Saturday, 14 July 2012

The gorge country of Qinghai.

It rained heavily for most of the night. I know this for a fact, as the roof leaked and water poured virtually non-stop, on to the carpet, right next to my bed! Despite this minor set back, I slept well and was raring to go! It was dark outside as we climbed into the four wheel drives, but not cold! Great! First time for everything! Yushu was deserted at this early hour but we could see the destruction that the earthquake had wrecked on this town. Lots of tents and temporary shelters still to be seen. I look to the skyline as dawn is breaking and see that this town is in a wonderful setting. The Mekong river has carved a huge gorge through the landscape & this is the route we followed out of town. It was a nice drive.

The road out of town.
Dramatic gorges line the road.
As we slowly descend, it gets greener.

After a couple of hours, we stopped at the base of some high cliffs. It was nice to be here and quickly we spied our prey - the rare and range restricted Roborovski's Rosefinch. A male perches nicely high above us. Yet another stunning Rosefinch to add to our ever burgeoning lists! A rather drabber, sandy female is found nearby. A lone Robin Accentor reminds us that we are still quite high.

Who would have thought that the Mekong river
 gets so big & travels so far?

 Everyone is smiling this morning after this start! We move on further down the valley, closely following the mighty Mekong.
The sun comes out and light plays across the gorges that flank us on both sides. It is a stunning location, more akin to the Alps, than Asia and a far cry from those endless grasslands and those high mountain passes.
White-eared Pheasant habitat.

Our destination is Nangqian our base for the next five nights! It will be great to stay put for a while. But before we get there, we have a couple of stops for birding. One of our stops is a lightly wooded valley with large open areas, we scan feverishly, because one of our most wanted birds hides and lives here - the magnificant White-eared Pheasant! Quickly, we find a couple, then a few more, until eleven are seen dotted across the hillside. They are quite far, but still provide good scope views. What a bird!
Himalayan Griffons are regular, soaring above the cliffs and an Ibisbill is spotted on the river. Grey-backed Shrikes sit atop high trees. Magpies suddenly become common, these being the bottanensis race of the Common Magpie, which could soon become split as the Tibetan Magpie.

It looks the same in this view!
Check out the primaries!
Daurian Jackdaw.

Another crow, the Daurian Jackdaw also becomes common.

Jesper and I decide that we are having withdrawal symptoms - we haven't yet climbed a steep hill today. We quickly climb an incredibly steep hillside to discover that the others didn't fancy it and are still on the road far below! I am rewarded by my first brilliant White-browed Tit-Warbler. What a bird! I now have the complete set!
We gingerly descend the severe slope and all re-united, we spot a couple of Kozlov's Babax. A bizarre bird, quickly bouncing up and down along the ground between bushes. Kessler's Thrushes seem to be everywhere. Our first Pink-rumped Rosefinches are found and appear to be locally common.

Very shy McNeil's Deer.
A herd of Red Deer are spotted - these of a distinct race known as McNeil's Deer, maybe a future split.
The endemic White-lipped Deer.

White-lipped Deer are seen further down the valley.
We all experience all four seasons today, bright sunshine interpersed with everything else, including a huge destructive hail storm which has to be seen to be believed!

The entrance to the town:
Buddist influence is everywhere.
It is getting late, as we enter Nangqian, our temporary home for the next few nights.

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