A 4am start saw us driving up towards Balangshan Pass and past the apparently sleeping local police - we couldn't wait for them to give us the go ahead. Apparently they were going to make us use 2 smaller minivans - like some other tour companies were forced to do!
Anyway, we arrived half an hour before dawn in order to be in place to witness the amazing display of Wood Snipe. After a few minutes the distinctive call started, followed by the sound of the wind rushing through their wings and we eventually saw several birds displaying across the clear sky. Once it was fully daylight the display was over so we drove down the mountain a short distance to scan the surrounding hillside for our main target of the day, the spectacular Chinese Monal. After several minutes of scanning Tang picked up 4 White Eared Pheasants feeding on the hillside above us and we had great views in the scope. But the minutes were ticking by and no monals were showing, so we wondered if they weren’t around today. With a brief Collared Grosbeak, singing Chestnut Thrush and a Dark-breasted Rosefinch to distract us things weren’t too bad, but all of a sudden a dark shape sat on a rock turned its head! There it was, a beautiful male Chinese Monal in all its glory and what a view through the scope with a beautiful golden nape and iridescent plumage it certainly is an amazing bird. We picked it up a little while later and were able to watch it for a further twenty minutes in nice sunshine as it fed on the grassy slope before disappearing into the low scrub. As we were watching this a Spotted Bush-warbler called from the verge above us but remained hidden from view.
|Birding in the Mist|
So then we left here and headed right up and over the pass in search of Tibetan Snowcock but we were hampered by a thick mist and would have to leave this bird for another day. However, we did pick up Plain Mountain-finch, both Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Rosy Pipit, Rufous-breasted Accentor and Brian P spotted a lone Snow Pigeon tucked away amongst some rocks which we all managed to get on. So we then headed down to find some clearer weather, making several stops and had Snow Partridge, Alpine Accentor, Lammergeier and many Himalayan Griffons before our lunch stop. Afterwards we walked along the road getting Vinaceous Rosefinch, Himalayan Bluetail, White-browed Fulvetta, Sichuan Leaf-warbler and Grey-headed bullfinch as well as a few other birds but generally it was rather quiet.
So we drove down to the river valley and staked out a site for Golden Pheasant which necessitated constant scanning of some clearings on the hillsides above us. During our two hour vigil we had great comparisons with both Buff-barred and Yellow-streaked Warblers constantly vying for our attention, as well as our best views of Chinese Babax. Eventually, and just as we had reached the end of our patience Peter spotted a cracking male Golden Pheasant walking across a clearing to finish off a successful day despite the frustrating weather.