Friday, 21 June 2013

Tibetan Plateau

My favourite day of the tour so far, as we drive from Maerkang up onto the Tibetan Plateau and eventually reach our excellent hotel at Rouergai in the early evening – and I think this is one the most impressive birding journeys as you cram a lot into 12 hours or so. 

Scenery on the Tibetan Plateau

The scenery is very impressive as we leave the pine-clad valleys and reach the wide-open vista of rolling grasslands and soft, rounded hills in the distance. After breakfast in a roadside restaurant we stopped just on the edge of the forest alongside a mountain river where Pere David’s Laughingthrushes were seen feeding on the opposite bank and our first Common Pheasant was found. No Ibisbills were present along the river so we continued upwards until at the edge of the plateau, amidst scrub-choked narrow valleys we found White-browed (Severtzov’s) Tit-warblers to be rather common and spent some time watching these delightful little sprites, with the males being a resplendent concoction of lilac, purple and pink.

White-browed Tit-warblers

At the same valley we also had nice views of this Golden Eagle, loads of Himalayan Griffons and a singing Kessler's Thrush.

Golden Eagle

Himalayan Griffon

Kessler's Thrush

Well we did very well with all the target species encountered and I was especially pleased to get good views of a White-browed Tit after a few unsuccessful attempts at various places. 

White-browed Tit

There was also a nice Dusky Warbler, Olive-backed and Richard’s Pipit and our first of many Rock Sparrows at the same place. We also had Yellow-streaked Warbler, plenty of Chestnut and Kessler’s Thrushes, Tibetan (Citrine)Wagtails, Little Owl, Ruddy Shelducks, Common Merganser, Eurasian Hoopoe, Hodgson’s Redstart, Siberian Stonechat, Azure-winged Magpie, Twite and at least 15 Black-necked Cranes

Azure-winged Magpie


At one area we had Oriental, Horned and at least 6 immense Tibetan Larks in a meadow next to the road, and this is the first time I’ve seen the big beastie away from Flower Lake. A real surprise find was a pair of Tibetan (Chinese) Grey Shrikes along the road and although the birds weren’t that close it was a nice view in the scopes. Plenty of Marmots and Pika were also noted, and a Tibetan Fox looked a little out of place during the midday heat.

Upland Buzzard


Saker about to dive bomb the buzzard

I think he got the buzzard...!

 Raptors were well represented with numerous Black-eared Kites, and Upland Buzzards became increasingly common, and throw in our fantastic earlier views of Himalayan Griffons and a cracking Golden Eagle as well. But the views of a Saker nest with five (yes 5) almost fledged young, and both adults bringing in small rodents for them to feed on. It really was like the things you see on t.v and when an Upland Buzzard, which must have had a nest out of sight in the same quarry, flew in a few times only for the adult Sakers to dive-bomb it repeatedly. What a show and an immense privilege to witness such nature in the raw.

Hume's Ground-tit

 Getting closer to Rouergai we got very close views of the endemic Hume’s Ground-tit, which became majorly abundant during the course of the afternoon. 

Tibetan Snowfinch

But a surprise find came in the shape of a family of Tibetan Snowfinches right beside the road to end a particularly fun and enjoyable day.

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