16 June 2013

Into the Far East...CHINA (24 May)

OK, I have been "marooned" within the social media "blackhole" that is China. Yes, no Facebook, no Twitter, and of course, no blogging. It was hard to cope, but now I can get on with updating as I would have liked...
This was a custom tour of two provinces in China, Sichuan, the so-called Heavenly "Kingdom", and Qinghai to the north. After a marathon 36-hour journey I arrived in the Sichuan capital, Chengdu. This is quite possibly the biggest city that you've never heard of; some 14 million people! After a day recovering from rigours of international travel all of us spent a day touring the birding sites within the city. The city is spotlessly clean, unlike much of rural China, and the parks hold some great birds. We started out at the former home of a famous Tang Dynasty Poet, Du Fu, where we soon found some of the birds we were seeking: a dainty Rufous-faced Warbler led us to him by its soft tinkling calls, a butch Collared Finchbill posed for photos, while Chinese Grosbeak took a little more effort to find, but was eventually seen at all the three sited we visited in the city that day. Other common birds included Chinese Bulbul, Mandarin Blackbird, and Vinous-throated Parrotbill. With news that there had recently been a migrant Firethroat at the migrant hotspot of Chengdu University we took a stroll a round their well-manicured grounds, but only found a good resident in the form of White-cheeked Starling with no migrants in evidence.
 Lastly, we visited the extremely popular Giant Panda Breeding Centre, where the starts of the centre were out of their ai-conditioned rooms (I kid you not), and feeding outside on their prized bamboo shoots. The birds were good there too with Red-billed Leiothrix (formerly known as "Peking Robin"), Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler and Oriental Greenfinch, along with a confiding young White-browed Laughingthrush (unlike many other shy Chinese laughingthrushes in this respect).

At the end of the day our man-in-Sichuan, the legendary "Frank" took us for our first Sichuan meal of the tour, which was superb bar the dish of Yak cartilage which was not popular among anyone apart from maybe Frank! The Kung Pao Chicken was a better choice!

More from my adventures in the Far East to come soon...

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