Sichuan, China: 6-10 August 2016






6-10 August 2016.
Warm to hot. Variable cloud cover with some showers and periods of rain.
Wolong National Nature Reserve, Longcanggou, Xichang, Moxi and Hailuogou Glacier Park.

With Richard Carden. As we'd both birded Sichuan previously, this short, five day jaunt from Chengdu was aimed at filling in a number of outstanding targets. Logistics and guiding were provided by our good friend Sid Francis - website Sichuan Birding - which ran smoothly as always. Due to a combination of August not being an ideal time to bird Sichuan, potential landslides and wet weather, we were well aware that finding many of the birds would be difficult, with a good dose of luck required. As we wished to retain a flexible itinerary, nothing was pre-booked. Given the sites chosen, a fair amount of driving was required. It's hard to find words in the English language to describe the appalling standard of driving in China, and which provided much entertainment, aggravation and discussion throughout. Unsurprisingly, we failed to encounter a single western tourist during our stay, this area being off the usual tourist path.


5 Aug. Took Sichuan Airlines from Chiang Mai, departing on time and arriving Chengdu just prior to midnight and to a balmy 26°C. As the hotel shuttle bus didn't appear, simply walked the five minutes to the adjacent Chengdu Airport Hotel where met up with Richard who'd arrived early afternoon.

6 Aug. An excellent breakfast spread already available at 06:00, after which we met up with Sid and drove three hours to the Wolong area. In excellent weather we hacked 45 minutes up a steep, muddy slope in search of our first targets. As suspected, we found the birding rather frustrating due to a lack of song, thick vegetation and skulking birds not in the mood to be observed. In a few hours we eventually gained views of Barred Laughingthrush, Green Shrike-babbler, Fujian Niltava, Chinese Wren-Babbler, Martens's Warbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and Grey-hooded Fulvetta among others. From here drove higher, to 3,200 metres, to try for the newly split Sichuan Thrush, but were forced into an early retreat due to rain that started in earnest as we drove away. Drove on to Lingyan Mountain for Grey-winged Blackbird late afternoon, which also had Red-whiskered Bulbul and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker. From here we'd planned to drive as far as Longcanggou, but a combination of heavy traffic in Dujiangyan and road closures en route meant we bailed out of the drive at Yingjing and found a hotel in town around 22:30.

Golden-fronted Fulvetta
Golden-fronted Fulvetta

Emei Shan Liocichla
Emei Shan Liocichla

Brown-winged Parrotbill
Brown-winged Parrotbill

Oriental White-eye
Oriental White-eye

7 Aug. An 06:00 start to complete the drive to Longcanggou through rock strew roads from heavy rain overnight. En route we connected with Ashy-throated Parrotbill, expertly picked out by Sid from the car as we sped past. At Longcanggou the entrance gate was already open well before the official opening time of 08:00, so we slipped in before anyone asked any questions. The weather that greeted us was overcast and cool, so little bird activity early on. However, we were fortunate to find Golden-fronted Fulvetta, that contrary to its usual skulking habits was nicely out in the open. Continuing farther to the top, where currently habitat is being destroyed to build a commercial panda centre, we found the road condition bumpy and muddy but passable enabling us to spend the majority of the day along various sections of the road. Unfortunately, the main target at the top, Three-toed Parrotbill, not found but plenty of others species in the form of Red-winged Laughingthrush, Chinese Wren-Babbler heard, Emei Shan Liocichla, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Yellow-bellied Tit, Yellow-browed Tit, Black Bulbul, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Ashy-throated Warbler and a couple of pairs of Spotted Laughingthrush that remained stubbornly hidden.

Left the area around 17:00 for a longish drive to Xichang, stopping en route for Grey-hooded Parrotbill, after which heavy rain ensued. Dinner en route at one of the motorway service areas.

Arrived Xichang at 21:30 where having checked at the first hotel and unpacked the car were suddenly informed no foreigners - so repacked the vehicle, drove another block to another establishment fairly happy to accept us. It would seem foreigners can be a liability for establishments not having the correct papers. Or maybe it was just the sight of three birders - not exactly your average tourist.

8 Aug. From town we headed up the newly-repaired, environmentally-unfriendly mountain road toward Puga. Due to drainage ditches, parking off road not plentiful but a large muddy pull off provided us access to the stands of Yunnan Pine. We soon found our main targets - Yunnan Nuthatch and Black-capped Sibia - together with Brown-breasted Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Yellow-throated Bunting, Japanese Tit, Ashy Drongo and Rusty-capped Fulvetta heard. Descended back to town, and drove to the recreational lake where we birded the edges picking up the much sought-after Brown-winged Parrotbill.

A five hour drive to Moxi, much delayed due to landslide repairs and roadworks. Near town we stopped adjacent to the river for a quick lunch, where it immediately started raining, though not before we lucked on to the local form of Sinosuthora parrotbill, that appears to be an undescribed taxon intermediate between Ashy-throated and Brown-winged Parrotbills.

Continued the last stretch to Moxi stopping in fields outside town for Black-headed Greenfinch but further rain killed all bird activity. Having dropped bags at our hotel, stepped outside to have three Black-headed Greenfinch fly over, though not seen by all. Persevering, despite the rain, we headed to scrub outside town, where Rufous-tailed Babbler heard, but despite much effort not seen. Due to the continuing rain we abandoned our efforts at 18:30 in favour of warm beer - a Chinese speciality it seems, as according to the locals cold beer is bad for the stomach. Knew we'd been doing something wrong the past 40 years!

9 Aug. With rain easing overnight, a beautiful morning with great weather all day. We retraced our steps to the Black-headed Greenfinch spots of yesterday; this time being rewarded with more than ten birds. Continued to town and bought tickets for Hailuogou Glacier Park. As no private vehicles are permitted inside the park it's necessary to join the tourist mob on the buses. Pretty steep at 190 Yuan per person. The ride took 50 minutes and first stopped at the Bamboo Nature Trail, which all visitors walk. Birding the trail, accompanied by hoards of noisy locals is an effort in self-control and after a half hour with few birds we returned to the road, sneaked past the buses half expecting to be called back, and continued up the road to where at least we could bird in peace, other than the blaring horns of the busses passing.

A couple of hours here produced some good flocks, with some of the best birding of the trip: Vinaceous Rosefinch, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Chinese Wren-Babbler, White-collared Yuhina, Sichuan Treecreeper, Greenish Warbler, Grey-crested Tit, Green-backed Tit, Coal Tit, Sichuan Leaf Warbler and Black-browed Tit. Returned to the Nature Trail around 12:00 to find it mostly deserted, but again not very birdy, though Snowy-browed Flycatcher seen and Streaked Barwing heard. Took the return bus at 15:00 and retraced our steps to the Rufous-tailed Babbler of yesterday, that despite the excellent weather we failed to even hear in an hour of searching. Left at 17:00 for another five hour drive, again with long delays due to landslides, arriving Yingjing at 22:00. Checked into the same hotel as before, though this time they didn't appear so pleased to see us back - maybe someone had given them a hard time for having foreigners in their hotel.

10 Aug. A return to Longcanggou where we started with a partially successful attempt on Sichuan Bush Warbler, then worked our way uphill several kilometres concentrating on a few missed species from our earlier visit. This proved rather successful with good views of Slaty Bunting and Fujian Niltava, although Emei Leaf Warbler remained absent and almost certainly had already left its breeding grounds, as likewise we didn't encounter Sulphur-breasted Warbler. With the excellent weather, butterflies were much in evidence.

Rufous-vented Yuhina
Rufous-vented Yuhina

White-collared Yuhina
White-collared Yuhina

Constable Dichorragia nesimachus
Constable - Dichorragia nesimachus

Himalayan Jester Symbrenthia hypselis
Himalayan Jester - Symbrenthia hypselis

Returned to Chengdu airport by 15:30 and flights home without issues. Our sincere thanks to Sid for the enjoyable and successful trip.


Bird images from this, and other, birding trips here.

Species List

  Wolong   Count
  Green Shrike-babbler Pteruthius xanthochlorus 2
  Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 1
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 2
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 1
  Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 1
  Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 4
  Chinese Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga mutica 1
  Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 2
  Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler Horornis acanthizoides 4
  Chestnut-headed Tesia Cettia castaneocoronata 6
  Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris 4
  Kloss's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus ogilviegranti 10
  Sichuan Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus forresti 1
  Martens's Warbler Seicercus omeiensis 2
  Alstrom's Warbler Seicercus soror 2
  Rusty-capped Fulvetta Alcippe dubia 4
  David's Fulvettta Alcippe davidi 4
  Chinese Babax Babax lanceolatus 4
  Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera 2
  Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea 4
  Golden-breasted Fulvetta Lioparus chrysotis 12
  White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata 4
  Three-toed Parrotbill Cholornis paradoxa 2
  Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus 2
  Barred Laughingthrush Garrulax lunulatus 4
  Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi 2
  Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata 3
  Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 2
  White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus 3
  Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 1
  Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
  Lingyan Mountain   Count
  Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 2
  Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 2
  Grey-capped Pygmy Wood Yungipicus canicapillus 1
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 1
  Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 1
  Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 1
  Grey-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul 1
  Longcanggou   Count
  Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis 1
  Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 1
  Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus 2
  Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon Treron sphenurus 2
  Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus 1
  Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris 6
  Grey-capped Pygmy Wood Yungipicus canicapillus 2
  Green Shrike-babbler Pteruthius xanthochlorus 1
  Hair-crested drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 2
  Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius 1
  Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 4
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 1
  Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus 2
  Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 3
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 6
  Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 3
  Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
  Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 12
  Chinese Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga mutica 2
  Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 3
  Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 1
  Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler Horornis acanthizoides 2
  Chestnut-headed Tesia Cettia castaneocoronata 6
  Ashy-throated Warbler Phylloscopus maculipennis 7
  Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris 12
  Claudia's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus claudiae 10
  Kloss's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus ogilviegranti 10
  Sichuan Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus forresti 3
  Grey-crowned Warbler Seicercus tephrocephalus 1
  Bianchi's Warbler Seicercus valentini 1
  Alstrom's Warbler Seicercus soror 6
  Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps 2
  Sichuan Bush Warbler Locustella chengi 2
  Grey-breatsed Prinia Prinia hodgsonii 1
  Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 3
  Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 2
  Golden-fronted Fulvetta Alcippe variegaticeps 2
  David's Fulvettta Alcippe davidi 10
  Emei Shan Liocichla Liocichla omeiensis 4
  Barred Laughingthrush Garrulax lunulatus 2
  White-browed Laughingthrush Garrulax sannio 12
  Elliot's Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 4
  Red-winged Laughingthrush Trochalopteron formosum 3
  Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera 3
  Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea 6
  Golden-breasted Fulvetta Lioparus chrysotis 5
  Grey-hooded Fulvetta Fulvetta cinereiceps 2
  Three-toed Parrotbill Cholornis paradoxa h
  Ashy-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora alphonsiana 6
  Black-chinned Yuhina Yuhina nigrimenta 1
  Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 2
  Oriental White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
  Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
  Grey-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul 1
  Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus 2
  Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 3
  Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea 1
  Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi 3
  Mrs. Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae 2
  Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 4
  White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
  Vinaceous Rosefinch Carpodacus vinaceus 6
  Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra 10
  Slaty Bunting Emberiza siemsseni 2
  Xichang   Count
  Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
  Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
  Black-winged Kite Elanus axillaris 2
  White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
  Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon Treron sphenurus 1
  White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis 2
  Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
  Grey-capped Pygmy Wood Yungipicus canicapillus 1
  Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus 2
  Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
  Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 4
  Crested Finchbill Spizixos canifrons 4
  Brown-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthorrhous 10
  Sooty-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus aurigaster 4
  Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 2
  Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 10
  Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 10
  Kloss's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus ogilviegranti 2
  Black-headed Sibia Heterophasia desgodinsi 1
  Brown-winged Parrotbill Sinosuthora brunnea 6
  Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis 2
  Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 4
  Yunnan Nuthatch Sitta yunnanensis 4
  Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 2
  Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 4
  Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea 1
  White-browed Bush Robin Tarsiger indicus 1
  Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans 1
  White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 2
  White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
  Moxi   Count
  Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
  Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 2
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 2
  Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 3
  Brown-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthorrhous 10
  Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 10
  Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus gravivox 2
  Chinese Babax Babax lanceolatus 2
  White-browed Laughingthrush Garrulax sannio 2
  Elliot's Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 2
  Rufous-tailed Babbler Moupinia poecilotis 1
  Parrotbill sp. Sinosuthora sp. 10
  Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
  Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 2
  Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus 4
  Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
  White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3
  Black-headed Greenfinch Chloris ambigua 10
  Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 3
  Hailuogou   Count
  Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
  Salim Ali's Swift Apus salimalii 10
  Rufous-bellied Woodp Dendrocopos hyperythrus 3
  Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus 2
  Grey-backed Shirke Lanius tephronotus 3
  Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 4
  Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4
  Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 2
  Yellow-bellied Fantail Chelidorhynx hypoxanthus 1
  Coal Tit Periparus ater 4
  Grey-crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous 4
  Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 3
  Chinese Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga mutica 3
  Chestnut-headed Tesia Cettia castaneocoronata 10
  Black-browed Bushtit Aegithalos bonvaloti 2
  Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii 1
  Ashy-throated Warbler Phylloscopus maculipennis 2
  Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides 2
  Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris 3
  Sichuan Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus forresti 10
  Grey-crowned Warbler Seicercus tephrocephalus 4
  Bianchi's Warbler Seicercus valentini 3
  Martens's Warbler Seicercus omeiensis 3
  Giant Laughingthrush Garrulax maximus 2
  Streaked Barwing Actinodura souliei 1
  Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis 1
  White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata 12
  Rufous-vented Yuhina Yuhina occipitalis 10
  Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea 1
  Sichuan Treecreeper Certhia tianquanensis 1
  Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus 3
  Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica 1
  Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 1
  White-browed Shortwing Brachypteryx montana 2
  Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula hodgsonii 2
  Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher Ficedula strophiata 10
  Snowy-browed Flycatcher Ficedula hyperythra 2
  Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
  White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3
  Vinaceous Rosefinch Carpodacus vinaceus 10