WEST CHINA PHEASANT TOUR
Sichuan (Szechuan) Province
Wolong Panda Reserve/Jiuzhaigou Reserve/Wanglang Reserve
This tour offers a splendid opportunity to see some of West China's fabulous pheasants, babblers and rosefinches, without the rigors and discomforts of camping and trekking! With our 3 expeditions, 12 tours and lots of exploratory travel, totaling over 1 year of birding experience in Sichuan, we've worked out an itinerary for a great birding tour in one of the richest provinces in China. We expect Black-necked Crane, 3-5 species of partridges, 7-9 pheasants, Wood Snipe, Snow Pigeon, Tibetan Lark, White-tailed Rubythroat, Grandala, Chestnut and White-backed Thrushes, Chinese Babax, 8-11 laughingthrushes, Grey-cheeked Liocichla, Red-billed Leiothrix, 4-6 fulvettas, 7-9 parrotbills, 5 or 6 bush-warblers, 10-12 Phylloscopus warblers, White-browed and Crested Tit-Warblers, Tibetan Ground-Tit (Hume's Ground-Jay or Groundpecker), 13 or 14 tits, Sichuan Treecreeper, 8-10 rosefinches, Black-winged Snowfinch, etc., for a total of about 280 species. With luck, we might find Saker Falcon, Chinese Grouse, Tibetan Shrike, Rufous-headed Robin, Wallcreeper, Slaty Bunting, Sichuan Jay, etc. We'll see 20-23 of mainland China's 45 endemic species.
Our birding will center on 3 nature reserves on the eastern slopes of the Tibetan Plateau in western Sichuan Province in West China, in the range of mountains that reaches up from the fertile Sichuan Basin to the lofty and spectacular peaks of the Plateau. The tour is planned to be during the spring migration and early breeding season so most birds will be singing and easier to locate. It also happens to be the prime flowering time for many species of rhododendrons. The tree-sized (up to 12 meters [40 ft.]high) rhododendrons covered with huge pink blossoms are spectacular indeed; a hillside covered with different species of rhododendrons in flower is truly out of this world. 1994 participant Dr. Lynn Hamilton exclaimed, "The scenery is the most spectacular of any tour I've ever been on."
We'll also have several days right up on the NE corner of the Tibetan Plateau in Roergai County, birding the grasslands of NW Sichuan Province, amidst the rugged Tibetan horsemen and their yak herds. Yak-hide tents and prayer flags are frequent in this raw and beautiful landscape.
Sichuan is the size of France and is one of China's largest and richest provinces. Its bird list of over 600 species is half of China's total and includes 33 of mainland China's 45 endemic species--a whopping 73%. Those of you who are waiting for a complete China tour in 3 weeks should realize that China is the size of the USA and that even covering all the varied life zones of Sichuan in 3 weeks is impossible. There are practically no good birding areas close to cities with airports in the whole of China, so that each separate birding destination requires a long road trip to reach it (i.e., 4 hours to 2 days of driving). Thus a land-based tour of one province is much more practical than skipping around the country. Sichuan is right at the heart of the country and offers the best birding possible in China today.
BEN KING, president of KingBird Tours, has led 144 tours in Asia and is one of the most experienced bird-tour leaders on that continent. He has observed over 2,100 species of birds in Asia. He has written A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia and Checklist of the Birds of Eurasia. He has seen more species of China's birds than any other ornithologist (all but about 11 of the more than 1,220 species--99% of the fauna). He has spent three years birding in China (with over a year in Sichuan), including leading our 3 expeditions to four panda reserves in Sichuan in 1984-1986, as well as our 12 Sichuan birding tours from 1987 to 2007. He is thoroughly familiar with all the birds to be encountered, having seen all of the 600+ species recorded in Sichuan. His knowledge of the birds, their habits and where they are found assures you of the best possible birding experience in China.
Arrive Hong Kong. Overnight Novotel Citygate Hotel.
Fly Hong Kong/Chengdu via Dragonair. Drive to Wa Wu Shan.
Fly Chengdu/Hong Kong via Dragonair. Overnight Novotel Citygate Hotel.
Depart Hong Kong.
THE BIRDING SITES
WAWU SHAN (6 days) lies southwest of Chengdu and is not far from Emei Shan with the same species, fewer people, better habitat and easier access. We’ll spend 2 days near the summit, 3,522 m. (11,800 ft.), and also some time at the lower elevations of the mountain down to about 1,100 m. (3,700 ft.), giving us a wide range of species to search for, including: Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, Temminck’s Tragopan, Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Large and Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoos, Himalayan Cuckoo, Lesser Cuckoo, Himalayan Swiftlet, Darjeeling and Bay Woodpeckers, Golden and White-browed Bush-Robins, White-bellied Redstart, Little, Slaty-backed and White-crowned Forktails, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren-Babblers, Chinese Babax, Spotted, Rusty, Black-faced and Red-winged Laughingthrushes, Grey-cheeked Liocichla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Golden-breasted, Streak-throated and Dusky Fulvettas, White-collared and Black-chinned Yuhinas, Great, Three-toed, Brown, Ashy-throated, Grey-hooded, Fulvous, and Golden Parrotbills, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Brownish-flanked, Aberrant, Brown and Russet Bush-Warblers, Buff-barred, Lemon-rumped, Large-billed Leaf-, Blyth’s Leaf-, Sichuan Leaf-, and Sulfur-breasted Warblers, 3 of the Golden-spectacled Warbler complex (Plain-tailed, Omei, and Bianchi’s), Rufous-faced Warbler, Ferruginous and Rufous-gorgetted Flycatchers, Vivid Niltava, Chinese Flycatcher, Black-throated, Fire-capped, Rusty-breasted, Rufous-vented, Coal, Yellow-bellied, Grey-crested, Green-backed, and Yellow-browed Tits, Sichuan (Certhia tianquanensis) and Himalayan (C. hodgsoni) Treecreepers, Gould’s Sunbird, Japanese White-eye, Vinaceous and Dark-rumped Rosefinches, Grey-headed Bullfinch, and Blue Magpie. Purple Cochoa is possible. Red Pandas are present here but rarely seen.
WOLONG PANDA RESERVE (4 days) is a spectacularly rugged mountain forested area with steep slopes and dense bamboo. It is situated in central western Sichuan, WNW of Chengdu (Sichuan Province's capital city) and is the largest of China's 11 panda reserves. Most of our birding will be along a road that bisects the reserve from about 1,200-4,200 meters (4,000 to 14,000 ft.). We have a good chance of seeing Snow Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Partridge, Chinese Monal, and Golden Pheasant. With luck, we might see a Chestnut-throated Partridge, Koklas Pheasant or White Eared Pheasant. Other species we'll try to see are: Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan Buzzard (Buteo burmanicus), Wood Snipe, Snow Pigeon, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Rosy Pipit, Grey-backed Shrike, Brown Dipper, Alpine and Rufous-breasted Accentors, Indian Blue Robin, Blue-fronted Redstart, the unbelievably beautiful Grandala, Chestnut and White-backed Thrushes, Giant and Elliott's Laughingthrushes, 7 or 8 Phylloscopus warblers (including Tickell’s Leaf-, Buff-throated, Yellow-streaked, and Two-barred), Slaty-backed and Slaty-blue Flycatchers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Black-browed Tit, Tibetan Serin, Plain and Black-headed Mountain Finches, Slaty Bunting, Beautiful, Whte-browed and Red-fronted Rosefinches, Collared and White-winged Grosbeaks, and Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs. The chance of seeing a wild Giant Panda is near zero.
MAERKANG (Markang or Barkam) (2 days) is situated in north central Sichuan along a river amidst high mountains northwest of Wolong. In the surrounding mountains we’ll search for: Blood Pheasant, Koklas Pheasant, Chinese Monal, White-eared Pheasant, Rufous-bellied and Black Woodpeckers, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Northern Wren, Maroon-backed Accentor, Orange-flanked Bush-Robin, White-throated and Daurian Redstarts, Long-tailed and Chinese Thrushes, Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler, Hume’s Leaf-Warbler, Goldcrest, Crested Tit-Warbler, Songar Tit, White-cheeked Nuthatch, Blanford’s, Pink-bellied and Streaked Rosefinches, and Sichuan Jay.
ROERGAI COUNTY (5 days) is situated on the northeastern corner of the Tibetan Plateau in the northernmost point of Sichuan. Extensive grasslands at almost 12,000 ft. (3,600 m.) cover the valleys nestled amidst snow-capped mountains. The Black-necked Crane, Asia's rarest and most endangered crane, nests here and we should see some (we've seen 8-65 on our previous visits). Also likely are: Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested and Ferruginous Pochards, Upland Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Saker Falcon, Tibetan Partridge, Common Pheasant, Great and Brown-headed Gulls, Common Cuckoo, Little Owl, Fork-tailed Swift, Tibetan Lark, Pale Martin, Yellow-hooded Wagtail, Black and Hodgson’s Redstarts, Plain Laughingthrush, Dusky Warbler, White-browed Tit-Warbler, Tibetan Ground-Tit, White-browed Tit, Chestnut-lined Bunting, Twite, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch, Black-winged and White-rumped Snowfinches, Azure-winged (Chinese) and Eurasian (Tibetan) Magpies, and Common Raven. With a little luck, we might see a Monk Vulture, Demoiselle Crane, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Wryneck, Blyth’s Pipit, Tibetan Shrike, Pine Bunting or Pink-tailed Rosefinch. There seem always to be 1 or 2 unusual migrants here, such as Pallas's Fish-Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Amur Falcon, etc. It's impossible to guess what might occur next.
In a good patch of high altitude forest and scrub, we’ll look for: Blue Eared Pheasant, Grey Nightjar, Great Spotted and Black Woodpeckers, Asian House-Martin, Siberian and White-tailed Rubythroats, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush, Chinese Fulvetta, Chinese Leaf- and Greenish Warblers, Three-banded Rosefinch, Daurian Jackdaw, and Oriental Crow (Corvus orientalis).
THE JIUZHAIGOU ("JHU-JAI-GO") RESERVE (1 day) is considered one of the most beautiful places in China with its startlingly blue lakes and waterfalls. We’ll concentrate our efforts here on finding the Rufous-headed Robin, a rare, little known and attractive thrush. We may also see Barred Laughingthrush, White-collared Yuhina, White-necklaced and Rusty-breasted Tits, and Eurasian and Snowy-browed Nuthatches.
WANG LANG PANDA RESERVE (2 days) is situated southeast of Jiuzhaigou, has some fine similar forest and lacks the hordes of tourists. We’ll have some quiet pleasant birding here searching for: Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Blood Pheasant, Blue Eared Pheasant, Three-toed Woodpecker, White-throated Dipper, Rufous-headed Robin, Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush, Spectacled Fulvetta, Spectacled Parrotbill, White-necklaced and Rusty-breasted Tits, and Russet Sparrow. My sole sighting of a Giant Panda was here in 1986. Unfortunately we’re unlikely to be that lucky.
DU FU COTTAGE (half day) is a wooded park in Chengdu where we should see: Common Kingfisher, Light-vented Bulbul, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Eurasian Blackbird (a likely split), Rufous-capped Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrush, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, and Black-throated Tit. Possible are: Collared Finchbill, Hwamei, Red-billed Starling or Crested Myna.
AIR CONSIDERATIONS: We will purchase your Hong Kong/Chengdu/Hong Kong air tickets in Hong Kong to ensure keeping the group together. Alternately, participants may choose to meet us in Chengdu. If you choose to meet us in Chengdu, please plan to arrive a day early. We can arrange Chengdu hotel reservations for you. Those joining the tour in Hong Kong should arrive a day or two early to ensure timely arrival and allow some time to recover from jet lag.
LAND PRICE/NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: Land price is based on the number of participants. The maximum number of participants will be 10.
LAND RATES: All prices are based on tariffs in effect for this trip. If there are price changes, they will be passed along to tour members. KingBird Tours' planning, promotional and operating costs are included in all tour rates.
TRANSPORTATION: Air transportation from Hong Kong to Chengdu and return based on rates in effect for this tour. Surface transportation is normally by Toyota Land Cruiser (or similar) or Mitsubishi bus.
ACCOMMODATION: Based on two persons sharing a twin-bedded room. We'll supply roommates if possible, but if none is available, the single supplement will be charged. Accommodation ranges from excellent to basic.
ITINERARY: KingBird Tours reserves the right to make any necessary changes in the itinerary. Note that our Chinese hosts may make alterations in the itinerary that are beyond the control of KingBird Tours.
TOUR ESCORT: The leader of your tour and President of KingBird Tours, Ben King, will be with you during the entire tour from the time you reach Chengdu until your departure from Chengdu. Our Chinese hosts will have an interpreter with the group at all times to assist however he or she may.
TAXES AND GRATUITIES: All local government taxes are included in the tour price. All gratuities to hotel staff, waiters, local guides, drivers, etc., are included in the tour price. Your tour leader is paid a salary and does not expect tips. Thus it is not necessary to tip anyone on the entire tour. However, if you wish to tip anyone for any reason it is quite all right.
MEDICAL AND HEALTH: All applicants should be in good health and in good physical condition. Our walking will not be rigorous, but difficulties may be encountered because of high altitude and steep terrain. We will move very slowly in high or steep areas. We'll be birding at altitudes up to 4,300 meters (14,330 ft.). We'll be spending an entire week above 3,300 m. (11,000 ft.)--note however that we have quite an adequate acclimatization period prior to reaching that altitude. If in doubt about your ability to manage high altitudes, consult your physician. The trip leader has the right to disqualify anyone at any time during the trip if he believes it is medically necessary. Refunds are not given under such circumstances.
BAGGAGE: International flight baggage allowance from USA to Hong Kong is two pieces with a maximum total dimension (length, width, height of both pieces added up) of 106 inches. Note that most US-based airlines now allow only 23 kg. (50 lbs.)/bag—you will be charged for any excess up to 32 kg. (70 lbs.). On many foreign airlines, each bag may weigh up to 32 kilograms (70 pounds). However, internal flights in China allow a maximum of 20 kg. (44 lbs.). They are likely to weigh your luggage carefully but are less zealous with groups and hand baggage. You will be responsible for any excess baggage charges. You are allowed only one carry-on bag on all flights originating in Hong Kong. Air carrier's liability for baggage loss is limited and baggage insurance is recommended. N.B., most checked luggage is X-rayed at Hong Kong and some airports in China. Keep film in a lead-lined bag or in your hand-carry bag and take it out to avoid X-rays.
SMOKING RULES: (1) NO smoking in vehicles. (2) NO smoking at meal tables. (3) NO smoking in bedrooms if your roommate does not smoke. (4) The smoker is expected to see that his smoke does not move toward other tour members at all times. (5) Anyone smoking will be last in line on single file paths or trails.