A Summer Birding in Qinghai: Introduction

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

A SUMMER BIRDING IN QINGHAI

Map of Qinghai.
A province in northwestern China, Qinghai is three times larger than the United Kingdom and slightly larger than Texas. The Yellow, Yangtze, and Mekong rivers rise in the sparsely populated province, which lies almost entirely on the Tibetan Plateau. From 26 June to 21 Aug. 2016, Elaine Du and Craig Brelsford explored this vast domain, birding in seven of the eight prefectures and finding 195 species of bird. (Wikipedia/Craig Brelsford)

Elaine Du and I birded Qinghai from 26 June to 21 Aug. 2016. We noted 195 species of bird, but the highlight was a mammal: Tibetan Lynx in Yushu Prefecture on 14 July. We spent the first month with Michael Grunwell and Jan-Erik Nilsén, covering the eastern and southern parts of the vast province. We noted Tibetan Plateau birds White Eared Pheasant, Ibisbill, Black-necked Crane, White-browed Tit, Grandala, Przevalski’s Redstart, and Red-fronted Rosefinch. In the second month Elaine and I explored northern Qinghai, discovering at previously unknown locations Tibetan Snowcock, Przevalski’s Partridge, Tibetan Sandgrouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. I became one of the few foreign birders to visit remote Hala Lake (38.267875, 97.575430), where we recorded Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, and Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), where we found Mongolian Goitered Gazelle. At a site in the Dulan Mountains, Elaine and I spied a trio of Tibetan Wolf. The 57-day expedition saw us drive 8054 km (5,005 miles) and visit seven of the eight prefectures of Qinghai.

BIRDS NOTED IN QINGHAI, 26 JUNE-21 AUGUST 2016 (195 SPECIES)

Tibetan Partridge
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae inhabit the grounds of Kanda Nunnery (32.291641, 96.512173) in Nangqian County. We found Tibetan Partridge at Baizha Nature Reserve (31.882305, 96.556738), also in Nangqian County, as well as along the X308 on both sides of Dagela Pass (32.514573, 97.209993). I took this photo 5 July at the nunnery. (Craig Brelsford)

Greylag Goose Anser anser
Bar-headed Goose A. indicus
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Ruddy Shelduck T. ferruginea
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata
Garganey S. querquedula
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Ferruginous Duck A. nyroca
Tufted Duck A. fuligula
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
Tibetan Partridge Perdix hodgsoniae
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Great Egret A. alba
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Golden Eagle A. chrysaetos
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Northern Goshawk A. gentilisf
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius
Himalayan Buzzard B. burmanicus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii
Little Stint C. minuta
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola
Common Redshank T. totanus
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia
Hill Pigeon C. rupestris
Snow Pigeon C. leuconota
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Eurasian Collared Dove S. decaocto
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo
Little Owl Athene noctua
Common Swift Apus apus
Salim Ali’s Swift A. salimalii
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker Dryobates cathpharius
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Hobby F. subbuteo
Saker Falcon F. cherrug
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus
Isabelline Shrike L. isabellinus
Grey-backed Shrike L. tephronotus
Giant Grey Shrike L. giganteus
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus
Black-rumped Magpie Pica bottanensis
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Alpine Chough P. graculus
Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos
Northern Raven C. corax
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Hume’s Short-toed Lark C. acutirostris
Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima
Mongolian Lark M. mongolica
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis
Oriental Skylark A. gulgula
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Pale Martin Riparia diluta
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris
Grey Crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous
White-browed Tit Poecile superciliosus
Willow Tit P. montanus affinis
Sichuan Tit P. weigoldicus
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis
Japanese Tit Parus minor
White-browed Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
Alpine Leaf Warbler P. occisinensis
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii
Buff-barred Warbler P. pulcher
Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis
Lemon-rumped Warbler P. chloronotus
Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides
Large-billed Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris
Desert Whitethroat Curruca minula
Tarim Babbler Rhopophilus albosuperciliaris
Giant Laughingthrush Ianthocincla maxima
Plain Laughingthrush Pterorhinus davidi
Tibetan Babax P. koslowi
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Trochalopteron elliotii
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
Grandala Grandala coelicolor
Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus
Kessler’s Thrush T. kessleri
Chinese Thrush T. mupinensis
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica
Chinese Rubythroat Calliope tschebaiewi
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope
Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula hodgsonii
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus
Przevalski’s Redstart P. alaschanicus
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps
Güldenstädt’s Redstart P. erythrogastrus
Black Redstart P. ochruros
Common Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
Brown Dipper C. pallasii
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
Black-winged Snowfinch M. adamsi
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
Pere David’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda davidiana
Rufous-necked Snowfinch P. ruficollis
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Robin Accentor P. rubeculoides
Rufous-breasted Accentor P. strophiata
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens
Maroon-backed Accentor P. immaculata
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea
White Wagtail M. alba
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi
Rosy Pipit A. roseatus
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni
Water Pipit A. spinoletta
Przevalski’s Finch Urocynchramus pylzowi
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola
Brandt’s Mountain Finch L. brandti
Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca
Blanford’s Rosefinch Agraphospiza rubescens
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch C. pulcherrimus
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius
Tibetan Rosefinch C. roborowskii
Streaked Rosefinch C. rubicilloides
Great Rosefinch C. rubicilla
Red-fronted Rosefinch C. puniceus
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
Twite Linaria flavirostris
White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto
Tibetan Bunting E. koslowi
Godlewski’s Bunting E. godlewskii

MAMMALS

Glover's Pika
We noted Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri in Nangqian County and Yushu County in southern Qinghai. I photographed this individual 4 July near Yushu-Jiegu at an elevation of 3700 m (12,140 ft.). Glover’s Pika is endemic to the eastern Tibetan Plateau. (Craig Brelsford)

Tibetan Macaque Macaca thibetana
Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae
Glover’s Pika O. gloveri
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana
Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa Allactaga sibirica
Chinese Zokor Eospalax fontanierii
Bactrian Camel Camelus bactrianus
Siberian Roe Deer Capreolus pygargus
Sichuan Deer Cervus canadensis macneilli
White-lipped Deer C. albirostris
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana
Tibetan Wild Ass (Kiang) Equus kiang
Pallas’s Cat Otocolobus manul
Tibetan Lynx Lynx lynx isabellinus
Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus filchneri
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Tibetan Fox V. ferrilata
Mountain Weasel Mustela altaica

INDEX

shanghaibirding.com offers unparalleled coverage of birding in Qinghai. Below is an index to our posts on Qinghai. Reach us at info@shanghaibirding.com.

Summer-long Birding Expedition to Qinghai (Introduction)

Henderson's Ground Jay-thumb

Birding Eastern Qinghai, from the Border with Gansu to the Border with Tibet: We spent the first two weeks of the expedition covering eastern Qinghai, from the Gansu border in northeast Qinghai to Ga’er Monastery on the border with Tibet. We had Henderson’s Ground Jay west of Chaka, Ibisbill on tributaries of the Mekong River, White-browed Tit in scrub along the G109, and Güldenstädt’s Redstart breeding near Qinghai Lake.

artwork-thumb

Birding Qinghai’s Eastern Yushu Prefecture: We found Tibetan Lynx in the Kanda Mountains, discovered new birding sites, and at an art school in the wilderness immersed ourselves in Tibetan Buddhist culture. Among our highlights were Grandala and Red-fronted Rosefinch, the highest-breeding bird in the Palearctic. Our mammals included White-lipped Deer and Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa, and we saw evidence of attacks by Brown Bear.

Mountain Weasel

Birding the Qilian Mountains of Northern Qinghai: Our most important discovery was the poplar forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers, where we encountered woodland species Gansu Leaf Warbler and Chinese Thrush. Conifer forests yielded Black Woodpecker, and the scrub and pastureland gave us Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Siberian Roe Deer, and Mountain Weasel.

Tibetan Sandgrouse-thumb

Forbidding (and Forbidden) Hala Lake: Defying a ban on foreigners, we birded the wild, remote inland sea in north-central Qinghai, elev. 4077 m (13,376 ft.). The lake yielded several interesting Qinghai records, among them Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, and Eurasian Whimbrel. Near shore, in perfect semi-desert habitat, we discovered flocks of Tibetan Sandgrouse.

Przevalski’s Partridge-thumb

Birding the Remote Backcountry of Wulan County, Qinghai: Amid stunning scenery, we found Tibetan Wolf, discovered a new location for Przevalski’s Partridge, and around Lake Xiligou had Qinghai favorites Black-necked Crane and Tibetan Lark. The lake held a noisy super-flock of 4,600 Ruddy Shelduck, and Mongolian Goitered Gazelle were in the hills behind. Near Chaka we had Mute Swan.

Qinghai-thumb

Index to Place Names in Qinghai: Study this list and plan your trip to Qinghai, the most exciting province for birding in China. We offer fascinating facts on famous places as well as sites little known, all with geographic coordinates. Read also our bibliography and use our index of eBird lists from the summer-long expedition.

Tibetan Fox

Mammals and Birds of the Tibetan Plateau: Our team drove 3977 km (2,471 mi.) in 15 days, starting and ending in Golmud, Qinghai. In mountains as high as 5100 m (16,730 ft.), we found 98 species of bird. Mammals were the big stars. I watched a Tibetan Fox catch and devour a vole, we found 46 Tibetan Antelope and a Tibetan Wolf in Antelope Valley, and we saw dozens of Tibetan Wild Ass.

Tibetan Partridge

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. We covered most of the Tibetans (Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Partridge, Tibetan Babax, Tibetan Rosefinch, and Tibetan Bunting) and found Przevalski’s Finch near Qinghai Lake.

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.”

Qinghai in the Age of Covid: Covid-19 complicated the trip, but watching Tibetan Wolf pups frolic made all the trouble worthwhile. We sampled a wide array of western China birds, among them Daurian Partridge, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, and White-winged Grosbeak.

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

Fujian
Northeast China
Sichuan
Xinjiang
Yunnan

Featured image: Highlights from a summer in Qinghai. Clockwise from top L: Tibetan Lynx, Henderson’s Ground Jay, dunes in Wulan County, and Tibetan Partridge. (Craig Brelsford)
Reach us: info@shanghaibirding.com

Be notified every time we post. Send an
email with “Subscribe” as the subject to
info@shanghaibirding.com

Donate to Shanghai Birding!