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SICHUAN & YUNNAN

The Ultimate Chinese Endemics Tour

China Birding Tours: our Sichuan birding tour, which includes northern Yunnan, explores the richest part of this fascinating country in terms of endemic birds and other Chinese special birds. Our Sichuan and Yunnan bird watching holiday offers comprehensive coverage and an unsurpassed number of endemics and other major specialities, not to mention fantastic scenery and wonderful cuisine. Highlights include a fabulous series of pheasants, Chinese (or Severtzov’s) Grouse, Black-necked Crane, Père David’s Owl, Firethroat, White-speckled (or Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Gold-fronted Fulvetta, Streaked Barwing, an amazing variety of parrotbills, Yunnan Nuthatch, Przevalski’s Finch (a monotypic family) and sometimes the rare Blackthroat.

Sunday 19th May — Friday 7th June 2019
(20 days)


Northern Yunnan Extension: Thursday 16th May — Sunday 19th May (4 days)

Leaders: Craig Robson and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to sometimes fairly demanding walking and comfortable accommodations

Firethroat - one of those must see birds... (Pete Morris)

Firethroat - one of those must see birds... (Pete Morris)

China is a vast and enigmatic land that has long fascinated outsiders. For naturalists it has been China’s wealth of endemic birds and mammals, epitomized by the Giant Panda and the rare pheasants and other birds that inhabit the mountains along the eastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau, which have exerted an almost irresistible attraction. As with so many other remote areas, the difficulties associated with getting there, whether natural hazards or man-made obstacles, merely added to the fascination. Even now, with access possible at long last, only relatively few western birdwatchers have had the opportunity to see for themselves the marvellous endemic birds of China.

The diversity of birdlife is somewhat limited in parts of the heavily populated east (although even here there are some superb areas for birding) but, in complete contrast, vast tracts of the north, west and centre of China are sparsely populated and this enormous region offers some of the finest birding in Asia. For those with a particular interest in Asian birds, or indeed for anyone who loves to travel far from the beaten track, a visit to interior China offers something uniquely rewarding.

During this exciting tour we shall visit Sichuan and northern Yunnan, a region in the very heart of China that best reflects the astonishing avian diversity of this huge country (which has an avifauna of over 1300 species). Sichuan and northern Yunnan lie at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau and these superb provinces have the richest concentration of Chinese specialities, holding around two-thirds of the country’s endemic birds! Not only do Sichuan and northern Yunnan offer the best opportunities for seeing China’s prime specialities, but due to the great diversity of their habitats, ranging from the subtropical lowlands of the Red Basin and rich evergreen foothill forests to cool temperate zone forests, alpine meadows, dramatic snow-capped mountain peaks and vast grasslands at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, there is a remarkable wealth of birds in general. Without a doubt Sichuan and northern Yunnan is the very best of China!

This ‘Ultimate Chinese Endemics’ tour, producing more of the speciality birds of Sichuan and northern Yunnan than any other, is a fabulous adventure, with incredible scenery as well as wonderful, rarely observed birds. Dramatic improvements in the standard of accommodation and in the condition of the roads in recent years (they are now often good or even very good), combined with the discovery of new areas with easier access for birding, mean that this is no longer such a tough tour as it once was. A bonus is some of the best food we encounter on any Birdquest tour!

We start our journey in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, from where we travel northwards to Tangjiahe, one of China’s Giant Panda reserves that still has plenty of bamboo. Here we will have our first exposure to Sichuan’s rich avifauna including the spectacular Golden Pheasant, Baikal Bush Warbler, Emei, Claudia’s, Kloss’s, Sichuan and Chinese Leaf Warblers, Three-toed and Spectacled Parrotbills, Spotted and Elliot’s Laughingthrushes, Golden-breasted and Grey-hooded Fulvettas, White-collared Yuhina, Sooty and Yellow-bellied Tits, Sichuan Treecreeper, and the skulking Slaty Bunting. There is also a chance for the rare Przevalski’s (or Rusty-throated) Parrotbill. Some interesting mammals occur here too, and we may well see Takin and Chinese Serow.

Heading further north and west, we eventually drop down from a high pass to the Jiuzhaigou region, situated close to the meeting point of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. The alpine valleys of the area, with their rich forests, inhabited by ethnic Tibetans, have a rich avifauna and specialities including the huge Blue Eared Pheasant, the magnificent Père David’s Owl, Salim Ali’s Swift, Chestnut Thrush, Barred Laughingthrush, Père David’s (or Rusty-breasted) Tit, Chinese and Przevalski’s Nuthatches, Tibetan Serin (or Tibetan Siskin), and Grey-headed Bullfinch. The star attraction here used to be the little-known Rufous-headed Robin, which we first discovered here in 1984, but sadly the tiny population appears to have died out, and no other regular sites are known!

From the Jiuzhaigou region we shall continue our journey westwards, climbing over high, spruce- and scrub-clad passes, until we come to the high grasslands of the edge of the Tibetan Plateau itself, a wild landscape where swarthy Tibetan herders still graze their yaks, ponies and sheep, and where the nomadic lifestyle still continues into the 21st century.

Here, in the Ruoergai region, and further south near Hongyuan, we will explore this mix of habitats for such special birds as Chinese (or Severtzov’s) Grouse, Blood Pheasants, Verreaux’s Monal Partridge, the rare Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Lark, Maroon-backed Accentor, Kessler’s and Chinese Thrushes, Alpine Leaf Warbler, the superb little Crested Tit-Warbler, Giant and Snowy-cheeked (or Sukatschev’s) Laughingthrushes, Chinese Fulvetta, Sichuan Jay, Daurian Jackdaw, the strange Ground Tit (or Hume’s Groundpecker), White-browed and Sichuan Tits, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Tibetan, White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches, and Himalayan Beautiful, Pink-rumped, Three-banded and Chinese White-browed Rosefinches. High on many group members’ want list will be the lovely Przevalski's (or Pink-tailed) Finch, which is now treated as a monotypic bird family.

From the grasslands, already sated with China’s avian riches, we return to the alpine valleys around Maerkang and from there we continue to the famous reserve at Wolong, site of the World Wildlife Fund’s Giant Panda research project. Here we shall search for more exciting specialities, including the superb White Eared Pheasant, the awesome Chinese Monal, Snow Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, the stunning Firethroat, the rare and little-known Blackthroat (now known to breed on occasion here), the lovely Chinese Rubythroat, the strange Grandala, Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler, Martens’s Warbler, Brandt’s Mountain Finch and Red-breasted Rosefinch, all amidst truly dramatic mountain scenery.

It will be hard to top this series of amazing areas, yet more is to come as we head south through dry valleys, first to Erlangshan, where we will be looking for Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Grey-crowned Warbler, Black-browed Tit and Sharpe’s Rosefinch. We also have a good chance of encountering the lovely Streaked Barwing.

Continuing southwards, the forests of Labahe hold some remarkable tame and truly stunning Temminck’s Tragopans, and we also have another chance for Lady Amherst’s Pheasant.

Finally we shall reach Longcanggou, a forest reserve that holds in particular Grey-hooded Parrotbill, the handsome Emei Shan Liocichla and the secretive Golden-fronted Fulvetta, as well as Buffy and Red-winged Laughingthrushes, David’s Fulvetta and Sichuan Bush Warbler.

For some additional marvellous birds we have a pre-tour extension to Lijiang in northern Yunnan, situated not far from the awesome peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Here we will be searching out the little-known White-speckled (or Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Yunnan Nuthatch and Rufous-tailed Babbler (or Moupinia), as well as Black-breasted Thrush, Brown-winged Parrotbill, Black-bibbed Tit and Black-headed Greenfinch.

At the end of our visit to this ornithological Mecca we shall reluctantly head for home, taking back memories of many marvellous birds and an endless panoply of scenic splendour.

Birdquest pioneered birding tours to Sichuan as far back as 1984.

Important: There have been periodic closures of a number of the reserves in Sichuan owing to ‘redevelopment’. Flexibility has been key, and this itinerary represents our preferred route, but may need to be adjusted according to the situation when we visit.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of a good standard, occasionally medium standard. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly very good.

Walking: The walking effort is often easy or moderate, but occasionally it is strenuous as one has to contend with hiking in the mountains, sometimes on steep trails or off-trail, at moderate to high altitudes (up to 4500m, although the walking is mostly on roads above 3100m).

Climate: Rather variable. At lower altitudes it is generally warm or hot (and often rather humid), whilst at higher altitudes temperatures range from cool to decidedly cold. At this season sunny periods alternate with rainy, overcast weather (and it may even snow at high altitudes).

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

SICHUAN & YUNNAN, CHINA BIRDING TOUR

Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all flight costs and all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately: £340, €390, $470.

2019 confirmed prices

£4690, €5340, $6520 Chengdu/Chengdu. Deposit: 10%.

Northern Yunnan Extension: £950, €1080, $1320 Lijiang/Chengdu. Deposit: 10%.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes this flight: Lijiang-Chengdu.

Single Room Supplement: £494, €563, $687. Extension: £78, €89, $108.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

A smart Tibetan Snowcock at Balang Shan (Mark Van Beirs)

A smart Tibetan Snowcock at Balang Shan (Mark Van Beirs)

The wonderfully scenic Balang Shan (Mark Van Beirs)

The wonderfully scenic Balang Shan (Mark Van Beirs)

Rosefinches are a real feature of this tour, and we encounter some real stunners such as this male Chinese White-browed Rosefinch (Pat & David Wileman)

Rosefinches are a real feature of this tour, and we encounter some real stunners such as this male Chinese White-browed Rosefinch (Pat & David Wileman)

... and the rare Three-banded Rosefinch – this fine male was photographed in Jiuzhaigou National Park (Pat & David Wileman)

... and the rare Three-banded Rosefinch – this fine male was photographed in Jiuzhaigou National Park (Pat & David Wileman)

A number of migrant species make their way up to the southern edge of the Tibetan plateau, such as the declining Tiger Shrike. This fine male was photographed near to Rilong (Pat & David Wileman)

A number of migrant species make their way up to the southern edge of the Tibetan plateau, such as the declining Tiger Shrike. This fine male was photographed near to Rilong (Pat & David Wileman)

Grey-backed (or Tibetan) Shrikes are common in the right habitat (Pat & David Wileman)

Grey-backed (or Tibetan) Shrikes are common in the right habitat (Pat & David Wileman)

Some fine thrushes can be seen on this tour, including the attractive Chestnut Thrush (Pat & David Wileman)

Some fine thrushes can be seen on this tour, including the attractive Chestnut Thrush (Pat & David Wileman)

... and the high-altitude specialist, the very smart Kessler's Thrush (Pat & David Wileman)

... and the high-altitude specialist, the very smart Kessler's Thrush (Pat & David Wileman)

Some great redstarts occur, including the localized Hodgson's Redstart (Pat & David Wileman)

Some great redstarts occur, including the localized Hodgson's Redstart (Pat & David Wileman)

Another high-altitude speciality is the hard-to-come-by Red-fronted Rosefinch (Pat & David Wileman)

Another high-altitude speciality is the hard-to-come-by Red-fronted Rosefinch (Pat & David Wileman)

The group pheasant-spotting at Balang Shan - it doesn't have to be hard work! (Pat & David Wileman)

The group pheasant-spotting at Balang Shan - it doesn't have to be hard work! (Pat & David Wileman)

Many of the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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