Saturday, 23 May 2015

Emei Feng - The Tragopan Quest....

Up and out at 5.30am to be greeted by a thick mist, which is particularly encouraging when looking for pheasants so we did a ‘chicken run’ down the mountain. We picked up more Chinese Bamboo-Partridges pretty quickly, followed  by a couple fine male Silver Pheasants strolling along the road in front of us and a Spotted Forktail, but alas no tragopans. So we drove back up to the hotel and had breakfast, during which we found a migrant Arctic Warbler looking very sorry for itself in a small bush and a couple of White-spectacled Warblers of the ‘intermedius’ race with yellow spectacles. 

Birding in the mist on Emei Feng...

Then we followed a nice trail for several kilometres but with thick mist making viewing difficult things didn’t look too promising, but within ten minutes a fantastic male Cabot’s Tragopan was seen sauntering along the path in front of us. Even in these conditions the views were very nice indeed and can't tell you what a relief it was to nail this sucker so quickly.

Atmospheric pics of Cabot's Tragopan in the mist....

We continued on and came across another three tragopans, with one bird feeding in a tree above the trail and two others walking in front of us – and even the mist lifted slightly. 

Another tragopan...

Other birds were few and far between but we did see Buffy Laughingthrush, Small Niltava, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Grey-chinned Minivet and even more Huet’s Fulvettas. The rest of the morning was spent walking down the mountain but our effort was hampered by the mist which didn’t seem like lifting, There wasn’t much bird song at all and it was quite frustrating, with just a heard only Pygmy Wren-Babbler and several flocks of Black-chinned Yuhinas to show for our efforts. Driving lower we had lunch at the roadside and managed to see a pair of Yellow-cheeked Tits and a flock of handsome Indochinese Yuhinas.

Indochinese Yuhina - not in the mist....!

The early afternoon period was spent at lower altitudes but despite the mist clearing all we saw was a soaring Crested Goshawk being mobbed by a Chinese Sparrowhawk, a few Chestnut Bulbuls and a Rufous-faced Warbler. So we then made another concerted effort to find Elliott’s Pheasant and checked various sites to no avail. However, as luck would have it, sometime later we found a fantastic male standing at the edge of an open area allowing most of the group some fine views. What a bird this is and one of the ‘most-wanted’ species of the entire tour. The same area also held several Mandarin Ducks, White-breasted Waterhen, another Chinese Sparrowhawk perched on telegraph wires, Asian Barred Owlet, Dollarbird and White-crowned Forktail. And that was our day and we enjoyed a nice dinner in the nearby village before driving back up the mountain to the hotel in pouring rain. Nice!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Wuyuan to Emei Feng

Drove to a different valley at 5am this morning and walked along the edge of the forest, bordered by tea plantations where we pulled out a confiding Dusky Fulvetta that sang back at us for quite some time. 

Dusky Fulvetta showed well today.

Unbelievably, there was also another Short-tailed Parrotbill and this one showed even better that yesterdays bird, plus we also found a few Chinese Hwamei’s, more Huet’s Fulvettas, Black-throated Bushtit, Collared Finchbills, Brown-breasted Bulbul, and had a Black Bittern flying overhead and down through the valley. 

Short-tailed Parrotbill again...
Black Bittern flying overhead - a bit odd really...

We then set out on the long and tedious drive of some 7 hours to Emei Feng, stopping along the way at an empty motorway service station for a rubbish lunch and a showy Brown-flanked Bush-Warbler. Some great views of White-throated Needletails flying parallel to the bus enlivened the final stage of the journey before we headed up the mountain. By now it was 4.30pm and a great time to search for pheasants, but we had to content ourselves with three different sightings of Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, and some crippling views on the road right in front of the bus. 

Chinese Bamboo-Partridge was seen several times...

We also saw many Mandarin Ducks in the fields, Grey-chinned Minivet, Brown Shrike and Chestnut Bulbul before driving to the only available restaurant in these parts, right at the base of the mountain. Dinner turned out to be much better than first impressions suggested and then we drove 15kms up the mountain to our base for the next 3 nights, situated at 1500m. Driving up we had an owl species fly across the road in front of us, so we jumped out and heard a Mountain Scops-Owl calling. Good luck with that then!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

More Rarities at Wuyuan....

Left the hotel at 5.30am in a light drizzle and drove through the rural Jiangxi countryside for ten minutes before pulling up at the rustic Shimen Village. Walking down to the river, an inquisitive pair of Rufous-faced Warblers came out of a stand of bamboo to call back at us before we found a small feeding party of Courtois’s Laughingthrushes high in the canopy of some riverside trees. It was such a relief to get the main target bird so easily as the dark skies seemed to indicate that the threated weather forecast of heavy rain all day was going to come true. Fortunately this was not the case and after a few light showers the gods were kind to us and we enjoyed a rain-free morning’s birding. Once the laughingthrushes had moved out of sight we drove around to the other side of the river, stopping for a White-browed Laughingthrush that was singing from a telegraph wire. We parked the bus beside the start of the path to the island where the laughingthrushes breed  and enjoyed a nice field breakfast. A few birds were seen here including our first Chinese Hwamei, a pair of Dollarbirds, Chinese Pond-heron in fine breeding plumage, several Collared Finchbills, Chinese Blackbird and a pair of White-rumped Munias.

Courtois's Laughingthrush habitat

A short walk down to the island led us to the breeding site of Courtois’s Laughingthrushes and we spent a pleasant couple of hours observing the antics of many individuals, getting close views in the process and watched them feeding on the floor, scavenging in the canopy above and even watched a pair building a nest overhead. A real privilege indeed when you consider they were only refound in the year 2000 and that the world population is only around 250 individuals, and they are all in one small area near Wuyuan town. 

We spent quite a long time admiring Courtois's Laughingthrush

We also found a few other good birds here with pride of place going to a pair of Japanese Waxwings scoped at the top of a tall tree and a very exciting sighting indeed. There was also Grey-capped Pygmy, Great Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Eurasian Jay, and Grey Treepie.

Leaving here we drove for half an hour to a secluded river, seeing Black Eagle along the way, followed a narrow trail and this turned out to be very productive as one of the first birds we had here was a fabulous little Short-tailed Parrotbill that showed very well at the edge of a stand of bamboo. Wow! Unfortunately no photos of this cracker, but it was a lifer for yours truly and a bird i've waited years to see...... Would have loved a photo though......

Continuing along the trail we had Rufous-capped Babbler, Yellow-bellied Prinia,  several Huet’s Fulvettas (a recent split from Grey-cheeked Fulvetta), some pretty decent views of Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler, Chestnut Bulbul, and a flyover Bay Woodpecker. So by now it was early afternoon and the showers were becoming more frequent and we decided to return to the bus for lunch – a good move as it turned out as just after we had arrived the heavens opened and it rained constantly for the rest of the day. We returned to the hotel in Wuyuan around 4pm and enjoyed some time off to rest and relax.