Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sichuan - here we go again....!

Following a 10 hour overnight direct flight with British Airways we eventually landed at Chengdu around 11am and then headed to a nearby restaurant for our first Sichuan lunch. Then, in a break from our traditional visit to one of the city parks and an overnight stop in Chengdu, we drive south-west for some two hours to Ya’an and visit a narrows strip of woodland bordered by a river and a quant, rustic village. We are targeting some species that are unlikely during the rest of the tour and it is rather pleasing to see a pair of Ashy-throated Parrotbills very close to our coach, as well as a Japanese Tit. There is a rickety old bridge across a river here but it leads to a spot I visit very year and in no time at all we are enjoying point-blank views of a Brown-flanked Bush-Warbler posturing at us from some nearby bamboo. There is also a pair of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, with the male being particularly sexy, whilst a pair of Rufous-capped Babblers, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Rufous-faced Warbler and a flock of Black-throated Bushtits all put in an appearance. I was particularly keen to find Swinhoe’s Minivet and after a couple of flybys we spot a perched bird at head height in the nearby trees. A brief Chinese Sparrowhawk, equally brief Black-naped Oriole, several White-browed Laughingthrushes and a soaring Oriental Honey Buzzard complete the picture here before it’s time to head back to the coach and drive to Longcanggou – our base for the next 4 nights.

Once we leave the freeway the road winds down into a valley before going up the other side where the habitat becomes better. We stop at a bend overlooking a river where Brown Dipper, Blue Whistling-Thrush and Slaty-backed Forktail are seen. A Sulphur-breasted Warbler gives great views at eye-level, as does the endemic Yellow-bellied Tit, but best of all is a cracking Chinese Blue Flycatcher perched in the bamboo below us. The views are a little obstructed but the bird remains on its perch for several minutes allowing everyone plenty of time to manoeuvre and get better and better views. The only other time I’ve scored this bird on a Sichuan trip was when we came across Per Alstrom holding one he had just mist-netted!

This is our lodge at Longcanggou - a pretty comfortable base for 4 nights.

So from here it is just a short drive to a nice lodge and with bags thrown into our rooms we still have time to find Long-tailed and Grey-backed Shrikes, Brown-breasted Bulbul and Grey-headed Woodpecker, with our showers interrupted by a Large Hawk-Cuckoo perched in the open. Not a bad start and can’t wait for tomorrow.

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