Friday, 20 September 2013

Recovering from bad news!

It was nice to be in Xinang again, a comfortable place to stay with good food & good beer.

 It is a bright, clean & very modern city
 of over 2 million people!

What could possibly go wrong? Well it went wrong, & badly! We received news from my wife Carol that China had just closed down Tibet to foreigners! We were supposed to catch the train to Lhasa & then fly back. But that plan was stopped in its tracks! Jesper arranged a side trip for us to bird a nice area of mountains with good forest, only a few hours drive away. So we hid our disappointment & went along with the plan.
Wonderful scenic, green valleys, 
cloaked with dense scrub & forest.

Birding on very steep ridges, 
was a bit of a challenge!

All this shagging up & down mountains 
took it's toll on some!

Mike, taking a leaf ,or was it a branch ,
out of a Panda's book & building himself a den, 
as protection from the passing storm.

Blue-eared Pheasant - 
the reason we were walking all those ridges!

Spotted Bush Warblers were in the scrub
 along the ridge tops.

 We had a genuine surprise waiting for us. 
Our hotel was newly built, modern & clean!

There was also an extra bonus - it was smack bang 
in the middle of the national park
 & on that cliff behind it was this...


Of course, all the best birding areas 
were on the other side of the river - again!

 At first walking was easy!

 But, of course, we climbed higher!

Stunning forested valley.

We all had some of our best views ever
 of a Northern Goshawk!
 Chinese Nuthatches were common in the tall trees.

Przevalski's Nuthatch was also found
 in the same place.

The stunning Chestnut Thrush was also
 in good numbers in the forest.

With a bit of tape playback, we saw this fantastic
 male White-bellied Redstart.

 White-throated Redstart - a real stunner!

The female was also helping out!

I think we all enjoyed our two days here. It made a welcome change from the very high altitude of the previous few weeks. We saw some great birds in a great location & we had a clean room, with a soft bed to sleep on!

Hiking the Ala Shan Mountains

We yet again had a lot of mileage to cover and as we pressed eastwards, the scenery became more and more arid.

The eastern race of Black Kite (lineatus), looks very different from the birds in Western Europe & was a constant companion by the roadside.

 Black Kite

We spotted a Henderson's Ground Jay near the roadside and spent sometime obtaining photos of this wonderful bird. It is like a giant Greater Hoopoe Lark on steroids!

Ground Jay habitat.

One of the birds of the trip!

We turned up a side valley towards a distant monastery and suddenly we were surrounded by a green and pleasant land with a nice stream running down the valley. The mountains were covered in sparse Juniper woodland and it as here that our target bird lived.

 As we climbed higher, the scenery became
 more & more stunning!

A Golden Eagle soaring over the valley

 The Ali Shan Redstart a beautiful, rare and rarely seen species. We started the steep climb up the slopes. It turned out to be a wonderful hike, in magnificent surroundings. Birds were a little thin on the ground but eventually we found a pair of the Redstarts and it did not disappoint! Whow!

 Ali Shan Redstart! What a bird!

 Blue-fronted Redsarts were in the more open, 
rocky areas.

 White-throated Redstarts were common.

White-browed Tit

White-browed Tit-Warbler found on the higher, 
more scrubby areas.

Rufous-browed Accentors were found 
on the higher slopes.

 The drier side of the mountain chain.

 Birding, in a big sky environment.

The next day was spent hiking in similar terrain but on the rain shadow side of the watershed. Here the terrain is a little more arid & there are a slightly different set of birds to be found. 
We all enjoyed the sunshine and Jesper and I decided to get on up there and scale those peaks! We had a great six hour hike, with more Redstarts on show and our only Cinereous Vulture of the trip flew over.

Jesper - enjoying the spectacular view.

Cinereous Vulture

 Blue Sheep were at the higher elevations

 Brown Accentors were common.

 Margelanic Lesser Whitethroat
a distinct species?

A few Pine Buntings were found 
on the more grassy hillsides.

We moved on to the nearby more desert-like steppes and enjoyed more views of Henderson's Ground Jays3 Black Storks flew over.

 These birds were by the side of the main highway!

Black Stork, common in the more arid mountains
 with braided streams.

The following day saw us back on the road driving towards Koko Nor Lake, here we had started the trip. We had just completed a huge circuit around the Tibetan Plateau!

 A typical shop in this part of the world.
 Read the wording on the window carefully - 
it didn't have any of those items!

 Koko Nor Lake

 Friendly locals, doing a spot of birding!

The mozzies were unbelievably bad!

We once more arrived in Xingang & stayed in our comfortable lodgings.