Sunday, 9 July 2000

CHINA 2000: Kandar Shan and home (01-09 July)

This is the final posting covering a trip to the Tibetan Plateau with Jon Hornbuckle, Ashley Banwell, Ed Dickinson, Phil Heath and Barry Wright and guided by Jesper Hornskov. It is based on my scant notebook entries, unreliable memories and a report Jesper produced. Most of the photos included are digitised prints I took although a few were kindly provided by Barry and Jon. We had arrived in Nangqian, our base for a three day visit to Kandar Shan pass and gorge, the last major site to visit before the long drive back to Xining.

01 July 2000. We spent most of our first day on Kandar Shan La and the grassy slopes above it, Jesper's site for our main target (and the only remaining speciality) Kozlov's Bunting. They were quite easy at the right place and I saw 10 (6 males and 4 females). Job done, trip successful! Other birds seen included 5 Himalayan Griffons, Lammergeyer, 2 Rosy Pipits, 2 Brown and 8 Alpine Accentors, 6 Blue-fronted Redstarts, 5 River Chats, a superb male Grandala, flight views of a Wallcreeper, 10 Chough, 8 Hodgson's and 6 Brandt's Mountain Finches, 5 Red-breasted Rosefinches and 50 Blue Sheep. On our return to Nangyen we stopped to look in fields by the Mekong River where I saw Golden Eagle2 Hoopoes, 3 Grey-backed Shrikes, 2 Rock Sparrows and 2 Scarlet and 50 Pink-rumped Rosefinches.

Kandar Shan
Kandar Shan La
prayer flags

Ed and what to us was an overloaded truck at Kandar Shan La
climbing above the pass, looking for ...
Kozlov's Bunting, my best digiscoping effort
Kozlov's Bunting (photo: Barry Wright)
looking down at the road from above Kandar Shan La

me above Kandar Shan La

me, extremely well pleased with how the trip has gone
02 July 2000. We turned our attention to Kandar Shan gorge and the valley opposite where we spent most of the day. Here we were rewarded with a good selection of species but an out of range Black Drongo was the only addition to the trip list. As well as the drongo I saw 
6 'dolaniWhite Eared Pheasants (with greyer breasts), 3 Tibetan and 3 Szechenyi's Monal PartridgesHimalayan Griffons, 2 Lammergeyers, 4 CuckoosOlive-backed Pipits, a brown-throated Dipper, 2 Tibetan Rubythroats, 4 White-throated RedstartsRiver ChatsKessler's Thrushes, 6 Tickell's Warblers, 5 Kozlov's Babax, single Giant and Elliot's Laughingthrushes, 2 superb Wallcreepers, 2 Beautiful and 2 White-browed Rosefinches and 4 White-winged Grosbeaks.

taking prayer stones to a new level
Phil, Ed, Barry and Ash scanning for Wallcreepers at Kandar Shan gorge

03 July 2000. We had five days to get back to Xining for our flights to Beijing but as we'd seen pretty much everything possible Jon and Ash were keen to get back to Xining early to enable them to fly to Chengdu and visit Lhasa, not an option for the rest of us. All being well with the roads it was possible to do the journey in four days with a few stops which seemed a reasonable compromise and gave the rest of us a chance to revisit Dong Xia and Xining Bei Shan. Today we had a long drive back to Yushu but still had time for a few roadside stops along the way, starting with a detour to Kandar Shan La for a last quick  look at Kozlov's Bunting. I saw one male. Other birds seen during the day included 8 Ruddy Shelduck, 42 Himalayan Grifons, 2 Lammergeyers, a Saker, 3 Black-necked Cranes, 2 Ibisbill, 15 Snow and 66 Blue Hill Pigeons, 7 CuckoosLittle Owl, 19 Hoopoes, 3 Long-billed Calandra Larks, 4 Citrine WagtailsDipper, 8 Rufous-breasted Accentors, 2 Tibetan Rubythroats, 6 Blue-fronted and a male Hodgson's Redstart, 5 River Chats, 10 Kessler's Thrushes, 10 Kessler's Thrushes, 6 Stoliczka/s Tit-WarblersWhite-browed Tit, 17 Hume's Groundpeckers, 2 Alpine and 250 Common Chough, 2 Daurian Jackdaws, 2 Rufous-necked and a White-rumped Snowfinch, 3 Twite, an Eastern Great and 15 Beautiful Rosefinches and 11 Godlewski's Rock Buntings.
Tibetan Rubythroat (photo: Barry Wright)
Tibetan Tent between Nangyen and Yushu

me between Nangyen and Yushu

street market in Yushu
nice looking rugs

04 July 2000. We made steady progress back towards Xining reaching Maduo after brief stops at Bayanka La and Dayematan. As we were travelling through open country for most of the time and I was in the front I tried my best to keep track of the number of each species that I saw. Counting raptors on telegraph poles was easy but passerines more difficult and many remained unidentified. Birds recorded included 30 Bar-headed Geese, 50 Ruddy Shelduck, 4 Himalayan Griffons, Lammergeyer, 133 Upland Buzzards, 6 Black-necked Cranes, flocks of 41 and 55 Lesser Sandplover, 11 Wood Sandpipers, 6 Little Owls, 16 Saker, 7 Long-billed Calandra and 46 Shore Larks, 44 Hume's Grounpeckers, 3 Dippers, 2 Brown and 6 Robin Accentors, male Tibetan Rubythroat, 95 Black, single Hodgson's and Guldenstadt's and 3 Blue-fronted Redstarts, 16 Kessler's Thrushes, 7 Tickell's Warblers, a pair of White-browed Tits at a nest, 11 Rufous-necked, 6 White-rumped and 3 Black-winged Snowfinches, 2 Brandt's Mountain Finches and 5 Eastern Great Rosefinches. We also saw 2 Tibetan Wolves, a heard(?) of 42 Kiang and 20 Tibetan Gazelles. Not at all bad for a travel day.

05 July 2000. Another travel day, we drove with few stops, including a pass at 4460m, to Wenquan where we stayed in the same/only motel in town. Birds seen included 57 Ruddy Shelduck, 24 Himalayan Griffons, 53 Upland Buzzards, 4 Lesser Sandplover, 2 Saker, a Long-billed Calandra , 5 Hume's Short-toed and 40 Shore Larks, 23 Hume's Grounpeckers, 31 Black and 4 Guldenstadt's Redstarts, 19 Rufous-necked, 5 White-rumped, 6 Henri's and a Black-winged Snowfinch, 25 Brandt's Mountain Finches and a male Roborovski's Rosefinch.
Himalayan Poppy at Wenquan
06 July 2000. We left Wenquan and made several stops on the way to Xining. First Er La where we saw Tibetan Snowcock and 5 Roborovski's Rosefinches, then dropping down off the plateau through The Gorge where a male Wallcreeper was seen in the same place as the female we'd seen there early in the trip. We finished in fields near Gonghe where we added Black-faced Bunting to the trip list. Other species seen during the day included 18 Upland Buzzards, 2 Little Owls, 3 (plus 2 in cages)  Mongolian, 3 Crested and 40 Shore Larks, 30 Hume's Groundpeckers, 2 Brown and 4 Robin Accentors, 86 Black and 4 Guldenstadt's Redstarts, 5 Isabelline and 3 Desert Wheatears, 3 Rock Thrushes, 11 Rock Sparrows, 3 Rufous-necked, 5 Henri's and 5 Black-winged Snowfinches, 2 Hodgson's and 3 Brandt's Mountain Finches, Mongolian Desert Finch, and an Eastern Great Rosefinch. Back in Xining the hotel's restaurant was "out of order", and so we settled for a hamburger and ice-cream down the road - something I much preferred anyway. 

Roborovski's Rosefinch on our return to Er La
Roborovski's Rosefinch (photo: Barry Wright)
me back at Er La
07 July 2000. We said a sad goodbye to Jon and Ash who were returning to Xining Bei Shan for Prezevalski's Partdige before being driven to Lanzhou airport to fly to Chengdu and then Lhasa (as it turned out a four hour search was unsuccessful). They had been great companions and Ash had certainly found a few birds we might not otherwise have seen, most particularly Prezvalski's Redstart. Jepser took Barry, Ed, Phil and me back to Laoye Shan and Dongxia for the day. The weather was a distinct improvement on our previous visit and Chinese Leaf Warbler was a new bird for me. Other highlights were Rufous-breasted Accentor, 5 Siberian Rubythroats, Himalayan Bluetail, 5 White-throated Redstarts, 5 Yellow-streaked, 25 Greenish, 5 Gansu and a Hume's Leaf Warbler, a male Stoliczka's and 8 Crested Tit-Warblers, single Pere-Davids and Elliot's Laughingthrushes, a pair of breeding Przevalski's Nuthatches at a nest hole, 4 Songar and 6 Rufous-vented Tits and 5 White-browed Rosefinches.

Dong Xia

market in Datong
08 July 2000. We had a final morning at Xining Bei Shan but had no more success in Przevalski's Partridge than our earlier visit, or Jon and Ash the previous morning. One was heard distantly but had stopped calling before we could move in and the habitat wasn't easy to 'beat'.  Before having to leave for the airport I saw 2 Daurian Partridges, 4 Common Pheasants, 6 Cuckoos, an Eagle Owl, 4 Crag Martins, 3 Pied Wheatears, 7 Rock Thrushes, 15 Chough, 3 Pale Rosefinches and 3 Godlewski and 2 Meadow Buntings. We left Phil in Xining where he had an extra couple of days due to Jon telling him to book his flight on the wrong date. Phil had the last laugh as he revisited Xining Bei Shan and eventually saw Przevalski's Partridge. Jesper, Barry, Ed and I flew back to Beijing for a final night and according to Jesper celebrated the end of a fine trip by having another grand dinner at our hotel.... I'm in full agreement about it being a the fine trip and one that has brought back happy recollections many times since.
Xining Bei Shan
we were now down to one vehicle - our driver, Barry, Phil, Jesper and Ed at Xining Bei Shan
Xining from Bei Shan
modern buildings in Xining
09 July 2000. I saw 7 Azure-winged Magpies on the drive to Beijing airport and 2 Oystercatchers at Schipol.

[Blogged July 2019]

Friday, 30 June 2000

CHINA 2000: Maozhuang Forest Reserve (25-30 June)

This is the third of four postings covering a trip to the Tibetan Plateau with Jon Hornbuckle, Ashley Banwell, Ed Dickinson, Phil Heath and Barry Wright and guided by Jesper Hornskov. It is based on my scant notebook entries, unreliable memories and a report Jesper produced. Most of the photos included are digitised prints I took although a few were kindly provided by Barry and Jon and acknowledged accordingly.

We had arrived in Maduo the previous afternoon after a gruelling two day journey from a forest reserve the Sichuan border.

25 June 2000.  A clear night gave way to a drizzly dawn. We left Maduo and crossed the nearby Yellow River before driving to some wetlands near Dayematan for a field breakfast. On the way an Eagle Owl with 2 chicks was a pleasant surprise. More expected were 4 Black-necked Cranes on the wetlands, we later saw another 8, 60 Bar-headed Geese and 100 Ruddy Shelduck. We crossed Bayan Har La where I went overboard with more prayer flag photos and continued on to cross the Yangtze River, the longest in Asia. We followed it to Yushu, stopping for excellent views of two pairs of Ibisbills feeding along its banks, one with two young. I counted Upland Buzzards on the journey, most sat on telegraph poles, and reached 256 with 18 Sakers. We also saw 2 Lesser Sand Plovers, 3 Little Owls, 15 Hoopoes, 5 Long-billed Calandra and 50 Shore Larks, Dipper, 40 Black and 2 Guldenstadt's Redstarts, 10 Hume's Groundpeckers,3 Chough, 4 Rufous-necked and 6 White-rumped Snowfinches.
approaching Bayan Har La
me at Bayan Har La, an altitude of about 5000m
another proliferation of prayer flags
spot the yak

prayer stones too

views from the road to Yushu

crossing the Yangtze near Yushu

26 June 2000. We drove to the Maozhuang forest reserve, arriving at the first pass early only to discover a truck buried there blocking the road with the usual entourage standing around not doing much. We birded the scrubby hills each side of the pass with an eye on the road waiting for something to happen. After about 90 minutes exploring grassy slopes with rather sparse scrub it did. Our drivers, realising we could be stuck all day, plucked up courage to drive our vehicles on the hillside skirting the bottleneck. From a distance, on the other side of the pass, it probably looked a lot more straightforward than it actually was. We continued driving south and finally arrived at the Maozhuang forest reserve at 20:00hrs, just after dusk. Birds seen on the journey included 9 excellent Tibetan Partridges, 31 Himalayan Griffons, 2 Golden Eagles, 2 Ibisbill, 4 Snow Pigeons, Little Owl, 50 Hoopoes, Rufous-breasted Accentor, male Hodgson's Redstart, 5 River Chats, 20 Kessler's Thrushes, 2 Kozlov's Babax, Wallcreeper, 10 Grey-backed Shrikes, 40 Daurian Jackdaws, 2 Eastern Great Rosefinches, 2 White-winged Grosbeaks and 5 Godlewski's Buntings.
another blocked road
lots of standing around but our 4WDs made it off-road

Tibetan Partridge (photo: Barry Wright)

27-30 June 2000Three whole days and an early morning were spent exploring the Maozhuang forest reserve near our riverside base, a simple one storied building in a small village. Our drivers had bought supplies in Yushu and cooked all our meals. Jesper considered the food excellent, but I wasn't alone in feeling that was a rather generous assessment. We were birding steep forested valleys again and I found the up and down 1000m at a time quite tough. It was rewarding though with highlights being 4 Szechenyi's Monal Partridges, 5 White-eared and 8 Blood Pheasants, 5 Golden Eagles, 8 Himalayan Griffons, 5 Lammergeyers including a pair with a juvenile at a nest, 4 Hobbys, 12 Maroon-backed and 6 Rufous-breasted Accentors, 31 Himalayan Bluetails, 8 Hodgson's, 10 Blue-fronted and 12 White-throated Redstarts, 4 River Chats, 2 Yellow-streaked, 9 Greenish, 8 Lemon-rumped, 11 Orange-barred and a Hume's Leaf Warbler, 8 stunning Crested Tit-Warblers, 9 Slaty-backed and a Siberian Flycatcher, 5 Giant and 12 Elliot's Laughingthrushes, 4 Chinese Fulvettas, 3 Songar, 3 Grey-crested and 16 Rufous-vented Tits, 80 Crossbills, 5 Scarlet, 50 White-browed, 6 Beautiful, a Pink-rumped and 5 Three-banded Rosefinches, a Grey-headed Bullfinch, 27 White-winged Grospeaks and 8 Godlewski's Buntings. On our last afternoon we found a Pere David's Owl's feather and returned to the area before dawn the following morning but frustratingly only heard it, for a short period at some distance.

our base at Maozhuang, we were staying in the white building on the left
the river was too deep and fast flowing to cross other than by bridge
the nearby village

good forest remained up above the valley floor, although it was predominantly conifers
views west from Maozhuang

view east from Maozhuang
Three-banded Rosefinch, the only bird I saw that Jon caught at Maozhuang was fortunately his best, although mine was a poor effort photographing it
30 June 2000. After a brief and unsuccessful look for Pere David's Owl at dawn we had breakfast at Maozhuang we left to drive to Nangyen on the Mekong River. It was raining which did little to improve the condition of the road but we made reasonable progress and with few stops arrived in time for a mid-afternoon bowl of noodles. Most of us then went down to the river in search of Ibisbills although I only saw one. Other birds recorded after leaving Maozhuang included 2 Himalayan Griffons, Upland Buzzard, Quail (heard), 6 Snow and 80 Blue Hill Pigeons, 3 Hume's Short-toed Larks, Dipper, 4 Hodgson's Redstarts, 10 River Chats, 13 Kessler's Thrushes, 3 Tibetan Magpies, 5 Hume's Groundpeckers, an Alpine and 10 Common Chough, 15 Rock Sparrows, 30 Tibetan Twite, 6 Scarlet and 30 Pink-browed Rosefinches and a White-winged Grosbeak.
views from the road between Maozhuang and Nangyen

half Ash, Phil, Jon and Ed crossing the road to find a restaurant in Nangyen. Me lagging behind was normal but did reflect my enthusiasm for noodles
Nangyen Hotel 
the Mekong River at Nangyen
me by the Mekong
good Ibisbill habitat, although on this occasion I only saw one