wasn’t over. We checked the gravelly river and the nearby hillside and suddenly our guide cried out ‘Tibetan Sandgrouse flying’. For a change, I got onto the distant bird immediately, and watched it land on the hillside. We reduced the distance in the 4x4s, then quietly walked up the rounded hill. At first the bird kept walking away, so that only its head was visible over the brow but eventually we got full views, then after a few minutes it took off, providing a great flyby, while calling - alas I didn’t have my recorder with me this time.

What an amazing day, that I am sure will stay in my memory forever.

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(Our guides tries a selfie with the Rosefinch)
 
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