was a succesful and quite affordable trip. Nollie and I had a great time with our guide
and driver Sid Francis. Sid is from the UK but lives near Chengdu, the
capital of Sichuan. He is
a serious and enthousiastic birder (employed in field research as
well), a good driver, and skilful in
logistics. He speaks enough Chinese to bring you anywhere, and where
his Chinese was not sufficient, he just took his mobile phone to call
his Chinese wife Meggie to have things sorted out. See his
his own Suzuki van, with untinted windows (a rarity here but much
better for birding of course), good ground clearance and ample space
for our luggage and scope.
had a flexible itinerary, so we could decide where to go depending on
the weather (which was rather variable) and the road conditions, and
depending on what bird species (lifers) we still needed. The
highlights we saw were, among others, Severtzov's (Chinese) Grouse,
Chinese Monal, Lady Amherst Pheasant, White and Blue Eared Pheasant,
Black-necked Crane, Sichuan Jay, Chinese and Kessler's Thrush, Chinese
Blue Flycatcher, Firethroat, White-bellied, Hodgson's and
White-throated Redstart, Przewalski's Nuthatch, Sichuan and Hodgson's
Treecreeper, White-browed Tit, Russet and Chestnut-crowned Bush
Warbler, Crested and White-browed Tit-Warbler, Sichuan, Gansu, Chinese
and Emei Leaf Warbler, Plain, Snowy-cheeked, Giant and Red-winged
Laughingthrush, Hwamei, Emei Shan Liocichla, Golden-breasted, Chinese
and Spectacled Fulvetta, Great, Ashy-throated, Grey-hooded, Fulvous
and Golden Parrotbill, Tibetan Lark, Tibetan and Rufous-necked
Snowfinch, Maroon-backed Accentor, Tibetan Siskin, Brandt's Mountain
Finch, Long-tailed, Vinaceous and Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Slaty
Bunting; Tibetan Fox and Pallas's Cat.
and restaurants were easy to find. We opted for hotels close to the
birding sites, which means that they were sometimes a bit simpler than
better hotels further away, but always with private bathroom with hot
shower, for c. 10 euro to sometimes 30 euro per room (mostly around 15
euro). We preferred to eat in simple but busy restaurants, and never
had any stomach problems. In the restaurants we often went straight to
the kitchen to see what food they had, and we mostly had delicious
tofu dishes with vegetables and rice and a beer, in total for 2 to 3
euro p.p. For the early breakfast we brought some bread and jam etc.
into our room (nearly all rooms had water cookers to make tea), or had
breakfast in the field. For lunch we sometimes had a meal in a
restaurant, but often we had a bread lunch in the field.
and driving went on for most of the daylight hours. We used our
telescope quite a few times (for pheasants, raptors etc.), but we
chose not to bring it on forest trails. Sid had brought all the
essential bird sounds, for reference and for taping out, and he also
used his recording equipment. Of course we used the MacKinnon &
Phillipps field guide, and Sid could tell us which illustrations are
not fully right, at least for Sichuan. Also, he knows the recent
splits. We also used Mark Brazil’s Birds of Eastern Asia, which had
better illustrations for some of the species. Every evening we did a
roll-call for the checklist, together with Sid.
our birding localities, see the Sichuan map below and the
birding sites photo section. Our itinerary was:
Day 1-3 Wolong hills (+ lower half of Wuyipeng mountain) and Balang
Best trip ticks (all seen): Chinese Monal, Snow Partridge, White Eared
Pheasant, Snow Pigeon, Lammergeier, White-throated Needletail,
Swinhoe's Minivet, Kessler's Thrush, Firethroat, Grandala, Sichuan
Tit, Collared Finchbill, Alpine, Chinese, Claudia's and Kloss's Leaf
Warbler, Bianchi's Warbler, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Streak-breasted
Scimitar Babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Rosy Pipit,
Rufous-breasted Accentor, Plain and Brandt's Mountain Finch,
White-browed and Red-fronted Rosefinch, Collared Grosbeak.
Day 1. We changed all the money we needed at the airport after arrival (Bank of
China). This is the easiest place to change money without filling in a
pile of paperwork. From the airport we drove to Wolong (ca 4 hrs
drive). Arrived in afternoon, and went for a short walk to the lower
part of the Wuyipeng trail. Next morning early (day 2) we went to
Balang pass, in splendid weather (that's why we went there as quick as
possible after our arrival in China). Second half of afternoon
Wuyipeng trail and above Wolong. Day 3, whole morning on lower part of
Wuyipeng trail. Afternoon drive to Chengdu, stay in Holly’s Hostel.
Day 4-5 driving and birding via Juizhaigou (JZ) to Ruoergai high plateau.
Best trip ticks: Black-necked Crane, Pallas's Gull, Collared Crow, Groundpecker,
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Himalayan Bluetail, White-throated, Hodgson's
and Daurian Redstart, Dusky, Yellow-streaked, Buff-throated and
Rufous-faced Warbler, Plain, Elliott's and Black-faced Laughingthrush,
Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Tibetan Snowfinch, Maroon-backed Accentor,
Tibetan Siskin, Beautiful and Pink-rumped (Stresemann's) Rosefinch,
Grey-headed Bullfinch, Godlewski's Bunting.
Day 4: after good breakfast at Holly's drove to JZ. After the highway
we made many stops when good birds were seen. Lunch in Pingwu, visit
to the old temple on our request (and we were the only visitors).
Night at JZ. Next morning (day 5): rain and fog. Decided not to go
into JZ, but drive on to Ruoergai. Along the road stops at the
productive ‘quarry track’ (rainy) and many stops on the snowy pass
to look at birds along the road. Stay at Ruoergai.
Day 6-8 Ruoergai and Baxi valley, and drive to JZ.
Best trip ticks: Blood Pheasant, Chinese (Severtzov's) Grouse, Blue
Eared Pheasant, Black Woodpecker, Little Owl, Himalayan Buzzard, Saker
Falcon, Sichuan Jay, Short-billed Minivet, Siberian Rubythroat,
Daurian (Purple-backed) Starling, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Wallcreeper,
Hodgson's Treecreeper, White-browed, Rufous-vented and Grey-crested
Tit, Yellow-bellied and Spotted Bush Warbler, Sichuan and Gansu Leaf
Warbler, Crested Tit-Warbler, Snowy-cheeked and Giant Laughingthrush,
Chinese Fulvetta, Tibetan Lark, White-rumped and Rufous-necked
Snowfinch, Citrine Wagtail calcarata, White-winged Grosbeak,
Pallas's Cat (!), Tibetan Fox.
6: morning to Baxi road, birding along road and in bushy side valley.
Also short visit to monastery, on our request. Afternoon: driving
westwards from Ruoergai to Flower Lake (we chose not to take the ridiculous
drive in a 4WD with tinted windows to the FlowerLake proper, but
instead walk from the main road into
even better Tibetan Lark habitat). Day 7: most
of the day in Baxi valley, now also higher up into the coniferous
forest. Day 8: morning drive westward to the ‘First Bend in the
Yellow River’, afternoon drive to JZ, dusk walk on ‘quarry
track’ again, late arrival in JZ.
Day 9-11: JZ to Pingwu to Ya'an to Wawu hills.
Best trip ticks: Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Brown
Dipper, (Chinese) Blackbird, Chinese (Song) Thrush, Dark-sided,
Ferruginous, Yellow-rumped and Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Little
Forktail, Yellow-bellied Tit, Brown-flanked and Russet Bush Warbler,
Eastern Crowned and Emei Leaf Warbler, Hwamei, Spot-breasted Scimitar
Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Spectacled and Dusky Fulvetta,
White-collared Yuhina, Ashy-throated and Golden Parrotbill, Forest
Wagtail, Long-tailed and Vinaceous Rosefinch, Slaty, Black-faced and
Elegant (Yellow-throated) Bunting.
9: rain again! So skipped a visit to the JZ park again. Birding at
many stops along the road to Pingwu. Side road to Monkey park for the
first km, and further on the main road several stops on the forested
pass West. Night in Pingwu. Day 10: morning visit to forest park above
Pingwu town, and to the famous market hall. Driving for most of the
rest of the day, short walk uphill after lunch. Night in Ya’an. Day
11: drive to Wawu, many stops along road: scenic side valley with
stream, side track uphill, veggie gardens along forest, end of
afternoon birding lower part Wawu and along the road to cable car.
Dusk drive to find tragopan and Lady A Pheasant. Stay at one of the
cottages near lower cable car station.
Day 12-14 Wawu and back to Chengdu; departure on day 15.
Best trip ticks: Lady Amherst Pheasant (males), Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo,
Oriental Pratincole, Grey-headed Lapwing, Long-billed Plover,
Grey-faced Buzzard, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Golden Bush Robin,
White-bellied Redstart, Sichuan Treecreeper, Chestnut-crowned,
Aberrant and Brown Bush Warbler, Spotted, Buffy and Red-winged
Laughingthrush, Emei Shan Liocichla, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Chinese
Babax, Grey-hooded Fulvetta, Great, Brown, Grey-hooded and Fulvous
Parrotbill, Yellow-billed Grosbeak.
12 Dawn drive for Lady A pheasant, then to Wawu top forest, still many
visitors because of public holiday, found one quiet trail, afternoon
drive down for bush-warblers and pheasants, stay in same room. Day 13
dawn pheasant drive, again to top forest, late afternoon along road.
Day 14 morning birding along road, then drive back to Chengdu via
Long-billed Plover site. Stay at Holly’s again. Day 15, some
shopping at electronics mall Computer World together with Sid and Meggie (thanks
Meggie for bargaining for us!) to buy some extra birdsound equipment etc.
Final checklist in restaurant in departure hall.
So, we traded the extremely busy Juizhaigou national park in for other, lower
birding sites nearby as the weather happened to be too rainy and misty
at both days we were in JZ. We probably even got more lifers this way.
this 15-day well-guided private trip we observed 258 bird species of
which 116 were lifers (seen).
As we mainly went for lifers, we occasionally skipped
possible trip ticks which would take a long time.
See the complete species list. See also comments at the
and our modest
Listen to some sound recordings at the bottom of this page.
total cost of this trip was very reasonable, even compared with
self-guided trips (but Sid's rate understandably has gone up since).
from birds we keep many other nice memories of China and the Chinese.
See the section with other
It was a pleasure to be there.
Our guide Sid Francis,
who lives in Sichuan.
Pingwu market hall