Thursday, 25 May 2017

Up on the Tibetan Plateau

Well, the weather was very kind to us and we had clear blue skies and sunshine all the way to Ruoergai on the Tibetan Plateau, some 300+ kms from Maerkang. The first notable bird of the day was a White-throated Dipper along a fast-flowing river, followed shortly after by our first Plain Laughingthrush and Common Pheasant. There were also some White Eared-Pheasants feeding on a hillside, as well as some Central Asiatic Red Deer. We drove up to the very edge of the plateau and had our picnic breakfast overlooking a river where we saw Siberian Roe Deer and several Tibetan Citrine Wagtails. A little higher we found a Godlewski’s Bunting, Chinese Fulvetta, Streak-throated Warbler and White-browed Tit-Warbler along the roadside bushes. Finally we hit the plateau and drove across an increasingly wide-open landscape dotted with bushes, rivers and soft rolling hills all around. There were many Asian Azure-winged Magpies, Eurasian Hoopoe, Oriental Skylark, Ruddy Shelducks, and some really low-flying Upland Buzzards, Himalayan Griffons and Black-eared Kites. A few pools held some common ducks including Ferruginous Ducks, whilst a Lesser Sandplover in breeding plumage was scoped and 2 Black Storks circled overhead. There were also some Red-billed Choughs, Oriental Crows, Northern Ravens and Daurian Jackdaws.

Tibetan Plateau
Birding on the plateau
We made very good time and arrived for a very early dumpling lunch in Hongyuan before carrying on seeing a soaring Saker, Rock Sparrows, many Twites, a flock of Plain Martins, and eventually after a bit of a search a group of 4 Tibetan Grey Shrikes, with a 5th individual on the opposite side of the road. We then pressed on over the pass and prepared for our search for Przevalski’s Pinktail, a bird that has caused me some problems during the last couple of tours. Well, within 2 minutes of arriving we were scoping a calling bird from the hillside above thanks to some great spotting by Jules. And what a performance it gave with a parachuting display flight right past us. Wow! With this under our belt we then nailed a pair of Tibetan Snowfinches bringing food to their young in a hidden nest. And it was only 4.50pm! So we birded along the last 25 kilometres to Ruoergai, making some random stops at some good looking areas. This gave us a White-browed Tit in some near bushes after making several attempts earlier in the day. Oh and I should mention the 43 Black-necked Cranes we’d counted throughout the day, with some very close roadside birds feeding in the wetlands – a class bird and one everyone wants to see. We finally arrived at the hotel in Ruoergai at 6.10pm. On a personal note a problem with my memory card meant I’d lost all the photos from today, including crippling ones of the pinktail…

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