Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Tibetan Plateau

 It was a cold start to the day as we waited patiently on the road that borders Baxi Forest, an area of mature pine forest at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The sun didn’t really peak through the blanket of cloud so we really enjoyed our hot coffee this morning as we waited for the Blue Eared-Pheasant to show. And show it did, but not before a couple of hours of nervous waiting during which time we scanned the openings in the forest and the hillside above the trees. Some Black-eared Kites kept us entertained, as did a pair of Godlewski’s Buntings and White-throated Redstarts, but we only half-heartedly glanced at them. Eventually Graham spotted a pair of pheasants slowly walking through the forest below our vantage point and they crossed several open areas on their route and which prompted some frantic directions and some anxious moments until everyone finally got onto them. It was such a relief to finally get this bird and we could then enjoy our birding as Pete picked up a Three-banded Rosefinch which Frank had seen earlier, and then a Eurasian Wryneck was scoped as well.

Sukatschev's Laughingthrush

But when a Sukatschev’s Laughingthrush began calling we couldn’t believe it when it repeatedly showed in some bushes in the narrow valley below us, and even came up to within ten metres of us briefly. Then we drove lower down and walked into the forest where Chinese Leaf-warblers were common, and we also saw several Grey-headed Bullfinches and a Golden Eagle flew over. Returning to Roergai for lunch we checked out a site for Chinese Grey Shrike but sadly found a dead adult beside the road.

Tibetan Plateau

Our coach

So after lunch we drove to Flower Lake, checking out every White-rumped Snowfinch colony along the way for something rarer but only succeeded in finding numerous Hume’s Ground-tits, and a rather amazing sighting of an adult Rosy Starling which is way off course and a vagrant here.

Hume's Ground-tit

Hume's Ground-tit

Rosy Starling - a long way from home!

Ruddy Shelducks

Tibetan Lark

White-rumped Snowfinch
At the lake we were soon watching a huge Tibetan Lark in the short grass and when it took flight and chased a Common Redshank it wasn’t that much smaller! A monster indeed! Several new birds for our list were waiting for us on the lake as we scanned from a viewing platform, such as Common Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Red-crested and Common Pochards, Tufted Duck and Wood Sandpiper – just like being back in the UK!

Black-necked Cranes in 'dancing' display - awesome!

Some Black-necked Cranes were patrolling the edge of the marsh accompanied by some small chicks, whilst Greylag Goose and lots of Ruddy Shelducks were also present. Leaving here we continued our snowfinch hunt but just got more cranes, this time ‘dancing’ quite close to the road and was marvellous to watch. A last-minute decision to recheck the shrike site resulted in Pete again spotting the bird, when a Chinese Grey Shrike was scoped on the hillside above us. What a way to finish a day full of quality sightings.

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