Qinghai & Gansu, July 2014

INTRODUCTION

Brian Ivon Jones, Jan-Erik Nilsén, and I drove 3,977 km in 15 days, starting and ending in Golmud, Qinghai. Our trip took us across a broad swath of central Qinghai and into western Gansu. We became some of the few birders to visit Gōuhuā and the Chuma’er Valley in Qinghai and Sùběi in Gansu.

HIGHLIGHTS

— Finding 98 species of bird (see list below) in various types of habitat, among them the Qaidam Basin and Kunlun, Bayan Har, and Qilian mountains, at elevations ranging from 2200-5050 m, and at latitudes ranging from 33°50′ to 39°30′ N

— Near Mǎduō, watching a Tibetan Fox attack, kill, and devour a vole

— Finding 46 Tibetan Antelope in Antelope Valley

— Finding a Tibetan Wolf in Antelope Valley

— Viewing 92 Tibetan Wild Asses at Gōuhuā and 89 in Antelope Valley

— Despite being barred from entering Yanchiwan National Nature Reserve in Gansu, keeping a positive attitude and finding Saxaul Sparrow, Barred Warbler, and Sulphur-bellied Warbler outside the borders of the reserve

Bearded Reedling
Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus at desert wetland near Nuomuhong 150 km E of Golmud. Elev. 2700 m. (Craig Brelsford)

Itinerary (all dates July 2014)

12-14: Golmud (Géěrmù [格尔木]), Qinghai
15: along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway
16: Gōuhuā (沟花)
17: Mǎduō (玛多)
18: Qǔmálái (曲麻莱)
19-20: Búdòngquán (不冻泉)
21: Wǔdàoliáng (五道梁)
22: Dà Cháidàn (大柴旦)
23-25: Sùběi (肃北), Gansu
26: Golmud

L-R: Brelsford, Jones, and Nilsén
L-R: Craig Brelsford, Brian Ivon Jones, and Jan-Erik Nilsén, near Subei, Gansu, China, 25 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 12 July 2014
Golmud (Géěrmù [格尔木]), Qinghai

Arrived in morning with Brian Ivon Jones, the two of us having spent Friday night near the airport near Xī’ān (西安). (It was simpler for Brian and me to break our flights from Shanghai and Shēnzhèn over two days than try to make it all the way to Qinghai in one day.) Brian is an Englishman who has spent much of his life outside Great Britain. He lives in Shēnzhèn. We took a taxi to our hotel, Huánghé Bīnguǎn (黄河宾馆; +86 [0] 979-895022). There, we met our driver, Mr. Wáng (王), and got our first look at the car we’d be using, a Mitsubishi Pajero. Later, our partner Jan-Erik Nilsén arrived. Jan-Erik is from Sweden and lives in Beijing. In the afternoon, the three of us did light birding at Jīnyú Hú (金鱼湖), a recreational area on the western outskirts of Golmud (Géěrmù [格尔木]). We drove through downtown Golmud. Golmud looks like a miniature version of Pǔdōng set in the desert. The entire city is new, and everyone we’ve spoken to has lived here less than 10 years. Unlike many towns in western China, in which most residents belong to an ethnic minority, most people here are Han. They’ve migrated here from all across China. The weather was mild today, the light dazzling. Cloudy weather in Shanghai was giving me the wintertime blues in summer; in arid Qinghai, one views the world as through a high-definition display.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea in desert wetland 150 km E of Golmud, 13 July 2014.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea in desert wetland 150 km E of Golmud, 13 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 13 July 2014
Golmud

We headed east on the G109. We turned off at a road with a big sign saying “青海诺木洪防沙治沙林场” (Qīnghǎi Nuòmùhóng Fángshā Zhìshā Línchǎng). We then drove 22 km to an observation deck at the end of a road. Near the deck is a pasture-wetland. There, we found a pair of Black-necked Crane, I had my first views ever of Bearded Reedling, and our team scored a major find: Eurasian Bittern, first for Qinghai. To reach this location, take the G109 east about 130 km from Golmud to km marker 2608. The big sign arches over the road turning off the G109. The turnoff is on the left if one is coming from Golmud. We returned to Golmud to spend the night.

Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis in desert wetland 150 km E of Golmud, Qinghai. 13 July 2014.
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis in desert wetland 150 km E of Golmud, Qinghai. 13 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Mon. 14 July 2014
Golmud

Driving west of Golmud on the S303, our team came upon Henderson’s Ground Jay. In the harsh midday sunlight, acquiring high-quality photos of the jays would be tough, but there was something else I could do: I could tell the story of the interesting behavior of this intelligent corvid, China’s answer to the Roadrunner. Like that well-known bird of the American Southwest, the Mongolian Ground Jay is highly terrestrial (though it flies well), and it is drawn to roads. Within minutes, we were seeing one of the things that attract ground jays to the road: roadkill. Roadkill consists not just of dead vertebrates, but also of insects struck by passing cars. Often, the moths and flies fall not far from where the car hit them, making them easy pickings for the jays. While observing the resourceful jays, I was busy snapping shots. Later, I discovered that I’d recorded images that because of the harsh sunlight are not of very high quality photographically, but that ornithologically are very useful; they tell the story of a bird that loves to run and that uses its terrestrial instincts to good effect on the highway. (Unfortunately, using the road has a price: We found a dead Mongolian Ground Jay, undoubtedly struck by a vehicle, along the S303.) After studying the jays, we continued west, stopping at Húyánglín Zìrán Bǎohùqū (胡杨林自然保护区). There were few birds there, but the spectacular sand dunes made the trip worth our while. In the late afternoon, we returned to Jīnyú Hú. There, just as the sun was going down, I got a lively portrait of Brian Ivon Jones. Even though Brian and I met just a few days ago, it’s already apparent to me that Brian, 69, has more vigor than many men 20 years his junior. We decided to leave Golmud the next day and make a long eastern detour to the Kunlun Mountains.

Sand dunes at Húyánglín Zìrán Bǎohùqū W of Golmud, 14 July 2014.
Sand dunes at Húyánglín Zìrán Bǎohùqū W of Golmud, 14 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Tues. 15 July 2014
along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway

We left Golmud in the morning and headed east along the G109. At Wūlánshān (乌兰山) we turned onto the road linking the G109 and the G214 near Huāshíxiá (花石峡). I saw no signs and nothing on the map giving the number of the road. I’m therefore calling it the Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway. In the evening, I wrote the following: “I’m in my tent in my sleeping bag. Brian Ivon Jones, Jan-Erik Nilsèn, our driver Mr. Wáng, and I are camping in the desert. We are on the road between Wūlánshān and Huāshíxiá. Our elevation is 3275 m. We have found a flat place far from the dusty road. The loudest sound is being made by the river. The temperature is steadily dropping, but I’m warm in my bag. I have the rain flaps rolled up and can see the starry desert sky through the netting. We had to camp out because we found a birdy place a few kilometers from here. Instead of pushing on toward Mǎduō (玛多), we went birdwatching. As the sun set, the light grew ever more beautiful. I got no lifers, but I shared Brian’s and Jan-Erik’s joy at finding a lifer for them: Brown Accentor. The birds at our spot were typical of the region—Black Redstart, Desert Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Twite—but their sheer abundance in the perfect desert light swept us away. I live for moments like this, and I think my partners do, too.”

Camp in desert along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway, Qinghai. Elev. 3500 m. 16 July 2014.
Camp in desert along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway, Qinghai. Elev. 3500 m. 16 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Wed. 16 July 2014
Gōuhuā (沟花)

At 06:00 the light of dawn was brighter than the light of the nearly full moon. The temperature in my sleeping bag was 31.5°. The temperature in my tent was 11°. We drove to Gōuhuā (沟花; 3990 m) and found 92 Tibetan Wild Ass. We’d never heard birders mention Gōuhuā, but it seems to be a top-quality spot, especially for mammals. The valley here is broad; instead of rushing out of the valley in a steep canyon, some of the water running down from the nearby mountains collects at the bottom of the valley, allowing rich green grass to grow. The grass attracts ungulates. The stream running through the valley is drying up in places, stranding catfish in ever-smaller pools. We counted ca. 900 Brown-headed Gull, attracted by the stranded catfish. We also saw 11 Black-necked Crane. We camped at Gōuhuā.

As we topped the hill, looking for a place to camp for the night, we inadvertently startled a group of Tibetan Wild Ass. They galloped powerfully off. No culture has been able to tame the Tibetan Wild Ass. In its refusal to accept bit and bridle, the Tibetan Wild Ass symbolizes the untamed beauty of the Tibetan Plateau.

Tibetan Wild Ass, Gōuhuā, Qinghai, 16 July 2014.
Tibetan Wild Ass, Gōuhuā, Qinghai, 16 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Thurs. 17 July 2014
Mǎduō (玛多)

At about 05:30, at our camp at Gōuhuā, I heard the dry call of Tibetan Partridge. At 06:00, the temperature at Gōuhuā was 3.5°; in my sleeping bag, the temperature was 30°. We drove to the eastern end of the Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway. En route, we passed Dōnggěicuònà Hú (冬给错纳湖). We turned onto the G214 and drove the short distance to Huāshíxiá (花石峡). As we were approaching Huāshíxiá, I saw in the distance the construction site where last year I’d seen White-winged Redstart. I said, “Get ready, we’re about to hit the White-winged Redstart site!” Sure enough, we found a male White-winged Redstart on the very same utility wire on which I’d seen White-winged Redstart last year. Brian and Jan-Erik had a lifer! After two nights camping out, everyone was exhausted, so we decided to get to Mǎduō as soon as possible and rest there. I knew a good hotel from last year: Lǐngguó Bīnguǎn (岭国宾馆; +86 975-8348888; fast Internet).

Tibetan Fox devouring vole, near Maduo, Qinghai. Elev. 4080 m. 17 July 2014.
Tibetan Fox devouring vole, near Maduo, Qinghai. Elev. 4080 m. 17 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

We rested at the hotel, then, feeling refreshed, went out in the late afternoon. We drove to a spot 13 km N of town. Brian went deep into the high steppe and discovered a flock of 11 Black-necked Cranes. At the side of the road, Jan-Erik scoped a Tibetan Fox. The fox was on our side of the road and was about to cross over. I ran up to the car and got Mr. Wáng to drive me to the place where the fox had just crossed. I got out and trailed the fox. The fox crouched low like a cat, then pounced on a vole. As the fox ate the vole, I moved to within 15 m. I got images of the fox devouring the vole and licking its chops afterward. What a beautiful animal! What a thrill.

Tibetan Fox 'smiling' after devouring vole.
Tibetan Fox ‘smiling’ after devouring vole. (Craig Brelsford)

Fri. 18 July 2014
Qǔmálái (曲麻莱)

We left Mǎduō and drove south on the G214. We passed Greater Wild Horse Ridge (Dà Yěmǎ Lǐng [大野马岭]; 4326 m) and Lesser Wild Horse Ridge (Xiǎo Yěmǎ Lǐng [大野马岭]; 4302 m). From 12:00 to 13:30, we birded Bayan Har Pass (Bāyán Kālā Shānkǒu [巴颜喀拉山口]). We had a late lunch at Qīngshuǐhé (清水河). South of Qīngshuǐhé, we turned right, our destination Qǔmálái (曲麻莱). On the way to Qǔmálái, we saw, perching on hilltops near the road, Himalayan Vulture. Elevation: 4380 m. To get a closer look, I walked straight up the hill, stopping only when I began to feel dizzy, catching my breath, then continuing. Usually one sees these common birds soaring hundreds of meters above; this time, I managed to capture a vulture taking off. We passed through Záduō (杂多) and Bāgān (巴干). We crossed a pass at 4812 m. At Qǔmálái, we checked into Qumalai Hotel (Qǔmálái Bīnguǎn [曲麻莱宾馆]).

Himalyan Vulture Gyps himalayensis near Qingshuihe, Qinghai. Elev. 4380 m. 18 July 2014.
Himalyan Vulture Gyps himalayensis near Qingshuihe, Qinghai. Elev. 4380 m. 18 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 19 July 2014
Búdòngquán (不冻泉)

It’s 311 rough and bumpy kilometers from Qǔmálái to Búdòngquán (不冻泉). On this stretch, the G308 is passable but unpaved. For most of the journey to Búdòngquán, the landscape was what I’ve come to expect at altitudes between 4000 m and 4600 m in Qinghai: steppe and mountainsides, much of the land fenced in and heavily grazed. Between the town of Qǔmáhé (曲麻河) and Búdòngqúan, starting at a point about 123 km E of Búdòngquán, the valley broadens considerably and is much less given over to grazing. For the next 50 km, we took in views of a valley so broad one could scarcely see the other side. Far in the distance loomed the snow-capped peaks of the Kunlun. I called this stretch of the Chuma’er River (Chǔmǎěr Hé [楚玛尔河]) “Antelope Valley,” because there we found 46 Tibetan Antelope. Jan-Erik said, “Chinese have their own Serengeti right here!” Using his binoculars skillfully, Brian picked out a lone, tawny-colored Tibetan Wolf. We watched the wolf for several minutes, noting its fleeting interest in a possibly weak Tibetan Gazelle and its more sustained interest in the pikas and voles. We saw the wolf at our favorite stretch of Antelope Valley, the 15-km section 115-100 km from Búdòngquán. We lingered in Antelope Valley for as long as time would allow, finally starting off again for Búdòngquán around sunset. Not far from the Valley, our Mitsubishi Pajero blew its right front tire. Despite the inadequacy of our jack, we managed, with considerable effort, to get the spare on. Just as we finished putting the spare on, the rain started falling hard. We witnessed a spectacular lightning storm. Lightning was hitting the ground and lighting up the plateau. Sometimes the flashes lasted more than one second. Strangely, little or no thunder accompanied the lightning. We finally arrived in Búdòngquán, staying in the first “hotel” we could find, a hole in the wall with neither bathroom nor steady electricity. I roomed with Mr. Wáng and shared a handful of cashew nuts with him—our supper. I slept in my sleeping bag in the unheated room.

Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus chanco, Antelope Valley, elev. 4430 m, 19 July 2014.
Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus filchneri, Antelope Valley, elev. 4430 m, 19 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 20 July 2014
Búdòngquán

We moved into better lodging at Kěkěxīlǐ Búdòngquán Zhāxī Bīnguǎn (可可西里不冻泉扎西宾馆; +86 158-0979-6505, +86 133-2761-9833). The proprietor, Sam, is a friendly, humorous man and speaks English. From 13:00 to 18:00, we birded around Yuzhufeng Glacier (Yùzhūfēng Bīngchuān [玉珠峰冰川]). A few km before the end of the road at the base of the glacier, we found habitat suitable for Sillem’s Mountain Finches. We stopped the car and began climbing, topping out on a ridge about 5050 m above sea level. We found no Sillem’s. We returned, rested, then drove to the end of the road. There, I found a Ladak Pika. It started to rain. We had to turn back before the road flooded.

Tibetan Gazelle, Yuzhu Glacier Nature Reserve, Qinghai. Elev. 5050 m. 20 July 2014.
Tibetan Gazelle, Yuzhu Glacier Nature Reserve, Qinghai. Elev. 5050 m. 20 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 21 July 2014
Wǔdàoliáng (五道梁)

Still raining. We drove to Fēnghuǒshān (风火山), a point on the G109 70 km S of Wǔdàoliáng (五道梁). Elev.: 5010 m. We found Red Fox, and Brian and Jan-Erik got their first views of Robin Accentor.

Tibetan Antelope near Budongquan, Qinghai. Elev. 4570 m. 22 July 2014.
Tibetan Antelope near Budongquan, Qinghai. Elev. 4570 m. 22 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Mon. 22 July 2014
Dà Cháidàn (大柴旦)

Raining again. Then snow. Driving north from Wǔdàoliáng, we found Tibetan Antelope on the side of the road. We abandoned our idea of finding Sillem’s Mountain Finch. As we passed the turnoff for the Yěniúgōu road, we noticed that although we were lower, the Kunlun Mountains were finally reaching the road itself. Sillem’s is most likely a Kunlun bird and not a Tibetan Plateau bird, and the deeper one finds oneself in the Kunlun, the more likely one is to find the species. The Yěniúgōu Road takes one west from the G109, deeper and deeper into the Kunlun. I understand now that with the many restrictions in the area and the lack of roads accessing the Kunlun from the G109, one’s first stop to search for Sillem’s needs to be Yann’s site. For the time being, Yann’s remains the only site that is both deep in the Kunlun and accessible from the G109. Little wonder, then, that Yann’s site is the only place where the Sillem’s has been seen since the discovery by Sillem himself. We drove to Golmud and birded at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (鱼水河鱼池), a small wetland on the G215 north of town. We then drove north, toward the Qinghai-Gansu border and the Qilian Mountains. We stopped at Dà Cháidàn (大柴旦), where we spent the night without incident.

Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus, near Subei, Gansu, China. Elev. 3470 m. 23 July 2014.
Mongolian Finch Bucanetes mongolicus, near Subei, Gansu, China. Elev. 3470 m. 23 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Tue. 23 July 2014
Sùběi (肃北), Gansu

We drove from Dà Cháidàn north and crossed the border into Gansu. Earlier, studying Google Maps (satellite view), we’d come across a place in the Qilian Mountains that seemed a good place to find birds. The nearest town to that place was called Sùběi (肃北). We headed for Sùběi. On the way, after crossing into Gansu, we found a spot on the G215. There, we found a lifer for all of us: Mongolian Finch. We arrived at Sùběi and were enchanted with the desert town. Sùběi is completely new and clean; in the center of town, we couldn’t find a single old building. Hotel rooms were hard to come by, because a Mongolian festival was about to begin. Finally, we found a single, large room, which we shared—our driver and I slept on the floor, and Brian and Jan-Erik took the beds. As darkness fell, the four of us enjoyed roast lamb on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant.

Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus, near Subei, Gansu. Elev. 2520 m. 24 July 2014.
Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus, near Subei, Gansu. Elev. 2520 m. 24 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Wed. 24 July 2014
Sùběi

We drove into the mountains south of Sùběi. In a deep ravine, we found a family of leaf warblers. These leaf warblers were unlike any leaf warbler I’d ever seen before. They hopped and flitted from boulder to boulder. After a long discussion with various birders, I came to the conclusion that they must be Sulphur-bellied Warbler. We moved farther up the valley. We got stopped at the gate to Yanchiwan National Nature Reserve (Yánchíwān Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [盐池湾国家级自然保护区]). We were told we’d need permits to enter the reserve. We had mixed feelings about finding a nature reserve. On the one hand, getting a permit would require a 70-km round-trip to Sùběi and back. On the other hand, the existence of a nature reserve here confirmed that our instincts had been right, that the area we’d discovered on Google Maps was indeed high-quality habitat. We congratulated ourselves and hopefully made plans to get our permit and even spend a night or two camping in the high country of the reserve. Back in Sùběi, we found a palatial, multi-floor building dedicated solely to managing the reserve. It was lunchtime and the building was empty. Pictures of the many birds and mammals found in the reserve decorated the walls. Finally, a man from the reserve met us and took us to a big office with wood paneling. On the wall was a huge map of Yanchiwan. The man opened a book and showed us a paragraph saying that foreigners wishing to visit the reserve need a permit from a supervisor in Lánzhōu (兰州), 1,200 km away. In other words, foreigners are banned from the reserve. Disgusted, we walked out. There was no alternative but to bird the lower elevations.

Saxaul Sparrow
Saxaul Sparrow Passer ammodendri, Subei. Elev. 2220 m. 25 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Thurs. 25 July 2014
Sùběi

We birded a forested area south of Sùběi, fanning out and staying in touch through walkie-talkie. After finding little, I was ready to go elsewhere. Brian and I were sitting in the car, waiting for Jan-Erik. I heard chirps and whistles coming from a bird that I didn’t recognize. I got out and found the bird. It was Saxaul Sparrow, a lifer for all of us.

Fri. 26 July 2014
Golmud

In the morning, in an abandoned orchard south of Sùběi, I found a pair of birds that I didn’t recognize. I radioed to my partners a description of grey birds larger than Desert Whitethroat skulking in the thick branches. Later, Brian and Jan-Erik found the same type of bird. Back at the car, we determined that we must have seen Barred Warbler. We drove back to Golmud. At our hotel, plain-clothes police were waiting for us. Foreigners are banned from entering Dà Cháidàn, a fact of which we were unaware when we spent the night there. We spent a tense 45 minutes at a Public Security Bureau in Golmud. The next day, Brian flew back to Shēnzhèn, Jan-Erik to Beijing, and I to Shanghai.

Snow-capped peak in Qilian Mountains, near Subei, Gansu. Photo taken from elev. 3190 m. 24 July 2014.
Snow-capped peak in Qilian Mountains, near Subei, Gansu. Photo taken from elev. 3190 m. 24 July 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

BIRDS NOTED IN QINGHAI AND GANSU, CHINA, 12-26 JULY 2014

Note: This is a team list. Brian Ivon Jones, Jan-Erik Nilsén, and I worked this way: Most of the day we were together, seeing the same animals. Sometimes, we would split up, staying in contact by walkie-talkie and reporting what we were seeing. If one of us independently saw something interesting, he would call the other two, and the other two would attempt to view the bird. During long drives and at night, our team would hold a meeting to discuss the animals we had seen. Because we kept in contact throughout the day and held regular meetings, all the birds on this list, even those not seen by all of us, do nonetheless have relevance to all of us. If, however, a bird would have been a lifer for me and I missed it, then I make note of that. Also, Brian, Jan-Erik, and I may have minor disagreements over taxonomy and other matters. Each person’s list, therefore, may not be exactly like the others’.

Brian, Jan-Erik, and I noted 98 species.

Anseriformes: Anatidae

Greylag Goose
灰雁 (huīyàn)
Anser anser

38 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Bar-headed Goose
斑头雁 (bāntóu yàn)
Anser indicus

2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
14 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
17 at spot on F214 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2017-07-17

Common Shelduck
翘鼻麻鸭 (qiàobí máyā)
Tadorna tadorna

1 (immature) at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
12 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22

Ruddy Shelduck
赤麻鸭 (chì máyā)
Tadorna ferruginea

25 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
6 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
7 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
11 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
6 at spot on F214 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2017-07-17
1 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
2 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4270 m) on 2014-07-18
6 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Bùdòngquán (4420 m) on 2014-07-19
6 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
3 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4700 m) on 2014-07-20
2 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21
2 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22
2 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23
1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Mallard
绿头鸭 (lǜtóu yā)
Anas platyrhynchos

2 males at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Eastern Spot-billed Duck
斑嘴鸭 (bānzuǐyā)
Anas zonorhyncha

1 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Red-crested Pochard
赤嘴潜鸭 (chìzuǐ qiányā)
Netta rufina

6 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
Ca. 40 (ca. 15 ducklings, 1 ad. male in eclipse) at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
Ca. 60 (including 5 females with ducklings) at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Red-breasted Merganser
红胸秋沙鸭 (hóngxiōng qiūshāyā)
Mergus serrator

4 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17

Galliformes: Phasianidae

Tibetan Partridge
高原山鹑 (gāoyuán shānchún)
Perdix hodgsoniae

1 heard at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17

partridge sp.

1 scurrying away near dark on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4000 m) on 2014-07-18

Common Pheasant
雉鸡 (zhìjī)
Phasianus colchicus

1 male at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 along S303 between Golmud and Húyánglín (2740 m) on 2014-07-14

Podicipediformes: Podicipedidae

Great Crested Grebe
凤头䴙䴘 (fèngtóu pìtī)
Podiceps cristatus

Ca. 50 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
Ca. 40 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22

Ciconiiformes: Ciconiidae

Black Stork
黑鹳 (hēiguàn)
Ciconia nigra

2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Pelecaniformes: Ardeidae

Eurasian Bittern
大麻鳽 (dà máyán)
Botaurus stellaris

1 seen by Jan-Erik at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Eastern Cattle Egret
牛背鹭 (niúbèi lù)
Bubulcus coromandus

2 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3180 m) on 2014-07-15

Suliformes: Phalacrocoracidae

Great Cormorant
普通鸬鹚 (pǔtōng lúcí)
Phalacrocorax carbo

11 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17

Accipitriformes: Accipitridae

Bearded Vulture
胡兀鹫 (hú wùjiù)
Gypaetus barbatus

2 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (4110 m) on 2014-07-16
1 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

Himalayan Vulture
高山兀鹫 (gāoshān wùjiù)
Gyps himalayensis

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (4110 m) on 2014-07-16
3 probables at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
5 at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
4 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4370 m) on 2014-07-18
4 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4450 m) on 2014-07-18
3 at scrubby area on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4040 m) on 2014-07-18
1 below Bangyang Pass (4500 m) on 2017-07-18
4 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4360 m) on 2014-07-19
2 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
3 at pass S of Ākèsài on G215 (3660 m) on 2014-07-26

Golden Eagle
金鵰 (jīn diāo)
Aquila chrysaetos

3 (2 2cy, 1 unaged) on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4370 m) on 2014-07-19

Eurasian Sparrowhawk
雀鹰 (quèyīng)
Accipiter nisus

1 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25

Black Kite
黑鸢 (hēi yuān)
Milvus migrans

1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Upland Buzzard
大鵟 (dà kuáng)
Buteo hemilasius

8 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
4 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
6 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
7 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
23 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4200-4620 m) on 2014-07-19
4 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
1 on roadside W of Antelope Valley on S308 (4500 m) on 2014-07-19
4 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4700-5100 m) on 2014-07-20
1 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21

Long-legged Buzzard
棕尾鵟 (zōngwěi kuáng)
Buteo rufinus

2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14

Buteo sp.

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12 either vilpinus or Long-legged and definitely not Buteo sp. II

Buteo sp. II

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12; definitely not Buteo sp. 1. May be Steppe Buzzard or Himalayan Buzzard

Gruiformes: Rallidae

Water Rail
西方秧鸡 (xīfāng yāngjī)
Rallus aquaticus

1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Ruddy-breasted Crake
红胸田鸡 (hóngxiōng tiánjī)
Porzana fusca

1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Common Moorhen
黑水鸡 (hēi shuǐjī)
Gallinula chloropus

4 juveniles at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Eurasian Coot
骨顶鸡 (gǔdǐng jī)
Fulica atra

Ca. 20 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
Ca. 65 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Gruiformes: Gruidae

Black-necked Crane
黑颈鹤 (hēijǐng hè)
Grus nigricollis

2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
11 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
2 near Mǎduō (4100 m) on 2014-07-17
12 (11 in one flock, 1 solo) at spot on G214 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2017-07-17
2 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4390 m) on 2014-07-19
4 (2 pairs) in Antelope Valley (4430 m) on 2014-07-19

Charadriiformes: Recurvirostridae

Black-winged Stilt
黑翅长脚鹬 (hēichì chángjiǎoyù)
Himantopus himantopus

10 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Pied Avocet
反嘴鹬 (fǎnzuǐ yù)
Recurvirostra avosetta

30 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
20 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22

Charadriiformes: Charadriidae

Northern Lapwing
凤头麦鸡 (fèngtóu màijī)
Vanellus vanellus

4 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Little Ringed Plover
金眶鸻 (jīnkuàng héng)
Charadrius dubius

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
4 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
8 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22

Kentish Plover
环颈鸻 (huánjǐng héng)
Charadrius alexandrinus

40, about 20 of them juveniles, at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
Ca. 200 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22

Lesser Sand Plover
蒙古沙鸻 (měnggǔ shāhéng)
Charadrius mongolus

7 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 (1 female, 2 chicks) at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4700 m) on 2014-07-20
1 between Búdòngquán and Wǔdàoliáng (4500 m) on 2014-07-21

Charadriiformes: Scolopacidae

Eurasian Curlew
白腰杓鹬 (báiyāo sháoyù)
Numenius arquata

1 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14

Common Redshank
红脚鹬 (hóngjiǎo yù)
Tringa totanus

11 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
48 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-15
140 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
7 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
10 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
Ca. 50 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22
Ca. 30 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Common Greenshank
青脚鹬 (qīngjiǎo yù)
Tringa nebularia

4 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23

Green Sandpiper
白腰草鹬 (báiyāo cǎoyù)
Tringa ochropus

1 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23

Wood Sandpiper
林鹬 (lín yù)
Tringa glareola

3 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
15 at Lake (3200 m) on 2014-07-22

Common Sandpiper
矶鹬 (jī yù)
Actitis hypoleucos

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-15
2 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
15 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23

Curlew Sandpiper
弯嘴滨鹬 (wānzuǐ bīnyù)
Calidris ferruginea

6 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Charadriiformes: Laridae

Brown-headed Gull
棕头鸥 (zōngtóu ōu)
Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus

1 adult at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
Flock of 66 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (4020 m) on 2014-07-16
Flock of 7 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3970 m) on 2014-07-16
Flock of ca. 900 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
Ca. 200 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
3 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
1 between Búdòngquán and Wǔdàoliáng (4500 m) on 2014-07-21

Common Tern
普通燕鸥 (pǔtōng yàn’ōu)
Sterna hirundo

10 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12. One longipennis and about 10 minutus
40 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
15 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
5 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
2 between Bayan Har Pass and Qīngshuǐhé (4824-4270 m) on 2014-07-18
1 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4400 m) on 2014-07-19
1 between Búdòngquán and Wǔdàoliáng (4500 m) on 2014-07-21
Ca. 20 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Columbiformes: Columbidae

Hill Pigeon
岩鸽 (yángē)
Columba rupestris

2 along G109 ca. 25 km E of Bālóng (2890 m) on 2014-07-15
Few flocks totaling ca. 50 birds on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3160 m) on 2014-07-15
14 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3575 m) on 3014-07-16
6 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23
3 S of Sùběi (2570 m) on 2014-07-24
5 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
5 S of Sùběi (2520-2610 m) on 2014-07-25
1 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26

Snow Pigeon
雪鸽 (xuěgē)
Columba leuconota

5 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3650 m) on 2014-07-16

Eurasian Collared Dove
灰斑鸠 (huī bānjiū)
Streptopelia decaocto

2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
1 near Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23
6 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
9 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25

Cuculiformes: Cuculidae

Common Cuckoo
大杜鹃 (dà dùjuān)
Cuculus canorus

3 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12

Cuculus sp.

1 at scrubby area on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4040 m) on 2014-07-18
3 most likely Common Cuckoo in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25

Strigiformes: Strigidae

Little Owl
纵纹腹小鸮 (zòngwénfù xiǎoxiāo)
Athene noctua

4 (2 adults, 2 owlets) below Bangyang Pass (4500 m) on 2017-07-18

Apodiformes: Apodidae

Common Swift
普通楼燕 (pǔtōng lóuyàn)
Apus apus

12 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
12 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
10 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16
15 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
2 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22
5 S of Sùběi (2690 m) on 2014-07-24
6 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
4 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25

Salim Ali’s Swift
白腰雨燕 (báiyāoyǔyàn)
Apus salimalii

3 at scrubby area on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4040 m) on 2014-07-18

Bucerotiformes: Upupidae

Eurasian Hoopoe
戴胜 (dàishèng)
Upupa epops

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
3 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4270 m) on 2014-07-18
6 at Wǔdàoliáng on 2014-07-21
1 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4800 m) on 2014-07-21
1 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23
1 S of Sùběi (2500 m) on 2014-07-24
1 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26

Falconiformes: Falconidae

Common Kestrel
红隼 (hóng sǔn)
Falco tinnunculus

3 S of Sùběi (2690 m) on 2014-07-24

kestrel sp.
?隼 (? sǔn)
Falco tinnunculus or F. naumanni

3 S of Sùběi (2600 m) on 2014-07-24
2 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25
1 S of Ākèsài on G215 (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

Saker Falcon
猎隼 (lièsǔn)
Falco cherrug

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (4110 m) on 2014-07-16
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
1 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4290 m) on 2014-07-18
8 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4220-4460 m) on 2014-07-19
4 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4800-5100 m) on 2014-07-20
4 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21

Passeriformes: Laniidae

Brown Shrike
红尾伯劳 (hóngwěi bóláo)
Lanius cristatus

1 S of Sùběi (2560 m) on 2014-07-24

Isabelline Shrike
荒漠伯劳 (huāngmò bóláo)
Lanius isabellinus

8 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
30 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
35 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
7 at Húyánglín (2700 m) on 2014-07-14
6 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
3 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22
1 S of Sùběi (2690 m) on 2014-07-24
10 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
5 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25
15 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26
2 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Chinese Grey Shrike
楔尾伯劳 (xiēwěi bóláo)
Lanius sphenocercus

4 giganteus on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16

Passeriformes: Corvidae

Henderson’s Ground Jay
黑尾地鸦 (hēiwěi dìyā)
Podoces hendersoni

2 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
4 along S303 between Golmud and Húyánglín (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
1 N of Sùběi (1940 m) on 2014-07-26
1 on Ground5 S of Ākèsài (2500 m) on 2014-07-26
1 S of Ākèsài on G215 (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

Red-billed Chough
红嘴山鸦 (hóngzuǐ shānyā)
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

5 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3560 m) on 2014-07-16
5 in Qǔmálái (4200 m) on 2014-07-19
2 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4180 m) on 2014-07-19
38 S of Sùběi (2620 m) on 2014-07-24
3 flying over scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
7 S of Sùběi (2600 m) on 2014-07-25
3 S of Ākèsài on G215 (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

Common Raven
渡鸦 (dùyā)
Corvus corax

3 on G109 between Golmud and Kunlun Pass (2900 m) on 2014-07-13
2 on G109 ca. 100 km E of Golmud (2880 m) on 2014-07-13
1 on G109 ca. 70 km E of Golmud (2760 m) on 2014-07-15
9 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 at E terminus of Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway on G214 (4000 m) on 2014-07-17
4 at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
4 between Bayan Har Pass and Qīngshuǐhé (4824-4270 m) on 2014-07-18
20 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
2 on G109 S of Búdòngquán (4730 m) on 2014-07-20
1 near Yùzhūfēng Měishíchéng (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
Ca. 15 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21
Ca. 30 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23

Passeriformes: Paridae

Ground Tit
褐背地山雀 (hèbèi dìshānquè)
Pseudopodoces humilis

5 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3100 m) on 2014-07-15
15 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3580 m) on 2014-07-16
Xx at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
8 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
1 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
5 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
3 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4340 m) on 2014-07-19
1 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
5 at Yùzhūfēng Měishíchéng (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
1 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21
Ca. 30 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-24

Passeriformes: Panuridae

Bearded Reedling
文须雀 (wénxū què)
Panurus biarmicus

3 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
15 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
20 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Passeriformes: Alaudidae

Horned Lark
角百灵 (jiǎo bǎilíng)
Eremophila alpestris

30 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
3 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
5 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
2 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
5 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
8 at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
2 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
10 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4410 m) on 2014-07-19
2 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
4 at Búdòngquán (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
5 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21
3 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
1 at Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (3200 m) on 2014-07-22

Greater Short-toed Lark
大短趾百灵 (dà duǎnzhǐbǎilíng)
Calandrella brachydactyla

1 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18

Hume’s Short-toed Lark
细嘴短趾百灵 (xìzuǐ duǎnzhǐbǎilíng)
Calandrella acutirostris

2 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17

Asian Short-toed Lark
亚洲短趾百灵 (yàzhōu duǎnzhǐbǎilíng)
Alaudala cheleensis

3 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
5 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
3 at Húyánglín (2700 m) on 2014-07-14
2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14

short-toed lark sp.

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12; definitely not Asian Short-toed Lark
4 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Húyánglín (2700 m) on 2014-07-14
1 S of Sùběi (2360 m) on 2014-07-24; had dark throat-sides
1 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21

lark sp.

1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14

Passeriformes: Hirundinidae

Barn Swallow
家燕 (jiā yàn)
Hirundo rustica

1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22

Eurasian Crag Martin
岩燕 (yányàn)
Ptyonoprogne rupestris

Ca. 50 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
3 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25

Common House Martin
白腹毛脚燕 (báifù máojiǎoyàn)
Delichon urbicum

2 S of Sùběi (2690 m) on 2014-07-24
1 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4270 m) on 2014-07-18

Passeriformes: Phylloscopidae

Alpine Leaf Warbler
华西柳莺 (huáxī liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus occisinensis

3 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16

Sulphur-bellied Warbler
灰柳莺 (huī liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus griseolus

3 S of Sùběi (2520 m) on 2014-07-25

Passeriformes: Acrocephalidae

Paddyfield Warbler
稻田苇莺 (dàotián wěiyīng)
Acrocephalus agricola

1 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Passeriformes: Sylviidae

Barred Warbler
横斑林莺 (héngbān línyīng)
Sylvia nisoria

3 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26

Desert Whitethroat
沙白喉林莺 (shā báihóulínyīng)
Sylvia minula

3 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
15 at Húyánglín (2700 m) on 2014-07-14

Passeriformes: Muscicapidae

Black Redstart
赭红尾鸲 (zhě hóngwěiqú)
Phoenicurus ochruros

11 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3080 m) on 2014-07-15
20 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3580 m) on 2014-07-16
1 at Huāshíxiá (4070 m) on 2017-07-17
2 males between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
1 female at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
1 male below Bangyang Pass (4500 m) on 2014-07-18
3 males on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4230-4270 m) on 2014-07-19
1 male at Búdòngquán (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
2 juveniles at Yùzhūfēng Měishíchéng (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
1 S of Sùběi (2500 m) on 2014-07-24
3 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25
1 on G215 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

White-winged Redstart (Güldenstädt’s Redstart)
红腹红尾鸲 (hóngfù hóngwěiqú)
Phoenicurus erythrogastrus

2 (1 adult male, 1 juvenile) at Huāshíxiá (4070 m) on 2017-07-17
1 male between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4320 m) on 2014-07-18
5 (3 males, 2 females) at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
3 (1 pair, 1 female) at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4900-5100 m) on 2014-07-20
5 on G109 below Fēnghuǒshān (4880 m) on 2014-07-21

Common Rock Thrush
白背矶鸫 (báibèi jīdōng)
Monticola saxatilis

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3290 m) on 2014-07-15

Isabelline Wheatear
沙鵖 (shā jí)
Oenanthe isabellina

6 along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3580 m) on 2014-07-16

Desert Wheatear
漠鵖 (mò jí)
Oenanthe deserti

2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
15 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
2 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
1 at Bālóng (2890 m) on 2014-07-15
6 along Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3580 m) on 2014-07-16
1 on G109 below Fēnghuǒshān (4880 m) on 2014-07-21
3 S of Sùběi (2690 m) on 2014-07-24
3 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-25

Passeriformes: Passeridae

Saxaul Sparrow
黑顶麻雀 (hēidǐng máquè)
Passer ammodendri

8 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
1 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
树麻雀 (shù máquè)
Passer montanus

10 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
8 at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
10 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
5 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
15 at Bālóng (2890 m) on 2014-07-15
3 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16
2 at Mǎduō (4120 m) on 2014-07-18
Ca. 20 around farms on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
3 in Qǔmálái (4200 m) on 2014-07-19
5 in Wǔdàoliáng (4665 m) on 2014-07-21
7 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
5 S of Sùběi (2520 m) on 2014-07-25

Rock Sparrow
石雀 (shí què)
Petronia petronia

7 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3290 m) on 2014-07-15
10 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3575 m) on 2014-07-16

Henri’s Snowfinch
藏雪雀 (zàng xuěquè)
Montifringilla henrici

1 at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18

Tibetan Snowfinch
褐翅雪雀 (hèchì xuěquè)
Montifringilla adamsi

4 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3540 m) on 2014-07-16
2 on G215 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-23
2 on G215 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

White-rumped Snowfinch
白腰雪雀 (báiyāo xuěquè)
Onychostruthus taczanowskii

8 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
5 km N of Mǎduō on 2017-07-17
5 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
11 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4360-4400 m) on 2014-07-19

Rufous-necked Snowfinch
棕颈雪雀 (zōngjǐng xuěquè)
Pyrgilauda ruficollis

15 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3900 m) on 2014-07-16
5 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
20 between Mǎduō and Bayan Har Pass (4120-4824 m) on 2014-07-18
3 at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
5 on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (ca. 4000 m) on 2014-07-18
10 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4200-4440 m) on 2014-07-19

Blanford’s Snowfinch
棕背雪雀 (zōngbèi xuěquè)
Pyrgilauda blanfordi

2 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3570 m) on 2014-07-16
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
4 at spot 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2017-07-17
1 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4270 m) on 2014-07-19
2 at Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21

Passeriformes: Prunellidae

Robin Accentor
鸲岩鹨 (qú yánliù)
Prunella rubeculoides

3 on G109 below Fēnghuǒshān (5000 m) on 2014-07-21

Brown Accentor
褐岩鹨 (hè yánliù)
Prunella fulvescens

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3400 m) on 2014-07-16
10 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3575 m) on 2014-07-16
3 S of Sùběi (2610 m) on 2014-07-24
10 of Sùběi (2500 m) on 2014-07-25

Passeriformes: Motacillidae

Eastern Yellow Wagtail
黄鹡鸰 (huáng jílíng)
Motacilla tschutschensis

1 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

Citrine Wagtail
黄头鹡鸰 (huángtóu jílíng)
Motacilla citreola

30 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
3 heard at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
3 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
30 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
50 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
Ca. 225 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

White Wagtail
白鹡鸰 (bái jílíng)
Motacilla alba

2 at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-12
1 heard at Wǔzǐ Hú (2680 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
2, 1 an adult male leucopsis, 1 juvenile, at Jīnyú Hú (2740 m) on 2014-07-14
1 adult male leucopsis at Wūlánshān (2990 m) on 2014-07-15
7 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3050 m) on 2014-07-15
1 male leucopsis at Yùzhūfēng Měishíchéng (4600 m) on 2014-07-20
2 leucopsis in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
Ca. 25 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

Olive-backed Pipit
树鹨 (shù liù)
Anthus hodgsoni

1 singing in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25

Passeriformes: Fringillidae

Mongolian Finch
蒙古沙雀 (ménggǔ shāquè)
Bucanetes mongolicus

9 S of Sùběi (2360-2940 m) on 2014-07-24
1 S of Sùběi (2520 m) on 2014-07-25
25 on G215 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-26
17 at pass on G215 S of Ākèsài (3660 m) on 2014-07-26

Plain Mountain Finch
林岭雀 (lín lǐngquè)
Leucosticte nemoricola

1 on G109 (4000 m) on 2014-07-22

Brandt’s Mountain Finch
高山岭雀 (gāoshān lǐngquè)
Leucosticte brandti

4 (1 chick) at Bayan Har Pass (4824 m) on 2014-07-18
4 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (5030 m) on 2014-07-20
1 on G109 (4000 m) on 2014-07-22

Common Rosefinch
普通朱雀 (pǔtōng zhūquè)
Carpodacus erythrinus

2 heard at scrubby area on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái (4040 m) on 2014-07-18

Twite
黄嘴朱顶雀 (huángzuǐ zhūdǐngquè)
Linaria flavirostris

1 at Bālóng (2890 m) on 2014-07-15
6 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3100 m) on 2014-07-15
10 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300 m) on 2014-07-15
4 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3300-3575 m) on 2014-07-16
2 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-17
Ca. 30 S of Sùběi (2500 m) on 2014-07-25
5 on G215 S of Ākèsài (3490 m) on 2014-07-26

Passeriformes: Emberizidae

Godlewski’s Bunting
戈氏岩鹀 (gēshì yánwū)
Emberiza godlewskii

2 (pair) S of Sùběi (2500 m) on 2014-07-24

Common Reed Bunting
声鹀 (shēng wū)
Emberiza schoeniclus

4 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-22
4 at Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (2770 m) on 2014-07-26

reed bunting sp.

1 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13

MAMMALS

First reference: Mammals of China, by Smith and Xie

Brian, Jan-Erik, and I noted 13 species, representing 5 orders and 8 families.

Lagomorpha: Ochotonidae

Plateau Pika
高原鼠兔 (gāoyuán shǔtù)
Ochotona curzoniae

10 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3570 m) on 2014-07-16

Ladak Pika
拉达克鼠兔 (lādákè shǔtù)
Ochotona ladacensis

1 on G109 N of Búdòngquán (4750 m) on 2014-07-20
1 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (5030 m) on 2014-07-20

Lagomorpha: Leporidae

Woolly Hare
高原兔 (gāoyuán tù)
Lepus oiostolus

1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
2 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4900 m) on 2014-07-20
1 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-25
3 in scrubby forest S of Sùběi (2220 m) on 2014-07-26

Rodentia: Sciuridae

Himalayan Marmot
喜马拉雅旱獭 (xǐmǎlāyǎ hàntǎ)
Marmota himalayana

4 at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
1 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
1 at Bangyang Pass (4500 m) on 2014-07-18
11 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4360-4420 m) on 2014-07-19
1 in Antelope Valley (4450 m) on 2014-07-19

Rodentia: Cricetidae

vole sp.

1 caught and devoured by Tibetan Fox at spot 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2014-07-17

Artiodactyla: Camelidae

Bactrian Camel
双峰驼 (shuāngfēng tuó)
Camelus bactrianus

3 (2 adults, 1 calf) at Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì (2620 m) on 2014-07-13
Herd of ca. 20 W of Bālóng (2890 m) on 2014-07-15
13 N of Dà Cháidàn on G215 (3290-3690 m) on 2013-07-23

Artiodactyla: Bovidae

Tibetan Antelope
藏羚 (zàng líng)
Pantholops hodgsonii

46 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
5 between Wǔdàoliáng and Búdòngquán (4510-4580 m) on 2014-07-22

Blue Sheep
岩羊 (yányáng)
Pseudois nayaur

21 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16

Tibetan Gazelle
藏原羚 (zàng yuánlíng)
Procapra picticaudata

1 on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway (3350 m) on 2014-07-16
30 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
3 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
8 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Antelope Valley (4370-4440 m) on 2014-07-19
28 at Antelope Valley on 2014-07-19
2 on G109 S of Búdòngquán (4730 m) on 2014-07-20
10 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4700-5100 m) on 2014-07-20
6 between Búdòngquán and Wǔdàoliáng (4500 m) on 2014-07-21
Ca. 9 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21
11 between Wǔdàoliáng and Búdòngquán (4500 m) on 2014-07-22

Perissodactyla: Equidae

Tibetan Wild Ass (Kiang)
西藏野驴 (xīzàng yělǘ)
Equus kiang

92 at Gōuhuā (3990 m) on 2014-07-16
17 near Mǎduō (4100 m) on 2014-07-17
11 at spot 13 km N of Mǎduō (4080 m) on 2017-07-17
34 on S308 between Qǔmálái and Búdòngquán (4390-4420 m) on 2014-07-19
89 in Antelope Valley (4400-4450 m) on 2014-07-19
2 W of Antelope Valley on S308 (4500 m) on 2014-07-19
9 on G109 S of Búdòngquán (4730 m) on 2014-07-20
10 at Yuzhufeng Glacier (4700-4900 m) on 2014-07-20
14 on G109 between Wǔdàoliáng and Fēnghuǒshān (4600-5000 m) on 2014-07-21

Carnivora: Canidae

Tibetan Wolf
藏狼 (zàng láng)
Canis lupus filchneri

1 in Antelope Valley (4430 m) on 2014-07-19

Red Fox
赤狐 (chì hú)
Vulpes vulpes

3 on G109 below Fēnghuǒshān (4880 m) on 2014-07-21
1 at point on G215 ca. 200 km N of Golmud (3170 m) on 2013-07-23

Tibetan Fox
藏狐 (zàng hú)
Vulpes ferrilata

1 at Dōnggěicuònà Hú (3950 m) on 2014-07-17
1 at spot 13 km N of Mǎduō on G214 (4080 m) on 2014-07-17
2 ca. 17 km E of Qǔmálái on S308 (4500 m) on 2014-07-18
1 in Antelope Valley (4450 m) on 2014-07-19

LIST OF PLACE NAMES

Ākèsài (阿克塞): Town in Gansu 45 km from Sùběi

Antelope Valley: Broad, spectacular section of the Chuma’er River (Chǔmǎěr Hé [楚玛尔河]) Valley extending from a point about 73 km E of Búdòngquán on the S308 to a point about 123 km E of Búdòngquán. Our favorite point in the 50-km stretch was the 15-km section 100-115 km from Búdòngquán. There we saw a Tibetan Wolf and Tibetan Antelope. Elev.: 4400-4450 m

Bālóng (巴隆): Village on G109 100 km W of Dúlán (都兰). Elev.: 2900 m

Bangyang Pass (Bāngyáng Shānkǒu [邦阳山口]): Pass on S308 between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái. Elev.: 4690 m

Bayan Har Pass (Bāyán Kālā Shānkǒu [巴颜喀拉山口]): Pass on G214 separating Yellow River and Yangtze River basins. Elev.: 4824 m

Búdòngquán (不冻泉): Point on G109. W terminus of S308. Elev.: 4600 m

Dà Cháidàn (大柴旦): Town ca. 200 km N of Golmud. Elev.: 3170 m

Dōnggěicuònà Hú (冬给错纳湖): Lake ca. 25 km from Huāshíxiá (花石峡) on the Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway. Elev.: 3950 m

Fēnghuǒshān (风火山): Point on G109 70 km S of Wǔdàoliáng. Elev.: 5010 m

Golmud (Géěrmù [格尔木]): City in W Qinghai. Elev.: 2800 m

Gōuhuā (沟花): Valley ca. 30 km W of Huāshíxiá (花石峡) on Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway. Elev.: 3990 m

Huāshíxiá (花石峡): Town on G214. E terminus of Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway is a few km N of town on G214. Elev.: 4070 m

Húyánglín Zìrán Bǎohùqū (胡杨林自然保护区): Nature reserve 56 km W of Golmud on S303. Elev.: 2700 m

Jīnyú Hú (金鱼湖): Recreational area on W outskirts of Golmud. Elev.: 2740 m

Kunlun Pass (kūnlún shānkǒu [昆仑山口]): On G109. Elev.: 4771 m

Mǎduō (玛多): Town on G214. Elev.: 4120 m

Nuòmùhóng Dì-wǔ Dàduì: Elev.: 2620 m

Qīngshuǐhé (清水河): Town on G214 S of Bayan Har Pass. Elev.: 4270 m

Qǔmálái (曲麻莱): Ethnic Tibetan town on S308 in Qinghai. Elev.: 4200 m

Scrubby area between Qīngshuǐhé and Qǔmálái, ca. 80 km from latter. Elev.: 4040 m

Sùběi (肃北): Town in W Gansu. Elev.: 2200 m

Wǔdàoliáng (五道梁): Village on G109 S of Búdòngquán

Wūlánshān (乌兰山): Agricultural valley on G109 W of Dúlán (都兰). The western terminus of the Wūlánshān-Huāshíxiá Highway is here. Elev.: 2990 m

Wǔzǐ Hú (五子湖): Lake in desert 40 km E of Golmud, off G109. Elev.: 2680 m

Xiǎo Cháidámù Hú (小柴达木湖): Lake N of Golmud

Yúshuǐhé Yúchí (鱼水河鱼池): Small wetland on G215 N of Golmud. Elev.: 2770 m

Yuzhufeng Glacier (Yùzhūfēng Bīngchuān [玉珠峰冰川]): 18 km N of Búdòngquán on G109. Elevations covered by our team: 4700-5100 m

Yùzhūfēng Měishíchéng (玉珠峰美食城): Restaurant on G109 ca. 60 km N of Búdòngquán. Elev.: 4100 m

Featured image: Tibetan Gazelle on a ridge in Chuma’er River Valley, Qinghai, China. Elev. 4420 m. 19 July 2014.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Special thanks to my partners, Brian Ivon Jones and Jan-Erik Nilsén. From Brian I learned the value of finding new places to bird and of never ceasing to be curious and to ask questions. From Jan-Erik I learned the value of doing the daily list of birds early, while memories are still fresh. Mark Beaman and Yann Muzika provided us with a constant stream of encouragement and tips.

“Qinghai and Gansu, July 2014” is part of a series on birding in Qinghai. Other reports in the series:

Qinghai, June-August 2016
Qinghai, July-August 2013

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Qinghai, July-August 2013

“Qinghai, July-August 2013” is part of a series on birding in Qinghai. Other reports in the series:

Qinghai, June-August 2016
Qinghai and Gansu, July 2014

INTRODUCTION

Our three-person team drove 4724 km in 23 days, beginning and ending in Lánzhōu, Gansu. Most of our time was spent in Qinghai. We ranged from Hùzhù Běishān on the northeastern border with Gansu to Nángqiān in the south near Tibet. We also visited Qinghai Lake and the desert around Chákǎ. In Gansu, we made a foray east of Lánzhōu to Yùzhōng.

Rusty-necklaced or Przevalski's Partridge
Rusty-necklaced or Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna, near Chaka, Qinghai. Elev. 3820 m. A Chinese endemic, Przevalski’s Partridge ranges from northern Qinghai to central Gansu. It is very similar to Chukar Partridge, being distinguished from that species by the russet line running along the black line on its ear coverts and neck sides. (Craig Brelsford)

HIGHLIGHTS

— Finding 136 species of bird amid some of the most dramatic scenery on earth
— Photographing Tibetan Snowcock in a snowstorm on Èlā Mountain
— Scrambling up a steep hillside to get photographs of Rusty-necklaced Partridge in the Dūlán Mountains
— Following a flock of Mongolian Ground Jay for an exhilarating hour at Chákǎ
— Scrambling up a mountain near Bayan Har Pass, topping out at 5078 m (the highest I’ve ever been in my life), and finding a baby Tibetan Gazelle near the summit
— Finding and photographing Tibetan Bunting on Mt. Kǎndá
— Finding Tibetan Partridge and Tibetan Babax in Kǎndá Gorge
— Getting sustained views of Przevalski’s Finch at Hēimǎhé
— Spending quiet time with Tibetan Rosefinch on Èlā Mountain
— Enjoying the stunning scenery near Gǎ’ěr Monastery, and finding a herd of 25 Blue Sheep there
— Driving for thousands of kilometers in some of the remotest country in China without a major breakdown, and living for more than three weeks at high altitude without any member of my team suffering a serious health problem

Brelsford, Huáng, Gallagher
L-R: Craig Brelsford, Huáng Xiǎo Ān (黄小安), Jon Gallagher, Baizha Forest Reserve, Qinghai, China, 3 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Fri. 19 July 2013
Huángzhōng (湟中), Qinghai

I awoke at my apartment in Shanghai at 0500. My flight to Lánzhōu (兰州), capital of Gansu, took off from Hóngqiáo Airport at 0810, 25 minutes behind schedule. The weather in Lánzhōu was cool (18°C) and clear, buoying my spirits as I took the shuttle bus into town. In Lánzhōu I met my partners, Jon Gallagher, a British-American birder from Maryland, and Huáng Xiǎo Ān (黄小安), a birder from Beijing. Jon, ranked 35th on the surfbirds.com list of persons who have viewed the most species of bird, had a simple goal: to add to his list of more than 7,200 species. Xiǎo Ān, a new birder, speaks some English, and she provided invaluable services as our fixer. She even occasionally relieved me of the duties of driving. My goal for this, my first trip to Gansu and Qinghai, was to collect photographs of as many new species as possible. Good photos would be used in the book I’m writing, a photographic field guide to the birds of China. I am the sole writer and chief photographer of the photographic field guide. Our rental-car agency was Lánzhōu Bǎolái Qìchē Zūlìn (兰州宝来汽车租赁; +86 138-9335-3591; ask for Chén Chén [陈晨]). There, we picked up our Nissan Paladin (in China, the Nissan Xterra is called the “Paladin”). Renting the Paladin cost 450 yuan per day. We went to the grocery store to stock up. In the store, we saw a Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. We saw Eurasian Tree Sparrow in every town and village and occasionally in more out-of-the-way places. We headed west out of Lánzhōu. We entered Qinghai and drove through Xīníng (西宁). We wanted to drive all the way to Hēimǎhé (黑马河) on Qinghai Lake, but a traffic jam in Xīníng slowed our progress. We spent the night at a truck stop in Huángzhōng.

Rufous-necked Snowfinch
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis, Heimahe, Qinghai. Elev. 3440 m. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 20 July 2013
Hēimǎhé (黑马河)

We drove to Qinghai Lake. We stopped at a village in Èrlángjiàn (二郎剑) at the southeastern corner of that inland sea. Here we saw our first Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. Black Redstart would be one of the most commonly seen birds on the trip, occurring in towns and villages, on farms, around ruins, along roads, and in mountains. We saw Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis. Formerly thought to be the world’s smallest crow, Ground Tit now holds the title of world’s largest tit. Throughout the trip, we saw this species regularly above 2500 m. At the village we saw a pair of Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris, another bird found nearly everywhere we went. Also here were Feral Pigeon Columba livia. We left the village and drove down a dirt road leading toward the lake. I found and photographed my first Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina. We saw our first Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris. Horned Lark would be seen in nearly every environment we traversed, from the deserts around Chákǎ to the cold mountain pass at Èlā. In most places, they were the most abundant lark. Another common lark was Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula. We found Oriental Skylark in most of the grasslands we visited. Still another common lark was Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris. We saw Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia. We saw about 30 Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus. We saw our first of many Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius. Upland Buzzard was by far the most commonly noted raptor on the trip, seen in nearly all types of habitat. From Hēimǎhé we drove into the Rubber Mountains, stopping at km 2189.5 on the G109. The most numerous snowfinch there was Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis. We saw about 25. Rufous-necked Snowfinch was the most commonly seen snowfinch on our trip. We saw two of the big scavengers of the Tibetan Plateau: Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis. We saw Himalayan Vulture in most places we visited and Bearded Vulture in a few. We saw Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. Passerines: Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus, about 20 Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi, a single male Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides, Twite Linaria flavirostris, Eurasian Magpie Pica pica, and Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos. The latter two species were commonly encountered in various habitats and at various elevations throughout the Qinghai trip. We saw Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea and White Wagtail Motacilla alba; we spotted these species at various places in Qinghai. We saw no Citrine Wagtail anywhere on the Qinghai trip. We saw our first Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica as well as our first Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus. We would encounter these species at various locations in Qinghai, with the swallows being more common than the martins. We checked into Mínzú Bīnguǎn (民族宾馆; +86 974-8519360). Accommodations were spartan, and my bathroom stank, but the staff was friendly.

Przevalski's Finch
Przevalski’s Finch Urocynchramus pylzowi, Heimahe, Qinghai. Elev. 3450 m. 21 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 21 July 2013
Hēimǎhé

All morning at km 2189.5; photographed Przevalski’s Finch Urocynchramus pylzowi. I found a male and a female. Neither finch nor bunting, Przevalski’s “Finch” is rather something in between, having diverged from what became Fringillidae and Emberizidae before those families were established in their present forms. Its graduated tail is much unlike the tail of a true finch, and it has a well-developed tenth primary, whereas in typical finches and in buntings the tenth primary is vestigial. We saw 5 Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides. Robin Accentor was one of the more common birds around Hēimǎhé; we were seeing about 20 per day in our three days there. Almost as numerous was its congener, Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens. I captured a spectacular set of photographs of a juvenile Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus. We saw two species of mammal. One was a Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus. It fed unconcerned by us even as we crawled to within 5 m of it. I’ve seen hares in petting zoos more fearful of humans than was this totally wild individual. We inadvertently startled a Red Deer Cervus elaphus. The individual, a fawn, galloped up the scrubby hill, showing great stamina at that altitude, and disappeared beyond the crest. We saw two species of Phylloscopus warbler: Smoky Warbler Phylloscopus fuligiventer and Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis. We ended up seeing about 20 per day in the area. I got a record shot of Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. We frequently came upon Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus. I drove the team to “Rubber Mountain Pass” (elev. 3817 m), where for the first time I saw Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus; we found a male and a female. I saw a single Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima and Tibetan Snowfinch. On the western side of the pass, the climate was noticeably dryer. After taking a nap in the quiet desert, we drove back to km 2189.5. As we were walking through the valley, we witnessed a serious two-car accident. The driver of an expensive SUV had foolhardily tried to overtake an 18-wheeler going uphill; a car coming downhill in the opposite lane couldn’t brake in time, and the SUV swerved to avoid a head-on collision. The two vehicles glanced off each other, but the impact was still great. Although uninjured, the persons involved must have been horrified by the near-fatal collision; they sat miserably on the side of the road, awaiting rescue. The SUV couldn’t be moved and continued to block traffic in the right-hand lane. Watching through my binoculars, I was reminded of how dangerous driving is in China, and I vowed to do everything I could to avoid an accident. We were unable to find Alashan Redstart. Jon saw a single Salim Ali’s Swift, and we all saw many House Swift Apus nipalensis as well as Common Swift Apus apus. A pair of Rosy Pipit had a nest in the area. I photographed my first Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana of the trip. At the car, I photographed my first Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops of the trip.

Plateau Pika
Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae near Heimahe. (Craig Brelsford)

Heading back toward Hēimǎhé, our team explored a side valley unmentioned in others’ reports. Just at the entrance to this valley, we were delighted by a pair of Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae. The pair was more curious than afraid of our car and posed at the entrance to their burrow. I photographed a Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. Back at Hēimǎhé, near Qinghai Lake, we found about 12 Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus. The gulls were in breeding plumage, showing the distinctive brown head with black border. Jon used the spotting scope to find 4 Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis, around 20 Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus, and 10 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. There were 6 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, a fast-flying flock of 12 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Common Tern Sterna hirundo, and Eastern Cattle Egret Bulbulcus coromandus. We saw a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius.

Robin Accentor
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides, Heimahe, Qinghai. Elev. 3520 m. 22 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Mon. 22 July 2013
Chákǎ (茶卡)

At Hēimǎhé this morning we drove up the new valley. An old Tibetan lady needed a ride, so we took her with us up the dirt road. She spoke only Tibetan. Driving up the valley, we photographed a male Güldenstädt’s Redstart. We found 3 Pale Martin Riparia diluta. As we were walking toward the first scrub-covered mountain, we saw a herd of 9 Red Deer on the ridge top. As we were walking up the mountain, we saw 10 Robin Accentor in perfect early-morning light. The handsome birds were perching atop the bushes and singing. Even though we were early in the trip, the high altitude, lack of sleep, and lack of regular meals were already wearing me down. But watching those beautiful accentors, my energy came back. On the mountain, I got views and photos of 2 White-browed Tit Poecile superciliosus and 3 White-browed Tit-warbler Leptopoecile sophiae. We saw 2 Smoky Warbler. Jon and I spent a little time nailing the ID of the Smoky Warbler. A combination of geographical location, plumage (non-barred, “brown” Phylloscopus), and especially voice compelled our ID. Using my neat new Olympus DM-650, I recorded this individual’s powerful song; later, I compared my recording to recordings downloaded from xeno-canto.org. Here is the song I recorded of the Smoky Warbler (01:38; 2.4 MB):

We saw Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis. With their blue hood, adult males are unmistakable; females are distinguishable from other Phoenicurus females by the presence of black tips to all tail feathers and by the clicking contact call. A pair of Twite had made a nest on the mountainside. We drove to Hēimǎhé for lunch, then back across the Rubber Mountains, stopping again at Rubber Mountain Pass. I once again noted the many Tibetan Snowfinch there. Near Chákǎ, we saw Isabelline Wheatear along the road. After checking into Qīngyán Bīnguǎn (青盐宾馆; +86 977-8240254) in Chákǎ, we drove about 10 km west of the small city. There, we found habitat suitable for Mongolian Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni. Sure enough, we saw 2 through Jon’s spotting scope. I walked in, camera in hand. Jon, standing near the car on the side of the G109, guided me by walkie-talkie. I was unable to track down the ground jays. In the flat chaparral I found Asian Short-toed Lark Calandrella cheleensis. We drove back through town to a random spot east of town on the highway. Along the way we found Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala. We saw 10 Common Redshank Tringa totanus. We walked into the desert. Mrs. Huáng found a single Mongolian Ground Jay and photographed it. I arrived too late to see the ground jay.

White-rumped Snowfinch
White-rumped Snowfinch with Plateau Pika, near Chaka, Qinghai. Elev. 3635 m. 23 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Tue. 23 July 2013
Chákǎ

At 0500 our team drove west of Chákǎ along the G109. Peter Collaerts, a Fleming who had recently been to Qinghai, recommended a place to me. We left the highway and drove slowly across the desert to the base of the Dūlán (都兰) Mountains. We started walking. Soon we saw Alashan Redstart Phoenicurus alaschanicus, also known as Przevalski’s Redstart. Eating breakfast on the mountainside with Jon, we heard the calls of Rusty-necklaced Partridge Alectoris magna. A covey of 20 to 25 moved down slope. I climbed up the mountainside to meet them. It was exhausting work to climb a mountain at 3800 m with 13 kg of gear. Rusty-necklaced Partridge ranges from northern Qinghai to central Gansu. It’s very similar to Chukar Partridge, being distinguished from it by the russet line running alongside the black line on its ear coverts and neck sides. A family of 8 Eurasian Hoopoe was present in the valley. We saw and heard Red-billed Chough, Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides, a single Carrion Crow Corvus corone, and Himalayan Vulture. Down the valley, near the abandoned farm buildings, we found a pair of Rock Sparrow, an Oriental Skylark, and a pair of Black Redstart. After a long rest, we drove across the arid rangeland toward Chákǎ. Turning down another dirt road, we found a Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti. Farther along the G109, we stopped yet again, having seen a large raptor on the ground a few hundred meters away. It was only an Upland Buzzard. In the distance were 3 male Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata. I photographed 2 White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii. The snowfinches stayed near a colony of Plateau Pika. Exhausted, we drove slowly back to Chákǎ.

Mongolian or Henderson's Ground Jay
Mongolian or Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni, near Chaka, Qinghai. Elev. 3080 m. 24 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Wed. 24 July 2013
Chákǎ

In the morning, I was feeling weak, but I managed to drive the team to the village near km 2238. There, I saw my only Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus of the trip. Other birds at the village: Grey-backed Shrike, Eurasian Collared Dove, and Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. Reading others’ reports carefully, we found the place where Pallas’s Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus had been reported. The place is the rangeland around km 2238. There, I spotted a single Pallas’s in flight. Near the place where we saw the sandgrouse, I photographed, for the only time on the trip, Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi. At 1600, after a four-hour rest at Qīngyán Bīnguǎn, we went back to the bushy rangeland west of Chákǎ where we’d seen Mongolian Ground Jay. Jon reminded me of a simple rule of birding: If you want to find a bird, then go back to the place where you or others have seen it. “Bird the birds!” Jon cried. This time, we found a party of 5 Mongolian Ground Jay. For one splendid hour, we followed these birds across the range. We saw one catching a lizard, we saw them running fast on the ground, we saw them flying, we saw them perching. I achieved good photographs. Eurasian Hoopoe were shadowing the ground jays. I had my first views ever of Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus. There were about 15 in the area. There were also about 5 Grey-backed Shrike. A flock of about 25 Hoopoe suddenly took flight, a grand sight.

Blanford's Snowfinch
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi, near Chaka, Qinghai. Elev. 3140 m. 24 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Thurs. 25 July 2013
Gònghé (共和)

The rain today allowed me to sleep in. I needed the rest. After a good bowl of beef noodles at the restaurant next door, Jon, Mrs. Huáng, and I checked out of Qīngyán Bīnguǎn in Chákǎ. The drive to Gònghé was easy. We checked into Hǎinán Bīnguǎn (海南宾馆; +86 974-8512773). In the parking lot of the hotel, we found Japanese Tit Parus minor. At the southern end of the loop road at Gònghé, on the southern edge of the city not far from Gònghé Gorge, we drove down a side road. We were hoping to find good habitat for our target species, Desert Whitethroat and Pale Rosefinch. At a bridge near a village near a brick factory, in the steady rain, we found a single Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula. Later, a bit farther down the road, we found a singing Black-faced Bunting, and later, Grey-capped Greenfinch Carduelis sinica. Doubling back, we found Crested Lark Galerida cristata. Black Redstart were common all along the road. We saw a single Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus.

Desert Whitethroat
Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula, near Gonghe, Qinghai. Elev. 2710 m. 26 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Fri. 26 July 2013
Gònghé

The rain continued until around noon. Our team took advantage of the down time. Mrs. Huáng and Jon took our Nissan Paladin to the tire shop in Gònghé to patch a slow leak in the tire. Later, we drove to Gònghé Gorge, elev. 2800 m, along the G214 just south of town. We saw a Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica. The partridge was crossing the dry streambed. Our target bird here was Desert Whitethroat. When Gònghé Gorge failed to produce any whitethroats, we decided to go back to the place where we’d found the whitethroats yesterday. We found 4 Desert Whitethroat at that spot. Back at the gorge, I photographed a Common Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis and (from a distance) a Daurian Partridge. I saw Rock Sparrow and Ground Tit. I got a record shot of Common Kestrel. Going back into town, we saw a Eurasian Coot Fulica atra.

Tibetan Rosefinch
Tibetan Rosefinch Carpodacus robrowskii, Ela Shan, Qinghai. Elev. 4660 m. 27 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 27 July 2013
Èlā Shānkǒu/Wēnquán (鄂拉山口/温泉)

Today we drove on the G214 from Gònghé to Èlā Pass, elev. 4499 m. On the way to the pass, we stopped at a pasture along the G214. The elevation there was 3800 m. There we found a typical mix of Tibetan Plateau birds, among them Rock Sparrow, Rufous-necked Snowfinch, Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri, and Pink-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus eos. Within five minutes of our arrival, we had already seen a single male Tibetan Rosefinch Carpodacus roborowskii. Endemic to Qinghai and Tibet, Tibetan Rosefinch breeds on the most barren, rockiest portions of the alpine tundra. It is regularly reported at Èlā Pass. We saw dozens of Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici. Juvenile Henri’s Snowfinch were so abundant that one feared stepping on them. Parents were arriving with payloads of insects, stuffing them into the gaping mouths of the juveniles. Endemic to the eastern Tibetan Plateau, Henri’s Snowfinch was formerly considered to be a subspecies of White-winged Snowfinch (M. nivalis). We saw another high-altitude specialist, Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus. We saw a pair. No passerine breeds at higher altitudes (to 5700 m) than Red-fronted Rosefinch. A walk across the tundra netted views of Tibetan Lark and Horned Lark. I was surprised to see a single Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. By the road, I found a Kam Dwarf Hamster Cricetulus kamensis. In the late afternoon, I walked from the pass to the saddle and from there to the rounded top of the lower peak. The elevation there is about 4700 m. The place is desolate; there, the tallest plants barely reach 3 cm in height. Few animals can survive there. One of the hardy survivors is Tibetan Rosefinch. With the entire mountaintop at his disposal, this individual, a male, for some reason landed just a few meters from me. I watched the rosefinch dip his head between the tiniest of stones, finding there the tiniest of plants, out of which he would extract a mouthful of the tiniest seeds. Here indeed is a bird suited to life on the Tibetan Plateau. Before climbing to the top, I was met by two Tibetan boys, brothers. They were curious about the three strangers with the heavy equipment. My policy in Qinghai was simple: See a kid, hug a kid. I picked them up. Mrs. Huáng took some shots of us. The older boy spoke little Mandarin; the younger spoke none. The boys were summering in the high pastures with their family. We spent the night in Wēnquán, a gritty town that reminded me of small towns I’d seen in Alaska. Just as in the Arctic, in summer the towns high on the Tibetan Plateau look as if they’ve just emerged from winter. There are no good hotels in Wēnquán; we stayed in a dump that provided a well for water and an outhouse over a stream for a toilet.

Tibetan Snowcock
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus, Ela Shan, Qinghai. Elev. 4667 m. 28 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 28 July 2013
Mǎduō (玛多)

Today I found Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus. Jon and I climbed from Èlā Pass to the top of Èlā Mountain, elev. 4800 m. From the ridgeline on Èlā Mountain, Jon and I saw a pair of snowcocks flying across the valley below. I moved down, Jon remaining on the ridgeline to direct me. Jon and I stayed in contact through walkie-talkie. The snowcocks blended in well with the rocks and were difficult to see. Just as I was about to reach the spot where we’d seen the snowcocks, it started snowing. Jon and I agreed that he would start down toward our car. I was alone. The snow was stinging my face. Finally, I made out the snowcocks and managed some dramatic photographs. Within minutes, the snowstorm was over, and I made my way back to the car. Jon was waiting for me with a swollen tongue, an allergic reaction probably brought on by the strenuousness of the high-altitude climb. We were exhausted but elated to have seen and photographed Tibetan Snowcock. Also today I had my only view on the trip of a female Tibetan Rosefinch. On the climb up, with almost nothing but rocks and sky around me, I saw, flying in and alighting on a boulder, Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola. Another lonely bird up there was Brandt’s Mountain Finch Leucosticte brandti. On the round summit of Èlā Mountain, I watched a flock of Common Raven Corvus corax. We drove toward Mǎduō. Along the way, on the outskirts of a town called Huāshíxiá (花石峡), elev. 4230 m, we came upon a family of Güldenstädt’s Redstart: male, female, and juvenile. Like all members of Phoenicurus, Güldenstädt’s Redstart are lovers of perches and vertical surfaces—whether natural or man-made. Amusingly, this family was making good use of a bulldozer, perching on it and probing its nooks and crannies. We found a flock of Asian Short-toed Lark. In the “Mǎduō Wetlands” we saw 10 Bar-headed Goose and 15 Ruddy Shelduck. We rolled into Mǎduō and found lodging at Lǐngguó Bīnguǎn (岭国宾馆; +86 975-8348888). In the room, I worked into the night, taking advantage of the good Internet connection to upload my best photos to the cloud.

Henri's Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici, Ela Shan, Qinghai. Elev. 4499 m. 27 July 2013.
Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici, Ela Shan, Qinghai. Elev. 4499 m. 27 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Mon. 29 July 2013
Yùshù (玉树)

Continuing south, we drove to Bayan Har Pass (巴颜喀拉山口 [Bāyán Kālā Shānkǒu]), elev. 4824 m. Within minutes we had found a male Tibetan Rosefinch and 6 Güldenstädt’s Redstart. Further south, we found 3 Great Crested Grebe (凤头䴙䴘, fèngtóu pìtī, Podiceps cristatus). We stopped for a long picnic lunch along the banks of the Zāqū (扎曲) River, i.e., the upper Mekong. The elevation there was 4550 m. A Brown-headed Gull flew through, and I saw a Common Sandpiper. Our exhausting day of driving (475 km) ended at Yùshù. This large town has plenty of hotels and restaurants and even an airport. We spent the night at Yùshù Kāngbā Yìzhàn Lǚdiàn (玉树康巴驿站旅店; +86 976-8816222).

Ibisbill
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii, near Nangqian, Qinghai. Elev. 3750 m. 31 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Tues. 30 July 2013
Nángqiān (囊谦)

We drove from Yùshù to Mt. Kǎndá (坎达山 [Kǎndá Shān]). At the pass, at about 4700 m above sea level, we found and photographed Tibetan Bunting Emberiza koslowi. Tibetan Bunting occurs exclusively on the eastern Tibetan Plateau around the border of Tibet and Qinghai. The species breeds late (chicks hatch around mid-July), so we were not surprised to see the male with his bill full of invertebrates. Later, farther down, we found Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii. Earlier in the day, at the lower reaches of Kǎndá Gorge, we found a pair of Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii. As our team approached Nángqiān, we looked forward to seeing Ibisbill along the Zāqū River. But the Zāqū River is badly polluted around Nángqiān, with runoff from the many road-construction projects staining the river brown. At Kǎndá Gorge, we saw clear water in the streams, and we knew Ibisbill would be there. Within 30 minutes, we’d found the pair. Other birds: 2 Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris. At Nángqiān, we stayed at Lóngzhū Shāngwù Dà Jiǔdiàn (龙珠商务大酒店; +86 976-8873999). The bathroom stank, but the room was otherwise comfortable, and in tough, remote Nángqiān, one doesn’t get a whole lot of choices.

Tibetan Bunting Emberiza koslowi, near Nangqian, Qinghai, China. Elev. 4680 m (15,350 ft.). 30 July 2013.
Tibetan Bunting Emberiza koslowi, near Nangqian, Qinghai, China. Elev. 4680 m (15,350 ft.). 30 July. (Craig Brelsford)

Wed. 31 July 2013
Nángqiān

I relaxed in a side gorge of Kǎndá Canyon. We spent the day in the canyon. I photographed a flock of 8 Sichuan Tit Poecile weigoldicus. A bird of the high country, Sichuan Tit is found in coniferous forest and above the tree line between 2200 m and 4300 m. It’s a Chinese endemic, with a distribution from southeastern Qinghai and western Sichuan to southeastern Tibet and northwestern Yunnan. I found a flock of perhaps 8 birds at 4025 m above sea level.

Sichuan Tit
Sichuan Tit near Nangqian. Sichuan Tit is a close relative of Willow Tit, in particular races songarus, affinis, and stoetzneri, with which it once was considered to be a separate species, ‘Songar Tit.’ (Craig Brelsford)

We got close to Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota. Driving in a broader part of Kǎndá Canyon, we found Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus on the backs of sheep. Red-billed Chough were readily seen, as were Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni. We kept mistaking the very common Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii for Tibetan Babax, which we were so eager to find. Drinking from the stream was an attractive red Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus. As darkness fell, we found another Ibisbill along the stream.

Daurian Jackdaw about to alight on the back of a sheep.
Daurian Jackdaw about to alight on the back of a sheep. (Craig Brelsford)

Thurs. 1 Aug. 2013
Nángqiān

Today we drove to Báizhā (白扎) Forest Reserve and Gǎ’ěr Monastery (尕尔寺 [Gǎ’ěr Sì]). On the way in, we saw dozens and dozens of Plateau Pika. We saw a single Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae. We saw this species in four widely separated locations on three days. Could it be that, given the right habitat, the Tibetan Partridge is fairly common? Resting in the car along the stream, I heard the piercing note of White-capped Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus. Grazing on the slopes near the monastery was a herd of about 25 Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur. Corvids were abundant at the monastery. We found 3 Common Raven, 10 Red-billed Chough, 6 Eurasian Magpie, and Daurian Jackdaw. Driving down, we stopped to view a Grey Crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous, a Chinese White-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus dubius, and a Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides.

Tibetan Partridge
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae, near Nangqian. Elev. 3870 m. (Craig Brelsford)

Fri. 2 Aug. 2013
Nángqiān

Awoke before dawn and went to Báizhā. Birding was slow, but rabbiting was fruitful; Woolly Hare were out and about. Elliot’s Laughingthrush were conspicuous. Photographed Common Rosefinch. We found a Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris and a single Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri. A White-rumped Snowfinch was foraging in the shadow of an Upland Buzzard; the buzzard was perching on a utility pole. Along the road as we drove back to Nángqiān, we found Streaked Rosefinch, Brown Accentor, and 1 Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus giganteus. In the afternoon, we went back to Kǎndá. There, we got photos of 3 half-tame Tibetan Partridge. We saw 6 Tibetan Babax Pterorhinus koslowi.

Tibetan Babax Babax koslowi, near Nangqian, Qinghai. Elev. 3910 m. 3 Aug. 2013.
Tibetan Babax Pterorhinus koslowi, near Nangqian, Qinghai. Elev. 3910 m. 3 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 3 Aug. 2013
Nángqiān

Returned to the nunnery at Kǎndá. I achieved very good images of Tibetan Babax, Hodgson’s Redstart, and Common Rosefinch. Jon spotting-scoped a pair of White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon. Later, at Báizhā Forest Reserve, again using Jon’s scope, we found another group of White Eared Pheasant. We found another small herd (about 8 individuals) of Blue Sheep. I photographed a male Kessler’s Thrush and a female White-throated Redstart Phoenicurus schisticeps. On the dirt road at Báizhā, Jon, Mrs. Huáng, and I posed next to the Nissan Paladin for some group shots. The sun was shining, our equipment was standing next to us, and everyone was smiling. With a week to go in the trip, we already knew that we had a great team and that this trip was going to be a memorable one.

White-browed Tit
White-browed Tit Poecile superciliosus, Yankou Shan, Qinghai. Elev. 4390 m. 4 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 4 Aug. 2013
Qīngshuǐhé (清水河)

We left Nángqiān and headed north. Along the way, we found, perching on fences on the side of the road, 3 Little Owl Athene noctua. We lunched in Yùshù. Continuing north out of Yùshù, we stopped at Yànkǒu Shān (雁口山), elev. 4458 m. None of our research had mentioned this great site, but Jon and I had become experienced enough to know where the good habitat was. Yànkǒu Shān is covered with pristine scrub, easily visible from the road. I got photos of White-browed Tit and immature Chinese Rubythroat Calliope tschebaiewi. I found juvenile Cuculus cuckoos; were they Eurasian Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, or Oriental? We saw 1 Tibetan Partridge and 5 Alpine Leaf Warbler. We ended up staying in a town called Qīngshuǐhé (“Clearwater River”). The water in the nearby river may be clear, but there is no running water and no indoor plumbing in the entire town.

Tibetan Gazelle
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata, above Bayan Har Pass, Qinghai. Elev. 5012 m (16,440 ft.). 5 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Mon. 5 Aug. 2013
Mǎduō

We climbed the mountain on the western side of the G214 near Bayan Har Pass. We were looking for, but failed to find, Tibetan Sandgrouse. We topped out on the rather flat summit at 5078 m or 16,656 ft. I never had been above 5000 m. In the United States, only in Alaska can one reach altitudes higher than 5000 m. It was a sunny day, very mild, with temperatures about 10°C or 50°F. Although we never found the sandgrouse, I still enjoyed the pursuit. I kept chewing on this thought: Man cannot thrive at altitudes above 5000 m. Homo sapiens is a species unsuited to such heights. 5000 m is a slightly different world. It’s a part of the earth, but it’s not a part of the normal world of man. At 5000 m, my resting heart rate was 100 beats a minute; at sea level, it’s 80. Walking up the mountain, I found 2 Irene’s Mountain Vole (原高原松田鼠, gāoyuán sōngtiánshǔ, Neodon irene). A Güldenstädt’s Redstart landed directly in front of me (just 5 m away), inspected me, and flew off. I was making 15-second videos of myself using my iPhone and sending them back to my parents and sister in America. Walking alone, I noticed a quick movement on the ground 25 m away. A baby Tibetan Gazelle was crouching low to avoid detection. Now that it knew I’d seen it, the gazelle stood up and bounded away. But the youngster couldn’t go far at that altitude. I achieved superb photos of the fragile little creature. We drove on the rough, dusty G214 to Mǎduō. As we sped along, a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos flew across the road, just 20-30 m above the surface.

Tibetan Wild Ass
Tibetan Wild Ass near Maduo, Qinghai. Elev. 4225 m. 6 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Tue. 6 Aug. 2013
Xīníng (西宁)

Leaving Mǎduō, we found 3 Tibetan Wild Ass Equus kiang, also known as Kiang. We saw a flock of 15 Bar-headed Goose and 25 Ruddy Shelduck. We saw Tibetan Gazelle from the road. We took advantage of the constant rain to get a big chunk of the driving done. After eating lunch in Gònghé, we pressed on to Xīníng (西宁). We went to a Western restaurant and had pizza and steak.

Wed. 7 Aug. 2013
Hùzhù Běishān (互助北山)

We awoke in Xīníng and drove to the hills near the train station. Here we had a fleeting, fly-by glimpse of a single Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge Tetraophasis obscurus. We saw Meadow Bunting here as well as a pair of Plain Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi and a single Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus. We drove to Hùzhù Běishān (互助北山), on the northeastern border with Gansu. Our reason for going there was to find Blue Eared Pheasant, Chinese Grouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. At a scenic point 3100 m above sea level, we saw Elliot’s Laughingthrush and Blue-fronted Redstart. Later, we found Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus. We stayed at Qīnghǎi Shěng Zìjiàchē Lǚyóu Jīdì (青海省自驾车旅游基地; +86 972-8395266).

Thurs. 8 Aug. 2013
Hùzhù Běishān

A morning drive netted views of Hodgson’s and White-throated Redstart as well as Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus, Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius, Willow Tit Poecile montanus, Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni, Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca, Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris, and Hume’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei. We drove to a side valley in search of Chinese Grouse. We saw 1 Slaty Blue Flycatcher Ficedula leucomelanura, Chinese Bush Warbler Locustella tacsanowskia, Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, Himalayan Bluetail Tarsiger rufilatus, and 2 Greenish Warbler. The woods were mainly silent here; breeding season has long since ended.

Fri. 9 Aug. 2013
Lanzhou University Yùzhōng Campus, Yùzhōng (榆中), Gansu

I slept in at Hùzhù Běishān while Jon and Mrs. Huáng went looking for Blue Eared Pheasant. While they were away, I took a short walk around the hotel and found 2 Gansu Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus kansuensis, a Grey Wagtail, 3 juvenile Chestnut Thrush, and 6 Large-billed Crow. Jon and Mrs. Huáng returned, having caught only a fleeting glimpse of the pheasants. We drove into Gansu, passing through Lánzhōu on our way to Yùzhōng (榆中). Our destination was the Yùzhōng campus of Lanzhou University. After hours of tough driving, we made it to the campus just as darkness was falling.

Pale Rosefinch
Pale Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus, Lanzhou University, Yuzhong, Gansu, China. Elev.: 1840 m. 10 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Sat. 10 Aug. 2013
Beijing

Our reason for going to Yùzhōng was to see Pale Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus. We quickly found 12 on the loess mountain on the edge of campus. We found the rosefinches near the garbage dump. Unprocessed garbage is tossed into the gullies; what remains on top is burned. Acrid smoke was filling our lungs and stinging our eyes. Other birds around campus: Eurasian Hoopoe, Red-billed Chough, Black Redstart, Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus, Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis, Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka, and Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. My final photo of the trip was of an Alashan Ground Squirrel Spermophilus alashanicus. The three of us drove to Lánzhōu, dropped off the Paladin, got a ride from the rental-car people to the airport, and rested at the airport for a few hours. Mrs. Huáng and I set off for Beijing. Jon’s flight took off a few hours later.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We based our trip on Björn Anderson’s 2003 report. Jon Hornbuckle gave me many helpful tips. The Web site of John and Jemi Holmes was helpful. Birdtour Asia’s Qinghai-Xinjiang Report, from 2012, proved useful. Peter Collaerts gave us a useful tip. Jon Gallagher and Huáng Xiǎo Ān are excellent partners. Thank you all.

Featured image: Jon Gallagher (L) and Huáng Xiǎo Ān (黄小安) photographing Tibetan Bunting Emberiza koslowi near Nangqian, Qinghai, China. Elev. 4680 m (15,350 ft.). (Craig Brelsford)

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