Tour Reports
Reports By Destinations: Sichuan
2017 Ornitholiday Sichuan Birding tour 3-17 May report by David Walsh

By David Walsh,Ornitholidays 
The first Ornitholidays tour to Sichuan and the Tibetan Plateau since 2006 was a resounding success. The list of quality birds was sensational, and some families were especially well represented: 13 different pheasants, eight redstarts, 13 tits, 15 Phylloscopus warblers, eight laughingthrushes, seven parrotbills and eight rosefinches!
We started in Chengdu before travelling south-west to the mid-elevation forests of Longcanggou, seeing Black Baza on the way. Despite mixed weather, our two days here produced an array of sought-after species including Przevalski’s Nuthatch, Great Parrotbill, Spotted Laughingthrush, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and the recently described Sichuan Bush Warbler. Our day at Erlangshan, bathed in sunshine and with glorious views of the high Himalayas, started with Lady Amherst’s Pheasant and the mythical Firethroat and ended with Rufoustailed Babbler. After a long drive north we spent two days at Balangshan, on the first of which we saw Chinese Monal and White Eared Pheasant at dawn, the vividly blue Grandala and a bone-dropping Lammergeier in the high mountains and Chinese Rubythroat singing in the afternoon: could this day’s birding ever be bettered? Sun was replaced by snow on our return, which provided a suitable backdrop to our Tibetan Snowcocks; some of us were also very fortunate to see Temminck’s Tragopan on a trail through the forest.
Mengbishan, in north Sichuan, gave us Hog Badger, perhaps the best of our 16 mammal species, as well as Himalayan Bluetail, Crested Tit-warbler and White-winged Grosbeak. Our drive to Rouergai produced the first of over 40 Black-necked Cranes as well as Tibetan Grey Shrike, Ground Tit and Przevalski’s Finch, and introduced us to the awe-inspiring Tibetan Plateau. We weren’t finished. Baxi Forest was cold at dawn, but none of us will forget our encounter with Chinese Grouse, and our drive back towards Chengdu included wellchosen stops for White-browed Tit-warbler and Siberian Rubythroat.
The scenery on this tour was majestic, with both mountains and high plains giving a real feeling of space: we felt privileged to be in such amazing places. Tang Jun, our guide, knew the birding sites extremely well and ensured that we were given a wide variety of tasty Szechuan cuisine. Chinese roads and hotels improve yearon-year, and the ground arrangements went very smoothly. There is no doubt that this tour is simply a must for those who want to see some of the most special avifauna found anywhere in the world.


Thanks to Tang Jun, our guide, not only for showing us so many of the special birds of Sichuan but also for the meticulous planning and organisation, and to Ding, our cheerful and ever-willing driver.
Thanks to the group for being so punctual and remaining stoic when the weather was inclement!
Thanks to Howard Gorringe and Nigel Jones for allowing us to use some of your photos in this report.

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