2016 Photo Highlights

Editor’s note: My photos of the year, 2016. Clockwise from top left: Cinereous Vulture on Chongming Island in January kicked off a year that saw a parade of interesting sightings in Shanghai; ultra-rare Band-bellied Crake was the highlight of my three-week trip to a never-birded area of Heilongjiang; on 10 Dec. members of Shanghai’s ever-growing birding community had a big day out at Pudong’s Cape Nanhui; in a two-month expedition to Qinghai, meeting this Tibetan Lynx was my biggest thrill.

Happy New Year! This post is a photographic summary of my birding year 2016.

Unlike 2015, which saw Elaine Du and me visit the United States, in 2016 we never left China. We birded eight months in Shanghai, two months in Qinghai, and three weeks apiece in the Dulong Gorge in Yunnan and in Elaine’s hometown of Boli in Heilongjiang.

SHANGHAI RARITIES

In a year that saw unprecedented numbers of good records in Shanghai, among them Nordmann’s Greenshank, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Swinhoe’s Rail, Black-naped Monarch, Crow-billed Drongo, Fujian Niltava, and Slaty Bunting, Elaine and I were on hand to record some of the rarities.

One of the best was Cinereous Vulture. I got this photo on 23 Jan. on Chongming Island.

Cinereous Vulture, 23 Jan. 2016. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
Cinereous Vulture, Chongming, 23 Jan. 2016.

Pomarine Jaeger was discovered at Cape Nanhui on 19 Oct., a first for Shanghai. The next day, Elaine and I got this image.

Pomarine Skua/Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus, Nanhui, Shanghai, 20 Oct. 2016.
Pomarine Jaeger/Skua Stercorarius pomarinus, Nanhui, 20 Oct. 2016.

A trio of Critically Endangered Siberian Crane took up residence on Hengsha Island around 12 Nov. On 7 Dec., I got this photo.

Siberian Crane, Hengsha, 7 Dec. 2016.
Two of the 3 Siberian Crane on Hengsha Island, 7 Dec. 2016.

Here are images of birds more commonly noted in the Shanghai region.

Grey Nightjar, Dongtai, Craig Brelsford.
Grey Nightjar, Dongtai, Jiangsu, 21 May 2016.

 

Northern Boobook, one of four we saw on 23 Oct. 2016 at Nanhui.
Northern Boobook, 23 Oct. 2016, Nanhui.

 

Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Shanghai. Craig Brelsford.
Large Hawk-Cuckoo, 1 May 2016, Nanhui.

 

Siberian Rubythroat, Magic Parking Lot, Nanhui. 29 Oct. 2016. Craig Brelsford.
Siberian Rubythroat, Magic Parking Lot, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016.

Dulong Gorge

From 16 Feb. to 5 March, Elaine and I were in Yunnan, where we explored the Dulong Gorge, a remote valley in the northwestern corner of the province. Birding there is excellent, and the views are sublime.

Beautiful Dulong Gorge near between Maku and Qinlangdang, 27 Feb. 2016.
Dulong Gorge between Maku and Qinlangdang, 27 Feb. 2016.

After days of rain, we were rewarded with this moon-set at dawn on 26 Feb.

The sublime spectacle of the moon setting over the Gaoligong Mountains at dawn was our reward for enduring days and days of rain. Photo taken on Gongshan-Dulong Road near Kongdang on 26 Feb. 2016. Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/9, 1/320, ISO 640.
Gongshan-Dulong Road, 26 Feb. 2016.

We noted 170 species of bird at Dulong. One of the best was Grandala.

Grandala, Gongshan-Dulong Road, 22 Feb. 2016. Elev. 1820 m.
Grandala, Gongshan-Dulong Road, 22 Feb. 2016.

For its combination of stunning beauty and strong Himalayan character, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin was Craig’s Bird of the Trip.

For its combination of stunning beauty and strong Himalayan character, Rufous-breasted Robin was Craig's Bird of the Trip. Our team noted 44 members of Tarsiger hyperythrus in the Dulong Gorge, all but 1 of them adult males. I got this photo at Pukawang on 24 Feb.
Rufous-breasted Bush Robin Tarsiger hyperythrus, 24 Feb. 2016.

Birds have plenty of places to hide in the thickly vegetated Dulong Gorge. Sometimes we got lucky, as with this Chestnut-headed Tesia.

Chestnut-headed Tesia, Dulong Beach, 26 Feb. 2016.
Chestnut-headed Tesia Cettia castaneocoronata, 26 Feb. 2016.

Qinghai

Elaine and I spent most of the summer in Qinghai. We noted 195 species of bird, but our most unforgettable moment was supplied by a mammal. This is Tibetan Lynx.

Tibetan Lynx (Lynx lynx isabellinus), Kanda Mountain, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai, China. 14 July 2016. Elev. 4550 m.
Tibetan Lynx Lynx lynx isabellinus, Kanda Mountain, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 14 July 2016. Elev. 4550 m (14,920 ft.).

Tibetan Partridge was commonly noted in eastern Yushu Prefecture.

Tibetan Partridge, 5 July 2016. Craig Brelsford.
Tibetan Partridge, Kanda Gorge, 5 July 2016.

Another great chicken: White Eared Pheasant.

A pair of White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon dolani pause from their evening forage to gaze warily at the camera. Kanda Gorge, Nangqian County, 5 July 2016. Elev. 3980 m. White Eared Pheasant is listed as Near Threatened because of habitat loss and poaching. In Kanda Gorge, the species seems to be doing well. This pair was feeding in the open next to the road.
White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon dolani, Kanda Gorge, 5 July 2016.

At desolate Hala Lake, elev. 4077 m, we found Tibetan Sandgrouse.

Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala, 10 Aug.
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, 10 Aug. 2016.

Brandt’s Mountain Finch is hardy. It thrives at high elevations.

Brandt's Mountain Finch takes long, straight flights at altitudes above 5000 m. I found this individual near Hala Lake, Qinghai, at an elev. of 4400 m.
Brandt’s Mountain Finch, near Hala Lake, 9 Aug. 2016. Elev. 4400 m.

Henderson’s Ground Jay is master of arid scrubland …

Henderson's Ground Jay, scrub W of Chaka, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 30 June 2016. F/6.3, 1/6400, ISO 2500.
Henderson’s Ground Jay near Chaka, 30 June 2016.

… while Isabelline Wheatear is master of the semi-deserts of Wulan County.

Isabelline Wheatear 2/3. F/16, 1/320, ISO 800.
Isabelline Wheatear, Wulan County, 18 Aug. 2016.

We had great partners in Qinghai. One of them was Michael Grunwell.

Michael Grunwell (at scope) and Mark Waters view Przevalski's Redstart at Przevalski's Site in the Dulan Mountains, 1 July 2016.
Michael Grunwell (at scope) and Mark Waters view Przevalski’s Redstart in Dulan Mountains, 1 July 2016.

Landscapes in Qinghai are beyond beautiful. Here are my favorites.

Dunes and mountains, Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016. This photo was taken at 36.826334, 97.965649, elev. 3380 m.
Dunes and mountains, Wulan County, 17 Aug. 2016.

A closer look at the dunes.

The sand in these dunes was deposited grain by grain from the wind. Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016. F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1250.
Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016.

I used my iPhone 6 for this image of a Chinese Juniper gazing out at the Dulan Mountains. The tree clings to the slope at elev. 3960 m.

Proud and strong, this Chinese Juniper Juniperus chinensis has gazed out at the Dulan Mountains for 200 years. It clings firmly to the slope at elevation 3960 m.
Chinese Juniper Juniperus chinensis, Dulan Mountains, 1 July 2016.

Heilongjiang

From 26 May to 12 June 2016, Elaine Du and I visited her home village of Dawucun in Boli County, Heilongjiang, China. The area was never properly birded before we arrived there, and our discoveries have been many. The biggest highlight was Band-bellied Crake.

Band-bellied Crake stunned Elaine and me with its beauty.
Band-bellied Crake, Boli County, Heilongjiang, 8 June 2016.

Mandarin Duck breed in Boli County. We found this drake in a small pool deep in Xidaquan Forest.

Mandarin Duck, Xidaquan, 3 June 2016.
Mandarin Duck, 3 June 2016.

In the Manchurian forest, woodpeckers abound. The most common species is White-backed Woodpecker.

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos leucotos, in wooded area off Road Z004 near Xidaquan, 1 June 2016.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos leucotos, 1 June 2016.

Elaine

Elaine Du is my wife and partner. The year 2016 was our third in a row of non-stop birding. Although she is happy birding and has put together an impressive life list, the Heilongjiang native is never happier than when she is in her hometown.

Elaine and Craig, Boli, Heilongjiang.
Elaine and Craig at home in Boli, Heilongjiang, 1 June 2016.

Through thick and thin we tough it out. Here we are smiling despite being confined to our tent during a rain shower at Hala Lake.

Elaine and Craig waiting out the rain in the tent.
11 Aug. 2016, Hala Lake.

At Eling Lake in Qinghai, where the Yellow River and China are born, Elaine and I posed for this self-portrait.

'We Are Family!' sang Sister Sledge back in '79. Here's the Chinese-American adventure team, Elaine Du (L) and yours truly--partners, spouses, family. Eling Lake, where the Yellow River and Chinese culture are born. 3 July 2016. Self-portrait taken with my Nikon D3S and 600 mm F/4 lens.
Self-portrait taken 3 July 2016 with my Nikon D3S and 600 mm F/4 lens.

Elaine is a little short, but she never gives up. In Dulong Gorge, she improvised a way to see Grandala, a life bird.

Brian Ivon Jones (L) and Elaine Du viewing Grandala for the first time, Dulong Gorge, 19 Feb. 2016.
Brian Ivon Jones and Elaine viewing Grandala, 19 Feb. 2016.

Elaine is proud of the remnant Manchurian forest near her home in Boli. Here we are in front of a stand of Silver Birch.

The husband-and-wife birding team of Elaine Du (L) and Craig Brelsford, Xidaquan National Forest, Boli, Heilongjiang, 10 June 2016.
Xidaquan, 10 June 2016.

People like Elaine’s family put food on the table for the city folks.

Elaine Du (L) with parents and elder sisters. Dawucun, 12 June 2016.
Elaine (L) with parents and elder sisters. Boli, 12 June 2016.

The Shanghai Birding Community

In 2015 I started shanghaibirding.com and the Shanghai Birding WeChat group. In 2016, the number of readers of the Web site and members of the chat group steadily grew. On 10 Dec., the day of the Shanghai Birding Christmas party, I led a group of birders to Cape Nanhui. There we found a pair of Red-crowned Crane, a first for mainland Shanghai. Here is the group after the historic event.

Shanghai birders at Nanhui, 10 Dec. 2016. Photo by Hǎo Zhàokuān (郝兆宽).
Shanghai birders at Nanhui, 10 Dec. 2016. Photo by Hǎo Zhàokuān (郝兆宽).

Happy New Year 2017!

Qinghai 2016 Week 8

This post is about my Qinghai 2016 summer birding trip. It covers the eighth and final week. The featured image shows dunes and mountain in the remote back country of Wulan County, where I spent most of Week 8.

A post on Weeks 5-6 was published Thurs. 27 Oct., and Week 7 appeared Thurs. 10 Nov. Together, this and the two previous posts cover Month 2 of the two-month trip.

For more on the first month, please see these posts:

Qinghai 2016 Week 1-2 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights
Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies

The Qinghai 2016 birding trip began on 26 June 2016 and was originally scheduled to last a month. My wife Elaine Du and I extended the trip another month, from 24 July to 21 Aug. 2016. In Month 2 we drove 2260 km (1,400 miles) in Xining, Haibei, Haixi, and Hainan prefectures and noted 136 bird species. We discovered at previously unknown locations Tibetan Snowcock, Przevalski’s Partridge, Tibetan Sandgrouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. I became one of the few foreign birders to visit Hala Lake, where we found Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, and Lake Xiligou, where we found Mongolian Goitered Gazelle. At the Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, we spied a trio of Tibetan Wolf.

THE FINAL WEEK

Stunning sunset over Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Stunning sunset over Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.

This post covers the eighth and final week of my Qinghai 2016 birding expedition, from Sun. 14 Aug. to Sun. 21 Aug. 2016. Elaine Du and I spent most of Week 8 in Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. Amid stunning scenery, we found Tibetan Wolf, discovered a new location for Przevalski’s Partridge, and around Lake Xiligou had a rare eastern record of Water Rail as well as Qinghai favorites Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Lark, and Henderson’s Ground Jay. The lake held Black-necked Grebe and a noisy super-flock of 4610 Ruddy Shelduck, and Mongolian Goitered Gazelle were in the hills behind. Near Chaka we had Mute Swan, and at a site south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia we noted Dusky Warbler, the 195th and final species of our two-month trip.

WORKING ‘VACATION’ IN WULAN

The view from our room at the hotel in Wulan. A new public square adds life to the town.
The view from our room at the hotel in Wulan Xiancheng. A new public square adds life to the town. The elevation here is 2950 m. The weather in August is warm and dry, a welcome contrast to the cold we endured the previous week at Hala Lake.

Elaine and I had spent 15 straight nights in our tent when in the afternoon of Sun. 14 Aug. we pulled into Wūlán Xiàn Hóngxiáng Jiǔdiàn (乌兰县鸿翔酒店, +86 (0) 977-8245666, 36.927295, 98.479888). This comfortable hotel in Wulan Xiancheng would shelter us for the next three nights. We did no more birding on the 14th. The next day, the 15th, a group of Elaine’s former co-workers who happened to be vacationing in the area stopped by our hotel for a big lunch. As in Xining in July, our vacation-within-a-vacation gave us the breather we needed.

Our explorations resumed on Tues. 16 Aug. In the morning, we reconnoitered the north side of Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), the little-birded saline lake south of Wulan. The elevation around Lake Xiligou is 2950 m, more than 1100 meters lower than chilly Hala Lake, where we had spent the previous week.

This is the productive marshy area at 36.899263, 98.494709. We heard Water Rail calling from the reeds.
This is the productive marshy area near Wulan Xiancheng at 36.899263, 98.494709. From these reeds we heard the squeals of Water Rail, and nearby we found Tibetan Lark.

At a productive marshy area (36.899263, 98.494709) we heard Water Rail calling from the reeds, picked up trip-first Richard’s Pipit, and welcomed back Tibetan Lark to our Qinghai list. The scrub nearby yielded a single Henderson’s Ground Jay.

Despite those successes, approaching Lake Xiligou from the north was not optimal, because the lake is shrinking, and the shrinkage is most pronounced on the north shore. The more remote south shore, by contrast, which we visited in the afternoon, was a revelation.

Mongolian Goitered Gazelle, Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle, Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. Goitered Gazelle ranges from the Arabian Peninsula to China. The IUCN lists it as Vulnerable, mainly because of poaching and habitat loss. The latter problem is glaringly acute in Qinghai, where numbers of domestic livestock continue to increase, straining the land and pushing the wild ungulates out.

The show started while we were still in the semi-desert. We found a black-tailed gazelle that did not bound away like a Tibetan Gazelle, but galloped. It was Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana. We found 12.

As we approached the south shore, we heard a roar coming from the water. The source was Ruddy Shelduck, of which we counted 4610. Next in numbers was Brown-headed Gull (625), Black-necked Grebe (275), and Black-winged Stilt (210). 4 bugling Black-necked Crane made up with charisma and grace what they lacked in numbers. Lake Xiligou also yielded a single Greylag Goose, 7 Common Shelduck, 20 Northern Shoveler, 4 Common Pochard, 1 Great Crested Grebe, and 35 Pied Avocet.

Elaine Du walks through a sea of grass near the south shore of Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. In the distance the town of Wulan can be seen.
Elaine Du walks through a sea of grass near the south shore of Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. In the distance the town of Wulan can be seen.

Driving out in the dark, we found 3 jerboa, two of them long-eared and presumably either Gobi Jerboa or Mongolian Five-Toed Jerboa, and the third short-eared and long-tailed and presumably Northern Three-toed Jerboa. What fun it is to watch these “jumping mice” (跳鼠) hop across the chaparral.

THE BACK COUNTRY OF WULAN COUNTY

Rusty-necklaced Partridge, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, 17 Aug. 2016.
We found this Przevalski’s Partridge at a spot (36.826334, 97.965649) 66 km southwest of Wulan. Endemic to China, Alectoris magna has a compact range that extends from northeastern Qinghai to central Gansu. It is similar to Chukar Partridge A. chukar and is distinguished from it by the chestnut line on the neck. This line gives rise to its other English name, ‘Rusty-necklaced Partridge.’

On Wed. 17 Aug. Elaine and I were back on the road, exploring the area south of Wulan and north of Dulan (36.299080, 98.091569). Here Elaine and I found some of the best scenery and most remote country of the Qinghai trip. We drove for hours, not passing a single car. We saw more Przevalski’s Partridge than people, the result of our finding a new site (36.826334, 97.965649) for the species 66 km southwest of Wulan. The covey contained 13 birds. The site, at elev. 3380 m and with well-vegetated hillsides and steep cliffs for roosting nearby, meets the basic demands of the species and may hold the partridges throughout the year.

Asian Short-toed Lark, in semi-desert near Jinzi Lake, Wulan County, 19 Aug. 2016. The four panels show a single individual, a juvenile. Note the stubby bill, the noticeable extension of the primaries beyond the short tertials (Panel 2), and the streaked breast (4). Hume's Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark show tertials overlapping the primary tips, and neither has streaking across the breast.
Asian Short-toed Lark in semi-desert near Jinzi Lake, Wulan County, 19 Aug. 2016. The four panels show a single individual, a juvenile. Note the stubby bill, the noticeable extension of the primaries beyond the short tertials (Panel 2), and the streaked breast (4). Hume’s Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark show tertials overlapping the primary tips, and neither has streaking across the breast.

On Thurs. 18 Aug., on the way to Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), we found a group of Mongolian Goitered Gazelle sprinting across the road. I once again noted the power and speed of these animals. Jinzi Lake is a spring-fed freshwater pond, elev. 2990 m. Here we found adult and juvenile Black-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. At the lake we added to our Qinghai 2016 list Eurasian Coot, and later in the desert Tarim Babbler joined the list. We studied carefully the short-toed larks in the marshy areas near the lake. All were Asian Short-toed Lark.

I drove into a sand dune and got stuck. With our handy shovel I dug the car out. I learned two lessons from the incident. First, sand is treacherous; never approach it flippantly. Second, always have tools in your car, especially in remote places. Without that shovel, I would not have been able to dig the car out. I would have been at the mercy of some local–assuming we had found someone. Because we had the shovel, we were able to continue birding after a short delay.

Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula margelanica.
Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula margelanica near Jinzi Lake.

On the morning of Fri. 19 Aug. we found a watering hole in the desert near Jinzi Lake. The pool attracted Desert Whitethroat, a lone Temminck’s Stint, Tarim Babbler, several Isabelline Wheatear, and a Citrine Wagtail.

RESCUING REDSTARTS

Dunes and mountain near Lianhe Cun, Dulan County, Qinghai, 19 Aug. 2016.
Dunes and mountain near Chacha Cun (36.674281, 98.133550), Dulan County, Qinghai, 19 Aug. 2016. Nikon D3S and 600 mm F/4, F/11, 1/500, ISO 500.

On the afternoon of Fri. 19 Aug. Elaine and I were driving through Lianhe Cun (36.622738, 98.233933). We did a double-take. Someone had hung bird netting along the main road, in plain view. The nets were apparently some ill-advised attempt to protect the local crop of wolfberry growing in the gardens behind. Wolfberry or gǒuqǐ (枸杞) is an edible fruit grown in irrigated cropland in Haixi Prefecture.

The scheme was not only callous but also futile, as nearly all the birds could see the netting and were flying over it into the gardens. The only result the netting was having was to kill a few of the birds–and demonstrate the ignorance of the net-setters.

I saw two Black Redstart enmeshed in the netting. They were alive and struggling. In full view of the farmers, who were selling their wolfberry just yards away, I pulled out my knife and cut the redstarts out.

It was quite a job. The netting catches onto any irregular surface–claws, toes, wings, bill. And the redstarts are fragile. If I squeezed the frightened bird even a little too much, it would die in my hand. As I handled one of the beauties, a sleek adult male, the redstart pecked weakly at my fingers.

I set the redstarts free and drove off. I looked at the hard-bitten farmers, their faces wrinkled like raisins after years toiling in the desert sun. I told Elaine: “Poor folks can be materialistic, too–all that cruelty for a measly couple of yuan.”

TIBETAN WOLF

View looking north at 'Przevalski's Site' in the Dulan Mountains, 19 Aug. 2016.
View looking north at Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, 19 Aug. 2016. The point here is 36.460567, 98.503088. The base of Przevalski’s Hill, where Przevalski’s Partridge often gather, is visible to the left of the gully. The wolves were found on the farthest ridge back. Przevalski’s Redstart have been found on the conifer-spotted sunlit hillside in the mid-ground. Pine Bunting often sing from the base of Przevalski’s Hill and in the grass in the foreground.

Later on Fri. 19 Aug. we found 3 Tibetan Wolf at the well-known “Przevalski’s Site” (36.457249, 98.502578). With our trip winding down, and steadily making our way east toward Xining and the airport, Elaine and I passed by the Przevalski’s Site and decided to make a lunch stop there. We drove off the G109 and motored through the arid grassland to the base of “Partridge Hill,” where Przevalski’s Partridge are often found.

After lunch, I said to Elaine, “I’m going to read that slope like a book.” I was talking about the slope that rises about 700 m from the valley floor where we were parked and is about 1500 air-meters away. During our visit in July with Jan-Erik Nilsén, I studied the slope and found Blue Sheep clinging to the nearly vertical wall.

I pulled out my Swarovski ATX-95 and mounted it atop my Manfrotto head. To reduce the effect of the wind, I was seated with the legs of the tripod unextended. As is my habit, I scanned the ridges first.

I found 3 Tibetan Wolf on the ridge. Canus lupus chanco is a small ssp., and at first I mistook the wolves for foxes. They had black-tipped tails, ocher fur on the back and outer legs, an off-white band on the upper back, and a white muzzle and throat. They moved with ease across the slope.

Battling heat haze, I struggled to keep up with the wolves. I held on for 5 to 10 minutes, during which time I noted their efficient gait, saw them investigating every nook and cranny in their path, and watched them sure-footedly clamber up steep rocks. Elaine peeked in, her first look ever at a wolf.

The wolves disappeared, and strangely enough about 30 minutes later a flock of 40 Blue Sheep, including several lambs, moved into the area. We waited for the wolves to attack, but no attack came.

A major birding location in Dulan County, the Przevalski’s Site is so named because it is reliable for Przevalski’s Partridge and Przevalski’s Redstart. On 19 Aug. the site delivered a covey of 18 partridges, emerging as if on cue from the base of Partridge Hill for a late-afternoon feed. No Przevalski’s Redstart were found, the wheeze of Pine Bunting was no longer heard, and even that little fighter Alpine Leaf Warbler was subdued.

As I stood there watching the now-skulky Alpine Leaf Warbler, so feisty when we arrived in Qinghai in June, it occurred to me that Elaine and I had spent virtually the entire summer in Qinghai.

We continued east, to Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878). At a spot (36.787688, 98.987532) for Henderson’s Ground Jay west of town, now flooded after much recent rain, we added our 194th species of bird for Qinghai 2016: Mute Swan.

THE END

On Sat. 20 Aug. Elaine and I drove from Chaka to a point (36.206372, 100.534206) south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia. There we spent our final night. The next morning, in the scrub near our camp I found Crested Lark and Dusky Warbler, the latter the 195th and final species of the trip.

We drove to Xining Caojiabao Airport, returned the Sportage, and flew back to Shanghai.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List. All observations by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du.

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 14 Aug. 2016 (6 species). Birds noted in mountains of Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. Approximate location: 37.486489, 97.384522.

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 2 (3630 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4 (3870-4080 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 5 (3900-4280 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 4 (3870-4080 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 1 (3900 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1 (3860 m)

Mammals

Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 20

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 14 Aug. 2016 (11 species). Birds noted at Gahai Lake (37.128349, 97.551656), Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2850 m. 14:00-14:25.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 8
Common Shelduck T. tadorna 1
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 2
Garganey Anas querquedula 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 6
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 15
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 4

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 16 Aug. 2016 (31 species)

Dusk at Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Dusk at Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted at Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2950 m. 10:00-14:15, 16:35-19:40.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 4610
Common Shelduck T. tadorna 7
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 20
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 4
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 275
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1 calling in marshy area at 36.899263, 98.494709
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 4
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 210
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 35
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 25
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 625
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 10
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 7
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 3
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 5
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 6
Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris 7
Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima 4 (2 ads., 2 juvs.)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 12
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 5
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 32
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 6
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 2
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 1
jerboa sp. 3
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana 12

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 17 Aug. 2016 (15 species)

The sand in these dunes was deposited grain by grain from the wind. Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016. F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1250.
Dunes near the Przevalski’s Partridge site in Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted between Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896) & 36.856334, 97.863822, a point in Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 15:35-20:25.

Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna 13 (covey) at 36.826334, 97.965649 (3380 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 3 (3310-3380 m)
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis 1 (3310 m)
Common Swift Apus apus 3 (3310 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 3 (3300 m)
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus giganteus 1 (3500 m)
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4 (3310-3380 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 77 (3310 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 20 (3310-3480 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 2 (3490 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2 (3300 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 15 (3300 m)
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 1 (3300 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30 (3300 m)
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1 (3300 m)

Mammals

When approached by this photographer, this Woolly Hare decided to sit tight. From a survival perspective, the strategy paid off. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/9, 1/250, ISO 8000, hand-held. Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016.
When approached by this photographer, this Woolly Hare decided to sit tight. From a survival perspective, the strategy paid off. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/9, 1/250, ISO 8000, hand-held. Wulan County, 17 Aug. 2016.

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 4 (3300-3380 m)
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 8 (3310 m)

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 18 Aug. 2016 (32 species). Birds noted between 36.856334, 97.863822 & Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 15:35-20:25.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 17 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 45 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca 1 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 15 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1 (3000 m)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 29 (17 ad., 12 juv.) at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 26 (10 ad., 16 non-br./juv.) at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2 (3000 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1 (3000 m)
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 2 (3000 m)
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 49 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 3 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 4 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (3310 m)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 9 (2970-3000 m)
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 2 (3310-3360 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 3 (3410-3460 m)
Northern Raven Corvus corax 2 (3000 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 4 (3000 m)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 19 (3000 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 80 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Tarim Babbler Rhopophilus albosuperciliaris 1 (3000 m)
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 2 (2970-3080 m)
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina 58 (2950-3310 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 6 (2970-3000 m)
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1 (2990 m)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 2 (3000 m)
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 5 (2970-3000 m)

Mammals

Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 1 (3410 m)
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana 6 (3240 m)

List 1 of 2 for Fri. 19 Aug. 2016 (14 species)

Isabelline Wheatear are abundant in the semi-deserts of Wulan County. 18 Aug. 2016.
Isabelline Wheatear are abundant in the semi-deserts of Wulan County. We counted 58 on 18 Aug. and 110 on 19 Aug.

Birds noted between Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), Wulan County & Lianhe Cun (36.627763, 98.235107), Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 08:35-13:45.

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii 1 (3000 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 1 (3000 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 3 (3000 m)
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 2 (3130 m)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 7 (3000-3130 m)
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1 (3330 m)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 14 (3000 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 3 (3130 m)
Desert Whitethroat Desert Sylvia minula margelanica 3 (3000 m)
Tarim Babbler Rhopophilus albosuperciliaris 2 (3000 m)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 3 (3130-3260 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 300 (3130 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 110 (3000-3260 m)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 3 (3000 m)

List 2 of 2 for Fri. 19 Aug. 2016 (16 species). Birds noted from Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578) in Dulan Mountains, Dulan County E to Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 14:25-19:30.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1 in marshland along highway at 36.787688, 98.987532 (3070 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 28 (3070 m)
Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna 18 (covey) at Przevalski’s Site (3820 m)
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1 juv. (3820 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1 (3820 m)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 (3070 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8 (3070 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (3550 m)
Common Swift Apus apus 8 (3340 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (3820 m)
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 5 (3820 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 25 (3820 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4 (3820 m)
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1 (3820 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 4 juvs. (3820 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 2 (3820 m)

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 7 (3000-3820 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 6 (3820 m)
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 40 (3820 m)
Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus chanco 3 at Przevalski’s Site (3820 m)

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 20 Aug. 2016 (10 species). Birds noted at Dashui Reservoir (36.716292, 99.471655), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 3390 m. 13:25-15:05.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 48
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 21
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 13
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 2
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 1
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 21 Aug. 2016 (4 species). Birds noted at spot S of Gonghe-Qiabuqia at 36.206372, 100.534206, Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2920 m. 07:30-09:30.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 7
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 4
Crested Lark Galerida cristata 3
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1

Places Mentioned in This Post

Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.

Chacha Cun (Cháchá Cūn [查查村]): village Dulan County. 36.674281, 98.133550.

Chaka (Chákǎ Zhèn [茶卡镇]): town & tourist center Wulan County. 36.791576, 99.078878.

Dashui Reservoir (Dàshuǐ Shuǐkù [大水水库]): dam & artificial lake. 36.716292, 99.471655.

Delingha County (Délìnghā Shì [德令哈市]) sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture. Officially, Delingha “City” (市).

Dulan County (Dūlán Xiàn [都兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.

Gahai Lake (Gǎ Hǎi [尕海]): freshwater lake Delingha County. Elev.: 2850 m (9,350 ft.). 37.128349, 97.551656.

Gonghe County (Gònghé Xiàn [共和县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Hainan Prefecture.

Haibei Prefecture (Hǎiběi Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海北藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai.

Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.

Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai. Area: 325,785 sq. km (125,786 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): slightly larger than New Mexico. Largest prefecture in Qinghai.

Hala Lake (Hālā Hú [哈拉湖]): inland sea N Qinghai in Haixi Prefecture. Second-largest lake in Qinghai. Area: 607 sq. km (234 sq. mi.). Elevation: 4077 m (13,373 ft.). 38.267875, 97.575430.

Huzhu County (Hùzhù Tǔzú Zìzhìxiàn [互助土族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haidong Prefecture.

Jinzi Lake (Jīnzi Hǎi [金子海]): freshwater lake Wulan County. Elev.: 2990 m (9,810 ft.). 36.719109, 97.886371.

Lake Xiligou (Xīlǐgōu Hú [希里沟湖]): saline lake Wulan County. Elev.: 2950 m (9,680 ft.). 36.838594, 98.462896.

Lianhe Cun (Liánhé Cūn [联合村]): village Dulan County. 36.627763, 98.235107.

Przevalski’s Site: birding area Dulan Mountains, Dulan County. Turnoff at KM 2335.5 on G109. Birding area at 36.457249, 98.502578.

Qiabuqia (Qiàbǔqià Zhèn [恰卜恰镇]): urbanized area Gonghe County, seat of Gonghe County & Hainan Prefecture. Commonly referred to as Gonghe. 36.275266, 100.624701.

Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. With just 5.6 million inhabitants in an area larger than Texas, Qinghai is a vast, sparsely populated province. Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.

Wulan County (Wūlán Xiàn [乌兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture. Also known as Ulan County. Area: 10,784 sq. km (4,164 sq. mi.)

Xining Caojiabao Airport (Xīníng Cáojiābǎo Jīchǎng [西宁曹家堡机场]): airport 30 km E of downtown Xining. 36.527923, 102.040889.

Xining Prefecture (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Capital of Qinghai. Officially, Xining “City” (市).

Qinghai 2016 Week 1-2 Highlights

In photo above, Michael Grunwell (L) carries spotting scope to view waterfowl on Eling Lake, near source of Yellow River in Guoluo Prefecture, Qinghai, 3 July 2016. To the right is Mark Waters, Michael’s old friend from England. This post covers the first two weeks of our Qinghai 2016 expedition.

Other posts in our Qinghai 2016 series:

Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights
A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies
Qinghai 2016 Weeks 5-6

Qinghai 2016 Week 7
Qinghai 2016 Week 8

Elaine Du and I were in Qinghai from 26 June to 21 Aug. 2016. We collected a huge amount of material and have been publishing it in bits and pieces here on shanghaibirding.com. In this post, we offer you the highlights of the first two weeks of the trip, 26 June to 10 July, which we spent with Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell and his old friend Mark Waters.

Among the 136 species of bird we found were 40 of Michael’s 45 hoped-for lifers. Highlights:

2 Red-crested Pochard at Eling Lake (34.902685, 97.709949), near source of Yellow River

226 Common Merganser at Eling Lake

8 White Eared Pheasant in Kanda Gorge (32.314561, 96.624807) and at Baizha Nature Reserve (31.966314, 96.535097)

A pair of White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon dolani pause from their evening forage to gaze warily at the camera. Kanda Gorge, Nangqian County, 5 July 2016. Elev. 3980 m. White Eared Pheasant is listed as Near Threatened because of habitat loss and poaching. In Kanda Gorge, the species seems to be doing well. This pair was feeding in the open next to the road.
White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon dolani pause from their evening forage to gaze warily at the camera. Kanda Gorge, Nangqian County, 5 July. White Eared Pheasant is listed as Near Threatened because of habitat loss and poaching.

1 Przevalski’s Partridge at “Przevalski’s Site” (36.457249, 98.502578), a birding area in the Dulan Mountains

7 Tibetan Partridge at nunnery (32.291641, 96.512173) in Kanda Gorge, at mouth of Kanda Gorge (32.277059, 96.485171), and along Mekong (Zaqu) River

Tibetan Partridge, 5 July 2016. Craig Brelsford.
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae, Kanda Nunnery (32.291641, 96.512173), 5 July.

5 Golden Eagle noted at various places

6 Black-necked Crane at Qinghai Lake (36.877808, 100.228673) and in Maduo County

26 Lesser Sand Plover ssp. atrifrons breeding on edges of high-altitude lakes as well as in drier steppe country

5 Ibisbill on tributaries of Mekong River in Nangqian County

One of the stars of the Tibetan Plateau, Ibisbill is the sole species in the family Ibidorhynchidae. This highly specialized shorebird is adapted to life along shingle-bed rivers at elevations between 2000 m and 4400 m. We found this pair in Yushu Prefecture in a stream next to the G214 at 4020 masl.
One of the stars of the Tibetan Plateau, Ibisbill is the sole species in the family Ibidorhynchidae. This highly specialized shorebird is adapted to life along shingle-bed rivers at elevations between 2000 m and 4400 m. We found this pair in Yushu Prefecture in a stream next to the G214 at 4020 masl.

21 Common Cuckoo and 7 Cuculus sp. We noted calling Common Cuckoo at elevations as high as 4300 m

1 Black Woodpecker at Baizha Nature Reserve. Black Woodpecker is one of several species whose ranges cover northern-temperate Eurasia in a band from Europe to northeast China then spur southwestward to the Tibetan Plateau

1 Tiger Shrike at entrance to Kanda Gorge (32.277059, 96.485171). A highly unusual Qinghai record for this species

This male Tiger Shrike stunned us. What was a mainly lowland species, usually found at altitudes no higher than 1000 m and no further W than the Sichuan Basin, doing at 3670 masl in Qinghai?
This male Tiger Shrike stunned us. What was a mainly lowland species, usually found at altitudes no higher than 1000 m and no further west than the Sichuan Basin, doing at 3670 masl in Qinghai?

1 Black Drongo, another interesting record for Qinghai

2 Henderson’s Ground Jay in scrub west of Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878)

Henderson's Ground Jay, scrub W of Chaka, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 30 June 2016. F/6.3, 1/6400, ISO 2500.
Henderson’s Ground Jay, scrub W of Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878), 30 June.

1 southern record of Mongolian Lark south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia

2 White-browed Tit in scrub at KM 2189.5 on G109 (36.778749, 99.653861) near Heimahe (36.729239, 99.779524)

16 Sichuan Tit in Kanda Gorge and at Baizha Nature Reserve

7 White-browed Tit-Warbler at my reliable site near Heimahe as well as at Baizha

25 singing Yellow-streaked Warbler in Baizha Nature Reserve as well as in riparian scrub along Mekong River

Yellow-streaked Warbler, Baizha Nature Reserve, 7 July 2016. 3900 masl.
Yellow-streaked Warbler, Baizha Nature Reserve, 7 July.

8 Gansu Leaf Warbler in stand of conifers at 36.973133, 102.441300 in Huzhu County

22 Sichuan Leaf Warbler at Baizha Nature Reserve

29 Greenish Warbler at various sites, including high-altitude scrub

7 Tibetan Babax at nunnery in Kanda Gorge as well as at mouth of gorge

1 Dark-sided Flycatcher at Baizha Nature Reserve

2 Siberian Rubythroat in Huzhu County. This mainly Siberian breeder has a disjunct breeding range extending across northern Qinghai, southern Gansu, and northern Sichuan

5 White-tailed Rubythroat, the Himalayan counterpart to Siberian Rubythroat, in scrub (36.758683, 99.663055) near Heimahe as well as at Yankou Shan (33.199406, 97.466606)

White-tailed Rubythroat in scrub near Heimahe, 29 June 2016. Elev. 3600 m.
White-tailed Rubythroat in scrub (36.758683, 99.663055) near Heimahe, 29 June.

47 Slaty-backed Flycatcher, all at Baizha Nature Reserve

2 Przevalski’s Redstart, colorful China endemic noted at Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578) in Dulan Mountains west of Chaka

Przevalski's Redstart, Dulan Mountains, 1 July 2016. Elev. 3820 m. We found a pair, both of which are shown here. Note the all-black tail of the female.
Przevalski’s Redstart, Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578), 1 July. We found a pair. Note all-black tail of female.

76 Hodgson’s Redstart, always in greener, forested areas such as Huzhu County and Baizha Nature Reserve

11 Plumbeous Water Redstart, all at lower elevations at Baizha

109 Black Redstart, a species well-adapted to high-altitude desert, semi-desert, steppe, and scrub

6 Güldenstädt’s Redstart breeding as low as 3800 masl around Heimahe. Also known as White-winged Redstart

7 Chestnut Thrush in forests in Huzhu County

107 Kessler’s Thrush at various sites, usually in high-altitude forest and scrub, sometimes around farms and villages

1 Maroon-backed Accentor at Baizha Nature Reserve

3 Przevalski’s Finch at two sites near Heimahe

3 White-winged Grosbeak near Chaka and in Kanda Gorge

2 Blanford’s Rosefinch at Baizha Nature Reserve

2 Tibetan Rosefinch on barren saddle, elev. 4700 m, above Ela Pass (35.497608, 99.511449)

9 Blanford’s Snowfinch in semi-desert and high steppe, sometimes occurring alongside its congener Rufous-necked Snowfinch, which we usually were finding in slightly wetter habitats

This Rufous-necked Snowfinch shows the distinctive head pattern of the species, with black eye-line and submoustachial stripe, white throat, and reddish band on neck-sides. Pyrgilauda ruficollis is a common species of the Tibetan Plateau, with a range nearly perfectly coterminous with the Rooftop of the World. I took this photo 29 June 2016 near Heimahe at an elevation of 3480 m.
This Rufous-necked Snowfinch shows the distinctive head pattern of the species, with black eye-line and submoustachial stripe, white throat, and reddish band on neck-sides. Pyrgilauda ruficollis is common on the Tibetan Plateau, its range nearly perfectly coterminous with the Rooftop of the World. I took this photo 29 June at the base of Tit-Warbler Mountain (36.766994, 99.667711).

13 Henri’s Snowfinch, mainly around Ela Pass

10 Tibetan Snowfinch, including nesting pair at G109 KM 2189.5 (36.778749, 99.653861) near Heimahe

2 Tibetan Bunting at Kanda Pass

11 Pine Bunting at Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578)

A male Pine Bunting sings in the Dulan Mountains W of Chaka, Wulan County, 1 July 2016. Elev. 3820 m. The bunting shown here is a member of ssp. fronto, endemic to N Qinghai and adjacent Gansu. Emberiza leucocephalos fronto is resident in its range, which is disjunct from that of the nominate ssp.
Male Pine Bunting at Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578), 1 July. Emberiza leucocephalos fronto is endemic to N Qinghai and adjacent Gansu.

Mammals: Tibetan Wild Ass (steppe, Maduo County), Pallas’s Cat (night view near Maduo [Machali]), Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa (Maduo [Machali]), Plateau Pika, Glover’s Pika (Yushu [Jiegu], Kanda Gorge, Baizha), Himalayan Marmot, Tibetan Antelope (steppe), Tibetan Fox (steppe, Maduo County), Red Fox (steppe near Qinghai Lake), White-lipped Deer (scrub near Heimahe), Tibetan Macaque (fully wild individuals in Baizha Nature Reserve), Blue Sheep (half-tame herds around Ga’er Monastery [31.829966, 96.487758])

Astronomy: Amazing views of Milky Way, rings of Saturn, and bands of Jupiter as well as Jupiter’s Galilean moons on clear night in steppe near Maduo (Machali), elev. 4200 m. Used my Swarovski ATX-95.

L-R: Mark Waters, Michael Grunwell, and Elaine Du watching Himalayan Vulture at sunset on 3 July 2016 in Maduo County, Qinghai. Yellow River just visible at their feet. As soon as the sun set on 3 July, our team turned its attention to the heavens, enjoying in the clear Tibetan Plateau air stunning views of the Milky Way, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter. Photo by Craig Brelsford using iPhone 6.
Mark Waters (L), Michael Grunwell (C), and Elaine Du watch Himalayan Vulture at sunset on 3 July 2016 in Maduo County. The Yellow River is visible at their feet.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 1 for Mon. 27 June 2016 (33 species). Birds noted in Huzhu County, Haidong Prefecture, Qinghai. Most activity around Jiading (36.951698, 102.494353). 08:45-15:45. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 3
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 3
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 4
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 6
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 50
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker Dryobates cathpharius pernyii 1
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 5
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 4
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 6
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 6
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 14
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 6
Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa 1
Gansu Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus kansuensis 8 (7 at 36.973133, 102.441300)
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 4
Large-billed Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris 30
Plain Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi 2
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 1
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope beicki 2
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 2
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus 6
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus 10
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 20
Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus 6
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 12
Water/Rosy Pipit Anthus spinoletta/roseatus 2
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 2
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 1

Mammals

Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 3
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 28 June 2016 (42 species). Birds noted at Qinghai Lake (36.877808, 100.228673) & in hills between Heimahe (36.729239, 99.779524) & Rubber Mountain Pass (36.754213, 99.606705), Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. 06:20-20:50. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus ca. 100
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 50
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 5
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo ca. 100
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 6
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 2
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 5
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 6
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 5
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 30
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii ca. 50
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 2 (pair)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 14
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 30
Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima 1
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula ca. 100
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 30
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 3
White-browed Tit Poecile superciliosus 2 (pair)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis ca. 100
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 15
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 3
Black Redstart P. ochruros 30
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus Przevalskii 8
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 20
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 1
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 10
Rufous-breasted Accentor P. strophiata 1
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens 2
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 2
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 50
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 7
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi 8
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 15
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 20
Przevalski’s Finch Urocynchramus pylzowi 2 (pair)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 30
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 5
White-lipped Deer Cervus albirostris 1
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 4

List 1 of 2 for Wed. 29 June 2016 (22 species). Birds noted at Qinghai Lake (36.877808, 100.228673) & in hills between Heimahe (36.729239, 99.779524) & Rubber Mountain Pass (36.754213, 99.606705), Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. 06:45-12:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 5
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 4
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 5
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 8
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 50
White-browed Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae 5
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 8
White-tailed Rubythroat Calliope pectoralis 1 singing male
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 1 (3600 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 15
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus Przevalskii 1
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 23 at Lamaozhi Siyuan
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 8
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 1
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 18
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 10
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 20
Przevalski’s Finch Urocynchramus pylzowi 1

List 2 of 2 for Wed. 29 June 2016 (20 species). Birds noted between Dashui Qiao (36.691347, 99.457542) & Rubber Mountain Pass (36.754213, 99.606705), Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. Includes records from Dashui Reservoir (36.716292, 99.471655). 17:00-20:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 35 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 20 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 1 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 2 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 1 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 42 (3420-3780 m)
Common Swift Apus apus 20 (3440-3570 m)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2 (3410 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 6 (3810 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris ca. 50 (3390-3630 m)
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 20 (3390-3660 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 5 (3390 m)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 18 (3370-3760 m)
Common Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis 1 (3370 m)
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 2 (pair) nesting near Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 20 (3370-3390 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20 at Dashui Qiao (3370 m)
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 3 at Dashui Reservoir (3390 m)
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi 6 (3410 m)

List 1 of 2 for Thurs. 30 June 2016 (12 species). Birds noted at Qinghai Lake (36.877808, 100.228673) & in hills between Heimahe (36.729239, 99.779524) & Rubber Mountain Pass (36.754213, 99.606705), Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. 10:35-11:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 2
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 2
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Pale Martin Riparia diluta 8
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 8
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 5
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 2 nesting (3570 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 2
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 3

List 2 of 2 for Thurs. 30 June 2016 (19 species). Birds noted from Rubber Mountain Pass (36.754213, 99.606705), Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture to chaparral W of Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 11:40-13:10, 15:30-20:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 7
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 11
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 1
Cuculus sp. 1 W of Chaka
Common Swift Apus apus 10
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 4
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 2
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 20
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 2
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 3
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 6
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina 1
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 3 nesting near Chaka
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 6
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 120
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi 1

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 1 July 2016 (23 species). Birds noted from Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878), Wulan County, W to Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578) in Dulan Mountains, Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 05:45-16:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna 1 heard on ridge above Przevalski’s Site (3960 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 4 (3960 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 4
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 105
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 50
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 20
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 3
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 1
Przevalski’s Redstart P. alaschanicus 2 (pair)
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 2 nesting pair (3960 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 10
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 3 (1 juv.)
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina 2
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 4
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 30
White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi 1
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto 11

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 1
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 7
White-lipped Deer Cervus albirostris 2

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 2 July 2016 (7 species). Birds noted on drive between Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878) & Tiegai Xiang (35.989249, 100.194396), Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. 08:20-10:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1
Little Owl Athene noctua 1 (3110 m)
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 5
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica 1 at 35.989249, 100.194396 (3110 m)
Crested Lark Galerida cristata 3 N of Gonghe-Qiabuqia at 36.206372, 100.534206 (2920 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 1

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 2 July 2016 (13 species). Birds noted around Ela Pass (35.497608, 99.511449), Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. 14:20-19:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 2
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 4
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 4
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 10
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 10
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 2 at Ela Pass (4499 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola 1
Tibetan Rosefinch Carpodacus roborowskii 2
Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici 8
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 5
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 15

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae ca. 100
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 45
Tibetan Wild Ass Equus kiang 3
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata 1 (4180 m)

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 3 July 2016 (27 species). Birds noted in Maduo County, Guoluo Prefecture, Qinghai. 10:20-20:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 150
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 40
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina 2
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 225
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 15
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 30
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 27
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 25
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 2
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 20
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 30
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 45
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 10
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 1
Northern Raven Corvus corax 5
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 20
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 1
Hume’s Short-toed Lark C. acutirostris 30
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 14
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 15
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 20
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 10
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 20
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi 3

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 50
Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa Allactaga sibirica 2 Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 25
Tibetan Wild Ass Equus kiang 26
Pallas’s Cat Otocolobus manul 1
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata 1

List 1 of 4 for Mon. 4 July 2016 (6 species). Birds noted along G214 from wetlands of Maduo County to Bayankala Pass (34.114476, 97.661992), Guoluo Prefecture, Qinghai. 10:10-11:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 2
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 2
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 2 (34.6434, 98.0329)
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 1

List 2 of 4 for Mon. 4 July 2016 (7 species). Birds noted around Bayankala Pass (34.114476, 97.661992), Guoluo Prefecture, Qinghai. 11:40-13:50. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 6
Northern Raven Corvus corax 2
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 1
Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima 1
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 5
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 1
White-rumped Snowfich Onychostruthus taczanowskii 2

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 10
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 1

List 3 of 4 for Mon. 4 July 2016 (14 species). Birds noted around Yankou Shan (33.199406, 97.466606), area of primary scrub elev. 4460 m in Chenduo County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 14:15-16:35. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 2
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 2
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 1
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 1 along G214 N of Yankou Shan (4230 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 1
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 4
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 2
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 2
White-tailed Rubythroat Calliope pectoralis 4
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 1
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 3
Streaked Rosefinch C. rubicilloides 3 (2 male, 1 female)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 6

List 4 of 4 for Mon. 4 July 2016 (17 species). Birds noted around Yushu-Jiegu (33.002242, 96.978488), Yushu County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 17:10-20:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 9
Cuculus sp. 2
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 4
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 12
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 2
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 5
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 2
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 5
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 1
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 10
Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni 3
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides 4
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 2
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 10
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10

Mammals

Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri 1

List 1 of 2 for Tues. 5 July 2016 (8 species). Birds noted between Yushu-Jiegu (33.002242, 96.978488), elev. 3700 m, & Galaga Pass (elev. 4493 m), Yushu County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 09:45-11:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Northern Raven Corvus corax 1
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 2
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 1
Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici 4
Tibetan Snowfinch M. adamsi 1 singing

List 2 of 2 for Tues. 5 July 2016 (32 species). Birds noted between Galaga Pass (elev. 4493 m) & Kanda Mtns. (32.314561, 96.624807), Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 11:20-20:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon 3
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae 3
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 30
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 2
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 9
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 23
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4
Cuculus sp. 3
Little Owl Athene noctua 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus 1 at mouth of Kanda Gorge (3690 m)
Grey-backed Shrike L. tephronotus 6
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 9
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 17
Alpine Chough P. graculus 12 (flock) at Kanda Pass (4650 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 8
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 3
Tibetan Babax Babax koslowi 3 at Kanda Nunnery (3910 m)
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 21
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 11
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 1
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus 4
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 4
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 12
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 72
Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch C. pulcherrimus 3
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 2
Tibetan Bunting Emberiza koslowi 2 (pair) at Kanda Pass (4650 m)
Godlewski’s Bunting E. godlewskii 6

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 5
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 5
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 10

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 6 July 2016 (37 species). Birds noted around Baizha Nature Reserve (31.964250, 96.573340), Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 09:50-16:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 26
Snow Pigeon C. leuconota 1
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4
Cuculus sp. 1
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 4
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 6
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 13
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 18
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 7
Carrion Crow C. corone 1
Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos 3
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 7
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 4
White-browed Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae 2
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 3
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii 3
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides 3 (3950 m)
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 8
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 20
White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus 10
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 9
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 6
Black Redstart P. ochruros 6
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus 1 juv.
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 3
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides 6
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 15
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Montifringilla ruficollis 3
White-rumped Snowfich Onychostruthus taczanowskii 2
Pink-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus waltoni 30
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 3
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 4
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 3

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 4
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 25
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 25

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 7 July 2016 (39 species). Birds noted around Baizha Nature Reserve (31.964250, 96.573340), Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 11:55-20:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae 1
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1
Accipiter sp. 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 30
Little Owl Athene noctua 1
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 9
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 8
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 3
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 16
Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos 2
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 7
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris 2
Sichuan Tit Poecile weigoldicus 6
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 2
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 5
Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii 6
Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti 10
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 3
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 17
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 17
Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula sordida 12 singing
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 3
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus 12
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 15
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 6
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus 1
Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata 1
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 2
White Wagtail M. alba alboides 16
Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca 3
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 4
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni 2
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 9
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 2

Mammals

Tibetan Macaque Macaca thibetana 4
Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri 2
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 2
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 8

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 8 July 2016 (49 species). Birds noted around Baizha Nature Reserve (31.964250, 96.573340), Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. Includes records from Ga’er Monastery (31.829966, 96.487758). 09:10- 20:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon 5 (flock; 3870 m)
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 7
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 2
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 3
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 30
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 2
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 10
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 14
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 31
Carrion Crow C. corone 5
Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos 4
Northern Raven C. corax 2
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 1
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 1
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Grey Crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous 2
Sichuan Tit Poecile weigoldicus 6
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 2
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 2
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii 3
Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti 5
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 5
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 32
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri 6
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica 1 (3730 m)
Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula sordida 35
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 2
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus 18
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 13
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 5
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Montifringilla ruficollis 2
White-rumped Snowfich Onychostruthus taczanowskii 3
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata 2
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens 4
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides 26
Water/Rosy Pipit Anthus spinoletta/roseatus 1
Blanford’s Rosefinch Carpodacus rubescens 2 (pair)
Common Rosefinch C. erythrinus 4
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni 26
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 13
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 1

Mammals

Tibetan Macaque Macaca thibetana 1
Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 10
Glover’s Pika O. gloveri 3
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 7
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 8
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 40

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 9 July 2016 (41 species). Birds noted between Kanda Mtns. (32.314561, 96.624807) & Galaga Pass (elev. 4493 m), Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 09:10-18:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae 3
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 55
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 3
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 3
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii 2 in stream along G214 (4020 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 26
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4
Little Owl Athene noctua 1
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 10
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 12
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 18
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 14
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 9
Northern Raven C. corax 2
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 6
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 3
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 1
Sichuan Tit Poecile weigoldicus 4
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 1
Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii 13
Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti 7
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 12
Tibetan Babax Babax koslowi 4
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii 30
Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus 1
Kessler’s Thrush T. kessleri 17
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 2
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus 2
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus 3
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 11
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 6
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus 2
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alboides 7
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 13
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni 11
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 3
White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes 3
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 14

Mammals

Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri 4
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 2
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 20
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 5

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 9 July 2016 (4 species). Birds noted between Galaga Pass (elev. 4493 m) & Yushu-Jiegu (33.002242, 96.978488), elev. 3700 m, Yushu County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 18:35-20:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4
Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici 1
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 10 July 2016 (15 species). Birds noted around Yushu-Jiegu (33.002242, 96.978488), Yushu County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai. 10:50-14:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Mark Waters.

Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos 1
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 2
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 10
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 10
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 2
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 1
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 1
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 30
Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 2
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Montifringilla ruficollis 9
White-rumped Snowfich Onychostruthus taczanowskii 4
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 3

List of Place Names
Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.

Baizha Nature Reserve (Báizhā Sēnlín Zìrán Bǎohùqū [白扎森林自然保护区]): protected area Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture. Junction of G214 & X832 at 31.966314, 96.535097. On some maps, X832 is called “Ranniang Section” (Ránniáng Duàn [然娘段]). This is the road that leads toward the nature reserve. At another turnoff (31.964250, 96.573340), bear right, leaving Ranniang Section, & continue on to the reserve.

Chaka (Chákǎ Zhèn [茶卡镇]): town & tourist center Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 36.791576, 99.078878.

Ela Pass (Èlā Shānkǒu [鄂拉山口]): elev. 4499 m (14,757 ft.). 35.497608, 99.511449.

Eling Lake (Èlíng Hú [鄂陵湖]). Also known as Ngoring Lake. 34.902685, 97.709949.

Guoluo Prefecture (Guǒluò Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [果洛藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area SE Qinghai.

Haidong Prefecture (Hǎidōng Shì [海东市]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.

Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.

Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai.

Heimahe (Hēimǎhé Xiāng [黑马河乡]): village on SW shore of Qinghai Lake in Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture. Major tourist center. 36.729239, 99.779524.

Huzhu County (Hùzhù Tǔzú Zìzhìxiàn [互助土族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haidong Prefecture.

Jiegu (Jiégǔ Zhèn [结古镇]): urbanized area E Yushu County. Commonly referred to as Yushu. 33.002242, 96.978488.

Michael Grunwell scans scrub for birds in the Kanda Mountains, 5 July 2016. High-quality scrub is just one of the many attractions of this pristine location in Nangqian County. The slopes hold White Eared Pheasant and Tibetan Partridge, and among the animals found here is Tibetan Lynx.
Michael Grunwell scans scrub for birds in Kanda Mountains, 5 July 2016. High-quality scrub is just one of the many attractions of this pristine location in Nangqian County. The slopes hold White Eared Pheasant and Tibetan Partridge, and among the animals found here is Tibetan Lynx.

Kanda Mountains (Kǎndá Shān [坎达山]): high country Nangqian County. Elev. at mouth of Kanda Gorge, near Zaqu River: 3670 m (12,040 ft.). Elev. Kanda Pass: 4680 m (15,350 ft.). Junction of G214 & road leading to Kanda Mountains: 32.315911, 96.454165. Mouth of Kanda Gorge: 32.277059, 96.485171. Kanda Pass: 32.314561, 96.624807.

Kanda Nunnery: religious institution Kanda Gorge. Reliable site for Tibetan Partridge & Tibetan Babax. Elev.: 3910 m (12,830 ft.). 32.291641, 96.512173.

Machali (Mǎchálǐ Zhèn [玛查理镇]): town W Maduo County. Commonly referred to as Maduo. 34.911354, 98.211208.

Maduo County (Mǎduō Xiàn [玛多县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Guoluo Prefecture.

Nangqian County (Nángqiān Xiàn [囊谦县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture.

Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. From 26 June to 10 July 2016, the birding team of Michael Grunwell, Mark Waters, Elaine Du, and Craig Brelsford covered the 800 km from Yushu/Jiegu to Xining, marked in black. Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. From 26 June to 10 July 2016, the birding team of Michael Grunwell, Mark Waters, Elaine Du, and Craig Brelsford covered the 800 km from Yushu/Jiegu to Xining, marked in black. Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.

Qinghai Lake (Qīnghǎi Hú [青海湖]): largest lake in Qinghai. 36.877808, 100.228673.

Wulan County (Wūlán Xiàn [乌兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.

Xining (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): capital of Qinghai & most populous city on Tibetan Plateau.

Yushu County (Yùshù Shì [玉树市]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture.

Map of Qinghai showing Yushu Prefecture in yellow and Yushu County in pink. Courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai showing Yushu Prefecture in yellow and Yushu County in pink. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Yushu Prefecture (Yùshù Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [玉树藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area S Qinghai.

Zaqu River (Zāqū [扎曲]): name for upper reaches of Mekong River in Qinghai.

A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies

Last Sunday 21 Aug. Elaine Du and I returned to Shanghai from Qinghai. We had arrived in Xining on 26 June, and we spent exactly eight weeks in the sparsely populated province. We drove 8054 km (4,994 miles). I lost 5 kg (11 lbs.). On Sunday Dusky Warbler near Gonghe became our 195th and final species of the trip.

While in Qinghai, Elaine and I made new friends and deepened our friendship with our first-rate partners Michael Grunwell and Jan-Erik Nilsén. And the memories … let me tell you ’bout the memories.

Better yet, let me show you them. Ready?

I found this downy Bar-headed Goose at sunset on 28 June on the shore of Qinghai Lake, whose blue sheen you can see in the background. This youngster has much growing to do before he’ll be ready to make the flight across the Himalaya to India for the winter. Will he get strong enough in time to make the frightening trip? Strength, my lad, strength!

Bar-headed Goose, Qinghai Lake, 28 June 2016. F/7.1, 1/800, ISO 1600.
Bar-headed Goose, Qinghai Lake, 28 June 2016. F/7.1, 1/800, ISO 1600.

Last week I created a photo essay, “Little Birds in a Big Land,” in which I photographed Isabelline Wheatear from a distance, with mountains, sand dunes, and scrub visible in the background. It was an intense, 90-minute photo workout with that arid-country specialist, well-adapted to the semi-deserts of Wulan County.

Isabelline Wheatear 1/3. F/14, 1/400, ISO 1600. Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 18 Aug. 2016.
Isabelline Wheatear 1/3. F/14, 1/400, ISO 1600. Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 18 Aug. 2016.
F/16, 1/320, ISO 800.
F/16, 1/320, ISO 800.
F/16, 1/250, ISO 1600.
F/16, 1/250, ISO 1600.

Henderson’s Ground Jay is also known as Mongolian Ground Jay. Despite the ground in the name, these birds fly just fine.

Henderson's Ground Jay, scrub W of Chaka, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 30 June 2016. F/6.3, 1/6400, ISO 2500.
Henderson’s Ground Jay, scrub W of Chaka, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 30 June 2016. F/6.3, 1/6400, ISO 2500.
Henderson's Ground Jay in flight. Chaka, 30 June 2016.
Henderson’s Ground Jay in flight. Chaka, 30 June 2016.

When agitated, breeding White-rumped Snowfinch does a wing-flicking display reminiscent of Claudia’s Leaf Warbler. Qinghai Lake, 28 June.

White-rumped Snowfinch contorting its head in territorial display. Along G109 near Qinghai Lake, 28 June 2016.
White-rumped Snowfinch contorting its head in territorial display. Along G109 near Qinghai Lake, 28 June 2016.
Left wing-flick.
Left wing-flick.
Right wing-flick.
Right wing-flick.

The top two photos displayed below are of Gansu Leaf Warbler (the lower of the two from our newly discovered breeding site along the Heihe River in northern Qinghai); the bottom one is of Sichuan Leaf Warbler. Note the cleaner lower mandible of Gansu Leaf Warbler and compare it to the typically darker lower mandible of Sichuan. In summer, when we met these species, they were singing, and the songs of the two species differ much. In winter, when the birds are quiet, bill color is a good way to begin to identify these two similar-looking species.

Gansu Leaf Warbler at Huzhu Beishan, 27 June 2016.
Gansu Leaf Warbler at Huzhu Beishan, 27 June 2016.
Gansu Leaf Warbler, riparian forest along Heihe River, Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, 4 Aug. 2016.
Gansu Leaf Warbler, riparian forest along Heihe River, Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, 4 Aug. 2016.
Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Jiangxi Forest Station, Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, 17 July 2016.
Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Jiangxi Forest Station, Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, 17 July 2016.

I sound-recorded Gansu Leaf Warbler:

Gansu Leaf Warbler, Qilian County, Qinghai, 3 Aug. 2016 (01:35; 4 MB)

We found a new location for Przevalski’s Partridge along some back roads in Wulan County. Rusty-necklaced Partridge (alternative name) looks much like Chukar, but note the rusty line.

Rusty-necklaced Partridge, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, 17 Aug. 2016.
Rusty-necklaced Partridge, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, 17 Aug. 2016.

While we’re on partridges, what about this charismatic Tibetan Partridge, a semi-tame specimen at the nunnery, Kanda Gorge, Yushu Prefecture.

Tibetan Partridge, Kanda Gorge, 5 July 2016.
Tibetan Partridge, Kanda Gorge, 5 July 2016.

Birds of KM 2189.5 along the G109 near Qinghai Lake: Robin Accentor, a Siberian Stonechat that wasn’t happy when we stumbled upon its nest, Tibetan Snowfinch using the embankment for a nest, and that one-of-a-kind species that is neither finch nor bunting but derives from a line independent of the two: Przevalski’s “Finch.”

Robin Accentor in scrub above KM 2189.5 on G109 near Qinghai Lake. 28 June 2016.
Robin Accentor in scrub above KM 2189.5 on G109 near Qinghai Lake. 28 June 2016.
Siberian Stonechat in hovering flight near nest, 28 June 2016.
Siberian Stonechat in hovering flight near nest, 28 June 2016.
Tibetan Snowfinch looking warily at cameraman before entering its cavity nest. KM 2189.5, G109, near Qinghai Lake. 28 June 2016.
Tibetan Snowfinch looking warily at cameraman before entering its cavity nest. KM 2189.5, G109, near Qinghai Lake. 28 June 2016.
Przevalski's 'Finch' in song, 28 June 2016, KM 2189.5.
Przevalski’s ‘Finch’ in song, 28 June 2016, KM 2189.5.

Blue-fronted Redstart is also sui generis, the only blue-headed Phoenicurus. Females are tougher to distinguish from other female redstarts, but note the inverted T, shown here on this male. Females have it too, and it is distinctive.

Blue-fronted Redstart showing inverted T on tail. Huzhu Beishan, 27 June 2016.
Blue-fronted Redstart showing inverted T on tail. Huzhu Beishan, 27 June 2016.

We had a memorable moment with Black-necked Crane near Lake Xiligou, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture.

Black-necked Crane in flight, Lake Xiligou.
Black-necked Crane in flight, Lake Xiligou.

More bird + land: Bar-headed Goose at point where Eling Lake empties into the young Yellow River, Guoluo Prefecture.

Bar-headed Goose stands at the point where high-altitude Eling Lake empties into the young Yellow River. 3 July 2016.
Bar-headed Goose stands at the point where high-altitude Eling Lake empties into the young Yellow River. 3 July 2016.

On a moonless, pitch-black night we heard a family of Eurasian Eagle-Owl making strange sounds. I shot the owls by the light of our headlights. We were in Haibei Prefecture.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl at cliff-side roost in Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai, 30 July 2016.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl at cliff-side roost in Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai, 30 July 2016.

I had long wanted to put Chinese Thrush in my camera. Here’s the moment when I achieved that goal. I was at the riparian forest along the Heihe River in Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture.

Chinese Thrush in riparian forest along Heihe River, Haibei Prefecture. 4 Aug. 2016.
Chinese Thrush in riparian forest along Heihe River, Haibei Prefecture. 4 Aug. 2016.

Amazing Tibetan Sandgrouse near Hala Lake.

Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, Haixi Prefecture, 10 Aug. 2016.
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, Haixi Prefecture, 10 Aug. 2016.
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala, 10 Aug.
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala, 10 Aug.

Brandt’s Mountain Finch may look unexciting, but just watch it fly.

Brandt's Mountain Finch is a small but powerful bird, taking long, straight flights at altitudes topping 5000 m. I found this individual 9 Aug. near Hala Lake at an elev. of 4400 m.
Brandt’s Mountain Finch is a small but powerful bird, taking long, straight flights at altitudes topping 5000 m. I found this individual 9 Aug. near Hala Lake at an elev. of 4400 m.

Do these Himalayan Vulture disgust you? Why? They’re only doing their job–a very important one. And they have manners. Note that the juvenile doesn’t interfere with the adult as it feeds.

Himalayan Vulture, Guoluo Prefecture, 20 July 2016.
Himalayan Vulture, Guoluo Prefecture, 20 July 2016.

King of the high-altitude falcons: Saker.

Saker Falcon, Haibei Prefecture, 6 Aug. 2016.
Saker Falcon, Haibei Prefecture, 6 Aug. 2016.

Who cares about Spotted Dove? When you’re in a city park in Shanghai, then you don’t care about Spotted Dove. When you’re in Qilian County, Qinghai, the extreme west of its range, then you care about Spotted Dove.

Unusual record of Spotted Dove in Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, 1 Aug. 2016.
Unusual record of Spotted Dove in Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, 1 Aug. 2016.

Goitered Gazelle, a Vulnerable species. Ranges from Arabian Peninsula to China. We recorded it in Wulan County.

Goitered Gazelle near Lake Xiligou, Wulan County, 16 Aug. 2016.
Goitered Gazelle near Lake Xiligou, Wulan County, 16 Aug. 2016.

Tibetan Gazelle was waiting for us at sunset in the mountains north of Hala Lake.

Tibetan Gazelle near Suli, Haixi Prefecture, 6 Aug. 2016.
Tibetan Gazelle near Suli, Haixi Prefecture, 6 Aug. 2016.

We noted Glover’s Pika at various places in Yushu Prefecture. This little guy is marketable!

Glover's Pika, Yushu Prefecture, 4 July 2016.
Glover’s Pika, Yushu Prefecture, 4 July 2016.

This Mountain Weasel is one of the cutest little killers you’ll ever meet. Like all weasels, it’s almost completely carnivorous. In Haibei Prefecture one afternoon, Elaine and I watched this little dude dart into and out of the pika burrows, terrorizing the local birds and pikas. The fruitless attempts were comical, but we noted with respect the speed and agility of this star performer.

Mountain Weasel, Haibei Prefecture, 31 July 2016.
Mountain Weasel, Haibei Prefecture, 31 July 2016.

There’s something sensuous about those smoothly curved sand dunes–and in that soft sunset light. Right time, definitely right place.

In a few weeks I’m going to be missing Qinghai big-time, and scenes like these are going to be why. There’s no place on Earth like Qinghai, no place under the sun like the Tibetan Plateau.

The sand in these dunes was deposited grain by grain by the wind. Wulan County, 17 Aug. 2016. F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1250.
The sand in these dunes was deposited grain by grain by the wind. Wulan County, 17 Aug. 2016. F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1250.

Other posts in our Qinghai 2016 series:

Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights

Featured image: “We Are Family!” sang Sister Sledge back in ’79. Here’s the Chinese-American adventure team, Elaine Du (L) and yours truly–partners, spouses, family. We were at Eling Lake, Qinghai, where the Yellow River and Chinese culture are born. The date was 3 July 2016. This is a self-portrait, engineered (as indeed every picture in this post was engineered) by Craig Brelsford using the Nikon D3S and 600 mm F/4 lens.