In photo above, Michael Grunwell (L) carries spotting scope to view waterfowl on Eling Lake, near source of Yellow River in Guoluo Prefecture, Qinghai, 3 July 2016. To the right is Mark Waters, Michael’s old friend from England. This post covers the first two weeks of our Qinghai 2016 expedition.
Other posts in our Qinghai 2016 series:
Elaine Du and I were in Qinghai from 26 June to 21 Aug. 2016. We collected a huge amount of material and have been publishing it in bits and pieces here on shanghaibirding.com. In this post, we offer you the highlights of the first two weeks of the trip, 26 June to 10 July, which we spent with Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell and his old friend Mark Waters.
Among the 136 species of bird we found were 40 of Michael’s 45 hoped-for lifers. Highlights:
2 Red-crested Pochard at Eling Lake (34.902685, 97.709949), near source of Yellow River
226 Common Merganser at Eling Lake
1 Przevalski’s Partridge at “Przevalski’s Site” (36.457249, 98.502578), a birding area in the Dulan Mountains
5 Golden Eagle noted at various places
26 Lesser Sand Plover ssp. atrifrons breeding on edges of high-altitude lakes as well as in drier steppe country
5 Ibisbill on tributaries of Mekong River in Nangqian County
21 Common Cuckoo and 7 Cuculus sp. Common Cuckoo were singing at elevations as high as 4300 m
1 Black Woodpecker at Baizha Nature Reserve. Black Woodpecker is one of several species whose ranges cover northern-temperate Eurasia in a band from Europe to northeast China then spur southwestward to the Tibetan Plateau
1 Tiger Shrike at entrance to Kanda Gorge (32.277059, 96.485171). A highly unusual Qinghai record for this species
1 Black Drongo, another interesting record for Qinghai
2 Henderson’s Ground Jay in scrub west of Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878)
1 southern record of Mongolian Lark south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia
16 Sichuan Tit in Kanda Gorge and at Baizha Nature Reserve
7 White-browed Tit-Warbler at my reliable site near Heimahe as well as at Baizha
25 singing Yellow-streaked Warbler in Baizha Nature Reserve as well as in riparian scrub along Mekong River
22 Sichuan Leaf Warbler at Baizha Nature Reserve
29 Greenish Warbler at various sites, including high-altitude scrub
7 Tibetan Babax at nunnery in Kanda Gorge as well as at mouth of gorge
1 Dark-sided Flycatcher at Baizha Nature Reserve
2 Siberian Rubythroat in Huzhu County. This mainly Siberian breeder has a disjunct breeding range extending across northern Qinghai, southern Gansu, and northern Sichuan
47 Slaty-backed Flycatcher, all at Baizha Nature Reserve
2 Przevalski’s Redstart, colorful China endemic noted at Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578) in Dulan Mountains west of Chaka
76 Hodgson’s Redstart, always in greener, forested areas such as Huzhu County and Baizha Nature Reserve
11 Plumbeous Water Redstart, all at lower elevations at Baizha
109 Black Redstart, a species well-adapted to high-altitude desert, semi-desert, steppe, and scrub
6 Güldenstädt’s Redstart breeding as low as 3800 masl around Heimahe. Also known as White-winged Redstart
7 Chestnut Thrush in forests in Huzhu County
107 Kessler’s Thrush at various sites, usually in high-altitude forest and scrub, sometimes around farms and villages
1 Maroon-backed Accentor at Baizha Nature Reserve
3 Przevalski’s Finch at two sites near Heimahe
3 White-winged Grosbeak near Chaka and in Kanda Gorge
2 Blanford’s Rosefinch at Baizha Nature Reserve
2 Tibetan Rosefinch on barren saddle, elev. 4700 m, above Ela Pass (35.497608, 99.511449)
9 Blanford’s Snowfinch in semi-desert and high steppe, sometimes occurring alongside its congener Rufous-necked Snowfinch, which we usually were finding in slightly wetter habitats
13 Henri’s Snowfinch, mainly around Ela Pass
10 Tibetan Snowfinch, including nesting pair at G109 KM 2189.5 (36.778749, 99.653861) near Heimahe
2 Tibetan Bunting at Kanda Pass
11 Pine Bunting at Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578)
Mammals: Tibetan Wild Ass (steppe, Maduo County), Pallas’s Cat (night view near Maduo [Machali]), Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa (Maduo [Machali]), Plateau Pika, Glover’s Pika (Yushu [Jiegu], Kanda Gorge, Baizha), Himalayan Marmot, Tibetan Antelope (steppe), Tibetan Fox (steppe, Maduo County), Red Fox (steppe near Qinghai Lake), White-lipped Deer (scrub near Heimahe), Tibetan Macaque (fully wild individuals in Baizha Nature Reserve), Blue Sheep (half-tame herds around Ga’er Monastery [31.829966, 96.487758])
Astronomy: Amazing views of Milky Way, rings of Saturn, and bands of Jupiter as well as Jupiter’s Galilean moons on clear night in steppe near Maduo (Machali), elev. 4200 m. Used my Swarovski ATX-95.
Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.
Baizha Nature Reserve (Báizhā Sēnlín Zìrán Bǎohùqū [白扎森林自然保护区]): protected area Nangqian County, Yushu Prefecture. Junction of G214 & X832 at 31.966314, 96.535097. On some maps, X832 is called “Ranniang Section” (Ránniáng Duàn [然娘段]). This is the road that leads toward the nature reserve. At another turnoff (31.964250, 96.573340), bear right, leaving Ranniang Section, & continue on to the reserve.
Chaka (Chákǎ Zhèn [茶卡镇]): town & tourist center Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. 36.791576, 99.078878.
Ela Pass (Èlā Shānkǒu [鄂拉山口]): elev. 4499 m (14,757 ft.). 35.497608, 99.511449.
Eling Lake (Èlíng Hú [鄂陵湖]). Also known as Ngoring Lake. 34.902685, 97.709949.
Guoluo Prefecture (Guǒluò Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [果洛藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area SE Qinghai.
Haidong Prefecture (Hǎidōng Shì [海东市]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.
Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.
Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai.
Heimahe (Hēimǎhé Xiāng [黑马河乡]): village on SW shore of Qinghai Lake in Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture. Major tourist center. 36.729239, 99.779524.
Huzhu County (Hùzhù Tǔzú Zìzhìxiàn [互助土族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haidong Prefecture.
Jiegu (Jiégǔ Zhèn [结古镇]): urbanized area E Yushu County. Commonly referred to as Yushu. 33.002242, 96.978488.
Kanda Mountains (Kǎndá Shān [坎达山]): high country Nangqian County. Elev. at mouth of Kanda Gorge, near Zaqu River: 3670 m (12,040 ft.). Elev. Kanda Pass: 4680 m (15,350 ft.). Junction of G214 & road leading to Kanda Mountains: 32.315911, 96.454165. Mouth of Kanda Gorge: 32.277059, 96.485171. Kanda Pass: 32.314561, 96.624807.
Kanda Nunnery: religious institution Kanda Gorge. Reliable site for Tibetan Partridge & Tibetan Babax. Elev.: 3910 m (12,830 ft.). 32.291641, 96.512173.
Machali (Mǎchálǐ Zhèn [玛查理镇]): town W Maduo County. Commonly referred to as Maduo. 34.911354, 98.211208.
Maduo County (Mǎduō Xiàn [玛多县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Guoluo Prefecture.
Nangqian County (Nángqiān Xiàn [囊谦县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture.
Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.
Qinghai Lake (Qīnghǎi Hú [青海湖]): largest lake in Qinghai. 36.877808, 100.228673.
Wulan County (Wūlán Xiàn [乌兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.
Xining (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): capital of Qinghai & most populous city on Tibetan Plateau.
Yushu County (Yùshù Shì [玉树市]): sub-prefectural administrative area Yushu Prefecture.
Yushu Prefecture (Yùshù Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [玉树藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area S Qinghai.
Zaqu River (Zāqū [扎曲]): name for upper reaches of Mekong River in Qinghai.