Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Eastern China birding tour offers a compelling birdwatching experience. Our Eastern China tour is effectively in two parts, the first concentrates on coastal wetlands and the southeastern forests and features the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Chinese Crested Tern, the superb Cabot's Tragopan, Courtois's Laughingthrush and many other good birds. The second part explores northeastern China, taking in the grasslands and marshes of Inner Mongolia and Manchuria for Jankowski's Bunting and Red-crowned Crane, Beijing region and Shanxi for Baer's Pochard, Brown Eared Pheasant, Grey-sided Thrush and Green-backed Flycatcher, and the Dongzhai reserve in He'nan for the ultra-rare Crested Ibis, the stunning Reeves’s Pheasant and other specialities.
Wednesday 3rd May —
Monday 15th May 2017
Northeastern China Extension: Monday 15th May — Saturday 27th May (13 days)
Leaders: Hannu Jännes and local bird guides
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations
The huge and varied country that is China boasts an extraordinary bird list of over 1300 species. Since 1984, Birdquest has developed a series of comprehensive tours to find a vast majority of the endemics and specialities, but in a country that is so large, and with so many scattered specialities, there is always more to see. This itinerary, to the east of the country, targets some rare and poorly known waterbirds on the coast, and some stunning endemics at forest and steppe grassland sites inland. The bird list will not be huge, but will be respectable, and the quality contained within it certainly will be!
Every now and then, an ornithological discovery is made that excites the entire world birding fraternity, and one such event was the discovery of Chinese Crested Tern breeding in Taiwan in 2000. Prior to that there had been just three records in recent times, and the species was feared to be close to extinction. Whilst the breeding grounds on remote rocks off the Matsu Islands are hard to get to, and the timing of the terns’ breeding inconvenient to tie-in with a visit to Taiwan, seeing the species on the Chinese coast has been relatively straightforward in recent years. With such a window of opportunity (and there’s no guarantee that the terns will be gettable for long!) now is the time to go and see this critically endangered species.
Another equally exciting and critically endangered species is the very special Spoon-billed Sandpiper which has plummeted in numbers alarmingly in recent years, and the Yellow Sea is a major staging area for this species. Much of the area is under threat from reclamation, but in the Shanghai area, there are still extensive mud flats where on a good day one can see double figure numbers of this rare species, many of which will be in splendid summer plumage at this time of year.
Our adventure will begin near to Shanghai, where, as well as the Spoon-billed Sandpipers, we will keep a sharp eye out for other rarities amongst a superb array of shorebirds with species such as Great Knot, Asiatic Dowitcher and Nordmann’s Greenshank all being possible. Stunning Saunders’s Gulls are common here and we will also see the localized endemic Reed Parrotbill. Another attraction of the coast at this season is that it’s sometimes alive with colourful migrants and we’re sure to see a few goodies such as Narcissus Flycatcher or Siberian Thrush! We will also call in at a spot for the rare and localized Japanese Marsh Warbler before leaving Shanghai.
Next we will make our way southwest to the rural villages around Wuyuan, where our main prize will be the beautiful and critically endangered Courtois’s (or Blue-crowned) Laughingthrush, whilst nearby we should be able to find the scarce Pied Falconet, Mandarin Duck (real wild ones!), Brown Crake, Long-billed Plover, the localized Swinhoe’s Minivet and the smart Short-tailed Parrotbill.
We will then make our way to Emei Feng in Fujian province, where we will explore the forested road that leads up through the reserve. Our prime targets will be the pheasants, and it’s quite possible to see four species in a morning! Pick of the bunch is the unbelievable Cabot’s Tragopan, though gorgeous Elliot’s Pheasant gives it a good run for its money! The supporting cast is good too with other possibilities including Chestnut Bulbul, Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, Brown Bush-Warbler, Spotted Elachura (formerly known as Spotted Wren-Babbler, it is now placed in its own monotypic family) and Buffy and Moustached Laughingthrushes.
Our final base in southeastern China will be Fuzhou, and from here we will explore the Min Jiang Estuary for Chinese Crested Terns and the recently discovered Swinhoe’s (or White-faced) Plover, and this is also a good area for rare migrants such as Chinese Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill. Whilst in Fuzhou, we will also take the time to visit an excellent area of park land and lowland forest where likely species include the skulking White-necklaced (or Rickett’s Hill) Partridge, the endemic Grey-sided Scimitar-Babbler, Masked Laughingthrush and the superb Fork-tailed Sunbird, as well as a variety of other more common lowland species.
During the optional second part of the tour, to northeastern China, we will travel first to Wuhan on the Yangtze River in Hubei province and onwards to the Dongzhai National Reserve in He’nan province. One of two major attractions here is the spectacular Reeves’s Pheasant, and this is surely the best place in China for getting good views of this extraordinary and beautiful creature. It is not too far from here that a relict population of the spectacular Crested Ibis was found by Chinese ornithologists long after the species was thought to have become extinct in the wild (in Japan). Now the population has greatly increased and they have spread back to cover part of their original range. Other attractions include Chinese Sparrowhawk, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Collared Finchbill, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Masked Laughingthrush, Silver-throated Bushtit, Red-billed Starling, the fast-declining Collared Crow and the impressive Chinese (or Yellow-billed) Grosbeak.
Next we will travel onwards to the rugged, partly-forested mountains of Shanxi province, famous for its spectacular Brown Eared Pheasants. Also here we may well see the strange, babbler-like Chinese Hill Warbler, Yellow-streaked Warbler and Père David’s (or Plain) Laughingthrush
Afterwards we will visit some mountains around Beijing which hold a few very special birds, including the poorly-known Green-backed (or Elisa’s) Flycatcher, the colourful Zappey’s Flycatcher (split from Blue-and-white Flycatcher), the very rare Grey-sided Thrush and the localized Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch. Other specialities include White-bellied Redstart, Chinese Thrush, Chinese and Claudia’s Leaf Warblers, Yellow-bellied Tit and Chinese Nuthatch.
We will also visit a fantastic wetland to the south of Beijing which has recently been discovered to be home to a breeding population of the critically endangered Baer’s Pochard. As well as this ‘mega’ we should also find the rare Schrenck’s Bittern and Blunt-winged Warbler.
Finally we will travel to Inner Mongolia and the adjacent Baicheng region in Jilin Province in southern Manchuria. Here the steppe grasslands still harbour the critically endangered and little-known Jankowski’s Bunting, which has been seen by very few birders, as well as the stately Great Bustard, Asian Short-toed Lark, the spectacular Mongolian Lark and the localized Pallas’s Reed Bunting. We also plan to explore the nearby Xianghai National Nature Reserve, a huge sanctuary of 105,000 hectares. Within the reserve a wide range of habitats is found including extensive Phragmites reedbeds, large marshes and lagoons, open elm woodland and dry grassy plains. The majestic Red-crowned Crane (undoubtedly the most spectacular member of this impressive family) breeds here, while other specialities include the rare Swan Goose, Amur Falcon, Daurian Partridge, White-naped Crane, Oriental Pratincole, Grey-headed Lapwing, Chinese Penduline Tit and the impressive Chinese Grey Shrike.
After we return to Beijing, a visit to the famous Great Wall will round off our fantastic tour.
Birdquest has unrivalled experience in China, having operated a long series of tours there since 1984.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and guesthouses are of good or medium standard, though the guesthouse at Emei Feng is simple but clean and comfortable. Road transport is by small coach, minibus or cars. Roads are generally of a good quality.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there will be one or two harder walks on the mudflats where some walking through mud will be required in order to get close to the shorebirds and terns, though this is generally not too difficult. During the extension the walking effort is easy to moderate.
Climate: Generally cool to warm (occasionally hot in the lowlands) with sunny spells interspersed with overcast conditions, especially in the mountains. Some rain is likely and it may be heavy at times.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £3240, €3820, $4240 Shanghai/Fuzhou. Northeastern China Extension: £3790, €4470, $4960 (ending in Beijing).
Price includes all transportation (including specified flights during the extension), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room Supplement: £348, €411, $456. Northeastern China Extension: £432, €510, $566.
Deposit: £350, €450, $550. Extension: £400, €550, $600.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and 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
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