Well what a day today was and after all the worry I felt overnight about whether the police would let us through to the old Erlang Shan road, let’s just say I shouldn’t have worried. We got through the checkpoint no problem and were driving along just after dawn, and very quickly had a female Lady Amherst Pheasant scuttling across the road in front of us. A cracking male showed all too briefly, but just as we were killing the engine to wait for it to reappear a car appeared behind us beeping its horn for us to get out of the middle of the road! I had to ask if anyone had walked under a ladder or run over a black cat recently because how bad was that timing? Anyway, we drove up into the conifers and then had decent views of an immature male Lady Amherst Pheasant right in front of us. The relief I felt was almost tangible!
As luck would have it there was a grassy verge for us to park on and have breakfast, during which a Chinese Leaf-warbler started singing from the top of some nearby conifers, offering good looks. As we munched on jam sandwiches I heard a Firethroat singing just a little further up the road. Now this is THE bird everyone wants to see, so the pressure was on. It was singing from a small stand of conifers right beside the road and it proved very frustrating as we just couldn’t see it, but after 10 minutes or so of hard searching Jenny came up trumps with just about the only window you could see it through the conifers. After a frantic bit of time when everyone jostled for position, we’d all got it. Phew! Unbelievably another one came in to sing in some bushes close by and we could hear two others singing nearby…! Over the next hour we had repeated views of birds singing from 15 feet up in the trees, but always behind a few pine needles as the pictures can testify to!
As we watched this cracker a pair of Barred Laughingthrushes began calling and came in to check us out – I was more excited to see them than the fiery-one! What views we had of this notorious skulker in the roadside bushes and then crossing the road and singing back from above us. With Yellow-streaked Warblers singing all around and Godlewski’s Buntings by the bucket load it was just a shame we had to leave. Driving down a calling Black-streaked Scimitar-babbler was just too hard to resist and we had brief views, along with Chinese Babax and Brown-breasted Bulbuls as well. But we had to leave at 9.30am for the oh so long drive to our next hotel at Rilong.
Well we arrived at 8pm…! So a long drive, made more complicated by a landslide that blocked the road for ages and two lengthy police checkpoints to negotiate. The scenery, however, was outstanding as we drove along valleys beside fast-flowing rivers with tall mountains all around. And we had a few birds, such as Himalayan Griffons, Daurian Redstarts, White-throated Dipper, Oriental Turtle-dove, Red Collared-dove, Hill Pigeons and others. We thoroughly enjoyed a beer and decent meal tonight but I felt ever so slightly guilty about breaking the news of our 4.30am departure for the mighty Balang Shan tomorrow……