SOUTHEAST CHINA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Southeast China: Day 1 The tour begins this afternoon at Guangzhou airport, from where we head for northern Guangdong province for a two nights stay.
Southeast China: Day 2 Northern Guangdong is one of the last reliable places to see the beautiful but fast declining and endangered Silver Oriole. We should see a number of these lovely creatures during our visit, at a site we pioneered on the Birdquest South China Expedition in spring 2019.
Whilst in the area we should also find the endemic Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler and the near-endemic and spectacular Fork-tailed Sunbird, whilst other new species may well include Rufous Woodpecker, Large Woodshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Hair-crested Drongo and Common Tailorbird.
Southeast China: Day 3 Today we will drive northwestwards to Emeifeng in Fujian province for a four nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Southeast China: Days 4-6 As other sites in Fujian have become more difficult to access, Emei Feng has come to the fore and is justifiably regarded as the prime site to visit to find the specialities of the region. Here, rushing rivers cut through the bamboo-dominated forests lower down whilst the steep slopes above are still clad in beautiful forest, making for some fantastic vistas.
Fortunately, the whole area is easily explored along roads, and old logging tracks, allowing us to explore much of the forest in our vehicles whilst searching for Galliformes! These special birds will be high on the agenda and it’s not unlikely to find four species of pheasants in a day! Pride of place will go to the superb polka-dotted Cabot’s Tragopan, which we should find relatively easily, as they can often be found on the road early in the morning. Equally exciting, and reasonably reliable here is the rare Elliot’s Pheasant. Silver Pheasant is often relatively numerous, and Koklass Pheasant may well also put in an appearance! We will surely regularly hear the plaintive whistles of the little-known and furtive White-necklaced (or Rickett’s Hill) Partridge, and, with persistence, we should be able to get views.
Although overall diversity is not very high, a number of other interesting species occur in the forest, and species we expect to see include the localized Chestnut Bulbul, Rufous-faced Warbler, Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler (interestingly, the form here, intermedius, has yellow spectacles!), the attractive Small Niltava, the monotypic Spotted Elachura (with its striking song), Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, the excellent Buffy Laughingthrush (a superb vocalist), the skulking endemic Moustached Laughingthrush, Indochinese and Black-chinned Yuhinas, and Huet’s Fulvetta.
In the highest areas, we can find such species as Buff-throated Warbler and Brown Bush Warbler (with its insect-like song), while at the lowest levels is the near-endemic Masked Laughingthrush.
Other more difficult but notable species that we may encounter include the rare Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, the striking Grey-headed Parrotbill and pretty little Short-tailed Parrotbill.
Additional, more widespread, species that occur include Black Eagle, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Himalayan and Lesser Cuckoos, Collared Owlet, White-throated Needletail, Bay Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Asian House Martin, White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, the impressive Yellow-cheeked Tit, Black-throated Bushtit, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Mountain and Himalayan Black Bulbuls, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, the shy Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, the comical Pygmy Cupwing, Rufous-capped Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Redstart, the attractive Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling-Thrush, Little, Spotted, Slaty-backed and White-crowned Forktails and Orange-bellied Leafbird.
Southeast China: Day 7 After some final birding at Emei Feng, we will drive to Wuyuan in China’s Jiangxi province for a two nights stay.
Southeast China: Day 8 For many years, Blue-crowned (or Courtois’s) Laughingthrush was known from just a couple of specimens collected in 1919 and it was only in 2000, after seven years of concerted effort by Chinese ornithologists, that this species was rediscovered close to its type locality. Rather strangely for a laughingthrush, this species is a migrant, appearing at a few rural villages (just five breeding sites are currently known) each summer to breed and then vanishing for the winter! The known world population appears to be stable but very small (estimated at around 250 individuals), but with local help, we will visit a site where we should be able to get some great views of them and we will count ourselves very privileged indeed to see such a rare and beautiful bird.
Some other interesting species occur in this area, including Mandarin Duck, Black Bittern, the superb Black Baza, Chinese Goshawk, the large Crested Kingfisher, Swinhoe’s (or Brown-rumped) Minivets, Tiger Shrike (though this declining species is scarce in the area so some luck will be needed), Chinese Hwamei (a great songster) and, with luck, the scarce White-browed Laughingthrush or Northern Boobook.
Other, more widespread, species that we may well encounter here include Crested Serpent Eagle, Lesser Coucal, Asian Barred Owlet, House Swift, Great Spotted, Grey-capped and Grey-headed (or Grey-faced) Woodpeckers, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Black-naped Oriole, Ashy Drongo, Eurasian Jay, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Oriental Magpie Robin and White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias.
Whilst in the area we will also make a detour to an area where we have an excellent chance of finding the feisty Pied Falconet as well as a few other species such as Dollarbird and the uncommon Brown-breasted Bulbul. We will also visit a nearby river where we will have our first chance of the range-restricted Long-billed Plover and Brown Crake, and will also visit an area of degraded forest where we hope to find the delightful Short-tailed Parrotbill.
Southeast China: Day 9 After some final birding in the Wuyuan area we will head eastwards to the Shanghai area for an overnight stay.
Southeast China: Day 10 This morning we will visit Dishui Lake. Here, the extensive reedbeds are home to good populations of the endemic Reed Parrotbill and the scarce, restricted-range Marsh Grassbird. The extensive reedbeds are also home to a thriving population of Eurasian Bitterns and these can be quite visible at this season. It is also an excellent area for Reed Parrotbills and in the right conditions, migrants can be plentiful.
Afterwards we will cross the Yangtze River and transfer to our hotel at Yangkou in Jiangsu’s Rudong County for a three nights stay. Later in the afternoon we will begin exploring this wonderful area.
Southeast China: Days 11-12 The main focus of our time in the Shanghai region will be to explore an area of mudflats to the north of Shanghai in Rudong County. This ever-changing landscape, with more and more reclamation every year, is still providing a crucial feeding area for many of the East Asian flyway waders.
Most importantly, it has been found to be an extremely reliable site for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. These are probably the easiest and most accessible Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the world and in recent springs, more than 100 have regularly been found in the area during coordinated counts! We will attempt to find them at one of the many high tide roosts where, after a few false alerts from hopeful-looking Red-necked Stints, a turn of the head should reveal the spatulate appendage that we’ve been looking for. With luck, we should find several, some of which will be sporting their splendid brick-red breeding plumage. We will also have an opportunity to look for them feeding on the mudflats, feeding with their classic sewing-machine action as they work their way through shallow pools.
Thousands of other waders will be present at this excellent site, and it is possible to see over thirty species in a day here. In the high tide roosts, large numbers of Red-necked Stints are joined by smaller numbers of Red Knot, Sanderling, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper as well as the impressive though sadly declining Great Knot. These will be joined by good numbers of Kentish Plovers, Mongolian Sandplovers and Terek Sandpipers, whilst the congregations of waders are likely to also include Grey (or Black-bellied) and Pacific Golden Plovers, Greater Sandplover, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Grey-tailed Tattler, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew and the impressively long-billed Far Eastern Curlew.
With a little luck, we will also encounter a number of scarcer visitors such as the rare Nordmann’s Greenshank, Eurasian Oystercatcher (here from the eastern population which may merit specific status), Great Knot, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Chinese Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill.
Just inland, a number of fish ponds hold a slightly different selection of shorebirds if the water levels are good, and these may include Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Marsh, Wood and Green Sandpipers and Eastern Black-tailed Godwit, and with a bit of luck we will find a few Long-toed Stints or even an Asiatic Dowitcher. Pristine Saunders’s Gulls in full summer plumage are a regular feature here, and we are also likely to find a few Black-tailed, Mongolian and Heuglin’s Gulls with them (the latter most likely of the confused ‘taimyrensis’ form). Nearby, the freshwater pools hold a variety of other species including the spectacular and localized Reed Parrotbill. Chinese (or Eastern) Spot-billed Duck, Yellow Bittern, Grey-headed Lapwing, Oriental Pratincole and even Pheasant-tailed Jacana can also be found here, and if we are fortunate, we may bump into a small group of Little Curlews, though we will be past the peak migration time for this species. Further possibilities include Falcated Duck and Brown-cheeked Rail.
Along the coast there are a number of shelter belts which sometimes attract a host of migrants. Of course what is present on any given day is unpredictable, but there are generally plenty of birds to keep us interested. Highlights may include such gems as the delightful Forest Wagtail, Pechora Pipit, the superb Siberian Thrush, Eye-browed and Japanese Thrushes, the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous-tailed and Siberian Blue Robins, Stejneger’s Stonechat (split from Siberian), Dark-sided, Asian Brown, Blue-and-white, Yellow-rumped and Mugimaki Flycatchers, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Yellow-browed, Arctic (and perhaps Japanese – a recent split from Arctic), Pale-legged and Eastern Crowned Warblers, Black-naped Oriole, the impressive Chinese (or Yellow-billed) Grosbeak, and Black-faced, Little, Chestnut and the range-restricted Tristram’s Buntings. Less regular migrants include Narcissus Flycatcher and Yellow-breasted Bunting.
At this time of year, in the right conditions, almost any passerines are possible, and rarities could include exciting species such as White-throated Rock-Thrush, Grey-backed Thrush, White’s Thrush, Zappey’s Flycatcher, Bull-headed Shrike, Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher, Citrine Wagtail, Yellow-browed Bunting or Daurian Starling.
Other species we may well see in this excellent area include Common Pheasant, Little Grebe, Grey, Purple, Chinese Pond and Black-crowned Night Herons, Eastern Great, Intermediate, Little and Eastern Cattle Egrets, Western Osprey, Peregrine, Common Kestrel (scarce), White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Little, Gull-billed, White-winged, Whiskered and Common Terns (the latter of the distinctive form longipennis), Oriental Turtle, Red Turtle and Spotted Doves, Common and Indian Cuckoos, Pacific (or Fork-tailed) Swift, the colourful Black-capped Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Brown (various subspecies are possible) and Long-tailed Shrikes, Black and Hair-crested Drongos, Eurasian and Azure-winged Magpies, Eastern Yellow Wagtail (three forms are possible including the distinctive taivana ‘Green-headed Wagtail’), Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail (the form here is leucopsis ‘Amur Wagtail’ though ocularis ‘East Siberian Wagtail’ also occurs as a migrant), Richard’s, Pechora and Olive-backed Pipits, Oriental Skylark, Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow), Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Japanese Tit (split from Great Tit), Chinese Blackbird, Light-vented Bulbul, the bulky Manchurian Bush-Warbler (the distinctive form here, canturians is placed by some authors in Japanese Bush-Warbler), Oriental Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Plain Prinia, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Japanese White-eye, Crested Myna, Black-collared, Red-billed and White-cheeked Starlings and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
Southeast China: Day 13 After some final birding in the Rudong area, we will head for Shanghai’s Pudong Airport where our tour ends early this evening.
Hainan: Day 1 The tour begins this morning at Sanya, situated on the southern coast of the large island of Hainan off southern China.
[Sanya is served by flights from all major Chinese gateway cities, and there are also some direct international flights. We can easily arrange your flight into Nanning on request, even if you are not arranging your international flights through us.]
From Sanya we drive inland to Tian Chi (‘Heaven’s Lake’), a beautiful area in the mountains where we will stay for four nights. This afternoon we will begin our exploration of Jianfengling Forest Park.
Hainan: Days 2-4 The Jianfengling National Forest Park protects an extensive area of upland native forest in the interior of Hainan. Spring is the best time of year for birding on Hainan, as the difficult endemic partridge and peacock-pheasant are easier to see at this season compared with winter and other seasons.
Here we will be looking in particular for the endemic Hainan Leaf-Warbler (which is easy to find), the endemic Hainan Partridge (which is shy, but which we should see with persistence) and the endemic Hainan Peacock-Pheasant (which we should hear, but have only a modest chance of seeing). Another major target is the Hainan Laughingthrush, a very distinctive island endemic form which has only recently started to be treated as a full species, rather than a race of Black-throated Laughingthrush.
Other great birds in this fine area are the restricted-range Chinese Barbet, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, Huet’s and Dusky Fulvettas, and Yellow-billed Nuthatch, all of which we should see.
Hainan: Day 5 Today we will return to Sanya and catch a flight to Guangzhou, where we will join up with those arriving for the main tour.