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Birding China -Yunnan & Sichuan

By Dave Sargeant

11-19 October 2007


Introduction

In taking advantage of a free week's holiday over the Eid period, I settled on Yunnan and Sichuan due in part to never having birded in China, as well as its accessibility from Dubai. Although October cannot be considered the ideal time of year to visit Yunnan and Sichuan, as many summering visitors will have departed and the weather potentially may not be great, it was none the less an opportunity to venture to a few sites not usually visited by birders, with the aim of finding some regional specialities.

In general the trip worked out well, although the weather was poorer than expected throughout, with rain every day -- sometimes all day. Much effort went into advance planning of the logistical arrangements, an essential part of travelling in a country where you can neither speak nor read the language. I found China to be more developed than I had expected, with good roads, telecommunications infrastructure and accommodations, and the people generally helpful and service oriented. Language and communication remained the biggest problem.

For further information contact Dave Sargeant: akalat [at] gmail.com

Getting there - Flights and Visas

I flew with Emirates via Dubai. With almost no exceptions, visitors to China require a visa. I obtained a 20-day visa from the Embassy in Muscat at a cost of US$ 30. Obtaining it was quick and straightforward. The application form can be downloaded from several places on the web including chinaapp.pdf.

Money

During my visit the exchange rate was approximately US$1 = 7.5 Renminbi. Changing currency at the airport on arrival, and back on departure, was easy.

Health, Safety and Hassles

Very good on most fronts. Undoubtedly the major safety issue is the driving standard (or rather lack of it). My driver and I were involved in a car accident outside Lijiang (see below), caused by excessive speed and undue attention by the other driver.

Getting around

For those with time, public busses and trains are a good option in China. However, for those short on time and linguistically-challenged, domestic flights, taxis and driver/vehicle rental are the easiest way to go.

Internal travel arrangements were made through Elite Travel in Beijing where handled by the efficient Sunny Feng. She arranged domestic flights (e-tickets), hotel reservations and a vehicle and driver for Lijiang. I paid through direct bank transfer, as credit card payments would have attracted a 4% surcharge. Having a local agent also had the advantage of having an English-speaking backup in case of problems with the logistics, and indeed I needed to call on their assistance when dropped off by taxi at the wrong place on Xishan.

Sunny and Elite Travel can be contacted at Elite Travel, 4/F, Office Building, Hong Kong Macau Centre, Chaoyangmen Street North, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Tel: 8610-65529658. Email elitravel [at] 263.net.

In Lijiang, via Elite, I hired a vehicle and driver for the whole three days, giving me the flexibility to bird anywhere along the road as well as to get the driver to drive ahead and pick me up. I was fortunate to have a driver who was very pleasant, a safe driver, and who spoke quite good English. I would definitely recommend him to future visitors. His name is Yao Gen Song (also known as "Gary") and he can be contacted at email YGS927 [at] 163.com or mobile 13988848128. He was also willing to act as a guide at any location and trek up Leaping Tiger Gorge with those interested.

Other Miscellaneous Information

The electrical supply is nominally 220V, 50 Hz. Plugs varied enormously, but officially are supposed to standardise on the flat prong inverted V three pin with earth. However, typical two flat prong US type as well as two round prong European types were encountered.

During my visit the sunrise and sunset times were approximately 06h45 and 18h30. China uses one time zone; GMT+8.

Accommodation

I stayed at the following:

Emei Grande Hotel, Emei Shan. A large tourist and business hotel on the main street very close to the main bus station. There are many other hotels in the same area. Expensive at 500 RMB including breakfast, but a nice place with helpful staff.

White Dove Resort, Labahe. One of several small hotels in the valley at Labahe. The cost was a reasonable 280 RMB and the place was clean, with hot a shower and the food good.

San He Hotel, Lijiang. A very nice place just inside the old city. It's a good idea to stay inside the old city when visiting Lijiang as you can wander the old streets taking photographs at night. Note however, that traffic cannot enter the old city, so you need to carry your baggage to the hotel from wherever your taxi drops you. In the case of the San He Hotel, that's about 200 metres. In common with many hotels in the old town, breakfast needs to be taken at a café just up the street.

Camillia Hotel, Kunming. A good choice for those having to stay overnight in Kunming. The hotel is reasonably priced, very accustomed to foreign guests, and has a good breakfast buffet. RMB 200 including breakfast.

Tai Hua Si Guesthouse, Xishan. Situated adjacent to the tourist and parking area of Xishan from where the cable car starts. Rather a lifeless place but adequate. Cold and damp with only tepid hot water. Breakfast not included but can be found around the parking area after about 08h30. RMB 200 for a "suite" with private bathroom was not particularly good value but being right at the birding makes up for a lot.

Food

In common with much of South East Asia, food is a national pastime in China, so staying fed, other than in the remotest areas, will not present a problem. Obtaining what you want to eat might however, be a little more difficult, as eateries and restaurant will have fixed ideas about what they want to serve (if it's not on the menu you are unlikely to get it). Two approaches: take a phrase book with a good selection of menu items or, more likely, point to dishes that others are eating. Snacks, water and other basics are readily available in shops and kiosks en route.

Language

English is not widely spoken in China, and you are only likely to come across English speakers in tourist areas and hotels which cater to foreigners. It is highly desirable to ensure you have place names, hotel names and any instructions you want to pass on, written down in Chinese before venturing out. This will ease your travels considerably.

Climate

Sichuan is reputed to have two types of weather: "rain" and "about to rain", which was certainly true during my visit. Bird tours usually run in the spring before the start of summer rains. The weather will be driest from December to April. If travelling outside of these times expect, and prepare for, wet weather. During my week it was cloudy the whole time and rained every day - mostly all day around Lijiang. Temperatures varied with altitude and were mostly between 10° and 20° C.

References

Field Guides

MacKinnon, J, and Phillipps, K. (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Currently the only guide that comprehensively covers China. However, the quality of the illustrations leave a lot to be desired for a modern field guide, and in some cases the illustrations are completely wrong. This book is at best adequate, but do not reply on it for identification of difficult groups. Many of the range maps are incorrect.

Robson, C. (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia. Although some Chinese species will evidently be missing from this field guide it is still an essential reference, especially for the more difficult groups such as Phylloscopus warblers etc.

Rasmussen, P.C. & J.C. Anderton. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide.

Other

Clements, J.F. (2007). Birds of the World: A checklist. Ibis Publishing Co.

Lonely Planet Guide. China. Essential. Take this or a similar guide book. Also ensure to take a Mandarin Phrase book.

Trip Reports

Rheindt, F. (2003) Birding in Yunnan and Sichuan, 6 June – 29 July 2003.

Hornbuckle J. (2002). Birding in Yunnan, southwest China, 8-31 March 2002.

Anderson, B. (2005). Emei Shan, Sichuan. 14-17 July, 2005 (pdf).

Anderson B, (2003). Yunnan and Guangxi. 25 December 2003 – 3 January 2004 (pdf).

Anderson B. (2007). Labahe Nature Reserve, Sichuan (pdf).

Sound recordings

Some recordings of Chinese species are available on the Bird Sounds of Tropical Asia DVD by Jelle Scharringa.

Acknowledgements

I would especially like to thank Bjorn Anderson who helped significantly with the planning and preparation of the trip, and whose company I enjoyed in the field at Labahe. Also to Sunny and other staff at Elite Travel who handled the flight, car, driver and hotel reservations which all went smoothly, as well as getting me back on track when I'd been stuck in the wrong place at Xishan.

Birding Sites

Emei Shan

Although written "Emei Shan", I only ever heard this mountain pronounced as "Omei Shan". To properly bird Emei Shan takes several days to a week. However, as it's the only decent birding site within a few hours of Chengdu, and I had a spare half day, the few hours there were definitely worthwhile.

From Chengdu, take a taxi to the small touristic town at the base of Emei Shan. Access onto the mountain is only possible on the official busses that leave every 15-30 minutes from the station midway down the main drag through town. As busses to the summit area take a couple of hours, I chose to spend the morning along the pipeline trail behind the monastery at Wannain. Buy a bus ticket at the station (30 RMB) and on arrival at Wannain, 30 minutes later, take the cable car (30 RMB for the cable, plus 40 RMB for the tourist ticket to the mountain).

On exiting the cable car walk the short distance to the monastery (follow the crowds), and just before the monastery wall walk counter-clockwise around the wall. Be careful of the monkeys that line the walkway to the temple. They are totally unafraid of people and look pretty nasty -- they even sell sticks to beat them off. The best area to bird here is along the pipeline trail that can be found at the back of the monastery. Note however that several pipes run into the rear of the monastery and it is not the first set with a steep trail up the ridge that marks the correct trail.

Continue a further 50 metres or so to pick up a wide, level trail along which a new shiny blue pipe has been installed. The trail runs several kilometres but I only explored the first kilometre or so. Time is needed to find good birds, but in the few hours I had I managed a sizeable flock of Rusty Laughingthrush and Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler.

Labahe

This reserve, one of a series for protection of the Giant Panda, lies a 4-hour drive from of Chengdu. The habitat comprises steep, forest-clad limestone mountains, which harbour both Streaked Barwing and Sichuan Treecreeper. Trails are difficult to find, overgrown and very steep, resulting in birding largely restricted to the road running along the valley. The scenery along the valley access road is quite spectacular. Accommodation is available around the head of the valley in a variety of hotels. See Bjorn Anderson's report (pdf) for further details.

Lijiang – Black Dragon Pool Park

Situated on the edge of the city and close to the old town, this is a well-known tourist attraction with picturesque views across pools and pagodas with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background when clear. Birders will however be more interested in the scrub and pine-covered hill that dominates the eastern side of the park. Having paid the 60 RMB entrance fee, simply work your way on tracks and trails around the southern end of the hill and ascend. I found the better habitat to be on the back (eastern) side of the hill. The key birds here are Yunnan Nuthatch and Giant Nuthatch, of which I only saw the former. However, many interesting species have been found over the years. In addition to the Yunnan Nuthatch in my morning here I saw Rufous-capped Fulvetta, White-browed Laughingthrush and Spectacled Fulvetta.

Lijiang – The First Bend of the Yangtze River

An hour west of Lijiang, this well-known historical site celebrates the Yangtze River crossing point of Mao. Other than a simple notice board and a few vendors, there is little to see. Despite the fairly sparse habitat, the scrub and grass along the river edge holds Yunnan Parrotbill Paradoxornis brunneus ricketti (though I failed to find any in two visits), and the scrub on the steep slopes on the mountainside surely holds species of interest. The best species I found in this area were Spot-breasted Parrotbill and Spectacled Fulvetta, the later fairly common. When coming from Lijiang, the last several kilometres of road descending to the Yangtze River are covered with pine forest and might be worthy of exploration for those with time.

Lijiang – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

A one hour drive north of Lijiang lies the huge Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range, which on good days dominates the skyline behind Lijiang. Tourist access has been developed at three major points along the highway that runs from Lijiang. Along the base of the mountain to Daju, I followed the trip report of Frank Rheindt in exploring the pine forests around Ganhaizi (Dry Sea Meadow), the first of these tourist areas after leaving Lijiang. Frank's report mentions walking up the access road to the cable car, but I was stopped from doing so by officious workers, so instead walked a few hundred metres down the road and cut into the open forest. Once off the road walking about is straightforward with many wide forestry, and narrow cow tracks along which to explore. Getting lost is not a problem as the distant road noise provides an easy reference point. I explored an area of about 2 x 2 kilometres to the north of the main bus route up to the cable car.

The key bird here is undoubtedly Moupinia, which inhabits the low oak undergrowth of open pine forest. I found a single pair only after six hours of extensive searching, although the terrible weather did not help. Yunnan Nuthatch appears fairly common here and Giant Nuthatch occurs. Other species of interest include Black-bibbed Tit, Giant Laughingthrush and White-bellied Redstart.

Xishan

Xishan, which translates as "western hills" lies along the western shore of the large Dian Chi inland lake, and is about 15 km south of the dismal, uninviting city of Kunming. The mountain is covered with quite good, mainly coniferous, forest with a paved road providing easy access to lower and mid levels as well as a chair lift to the summit. The best area seems to be the slopes just below the Hauting Temple which can be explored on a maze of unmarked tracks and trails.

The best access I found was to start at the coach parking area at Hauting Temple and take the dirt road to the right and down (initially running parallel with the paved road on your right). This soon hits other tracks down to the left where a series of pavilions can be found along a wide track, eventually emerging into the town below. Many interesting species can be found on this mountain, which may be better in the winter when thrushes are likely to be more in evidence. In a day and half here I recorded 44 species including Chestnut Bulbul, Ashy-headed Parrotbill and Whiskered Yuhina. Food and accommodation can be found around the large parking area and tourist facilities by the bottom of the chair lift. A taxi to the airport was 70 RMB and saved a lot of messing around with buses. Large numbers of tourists visit the area but few venture onto the trails.

Itinerary Overview

Wed 10 Oct. Evening flight from Muscat to Dubai.

Thur 11 Oct. Early morning connecting flight from Dubai to Beijing. Connection to Chengdu, and taxi to Emei. Overnight at Emei Grande Hotel.

Fri 12 Oct. Morning on Emei Shan at Wannain. Afternoon taxi back to Chengdu. Meet up with Bjorn. Arranged lift to Labahe. Overnight at White Dove Resort.

Sat 13 Oct. All day at Labahe. Overnight at White Dove Resort.

Sun 14 Oct. Morning at Labahe. Afternoon lift back to Chengdu. Flight to Lijiang. Overnight at San He Hotel.

Mon 15 Oct. Morning at Black Dragon Pool Park and elephant Hill. Afternoon at First Bend of Yangtze River. Evening in old city.

Tues 16 Oct. Most of day on lower slopes of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Late afternoon visit to Baisha. Overnight at San He Hotel.

Wed 17 Oct. Most of day at First Bend of Yangtze River. Late afternoon return to airport via Lion Hill. Flight to Kunming. Taxi to town. Overnight at Camillia Hotel.

Thur 18 Oct. All day on Xishan. Overnight at Tai Hua Si Guesthouse.

Fri 19 Oct. Morning on Xishan. Afternoon return to airport. Return flight Kunming – Beijing – Dubai – Muscat.

Detailed Itinerary

Wed 10th October

Evening flight to Dubai delayed resulting in a very short connection time for the Emirates flight to Beijing. Surprisingly the luggage made it as well as me.

Thurs 11th Oct

Arrived as scheduled in Beijing and joined the throngs of people at immigration. This went surprisingly quickly, and it was interesting to see that each immigration desk has an electronic voting box where you can rate your experience with the immigration official – what a wonderful idea – one wonders why they do not have them in UK, USA …. Just before immigration I picked up a local SIM card ($38 including about $7 of call time) from China Mobile, but also found it possible to get them after customs/immigration where they may well have been cheaper.

Connection to my domestic flight was straightforward, and it was even possible to pre-check the baggage onto the domestic flight inside the international terminal, thereby alleviating the need to lug the baggage to domestic – another neat idea. Walked to the domestic terminal, checked in, and met up with Bjorn for the 18h10 Chengdu flight. As Bjorn was heading off to work in Chengdu, I took a pre-arranged car directly to Emei Shan where I checked into the Emei Grande Hotel at the base of the mountain. The ride was just under two hours.

Fri 12th Oct

Woke up to a grey drizzly day and, after a quick buffet breakfast, walked the 200m down the street to the bus station. Bought a ticket to Wannain (30 RMB), jumped on the bus and 30 minutes later was on the chair lift up to Wannain monastery. Following instructions from others, I walked counter-clockwise around the monastery and followed a rather steep trail up past the first set of old pipelines. After an hour or so seeing little in the rain and thick undergrowth, returned to walk slightly further around the monastery and found the "proper" pipeline trail (now with new shiny bright blue pipe) and spent the rest of the morning walking about 2 km along the level trial that follows the pipe.

Highlights of the morning included a sizeable flock of Rusty Laughingthrush and a couple of pairs of Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler. Around 12h00 I reversed my route back the hotel, collected my stored baggage and took a taxi (450 RMB) to Bjorn's office in Chengdu, where around 17h00 we took a pre-arranged car and driver to Labahe reserve, about a 4-5 hour drive. Overnight at the White Dove Resort. At the 2,000 metre altitude here the wet, cold evening was not particularly inviting.

Sat 13th Oct.

Out at first light (which was not until at least 06h45 here), to find it had at least stopped raining, though the cloud remained hanging over the hills. We spent the morning walking up the road to where it ends at a large resort. Although no barwings, some interesting species en route included Sichuan Treecreeper, many Sichuan Leaf-Warbler and White-collared Yuhina. Back to the hotel for a late breakfast (well lunch really), then headed down the road to suss out the habitat below the hotel. After a few hundred metres the better-looking barwing habitat appeared to stop, so we returned once again to the uphill side of the hotel and shortly after found a group of 6 Streaked Barwing right by the last bungalow. A nice bird, and well worth the effort of getting to Labahe. Having caught up with the main target we continued birding the road, and especially the bushes and forest edge around the upper hotel. In the evening we had a few beers to celebrate.

Sun 14th Oct.

The morning was spent along the road up to the upper hotel, and a level track beyond that runs along the valley. At one point a calling laughingthrush had us clambering up the steep slopes in a vain effort to pull it out from hiding – resulting only in a fall down slope, cuts and bruises. Fortunately the binoculars escaped injury. We left Labahe around 12h30 in the hotel's micro-car, stopping a few time en route down the mountain in improving weather. Little bird-wise of interest though.

Bjorn headed off Beijing and I to Lijiang where after the one hour delayed flight I met up with my pre-arranged car and driver "Gary". It was nice to discover that Gary could speak quite good English which made getting around much easier over the next three days. Overnight at the San He Hotel in the old town, that was lit up very colourfully.

Mon 15th Oct.

I started the day with the short drive to the entrance of Black Dragon Pool Park and a hike up Elephant Hill behind the park. All morning was spent in the conifer stands on the back side of the hill, with the highlight being two Yunnan Nuthatch. With rain starting, I returned to the gate and took a quick lunch, which was followed by the hour's drive to The First Bend of the Yangtze River. In poor weather I walked the stretch of road from The First Bend as far as where it starts to climb away from the river, but no Yunnan Parrotbill found. En route back to Lijiang, we were involved in a car accident whereby another vehicle coming downhill failed to take the bend and ploughed straight into the side of us, just where I was sitting at the rear. By great fortune Gary was able to keep our spinning car on the road, and both we and the three occupants of the other vehicle were unhurt. A close call though, as going off the road would have been either into a deep ditch or down the hillside! After an hour of discussion the other driver, clearly at fault, paid Gary the cost of repairs and we limped back to Lijiang with the car making some horrible noises and the back hanging off. Despite the rain I spent the evening walking around the very photogenic old town.

Tues 16th Oct.

Today we drove out to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as far as Dry Sea Meadow. Unfortunately the weather was cold and wet and decidedly not too promising for birding. I first started to walk up the road to the cable car station but was hauled back by officials who deemed it "dangerous" to walk up the road and that I would have to go on the bus. Not accepting this I simply walked down the main road a few hundred metres and cut in through the pines. I spent the majority of the day in increasingly wet and windy weather walking trails within the area to the north of the access road, in both denser and open pine forest. Despite the weather a good collection of birds was found, including Moupinia (after six hours searching), plenty of Yunnan Nuthatch, Golden Bush Robin and Black-bibbed Tit. Despite being wet through, I stopped off at Baisha village to get some hot tea, admire the 1,000 year old village and visit the famous frescoes. I didn't however bother with Lijiang old town this evening due to the persistent rain.

Wed 17th Oct.

Rain all night had not ceased, but I headed back down to the First Bend nonetheless to try again for the parrotbill. Although the weather improved during the day, repeated walks along the river only turned up Spot-breasted Parrotbill, and I eventually had to abandon the search and head for the airport. With the improving weather, the sun was even out by the time we passed Lijiang, so I took a quick stop at Lion Hill where the view from the top of the giant pagoda across town is quite magnificent. I also picked up a few Black-headed Greenfinch in trees around the hill, as well as Hwamei. Flight to Kunming was on time and from the airport took a metered taxi to the Camillia Hotel (20 RMB).

Thurs 18th Oct.

To save time messing around with busses, I took a taxi from the hotel directly to Xishan. Unfortunately, after speaking to the ladies on the desk at the Camillia Hotel they had helpfully, but incorrectly, rewritten the address of my guesthouse at Xishan in Chinese, resulting in me being dropped in the wrong place on the mountain. This was quite a mess to sort out and I was thankfully helped by the local agent of Elite travel who, via mobile phone, was able to instruct someone into showing me the correct way on a map of Xishan. It did result in me having to walk partly up the mountain carry my suitcase which must have looked a bit silly to the locals! Having successfully secured a room I walked back down the mountain to spend the rest of the day exploring the trails below the Hauting Temple. The weather improved greatly and several large flocks were encountered with a good variety of species seen. In the late afternoon I walked up the road to Mao Mao Qing but saw little in the pine forests there. Take away food was available from the temporary food stalls around the parking area.

Fri 19th Oct.

The last morning, and predictably the weather reverted to rain. In the wet I explored the same trails as yesterday but saw little – adding only White-tailed Robin to the trip list. Around midday I caught a taxi to the airport (70 RMB) and started the long series of flights home. Departed Beijing on time at 23:55.

Sat 20th Oct.

Arrived back on time, with baggage (not a given when passing through Dubai these days).

Systematic List

Taxonomy, scientific and common English names follow Gill and Wright (2006) Birds of the World - Recommended English Names, International Ornithological Congress, with other updates and additions where published. Some English names have been changed to those used within field guides to the region, or an alternative is given in parentheses.

Striated Heron Butorides striata

A single along the river at Labahe 13-Oct.

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus

Several daily around the upper hotel at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis coromandus

Up to 5 en route near Emei on 12-Oct, and a single at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

A single en route near Emei on 12-Oct.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

A single en route near Lijiang on 17-Oct.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

A single bird on both occasions at The First Bend on 14-Oct and 16-Oct. Another single at Xishan on 19-Oct.

Black Kite Milvus migrans

A total of 9 birds over Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

A single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

A single over the lower valley at Labahe on 14-Oct. A captive bird in Lijiang town on 17-Oct.

Japanese [Common] Buzzard Buteo buteo japonicus

Two over Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and a single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca

A surprise sighting of an immature bird flushed from a forest track at Labahe on 13-Oct. The bird clambered into low vegetation where it was viewed at close range.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

A single along the road at Labahe on 13-Oct, fled into the forest when disturbed.

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Six en route from Emei on 12-Oct.

Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola

A single at bird flushed several times along a forest track at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Recorded from The First Bend, with 4 on 15-Oct and a single on 17-Oct.

Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus

One bird flying up-river at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia

Surprisingly not common. Recorded around Emei on 12-Oct and Xishan on 19-Oct.

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis

A pair along the river at The First Bend on 15-Oct.

Grey-headed (Finsch's) Parakeet Psittacula finschii

A few birds occasionally flying over Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, could potentially relate to feral or escaped birds.

Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis

A single bird flushed from streamside vegetation above the upper hotel at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Hodgson's [Fugitive] Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx (fugax) nisicolor

A single hawk-cuckoo at Emei on 12-Oct was assumed to be this species.

Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris brevirostris

Six at Labahe on 14-Oct, and 30 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata

A single at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops

A single at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus

Two at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct and up to 8 at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Three at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and a single at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus

A single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Rosy Minivet Pericrocotus roseus

A pair at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus

A female at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus

Common and widespread. Recorded at all sites except Emei, with max. 100 at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach

Three at The First Bend on 15-Oct and 17-Oct.

Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus

Singles and pairs at Emei on 12-Oct, Labahe on 13-14 Oct, The First Bend on 17-Oct, and Xishan on 18-Oct.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus

Singles at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, The First Bend on 15-Oct and Xishan on 18-Oct.

Yellow-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hypoxantha

Up to 20 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and 10 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis

A single along the river at The First Bend on 17-Oct, and 3 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea

A male in a fixed feeding flock at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius

Three at Emei on 12-Oct and a single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha

Small numbers at all sites other than Emei.

Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes

Two individuals daily at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

A single at Emei on 12-Oct, a total of 7 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, 2 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and 4 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Black-bibbed [Marsh] Tit Poecile (palustris) hypermelaena

At least eight birds in mixed flocks at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris

A single within a feeding flock at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Coal Tit Periparus ater

Four at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and a total of 15 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus

A Single at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Grey-crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous

Four at Labahe on 13-Oct and 4 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Great Tit Parus major

Two at Emei on 12-Oct, 2 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 2 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 1 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus

Widespread and common. The only species recorded on all days.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Two at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus

Up to 250 in the valley above Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata

Up to 15 around the town at Emei on 12-Oct, 10 at Lion Hill on 17-Oct, and 2 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Black-throated (Red-headed) Tit Aegithalos concinnus

Recorded at all sites except Emei, with max. 50 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Black-browed [Rufous-fronted] Tit Aegithalos (iouschistos) bonvaloti

Ten at Labahe on 13-Oct, 10 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and 25 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Mountain Tailorbird Orthotomus cucullatus

Only recorded from Xishan, with 3 singles on 18-Oct.

Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques

Twenty daily at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Brown-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthorrhous

At least 25 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 20 at The First Bend on 15-Oct, and up to 15 daily at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii

Several in a fruiting tree next to Hauting Temple at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus

A single bird singing from bamboo understorey at Xishan on 18-Oct. The bird was along the gulley below the Hauting Temple.

Himalayan Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus leucocephalus

One large flock containing at least 50 birds along the pipeline trail at Emei on 12-Oct.

Brownish-flanked (Strong-footed) Bush Warbler Cettia fortipes

One at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Aberrant Bush Warbler Cettia flavolivacea

One at Emei on 12-Oct and 2 at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler Cettia acanthizoides acanthizoides

A total of 5 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Spotted Bush Warbler Bradypterus thoracicus thoracicus

A single at close range in grassy scrub outside the upper hotel at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Weigold's [Dusky] Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus weigoldi

Several birds recorded, assumed to be this race. Two at Labahe on 14-Oct, 2 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 2 at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Tickell's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis

Four at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii

Three at Labahe on 13-14 Oct and 2 at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Buff-barred (Orange-barred) Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher

Six at Labahe on 13-Oct, over 100 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 2 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Ashy-throated (Grey-faced) Warbler Phylloscopus maculipennis

A single at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Lemon-rumped [Pallas's Leaf] Warbler Phylloscopus (proregulus) chloronotus

Four at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Yellow-browed (Inornate) Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus

Fifteen at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 20 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 4 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Mandelli's [Hume's] Warbler Phylloscopus humei mandellii

A single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Southern Blyth's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus reguloides reguloides

A single at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct.

Sichuan [Pallas's Leaf] Warbler Phylloscopus (proregulus) forresti

Abundant at Labahe with 60+ on 15-16 Oct.

Bianchi's [Golden-spectacled] Warbler Seicercus (burkii) valentini

This was the only species of "golden-spectacled warbler" identified, with several at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and two at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct. Other unidentified Seicercus warblers were encountered at Emei, Labahe and Black Dragon Pool Park. At this time on year with birds off their breeding areas and not singing, identification is a nightmare.

Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps

Two at Emei on 12-Oct.

Black-streaked [Rusty-cheeked] Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus (erythrogenys) gravivox

Two pairs at Emei on 12-Oct.

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis

Eight at Emei on 12-Oct, 5 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and 5 at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyris ruficeps

Three at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Rufous-tailed Babbler (Moupinia) Moupinia poecilotis

A pair eventually located at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, after six hours of searching in the rain.

Spotted Laughingthrush Garrulax ocellatus

A bird calling from dense bamboo at Labahe on 14-Oct was thought to have probably been this species.

Buffy [Rusty] Laughingthrush Garrulax (poecilorhynchus) berthemyi

A group of 25+ birds at Emei were responsive to tape – unlike most other birds on this trip!

Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus

A single bird in the gardens of Lion Hill at Lijiang on 17-Oct.

White-browed Laughingthrush Garrulax sannio

A pair in low scrub at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and a pair at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Elliot's Laughingthrush Garrulax elliotii

Heard at Xishan on 12-Oct, 9 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, at a single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Red-winged Laughingthrush Garrulax formosus

A pair seen well in dense understorey along the track above the upper resort at Labahe on 14-Oct.

Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea

Common at Emei on 12-Oct, and 6 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

White-browed Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis

Six at Emei on 12-Oct, and 10 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Streaked Barwing Actinodura souliei

One of the highlights of the trip. A group of 6 located just behind the bungalows at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera

A single at Emei on 12-Oct, and up to 25 daily at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Chestnut-tailed (Bar-throated) Minla Minla strigula

Twelve at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 6 at The First Bend on 17-Oct, and 5 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Golden-breasted Fulvetta Alcippe chrysotis

A group of about 10 along the track above the upper hotel at Labahe on 14-Oct.

White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe vinipectus

At least 30 in mixed flocks at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Spectacled Fulvetta Alcippe ruficapilla ruficapilla

Two at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 20 at The First Bend on 17-Oct, and 20 at Xishan on 18-Oct. The illustration in the China field guide is particularly awful for this species.

Grey-hooded [Streak-throated] Fulvetta Alcippe cinereiceps cinereiceps

A total of 16 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Rusty-capped Fulvetta Alcippe dubia

Two at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and 20 at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Grey-cheeked Fulvetta Alcippe morrisonia

A total of 25 at Emei on 12-Oct, and 45 at Xishan on 18-19 Oct.

Whiskered Yuhina Yuhina flavicollis

A family group of 4 with begging young near the Hauting temple at Xishan on 18-Jan.

Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis

Three at Labahe on 14-Oct.

White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata

Common at Labahe, with 70 on 13-14 Oct.

Spot-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis guttaticollis

A group of 4 at The First Bend, about 400 m. before the Mao crossing point, on 17-Oct.

Ashy-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis alphonsianus

One group of 14 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus

Common at Labahe on 18-19 Oct.

Chestnut-vented Nuthatch Sitta nagaensis

Ten at Labahe on 13-Oct, 20 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, 10 Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 2 Xishan on 18-Oct.

Yunnan Nuthatch Sitta yunnanensis

Two in a mixed flock on the back side of Elephant Hill in Black Dragon Pool Park in Lijiang on 15-Oct. At least 12 in mixed flocks at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct. Quite noisy and easy to pick up in mixed flocks as its feeding habits differ from other nuthatches in that is feeds on the outside of small branches around cones and needles, rather than creeping along trunks and branches.

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris

Two at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Bar-tailed Treecreeper Certhia himalayana

Two singles with a feeding flock at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct.

Sichuan Treecreeper Certhia tianquanensis

A pair at Labahe on 13-Oct. The birds were feeding quite low down, but on a steep slope above the road. Climbing up the slope allowed very close approach.

Golden Bush Robin Tarsiger chrysaeus

A single bird in understorey following a mixed flock at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Himalayan Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus rufilatus

A total of 8 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis

Two at Emei on 12-Oct, and a single at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus

Ten at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, 4 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and 15 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis

A single at Labahe on 13-Oct, and 6 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Plumbeous Water Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosa

Two at Emei on 12-Oct, a total of 16 at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and 4 at The First Bend on 15-Oct and 17-Oct.

White-capped Water Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus

Up to 10 along the river at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and a single at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura

A single bird early morning along a path below Hauting Temple at Xishan on 19-Oct.

White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti

Two daily at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Siberian [Common] Stonechat Saxicola (torquatus) maurus

Three at Labahe on 13-Oct, 4 at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct, and three at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus

A single at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, at 2 at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris

A single bird at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct.

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata

Common at Labahe, with 30+ birds on 13-Oct, but only a single seen on the 14-Oct, probably due to the poor weather.

Taiga [Red-breasted] Flycatcher Ficedula (parva) albicilla

Four at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus

A single bird in trees around the pool inside Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-Oct.

Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi

Three singles at Emei on 12-Oct.

Vivid Niltava Niltava vivida oatesi

A female in understorey at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis

A single at Labahe on 13-Oct, and 3 at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii

Three daily along the river at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus

At least 20 birds in singles and small feeding flocks at Xishan on 18-Oct.

Russet (Cinnamon) Sparrow Passer rutilans

A flock of a dozen at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and small groups at The First Bend on 15-Oct and 17-Oct.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus

Only recorded around Lijiang, with a roost near the main square on 15-17 Oct.

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata

Six at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata

A pair at The First Bend on 15-Oct and 17-Oct.

Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata

Three around the upper hotel at Labahe on 13-Oct, and a single in understorey at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea

Six at Emei on 12-Oct, and a single at Labahe on 13-Oct.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Recorded in small numbers daily with max. 20+ around Lijiang on 15-Oct.

Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi

A single at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

Up to 6 daily at Labahe on 13-14 Oct, and 25 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct.

Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus

Three around the upper hotel at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Black-headed Greenfinch Carduelis ambigua

Four in pines seen from the top of the pagoda at Lion Hill, and 8 in the grounds of Hauting Temple at Xishan on 19-Oct.

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus

Singles at Labahe on 13-14 Oct.

Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca

A pair along the track above the upper hotel at Labahe on 13-Oct.

Godlewski's Bunting Emberiza godlewskii

Four at Black Dragon Pool Park on 15-OCt, 4 at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on 16-Oct, and 1 at The First Bend on 17-Oct.

Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla

Three at Labahe on 13-Oct.


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall