16 June 2013

Erlangshan...CHINA (25-26 May)

For the second consecutive year the Chinese government, and its never ending plans for tourist development in the country threw the proverbial spanner in the works for this year's Sichuan/Qinghai tour. Last year with the closure of the key birding site of Wawu Shan for tourist development for a number of years, we successfully checked out two new other sites: Loncanggou and Labahe. We had intended to visit both of these on the custom tour which I just led, but the government then closed Labahe also for further tourist development, leaving a gaping hole (especially where pheasants are concerned) in the itinerary. And so we tried Erlangshan, in the hope this would yield "Lady A", and some other goodies. Thankfully, while not a direct replacement for Labahe (where were easy the Temminck's Tragopans for example!?) , it worked well. In two morning "pheasant runs" we bumped into two different male Lady Amherst's Pheasants, the first one being a real thriller, in full breeding dress which casually sauntered across the road, while the second one was a dowdy immature male, with only glimmers of the beautiful plumage to come here and there. 

Also found at the site were a pair of glowing Golden Bush-Robins within the alpine scrub, and a superb pair of Barred Laughingthrush, which can often be a difficult endemic to see well, though clearly not this year. We also enjoyed two species of dipper sharing the same river: White-throated and Brown Dippers, and got spectacular looks at a buff-breasted morph of the Scaly-breasted Cupwing (formerly known as Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler). On top of that before we had even got to the site we racked up Chinese Hwamei (which was recently split from the Taiwanese form), which was found singing behind a random roadside restroom stop, the bird being attracted by the racquet coming from a caged one hung up by a local passing truck driver; unexpected!

Next up was high pressure stakes to find the tragopan at Loncanggou...

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