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.
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 2000. Three 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|
|the Mekong River at Nangyen|
|me by the Mekong|
|good Ibisbill habitat, although on this occasion I only saw one|