Sichuan 2016 (Part 4)

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After Balangshan we made our way to Rilong, but I was rather disappointed to see this beautiful town being ‘developed’ for the forthcoming ‘tourist-invasion’, consequently we only spent one night there before moving on to Maerkeng.

There is a great scenic viewing point above the town and we were fortunate to see Przewalski’s Nuthatch, a family party of Collared Grosbeak, Red-billed Chough, Maroon-backed Accentor (with their ‘mournful’ flat whistle) and a pair of Zoothera thrush (probably Sichuan or Alpine from the recent classification ‘splits’) This is also a good area for Pink-rumped Rosefinch though we eventually saw several in Rilong itself.

The following morning we headed west along the Xiaojin River towards the intersection with the Fubian River then drove north along the amazingly steep valley, this area appears much ‘drier’ than the previous habitats, the ‘biotype’ very unlike the previous heavily-forested scenery. Crag Martins and Blue Rock Thrush are fairly common here and at one stop we saw several White-throated Needletails and the recently ‘speciated’ Salim Ali’s Swift (formerly a race of Pacific). Blue Whistling-thrush, White-capped Redstart and Grey-backed Shrike were easily seen.

Whilst searching for Long-tailed Rosefinch along the river,  Summer made a great discovery of the ‘non-feathered’ variety, a small rodent known as Glover’s Pika (how she managed to spot it remains a mystery to us all!)

As we progressed north towards Maerkeng we passed a spot with gates and a concrete-track running parallel to a creek known as Majiago Scenic Area. Our guide suggested that we took a walk along the track and it wasn’t long before we had great views of Long-tailed Rosefinch and a very handsome Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Slaty-backed Flycatcher were singing throughout and then Mike made another great ‘furry’ sighting….a very unsuspecting Hog-nosed Badger wandered closely past us.

 

 

 

After this interesting stop we continued on to Mengbishan, another wonderful high-altitude site (4114m AMSL) with conifer-flanked slopes, birding around the summit in the evening we returned the following morning and after an early-start managed to get good views of Blood Pheasant and Chestnut-throated Monal-Partridge. I took some video but it is rather poor with bad-stability, engine and camera noise, so please forgive-me!

 

We walked down birding en-route, seeing Rufous-breasted Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, White-throated Redstart, Chinese Fulvetta, several Rosefinch species, however we failed to find the Sichuan Jays that I had seen in 2014.

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Searching for a good lunch-site Summer took us to a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery high on the slopes of a mountain (Chagusi or Chake Shrine), I ‘struggled’ with my aversion to heights as we went back and forth along the incredibly steep entrance-track at 60-100 kph, but when we got there the scenery and temple views were outstanding. We were then surprised to be invited to meet the Lama and have lunch with him, Himalayan Griffon cruised past, White-throated Redstart perched on the golden-plated roof and we had a wonderfully-cordial chat with a very amiable leader.

 

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3