Thursday, 18 May 2017

Balangshan - The Chicken capital of China..!

What a great day’s birding to celebrate Steve H’s milestone birthday this was. It started inauspiciously enough with heavy rain just before we boarded the coach and as we drove higher my intended destination of the tunnel area was blanketed in dense mist, so I decided to go even higher. This was a good move as the weather was clearer in places, although low cloud swept in from time to time and then there was the snow. Oh yes it snowed alright and we birded the morning in a winter wonderland where some great birds were seen by us.

Some pretty amazing scenery from Balangshan this morning

The guys 'enjoying' breakfast in the snow..

First up was a pair of Tibetan Snowcocks running towards us and stopping about 10 metres away where they called and called, looking all around before slowly walking away. 

Tibetan Snowcocks in the mist

We had already had the usual sighting of a bird high above the road on a ridge, so this was a special treat. In the mist we saw Rosy Pipits, Rufous-breasted Accentor and then a pair of Grandala flew in literally 2 metres away from us and lingered for a long time. Even in the mist the male’s iridescent blue stood out. 

Grandala in the snow

Driving higher up we eventually connected with a group of 4 Snow Partridges just above the road but in the mist you couldn’t really pick up any colour or detail on the birds, so we continued higher and connected with half a dozen Red-fronted Rosefinches feeding amongst the snow covered rocks below us. We’d also seen Lammergeier, a flock of Yellow-billed Choughs, Blue-fronted Redstart, a pair of Brandt’s Mountain-Finches giving stunning views on the road, several Plain Mountain-Finches and several Alpine Accentors, one of which almost walked over one of our group’s shoes! 

Alpine Accentor

Brandt's Mountain-Finch

With the weather improving we had great scope views of the Snow Partridges and this time you could see colour, feather detail – the works. Brilliant! One final stop as we descended the mountain proved to be worthwhile with a Chinese Rubythroat (a recent split from White-tailed Rubythroat) singing from the top of a rock, a pair of Alpine Leaf-Warblers and a Kessler’s Thrush. When the question was asked “what’s that wren-like thing”, well you guessed it – it was a Eurasian Wren!

Alpine Leaf Warbler

With all of our targets reached from the higher levels we drove back down to the tunnel, where thick mist still blanketed the area. Both Blood Pheasant and Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge called in the gloom but were unsurprisingly unresponsive so we drove lower. All of a sudden the mist and low cloud cleared and birds began to sing, so we made the best of it and nailed Himalayan Bluetail, Blue-fronted and White-throated Redstarts, Chinese Fulvetta, Rufous-vented Tit, both Collared and White-winged Grosbeaks and several Himalayan Griffons

However, all of the previously mentioned species paled into insignificance when a stunning male Temminck’s Tragopan suddenly appeared beside the road and ran across a clearing directly opposite us. So we walked up the slope a little and I quietly played the call when amazingly it reappeared and ran across the clearing in front of us. Then it ran back again, walked around behind some leafless bushes, walked back in front of us, and then back again. All of this was just a few metres away from our astonished faces – much too close to photograph really but who’s grumbling? Still I managed to get these uncropped images to remember this special treat. 

Temminck's Tragopan - wow!!

With that in the bag how could you top that? Well you can’t but there’s more birds to find and a Giant Laughingthrush posed nicely at the top of a tree a short while later before we headed back to the tunnel area for our picnic lunch. More mist and low cloud descended just when we thought the day was going to brighten up so, once again, we drove lower. However, bird activity was practically zero despite our best efforts with a female Chinese White-browed Rosefinch the only new bird over the next couple of hours so we drove right down to the bottom of the valley where a quick search produced the promised Chinese Babax to end the day on a good note and we arrived back at the hotel for an early finish. What a day! We toasted the tragopan with a Wolf Berry spirit that really hit the mark and enjoyed yet another excellent dinner!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my word, what a set of snaps, both the scenery and the Tragopan. Great trip