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

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