Monday, 7 July 2014

Buntings & Babax - eventually...!

A 5am departure saw us driving up to a high pass where our arrival was met by the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon. But boy was it cold! Birding was slow to begin with, save for a few singing Olive-backed Pipits. Once the hillside above us began to glow in the sun’s rays a couple of birds flew in and landed on the grassy slope – Kozlov’s (Tibetan) Bunting! And there it was, our major target bird in the bag before breakfast was finished. In fact, the birds flew right down towards us and landed really close and we had crippling views.

Kozlov's Bunting Site

A rare photo of yours truly

Kozlov's Bunting

Following this, we split into two groups with Tang Jun taking some people up into the higher slopes where Grandala, Alpine Accentor and close Red-fronted Rosefinch were seen. The rest of us walked down the road and bumped into a feeding party of Chinese Beautiful Rosefinches. The prompted a walk across the slope to take in a magnificent view, and along with that came a couple of female Red-fronted Rosefinches, Alpine Accentor, Plain Mountain-finch & distant scope views of a calling Tibetan Snowcock, as well as a necessary photo opportunity! Then a male Red-fronted Rosefinch was spotted and flew down into a muddy area with 4 females and they were very obliging to say the least.

Red-fronted Rosefinch

After an hour or so we all met up and walked further down the road and saw a Wallcreeper before boarding the coach and driving lower. We checked out an area of Junipers and had more Streaked Rosefinches, before heading lower. We stopped to check more trees and a random bit of ipod play resulted in Szechenyi’s (Buff-throated) Monal-partridge calling back at us from the valley below. After a bit of a search with the scope we picked up a calling bird and everyone managed tickable views before we walked lower. Much better and closer views ensued and we watched several birds feeding and walking in some open clearings amongst the Junipers. During our vigil here we also had over 7 White Eared-Pheasants as well in the same area!

As it was such a good spot with great birds and magnificent scenery, we decided to have lunch here and enjoyed some hot noodles and melon for desert. And there were some other birds as well, with Hodgson’s, Blue-fronted & White-throated Redstarts, Greenish Warbler and White-winged Grosbeak present.

Driving way down the valley most of us were snoozing as an Ibisbill flew past – well done Neil! Then we followed a trail into a narrow valley and found a Tibetan (Kozlov’s) Babax that proved really tricky to get a good view of. We did see Lammergeier, Sichuan Tit and several Pink-rumped Rosefinches though. 

Tibetan Babax

In the end we gave up after just getting flight views and tried another side valley. This time we found numerous Tibetan Babax  feeding their young out in the open and generally mooching around right in front of us, totally unafraid. A great way to end the day and we were all rather jubilant as we headed to our hotel and an early shower!

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