Guided by Keith Barnes.
This was an abbreviated version of our regular central China tour, cut down to 15 days as that was all the time the participants had available. The itinerary differed slightly from our regular trip and given that it was six days shorter than usual we were extremely happy with the 260 species we scored on tour, this was only 13 birds shy of the 3 week total from 2006! Despite the time constraints we still managed to get almost all the key Sichuan endemic bird species including the usual bounty of incredible central Chinese pheasants, parrotbills and babblers! Although frantic preparations for the 2008 Olympics meant that many roads were being “improved” and travel times were lengthened, we still enjoyed this truly fascinating part of Asia. We also lapped up the simply spectacular scenery from the wide open, grassy plains of the Tibetan Plateau to the hulking, snow-capped mountain peaks around Balang Shan. Along with the great scenery there were obviously some great birds – not least among these some beautiful Asian Pheasants that are always a big draw for many birders visiting this exciting birding region. The breathtaking male Golden Pheasants (we had 5 males in total) walking in the open for everyone on one of the first days of the tour was an undoubted highlight; while others may say that that the rare and reclusive Lady Amherst’s Pheasants seen several times later in the tour were much better. We also had some luck with rarer non-endemic species, such as the incredible Saker Falcon that at one stage looked like it was lining up our bus for the swoop! Any way you look at it, many birds on the tour were stunning and highly cooperative. We scored an incredible beautiful male Firethroat that worked around us constantly in the Wolong reserve near the beginning of the tour; although the comical nature and great character of the Hume’s Groundpecker up on the windswept Tibetan Plateau was also memorable; as were the six brilliant male Temminck’s Tragopans that we saw on the trails and perched in full view for everyone to appreciate at Wuyipeng and Wawushan. The incredible beauty of this horned pheasant is hard to describe without one actually seeing it. All in all it was a super tour, for the scenery, the birds and the superb Chinese cuisine that this region is rightfully internationally famous for.