Saturday, 20 May 2017

Balangshan Does it Again

We woke to clear skies and after our 5am departure we reached the tunnel area by 6.15am where we had a fantastic view of the alpine meadows, and snow capped peaks all around. Setting up the scope I quickly found a group of White Eared-Pheasants feeding on the hillside above, followed by a Koklass Pheasant calling from a large rock above the road. Not a bad start. Then a magnificent male Chinese Monal appeared on the skyline and everyone lapped up the scope views, but the best was yet to come. All of a sudden it flew across the hillside towards us, landing directly above us. Wow! It called repeatedly before flying straight down towards us and beyond into the meadow below. It was out of sight but I quietly crawled down and waited and amazingly it walked out into the open. Holy cow! 

Chinese Monal
This stunning vision strutted his stuff and paraded right in front of me as I remained motionless before climbing up into a conifer where it called again and again before flying off down into the valley. This was undoubtedly the best views I’ve experienced over the past 6 tours here. I can tell you breakfast tasted fantastic after this!

Then we walked along the road and what a good move this was as, first of all a pair of rare Sharpe’s Rosefinches appeared on the bank next to us (good call Daniel) and then a Golden Bush-Robin flew up into the top of a conifer and began to sing. 

Golden Bush-Robin

The rare Sharpe's Rosefinch

Moving around the tunnel area there were several Common and Dark-breasted Rosefinches present, but I was particularly pleased to finally get Dark-rumped Rosefinch on my Sichuan list and a flyby Lammergeier is always a crowd pleaser. 

Dark-breasted Rosefinch

Dark-rumped Rosefinch
We even got some views of a calling Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge way below us, but it disappeared before everyone could get onto it. Before jumping into the coach we saw a pair of Snow Pigeons flying across the hillside and a pair of Chinese White-browed Rosefinches. Moving lower down the mountain and things were slow with really not much in the way of birdsong, which is surprising for this time of year. We spent several hours getting very little, apart from a pair of White-throated Redstarts and a pair of Collared Grosbeaks, until eventually I called in a Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warbler and it proved to be very responsive and was too close to get a decent photo. Shortly after this I spotted a Blood Pheasant crossing a clearing and with a bit of manoeuvring everyone managed to get a view of a pair feeding quietly in the forest.

Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warbler - uncropped image

Collared Grosbeaks

White-throated Redstart

We took lunch up at the tunnel, where there were a lot more Snow Pigeons feeding on the hillside before we drove higher up the mountain. There were flocks of Grandalas flying around, Red-billed Chough and our first Alpine Marmots were particularly pleasing to Steve. 

Grandala again...
We’d done particularly well here and had almost cleaned up but the one blot was Sichuan Forest Thrush that had managed to elude us so far. So we tried an area we’d heard one yesterday and after a while we were treated to stunning views in a bare tree – not only a classy bird but it’s a Zoothera thrush…… 

Sichuan Forest Thrush
Oh and our first Greenish Warbler was here as well.  And that was our most excellent day over and we returned to the hotel early and enjoyed a bit of r&r.

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