Monday, 30 June 2014

The Tibetan Plateau

Just as the sun began to peek over the distant hills we were in place for our Blue Eared-Pheasant vigil at Baxi Forest. It really was rather cool and as we sipped coffee, watched numerous Black-eared Kites flying around. There was also a Twite perched on telegraph wires behind us, our first Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Sichuan Tit, a few Daurian Jackdaws flying over, both Chestnut & Kessler’s Thrushes, and a very obliging male Severtzov’s Tit-warbler continuously bringing food to its nest nearby. However, no pheasants were forthcoming so we drove down the valley and walked into the forest at a particular spot I like. We hadn’t walked very far when I heard the distinctive call of Sukatschev’s (Snowy-cheeked) Laughingthrush and in no time at all it appeared on the slope in front of us and showed quite well. There was also quite a few Grey-headed Bullfinches posing nicely, and later on a Gansu Leaf-warbler called and came in very close to inspect us. Driving back to Ruoergai and we saw a pair of Tibetan (Chinese) Grey Shrikes along the road and were treated to superb views. Wow!

A distant photo of the shrike..

Leaving here we drove back up the hill, this time hearing a Blue Eared-Pheasant – so we will be back tomorrow! Then we set off towards Flower Lake. We drove across the plateau, and made our first stop when several displaying Oriental Skylarks were seen and as we searched the area saw a pair of close Ground-tits. The next stop was when several Himalayan Griffons were seen beside a carcass, and amazingly there were 4 Cinereous (Black) Vultures present. As we scanned the area, we came across both White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches as well amongst a colony of Black-lipped Pika.

Black Vulture with a Himalayan Griffon

We eventually reached Flower Lake and hopped aboard the bus that takes you down to the boardwalk and lake – and I was hoping for a few more unusual birds here as it is migration time. Well, we were not to be disappointed as we made several great finds, scarce Sichuan birds and new birds for the Zoothera tour list. A Common/Eurasian Teal was a new list addition but not that spectacular, an Eastern Marsh Harrier was spotted by Alan, then Simon spotted the first of two Whooper Swans present, a Temminck’s Stint was also a first for this tour, followed by a Grey-headed Lapwing and a couple of Northern Lapwings. Wow again!

Plenty of more expected birds were around such as Ferruginous Duck and Red-crested Pochards amongst commoner wildfowl, White-winged Tern, Brown-headed Gull, but at least five different Eurasian Bitterns were seen, some Black-necked Cranes are always noteworthy. But we had to wait for quite a while before securing decent views of Tibetan Lark, a pair of which were present from the boardwalk.

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