Trip Report to Sichuan by Sue Bryan
May 29th – June 18th 2016
This was a birding holiday organised by Sunbird www.sunbirdtours.co.uk . I have always enjoyed birding in remote areas, especially scenic ones but high altitude has always been a problem for me with the awful effects of altitude sickness on the body. However after a recent trip to the Andes in Bolivia I had survived with the use of a small oxygen cylinder and Sunbird assured me that they would supply a few bottles of oxygen for my personal use. This enabled me to visit the Tibetan Plateau in the province of Sichuan in China where the birding was a delight.
Guide Paul Holt ably assisted by Qingyu Wang who made sure that all ground arrangements went well.
May 29th Norwich - Amsterdam - Chengdu
May 30th Chengdu - Langcanggou
May 31st Langcanggou
June 1st Langcanggou
June 2nd Langcanggou - Luding
June 3rd Luding
June 4th Erlang Pass - Baoxing
June 5th Baoxing - Rilong
June 6th Rilong – Wolong NP - Rilong
June 7th Wolong NP
June 8th Wolong NP
June 9th Rilong – Maerkang
June 10th Maerkang – Ying Xiong Gou
June 11th Maerkang – Hongyuan
June 12th Hongyuan – Ruoergai
June 13th Ruoergai - Juizhaigou
June 14th Juizhaigou NP
June 15th Juizhaigou NP
June 16th Juizhaigou Helipad – Maoxian
June 17th Maoxian – Chengdu
June 18th Chengdu – Amsterdam - Norwich
International flights to Chengdu via Amsterdam with KLM (£570return)
Visas to China can be difficult to obtain and full itinerary and letters of invitation are needed. Sunbird supplied all the necessary documentation but I still had some difficulty with my initial application which was returned for some clarification. The visa cost £175 plus 4 special delivery posts!
As this was a ‘package tour’ (£3820) + flights (£570) with all accommodation and food provided I exchanged about £50 at Chengdu airport using an exchange booth when I arrived for about 350 Yuan.
Sichuan is strongly influenced by monsoons and as such has heavy rainfall concentrated in the summer. As it is known for its rain, many birding tours have a lot of wet weather and so it is wise to take an umbrella! We had rain on and off on the first day and on one other afternoon but we were exceptionally lucky with good weather for most of our stay. It was cool in the mountains when we were at very high altitude but at lower elevations it was warm and sunny. We also had very good weather on the Tibetan Plateau with warm sunny conditions most of the time.
Sichuan consists of two geographically very distinct parts. The eastern part of the province is mostly within the fertile Sichuan Basin. The western Sichuan consists of the numerous mountain ranges forming the easternmost part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. We spent some of our trip in forest, some in high altitude mountains and some on the Tibetan Plateau reaching altitudes of 4500m.
Sichuan lies in a highly active seismic zone and in 2008 a massive earthquake left 69,000 people dead and 18,000 people missing. We travelled right through the earthquake zone that left nearly eleven million people homeless. We were amazed at how in eight years much of the towns and villages have been rebuilt.
I left Norwich airport early in the evening and flew by myself to Amsterdam. Here I met up with the rest of the group and we flew to Chengdu on an overnight flight.
We arrived after just after midday and boarded two minibuses, one for the luggage and one for us. Some of our route was restricted to small buses necessitating two vehicles. We drove stopping at Pujiang services where whilst eating a picnic lunch we added our first few birds to our Sichuan list. Light-vented Bulbul and Tree Sparrow were the first entries.
On arrival at Longchanggou we unloaded our luggage into our rooms and Vicky and I started our routine of sharing a room together. We joined the rest of the group and went for a wander along the road. Brown Bullfinch and Grey-capped Greenfinch were life ticks for me but it was good to see Long-tailed Minivet, Crested Myna, Grey-backed Shrike and White-browed Laughing Thrush again. I was pleased with Large Hawk Cuckoo as this was also a tick. An Asian Koel rounded off the long day.
We left the lodge at Longchanggou at 5am and drove up a long steep track. The weather was against us as it was heavy with mist and very chilly. Underfoot was very muddy so birding was difficult as we had to watch where our feet were going. However the birding was good and I was soon adding lifers to my list. It was such a shame that the mizzly weather prevented any photography.
Lesser Cuckoo was the first bird to join the daily list soon followed by Aberrant Leaf Warbler, White-collared Yuhina, Streak-throated Fulvetta, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Ashy-throated Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Large-billed Leaf Warbler and the first of many La Touche’s Warblers that we were to see. We heard a Brown Bush Warbler calling and it was soon located lurking in the track-side bushes. More warbler species came thick and fast as Bianche’s Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler and Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler joined the list.
We continued up the track with intermittent rain showers not making life easy. The track was very muddy but we added Chinese Blackbird, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Buff-throated Warbler, Slaty-blue Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler. A Spotted Nutcracker was proving difficult to locate as it hid in the trees but soon we had reasonable views of Golden Parrotbill. The lifers came thick and fast as I added Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, Great Parrotbill, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Blue-winged Minla, Red-tailed Minla, Red-winged Laughingthrush, Three-toed parrotbill, Elliott’s Laughingthrush, Emei Leaf Flycatcher and Emei Shan Liocichla. Black-throated Tit was one of the last birds to be added for the day before were turned back to the lodge very muddy. The boot cleaning took some time!
With better weather we headed back up the track again but drove up the other fork where the track was much better underfoot. It made birding much easier or so we thought until we realised most of the birds today were skulkers making photography almost impossible again.
However we persevered and added Red-billed Starling, Chinese Nuthatch, Fujian Niltava, Yellow-bellied Tit, and a wonderful Fire-capped Tit. Himalayan Swiftlets were seen well as they flew overhead.
I added birds to my list that I have seen in Asia before such as Large-billed Crow, Crossbill, Ashy Drongo and Dark-sided Flycatcher as well as adding a few more lifers including Chinese Song Thrush, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Kloss’s Leaf Warbler and Snowy-browed Flycatcher. We lost a bit of birding time as Jurgen had put his rucksack down during the day and had left it behind somewhere. We had to spend a bit of time searching for it. He was not having a good time as he had hurt his leg the day before and was already limping badly. However as a birder with over 8000 species to his name he was instrumental into finding some of our wanted species of birds.
After an early breakfast at 5.20am we were driven to a secret site along our route where in the pouring rain we had excellent views of Grey-hooded Parrotbill. However for most of the group we were all enthralled with the stunning views we had of a Firethroat. It was such a shame that the rain meant none of us could even contemplate any photography as it really was a magnificent bird. Chinese Babax, White-bellied Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart were also added to the list.
We had a long drive today and stopped for lunch at a restaurant that had an over-abundance of spice. It was fun to watch the bowls of food being boiled at the table though. We were none too sure what was in them!
We continued on our way stopping occasionally and were a bit perplexed at all the cherry trees wrapped in plastic to stop the birds eating the cherries. We added Oriental Magpie Robin, Black-billed Magpie, Kestrel, Blue Whistling Thrush and Barn Swallow to our lists once we had arrived in Luding to our smart hotel.
Lunch Cherry trees wrapped in plastic
We had an early start to drive up and down the mountain track at Erlangshan Pass to look for Lady Amerhurst’s Pheasant. We eventually saw a female at the side of the track. We birded the track in lovely sunny weather and by lunchtime it was very hot. At last I felt I could get my camera in action to take some photos of the birds.
Yellow-throated Bunting Vinaceous Rosefinch Spotted Nutcracker
Erlangshan Pass Breakfast time!
White-winged Grosbeak Hodgson’s Redstart
Whilst the others were having breakfast I crept round the back of an old derelict building where a Whit-winged Grosbeak was lurking but it never came out of the bushes in full view. A Grey-headed Bullfinch was added to the life list along with Yellow-streaked Warbler, Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, and Giant Laughing Thrush. A Yellow-throated Bunting was busy catching flies as we tried to keep up with a Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler that was none too keen for us to see it. More life ticks were added in the form of Daurian Redstart, Grey-crested Tit, Hodgson’s Redstart and Grey Shrike Babbler.
Green Shrike Babbler La Touche’s Warbler Chinese Thrush
We carried on down the track after lunch in the hot weather really enjoying ourselves at the excellent birding to be had. A Grey-crested Tit was a delight to see as was an Indian Blue Robin that involved us creeping down the steep hillside and hiding in the dense vegetation for some time before it gave itself up for us.
Today was destined to be a long day of travel but we had another go at driving up and down the track at Erlangshan Pass to get more views of Lady Amerhurst’s Pheasants. Eventually we all had good views of a male and female running across the track. We birded the track until 11.20am adding White-browed Fulvetta, Moustached Laughingthrush and Black-breasted Scimitar Babbler to our lists before boarding the minibus to drive to Baoxing for the rest of the day.
Apparent Black-browed x Sooty Tit Mrs Gould’s Sunbird
We enjoyed watching several apparent Black-browed x Sooty Tits in the trees alongside Mrs Gould’s Sunbird.
After travelling for a while we stopped at a restaurant where set out our own picnic on one of their tables! At least the drivers paid to have a restaurant lunch!
We arrived at Boaxing at 4.30pm and had the rest of the time to ourselves before venturing out for an evening meal.
We started the day at Fengmi, Baoxing and climbed up the hill, starting at Pere David’s House. At first the road was tarmaced and although quite steep, the birding was easy. We saw Slaty Bunting, Black Bulbul, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Himalayan Cuckoo, Plain-tailed Warbler and Collared Finchbill without too much trouble.
We were surprised to come across a research station where we saw a Giant Panda in an enclosure. After taking a few photos we carried on our way adding Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and eventually after a bit of a fight Sichuan (Russet) Bush Warbler. A little bit further up the track we watched Oriental Turtle Dove, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Great Barbet Vivid Niltava and Grey Bushchat.
Grey Bushchat Sichuan (Russet) Bush Warbler Moustached Laughingthrush
We carried on up the track where we added very little to our lists. We did have good views of Moustached Laughingthrush though.
We walked back down to Pere David’s house, where we had lunch before driving up to the Jianjinshan pass at 4110m high. On the way there we saw Salim Ali Swift, Chinese Pond Heron, Himalayan Vulture, White-capped Water Redstart and Blue-fronted Redstart.
Rosy Pipit Yak
We left the hotel at 4.45am for the Wolong National Park. I was dreading today as we were going to birdwatch at the top of the Balangshan Pass which is 4500m high. As I usually suffer from altitude sickness really badly, Sunbird had taken extra oxygen bottles as a special request from me. Once we had arrived at the top I needed the oxygen but was surprised that I really wasn’t too bad. Qingyu looked after me really well and quite rightly would not let me have any breakfast so that my body would not struggle trying to process food. I wasn’t the only one that needed oxygen at this height! We all managed to birdwatch successfully even though we all had to walk really slowly. The weather was kind to us with only a little early morning light mist.
We soon spotted one of our target birds as a Grandala ran around on the slope in front of us. Yellow-billed Chough wheeled around over our heads as a Red-fronted Rosefinch posed well for a photograph. Brandt’s Mountainfinch was soon added to our lifelist as Alpine Accentor added to the scene. However we all wanted to see a Tibetan Snowcock and it took a bit of locating until mark spotted one at the pinnacle of a distant rock. We were all very pleased with this!
Red-fronted Rosefinch Balangshan Pass, Wolong National Park
Grandala Tibetan Snowcock Chinese Monal
After three hours we had failed to find Snow Partridge and so boarded the minibus and made our way down to a slightly lower elevation where we located a Chinese Monal sitting in a tree below us. Kessler’s Thrush was also a quick fly by but we were to see a lot more of these later.
We spent a lovely time wandering down the road adding life ticks as we walked. Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, White-eared Pheasant, Chestnut-throated Partridge, Rufous-vented Wren, Buff-barred Warbler and Himalayan Bluetail were all added along with Greenish Warbler, Common Rosefinch and Winter Wren to the trip tally.
It started raining and so we made our way back to the hotel. However this was to be a long time as major road works were taking place in a town on our route and we had to wait in a queue for several hours.
We left at 3.30am to go over the top of the Balangshan Pass and down the other side to be in position at dawn for the Wood Snipe. We were told to have our cups of tea/coffee which was being organised at the back of the minibus. None of us had realised that Paul had wandered up the road and had watched a Wood Snipe fly over the road. By the time we had realised that he was missing it was all too late, as by the time we joined him no more snipe flew over. We were a bit annoyed to say the least as we could have had teas and coffees a bit later. One of those better in hindsight moments I guess! (Being a guide myself I know that not everything goes to plan!!!)
Birding on top of the world with my little oxygen bottle!
We returned to the minibus and birded on the road for the rest of the day. I had a brief view of a Koklass Pheasant down in the valley before watching a Tibetan Partridge and Sichuan Thrush. A Chinese Fulvetta was added to the lifelist as a Lammergeier flew above our heads. We also had more prolonged views of White Eared Pheasants.
I was beginning to feel unwell with altitude sickness and the lack of sleep because of the very early start, did not help matters. I decided to stay behind with the drivers and lay down in the sun for a snooze whilst the others carried on down the road. Luckily I did not miss anything by the time we caught them up.
We made our way back over the Balangshan Pass and added Chinese White-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-breasted Accentor and watched a wonderful view of White-tailed Rubythroat as it flitted around the mountainside. The rubythroats are one of my favourite birds and I was overjoyed at having such prolonged views. An Alpine Leaf Warbler was flitting in nearside bushes but was too quick for me to take any photos of it. We added Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and Russet Sparrow to our lists before Vicky and I turned our attention to the wonderful alpine flowers on show.
Lady’s Slipper Orchid Tibetan Partridge White-eared Pheasant (phone-scoped from a huge distance)
White-tailed Rubythroat Primula longipetiolata Yellow Poppy Mecanopsis integrifolia
After leaving our hotel early we drove back up to the Balangshan Pass at 4500m high where I was surprised not to have a headache at all and needed no oxygen either. At long last it seemed that my body had acclimatised to the high altitude. We watched Plain Mountain Finch on the ground about our feet as we enjoyed our first cup of tea for the day.
Plain Mountain Finch
Our target species of Snow Partridge took us over two and a half hours to locate on the craggy mountainside. One this was safely on our lists we boarded the minibus and dropped down to a slightly lower altitude for breakfast on the other side of the pass but still in Wolong National Park. We walked down the road for a while but saw very little for our efforts.
Wolong National Park Sue and the rest of the group in Wolong National Park.
Later we dropped down to 2825m and walked a side forest trail where we saw both sub species of Blue Whistling Thrushes (Black-billed and Yellow-billed). We also added White-throated Redstart. I was looking up at every tree hoping for a Red Panda but it was not to be.
We drove back up and over the pass and had to wait once again for the road block to clear in the narrow mountain village where roadworks were taking place.
We awoke to pouring rain at Rilong and so we decided to have our picnic breakfast sitting in the comfort of the hotel before we set off.
At Lanjiawan on our route we watched Blue Rock Thrush before stopping in the Shuangbaixiang Valley where we watched Japanese Tit, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Brown-breasted Bulbul and Darjeeling Woodpecker. Sadly I didn’t get any photos of them before arriving at the Mengishan Pass.
Once we arrived at the pass the weather was beautiful and the group split up. Some went in search of more birds down a steep slope whilst a few of us took the opportunity of searching for ourselves and I took the opportunity of some photography. We watched a Kesler’s Thrush and Hume’s Warblers in nearby trees as well as Chinese White-browed Finch sitting at the top of a distant tree. White-winged Grosbeak and Rufous-vented Tit added to the scene. We noted Maroon-backed Accentor as well as Crimson-browed Finch, Sichuan Tit, Collared Grosbeak, Olive-backed Pipit and a flight view of Black Woodpecker.
Sue at Mengishan Pass Hume’s Warbler
Kesler’s Thrush White-browed Rosefinch Crimson-browed Finch
We continued on our way, stopping near Barkam where we admired some Tibetan scenery. There were many prayer flags adorning the hillside.
We spent the day near Maerkang exploring the valley en-route to Ying Xiong Gou. Our altitude ranged from 2740m to 4285m. We left our hotel at 5.30am and initially drove up to 3800m and walked down the road stopping for both breakfast and lunch. As we drove up the track we had a small group of Blood Pheasants at the side of the road as well as a Woolly Hare. A Grey-headed Bullfinch sat at the top of a tree. Sichuan Jay took a bit of time to find but eventually showed well.
Blood Pheasants Woolly Hare
Grey-headed Bullfinch Sichuan Jay
A Himalayan Buzzard flew overhead as we searched the valley below us for the Long-tailed Thrush that we could hear singing but not see. It took the entire group quite some time before one of us spotted it. It was so distant that I had to phone-scope it. Later on down the track we had excellent views of Przewalsky’s Nuthatch that sat for me to take its photograph as well as White-throated Redstart, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Buff-barred Warbler and another funky-looking Rufous-vented Tit. I managed to locate a Three-banded Rosefinch sitting quietly in a bush before it flew off.
Przewalsky’s Nuthatch Long-tailed Thrush White-throated Restart
Rufous-vented Tit Giant Laughingthrush Snickers-loving Tibetan boy
We walked a little further down the track stopping to admire a few Giant Laughingthrushes before boarding the minibus to take us to Ying Xiong Gou at 4285m high. Here we saw a few Hill Pigeon and Lammergeir and watched Golden Eagle too. I was amazed at how we were all coping with the altitude as we searched for new birds. I stopped to offer my ration of a Snickers bar of chocolate from my pocket to a small Tibetan child who looked as if he might enjoy it. He didn’t take long to eat it!
We packed up and left Maerkang and drove to Lu Gu Shan and birded the Suomu Valley. After watching more Blood Pheasants we had excellent views of Koklass Pheasant that was playing ‘peek-a-boo’ with us for some time.
Qingyu enjoying breakfast Koklass Pheasant
Lu Gu Shan
It was a pleasant morning’s birding as we strolled down the track watching Buff-barred Warbler, Alpine Leaf Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Chinese Fulvetta as well as adding Tibetan Siskin, Chinese Grouse and Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler to our life lists before boarding the minibus to start the climb up to the Tibetan Plateau.
We stopped at the Fen Shua Ling Pass where after watching a Rosy Pipit sitting on wires and a Lammergeier overhead we located a nest hole of a White-browed Tit. The parents kept us entertained for a while as did a pair of Hodgson’s Redstarts.
Rosy Pipit Lammergeier
White-browed Tit Hodgson’s Redstart
Daurian Jackdaw were fairly common on the plateau and we were all taken aback at just how many Common Cuckoos we were seeing perched on wires. We even saw a hepatic Common Cuckoo but sadly I was not allowed out of the bus to take a photo. We motored on and stopped to look at Black-necked Cranes. Tony was very vigilant and spotted a WOLF! I was so excited as I have always wanted to see a truly wild one. It was very distant and I had to squint through the scope to make it out as it was running quite fast and trying to keep up with it was quite difficult. Although I have a very small image of it I was delighted that I have got a photo at all!
Wolf (so ok, you will have to look very hard to spot it!!!) Ruddy Shelduck
After the excitement had died down we noted other birds to add to our list including, Oriental Skylark, Azure-winged Magpie, Citrine Wagtail, Siberian Stonechat and Common Raven. We travelled on stopping briefly at a roadside pool where a Ruddy Shelduck and Common Tern were making use of the water. Black Redstart and Black Drongo were also noted as we pulled into Hongyuan for the night. This was a modern town where we were treated to a smart hotel for the night.
We left the hotel just before 6am and drove across the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, stopping frequently to look for birds. We were very lucky with the weather as we had hot sun all day and by lunchtime it was baking hot. We stopped by the roadside where we added Common Pheasant before moving on a bit further where we walked to some scrub where we tape lured Smoky Warbler. There were some Twite in roadside bushes that were also nice to see as well as an Azure-winged Magpie.
Azure-winged Magpie Twite
Smoky Warbler Saker
We motored on and stopped where there was a Saker perched on a telegraph pole. It gave good views but we did not want to approach too close unless it flew. Hoopoe, Collared Dove, Richard’s Pipit, Coot and Hume’s Groundpecker were also noted. We had a good spell in the next few hours as Mongolian Plover, Upland Buzzard, Chinese Grey Shrike, Little Owl, White-rumped Snowfinch, Horned Lark and Black Stork were all seen well.
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Upland Buzzard Himalayan Griffon Vulture
We were enjoying the beautiful weather and the relaxed day as we wandered at the side of the road taking photos and finding new birds on the expansive plateau. A Himalayan Griffon Vulture drifted overhead as we watched a few Rufous-necked Snowfinch run around the sandy soil. A Citrine Wagtail sat on the wires as Brown-headed Gull, Rock Sparrow, Ferruginous Duck and Mallard were seen on nearby pools before we set off once again. Our next target of Tibetan Lark took a short while to find and we added Pale Martin, Eastern Cattle Egret and Bar-headed Goose as we made our way to Ruoergai.
Citrine Wagtail Yak Road Block!
Tibetan Plateau Our Tibetan spectator! Goodness knows where he emerged from in this remote place
Today we were heading for Jiuzhaigou so we left Ruoergai and drove for an hour on the plateau admiring some Black-necked Cranes before we descended down steeply off the plateau. We climbed back up to the La Ming Pass at 3987m and birded for a short while below the tree line on the Baxi Lu Road. A Common Pheasant posed for a while. It was nice to see a real one!
Here we took some time to locate Blue-eared Pheasant as although two of us saw the birds fairly quickly high up on the mountainside it took some time before the others saw them as they had disappeared behind some trees in a dip.
Common Pheasant Siberian Rubythroat
Whilst we were waiting for the others to see the Blue-eared Pheasant a Siberian Rubythroat posed for a short while to have its photo taken. Near the minibus we watched Plain Laughingthrush in the roadside bushes before adding Carrion Crow to our trip lists. Further along the road we stopped and saw Snow-cheeked Laughingthrush and White-browed Tit Warbler which we had to climb up a steep hillside for. It proved a tricky little bird to see but in the end we all saw it well.
Baxi Lu Road site Tibetan Snowcock Baxi Lu Road
A Hobby flew overhead as we boarded the bus to make our way onwards to Jiuzhaigu. We stopped before we made our final descent off the plateau to admire the scenery and to watch a Tibetan Snowcock that we had spotted.
Paul’s lookout position! The edge of the Tibetan Plateau
Nearly off the Tibetan Plateau Field workers on the Baxi Lu Road
We motored on towards Jiuzhaigo but soon we came to a road block. Sichuan was badly damaged during an earthquake in 2008 and road construction was still taking place meaning that we often had to wait whilst blasting/moving earth operations took place. We made the most of our delay and birded around the bus. We watched Black Kite, Lammergeier, Hobby and Northern Goshawk during our wait as well as a herd of stampeding Yak! We were late arriving at our hotel so I skipped the meal to catch up with notes and my photos.
Sue waiting by the roadblock Tibetan Prayer Wheel Temple
On our way to Jiuzhaigo
We had breakfast at the hotel at Jiuzhaigo before bundling ourselves into the minibus to be taken to the Jiuzhaigo National Park. This was our first encounter with lots of people as it is a famous Sichuan National Park. The scenery was just spectacular. It looked like an alpine lake scene in the Swiss Alps.
We waited at the park entrance whilst Qingyu acquired our tickets and then boarded a tourist bus that took us to the furthest point in the park. We got out and climbed up the boardwalk and entered the primeval forest.
Primeval Forest Entrance Lady’s Slipper Orchid
The group in Jiuzhaigo Forest
We were looking for some specialities and had to creep around in the understory as we followed their song. Spotted Bush Warbler was the first to be located and after initial brief views we all saw it well as we got closer to it. Baikal Bush Warbler was next which entailed another scramble until it finally gave itself up to us. We had two treecreepers to find and after a bit of a hunt saw both Bar-tailed Treecreeper and Sichuan Treecreeper. We added Three-toed Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker whilst we were searching to our trip list. I had elected not to take my Canon camera today and so I only have landscape photos taken with my pocket camera, as we had been warned that we might be scrabbling around in the undergrowth and we had intermittent rain all day.
Jiuzhaigo National Park
We caught one of the tourist buses part-way back down the road and entered another part of the forest. Here we saw Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Slaty-blue Flycatcher and White-bellied Redstart. We came across a mixed flock and I was delighted to see Fire-capped Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Tibetan Siskin and Grey-crested Tit again. The rain got harder and we made our way back to the road where we waited for quite a while before an empty bus took us back down to the park entrance.
It was pouring with rain as we finished our hotel breakfast and so waited a while before venturing out. Once the rain eased I took a few photos around the hotel car park where family parties of White Wagtail and Green-backed Tit were flitting around. After a while down at the entrance to the park an Eurasian Nuthatch posed but it wasn’t keen on having its photo taken. A Chestnut Thrush was much more obliging. By the river a Plumbeous Water Redstart was busy feeding young as they begged for food. A Crag Martin was keen to shelter on one of the buildings out of the drizzle.
Green-backed Tit Eurasian Nuthatch Chestnut Thrush
Plumbeous Water Redstart Recently fledged Plumbeous Water Redstart Crag Martin
I walked along one of the park’s trackways and admired a Daurian Redstart also feeding young.
There was a fast flowing mountain river not far from the hotel and as I peered over one of the bridges I was just in time to see a White-throated Dipper disappear. Try as I might to relocate it I was not successful! Overhead I spent a while trying to photo Asian House Martins but Blue Rock Thrush sitting on a statue was much easier.
Asian House Martin Blue Rock Thrush
The view from Jiuzhaigo Helipad
We were up at 4.30am in the hope of seeing Nightjar outside the hotel in the dark but we were out of luck by the time dawn broke. We drove up the track above the town to Jiuzhaigo helipad. The weather today was much better than yesterday giving wonderful views over the valley and mountains against a clear blue sky.
We walked on up the track seeing many birds but after nearly three weeks in Sichuan very few new ticks. One of the first new ticks was a Spectacled Parrotbill but it was not keen to show itself. I struggled to take its photograph as it lurked in the bushes. Spectacled Fulvetta fared no better as it remained without its photo being taken! A Long-tailed Minivet was much more accommodating as it sat atop a bush. On a bank nearby an Elliots Laughingthrush busied itself feeding. We didn’t get much further up the track before we watched a Moustached Laughingthrush as well.
Spectacled Parrotbill Long-tailed Minivet (m) Elliot’s Laughingthrush
Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler Moustached Laughingthrush White-collared Yuhina
Long-tailed Minivet (f) Mountain Hawk Eagle
We continued on up the track I the hope of seeing pheasants but it was not to be. We came across a tit flock and watched a Yellow-bellied Tit amongst them as well as Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Greenish Warbler and La Touche’s Leaf Warbler.
After our time was up and no pheasants seen we made our way back down slowly. We paused to take in the breathtaking scenery in the glorious sun.
Views above Jiuzhaigo
After lunch we boarded the minibus and settled ourselves down for the five hour drive to Maoxin where we were to spend the night in a roadside hotel. We certainly enjoyed the scenery and marvelled at the recovery of the area after the earthquake.
S301 Road to Maoxin
View from Maoxing hotel Songpan
After an entertaining evening meal last night we were away by 5.30am and drove three and a half hours to Chengdu. Here we made our way to Chengdu Research Station that specialise in the breeding of Giant Panda and Red Panda. Although we did not expect to see Giant Panda in the wild I was disappointed not to have seen Red Panda in the wild at Wolong NP. As we entered the car park Crested Myna sat on a post across the road. The habitat at the research station held some good birds and I added several life ticks here. First up was Yellow-billed Grosbeak, soon followed by Vinous-throated Parrotbill.
Crested Myna Collared Finchbill
The research station had a big lake surrounded by vegetation and we added a few trip ticks including, Little Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Japanese White-eye, Moorhen and Little Egret. A Collared Finchbill posed for a short while as did a Grey-capped Greenfinch. However a Chinese Bamboo Partridge sat in the shade and I struggled to get enough light for a photo.
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chinese Bamboo Partridge
We were all keen to see the pandas and entered the enclosure to view the Giant Pandas. I have never been keen on zoos as I hate to see animals caged and it still does not seem right to confine these beautiful animals in such a small space. We watched a few Giant Pandas munching away and some of the small cubs too inside. After this we walked back outside to another area where we admired the delightful Red Pandas in their outside enclosure.
Light-vented Bulbul Golden Pheasant
Continuing around the hilly roads with their roadside vegetation we saw a Golden Pheasant (at least it was in China but not sure it was tickable!!) and a Light-vented Bulbul at the top of a tree.
Rufous-faced Warbler Spotted Dove
White-browed Laughingthrush Black-throated Tit
We then walked down a path with a predominance of Bamboo. Here we encountered Rufous-faced Warbler, Spotted Dove, White-browed Laughingthrush and Black-throated Tit. It was now very hot and most of us were hungry, thirsty or begging for an ice-cream! So we made our way to the lakeside and bought ice-creams which were enjoyed whilst watching the various motley selection of feral geese and ducks. Our last trip tick was a Long-tailed Shrike sat at the top of a distant tree.
I would like to thank Jill at Sunbird, Paul and Qingyu for making it such a memorable trip but most of all I would like to thank Vicky, my room mate for her un-ending humour and help.
We motored on to our city hotel in Chengdu where we had a delightful last meal altogether where we voted for our top ten. Top of my list was Wolf!!! (but closely followed by Firethroat)
1) Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
2) Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
3) Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
4) Chinese Pond-heron (Ardeola bacchus)
5) Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
6) Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)
7) Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)
8) Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
9) Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)
10) Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
11) Crested Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus [apivorus])
12) Black-eared Kite (Milvus lineatus [migrans])
13) Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus)
14) Himalayan Griffon-vulture (Gyps himalayensis)
15) Chinese Goshawk (Accipiter soloensis)
16) Besra (Accipiter virgatus)
17) Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
18) Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
19) Himalayan Buzzard (Buteo refectus)
20) Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius)
21) Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
22) Mountain Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis)
23) Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
24) Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
25) Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug)
26) Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
27) Chinese Grouse (Bonasa sewerzowi)
28) Snow Partridge (Lerwa lerwa)
29) Tibetan Snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus)
30) Chestnut-throated Partridge (Tetraophasis obscurus)
31) Tibetan Partridge (Perdix hodgsoniae)
32) Chinese Bamboo-partridge (Bambusicola thoracica)
33) Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus)
34) Koklass Pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha)
35) Chinese Monal (Lophophorus lhuysii)
36) White Eared-pheasant (Crossoptilon crossoptilon)
37) Blue Eared-pheasant (Crossoptilon auritum)
38) Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
39) Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae)
40) Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
41) Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
42) Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis)
43) Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
44) Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
45) Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus)
46) Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
47) Hill Pigeon (Columba rupestris)
48) Snow Pigeon (Columba leuconota)
49) Speckled Wood-pigeon (Columba hodgsonii)
50) Oriental Turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis)
51) Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
52) Eurasian Collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
53) Large Hawk-cuckoo (Cuculus sparverioides)
54) Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
55) Himalayan Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus)
56) Lesser Cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus)
57) Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea)
58) Little Owl (Athene noctua)
59) Himalayan Swiftlet [sp] (Collocalia brevirostris)
60) White-throated Needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus)
61) Salim Ali's Swift (Apus salimalii)
62) Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
63) Great Barbet (Megalaima virens)
64) Grey-capped Woodpecker (Dendrocopos canicapillus)
65) Crimson-breasted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos cathpharius)
66) Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis)
67) Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
68) Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus)
69) Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
70) Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)
71) Tibetan Lark (Melanocorypha maxima)
72) Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula)
73) Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
74) Pale Martin (Riparia diluta)
75) Eurasian Crag-martin (Hirundo rupestris)
76) Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
77) Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
78) Asian Martin (Delichon dasypus)
79) Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi [novaeseelandiae])
80) Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni)
81) Rosy Pipit (Anthus roseatus)
82) White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
83) Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
84) Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
85) Long-tailed Minivet (Pericrocotus ethologus)
86) Short-billed Minivet (Pericrocotus brevirostris)
87) Collared Finchbill (Spizixos semitorques)
88) Brown-breasted Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthorrhous)
89) Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis)
90) Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus [madagascariensis])
91) White-throated (Black-bellied) Dipper (Cinclus cinclus cinclus)
92) Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes troglodytes)
93) Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris)
94) Rufous-breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata)
95) Maroon-backed Accentor (Prunella immaculata)
96) White-browed Shortwing (Brachypteryx montana)
97) Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope)
98) White-tailed Rubythroat (Luscinia pectoralis)
99) Firethroat (Luscinia pectardens)
100) Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia brunnea)
101) Himalayan Bluetail (Tarsiger rufilatus)
102) Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis)
103) Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
104) Hodgson's Redstart (Phoenicurus hodgsoni)
105) White-throated Redstart (Phoenicurus schisticeps)
106) Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)
107) Blue-fronted Redstart (Phoenicurus frontalis)
108) White-capped Water-redstart (Chaimarrornis leucocephalus)
109) Plumbeous Water-redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosus)
110) White-bellied Redstart (Hodgsonius phaenicuroides)
111) Grandala (Grandala coelicolor)
112) Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola torquata maura)
113) Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferrea)
114) Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius)
115) Blue Whistling-thrush [sp] (Myiophonus caeruleus)
116) Sichuan Thrush (Zoothera griseiceps)
117) Long-tailed Thrush (Zoothera dixoni)
118) Chinese Blackbird (Turdus mandarinus)
119) Chestnut Thrush (Turdus rubrocanus)
120) White-backed Thrush (Turdus kessleri)
121) Chinese Thrush (Turdus mupinensis)
122) Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler (Cettia fortipes)
123) Chestnut-crowned Bush-warbler (Cettia major)
124) Aberrant Bush-warbler (Cettia flavolivacea)
125) Yellowish-bellied Bush-warbler (Cettia acanthizoides)
126) Spotted Bush-warbler (Bradypterus thoracicus)
127) David's (Baikal) Bush Warbler (Bradypterus davidi)
128) Brown Bush-warbler (Bradypterus luteoventris)
129) Striated Prinia (Prinia criniger)
130) Sichuan Bush Warbler (Locustella chengi)
131) Grey-crowned Warbler (Seicercus tephrocephalus)
132) Plain-tailed Warbler (Seicercus soror)
133) Bianchi's Warbler (Seicercus valentini)
134) Chestnut-crowned Warbler (Seicercus castaniceps)
135) Rufous-faced Warbler (Abroscopus albogularis)
136) Smoky Warbler (Phylloscopus fuligiventer [fuscatus])
137) Buff-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus subaffinis [affinis])
138) Alpine Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus occisinensis)
139) Yellow-streaked Warbler (Phylloscopus armandii)
140) Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher)
141) Ashy-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus maculipennis)
142) Sichuan Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus forresti)
143) Chinese Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus sichuanensis [proregulus])
144) Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus humei)
145) Emei Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus emeiensis)
146) Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides trochiloides)
147) Large-billed Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus magnirostris)
148) La Touche's Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus claudiae)
149) Kloss's Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus ogilviegranti)
150) Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
151) White-browed Tit-warbler (Leptopoecile sophiae)
152) Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)
153) Ferruginous Flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea)
154) Slaty-backed Flycatcher (Ficedula hodgsonii)
155) Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (Ficedula strophiata)
156) Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra)
157) Slaty-blue Flycatcher (Ficedula tricolor)
158) Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassina)
159) Fujian Niltava (Niltava davidi)
160) Vivid Niltava (Niltava vivida)
161) Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis)
162) David's Laughingthrush (Garrulax davidi)
163) Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush (Garrulax sukatschewi)
164) Moustached Laughingthrush (Garrulax cineraceus)
165) Barred Laughingthrush (Garrulax lunulatus)
166) Giant Laughingthrush (Garrulax maximus)
167) White-browed Laughingthrush (Garrulax sannio)
168) Elliot's Laughingthrush (Garrulax elliotii)
169) Red-winged Laughingthrush (Garrulax formosus)
170) Grey-faced Liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis [steerii])
171) Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus gravivox)
172) Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler (Pomatorhinus ruficollis)
173) Rufous-capped Babbler (Stachyris ruficeps)
174) Chinese Babax (Babax lanceolatus)
175) Pekin Robin (Leiothrix lutea)
176) Green Shrike-babbler (Pteruthius xanthochlorus)
177) Blue-winged Minla (Minla cyanouroptera)
178) Red-tailed Minla (Minla ignotincta)
179) Golden-breasted Fulvetta (Alcippe chrysotis)
180) White-browed Fulvetta (Alcippe vinipectus)
181) Chinese Fulvetta (Alcippe striaticollis)
182) Spectacled Fulvetta (Alcippe ruficapilla)
183) Streak-throated Fulvetta (Alcippe cinereiceps)
184) Stripe-throated Yuhina (Yuhina gularis)
185) White-collared Yuhina (Yuhina diademata)
186) Great Parrotbill (Conostoma oemodium)
187) Three-toed Parrotbill (Paradoxornis paradoxus)
188) Spectacled Parrotbill (Paradoxornis conspicillatus)
189) Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Paradoxornis webbianus)
190) Grey-hooded Parrotbill (Paradoxornis zappeyi)
191) Golden Parrotbill (Paradoxornis verreauxi [nipalensis])
192) Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus)
193) Sichuan Tit (Poecile weigoldicus)
194) White-browed Tit (Parus superciliosus)
195) Rufous-vented Tit (Parus rubidiventris)
196) Coal Tit (Parus ater)
197) Yellow-bellied Tit (Parus venustulus)
198) Grey-crested Tit (Parus dichrous)
199) Japanese Tit (Parus minor)
200) Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus)
201) Yellow-browed Tit (Sylviparus modestus)
202) Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
203) Snowy-browed Nuthatch (Sitta villosa [canadensis])
204) Przewalski's Nuthatch (Sitta przewalskii)
205) Hodgson's Treecreeper (Certhia hodgsoni)
206) Sichuan Treecreeper (Certhia tianquanensis)
207) Bar-tailed Treecreeper (Certhia himalayana)
208) Fire-capped Tit (Cephalopyrus flammiceps)
209) Gould's Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae)
210) Chestnut-flanked White-eye (Zosterops erythropleurus)
211) Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus [palpebrosus])
212) Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)
213) Grey-backed Shrike (Lanius tephronotus [scach])
214) Chinese Grey Shrike (Lanius sphenocercus)
215) Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
216) Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
217) Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)
218) Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
219) Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans [infaustus])
220) Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha)
221) Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana)
222) Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica)
223) Tibetan Ground-jay (Pseudopodoces humilis)
224) Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes)
225) Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
226) Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
227) Daurian Jackdaw (Corvus dauuricus [monedula])
228) Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone)
229) Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)
230) Common Raven (Corvus corax)
231) Red-billed Starling (Sturnus sericeus)
232) Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)
233) Russet Sparrow (Passer rutilans)
234) Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
235) Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia)
236) White-rumped Snowfinch (Montifringilla taczanowskii)
237) Rufous-necked Snowfinch (Montifringilla ruficollis)
238) White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata)
239) Tibetan Serin (Serinus thibetanus)
240) Grey-capped Greenfinch (Carduelis sinica)
241) Twite (Carduelis flavirostris)
242) Plain Mountain-finch (Leucosticte nemoricola)
243) Black-headed Mountain-finch (Leucosticte brandti)
244) Long-tailed Rosefinch (Uragus sibiricus)
245) Dark-breasted Rosefinch (Carpodacus nipalensis)
246) Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus)
247) Pink-rumped Rosefinch (Carpodacus eos)
248) Vinaceous Rosefinch (Carpodacus vinaceus)
249) Dark-rumped Rosefinch (Carpodacus edwardsii)
250) Three-banded Rosefinch (Carpodacus trifasciatus)
251) White-browed Rosefinch (Carpodacus thura)
252) Red-fronted Rosefinch (Carpodacus puniceus)
253) Crimson-browed Finch (Pinicola subhimachalus)
254) Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
255) Brown Bullfinch (Pyrrhula nipalensis)
256) Grey-headed Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythaca)
257) Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria)
258) Collared Grosbeak (Mycerobas affinis)
259) White-winged Grosbeak (Mycerobas carnipes)
260) Slaty Bunting (Latoucheornis siemsseni)
261) Godlewski's Bunting (Emberiza godlewskii [cia])
262) Yellow-throated Bunting (Emberiza elegans)
1) Tibetan Macaque Macaca thibetana
2) Pallas's Squirrel Callosciurus erythraeus
3) Swinhoe’s Striped Squirrel Tamiops swinhoii
4) Squirrel sp.
5) Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana
6) Père David's Rock Squirrel Sciurotamias davidianus
7) Pika sp. Ochotona sp.
8) Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus
9) Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
10) Wolf Canis lupus
11) Hog Badger Arctonyx collaris
12) Steppe Polecat Mustela eversmanii
13) Least Weasel Mustela nivalis
14) Roe Deer Cervus elaphus
15) Tufted Deer Elaphodus cephalophus
16) Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur