Trip report: China (Tibet and SE) June 2013 by Tropical Birding

Guided by Keith Barnes.

SE and Central China are spectacular. Both visually stunning and spiritually rich, and it is home to many scarce, seldom-seen and spectacular looking birds. With our new base in Taiwan, little custom tour junkets like this one to some of the more seldom reached and remote parts of this vast land are becoming more popular, and this trip was planned with the following main objectives in mind: (1) see the monotypic family Pink-tailed Bunting, (2) enjoy the riches of SE China in mid-summer and see as many of the endemics of that region including its slew of incredible pheasants and the summering specialties. We achieved both of these aims, including incredible views of all the endemic phasianidae that we attempted, and we also enjoyed the stunning scenery and culture that is on offer in Qinghai’s Tibet. Other major highlights on the Tibetan plateau included stellar views of breeding Pink-tailed Bunting (of the monotypic Chinese Tibetan-endemic family Urocynchramidae), great looks at Przevalski’s and Daurian Partridges, good views of the scarce Ala Shan Redstart, breeding Black-necked Crane, and a slew of wonderful waterbirds including many great looks at the iconic Bar-headed Goose and a hoarde of snowfinches. Moving onto the four provinces of SE China we started by nailing an epic male Reeve’s Pheasant next to our car, as well as the immaculate Fairy Pitta at Dongzhai, and then we had more to celebrate including Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, Short-tailed Parrotbill, to add to the migrants like the critically endangered Cortois’ Laughingthrush and Chinese Crested Tern and the dapper Pied Falconet. So the quality of birds is simply undisputable. Although mammals were not a huge feature of this trip, we were able to celebrate when we saw the extremely local, and critically endangered, Przevalski’s Gazelle not far from Koko Nor. Tibet and SE China are of interest not just from the standpoint of the wildlife which is impressive in its own right. Tibet encompasses a spiritual journey, one through immense ice-clad mountain, rolling golden- green plains, vast water-worlds of aqua-marine lakes, and scattered monastery’s where monks chant, wave prayer-wheels, and still conduct sky-burials. This essential essence of the place is something that is hard to describe, and can only really be experienced for ones-self. But it is an important character of this tour, and participants often enjoy the magical atmosphere that is distinctly and uniquely Tibetan, as much as they do the birds and the mammals.

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