Welcome to Birdquest
Tuesday 3rd May - Friday 27th May 2016
This Eastern China tour is an epic 25 day adventure that focused on a whole array of rare and endangered migrants and Chinese endemics. The prime focus of the ‘main tour’ was to see such rarities as Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshanks in breeding plumage, the Critically Endangered Courtois’s Laughingthrush and Chinese Crested Tern, the superb Cabot’s Tragopan and Elliot’s Pheasant and a multitude of migrants. This was successfully achieved despite some major changes in itinerary forced upon us by landslides and flooding. Coastal birding at this time of year is often exciting, and we saw a whole range of fantastic species that included Black-faced Spoonbill, White-faced Plover, Great Knot, Saunders’s and Black-tailed Gulls, Reed Parrotbill; a wealth of Siberian migrants, including such gems as Pechora Pipit, Brown-cheeked Rail, Yellow-rumped, Mugimaki and Blue-and-White Flycatchers, Amur and Japanese Paradise Flycatchers, Tristram’s Bunting and Japanese Thrush. Inland we encountered a nice set of forest species like Mandarin Duck, Silver Pheasant, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Moustached Laughingthrush, Fork-tailed Sunbird, migrant Siberian Thrushes and the delightful Pied Falconet. We also found a superb pair of Blyth’s Kingfishers, a very difficult species to find in China (or elsewhere!) and two Greater Flamingos, well out of their usual range. Quite a haul! The second part of the tour, the ‘Northeast Extension’, visited a series of sites for various other Chinese specialities and we also found time to visit the world-renowned Terracotta Warriors near Xian and the Great Wall near Beijing. Unfortunately the Foping Nature Reserve was closed to foreigners this year, and for the first time we were denied permission to go anywhere near the reserve. Despite that, one group member had a brief but good view of the enigmatic male Blackthroat, though sadly it was only seen in flight by everyone else. The beautiful Crested Ibis, however, was a lot easier to see and we found several at nests, and also found some interesting forest species here such as David’s Fulvetta and Chinese Blue Flycatcher. One of the most stunning species we saw was an immaculate male Golden Pheasant that slowly crossed the road in front of the entire group, but this was not the only good pheasant, since we also saw the stunning Brown Eared Pheasant exceptionally well. Our visit to the mountains of Hebei Province near Beijing was also more difficult than usual since the skylift was closed and we had to walk up into the mountains. Nevertheless, we still managed to find the endemic Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch, Green-backed and Zappey’s Flycatchers, Chinese, Humes and Claudia’s Leaf Warblers, a singing Siberian Blue Robin and for a couple of people, the rare Grey-sided Thrush and Red-flanked Bluetail. Further north, in the grasslands and wetlands of Jilin province, we found new rarities including the increasingly scarce Jankowski’s Bunting, strutting male Great Bustards, large numbers of Amur Falcons, Daurian Partridge, Red-crowned Cranes, the Endangered Oriental Stork, Chinese Grey Shrikes, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, and breeding plumage Asiatic Dowitcher, Schrenck’s Bittern and a single Baer’s Pochard. The last part of our trip was a brief visit south to a recently discovered site for the Critically Endangered Baer’s Pochard and the rare Schrenck’s Bittern, both of which we saw here, alongside a host of other wetland species. With so many rare and sought-after species on offer, this tour is undoubtedly one of the best and most exciting birding tours in Asia!