Waking up to dull, overcast skies and heavy drizzle wasn’t the best start to what turned out to be a superb day. Must admit I was in two minds as to whether I should change our plans and not hike up into the Rubber Mountain, but Tang Jun said we should give it some time and have our packed breakfast near the start of the track. So we did and it continued to rain whilst we ate, and we got out of the coach several times and yes, it was easing and getting brighter. A Rufous-necked Snowfinch raised optimism somewhat, so by the time we drove the last kilometre to the start of the trail and phaffed around it was hardly raining so off we went. The walk up to the base of the hills is probably a couple of kilometres but it took a while as we came across our first Rock Sparrows, Black-winged (Adam’s) Snowfinch, Robin Accentors and a superb Saker. Then we had to start the trek up into the scrub-covered little side valley, and up & up we went. The weather was still a bit miserable and it was chilly – not the best conditions to search for Pink-tailed Finch.
|Pink-tailed Finch... Is it a bunting or a finch...?|
This is one of the star birds of any Qinghai tour, as it is now in a family all of its own. So the pressure was on! Anyway, we got to a vantage point where we could scan quite a way and I fired up the ipod – but nothing. And nothing. And nothing. David walked further up and thankfully spotted one coming down the valley in response to the call and a few of us managed to get on it. But somehow it disappeared, so we went up higher and fortunately it reappeared for another brief appearance. What a relief! I think it’s true to say everyone wanted more so we walked right up to the head of the (by now really steep) steep valley and walked over the brow of the hill, admiring the scenery as it would have been rude not to.
|Pink-tailed Finch Valley|
|You can just see the road in the distance where our coach is parked|
The valley over the top held more bushes and Neil spotted one way down below us – another finch that is. We scrambled down and had amazing views of two adults and an immature bird feeding, bunting-like on the ground between the dwarf bushes. The views were awesome and it was a real privilege to be this close to such a mega! However, walking back up the ridiculously steep hillside wasn’t so much fun I can tell you.
Anyway, we hung around at the top for a while and had a female Streaked Rosefinch fly in, and some great looks at the weigoldi Smoky Warblers (really..?) , along with Rufous-breasted Accentors as well. Then we walked down the ridge and followed another valley for a while but didn’t get anything new, although seeing Ground-tits, Blue-fronted Redstarts, Kessler’s Thrushes, White-browed Tit and other commoner birds in such spectacular surroundings was fine!
By the time we had walked back down to the bus, finding our first Rosy Pipit along the way, we were ready for lunch and our crew did a fine job in producing such good fayre.
As we were sitting along a stream we noticed that there were many birds coming down to drink and bathe as the weather was clearing up and it was nice and warm now. There were many Black-winged Snowfinches, Rufous-necked Snowfinch, Brown & Robin Accentors, and several Twite all giving point-blank views. It was such a treat to get close to these birds, as after bathing they flew up onto the grassy bank to sunbathe and didn’t pay much attention to the few of us watching them.
|Henri's Snowfinch - a split from White-winged Snowfinch|
We then drove up to the pass and scored with our first Henri’s Snowfinches, and several pairs were present showing well. We also had a Tibetan Lark here…..! Then we drove down to Chaka Basin and set out on a walk across the strange desert landscape, and unbelievably we found Henderson’s Ground-Jay quite quickly and were able to watch a group of 3 at leisure. So with that done we walked further and had four sightings of Pallas’s Sandgrouse flying overhead.
|Celebrating the Ground-Jay|
What a day!