With rain battering the windscreen we leave the ‘gorge country’ and head up towards the Tibetan Plateau and I don’t feel overly optimistic about what today would bring. With solid, low grey skies it did look like we were in for a foul day and eating our picnic breakfast in the last shelter before the plateau (a newly build and as yet not opened fuel station) we saw our first Azure-winged Magpie and Common Pheasant. Just up the road we drive alongside a grassy area where Oriental Skylarks and Daurian Jackdaw are seen, but by the time we reach the edge of the plateau the skies are clearing a little and we venture out to check a bush-covered hillside. A Plain Laughingthrush is noted, along with a Godlewski’s Bunting before continuing our drive. With clearing skies the scenery changes to a more open vista and high on our agenda is the plateau endemic White-browed Tit, although our first few attempts are in vain. Yet there is now some blue sky and birds are singing and driving along through more open, grassy habitat a hulking Tibetan Lark flies up from the roadside and out we jump to find several pairs are present and treat us to super views. There is also an adult feeding an almost fully grown juvenile nearby, and we’ve already seen our first Tibetan Citrine Wagtails, Crested Lark and more… Moving on and a great find of a Tibetan Grey Shrike perched on telegraph wires but our viewing is cut short by a peremptory policeman telling us to move on! But what a great bird!
|The Tibetan Plateau|
We have lunch at a nice little restaurant in Hongyuan that serves delicious dumplings before continuing our journey. More stops are made before the much-wanted White-browed Tit is found, and we also see Little Owl, Rock Sparrow, Horned Lark (or Elwes’s Horned Lark once the promised ‘splits’ are made), Upland Buzzard, lots of Black-eared Kites, Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Ducks, Northern Raven, Oriental Crow, Pale Martin, Black Redstart, and plenty of pretty Twite. Special mention must be made of the Black-necked Cranes and our first pair are feeding in a flower covered open grassy area – superb. We also see a couple of nests with one adult tending two huge eggs.
The major finale of the day is a pair Tibetan Partridges we scope as they feed on a steep slope opposite us – a scarce bird in Sichuan and much appreciated. And we finally reach Ruoergai at 7.45pm – phew what a day!