Saturday, 20 June 2015

Longcanggou in the Rain

Driving back into Loncanggou in a steady drizzle I was hoping that once the sun rose the weather would get better – but it didn’t. Parking at our spot the rain was still falling, so a nice cup of coffee was a good idea, but it still kept raining. So we are waiting in the bus for an improvement in the weather and having to talk over an incessantly singing Sichuan Bush-Warbler that is only 2 metres away – what a loud song. 

Sichuan Bush-Warbler

Well, the rain tuned to drizzle and conditions were ok for a walk along a side trail but birding was rather slow although a Brown Bullfinch was a big surprise, as was an Eurasian Woodcock and Ultramarine Flycatcher – all new records for this tour. 

A poor shot of a Brown Bullfinch

Apart from a few commoner species there wasn’t much else and the drizzle seemed to be getting heavier so approaching the bus a Buffy Laughingthrush calls and eventually at least 5 birds sneak past us at reasonably close range, although not everyone gets on to them in time. And so the rain gets heavier and heavier, which prompts us to drive lower and check out a new trail. Here, we just have a thick mist to contend with and begin with a nice Brown Dipper and Plumbeous Water Redstart. Heading along the trail a White-tailed Robin calls but never really shows itself apart from a few brief flybys. Several large congregations of birds come into the owlet call and include Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Blue-winged Minla and David’s Fulvetta for a few of the group. After maybe an hour here the rain begins again so we decide to return to the lodge for lunch and a chance to dry out.

Collared Finchbill

Yellow-throated Bunting

 As we eat lunch the rain gets heavier and I fear the worst but amazingly all of a sudden the weather breaks and prompts a quick check of the adjacent fields. I call in our first and much-wanted Yellow-throated Bunting and boy does it perform, singing back at us form the nearby conifers and power lines. Some Russet Sparrows are a catch up bird for some and a quick change of plan brings the bus to us and we hop on board, but not before a Forest Wagtail begins calling in a tall tree behind us. 

Black Baza

The drive up into Longcanggou goes quickly and we see a pair of Black Baza on telegraph wires, and we follow our favourite trail and how different it is here with plenty of birds singing and some blue sky overhead. Our target endemic this afternoon is Slaty Bunting and we get a fine male fly in to check us out but it quickly disappears, but then Tracey spots it perched up in a tree and we are treated to amazing scope views. Following this we walk further and see plenty of commoner species including another pair of Ultramarine Flycatchers, with a few Japanese White-eyes being new for the trip. 

Slaty Bunting - female. Finally a decent photo!

The trail meanders through excellent forest and we find a female Slaty Bunting below us, plus a fine male Snowy-browed Flycatcher as well. Further along we see a male Crimson-breasted Woodpecker found by Paul and a short while later we get stellar views of a Pygmy Wren-Babbler along a small stream. 

Pygmy Wren-Babbler

This one scolds us from the open bank, on top of moss-covered logs and remains in view for several minutes. Superb! There are also lots of Yellow-bellied, Yellow-browed and Green-backed Tits and Short-billed Minivets along the trail, and oh how can you beat an Emei Leaf Warbler calling from the ground at my ipod – what views! 

Emei Leaf-Warbler

So following a nice longish walk it is a relief to get back to the bus and sit down. A quick stop along the road on the way back produces a flock of 10 Brown Bullfinches, Grey Bushchat, Grey-backed Shrike and Buff-throated Warbler. So I think we managed to save the day despite the inclement weather – fingers crossed for tomorrows Tragopan quest.

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