Who birds above 4500m, Shangri-La, Yunnan (Part 2)

Given our packed lunch, we were all set to go birding on a forest canopy located at Sinong,  (斯农) close to the glazier..! Passing through a small town nestled with Tibetan temples and lodges in Shangri-La, we had brief views of Snow Pigeons (雪鸽 ) and a Pink-rumped Rosefinch (曙红朱雀) , the former seen briefly on a slope, while the latter came close the roadside! Both lifers for me! :)

Pink-rumped Rosefinch , Snow pigeon

Pink-rumped Rosefinch , Snow pigeon

As we continued our journey, the Meili Snow Mountains (梅里雪山) revealed its grandeur as the valleys and canyons undulated before us…! The road was manageable despite a few loose stones here and there, but as we moved on to get to the forest canopy which was at 4500m, I realized we’ve headed for the scariest ride of my life! Below is a short video of the ride! >.<””””

Meili Snow mountains

Meili Snow mountains

 

It was a hairy hour ride! We thought we had enough excitement and decided to walk instead! But with such altitude and little air, we’ve exhausted ourselves after only 3 “twills” up the mountain, and there was still no sign of the forest!! Luckily, our driver came to our rescue! “Phew” I thought to myself!

After another 10 minute ride, we’ve finally reached the forest canopy! Though it was already mid noon, birds seemed active at this altitude! A pair of Koklass Pheasants were seen on slope, and further moving into the forest trail- Elliot’s laughingthrush (橙翅噪鹛), Grey-crested tits (褐冠山雀), Rufous-vented tits (黑冠山雀), Black-browed tits (黑眉长尾山雀), nuthatches, White-browed Fulvettas, etc!

Grey-crested tit, Yunnan

Grey-crested tit, Yunnan

 

From left-White-browed fulvetta, Crested tit, Black-browed tit

From left-White-browed fulvetta, Crested tit, Black-browed tit in Shangri-La, Yunnan

We moved on to find a village right on top of the mountain..! We’re just as surprised to see them as they were surprised to see us! We were told that flocks of Lord Derby’s Parakeets (大紫胸鹦鹉) would breed there every summer! After a brief stop, it was time for us to head back, and once again, we embraced ourselves to the scary ride downhill! >.<”

Yak blocking our way

Yak blocking our way

The village and forest canapy we visited- notice the zig-zag road up!

The village and forest canapy we visited- notice the zig-zag road up!

By the time we got to our hotel, Songtsam Meili, the entrance gate at the base was locked and we had to hike up to our hotel, carrying our belongings and the teapot and cups given to us by the hotel as part of our packed lunch! The day was such a thrill- filled with hairy moments, birds, and laughter! I wouldn’t want my adventure any other way! :P

And last but not the least, the lovely view from our hotel, Songtsam Meili.

Full moon while sun rising at Meili Snow Mountains, Yunnan

Full moon while sun rising at Meili Snow Mountains, Yunnan

 

 

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Last piece of Haven-Shangri-La, China- 纳帕海, 香格里拉

Just back from probably the last known place of serenity and haven on Earth, Shangri-La, China! Getting there is not as easy as it seems, you’ll first need to survive a scary plane ride that flew over tough terrains! >.< My plane ride was turbulent and constant announcements were made to comfort  passengers “We are experiencing turbulence, but it is normal, please do not worry…” =_=” Luckily, my plane landed safely at Deqin, Shangri-La, an altitude of 32oom! Little did I know that this wasn’t the scariest ride I would encounter in this trip…well, more on that later!

People easily suffer from acute mountain sickness with symptoms of headache, fatigue, etc, when they land on high grounds! But I was very lucky as I feel even fitter in the mountains than in the concrete jungle! No signs of sickness for me…hehe! :)

Plane arrived at Shangri-La

From our hotel, Songtsam Shangri-La, we headed to Lake Napa (Napahai,纳帕海), before enroute to the spectacular Meili Mountains, close to the Tibet Autonomous region! Driven by driver, Mr Li and his devoted wife, we soon spree to the magical lake!

Napa Lake, Shangri-La, heaven for water fowl!

Napa Lake, Shangri-La, heaven for water fowl!

It was a clear, blue sky with pleasant temperature that made birding very enjoyable! With endless supply of food, this piece of wetland is truly a paradise for waterfowl! There were no shortages of the variety of waterfowl in the lake-Ferruginous Ducks, Ruddy Shelducks, Mergansers, Teals, Mallards, Black Stork, Great cormorants, etc! I was especially thrilled to see the Bar-Headed Goose (斑头雁and Black-necked Cranes (黑颈鹤)  which are both lifers for me! :) In particular, the Black-necked Crane is classified  as a Class-A endangered species under the state protection and also listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN list. The Black-necked Cranes, endemic to the Tibetian Plateau is also a symbol of peace and regarded as holy birds by Tibetan Buddhists for centuries! How interesting! :)

Where there are waterfowl, there are raptors! As we drove along the lake, small groups of White-tailed Eagles (白尾海雕) nestled comfortably on rocky boulders, kept a watchful eye for the next ill-fated duck!

bar-headed goose at Napa lake!

bar-headed goose at Napa lake!

Black-necked cranes at Napa Lake!

Black-necked cranes at Napa Lake!

 

white-tailed eagles keeping a watchful eye at Napa Lake!

white-tailed eagles keeping a watchful eye at Napa Lake!

As parts of this landscape is farmed, there are no shortages of local animals- yaks, pigs and horses grazed while wild birds seemed to get along with these roaming livestock! Red-billed Choughs, Skylarks and White Wagtails were seen roaming along the fields.

Livestock are friends with birds

Livestock are friends with birds

It was a great birding morning, and we fervently wished to stay on a bit longer…but we have a long drive through the Baima Snow Mountain (白茫雪山) to get to our destination, Meili Mountains (梅里雪山)! Here are some spectacular sceneries along the way!

Scenery along Shangri-La

Scenery along Shangri-La

 

Yangtze River running through Shangri-La

Yangtze River running through Shangri-La

 

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Who loves a Frogmouth? 印度观鸟 (领蟆口鸱)

I finally pulled myself together to write about Kerala, South India…but with over 120 birds in just 5 days, I really don’t know where to start! >.<

Joined by a few friends, we hired a bird guide who is a pioneer in South India and leads an avid team that served us! I remembered Eldhose promised that we’d see some raptors and nightjars and I was very surprised, because I have not met any bird guide that promises anything!

On one afternoon, we went to a low forest plantation area in search for the frogmouth, but to no avail. but we were promised that we’d see them the next day! And sure enough we did! It seemed that our bird guide recruited another team to help search the frogmouths for us! It was amazing to see 2 individuals and 1 pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths (领蟆口鸱), as these species is only found in the Western Ghats of southwest India and Sri Lanka! We moved in quietly and carefully not to disturb them as its their breeding season (January to March)! They roosted so low in the plantation area, and so camouflaged that if the guide hadn’t pointed them to me, I’d thought they were just leaves!!! :) They look awfully cute! Who loves a frogmouth? :P

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

A pair of them!

A pair of them!

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Love is in the air!

On this special day, I can’t help but wonder if birds pair for life… After much reading, I realised few birds fit into this category!! For birds, there are several reasons for unable to pair for life-migration, and establishing territories is already hard enough, why pair?!

As human beings, we try to pair for life…but it’s not as easy as it seems! We too migrate and establish territorial grounds-migrating to other countries, getting to office and establishing ourselves in the office!! Lol! Life isn’t easy for anyone, but I guess if you love your partner enough, and you place him/her as priority, pairing for life might just seem possible..Here’s my recipe to share!

Recipe for LOVE

1 Cup of Romance

2 Pinches of Humour

2 Spoonfuls of Joy

1 lb of Compatibility

3 Tb of Trust

1 Cup of Respect

1/2 lb of Sharing

1 zest of Tenderness

3/4 Cup of Patience

1 pinch of Surprise

Kudos to the birds below who pair for life! Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

Carnaby's black cockatoo

Carnaby’s black cockatoo

Whooper swan

Whooper swan

Great hornbill

Great hornbill

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Birding in Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

After a savvy lunch in Sanlitun, Beijing, we decided to head down to the Olympic Forest Park to do a bit of birding.. :) It was a smoggy day with toxic air peaking at dangerous levels, but that didn’t deter us from our itinerary! >.<

The Olympic Forest Park is a huge, man-made nature park built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games! We entered the park from the South gate where the subway line is and headed West! There were bikes for rental in the park, but we preferred to walk on foot!

Beijing Olympic forest park map

Beijing Olympic forest park map

We walked along the frozen lake, not expecting any ducks, goose or waders! But I was taken by surprise by a big, white-feathered bird standing in the open!! It stood close to the boardwalk, obviously enjoying the attention from the park goers! @_@” It’s a Bewick’s Swan, a split from the Tundra Swan (小天鹅) and definitely a lifer for me! :P

Bewick's swan

Bewick’s swan

The swan had more than enough admirers, so we continued our way to the reeds area located on the West end of the park! As we walked along, the pecking and rustling sounds of reeds could be heard loud and clear! A huge flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills (棕头鸦雀 ) were in that bed of reeds! They were known to be fast and furious birds- hard to photograph, but these cuties decided to hang a little while longer to have their photographs taken! :)

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

A pair of Bearded Tits (文须雀) were recently sighted, but there were no signs of the amorous couple! But we were soon entertained by Oriental Greenfiches, and a Black-faced Bunting who loved those reeds too.. Then out of the blue, I heard a hoarse outcry, ” Great Bittern!” How often do you get to see a Great Bittern (大麻鳽) in the open?? Quickly, we grabbed our cameras and snapped away! :P

Great Bittern in the open!

Great Bittern in the open!

As we walked on, the male Bearded Tit popped out of nowhere and showed up nicely for us before it flew across to the opposite reed bed, and returned shortly after to pick up his partner! :) It was very cool to see the couple frolicked away before they disappeared into the reeds…!! And last but not least, a Siberian ChiffChaff (叽喳柳莺) made a brief appearance! It brought a happy coda to our afternoon birding session!  

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Male Bearded Tit

Male Bearded Tit

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Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch and others 红眉朱雀

After little luck trying to track down Great Bustards, we decided to move on to find the Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch ( 红眉朱雀 ) . When streams were frozen, leaving only a small waterhole, little birds that didn’t mind the cold and windy weather gathered around the area for a quick drink and even bath! It was a very neat idea to just stay in the car and watch birds come by while we devoured our little winter picnic! :P

Birds that came by included a flock of Yellow-bellied Tits (黄腹山雀 ), Great Tits (大山雀), Marsh Tits (沼泽山雀 ), Siberian Accentor (棕眉山岩鹨 ), Godlewski’s Bunting (戈氏岩鹀 ), and of course the long awaited Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch ( 红眉朱雀 )! What a beautiful name! Nice to see 3 females, but where is the male?!? >.<

Yellow-bellied Tit

Yellow-bellied Tit

 Siberian Accentor

Siberian Accentor

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch lives up to its name!

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch lives up to its name!

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Siberian Chipmunk (金花鼠 )

This cutie Siberian Chipmunk caught my eye as it foraged around a tree right in front of us…not realizing we were spying on him, after all, we were in a car having a little winter picnic- sausages, hot soup, and crisps! On a cold, windy day in Beijing…nothing is more rewarding than to see some wildlife when little birds were hesitant to come out and entertain us..! >.<  This little Siberian Chipmunk put on some show for us, I couldn’t thank him enough! :P

siberian chipmunk

siberian chipmunk

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Birding in Heilongjiang 帽儿山观鸟

Probably a bit loony to go birding on the coldest, iciest time in Heilongjiang, but hey, life’s about adventures, right?? :) :)

On the Christmas day of 2013, joined by 2 students from Harbin Forestry University, we took an early train to Mao Er Shan! A  pre-arranged taxi was already at the station waiting for us, and soon we were on our way to the Ringing station! It was a beautiful day, and as the car forged towards the famous mountain, we were captivated by the stunning views of the snowy landscape as it undulated before us!

Mao Er Shan, Heilongjiang

Mao Er Shan, Heilongjiang

With window screens rolled up, we couldn’t hear birds sing! But compensated by sharp-eyed birders in the car, I don’t think we missed any bird when driving along! As soon as we entered the road that leads to the ringing station, we saw some very interesting birds- Hazel Sandgrouse on a tree, Ural Owl on a lamp post, some Marsh Tits etc!

When food is hard to find in cold, icy weather, dumpster sites are favorite hangouts for residents! Eurasian nuthatches, Eurasian Jays, Marsh Tits were some of the birds that frequented the area!

Marsh Tit staying close to the dumpster site

Marsh Tit staying close to the dumpster site

Eurasian Nuthatch, a fast and furious bird!

Eurasian Nuthatch, a fast and furious bird!

Long Tailed Rosefnch and Eurasian Jay outside the ringing station!

Long Tailed Rosefnch and Eurasian Jay outside the ringing station!

As we walked along the road, we also had good views Japanese waxwings mixed with a few Bohemian Waxings, Pallas Rosefinches that flew by!

During winter, the ringing station is closed, but as “VIPs” we could still go in and warm ourselves from the cold brutal weather! :) Having filled our hungry tummies with packed lunchbox (sandwiches actually, and we left 1 in the car! @_@), we decided to move on to the next location…Whilst waiting for our taxi (the same one, and our missing sandwich still there!), we saw a red colored little bird! A Long-tailed Rosefinch! “What a beautiful bird!!” we all exclaimed!

Japanese waxings and Marsh tits

Japanese waxings and Marsh tits

By the time we reach the next location, it was already 3pm, and the sun sets at 4!! >.< Luckily, we saw a White-backed Woodpecker busy pecking away! As the day darkens, and we were heading towards the train station, an Eurasian Eagle Owl was spotted standing on a lamp post!! I couldn’t see the bird as I was blocked in the car…but luckily, it flew to another post, and I finally saw it! :) Better than nothing!! :)

Other birds seen when driving along included the Rough-legged Buzzard, Meadow Buntings, and Bull-finches! And with no signs of human trekking on deep snow, animal and bird imprints were seen…a marvelous sight indeed! What’s a better way to spend Christmas? hehe!

Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Bullfinch!

Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Bullfinch!

Animal footprints- a Hare?

Animal footprints- a Hare?

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Its a Bat!

Its a Bird! No…Its a Butterfly! Nope…Its a Bat! Its always a thrill for me to see some other forms of wildlife on a birding day! Too bad, my birding pals weren’t with me today! Having recently read “Bird Sense” written by Tim Birkhead, I am enthralled by how bats navigate and detect their preys through echolocation.  Its a very good book, and I highly recommend!

This cutie little vampire was just fluttering about at the entrance of Kadoorie Farm in Hong Kong in broad day light!!  Did anyone lose a pet? :) BTW, in China, bat is a symbol for good fortune and happiness…

Fruit bat *Not a bird!*

Fruit bat *Not a bird!*

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!”- Alice in Wonderland

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Birding in China- Leopard cat at Miyun Reservoir 密云水库观鸟

It was a beautiful day when we arrived at Miyun Reservoir in Beijing, China! By 9am we already had great views of huge flocks of Common Cranes, accompanied by some Hooded Cranes, and noisy Bean Geese who couldn’t decide which way to go! There were also small bird groups and lonely individuals  like the Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Chinese Hill Babbler, Pallas Reed Bunting, Japanese Reed Bunting, Chinese Grey Shrike, and Accentors, capered around the grassland and reeds that made the ongoing birding day very pleasant! :) Seeing squirrels, mongoose and other small forms of wildlife while birding would make the day memorable, but seeing a larger form of wildlife would make a birding day unforgettable! And yes, we saw an Amur Leopard Cat! I couldn’t believe my eyes as this huge cat strolled down the road after a dip in the pond and was making its way back up the hill! Talk about luck! How cool is that? :) :)

Amur Leopard cat

Amur Leopard cat

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