Qinghai, June-August 2016: Part 4

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

INTRODUCTION TO PART 4

Part 4 covers Week 7, spent mainly around Hala Lake. The featured image above shows some of the highlights. Clockwise from top left: glacier and mountain at Hala Lake, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Tibetan Gazelle at sunset, and sea mollusk 50 million years old.

A WEEK AROUND HALA LAKE

Tibetan Sandgrouse
Our bird of the week for Week 7: Tibetan Sandgrouse. Elaine Du and I found 53 at Hala Lake on 10 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

This page covers the seventh week of our eight-week birding trip to Qinghai, from Sat. 6 Aug. through Sat. 13 Aug. 2016. Elaine and I spent that time around Hala Lake, the wild, remote, high-altitude inland sea in north-central Qinghai. With the desolate environment as our backdrop, and despite daily rain, we noted 53 bird species. Highlights:

— Discovering flocks of Tibetan Sandgrouse in perfect semi-desert habitat near Hala Lake

— Finding 7 Tibetan Snowcock in a gorge east of the lake

— On the shore of Hala Lake, attaining several interesting Qinghai records, among them Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, and Whimbrel

— Making various less-surprising records around Hala, among them Black Stork, breeding Lesser Sand Plover (our most numerous bird), Ruddy Shelduck, Common Shelduck, Common Merganser, Bar-headed Goose, and Pied Avocet

— Watching a Tibetan Fox dig up and devour a Plateau Pika, and surmising that the area, if explored thoroughly, would yield Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, Tibetan Lynx, and other powerful mammals

— Witnessing landscapes unlike any I have seen in nine years in China, with the vast, silent steppe giving way to the azure inland sea, and snow-clad peaks and glaciated mountainsides brooding in the background

— While lamenting the damage overgrazing is doing even to an area as pristine as Hala Lake, befriending Tibetan and Mongolian herdsmen, sharing stories with them, and learning about their tough, interesting lives

— Despite being alone and having only a 2WD vehicle (Kia Sportage), despite having to make approximately two dozen tricky creek crossings, and despite a ban on foreigners at parts of Hala Lake (see editor’s note below), getting into and out of the area without incident

Note: Part of the area around Hala Lake is off-limits to foreigners, a fact of which Elaine and I were unaware during our visit. Foreigners are banned from Delingha County, an administrative area that includes much of the area south and west of Hala Lake as well as the entire lake itself. Foreigners are allowed in Tianjun County, which covers the area north and east of the lake, up to the shoreline.

Foreigners caught in Delingha County can expect harassment and even detention, as was the case with German bicyclist Andreas Bruder, whom Elaine and I met at Hala. After we separated, Andreas was arrested, detained, questioned, and transported back to Hedong-Hexi, the urban part of Delingha. A memory card of his was confiscated. Birders, with their binoculars, scopes, and cameras, presumably would endure even closer scrutiny than Andreas.

As long as this harsh policy remains in place, I advise foreigners to approach Hala Lake from the east, as Elaine and I did, and remain in the areas in Tianjun County. Drive a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, as the route through Tianjun County is longer and remoter and involves more creek crossings than the road from Hedong-Hexi.

THE ROAD TO HALA

Craig Brelsford
Craig Brelsford, Silhouette Against Ocher Hillside, Suli-Yanglong road, 6 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

Our explorations of the Hala Lake area began on Sat. 6 Aug. Elaine and I were sitting in a restaurant in Yanglong Xiang (38.816483, 98.415873), a town in Haibei Prefecture. Laoban said, “Yes, your car can make it to Hala Lake.” We were on our way.

We got gas at the only station in Yanglong, on the west side of town. Right next to the station (38.814444, 98.411556) is the turnoff from the S204 to the Suli-Yanglong road. Driving our rented Kia Sportage, we took that road over the South Tuole Mountains, which separate the Heihe River Valley from the Shule River Valley. We noted Tibetan Fox and Tibetan Gazelle, and the next morning, Sun. 7 Aug., we found a flock of 35 Blue Sheep.

Kia Sportage
Our Kia Sportage at the gas station in remote Suli. Mr. Zhou is far left, talking to the attendant. (Craig Brelsford)

We drove to Suli (38.702633, 98.026018), a remote, dusty Tibetan town that evoked the American Wild West. At the only gas station in the valley, we met the “sheriff,” Mr. Zhou, a muscular and square-jawed Tibetan man who is the local law-enforcement officer and who knows the name of everyone in Suli. After I gave him views through our spotting scope, Sheriff Zhou invited us to his home to view his fossil collection. In his driveway, Elaine and I gazed at fossilized sea mollusks at least 50 million years old.

We walked into Mr. Zhou’s home, on a wall of which hung a portrait of Xi Jinping, and in a corner of which sat his mother, 85 and in good health. She barely acknowledged us, being immersed in prayer. Her giant prayer top, longer than a broom, spun constantly, and she never stopped shuffling her beads.

fossils
Mr. Zhou’s fossil collection. 70 million years ago, the Indian Subcontinent began crashing into Asia, a process that continues to this day and that is the force creating the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya. 50 million years ago, the sea between the Indian Subcontinent and the rest of Asia finally closed. Therefore, the fossilized sea mollusks shown here cannot be younger than 50 million years of age. (Craig Brelsford)

After the exciting mammalian views in the mountains and the interesting encounter with Mr. Zhou, disappointment followed in the valley. Once again, nearly every square meter was fenced off and given over to grazing. In a magnificent stretch of high-altitude steppe that not long ago held thousands of ungulates, we managed to view only 10 Tibetan Wild Ass and 38 Tibetan Gazelle—and thousands of domestic sheep.

We drove slowly into the night on the Suli-Yangkang road, still being constructed. We left this road at 37.929055, 98.385921, a point 39.6 km (24.6 mi.) north of Yangkang Xiang (37.675509, 98.635267). We drove west, toward the lake.

Rain began to fall, giving us a rare encounter with Chinese Zokor, probably flooded out of its burrow. We also saw Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa. We stopped at 37.971139, 98.085444.

STUCK IN THE BACK COUNTRY

Craig Brelsford
Craig Brelsford tightens the spare on Kia Sportage near Hala Lake. (Craig Brelsford)

On Mon. 8 Aug. I awoke to find a flat tire on our rented Kia Sportage. A tiny nail had caused a slow leak. We were 30 km (19 mi.) away from a paved road, 40 km (25 mi.) from the lake. As I was putting on the spare, a Tibetan Snowcock called from the ridge above.

We drove the 70 km (44 mi.) back to Yangkang Xiang, the nearest place with tire-repair shops. Our tire was repaired by a Hui man who told me that he had originally tried to overcharge me because I am foreign. (The attempt to rip me off did not surprise me; the candor did.) We threw the newly repaired tire in the trunk and drove back into the wilderness. Elaine videoed me driving across the creek.

We camped at 37.980045, 98.047005, just 3.5 km/2 mi. (and five creek crossings) from the spot from the night before. We had gone essentially nowhere in 24 hours, but we had long since factored mishaps and difficulties into the price we were willing to pay to see Hala Lake.

Elaine Du
Elaine viewing the planets at twilight. (Craig Brelsford)

In the clean air the light from a slim crescent moon was casting shadows, and for the first time I could make out the bands of Saturn. I viewed Saturn through my Swarovski ATX-95 30-70x scope.

FINALLY, WE REACH HALA

Tibetan Snowcock
Tibetan Snowcock above our camp at 37.980045, 98.047005. The hills lining the stream gave us two views of this high-country game bird in two days. The area east of Hala Lake must be a prime location for this species. (Craig Brelsford)

The next morning, Tues. 9 Aug., I awoke at dawn and heard the calls of Tibetan Snowcock on the ridge above. I scoped a group of seven. Carrying my camera, I climbed 300 m (980 ft.) to the ridge, elev. 4400 m (14,440 ft.). I found the snowcocks, three adults and four juveniles. I saw Brandt’s Mountain Finch, Tibetan Snowfinch, and Blanford’s Snowfinch. All were feeding young. I noted a single Plain Mountain Finch.

From the summit the valley spread out like a map before me, and I saw that the road made not just a sixth but also a seventh and eighth crossing of the creek before leaving the valley for the steppe. Those five crossings the day before had made me nervous.

Panorama near Hala Lake. 9 Aug. 2016.
Panorama near Hala Lake, 9 Aug. The coordinates here are 37.973072, 98.050575 and the elev. is 4340 m. These arid heights are the home of Tibetan Snowcock. (Craig Brelsford)

I returned to camp and met two Tibetan herdsmen. One could just barely speak Chinese, and he told us that it is possible to circumvent the sixth and seventh crossings. Yet another Tibetan arrived, Rén Qīng Cái Ràng (仁青才让). Rén Qīng was younger than the other two and spoke good Chinese. Rén Qīng watched us as we drove along the bluff above crossings 6 and 7 and descended safely to the road. The eighth crossing was a piece of cake. (Our 2WD Kia Sportage was a fine mini-SUV, but in the Hala Lake back country I would have felt safer in a larger 4WD. It would also be better to have at least one other vehicle in the group to serve as a rescue car.)

Ren Qing directs Craig
Rén Qīng directs Craig (driving the Sportage) down a steep path near creek crossings 6 and 7. (Elaine Du)

On the steppe Elaine and I witnessed scenes unlike any we have encountered in China. The valley spread out endlessly before us, with the snow-capped South Shule Mountains in the background. All was stillness and silence. There are scenes nearly as thrilling on the G214 in Guoluo and Yushu prefectures, but one views those landscapes from a busy highway, not from a unpaved road in the middle of nowhere. We met just one person on the steppe, a Tibetan herdsman on horseback who asked us to take him to Yangkang Xiang.

Hala Lake
Steppe, sea, and sky: Hala Lake. (Elaine Du)

After driving about 30 km (19 mi.) we saw a turquoise glow on the horizon: Hala Lake. The second-largest lake in Qinghai, the inland sea covers an area of 607 sq. km (234 sq mi.). Here at the eastern end of the lake one gets one’s closest views of the father of the waters, the mighty Gangze Wujie, elev. 5808 m (19,055 ft.). That awe-inspiring peak and its siblings north of the lake are complemented by other peaks on all sides, a dramatic reminder that the water here at elev. 4077 m (13,376 ft.) has no outlet. The azure sea with snowy peaks behind is a deeply impressive sight. Except for the wind, all is silent; except for a few Tibetan herders’ tents in the distance, not a soul is around. The only signs of man are the road and the hundreds of sheep and yaks dotting the slopes.

Almost as soon as we arrived, the wind picked up, and rain started to fall. (Rain, it turned out, would bedevil us every day at Hala.) We noted species common to the high steppe, among them Tibetan Gazelle, Lesser Sand Plover, Horned Lark, and Rufous-necked Snowfinch. We turned the Sportage into our bedroom and spent the night on a bluff above the lake.

TIBETAN SANDGROUSE!

Tibetan Sandgrouse
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, 10 Aug. This juvenile is one of 53 sandgrouse we found that day. The presence of juveniles was encouraging, for it confirmed that we had found a breeding site. Juvenile Tibetan Sandgrouse show only a trace of orange on the throat and lack the pin tail. (Craig Brelsford)

The next day, Wed. 10 Aug., the rain was less but the wind even fiercer, blowing gale-force across the lake. We drove off the elevated unpaved road toward the lake, parking well away from the soft sand fringing the inland sea. We walked a few hundred meters to the shingly shoreline, there finding 2 Ruddy Turnstone. Elaine made this video of the turbulent lake.

Hume’s Short-toed Lark were calling, and there were juveniles around. Interestingly, we were finding Hume’s Short-toed only on the shore and about 300 m/1,000 ft. inland. The larks act like stints, running frantically along the shore, picking up insects. We saw 3 Pallas’s Gull, 6 Bar-headed Goose, and 1 each of Little Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, and Brown-headed Gull.

Hala Lake
Shingly shore of Hala Lake. (Elaine Du)

We could stand the gale no longer; we walked back to the Sportage, on the way noting Rufous-necked Snowfinch. Back on the road, driving west across the steppe, we saw a Ruddy Shelduck foraging on the track, a Saker Falcon, 7 Eurasian Hoopoe, and 2 Isabelline Wheatear.

We made half a dozen more non-dangerous stream crossings in the Sportage before arriving at Menggu Bao, the most developed place on Hala Lake. Here, yurts await tourists who have braved the three and a half hour ride north from Hedong-Hexi—or in our case, the even longer easterly route from Yangkang Xiang. Treasuring our self-sufficiency, we bypassed the outpost and continued west. (This was a good move, as we almost surely would have been reported the moment we set foot in the lobby.)

Tibetan Sandgrouse
This Tibetan Sandgrouse is an adult female and is identifiable as such by the fine barring on the mantle, coverts, and tertials. (Craig Brelsford)

Driving slowly on a muddy, non-elevated dirt track, Elaine and I found a flock of 21 Tibetan Sandgrouse, a life bird for us both. We were at 38.205017, 97.520042. The extremely flat terrain, just a few meters higher than the lake, must be good habitat for sandgrouse, as we found another 32 in flocks, trios, and pairs. Juveniles were among the sandgrouse we counted; surely the species breeds in the area.

Using my iPhone, Elaine got video of the sandgrouse through our spotting scope.

We drove ever west, the nearly perfectly flat terrain broken only by the slightest of depressions, in which were puddles, ponds, and occasionally running water. We found a slight rise of dry, sandy soil and there pitched our tent. The point is 38.209028, 97.477056 and would be our home for the next three nights.

Prime Tibetan Sandgrouse habitat near Hala Lake.
Near Hala Lake (in background), we found this prime Tibetan Sandgrouse habitat (38.205017, 97.520042). Gravelly semi-desert near a lake at high altitude: This is the environment in which Tibetan Sandgrouse thrives. (Craig Brelsford)

In wetter ages our camp surely was lake bed; though we were 500 m (1,600 ft.) away from the shore, our elevation could not be more than 5 m (16 ft.) higher. A few hundred meters west of our camp is the largest stream in this southwestern sector of Hala Lake. The stream is the deepest drivers must cross on the remote mountain road linking Hala Lake and Subei, Gansu, 320 km (199 mi.) from our camp.

RAIN …

Elaine and Craig
Elaine and Craig waiting out the rain in the tent. (Craig Brelsford)

On Thurs. 11 Aug. rain fell all day. We used the time to rest in our tent. Even after nearly seven weeks in Qinghai, we still were not fully accustomed to the high altitude. Long drives, long walks, and intensive birding tax one much more at elev. 4000 m (13,120 ft.) than at lower elevations.

The camp became our little world. Because we had set our tent on higher, sandier soil, and because I dug a little ditch on the periphery, the floor stayed dry. To block the wind blowing off the lake, I parked our Sportage close to the north side of the tent. We ate freeze-dried beef stew from Mountain House, the same brand I used while hiking the Grand Canyon in the 1980s. In the morning, when it was only drizzling, I took a bath using creek water we collected in empty Nongfu Spring bottles. Earlier in the trip, Elaine and I invested 20 yuan in a shovel, and with it I had dug a latrine. Elaine and I were clean, dry, and well-fed in our neat little camp in the wilderness.

Elaine Du
Elaine Du washes up at our camp (38.209028, 97.477056). Elaine and I keep a clean camp and stay civilized in the wild. A key component of staying civilized is a simple latrine, into which all our wastewater goes. (Craig Brelsford)

During a break in the rain, I emerged and set my Swarovski scope atop my Manfrotto tripod and head. My 360-degree scan of the vast plain and lake took a full hour. From a distance of about 2000 meters/yards, I watched a Tibetan Fox dig up and devour a pika. I counted 8 Eurasian Hoopoe, one of which flew into our camp; watched a flying Common Raven scrutinize our camp; and admired the snow-clad peaks north of the lake.

LITTLE STINT AT HALA LAKE

Little Stint
Little Stint at Hala Lake. Even in these poor photos, the mantle and scapular V’s are visible, as are the pale forehead and split supercilium. (Craig Brelsford)

On Fri. 12 Aug., the rain let up, and Elaine and I added eight new species to our Qinghai 2016 list. We birded the southwest corner of Hala Lake, including the big stream that empties into the inland sea. Among the new additions were good Qinghai records such as Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ferruginous Duck, Whimbrel, and Temminck’s Stint as well as Mallard, Grey Plover, and Common Greenshank. We once again recorded Ruddy Turnstone, we added to our Hala list Common Merganser, Common Shelduck, and Black Stork, and we had appreciable numbers of Ruddy Shelduck (85), Bar-headed Goose (80), and Lesser Sand Plover (230). We noted 29 species in all.

The brown on the Little Stint was so impressive that my first thought was not Red-necked Stint—I have never seen so dark a Red-necked Stint—but Broad-billed Sandpiper. The bird however was showing typical stint characteristics such as high pecking rate, constant, quick movements, and small size. I moved in closer, noting the bill, which was blunt-tipped, not downward-kinked, as in Broad-billed Sandpiper. The bill attracted my attention in another way: It was longer than the bill of a typical Red-necked Stint. I noted prominent white stripes on the brown mantle, a pale forehead, and very dark brown stripes on the crown. The flight feathers lacked grey coloring. Everything added up to juvenile Little Stint.

The 3 Curlew Sandpiper were in the delta of the big southwest stream and were easily ID’d. Two were juveniles with peach wash across the breast, and one was an adult molting into winter plumage.

Whimbrel
Whimbrel, Hala Lake. (Craig Brelsford)

The 2 Whimbrel were on the lakeshore, the Grey Plover and Common Greenshank in the delta. The 2 Mallard were males in eclipse plumage and were in the delta. Temminck’s Stint and Ferruginous Duck were in the delta and on the lakeshore. Ferruginous Duck showed very dark plumage, white undertail, and peaked head with no hint of tuft.

We met Andreas Bruder, a bicyclist from Dresden, Germany who had started his journey in Dunhuang, Gansu. He had cycled to Subei, ridden in a pickup truck to a point near the gate of Lanchiwang Nature Reserve, somehow slipped in, and continued on into the Hala Lake basin. (Later, near Menggu Bao, Andreas would be arrested for being in Delingha County.)

The grey sky finally blued up, but in the afternoon rain fell once again, this time in a squall. Elaine and I ran to the Kia Sportage, which I parked in an east-west orientation. So hard was the wind off the lake that I could open the south-facing windows, and nary a drop of rain fell in.

On Sat. 13 Aug., rain once again fell most of the day. We birded the lake, adding Pied Avocet to our Hala list. We decided we could not stand another night in the rain at high altitude. As darkness fell, we drove east, toward Menggu Bao, again noting Tibetan Sandgrouse at 38.205028, 97.520028.

We drove the Delingha road south in the dark and began our exodus from Delingha County.

PHOTOS

Saker
King of the high-country falcons: Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, 6 Aug. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Tibetan Gazelle
Tibetan Gazelle at sunset, near Suli, 6 Aug. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
skull
A sheep’s skull wards off evil under a bridge near Suli, 7 Aug. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Craig Brelsford
Craig Brelsford studies the planets through his spotting scope at camp on 8 Aug. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Brandt's Mountain Finch
Brandt’s Mountain Finch feeding young. (Craig Brelsford)
Brandt's Mountain Finch
Brandt’s Mountain Finch is a small but powerful bird, taking long, straight flights at altitudes topping 5000 m. I found this individual 9 Aug. near Hala Lake at an elev. of 4400 m. (Craig Brelsford)
Elaine and Craig
Elaine and Craig took this selfie while birding the shore of Hala Lake on 10 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)
Operating around camp
Operating around camp on a rainy day at Hala Lake. (Craig Brelsford)
Sky, mountain, and water
Sky, mountain, and water at Hala Lake, 12 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

INDEX

“Qinghai, June-August 2016” contains an introduction and six parts. This is Part 4.

Introduction: A Summer in Qinghai
Part 1: Weeks 1 & 2
Part 2: Weeks 3 & 4
Part 3: Weeks 5 & 6
Part 4: Week 7
Part 5: Week 8
Part 6: Facts & Figures

This report is part of shanghaibirding.com’s extensive coverage of Qinghai. For the complete index to our posts on Qinghai, please see our page Birding in Qinghai. A list of our most prominent reports on Qinghai is below.

Mammals and Birds of the Tibetan Plateau: Exploring mountains as high as 5100 m (16,730 ft.), our team found 98 species of bird and many key mammals, among them Tibetan Wolf.

Tibetan Bunting Leads Parade of Tibetan Plateau Endemics in Qinghai: shanghaibirding.com founder Craig Brelsford led a three-person team on a 23-day trip to Qinghai.

Qinghai in October: Jesper Hornskov and his team noted 178 species of bird in October, a time of year, Hornskov writes, “when few dedicated birdwatchers visit this unique land.”

In addition to coverage of Qinghai and our core area of Shanghai, shanghaibirding.com has extensive coverage of other areas of China, among them

Yunnan
Xinjiang
Sichuan
Northeast China

Featured image: Hala Lake highlights. Clockwise from top left: glacier and mountain, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Tibetan Gazelle, and sea mollusk 50 million years old. (Craig Brelsford)
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Qinghai, June-August 2016: Part 5

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

INTRODUCTION TO PART 5

Part 5 covers our eighth and final week birding in Qinghai. The featured image above shows dunes and mountain in the remote back country of Wulan County, where I spent most of Week 8.

THE FINAL WEEK

Lake Xiligou
Stunning sunset over Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

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

WORKING ‘VACATION’ IN WULAN

Wulan
The view from our room at the hotel in Wulan Xiancheng. A new public square adds life to the town. The elevation here is 2950 m (9,680 ft.). The weather in August is warm and dry, a welcome contrast to the cold we had endured the previous week at Hala Lake. (Craig Brelsford)

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

Our explorations resumed on Tues. 16 Aug. In the morning, we reconnoitered the north side of Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), the little-birded saline lake south of Wulan. The elevation around Lake Xiligou is 2950 m (9,680 ft.), more than 1100 meters (3,610 ft.) lower than chilly Hala Lake, where we had spent the previous week.

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

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

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

Mongolian Goitered Gazelle
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle, Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), 16 Aug. Goitered Gazelle ranges from the Arabian Peninsula to China. The IUCN lists it as Vulnerable, mainly because of poaching and habitat loss. The latter problem is glaringly acute in Qinghai, where numbers of domestic livestock continue to increase, straining the land and pushing the wild ungulates out. (Craig Brelsford)

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

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

Elaine Du
Elaine Du walks through a sea of grass near the south shore of Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896). In the distance Wulan Xiancheng can be seen. (Craig Brelsford)

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

THE BACK COUNTRY OF WULAN COUNTY

Rusty-necklaced Partridge
We found this Przevalski’s Partridge at a spot (36.826334, 97.965649) 66 km (41 mi.) southwest of Wulan. Endemic to China, Alectoris magna has a compact range that extends from northeastern Qinghai to central Gansu. It is similar to Chukar Partridge A. chukar and is distinguished from it by the chestnut line on the neck. This line gives rise to its other English name, ‘Rusty-necklaced Partridge.’ (Craig Brelsford)

On Wed. 17 Aug. Elaine and I were back on the road, exploring the area south of Wulan and north of Dulan (36.299080, 98.091569). Here Elaine and I found some of the best scenery and most remote country of the Qinghai trip. We drove for hours, not passing a single car. We saw more Przevalski’s Partridge than people, the result of our finding a new site (36.826334, 97.965649) for the species 66 km (41 mi.) southwest of Wulan. The covey contained 13 birds. The site, at elev. 3380 m (11,090 ft.) and with well-vegetated hillsides and steep cliffs for roosting nearby, meets the basic demands of the species and may hold the partridges throughout the year.

Asian Short-toed Lark
Asian Short-toed Lark in semi-desert near Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371). The four panels show a single individual, a juvenile. Note the stubby bill, the noticeable extension of the primaries beyond the short tertials (Panel 2), and the streaked breast (4). Hume’s Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark show tertials overlapping the primary tips, and neither has streaking across the breast. (Craig Brelsford)

On Thurs. 18 Aug., on the way to Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), we found a group of Mongolian Goitered Gazelle sprinting across the road. I once again noted the power and speed of these animals. Jinzi Lake is a spring-fed freshwater pond, elev. 2990 m (9,810 ft.). Here we found adult and juvenile Black-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. At the lake we added to our Qinghai 2016 list Eurasian Coot, and later in the desert Tarim Babbler joined the list. We studied carefully the short-toed larks in the marshy areas near the lake. All were Asian Short-toed Lark.

dune
Dunes near our newly discovered Przevalski’s Partridge site (36.826334, 97.965649) in Wulan County, 17 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)

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

Desert Whitethroat
Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula margelanica near Jinzi Lake. (Craig Brelsford)

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

RESCUING REDSTARTS

Dunes and mountain
Dunes and mountain near Chacha Cun (36.674281, 98.133550). (Craig Brelsford)

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

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

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

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

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

TIBETAN WOLF

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

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

After lunch, I said to Elaine, “I’m going to read that slope like a book.” I was talking about the slope that rises about 700 m (2,300 ft.) from the valley floor where we were parked and is about 1500 air-meters away. During our visit in July with Jan-Erik Nilsén, I studied the slope and found Blue Sheep clinging to the nearly vertical wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE END

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

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

PHOTOS

elaine and friends
Elaine Du (L) with friends from Beijing at Wulan, 15 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)
Dusk, Lake Xiligou
Dusk at Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)
Goitered Gazelle
Goitered Gazelle near Lake Xiligou. (Craig Brelsford)
Woolly Hare
When approached by this photographer, this Woolly Hare decided to sit tight. From a survival perspective, the strategy paid off. (Craig Brelsford)
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear are abundant in the semi-deserts of Wulan County. We counted 58 on 18 Aug. and 110 on 19 Aug. (Craig Brelsford)
Isabelline Wheatear
I photographed Isabelline Wheatear from a distance, with mountains, sand dunes, and scrub visible in the background. F/14, 1/400, ISO 1600. (Craig Brelsford)
Wheatear
F/16, 1/320, ISO 800. (Craig Brelsford)
wheatear
F/16, 1/250, ISO 1600. (Craig Brelsford)

INDEX

“Qinghai, June-August 2016” contains an introduction and six parts. This is Part 5.

Introduction: A Summer in Qinghai
Part 1: Weeks 1 & 2
Part 2: Weeks 3 & 4
Part 3: Weeks 5 & 6
Part 4: Week 7
Part 5: Week 8
Part 6: Facts & Figures

This report is part of shanghaibirding.com’s extensive coverage of Qinghai. For the complete index to our posts on Qinghai, please see our page Birding in Qinghai. A list of our most prominent reports on Qinghai is below.

Mammals and Birds of the Tibetan Plateau: Exploring mountains as high as 5100 m (16,730 ft.), our team found 98 species of bird and many key mammals, among them Tibetan Wolf.

Tibetan Bunting Leads Parade of Tibetan Plateau Endemics in Qinghai: shanghaibirding.com founder Craig Brelsford led a three-person team on a 23-day trip to Qinghai.

Qinghai in October: Jesper Hornskov and his team noted 178 species of bird in October, a time of year, Hornskov writes, “when few dedicated birdwatchers visit this unique land.”

In addition to coverage of Qinghai and our core area of Shanghai, shanghaibirding.com has extensive coverage of other areas of China, among them

Yunnan
Xinjiang
Sichuan
Northeast China
Reach us: info@shanghaibirding.com

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Qinghai, June-August 2016: Facts & Figures

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

INTRODUCTION TO PART 6

Part 6 contains our list of the major places our team visited and a bibliography.

One of our most memorable ticks during our summer in Qinghai was Tibetan Sandgrouse (above), found at Hala Lake (38.205028, 97.520028) on 10 Aug. 2016.

LIST OF PLACE NAMES

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

— In the system used here, in English all eight jurisdictions in Qinghai immediately below the provincial level are called “prefectures” (州), even though in two cases (Haidong and Xining) the word 市 (“city”) is used to designate the administrative area. Likewise, all jurisdictions immediately below the prefectural level are called “counties” (县), even though in some cases 市 is used to designate those administrative areas.

Alake Lake: see Lake Alake.

Babao River (Bābǎo Hé [八宝河]): tributary of Heihe River. Confluence at Qinghai-Gansu border in Qilian County.

Babao Zhen (Bābǎo Zhèn [八宝镇]): see Qilian Xiancheng.

Baizha Nature Reserve (Báizhā Sēnlín Zìrán Bǎohùqū [白扎森林自然保护区]): protected area Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture. Junction of G214 & X832 at 31.966314, 96.535097. On some maps, X832 is called “Ranniang Section” (Ránniáng Duàn [然娘段]). This is the road that leads toward the nature reserve. At another turnoff (31.964250, 96.573340), bear right, leaving Ranniang Section, & continue on to the reserve. Gate at 31.882305, 96.556738. Elev. at gate is 3910 m (12,840 ft.).

Banjie Gou (Bànjié Gōu [半截沟]): village Menyuan County, Haibei Prefecture. 37.681962, 101.240959.

Bayankala Pass (Bāyánkālā Shānkǒu [巴颜喀拉山口]): pass on G214 near Qinghai-Sichuan border. Elev.: 4824 m (15,823 ft.). 34.114476, 97.661992.

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

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

Chaka Salt Lake (Chákǎ Yánhú [茶卡盐湖]). 36.702074, 99.112364.

Chenduo County (Chènduō Xiàn [称多县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture.

Chengdong District (Chéngdōng Qū [城东区]): district Xining Prefecture. Along with other nearby urbanized districts, commonly referred to as Xining. See also Chengxi District, Chengzhong District.

Chengxi District (Chéngxī Qū [城西区]): district Xining Prefecture. Along with other nearby urbanized districts, commonly refereed to as Xining. See also Chengdong District, Chengzhong District.

Chengzhong District (Chéngzhōng Qū [城中区]): district Xining Prefecture & heart of Xining conurbation. This district & three adjacent districts are commonly referred to as Xining. See also Chengdong District, Chengxi District.

Dagela Pass (Dàgélā Shān [大格拉山]): ridge dividing Yangtze & Mekong river systems in Yushu Prefecture. Reachable via X308. Elev.: 4752 m (15,587 ft.). 32.514573, 97.209993.

Dashui Qiao (Dàshuǐ Qiáo [大水桥]): village Gonghe County between Chaka & Heimahe. 36.691347, 99.457542.

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

Datong River (Dàtōng Hé [大通河]): river N Qinghai & W Gansu. Tributary of Huangshui River. Part of Yellow River system.

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

Dipanzi Village (Dìpánzi Cūn [地盘子村]): settlement Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture. Riparian forest of Small-leaf Poplar is across Heihe River at 38.212130, 100.160214.

Donggeicuona Lake: see Lake Donggeicuona.

Dongguan Mosque (Xīníng Shì Dōngguān Qīngzhēn Dàsì [西宁市东关清真大寺]): largest mosque in Qinghai. Built 1380. Located in Chengdong District, Xining. 36.615301, 101.797987.

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

Dunhuang (Dūnhuáng Shì [敦煌市]): sub-prefectural administrative area W Gansu.

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

Eling Lake (Èlíng Hú [鄂陵湖]). One of the sources of Yellow River, in Maduo County, Guoluo Prefecture. Also known as Ngoring Lake. 34.902685, 97.709949.

Ga’er Monastery (Gǎěr Sì [尕尔寺]): Buddhist institution of worship in Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture. 31.829966, 96.487758.

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

Galaga Pass (Gǎlāgǎ Yākǒu [尕拉尕垭口]): Elev.: 4493 m (14,737 ft.).

Gangze Wujie (Gǎngzé Wújié [岗则吾结]): peak South Shule Mountains, Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. At 5808 masl (19,050 ft.) highest peak in South Shule Mountains & Qilian Mountains. On some maps called Tuanjie Feng (Tuánjié Fēng [团结峰]). 38.503719, 97.718419.

Gansu (Gānsù Shěng [甘肃省]): province NW China bordering Qinghai to N & E. Area: 425,800 sq. km (164,400 sq. mi.).

Gonghe: word that can be used for Gonghe County & especially for Qiabuqia.

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

Gouhua (Gōuhuā [沟花]): valley ca. 30 km W of Huashixia in Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture. Elev.: 3990 m (13,090 ft.).

Guoluo Prefecture (Guǒluò Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [果洛藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area SE Qinghai. Area: 76,312 sq. km (29,464 sq. mi.). Full name: Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Guoluo sometimes spelled “Golog.”

Greater Wild Horse Ridge (Dà Yěmǎ Lǐng [大野马岭]): mtn. Maduo County. Elev.: 4326 m (14,189 ft.). 34.658282, 98.228252.

Gyêgu: see Jiegu.

Haibei Prefecture (Hǎiběi Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海北藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Area: 39,354 sq. km (15,195 sq. mi.). Full name: Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Haidong Prefecture (Hǎidōng Shì [海东市]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai. Area: 12,810 sq. km (4,950 sq. mi.). Officially a “(prefectural-level) city.”

Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai. Area: 45,895 sq. km (17,720 sq. mi.). Full name: Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai. Area: 325,785 sq. km (125,786 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): slightly smaller than Norway; slightly larger than New Mexico. Largest prefecture in Qinghai. Pop.: 490,000. Prefectural seat: Delingha. Full name: Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

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

Hedong (Hédōng [河东]): administrative area Delingha County. Seat of Haixi Prefecture & Delingha County. Along with Hexi forms urbanized area of Delingha County, & the two areas are most commonly referred to as “Delingha.”

Heihe River (Hēi Hé [黑河]): river NW China rising on N side of Qilian Mountains in Gansu, flowing through Haibei Prefecture in Qinghai, & returning to Gansu, where it runs through Hexi Corridor before drying up in Gobi Desert in W Inner Mongolia. Length: 630 km (391 mi.). Lower reaches known as Ruo Shui (Ruò Shuǐ [弱水]).

Heihe Xiang (Hēihé Xiāng [黑河乡]): village Maduo County. 34.600899, 98.268220.

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

Hexi (Héxī [河西]): administrative area Delingha County. Along with Hedong forms urbanized area of Delingha County, & the two areas are most commonly referred to as “Delingha.”

Hexi Corridor (Héxī Zǒuláng [河西走廊]): historical trading route Gansu. Bordered S by Qilian Mtns. & Tibetan Plateau & N by Gobi Desert.

Himalayan Plateau: see Tibetan Plateau.

Huang He Xiang (Huáng Hé Xiāng [黄河乡]): village Maduo County. 34.600672, 98.268468.

Huangshui River (Huángshuǐ Hé [湟水河]): largest tributary of Yellow River. Runs through Xining.

Huashixia (Huāshíxiá [花石峡]): village Maduo County on G214. 35.101275, 98.860780.

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

Jiabo Hot Spring (Jiǎbō Wēnquán [甲波温泉]): thermal spring Qilian County on S204. Elev. 3790 m (12,430 ft.). 38.790355, 98.665485.

Jiading (Jiādìng Zhèn [加定镇]): tourist center Huzhu County on Datong River & Qinghai-Gansu border. 36.951698, 102.494353.

Jiangxi Huimu Vocational Training School (Yùshù Shì Jiāngxī Huìmù Zhíyè Péixùn Xuéxiào [玉树市江西惠牧职业培训学校]): institution specializing in teaching Buddhist-style painting. Near Jiangxi Forest Management Area in Nangqian County. Elev. 3600 m (11,810 ft.). 32.076395, 97.063995.

Jiangxi Forest Management Area (Jiāngxī Línchǎng [江西林场]): forestry center & series of villages (“Jiangxi Village”), Nangqian County. 32.076777, 97.009417.

Jiegu (Jiégǔ Zhèn [结古镇]): urbanized area Yushu County, seat of Yushu County & Yushu Prefecture. Pop.: 56,800. Elev.: 3700 m (12,140 ft.). Commonly referred to as Yushu. 33.002242, 96.978488.

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

Kanda Gorge: see Kanda Mountains.

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

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

Kanda Pass: see Kanda Mountains.

Lake Alake (Ālākè Hú [阿拉克湖]): lake Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture. Elev.: 4749 m (15,577 ft.). 35.568917, 97.128349.

Lake Donggeicuona (Dōnggěicuònà Hú [冬给错纳湖]): lake Maduo County, Guoluo Prefecture. Elev.: 3950 m (12,960 ft.). 35.290072, 98.537098.

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

Lamaozhi Siyuan (Lāmáozhì Sìyuàn [拉毛志寺院])

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

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

Madoi County: see Maduo County.

Maduo (Mǎduō [玛多]): word that can be used for Maduo County & especially for Machali.

Maduo County (Mǎduō Xiàn [玛多县]): sub-prefectural administrative area W Guoluo Prefecture. Area: 25,000 sq. km (9,700 sq. mi.). Also known as Madoi County.

Maozhuang (Máozhuāng Xiāng [毛庄乡]): village Nangqian County. 32.266550, 96.824579.

Mekong River: seventh-longest river in Asia, 12th in world. Rises in Qinghai. Upper reaches also known as Zaqu River.

Menggu Bao (Měnggǔ Bāo [蒙古包]): “Menggu bao” means yurt, or circular tent in the style of the Mongolians. Here, the name refers to the area for tourists at the northernmost point on Delingha-Hala road on S shore of Hala Lake.

Menyuan County (Ményuán Huízú Zìzhìxiàn [门源回族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haibei Prefecture.

Mole Zhen (Mòlè Zhèn [默勒镇]): town Qilian County. 37.716626, 100.579661.

Nanchuan River (Nánchuān Hé [南川河]): tributary of Huangshui River, which it meets in Xining.

Nangqên County: see Nangqian County.

Nangqian (Nángqiān [囊谦]): word that can be used for Nangqian County & especially for Xiangda.

Nangqian County (Nángqiān Xiàn [囊谦县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture. Area: 11,539 sq. km (4,455 sq. mi.). Pop: 57,000. Contains southernmost point in Qinghai & borders Tibet. Once semi-independent kingdom. Also known as Nangqên County.

Nanshan: see Qilian Mountains.

Ngoring Lake: see Eling Lake.

Przevalski’s Site: birding area Dulan Mountains, Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture. So called because Przevalski’s Partridge & Przevalski’s Redstart have been found there. Turnoff to birding area is at KM 2335.5 on G109. Birding area at 36.457249, 98.502578.

Qabqa: see Qiabuqia.

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

Qilian County (Qílián Xiàn [祁连县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haibei Prefecture. Area: 15,610 sq. km (6,027 sq. mi.).

Qilian Mountains (Qílián Shān [祁连山]): range N China forming part of border between Qinghai & Gansu. Because range forms S boundary of Hexi Corridor, also known as Southern Mountains, or Nanshan (Nánshān [南山]).

Qilian Xiancheng (Qílián Xiànchéng [祁连县城]): informal & more commonly used name for Babao Zhen, administrative center of Qilian County in Haibei Prefecture. 38.176712, 100.247371.

Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. Last week, our team covered the 800 km from Yushu-Jiegu to Xining (both marked in black). Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. (Wikipedia/Craig Brelsford)

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

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

Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: see Tibetan Plateau.

Qingshizui (Qīngshízuǐ Zhèn [青石嘴镇]): town Menyuan County, Haibei Prefecture. 37.474644, 101.397441.

Qingshuihe (Qīngshuǐhé [清水河]): town on G214 S of Bayankala Pass. Elev.: 4270 m (14,010 ft.). 33.804499, 97.141026.

Rubber Mountain Pass (Xiàngpí Shān [橡皮山]): mountain crossing 22 km (13.7 mi.) W of Heimahe on G109. Elev.: 3817 m (12,520 ft.). 36.754213, 99.606705.

Ruo Shui: see Heihe River.

Shule River (Shūlè Hé [疏勒河]): river NW China rising in Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai, flowing through W Gansu, & emptying (historically) in Lop Nur in Xinjiang. Length: 905 km (562 mi.). Also known as Changma River (Chāngmǎ Hé [昌马河]).

Sàrìlāmǎzhū (萨日拉玛珠)

Shanglaxiu (Shànglāxiù [上拉秀]): town Yushu County.

Sichuan (Sìchuān Shěng [四川省]): province SW China bordering Qinghai to SE. Area: 485,000 sq. km (187,400 sq. mi.).

South Shule Mountains (Shūlè Nánshān [疏勒南山]): sub-range of Qilian Mountains N of Hala Lake, Haixi Prefecture.

South Tuole Mountains (Tuōlè Nánshān [拖勒南山]): sub-range Qilian Mountains in N Qinghai & W Gansu. Range runs between Yanglong & Suli & forms part of border between Haibei & Haixi prefectures. On some maps, 拖勒 written 拖来.

Subei County (Sùběi Měnggǔzú Zìzhì Xiàn [肃北蒙古族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area W Gansu, bordering Qinghai.

Suli (Sūlǐ Xiāng [苏里乡]): village on Shule River in Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture. 38.702633, 98.026018.

Tiegai Xiang (Tiěgài Xiāng [铁盖乡]): village Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture. 35.989249, 100.194396.

Tianjun County (Tiānjùn Xiàn [天峻县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.

Tibet (Xīzàng Zìzhìqū [西藏自治区]): provincial-level entity SW China bordering Qinghai to S. Area: 1,228,400 sq. km (474,300 sq. mi.). Full name: Tibet Autonomous Region.

Tibetan Plateau (Qīng Zàng Gāoyuán [青藏高原]): vast elevated plateau C Asia encompassing much of Qinghai. Highest & largest plateau on Earth. Contains headwaters of several major rivers, among them Yangtze River, Yellow River, & Mekong River. Chinese name translates as “Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.” Also known as Himalayan Plateau.

Tit-Warbler Mountain: birding spot near Heimahe containing much good scrub. To reach it, take the G109 from Heimahe to a dirt road near KM 2187 (36.782112, 99.675814). Drive to the end of this dirt road at 36.766994, 99.667711. Peak is at 36.758683, 99.663055. Elevation at top is 3620 m (11,870 ft.).

Tongtian River (Tōngtiān Hé [通天河]): another name for upper Yangtze River.

Tuanjie Feng (Tuánjié Fēng [团结峰]): see Gangze Wujie.

Tuole River ([拖勒河]): tributary of Heihe River. On some maps, 拖勒 written 拖来.

Ulan County: see Wulan County.

Wenquan (Wēnquán [温泉]): town Xinghai County, Hainan Prefecture.

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

Xiangda (Xiāngdá Zhèn [香达镇]): administrative center of Nangqian County. Commonly referred to as Nangqian. 32.202992, 96.475617.

Xiangride (Xiāngrìdé [香日德]): town Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 35.993651, 97.894235.

Xiangride River: watercourse Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture.

Xiao Sumang Xiang (Xiǎo Sūmǎng Xiāng [小苏莽乡]): village Yushu County near Qinghai-Tibet border. 32.347744, 97.252561.

Xinghai County (Xīnghǎi Xiàn [兴海县]): county SW Hainan Prefecture.

Xingxing Hai (Xīngxīng Hǎi [星星海]): lake Maduo County.

Xining (Xīníng [西宁]): word that can be used to refer to all of Xining Prefecture but most commonly used to describe the four urbanized districts centered around Chengzhong.

Xining Caojiabao Airport (Xīníng Cáojiābǎo Jīchǎng [西宁曹家堡机场]): airport Huzhu County, Haidong Prefecture, 30 km (19 mi.) E of downtown Xining. IATA: XNN. 36.527923, 102.040889.

Xining Prefecture (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Capital of Qinghai & most populous city on Tibetan Plateau. Area: 7372 sq. km (2,846 sq. mi.). Officially a “(prefectural-level) city.”

Yangkang Xiang (Yángkāng Xiāng [阳康乡]): village E of Hala Lake in Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture. 37.675509, 98.635267.

Yanglong Xiang (Yānglóng Xiāng [央隆乡]): village W Haibei Prefecture, on the S204. 38.816483, 98.415873.

Yangtze River (Cháng Jiāng [长江]): longest river in Asia, third-longest in world. Rises in Qinghai.

Yankou Shan (Yànkǒu Shān [雁口山]): mtn. N of Yushu-Jiegu. Some slopes covered with primary high-alpine scrub. Elev.: 4458 m (14,622 ft.). 33.199406, 97.466606.

Yellow River (Huáng Hé [黄河]): third-longest river in Asia, sixth-longest in world. Rises in Qinghai.

Yeniu Gou (Yěniú Gōu [野牛沟]): village Qilian County. 38.457395, 99.542667.

Yong’an River (Yǒng’ān Hé [永安河]): river Haibei Prefecture.

Yushu Batang Airport (Yùshù Bātáng Jīchǎng [玉树巴塘机场]): airport Yushu Prefecture 18 km (11 mi.) S of Yushu-Jiegu. Elev. 3890 m (12,760 ft.). Eighth-highest civilian airport in world. 32.824982, 97.124989.

Yushu (Yùshù [玉树]): word that can be used to refer to Yushu Prefecture, to Yushu County, or most commonly to Jiegu.

Yushu County (Yùshù Shì [玉树市]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture. County seat: Yushu-Jiegu. Area: 13,462 sq. km (5,198 sq. mi.). Pop.: 120,447. Officially, Yushu “City.”

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

Yushu Prefecture (Yùshù Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [玉树藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area Qinghai. Area: 188,794 sq. km (72,894 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): half the size of Germany; slightly larger than North Dakota. Second-largest prefecture in Qinghai. Covers most of S Qinghai. Pop.: 296,000. Prefectural seat: Yushu-Jiegu. Full name: Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

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

Zhalong Gou Scenic Area (Qīnghǎi Shěng Hùzhù Běishān Zhālóng Gōu Jǐngqū [青海省互助北山扎龙沟景区]): protected area Huzhu County, Haidong Prefecture. 36.792287, 102.460685.

Ziqu River (Ziqū [子曲]): tributary of Zaqu River. Flows through Nangqian County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Consulted in Shanghai.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. The Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions.

Grimmett, Richard, Carol Inskipp, and Tim Inskipp. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm. One of three field guides we had with us in Qinghai, the others being MacKinnon’s a Field Guide to the Birds of China and the Collins Bird Guide.

Kennerley, Peter & David Pearson. Reed and Bush Warblers. Christopher Helm. Consulted at home.

Lynx Edicions. The Internet Bird Collection. ibc.lynxeds.com

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press. Along with the Collins Bird Guide and Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, one of the field guides we took with us to Qinghai.

Oriental Bird Club. Oriental Bird Images. orientalbirdimages.org.

Smith, Andrew T. & Yan Xie, eds. Mammals of China. Princeton University Press.

Mullarney, Killian, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterström, Peter Grant. Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins. Useful even in Qinghai. One of the three field guides we took to Qinghai (the others being A Field Guide to the Birds of China and Birds of the Indian Subcontinent).

Xeno-Canto Foundation. Xeno-Canto: Bird Sounds from Around the World. xeno-canto.org.

EQUIPMENT

Cameras: Nikon D3S; for landscapes, Apple iPad, Apple iPhone 4S, and Apple iPhone 6
Lens: Nikon VR 600mm F/4G
Sound recorder: Olympus DM-650
Binoculars: Swarovski EL 8 x 32 (Craig), Zeiss Conquest HD 8 x 42 (Elaine)
Spotting scope: Swarovski ATX-95

INDEX

“Qinghai, June-August 2016” contains an introduction and six parts. This is Part 6.

Introduction: A Summer in Qinghai
Part 1: Weeks 1 & 2
Part 2: Weeks 3 & 4
Part 3: Weeks 5 & 6
Part 4: Week 7
Part 5: Week 8
Part 6: Facts & Figures

This report is part of shanghaibirding.com’s extensive coverage of Qinghai. For the complete index to our posts on Qinghai, please see our page Birding in Qinghai. A list of our most prominent reports on Qinghai is below.

Mammals and Birds of the Tibetan Plateau: Exploring mountains as high as 5100 m (16,730 ft.), our team found 98 species of bird and many key mammals, among them Tibetan Wolf.

Tibetan Bunting Leads Parade of Tibetan Plateau Endemics in Qinghai: shanghaibirding.com founder Craig Brelsford led a three-person team on a 23-day trip to Qinghai.

Qinghai in October: Jesper Hornskov and his team noted 178 species of bird in October, a time of year, Hornskov writes, “when few dedicated birdwatchers visit this unique land.”

In addition to coverage of Qinghai and our core area of Shanghai, shanghaibirding.com has extensive coverage of other areas of China, among them

Yunnan
Xinjiang
Sichuan
Northeast China
Reach us: info@shanghaibirding.com

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Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

Tibetan Lynx Lynx lynx isabellinus, 14 July, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai, China. Sunset. With me at the wheel, my birding partners and I are driving up the Kanda Mountain road. I look left and see the lynx. It is motionless, looking at us. What luck! What a stunning sight!

The cat slinks away
The cat slinks away. The lynx gave us a few seconds of its time—and a memory to last forever. (Craig Brelsford)

“Wild cat!” I squeak to my partners, hitting the brakes and reaching for my camera. The lynx posed only a moment, and I got these images. Then it trotted away.

I waited nearly half a century to glimpse a lynx. My partners, wife Elaine Du and Beijing-based Swedish birder Jan-Erik Nilsén, also had never seen a lynx. This is the Central Asian subspecies of Eurasian Lynx, also known as Himalayan Lynx and Turkestan Lynx. The elevation here is 4550 m (14,920 ft.).

Kanda Mountain
Kanda Mountain is in Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture, south-central Qinghai. Few places offer so enticing a combination of stunning scenery and good birding. I took this photo the morning after we saw the lynx near the place where the encounter occurred. Near this point one can find White Eared Pheasant, Tibetan Partridge, Tibetan Babax, and Tibetan Bunting. We found Blue Sheep on the slopes above. Some of the local Tibetans told us that Snow Leopard still roam the area. (Craig Brelsford)

My settings were off; I had just photographed a White-browed Tit-Warbler at close range in bright sunlight. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, 1/20, F/10, ISO 640. “Shoot first, adjust later.” The lynx wasn’t going to wait. Photoshop can bail you out, to a point. I did manage to lower my shutter speed while shooting.

I’m writing you from Xining, capital of Qinghai. Elaine and I have been birding Qinghai since 26 June; we have just begun our fifth week in this province. Jan-Erik joined us for two weeks. On Sun. 24 July we dropped our partner off at Xining Airport. Along with goodbyes and thanks, the word “lynx” was on everyone’s lips.
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Qinghai & Gansu, July 2014

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

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
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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