Birding in Xinjiang Day 8- 乌鲁木齐南山观鸟

Yippee, I am finally onto the write up of the last day of birding in Xinjiang! As always, I love adventures and as I write, I couldn’t help but grinned at the funny incidents; and all these great moments will go down memory lane.  I am no author nor do I have talent in writing, so thank you for visiting my blog! :P

We made a day trip to the Xinjiang Southern Mountains, aka Nanshan! As part of Tien Shan, the mountain stretches deep into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The landscape was just way beyond awesome!

breathtaking view of Xinjiang Nanshan!

breathtaking view of Xinjiang Nanshan!

It was a windy day again, and we later regretted not waking up early as it seemed the winds took up speed by late morning- Climate change expert said that it has to do with landscape! Anyway we have some good finds…below’s the list and some of the photos taken! :)

Red-fronted Serin- 金额丝雀

Common Rock Thrush-白背矶鸫

Plain Mountain Finch-林岭雀

Eurasian Nuthatch-普通鳾

Common Linnet-赤胸朱顶雀

European Roller-蓝胸佛法僧

Rock Sparrow-石雀

Wheaters, Shrikes, Ravens and more!

From left-Rock thrush, Rock sparrow, Red-fronted serin in Xinjiang, Nanshan

From left-Rock thrush, Rock sparrow, Red-fronted serin in Xinjiang, Nanshan

However, the highlight was finding a pair of Blue-capped Redstart (蓝头红尾鸲)! This male looked pretty handsome! Another lifer for me! :)

blue-capped redstart in Nanshan

blue-capped redstart in Nanshan

It was an awesome trip in short! We saw over 160 species of birds, and many were lifers for me! Of course, I couldn’t have seen as much without my eagle-eyed partner.. Well, enough of birds…! Here’s more pictures of Nanshan to end my chapter of Xinjiang birding! :) It’s a brilliant place, and I’d definitely visit again!

On the way to Nanshan, just had to stick my head out!

On the way to Nanshan, just had to stick my head out!

 

Chinese Stonehenge..so funny!

Chinese Stonehenge..so funny!

 

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Birding in Xinjiang Day 7- 新疆观鸟:130团-白湖

We spent the whole morning at the hotel watching Desert Finches and Common Nightingales build nests and feed the chicks! Funny that the males just kept a close watch but did nothing! :-/

At the nearby nature reserve, we saw Common Terns and European Bee-eaters (黄喉蜂虎) and their nests..! Sand Martins (崖沙燕) mated on wires, House Sparrows, Barred Warblers (横斑林莺)  and European Rollers (蓝胸佛法僧) offered food to their partners. Well, what can I say…its the breeding season and love is in the air! :P

Breeding time!

From left-European roller, Sand Martin, European bee-eater

Common Tern at 130 township in Xinjiang. Tawny pipit at another reed site!

Common Tern at 130 township in Xinjiang. Tawny pipit at another reed site!

While en-route back to the white lake at Urumqi (we missed a bird on day 1, so we went back to get it!!), we stopped at a reed area for pipits and warblers. It was a long drive again with no lunch and by the time we arrived at the white lake, it was already 5pm! Clouds cluttered and light drizzles had livened up the birds! The bird we missed was the Spanish Sparrow (黑胸麻雀)! Despite many Tree Sparrows around, it was quickly identified due to is distinctive colors on the head and breast! Very strange that Spanish would breed in China…lol! Again, lifer for me! :)

Spanish sparrow at white lake, Xinjiang

Spanish sparrow at white lake, Xinjiang

And our dinner? We had mutton dumplings before moving on to the spiciest Sichuan noodles ever! :v

10 Yuan only.

10 Yuan for spicy Sichuan Noodle.

 

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Birding in Xinjiang Day 6 Part2/2- 新疆观鸟, 布尔津-130团

After high-fiving for the close encounter with the Pallas Sandgrouse, we were back on the road again! We made a brief stop back at the forest in Urho, Karamay (乌尔禾) but birds wouldn’t come out to play on such a windy day! I don’t blame them… :-/

We kept on a look-out for the desert finch which we have yet to see while our driver was driving us to our pit stop, the ex-military township “130”. According to our birding itinerary, we should see the desert finch! Our conversation about the possibilities of missing them was interrupted by our driver who convinced us that the desert finch will be in the forest, next to our hotel. We were puzzled! According to the guide book, the bird should be in semi-desert area! We were very much convinced he had mistaken the desert finch for another bird! :P

It was 5:30pm when we arrived at the 130 township! As light was still strong, we quickly scanned the nature reserve nearby and saw a Black Tern! But the real highlight of the day was arriving at our hotel.

“Where’s the forest”? I asked. “This is the forest” was the answer from my driver. I just had to burst into laughter-the “forest” was just a few trees and plants stemming on both sides of the hotel. A forest it is! *Roll Eyes*  And because our driver said the desert finch is a resident in this “forest”, we asked him to find it for us! To our surprise, he found them in just minutes! There they were, prancing on the branches of a tree! Driver chuckled as it was a victorious win for him!! It was hilarious..! Maybe the hotel looked like an oasis to the desert finches-they were found breeding and raising chicks in this so called “forest”!! Well, here are the photos of the Desert Finches (巨嘴沙雀)!

The male Desert Finch in oasis!

The male Desert Finch in oasis!

desert finch couple in Xinjiang

desert finch couple in Xinjiang

Another amazing bird that calls this “forest” home is the Common Nightingale (新疆歌鸲)! There were a few singing in the garden and were very tame too! How cool is that to wake up to these talented singers?! :)

PS. The term “forest” now has a totally new meaning…hehehe!

nightingale in hotel garden, Xinjiang

nightingale in hotel garden, Xinjiang

And this is our driver! :)

Our driver in Xinjiang

Our driver in Xinjiang. 柱子,新疆

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Birding in Xinjiang Day 6 Part1/2- 新疆观鸟, 布尔津-130团

What a long drive-from Burqin to an ex-military area known as “130”, took more than 6 hours! :-/ Packed with crisps, water and we sneaked some dumplings and eggs from breakfast (signs of no lunch… >.<), we drove past sand dunes, rocky terrains and windmills but didn’t see much until we arrived on a highway with rocky boulders on both sides! Here, the Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel and Red-billed Chough were neighbours! It was a very windy day and even though my bazooka lens and tripod saved me from flying away, I couldn’t stabalise myself, let alone walking! >.<“

kestrel in Burqin

Common kestrel taking shelter from the strong wind!

Soon we were back on the road again! On a few occasions, we saw a few Pallas Sandgrouse flew by, but it was the Mongolian finch (蒙古沙雀) that stirred up a moment of excitement after having driven for 2-3 hours! Yippee, another lifer for me! :)

Mongolian finch in Xinjiang

Mongolian finch in Xinjiang

After constant driving for another 2 hours, with semi-desert landscapes undulated before us…I thought my partner was suffering from an illusion when he asked our driver to take a detour as he spotted some Pallas Sandgrouse (毛腿沙鸡)! I was almost in*SLEEP* mode when he confirmed his sightings! Luckily, I did not miss this brilliant moment, or I would have *PUNCHED* myself!! :)

pallas sandgrouse in xinjiang

pallas sandgrouse in xinjiang

By the time we saw the Pallas Sandgrouse, it was already 2 p.m. and we’re still a long way from our destination! =_=”

PS. Here’s the view along the way!

View along the road, Xinjiang

View along the road, Xinjiang

 

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Birding in Xinjiang day 5 新疆观鸟-布尔津

After breakfast, we were driven to a village called Chonghu’er (冲乎尔乡), which was renowned for Red-backed Shrikes and other forest birds and buntings! The drive from Burqin, Altay region was just an hour away, but the terrains we passed by just blew my mind away!

Buerqin surroundings

We stopped for landscape photo shoots!

We were hopeful for accentors along the way but couldn’t find any! But as our car twirled round the steep bends towards the village, a short-toed eagle flew in the same area where the marmot was spotted! A double surprise even before getting to the actual birding spot! :P Not sure what marmot it was, but its always great to see four-legged wildlife!

short-toed eagle and marmot in Xinjiang

short-toed eagle and marmot in Xinjiang

At the village, red-backed shrikes (红背伯劳) kept a comfortable distance from us but our patience paid off when they eventually allowed us to get closer!

red-back shrike couple in Burqin, Altay region

red-back shrike couple in Burqin, Altay region

There were lots of cow dung in the fields on both sides of the trail- no sign of dung beetles, but plenty of birds!! The road seemed busy with tractors and bikes; and locals were curious to find foreigners in their village! But smiles were all over, and birds here seemed to mind their own business! Some of the birds seen here included:

Ortolan Bunting, 圃鹀

Spotted Flycatcher, 斑鹟

Yellowhammer, 黄鹀

Pine Bunting, 白头鹀

European Greenfinch, 欧金翅雀

Mistle thrush with chicks, 槲鸫

Fieldfare, 田鸫

Wood warbler, 林柳莺

European Goldfinch, 红额金翅雀

yellowhammer and mistle thrush with chicks in Xinjiang, China

yellowhammer and mistle thrush with chicks in Xinjiang, China

 

from left- Pine bunting, Ortolan bunting, Spotted flycatcher

from left- Pine bunting, Ortolan bunting, Spotted flycatcher

Having spent the whole noon here (we skipped lunch again, :-/) we went back to the magical forest to get better photos of the super-star, Black Woodpecker! It was a relaxing day of birding with many findings! :)

Here’s how the trail looked like! If you look carefully, you’ll see many cow dungs in the field…  *COUGH*

Birding trail in Burqin

Birding trail in Burqin

 

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Birding in Xinjiang day 4 新疆观鸟: 阿勒泰-布尔津

This was the day we got arrested! Our driver took us to a mountain park in Burqin county, approx. an hour’s drive from Altay Region. Unfortunately, this park is very close to the border of Kazakhstan! No one bothered us in the beginning but words spread fast in China! Very soon the China Border Police came up the hill to pick us and took us to the police station and have us “interrogated” (they asked the same questions over and over again), our documents and cameras checked, and photo taken (a police officer told me not to smile at the camera.. :-/ )

Luckily for us, we only had food and bird photos to show them! Anyway, we did some birding before our arrest! Birds seen at the mountain park included the Mistle thrush, Willow tit, Coal tit, Black-throated Bunting, and Booted eagle, etc.

coal tit, border of Kazakhstan and Xinjiang

coal tit, border of Kazakhstan and Xinjiang

Booted eagle at border of Xinjiang and Kazakhstan

Booted eagle at border of Xinjiang and Kazakhstan

After an hour’s stay at the police station (I wished them well before leaving), we continued our birding along what the Chinese called it the Xinjiang Clain River( 克兰河) ! Its probably more spectacular than the Clain River in Western France-I have never seen landscape as amazing as this, have you? :P

 different colored waters..!

different colored waters..!

Along this route, we saw the following-

Montagu’s Harrier (乌灰鹞)

Greylag Goose (灰雁)

Black-tailed Godwit (黑尾塍鹬)

White-headed Duck (白头硬尾鸭)

Dunlin (黑腹滨鹬)

Red-crested Pochard (赤嘴潜鸭)

red-crested Pochard in Xinjiang

red-crested Pochard in Xinjiang

We drove all day, well our driver did-he was very determined to show us the likely areas for the Daurian Partridge (斑翅山鹑), but we couldn’t find it! :-/

By 3pm we found ourselves in yet another magical forest! The stars here included the

White-Backed Woodpecker (白背啄木鸟)

White-Winged Woodpecker (白翅啄木鸟)

Black Woodpecker (黑啄木鸟)

Common Chaffinch (苍头燕雀) and more!

white-back woodpecker in Northern Xinjiang

white-back woodpecker in Northern Xinjiang

black woodpecker

black woodpecker

chaffinch feeding chick

chaffinch feeding chick

It was a day with lots of happenings but no lunch! Back at the hotel, I wished the Pallid Scops Owl would call again outside my window. :)

PS. We had dog-fish for dinner

Highly recommend this dog-fish

Highly recommend this dog-fish

 

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Birding in Xinjiang Day3 新疆福海-北屯-阿勒泰

Our first birding stop was actually a local park in Fuhai (福海). It looked pretty deserted to me, but the birds loved that its so scruffy! :) Birds here chirped as loudly and merrily as ever, as if to say this playground belonged to them! Birds found in this park included Wrynecks (蚁鴷) -there were a few!; Greenfinches ( 欧金翅雀), Isabelline Shrikes (荒漠伯劳), Common Rosefinches (普通朱雀), Tree Pipits (林鹨), warblers, etc!

From left- Common Rosefinch, Wryneck

From left- Common Rosefinch, Wryneck

Isabelline shrike in Xinjiang

Isabelline shrike in Xinjiang

At the lake in the park, this animal swam across the lake which caught our attention! I am totally clueless on the ID, I think its a rodent…! >.<“

What is this?

What is this?

Think it was another 2-3 hr drive from Fuhai to Beitun- not sure! But we didn’t have Lunch and that’s for sure! :-/ While en-route to Beitun, our driver was determined to show us Horned Grebes (角鸊鷉). I was very excited as its a lifer for me! But getting close was a challenge! My shoes were drenched with murky water… Here’s a record handheld shot with my bazooka lens.

horned grebe

horned grebe

It was very windy by the time we arrived at a forest in Beitun area. We saw some chaffinches in the beginning but the wind was so “noisy” that we could hardly hear any sounds from our feathered friends! Rather than waiting for wind to die down, we decided to try another area while en-route to Altay for the night.

At a semi-desert area, trucks nimbled along the sandy track, but birds didn’t seem to be bothered by them! Highlights here included the Red-footed falcon (西红脚隼), Kestrel, Eurasian Curlew, Demoiselle cranes (蓑羽鹤), Pallas gulls and by the lake (mini one) we saw some grey Plovers (灰斑鸻) too!

red-footed falcon

red-footed falcon

demoiselle cranes in Xinjiang

demoiselle cranes in Xinjiang

kestrel in Altay, Xinjiang

kestrel in Altay, Xinjiang

Here’s a cool view of how this desert looked like! :)

Altay, Xinjiang

Altay, Xinjiang

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Birding in Xinjiang Day 2 新疆石河子-乌尔禾-福海

This was a long drive from Shihezi (石河子) to Fuhai (福海)! After our breakfast, our driver took us to some deserted pond in search for litte bittern! The pond was just next to some gas station…but reeds were ripped off for some reason, and needless to say, we couldnt see the bird! Moving on, we made stops on the highway…in particular, we saw a few European Bee-eaters (黄喉蜂虎)! Its about time they’ve arrived in this part of Xinjiang, and we’re reassured we’ll see loads more!

On both sides of the highway were semi-desert, and we took a detour! We made a short stop at one area hoping to scan for some raptors, but only managed to see a lizard at the beginning! But as we moved along the sandy, bumpy trail, we saw Isabelline Wheatears, Crested Larks, Desert Wheaters, and highlight was a pair of Saxaul Sparrows (黑顶麻雀)! :P

saxaul sparrows

saxaul sparrows

The toll station was just a short distance away, but since we’re off the highway, we twirled round the toll fee station and that saved us 10 yuan..! LOL!

After a quick lunch, we headed for a forest in Urho, Karamay (乌尔禾)! We were told this forest is called the “Magic Forest”. As we got off the car, immediately we saw a White-winged woodpecker pecking on a tree next to our car! What a delight to see this beautiful bird at such close distance… :)

white-winged woodpecker

white-winged woodpecker

Moving deeper into the forest trail, Azure tits (灰蓝山雀), Turkestan tits (西域山雀), Hume’s warbler (淡眉柳莺) were seen prancing around in mid-noon! We also heard intricate songs from Nightingales but spotting them was a challenge! As we followed the song, we encountered Lesser Whitethroat (白喉林莺), and Sykes’s Warbler (赛氏篱莺) who loved the shrubs but for us to move in closer was more than difficult as the trail was muddy..! Nightingale (新疆歌鸲) finally made a brief show for us, but soon popped back into the bushes!

Azure Tit and Olivaceous Warbler

Azure Tit and Syke’s Warbler

 

Lesser Whitethroat and Turkestan Tit

Yellow Wagtail  and Turkestan Tit

When we headed back to the car, our driver babbled about seeing a pair of raptors and had messaged us…but we only received the message after we caught up with him! Talk about China mobile network…. :-/

Before we head to Fuhai county for the night, our last birding spot was a ranch (国营二牧场)! Here, the Bluethroat (蓝喉歌鸲) was very tame and sang in the open! We tried to search for Short-eared owl here but didnt see any..! Other birds included Demoiselle cranes, 蓑羽鹤 (probably over 200) and flying Pallas Sandgrouse, Great Cormorants, Grey-headed Buntings and a Black-Throated Thrush (黑颈鸫)!

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

It was 6pm when we began our journey to our hotel in Fuhai. As we drove along the highway, an Upland Buzzard (大鵟) was spotted! How cool is that!

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

We finally checked in to a not so dodgy hotel at 9pm! :P The highlight for the day was not the birds to me but a very funny event that happened over dinner, which kept me grinning till this day…I am really tempted to share my story here…but I think birding Guru will *KICK* me if I do! :P :P

PS. This was our quickie lunch shared~~”

20140511_134204

 

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Birding in Xinjiang, China- Day 1 新疆白湖,石河子

Just back from an awesome 8 day adventure in Xinjiang, China! Xinjiang is in my “Must Visit” list, but with so many news of terrorism in the province, my plan has been put on hold until now!

Upon arrival, we were quickly whisked off to see my dream bird- Donald Duck! About 20km away from Urumqi Airport, there is a place called White Lake (白湖), nestled on the foothill of a mountain, surrounded by Industrial works…!

Not sure how the lake got its name, but it certainly didn’t look white to me! But the lake seems to be a favorite hangout for Donald ducks (White headed duck, 白头硬尾鸭), who return every year to this place. Others included the Black-necked Grebe (黑颈䴙䴘), Gadwall, Greater-crested Grebe (凤头䴙䴘), and horned larks (角百灵) and wheatears also visit this area!

Below are some photos taken..! :)

white-headed duck at White lake, Xinjiang

white-headed duck at White lake, Xinjiang

black-necked grebe, Xinjiang

black-necked grebe, Xinjiang

From left- Isabelline wheatear, Horned lark

From left- Isabelline wheatear, Horned lark

By the time we’ve finished our birding session, it was already 3pm…and there was no sign of lunch! :(  Quickly, I suggested to have some dumplings before driving to the next location which was about 2-3 hours away!

Dumplings!

It was about 2 hours drive to our pit stop, Shihezi (石河子) city for the night! As day is longer in Xinjiang, we quickly scanned the Moguhu Reservoir (蘑菇湖水庫). Here, we found plenty of Peewits, Collared Pratincole, and common starling, gulls, etc! I wished we’ve spent more time in this place, but by 7pm we’re knackered, and we checked ourselves into a dodgy inn! It was  a brilliant half day of birding! :)

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Home sweet home for Easter

Just back from a great breakaway in Singapore, and spent quality time with friends and family and of course did some birding! :P April is definitely not the best time to visit Singapore as rain showers are regular and that they very likely become thunderstorms! Despite a stormy day, me and my friends hiked up to the Tree-Top walk in MacRitchie Reservoir on Good Friday. None of my friends were hikers and little did they know the whole trip would take more than 3 hours! It was a wet day, but we (only 2) did see some birds along the way- Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Emerald Dove, Flameback woodpecker, Banded woodpecker, Blue-throated Beeater, etc! By the end of the walk, everyone was flat out! And while some were desperate for food, another was busy soothing the mozzie bites and there were so many that I lost count! =__=’ Nonetheless, the day was fantastic and we had a good prata dinner! :)

tree-top walk in Singapore

tree-top walk in Singapore

Despite the tight, busy schedule devouring the local food I sorely missed, I still managed to squeeze in some time to visit Pasir Ris Park, Lower Pierce Reservoir, Japanese Garden and Bidadari Cemetery, etc! Thanks to a good birder friend of mine, who drove us from park to park, from West to East and Central! Thanks Low! :)

Here are some photos taken during the trip!

little corella, coppersmith barbet in Singapore

little corella, coppersmith barbet in Singapore

From right-oriental honey buzzard, green imperial pigeon, pied hornbill

From right-oriental honey buzzard, green imperial pigeon, pied hornbill

spotted wood owl- Juvenile

spotted wood owl- Juvenile

Monitor lizards are residents in Singapore parks, do watch out for them..!

lizard sniffing around

lizard sniffing around

And here’s the beautiful sunset in Singapore…taken at Marina Bay Sands. :)

Sunset in Singapore

Sunset in Singapore

 

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