Thursday, 16 May 2013

CHINA - Day 10 - Qingcheng Mountains & Chengdu River Estuary

Left the hostel at 6.00am with my brother and guide for the day Sid Francis. The plan was to leave early and look for Forktails on the lower reaches of the river before the rest of China woke up. When the alarm went off at 5.00am the Collared Owlet was still fact it sung the entire night!

First stop was in the valley bottom and we heard and then saw Blue Whistling Thrush, my first lifer of the day and I just knew this was going to be a manic day with tons of new birds! Sid then pointed out a bird singing and was able to bring it in with a tape. It was the recently split David's Fulvetta and was another new bird for me.

Mountain Bulbul

We then carried on up the mountain stopping at a few places and playing the Collared Owlet song which brought all the birds in the area down for a look. A method I wish I had known about earlier in the trip as it would have made locating birds much easier.

Soon enough I was adding new birds to my list with Mountain Bulbul, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler as well as lots of the endemic Yellow-bellied Tits.

Vinaceous Rosefinch
As we continued into the higher reaches of the Back Mountain I carried on adding new birds. With the help of Sid I was able to nail Emei Shan Leaf Warbler as well as Plain-tailed Warbler, Claudia's Warbler and Great Barbet. When we arrived at the section of Back Mountain that has an entrance fee we just put our foot down in the car and managed to get through without paying! Local knowledge does help sometimes in these situations! We stopped for a bit of breakfast and then carried on into the mountains.

The next stop was at a nice area of bamboo plantation with a decent amount of scrub below. From here we played the call again which brought down a huge number of birds. Pick of the bunch was the Speckled Piculet which unfortunately didn't hang around long. There were also good numbers of Black-chinned Yuhina, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and Green-backed Tit. We also found a single Chestnut-crowned Warbler which showed well constantly calling.

Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Just around the corner we heard the familiar call which Sid immediately called out as sounding similar to Three-blind mice, three-blind mice. For those in the know like Sid, this meant that it was a singing Pygmy Wren Babbler. After a wait of perhaps 10mins we finally got a glimpse of this mega skulker. As we climbed further up the winding paths we got more and more into Forktail country. Soon enough I manged to find my first Forktail and the one I really wanted to see most the Little Forktail. It turned out it was actually a pair and we stayed and watched them for about 30mins.

Little Forktail - BOOM!

We then carried on having good searches of all likely looking Forktail habitat and then my little brother shouted out that he had found one about 100yds further upstream. He then shouted that he had two! These turned out to be the much bigger and equally amazing Spotted Forktail and once again we watched avidly for over 30mins! What a way to lose an hour!

Spotted Forktail - BOOM! BOOM!
Soon enough it was time to start heading back down the mountain and we added a few bits on the way such as Hwarmei, Dusky Fulvetta and a single Eurasian Sparrowhawk. We also saw several Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-throated Tit and then heard a very close Collared Owlet. We then decided to have one last punt and finding Golden Parrotbill as Sid knew that this was one species that I really wanted to see however Sid had never recorded it here.

Golden Parrotbill - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
None of us could believe it when one, then two started calling and came so close to investigate the Collared Owlet song. We ended up seeing four of this much sought-after bird and I could not believe how close they came and how unbothered they were about our presence. It brought to the end our time in the mountains and it was finally time to head back to Chengdu. Sid mentioned that he had a site for Long-billed Plover if we wanted to stop off on the way to the airport. I jumped at the chance and we managed to find 2 Long-billed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Long-tailed Shrike, Night Heron, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Kingfisher and several Little Egrets.

Long-billed Plover

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