It was just getting light as we leave on the long drive to Rilong, and this is a different route to the one I normally take. These mountain roads are always a bit interesting and this morning we discover during our field breakfast that our road was blocked by a landslide and wouldn’t be open until midday. No problem, this is China and we were led by a construction crew through a tunnel with a closed sign and still unfinished! We squeezed past all the debris, scaffolding and other stuff and followed a bumpy, broken dirt track for many, many miles alongside a huge river. The upshot is we made good time and by the time we reached our lunch stop at a small town at around 1pm we only had another hour to go to the hotel.
There are no birding stops so we content ourselves with a few species such as Chinese Pond-heron, Blue Rock Thrush, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Oriental Turtle Dove and others all seen from the moving bus. The scenery is truly spectacular and we marvel at the huge river valleys and lofty peaks all around.
|The scenery isn't too bad here......!|
Arriving at 3pm we quickly drop our bags into the rooms and drive uphill for a few kilometres to a particular spot I always like to check out. As we arrive the rain that had been constant all day suddenly stops and the cloud begins to rise, revealing impressive snow-clad peaks. There isn’t much birdsong or activity to begin with and a little trail into the pine forest only reveals a fine male Himalayan Bluetail and both Buff-barred and Hume’s Warblers to begin with. Our patience, however, is rewarded with Black-browed and more importantly, our first Sichuan Tit and Giant Laughingthrush, and then Derek spots a calling Crested Tit-Warbler – but this bird is fast moving and flies from tree to tree before disappearing. So we walk up to the road and discover many Pink-rumped Rosefinches feeding in the bushes, along with one or two Chinese Beautiful Rosefinches and spend quite some time watching them.
|Wallcreeper is always a joy to see and where else can you get such close views....?|
All of a sudden a Wallcreeper flies past and lands on the small cliff beside the road and gives terrific views as it feeds on spiders and others insects. It’s always a good day when you see this bird right? The action is unrelenting, as then a large rosefinch is ‘spotted’ perched and calling from the top of a dead tree. I can’t believe my eyes, as it is a male Streaked Rosefinch – one of the most beautiful birds of the tour. Wow!
He is joined by a female but they both fly away, only for us to find them again a short while later and we get much better views. But before that we are scanning some large cliffs where Hill Pigeons are flying around and a Chinese Goral is scoped, Asian House Martins buzz us at close range, and a Snow Pigeon is scoped on the cliffs. In between all of this we admire a cracking male White-throated Redstart, Common Rosefinch, Rufous-vented Tit and check out all the rosefinches again.
By now it is 6pm (where has the time gone) and attempt to get back to the bus, but a Chinese Fulvetta appears, a Tibetan Serin flies past and then a pair of henrici Long-tailed Rosefinches are found. We are loving our first taste of birding on the mighty Balangshan.