Friday, 24 January 2020

Baihualing - First Morning....

We visited two hides and spent the whole of the day up on the mountain. See the below list of birds seen at each hide, but its difficult to describe the excitement of seeing so many birds at each location as the views are so good and everything is so close. For instance, if you’ve seen Great Barbet before then you know it’s a great bird but to see it here at such close quarters with the light so perfect is a whole new experience. So when a gang of Red-tailed Laughingthrushes comes in to feed, and that’s a bird everyone wants to see, the excitement is palpable amongst the group. Seeing Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler anywhere is tough, but at a feeding station here, well you just couldn’t imagine the mind-blowing views! The same with Mountain Bamboo-Partridge….

Red-tailed Laughingthrush

Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler

Mountain Bamboo-Partridge

Hide No 35:

  1. 3 Rufous-throated Partridge
  2. 4 Mountain Bamboo-Partridge
  3. 1 Great Barbet
  4. 8+ Ashy Drongo
  5. 6+ Crested Finchbill
  6. 9 Red-vented Bulbul
  7. 10+ Flavescent Bulbul
  8. 2 Hill Prinia
  9. 4 Black-streaked Scimitar-Babblers
  10. 2 Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babblers
  11. 1 Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler
  12. Rufous-capped Babbler
  13. 10+ Rusty-capped Fulvetta
  14. 15+ Yunnan Fulvetta
  15. 5+ Blue-winged Laughingthrush
  16. 3 Scaly Laughingthrush
  17. 6+ Assam Laughingthrush
  18. 12+ Red-tailed Laughingthrush
  19. 3+ Blue-winged Minla
  20. 5 Scarlet-faced Liocichla
  21. 9+ Rusty-fronted Barwing
  22. 8 Red-billed Leiothrix
  23. 14+ Black-headed Sibia
  24. 10+ Beautiful Sibia
  25. 3 Whiskered Yuhina
  26. 1 Long-tailed Thrush
  27. 10+ Black-breasted Thrush
  28. 10+ Grey-winged Blackbird
  29. 1 Eyebrowed Thrush
  30. 1 Himalayan Shortwing
  31. 1 Himalayan Bluetail
  32. 1 Golden Bush-Robin
  33. 2 Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
  34. 3 Large Niltava
  35. 1 Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush
  36. 2 Grey Bushchat
  37. Mrs Gould’s Sunbird

Rufous-throated Partridge
Ashy Drongo

Crested Finchbill

Black-streaked Scimitar-Babbler

Blue-winged Laughingthrush

Assam Laughingthrush

Blue-winged Minla

Scalet-faced Liocichla

Rusty-fronted Barwing

Grey-winged Blackbird

Large Niltava

Long-tailed Thrush

Black-breasted Thrush

Eye-browed Thrush

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush

Golden Bush-Robin

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Yunnan Day 2 - Zixi Shan

Watching it rain ‘cats and dogs’ from the hotel lobby at 7am this morning I wasn’t feeling too hopeful, but as luck would have it within an hour of arriving at our favourite spot on Zixi Shan we had blue sky overhead. A male Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush greeted our arrival, as well as our friendly neighbourhood Chinese Thrush at the same spot we saw it at yesterday. Black-headed Sibias were everywhere and thoroughly enjoying the sunshine, as were Blue-fronted Redstart and a cracking Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker

Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker

Our first Russet Sparrows were scoped before things got really tasty when a Giant Nuthatch began calling nearby and pretty quickly we had a pair teed up in the scope. What a bird this is! Walking to get a closer look resulted in a pair of Godlewski’s Buntings showing nicely, along with Mountain Bulbuls and a few Japanese White-eyes

Godlewski's Bunting

A pair of skulking Spectacled Fulvettas showed to most of the group, but a gang of Yunnan Fulvettas posed nicely alongside a pair of Rufous-capped Babblers, Buff-barred Warbler and a pair of Rufous-breasted Accentors were a great find by Mark.

White-collared Yuhina

Following this productive session we walked a different trail and came across our first White-collared Yuhinas, followed by a magical little spell with a group of Spectacled Fulvettas numbering at least 5 birds, being joined by several Rusty-capped Fulvettas just a couple of metres below us. 

Spectacled Fulvetta

A fantastic Mrs Gould’s Sunbird gave point-blank views at the same spot and Oriental White-eye and another Blue-fronted Redstart was also in the vicinity. Walking on we found a group of Olive-backed Pipits and another Godlewski’s Bunting before bumping into several mixed species flocks. The first one held both Blue-winged and Red-tailed Minlas, the next a large gathering of Black-throated Bushtits and a Pallas’s Warbler

Mrs Gould's Sunbird

Oriental White-eye

More Yunnan Fulvettas appeared, as did  White-bellied Erpornis, some showy Chestnut-vented Nuthatches and a female Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler. 

Yunnan Fulvetta

Lunch at the little restaurant was surprisingly good, which was more than could be said about our walk along the road in near gale force conditions. Giving up here was an easy decision to make and we drove to another spot where Yunnan Nuthatch was positively common, and we also saw a pair of Buff-throated Warblers, Pallas’s Warbler and Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler.

Yunnan Nuthatch

The next hour or so was pointless as we birded some open areas with only a Daurian Redstart to show for our efforts, but eventually we hit gold from a viewpoint across fields, a pool and some reeds. Pride of place went to the pair of Spot-breasted Parrotbills parading around below us, but Alpine Leaf Warbler, Brown-flanked Bush-Warblerand several Crested Buntings were not far behind in terms of appeal. There were also Common Kingfisher, Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstarts, groups of Scaly-breasted Munias, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, White-browed Laughingthrush, Hill Prinia and Eastern Stonechat. A pretty successful day in all.

Yunnan Day 1 - Zixi Shan

Headed up to Zixi Shan. The weather was a trifle worrying as it was raining and the pattern for the afternoon was one of us repeatedly retreating to the bus to shelter from heavy showers. But in between we saw some really good birds, beginning with a large flock of Olive-backed Pipits feeding beside the road. We began walking from here and around the first corner found a pair of Yunnan Nuthatches calling from the top of a bare tree. Wow! 

We followed this with Grey-capped Pygmy WoodpeckerGrey BushchatChestnut-vented NuthatchBuff-throated Warbler, at least 4 Streak-breasted Scimitar-BabblersAshy Drongo, and 3 Blyth’s Shrike-Babblers. A Giant Nuthatch was heard calling in the distance but we just couldn’t locate it. 

Chinese Song Thrush

With mist and more rain moving in we decided to drive to another spot in the hopes of better weather, but we just couldn’t escape the rubbish weather. But the good birds kept on coming with several Black-headed SibiasYellow-bellied FlowerpeckerMrs Gould’s SunbirdChinese ThrushJapanese and Green-backed TitsGreat Spotted Woodpecker, a flock of Black-throated Bushtits were joined by a few Black-browed Bushtits, and a Japanese White-eye appeared. We walked a little further along the road and came across an Orange-bellied Leafbird, followed by a sizeable group of White-browed Laughingthrushes, and whilst watching them a Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler showed reasonably well. And that was our first day!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Madagascar Day 11 - Nosy Ve

This morning we visited the island of Nosy Ve in the Mozambique Channel about an hour from Tulear. This entailed leaving our main suitcases in the coach, taking an overnight bag and hopping onto a Zebu cart across the sandflats at low tide to a large speedboat. Once on the island, and boy was it hot, we saw a Greater SandploverRuddy Turnstoneand Common Whimbrel before walking along one of the trails. Pretty soon we were looking at a Red-tailed Tropicbird sat on its nest in the shade of a low bush. 

Red-tailed Tropicbird

We saw several more birds on the nest, but were more interested in getting close views of the birds flying around this low island. In fact, there were many birds in the air and they looked extremely elegant against the clear blue sky. Once we were done here we sailed just ten minutes to Anakoa and our waterfront lodge where we spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming and resting. 

A little slice of paradise...

Around the lodge we saw Sakalava Weaver and a Grey Mouse Lemur sleeping in a small tree. In the late afternoon we found a male Littoral Rock-Thrush quite easily and enjoyed fine views, but it wasn’t until much later that we finally laid eyes on Madagascar Nightjar thanks to our guide Jean.

Littoral Rock-Thrush

Madagascar Nightjar

This was a perfect setting to relax and enjoy a swim as our rooms were right on the beach…

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Madagascar Day 10

Of course we had to leave the best hotel of the tour where we had stayed for the shortest time out of any hotel on the tour at 5am!! But driving to Zombitse, which was about 90 minutes away was enlivened by a flyby Sooty Falcon. Upon arrival we walked a short distance with our 2 local guides and were shown a Rufous Vanga on a nest, and we also saw a Cuckoo-Roller flying over and a Long-billed Tetraka was also seen. 

Rufous Vanga

But we were after rarer things and it really didn’t take long at all to find the localised Appert’s Tetraka feeding on the ground right beside the path. 

Appert's Tetraka

Then a day-roosting White-browed Owl allowed us some fine views, a Blue Vanga was spotted by Jo, and then a pair of Frances’s Sparrowhawks were seen well. 

White-browed Owl

Frances's Sparrowhawk

But the so-called ‘easiest’ bird had yet to reveal itself and I wondered of the kiss-of-death had been given to Giant Coua. I shouldn’t have worried as across the road we had stunning and repeated views of this ace-looking creature walking along the forest floor in front of us. 

Giant Coua
With all of our targets met, we left and set out on another 90 minute drive to an area where we hoped to find Madagascar Sandgrouse. Sure enough, another local guide and his helpers led us to a flock of 13 sheltering from the blistering heat in the shade of a tall bush. Mission accomplished and we left and drove to Tulear for a siesta and a rest before venturing out again at 3.30pm.

Madagascar Sandgrouse
We headed out into the spiny forest and quickly found a Verreaux’s Coua that kept on moving through the thorn scrub but showed on and off for several minutes. 

Red-shouldered Vanga

Subdesert Brush Warbler

We followed that with a pair of Red-shouldered Vangas and enjoyed amazing views, along with a Subdesert Brush Warbler before returning to the hotel after a rather short session.