Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Balangshan - The Return

As it’s China then we had some random rule imposed that our driver could not start driving until 5am (instead of the 4am I wanted) so we arrive at the monal site at 6.30am and so miss the first crucial ‘pheasant-hour’ of the day. So we stake out the tunnel area but there aren’t any Koklass Pheasants calling, although a pair of flyover Chinese Monals was quite spectacular as they took off right across the valley and over the trees and into the distant grassland. I remember this walk for the crippling close pair of Wallcreepers, literally 5 metres away, in perfect light and just above head height…. Mmmm. This small section of the old road that skirts the tunnel always turns up interesting sightings and our walk was no different, with many Common and Dark-breasted Rosefinches calling all around, Asian House Martins nesting in the walls right next to us, a perched Northern Goshawk in the scope, and our first Alpine Leaf-Warbler coming in close to check us out. 

We leave here and drive lower and walk off the road and into the ‘forest’ where a Maroon-backed Accentor is something of a surprise, but we don’t see much else and only I get to see a male Golden Pheasant scuttling along the forest floor. With rumbling stomachs we walk back to the bus, but just then a Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warbler starts to sing and after a short wait we all eyeball this under-rated little beauty singing from the nearby bushes. We follow this with much better views than we have had before of Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler and can now finally tuck into our breakfast that includes cold fries and Yak meat…… So with the sun beating down we make a bold decision to return to the trail and get better views of Blood Pheasant, as a pair walk sedately along the forest floor above us. There’s also a young Plain-backed Thrush perched nearby, some Vinaceous Rosefinches, Himalayan Bluetail, but it’s not until we decide to walk back that we find a pair of Stripe-throated Yuhinas and a few other common species. 

From here we check out some roadside stops, with only a pair of House Sparrows and another Maroon-backed Accentor to show for our efforts and then head back to the tunnel. The second lot of calling Verreaux’s Monal-Partridges defy our decent attempts to spot them, so we head up to the higher areas which by now are misty and we experience some rain. But at the obelisk area it is just low cloud and dry and we find a calling Snow Partridge relatively easily thanks to Derek’s sharp eyes. 

Watching Snow Partridge

It is way above us, perched on the skyline but the views in the scope are great, in between belts of mist rising from the valley below obscuring the bird. A Lammergeier hoves into view just over our heads but disappears into the gloom. Driving back to Rilong it rains quite a bit until we reach the lower section of valley where we walk along the road. There’s more Pink-rumped Rosefinches, flyover Golden Eagles, Black Woodpecker, Black-browed Bushtit, Streaked Rosefinch, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, an Olive-backed Pipit singing from the top of a conifer, and even an Eurasian Jay.  

Yet more fine scenery......

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