19 June 2013

Birding the Sichuan Shans...CHINA (28 May)

Our day on Loncanggou (our first of three), continued, post-Tragopan, and post-post-Tragopan celebrations, with a try for a more local species, and one which could proveas tricky as a tragopan to see: Emei (Grey-faced ) Liocichla, a rare and local species of laughingthrush that occurs on only a few mountains (shans) in SW China. Last year, in spite of hearing many, many of their loud calls at this "new" site it took us until the eleventh hour to get any kind of view of one. I seriously did not want to go through that again. So in the afterglow of the tragopan, and with one calling closeby, I initiated a tense and intense duel with the bird. It swiftly moved closer, evidenced by the jerky movement of the nearest fronds of bamboo, but no sign of the bird itself. Then suddenly its inhibitions were lost and pair pounced onto an open branch in a large broadleaf tree overhead. No repeat of last year, and so we could quickly move on!
Moving uphill, by vehicle, then by foot we checked out a spot where Nick Bray (again) had informed us that an earlier group had found a nesting pair of the rare Grey-hooded Parrotbill, another rare and local Chinese endemic, which we had missed altogether last year. Not so, again, this year, with a pair of these diminutive creatures popping up into the bamboo, barely 50 metres into our walk. If only all rare and local species would behave like this it was set to be one hell of a tour!

We pushed on upslope with the lure of further parrrotbills and key species, making it to a highland, bamboo-fringed marsh, the home of parrotbills and bush-warblers we hoped; and so it proved. Spotted Bush-Warbler (the most attractive of a rather attractive bunch), came in spectacularly well, doing everything but crawling across my shoe, and a fortuitous meeting with another bird guide on site (Loncanggou was crowded this year compared to last when we were the only group to visit during our time there), Sid Francis, who sent a messenger over (mid-Bush-warbler) to let us know our other main target bird there, Brown Parrotbill, was showing. I was getting to like all these other bird guides around, they were doing all the work for me (I assure you though I passed on info to them too, which I sincerely hope was also helpful!) We soon got mist-drenched views of the parrotbill, the descending mist scuppering our plans to head a little higher to the site of Sichuan Treecreeper. On the way back down the mountain in the afternoon we also added the endemic Pere David's Tit (another looker), and Golden-breasted Fulvetta (a serious looker), a Russet Bush-Warbler (NOT a looker), and the local, though unimpressive ( to my group anyway), Emei Leaf-Warbler too.
More from Loncanggou in Sichuan's southern Shans to come...

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