Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Day of the Jay

Headed to the Tarim River this morning which actually took longer than expected but the overcast and cool weather really helped us. As we pulled in to a certain location it took a little over 20 minutes to nail Chinese Bush-Dweller, White-winged Woodpecker, Saxaul Sparrow, Small Whitethroat and Azure Tit. Not bad going huh? And then we could enjoy our breakfast! Afterwards we spent some time improving on our views and really appreciating these great birds.

Saxaul Sparrow

Then we drove out further into the Taklamakan Desert where we began our vigil for Biddulph’s Ground Jay, a bird endemic to this desert. The strange landscape of dead trees and tamarisk bushes could only really be viewed from on top of the sand dunes and we spent ages scanning the surrounding area for any signs of life. Apart from more Saxaul Sparrows, Desert Wheatear, Black Stork, Long-legged Buzzard and Black-eared Kite it was rather quiet. We worked both sides of the road and eventually it was Frank who became our hero and found the bird. A quick (sort of) sprint across the sand and everyone locked binoculars on one of the birds of the trip. In fact it was a family group of two adults and two almost fully grown juveniles and we watched them for a while as they moved across a small wadi in front of us. They certainly could shift and ran at an incredible speed, pausing now and again to fly up into one of the dead trees to survey the area. It was such a privilege to become one of the few westerners to see this bird.

Biddulph's Ground-Jay - mega..!!!

Driving further into the dune landscape we found another ground-jay before walking out in to the sea of sand to admire the view. Then it was lunch at a local restaurant before we headed to a town closer to Bosten Nur Lake for the night and a slight change of plan as this would give us an opportunity to visit the wetlands a lot earlier in the morning than would have otherwise been possible had we stayed in Luntai.

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