It took most of the morning to reach the mountains of Wuyishan but it was definitely worth the wait as we left the lowlands behind and began to climb higher. A lake beside the narrow road held a few Chinese Spot-billed Ducks, and the nearby area held David’s Fulvetta ( a recent split from Grey-cheeked Fulvetta), Collared Finchbill and Crested Bunting. Whilst at the edge of a small village we saw a pair of Chinese Blackbirds and heard the distinctive song as well. But we didn’t do anymore birding as time was pressing and we wanted to get to the hotel in the National Park for lunch, and with a little time spare afterwards most of us walked up the road which turned out to be a good move. First of all we had Yellow-cheeked Tit, followed by a Rufous-faced and Chestnut-crowned warbler side-by-side on the same branch, and then nice views of Sulphur-breasted Warbler zipping around the forest beside the road. A Hartert’s Warbler ( a recent split from the Blyth’s Leaf-warbler complex) began calling and pretty soon we had decent views of this smart little sprite.
Further along a flock of Black-chinned Yuhinas and Red-billed Leiothrix appeared briefly before the minibus caught us up and we drove high up into the mountains. No sooned had we passed the Fujian/Jiangxi border than a female Cabot’s Tragopan ran across the bumpy track in front of us. At the next moment a male tragopan flew down from the slope above us and alighted right in front of us for a few moments before scurrying into the forest. Moving ever upwards we came across a mixed flock with Black-chinned Yuhinas, White-bellied Erpornis, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Kloss’s Leaf-warbler (formerly in the White-tailed Leaf-warbler complex), and a White-backed Woodpecker appeared as well which was a bonus. In the distance we heard White-necklaced Partridge, but that would have to wait for another day. A few kilometres more and a female Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush was the first of several to be seen this afternoon, and a colony of nesting Asian House-martins also held a Fork-tailed Swift as well. A short distance further on and we had Fujian Fulvetta (split from Grey-hooded/Streak-throated complex), several singing White-spectacled Warblers, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, and a brief Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler. For a grand finale we definitely were not expecting, as we drove back down in the early evening sunshine we were extremely fortunate to spot a fine male Cabot's Tragopan feeding on fresh buds in a small tree just below the road. So we could look down on him and admire its intricately beautiful plumage and over the next half an hour he fed totally unconcerned by our presence.
As cameras clicked and many superlatives were exchanged this much-wanted species carried on feeding, and on several occasions moved around the branches and clambered into a different tree – all the time with the sun shining on him. What a treat and with smiles all round we drove slowly back down to the hotel for a celebratory beer or two!